23 min read

Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

Another wet and wild ride into the very Heart of a damp and dreary Nottingham, this time I’m heading for the tiny Bodega, just off the Lace Market area of Nottingham Town Centre.

An area full of trendy bars and night clubs, already awash with revellers dressed up on this, All Hallows Eve.

To-night we are being spoilt, there are three bands for our delectation. The first two I am keen to witness for the first time, but before the chaotic storm continues with ‘‘EMPLOYED TO SERVE’’, we get into the Bodega in time for, a look at the merch, and find a place to witness the nights offerings. was set ablaze by the ferocious opening act, Manchester’s very own Hardcore Punk outfit, “‘GOING OFF’”.

In the gritty underbelly of Manchester’s punk scene, where chaos reigns and anarchy pulses through the veins of the city, ‘‘GOING OFF’’ erupted onto the stage like a Molotov cocktail of sound and fury. Formed in the smoky depths of 2020, this hardcore punk brigade has been tearing up the scene with relentless energy and a middle finger raised defiantly against conformity.

Led by the heavily tattooed and Duracell bunny of energy, Jake Huxley, ‘GOING OFF’ embodies the spirit of punk rebellion. Their debut album, ‘What Makes You Tick’ (2023), is a war chest of sonic assaults, includes songs like ‘Self Hatred’, ‘BlackWhiteBlue’ and ‘Zoo’ But albums alone can’t contain the raw power that this band unleashes live.

The stage at the grungy venue, walls dripping with sweat and rebellion, was set for a ‘GOING OFF’ experience. Friends sometimes stand in, a motley crew of punk warriors, should any band member be unable to make it. It’s not just a performance; it’s a gathering of misfits, a congregation of the disenchanted.

As the blistering set kicked off with the eponymous “‘GOING OFF’,” Huxley’s face twisted into contorted expressions, embodying the primal scream of punk rebellion. Each lyric spat out with venom; each chord struck with an irreverent fury. The crowd, caught in the crossfire of sonic aggression, pulled faces in unison, an expression of collective dissent.

“BlackWhiteBlue” sent shockwaves through the venue, the crowd bouncing and jumping like a chaotic sea. The stage became a battleground, Huxley leading the charge with a manic energy that seemed to defy the laws of physics. Bodies collided in a frenzied dance of liberation.

“Shellshocked” incited a riotous reaction from the crowd, a frenetic mosh pit forming at the drop of a hat. The walls echoed with the primal screams of the dispossessed, a chorus of rebellion that reverberated through the concrete foundations of the city.

The relentless barrage continued with “Fear & Faith” from the “Chaos Reigns” album, a sonic manifesto that encapsulated the band’s ethos. Huxley, the pied piper of anarchy, commanded the stage with a presence reminiscent of punk legends. The crowd, a sea of outstretched fists, shouted along in defiant unity.

“Nil By Mouth” plunged the venue into darkness, a heavy backlight casting shadows on Huxley’s gurning face. The relentless crush of sound, distorted and unapologetic, was a sonic assault that left no room for escape. This was not a performance; it was a descent into punk madness.

“More Love” offered a thematic departure, a brief respite before diving back into the sonic storm. The venue became a melting pot of emotions, a cacophony of dissent that echoed the band’s refusal to conform to societal norms. “World to Witness” brought a relentless onslaught, the crowd swept up in a tidal wave of sound. Bodies collided, and the air crackled with the electrifying energy of punk rebellion. ‘GOING OFF’ wasn’t just a band; it was a force of nature.

Then followed, fast and furiously, each song tempting to out-pace the previous one, “Flesh Poison,” “Shark Song,” “Signs,” “Low Life,” “Prescription Poison,” “Zoo,” “Feed,” “Self- Hatred”— each song a sonic bomb detonating in the hearts of the audience. The set was a chaotic journey through the band’s discography, a sonic rollercoaster that left no ear unscathed.

