Desertfest London 2016: Various Venues -Camden, UK

Desert fest london 2016 schedule ghostcultmag

Given that so many festivals are shutting up shop – Heavy Fest announced only last month it was closing down for good – it’s nice to see London hosting Desertfest for its fifth installment. Although its shed the Prog and Heavy Metal stages from last year, it’s still a glorious weekend of celebrating all things bong and Black Sabbath across some of the best venues in London’s Camden town.

 

Crowbar, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Crowbar, by Jessica Lotti Photography

 

Friday:

Friday night saw big name bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, Raging Speedhorn and JK Flesh (Justin K Broadrick of GODFLESH) join forces with lesser known but excellent bands like Lionize, Asteroid, Black Pussy, Guapo, Teeth of the Sea, Gurt and more.

 

Saturday

Saturday is opened hairy doomsters Poseidon, and they nearly rattle the Black Heart apart in the process. Their thick, monolithic slabs of reverberated riffs draw a decent crowd for so early in the day and probably shake out a few fillings in the process. Thought the vocals leave a little to be desired and the near-pitch black lighting means there’s little in the way of audience connection, it’s a pretty solid start to the day.

Counterblast, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Counterblast, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Taking on of the early stints at the Underworld, Counterblast are loud, abrasive, and largely joyless. One of the few bands to go for synths and a triple vocalist attack, Swedish quintet combine the sludge of early Mastodon with a crusty punk edge. There’s a lot going on, and it’s a challenging listen, but also rewarding if you stick it out.

UK four piece Telepathy are first instrumental group of the day, and the first to make an effort to engage with the audience during their set. Playing a decent mix of post-metal with doomy influences, they don’t let a torn drum skin spoil the show. A band with promise, but perhaps not enough quality material to sustain the whole set.

Conan, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Conan, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Over at the Electric Ballroom, Scouse purveyors of “caveman battle doom”, Conan, draw a massive crowd. It’s easy to see why; massive, grinding riffs, thunderous drums and plenty of chances to headbang. However, the pained screams of Jon Davis’ vocals are an acquired taste and if they’re not your cup of tea, it all quickly becomes a chore to watch.

It takes until the mid-afternoon and Dusteroid’s blend of heavy desert rock and spacey vocals before the afternoon takes a slightly more chilled direction. They’re the first band to lay the riffs on thick without approaching nosebleed-inducing levels of aggression.

Truckfighters by Jessica Lotti Photography

Truckfighters by Jessica Lotti Photography

If you take the fuzzy rock of Queens of the Stone Age and have it played by AC/DC’s Angus Young, you might be halfway to a Truckfighter’s live experience. Niklas “Dango” Källgren is easily the most energetic person at the festival, and not just because of what people have been smoking all day. Before the first song he’s already run across the stage a few times and thrown his shirt into the crowd, and once he’s strapped in he’s jumping, windmilling, playing solos behind his head, and throwing every kind of rockstar shape possible. Blessed as well with a good frontman in Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm, Truckfighter’s blend of big melodic rock with plenty of fuzz makes for one of the most entertaining shows of the day and is rewarded with an energised response from the Ballroom.

Pelican, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Pelican, by Jessica Lotti Photography

It’s not always easy for instrumental bands to not only fill a venue, but play music that grips the audience for the whole set. Pelican and Russian Circles, however, are two bands how have perfected the dark arts. Pelican play first, and their heavy take on progressive post metal is a delight. It’s got the grind to make you bang your head, but also the atmospherics to get lost in.

Russian Circles, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Russian Circles, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Russian Circles, despite having two less members than Pelican, make a lot more racket. Less proggy and chin-stroking in nature, but more direct and bigger on riffs, they act as the other side of good instrumental music. It might be quite as thoughtful, but it’s easier to mosh to. Both bands get rapturous applause between each song, and hardly a word has been said onstage for almost three hours between the two band’s sets. But it doesn’t matter. Epic bands don’t need to chat when they can create massive soundscapes.

At last year’s event, Manchester’s Ten Foot Wizard provided a surprise in one of the best sets of the weekend. And it’s no surprise that they do the same again this year. Having them close the tiny Devonshire Arms after the main headliners was an act of genius by the organizers. Shame that nearly the entire festival tried to cram into what was literally the back corner of a local boozer. 10FW know how to put on a good show; it’s sweaty, it’s fun – where else would you gets songs like ‘Turbo Dick’ (working title) or ‘King Shit of Fuck Mountain’? – and they know how to write a good rock tune. The mix of Clutch’s boogie with a touch of QOTSA-style guitars, plus a band who know how to rile up the throng in front of them, makes for a killer end to the day. Plus there’s a Theremin solo!

