@ O2 Islington Academy, London, UK
Friday 26th September 2014
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photos by Graham Hilling
Given the welcoming reception of cap-n-scarf wearing, club-bearing lackeys staring down the punters on the way in, it’s clear that King 810 are trying. And by that we mean they’re clearly super aware of the reputation the media has built for them, and are trying to keep the walls up. It’s the kind of reputation your mum wouldn’t like, but you got to wonder who else cares. Away from “murder town” and here at their first gig in London town, King 810 don’t seem so controversial. Hell, the muscle is cracking smiles for the camera as opposed to heads.
Astroid Boys (1.5/5) may not hail from some far off planet – it’s Wales in fact – but whoever decided this was a good match-up might be. Here’s two guys, two mics, and a laptop, doing some kind of hip hop/dubstep shiz to what you’d deem a rock crowd.
Ah, and it seems there’s usually another one based on vocalist Traxx’s enlightening statement: “There’s usually another guy on stage with me but he’s in prison. He gets out in five weeks.” Lovely. To give them their dues, the kick of the live drum and their energetic rap skills gives them a couple of ticks but it’s generally a pretty empty score sheet. And yet heads are nodding along. So what do we know?
Well, we do know that Hang The Bastard’s (3.5/5) Tomas Hubbard screeches like a man courting throat surgery in later life. It’s an abrasive breath of fresh air that tears strips off what came before. With big bruising riffs and fury gone fuzzy, Hang The Bastard grind away at those in attendance like they’re the meal between the band’s mortar and pestle.
What they’re doing here is another question. In a mismatched line-up they are perhaps the piece that fits least. Even when thumped in. Ninety percent of the time Hubbard is a shrieking mass of hair, but when you get a glimpse of it his face is one of possessed concentration.
There’s something hugely frightening about the way he’s unflinchingly eyeballing the crowd, and yet at the same time he seems on the edge of breaking out into laughter. Or is it just us.
A smattering of smoke. Some CAUTION tape running across the front of the stage. A fast-paced rundown of horrible headlines from Flint, aka murder town, read by voices practiced at telling bad news. It’s slightly thickly laid on, a bit schlocky, but there’s a sense that something is coming. Maybe not a moment of history, but a moment worth giving some attention to nonetheless.
Put all the stage dressing aside -including the weapon toting lot who have pitched up for the photographers’ three songs. Put aside the dodgy mix. Put aside the rest. King 810 (3.5/5) seethe with rage, shake with fury, speak with intent. “Killem all”, “Best Nite Of My Life”, and “Murder Murder Murder” – there’s a reason these three tracks sit that way on the album, a reason they sit that way tonight. Because they have a certain momentum, powered by force on all fronts – riffs, drums, vocals, lyrics – the language is plain, simple, bleak. Not poetry.
There’s a Slipknot/Korn vibe to the whole thing, with those nu metal derived beats that make people do that gangsta thing with their hands. Such comparisons extend to the vocals of David Gunn. Half the time he half speaks the lyrics as on the gang chanted stripped back “Write About Us”; others he’s a snarling mass of anger, then a quieter presence. It’s impressively versatile.
Sure it’s not perfect. Certainly vocal monologue “Anatomy 1:2” drops like a stone as nearby conversations drown out Gunn’s hand-in-front-of-mouth stage mutterings. It almost feels like a need to fill time, which may also explain a lot of the lags between songs. The acoustic ambiance of “Take It” gets closer to rising above, and the build-up of “State Of Nature” is harder to ignore, even with Gunn sitting down on the floor. It’s here that King 810 feel at their most honest – gimmicks stripped away, bullshit and pretence forgotten. Here they feel like they actually have something to say.
Completing the rescue is the mammoth “Fat Around The Heart”, which sees everyone break loose – on the stage, on the floor, with its perpetual drum-led breakdowns. It seems like the musical lull has stoked a few more fires as the floor explodes in the biggest pit of the night.
And yet King 810 still don’t sound dangerous. Tonight should have felt like hell had already been loosened and was about to slip open. Like the room was a powder keg and King 810 the flaming torches. Like we were walking the knife edge. And it didn’t. Which is perhaps the greater point. Because tonight King 810 have proved themselves as both living up to and existing outside of that image.
The question now is which way do they go, because currently they’re screwed as middlemen. As much as you can argue it’s about the music, that unfortunate media-stoked reputation casts a bigger shadow that makes a perfectly normal show, even a good show by other standards, feel a bit like you didn’t get the whole performance. But if things were really to go down, if people were to get hurt, if the threat became real, the backlash would be significant.
For our part, they’re significantly better without all the extras. If their music is meant to be steeped in the gritty reality of life in Flint then that should speak for itself – everything else just makes it seem like we’re looking at that through a glass. What you want is for them to mature as a band, as songwriters, to be able to convey that as powerfully as possible. Honesty over controversy really, because right now no matter how many Kings they hold the guys can’t win this game.
King 810 setlist
Best Nite Of My Life
Murder Murder Murder
Treading & Trodden
State Of Nature
Write About Us
Fat Around The Heart