Nottingham duo Bismuth, as its name implies, is renowned for its crushing, unflinching take on Doom and Drone. Sophomore album The Slow Death Of The Great Barrier Reef (Medusa Crush Recordings) is largely comprised of the thirty-two minute title track and is as moving as it is difficult, as absorbing as it is challenging.Continue reading →
Devastatingly, the return of the prodigal son heralds the final statement from British Doom legends The Wounded Kings, the band recently having decided to split after twelve years of incredible creation. Visions in Bone (Spinefarm Records) is George Birch’s first album with the band since he returned to the fold two years ago, to the delight of those devotees who shunned the eerie chanteuse qualities of Sharie Neyland. Continue reading →
Still They Pray (Relapse Records) is the first long-player in six years from legendary Virginian Doom quartet Cough, with a couple of later ‘splits’ the only things preventing their status from slipping into the mythical. Thankfully this time lapse hasn’t seen the band’s power or collective ability diminish.
Album opener ‘Haunter of the Dark’ exudes the heavy, Occult feel of their one-time ‘split’ mates The Wounded Kings: riffs and leadplay evoking the bone-crumbling mysticism of George Birch and Steve Mills. This is allied to the fuzzed sound and laconic, harrowing vocal of Electric Wizard, which is apt given that Jus Osborn handles production here. Follow-up ‘Possession’, however, and wonderful album highlight ‘The Wounding Hours’ with its haunting keys, both take on a new resonance: obsidian screams leading a slower trawl through infested swamps, resulting in the more familiar funereal pace. The standout feature here and in the crawling, sinister warmth of ‘Dead Among the Roses’ is some mournful, stirring leadwork, squealing and moaning through an oppressive riff and pummeling rhythm section like a speared anaconda.
This is, of course, the mark of this lumbering leviathan: it’s a sound you’ve heard before but, as with TWK, Cough adds a variety and subtlety which supposedly more influential contemporaries seem loath to display. The sheer evil of ‘Masters of Torture’s Blackened Sludge vocal heightens both the intensity and the omen: while wailing solos add morose emotion to a creeping, hideous body, suddenly enlivened by a rumbling, Dorrian-esque groove. The beautiful, leaden balladry of ‘Let it Bleed’, meanwhile, is graced by a Hippy drawl which still manages to carry a certain malevolence; as does the monstrous instrumental ‘Shadow of the Torturer’, Parker Chandler’s basslines plumbing the Pacific depths whilst seedy, seductive leads screech and oscillate, easing Joseph Arcaro’s lazy yet powerful drums to a crushing main section.
It’s a sound undeniably British, whilst reminiscent of Chandler’s work with Windhand and, as evinced in the acoustic-led closing title track, a late 60s Haight-Ashbury Americana. With such obliterating Doom spirited by the fire, despair and hate of the 21st century, Cough has never sounded so vital.
He was so deeply huddled under a blanket that it took a while to locate the source of the voice hollering my name. Eytan Wineapple, curator of the rumbling beast that was the NOIZ All-Dayer, initially celebrated its second incarnation looking like death warmed up. After a long couple of days, with Wineapple escorting eventual headliners Dukatalon to Sheffield and back, they eventually bedded down in today’s venue. “They got here around 3 a.m., and I tucked them all in!” joked Rebellion manager and event collaborator Hayley. Five minutes later, the flat-capped Wineapple was bounding around like a madman: putting to serious shame Ghost Cult’s scribe who, twelve hours later, and still nearly three hours from the denouement, interviewed said host in a rather weary and addled fashion…
NOIZ is not your average festival. Displays of album-style art and guitars in various stages of completion (one of which is raffled off later in the day) stand beside the S.O.P.H.I.E. merch stall in the upper level of the club-style venue. A dedicated handful, meanwhile, witness the pulverising Industria of openers Khost: looking for all the world like a couple of local scallies bumbling about on a stage, yet laying waste with a mystical power which deserved a better slot and much more attention. The Birmingham duo’s ambient, crushing set, its implosive chords and guttural scours blending with a wonderful and passionate line in Middle-Eastern vocal samples, ended bang on time: a courtesy that some of the festival’s other performers could have tried harder to match.
