Knowing the Alma is one of the few surviving rock pubs still going reasonably strong in the face of all austere times, how they manage of the logistics of this FREE all-dayer, now in its third year, is still remarkable. Doom, stoner, sludge and death bands from all over the country, including signed acts, all congregating in sunny Bolton, I think I will join the party. It’s not a massive place anyway so early attendance had been advised and soon enough it was packed. As were the lovely pasties on sale, top scran!
Openers Trollkraft were first on the outside stage, in a shed with the crowd under a tarpaulin in the courtyard, and they were great entertainment, with a steady stomp of their riffs and the almost ululating drone vocals. And (just when you think you’ve seen it all) a doom metal pass-the-parcel game, hilarious! Anticipating the first squash of the alternating inside stage now but it was never impossible to get down to the little stage front area, initially for the Buckfast swigging boys of Atragon. A great retro doom/metal vibe with a large slice of 70’s style, an animated and entertaining singer. An encore of GG Allin’s Bite It You Scum was a crazy hardcore contrast but maybe got us up to speed for a bit of ferocious death metal from After the Abduction back outside. Blistering drums and a nice line in slam beat downs. Back in expecting the excellent Conjurer next but thrown a little as definitely not them, turned out to Garganjua proudly displaying their Leicester City colours, swapping sets due to the others being stuck on the motorway. And whether it was the unexpected or just the fact they were superb they were a revelation of the day and I snapped up their album. A huge mix of epic post metal and funeral doom with some crushingly heavy chugging riffs, topped with some either growling or soaring vocals. No let up as I’d been looking forward to the South Walian’s of Hogslayer, having heard their brutally heavy “Defacer” album recently. Positioning myself close to the PA stack was a bit wincing as they are a focused force of sludge aggression, the frontman alternating between psychotic stares and beaming smiles (and surfing off in to the distance). Great stuff, serious business.
And then we still have the treat of the delayed Conjurer, where once again I find myself squeezed up to the speakers, too late now! Wot’s that you say? Their seamless blend of so many extreme styles seems effortlessly done, but the whole thing is delivered with a furious intensity of a screaming punk heart, especially the bass player getting into our faces. Maybe the traffic had added to that. Bit of a breather so only listened to as opposed to saw Widows, yet seemed well crafted doom with a good shift up in speed occasionally. Strain initially came across as more of a hardcore approach, with a higher pitched vocalist over their sludgy rhythms, but you could also pick up on some excellent Sabbath-isms, especially the bass players Geezer-esque runs. Coming fresh from a wedding suited and booted is exactly the sort of nonsense we expect from locals Foetal Juice, and they created the messiest mosh mess of the day outside with their battering death metal onslaught of riff mayhem. Having just recorded their debut album and graced the second stage at Bloodstock festival they are on excellent form at the moment, there was probably too little time for them to get pissed. Missed Barbarian Hermit but then had the full works of the insanity of Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters. Corpse Paint and tie-dye is an interesting combo, but far from being a comedy turn they actually produced some splendid tripped out doom work-outs, like a happier Electric Wizard. I didn’t recall knowing of Enos before, but they definitely won me straight over with some driving grooves that could have mixed the space rock of Hawkwind with the uptempo stoner of the likes of Fu Manchu, really good, I picked up their split 7”.
Boss Keloid had also just played at Bloodstock but I needed to pace myself to survive longer so sat out the back and felt their rolling sludgy vibes from a distance, lots of folks singing along too so fair play. Scousers Iron Witch I hadn’t caught for some time and their slow trudge sludge trawl with the verbal scrawl of anguished vocals on top was a hypnotic experience, especially with the more expansive last epic they played, pushing their boundaries in many directions. The home town home boys Conan were the headliners outside, took a while to set up and in the meantime we were entertained by the staff trying to empty the bulging roof of water from a sudden downpour, hopefully before it burst in over us all and the equipment. When they did kick in, bathed in green light, it gradually grew to the power we know and love from these guys. Simple repetitive riffs delivered via a reverberating wall of noise, while the echoing ethereal vocals pierce the void from beyond. I haven’t heard their newest release “Revengeance” but the title track was a beast, mixing the doom with some charging power. With a bigger set and a return to the nodding devastation my energy was sapped so decided to leave before Ohhms, having seen them before, but that didn’t detract from a great day’s celebration of putting fingers to frets. And for free!
Cheers! (Foetal Juice)