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Despite the initial technical difficulty (a blown amp head) that means playing part of their set with one guitarist, London’s Dripback deal with it with by dishing out a couple of cockney witticisms and then playing with the force and might of a steamroller thundering down a mountain. With one guitarist, their death-laced hardcore grooves still sound huge. The bass is angry, the drums are ruthless, and when their second guitarist returns, they sound even bigger. And with a frontman prowling the stage like Wolverine on angry pills spitting out fierce, ireful salvo one after another, Dripback prove themselves a live band to keep an eye out for.

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If Lionheart are one thing on stage, it’s big. Frontman Rob Watson storms back and forth, a barrage of defiant drive; guitarists Earl Pitts and Rob McCarthy flank the stage, two giants who pound out clenched-fist, hardest-of-hard hardcore riffs; and with Evan Krecji’s bass mumbling murderously along in the low end to compliment Jay Scott’s gargantuan drum lines, together, Lionheart are mammoth. No filler, all killer, and not one single space left to evade the torrent that spews forth as Lionheart deal out many a hardcore bruiser. The few that formed the pit are a swirl of maniacal limb-throwing, of angst-expelling energy, a blur of cathartic violence, and a fitting front-of-stage expression of the crowd’s appreciation of this great band’s set.

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How Heights got on this tour is anyone’s guess. Save for their few ardent fans that had glued themselves to the barrier and sang every word of every song throughout, their set did very little for very few. The rest of the crowd patiently waited for evidence that this was more substance than style, but to no avail. In Top Shop fashions, they looked like middle-class white kids who sounded angry about something because they should be angry about something yet don’t know what or why. Though they may not have won any fans tonight, they played with as much might as they could muster and earned a significant amount of respect for their endurance. Had they opened, they may’ve got a better reception…

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With all of the other bands’ gear removed from the stage, it now looks like Biohazard sound: stripped back to the core. With the bare minimum of amps and the drum-kit behind them, Billy Graziadei takes centre-stage for lead vocals; Bobby bounces around stage right, the swirling embodiment of New York hardcore; and while Evan Seinfeld has absconded, new bassist/vocalist Scott Roberts’ towering larger-than-life presence more than fills the space he left behind. With a set that spans their entire career and peppered with a couple of tracks from their latest, ‘Reborn In Defiance’, Biohazard are both cool and powerful in their energetic straight-to-the-point delivery. Having seen Biohazard at the old JBs in the early nineties – where they broke the stage with their synchronised up-and-down antics – they haven’t missed a beat and still retain that pure essence of defiance, determination, and endurance in the face of all adversity. The pit boils, the stage booms, and the venue is a heaving mass of hardcore strength. The distinction between band and crowd blurs into one as Graziadei dives into the crowd and members of the audience hit the stage to sing with the band and dive back into the tumultuous throng. This is what a show should be: no boundaries; just band and crowd unified into a mass of mutually supportive, expressive, and healthy respect.

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Set list: Urban Discipline; What Makes Us Tick; Chamber Spins Three; Reborn; Black And White And Red All Over; Down For Life; Retribution; Come Alive; Vengeance Is Mine; Shades Of Grey; Howard Beach; Love Denied; Punishment; Hold My Own.

Review by Jason Guest

Photos by Gobinder Jhitta

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