Saturday 2nd April sees the latest all-day event to grace the UK city of Manchester. The NOIZ All-Dayer is the brainchild of Eytan Dorron Wineapple, a popular and passionate figure of the local Metal scene, and this third such event sees an incredible Low-end bill decorated with other displays, including an art exhibition. While Brit heavyweights The Wounded Kings, Witchsorrow and Hang the Bastardare arguably the biggest names of the fourteen bands on show, of equal note is Israeli outfit Dukatalon’s first appearance on these shores.
The Wounded Kings, by Rich Price Photography
Despite the predominance of the monolithic chord, the packed lineup shows variance: Birmingham Industrial duo Khost and Psychedelic Heavy Soul trio Vodun make mouth–watering appearances, whilst the occult groove is also present in the form of Sussex-raised Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. It’s a bill reflecting Eytan’s love of crushing strings, but also reflects his desire and devotion to bring the best acts to his local area: “Yeah, I’m really happy with the lineup”, he says, “It totally delivers on our promise of big riffs and heavy tones.” It seems the inclusion of the fabled Dukatalon, meanwhile, is a testament to networking and to the curator’s dedication and hard work: “This is their first UK tour. I got in touch with the band through a mutual Israeli friend and went from there.”
So does the strength of the bill create headaches for future events? Eytan doesn’t think so. “I wouldn’t say it adds any pressure. It’s just a natural thing to want to make things bigger and better than previous times. For sure this lineup is bigger, and the production will be slicker. No doubt the same will be said about the next one, however, so no, there’s no pressure.”
Encouraging words for the future, then. This is a festival with something a little different: a host of visual and audio delights to ensnare the senses, smack-bang in the centre of Town, and at £12 a ticket it’s as good as a free gig. You know what to do…
After bumping into three-quarters of Undersmile who by their own admission were now “on a band outing”, it was time for tea, and also to enjoy half an hour with our “Pressed out” esteemed UK Editor. As Diego Costa massacred a defender’s facial features (odd that…) on the big screen, the magnificent Old Bar provided wondrous sustenance in the form of a chilli dog, death burger and storming IPAs for just around £15.00.
This was all damaged in time to witness one of the final showings of the majestic Altar of Plagues, a band still vital, still relevant, always adored and fully compelling. The Blackened Industrial outfit caused the first real queue into Eyesore, testament to the appeal of the Irishmen who showed with mind-blowing creativity and a little more action (plus a real drummer) what C.R.O.W.N. could have achieved. It was almost impossible to see through the – yes, you guessed it – ridiculous light display, but the drama that the Boys infused into all by the inflections of their riffs was impossible to ignore. Leaning on the cabs of the mixing desk it’s staggering to see the calm yet assured way mixers Johnny and Harry help to make this all sound so dynamic: indeed, as the impossibly youthful James Kelly issues a subtle “cheers Leeds”, you’re nevertheless almost unsure who to watch next. Especially as there were no flashing lights emanating from the lesser-known duo…the swell of the closing coda was a fitting climax to a blinding set in more ways than one.
The second journalist to take the stage today, Nick Ruskell’s Witchsorrow plied forth their ElectricWizard-esque Doom which, though musically strong and ripping through the packed room, is not augmented by Ruskell’s limited vocal and rather unimaginative stage banter [PQ].
