Rejoicing still in the simple fact we can have a physical Roadburn again, the final two days definitely wore on our pandemic shocked psyche and physique. Stumbling more and wearing down in a way I’m not used to, I mentioned to some friends during the weekend the Pandemic has made us all old, and 5 days on our feet now feel a lot longer. Saturday started with the feeling it felt like a Sunday, traditionally called the afterburner, because by that time you are fairly burnt out.
After three years of waiting and longing, finally there will be an in person Roadburn Festival again. While the 2021 online edition Roadburn Redux, was in itself, innovative and the best digital festival I’ve seen set up during the dark days of the pandemic, nothing beats being physically shaken by bass heavy music and hugging friends from all over the world you only see once a year.
2022 is a special year for desert rock / stoner rock / doom metal extravaganza Desertfest London. The event, which takes place across multiple venues in and around Camden and has become a mainstay of the UK heavy music scene, was cancelled in 2020 for obvious reasons and then rescheduled as a special 10-year anniversary event for 2021. Inevitably, the 2021 festival was again cancelled, so the 2022 edition is not only the first Desertfest London for three years, but also a chance to celebrate in earnest a “Decade in the Desert”.
In the time since its 2005 inception Damnation Festival has grown to into a four-stage affair that has become a mainstay of the UK metal scene. 2021’s festival on 6th November was significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it marked the event’s return after a year off due to COVID restrictions. Secondly, it sold out in record time; as soon as the UK government announced the end of all restrictions (back in March), all tickets were swept up within a matter of weeks. Thirdly, the lineup had to be dramatically changed, with many major international acts such as Wolves in the Throne Room and Pig Destroyer having to have their appearances cancelled due to then-ongoing uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions. Fourthly and finally, 2021’s Damnation marked the end of its 14-year tenure at Leeds University: 2022’s festival will return to Manchester (where it first took place for two years) at a larger arena venue.
One of the titans of the North American summer Music Festival season is Riot Fest, and we were damn glad to see it come back strong in 2021. Especially after Lollapalooza did such bang up numbers coming back, and kept the safety methods strongto minimize the effects of the pandemic, you knew Riot Fest was going to go hard, and bring it big time. Even with the departures from the lineup of Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, and others, it was as stacked a lineup as the fest has ever had. If you’ve ever been to Riot Fest, Lollapalooza, Coachella or any other festival, you’ve witnessed the power of live music bringing people together. At Riot Fest 2021, we learned that even a global pandemic is no match for a community this passionate and devoted. What makes Riot Fest particularly special, though, is the integration of bands and artists from several generations, and the consequent mingling of their fans. Whether you’re twelve or sixty years old, there’s someone on the lineup for you.
Sure, we might be having to follow a series of new Coronavirus safety protocols which may or not become a regular thing for live shows, but we’re back. And judging by the size of the opening day crowds spilling out from the main entrance, car parks and campsites, not a moment too soon. Since its inception Bloodstock Open Air has always attracted early birds who like nothing more than to arrive long before the gates even open, but this time feels different. Everyone seems to be here early. Coiled springs desperate for release. The festival’s twentieth anniversary isn’t just a celebration of metal this year, it’s a genuine escape.
As the final day of Bloodstock 2015 begins, it is once again with the shock of no sign of rain once again. Someone, somewhere must have made some kind of sacrifice to some form of deity to ward off the rain and giving perfect sunshine for the entire weekend. No doubt the usual washout day will rear its head again next year, but for today, there is plenty of heavy metal to enjoy.
Kicking off proceedings for the day is one very annoying clash between atmospheric black metaller’s Agalloch on the main stage and British heavy metal masters Triaxis, who reward the rammed Sophie Tent by assuredly knocking the cobwebs of people’s hangovers away with a spectacular showcase of straightforward but massively enjoyable metal. New cuts like ‘Liberty’ and ‘Death Machine’ prove just as immediate and strong as fan-favourites like ‘Black Trinity’ as they show just why they one of the brightest lights on the British metal scene today, as today’s set feels hugely triumphant. The same can’t quite be said for the following The Izuna Drop who’s electronica bass drop tinged sounds are interesting in principle but doesn’t translate well today as a thin, curious crowd quickly empties even further.
