Xibalba / Hierophant / Frontline / Pay The Price @ Classic Grand, Glasgow 02/10/2013

Xibalba / Hierophant @ Classic Grand, Glasgow 02/10/2013

Those who follow British wrestling in recent years may well be familiar with The Classic Grand as, until recently, it was one of the regular venues for ICW events and thus stage to a plethora of dropkicks, chair shots and, frequently, slams onto the bar. It makes sense, then, that this all-hardcore show from Glasgow promoters Bromotions has brought out every Glasgow HXC stalwart in an effort to show off just how many roundhouse kicks you can throw before someone breaks a hip. As a result, the enjoyment of tonight rests largely on your patience, alertness and whether or not you’re the one doing the kicking.

Local mob Pay The Price are the first sign of how the night will play out, their guttural sound at many times coming across as one endless breakdown. That aside, there is undoubtedly some charm, largely because of their insanely meaty sound, a tectonic low end heavy with menace that renders the bark of their frontman a kitten’s mewling in comparison. Pursuing a more brazen, chug-a-riffic aspect, the songs are simple enough for a caveman to get into the groove and, perhaps tellingly, it does get a few members of the crowd limbering up and setting out swinging, with one bewildered spectator taking a fist to the face (spoiler: it was me). They evidently have hit all the right buttons with this crowd but, to those more accustomed to the fast-paced, sharper hardcore of Minor Threat and Black Flag, it seems a little crude.

As it turns out, several of the high-kickers in the crowd are actually members of follow-up act Frontline but all is forgiven as the gravelly, stop-start intro of Korn’s Blind leads off their set. Okay, it’s a little gimmicky but it does the job, especially given their inherent musical tunnel vision. Once again, this is hardcore that’s heavy on the breakdowns but there’s a sense that they are something of connoisseurs of the genre, their sound just as concussive as Pay The Price’s but significantly more interesting. They aren’t afraid to slow things down to near-sludge levels, nor to pick up the pace with some particularly frantic drumming, and there’re even a few moments that rival Hatebreed in their thuggish melodicism. Whether more have arrived or perhaps they just thought the openers weren’t up to scratch, the floor is now heaving with an impromptu Karate Kid re-enactment and is thus rendered a no-go zone for everyone else. Strangely, it’s as entertaining to watch as Frontline themselves.

It’s odd, then, that Hierophant’s set sees so little movement from the crowd in comparison. There’s a little of fellow countrymen The Secret in their blackened approach, making them the most unique act on the bill tonight, and they likewise only operate in extreme conditions. It’s crusty, it’s loud and most of all, it’s fucking bleak. It’s a liturgy of nihilism up there and surrounded by downtuned crunch on both sides, they make for a much sharper listen, as well as a more engaging one given the lack of feet connecting with face. Working over their snare drum like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, they barrel through Son Of Egoistic Love with psychotic devotion while their own delving into sludge territory shows an effort to inject some kind of atmosphere into the night, rather than mere catharsis. Ferocious, intelligent and with a great ear for a flesh-ripping hook, the lukewarm reaction of the crowd is perversely just another reason to admire this lot.

Before Xibalba even take the stage, it’s clear that the floor is once again ‘the dojo’ and everyone backs the fuck up, so it’s hardly surprising that within thirty seconds of the first chug of guitars, it’s all limbs a-go-go. Hasta La Muerte and Cold are nailed with a hammer-fisted grace, Nate Rebolledo the perfect vessel for expressing these mammoth amounts of rage. He’s a big, strapping fella and his roar is probably the only thing that could match these songs, while his forthright conviction is proof that this mob are the real deal. They trample over the bulk of last year’s Hasta La Muerte, just as slow and potent as when I first heard it, only now it comes with a very real air of violence.

…and therein lies the problem. Xibalba seem to go out of their way tonight to show their hardcore cred, often downplaying the vast scope of their sound, and the attitude of the crowd gives a very insular feel to what should have been a great night for all. Instead, it feels like it’s been played for a select few, pushing everyone out to the (physical) fringes, and if hardcore is supposed to be about unity and community it’s somewhat ironic that the feeling as I leave tonight is one of alienation. Maybe it’s just bitterness after watching someone joke with their buddy after punching me in the jaw, or maybe it’s simply that Xibalba’s half hour of power felt lacking after the menace and fury of Hierophant, but I depart with the notion that maybe hardcore’s just not for me.

Scribed by: Dave Bowes