LIVE: Stick To Your Guns / Stray From The Path / Counterparts / Wolf Down @ Underworld

By Dave Bull

Tonight offers modern day hardcore fans something to cheer about, something to get truly excited by and something to believe in. Stick To Your Guns are evidence that hard work pays off, and over the next two nights, they’re taking over the Underworld with full album sets of ‘Diamond’ tonight and ‘Disobedience’ tomorrow.

They are the true flag fliers of lyrical intensity and civil movement. They reiterate, as they do on track, that hardcore should be about the lyrics that are being said, not just about music, which is often the case with other genres today. It’s about channelling the problems of the world into songs, and hoping that people stand up, take note and fight the powers that be, capitalism and injustice. Hardcore is the modern day Guy Fawkes, and tonight it’s blowing up the Underworld.

First up are Germany’s Wolfdown who appear to be enjoying a new lease of life, after the 2014 departure of vocalist Larissa, a wiry, lively front-woman that gave this hard hitting, edgy band a further edge, and cut above the rest. New vocalist Dave does enough to suggest he’s up to the challenge, but the band perhaps sneak back into obscurity, failing to offer much that’s different from the masses.

That’s not to say their set wasn’t well executed. With the Underworld beginning to fill up, Wolfdown offer thirty minutes of blistering, face paced hardcore, with a strong rhetoric of veganism and animal rights. The crowd responds in the later parts of the set, particularly to the aptly named song ‘Stray From The Path’, a rubber bullet to the face kind of song, which gets shoulders popping and windmills turning.

The biggest anti-climax of the night come in the shape of Counterparts, who like their latest album, just play it far too safe. OK, they’re not headlining or even co-headlining, but it felt flat, and lifeless. This reviewers is usually a big fan, and as headliners, they offer something much different. But tonight, perhaps tired from the tour, they fail to meet the high bar set by the line-up.

Now to the meat in the sandwich, if the previous two were the spicy sauce and the lettuce respectively, then Stray From The Path were most definitely the dripping meat. They offer everything that a live band should from this genre – they are atmospheric, they are aggressive, their rhetoric is hard and in your face, it’s poignant, it’s real, it’s current and it boils inside you from song to song, as the energy and ferocity pick up to unbelievable levels.

All but one of the songs are off their 2015 album ‘Subliminal Criminals’ and usually this would perhaps annoy the hardcore following that their ‘favourites’ were not played. Not this band, not tonight. Their latest album is full of absolute show stopping party bangers that you could easily discount their previous work, despite the fact that it is equally bad-ass. ‘D.I.E.P.I.G’ is monumentally enormous, the bass and drums crisp and full of sledgehammer beats, like injecting steroids into a rhinoceros. The crowd respond unlike anything the Underworld has seen for quite sometime.

‘Eavesdropper’ sees the band joined by Adam Woodford, Polar’s vocalist to add an extra, seemingly impossible grittier edge to the song coined on record by Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds. ‘Outbreak’ sees the Underworld bulge and move like a swollen river, crowd surfers everywhere, every man for himself. As with all hardcore, there is a moment of poignant reflection, whilst Drew discusses terrorism and berates the liberties taken by Front Porch Step and Ian Watkins before the chaos ensues. ’First World Problem Child’ ends the set with a bang, and hands down, is already labelled as one of the performances of the year.

And if that wasn’t enough, headlining tonight’s proceedings is Stick To Your Guns, playing two sold out shows at London’s Underworld. Tonight, ‘Diamond’ in full. The stage is set as the backing track to ‘Diamond’ floats over the PA ‘and this there is no teacher…’, the drums kicking in, as everyone goes ape shit.

2012’s ‘Diamond’ is hands down one of the greatest modern additions to hardcore. It has everything – deep political and social rhetoric, banging, hard rhythm sections and sing-a-long, catchy choruses that grab you by the belt and braces.

‘Against Them All’ and ‘Such Pain’ give more of the same, unrelenting anthems before ‘We Still Believe’ offers a more pop-punk edge. ‘Beyond The Sun’ and ‘Bringing You Down’ get the largest crowd sing-a-longs of the night with everyone bellowing back with ferocity of an uncontrolled bar brawl, the punky sentiments in ‘Bringing You Down’ reminding everyone there are many layers to this band, and is why they have sold out venues and have the luxury of playing debut albums in their entirety.

‘D (I am) ond’ is dedicated to a past lover, and the energy and heart is felt as everyone piles on to the stage for ‘I am a brave man, I am a coward…I am most importantly, not concerned with what I am not’, the hairs on the back of necks literally obliterated.

Their encore of ‘Nobody’, ‘Nothing You Can Do To Me’, ‘What Goes Around’ and the mighty ‘Amber’ give fans pre-2012 something to cheer about. ‘Amber’ launching in with that ridiculously delicious riff, possibly the bands finest moment, the chorus of ‘I’ve had enough, please make this go’ bellowed back, as the drop offers the faithful, their last chance to kick up the turf.

Tonight was a huge success and proves that there is life in the old hardcore dog yet, particularly with strong co-headline tours such as this, two bands at the top of their A-game, with some pretty decent support acts as well. Hardcore (noughties) is dead. Long live (modern day) hardcore.