With the queue for Sunday’s opening act Wizard Fight snaking out the door of theBlack Heart, there’s a little wait to see Wales’ HARK. Although different from Jim Isaac’s previous outfit Taint, the two share a lot of common DNA; Aggressive, angular riffs with plenty of groove, time changes galore, and plenty of chances to bang your head. There’s a big, receptive crowd for so early in the afternoon, and the band respond with a loud and energetic performance.Continue reading →
Has the doom and stoner scene ever been in ruder health? Possibly not, judging from the quality of acts on show at the sixth edition of the London Desertfest. The three-day festival, held across a number of venues across Camden Town has riff-mongers of all shapes, sizes, and styles doing their best to shake the capital apart.Continue reading →
Desertfest’s 2017 London edition kicks off this Friday, April 28th and is set to shake music fans to their very souls. Headlined by the almighty SLEEP, Desertfest London also features Candlemass, Turbonegro, Slo Burn, Wolves In The Throne Room, Saint Vitus, John Garcia Band, Bongzilla and more. Tickets are running out for all venues fast and are expected to sell out. Get rolled up, dipped, and ready to blaze with Ghost Cult’s festival preview. Continue reading →
Desertfest is an ever-expanding, sprawling franchise festival, having pushed it’s tentacles out from London to Berlin, Antwerp and even Athens. As Ghost Cult did last year, we went to Desertfest Antwerp again, about the only October festival in the genre of stoner and doom music. Last year proved a great party and this time the line-up is salivatingly good, so we expected no less than a wonderful party of fuzz, swamp and bass, with a side order of psychedelia.Continue reading →
Fresh off of their assault on London this fall, Sleep has been named the headliner for Desertfest London 2017, set to play a London’s iconic Roundhouse venue. Coupled with recently named second headliner Slo Burn, this will be the can’t miss music event of the spring in the UK. Continue reading →
Veteran UK-based heavy metal band Raging Speedhorn have announced they have canceled their remaining shows in 2016. The band had appeared at both Download Festival and Desertfest London this year:Continue reading →
The Desertfest Franchise continues to climb with the first bands announced for Desertfest London 2017 . Already announced in the first wave are Turbonegro, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Picturebooks, Satan Satyr’s, Vodun, and more. More bands to follow soon. Ticket information is listed below: Continue reading →
Saturday we kick things off with Beelzebong, who give us the swamp soaked heavy slur of stoner doom riffs we’ve been so craving. These guys know how to his the sweet spot of heavy and oppressive, yet hypnotic. They turn the crowd in front of the Desert stage into a sea of bobbing heads, a sight that makes for great start to the day.
Monomyth, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
Since we get some rare sunshine in the beginning of October, we decide to recover from last night’s first day in the brittle warmth of the autumn sun in the outside seating area, and catch up with some friends.
Monomyth, these masters of the hypnotic cadence are not new for me but a lot of people were happily surprised by their prowess. Their gigs tend to sound like one long jam, and amazingly don’t get boring while they weave on and on in an almost circular way, pulling you deeper into the trance-like state their music conveys. While these guys make some really spacey psychrock, the usually omnipresent guitar noodling is quite minimal and has a more rhythmic notion with this band, repeating and embroidering on the same pattern, building layers and layers of spacey goodness.
After the enjoyable Monomyth set we catch a quick glimpse upstairs in the Canyon stage of Vandal X, these Belgian noise rockers pick up the tempo and shake us awake. Distinctly punky, yet a little heavier and stranger than punk, these guys kick you straight in the teeth. Having apparently inspired such bands as Raketkanon according to the booklet these forefathers of the no-nonsense, bash your head into the wall kind of noise rock are living up to their title. Noise Noise Noise, indeed.
Greenleaf, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
After the rude awakening with Vandal X we go downstairs to see Greenleaf. The moment the band starts the grove is amazing, the thick heaviness is there, and everything sounds incredible, if a bit stripped down to make room for what we assume is going to be vocal driven Stoner. Pinching just a little too much I get the distinct feeling the vocalist is trying to sing a way that doesn’t fit him naturally, and the rest of the music just isn’t intricate enough to be able to ignore a less than impeccable vocal performance.
Thankfully the guys from Mars Red Sky are there to cheer me right up again, with their 70s infused doom. Their groove is one of the best and most catchy of the festival. In a genre often drowned in fuzz and distortion the use of oftentimes clean bass lines is refreshing and really hitting that spot. Soaring guitar lines coupled with remarkably light vocals with just enough echo to make their music sounds quite otherworldly. The contrast of heavy and light, floating and sinking make this band a fascinating experience well worth listening to.
Orange Goblin by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
Now I have the hard task of writing a review of Orange Goblin… OrangeGoblin is one of the heavyweights in the genre, and seeing them live is nothing short of spectacular. They clearly have that oh so British touch in their approach to metal that takes a lot of influence from punk and just a general slow burning anger at the world no other nationality has quite mastered, maybe it’s the weather. The riled up crowd starts milling in front of the stage in an enormous moshpit that doesn’t let up until the set is over.
