There’s so much good stuff to write about Ho99o9 that I simply don’t know where to begin. I could start with their incredible dedication to touring; In the space of a year, they’ve toured the USA, mainland Europe and the UK, each at least 3 times and a myriad of festivals – pretty much non stop. Or, I could do a deep dive into the incredibly rich influences that the band draw inspiration from. Fusing hardcore punk with experimental hip hop and a touch of industrial soundscapes and drill/trap beat samples would be a fascinating origin story to write about. Eaddy and theOGM are creating genre-blending music that few have attempted before (Death Grips are the most obvious exception to this). Or instead, I could begin by getting across the point that the New Jersey-come-Los Angeles trio’s live shows are the main talking point among fans due to the insanity and cinematic explosion of sound and visuals they replicate on stage.
Tonight is no exception…
In fact, it’s the first date in a short UK tour, dubbed ‘4 Nights Of Hell’ – basically a bloodbath scene curated by the band themselves and Brooklyn Sound (Brooklyn Brewery). Support act Henry Blacker opens the show with QOTSA-like stoner rock: Energetic, tone-focused (killer bass tone!) and refreshingly simple. With two out of three members from Hey Colossus, the Somerset-based trio pumped a healthy dose of adrenaline into the room in preparation for the main act.
As the Exchange’s lights dim and a deep bass rumbles, the majority of the crowd pour into the mosh pit area, like water into a glass. The immediate blow of thrashing punk drums, sampled guitars, ominous sub-bass and delay-drenched, aggressive vocals in ‘Street Power’ ignite a violent pit of flailing arms, banging heads and impatient crowd surfers within mere seconds. Due to a few technical difficulties experienced early on, the paused lighting allowed us to glimpse the majestically horrifying outfits (or lack of) that the band members were donning, while simultaneously covered in fake blood and white war paint. So when the music got started again, and lights flashed violent blood-red, it was even more thrilling.
They played through songs from debut album United States Of Horror such as ‘War Is Hell’, ‘Sub-Zer0’, both high-octane punk lacerations and the slower, but just as brutal title track. The set isn’t a constant gut-punch however. There are snippets of rests, repetitive sample hits, soundscapes and interludes such as ‘U.S.H.’ from the album. There are also occasional moments of audience interaction, mainly from Eaddy, who professes his love for Bristol and everyone here tonight. This is an ironic contrast with his blood, sweat and paint covered head and chest. At times, he raps through a megaphone and at one point climbs on top of the speaker systems. In fact the two of them are constantly lunging around the stage, ricocheting left and right, yelling into the audience or climbing the walls. On the other side of the stage, theOGM somehow finds time to trigger samples, run around and rap at the same time.
‘Bone Collector’ settles things down a little bit, with it’s throbbing bass line, drill beats and sensual chorus. ‘Deathkult Disciples (999 Anthem)’ however, is an industrial assault on the senses with off-kilter drums and colossal distorted guitar samples, which sends people flying once again. Various things are projected into the mosh pit throughout the evening including some sort of liquid sprayed from a bottle and buckets of what I later found out to be popcorn(!?!?) Even the buckets can be seen tossed about mid mosh. The set ends with nearly half the crowd on stage, dancing with the band themselves.
The confusing and uncomfortable nature of Ho99o9’s sound and image makes them enthralling and narcotic, but it is purely purposeful, engaging an often sedentary population. Take a minute to see past the melodrama and you’ll find the lyrical content deadly serious: they rage at cheerless political realities, plagues of economic inequality, rising racial tensions, sickening police brutality and societies fractured by a rainbow of issues, both global and communal. Themes around drugs, sex and aggression are injected into the songs, allowing personal yet exaggerated and auto-mythologizing experiences to shine through. Ho99o9 are a wildfire and I hope it spreads.