Moshpits, violins and Sweet Caroline samples: The Callous Daoboys’ UK festival debut was the wildest metal show we’ve seen all year

At Manchester’s Radar Festival, The Callous Daoboys played a savage, interactive set and started their journey to international heroism

The Callous Daoboys performing live
(Image: © Eleanor Hazel)

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“It’s awesome to be so far from home and see so many of you give a fuck!” a humbled Carson Pace declares halfway through The Callous DaoboysRadar Festival set. The US six-piece’s half-hour slot is only the third gig on their debut UK tour, not to mention their first-ever overseas festival appearance. However – and despite an early 4pm stagetime – the frontman is gazing out at a crammed auditorium, where moshpits restlessly swirl to his band’s batshit mathcore.

The Daoboys’ reputation as sonic wackadoodles precedes them. Their second album, Celebrity Therapist, was a cult hit last year, winning over lovers of all things erratic and experimental by leaping between math-metal and baroque pop. With the songs also having legitimate depth (the lyrics are about cult thinking, from Scientology to the alt-right), it became an album-of-the-year list regular and amassed international intrigue.

The Atlantans prove they can recreate their savage yet layered tunes live when Star Baby kickstarts their set. It opens simply enough, Carson snarling atop a stomping kick-drum and swaggering bass, but swiftly descends into an audial Hieronymous Bosch painting. Daniel Hodsdon and Maddie Caffrey’s twin guitars whir wildly as sticksman Matthew Hague’s rhythms twitch and rush. Bassist Jackie Buckalew backs Carson up with his hellishly low death metal vocals, the sheer grit frequently countered by Amber Christman’s swelling violins. Any semblance of predictability (or any hope for a break) plummets even further when, between songs, the band blast samples like Sweet Caroline from the backing tape and get everybody singing along.

The result of these seemingly random ingredients should be a disgusting mess, but there’s discipline to the Daoboys’ frenzy. What Is Delicious? Who Swarms? interrupts its own barrage of hardcore with a string-backed, melodically sung hook, and arms wave back and forth in the capacity crowd. Later, finale A Brief Article Regarding Time Loops is more consistent in its fury, inciting a fiery moshpit that Carson happily exacerbates. “Why don’t you show me how free your healthcare is?!” he orders with an evil glint in his eye.

In a scene as stacked as heavy metal in 2023, being unique is exceedingly rare and deserving of the strongest praise. And The Callous Daoboys are unique. Their music’s endlessly volatile, with tonight being the most promising introduction to British metalheads that the band could have possibly hoped for. Make them famous.

The Callous Daoboys setlist – Radar Festival, July 30

Star Baby
Violent Astrology
What Is Delicious? Who Swarms?
Die On Mars (Sunspot)
Fake Dinosaur Bones
Blackberry DeLorean
A Brief Article Regarding Time Loops

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.