You know you are at an old school hardcore show when a fan greets another by saying « Hare krishna ». The hardcore scene has changed quite a lot since the days of Burn but the old fans, and the new, are out to celebrate this first European show. Despite having only released four EP from 1990 to 2002, the « Chaka Malik experience » has influenced generations of hardcore bands and shared members with cult classics of different forms from the hardcore preachers in 108 to the cult classics emocore heroes in Glassjaw or the patron saint of post-hardcore, Quicksand. Today, the Dome is not sold out but it is suitably packed for this exclusive occasion to finally see Burn.
The first band on stage has only released a demo and will soon release their first 7″. Higher Power‘s energetic performance reminds of the early days of Trapped Under Ice and of Crown of Thornz with some shade of Burn‘s post-hardcore. The shouty melodic vocals are not performed as well as on their recording but the frontman can still hold its own. The young fans are moshing and slamming enthusiastically from the right to the left as the band goes through their small collection of songs. Most of the crowd watches from the back, either unconvinced by the band or « too old for this shit ». Sadly, the atmosphere will remain mostly calm throughout the night, probably because the audience fell into the later, rather than the former, category of old fans who don’t want to spend come back to work with bruises behind their shirt. Nonetheless, Higher Power offers a great performance and promises to develop into something less aggression but catchier as they perform a song from the album they have started writing.
Even if the frontman dedicated the entire show to Burn it’s hard to hear what sort of influence they might have had on this kind of metalcore. If the names of Poison the Well or Disembodied had been mentioned it would have made more sense since Renounced plays a mix of metal riff, emotive melodies and down tuned mosh part recalling the Opposite of December era Poison the Well and Of malice and the magnum heart by Misery Signals. The mosh part are welcomed by some windmill frenzy performed by the youngest in the crowd but the music starts getting stale after a couple of songs.
From the start, the attention of the crowd is focused on Chaka Malik (ex. Orange 9mm) as he shouts and dances around the stage during the songs and goes into some short but passionate speeches in between songs. However, the priority is given to the music and the band assembled to perform the material is quite competent. The rhythm section was solid but original guitar player Gavin Van Vlack wanted to add too much to the songs and often disturbed the complex equilibrium between the instruments, making the songs hard to follow.
At this game, Quicksand were more able to add layers and push their songs into another dimension. This night, Van Vlack fell short of the brilliance displayed last year at the Electric Ballroom by the other gods of post-hardcore but this might also be due to their lack of on-stage experience (a regular problem faced by returning musicians). Another letdown was the lack of craziness in the crowd. Most people seemed to enjoy mostly the material from the Cleanse EP but other songs were mostly listened to rather than danced to.
But, despite all of this, there was no escaping the fact that we were all witnessing something quite unique. A band between many cultures, capable of putting together songs that still don’t sound like anything else. Post-hardcore is a title well deserved when the ideas of the Bad Brains are pushed so far without losing the original ethos and energy that makes hardcore what is is. Concerned without being political, energetic without being violent, open minded without falling into a particular group of thought, an extreme form of positive cross cultural rock music.
At the end of the show, left without an encore to play, both Malik and Van Vlack stayed to shake fans hands. Before leaving, I asked Malik if they had any intention to come back. Disappointingly, he shoke his head, incapable to tell if they would be able to.