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Wrongstock - The Underworld, London - September 20 2014 (Live Review)

Monday, 22 September 2014 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Metal's bloody rotten, isn't it? Sure, you've got your Slipknots and your Iron Maidens bothering the charts, but many even consider them too much of a terror to contemplate. So, we can but picture the look on their faces were they to stumble across Wrongstock: a festival of wrong 'uns curated in honour of Russ Russell and capable of flaying skin and using it as a banana hammock. They'd lose it, eh?

Shrapnel have the task of taking the first dip in a pool of merciless metal and they do so like absolute pros. Carefully sculpted beards and clumps of unkempt hair whirl as tracks from their debut full-length, 'The Virus Conspires', are hurled toward the audience. The title track and Braindead are top quality thrash tunes, nestling happily alongside the works of Kreator and Testament. Give Shrapnel time and they'll soon catch up.

At the other end of the spectrum, lounge-cum-crust punks Oaf comprise simply a drummer clad in tweed and a sardonic frontman in the form of Dom Lawson. Marker Pen Cocks and Fuck Off Seagull indicate just what sort of lyrical content these guys push, but it is genuinely hilarious.

Their arsenal of puns - “Avant-garde? Avant-garde a clue, mate.” - makes for some suitably cheesy, entertaining stage banter, which is more than can be said for blackened death metallers Sidious.

Their musical output is second to none – Ascension To The Throne Ov Self sounds gargantuan tonight – but frontman Isfeth's growled, faux-goblin seriousness as he addresses the crowd falls on the wrong side of cliché. It’s a minor blip in Sidious' act, but a niggling one nonetheless, if only because the music is so damn good.

Saturnian, though, go all-out in regards to cheesiness, throwing self-consciousness to the wind and rocking up on stage in cloaks that look borrowed from Emperor Palpatine. Bombastic, expansive slabs of symphonic black metal are summoned with enough pomposity to make Dimmu Borgir seriously assess their career choices and vocalist Wilson's cheeky 'Dimmu Better' shirt garners rapturous applause from the black metal devotees.

Reaping the biggest crowd of the event, Evil Scarecrow confirm that their victory at Bloodstock last month was no fluke. Armed with a canon of certified tunes and schlocky sci-fi lyrics, they make the most of the massive turnout by demanding everyone scuttle during crab-cyborg epic Crabulon and robot dance in Robototron. At one point, there's an accordion. While still a relatively unknown entity outside the underground scene, Evil Scarecrow possess the edge, melodies and ridiculously entertaining live show to make a real go of this music lark.

Following that would make anyone wish they were curled up at home watching X Factor and subsequently Karybdis fail to deliver. On any other day these bright young hopefuls would have shone, but having them follow Evil Scarecrow is a little like watching the first Matrix film and watching the second one straight afterwards – acceptable, but a tad pedestrian.

DripBack remain anything but boring, launching their bastardised death/black/thrash/grind mutation with all the subtlety of an elephant in Doc Martens. The sound hinders their set, but they give it their all in a truly vulgar display of power. A surprise appearance from the Rotted's Ben McCrow, during Kick Out Time, adds further twisted delight to an already solid performance and, armed with decent sound, DripBack will conquer cities and trample upon the skulls of pretenders.

Alas, the Rotted. Six years of death-punk just doesn't seem long enough and it's a tear-jerking, mummy-cuddling thought that the former Gorerotted/Screamin' Daemon folks are hanging up their axes. That being said, they do serve up one hell of a swansong. McCrow dominates the stage like some sort of tight shirt-wearing Bane, cannonballing into the crowd and generally being a jolly good showman. The set culminates with Rotted Fucking Earth, brains are spilled upon the beer-stained floor and the Rotted are no more.

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