Above all else, 2012 has been the year of the triumphant comeback. We’ve seen bands visit our shores this year we’d have never dreamt of seeing in a millennia – bands like Refused and At The Drive-In, whose music not only changed the face of a genre but created new genres too. Cynics may point out certain ulterior motives for reformation, but seeing these giants of post-hardcore who have produced albums considered the greatest of all time (especially on a personal level), has been the stuff of fantasies.
Refused and At The Drive-In may have been instrumental in drawing the outlines of my musical taste, but it was the BritRock scene of the early to mid-00s that formed it. Bands like Biffy Clyro and Reuben (still holding out on their reunion show if you’re reading, lads) received my ultimate adoration, as did the likes of Hundred Reasons and tonight’s act, Hell Is For Heroes. The careers of the latter two reached a somewhat ignominious ending, so they have decided to join forces for one last jaunt, a final sign-off and swan song to ensure their place in the annals is assured, culminating in a show at London’s Kentish Town Forum. After around 5 years out of business though, Banquet Records felt they needed a couple of warm-up shows to get the blood pumping in those veins again, and who were we to deny the chance to be the rapturous crowd? On a November night chillier than an Inuit’s goolies, a sold-out crowd descended on Kingston’s landmark Peel venue to witness Hell Is For Heroes’ magnum opus ’The Neon Handshake’ played in its entirety.
Before we get onto that, a quick word on support band Radio Alcatraz. Now, in my first paragraph I talked of musical idols; there’s a level of adoration and pedestal-placing a band can do for certain acts, and then there’s just plain aping. Radio Alcatraz sound like a direct fusion between Glassjaw and At The Drive-In, which might be perfect for anyone who couldn’t get to either of their UK dates, but for those who caught the real thing, it’s a paltry facsimile. The moves are the same, the riffs are tiresomely familiar and attention quickly wanders. This may be the most blatant attempt at band Frankenstein-ing I’ve seen since Letlive down the road at the Fighting Cocks – they’ve sewn together the best parts of their heroes, but the seams are showing, and they’re looking pretty frayed. (2.5/5)
As was the case with Hundred Reasons’ show at the Fighting Cocks show earlier this year, the average age of this crowd is around 25, but the assembled receding hairlines (and expanding guts) don’t hesitate to show what they’re made of as Hell Is For Heroes slam into ’Five Kids Go’. One of many huge singalongs that take place this evening, the five-piece hit the ground running on absolutely incendiary form, that continues throughout.
Frontman Justin Schlosberg prowls about the stage like the devil’s inside of him, even successfully pulling off a crowd-supported ceiling walk during ’Out Of Sight’. The meaning of rapturous reception the band are receiving is etched all over their faces, and reflected in the spot-on emotional gravitas they give tracks like ’Night Vision’. Both band and crowd get it just right tonight – hands outstretched skywards during the soaring, emotive songs, wreaking havoc and losing their proverbial shit to massive headbanging anthems like ’I Can Climb Mountains’ and ’You Drove Me To It’.
As ’Retreat’ closes out proceedings poignantly, the crowd are left baying for more; unfortunately, as the only downside of the night, the band don’t particularly deliver in the encore. Sure, it’s nice to hear ’Folded Paper Figures’ from hugely underrated follow-up record ’Transmit/Disrupt’, but an obscure B-side that sounds like a cross between Hoobastank’s ’Crawling In The Dark’ and Showbiz-era Muse is an awkward fit and makes for a damp squib at the end of a triumphant set.
At one point Justin proclaims “We had no idea Kingston loved us this much” – perhaps a sardonic nod to the dwindling attendances towards the end of their original lifespan, but I’m taking it as genuine humility at the response and what these songs mean to the gathering before them. Tonight has been a glorious victory lap for the Londoners and, having only previously witnessed half of a HIFH set beforehand (supporting Biffy Clyro at the London Astoria), I feel truly blessed to have been a part of it. If Hell is full of Heroes like these, then damn me straight to Hades.(4.5/5)
Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)