For all the critics of the modern day incarnation of Sepultura (WAH! THERES NO MAX CAVALERA ITS NOT SEPULTURA!) they’re overlooking three important factors: Firstly Derrick Green has been a part of the band by now longer than Max ever was. Secondly the band that they are today is a very different beast to the Max incarnation; yes they play the hits like ‘Roots Bloody Root’ and ‘Refuse/Resist’ but with a somewhat different tone to those days. And thirdly, they still pack a hell of a punch, giving a strong, somewhat safe set with very few surprises (other than a brand new song aired) but one that is never less exciting than before, as the main stage crowd gives a huge response, especially to those aforementioned hits.
The likes of Agalloch and Belphegor may have suffered some of their atmospherics due to the sunshine on the main stage, so its fortunate for Saille that they perform to a darker, more intense Sophie tent, where their brooding, melodic brand of black metal is allowed its full impact. Mostly static but full of intensity, their vivid tales inspired but the likes of H.P. Lovecraft proof menacing but so captivating, and they have surely made a tonne of new friends in this instance.
You always know what you’re going to get with Cannibal Corpse, from the bludgeoning barrage of their music to the recognisable stage introductions (“This song is about shooting blood from your cock”) but it never withers in intensity, and today they are as strong and reliant as ever. The staggering amount of crowd surfers during this set tells you how well they have gone down today, and why they are such a firm live favourite.
It may be hot outside, it may be the evening of the last day, but people still want to have a bloody good time, and apparently a bit of a boogie. Good job French swing/death metal oddballs Trepalium are at hand with perhaps the surprise set of the entire weekend. Not a huge name by any means on these shores but they pack out the Sophie tent, and after a confusing sound-check, absolutely explode. Volatile death metal meets catchy, jazz like passages with stunning effect as the what could possibly be the biggest moshpit the tent has seen all weekend is surrounded by people dancing like loons to four sharply dressed musicians and a shirt-less, voodoo mask like painted nutter of a vocalist. An unexpected highlight as they prove one of the bands of the weekend.
All three headliners this year were subject to vitriolic responses on the internet forums at their announcement, but today’s headliner Rob Zombie probably received the most flak. Coupled with the memory of recent, stripped back festival appearances not gaining plaudits and there is a swell of anticipation amongst excited fans and those who seem to be there simply wishing for a car crash performance. Not to mention the catastrophic stage problems that plagued Trivium and Within Temptation, there is a feeling that anything could happen; fortunately for the excited throng, all goes well this time around.
Opening with a storming ‘Teenage Nosferatu Pussy’, Rob Zombie’s part b-movie horror flick, part cartoon brand of industrial metal proves an excellent festival closer which oozes fun. Zombie himself proves very charismatic (if at times forced) whilst the excellent pair of John 5 and Piggy D jostle and challenge for attention on stage, both giving show stealing, virtuoso performances and their own unique visuals. Coupled with such a strong arsenal of songs and it seems silly to think how it could have failed; although there seems to be reliance on a couple of famous covers to gather some momentum: an awkward rendition of James Brown’s ‘Get Up…’ and note perfect, nothing special renditions of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and ‘Schools Ou’” which surely take time away from songs people may have wanted to hear. That being said the likes of ‘Superbeast’, ‘More Human Than Human’ and a rarely aired ‘Pussy Liquor’ hit the spot, bringing the festivities to a euphoric close on the main stage (for those who still have energy and urging for a more claustrophobic disposition, Godflesh pack out the tent later on in the night).
Over the weekend some issues reared their heads again, from the stage show suffering of black metal bands in broad daylight to the near comical amount of main stage difficulties which nearly derail many a set, but none of this can detract from a tremendous weekend that gave fantastic weather and even better bands.
See you in a year Catton Hall.
CHRIS TIPPELL and SARAH WORSLEY
The first year of Blastfest marked the beginning of a somewhat risky adventure, at least for mainman and festival promoter, Yngve “Bolt” Christiansen, a guy you might already know as front man of the Norwegian death metal band Blood Red Throne. He gave everything to get this up and going, and to secure Bergen a replacement for the much missed Hole In The Sky Festival, that unfortunately called it the day back in 2011, after twelve years of catering to Bergen’s metal needs. OK, so we did get Beyond The Gates already the year after, but they had downsized and focused on “underground” acts like Nocturnal Breed, MGLA, Nifelheim, Aeternus and the likes of them. So the gap, the segment of in between bands like these and Slayer, was really not catered to in terms of a festival. Up stepped Yngve, risking both his car and his apartment in the process. Yngve is a guy who thinks in what psychologist Kahneman has coined “System 1” thinking; he is indeed fast, instinctive and emotional, praise Satan for that!
