Part grime and (unofficially) part djent, a subgenre of metal, Hacktivist come under the category of ‘cross-over’ metal bands rising to popularity, similar to Crossfaith or Enter Shikari. Considering the increasing hype surrounding the band, having played at Reading and Leeds 2013 and having had considerable airplay on Radio 1, XFM and Kerrang!, it was surprising that the turnout for the gig wasn’t larger. However, it didn’t seem to stop the band from erupting with energy.
As soon as Remi Gallego’s project The Algorithm came on, things got interesting. A one-man producer but employing a drummer to accompany his live performances, Gallego produces a sound identifiable in terms of its intense mesh of glittering synths and mechanical guitar samples. I found myself unexpectedly stunned by the technicality and precisely executed energy in the music. Gallego loved fucking with audience expectations, fiddling with syncopated rhythms and dropping into completely different sections of the songs, seemingly at random. He rarely looked up from his concentrated work at his deck, and the drummer too was in a trance-like state. It would have been interesting to see if the addition of a vocalist or even a lead guitarist could have encouraged the crowd to move more, but The Algorithm didn’t care – Gallego had created a sonic wall of sound. Getting the crowd to move was something Hacktivist were there to take care of.
The venue still wasn’t at full capacity whilst Hacktivist played their show but it was still pretty brutal. The two vocalists threw themselves around the stage, yelling at the audience that ‘now’s your chance’ to move and encouraging them to shout along to the choruses. Although being labelled a ‘crossover’ band, Hacktivist have claimed themselves that they’re not aspiring for anything particularly innovative and technical in their music – instead, they mash up the sounds they know and love and they do it well. They produce a sound both nostalgic and familiar yet crunchy and new – perfect for a live performance. J Hurley spat his bars over thundering riffs that inspired chaos in the pit. At times things turned undeniably nu-metal; Hurley rapping over moodier guitars to create a tenser atmosphere. It’s also evident in their lyrics that Hacktivist don’t aim especially for something innovative and technical but however basic their political message, the angry, socialist themes in their rapping and shouts definitely intensified the heat of the live performance. At one point, Marvin told everyone to put their middle fingers in the air and shout ‘fuck you’, something not original at all but still darkly funny.
The lack of a capacity audience at the gig made me wonder if Hacktivist won’t end up surpassing their semi-popular state. However for the night, the Hacktivist-occupied underground world of The Duchess was a secret little gem. A combination of their energy, their lyrical themes and their sound that blends both the new and the old made Hacktivist a great live band sure to attract more fans, if their EP and their upcoming debut album don’t do so first.By Gabriel McPhillips