Solstafir at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Last year, Icelandic post-rockers Solstafir walked away with all the (non-Bolt Thrower) plaudits, with the second stage unable to contain their emotive, powerful epics, punters locked out and the room filled to bursting. Invited back to sprinkle their magic dust over the main stage, once again Aðalbjörn Tryggvason holds Leeds University effortlessly in the palm of his hands, their beautiful, lapping, and pervasive striking hymns swirling and rapturously received [ST]
Amenra at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Listening to Colin van Eeckhout, however, is like listening to a tormented angel. First harmonising in Benedictinestyle, then screaming in twisted agony. Barefoot and in shorts, he sprang as the incredible Amenra reduced the hall violently to tears in an instant; Eeckhout facing backwards, bounding and screaming maniacally whilst vast swathes of post-Black Metal crashed about him. There were few flashing lights here: just a black-and-white backdrop flickering between speeding clouds, rippling water and Flanders fields-style explosions. The drama, the mysticism, was as potent as the sparing chords shimmering from the guitars of the frankly alarming Levy Seynaeve: van Eeckhout’s head bowed, the aching wounds apparent in the ensuing screams. Halfway through ‘Nowena 9|10’, he spun and faced us ever so briefly, and the image was complete. Subsequently removing his t-shirt as he knelt toward the drums for the unnerving ‘Boden’, the tension and empathy could be touched. Shattered, spent bodies were somehow stood absorbing every last increase of sound. All bar the knelt, bowed body of the greatest living ball of intensity I’ve ever encountered.
Amenra were beyond moving and I’m unashamed to say that I was violently sobbing as I rocked back and forth with the troubling yet transcendent experience.
Robbie is in his fifties, and took his security role seriously yet with a degree of deadpan which endears him to the punter. “There’s never any bother here. Well, apart from it killing mi legs” he reflected with a cheeky yet droll sarcasm. Directing entry to both the Terrorizer and ‘Mine areas, it was an intense yet obviously enjoyable role for him.
Meanwhile, at ‘Mine, it was hard misfortune that saw arguably the UK’s best Occult Doom band slotted in between two of the best live draws in World metal, and clashing with High On Fire. As a result, the dungeon was half-full for a crushing set from The Wounded Kings. An atmospheric experimentalism married with a pulverising groove, Steve Mills’ solos were a real breath of air whilst George Birch’s oscillating vocal is almost unique, Pete Steele-like; his guitar squealing, his shapes mesmeric, the man has grown into a consummate frontman. It was great to see the two old friends duelling together in what is now a real unit, with closing track ‘The Message’ a whirling mass of pulsating noise.
Primordial at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
And so to the Greatest Band in the World™. Certainly, surely, the greatest frontman. It’s staggering that there’s room at all to get in to see Primordial, but thank the Heavy Metal Gods that there were a few slivers for a chubby dude to slip in to. “We meet again!” hollers Nemtheanga after a rapturously received ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’, and once more a rapt throng is in the palm of his hand – if there was ever any doubt. ‘Babel’s Tower’ saw a worshipping collective almost motionless as they dropped on every word, every dramatic itonation, every plaintive act of defiance, every indelible scream. “Everywhere I look I see old friends” uttered a typically effusive Alan Averill, subsequently leading the audience participation of ‘As Rome Burns’, a powerhouse which grabbed all in roared intonations. The euphoric yet moving ‘Wield Lightning to Split the Sun’ had Averill beckoning and clawing his belly with wrought passion, asking the usual question: “Are You With Us?!”
Primordial at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
As ever, as One, we were.
