By: Rob Batchelor

Raging Speedhorn |  facebook |   

Support: Sworn to Oath | website

O2 Academy3, Birmingham | December 8, 2014

I don’t know anything about the intricacies of Midlands hardcore, which meant that the cheers and singalongs for opening act Godsize – Stourbridge legends, and the crowd absolutely loved them – seemed unwarranted to me at first. But the heft of the songs and the inter-crowd activity of their paunchy lead singer was enough to charm anyone who didn’t remember them from back in the day. I’d certainly heard the name before, probably saw it on a Kerrang! compilation CD or two, but I didn’t know any of the songs. It was strange to be left out of what was clearly a gig three years in the making for the band and about six people in the audience, but that’s not a problem is the music is good; which, luckily, it was. They acknowledged that the majority of the crowd didn’t know them, and the debt that they owed Raging Speedhorn for rejuvenating the scene and allowing bands like them to flourish – nice guys playing aggressive music.

Sworn to Oath were a slightly different proposition – more metalcore than hardcore, but still ‘core all the same. They are a relatively young band, and are skinny jean-shakingly heavy. Obviously pleased to be on stage, and making the most of being the main tour support for Speedhorn. Again, the crowd loved them, and there was even the beginnings of a pit by the time they started to wind up. The crowd seemed a bit reticent at first, more noticeable during Godsize’s set, where there was a crescent of empty space seperating the diehards at the front and the more nervy outsiders gathered around the sound desk and towards the bar. This began to fill as Sworn to Oath did their thing. I was surprised at how heavy they were, if I’m honest. They’re all big lads but didn’t fill the stage as much as Godsize managed to. Whether that’s down to less showmanship or what, I couldn’t tell you, but their sound pulled no punches. I was at the bar as they started their first song and felt an actual wave of air ruffle through my cardigan with the first few chords, which slightly thrilled me. Having just last week experienced the muddy sound in the big room at the Academy for Mastodon, the clarity of the smallest one surprised me. The speakers are right there, about ten feet away. You can see them from the street.

Raging Speedhorn’s set was ferocious. Being in my mid-to-late twenties, I was slightly too young to see them live when they first came around. But I remember seeing the videos for The Hate Song, Fuck the Voodooman, and – naughtily – The Gush and absolutely loving them. They seemed to be the heaviest you could get and still be played on TV during the day. In person, with a crowd baying for each others’ blood, their music becomes a whole other thing entirely. Seeing the lead singers striding about the stage, chomping at the bit and screaming into their microphones like a two-headed shark, while the band plays and plays riff after riff after riff – it was amazing.

The sheer intensity that six men can create, when powered by an audience that wants to tear at each other, which in turn feeds that audience further, becomes some unholy perpetual motion machine. They played everything, keeping it mostly from the first two albums – apart from Half Way to Hell, a brand new song prepped for the tour that might have been the heaviest song they played, which is saying something – running through 14 songs in just under an hour, all told. The Hate Song, a personal favourite, was dropped in the set without warning, like a nuclear bomb. Scraping the Resin was disgusting. Iron Cobra was triumphant. Fuck the Voodooman, Superscud, Thumper, banger after banger after banger. Anyone who wasn’t fighting and sweating was at the very least swaying by the end, won over by the power of sludge. A triumph.

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