If you are looking for a festival with old fashioned doom, psychedelic tunes, raging stoner, post rock and metal. You are not really planning to spend loads of money and you want to see some qualitative good bands and you like a small-scale festival. You should definitely travel to Mudfest in Venlo (south of the Netherlands). When we walked in we got drowned in good old barbeque smells from the catering (The burgers were fucking amazing, has to be said), and you immediately get thrown into the overall atmosphere of the festival. The venue is perfect for this kind of festival; you have nice places to sit all around the venue. If you go to the second stage you even have some nice cozy cabins where you can take a seat and watch the band performing.
The first day, Friday the 1st of November, was more of a taster. Three bands played in the evening in the Venlo venue, free of charge! First of we got Nijmegen Stonerfront a Dutch trio making some great instrumental stoner rock. Interesting is that the interaction with the crowd al comes from the drummer, Peter Dragt. Definite desert psyche elements swirl through their music. Their stage presence isn’t too energetic but with the energy and complexity of their music that doesn’t matter too much. This also means vocals aren’t missed. Next to take the stage was Downfall of Gaia, from Germany. With a beautiful almost sub-oceanic blue lightshow and a very high energy stage presence, we get more of a post rock trip from these guys. Using three vocalists the vocals sometimes distracted from the general soundscapes the band created. In the mix on record the vocals are quite low, but live they were more up front. Sadly we felt the band would have been better with either no vocals or the vocals on a lower level. They were however quite thumping and engaging. The nights final band was Abrahma, these Parisian psych rockers have a definite 70’s vibe going on. Their rather enigmatic front man Seb Bismuth wears fared jeans and, though he has an accent, has a very pleasant voice. The combination with the heavier psych the band plays and the long instrumental intros, outros and bridges is incredibly catchy. Combined with this they probably have the most engaging live show of the evening, and definitely wouldn’t be out of place on a bigger stage. Honorable mention goes to their incredible debut album art, Through The Dusty Paths Of Our Lives (Small Stone Records).
We went back to the Mudfest grounds on Saturday the 2nd of November. Starting with the band Acid Deathtrip, coming with a musical mix they call ‘Blasphemous Boogie’. They definitely give us some bashing raw stoner rock that seems to be a bit standard, but hey, we like to boogie and therefore everyone likes to boogie. We got some nice standard but lurking riffs mixed in with some really low toned and bone shaking bass. What we definitely liked was the voice of their singer, yet raw that suits the overall stoner sound. But what we found characteristic was the pretty melodic vibe mixed into that raw sound.
Next up was another Dutch band named Wangunst, we were sitting in the back of the venue enjoying some beers when we heard a nice Hammond organ in their sound. We got exited so we rushed to the front, unfortunately it wasn’t a real Hammond. But well, it still sounded awesome if you ask us. This band brings us a really nice vibe that adheres on the thick, muddy bass playing and loads of feedback. This band definitely gets the whole venue to vibrate, and yes, we are talking about every material in there. Their sound definitely pounds on your chest. If you translate Wangunst, it means something like Envy. This name conceals the very vigorous and dynamic vibe that is thickened with a very dark overtone.
After a little break we went to see the Swiss band Rorcal. Rorcal starts with a very spherical, apocalyptic and atmospheric sound and it gets clear that this band isn’t suited for the easy listener. After the long lasting intro, it gets taken over by some really massive drone that gets you in some kind of trance. The trance gets interrupted by some harrowing, ice-cold, cold blooded screams. They mixed in some samples that definitely make your blood clot and some heavy feedback to support the overall sound. And all of a sudden, like it came out of nothing, the music changes to some classic lurking black metal complete with blast beats, heavy riffs and sick screams. This sound does have a little post- sound, especially in the black parts of the music.
