By Luigi Sibona
In its first year, Upsurge has already staked claim to be one of the most exciting festivals for all things hardcore on these shores. I managed to get down to the New Cross Inn to catch the last of three days of hardcore hell/heaven (depending on your sensibilities).
Opening the day off for me was one of my most exciting prospects in the line-up, Glasgow’s very own Lotus Eater. A kind of bastard love-child of Meshuggah, Slipknot and Godflesh, Lotus Eater hit like a sledgehammer and it translates incredibly live. Feeling very much like a feral answer to the recent crop of industrially-focused hardcore coming in the wake of Code Orange’s impact, there’s enough here that marks them our as their own beast.
The riffs come thick and fast with Lotus Eater knowing just when to bring it crushing down with earth-rumbling breakdowns. Both recent singles, ‘Break It’ and ‘Branded’, were the absolute standouts, showing the substantial strides in ambition and songwriting the band have taken from their already promising debut EP, ‘Gloom’.
Following Lotus Eater was Holy Roar stalwarts, Renounced. Bringing up the, dare I say it, artsier end of the hardcore spectrum on display at Upsurge, Renounced were on rip-roaring form. That’s not to say that they weren’t every bit as abrasive as their stage mates. If you’re familiar with guitarist’s, Sammy Urwin’s other band, Employed to Serve, you know he’s one of the most savage riff-writers going in UK hardcore and riffs were front and centre.
Renounced know just when to take their foot of the peddle, mixing in airier passages and slight spoken word segments. These only exemplified the spin-kick-inducing breakdowns which are tightly executed and sounded huge live.
Sanction’s first UK show was a prospect greeted with great anticipation off the back of their debut full-length, ‘The Infringement of God’s Plan’ and they didn’t disappoint. Their searing brand of breakdown-heavy metallic hardcore fit the Upsurge crowd like a glove.
The propulsive rhythm section locked in so well live that even at their most chaotic, Sanction were still able to lead you on a savage journey of headbanging from start to finish.
Puppy took to the stage next as sub-headliners of the evening. As the odd ones out on the bill – joking that they’d be the only band with singing – Puppy proved they’re willing to take on any audience. Admittedly, there was less fist-swinging and spin-kicking than for others bands on the bill, but those riffs are undisputable and there wasn’t a head to be seen not banding away.
New single, ‘Black Hole’ sounded massive and more than fit in with the multitude of bangers off their two EPs. We were treated to a handful of new material off their upcoming debut, due out in January 2018, and if there were any inhibitions that the record wasn’t going to totally slam (there weren’t…) these put them to rest.
On to the evening’s headliners, the mighty Harm’s Way. Hailing from Chicago, these hardcore bulls were the band the whole weekend had been building up to. Their only UK show of the year wasn’t one to miss! Hot on the heels of their best record to date, ‘Posthuman’, earlier in the year, they were packing a killer setlist on groove-laden metallic hardcore ragers.
The chunky, industrial-edged riffing took the New Cross Inn by storm and frontman James Pligge’s hulking presence was impossible to look away from. His weighty frame is more than just for show being the mouthpiece of one of the most bruising, muscular hardcore bands going. Tracks like ‘Human Carrying Capacity’ and ‘Call My Name’ sounded as heavy as the ceiling coming down and those grooves were even more infectious live.
The more experimental, industrial-leading cuts off ‘Posthuman’ like ‘Temptation’, somehow didn’t feel like breathers, with their Godflesh-esque hypnotic grooves drawing you into their harrowing soundscapes. It was incredible to catch my rager of the year, ‘Last Man’, live but setlist standout had to go to the opener off their last record, ‘Infestation’. Seriously, that track has a groove so thick it makes me want to cut a tree down with my head.
Upsurge was an utter riot, kicking off its lineage in true form. The prospect of this beautiful thing growing and gaining force is an something that should be championed. Next year should be even bigger, better and if possible heavier.