By: Gavin Brown
Mama Roux's, Birmingham | October 18, 2016
Only three days prior to this gig, Trap Them frontman Ryan McKenney broke both of his feet after a jump from the speaker stacks ended badly while the band were performing at the Bloodshed Fest in Holland. While the majority of performers wouldn’t have carried on the gig and then postponed the rest of the tour to aid recovery, this was never an option for McKenny and Trap Them, who not only didn’t cancel the remaining dates of this European tour (which this Birmingham show being the last UK date), but will also carry on with a North American tour soon after. And while the performance by the frontman lacks his usual energetic mobility, he still gave his all on stage despite being confined to a wheelchair and that certainly is an admirable feat. More of that later, but first of all on the night, was a supporting bill of three different types of extreme bands who despite their musical contrasts, had one thing in common and that’s a formidable live presence.
First up were locals Golden Deathmask whose speedy blasts brought to mind the storied hardcore of Black Flag and both Negative FX and Negative Approach and the band wasted no time tearing it up both on the floor and on the dance floor, with all the members of the band bar their drummer making use of the area in front of the stage. Golden Deathmasks concise brand of hardcore punk was formidable to say the least, but not least when the band’s guitarist donned a balaclava and promptly took out all his rage on his guitar. As the band tore through the material from Short Life, Long Death and Sleep Is My Cousin, their two EPs both from this year such as the raging likes of ‘Pigs’, ‘Aggravation’, ‘Sad City’ and ‘Throat Ripper’ the growing audience was left impressed at their ferocity in a set played at a breakneck pace.
Following on from that slice of frenzied hardcore were South Wales finest and one of the UK’s finest extreme metal bands, Venom Prison and the brutality of the band’s set was undoubtedly awe inspiring. The band just came onto the stage and preceded to annihilate it with their daunting heaviness. Their set primarily focused on their just released debut album Animus, but there were a few favourites from the Primal Chaos and Defy The Tyrant EPs in there too. As Venom Prison started with ‘Abysmal Agony’ from the new album, it was clear just how good they are in a live setting and also how good that new material sounds. Tracks like ‘Desecration Of Human Privilege’, ‘Devoid’ and ‘Life Suffer’ fitted right in with the band’s older material such as ‘Desecration Of Human Privilege’ and ‘The Primal Chaos’ and the whole thing was a nonstop treat for the ears. The songs were thrashed out in a relentless display of aural violence with vocalist Larissa screaming pure hatred over a non stop rhythm of savage aggression. There was no talking to the audience from the band and they just left the stage, having done their job and impressed the hell out of the watching throng with a first class display of extreme music.
Following Venom Prison and their all out brand of heaviness was no easy task, but recent Southern Lord signed Okkultokrati were more than up to the task. While not as heavy as the band they followed, they took it in their stride with a confident set of punked up tracks doused in swathes of psychedelic and electronic magic. The band opened their set with commanding frontman Henning telling the crowd to “Come closer, we won’t bite!” before launching into ‘Occular Violence’ from their new album Raspberry Dawn. What followed was an energetic and hugely enjoyable set by the band and one that saw their mix of new and old songs going down a storm with the Birmingham crowd. Okkulokrati’s lineup is bolstered by the addition of their new synth player Feffe Severin and his soundscape flourishes bolstered the band’s sound triumphantly. The pulsating bass lines of four stringer Boris brought a Joy Division feel to the band’s sound and his combination with powerful drummer Lars emitted an unrelenting noise that aided the band’s energy while guitarist Erik Dvarte just kept his head down and just lets the riffs fly throughout, whereas the vocalist, who reminded me of Cathedral’s Lee Dorrian, was the confident and calming influence centre stage. The material from Raspberry Dawn that the band played sounded right at home on stage with the albums title track, ‘Hard To Please’, ‘Easy To Kill’ and the epic ‘Hidden Future’ all sounding massive onstage with their Bauhaus meets Motörhead and Venom vibe while the older material they played like ‘No Ouroboros’ and the sublime closeting track ‘Moon Daggers’ sounded as good as ever and the band left the stage to a mass applause and everyone was impressed with the band and their groove.
As Trap Them got on stage and lifted Ryan McKennys wheelchair on to the stage, the audience applauded and saluted his commitment. As mentioned before, the fact that the band were still there honouring the show when lesser bands would have cancelled deserves so much respect. And respect was what they got from the energetic audience at Mama Roux’s and as the band grinded through the entirety of their new album Crown Feral as well as a selection of tracks from their other albums with McKenny confined to his wheelchair, we were treated to a performance that was understandably more intense than usual as he screamed even harder despite by his own admission being on “a lot of painkillers”. While his movements were constricted, he gave his all defiantly, screaming his lyrics like a man possessed while the rest of Trap Them played a tight and focused set of grind anthems The band delivered an intense set with the Crown Feral material being the main focus and the opening attack of ‘Kindred Dirt’ from the album set things off nicely. This was followed by the harsh likes of ‘Hellionaires’, ‘Luster Pendulums’, ‘Twitching In The Auras’ and the closing ‘Phantom Air’ and they demonstrated what an impressive album Crown Feral is. While the songs sound fierce on the album, they are taken up a new level in a live setting. The older material held up too with ‘The Facts’ and ‘Scumcult And Gather’ sounding particularly vicious. The whole thing was a triumph with the band overcoming any problems with a showing of sheer ferocity that was made all the more intense by the front and injuries and the watching audience were just glad they got to witness such a harsh and extraordinary set by one of extreme music’s most vital bands.