Whitechapel + The Acacia Strain + Impending Doom @ Birmingham Academy 3, 11th April 2011


For the discerning Deathcore enthusiast, there was no hotter ticket in town than this show, and within the half hour between doors and opening band the tight confines of the Academy III was rapidly filled with rabid fans eager to get their mosh on.

With opening duties left to California’s IMPENDING DOOM, there was little early-door sluggishness on display from either band or crowd. Making their live debut in the UK, their three albums had evidently been lapped up by the majority of the crowd over the years, who took to them like returning heroes.

There were admittedly few surprises from the band, although they came from a more traditional death metal background and filled in the gaps with hardcore-influenced breakdowns as and when necessary. The hirsute four-piece also possessed a knack of dragging out certain mosh sections to breaking point, as if the riffs themselves were slowly being pulled inside out.


Tracks from breakthrough debut ‘Nailed, Dead, Risen’ jostled next to latter-day tracks from recently-issued third effort ‘There Will Be Violence’ and the likes of closing ‘The Great Fear’ saw a respectable circle pit break out in front of the stage.

Frontman Brook Reeves led the crowd in a clap-along, certainly something you wouldn’t see at a traditional DM show. They left to excited applause and cheers, before Reeves dedicated his evenings work to Jesus Christ — Glen Benton would not approve.

If Impending Doom finished their set on a wave of optimistic positivity, Christ shoutouts and the lot, then the black cloud of negativity coming up next courtesy of THE ACACIA STRAIN was tangible.

This mob of large, burly Americans took to the stage with a scowl across their collective faces and proceeded to level the venue with riffage as thick-set and imposing as the musicians playing them.


Their stall was set from the get-go, with frontman Vincent Bennett imploring the crowd to get angry, to get negative, to raise their middle fingers aloft whilst screaming “Fuck Positive Hardcore”. Theirs is a viewpoint that the world is completely and royally buggered and there’s not a great deal we can do about it.

From the New World Order to, amusingly, organised religion, potshots at the world peppered their set from start to finish and the crowd, despite their youthful enthusiasm, rode the black waves of negativity throughout. This made for a riotous, energetic spectacle which was made largely more exhuberant (and arguably more slippery and dangerous) by Bennett’s liberal dousing of the crowd in wave after wave of bottled water.

Despite being tagged with the deathcore banner, the Acacia Strain seem to come from a more hardcore base, having added the deathlier influences over time. The sheer aggression, anger and hatred for mankind that the band possess instantly add a more extreme flavour to the bare compositions, although the kids ripping shit up at the front were so obviously not bothered with pissing contents over genre distinctions as they moshed and screamed along throughout.


This inspired Bennett to dedicate ‘The Impaler’ to the kids, stating that older people are becoming extinct in the scene. For this scene — definitely. The number of people present older than say, 25, was minimal. There is no doubt that hardcore, or any of its more popular contemporary sub-genres is a scene for the youth nowadays. Its sad in a way, as a myriad of these bands possess attributes that could appeal to the older longhairs if they weren’t so put off by either the appearance of the bands or their fans, or the fact that the hardcore breakdown is something alien to them — even though you could argue that Suffocation themselves were responsible for introducing this way back in the early nineties.

Their last track, ‘JFC’ was dedicated “to the atheists, to those who don’t follow someone that they can’t see”, which presumably led to a few embarrassed glances from the Impending Doom camp and one or two theological discussions on the tour bus. After being swamped by fans eager to chant along with the “I am the end of the world” refrain, they left the stage, bad vibes still thick in the air.


And so to WHITECHAPEL, one of the leading lights of this whole new deathcore game, returning to the UK swiftly after their last appearance here in support to genre heavyweights Job For A Cowboy. With the lights dimmed, two crimson lights cut atmospheric crimson swathes through the darkness, before the six-piece took to the stage with ‘Breeding Violence’ and instantly turned the pit into a mass of indiscriminate limbs pointing skyward.

In terms of bodies on stage, there was plenty to feast your eyes on if tempted to look away from the carnage happening in front of the stage. With three guitarists, a bassist and livewire frontman Phil Bozeman all squeezed onto the less-than-roomy stage, even drummer Ben Harclerode – he of the light-speed feet – made himself noticable by attempting to out-bang his cohorts.

The sound was monstrously heavy, certainly aided by the triptych of guitars, although it did mean at times that certain intricities didn’t quite cut through as well as you’d have hoped, although when the three-way leads and weaving guitar lines interlocked the effect was impressive; proving the third guitar serves a purpose other than show.


With three albums under their belt now, the band were able to craft a really crowd pleasing setlist that spanned their career, mostly populated with cuts from latest album ‘A New Era of Corruption’ and breakthrough album, 2008’s ‘This Is Exile’, and without fail, every track was lapped up by a crowd in no danger of flagging.

One thing noticeable about this new breed of DM-influenced hardcore (or indeed, hardcore-influenced DM — I hate the ‘deathcore’ term despite how often its popped up in this review!) is that the bands have a much greater understanding of the live performance in terms of audience participation. Whether introducing imminent breakdowns with the kind of bluster a US news anchor would warn of an upcoming hurricane, or leading the crowd in a singalong, these upstarts unsure that the audience are as much a part of the performance as the dudes up onstage, a world away from the heads-down-and-blast segregation you’d see at more traditional DM shows.


By the point ‘Vicer Exciser’ from 2007 debut ‘The Somatic Defilement’ reared its bloody, terrifying head, the pit was heaving, shifting and spilling outwards like a maelstrom, with Bozeman conducting traffic with the malevolent glee of a disturbed carnival barker. Once the debut album was revisited to close the set with ‘Prostatic Fluid Asphyxiation’, energy levels were forced back into the red one last time before the gig came to end, allowing all participants -band and audience – to enjoy a well-earnt rest.


Despite minimal exposure to all three of the bands playing tonight, they all impressed in differing ways. The sold-out venue was testament to the popularity of this genre, which shows no signs of abating although it does beg the question as to the lack of older fans present. Is this movement solely based around youth? Or is it time for me to grow up and start going to watch more of the older guard? Either way, despite the detractors, Whitechapel – and this style of music in general – is acting as a pathway for the kids of today to get into extreme metal, and that can only be a very good thing indeed.

Review – Duncan Wilkins
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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