Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Viet Cong - Oslo, London 04/02/15

09 February 2015, 13:11 | Written by Saam Idelji-Tehrani

Their Cassette EP showed promise and marginally hinted at where Viet Cong might go. At that stage however, the sheer depth of their descent into darkness, destruction and despair, was unimaginable. And the desolate vision that was explored on debut LP Viet Cong was brought to life, at times, to astonishing and oppressive effect at London’s Oslo.

Beginning in chronological fashion, the band delved into two cuts from their Cassette EP. While it was pleasant to hear the band explore the early release, the opening couplet - when juxtaposed against the compositions found on Viet Cong - highlighted that the band have well and truly built upon the promise displayed within Cassette. “Unconscious Melody” showcased duelling instrumentation and disco bass grooves, which proved to be a much lighter affair than the intense 45 minutes that followed subsequently. Although similarly can be said of “Oxygen Feed”, its bright, pretty guitar lines possessed harsh, jagged elements that mirrored lead singer Matt Flegel’s shouts of “Sun in your eyes”. Beautiful at first, but then harmful after prolonged exposure.

The sonic foreboding that was presented in “Oxygen Feed” was intensified by a manic rendition of “Silhouettes”. Painting upon the canvas of post-punk, its icy synth lines dissected pulsating Motorik beats, as anxiety-ridden soundscapes were forcefully mapped for the appreciative audience. At its peak, the set tightened like a vice, hell bent on crushing bones and squeezing viscera. And like the calls of “it’s suffocating” within lead-single “Continental Shelf” there was an air of sonic suffocation to the music performed – intense and entirely inescapable – that matched the brooding, dark lyrical content on display perfectly.

With its distortion maximised, and lurid sexual groove, “Continental Shelf” began a succession of three songs (which culminated in set closer “Death”) so fine, it will be difficult to find a better run this year. Aired in its full uncompromising and unrelenting 11-minute glory, “Death” symbolised an abyss, which we were not merely sinking into but one that was swallowing us whole without mercy. Metronomic drumming, Paul Banks-esque vocals and 60s psychedelic guitar riffs opened before giving way to a monstrous cacophony. Whilst it was easy to lose oneself in the hypnotic wall of noise, delay-ridden guitars and changes in tone underlined the coercive distortion. Although not as sudden as on record, the furious climax, with its rolling toms, left all in rapture.

Sandwiched between “Continental Shelf” and “Death”, Viet Cong also presented a hint to their future with an untitled new song. Indebted to post-punk and krautrock, the track was dynamically similar to “Silhouettes” and just as labyrinthine. Impressively, the track held its own between the two highlights of the set.

As impressive as the close of the show was, there was however a period of stagnation, as the show lulled somewhat during “Bunker Buster” and “March of Progress”. Although the latter burst to life with kaleidoscopic guitars, the lack of drum distortion throughout its shortened introduction hindered the song greatly. No longer was it a hypnotic bombardment of sound, but rather a weakened representation, with rolling snares over a transcendental synth line. The angular “Bunker Buster” also felt jarring at a point in the show where the intensity was growing exponentially.

Halfway into the six-minute centrepiece of Viet Cong, “March of Progress”, Flegel recites in entrancing cult-like fashion: “Your reputation is preceding you/We’re all sufficiently impressed/And this incessant march of progress/Can guarantee our sure success”. And upon leaving Oslo, it was safe to say that we were all more than sufficiently impressed.

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