As is always the case, the closing band on the ‘Mine stage was half-attended. As always it was a big miss for the ovine hordes. Tonight 40 Watt Sun were minimalist, light yet crushing, and utterly heartbreaking. This band transcends Doom heaviness, Post musicality, Shoegaze emotion, and Folk personification, to create a chilled yet pained entity which simultaneously relaxed and tweaked every synapse and demanded to be heard and enjoyed. Patrick Walker delicately strummed his guitar, whilst his edgy Folk voice shattered the soul with its poignancy. And still, people didn’t shut the fuck up. The delight is that new songs were being played, the second of which – if Walker’s hushed whisper is to be correctly interpreted – was called ‘Beyond You’. It’s arguable whether such pared-back, Funereal balladry belongs at such an event, but not for the lachrymose souls like myself and what seems like most of the Belgian contingent, one of whom tells me to ‘Ssh’ quite vehemently as I’m instructing a fellow watcher to do the same; go figure… ‘Carry Me Home’ was received like a long lost friend and intoned lovingly and emotionally; there was a growing fear that the early finish was permanent before the trio returned to deliver a hackle-raising ‘Restless’ which, in true ’Queen in Rio’ fashion, was sung emotionally and lustily to Walker for the most poignant, tear-inducing end to a night I’ve ever been a part of [PQ].
The reason for the thinner crowd than deserved for 40 Watt Sun? A triumphant conquering from Swedish legends, and festival headliners, At The Gates; a barnstorming non-stop roil of jagged riffs and powerhouse anthems spilling forth in a slew of genuine metal classics. Liberally sprinkling the set with visits to last years At War With Reality (Century Media) showed the newest addition to their canon more than holds its own in the presence of greatness.
And if you wanted extreme metal greatness, you got it. ‘Death And The Labyrinth’ begat ‘Slaughter Of The Soul’ running headlong into ‘Cold’ in a set opening par excellence and par violence, matched only when ‘Under A Serpent Sun’ vomited into ‘Windows’ into a vitriolic ‘Suicide Nation’. Elsewhere ‘Nausea’ brought the sickness, and ‘The Book Of Sand’, amongst others, crushed as ATG delivered their strongest live performance on these sceptre isles since reforming.
As the beers (by now the in-venue piss of Red Stripe) flowed as quickly as the riffs, an encore of ‘Blinded By Fear’ and an unbelievably scything ‘Kingdom “Fucking” Gone’ devastated, before the fuck you of ‘The Night Eternal’ sent the throng home sated in HEAVY metal brilliance. [ST]
At The Gates at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Damnation is always one big rush: for fan, organiser, band member, reviewer, and every one of those wonderful unsung heroes that help to run the day. That situation is made worthy by the realisation of the anticipation: all of the friendships forged throughout the day; the fan rubbing shoulders and glasses with the performer; the scribe meeting old friends in the form of fellow scribes, interviewees and Legends. For all of the magical days on a Metal fan’s calendar, there aren’t many to compare with the sheer enjoyment and camaraderie of this first Saturday in November. Amenra didn’t so much steal this one as clutch it to their fractured breasts for all eternity, but there were many more acts making this one so special. This has to be the greatest value-for-money exercise around right now, and the small but heroically dedicated band of organisers has left itself one massive, collective headache to work out how to match this for next year [PQ].
At The Gates at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Half an hour after doors opened to the latest instalment of what is surely one of Europe’s premier indoor Metal festivals, my gig buddies and I witnessed a spotty oik giving lip to a (albeit somewhat intolerant) doorman; meanwhile, one or two of said security bod’s less experienced colleagues were being unnecessarily stringent in barring perfectly acceptable entries to the Leeds university Old Bar. Youth, it would seem, is not always the desirable status us old’uns seem hell-bent on recreating…
The King Is Blind at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
As if to prove a point, the experienced boys of Colchester’s The King Is Blind ripped the Terrorizer stage a new one with their Blackened Death Doom hybrid and, in doing so, gave Damnation2015 a fiery opening. The initial crowd had bred tenfold by the end of opener ‘Devoured’, and it was obvious from frontman Stephen John Tovey’s grinning visage that this was as enjoyable for the protagonists. Tovey threw horns with gay abandon and the band produced drops with the weight of a crash of rhino. New track ‘Genesis Refracted’ was lapped up by a crowd which needed a little time to get going, but eventually whipped up a small but vicious ‘pit’.
