Venue: Scala, King’s Cross (London)
3rd May. 7pm. A cold Wednesday evening in wet and grey King’s Cross. Your usual array of suits are making their way home to microwave dinners and comfort television, in the midst of it all, a flocks of young fans, clad in the same leather, suede, torn shirts, new romantic get-ups of goth-glam darlings HMLTD are doing their best to make heads turn. I didn’t personally live through the peak of Britain’s glam or punk rock eras, but if you were tasked with re-creating it today I think this is probably as close as you could get.
Stepping into Scala only served to immerse you further into this psychotic world the band have been creating; HMLTD have been notorious in their so far short tenure for kitting their live spaces out in different themes. The 100 Club in February saw them go for an erotic Heaven. Tonight, they opt for an ocean theme, complete with rusted chains, fish nets and a dangling shark which you can be damn sure ended up by swimming over audience’s heads, albeit with some persuasion by the crowd.
Dead Pretties warm up proceedings with noisey four chord pop songs, and do a good job of it. The band’s singer had a loveable recklessness, which saw him tear down half the fish nets with the headstock of his guitar before HMLTD could even get on stage. The drummer trashed the house drum kit with very little regard for the next two acts to come. Main support The Rhythm Method do their best to neutralise the chaos with a cheesy 80s infused set that no-one could quite tell whether is a joke or serious – but it matters not, because by 9:30 the venue is exploding with anticipation.
After a few minutes of ambient sounds that serve only to raise the already mounting tension, the band creep onto the stage with rip-roaring opener ‘Stained’, which starts within the sweaty snarls of The Birthday Party era Nick Cave, and four minutes later ends resembling something closer to the dubstep of Skrillex. The rest of the set continues in a similar fashion, freakish frontman Henry Spychalski crying and crooning over sexy basslines and chorused guitars – but the real genius is the band’s use of electronica – wacky synth sounds, samples from Death Grips and pulsating subs that you really don’t hear blended with gothic movements all too often. Fan-favourites ‘To the Door’ and ‘Where’s Joanna?’ are responded to with some of the most vicious moshpit-meets-singalongs I’ve witnessed in a while.
The band’s image, so lovingly adopted by an already devout following, is tuned to perfection. The 6-piece writhe around the stage in feathers and leather, bleached blue and blonde hair, shaved heads, dangling earrings. Despite being two guitarists, a bassist, vocalist, drummer and synth-player strong, it’s the band’s use of minimalism that works best – when they don’t need to play, they don’t, instead assisting their haunting leader with contorted dance moves or clicking of the fingers.
HMLTD have constantly spoken about their desire to redirect the course of pop music and do something unique – the kind of spiel a lot of bands spout in response to typical press exercises – but watch HMLTD live and you’ll know that this is a statement that they’re taking seriously. The brilliance of this band is that it is so much more than just the music that they’re tearing up. These live shows aren’t just gigs – they’re experiences, curated and perfected down to the very finest details. It’s an addictive and vibrant blend of fashion, aesthetic, visuals, acting and live sound. It’s a movement, and their disciple-like fans turning up in the same nature only serves to cement that. This is an experience, and they want you to be part of it.
Simply put, their 45 minute slot was over all too quickly. An array of new songs catch the ear and enstill an urge to hear them all over again as soon as possible. Bidding farewell with the enthralling Steely Dan meets Nine Inch Nails meets drum and bass of ‘Is This What You Wanted?’, I can safely answer that question with ‘yes.’
Check out the video for ‘”Music!” below:
Words by Conor Richards
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