IT’S GIG-ONLY entry at Stereo on a dim, relatively quiet Sunday night in Glasgow but descending the twisted staircase into the venue’s basement venue bowels there’s the inescapable sense of tense, excited anticipation among those who’ve made it out.
It’d be a tasty double-bill anywhere in the world but curiously – following the building anticipation over their upcoming second album, blanket coverage among the UK rock press and a high-profile single premiere on the Radio 1 rock show – there’s as much buzz for Kent bruisers Feed The Rhino as for deserved, well-travelled American headliners This Is Hell.
Performing in front of a vast ‘Burning Sons’ banner that’s by some distance too large for this stage, as well-drilled as they’ve ever been live and (despite illness) looking more directly purposeful than they have, FTR unleash a predictably furious set of honed-hardcore.
It’s difficult to escape the feeling that they’re not a little dismayed by the lack of real numbers on hand or any outright chaos but they’ve developed the distinct air of a mature act to the point where any disappointment fails to make any real mark on their performance.
Frontman Lee Tobin has grown not only his beard and hair but also his range as a performer. It’s a good thing too as with a crowd and venue like this he’s unable to conjure the kind of bedlam that pulsed through their landmark Sonisphere appearance last year and coloured so many club shows since.
Instead he rips through a fearsome, impressively layered dialogue with himself. His band pound the boards and throw shapes to his rear but FTR have never been the kind of hardcore band reliant on kinetic distraction over musical substance.
Expansive new track Left For Ruins slots in surprisingly well amongst the angular chaos of the better worn Mr Red Eye material but it’s the set as a whole that really makes its mark tonight; the sense of professionalism and hard-earned entitlement to be here. It’s not just their banner that’s gotten to big for these surrounds.
This Is Hell seem decidedly bemused not only by the volume of relatively sparse crowd but by the enthusiasm afforded their support. It feeds into a gleefully shambolic, feel-good performance where the band seem as keen to converse with the crowd on matters of contemporary professional wrestling as to actually play any songs.
It’s to their credit though that they do manage to get about almost all in attendance moving and a sizeable circle-pit spinning around one of the venues amazingly-ill-placed support pillars. Their Hatebreed/Throwdown style metalcore isn’t the most multi-dimensional of heavy music but it’s played with enough passion and earnestness to get swept up in the appeal.
Fortunately, they wrap things up after about three quarters of an hour, refusing to outstay their welcome in spite of a handful of the more hardcore fans baying for their money’s worth.
Short visits make long friends and though this show burns out without the most climactic of endings, there’s little question that these boys’ll be universally welcome back soon. The order of performance could well get some tweaking though.