It’s been a long time since I’ve been to crossover show, back in the heyday of the UK’s hardcore scene when punk and thrash bands traded ideas and influences I was a regular at gigs that appealed equally across genres and encouraged a mixed crowd. Tonight’s show indicates that the movement is still alive and well as their are an equal number of punk and metal fans freely mixing in Rebellion for Prong‘s long awaited return to Manchester. Sadly by the time I’ve negotiated Manchester’s increasingly eccentric one way system I’ve arrived at Rebellion too late to catch local band Nomad, but on the plus side I’m just in time to catch Belgian metal act Spoil Engine.
From the off Spoil Engine deliver a pummelling set with by the quintet led by vocalist Iris Goessens who is backed up by a brutal quartet who look like they’re straight off the set of Sons Of Anarchy. Their set veers between melodic and thrash metal with the three guitar backline indulging in old school synchronised headbanging, something that is rarely a fixture of the shows I usually attend. Spoil Engine are a metal band at heart, but one that’s stripped down of excess, their driving bass lines, hammering drums and vicious twin guitar attack is topped off by a singer who’s vocal range can go from the pits to hell to a delivery than can border on angelic, and their combined impact live is something to behold.
Spoil Engine are a million miles away from the kind of bands I usually go to see, and tonight’s show indicates that maybe I’m missing out, they deliver a set that’s born of the hardcore and grindcore scenes and I’m reminded why I used to enjoy shows like this so much. Spoil Engine are an intense and energetic band that incorporates elements from the extreme end of the metal and hardcore punk worlds, for me they have the same kind of impact as many hardcore bands live and whilst it’s unlikely that you’d find me listening to a record by them I’d certainly catch them live again if they return to Manchester, on a side note it must be noted that it’s rare to encounter a band that can swear so fluently in a second language.
Rebellion is absolutely hammered tonight, the fans reflect the music with t shirts representing old school hardcore and even older school thrash metal in abundance amongst the crowd. Prong enter in a cloud of dry ice amidst some ominous intro music indicating that rock and metal’s penchant for theatricality just can’t help itself sometimes, but as their first number comes straight from their first album, 1989’s Force Fed, It’s clear Prong as not just here to support their latest album, Zero Days, this is a celebration of their intense and noisy back catalogue. Prong have the packed crowd eating put of their hands from the first chords and the intense riffs and thundering bass lines just don’t quit, there’s nothing subtle about what Prong are delivering tonight.
Tracks such as Unconditional hint back to the punkier influences, but let’s make no mistake, this is a rock show at its dark heart, it’s just one that’s thankfully shorn of the drum and guitar solos and other self indulgent excesses that so many rock and metal bands employ. They build to a climax with a few obvious crowd pleasers and you might think that would be it, but they finish the set with Divide and Conquer, an impressive new track from their forthcoming album Zero Days, and judging by the crowd reaction to what is a new and unreleased song this is about as stronger statement as you’re going to get that Prong are still going strong and aren’t trading on their back catalogue.
Of course Prong return for encore with “it’s Friday night you fucks” and launch into Revenge Best Served Cold and For Dear Life that brings Rebellion to the point of meltdown, the hollering from the crowd brings Prong back for a second and final encore and then it’s all over. Prong are clearly doing something right as much of tonight’s crowd have clearly stuck with the band throughout their three decades, but amongst the die hard fans their are an equal number of young fans, and that is the sign that Prong have carried their original attitude but kept it current rather than embedding themselves in the past.
Tonight’s triumphant show by Prong was a perfect example of what happens when the two parallel worlds of metal and punk collide, and tonight was reminder of just how good rock and metal shows can be when they’re delivered with a no frills stripped down approach that is the hallmark of some of the best punk and hardcore shows. As I make my way back to the overpriced car park in Manchester’s summer rain my ears are ringing despite the pro ear plugs I’ve been forced to employ to try and preserve my hearing, and my initial reservations about attending tonight’s show have been well and truly blown away by a commanding performance by Prong in one of Manchester’s best alternative venues.