Still buzzing from my Roadburn trip, another expedition to Leeds offered a come-down/top-up of a weekender of a similarly eclectic mix of heaviness, experimentalism and extremity. Maybe not on the same scale as the foreign experience but very much capturing a similar vibe, and definitely with a showcase of the good taste of the organisers in a great selection of bands.
The weekend was off to a positive start with having won a couple of tickets to the event, so picked up my fellow Roadburn survivor Gary late morning and started the party in a suitably Dutch fashion on the way. Arriving at our arranged accommodation with friends over in Leeds, we then indulged in the local delicacy of “shitmix” (whiskey, wine, rum, energy drink and fruit juice, served in a casserole dish) then it was downhill or sideways all the way to the venue. Slightly late arrival matched the slightly late start so we got to enjoy openers Irk, three local lads who also have some involvement in Cattle who I’d seen here before. Some similarities, especially with it being bass driven, no guitar, angular post-punk style but the clanking heaviness reminding of latter day Godflesh at times. The singers delivery was an almost stream of twisted, anguished consciousness and they definitely had a striking sound.
False Flags next, some pretty aggressive metallic hardcore crossover, with a progressive/technical aspect to them but maintaining a groove to their riffs at times too. There were frequent breaks outside with just the one stage hosting the bands, and there was probably as many people “trailer-gate” partying in the “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”, taking shelter from the occasional showers with massive pile-ins and ons in the cars. It was definitely a mixer event, could probably have done with more mixer in the drinks though!
Returned to catch some of Barnsley’s Red Mist Destruction who were a pretty solid, thrashier take on contemporary metal, nothing too spectacular but kept the tempo and the power up. Power overload from perennial troublemakers Sloth Hammer (above) next, with an “intimate” (think Jimmy Saville) performance in one of the upstairs rooms here that would only hold maybe 40 or so. Even with a reduced lineup of 4 from 6 members the half hour ad-libbed slab of relentless chronic doom was one of the best I had heard from them, governed by phenomenal bass tone from Paulie. The lovely, horrible bastards.
Bringing more order and focus to the proceedings on the main stage, the progressive black metal of The Infernal Sea (below), who had impressed me the last time I’d seen them in Liverpool and did one again here. Starting out in plague doctor masks and bathed in sickly smoke the precision of the riffing cut through but they also maintained interest through having some good atmospheric structures and stage presence.
Svalbard (above) from Bristol I’d also been looking forward to catching again too, and there was no worries on any drop of in the intensity of their heartfelt and explosive, crust tinged hardcore. Excellent shared female and male vocals, the punchiness of the music really powers things along too.
The ending of the evening steps up the level of the bands somewhat to provide some genuine appeal for the event as a whole, initially with the dark, disturbing entity that is Undersmile (below). Only a couple of weeks since I had seen the Oxfordshire outfit stunning people over in the Netherlands, this was another satisfying and cathartic ceremony of doom and drone. It may have only consisted of 3 or 4 epic songs to my somewhat addled memory, the stop/start soothing brutality of “Atacama Sunburn” being a particular highlight, but the sum of the parts adds up to more, and each of their shows is an experience.
Don’t know if it was in contrast or due to my worsening condition but the progressive crust of Agrimonia didn’t hit the spot for me with this first time seeing them quite as hoped/expected. Fair play the Swede’s have that nice distorted aggression in their faster sections but where a lot of the set was the slower, post metal aspect it just seemed a bit lifeless. I’ve enjoyed it on record but just didn’t click so much for me tonight, I would give them another chance though to decide for sure.
To close the night a humungous set of filthy sludge from one seminal bands of the genre, Noothgrush (top)from the States, on their first visit to the UK in 18 years. There’s a thousand bands polluting the frequencies in this genre now but there was a sick pleasure to be had in the stripped down, almost retro version provided by these masters. Lumbering riffs and harsh vocals, its plain nasty in the best way and perfectly suits the shambolic mess that a lot of the audience find themselves in as things draw to a close in the early hours. Not me of course, else how would I remember all this stuff for this work of fiction… 😉
It was a sunny day to crawl our way into the pretence of civilisation on the Sabbath for the second round, with the prospect of driving home later tonight I put the brakes on and merely had a little fruit juice with my wine, whisky and Polish lager for brunch. Again, a slightly late start all round meant caught openers AlasBlackArches, pretty decent fast paced technical metal with some strong vocals.
From what I’d heard of Sealclubber (above) in advance I thought their harsh tunes to match the harsh name would be up my street and they certainly were, reminding of early, punky Neurosis while still exploring more drawn out post metal structures. Lammergeier (below)took us back to the black, with some ferocious riffing and an odd contrast between the raw vocals and his demure between songs banter.
Only caught the end of Uncoffined from the North East with their harsh, trudging, distorted doom with vocal from drummer Kat, and then it was something intriguing provided by another Northern band, Formes (below) . Such an off kilter mix of almost prog psychedelic from the three piece but maintaining heavy sections, enhanced by the drummers death growls in contrast to the front man’s clear tones, the masked guitarist ends up playing on a table at the other end of the venue too . Pretty unique, had to pick up their CD, released on the No Fun Intended label.
Another break up to the small room for a very mellow occasion with Fvnerals, from Brighton though I suspect they may originally have sneaked across the Channel from further afield. Achingly beautiful and minimal ambient darkness, with guitar, drums, and keyboard vibes, plus gentle haunting vocals layered in. Built up to a pounding ending which is some small may may have prepared us for the battering black metal onslaught of Ninkharsag (below) down on the main stage. The Scousers just having completed a UK and Ireland tour they are seeming to get tighter than ever, an excellent mix of raw, retro sounds with precise, modern fury, they have just released their debut album and look forward to picking it up.
Sharpened up the impact all the more with another devastating set from locals Liber Necris, their blackened tech death just seethes, really no let up in the aural punishment and pleasure. There’s another cosy/crazy experience upstairs with the welcome return over the Pennines of the three piece grind mayhem of Magpyes. They hadn’t gigged for a year or two but were back with a vengeance, demonstrating a lot of variety in their set and certainly creating a happy, messy atmosphere for the short, sharp, shock they unleashed.
Then we are slowed right back down with Sun Wolf, who drift through atmospheres of post metal, some of it a bit too sluggish and laid back when perhaps I am looking for more live energy to feed off, but they do also have sections with more epic drive to them that hit the spot. To appropriately close the proceedings at last orders, Leeds’ own internationally renowned grind tramps The Afternoon Gentlemen give a local show that has become a rarer occasion now that Smith the drummer has relocated to Switzerland. Concentrating their energies evidently as the precision of the raucous blast attack is spectacular, as well as great fun. Despite having seemed relatively compos mentis when we were discussing medical complaints and vinyl purchases shortly before, the presence of a rapidly diminishing crate of Red Stripe on stage results in hilarious disaster for singer Rich when he collapses over the drumkit. Supreme swirl party in full effect, pick up their forthcoming album and some super strength lager and recreate this in your own home. Adrenaline from the evening just about kept me awake for the trek home.
Top noise action, such a pleasure to discover some really fresh new sounds as well as having more established favourites coming up with the goods yet again. The road to Leeds is paved with fun intentions!