You don’t need us to tell you that 2020 has been a weird year. With gigs as we know them unable to take place, most artists have successfully pivoted online to craft community and connection with livestreams of all shapes, sizes and successes.
However, heavy music hasn’t been able to embrace this new normal so easily. The genre really doesn’t lend itself to stripped back acoustic sessions and played at full throttle, as it ought to be, most bands would blow-out any sort of home studio setup. It’s why bedroom metal has never really been a thing. Technical issues aside, heavy music is at its best when it feels physical, like that rumble in your gut when the bass kicks in or when an inadvertent flying elbow in the pit connects. Watching it through a screen or from a safe distance turns that experience into one of detachment – and hasn’t this year been isolating enough?
It can be done (Architects’ stream from the Royal Albert Hall proved that), but at a cost. To be able to hire out a venue and create something closer to cinema is, for most musicians, simply not viable on a financial level. So it’s no surprise that many metal bands seem to be waiting for things to get back to the way they were before poking their heads out of the recording studio.
As Wargasm’s vocalist/bassist Milkie Way told NME earlier this year, “if you’re waiting for things to go back to normal, you’re going to be waiting a fucking long time. You might as well utilise what you’ve got.” Releasing their first song ‘Post Modern Rhapsody’ in August 2019 and playing their first show a few weeks later, Wargasm have spent a majority of their existence in a world with COVID-19. They’ve since had festival appearances at Download, Reading, Leeds and Boomtown cancelled while support slots with Creeper and Yungblud have been postponed to 2021. For a new band, that’s gotta hurt.
But rather than wallow in self-pity, the two-piece have adapted. Not only have they released a string of nu-metal influenced bangers and played online shows as part of Slipknot’s online Knotfest: Pulse Of The Maggots and Yungblud’s ‘weird time of life’ virtual tour, but now have a chance to return to the live arena for a pair of socially-distanced shows at London’s New Cross Inn. They might not have had any grander plans than playing music to an actual audience but by being the only metal show in town, they prove that socially-distanced heavy music can still feel just as exhilarating.
When we spoke to Wargasm earlier in the year, Sam Matlock (vocalist/guitarist) was adamant he never wanted to offer people a watered down version of the real thing. It’s why their digital shows have felt so claustrophobic and played up to the drama of their genre-blending. And tonight, live on an actual stage in front of real life people, it’s all about chaos. “We’re here to make you feel unsafe,” says Way during the gig.
Sure, the most danger comes from someone knocking over a glass of lemonade after clapping too vigorously but that doesn’t stop Wargasm from attacking the stage with reckless determination. Matlock and Way create a two-person pit for the industrial hyperpop of opening track ‘Rage All Over’ before the glitching anger of ‘Backyard Bastards’ explodes with fury. Unreleased song ‘L.S.D.’ is a frantic rock & roll rager, there’s a brilliant new hyperactive garage rock song that sees the band sing “you want more, you got more” that they’ll unfortunately never play again (they don’t explain why) before their lusty, playful cover of N.E.R.D’s ‘Lapdance’ sees the band at their wailing best.
‘Spit’ is two incredibly catchy songs mashed together, a Frankenstein’s monster of crowd-pleasing ambition and snarling punk rebellion. ‘God Of War’ is easily the best nu-metal song in over a decade. The band give every blistering track their all as they tear about the tiny stage, driven by the uncertainty about when any of us will get to do this again and the joy about finally being able to play a proper live show. All that emotion is fuel for these fiery bangers.
This probably isn’t how Wargasm imagined their first ever headline shows to look but they’re a reactive band who thrive on the unexpected so they make the very best of it. Releasing months of built up anger, frustration and energy in an explosive 35-minute set, it’s a thrilling performance that captures the cathartic, chaotic power of heavy music. Despite the regulations, it still feels like anything could happen. Turns out, that great songs are still great, even with social distancing in place and superstars in the making can still put on an incredible performance that’ll make you feel part of something bigger than your bubble.