LIVE REVIEW: Knocked Loose, Malevolence, Renounced, Justice For The Damned, ULU, London, 01/12/2019
Hardcore has been on a complete tear in the last few years, the rise of the mighty Code Orange to Grammy-nominated status being a true indicator of how far it has come. It would be foolish to dismiss everyone else as second rate. Especially if that band was from Oakham County, Kentucky and happened to be called Knocked Loose.
Negatives out of the way first, because this was a superb night of hardcore: If there is a criticism of this show, it has to be the endless insistence by every band that we need to “open this place up” and “circle pit, circle pit”. In the many decades of its existence, you’d like to think there was something a bit more interesting to say than this, and it really started to grate on the goodness being given to us on stage. Speaking of which…
Justice For The Damned, all the way from Sydney Australia, opened this Sunday evening smackdown with a tightly wound, thumping set showcasing some crushers from their short but very sweet back catalogue. There were minor mix issues, the guitars sounded a bit on the muddy side throughout, but this is a band well worth keeping an eye on for the future. The scene should look forward to their next releases with great interest indeed. 7/10
Renounced kept up the momentum, peeling out all the bets from their excellent Beauty Is A Destructive Angel album. They seemed incredibly stoked to be there, regularly thanking the crowd for coming out. The UK stalwarts didn’t disappoint for a second, and even though there were a few folks who weren’t so sure about them at first, by the time they walked off, the room was all in on them. 8/10
Malevolence rock up like their about to play the Champions League final on the back of a 35 game winning streak. From the moment they begin, the absolute weight of every note feels like Godzilla’s angry reaction to a parking fine, unrelentingly aggressive and stupendously powerful. The sound mix was exquisite, and performance at the front of it all was packed with all the weight you want from this sort of band and bill. Every turn of pace seemed to win them a new fan, another “oooh bloody hell” from the audience, and when Bryan Garris from tonight’s headliners appears during a currently untitled new song, the crowd goes utterly ecstatic. Even when they slow the pace down with Turn To Stone, the crowd is full on board. That band made many new friends in central London. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were headlining. A treasure of a performance. 9/10
In what seems like an incredibly short turnaround after the superb Malevolence set, Knocked Loose take to the stage and within approximately ten seconds it becomes incredibly clear as to why they are one of the premier acts in their scene. The level of intensity, clarity and punch from the entire band is up there with anyone you care to name. Opening with a deadly version of Trapped In The Grasp Of A Memory from this year’s mammoth leap forward A Different Shade Of Blue, Bryan Garris sounds like a man possessed by the spirits of people who need to see the manager. His piercing shriek just slicing its way into your bones, and the increased contribution from the dragon-voiced Isaac Hale is a true sight to behold live.
The setlist they can pull out is fearsome even after only two records, with not a single lull or weak spot to be seen. Belleville and All My Friends had the crowd shouting along, the circle pit was well stocked with willing entrants. Misguided Son’s mid-paced, marauding stomp was expertly deployed in the middle of the set, leading to some incredible examples of screwface from the assembled mass. This leads into a version of …And Still I Wander South that any health and safety inspector would declare a hazard on account of it being disgustingly heavy it hurts. When they conclude their set with Counting Worms, the crowd gives everything it has left in screaming along the words and then, after a brisk 45 minutes, they leave the stage in a way that would be utterly impossible to follow for anyone else. Knocked Loose are at the summit of the hardcore mountain, and everyone else can only claw at the ropes that hauled them up there. 9/10
Written by: Louis Tsangarides