Undersmile at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Undersmile had the crowd to themselves in the day’s only ‘non-clash’ slot on the Electric Amphetamine (referred to as the ‘Mine), third, stage, and every note of their shuddering Grunge Drone splintered bone. The screamed “Swim on” refrain of set opener ‘Atacama Sunburn’ disembowelled, the bewitching defiled dolls Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown holding court whilst rhythm partners Olly Corona-Brown and Tom McKibbin waited to deliver the crush. A snaking, pulverising ‘Sky Burial’ concluded a hypnotising yet visceral set and surely gained this prepossessing quartet more fans in the process.
Wiegedood at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
The first offering of three from the Belgian ‘Church of Ra’, Wiegedood’s blackened assault packed out the second stage, no doubt partly due to the Amenra connection, but that doesn’t take away from the deeply meaningful assault; whereas our first visit to the Eyesore saw the fiddle-graced Post-Rock of Talons compel a sizeable throng, and my first encounter with the dreadfully affecting, strobing lights.
Beer was flowing freely in the University’s Terrace bar so it was somewhat surprising to see ‘Jack and Alice’s storming burger joint doing less well. Guys, the cheese and bacon special was to die for…!
Positively shocking was the crush to get to see relatively unknown Kent outfit Ohhms at ‘Mine: two minutes into their set showed the reason. Their bluesy, low-end Reef-esque workout was injected with added spice by vocalist Paul Waller whose mad barefoot ‘surfing’ was the Heavy world’s Bez / Ian Brown hybrid. Captivating, dangerous, infectiously active, the whole band created one of the festival’s most talked-about sets.
Voices at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
French duo C.R.O.W.N. sought to wrest that mantle but their nevertheless atmospheric, Industrial post-Sludge was lacking in movement. Their hypnotic beats graced by static imagery it was a creative and sonically violent set, lazy yet striking, and musically brilliant which almost switched attention from the lack of stage presence – and those fucking lights that also plagued a dramatic set from Voices, for whom the Akercocke spin-off tag was firmly banished by the incredible London (Candlelight); their technical darkness holding the room in its thrall despite missing a certain mobility. Over at Jӓgermeister the Church of Ra’s second offering was laying waste: Oathbreaker’s Blackened Hardcore onslaught drew a huge crowd; vocalist Caro Tanghe leading a frantic, animated delivery.
Sea Bastard at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
It would have been interesting to see if Sea Bastard would have filled the main room, as ‘Mine was utterly rammed for the eleventh-hour replacement for Black Tusk. This is a band of implosive power, Oli Irongiant’s lofty stature possibly the only thing to dwarf the power of The Riff, and let rip with the set of the day to this point. Oppressive, the shudders displaced vertebrae along with Monty’s coruscating rasp, while Steve Patton and George Leaver based rhythms that would have crushed Everest. Never has the world seen a guitarist who feels every chord like Oli: grimacing, building the riff with sways of his giant body, his roars needed no microphone. Monty’s dreadlocks hung from his face like the monstrous sea creature they portray during forthcoming track ‘The Hermit’, the rare faster sections still trampling most other acts to dust.
maybeshewill at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
In complete contrast to Vreid’s vicious yet occasionally inventive Black assault over at Terrorizer, Maybeshewill have decided they’ve been peddling their melodic heaviness for long enough and that’s a great shame. With more than a nod to the likes of Sigur Ros they packed out the notorious left upper room and left few dry eyes in the process: their sound icicle-cold yet sweet, nostalgic and heavy, their effusive thanks incredibly moving. Closing one’s eyes and allowing the pulses of light and utterly heart-breaking sound to wash over the head, it was easy to underestimate the fact that 40 Watt Sun was still to come.
The brittle beauty of the outgoing quintet’s melodic sweep seems apt for the story of Jim Willumsen, once of The Wounded Kings and the late, great Ishmael, now doing his fifth festival of the year as a fan. A protagonist of my favourite-ever gig, he is nevertheless happy with his lack of band involvement for now. “It gives me a chance to see loads of different stuff” said this quiet legend of the low-end. It’s also a fitting soundtrack for a meeting with Ian Davis, as former drummer of Grimpen Mire another crucial ingredient of that night and still mourning his former bandmate Paul van Linden, outside the room.