Sunday

If the Black Keys had balls and a sense of humour, they’d be a lot like Dyse. The German two-piece are on an early shift at the Underworld, but deliver a huge helping of rawkus rock and roll. Between each sweaty song, the audience are treated to a dry dose of humour; where else would you get a drummer singing Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’ before diving in? Although not quite as alluring on record, live they are probably the best thing from Germany since Rammstein. Less fire though.

Over at the Black Heart, fellow German outfit The Moth lay on some decent heavy metal-inspired doom with some occasional ventures into more death/sludge territory. They can clearly write a meaty riff but live it all falls a bit flat.

Necro Deathmort are one of one the biggest oddities of the weekend. An electronic two-piece, their music is a strange mix of synths, vocal effects, and guitar distortion and reverb. It’s dark, haunting, and very introspective: the band don’t acknowledge the crowd or look up from the deck until the very end, when we’re treated to a little wave. It’s actually surprisingly very good, but at almost complete odds with everything else that’s playing this weekend; more like music to get lost to in a dark room than rock out in a large venue. Which might explain why it was so under-attended, which is a shame.

Elder,by Jessica Lotti Photography

Elder,by Jessica Lotti Photography

Over at the Koko, Elder couldn’t be more opposite to Necro Deathmort. The Boston, MA, boys are all about riffs, guitar solos and long psychedelic jams. They almost outshone John Garcia when supporting him in London last year, and have no trouble filling the big stage with their blend of 70s rock and big doom thunder. Of the six songs they manage to squeeze into their hour long set, we’re treated to a new one that definitely fits into the standard Elder mould. The crowd lap it up and this is clearly a big destined for more success.

It’s a shame to see the crowd thin out after Elder leave the stage, because they miss a treat in Trouble. Probably the oldest band in attendance – and occasionally showing their years with the cheesy moves – you won’t see better examples of twin guitar leads this side of Iron Maiden. Frontman Kyle Thomas, formally of thrash outfit Exhorder, has a great set of pipes on him and handle’s the band’s older material with ease. It’s hard to argue with classic such as ‘The Tempter’, ‘The Skull’, or ‘At the End of My Days’, while the new material have a real energy about it. The cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Supernaut’ is a particular highlight.

Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Closing out the Koko and festival is the mighty Electric Wizard. Along with the likes of Orange Goblin and Kyuss, Dorset’s finest worshipped Sabbath long before it became cool, and have spent 20-odd years honing their brand of satanic, psychedelic, druggie bliss. Played to a background of 70s exploitation skin flicks, frontman Jus Oborn snarls his way through the more modern epics like ‘Witchcult Today’, ‘Dunwich’, ‘Satanic Rites of Drugula’, ‘Black Masses’ and of course a handful from 2000’s magnum opus, Dopethrone. The band have changed little on the whole over the years, and each track is and ode to zoning out and wallowing in a fug of massive riffs. There’s no encore, and nothing from their upcoming but untitled new album. But it’s still a hell of a closing act, and one of par with Sleep’s closing set from last year.

The crowd Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography

The crowd Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography

 

Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography

Electric Wizard, by Jessica Lotti Photography

It’s been a great weekend that showed off some of the best Britain has to offer when it comes to dirty stoner, epic doom and everything between. Roll on next year.

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WORDS BY DAN SWINHOE

PHOTOS BY JESSICA LOTTI PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Desertfest Belgium- Part 2: Live at Trix Antwerp

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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

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

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

Orange Goblin by Susanne A. Maathuis Photogaphy

Now I have the hard task of writing a review of Orange GoblinOrange Goblin 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, 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

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

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

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. 

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DESERTFEST PART I REVIEW:

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS

 

Festival Preview: Desertfest Belgium, Antwerp October 9th – 11th

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Aficionados of all things heavy rock and doom are descending on Antwerp Belgium this weekend for the coming second edition of Desertfest at the Muziekcentrum Trix venue for. Kicking off at 3 PM on Friday the 9th, Desetfest Belgium will continue the run of brilliant Desertfest shows, killer bands and just an overall cool vibe. Over 40 bands on three stages will turn it up to 11 and wail until the early morning light. In addition to the bands, the Trix venue has an art gallery and the “Hippie Market” for merch and other wares, and food options too.

