Back once again for the renegade blasters, I re-joined the hard partying cream/scum from around world at our destination of choice, the festival of noisy fun that has got it right on so many levels. With the prospect of some exclusive sets and lots of new discoveries in the world of extreme metal and punk, plus the knowledge of the welcome of the friendship of the scene we dived into our four day portion of death (metal) and debauchery.
one big happy family… of freaks
Arrival on the Wednesday amid the chaos of the Freak Olympics there was an extra treat of an exclusive Gutalax show. The gore grind party animals were supposedly filming for a new dvd and to capture the unique spirit of wholesome fun an impromptu stage had been set up in the middle of the toilets area. Hundreds gathered to savour the flavour and aroma but it was a bit of a shambles even by the expected sloppy standards, but a lot of smiles were raised all the same. The usual themed Wednesday night warm up session was this year dedicated to wrestling. What? Ok, so the bouts conducted in wrestling ring were mildly diverting, amusing to see the range of weapons/props being brought out from underneath, but hardly the best in terms of the theatre. But moving onto wrestling theme bands picked things up and slammed them down no end. First P.P.T.A from Holland, some really energetic old school thrash with the singer in the ring – until he is taken out by a four by two and another guy sings a song, until the original recovers and decks him into the crowd. “Do you ever get that feeling…?” . Ramping up the stakes/fluorescent tubes/barbed wire Eat the Turnbuckle are hardcore across the board. Quite a chaotic heavy crossover set interspersed with loads of over the top commentator and trash talk samples, they also spend a big portion of it taking it in turns to deliver beatings to each other and passer-bys (“Oh my god, the referee’s taken a hacksaw to the forehead!”). It’s a bloodbath but an entertaining one, especially when in Gwar fashion a Donald Trump get his just desserts at the end. With little respite we have the freakshow main exhibit in Selfie the Clown, who despite his endearing campness and manic nervous laughter conducts the most disturbing self abuse I think I’ve seen. The German girl I was sitting with mimed an English word she was searching for to sum up her feelings. “Retching” seemed to sum it up perfectly. Finally we were back over the ring with a bout between two guys hung from ropes and hooks through their backs while attacking each other with staplers and a broom to the balls. And that felt like light relief!
eat the turnbuckle (playing their Trump card)
Dampened spirits with some pretty steady rain throughout the opening full day meant we just had to raise more glasses of spirits for purely medicinal reasons, but the music didn’t let up anyway. Starting fast and furious with tight grinding and blasting from the likes of Kandar and Virulency, we then had some hard hitting older school hardcore punk from Just War, good insistent rhythms. Our UK friends Cancerous Womb then tore things up with their tech death, with seeming a new focus and serious, explosive violence to their riffing, obviously loving being there and inspiring a good pile of bodies on stage too. Nervo Chaos from Brazil we watched from the shelter of the marquee up the back of the battlefield, but they still caught the attention with some dark and raw death metal, then we had the first representatives from Japan, with Palm. They played some fierce metallic hardcore with a load of energy and another stage invasion left the bassist having to play on top of his stack for space. More traditional death excess from Criminal and Skeletal Remains delivered solidly, but while I’d been interested to see the goregrind legends Dead Infection it didn’t grab me too much and I took brief shelter in the beer tent. Ready for a punchy end to the day though as first the punky hardcore of all-star Poison Idea worship from Venomous Concept (get it?). Danny and Shane from Napalm Death, Dan Lilker and Kevin Sharp once of Brutal Truth, all having a great time raging through a raucous set. Incantation I’d seen recently in the states minus a guitarist and being back to full strength now definitely added to their impact, especially with the reverberating doomier sections of their death. What? Shane and Kevin are back again with another revolving door jam band, Lockup. Been some years since I’d seen them with a different lineup but was blown away afresh by the intensity of their grindcore, a highlight for sure, underpinned by the genius of Mr Barker on the drums. It might be a rarity but it’s a pleasure. A first time to catch Toxic Holocaust next with their modern take on harsh thrashing going down a storm, finely crafted set of head banging riff mayhem. After a little bit of a lie-down at someone else’s insistence we finish the night with the Mexican gang warfare of Brujeria. What? Shane on his third set of the evening? The ledge. Although of course it may not have been him as they are all masked up and I’ve probably said too much and will probably end up in a ditch somewhere (again). For all the machete wielding threats and bouncing aggressive grooves and rants they are a great party band to finish. We then mellow out to watch some unlicensed surgery as part of another suspension show before we all have a religious “experience” involving priests and nuns, blood and piss, S & M. Memories that won’t wash away like tears in the rain!
speed! noise! hell! (somewhere in there!)
