The London Persistence Tour stop sees the downstairs of the Forum sold out in advance as lovers of hardcore punk and crossover thrash metal brave the wretched interminable rain. The Persistence Tour is a highlight for hardcore adherents, uniting some of the most successful and freshest acts in the genre for a romp across Europe. Like many European tours, it does not usually invade the UK and considering usual continental countries like The Netherlands, Austria and France have been deprived of a date this year, England should be highly appreciative.
Virginian crossover thrash alcoholics Municipal Waste are nothing less than a ball of frenetic energy, effortlessly inducing vicious mosh pits. They are probably the most popular modern crossover bands, channelling the likes of Wehrmacht, Suicidal Tendencies and D.R.I. and incorporating modern thrash metal guitar leads. Songs are fast and short, like a punch to the face with Tony Foresta shouting his vocals while barely standing still. His stage banter is light-hearted and rallies the audience whenever he wants. Cycling through the likes of ‘You’re Cut Off’, ‘I Want to Kill the President’ and of course ‘Born to Party’, it is safe to say these Americans left their fans sweaty and smiling.
Hardcore legends Agnostic Front are one of the pioneers of the genre, beginning life in 1980. The venue is rammed and swelteringly hot before they even get on stage and the theme from ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ plays over the PA. Opening with ‘The Eliminator’ from New York hardcore classic ‘Cause for Alarm’ causes the temperatures to soar even higher. The sound is a blurry disappointment and interestingly enough the guitars sound more metallic than they should. Nonetheless, the quintet storm through a setlist spanning the majority of their discography, exhibiting hardcore and punk at their most feral while vocalising the struggles of the American working class. Vocalist Roger Miret is as menacing and dominating as ever. Original guitarist Vinnie Stigma produces pummelling punk power and rapid riffs that stomp faces, seemingly unaffected by age like Miret.
Newer cuts from fresher releases still deliver the muscles of the band as ‘My Life My Way’ and ‘Police State’ demonstrate. Fan favourites beat down The Forum with the likes of ‘Gotta Gotta Go’ (with Chaka Malik of BURN aiding with vocals), a cover of Iron Cross’ ‘Crucified’ and ‘Police State’ guaranteeing bruises for mosh pit contributors. The chorus to every song sees punters banding together to shout along, rattling the walls of The Forum. The final song is a tribute to the New Yorkers’ influencers, namely fellow compatriots The Ramones with their rendition of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ for a last surge of primitive uproar. They may have pioneered the genre back in the ‘80s but Agnostic Front remain a force to be reckoned with and as threatening as ever.
When Californian crossover veterans Suicidal Tendencies open with ‘Can’t Bring Me Down’, a great time lies ahead. The guitars of Dean Pleasants and Jeff Pogan wield razor sharp punky yet heavy riffs. Vocalist Mike Muir is difficult to hear in the tainted guitar fuzz but his bountiful energy obliges him to run and hop around the stage. The might of this opener summons fists in the air, mosh pits, crowd surfers and what feels like the entire venue barking “You can’t bring me down!” This is what every band dreams of, a legend’s welcome.
Suicidal Tendencies’ legacy is incredibly storied and they have endured so much over the years. It is a pleasure to see original Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo perform with them, actually looking overjoyed while battering his drum skins. Given the highly politicised climate of 2017 already, the Californians’ set seems more relevant now than when the songs were released, including one of their oldest tracks in their catalogue ‘Two Sided Politics’, ‘Freedumb’ and ‘Subliminal’. But it’s not all current affairs as the less frustrated ‘Possessed to Skate’ and darkly humorous ‘I Saw Your Mommy’ indicate. Last year saw the band release ‘World Gone Mad’ but just a single song is offered from that release tonight, ‘Living for Life’, with a reserved response compared to older tracks.
The Americans’ music is very skilful in contrast to their peers. Not only do they pull heavily from punk and thrash metal but they incorporate subtle tints of funk, groove and even hip hop without hybridising or compromising their metal. Their musicianship mark them out from the rest of the pissed off punk pack and despite the poor sound the venue infects them with tonight, the music is still striking. On the downside, Muir chats a lot in between songs and as his microphone is not loud, it’s virtually impossible to hear him clearly as he misappropriates space for at least two more songs. Shouts of “Shut up and play!” and other variations commanded from around the venue.
As the set appears to end, the audience stay put for an expectant encore and are rewarded. Those who have seen the headliners before may know to expect a stage invasion but given the size of the venue, this does not look possible. Nonetheless, during the third and final encore addition ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’, the staff at The Forum route people around the backstage area to access the stage and rock out with the band, while intercepting the never-ending tide of crowd surfers. With so many bodies on stage and the band lost among them but still performing, this is the perfect way to wrap up.
The Persistence Tour has been a success in London. With the downstairs of the venue sold out, perhaps the tour will find itself frequenting the capital more, particularly since tonight’s venue is significantly larger than most if not all of the other European counterparts. Suicidal Tendencies are incredibly well-versed in the art of live music entertainment. Here’s hoping they will continue for a long time to come.