Ever since the line-up for EMP Persistence Tour 2018 was announced, it became an instant must-go-to for every Belgian fan of New York hardcore and hardcore in general. Three iconic pioneers would conquer the stage consecutively: Terror, Madball and Hatebreed! And then we’re not even mentioning the presence of Power Trip, Born From Pain, Broken Teeth and Insanity Alert. Not surprisingly, the show got sold out long before its actual date. So on January 26th, your loyal reporters secretly snuck off their jobs and rushed to Torhout’s famous venue De Mast.
After some obligatory fuckups by public transportation, we got there just in time to see the start of opening act Insanity Alert (***). What we like about these crossbreeders between thrash metal and punk/hardcore is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. That is the least you can say when frontman Heavy Kevy performs in a Hawaii-shirt and funny carnival glasses and your backdrop is an evil version of the legendary eighties television puppet Alf. Entertainment is very important for these Austrians and Dutchmen, considering their elaborated efforts to provide top-notch high-tech visuals: some Styrofoam plates with the chorus in sloppy graffiti, carried around by the most tattooed bloke we’ve seen so far. It really works though: everyone can scream and shout along with hits like Metal Punx Never Die and Run To The Pit (“mosh fooooooor yoooouuuur liiiiiife!!!”). All in all a good start of the evening, even though it was too bad that there weren’t that many people yet and the pit stayed empty.
While Insanity Alert is all fun and games, the same can’t be said for Manchester-based outfit Broken Teeth (*****). These guys are bloody serious. Vocalist Dale Graham looks like he just teleported over here from a Power Rangers episode and even their artwork reminds us of eighties-nineties-comics. So even though these guys are a bit younger than the headliners (ten years on track, as opposed to over twenty), they do take us back to the glorious days of true hardcore. Songs like Show No Mercy, Nothing Like You and Soul Destroyer (with a nice guest appearance by Madball’s Freddy Cricien) were thrown in our face by the violent energy of Dale and his comrades. They played as loud and as hard as anyone possibly could, but unfortunately people were still too shy and sober to open the pits. The inevitable tragedy of scheduling a great band early on the evening! It’s definitely not because Broken Teeth didn’t try, we had a blast!
After some cigarettes and beers (or carrots and water for the straight-edgers among us), it was time for the Dutch legends of Born From Pain (***). Luckily for the fans of their early work, they played a bunch of songs from In Love With The End. Rise Or Die was unleashed upon us very early in the show, followed by some new songs and then the classic This Is The New Hate. Here too, desperate efforts were made to get the people to the front, but the audience was still saving their strength for the real headliners (and of course, with a line-up like this, the average age must have been about 40 years so not much moshing there). Born From Pain play their music in a slightly lower pace and a little more hulking and unfortunately, the sound mixing could have been better. Nevertheless, it was a good way to recover from Broken Teeth’s devastation, say goodbye to the European ecstasy and prepare for the American awesomeness that was about to break loose.
The youngsters from Power Trip (****) opened up their set by using the same intro that’s featured on their latest album: Nightmare Logic, followed up by the ever-so-powerful Soul Sacrifice, and immediately after that the almighty Executioners Tax (Swing of the Axe). Leaning a bit onto thrash and/or old school death metal, this band definitely is somewhat different from the rest of the line-up. The tour had been going on for a while already, and you could see that the energy level of the band was running low, yet especially the vocalist Riley Gale,who kept jumping on and off the bass drum, clearly gave everything he got. They closed off their set by playing the titletrack of their first record: Manifest Decimation. De Mast in Torhout was starting to get crowded for the first time this evening, but the audience seemed to be reserving their energy for the bands to come. Nonetheless, Power Trip played one hell of a set to remember!
Terror (***) were the first band to get the crowd moving all the way to the back and the first crowdsurfers came to the top. Pretty cool was that they used the hip hop-classic Simon Says by Pharoahe Monch as an intro. Could have been a joke, could have been a statement, either way they found a way to piss off elitists! They opened up with their energetic Keep Your Mouth Shut. Hundreds of people screamed along to Keepers of the Faith, and once again Terror created an atmosphere of oneness among the crowd, that would dominate the rest of the evening.
Using the track Marathon by Junkie XL, from the motion picture soundtrack of the movie 300: Rise of an Empire, Madball (****) has one of the most ominous and bombastic sounding intros to a show ever. Immediately the band started off with the unifying Hardcore Lives. The highlight of their set must have been the moment when the notorious words “We don’t fake it, we just take it” sounded through De Mast, followed by their great Set It Off. Through the years, Madball have stayed so true to themselves and the New York Hardcore scene they derived from.
When Hatebreed (****) entered the stage, the audience collected whatever energy they had left and got up to give it all one last time. Jaimy Jasta and his crew walked up the stage like homecoming kings returning to their natural habitat. After over twenty years of playing all over the world, it is striking to see how much joy Jasta still gets out of doing this. You could see the fun in his eyes even from the last rows. So obviously, it became one big fest with all the classics of their twenty-year-existence: Proven, Before Dishonor, A Call For Blood, Perseverance, To The Threshold, Destroy Everything (trust us, we did) and of course the big hit I Will Be Heard (seriously, we were, all over Torhout) and many more. After Jaimy thanked everyone for showing up and keeping the scene as die-hard as they come (see what I did there), all we could see were happy (and slightly drunk) faces. EMP Persistence Tour 2018, you were great! Now off to score us a ride home…
Photo credits: Tomy Devogelare (for more pictures go see his album on Facebook here)