Live Review: Hacktivist, Zoax & Bad Sign at Thekla – December 12th 2016

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Venue: The Grove, Bristol BS1 4RB
Date: 12th December 2016
Promoter: DHP

Part rap, part tech-metallers Hacktivist returned to Bristol on the back of their début record Outside The Box, bringing along two of the hottest UK live acts in Bad Sign and Zoax in the process.

Bad Sign opened proceedings by giving the regrettably empty floating boat venue a stern lesson in pummelling riffs, with each track providing a groove-orientated backdrop to vocalist/bassist Joe Appleford’s soothing melodic vocals. Guitarist Johnathan Harris stirred the crowd at every opportunity, whether through inciteful fist pumps, energetic star jumps or sprinting round the stage as fast as he possibly could. Despite the relatively low number of people watching them, the band pour their heart out throughout their performance, and leave the best to last with; arguably their best known track ‘The Recidivist’ is rapturously received by the crowd. Both Appleford and Harris jump off stage during this track and mix in the middle of the crowd, before the band drown their set finale in a sea of feedback.

Next up were Zoax. For those of you not familiar with the band, they comprise of previous members from Rise To Remain, AxeWound and Time Is A Thief amongst others and are undoubtedly one of the most interesting live acts in the UK right now. Despite today’s gig being my fourth time seeing the band over the last 18 months, the high standards previously set were matched (if not bettered) by tonight’s performance. Arriving onstage with a finger in front of his mouth to hush the crowd, vocalist Adam Carroll set about proving himself as possibly the most charismatic and engaging frontman in the current UK scene.

Without a further word of warning, the band ripped into ‘KSYCHIA’ with an energy that keeps everybody’s eyes fixed on the stage. Their latest support slot on Funeral For A Friend’s farewell tour has clearly given the band an additional level of confidence; the showmanship from Carroll between tracks was both humorous and slightly off the wall, with the crowd not knowing whether to burst out laughing or cower in the corners for fear of being targeted by him for banter. Zoax picked their set entirely from their self-titled debut record (released earlier in the year), missing out previous staples ‘Lonely Souls’ and ‘Zero Point Seven’ which was a tad disappointing. However, it’s just as well that their debut record is as strong as it is, as every track was brought to life in mesmerising style. One of the highlights was the electroacoustic nature of ‘The Wave’, displaying just how versatile the band can be with calming vocals from Carroll and a thrilling sonic display from guitarist Sean Weir.

Headliners Hacktivist are pretty divisive across the heavy metal community. Whether it be through their reliance on two MCs to interject rapping into Tim Beazley’s technical metal guitar riffs, or the band’s impressive rise to popularity despite not having a lot of material to play, the knives have been out for a while. However, what can’t be denied is that they’re a decent live outfit. They take to the stage and instantly the crowd erupt into a frenzy of swinging arms and ferocious circle pits.

The band naturally took the majority of their set from the aforementioned début record, and even managed to squeeze in ‘Over-Throne’ from the same titled EP which only dropped a few days previously. The combination of Beazley’s groove-laden riffs and melodic vocal delivery is capably offset with both Jermain Hurley’s concise rapping and the odd scream from Ben Marvin. While the chemistry between the band and the crowd was pretty captivating, it often bordered on cringe-worthy – there are far too many swear words and innuendos to stomach comfortably. The band also threatened to stop playing halfway through their set when a drunken scuffle emerges from the centre of the pit, which was quickly dealt with by the venue’s security; the ‘hardcore torso-flailing’ which contributed to this quickly died down and normal service was resumed.

Overall, this concert was a good stepping stone for Hacktivist to show much they have grown over the last few years. Whether opinions of them will have changed based on this tour is debatable, but what can’t be argued is that today’s gig was a very strong showing by three of the UK’s most exciting new alternative acts.

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