Grendel/Aesthetic Perfection/SkinjoB/System: FX/Concrete Lung

Underworld, London - 13 December 2009

"Another value-packed Flag event"


[Left to right: poster, Concrete Lung, System: FX, SkinjoB, Aesthetic Perfection]

It's been a while since Promoter's Flag have put on a dedicated Industrial/EBM evening so this Sunday night foray in the suitably old school Underworld in the heart of London's famous Camden Town was most welcome. Having said that, I can take or leave (but mostly leave) headliners Grendel, whilst SkinjoB and System: FX had both previously registered neither gave me palpitations. Aesthetic Perfection were unknown to me as were the first act up Concrete Lung.

As I usually do when trying to judge whether or not those at the bottom end of bills are worth turning up for, I had taken the trouble to listen to Concrete Lung via their MySpace website. That promised noise, aggression and punk attitude. It was unquestionably raw and that in itself was enough to suggest I ought to ensure I got there for the doors opening so as not to miss any of their set. Right decision. Instead of some uber-aggro abuse, the opening introduction: "We're Concrete Lung. Get your dancing shoes on!" immediately suggested, that in spite of appearances, these guys were something a bit different. More creative and complex than you'd expect from 'Death Industrial', I thought I'd simply be in pain with nothing to show for my trouble, but instead of propping up the bar and observing from afar, I felt compelled to get up close and in the thick of it. Waste of Flesh, the title track form their forthcoming EP is a great calling card, showcasing that these guys are definitely up to something special. With their fantastic slapping bass synths and screaming guitars, it became apparent that the sound of the apocalypse isn't going to be so bad after all!

Next: London husband and wife team System: FX who were almost lost amid their world of glowsticks, hair extensions and goggles. Too much posing and preening for my tastes, but I can't deny I did enjoy watching cute synth player/percussionist Debs do her thing. Attention was drawn back to the tunes with What The Fuck which applied the genre formula with almost clinical skill, and Virus with its taunting choral refrain: "What is your function in life?" delivered some memorable moments, but these were curious islands in an otherwise too bland expanse of unremarkable waters.

SkinjoB appear to have a lot of the right influences for them to attract and hold my attention, and despite the presence of former man(i)kin/Monosect drummer Mark Guy and another female synth player this still wasn't able to grab me round the head and hold my undivided attention. Still, it was good to see Fitz (the creative engine of the band) has developed the hand moves somewhat since I first saw him ;-) Indeed, as a front man he has cultivated some of the attributes that VNV Nation's Ronan Harris deploys to such charismatic effect at their live appearances. Good to see him engaging with the crowd instead of the icy distance that some on this circuit often employ. He's a handsome chap too, and it would be easy to see him becoming a pin-up for the EBM scene if his musical efforts could just take off. Most convincing were second song Move and final track Beauty Is Your Toy. I can feel myself warming to SkinjoB's trancey charms and I remain open to persuasion.

Going by the name of Aesthetic Perfection immediately suggests to me this act might be one of those interested as much (if not more) in their appearance than the music. But I'd be wrong on that. AE hail from Salzburg, Austria. That's home to Mozart and Sachertorte - high standards indeed to match up to. And they made a decent fist of it too. Like SkinjoB before them, the brainchild of one person, AE is essentially one Daniel Graves with very impressive live drumming courtesy of Tim Van Horn with David Dutton on synths. Initially, I wasn't too sure, but as their set progressed I could feel myself being drawn in, so much so that instead of staying at the mezanine level, I opted once more to get down in the crowd. I really liked the chugging moodiness of The Ones taken from their current (second) album A Violent Emotion, and a rather deft ability to draw together wide ranging influences into something coherent and appealing.

Finally up were Dutch act Grendel [right] who take their name from a character in Beowulf and produce what they call 'harsh EBM'. I don't go along with that description as I think it implies a more extreme, lean and frankly harsh noise than Grendel actually make. For starters, there's a well-considered vocal style (sometimes backed by a female voice on the recorded work) that is much more melodic than the gutteral yells most would associate with the 'harsh EBM' tag. Plus, the desire seems to be more towards ensuring that followers can spend most of their time on the dancefloor waving arms and hair around than sitting back, stroking chins in admiration of the message. I may have never been a fan but you've got to admire anyone (singer VLRK) who walks on stage declaring it 'moustache night', sports a plastic clip-on moustache and then goes on to change the lyrics of Remnant on the chorus from "The ghost in the machine" to "The moustache in the machine"! It's simply not possible to knock anyone who has the self-deprecating sense of humour to do that - and I ain't going to start here. At just 11 a ticket for all five acts, Flag Promotions served up another one of their value-packed events and was well-rewarded by an appreciative and decent sized audience. What would we do without them? Go to a lot less gigs - that's what. 7/10

Rob Dyer