The Ocean at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
The Ocean came complete with cellist and a whole host of atmospherics, aided by my Bee 17 hybrid lager which, at £4:00 for a coke-sized can, seemed steep but it was a very pleasant change from the swill usually found at such events. This all embellished the German ensemble’s largely Prog effect but also contrasted superbly with the harsher elements of their sound. Jӓgermeister’s main stage was suitably packed, making it hard to believe there was a capacity cut for this year, but their set in 2013 benefited more from the vantage points of this year’s Terrorizer room. Ghold’s appearance at ‘Mine didn’t attract the numbers that previous bands had brought to that area but their darkened doom, like a Death-riddled Conan, rattled already battered heads. The inclusion of a guitarist gave their live presence another, more beneficial dimension to that on record.
Ghold at Damnation Festival 2015. Photo Credit: Rich Price
Merely to read the above line evokes Film Noir or a seedy novel. Yet, from the mouth of Dorthia Cottrell, it is a resigned, dreamy incantation to the skies. The hookline to ‘Two Urns’, the opening track from Richmond Doom quintet Windhand’s third album Grief’s Infernal Flower (Relapse), drifts across the band’s trademark fuzzing, mind-crushing furrow like a mellow breeze.
This new venture possesses even more of the languid infectiousness evident on second album Soma (Relapse Records): Garrett Morris’ and Asechiah Bogdan’s riffs deceptively fluid and versatile; Ryan Wolfe’s cascading stickwork simplistic yet mind-blowing. It could almost be anachronistic yet sounds so vital, blending elements from the edgy Indie-Folk of Kristin Hersh with the Proto-power of Sabbath and the violent boundings of Soundgarden. As the bewitching centrepiece, full of mystic escapism, it’s easy to fix on Cottrell as the figurehead: yet the trance-like delivery is merely the most noticeable element of a unit as one, fully invested in its resonant creation.
The ensuing ‘Forest Clouds’ appears indolent yet gradually gains natural emotion and shuddering power: a slow, pulsing groove, made all the more seductive by those rising, subtly roared intonations and phenomenal rolls and fills from Wolfe. Despite the overriding Occult feel, these lazy, crushing waltzes reek of the insouciant yet bilious depression of Grunge, from that occasionally zoned-out drawl to the grimy riffs and plaintive, oscillating solos. The mournful acoustics of Soma reappear also: the intro to the dropped-out, Nirvana-like fuzz of ‘Crypt Key’ paving the way for the gorgeous, tragic smokiness of ‘Sparrow’ and heartbreaking closer ‘Aition’.
Parker Chandler’s pulverising notes add weight to the calming heaviness of ‘Hyperion’ while the crawling terror of the epic ‘Hesperus’, packing a sinister punch to dwarf Electric Wizard and with some deliciously drifting harmonies, develops a nasty quality which surprisingly suits the sound. The similarly lengthy ‘Kingfisher’, meanwhile, features switching rhythms and melodies evocative of The Wounded Kings: the howling, pedal-affected solos and atmospheric ambience reflecting the Devon fivesome’s invention.
At over 70 minutes long this is a typically ambitious Windhand offering. It is also undeniably ‘them’ yet something has happened here; an unsettling event or rite of passage, propelling this captivating outfit to the stars without drastically changing their identity. In doing so it has enabled the band to create its most sombre, hypnotic, emotive and supreme piece of work.
These days the London borough Camden is mostly just a tourist trap; full of tourists, and overpriced beer. It is, however, still home to some quality venues, and is the perfect place to let Desertfest UK take over for a weekend of stoner rock in all its forms. Special thanks go out to Jessica Lotti Photography for sharing her images of the weekend with our readers.
