LIVE: Rotten Sound / Abigail Williams / Cult Leader / Razoreater @ Boston Music Rooms, London

By James Lee

Monday night is pretty much the worst night of the week when it comes to being in the mood for a night of savage metal. The weekend seems aeons away, you’re still suffering from the previous weekend, it’s just the least rock and roll time of the week. And yet, here we were, on a vaguely miserable Monday night in North London, stood in the Boston Music Rooms readying our frail, damaged bodies and minds for a few hours of solid pummelling.

Thanks to poor timing on our part, we sadly missed the night’s openers The Brood, so it was up to Peterborough grinders Razoreater to kick things off proper. Having been plucked from a list of 70+ bands for the chance to open for Rotten Sound tonight, Razoreater wasted no time in making sure the opportunity afforded them was not a wasted one, hurtling out of the gate with their devastating grindcore attack to the delight of the nascent crowd. Drenched in buzzsaw guitar fuzz and held together with a backbone of thundering blasts, Razoreater were sonically not a million miles away from the headliners, though definitely with a more pronounced hardcore vibe to their sound, akin to Nails or Torch Runner. Blazing through their set with almost no chances to catch a breath, the band owned the room for the 25 or so minutes they were onstage and certainly left the venue with more friends than they entered.

Based on the amount of merch flying off the table and the palpable buzz filling the room as they lurched onto the stage, Cult Leader appeared to be the main reason many punters attended the show, and with very good cause. Following the very nasty breakup of Gaza a few years ago, ¾ of that band made the brave decision to continue on, eschewing all of their previous incarnation’s material in favour of a clean start, the ensuing album and pair of EPs proving that the band’s instincts in doing so were completely justified. The Salt Lake City quartet’s stage presence was foreboding, intense, and downright menacing, as former bass player-turned-lead vocalist Anthony Lucero stalked the stage like an escaped psychiatric patient. By far the least straightforward act of the night, Cult Leader’s harrowing cocktail of grind, sludge and hardcore was an almost overwhelming assault on the nervous system. The set contained a compelling mix of the band’s most abrasive material and some of their slower, darker and more introspective works. Closing with a crushing rendition of ‘Driftwood’, the final track from the band’s debut EP ‘Nothing For Us Here’, Cult Leader ensured their first live venture on British soil was a successful one, and hopefully the return trip will be sooner rather than later.

Next onto the stage came the arguable ‘sore thumb’ of the bill, Phoenix, Arizona black metallers Abigail Williams. The band originally appeared a decade ago during the big deathcore boom of ‘06, and as such were often lumped in with bands like Job For A Cowboy and Suicide Silence (whom Abigail Williams toured with), despite sonically sharing little with those acts. The band’s earlier material was a more easily digestible mix of Black Dahlia Murder-esque death metal with a wash of symphonic keyboards, however an almost unfathomable number of member changes later and Abigail Williams are now basically a straight up symphonic black metal band, with no trace of their ‘core’ leanings to be found. Tonight though Abigail Williams were, oddly, the least extreme sounding band on the bill, despite their walls of blastbeats, washes of ferocious guitar shred and Ken Sorceron’s piercing shriek. Though many members of the audience found plenty to headbang to, Abigail Williams’ songs were too meandering and ponderous to really light a fire under the crowd. There are plenty of exhilarating black metal bands doing the rounds in the scene today, however tonight Abigail Williams just didn’t quite deliver enough excitement to be considered among them.

Finally, the job of bringing this evening of savagery to a close fell to Finnish grindcore legends Rotten Sound. This side of Napalm Death and Pig Destroyer, Rotten Sound are about as good as it gets when it comes to grind, the band sitting on an almost flawless discography of albums and EPs that put to shame artists half their age. The fact that they’ve been at this for pretty much two decades now has only allowed them extra time to sharpen each of their facets to razor-edged points. Few, if any, bands are faster or more aggressive, and yet still able to retain groove and write catchy, well structured songs like Rotten Sound continue to, most recently on their latest album ‘Abuse To Suffer’. Exploding onto the stage, the band ripped through material from all eras of their career, in the process opening up the night’s first and only real mosh pit, albeit one that kept churning until the final HM-2-soaked notes rang out. Deafening in volume and mind-numbing in intensity, Rotten Sound’s live shows are legendary and tonight’s was no exception, the band clearly still loving every second up there as they blasted and shredded through what felt like about three-hundred songs. By the end we felt battered, broken, and emotionally and physically drained. So, just a typical Monday, yeah?