Hookworms at Brudenell Social Club

Support: Richard Formby
December 3, 2017 at Brudenell Social Club
Promoter: Brudenell Social Club

Hookworms chose to greet the sold-out crowd at the Brudenell with the robotic vocal progression of new single ‘Negative Space – a confident move from a band embracing the possibilities of a more synthetic sound, brusquely sidestepping the fear of turning away old fans. Instantly, the crowd were drawn into the Hookworms’ heady world for the next hour: a mixture of texture, force and visual mayhem, as disembodied visuals flashed on the wide-screen behind the band.

Before that, the crowd were treated to a modular synthesiser set from record producer and musician Richard Formby. Clearly a master of his craft, Formby built a set out of artfully controlled and contorted drone pieces, breaking and reconstructing the sounds emanating from his vast modular synth, ensuring that the building crowd could settle into the venue. The set was mesmeric, with the whirring wall of equipment behind Formby being as fascinating his set itself and a promising appetiser before Hookworms.

Hookworms were tight, concise and powerful, playing a sizeable amount of new material, sometimes weaving it into older tunes from 2014s The Hum. ‘Negative Space’ was the beginning of a trio of new songs that opened the gig; its huge choruses and textured electronics were closely followed by the new ferocious cut ‘Static Resistance’. The transition between ‘Negative Space’ and ‘Static Resistance’ demonstrates Hookworms’ gift to be able to walk the razor edge between sublime melodies and cacophonous blasts of hardcore punk and psychedelic force. ‘Ullswater’ closed out this confident opening salvo, a blend of the foregrounded electronics of ‘Negative Space’ and their old material, which stacked nagging melodies onto one another to form songs that towered over you before you even realised.

This opening trio was a huge statement of intent, particularly for vocalist MJ whose vocals on the new material have more clarity than they previously did before: often they were masked in waves of reverb and echo; now, his vocals soar over the top of new material, adding an extra dash of melody to the bands propulsive sound.

Songs from The Hum still sound vital, with the one-two punch of ‘The Impasse’ and ‘On Leaving’ showcasing the precision of the band – drummer, JN, artfully controlling the tempo, transitioning the band from the thrash of ‘The Impasse’ into the hypnotically heavy ‘On Leaving’. By this point, the crowd were completely sucked in – every single pair of eyes in the audience trained onto the band, no one uttering a single word as they were pulled deeper into the set.

Ending the evening with the furious ‘Beginners’, the band brought the gig to a sharp close – a motorik send-off to the streamlined one-hour set. Personally, the show could’ve been a tad longer, but keeping the set at the one-hour mark ensured that the momentum never dipped and matched the band’s no-note-wasted approach. This is where the true power of Hookworms lies in both the new and old material: their discipline to play only what is required and nothing more, knowing that a unified coalition of sound is stronger than the show-boating of one individual member.

This evening was a tantalising start to Hookworms 3.0, with new material already being played with the confidence and force of the older favourites and blending seamlessly into one another. If tonight was anything to go by, Hookworms are back and ready to ascend to even greater heights than before.

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