melt banana sunset
Was looking forward to Friday as the pick of the days and the weather had picked up a bit so we had an early start for Leeds’ Famine, who were in good humour and blasted us with snappy short hardcore violence of their new release “Razzin”, was great to see how many of their patches were already on display. Some super heavy death brutality from the Dutch guys of Korpse, really powerful like the crunch of breaking bones! Around the world next, on the offensive with the rough and ready grind Aussies of Wretch, before Speed! Noise! Hell!, who lets face it could only have been from Japan. The two singers spent virtually the entire time down in the crown in the centre of a circle pit maelstrom while they churned out a 20 minute relentless song of raw hardcore definitive to their country. Great intensity. More from Down Under with Shackles, really impressive progressive, inventive hardcore, lovely bass sound and impassioned vocals, I was straight to pick up their vinyl after. We’re up for a sustained battering now, first to leave their mark are relatively recently reformed old school UK hardcore/d-beat band, Warwound. Riffs they have in spades and ubiquitous vocalist Rat is an engaging front man. Storming stuff, and from the ashes we remember we’ve got the first ever Memoriam gig next. This stripped down death metal comes from the unfortunate Bolt Thrower hiatus as front-man Karl has jammed something second nature in the meantime with their original drummer Andy, plus Frank and Scott from Sacrilege/Benediction. These “experienced” gents seem to be having great fun and to a visual accompaniment of tanks and destruction steamroller us with a set that is familiar and welcome for all its “newness”, throwing in Bolt Thrower and Sacrilege covers just emphasises that. And to top that we have my number one draw here next, Japan’s Deathside. Their first time in Europe, the power of OEF compels them, and despite being out of action for years and without demised founder guitarist Chelsea they put in an uncompromising set of focused/chaotic hardcore that just fills my heart with exuberant joy, don‘t mind me while I throw myself off stage. Hilarious/deadly serious broken English banter from the front-man, and while not as mental as the S.O.B. set from last year, I am super chuffed to have had this opportunity and result once again. Phew. As if the reformation of U.S. grinders Insect Warfare was going to give us any respite, nope. Very much hyped and as I’d missed their one UK tour a treat for me too, they are taut and heavy, proper impact to their violent riffing. The singer takes no prisoners on stage, but they are rapturously received and leave us with an Entombed cover as extra bonus. If your mind wasn’t melting enough let us return one again to the cultural tangent that is Japan, and the glorious insanity of Melt Banana. One man on guitar, one woman on vocals, a shrine of a backline gathered in the middle of the stage, and a mental set of unique electronic grind experimentalism, just so much special. Marvellous entertainment. Why not let things needed to dissolve into entropy some more, Extreme Noise Terror were just the folks to blow things to pieces. Bit of a while hitting the stage, perhaps Dean was lost, but on top form when they did. I’ve seen them a fair bit recently but still enjoy the old gems of punk holocausts rolled out and roared, I was still rocked and jaw dropped when they resurrected an anthem that’s been ethically left aside for decades, the anti-meat “Murder”. Where better to bring it back than this vegan festival. Even bass man Andy takes the opportunity for a stage dive at the end, leaving one of the ever amiable security guys finishing the tune on his instrument. Running out of steam after such a good run of aural exercise, I sit back to have the effective death thrash of Poland’s Vader finish the night for me, even if it’s not the end for many. Disco divas/divers or drunk drum solos, take your pick!
After the devastation that was Friday it was a case of easing in to the last full day of the festival, greeted with familiar blazing heat that burnt the memories of the damp start away. Some fast and furious from Jakubysko and Piss Vortex, the latter impressing me with their sharp precision among swirling dissonance. Both slapped us out of our slumber before War Master’s retro death rumbled the earth, I found the project involving Insect Warfare members more of a Massacre style than the Bolt Thrower worship of their name, but it’s all good in my book. Still time for another silly gore grind party with Exrementory Grindfckers from Germany, who have got the twisted style down to a fine art with their combination of folk metal and grind mayhem. Ending with “The Final Grinddown” is a master stroke for our “United Europe” (tm. Deathside ). Skullhog were also an interesting contrast as the three piece delivered some crushing slow and tortuous sludge, with occasional outbreaks of punky tempo, not your standard fare here but they seemed jovial enough to be included. Spain’s Avulsed raise the temperature higher with a kick ass set of hi-tempo death, before Putrid Pile again prove pretty stunning for a one-man band, the hyper fast gore grind riffs churned out with surgical finesse. Our drinks get mixed once again, shaken and blurred as we have a bizarre rocking party with Sweden’s Gehenna, but their retro stylings are delivered with incredible deadpan humour and they really don’t care, they’re pissed. I sing along to the gem that is “We love alcohol” with gusto. For some reason I’m inspired to the bar then return to catch the end of the ultra-heavy brutal death of Devourment, they are quite devastating if a bit generic for me. When the Finnish grind machine Rotten Sound start their slot with a prepared speech I was thinking it would just be celebrating the festival in general, same as they did when I saw them in Maryland this year. Turns out their drummer had broken his leg in the mud on Thursday and had spent the weekend (when he was back from hospital in plaster!) learning how much of the set he could play with one leg! Unbelievable scenes. So this meant more d-beat than blasting and a shorter set but for the non-drum aficionados (me) it was still a superb set of their charging HM2 filth, such great tones and hard-hitting riffs. Into the night now and more thrash from the German legends Sodom, fired up by an Absinthe shot in the pit (cheers Ste!) they were really entertaining, even throwing in a cover of “The Bird is the Word” to fit into the general craziness, as well as “Iron Fist” with all due respects. Just greatly structured songs that you can’t help banging along too, they are masters at their craft after all these years. Someone else getting to be a refined article now are Cattle Decapitation, the ultra tech death metallers from the States really producing some polished and precise releases recently, with Travis’s vocals a remarkable mix of gruff horror and tortured singing. I think I preferred them in smaller venues for a more intense performance but still a slaying show. Things shift down a gear maybe as we head into the early hours but the UK’s Hellbastard still draw a fervent crowd for their ripper crust, and there’s a really good atmosphere that they create among the metallic punk riffing. Still time for a final revelation with the distorted raging hardcore of Sweden’s Gust, really impress me with their sound and fury but the last couple of gore grinders in Tibosity and Pothead don’t really keep my focus so I get an early night at 3am….
The weather may have been varied but the music was a consistent whirlwind of battering fun. The scale of the festival is perfect to relax and enjoy, get messy and make friends. Can only give thanks all the organisers and crew for their efforts and already can’t wait to see what next year’s treats might be. And I wonder if she’ll be looking out for me…