It is here that our adventure begins: In the jungle. The urban jungle of Camden. After a long day of exploration, my party and I head onwards to indulge in a hunt. The obfuscating noise of Camden’s nocturnal creatures creates a loud hum making the search for prey difficult.
Like a flower with its bright colours and many scents, the nests and hives of Camden are crawling with deceptive predators waiting to ensnare the weaker or more naïve of the species into a bizarre business transaction. The market predator spends time nurturing the emotions and sensibilities of the prey; lulling them into a false sense of security before swooping in for the kill. In one dazzling moment of chaos, the prey walks away with a looser pocket and some cumbersome trinket.
The predator leaves with enough change for a takeaway Chinese and a smug smile on his face.
Our task for the night is simple. Deep in the woods of the London forests, a secretive and elusive ritual is about to take place. A small tribe of wildmen known as “grungers” has come together in unity with other sects known as the “djent kids” and “metal fans” to witness a display of great spiritual significance. It is rumoured that the display is not only a force of nature, but a meticulously crafted performance like no other in the animal kingdom.
We trepidatiously approach the venue for the gathering – the “KoKo Club” in the London Amazon. We are at once immediately impressed by the almost human levels of precision that have gone into designing this nest. The ability of the wildlife here to adapt and – with the use of tools – construct not only shelter, but buildings for entertainment and leisure is truly astounding. As a first time visitor of this mammalian temple, I am utterly overwhelmed by its beauty.
The first act is a clairvoyance who collectively identify as “Palm Reader” (Palmus Occulus Musica). In this ancient society, outmoded practises such as palm reading, tarot and astrology are still highly regarded, and so we must respect their culture. It is known that the genus of animals from which Palm Reader have emerged are particularly aggressive and will often display fits of anger in an attempt to ward off potential conflict. They do this via the medium of song. Yes, song. Just like humans, these creatures have developed a sophisticated sense of melody and rhythm in order to communicate emotively with their peers.
For around 30 minutes the beasts plow through renditions of rain dances, tribal chants and sing-sings, fraught with aggression and a ground shaking physical performance. The performers throw their instruments around energetically and the leader of the group screams toward the onlookers to demand their participation. It is early in the night, and only some of the gathering audience is willing to engage in that way. I leave the performance not unsatisfied, but not entirely overwhelmed either – a fine performance for the first band of the night. I must retreat to a safe distance to enjoy the cool evening breeze and some idle chat with colleagues and friends.
After a short intermission, we return to the main hall where we find the second herd of mystics taking the stage. This time the creatures are known as “The Contortionist” (Contortium Americanithae). These bipedal higher primates are native to the American plains where their daily behaviours include fly fishing, ultra-chess, and bathing upside down. The Contortionist take the stage and begin to dazzle the audience with a layered, textural musical homage to those who went before. The immense blend of heavy, stamping drums and choral, harmonic soundscapes creates an effervescent atmosphere for the audience to indulge in. In fact, I suspect that something of a hallucinogenic gas may have been filtered into the area (perhaps this is part of a defence mechanic built into the species) which captivates the audience and holds them in a trance-like state.
The crowd remains in this state of euphoria right until the end of the performance. Some things to note are thus: The vocal alpha male within the herd fronts the group with an odd combination of intimidating glares and jerking dancing. Other biologists have postulated in the past that this may be derivative of the genus Maynardesque Toolithica, an influential counterpart in the evolution of the musical species. Whatever it is, it holds the attention of the audience. One observation my team of explorers and I made was that their performance seemed tapered toward the end – I personally feel like the final stanza of their show was the weakest since they began. However, I did enjoy being an enchanted onlooker to this spectacle and plan to do more research into the species when I return home to the laboratory.
Next up were the native species, “The Safety Fire” (Ouchilum Burnihand Hotterul), whom are operating to a home advantage. However, it’s important to notice that in recent history, due to territorial issues, the Safety-Firens have only moved into this land due to the evacuation of the previous dominant habituates, “The Faceless” (Visage Not Locatedorum). Due to complex political issues between members of the species, The Faceless were unable to retain control of their position in the chain and were replaced by a willing and able “The Safety Fire”. However, it is noticeable that a battle may have taken place which thinned the herd somewhat, as one of the regular members of the group is nowhere to be seen. Nature is a fickle beast.