And then came the set closer, the concussive “Premium Dream.” The venue trembled as Huxley, tireless and unyielding, unleashed a final sonic blast. Bodies collided, and the crowd, now a sea of sweat and rebellion, rode the sonic wave to its tumultuous end. At times, Huxley’s tireless energy and primal stage presence brought to mind the ferocity of ‘Jeff JJ Janiak’ from thrash punk legends “Discharge.” The comparison wasn’t just in the sound; it was in the unbridled chaos and unrelenting energy that defined the performance.

As the final chords shook through the venue, the air hung thick with chaos and confusion. ‘GOING OFF’ didn’t just perform; they orchestrated a punk insurgency. The venue, now a battleground of rebellion, bore witness to the sonic anarchy that is ‘GOING OFF’ —a band that doesn’t just go on stage; they detonate.

Up next is London based ‘PUPIL SLICER’ another band I know nothing about so let’s have a bit of background for your sake as well as mine.

Formed in 2016, this London-based trio consists of Katie Davies (vocals/guitar), Luke Fabian (bass), and Josh Andrews (drums), recently, Alexander Brown (lead guitar) has been added to the fold. Their journey is relatively short but marked by an explosion of raw energy and uncompromising intensity. To date they have three plate spinners on offer; ‘Liminal (EP, 2019), ‘Mirrors’ (Album, 2021) and ‘Blossom’ (Album, 2023).

‘PUPIL SLICER’ defies easy categorization, but their sonic assault leans heavily towards ‘Mathcore’ (Math+Metal meets Gridcore), Their sound is a chaotic amalgamation of blistering guitar riffs, thunderous basslines, and vocals that shift from guttural roars to ear-piercing screams.

The opening salvo came with “No Temple” from their debut album, Mirrors (2021). The guitar sound was a relentless onslaught, a cacophony of dissonant riffs that sliced through the air. Katie’s vocal delivery was a primal force, alternating between guttural growls and piercing shrieks. The bass sound added a thick layer of heaviness, resonating through the venue like an earthquake. The crowd, still finding their footing, was immediately thrust into the sonic maelstrom.

“Departure in Solitude,” another track from Mirrors, unleashed a seismic storm that showcased ‘PUPIL SLICER’’s sonic dexterity. The guitar and vocal sound, though abrasive, carried a melodic undertone that added depth to the chaos. The heavy basslines reverberated through the venue, eliciting a visceral response from the crowd. “Departure in Solitude” became a sonic journey, met with nods of approval and headbanging from the growing audience.

“Blossom” took the intensity up a notch. The guitar and vocal sound maintained their abrasive edge, creating a sonic whirlwind. The heavy basslines, a signature element of ‘PUPIL SLICER’’s sound, anchored the chaos. The crowd, now fully engaged, responded with fists pumping and bodies swaying to the rhythmic onslaught. “Blossom,” an explosive track, left an indelible mark on the audience.

As the set drew to a close, ‘PUPIL SLICER’ unleashed their set closer, “The Song At Creation’s End.” The crowd, now a sea of ecstatic faces, responded with an outpouring of energy. The vocal delivery, a visceral mix of agony and rage, echoed through the venue. The fans, caught in the sonic vortex, reciprocated by moshing and thrashing in a cathartic release. The song’s chaotic crescendo mirrored the intensity of the crowd’s reaction, a fitting close to a blistering set.

‘PUPIL SLICER’’s genre-bending sound attracts a diverse crowd of hardcore enthusiasts. The fans, drawn to the raw energy and unfiltered intensity, were an eclectic mix of headbangers, moshers, and those simply caught in the sonic whirlwind. The genre-defying nature of ‘PUPIL SLICER’’s music creates a space where fans of various heavy sub-genres converge, united by their love for sonic chaos.

‘PUPIL SLICER’’s short performance at the Bodega was a sonic onslaught that ripped the heart and lungs from the audience. The gritty guitar sound, the visceral vocal delivery, and the thunderous basslines created a sonic tapestry that transcended traditional genre boundaries.

The crowd, swept up in the intensity, responded with an outpouring of energy, setting the stage for the sonic storm that was to follow with ‘EMPLOYED TO SERVE’. ‘PUPIL SLICER’, with their uncompromising style, proved that even in the underground, their sonic reverberations are impossible to ignore.

