Opening the show was relatively new sludge bunch on the block Diesel King – a band who’ve only been around since 2010, but one that look to be ‘moving up’ pretty steadily already, with not only tonight’s much envied support slot in the bag, but a set at Bloodstock festival later this month too. The guys seem rightly bloody chuffed to be one of only two acts supporting such a seminal band on a Saturday night in the capital, and Diesel King belt through a tight and hefty set with a straightforward focus which is redolent of the music itself, neatly cruising through just under half an hour of barely interrupted big burly riffs. The Iron Witch and Gurt t-shirts sported by the guitarists prove, if you were in any doubt, that these guys are sludge fans; but Diesel King’s sound is closer in style to the big breakdowns of a mosh hardcore band. They are clearly indebted to EyeHateGod as much as any band in the scene really, but their sludge handling of a much more simple, bluntly aggressive hardcore school of riffing helps set them apart a bit, and no doubt earns them some crossover appeal which means they can equally play much more metal line-ups like Bloodstock. It’s all over pretty quickly, but the place is already rammed with people clearly eager to see all 3 bands on tonight’s bill – even if it means paying nearly £4.50 for a pint of beer; in fact I learned later that the crowd pretty much drank the bar dry before the end of the night, so clearly nobody gave too big a shit about the London venue price of drunkenness on this occasion!
Next on was London’s own Dead Existence, a band which deservedly have a localised and dedicated following, and whose members are responsible for organising some of the best sludge and doom events all over the city. This was about my fifth time seeing Dead Existence and I don’t say lightly that, in support of a band it’s obvious they love, they turn in the best set I’ve seen from them yet. The first time I saw Dead Existence they performed under a false name like ‘Swarm of Bastards’ or something, I can’t remember now, but apparently they assumed that one-off moniker to allow for the fact that it was their first show in ages and it was bound to be sloppy. It wasn’t sloppy from what I recall, but they did sound more like EyeHateGod back then. Since that time, they’ve explored much bleaker, more sprawling material with an almost dark psychedelic feel to it; the music is heavy in sound as well as in vibe but they still bring the riffs – and they achieve that pretty commendable thing of churning out sludge riffs which you haven’t heard twenty times before. I don’t know if it was the sweltering heat, or the weight of the occasion, or a mix of both, or even none of those things – but the whole band looked like they were in a totally focussed, almost trance-like state; eyes closed and heads nodding all the way. Often pretty smashed, Jake (the vocalist) was totally with it and on it tonight, conveying emotional sincerity and a commanding presence without any of the requisite frontman foot-on-the-monitor, throw-the-horns bullshit. You believe that the gut-wrenching despair and misery of the music comes from somewhere real with Dead Existence, but they don’t leave you feeling bummed out; it’s cathartic and there’s enough of a sense of “fuck that, let’s have a drink and play a big fucking riff” to make a pretty complete and unique package. It’s also the perfect stop gap in terms of tone before EyeHateGod’s unparalleled wreckhead sludge violence.
And what is there to say about EyeHateGod that countless other people haven’t said (more eloquently) before? Well, luckily for me, at the very least it bears repeating. The importance of this band can’t really be overstated, and even in bands like tonight’s supports – neither of whom are carbon copies or straight-up EHG worship at all – you can clearly hear the influence of New Orleans’ filthiest and finest. The fact too that there are so many grindcore and other-extreme-metal-genre shirts on show in the crowd, in addition to the obvious sludge and doom ones, says something important about the wide-reaching appeal and influence of EyeHateGod.
Without any fanfare or theatre, they unleash what feels like five minutes of uninterrupted, wailing and torturous feedback before comprehensively kicking arse with basically the heaviest blues songs ever written. At any other gig, I would probably have found the sticky heat unbearable, but it felt almost vital while watching EyeHateGod absolutely rip through an-hour-an-a-bit of wanton and supreme sludge belters, which included pleasantly named classics such as ‘White Nigger’ and ‘Sister Fucker’. They were just fucking awesome, and nobody I talked to after felt differently; EyeHateGod were bloody great: fact. The sound was spot on, the band were tight and clearly loving it, but there’s some indefinable quality to EHG live which just makes them completely captivating and about ten times heavier than they are on record. Most importantly perhaps, they are really fucking fun – and who else could genuinely pull that off while sounding that misanthropic, and playing songs about physical and mental illness, drug abuse and addiction, and alcohol fuelled anxiety? Simply put, EyeHateGod are one the best bands I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion.
My mate saw them some years ago, and told me that Mike Williams’ parting message to the crowd then was “go home and hang yourselves”. But tonight, apparently at his cleanest and healthiest in a long time, he is full of gratitude and well wishes for the beer and sweat drenched throng. If you missed them this time, don’t make the same mistake again. Jimmy Bower is the man – that is all.
Scribed by: Chris Moore