Live: Norma Jean – Camden Underworld

By Tom Aylott

From the outset, this show was always going to be a face-melter. Last time NORMA JEAN hit up the capital city in support of ARCHITECTS at the legendary Koko, they were dangerously close to upstaging the headliners. When the Atlanta metalcore titans announced that they were not only playing one of the most suitably intimate venues in London, but also bringing along hometown friends THE CHARIOT, there was little doubt that the city was about to witness something truly mesmerising.

Due to the early curfew on tonight’s show, ADMIRAL’S ARMS take to the stage in front of a disappointingly small crowd. Although the audience increases in size as the band hammer through their half hour set, it never reaches the level to really get the party started. Regardless, the Parisians put their all into their show which culminates with the guitarist jumping off-stage to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The band announce that today is their first time in London, and judging by tonight’s performance, it definitely will not be their last.

DEAD AND DIVINE may be relatively unknown when compared with the headliners, yet the sudden surge towards the front and the immediate appearance of a substantial mosh-pit provides hard evidence that they have a large following in the room. Their expertly delivered combination of metalcore and heartfelt vocals may be the lightest on the bill, but by no means is this anything but savage. Matt Tobin’s eccentricities help to further increase their stage-presence, which comes together almost perfectly to ensure the pace of the line-up is maintained.

You can be forgiven for thinking that THE CHARIOT are tonight’s headliners. The Underworld is at breaking point by the time the opening riffs fill the room. From that moment on, only one word seems suitable to describe this performance: carnage. At some point during DEAD AND DIVINE’s set the audience picked up on the lack of a barrier, and the noticeable absence of any visible security. Cue stage invasions, stage divers and crowd surfers galore. At various moments it is difficult to make distinctions between the band and the fans, as the audience is almost perpetually bombarded by human bodies. THE CHARIOT take advantage of this, throwing themselves into the crowd while the guitarist take turns to perform their indescribable brutality from the back of the venue. Musically the set is equally impressive to behold; delivered with flawless timing and unbelievably tight musicianship. Relentlessness has never sounded this good.

With the crowd more than fired up, NORMA JEAN immediately pound into ‘Leaderless and Self Enlisted’. The following forty-five minutes see the titans brutalise their instruments, hammering their refined sound around the Underworld. Any prolonged breaks between songs are curtailed, serving to enhance the savagery of the performance. A carefully selected setlist supports the barbarism; perpetuating an earth-shattering intensity level. Although it may be a cliché to declare that tonight’s show is the best on the tour so far, it is evident across the faces of all band members that this is true. By the time Josh Scogin joins NORMA JEAN on stage for a defining rendition of ‘Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste’, they have proven that they deserve to be at the top of the bill. With eardrums shattered across the capital, tonight London joins Memphis in ruins.