On Friday, September 26, one of the America's most controversial new metal acts played their first ever London show at Islington Academy. RS Deputy Editor David McLaughlin was on hand to witness the evening unfold.
The idea of King 810 is a fascinating one. A band apparently bonded by blood and brotherhood, forged on the tough, unforgiving streets of Flint, Michigan. A band purported to live life by the sword as well as the pen. A divisive bunch, full of contradictions, and the subject of spurious conjecture yet a source of great intrigue and curiosity.
Some music media outlets have gone in hard on this idea of them essentially being the most dangerous new band in the world. When some very real and very serious legalities prevented their planned UK debut at Download in the summer, it only added to that mystique. For our part, debut album ‘Memoirs Of A Murderer’ raised just as many heckles as it did eyebrows ‘round Rock Sound way, but the band caught the imagination just enough to warrant witnessing this first visit to the capital. Tonight it's time for King 810 to prove that they're the real deal. Or not.
Within moments of them bombing onto the Islington Academy stage, the crushing reality is as deflating as a balloon popping seconds after it takes flight. Stunts, staging and gimmickry aside, it's quickly clear that King 810 are just a decent metal act with flourishes of aspiration – blunt force brutes with bleeding hearts. The most dangerous band in the world? Wishful thinking.
Anyone seriously wigged out by the presence of their masked 'security' manning the stage wielding axes and baseball bats, has obviously coasted though life in an enviously safe and coddled environment. The crime scene tape draped across the front of the stage is an extension of the same idea. It's all just theatrics, and more than a little cheesy.
Laughably, there's a rumour doing the rounds pre-show that the band have even planted a heckler in the crowd, just so their heavies can do 'em over, presumably as an example to others. Needless to say, no one leaves the venue tonight with injury any more serious than a slight case of earache. And blame for that can be apportioned to an unfortunately muddy mix.
The Flint four-piece punch through it as best they can with admirable force. Had their rise to prominence been an organic one without fanfare or the suspicion of storyboarded, marketing meeting fuss, good will may have been enough to see them through here. David Gunn does a fine job at blasting away at all the extraneous bullshit, attacking songs like a bulbous-domed Pit bull. On the one-two-three combo of ‘Kill 'Em All’, ‘Best Nite Of My Life’ and ‘Murder Murder Murder’ he throws himself into the performance full pelt. His voice – while versatile – works best as a scabrous howl. When he switches to pained whimpering, it just comes off as self-pitying whingeing. We get it, life is tough - what else you got?
For the most part he dominates and commands the stage though, writhing, snarling and snapping, cutting an almost-Black Flag-era Henry Rollins-type figure. And with the spoken word interlude of ‘Anatomy 1-2’, that's not the end of the similarities. But breaking out the bard routine is probably a little much for a first date. It feels like it lasts an age, too, as uninterested chatter noticeably rises around the room while he talks of "‘knife fights with kids, as kids’". The acoustic sway of ‘Take It’ rises above the din slightly more successfully, but that recorded highlight also falls flat up against the drunken Friday night mob with cynicism on their lips. It doesn't help when Gunn sits down for a bit of introspection on ‘State Of Nature’ – the kind of thing people used to snigger at Aaron Lewis for back in the day, as he sobbed his way through Staind shows. The lull is rescued however, by the undeniable power of finale ‘Fat Around The Heart’. More of that front-foot-forward fury and this might even have been a triumph.
As it is, the idea of King 810 remains a fascinating if slightly-less-mysterious-now work in progress. The cold, hard reality is that they're just another band filled with as much flaw as they have potential. The jury is still out, then. Maybe next time they’ll return with a conclusive verdict.
Words by David McLaughlin. Photos by Ben Gibson. For the full gallery of photos from the evening, click here.