Friday’s lineup features massively heavy Monolord as the headliner. Joining them will be likely impressive turns by Moon Duo, Dozer, Stoned Jesus, Wucan and a A DJ aftershow party.

 

Saturday is led by festival second headliner and Brit doom gods Orange Goblin. They are a can’t miss act live. Also appearing on the bill on this day are a plethora bands Greenleaf, Monomyth, and Belzebong on the main Desert Stage. Other bands to check out on Saturday USA Out of Vietnam, Mars Red Sky, Bathsheba, Sunder and Pendejo.

Sunday is positively stacked on the Desert stage with fest headline act Goatsnake, followed by Bongzilla, Ufomammut, Valient Thorr and Glowsun. Fatso Jetson, Child, 3rd Ear Experience, Sienna Root, and Maudlin are other bands you don’t want to miss.

Ghost Cult is proud to serve as a media partner for Desertfest Belgium. You can still get tickets at this link

 

Get Tickets To Desertfest- Antwerp, Belgium – October 9 -11

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Into the Void Festival, Live at Poppodium Romein, Leeuwarden, NL

Poster

I could not think of a better way to spend my Sundays than with a concert close to home. No traffic, no getting lost trying to find the venue and no needless getting tired from traveling before you even get to the thing. But is metal a good way to spend a day best spent free of worries? It is when you visit Into the Void. Just some carefree stoner, sludge and doom where you can gently bob your head up and down to the tones of New Keepers of the Water TowerMonomyth or Abysmal Grief, to name a few. We can already assume I was not the only one who enjoyed himself, because the date for next year has already been set. But how enjoyable was it exactly?

Supposedly the organisers of Into the Void mentioned in casual conversation with Midnight Ghost Train, while on the Roadburn Festival elsewhere in the Netherlands, that they should visit Leeuwarden some time and they would get a show to perform at. Thus the first band for the new festival, from the same people who brought us Into the Grave, was set.

A wide range of other bands were also invited of course, like Night of the Lotus Eater, 44 Venom, Yama, Cherry Choke and Toner Low. Each had their charm, but a couple clearly stood out. Monomyth for example, who cleverly hid the fact they had no intention of singing, by making the first two songs sound like an intro. At some point I started to wonder when they would start singing, when I noticed they had nothing to sing into. Not that they needed the superfluous luxury of lyrics, because their set list had been neatly designed into a build-up to an epic climax. I thought the climax could have been a bit more climactic though, because I felt the performance ended just as they were about to hit it – but maybe that is just the way they make you want to listen to more of their music. Though, the audience me they got exactly the climax they wanted, by giving an approving applause.

But if you were looking for something a little less smooth and a little more complex, you were still at the right place in the former theatre, former church. Yama, for instance, were not at all afraid to turn up the bass and the distortion, just to remind you what genre exactly you were listening too. I am not sure I would have gone with the same light plan, but it did suit the music.

I would have to say New Keepers of the Water House Towers, gave me a bit of a mix between the two: a little more rough than Monomyth, a little less lyrical than Yama. As a pleasant surprise the voices reminded me of the Queens of the Stone Age, like in QOTSA’s Songs for the Dead. As they were playing I noticed there was no gentle bobbing, but either intense focus on the faces of the audience, being swept away in the flow of the music, or firsts with horns in the air. The applause afterwards told me the audience had enjoyed the solid riffs and hypnotizing voices as much as me.

The band that stood out most to me was Abysmal Grief. They set the mood the moment they appeared on stage, bathing in red light, neatly dressed as a priest, a rabbi and a dark monk and surrounded by candles and crosses. To live up to the showmanship of the promising setting, the “rabbi” enlightened us with his dark voice and his ominous church organ, which was actually a synthesiser disguised as a lectern. It was not just the looks that drew me and the audience in though, the dark tones combined with the low, ominous singing had a way of taking you over, compelling you to stay and listen. The audience was not afraid to show it either, with rounds of applause and horned firsts in the air that seemed to plead Abysmal Grief to keep going.

In conclusion, if I decide make a habit out of metal concerts on Sundays, Into the Void definitely did the job of convincing me and would definitely be on the top of my go-to list.

 

Into the Void on Facebook

 

Laurens Ruiter