The Persistence Tour (ft Sick Of It All, Napalm Death, Municipal Waste) @ 02Forum, Kentish Town, London – Sunday 27 January, 2019

Review by Emily Castles
The Persistence Tour returns for its 14th year of brutality, headlined by New York veterans Sick Of It All. Landing in London at the 02 Forum in Kentish Town on a miserable Sunday evening, this juggernaut of a tour is dedicated to putting on the ultimate in hardcore. Many of the bands which join the tour have already done so many times before. The term hardcore is broad and wide-ranging – with the overarching theme of political rebellion and strong punk-led influences. We’re in for a treat!

Londoners Booze & Glory surface early on; fans that are here for Napalm Death may have been left a little disorientated by their football inspired chants straight from the Oi days of the 80s and bands like The Business. Singalong choruses with cheerful enough riffs and lyrics about skinhead culture and working class strife. This was cheesy stuff.

The night moves on swiftly to Walls of Jericho, headed by the ever captivating Candace Kucsulain who gets the crowd going with fast guitars and killer vocals; this is a high-powered set of metalcore from the red-haired Detroit dragon.

Melodic hardcore crew Ignite have switched places with Municipal Waste this evening, taking on the slightly earlier slot. Ferociously political, with many of their songs exploring communism, Ignite are fast and fiery. They bring a strong anti-Trump message with ‘My Judgement Day,’ which quickly gets the crowd riled up. But this is also a band that can produce delicate and beautiful music, with songs such as ‘Live For Better Days’ – which is bordering on country-rock. Ignite are not a ‘brutal’ band; the vocals are clean and sometimes nod towards pop-punk whilst the palm-muted chord-progressions are simplistic and repetitive. But this is a band who are provocative and thought-provoking in their message.

‘Municipal Waste is gonna f**k you up!’ And that they do, true to the battle cry which they established back in 2007 with their always highly-anticipated song ‘Born to Party’. There aren’t many metal bands whose live set contains two songs back to back with the word ‘party’ in the title – the other being ‘Art of Partying’. But, of course, Municipal Waste do put on a party as well as a show, with many coining them a ‘party thrash’ band. Whereas many bands who have a similar light-hearted approach to metal lose a certain element of tightness or cleverness, Municipal Waste are a band which is able to balance the fun with the skill.

Returning for their second Persistence Tour, they have singalong, fun numbers such as ‘Beer Pressure’, nestling alongside songs like ‘Thrashin’ of the Christ’, which has one of the heaviest opening riffs of the night. Tony Foresta is a brilliant frontman and is a (sadistic) magician at hyping up a crowd; ‘let me see you spin motherpugs!’ he cries, flashing his stomach to hungry eyes. ‘I want to see you start moshing before we even start this one, okay?’ – the crowd, of course, obey. We are also treated to the ‘wall of death’, which is what Foresta calls his crowd-surfing fiesta; impressive stuff, although not quite up to the standard we saw at Bloodstock last year, where they broke a record. Still, he was sure to thank the security team.

Napalm Death storm the Forum with their finely tuned lethal injection of grindcore. Last year the band released a compilation album, Coded Smears and More Uncommon Slurs. The backdrop hangs limply, barely covering the Sick Of It All banner that lurks beneath it – a nod towards the Brummies’ continuing humility. Napalm joined the first ever Persistence Tour back in 2005, and have not returned since – so this is a real treat tonight. Unfortunately, they open with a faulty mic meaning Barney’s ferocious screams go unheard during ‘Unchallenged Hate’. Luckily, this is quickly rectified in time for the next song.

Barney is on top form (when is he not?); charging up and down the stage in a sort of middle-aged power walk, shaking his head like a Bobblehead on speed, jumping into the air with dramatic high-kicks – he is a spectacle that is impossible to take your eyes off. He is also an amazing orator, covering subjects as vast as border control and Thatcherism (as a natural progression into ‘Scum’, of course). Mid-set they perform ‘Dead’ and ‘You Suffer’ – one lasting five seconds, the other a shade over one. “They are very different songs,” explains Barney. Later on, he expands slightly. “We are a simple band, but also a complex one in some ways.” Ferociously political, straight-up grind. Tonight is Napalm Death’s only date on the Persistence Tour, and they are generous in recognising headliners Sick Of It All and their lasting influence on the underground music scene. But for many this evening, Napalm Death are the main draw. Who could resist a night out with everyone’s favourite Brummies?

Sick Of It All are our headliners for this evening, joining the Persistence Tour for the fifth time. The American hardcore punk ensemble have been making themselves heard since the mid-80s, and last year released their twelfth studio album Wake the Sleeping Dragon! Watching these New Yorkers’ perform is like being transported back to another era; they have a late 90s soul, rich in attitude and roguish energy in this Hatebreed-meets-Beastie Boys mosh-up.  The Koller brothers are an engaging duo; Lou is a frontman that enjoys a singalong, to which the crowd willingly complies – ‘Death or Jail’ and ‘Take The Night Off’ are standouts tonight. Pete Koller, with his blonde mohawk and patterned bandanna, brings a high-energy performance on lead guitar, crouched down and spinning continuously in a Mike B the Flea display of motion-sickness defiance.

Although this year’s Persistence party may appear an odd collective of bands, pop-punk meets hardcore and metalcore meets grind, this only further emphasises Sick Of It All’s vast influence on the alternative scene. This evening proves how seemingly dissimilar bands can have very similar foundations – and can huddle harmoniously together under the cloak of ‘hardcore’ camaraderie.