LIVE: EpicFest 2017 – Saturday

By Jay Hampshire

After being forced to miss the Friday leg of EpicFest due to the terrible sufferance of ‘adult life’, we found ourselves slogging through the arse end of Herne Hill, London, in order to indulge in the towering line-up the delicately named South London Scum have put together.

After walking past the Off The Cuff bar a solid three times, we manage to barrel into the venue just in time to catch Brighton sludgecore mob Kalloused. Vocalist Les Makepeace paces the front rows of the crowd like a caged predator, the band spinning a backdrop of concentrated rage. It’s a rhythmic assault, their new cuts mutated into forms even more angular and bleakly angry than their more established material. Barked and screeched vocal rounds involve the whole band, Joey Pearson’s towering, jagged guitar sawing through Dudley Powell’s massive bass punch (seriously, it’s like fending off haymakers from a heavyweight pugilist). Absolutely savage: keep an eye on the four piece, because you’d be a fool not to.

Where Kalloused are vitriolic, Surya are much more considered. Groaning under the weight of stratospheric chords, guitars entwine through a slowly descending chug. Tom heavy drums keep a meditative pass, with lumbering fuzzed-out bass conjuring shades of Shrinebuilder. Waves of reverb meld into echoing climbs, cast aside by a sudden burst of blackened blast beats and tremolo. For the open minded, Surya cover incredibly rich musical topography.

It’s been a big year for London’s Wren. Solidifying their line up and releasing their debut album, ‘Auburn Rule’, has seen the four piece garner increased attention. Tonight they are truly magnetic – silky, syrupy drives and gasped snatches of barked vocals sitting amongst grinding, bright chords. Their songs slowly revolve, cinematic in scope, slow tumbles of drums adding to majesty. Everything is densely layered, from shimmering guitars to swells of pulsing noisescape. They’re not without their more intense moments, with destructive, dour riffing and bludgeoning atonality fighting against climactic snare rolls. It’s a tad wearying at times, a test of endurance, but also completely enrapturing. This is the best we’ve seen them live, without question.

North London’s finest purveyors of ‘Space Crust’ Cult Cinema entice us into the void with rising, ethereal motes of guitar. Busy drums act as an anchor, securing us to the earth as the rest of the instrumentation starts to soar. There’s intricacies aplenty as chiming guitars interweave, and a certain Bossk-esque flair to their cinematic leanings (reinforced by them being hard-lit with blue lighting). They bloom ever outward, a wash of reverberating chords, post-rock drives and held, throaty screeches. Tasty.

Post-sludge trio Torpor seem to manipulate the gravity of the venue through their bass heavy, leaden wall of sound. Silhouetted onstage and drenched in smoke machine fug, their new material lightens and crushes in equal measure, trilling guitar flitting airily above their massive subterranean grooves. Suddenly the venue is much more claustrophobic, their amps throwing out heat akin to a shriving furnace. There’s no pause between their resonant, shuddering onslaughts, and between the snaking sub-layer of bass and apocalyptic, frantic tremolo that claws upwards, it’s a physical gauntlet of sonic intensity. Based on the new material aired, whatever Torpor produce next, it may well be their masterpiece.

The faithful who stuck it out until the chimes of midnight are richly rewarded by the massive interstellar drives of Essex’s Earthmass. Relentless in their pace, they cut between stop/start chugging and shudderingly dense chords. They play some new cuts that writhe and pulsate with deep, metronomic rhythm section groove, and it’s absolutely irresistible. Sumptuous loops of guitar layers are punctuated with rattling, climactic drums, before falling down in cosmic cascades. Suffused with righteously bluesy bass runs and smooth wind downs, it’s a reminder that the four piece are an oft-overlooked diamond in the rough, and we certainly don’t get to see them live nearly as often as we’d like.

With those last, tolling notes the evening draws to a triumphant close. A unique venue has played host to some of the best bands the heavy underground has to offer, and the friendly, relaxed atmosphere is a true testament to the values of the DIY scene. EpicFest has lived up to its lofty moniker.