Opening one of the finest nights of extreme musical entertainment I have yet had the pleasure of witnessing was Glasgow's own Co-Exist. These purveyors of blasting and slamming grindcore (with a hint of hardcore), like every band on this bill except Sleath, are prime Relapse Records material. Fair enough, neither Co-Exist nor Regorge, both coming from Glasgow, would necessarily be best advised to choose a label so far flung from their home country to reside on, but in terms of musical quality, attitude and individual intensity either would fit snugly onto the Relapse roster, as headliners Nile already do. Formed recently of members of long-running and much revered demo act Confusion Corporation, Co-Exist are, to its members at least, a fun band -- a release from what became a relatively thankless and time-consuming venture, I am told. That they are a fun band in the eyes of their members took nothing away from Co-Exist's performance. In fact, the band's light hearts and comparable humour added much to it. I would have been impressed and invigorated by Co-Exist's half hour set of quality grind if it had been played with straight faces -- when a band can intersperse blasting speed with moments of Today Is the Day and Neurosis-like dissonant intensity like these guys can, it's hard not to get drawn in. However, the humour element injected combined with the band's markedly physical performance -- featuring such carefree antics as the band's bassist sprawling on the floor in Spinal Tap-like comedy fashion -- made Co-Exist a more than usually memorable support act. One example of their knife-like spontaneous humour came at one point in the set when the drummer announced that the band's next two songs would be their last for the evening. Greeted by vocalised disappointment from the crowd, he quipped, "You fuckin' wanna see Nile or not?", and launched Co-Exist into their next lurching and blasting song. As profound an example of a group of proficient musicians who know how to write songs -- however simple and short they may be -- and get into the groove of what they do in the raw, live arena is rarely found in signed or unsigned bands, and though Co-Exist aren't yet musically on a level to challenge the bigger guns of their stylistic approach, their rounded performance -- possessing energy and humour and displaying formidable technical ability -- reminded me pleasantly of the all-round experience it used to be to see Brutal Truth live when they were still in business. Co-Exist may not be a band of the same level, but they have the same balanced elements as the masters of grind used to have in their live shows, and that is something not only to be thankful for, but to make seeing Co-Exist a priority on my list of things to do in the next six months.
Promising local death/grind hopefuls Regorge followed. As had been the case when I last saw them, supporting Dismember [CoC #48] at this very venue, Regorge had done anything but stand still since my last encounter with them. The furious, blasting crush the band brought forth after their militaristic intro had finished was let down only by a minor murkiness of sound which clouded its subtleties, and the fact that the band's new lead vocalist had to date only clocked up a meagre few gigs with the band. By the time Regorge had begun their second song, I was better tuned into to the rushing intensity of their music, and began to notice that the band's compositions had become yet more vibrant and involved, while the musicians playing them had obviously been practising hard of late. The tightly controlled speed and fury of the percussive assault laid down by the band's drummer suggested he'd recently been locked in a room with just his kit and a week's food for company. The band's one real mistake was attempting to cover At the Gates' "Blinded by Fear". They made a noble attempt to do justice to a great song, but neither their sound nor their playing either mimicked the song's original sound effectively, or framed it in another, still positive, light. It wasn't the right song to play and Regorge humbly admitted as much before playing it, but the band should have trusted their instincts over their exuberance, and given us another one of their own compositions for delectation in the place of this faint shadow of the work of a greater band. At present, the band's new vocalist is the only noticeable chink in the band's increasingly rock solid armour, and he can be forgiven for his performance this evening. Nonetheless, taken solely on its own merits, his low death growling and grunting did not have the character and conviction to it which the former bassist/vocalist who now handles the backing vocals possessed. The new boy should improve with time and practice, but I for one hope Regorge won't be taking the road of milking the brutal American death/grind market by leaving his vocals as characterless and solely brutal as they came out this evening. Despite my few misgivings, Regorge put on a stunning performace, and one showing that the band continue to strive towards greater things. None of their classy new material is yet available -- their unremarkable _Decerebate_ demo is the last thing the band officially offered up --, but very soon a new demo will see the light of day, and I would strongly advise any of you favourable to fresh death metal and grindcore to keep an eye out for it. I certainly will be.
Do you remember Dearly Beheaded? Well, if you do then you can approximate the sound of Sleath by estimating how much DB would have progressed their metalcore groove by now. Composed partially of ex-Dearly Beheaded members, Sleath may not sound exactly the same, but its certainly not hard to believe that this band is ex-DB. Unsurprisingly, the band's style destined them to be tonight's odd ones out in terms of speed. It didn't help Sleath's case that as they began, all I could hear was their snare drum and their singer pushed the band yet lower in my esteem when he began repeatedly and angrily demanding the crowd to come down the front and mosh -- crowds should mosh of their own accord, not 'cause you tell them to. It's fair to say that Sleath deserve some respect for evidently throwing themselves into their performance, but ultimately on grounds of musical quality as well as style, not to mention the quality of performance offered, I'd rather have had more Regorge and Co-Exist and forgone Sleath's lengthier performance, and from the looks of the crowd -- not many takers for that offer of moshing -- I wasn't the only one.
Nile were of course the band that everyone present, ultimately, was waiting for, this being their first ever appearance on UK mainland, and specifically in Scotland. Despite the feel of tension building up on Nile's intro, their initial assault of "Black Seeds of Vengeance" did not start their set as the band would inevitably continue. A mild murkiness of sound muddied this initial assault and the "Pestilence and Iniquity" that followed, but by the time Nile were throwing "Serpent Headed Mask", "Stones of Sorrow" and "Ramsees Bringer of War" our way there was nothing technically amiss either in band or sound-system, and consequently nothing that could halt Nile's warpath of destructive and infectious musical carnage. The "Libation..." intro provided a brief respite before a crystal clear "Masturbating the War God" came hurtling forth and Nile followed this on with a collection of _...Nephren-Ka_ favourites: "Opening of the Mouth" and "Howling of the Jinn". "The Black Flame" brought things back to a deceiving calm for the last time before its explosion into chaos and "Smashing the Antiu" closed the forty-odd minute set. Nile were intense, infectious and enjoyable to an extent I have rarely experienced with any band or event. I'd banged head and fist furiously, I'd air-guitared to riffs and solos and shouted myself near-hoarse echoing the lyrics to songs or suggesting additions to Nile's setlist. But I was still not satisfied; my work as a screaming lunatic was not done; Nile had left the stage without playing "Defiling the Gates of Ishtar". As the band finished with "Smashing the Antiu" and made to leave I screamed the missing song title at the top of my voice and, furiously and frantically, joined the rest of the crowd in attempting to chant Nile back onto stage. Who knows whether it was our efforts that made the difference or whether Nile were just testing our mettle (or metal?) by leaving, but they did indeed returned to the stage -- and within only a few minutes too. They proceeded to play "Defiling the Gates of Ishtar" -- my voice almost died with the cry of pure joy I let out as they did -- with what was probably the cleanest, most powerful sound of the night. I can hardly conceive of how the evening could have been better or more enjoyable, and I certainly would have been content with much less than the utter brilliance Nile (and some of their support) delivered. Nile were enrapturing; they may not have been flawless in performance, but a minorly flawed Nile performance amounts to a downright -amazing- performance from just about any other band. Like Cryptopsy, Nile are in a different league to the general melee, and though I could have seemingly improved their performance for my own tastes and in minor ways by changing it, this does not detract from the fact that this is the best gig I've been to in years.