I think the first thing that hit me upon entering Cavern was the wonderful combination of Christmas lights by the entrance and the sound of abrasive metalcore blasting from the stage. Despite Dublin-based band Red Enemy being the opening act of the night, they’d drawn in an impressive crowd and things seemed to be near full swing. The band’s uncoordinated headbanging made a stark contrast to their intricate, tight riffs, and their opening set culminated with the same intense growls as it began – with the occasional jazzy drum breakdown thrown in for good measure. Finishing their performance with highlight ‘(mis)leaders’ and a song I admittedly didn’t catch the name of, the stage was then ready for Carcer City.
By the time Carcer City had taken to the stage the crowd had swelled to a more pleasing size, and the opening notes of their set hit me like a ton of bricks, as the band walked the thin line between technical ability and groove exploration. Frontman Patrick Pinion was everything a frontman should be, getting the crowd moving as much as possible with commands such as: “Every single one of you – bang your fucking heads”. Despite the perpetually irritating and seemingly ubiquitous presence of hardcore dancers, the energy at this point felt almost tangible. The band’s final song was preceded by a haunting piano introduction, over which Pinion pointed out the merch table and lamented the band’s touring expenses. Despite getting money for playing shows, that money “goes on fuel, it goes on broken strings, it goes on pornography and sandwiches”. This introduction was followed by a barrage of savage riffing and guttural vocals in the form of the group’s last song, which was a fine end to Carcer City’s set.
A large mosh pit had formed by the time Heart Of A Coward had begun their set. If the energy of Carcer City’s set was near-tangible, the energy of Heart Of A Coward was wrapped around the crowd like a boa constrictor. Getting knocked down in the mosh pit at this point confirmed two things for me: firstly, that being knocked down in a mosh pit of such intensity and size is a pretty life-affirming experience; and secondly, the mosh etiquette of Exeter’s Cavern-goers is near-impeccable. I’m helped back up onto my feet just before the unsettling, introductory drones of Nightmare snake through the crowd. The anticipation builds to a climax as frontman Jamie Graham screams “Let’s go!” and the audience erupts, whilst the band’s hammering sound at this point features more demonic pummelling than an incubus. Concert highlight Mouth Of Madnes’ is particularly well performed, as Graham cries “this is what you envisioned”. Deadweight was another highlight of the evening, featuring sharp riffs and ominous vocals - the latter of which were backed up by the synchronised audience cry of “I don’t give a fuck!” Overall, this was a pretty incredible gig, with all acts providing very well-performed and energetic sets. Heart Of A Coward were consistent in their ability to get the majority of the room moving, and they played some impressive tracks to boot.