Stoke’s Hardcore Scene won’t be Smothered or Beaten Down

Words by Lee Barber, The Underground Venue Manager, Co-Producer of The Honey Box and Honey Box Hive project lead

And we mourned that day. Saturday, December 23, 2023, The Underground was rife with blood, sweat and tears as Moralslip took to the stage one final time, their days as Stoke scene’s premier hardcore band coming to a sorrowful end as the powerful five piece decided The Underground Christmas show would be their last. Guitarist Luke Medlock had earlier in the year relocated to Japan, and the band made that fateful decision not to continue past 2023. And we mourned that day.

There were more than a few jaded hearts in the venue that night, with fears of a desolate hardcore scene in Stoke shimmering onto the horizon as the folds of the year fell upon us, though our woes and apprehensions had been unnecessary. MERCURY and Head Dent both featured on the Moralslip final show line up, and both dropped stellar shows like only they themselves are qualified to deliver. Also on that bill, though, were two bands ready and waiting to stake a claim in our beloved scene, one of them no stranger to the scene itself, one of them venturing forth for the first time, entering the fray on a cold night in Stoke and proving they were more than up for the daunting task which had befallen them.

As above stated, 2×4 WMBD are no strangers to the scene, for they have long been a favourite amongst any who has had the good fortune of witnessing their no holds barred performances, and though they had not gigged more than three times in 2023, that night they gave Moralslip the send-off they deserved. In the course of doing so, the no-shits-given band cemented themselves as a name more ingrained – and more important – to Stoke scene than even they may have imagined. 2×4 are far from the kind to go taking themselves too seriously, but then would we love them any other way?

Emerging onto the scene that very same night, piledriving the stage as the opening band and destroying the venue with their powerhouse sound was Smother, the debutants of the SOTHC scene and immediately finding themselves at the forefront of the battleground, sworn in to rebuild their very own scene from the ground up, armed with nothing but heavy, harrowing tunes and branding far beyond the band’s suggestive youth. Not to mention the fact Smother are quite literally made up of the most annoyingly talented and photogenic band members any photographer could hope for. Smother have burst onto the Stoke scene with reckless abandonment, having not the time to waste on carefully rebuilding a tired SOTHC scene, opting instead to take it ruthlessly by the scruff of the neck, strangle holding it straight into 2024.

And now, these two find themselves going head-to-head in the Metal 2 The Masses final, alongside Secret City Souls, Return To Solace, Era’s End, and Jesse’s Divide. As if the stakes weren’t high enough, within 48 hours both 2×4 and Smother have dropped new singles, both accompanied by outstanding music videos.

2×4 dropped underground cult classic Tracy Beakhead on June 12, and a small earthquake erupted on the locals socials, as the lyrically hilarious track was matched with the perfect blend of comedy and musicality, the snap shot video, directed by Callum Millward, expressing unequivocally the intent of the band, and what’s more is the band’s second single* was immediately followed by the announcement of the new album ‘The Greatest Spits’ being dropped on June 16, just two weeks before the M2TM Stoke Final.

The social earthquake only grew stronger with the release of Smother’s debut single Unseen By The Eyes Of God, the raw and visceral visualiser shot and edited by Smother (yes, they are annoyingly talented across the board) and catching perfectly the haunting wrath of the song itself. The dark and sinister atmosphere of the release is in stark contrast to 2×4 and their laid back, piss take attitude, and yet they are both the shining beacons in Stoke’s scene. The fact both songs were produced by Jonny Price all but speaks for itself.

And we mourned that day. And so too did we celebrate.


*Demo tape not included

Catch both 2×4 and Smother going head to head at The Underground in the Metal 2 The Masses Stoke Final 2024 on Saturday, June 29.


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