For the very first gig of 2018, Atom Smasher made the journey to The Meat Locker in Leeds, a tiny DIY space adjoining the Temple of Boom gig venue. The weather was bitterly cold as a packed out crowd assembled to witness two of the best extreme metal bands in the UK right now, DAWN RAY’D and UNYIELDING LOVE, who have just kicked off a tour together.
Opening the show tonight to an already strong crowd was Leeds’ own Perfect Blue, presumably named after the cult Anime masterpiece. This was my first time hearing this band but already I was impressed. The quartet play highly emotive melodic hardcore the right way. They battled the cold temperature well, kicking right into it with one of their most ferocious offerings, favouring fast paced riffs, spells of blasting drums and guttural screams and barks from their frontman, facing with his back to the crowd for the entire set. But as the set went on, Perfect Blue ventured further into more atmospheric territory. The use of clean guitars was ever so striking, playing with highly melodic arpeggios that fused elements of post rock, playing with off-kilter rhythms. The dynamics of Perfect Blue’s songs is what made them so interesting, and their performance was full of passion. As the band warmed up throughout the set, their playing only got more intense. The bassist added belting backing screams, but it was their frontman who became the focal point. He clearly became lost in the performance, swallowed up by the huge passion of their music. At times he slumped over the stage, drained of energy and emotion in the most endearing way.
Perfect Blue seemed to evoke influences of screamo and melodic hardcore bands such as Jerome’s Dream, Orchid and La Dispute. Their performance was raw, down to earth and full of colour, culminating in a memorable, dynamic and intense show. Perfect Blue are a special band with great potential. 8/10.
Unyielding Love supported Full of Hell on tour last year and gave them a run for their money live. This Belfast, Northern Ireland based quartet are genuinely something terrifying to watch. Hands down, Unyielding Love are one of the heaviest and most brutal bands out there. Opening with an unsettling electronic drone, Unyielding Love built up tension in the air before erupting into dense, chaotic blackened grindcore. The sheer venom that their frontman conjured is frightening. He mixes guttural lows and raspy blackened screams as if possessed by a demon. Throughout the set, their vocalist punctuates their sound with blasts of power electronics from noise pedals to devestating effect.
Grindcore is often a very confrontational and visceral style of music, but Unyielding Love manage to take it further through a strong emphasis on not only noise and dissonance coming from the guitars, but through the use of electronics also. The quartet battered the crowd relentlessly, attacking the senses at all angles. The few breaks in their onslaught only serve to build up more agonising tension. Over the length of about 30 minutes, Unyielding Love were mesmerising to watch, throwing everything into their craft, delivering a sound that is genuinely horrifying, disgusting and of course, unyielding. 9/10.
Liverpool based black metal trio Dawn Ray’d were given a very tough act to follow. Whilst they couldn’t quite match the noisy intensity of Unyielding Love, Dawn Ray’d still managed to come through with a set full of finesse. The trio spent most of 2017 touring all over Europe and venturing to the States, and it is easy to tell that they have fine-tuned their craft. This band are very tight and command the stage with a phenomenal presence. Even down to the fine details as vocalist and violinist Simon Barr carefully switches between holding his violin and his microphone carefully so not to break the momentum of his performance. Guitarist Fabian Devlin grits his teeth angrily as he churns out majestic tremolo picked riffs, full of dynamic chord progressions. Dawn Ray’d’s sound is very folk influenced, channeling Ulver’s ‘Bergtatt’ and the sorrowful guitar leads of cvlt French black metallers Vlad Tepes. But there is also a strong punk ethos to Dawn Ray’d, not just in their relatively short and direct fast played songs, but in their attitude. Dawn Ray’d want to challenge their audience and make them think, always closing a show with a thinkpiece. This time Simon Barr spoke to the crowd about their strong anti-fascism and anti-borders stance, receiving cheers and a round of applause from the crowd. Once the band had finished their set the packed out Meat Locker demanded one more song, of which Dawn Ray’d thankfully obliged. 9/10.
Though left shivering, this was a fantastic way to kick off live music in 2018 with three incredibly exciting bands who each owned the room with huge sounds and utterly visceral performances. All three of them should be on your radar!