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 →
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.
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: