Even Stormtroopers laugh at our aim!
Now I’m safely installed in the University Halls (cheap and cheerful, for £65 you basically get a room with a mattress for three days!) I can concentrate on the Infest experience. I signed up for a Laserquest match on Saturday because all the cyber stereotypes are quite true.
A couple of the bands even turn up, and perform as very efficient space marines! It was a brilliant, hilarious and exhausting experience that I hope returns next year. I’ve put some photos at the bottom including our results.
Riotmiloo chose the wrong day to quit smoking.
Back to the bands, and I’m here nice and early to catch them all. First up is Riotmiloo – described by friends as Diamanda Galas does power noise. I find it a fair description by m’learned colleague! They lead with the bizarrely abstract Fly As A Pet, a torturous track of shrieking vocals and building synth noise. This actually ticks a lot of boxes for me, and I want to see these guys hone their edge, as they still feel a little unformed.
They cite riotgrrl as an influence and I definitely perceive it! Nevertheless, songs have a tendency to drift off, and an opening band needs some snappy delivery and tight performance. There’s potential here and I hope to see them return.
Chemical Sweet Kid expertly mix a sneeze into a song.
Next is the first UK performance for this aggressive French electro-punk outfit titled Chemical Sweet Kid
. I get immediate vibes of William Control, but more angry relationship breakup than sexy submission anthems.
They’re excitingly guitar driven but synth dominated, with snarled and abrasive vocals. Lead singer Julien paces, poses, but doesn’t seem to really own the persona he creates.
It all smacks slightly of adolescent misplaced aggression with lyrics like “What the Fuck do you want from me?” and “you broke my dream / you broke my wings”. I think audiences want something a little more mature (or obscure) from their bands. They make the effort with an interesting cover of Paint It Black , but it just isn’t enough to exert a hold over this savvy audience and CSK fail to register.
Catching a nap during an extended synth solo
Technical issues crop up occasionally, and Empathy Test start a little bumpy but it doesn’t prevent them from quickly soaring. This outfit produce perfect, hand-crafted soft-synth joy. The live drums set a perfect tempo and give depth to the floating vocals and synth. The audience is absolutely and immediately keyed up by this band. They bill themselves as electro-pop but it’s more introspective and melancholic than traditional pop with a flawless vocal performance. They’re apparently making a big impact in London, so kudos to the festival for booking them.
The sound struggles a little, as it needs careful balancing between the percussion and vox to avoid any drowning out. Fans of Patrick Wolf will be won over by the beautiful and deadly lyrics, whilst classic synth fans will adore that early Eighties electronica. A critic might observe the difficulty of distinguishing songs, as there feels oddly like a certain rigid style pervading it all. But amongst the crowd there is a lot of song recognition with their informed followers! My initial impression is that these guys will do very well – guaranteed. My cynical opinion is that they make bleep for the post-Skins generation?
Less of a gig, and more of a bank robbery with a great soundtrack
I’m quite taken aback, as Wulfband actually come out to operatic excess and wolf howls. They’re hooded and guttural, and yet they also seem cursed with microphone trouble. That aside, it’s awesome foot stomping industrial that seems to borrow a lot from DAF. There’s a shrieking back and forth with the band that’s half hilarious half terrifying! Are they friends, mortal enemies, or just hard of hearing?
Some crew have to take the stage to chase down the technical issues. Still, Blixa would be proud. It’s so fucking RAW, the audience is utterly energized! Even the student bar staff are getting into it, one hell of an achievement! It’s perfectly distilled noise and I love it. The band line-up works particularly well – back to back with Empathetic Test throws them both into stark bloody relief!
No review can do them justice. They’re brutal, they’re hilarious, and they’re hypnotic. They switch on an audience in with a passion that is breathtaking – there’s a pit down the front for the first time. Every song is distinct, even though they all chase 200+ BPM with tortured guitars and manic synth all beneath the angriest howling vocals I’ve heard.
They’re over running of course, it’s hard to imagine this band at all disciplined, but even five minutes after their finish time the audience is cheering for more, and are audibly disappointed when they can’t return. Quite an anticlimactic ending for far away one of the best performances I’ve seen.
The crowd goes wild at the First International Coding Competition
If you imagine most EBM artists, you imagine one bloke having a furious argument with tech support about his new laptop. End.user is here to deliver that, and piss on Skrillex’s chips as well. It’s perfectly choreographed noise, heart-attack inducing beats and furious melodies blitzing the crowd.
Actually a lot of the audience is nodding like the aggro tech connoisseurs they are, but are otherwise passive. I worry that Wulfband havespoiled them for tunes you can actually dance to.
Needless to say, the crowd is fixed. There’s even a dedicated mob of extensions and glow stick aficionados throwing shapes at the back. End user slices and dices like a champion, cutting fat slabs of wub, and I relish it for every minute… until I feel like the victim of a CIA mind control project. I keep having to take breaks whilst my cerebral cortex leaks through my nose.
The audience is whittled down as the night progresses and at 10pm I see him retreat from the decks, clearly unsure if he should continue – the crew give him a final encore and he retreats to a swell of applause from the dedicated crowd. A popular pick for the DJ fans.
Mad with power, Jurgen offers to fight all of Infest at once.
Everything you expect, and more, courtesy of Die Krupps. Their performance is frankly colossal, a finely-tuned performance of first class industrial rock. They growl and glower with the best of them, because they are. It’s the ideal mix of crunchy guitars and distorted synth goodness.
The stage presence is awesome. I watch them batter a huge stack of iron pipes during DIE ANVIL and I can only thank them for the purity of sound. Apparently it gave the stage managers absolute kittens to arrange but as my bones resonate, I think it was certainly worth it.
The set itself sounds like a whip crack tour of their heavy hitters. I note the audience is only bobbing in place, but then they probably can’t move – we’re packed in cheek to jowl!
They’re generous with the classics – High Tech Low Life comes over to much cheering, and those shredded guitars and classic synth sounds are a treasure to hear again!
Jurgen is in touch with the audience, offering the Mic to the audience to have them start a song…but I notice that halfway from the back, the audience is intent but immobile. Waiting to be won over perhaps?
The band spare no effort. They dominate the lighting rig to aid in their shock and awe campaign of turbo industrial sound! They end of course with a triumphant, painfully relevant performance of Fatherland, and then encore with a double-barrel of unrelenting sound that culminated in Jurgen stood on his pipe anvil, then throwing it into the pit to raucous applause. A hell of a pinnacle performance that sets the bar for headliners.
Below are the results of the two matches of Laserquest fought by valiant, hungover goths. Here’s to next year!
Laserquest Match One
Laserquest Match Two