It felt a little unusual, gearing up for a gig at New Cross Inn on a cold November night, how quiet the place felt at first. I’d heard about Moscow Death Brigade’s live shows being a rowdy affair before, and the pairing of the duo with one of London’s most treasured underground punk venues sounded like a winning combination. At the time of doors opening though, the place seemed dead – and given that there were still tickets available on the door it seemed a worry that the London crowd weren’t in the mood to come out on a Thursday night for some underground hip hop hardcore metal straight out of Russia. The mood shifted when the first support, Dub Righters, took the stage though, and the punks began to arrive in their hundreds: selling out the show quickly and turning the relatively little pub at New Cross into a packed-out swamp of circle pits, crowd-surfers, and spilled drinks.
It ended up being busier than expected, and especially punkier for a group that spills over into hardcore punk occasionally but mostly sticks within the remit of political hip hop. The punk spirit remained as politically charged as ever, with angry protest songs blaring out of the PA throughout the duration. For a warm up act, they did exactly what they were there to do: get the crowd moving, dancing, moshing, and riled up for the headline act to come; like a more hardcore Sex Pistols that bring true political anger and disenfranchisement into their songs, and deliver them live with more than just a punch. So lively was the entirety of the sold-out crowd, that it was easy to miss that it had already passed 22:00 by the time Moscow Death Brigade even took to the stage.
From the “Renegade Stomp” at the start of their set, it was already one of the most brutal underground gigs I have witnessed as a journalist. It was hot and sweaty, but getting a drink at the bar was pointless: even if it was possible to get through to the bar across the sea of moshpits and crowdsurfers packed into this tiny room, the drink would be empty; sprayed across the entire crowd in a matter of minutes. The level of energy was high, especially through crowd favourites like “Boltcutter”, the title track of Moscow Death Brigade’s latest album, and even in slightly slower and less energetic songs such as the “Anne Frank Army, Pt. II”.
The political remit remained throughout, with countless political slogans screamed from the stage by the self-proclaimed antifascist duo, and numerous members of the audience responded aptly with similar slogans chanted both in English and Russian. Several moshers even brought flags from local antifascist organisations to be proudly displayed from the stage, but with the speed the pits were moving in it was almost impossible to see it properly. By the time of a few songs in, the moshpits had become so wild that the band even began pulling up people from the front row onto the stage and pushing them off to crowdsurf across the pub.
The energy from the band, unfortunately, was not always as high as that of the crowd, and although more metal favourites like “One for the Ski Mask” were performed loudly and to a great response, the vocals didn’t quite seem all there as gritty or angry as in the studio. Fortunately, the energy of the audience remained high enough for it to be barely noticeable, and by the time the duo finished the set with stomping renditions of “Crocodile Style” and an encore of their pro-refugee anthem “Papers, Please!”, there were more members of the audience raging hard on the stage than not.
For a wild and sweaty night of moshing to political hardcore hiphop, you can't miss them