Tickets for Unbroken’s long-awaited debut UK show sold out months ago and have been changing hands on internet forums for silly money ever since. It has been 17 years since the San Diego hardcore legends dropped their first full-length album, Ritual, a record that reinvigorated the hardcore scene of the early nineties and inspired hundreds of like-minded individuals to get out there and start bands of their own. The list of bands that cite Unbroken as an influence is insane: the Hope Conspiracy, Planes Mistaken for Stars and Modern Life Is War have all name-checked the SoCal crew as a catalyst for their musical endeavours--and for that reason alone tonight was always going to be a bit special.
Whilst half of the early-doors crowd were participating in a "mosh warmup" by fighting their way through the merch queues, the other half were being treated to a strong set from German straight-edgers Ritual, whose mix of anthemic chant-alongs and impressive riffage went down a treat with the largely cosmopolitan crowd. It’s fitting that the bill should reflect the multi-national composition of the audience, who seemed to have converged on the ULU from every corner of Europe to see their heroes play.
The main room had filled out by time Ceremony took to the stage armed with a set of tunes design to excite and disturb in equal measure. Currently touring Europe on the back of the excellent Rohnert Park L.P, Ceremony are a band at the height of their creative powers and a breath of fresh air of originality in what can be a claustrophobic and restrictive genre. Live, Ceremony are a force to behold; frontman Ross Ferrer stalkedthe stage like a feral and less muscled-out Rollins, barking out lyrics here and there, addressing the front row and then those up on the balcony in seemingly the same breath. He performed like a vessel of pure music, convulsing and contorting in front of the audience while ideas overflowed from him, impervious to the stage-divers charging around him. The site of him standing with hunched shoulders, microphone pulled in close, in the middle of the empty horseshoe of the mosh pit like a lost child while enraptured punters look on in bemusement is a bizarre one indeed. Talk about breaking the fourth wall--Ceremony were awesome.
So last but not definitely not least: Unbroken. Leading in with a playlist of Britpop and UK indie, Unbroken plowed into their criminally short but ecstatically sweet set like men possessed, wielding their instruments like there was no tomorrow. The crowd responded in kind and politely went fucking nuts in the presence of their heroes. Unbroken’s set was hardcore perfection and refreshingly free of bullshit, Dave Claibourne’s clarion call during the set opener set the tone for the remainder of the show; “We came into this together, let's leave here together...no bullshit.” From then on the band pile-drove their way through 40 minutes of their awesome back catalogue, which was lapped up by the fantastically receptive crowd. “This will be our last song I think,” said an awestruck Rob Moran towards the end of the evening. “We don’t really do encores.” As if the mere fact that tonight’s show was being played at all wasn’t enough.