Wargasm + Scene Queen + Fearless Vampire Killers + Knife Bride @ O2 Kentish Town, London

Spread the metal:

Wargasm + Scene Queen + Fearless Vampire Killers + Knife Bride

O2 Kentish Town, London

27 October 2022

Photos by Rebecca Bush

Review by The Flâneur

At quarter to 7 pm I was sitting down by Kentish Town station eating my 79p Lidl slice of cold pizza and observing all the cool kids walking by me. Listening to Oranssi Pazuzu and dressed up in my drab office outfit, I finally knew what it’s like to be the Canary Wharf bank bro at a metal gig. Man, was I underdressed.

In a wonderful turn of events, three of the four bands tonight featured female members. As Knife Bride started their set, the O2 was already pretty full – uncharacteristically so for a London venue. A disclaimer – this was my favourite band that night, although nu-metal is very much not my thing. Their sound could overall be summarised as Katy Perry meets In This Moment – with a dash of Iggy Azalea.

The vocalist excelled at both clean and harsh vocals, and her half-rapping was actually pretty good, all the while dancing without it compromising her vocals. That’s what I call talent! Her stage presence was enthralling, and her beautiful Selkie-esque hot pink mini dress was a breath of fresh air. I found myself bobbing my head in approval – but shhh, it’s a secret!

Although the vocals were consistently on point, the overall sound was still a little mono. Though, that didn’t stop the band from giving their best and genuinely having a lot of fun on stage. The audience reflected this by giving them an early mosh pit, which lasted on throughout their set.

Although their sound was varied, I rather thought their songs weren’t, and I got bored quite early into it. I was simply too sober. In the intermission the venue was playing pop hits, including Left Outside Alone by Anastasia, to which the audience cheered as much as they did for Knife Bride.

Fearless Vampire Killers took the stage shortly after 8pm. In a wonderful turn of events, they were the only band who didn’t have female members that night. Each of the five members was dressed in a slightly different style, which I loved. Their sound was quite poppy with a tinge of hardcore, and overall, more stereotypically third wave emo.

This was also my least favourite band on the bill – they sounded like your regular year 10 high school band – the one that plays every homecoming to clueless teenagers sitting bored on the side-lines thinking about how they’d rather be anywhere else. However, a large portion of the crowd knew the lyrics to their songs by heart, and everyone cheered wholeheartedly when one of the two vocalists professed that, “this is rock music!”.

I was bored out of my mind when Fearless Vampire Killers finished their set after around thirty minutes, so I decided to jazz up my outfit a little bit, hit up the smoking area, and speak to some of the bonanza-goers about how they were finding the event. Below are some of the comments I jotted down:

“It’s not bad.”

“They [Fearless Vampire Killers] mean a lot to us and they’re amazing as always.”

“Tours like this one are so progressive.”

“I’m here with my daughter – it’s her first gig.”

“Pretty exciting.”

“Tomorrow doesn’t really matter.” – Adam, to whom I promised I’d wish happy birthday. Happy birthday, Adam!

At 9 pm, the previous Katy Perry reference was reinstated by the third band of the night – Scene Queen. Their cover of I Kissed A Girl left the crowd reeling, but me slightly disappointed. I mean, I really enjoy the song, but I was hoping for a more valiant effort at covering it. The public loved it though, and rewarded the band with gratuitous crowd surfing.

It may just be my dislike for the bundle of genres played that evening influencing my perception of the bands, but Scene Queen seemed like a random local emo band that became somewhat popular but never improved their playing. Or, alternatively, a bit like the soundtrack of a coming of age flick. The sound was impeccable though, and it was really impressive that the band had travelled from the US specifically for this gig.

Towards the end of their set, the vocalist provided us with a beautiful quote: “if you’re a) confident and b) hammered, you can do everything you want to do”. Sadly, I was neither, so I was quite critical at the following prompt for an “all-girl mosh pit”. In my opinion it was very “white girl feminism”, but it seemed like few others shared my concerns as said mosh pit was a roaring success.

Here, I want to note that this gig was indeed quite progressive from the standpoint of diversity. Three out of the four bands had female members, the crowd was represented by the full gender spectrum, and was much less white than most metal gigs I’ve attended in the past. It only goes on to show how closed off heavier metal genres can be, and how unwelcome non-white and non-cis people might feel at gigs from heavier bands.

As I was pondering all of this, Wargasm took the stage to the public singing along from the very first seconds. They really threw the crowd into a frenzy with their energetic performance and punchy riffs. This was the first time I had ever listened to Wargasm – I had to take over covering the gig from a colleague last minute, so I truly didn’t know what to expect.

Multiple people in the smoking area were telling me during my conversations with them that I might actually end up enjoying Wargasm – but, in the end, they were wrong. However, I was still impressed by how much effort Wargasm put into their performance and their overabundance of stage presence.

What I did enjoy was the tinge of ebm/industrial being intermixed into the whole – but the whole was like Peaches meets a very white version of Rage Against The Machine, meets babycore. As Wargasm spun from one alleged banger to another, I found myself growing more and more disillusioned – yet hopeful at the same time. On the one hand, every single song sounded the same to me – and was the opposite of white noise to my ears (but still incredibly white in colour).

On the other hand, Wargasm definitely have the potential to be a great starter band for teens and young adults venturing out into the realms of rock, metal, and industrial. And, in that lies their real strength. Even though their sound is the opposite of everything I generally find appealing in music, it’s a combination of genres and scenes with little to no racial or gender diversity. And, in that, I think it’s important to remind ourselves on the heavier side of the metal spectrum, that we shouldn’t gatekeep the genre and sideline those who listen to more “mainstream” facets of it. Because by othering them, we assure the decline of the genres we know and love, the very genres we gatekeep. We prevent successful innovation and experimentation, and we aid in the increasingly commonplace advancement of our beloved genres into far right territory. Which is why even though I disliked profoundly most of the cacophony played during the night, talking to the fans really made me realise that it’s not all about the music.

And indeed, the crowd was clearly having the best time of their lives, so who am I to say that this was not fun? In the immortal words of the fabled Adam: “tomorrow doesn’t really matter” – and that’s what everybody seemed to agree on.