LIVE: This Will Destroy You/Tera Melos/Dorje/Polymath @ House Of Vans, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

Situated underneath Waterloo station, House Of Vans is a skatepark by day and a vibrant music venue by night. As you walk past various ramps to get to the main room, the atmosphere is far more relaxed, compared to the usual hustle and bustle of Saturday night shows in London. The cloakroom is free, the lines to get to the toilets/bar are minimal, and the cute cafe next to the merch is still open, making it feel more like you’re at a museum than a gig. Near the back of the venue, there is a mini-exhibition of BOSS guitar pedals, showcasing their origins and how their gear for 40 years has benefitted countless musicians.

Technical virtuosos Polymath dazzle the audience with an intense set that does more than merely┬áwarm things up for tonight. The sound is crystal clear, especially when their ‘glitchy’ noise elements are showcased alongside the vast guitar layers. At times, there are instrumentals that are so defiant, they essentially become their own voice for the band to compensate for the lack of vocals. The almost theatrical stage movements of guitarist Tim Walters and Joe Branton ensure that Polymath can muster everything they have for their brief opening slot. Bridging the gap between classic rock and mathy┬ámetal, the Brighton trio are the perfect accompaniment for what’s yet to come.

Dorje might be one of the more accessible rock bands to add to a post-rock/math rock bill, but their blistering riffs and soaring harmonies quickly win the audience over. Think Incubus mixed with A Perfect Circle, and that should give you a rough idea of what Dorje offer, giving us a smattering of hits from the ‘Catalyst’ and ‘Centred And One’ EPs. Tight and infectious, an unreleased song is teased to the audience, in anticipation for their debut album. If tonight is anything to go by, we’re all in for a treat, especially those who clearly came for Dorje alone, and honestly who can blame them?

If ‘party math’ was its own genre (compared to the melancholic overtones of conventional math rock), Tera Melos would undoubtedly be the kings of it. The Sacramento power trio deliver a career spanning set, with complex drum fills, mind-boggling riffs and a tonne of high-energy shenanigans. Newer cuts from 2017’s ‘Trash Generator’ include memorable vocal lines that audiences can join in with, whilst retaining a level of technical craftsmanship that makes them so insatiable to watch. You can’t exactly headbang along to them in the conventional sense, but the audience’s reaction is graceful.

Doused in an ominous blue light, the self-proclaimed ‘doomgaze’ Texans This Will Destroy You emerge. Despite the various lineup changes, with founder Jeremy Galindo and Christopher Royal King being the only original members left, 2017 saw the band support the likes of Deafheaven across the US, and maintain a strong touring cycle for their 2014 record ‘Another Language’. Opening with ‘The Mighty Rio Grande’ into ‘Dustism’, the outfit executes every note with vicarious sincerity. The emotional intensity is further enhanced through the contrasting ‘soft/loud’ dynamics, and the audience is lulled into a false sense of security before being blasted with crescendos. The lush walls of sound they create are unfathomably moving, as the outfit continues to push the genre’s boundaries. The clear-cut package of pummelling drum fills, bombastic bass tones and blissful guitar leads are more than enough to send shivers down your spine despite being in a packed, sweaty underground box.

In-between tuning, King addresses the crowd and gives his thanks to BOSS for supporting the band for the last four years or so. The band could have remained silent through the intermissions of songs and we’d all be complicit in their gaze, but this small acknowledgment feels all the more wholesome.

The subtle drum fills lightly tinge over the tear-jerking riffs, as we follow TWDY through these rich tapestries, with each gripping ending more cathartic than the last. It almost as if we’ve been taken to a different realm of existence, far away from the spoils of reality, where we’ve become one with TWDY. ┬áThe songs mostly finish in a blaze of noisy glory, channeling the band’s earth-shattering drone textures on record, and as their name suggests, crippling you emotionally in the best way possible. For 40 minutes or so, all our cares and fears are gone, and This Will Destroy You are one of those bands that you’ll cherish having seen live. It also goes to show, the best things in life really are free.