Opening the proceedings over at the Electric Ballroom is Icelandic trioThe Vintage Caravan.Boasting some decent rock star shapes on stage, front man/guitarist Óskar Logi Ágústsson clearly has an affinity for the late 60s/early 70s, delivering a boogie-filled set full of riffs and jams Jimi Hendrix and Cream would be proud of. A nearly full Ballroom is bouncing long before their set is over.
Over at the Jazz Café’s Prog stage, London five-piece Sumer aren’t afraid to show off their love of Tool. Clearly a talented bunch with a talent for combining thick riffs, vocal melodies and subtle dynamics all into one crunching ball. Unfortunately, while they fill the stage with numbers there’s not a lot of stage presence. But their debut album, The Animal You Are, is well worth checking out if you like your post/progressive metal.
The Black Heart boasts not only the best range of beers and ales Desertfest has to offer, but also the sweatiest venue. A tightly packed and perspiration–drenched throng squeeze in for the excellently-named Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus. The Swedish quartet deal in retro-psychedelic stoner and deliver an enjoyable set of classic rock, but their secret weapon is the wailing vocals of Karl Apelmo. Not a million miles away from the Scorpion Child’s Aryn Jonathan Black, he lifts decent music to something a lot more impressive.
Next up are Ten Foot Wizard, who deliverone the best sets of the weekend. Sporting some glorious Hawaiian shirts, the Mancunians take an already hot and sweaty venue into even wetter territorywith their blend of dirty, fuzzy riffs and good time rock’n’roll. The band clearly know how to have fun on stage and that translates into one of the liveliest crowds of the entire festival. Mixing riffs of Clutch and early Queens of the Stone Age with a dirty groove of Alabama ThunderPussy, chuck in some megaphones, Theremin solos and songs about tits, and you’ve got a winning combo. TFW are a hoot and far better than their (fairly decent) debut record Return to the Infinite suggests.
Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band, by Jessica Lotti Photography
After such a party, returning to the cool and spacious Ballroom for Brant Bjork is something of a comedown. The set is full of quality tunes drawn mainly from his latest album, Black Power Flower, but the chilled out desert rock vibe, combined with a fairly static performance from Bjork – with his Low Desert Punk Band in tow – is kind of underwhelming. Bjork’s solo material is severely under-rated, but the former Kyuss drummer’s laid back style fails to really the get juices flowing.
Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band, by Jessica Lotti Photography
Opening Sunday is Belgian psychedelic rockers Moaning Cities at The Purple Turtle. Sporting funky dance moves and the only sitar of the weekend, this Belgian outfit combine hypnotic atmospheres with 60s psychedelic pop and still manage to make a lot of noise. Trippy, intense, loud, and not a bad way to start the Sabbath.
Over at Koko, we’re treated with back-to-back instrumental bands with Karma in their name, but very different approaches. German four piece My Sleeping Karma do their best to create an atmosphere; employing eerie visuals [which unfortunately didn’t seem to be working right for much of the set] with soundscapes that create a nice audio-visual experience that’s easy to get lost in. It’s almost the opposite of Karma to Burn’s approach. The US power trio only deal in thunderous noise, punching their way through sonically crushing set that pounds your eardrums repeatedly for 60 minutes. There’s no subtly, but it is invigorating and gets and keeps the crowd’s attention throughout. This is how instrumentals bands should be done; Guitarist William Mecum is a one man riff machine that’s few on words but has stage swagger that makes up for the lack of verbatim, while drummer Evan Devine is an absolute powerhouse.
