Escuela Grind + Kaonashi + Coke Rodent + Concussion @ The Devil’s Dog, Digbeth – 12th September 2023


Featuring members of local bands Face Up, Wired and Dead Mob, Concussion promise much and, on what is only their second show, they certainly deliver. A vocalist singing from the floor always adds an air of danger and intrigue, and the band’s energy draws the crowd to the stage like a magnet. With some choice horror film samples, Concussion remind me of Portsmouth bruisers Six Ft Ditch, and they pack a similar sort of punch. Hardcore beats and gnarly metal soloing make for a pretty potent mix, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from this bunch very soon.

Cut from a similar cloth as Concussion, Coke Rodent have a take-no-prisoners ethos, and it’s one that serves them well. Going straight in for the kill, that classic “hard but hollow” drum sound soon has the whole venue grooving in unison. With a virtuoso guitarist (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Hank Marvin) tying us up in knots with explosive solos, then clubbing us with chuggy riffs, this bunch deliver a multi-dimensional sound that attacks the listener on several levels. ‘Left Burning’, a track from their debut EP goes down particularly well, and is the type of song that’ll serve them well in the future.

Every so often there comes a band who rip up the rule book and shatter any preconceived ideas of what you think music can be (Glassjaw, Otoboke Beaver), and Kaonashi are one such band. This Philadelphian crew are at once heavy and emotive, meaning they reach deep into your heart, and your head. Vocalist Peter Rondo makes for an impressive figure, and the band back him up with a sound that sweeps through the venue like a steamroller. Despite this being the last date on their UK tour, there’s no signs of flagging as the band blast through a tight set. Not since District 9 (NYHC stalwarts, not the movie) have I heard a band stomp so hard, and on a bill that’s stacked with great bands, Kaonashi shine bright.

Although it has roots in hardcore punk, grindcore soon became another codified genre shackled by rules and restraints, and woe betide anyone who steps outside the perceived “norm”. That’s exactly where Escuela Grind step in, they’re not so much knocking down walls, but demolishing them. Judging by the sizeable crowd they’ve pulled in, it’s a modus operandi that’s been warmly embraced. Having recently blazed a trail across the UK with Napalm Death earlier this year, they’re back for another bite of the cherry and make an appearance at The Devil’s Dog. Off stage the band have something of a Zen philosophy, but once they’re under those lights a strange transmogrification takes place, and each member becomes a Tasmanian devil, writhing and twirling to boisterous beats. Escuela Grind hit the ground running, and by second track ‘My Heart, My Hands’, they’re firmly in the groove. This is an experience that’s far from serene and there’s some serious wrecking in the pit, but it is all in the right spirit and the circle pit that erupts during ‘Cliffhanger’ pulls everyone into its orbit. ‘Punishment Ritual’ finds the band crossing over into death metal territory, but it’s reshaped in their own image and becomes part of their persona. There’s something about cuts such as ‘Meat Magnet’ that’s comparable to a fine malt liquor; everything has been distilled into its purest form until all that’s left is the most direct line to what it’s all about. At barely 45-minutes, Escuela Grind’s set is fairly brief, but in truth they’ve packed more into those minutes than most bands pack into an entire career.