HELL ON EARTH TOUR. Sub89, Reading. 19.09.10

From a distance this looked amazing. A night of bands the calibre of which Reading is usually lucky to see in a whole year outside of a festival field. Up close and as it happens though, inside the cold black box of the still new Sub89, it’s somehow less exciting. It doesn’t help that confusion over entry age has left a few younger punters heading home without hearing a note or that inside everything’s running an hour late so other people are forced to miss bands to get home at all, but really, a gig this good should move all that aside.

It doesn’t. While The Acacia Strain are brilliant on record, live they can’t quite cut it. Sure, ‘Woah, Shut It Down’ is black-hearted brilliance, cuts from new album ‘Wormwood’ slot in well, and ‘JFC’ is the perfect closer, but the set is full of flaws. Older songs please a few fans but mostly misfire and while frontman Vincent Bennett cuts an imposing figure, when he gets breathless after two tracks and can’t finish his lines throughout it sounds flabby and weak. Not what’s needed.

Luckily All Shall Perish are much better than expected. They don’t put on much of a show but while they play they’re perfect- tying together hyper-speed thrash, truly heavy metal, ear-shredding highs and demonic lows with absolutely no flair but buckets of skill. They’re still not the best band of the night though. That title goes to Terror. They easily show just how much power and presence can be wrung out of straight-up no-frills hardcore and look like they’re having the time of their lives doing it. Oh, and if we could somehow use singer Scott Vogel as a power source, fossil fuels would very quickly become a thing of the past.

And Every Time I Die can’t beat it. They come out fighting, sure, but Reading doesn’t really respond. ‘Bored Stiff’ bites hard, ‘Ebolarama’ is still essential stuff and a joy to hear, and ‘The Marvelous Slut’ is a murderous example of modern punk rock but as the crowd thins, the band start going through the motions. Even ‘The New Black’ can’t really rouse people and Keith Buckley looks visually shocked at the subdued reception for a nonetheless brilliant and barbarous ‘Floater’. And the band feel that and pull back, and the crowd feels that and winds down and the band feels that and the pattern spirals on until a stage invasion that should feel like a party instead seems forced and, with no one left on the floor, kind of uncomfortable. Which is no way for this to finish but, thanks to some bands short of their best, a far from capacity crowd, and a venue still finding its feet, it’s how it does all the same. Shame.

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