Uncomfortable is the best way to describe Dalston sweatbox Birthdays this evening. It’s sweaty in a way that makes your t-shirt feel like you’re wearing scuba gear and it’s oversold to the point that everyone feels that little bit too physically familiar with one another, but it’s exactly the incommodious surroundings that one would want to see a band as downright nasty as Californian noise terrorists Nails.
Recently signed to Nuclear Blast following waves of critical acclaim and social media acknowledgement, the opening few tracks that the band detonate are butchered by an awful garbled sound. It plagues most of the night in truth, the band’s more savage leanings sounding akin to a rhino letting a titanic rumbler rip in the bathtub, but when they settle into their punishing sledgehammer grooves is when the beast truly bares it’s teeth.
There are moments when they hit the lofty heights of expectation. A barbaric pairing of Confront Them into Absolute Control rips everyone a new arsehole, Abandon All Life (the title-track from last year’s breakthrough opus) inspires white hot carnage and Suum Cuique is a lurching, sinister explosion of sludgy doomy evil. Visually the band can’t be faulted, Todd Jones having that perfect psychotic ‘did you spill my pint?’ look in his eyes throughout while bassist John Gianelli manages to look like an intimidating psychopath despite looking like a cross between Flash Gordon and a Beatle.
Kudos too to tonight’s audience. The stench of hipster might be enough to make you gag pre-show but when the band start ripping through their jams, it’s the kind of show that teeters on feeling dangerous. For the overwhelming majority of the set, there’s not an iPhone in sight for fear of it being swiped across the room by some rampaging lunatic and bodies fly through the air in a literal sense all night long.
Overall, it’s not that tonight is bad, it’s just that when we’ve seen the likes of Trap Them, Black Breath and Enabler play riveting slabs of metal that make you feel like you could pick up a double decker (the bus, not the confectionary item) over the course of the past 18 months, it just feels like tonight was just a little bit ordinary. The brighter side of all of this is that you get the impression that the best is yet to come though.