Never a band to do things by halves, Atari Teenage Riot arrive in London for the first date of their European tour with the promise of an eight hour ‘all nighter’ (in reality a 3am finish thanks to London’s 19th century licensing laws) boasting an Alec Empire DJ set, support bands, and not one, but two performances from the Berliners themselves, the second of these a post-1am recreation of their infamous 1999 Brixton Academy white noise show. Frankly, having witnessed that set first-hand 16 years ago, this reviewer would rather be skinned alive and dipped repeatedly in a vat of wasabi and sea-salt than suffer through it a second time, but ATR’s ‘regular’ set tonight is a much more invigorating prospect.
Atari Teenage Riot’s new album Reset was recently harshly dismissed in the pages of Hammer as “radical music for 10-year-olds”, but the preponderance of extreme metal T-shirts in the audience tonight is incontrovertible evidence of their enduring appeal among metalheads. As with 2015’s two finest electro-rock releases, Enter Shikari’s The Mindsweep and The Prodigy’s forthcoming The Day Is My Enemy, there’s a genuine heart and humanity underpinning their politicised all-action metal machine music and when Nic Endo and (new-ish recruit) London-born MC Rowdy SS step to the front of The Garage’s stage for the title track amid a barrage of strobes and strafing, distorted electro beats, only the undead wouldn’t feel their pulse quicken. Imbued with new day dawning optimism, Reset makes for an exhilarating opening, and when Empire – looking like a leaner, less house-trained Trent Reznor – steps out from behind his sequencers for Activate and New Blood, the night takes on a feral energy rarely felt outside underground grime/hip-hop clubs. Slayer collaboration No Remorse (I Wanna Die) naturally only tips the atmosphere further into the red.
Sporadic exhortations to “make some motherfucking noise” aside, there’s zero ‘banter’ from the stage, and none of the embarrassing showbiz rituals that shame so many younger, try-hard rock/metal bands: swapping positions constantly, the black-clad Empire, Endo and Rowdy SS prowl like panthers when untethered from their equipment, each encouraging the others into upping the intensity. Erase Your Face might drop the mercury levels, but its juddering beats carry a brooding menace of their own, and serve to highlight the viciousness of Transducer and Endo’s utterly captivating anti-human trafficking diatribe Blood In My Eyes which follow. Revolution Action sees Empire throw himself into the throng, swimming towards the soundboard on a sea of upraised hands, as a full-on dance party eddies around him, and truthfully it’s hard to recall euphoria on this scale previously in this room. The trio exit tonight on the stirring empowerment anthem We Are The Internet, Endo uniting the venue with one voice as she roars ‘You are the one!” over and over from the lip of the stage. A journey into hellish noise awaits the hardiest of the (digital) hardcore after midnight, but on this first showing ATR’s comeback is already slamming into top gear.