I arrived just as the very first band of the festival played the last minutes of their set, thus Tantara was missed, except for that one single song, a couple of minutes of pure thrash metal. However, that was not the case with Finnish black metallers Woland, recently signed on Indie recordings. The two bands would preferably have switched places though, because Woland were a generic black metal trio, most memorable for their vocalist not just taking off his shirt, but also for him doing Fabio poses. Being remembered for poses is hardly krieg, right?
The next band on stage was Lakei, which is Norwegian for ‘footman’. They set the bar a lot higher with their perfectly executed take on the sludgier and groovier form of metal. They’re also a local band, and really stick out in a scene mostly made up of extreme metal acts, in a city maybe most famous for black metal bands like Gorgoroth, Taake, Enslaved, Immortal and Burzum. Next up was the German thrashers of Fatal Embrace, and boy was this fatality! The lead guitarist seemed to have picked up his playing skills mainly through viewing the Abbath guitar lessons on YouTube over and over, which needless to say made for a subpar performance. And when the vocalist boastfully declared “We destroy this house tonight – this is ‘Another rotten lie’ “, I simply couldn’t help but giggle a little to myself. Said vocalist, as pointed out by some other attendees, could probably do good from a little cardio excercise too, since his face became all red already halfway into the first song. There was a lot of heavy breathing, and very little musical material of interest to be heard from Fatal Embrace.
Fellow Germans, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, were the next band on stage, and boy were they something else. Perfectly executed black metal, good sound and a lot of people left looking to buy their music in the wake of their performance. Sadly they didn’t seem to have brought anything for sale. Although, one must question what black metal has evolved into in later years, when you have a band looking as if they just came from a seminar in C++ programming, even wearing some beach loafers on stage. The aesthetical aspect seems to be more and more neglected, which might very well work out on an album, not so much so in a live setting.
Koldbrann on the other hand; they adhere to the old school black metal aesthetics, full corpse paint and all. That being said, the vocalist had an eerily similar style to that of Batman sidekick Robin. He still came across as far more dominant and commandeering than the vocalists earlier in the evening, and the band churned out really good versions of songs like ‘Drammen’, ‘Totalt Sjelelig Bankerott’, ‘Djevelens Treskeverk’, and finished off beautifully with their cover of ‘Russian Vodka’. Then came Myrkskog, for the first time ever gracing Bergen with their presence, and with Nils “Dominator” Fjellstöm behind the kit for the occasion. And speaking of this guy; what the fuck does he do to manage to play at such infernal speeds!? The same goes for some of the guitarwork of Sechtdamon (which you might know from Morbid Angel by now). Boy can these guys play! They raced through songs like ‘Discipline Misanthropy’, ‘A Poignant Scenario Of Horror’, ‘Domain Of The Superior’, ‘Deathmachine’ and ‘Utter Human Murder’, all flawlessly executed. However a chaotic sound production probably made sure one had to know the material beforehand to really enjoy the show. The last band before headliner Shining were the veterans of Aura Noir. And one thing is always certain about this band, and that is the certainty of getting a superb performance. Blastfest got a run-through of a set filled with classics, like ‘Blood Unity’, ‘Sons Of Hades’, ‘Mirage’, ‘Released Damnation’, ‘Condor’, ‘Black Metal Jaw’ and ‘Hell’s Fire’. Sadly the band had to walk off stage before they were through with their set, but we all know that might happen at a festival. So there was no ‘Conqueror’, sadly enough. Also, at some point during their set they had to play with only one bass drum, which Apollyon referred to as “just like at the circus”. Speaking of circus … the final headlining act this first night was Sweden’s Shining. Seemingly people implicitly agree with me on the fact that Aura Noir should have been headlining, because the crowd was much thinner during the main headliner this night. we got the usual stuff, like spitting blood and drinking whiskey and whatnot, and the usual suicidal lullabies. And they are somewhat lullabies these days, as it feels more and more like the band has outplayed its role, at least to those having already passed through their teenage angst phase.
Words: Pål Lystrup
Photos: StiPa Photography