Biohazard + Heights + Lionheart + Dripback @ HMV Institute (Library), Birmingham – Thursday 2nd February 2012

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Review by Chop and photos by John Colson

This one’s a bit of an ‘oldie goldie’, but still well worthy of praise! Retox and Pettybone set the bar high at the Flapper late last year, so how would this hardcore fest compare?

The early door time conspired against Dripback as I only saw their last couple of songs. Apparently I’d missed the technical issues (guitarist with blown amp) but what they played was more than impressive. If hardcore with groove and huge breakdowns sounds like your bag then I’d recommend them highly. Having seen them lay waste to the Sophie stage at Bloodstock last year, I can certainly vouch that there’s no discernible let-up in hostility during a full set. Keep an eye out for them if they’re in your neck of the woods…

Next up were Lionheart, all the way from the infamous Bay Area. They too made optimum use of the crushingly loud yet crystal clear sound and delivered twenty five minutes of pulverising hardcore. Combine immense tightness with a seemingly bottomless pit of power, throw in a surgical guitar tone, enormous beatdowns, and a drummer intent on destroying his kit and you’d be in the ball park. Aside from a couple of feedback issues from the foldbacks this was a faultless exercise in precision hostility – utterly crushing.

Heights adopted a very different approach to the two preceding acts, opting for a post-hardcore, progressive, delivery. They did nothing wrong, and I certainly couldn’t fault their musical prowess, but for me it was a case of wrong band, wrong time. Several fans going rabid on the barrier will tell you otherwise, but for me they lost most of the crowd and the impetus created by Dripback and Lionheart. If they’d opened the evening perhaps this opinion would be vastly different, but sandwiched between three hardcore acts they were on a hiding to nothing. Job For A Cowboy’s tour with Megadeth and Evile came flooding back. Enough said.

All of which had paved the way for Biohazard to take the stage, make it their own, and obliterate, which they did with consummate ease and huge levels of swagger. Utilising the tried and tested quiet before the storm intro, the gentle strains of the classical guitar had barely been resigned to memory before the pummelling started. Polished yet brutal, amiable to the crowd yet – you strongly suspect – unapproachable in a dark alley, they combined hardcore ferocity with enormous groove and bounce. Again the sound was superb, with slicing guitars, and a snare tone that threatened decapitation. This was one of those performances where picking out individual songs is pointless because they were all so good. The setlist was varied and reflected all sectors of the band’s back catalogue. Genuinely my only criticism was a lack of an encore – we know bands are under strict time constraints (listening Axl Rose?) but why they didn’t disappear off stage – if only for a minute – to return for the coup de grace is anyone’s guess. That aside you couldn’t help but grin through it all, and Biohazard proved that their reformation had been nothing but a resounding success.

Setlist: ‘Urban Discipline’, ‘What Makes Us Tick’, ‘Chamber Spins Three’, ‘Reborn’, ‘Black And White And Red All Over’, ‘Down For Life’, ‘Retribution’, ‘Come Alive’, ‘Vengeance Is Mine’, ‘Shades Of Glory’, ‘Howard Beach’, ‘Wrong Side Of The Tracks’, ‘Love Denied’, ‘Punishment’, ‘Hold My Own’.