The following band was the more easygoing Mantra Machine. If you are into space rock and psychedelic thickened with some nice stoner sounds, this is definitely your band. It sounds as a nice day in spring when you’re in your rowboat in a still lake. The music builds to get more movement and more variable. Accents in the music take you by your throat with a screaming guitar that supports the overall sound. What you see a lot with this kind of bands that the music starts to nag a bit, this is not the case with Mantra Machine. It is full of repetition but it definitely isn’t simplistic and at the very end they show you they know how to make the audience party. Good job Mantra Machine!
Now back for some old fashioned doom with the band Pilgrim from the USA. As soon as the band starts, you get drowned into the wall of feedback they sent into the venue. This is doom metal as pure as it gets. Their vocalist simply called The Wizard really gets to you with a very pure and unctuous voice. Sometimes the voice gets pulled into the background in a very anxious and vicious way. This creates a pretty nice contrast between the vocals and the lurking doom oozing out of the instruments. With pretty low resources and pretty much no hodgepodge this band still creates a big wall of sound that both vivacious and lingering. This is a band that drags you completely into their sound and truly gets to you. One of the best performances of the evening if you ask us.
For something completely different we get Throw Me In The Crater who really kick down the pedal and get way over the speed limit. If they were a car they would be a Mustang. They are vigorously and seem to have a lot of fun on that stage. But still have an authentic sludgy crusty sound. If it comes to a stage, they don’t have boundaries, what makes this the most energetic band up until now. The screams of the vocalist seem a bit plastic, most of the atmosphere and vibrant sounds come from the band around him. Don’t get us wrong, the vocalist Mr. Ash Spitter knows how to transfer the energy from the stage to the audience. They also take a rest with some serene sounds that really holds a nice epos.
Next up is the band Cultura Tres from Venezuela. Due to illness the band Pendejo couldn’t make it to the stage so Cultura Tres replaced them. At first it seems this band is really elementary. The lead guitar really speaks to us and is really deepened. This band comes with sludge/doom in a very simplistic way. There weren’t really any surprises in the music and it stays the same in the entire show. When they tend to go to a peak in the music, they are disappointing us. We expected more of this. This band definitely earns some kudos when they told us the bass player is a friend they called last minute to play and is out there improvising on the music. He did do a good job; the music is pretty whipping and even a bit danceable. The vocals are really distinctive and leading; even though we think it would be better with clean vocals. This band is quite simplistic, but still gets you in a vibe and suitable for easy listeners. You want to get known with the sludge genre, this is a good band to start with.
We got upstairs to the second stage for another Dutch band named Gigatron 2000. They definitely give us some up tempo no nonsense stoner metal. They definitely let the venue vibrate up into the foundations. Normally we are not that fond of instrumental bands, because we would miss the vocals at some point. This definitely is not the case with Gigatron 2000, they don’t need vocals because they are replaced with very vivacious guitar play and a bass player that physical is very energetic. Again we stand in front of a band that definitely keeps the tempo high, every time we think there is a rest point in the music, the drummer kicks up the tempo again and in this way we get smashed by a lot of nice surprises in the music. The music gets interspersed by some nice spacy sounds, think of you sitting in a spacecraft going on a big adventure with the dangers and problems you would or wouldn’t expect. You took a mix tape with you with some nice thick and muddy stoner on it, and there you got the closest definition we can give you about Gigatron 2000.
The last band we saw before we had to run for the last train was Atlantis. For us this was a suiting band to end this festival. They immediately kick their thick and heavy sound into your face. They create a wall of sound that leans on a lot of samples. Again we get faced to a band that uses a lot of low tones that easily pull you into the Atlantis experience. They take you away in a trance that at sometimes gets interrupted by pretty hulking and droning doom. They have three guitarists that thicken the sounds by the power of 10¹°. This definitely is a band that knows how to indulge you in their atmosphere and delivers quality. And for that we thank you.
Conclusion: Mudfest is a festival that thrives on atmosphere and the love of doom, stoner, sludge and all the sub genres in it. It is still a nice small scale festival that really gets people together and gets what music is about. We had a wonderful time and we are waiting for next year. Let’s see what the Mudgate has in mind for us.
Words: Kaat Van Doremalen
Photos: Susanne Maathuis