LIVE: The Dirty Nil @ The Boileroom, Guildford

By Aaron Jackson

Hot off the heels of a lengthy US & Canadian tour, The Dirty Nil began the UK stretch of their live campaign after a breather that lasted less than two weeks. No rest for the wicked, the Ontarian trio show no weakness as they bundle onto the charmingly cramped stage of Guildford’s finest venue. The last time the Nil played here it was to a sparse crowd, allegedly no more than twelve people. This time around, that number has markedly risen with plenty packing themselves in on a Thursday night. 

Kicking off with the first track off the brand-new record ‘Free Rein To Passions’, the crunchy jaggedness of that ‘Celebration’ opening riff gets the band off on the front foot. Heads nodding in sync with plenty of attendees already familiar enough with the song to recite the lyrics back to frontman Luke Bentham and, as expected, a large portion of the setlist is devoted to showcasing this new material. A UK debut for ‘Atomize Me’ is a nice touch, while the likes of the cathartic ‘Stupid Jobs’ and ‘Blowing Up Things In The Woods’ keep the energy high throughout the evening.

A highlight from ‘Free Rein To Passions’ is the titular track, before which bassist Sam Tomlinson takes a beat to encourage a bit more movement amongst the crowd. “I wrote this song for Vladimir Putin, I hope he fucking dies soon” explains Bentham before launching into the song. Huge cheers follow as a few audience members oblige Tomlinson’s request – bouncing off of each other along to the paciest song of the night.

It isn’t all shiny new toys and there is ample space on the setlist for older favourites, stretching as far back as mainstays ‘Wrestle Yü to Hüsker Dü’ and ‘Friends In The Sky’ from 2016’s debut full-length ‘Higher Power’. Of course, ‘Doom Boy’ goes down a treat thanks to its simply irresistible riff and crushing breakdown. The moody poise of ‘Evil Side’ builds into its emphatic crescendo and marks a suitably deafening closure to the bulk of the setlist. 

Opting to forego the usual pantomime of an encore and instead staying rooted to their stage, The Dirty Nil bow out with their exemplary cover of Metallica’s ‘Hit The Lights’. An apt ode to a clear source of inspiration for the band, it’s a great conclusion to a stacked set. In little over an hour, fans were treated to 18 songs, a tremendous feat, considering that the whole evening flew by. Such is a testament to the quality scattered throughout The Dirty Nil’s discography.

Striking, just as was the music, it’s worth mentioning how Bentham looked the part in the bespoke garb, “Free Rein” embroidered above the breast pocket and an inverted crucifix studded into the back. Chewing and bursting bubble gum throughout the performance, he exudes all the pomp and swagger of a person you’d want at the helm of your band. Few bells and whistles, just raw, authentic live music. The Dirty Nil are a proper rock ‘n’ roll outfit and should be treasured as such – long live the Nil.