“This is the sonic recreation of the end of the world”: Pendulum's 'go hard or go home' approach ensures that they remain an essential live act

Despite releasing their last full-length album 14 years ago, Pendulum play a spectacular set bridging the past and the future at London’s O2 Arena

(Image: © Katja Ogrin/Redferns)

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“Ladies and gentlemen, we understand you have come here tonight to hear some drum and bass,” a robotic voice narrates before Pendulum burst into Blood Sugar. “We would like to announce that this is not the case... This is the sonic recreation of the end of the world.”

Is this a declaration of bluster that doesn’t really mean much? Yes. But does it perfectly encapsulate the kind of bombast and showmanship that’s pulled nearly 10,000 people to The O2 on Good Friday? Also yes.

Pendulum have long been about being the biggest band possible – in more ways than one. Following their 2005 debut album Hold Your Colour, the Aussies became one of the few acts to escape the clutches of the drum and bass scene, rock-tinged anthems like Propane Nightmares and Witchcraft earning them legitimate mainstream goodwill. Plus, all of their songs just sound fucking huge. Almost every track the outfit will play this evening explodes with the sound of synths, percussion, distorted guitars and heroic vocals, making for an impressively overblown barrage of hooks.

It’s been 14 years since Pendulum last released a full-length album, 2010’s Immersion, but tonight’s not merely a nostalgia show. Napalm, an as-yet-unreleased track expected to show up on a future EP, opens in an onslaught of aptly destructive breakdowns. The heaviness is only hammered home by the backdrops the band have brought with them: video screens as high as this arena’s roof broadcast footage of detonations in sync with every musical blast.

The spectacle continues through Crush and a surprisingly early Propane Nightmares, with armadas of spotlights and lasers working overtime to keep up with the pulsing anthems. New songs like Archangel (another soon-to-be-released jam making its live debut) and 2023’s Colourfast hold their own, the powerful voice of Rob Swire bringing the grandeur during the more melancholy musical mood.

It’s not a calm that lasts for long, mind. Golden oldie The Island Part 1 gets a response as rapturous as you’d expect, its more climactic tone doubled down upon by Halo (guest snarling on which was originally done by Matt Tuck of Bullet For My Valentine) and, even more so, the emergence of Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari. The ensemble proceed to cover Sorry, You’re Not A Winner: a gambit that pays tremendous dividends the second 10,000 people are united in doing those claps to the opening riff.

Metalheads get yet another treat when the scathing riff of In Flames collaboration Self Vs Self hits. The track disappeared from the Pendulum setlist for 13 years, but has now become a dark horse in their back-catalogue, following victorious airings at Alexandra Palace and Download festival last year. It works wonders here as well, holding its own amidst the closing stack of bangers that is Witchcraft, Tarantula and Watercolour.

The Tempest closes the evening with a more obscure selection, yet it doesn’t dampen the joy radiating throughout The O2 as the night ends. Pendulum have bridged hits of yesteryear with some promising debuts and, with singer Swire never once 'bantering' between songs, done it in such a way as to never let the show’s momentum dip. These 100 minutes have flown by: evidence of how captivating this bunch have become by perpetually firing with all sonic cylinders.

Pendulum setlist – O2 Arena, London        March 29, 2024

Propane Nightmares
Come Alive
Blood Sugar/Baddadan/Voodoo People (The Prodigy cover)
Mercy Killing (with Scarlxrd)
The Island Part 1 (Dawn)
Silent Spinner
Nothing For Free
Sorry You’re Not A Winner (Enter Shikari cover, with Rou Reynolds)
Self Vs Self

The Tempest

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.