Live Review: Vein w/ Higher Power & Narrow Head | The Exchange, Bristol | 19/02/19

Now that Vein are approximately half way though their debut UK headline run, it’s no surprise that snapshots of their incendiary and volatile live performances have began to circulate various social media platforms. Judging from these short yet intense glimpses of sonic malevolence, it would be easy to assume that their respective support on this run would be as equally as punishing. However, Narrow Head (7.5) are undisputedly a love product of the alt-rock that dominated air waves and lineups at the turn of the century.

An act that is more than just a group forged by a shared love of the ethereal heft and power of bands such as Deftones and Quicksand, with an authentic live sound such as this it feels as the group have just arrived in a time machine as opposed to just forming this decade. Whilst countless acts within the past decade have attempted to resonate the sound of the alt-rock golden years, the majority of these attempts pale in comparison to the aural and uneasy waves projected by Narrow Head tonight. Content from their EP’s and full length Satisfaction engulfs the venue in an atmosphere of pure adolescent angst, with their raw primal groove, unfiltered artefacts and raw vocals invoking the uneasy feelings of coming of age in those who basked in the glory of acts such sounds whilst growing up.

After spending the past several years sharing stages with the likes of Every Time I Die, Knocked Loose , Malevolence and countless other acts that dominate the international hardcore scene, it’s no suspire that Higher Power (7) have been handpicked to support this tour. Whilst the group have demonstrated that they can perfectly hold their own within the boundaries of larger rooms, Higher Power are a band that live for sweatboxes such as The Exchange, a fact that they demonstrate tonight. Hindering to the metropolitan and concrete qualities that have been associated with hardcore since it’s inception, the stomp and swagger Higher Power provide live is as always, second to none. This is only amplified by Higher Power’s refusal to adopt the cliched conventions adopted by some hardcore and beatdown groups in order to add a fraudulent sense of extremity to their craft.

As the flailing swagger and groove of ‘Can’t Relate’ blends into the metallic crunch of ‘Reflect’, the room ignites into a swarm of movement. However, the set isn’t without it’s hitches. Though mostly minor, a rogue and possessed effects pedal turns the pounding pummelling of ‘Looking Inward’ into a reverberating wall of sound that even Sunn O))) would be envious off. Still, such hitches does hinder the fluidity typically associated with their performances. Issues aside however, it’s transparent to see why Higher Power why are renowned as a crucial staple within the UKHC scene. A crucial act within a flourishing scene who never buy into the exhausted tropes prevalent within the genre.

Despite it being Vein’s (9) first headline run on our shores, judging from the sold out room before them it’s clear that their reputation proceeds them. Those uncertain of what is about to transpire within this set get an immediate glimpse into the frenzied insanity that is about to come to pass as frontman Anthony DiDio introduces the set by repeatedly stage diving into all corners of the room. From here onwards, it’s nothing short of a frenzy of malevolent dynamism, with the set opener ‘Progenitor’ being the catalyst for instant technical insanity both on stage and in the crowd. Even minutes into this set it becomes transparent that the reputation Vein uphold is both authentic and to be believed, with the first casualties of the pit trickling out before the Vein even enter the second track within their setlist.

As those leave for safer pastures clutching bloody noses and soon to be black eyes, Vein are clearly a band who relish the immeasurable chaos they’re responsible for. However, the technicality and dynamism within their live sound is even more exaggerated than on their on record sound. The twisted malice and retro-futurism within their sound is only amplified within their live sound, with ‘Rebirth Protocol’ and ‘Broken Class Complexion’ sounding like something akin of a mechanical apocalypse live. It’s a staggering sight to witness with everyone within this venue, including the band themselves fully engaged with the nightmarish and punishing onslaught of sound soundtracking the violence taking place. The surrealist mental health and body horror lyrical themes within their content are also intensified tonight, with the seizing and convulsing DiDio appearing more like a possessed victim attempting to expel demons as opposed to a typical frontman.

As Vein enter the torment and narcotic nature of ‘Demise Automation’ and ‘Untitled’ and it becomes crystal that this is more than a simple set. This show, and this respective tour is the transmutation of typical hardcore norms. It’s a borderline terrifying and captivating glimpse of the next stage of the evolution of the hardcore genre and demonstration of what staggering power hardcore truly contains when correctively harnessed. As Vein close with the nu-metal tinged ‘Virus//Vibrance’, it’s clear that the desolation left in the wake will the catalyst for countless imitations attempting to mirror the unconscionable prowess Vein harness. Regardless, this set is 40 minutes of unstoppable malevolent connectivity and blunt force trauma, one that will live on local hardcore history for many years.