LIVE: Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed @ The Garage, London [04/08/2013]

By Chris Marshman

It just seemed to be one of those weekends in Camp Killswitch where everything that possibly could have gone wrong, did. From the cancellation of both incarnations Hevy Festival, firstly as a camping weekender and then as an all-dayer at the Brixton Academy (both of which they were scheduled to headline), this cobbled-together replacement show (one of many taking place in the capital over the weekend in place of Hevy) is hit by further misfortune. Doors for this show were originally meant to be at 6:30, with Hatebreed on at 7:30, Killswitch on at 9, and all done with a nice early finish for a Sunday show – perfect, one thinks. However, it was not to pan out that way.

Killswitch arrived two hours late for their soundcheck, due to the traffic generated by London’s cycle race and Arsenal’s losing effort in a tournament created to augment their sparse trophy cabinet, the Emirates Cup. Not only that, but according to guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, in words as eloquent as we’ve come to expect from him, their equipment is “fucked” and vocalist Jesse David Leach is suffering from food poisoning. With credit to them, the Garage make a valiant effort to organise the gathered masses, holding a portion upstairs in a sweaty shoebox while blasting out metal “choons” and supplying much-needed cool beverages.

When downstairs finally opens, it quickly turns into the furnace akin to that generated at last week’s Braid show – The Garage’s air-con amounts to one decrepit unit near the back of the venue coughing out chilled air at below waist height. All of this considered, by the time the first band take the stage after 9 o’clock, you’d expect there to be a considerable level of disgruntlement in the room – luckily, that band are Hatebreed, the Most Fun Live Band In The World™, and all such fears are instantly vanquished from the moment they tear into “Everybody Bleeds Now”. Almost into their 20th year as a band and currently touring their seventh studio album (the covers record doesn’t count), the Connecticut crew are consummate performers – their discography may be on a steady decline in quality, but in the live arena, they truly excel.

The setlist is (virtually) all-encompassing (old-skool moshers will be displeased to know the band are still completely disregarding debut Satisfaction Is The Death of Desire) and a dud song is nary to be found – even those who dismiss this band as “caveman music” would have to be extraordinarily churlish to deny the potency of the one-two punch set finale, “I Will Be Heard” and “Destroy Everything”. Jamey Jasta is undoubtedly amongst the premier frontmen in modern metal – I know I’d rather watch the crowd eat out of the palm of his hand than some middle-aged bloke shouting “Scream for me Greenwich!” down the road.

Unfortunately, due to his aforementioned ill-health, the same cannot be said for KsE vocalist Jesse Leach. This writer witnessed his triumphant return to UK soil earlier this year at Shepherd’s Bush Empire (for those that don’t know, Leach was Killswitch’s original vocalist, left in 2002, only to come back to the fold in 2012 following his original replacement Howard Jones’ departure) and despite his best efforts, Leach is clearly struggling to make it through tonight’s set. It doesn’t help either that they play to steadily dwindling numbers, as people become anxious about getting public transport home – the band finally kick off at quarter to 11, and though there are fervent chants from tonight’s surprisingly patient crowd, by the time “The End Of Heartache” rings out under an hour later, the room is barely two-thirds full.

The quintet show staunch valiance in the face of extreme adversity; lesser bands would have pulled the plug on tonight’s show, and considering their underwhelming performance and ludicrously late timings tonight, they maybe should have. However, one hopes that, alongside Hevy Fest, Killswitch Engage will return with a bang in 2014 and that this show is a rare misstep where circumstances went against them in their path to re-establishing themselves at the vanguard of metalcore. Jesse David Leach’s second era has been a success thus far – just listen to the wonderful “Disarm The Descent”, their best work in years – and one sincerely wishes that tonight will be looked back on as a momentary blip.