The night began in the heaviest way possible with an attack from Exhaustion who play a hybrid of black metal and grindcore. Their set was absolutely vicious and everyone bar the drummer performed on the floor, right in the audience’s faces. The sheer ferocity of the band’s music was completely on show and the band put together a brilliantly visceral performance. The big issue was they’d buried their drummer behind a guitar and bass stack which muffled the rhythm section and created a massive wall of distortion that didn’t really do the instrumentation any favours. Exhaustion are definitely a band to watch but I couldn’t help but think their set-up would’ve been better suited for a bigger venue than the tiny Old Blue Last.
Next up were Rough Hands who play a chunky form of classic hardcore with big grooves. The band put on an admirable performance and delivered their powerful yet memorable hardcore with finesse. They also didn’t suffer the same audio issues as Exhaustion which meant every part of their sound was perfectly clear. Things looked like they might turn about sour when a mosh ninja knocked a fellow audience member’s drink out of his hand and I could see that Rough Hands’ vocalist was aware of the ensuing argument, but he played it safe and didn’t comment on it. Understandably, it’s not Rough Hands’ job to look after their audience as that’s what security are there for, but I would’ve liked to see them say some words on the mosher’s behalf about respecting those who don’t want to be involved.
Well this was a bit of a surprise. Svalbard are an absolutely astonishing prospect. The band play a beautiful blend of hardcore and post rock which makes them sound a bit like Devil Sold His Soul having a ruck with Bastions. The band’s musicianship was nothing but exemplary with huge riffs bolstered by atmospheric leads that put them ahead of every other band on the bill musically. While their performance was a little less volatile than some of the other bands on the bill, they definitely made up for this by simply playing their instruments like professionals and offering the most unique sound available all night. Svalbard are definitely a band you want on your radar.
The evening really stepped up a notch when Pariso took to the stage. Cheekily beginning with the riff from Black Sabbath’s Iron Man before unleashing their metallic hardcore, vocalist Mazz Gambardella launched himself from the stage and set the pace for their entire set. Pariso delivered a non-stop assault on the senses which was beautifully unpredictable and down-right heavy. Pariso have amazing groove and technicality and it sent the room into a frenzy. It doesn’t surprise me that the band have played festivals in Cuba; the band’s stage presence allows them to command their audience and everyone in the pit was happy to oblige. Pariso deserve to unleash their sound on stages much bigger than this and it probably won’t be too long until they outgrow venues like this. Pariso are truly sensational to watch.