Written by Cal Cashin
Not many bands can boast the raw ambition of HMLTD, a band that sold out an Electric Ballroom show off the strength of three singles and look set for world domination before talk of a debut album has already begun. Every show the band play revolves around a central theme, a crazy idea that is made into a crazy actuality. For this ever so ambitious festive celebration, HMLTD turned the 100 Club into the temple of the mutant snake god Polyceph, a twisted Christmas grotto with an abundance of rubber chickens, snakes and mannequins filling the room.
HMLTD go above and beyond the call of duty with their shows, making sure every inch of the venue is aligned with their extraterrestrial aesthetic. First support band Sex Cells were cut from the same cloth, their white boiler suits with “DADA” spray painted on ensured that the duo’s aesthetic was every bit as stark as their brutalist synth-pop. The duo hammered through an invasive set of electroshock, with blocky synth tones protruding through stomping drum machine beats.
Dressed in all white, the second support are Gentle Stranger, the Gods’ jam group, the Mount Olympus house band. Sprawling prog riffs meet footloose brass motifs and contrapuntal vocals from each heavily made-up member. A spectacle, to say the least, their set feeds into the sultry DJ set of Clarence Clarity, the highlight of which saw him spin his mangled remix of the headline band’s track Stained.
HMLTD’s grand entrance was preceded by a reading of “Polycephmas” from their drummer Achilles. The band sharpened their tools as the crowd were told a tale of nuclear fallout on Christmas Eve, before the allegory ceased and the venue was ushered into the sordid underworld of the band’s music by the ticking drum machine of their debut single Is This What You Wanted? The band have uniform white face paint and black eye makeup, each member looking like a different phase of David Bowie’s career that you’re sure happened but didn’t. A strange, seedy circus troupe, HMLTD’s fusion of post-punk, angular electronics and glam is life-affirming from the off. The degenerate ringleader for this cirque de la lune is Henry Spychalski, the band’s byronic frontman figure, who caterwauls through the early part of the set in angel wings and a jumpsuit covered head to toe in white feathers. You can accuse HMLTD of many things, but lack of effort will never be one of them.
New songs like the alluring Apple of My Eye and the pounding synth-pop anthem Proxy Love get a crowd reaction just as electric as all of the band’s established material, as the band prove that each and every song they have in their arsenal sounds entirely different from the last. The spaghetti western twang of To The Door sends waves around the 100 Club as Spychalski howls “Streets! Filth! Move to Leipzig!” maniacally into the mic, while the glitching stomp-rock of Music! sees him strutting around the stage like a leper messiah.
One of the most unique looking, and unique sounding bands, HMLTD’s music is a maximalist joy, and their attitudes are entirely refreshing. As they pelted through the final number, the post-punk/dubstep fusion track that’s become a favourite set closer, an admiring audience were left bedazzled by a band that are clearly operating at a higher level than every other young band in the country. It’s hard to believe that a band would spend hundreds of man hours decorating a venue with an array of bizarro trinkets and installations, only to urge the audience to take each and every scrap with them home. But HMLTD don’t operate the same logical way mere mortals do. Instead, they jump through hoops just to give fans the most immersive possible experience. One of the most singular and exciting bands operating in the world today, it’s hard to know exactly what to make of HMLTD. The only conclusion it’s possible to draw is that they’re a band constantly ascending and already on their way to being one of Britain’s great bands.