Down a less than salubrious looking backstreet in Brighton sits the Green Door Store, an intimate venue who’s on-street drinking area is probably twice the size of the building itself, and on this sunny Saturday night in July it is hosting the Hammerdown Festival’s warm up show.
Featuring two of the bands from the festival proper and two bands that were runners up in the festival’s online battle of the bands competition, and despite a rousing call from opening act Recall the Remains’ vocalist it appears the majority of punters would rather lap up the last of the sun’s rays than head inside. Frankly it is their loss. Full of energy from start to finish this is the band’s first show in Brighton for five years but those who caught them will be hoping that they don’t leave it so long next time. Singer Jacob Collins, resplendent in shorts and a stab vest, pogos, headbangs and windmills his way around the small stage, which looks at some points like it might collapse beneath him. Beside him, corpse painted bassist Jordan Barnes provides the gothic cleans as a counterpoint to Collins’ barked assault. Despite a few sound issues, and a brief pause to sort out the drum kit this is a triumphant set full of high quality metal/deathcore and would have been more than worthy of the main festival itself.
Following that is no small order for This Dying Hour, whose own brand of metalcore is more on the melodic side, although still packing a mighty punch. Singer Steve Kerr has an impressive range and switches comfortably between the harsh vocals and cleans, and the band itself is brilliantly tight. However, sometimes the vocals don’t quite hit home – which may have been a continuation of the sound issues from earlier – and their stage presence doesn’t quite feel fully honed yet. These are minor niggles and ultimately this is a promising set from a band with a lot of potential.
Next up is Lost Asylum, who visually are something of a hotch-potch on stage, the singer’s leather jacket has so many spikes it looks like it’s been designed to stop pigeons roosting on it and the rest of the band look rather under-dressed in comparison. Musically too they are hard to pin down. Offering a bit of hard rock relief to the metalcore onslaught, they go down very well with the crowd. And musically they are difficult to fault, their songs are well structured and played with precision, however their between songs patter is a little stilted, a couple of in-jokes fall a little flat and they lack the slickness their music deserves. That said, the warmth from the crowd is palpable and it is clear this is a band who love making music – and that is something that should always be celebrated.
There is just enough time for a quick drink before headliners Bleed Again hit the stage, or perhaps not quite enough time as a large chunk of the crowd file just after the first song kicks in. And though they may have come in late, there is no chance they’ll be leaving early. From the get-go the band have the crowd in the palm of their hands, and they don’t let go until the final notes die down. It is a supremely confident and slick display, but also one that allows the emotion of the songs to shine through. The enjoyment is written all over the faces of every member of the band and each breakdown seems to hit harder than the last. There are knowing glances from members of the crowd who have obviously seen Bleed Again before to the beaming faces of first timers who have just discovered a new favourite. It is both the perfect closing set for a triumphant evening and a fantastic glimpse into just how good Hammerdown is going to be.
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