To kill the time before Earth start and not just hang around chatting to the many wonderful people this fest attracts, we go catch a few songs by Causa sui. The trippy background projections are pretty cool, but sadly the band evoke a distinct feeling of trying too hard to fit into the psychrock box. The whole thing feels a bit formulaic, and instead of expressing the joy of letting a trip come over you as good psych does, they just leave me with a vague sense of emptiness.
Earth, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
Earth have the honor of headlining today, and I’m quite interested to see how they do. The band is known for it’s super slow and heavy laid back instrumental drone, and while this is in itself wonderful music, it’s something that is really hard to get into when you’ve been on your feet all day and have just seen Orange Goblin destroy the Desert stage with a vengeance. This is a band you definitely need a chair and a good dose of substances for to really get into, but for me, at that time of the day, they just were a bit too slow in their heavy. About midway through, the after party starts, at which we get a second dose of Orange Goblin madness, but this time behind the dj set.
Tangled Horns, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
Sunday, lazy Sunday. We start things of with a local Belgian band who’ve clearly not lost any steam over the weekend. Tangled Horns pretty much tangle us in their horns. Fast paced with a franctic frontman who will climb anything makes for a great show. There is a definite raunchy twist in the stoner these guys make, that does definitely remind of 90’s grunge and even a punky atmosphere. Definitely a band worth catching live.
Next we keep the pace up just as high, with the party band extraordinaire Valient Thor. They are one of the few bands on the bill to really get people moving and have banter between songs. As it is a time-honored tradition in the stoner and doom scene to stare at your shoes and mumble thank you, it is refreshing to hear a man remind us we’re all really descendant from space dust in a hilarious way before linking it to the next song and setting off another bout of frantic, happy party punk. These guys would do well at any festival.
Ufomamut, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
After grabbing dinner at one of the many food carts, we go watch Ufomammut. Over the last few years this group has made a reputation for being transcendent and while I see why people love them and where this reputation comes from somehow it just doesn’t hit that special place that makes the experience more than just music for me personally. They still were good but I didn’t see the magic others clearly see in them.
Sometimes there are bands that do everything right and still miss something, and just don’t work. Usually this is personal taste thing and hard to put your finger on, but with Bongzilla I feel I know exactly what was missing for me. These guys make standard sludge, and they do it well, but it’s all a little too clean. Sludge for me needs to be dirty and redneck and Louisiana swamp infested. It needs to feel wild and a little dangerous, heavy and sticky like the sweat is running down your back into your asscrack and the mosquitoes are eating you alive. Sadly this little bit of swamp of dirt and grit is exactly what was missing with Bongzilla.
Child, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
My disappointed mood was quickly turned when friends I’d made urged me to stay downstairs and skip Fatso Jetson in favor of the Australian band Child. We got treated to a three-piece making some of the heaviest blues I’ve heard in ages, with a groove that was utterly unparalleled by any band on the bill, and most of all a voice that will melt the polar icecaps. The remarkably heavy main riffs get broken up by beautifully soulful blues guitar lines creating a refreshing contrast.
To conclude our stay in Antwerp I use the last of our coins to buy a few of the excellent cocktails at the little cocktail stand outside, and head upstairs for the final after party, not getting home until five in the morning, exhausted, charmed and satisfied. Until next time, Desertfest Belgium.
Desertfest Belgium is one of those names that in the European stoner/doom scene has developed a reputation for a good party, a place to see your favorite bands and meet friends from around the world. In Belgium this festival just had its second run, and that means this big name festival still has the small intimate atmosphere so much revered by the scene they cater to. This weekend we are promised a feast of heavy with the occasional pallet cleanser of psych and as is wont at these sort of fests, it turned out the smallest room often held the biggest treasures.
Monolord, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
On Friday, I arrive at the venue just able to catch the last notes of Planet of Zeus, having gotten stuck in the traffic nightmare that envelops Antwerp every Friday afternoon. Exploring the labyrinthine venue of Trix took some doing, but after getting out bearings, finding the food and drink stands outside and a look around the merch stands it is nearly time for Monolord to open the main stage. This Swedish riff lovers are mentioned next to some of the heavyweights of low and slow riffing, like Yob and Sleep, and while they are excellent in their own rights, they somehow miss a bit of the magic that makes those two bands special for me. Maybe it is something this relatively young band will develop with time, having only started in 2013.
The Heavy Crown, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
After Monolord, I decide to see some Belgian talent in the form of The Heavy Crown. These 70s stoner inspired rockers, with a surprisingly smooth vocals are intriguing enough to keep me away from the Machine’s set for almost its full running time, and the organ parts really cut nicely through the riffs. Next up is Moon Duo, making their hypnotic trance like psychadelica on the Desert Stage.. Somehow these guys make excellent psych but do nothing special for me. A really static visual show with some sort of tripped out projections don’t add much either. Wucan are by far the most interesting band in the 60s and 70s inspired folk prog rock, feeling like they stepped right out of the era. Flutes, synths, theatrical book reading and even a Theremin are toted out during the set. No wonder it’s nearly too busy to get to the front and snap a few photos. These guys are one of those undiscovered gems you got to a festival like Desertfest for.
