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Nails/Helpless/Harrowed at Underworld, London - live review

West coast head-wreckers make up for lost time

Cover art for Nails/Helpless/Harrowed at Underworld, London

You might have noticed that more and more gig-goers are, quite sensibly, wearing earplugs to delay the inevitable trudge to deafdom, but lately it feels like metal bands have been cranking it up to 11 just for shits and giggles. Of course, metal should always be played loud, and tonight’s headliners are biblically deafening, like a six-pint belch from Beelzebub himself. Kicking off the night of rapid-fire riffs and hysterical howls are HARROWED [6]. They’re not as menacing as the name suggests but pack some serious heat when it comes to headbanging. Stepping it up in the violence stakes are grinding noisebastards HELPLESS [7], who rev the pit into a frenzy with their untamed fury, sending sweaty bodies flying into the photographers down the front.

All of which is really just a warm-up for what everyone here has waited a long time for. Having cancelled their previous UK tour last year then going on a sudden hiatus, powerviolence supremos NAILS [9] have kept London hungry for far too long, and it just takes a split-second for the floor to erupt into a geyser of fists and spilled beer. The four men onstage – who look like they would eat you alive – are strictly business tonight, battering the sold-out crowd into submission with sense-shattering brutality and volume. Vocalist Todd Jones’s mic has been ramped up to 11, and he still insists on cupping the sides to get even louder. Firmly planting the title track from last year’s incredible You Will Never Be One Of Us at the beginning of your set is a statement of intent, then backing it up with Life Is A Death Sentence and I Will Not Follow, it sends the ’pitters of North London into overdrive. It’s almost odd to see smiles crack across the faces of the henchmen onstage – and as bassist John Gianelli dances around with an empty beer crate on his head, a momentary lapse of humour and security falls across the room. But in reality, nobody is safe. Stagedivers fly through the sweat-thick air, much to the amusement of Todd, who is genuinely humbled by the reception Nails have received tonight, and as the opening notes of an impromptu encore fire out, it’s like feeding time in a shark tank soundtracked by nuclear war. But would you expect anything else?