With the stage cleared and reset, the drum kit being off-loaded into the crowd to make way for ’SERVES kit, The Bodega, a seemingly quiet Social Club in Nottingham, yet again, becomes a crucible of sonic intensity as to-nights headliners, ‘EMPLOYED TO SERVE’ take to the low stage, igniting a maelstrom of raw energy and unbridled passion that had already been fired up by the brutal onslaught from the undercard, ‘‘GOING OFF’’ and ‘‘PUPIL SLICER’’. The venue, a gritty haven for underground music, was the perfect backdrop for bands that thrives on chaos and catharsis.

EMPLOYED TO SERVE’, formed in 2012 in Woking, Surrey, is a quintet that has become synonymous with the UK hardcore scene. Comprising vocalist Justine Jones, guitarist/vox Sammy Urwin, bassist Nathan Pryor, drummer Casey McHale, and guitarist Dave Porter, the band has been on a relentless trajectory since their inception.

Their journey began with the EP “Counting Crows” in 2012, a blistering introduction to their ferocious sound. The debut album, “Greyer Than You Remember” (2015), was a manifesto of discontent, capturing the attention of the underground scene with its potent blend of metallic hardcore and punk aggression. The critically acclaimed “The Warmth of a Dying Sun” (2017) solidified their reputation, leading to tours with heavyweights like Stick to Your Guns and Rolo Tomassi.

“Eternal Forward Motion” (2019) marked a significant evolution, showcasing a more melodic yet equally devastating approach. 2021 saw the release of Conquering, an album released out of the depths of CoVid and lockdowns.

‘EMPLOYED TO SERVE’ have shared stages with formidable acts such as Converge, Will Haven, and the gigantic Gojira, setting their position as a force to be reckoned with in the live circuit.

The night’s sonic assault continues with opener, “Void Ambition,” a track that encapsulates the band’s sonic ethos. The seismic bass rumbles and screaming guitars set the tone, reverberating through the venue like a sonic quake. Fans were immediately drawn into the vortex of sound, nodding and singing along in approval as the intensity escalated.

“Owed Zero” and “The Mistake” follow, each delivering a relentless barrage of furious riffage and pummelling drums. Justine Jones’ vocals, a visceral blend of guttural roars and anguished screams, cut through the maelstrom, carrying the weight of the band’s lyrical depth.

“Exist” and “Force Fed” showcased the diversity of ‘EMPLOYED TO SERVE’’s sound, weaving moments of melodic introspection with explosive bursts of unbridled aggression. The crowd responded in kind, fists punching the air in unison with the rhythmic onslaught.

As the set progressed, the band delved into their album, “Eternal Forward Motion.” “Sun Up to Sun Down” and “We Don’t Need You” displayed a more nuanced approach, with dynamic shifts in tempo and an infectious groove that had the crowd moving in sync.

“Dull Ache Behind My Eyes” and “Harsh Truth” unleashed a sonic hurricane, with the guitars creating a wall of distortion and the rhythm section propelling the songs forward with unrelenting force. The venue pulsated with heat, sweat, and an electric atmosphere. The previously dedicated performance of “Twist the Blade” to Necroskull of Witchsorrow continues the breathless onslaught. A song that continues to thunder through the sonic storm and crush the breath from your lungs.

“Conquering” and “World Ender” brought the set to its climax, with the crowd chanting along to every word. The relentless energy of ‘EMPLOYED TO SERVE’ showed no signs of waning as they tore through “I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)” and “Mark of the Grave,” leaving an indelible mark on the audience.

The encore, featuring the fan-favourite “Eternal Forward Motion,” was a cathartic release of pent-up energy. The band and the crowd, now at one in their intensity, brought the night to a close with a sonic band of a full stop.

‘EMPLOYED TO SERVE’’s performance at the Bodega Social Club was nothing short of a sonic tempest. The combination of seismic bass, screaming guitars, and Jones’ commanding vocals created an immersive experience that surpassed the boundaries of the stage.

The fans, caught in the grip of the band’s sonic vortex, left the venue with ringing ears, sweaty smiles, and a shared memory of a night fuelled by the relentless power of metal! On a school night too.

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