The Safety Fire ramp up the tempo and energy of the night’s celebrations once again to bring about an ecstatic reaction from the crowd. In fact, we were able to witness a rare and violent example of a fabled behaviour against wild grungers – the “Mosh Pit”. This “Mosh Pit” is a form of courtship dance amongst their kind. It is usually initiated by an individual or group of individuals whom are like to express catharsis in their enjoyment of the music.
However, this is sometimes taken the wrong way by larger, more dominant members of the group who see the erupting chaos as a personal affront to their masculinity. Certain individuals therefore become very confrontational and begin swinging their limbs around, pushing into other whom are not participating and trying to incite violence wherever possible. This is commonly referred to amongst evolutionary biologists like myself as “a prick”.
The “prick” displays his muscles in this way to garner attention and make the lives of his peers a misery. Later, however, a revelation takes place wherein the individual’s war dance is shown to be a façade: amongst the ensuing chaos, he retreats to the safety of the nest to be cared for by his cronies after taking a light nip to the elbow. The rest of the party are able to safely enjoy their dance once again.
Back to the event – as we can now see, “The Safety Fire” are triumphantly marching through a collection of impassioned musical cries, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Even without their bassist, the performance is a solid one, and they cement their place within the musical hierarchy as a band of quality and substance. Their hymns are technical, aggressive and incorporate a meshing of clean and angry guitar parts, a tight rhythm section and a splattering of both melodic and harsher vocal tones. Finally, they have an interesting look – not that this is important to me as I love all of Mother Nature’s creatures no matter how ugly or beautiful – but their plumage is grown in such a way that is certainly different to the rest of their metal kin.
We take our final intermission wherein I refresh myself and use the toilet. Due to an incomprehensibly stupid design of the toilet space in this venue, the urinal is wedged into a restrictive triangle shape, and males battle for dominance to mark their territory. However, after the man on my left had finished his display whilst I was still mid-flow. It became clear there was only one solution. He called to me: “Do you remember that DJ Casper song?” “I believe I know where you’re going with this” I replied. He counted down to three – “Slide to the left!” we both shouted, and I shimmied out of his way to allow him to pass, still mid-flow.
Let us take a small risk and move a little closer to the flurry of anticipation and excitement unfurling below us. We move closer to the stage in order to better enjoy the final performance. The last segment of the show comes from an imported beast of Canadian origin – known to the layman as “Protest the Hero” (Canadius Widdly Metallinae). Protest The Hero is a creature like no other within the animal Kingdom and has, rather than following trends, carved its own evolutionary niche and gone on to influence the traits of later sub-species.
“Protest The Hero” is a voracious creature full of energy, but does not express it in a reckless, aggressive way, rather focusing its temper on a specific subject and really honing its song to deliver the message as concisely as possible. In this way it wards off potential rivals – much in the same way that a peacock spreads its plumage. This quintet of beautifully evolved animals work in glorious harmony and beautiful synchronicity to provide what is truly an awe-inspiring experience. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed since I stood in the remains of Tenotchitlan and that polar bear from Lost walked up and offered me a Macro loyalty card.
Protest The Hero spends the hour powering through enormously powerful, frantic war songs that leap from terrifyingly intimidating sections (I believe referred to in the native tribal tongue as “Break-Downs”) to soaring melodies, much like a wolf’s howl, from the frontman. Again, the instrumental proficiency of the creatures either side of the alpha male is astounding. Time and time again they execute marvellous manoeuvres, stunningly calibrated and attuned to eachother’s nuances. The time the “Protest The Hero” stays in the ring seems all too short as it disappears from under us. However, they do us a service by returning to give us one more chant – their most famous tune “BloodMeat”. I cannot describe the foray of madness that explodes beneath me in the main audience area.
I have never quite seen a “Mosh Pit” quite like this – it is an absolute feeding frenzy. An explosion of carnal lust which envelopes everyone on the ground floor, but better still everyone seems to leave the pit with a smile – showing the camaraderie and empathy between members of this species.
My explorers and I have had an excellent time on this expedition and welcome our next adventure. Thank you, Protest The Hero and all of your well-chosen support species for an excellent night of zoological fulfilment. Yummy.