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Relapse Records is a very formidable label supporting underground extreme metal acts with an impressive alumni list and tonight they present London with two of their most popular artists blackened thrashers Toxic Holocaust and gore metallers Exhumed in a co-headlining effort. Exhumed are regulars in the capital, ensuring a show here for the past three years in a row but Toxic Holocaust have not played London since 2009 and so the vast portion of the audience are hear largely for a dose of modern thrash metal, having not seen them before.
California's Exhumed have enjoyed a solid amount of attention in the death metal underground for adding their own edge to the goregrind sound invented by masters of the genre Carcass. Having disbanded in 2005 for just five years of inactivity, last year saw them release their second post-reformation album 'Necrocracy' to critical acclaim. The Underworld is full of the curious as they launch into their set working their way through material new and old, unsurprisingly spawning a mosh pit that lasts throughout the set. New songs 'Coins Upon the Eyes', 'Necrocracy' and 'Dysmorphic' attain similar levels of ovation as the classic tracks, probably due to the audience's overall lack of familiarity with the Americans. Classic staples of 'Limb From Limb and 'Necromaniac' perfectly couple the brutality of death metal with the chaos of grindcore, produicing incredibly satisfying results.
For those not entirely familiar with Exhumed's music, the band are sure to repeat the entertainment factor of their last tour throughout the UK here; guitarist Bud Burke performs a solo to the point of passing out. A maniacal surgeon takes a defibrillator unit to Burke which does not have much success. However, it is alcohol that contains the re-animating properties, much to the crowd's approval. The same surgeon comes on stage to wave his chainsaw around to scare the audience before 'Limb from Limb'. Throughout the show, the sound is not the most supportive for Exhumed but closer 'Gore Metal' with a wave of crowd-surfers shows that an Exhumed show is one that is never deficient in entertainment.
Formed in 1999 and riding the waves of the thrash metal revival, Oregon's Toxic Holocaust accrued a noticeable level of popularity in recent years and given the current underground trend of drooling over classic groups such as Venom, Sodom and Slayer, that influenced black and black thrash metal, these Americans are in the right place at the right time. Led by mainman Joel Grind, the trio's take on thrash metal incorporates black metal elements but struggles to form a clear identity or tread new paths but activates headbangers and thrashers in the live setting.
Opening with 'Metal Attack' from debut 'Evil Never Dies', the energy in the packed Underworld erupts to a sight that every thrash metal act expects to be greeted with. Last year's album 'Chemistry of Consciousness' is understandably represented with prime cuts 'Awaken the Serpent' and 'MKUltra' but the key focus is on 2008's album 'An Overdose of Death', which is the release with the most songs performed from tonight. Fans sink their teeth into the feral 'Wild Dogs', fan favourite 'Nuke the Cross' and the reckless 'The Lords of the Wasteland' with gusto.
Despite all the energy being expulsed in the audience, the band members themselves are somewhat restricted by their stage presence, with only three members and Grind being chained down with vocal and guitar duties. Nonetheless, the final hurrah occurs with closer 'Bitch' from new-ish full-length 'Conjure and Command' with the audience truly giving their all and coating their neighbours in a thick film of sweat. Toxic Holocaust can certainly consider London a success as fans leave with giant grins plastered on their perspiring faces.
Given the subdued nature of Toxic Holocaust on stage compared to the theatrics Exhumed deployed, the latter stole the show. However, for a co-headlining venture, it seems strange that both acts only received forty minute blink-and-miss-it sets. Hopefully next time either act goes out on a headlining trek, more time will be allocated to them.