LIVE: Employed To Serve / We Never Learned To Live / Conjurer / Eulogy @ Old Blue Last, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

It’s almost been five years since Employed To Serve formed, and have subsequently earned their place as one of the heaviest, and hardest working bands in the UK. While hardcore is probably the easiest blanket term to define ETS, shows put on by bands on Holy Roar are now more diverse than they’ve ever been, making tonight feel just as much of a showcase for the label as well as being an album release show.

Even as we celebrate new chapters, another closes. Tonight, it’s the end for Surrey’s Eulogy, playing their farewell show to a room that’s packed, only a mere 15 minutes after the doors are opened upstairs¬†at the¬†Old Blue Last. Their groove laden riffs aren’t quite as loud as they could be but thankfully this is more than made up for with crowd participation. The blast beat drums fills decimate on cuts such as ‘Deaf Cult’ and the fierce¬†cacophony of tone-centric¬†noise on ‘Beyond The Skin’ is met with gracious applause. Overall, It’s a short but bittersweet send¬†off for the Ash Vale giants.

Midlands metal¬†outfit Conjurer on the other hand sound crystal clear, turning everything up to tinnitus-inducing levels of loudness and pumping out doomy riffs like there’s no tomorrow. Having shared stages previously with a variety of heavy artists, from Venom Prison to Anaal Nathrakh, these masters of lucid decimation are an unstoppable force, the likes of which create an earth shattering delivery. Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose’s vocals combined together are devilishly¬†satisfying, with an impressive range of tones in their high shrieks and guttural lows. Conjurer are¬†brutally immersive, taking all the best qualities of all things heavy into a nightmarish, balls to the wall formula with an unparalleled live presence.

Slowing things down to a melancholic pace, We Never Learned To Live are undoubtedly¬†heavy, but utilize¬†their noisy, crescendo¬†focused moments far more sparingly. The shimmering guitar lines and spine-tingling, soft/loud dynamic is reminiscent of early material from Devil Sold His Soul, yet still bringing something fresh and innovative to the table. Those familiar with WNLTL’s material will know how personal frontman Se√°n Mahon can be with his subject matter. In a live setting, the troubling themes feel even more cathartic, especially as Mahon switches effortlessly between raspy¬†yells and haunting clean vocals. Due to the more accessible qualities in their music compared to the rest of the bill, sing-alongs are plentiful in this set. The polished build ups in their more progressive cuts deliver a true sense of hubris, laced with punitive heavy end sections that leave the room in utter adoration for the Brighton post-hardcore outfit.

By now, Old Blue Last is a testosterone¬†filled sweat box, ready to embrace the relentless chaos of Employed To Serve. While ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun’ showcases the group’s progression and enhanced songwriting abilities, the dissonant breakdowns evident in all their material never fails to turn the crowd into a war zone. Guitarist/vocalist Sammy Urwin has no doubt taken a few pointers from his time in Renounced, incorporating unsettling yet memorable riffs that decimate everything in earshot. Vocalist Justine Jones tyrannically controls the room with her mesmerizing shrieks, with little effort needed to directly communicate with the audience, letting the mosh lines in her songs do all the work for her. ¬†There’s rarely any time to settle down during this set, especially with the sheer amount of people flinging themselves across the tiny stage back into the crowd, or heaven forbid, directly onto the floor for a particularly unsafe landing. ¬†Then again, it wouldn’t be a Holy Roar, Old Blue Last show without this sort of debauchery would it?

“Who’s listened to our very first EP?” Jones asks as the rest of the band fiddle about with tuning and regains their composure. While most of the people in the room respond that they have, Jones calls the rest of the audience ‘a bunch of posers’ in a blunt but tongue in cheek manner. ¬†Launching into ‘Heavy Limbs’, this raw and discordant anthem is what fueled much of their hype in the first place, and still sounds just as violent and heavy as it did back in 2014. The slower, low-end parts on ‘I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)’ are masterfully monolithic when performed live and showcase all the fantastic new dynamics that ETS have to offer. Similarly, the title track’s uplifting yet sorrowful ending is enhanced as Se√°n Mahon joins the band for the very vocal section, delivering a powerful release to a triumphant launch show.

By the end of it all, the crowd is but a sea of cheesy grins and throw ironic metal horns, as the band embraces to take a Twitter-friendly picture of tonight’s events. Employed To Serve do not do Holy Roar unprecedented justice in 2017, but are an inspiration to fans and musicians alike involved in the UK heavy music scene.

ASHWIN BHANDARI