As I’ve said before, Alec Empire and his Digital Hardcore label now have a legendary cult following, and it’s not hard to see why. The missing link between hard dance and punk metal, DHR’s impressive roster has found fans in both hardcore ravers and leathered up metalheads alike, which makes for an interesting audience at a DHR show.

As Pennyblackmusic enters the Mean Fiddler, Leech Woman are halfway through their set. Their sound is slightly muffled, but it is obvious to everyone watching them that they’re a very original band. Using large metal dustbins as drums, as well as a normal drum kit, they have a very tribal, beat orientated sound with just a bass and a guitar making up the rest of the backing music. The riffs and vocals of their music bring to mind Godflesh, but they are about ten times more percussive. They provide an interesting spectacle for an opening band, and certainly keep the audience entertained while waiting for the venue to fill up.

DJ Zan Lyons then plays for the now full Mean Fiddler, his avant-dance warming the hearts of some and boiling the blood of others, but on the whole he plays a diverse and surprisingly danceable set that fills in the time nicely before Alec and co. take the stage, though impatience does start to set in amongst the crowd towards the end of his set.

The first person the crowd sees striding across the stage out of the smoke (possibly from a smoke machine, possibly from the audience: who knows?) is the surprisingly tall and slightly scary-in-an-attractive-way figure of Atari Teenage Riot member Nic-Endo, who strides confidently across the stage, looking very serious and appearing to not notice the large-ish crowd in front of her. The drummer and guitarist then enter less conspicuously, sneaking on and setting themselves up quietly. It is difficult to make out any of the drummer’s features, but on closer inspection, the guitarist turns out to be Nine Inch Nails’ very own Danny Lohner. Empire himself then bounds onto the stage, grabbing his microphone and leaning into the crowd. “Everything Starts with a FUUUK!!” Alec screams, as the opening bars of that song ring out across the audience, then it all kicks off, and the place goes mental.

Empire’s trademark happy-thrashcore drum beats have never sounded so hard and so ear bleedingly loud, and the live drums backing up the drum machine just gives the songs even more energy. The guitars are thankfully not lost in the mix, which is always a danger when electronic and live music are combined, and Empire’s stage presence is immense. He leaps across the stage, his screaming vocal style not wavering once, and leans into the crowd, shaking people’s hands and inciting the crowd to punch the air with their hands at every opportunity. The music is CD perfect throughout, with the only differences being the enhanced energy and the fantastic atmosphere.

As is expected, the crowd go even madder for Stooges-by-machines single ‘Addicted to You’, the surge of the crowd and heat of the venue causing many people to rush off to the bar for a bottle of water and a sit down. In fact, the only people who don’t seem to lose any of their initial energy are the figures on the stage, with Empire being especially energetic. During the closing number ‘New World Order’ Empire leaps into the crowd and disappears from view as his adoring public rush him. He manages to crawl out and mumble a "Thank you" before leaving the stage, closely followed by the rest of his band, with Nic-Endo being the first on and the last off the stage.

There will be no encores this evening. How could you add to a performance as spectacular as that? His album ‘Intelligence and Sacrifice’, may be initially difficult to swallow, but see Alec Empire live, and you’ll find yourself begging for more.












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