LIVE: Leeched / Ithaca / Mastiff / Wolfbastard @ The Star & Garter, Manchester

By Liam Knowles

The Star & Garter is a loud, sweaty little venue, and as such is the perfect arena for four loud, sweaty bands to peddle their aggressive wares on a muggy Thursday evening. Leeched and Ithaca are two extremely important young bands in a scene that is the healthiest it has been in years, and this rotating co-headlining run is an opportunity for them to build hype and bring themselves up to the levels of their rapidly ascending peers like Conjurer and Employed To Serve.

First up is local trio Wolfbastard, who deliver short but effective blasts of blackened d-beat to a sparse but eager crowd. With song titles like ‘Die Bastard Die’ and lyrics about Buckfast, it could be argued that Wolfbastard are a bit on the silly side, but that’s welcome in a scene that’s otherwise dour and serious.

Hull sludge-metal heavyweights Mastiff are up next, and Jesus tapdancing Christ are they heavy. Their setlist is mostly taken from this year’s excellent album ‘Plague’, with devastating tracks like ‘Hellcircle’, ‘Bubonic’ and ‘Vermin’ literally rattling the venue itself. Some technical difficulties do break their momentum at times, but when Mastiff are firing on all cylinders they are a force to be reckoned with. Vocalist Jim Hodge has immense presence, prowling the limited stage space like an apex predator, allowing the rest of the band to focus on slinging out riff after catastrophic riff. Mastiff may not be part of tonight’s main tour package, but the quality of their output should easily have them headlining venues this size within the next year or so.

Ithaca may not have the headline slot tonight, but that doesn’t stop them throwing everything they have into their incandescent performance. Clearly buzzing off the the acclaim of their outstanding debut ‘The Language Of Injury’ that came out just a few months ago, Ithaca waste no time laying waste to the packed out room with ‘New Covenant’. Dual guitarists Sam and Will contort their faces and bodies as they unleash razor sharp mathcore riffs and filthy, horror-chord heavy breakdowns that genre giants like Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan would have been poud of, whilst captivating vocalist Djamila Azzouz commands the crowd with her raw delivery, which is fragile and venomous in equal parts. Apart from a quickly rectified broken string (at which point Djamila seems concerned because she has, in her words, “no banter”) their performance is absolutely faultless. The closing one-two punch of ‘Otherworldly’ and ‘Impulse Crush’ is as perfectly executed as you could hope for, leaving no one in the room unsure about this band’s potency and potential.

After that performance, tonight’s headliners and local heroes Leeched may come across as a little clinical, but what they lack in raw dynamics they more than make up for in pure explosive heaviness. Since expanding from a trio to a quartet, thanks to the addition of Pijn’s Joe Clayton, Leeched have taken their ability to crush everyone in their path to a whole new level. As they deliver their mix of hardcore and grind, with a splash of industrial, it’s easy to see how they’ve risen so quickly since only forming in 2017. Every tiny little detail of their set has been carefully considered for maximum impact, from the subtle samples to every moment of silence before the satisfying PING of a cymbal ushers in a seismic breakdown, Leeched have got it all down to an art. The song ‘Guilt’ is a perfect example of this; an unpredictable yet unrelenting storm of riffs and power.

As previously stated, the UK heavy music scene is in amazing shape right now. If new bands like these keep coming out of the woodwork every so often, and people continue to show this level of support and enthusiasm for the underground, then there’s no reason for that to change.