Words by Maddy Howell
When you end a show with broken microphone stands, smashed up guitars and a drum close to bursting from the impact of a fist – it’s either gone really well or it was a fucking catastrophe.
Having recently been forced to change their name from Baby Godzilla due to pressure from a “Japanese cinema giant”, the Nottingham-based HECK enter the stage looking as innocent as ever. However, from a band who quite literally tore down the ceiling of this venue last time they visited Southampton, the calm before the storm is short-lived.
After becoming somewhat notorious for their live antics, the mathcore giants are back following the release of their debut album “Instructions”. Southampton’s Joiners Arms is home to their mayhem tonight, with 200 people bouncing on their toes, itching to get moving.
Vocalist Matt Reynolds remains calm and collected before the start of opener “Good As Dead”, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply. His exhale takes the form of a bloodcurdling scream as the walls begin to shake and the crowd are whipped into a frenzy, joined by guitarist Jonny Hall who immediately leaps from the stage to join in the action.
The stage in general seems to be a foreign concept to the two lead guitarists, both opting to spend their time running back and forth through the crowd armed with microphone stands and guitars. Boundaries are completely broken, with the band taking hats from members of the audience, using people as supports for their instruments and screaming straight into their faces.
Rattling through massive tracks from the album such as “The Breakers”, “A Great Idea Bastardised” and “Fastback”. HECK show absolutely no signs of stopping or slowing down, pondering the question of just how long they could drag out this display of insanity. Vocalist Matt Reynolds makes the (not entirely well-informed) decision that lighting rigs make for brilliant swings, resulting in raucous cheers from the crowd, utterly transfixed on the performance.
The opening note to 2014 track “The Great Hardcore Swindle” is heard and faces all around light up, as if they know exactly what is about to happen. The band stop playing, all standing restfully and stationary. “I need everyone to come to the front, right here in front of me, please” requested Reynolds, with audience members obediently joining the pack in front of the stage. “Thank you.”
Suddenly, the song kicks back in and the frontman leaps on top of the gathered assembly, screaming until his throat begins to run raw. At least half of the song is performed in this position, an almost mutual respect being formed between the two parties.
Once their vocalist is safely returned to the stage, the band set to performing the closers of their set. With album tracks “Totem” and “Powerboat Disaster” continuing their disorderly exhibit, the words “this is our last song” come as somewhat of a relief to the audience, all visibly brought to their knees by the energy of tonight’s performance. The band, however, look ready to continue for as long as they’re permitted to do so and kick into the monstrous 16-minute-long album closer “See the Old Lady Decently…” ending the night on epic terms.
In a band that are constantly re-inventing themselves with every song they release, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to pin HECK down to a single genre. However, all of this seems meaningless after witnessing a live show, where chaos and order come together in the most bizarre of marriages to create an utterly hypnotising spectacle.