Moon Duo, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
Wucan, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy
By the time they’re finished and people have milled out of the room, I realize I’ve missed Stoned Jesus, and move to the Desert stage to get a decent spot for Dozer. The vocals are strangely light and thin when you hear the beefyness of the rest of the music, but it’s obvious these guys come from the same tradition as Kyuss. They have that big American “desert rock” sound; that somehow can only be acquired by leaving your band to mature and dry out in the heat and the sand.
Over the past two years, Red Fang has made its name known across the music world with its raw, riff oriented rock sound and continuing to win over new fans on every stop along the way. Audiences have slowly discovered their latest release, Whales and Leeches, through their wild music videos and their extensive touring schedules.
Guitarist David Sullivan talked about their experiences over their recent album cycle. “We’ve been touring a lot, so we’re staying in people’s minds and playing shows. Video’s definitely help (‘Crows In Swine’). We just had a new animated video come out and stoked how that came out. I got to meet the animator, this guy Adam Avilla last night and talking face to face. That was kind of cool.”
“Most of our videos, our friend Whitey McConnaughy lives in Portland. We see him around all the time. This was a new person for us to work with,” he said.
Guitarist Bryan Giles of Red Fang. Photo Credit: Kaley Nelson
Guitarist Bryan Giles spoke about their past year of touring, and at the time of the interview, were completing the Opeth and In Flames tour. While musically opposites from what Red Fang is about, they have made it work around sharing stages with a variety of artists and winning over their fans to capitalize on the moment.
“We’ve been lucky. I’ve always had that worry in the back of my mind when we do a new tour with bands that are different stylistically from us. I don’t know how the crowd’s going to do…every since we were just starting out it was cool to see playing with death metal bands and the crowd seemed to enjoy it, even though we were not exactly what they were playing. I’ve built some amount of confidence…yeah the music’s totally different but it’s still got distorted guitar and blasting drums. We have that too so here we go. Hopefully people will like it,” said Giles.
Guitarist David Sullivan of Red Fang, by Susanne A. Maathuis Photography.
Neither Giles nor fellow guitarist David Sullivan knew how they were selected to open for the Opeth and In Flames tour, but playing in front of early arrivals at these packed shows did help them gain new fans.
“I’m not sure how we got picked. We had done a tour with In Flames a few years ago. We did this Rockstar Energy Mayhem tour and they were on there. We met those dudes and became friends. I’m not sure if they were like ‘we really dig Red Fang’ or if they requested us. I’m not sure how it happened,” said Sullivan.
“I’d like to think it was the case. But I don’t know,” said Giles.
“We didn’t know the Opeth guys. All super nice guys. I don’t know how we got chosen for this but it worked out great,” added Sullivan.
Bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam of Red Fang. Photo Credit: Hillaire Jason
Sullivan and Giles both talked about their home turf of Portland, OR, where the Northwestern US music scene has grown like wildfire and other artists have began to attract attention from around the music world. Talks about a new grunge scene may be premature but something special seems to be in the air there.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a new movement. It does seem like there’s a lot of activity,” said Sullivan.
“It could be Relapse moved there a couple years ago. So some local stuff is getting seen by a pretty big underground label,” said Giles.
“That’s true. That might have a lot to do with it. Relapse moved their headquarters from Philadelphia to Portland. I’ve never thought of that. It definitely could have something to do with it,” added Sullivan.
“It’s growing. There’s a lot of people moving to town. It’s just crazy how many crummy high rise apartments are going in. It happens to every city but Portland has been a sleepy city for a long time. Now things are going to grow, and a lot of young people moved there for artistic reasons. For being on the West Coast, it’s probably one of the least expensive cities to move to. Everything has increased,” concluded Giles, about the growth to their city possibly leading towards a rising music scene.
John Sherman of Red Fang. Photo Credit: Kaley Nelson
Talks about a new album has been circulating for some time, but Red Fang has been taking their time to work on it, reportedly due out sometime in 2016. They both shared their thoughts on how the new album may shape into.
“We don’t really know what it’s going to be. We’re not trying to pick a certain genre – we’ve got some punk, kind of fast stuff, some more stoner-y stuff. We’re all over the place. It’ll sound like Red Fang. We don’t have a set goal in mind that I can express except to make music that we dig and we like,” said Sullivan.
“That’s the only rule that we have. We must all enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if we end up doing spaghetti westerns as long as we’re all on board with it…,” said Giles.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen…,” responded Sullivan.
“I don’t see it happening either but you never know. But I’m not taking it off the table…,” said Giles, in a semi-joking overtone.
“It will sound like Red Fang but I don’t know what specifically it will be like,” concluded Sullivan.
Both of them would not rule out any musical directions, and fans of the band should not rule out anything.
“We’ve always said we’re not going to restrict ourselves to any one style. It still follows somewhere in the range of heavy music. It’s not like we’re trying to be strictly stoner or strictly thrash. It’s whatever we enjoy,” said Sullivan
Giles summed it up best as a response, semi-joking, “Thrash sounds too exhausting. I think we’re too old to be thrash.”