LIVE: Despised Icon/Malevolence/Archspire/Vulvodynia @ The Dome, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

Deathcore became over saturated in the mid ’00s with bands that tried to sound heavy, but weren’t particularly interesting. Despised Icon, however, have always been one of the exceptions that do the genre justice. Whilst co-vocalist Alex Erian has frequently toured the UK with Obey The Brave, tonight marks Despised Icon’s first venture back to London since Impericon Fest in 2016. Fittingly, the audience appears to be a mix between metalheads and hardcore fans, which is the genre marriage that deathcore intended, before it developed an embarrassing reputation.

To kick off, Vulvodynia provide us with their pummelling slam metal musings from South Africa. With song titles such as ‘Forced Fetal Ingestion’ and ‘Drowned In Vomit’ the vulgarity fits perfectly with the sheer amount of pig squeals, angry guitar riffs and satisfying breakdowns on display. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from our country, it’s to not give a fuck” front man Duncan Bentley declares before bringing on Alex Taylor from Malevolence to join the carnage for ‘Unparalleled Insubordination’, and while Vulvodynia aren’t to everyone tastes, they leave a decent impression.

Archspire, on the other hand, prove that playing ‘technical’ heavy music, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. The moody lighting on stage does help the atmosphere somewhat and they’re obviously talented musicians, but their set lacks the ferocity and edge needed to win over the audience, which is a shame as songs like’ Involuntary Doppelgänger’ are far superior live than on record.

Sheffield’s finest hardcore export Malevolence are welcomed back to London with open arms. 2017’s ‘Self Supremacy’ saw the band morph into sludge metal territory, with the likes of Crowbar as a primary influence, which has enhanced their sound alongside ever-satisfying guitar solos. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Malevolence show without hardcore kids crowdkilling from all directions and hurling themselves off the stage, which is fun to watch from a safe enough distance. It’s odd to think that 2013’s ‘Reign Of Suffering’ is now considered old, however they carefully spread out their set and save ‘Serpents Chokehold’ for last, with the audience at the front like a swarm of hornets surging towards Alex Taylor for all the mic grabs they can muster.

It’s difficult to top Malevolence after such a stellar performance, however it was always going to be Despised Icon’s night to return to glory. Opening with ‘A Fractured Hand’, the room erupts into one monstrous push pit. Front men Alex Erian and Steve Marois are an unstoppable duo who effortlessly feed off of each other’s ravenous energy.

With every crushing breakdown instigated by Alex ‘Grind’ Pelletier beating the shit out of his crash cymbal and fiery guitar licks signalling relentless circle pits, hearing material from their comeback record ‘Beast’ is an absolute pleasure to witness. The party-friendly grooves on cuts like ‘Bad Vibes’ and the two-step friendly swagger of ‘The Aftermath’ prove that they’ve sufficiently evolved their sound beyond the incredibly high bar they set for themselves after 2009’s ‘Day Of Mourning’.

Closing on ‘In The Arms Of Perdition’ and ‘MVP’ it’s clear from the level of audience participation and the high spirited performance, that Despised Icon can once again be considered the finest deathcore band out there, and we need them more than ever.