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Wormrot / Afternoon Gentlemen / The Atrocity Exhibit (live at The Underworld)

23 February 2017

Wormrot live February 2017OK, so full disclosure — it’s been at least a decade since I went to a grindcore show. At least a decade; maybe two. So I’m coming at this with… if not “fresh”, then at least “renewed” eyes (if not ears). I’ve not been keeping up with the live scene, let’s put it that way.

Real life as a fake adult not being anywhere near as punk as any of us wanted it to be, and this being an early show and me not being able to go anywhere until I’ve finished work, we arrive just as the second band, The Atrocity Exhibit, are playing their last song. And this is a shame for many reasons. Firstly because of the implied JG Ballard and/or Joy Division reference in the name, which makes me want to love them. Secondly, because I already had a bunch of “Atrocity Xzibit” jokes lined up. You know the kind of thing. “Yo, dawg, I heard you like grindcore, so we put some grind in your core so you can core while you grind.” Possibly just as well I didn’t get to use those. But thirdly and most importantly, because they are creating the kind of wonderfully unholy racket that makes me deeply regret not having seen their whole set.

Afternoon Gentlemen live February 2017

Then it’s Afternoon Gentlemen, and for a while I’m curious as to whether the name is supposed to be read as “gentlemen of the afternoon” or simply a sturdy greeting, but these questions are pretty much immediately blown away by their blastbeats, extreme vocals and tricksy timing. And it occurs to me how in many ways grindcore is the Ginger Rogers to math-rock’s Fred Astaire.

Afternoon Gentlemen live February 2017

In terms of musical complexity, impenetrably obtuse time signatures and a steadfast refusal to ever lock into a simplistic groove for more than a couple of bars at a time, grindcore does everything math-rock does but backwards and in high heels (or, y’know, louder, faster and with more bodies flying past your fretboard). Yet never gets anywhere near as much credit for its intelligence. Afternoon Gentlemen demonstrate this in an endearingly northern way, with jokes about pies and much self-deprecating humour that belies the utter sonic devastation they unleash during their set. I like them very much.Wormrot live February 2017

Hailing from even further outside the M25 are tonight’s headliners, here for the first time in five years, Singapore’s Wormrot. And now is the time the big sign on The Underworld‘s legendarily infamous view-blocking pillar that expressly forbids stagediving and crowdsurfing gets to look possibly as stupid as it has at any time in its career as a sign. From the moment they take the stage, there’s a production line of rolling, horns-throwing bodies as relentless as the chocolate biscuit mill off Bagpuss, only with bigger boots. And it’s a good crowd, and they all hit the ground safely, even the ones who were fighting each other on the way down. Which is as it should be.

Wormrot live February 2017

Fuelled by Wormrot’s bassier, more epic (relatively speaking. I mean, we’re still talking short songs done really fast here) take on grind, which has as much in common with Mayhem as it does with, say, Carcass, it’s a constant sea of… well, I want to say “damned swimmers on a writhing sea of filth”, because that would kind of fit the aesthetic, but it’s more like “a bunch of people having an awesome time listening to a fucking wicked band”. I know that’s not as cool, but hey, I’m an honest man and in an era of fake news, it falls to us small-time music reviewers to hoist the flag for THE TRUTH, GODDAMMIT. And realistically it’s just as good. If not better.

Fucking great evening, essentially.

-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit-

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