Live Review | Heck & Black Peaks @ The Phoenix, Exeter

Words: Keira Trethowan | Images: Craig Taylor-Broad Photography

I’ve found myself in some pretty surreal situations over the years, but attending – what is essentially – a hardcore punk gig in a ballet studio is certainly top of the podium. Yet as I stepped through into the cosy venue I had absolutely no idea that the gig would be one of the most explosive and enigmatic experiences of my life.

Opening were a new favourite band of mine. This Be The Verse were an unfathomable combination of modern meets Nine Inch Nails, with a gritty and industrial sound that left me inundated with feelings of appreciation. Not only this, but their stage-presence was compelling with features of audience invasion and an energy that was tenacious and bold. Support bands are often shown up when the headliner act ascends the stage, yet This Be The Verse weren’t – and not being disgraced by the likes of Black Peaks and HECK is a mighty achievement indeed. I urge you to check these guys out.


Second on the bill: The almighty Black Peaks, and they were in no mood to disappoint at the sold-out event. Valiant, loud and merciless, they threw all of their devotion into their twisty set. Mosh pits broke out, the audience possibly damaged their vocal cords from screaming, and everyone outside must have thought the apocalypse had started. Nothing was held-back, no morsel of energy was left spare – and honestly, I’m surprised that the group didn’t crash to the floor in gelatinous heaps after their set.


Admittedly, they may be characteristically self-indulgent with their false-endings and endless crescendos, but it was an indulgence that was welcomed with open arms by everyone in the venue. Their record-quality sound was also appreciated forcefully, with its crisp, yet grimy resonance. It’s no lie that I’ve become somewhat desensitised to live music recently, but the group have rejuvenated my zest for gigs. Black Peaks are a band that will grow, evolve and still be here in ten years’ time – and I, for one, intend to still be right there in their fan base.

Closing the event were a band who firmly live up to their name. HECK are notorious for spending more time in the crowd than on the stage, and this a quality that sets them apart from other static groups who aren’t worth the time of day. It would be easy to write off this stage presence as being purely invasive, but they were certainly on the right side of intrusion. In a manic frenzy they spent time swinging from light fixtures, rocking out on top of the bar, and leaving a trail of respectful destruction in their wake. Yet, at no point did they make the audience feel visibly uneasy. This chaotic attitude wasn’t the result of showboating or living up to their notoriety. This chaos was merely a result of their intoxicating, addictive passion – and damn, it was something worth seeing!


Sound-wise, HECK were also tight, and there was no denying their pristinely rehearsed set. Not only did they deliver everything that I’d typically expect from the hardcore punk genre, but the group deviated enough away from the emblematic conventions to assure themselves a unique resonance. Before witnessing them live I was sceptical about their vast and renowned hype, but I can assuredly convey that it’s warranted. They’re unhinged, sickeningly talented and supplied 1/3 of my gig of the year.

heck (6).jpg

The recovery-time from this event will take months. I feel like I’ve had life-altering surgery. I feel like I’ve experienced something equivalent to the Rapture. I’m bruised, mentally exhausted but left in a state of awe. If you weren’t there, then damn, you missed out.

Full Gallery