When Frank Carter announced that he was to return to his hardcore roots with a new band in March, there’s been a palpable sense of anticipation for new music and live activity.
To mark the release of their three-track EP Rotten – and the opening of his art exhibition Modern Ruin – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes make their debut tonight at the Sang Bleu tattoo shop in London’s Dalston.
As you can imagine, the shop fills up quicker than the opening of a Currys on Black Friday. After checking out Frank’s impressive collection of paintings on display upstairs, the throng is allowed into the basement for the moment they’d all been waiting for. That’s for those who can get downstairs anyway, the studio basement fills up so quickly that people pile upstairs and around the balcony, all vying for a glimpse.
There is no stage, just a corner cleared, filled with amps and a drum kit. Around 7pm, The Rattlesnakes – ex-Heights guitarist Dean Richardson, Pure Love bassist Thomas Mitchener and former Ghost of a Thousand drummer Memby Jago – stride up to their respective instruments and begin to jam out a slow hardcore beat. Pushing through the crowd from the back of the room, the man of the hour joins them to a hearty cheer from the crowd, a look of venom in his eyes.
And then, mayhem.
Opening with Battlefield, Frank’s new band sound urgent from the get go, with an impressive sound given the temporary set up. The crowd warms up quickly and as soon as second song Fangs kicks in, it’s like Frank had never left. Smashing the microphone into his skull as the devoted scream the words back at him, there’s blood dripping down his forehead before the song is even over. From the first note, it’s painfully clear that Frank has been needing this outlet back in his life for some time. Frank then explained that the third song is about his comeback. Lyrics like, “Even on my own you can’t stop me” and “I am a Juggernaut” are spat with a ferocity not heard since his Gallows days. As he pushes and shoves his way through the crowd, he climbs across on tables as the last, ridiculously heavy notes of the song rings out. Never one to shy away from confronting the audience, Frank riles up the first four rows something rotten, ripping his shirt off and screaming his lungs out on another new song as fists fly. It’s almost as if this new incarnation is an amalgamation of Frank’s two previous bands. The speed, aggression and punk riffing of Gallows all feature, but there’s a melodic sensibility to them in parts too, possibly influenced by his time in with guitarist Jim Carroll in Pure Love. Frank takes the time between each song to explain their meanings. He slates bands that have nothing to say. He talks about having a bad year. Murders. What happens to us when we die. These are the themes that match the gritty, vital sounds blasted out by The Rattlesnakes. Paradise, another track from the EP once again has the crowd singing every word and it’s clear that Frank has been missed by many.
The emotional finale of Primary Explosive (all nine minutes of it) sees guitarist Richardson tackling the audience and being thrown back onto the floor with no self-regard. And, as Frank drops the mic and leaves without a word, the band are gone. The story however, has only just begun. Half an hour: nine songs, no bullshit. Considering it was his first gig in 363 days, the first since the final Pure Love show at Camden’s Underworld, there were barely any cobwebs on Carter, just demons that needed to be exorcised. If this show was a taste of what’s to come, then we’re all in for one hell of a ride.
**Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes: Live at Sang Bleu, London. May 14, 2015. **Photos: Will Ireland