(by MWJ)

Winter Scumfest – Extinction of Mankind, Beginning of the End, Hellbastard, Bait, Extreme Noise Terror, Dirty Power Game, Retcher (or some such order)

450 mile plus round trip through britain once a year, to be shoved on the tube, and pissed out of our minds, scummmmmmmmmmmmmfffffffffffffffffffffeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssttttttttttttttt

It had been a couple of years since I have had an early Xmas treat gig to myself like this but in what has been a year of ‘fests for me this seemed an excellent way to round things of. There’s been Hell, Llan, Dirty Weekend, Damnation and now Scum, see a pattern emerging. With ENT’s support with Massacre pushing for being one of my gigs of the year last year (maybe just edged out by Whitehouse) was up for seeing them again and as Elliot would never, ever, ever forgive me for not taking him to that gig we were partners in grime for the trip. We knew some of the other bands or their history at least but as for the rest felt they didn’t need much investigation as it would be pretty much consistent with what it said on the tin (of special brew), an evening of crust punk mayhem as a benefit for the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford.

As with previous expeditions to the metropolis thought it best to give as much time as possible for the trip so on our way in the morning. It was quiet and no holdups enabling the wifebeater session to start after the sun was over the yard arm, approximately, as we passed under circling vultures/red kites like some imminent warzone. Chosen again to get a reasonable b & b in north London to avoid the hell of London traffic but our earlier smooth progress was hit the buffers when we got on the tube at the end of the road to find services suspended. Sure way to fix things is to eventually decide to get off again to go for the bus only for the problem to be resolved and so hop back on again.

With plenty of time in advance of the gig we head through to Camden only for Mr Big/Bigg’s I was unsuspectingly travelling with to get grabbed by the rozzers at the station. I had horrible flashbacks to previous run-ins with the filth on London trips but never mind patting the friendly sniffer dog, what’s with all this drug money you’ve got on you? His hopes of a strip search from the gorgeous lady DC are dashed though as we blag our way away, fuck yer system! Anyway, Camden was heaving as ever but we avoided any shopping apart from the interesting section of beers (“grotten” seemed appropriate) in Quinn’s and then continued our crawl through some of the venue sights on the way back to the station in the evening.

Knew the venue was close to the tube in Tufnell Park but as the last time here was to see Burton from Fear Factory shit himself in about ’92 we managed to head off in the wrong direction until we realised we were going against the tide of punk heading the opposite way and got there second time lucky. We only caught the last strains of openers Warprayer but then we were into the thick of it.

The place was bigger though perhaps no less dingy than remembered, last time it had been full of GGFH’s smoke machine output. Not sold out but then again half the crowd were on permanent fag break shifts outside too. An excellent selection of merch distracts us temporarily, loads of rare items like cd cases with no cd’s inside, but then Retcher are up.

Straight away the sound system quality is evident, as within the confines of a genre things could have ended up pretty indistinguishable but throughout the night stuff comes across really well. This two girl/ two guy line up is apparently a new venture from previous bands and thought I recognised the girl on bass. She and the other girl guitarist alternated the fiery lead and backing vocals, the tunes were raw and charged along to a d-beat though not overly fast. A good start for sure.

Next a travelling contingent, Dirty Power Game from Italy. They were even more fast and furious with a hardcore approach, clearly massively influenced by the most extreme of ENT’s output. They were the most grindtastic of the day, guttural vocals, not overly complex riffing, favouring the pummelling approach instead. What was evident from conversations in the crowd was that the appeal of this niche scene had attracted people from all over Europe if not further afield. Guess London is a cosmopolitan city so a fair few may be here anyway but met at least some Finns who were flying back after a squat party later.

Earlier than expected given their respective standing ENT are up next and relentlessly deliver the level of rewarding chaotic grind/crust that had been hoped for. They have the guitarist and drummer from South Walian death metallers Desecration in them now and that really gives a cutting precision to the blistering riffing, but it’s the dual vocal attack of Phil and Dean that really defines the band. They say they don’t play “Murder” any more; we muse afterwards whether if they are not all vegetarians in the band now that’s a decision of conscience, undoubtedly there are puritans who would call them on it otherwise. They do rip through the old school of “False Profit”, “Bullshit Propaganda” and the curiously retitled “Screaming Fucking Mayhem” (always be “Carry on Screaming” to me) inspiring stage dives of varying quality and associated injury from me, notice no St John’s ambulance rushing in when I’m hoofed back on stage in some semblance of a spastic fit. New material also aired but the album sold out before we get to it, the set is over in a flash but effortlessly hits the spot.

After a celebratory mix of cider (but no valium) into our drinking equation things are rapidly becoming blurry. Bait feature ex-members of Deviated Instinct, another East Anglian original that benefited from their own quality plus the local patronage of John Peel. A three piece, again they come across as ultra harsh and hard hitting hardcore. Well worth further attention, definitely going to search out their releases. They weren’t afraid to slow things down to a grinding roar, a bit of the progressiveness in their writing of the likes of His Hero Is Gone.

Hellbastard were a name of renown from the past that apparently have just reformed. I knew they were Geordies but the main man Scruff on guitar/vocals maybe the only one left of the original line-up. They attempt some pretty inventive metallic thrashy hardcore but whether through technical difficulties or just a lack of recent practice with the new guys (or consumption during the evening) it’s all a bit messy. They raise smiles all round with a steady shower of low energy lightbulbs thrown out during the set, they have a message evidently (as do all the bands tonight). No doubt that’ll be expressed on their new stuff that seems to fit into their old style reasonably well, and will be released this next year.

A brief break for food to vainly soak up the alcohol saturation before Beginning of the End. Noticeably different in a more atmospheric and metally style, their girl singer prowls the stage, beautiful to look at, horrible (in a good way) to listen to. Again there’s more into their song structures that makes for interest but the overall harshness maintains their crust appeal. El takes time out in Minor Threat album cover mode while I work on international crust relations, coincidentally involving the opposite sex.

To hammer another (final) nail in the coffin, Extinction of Mankind, straight outta Bolton with plenty of good natured contempt for “you southern wankers”. The battering crust is super heavy and harsh, their experience of decades is evident in putting in a strong show. The last tube North is calling though so we bail before the end and join some apparently pre-chloroformed girls on the journey. A very satisfying end to the year, this one really struck to the core of my tastes, and kept a grin on the face despite the long achy journey home. the back pain was fucking murdaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!