Karma To Burn, by Jessica Lotti Photography
It’s not all quality however. Despite hailing from Hampshire, XII Boar really, really wish they were from the deep south of the US. The trio’s bland brand of cowboy metal is a concoction of groove, whiskey-soaked “YEAAAH!”s and unsubtly-recycled Pantera riffs. The kind of racket you’d expect at a keg party in a Bam Margera video, it’s really, really, really dumb fun at best, and a poor man’s Hellyeah at worst. The Underworld, meanwhile, has been wasted as stage dedicated to originally NWOBHM bands such as Quartz and Angel Witch along with a bunch of thinly-veiled tribute acts. Londoners Amulet fall unashamedly into the latter category. Sporting tight denim, bad moustaches and the Iron Maiden riff-book, Amulet definitely aren’t cool, but they clearly don’t care. An over-abundance of enthusiasm and a decent selection of riffs & solos ripped off from the likes of Maiden, Diamond Head and Angel Witch means by the end of the set it’s hard to dislike them. Painfully original, but harmless fun.
Back at the Purple Turtle, there’s a double bill of Doom. Despite some initial sound troubles, Sweden’s The Order of Israfel combine classic Black Sabbath-esque 70s doom with an almost Thin Lizzy-like appreciation of twin leads and guitar solos to create something evilly epic on a medieval scale. The Wounded Kings, by contrast are a bit of a let-down. Despite being chronically heavy on riffs, they’re surprisingly light on songs. They might be able to rattle the foundations of the building with the same kind of Earth shattering reverb as Electric Wizard, but vocalist George Birch is lost in the mix and things never really go as far as entertaining.
Sleep, by Jessica Lotti Photography
It wouldn’t be a proper stoner festival without the riffs of the mighty Matt Pike, and with Sleep he delivers spades of them. The stoner legends were under-appreciated during their original run but a rammed Koko goes crazy for ‘Dragonaut’, while new song ‘The Clarity’ get a rapturous response. More involved in their own playing than the audience, the band stomp through barely ten songs with no encore in an hour and a half set, but there no complaints. The likes of ‘DopeSmoker’ and ‘Holy Mountain’; manage to be both crushingly heavy, yet at the same time hypnotizing. An appropriate ending for a weekend of Black Sabbath-and-bong worshipping.
With Roadburn having just ended last weekend, the season for European music festivals is here Joining the ranks of it’s better known sister festival in Germany, Desertfest UK is fast becoming one of the best events in the world. The event will take place from April 24th-26th at stellar venues in London such as: The Electric Ballroom, Koko, The Underworld, The Black Heart, The Jazz Cafe and the Purple Turtle Especially if you pray to at the altar of the riff almighty, the subsonic tones of sludge and just a rocking good time in general, this fest is for you. The weekend passes are already sold-out, further proving the attraction these line-ups will bring.
Friday kicks things off in the early afternoon with up and comers Torpor leading off. Likely the best afternoon band of any day of the fest will be Floor at the Electric Ballroom. Following them will be The Atomic Bitchwax, and headliners Electric Wizard and the mighty Red Fang. The Underworld is host to grimmer acts such as Dopethrone, Agrimonia, Black Cobra, Minsk, and Noothgrush. Also not to be missed on Friday are comeback kings End of Level Boss. They are always super fun live!
Saturday has a super doom and sludge infection in the form of Vintage Caravan, Sex Swing, Pale Horse, Black Pyramid, Lo Pan, Anthromorph, Obake, Ten Foot Wizard, Hang the Bastard plus Brant Bjork And Low Desert Punks. EyeHateGod continues their return to Europe, promising another brutal set.
Adding to the awesomeness of Saturday is the fests first prog stage, led by Amplifier, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, I am The Morning, Landskap and others. This is really momentous for the fest and hopefully it becomes a regular thing in years to come.
Sunday will bring things to a boil with more underground bands Amulet, Quartz Cancer, Sallie, Witch Hazel, SSS, The Wounded Kings, and Angel Witch amongst many others. Of course the headliner Sleep might be half the draw for the weekend, as well as Ufomammut, Karma To Burn, and Acid King. With official after show every night of the fest, this promised to be a non-stop jamming party the whole time.