After our lengthy expeditioning and no let up with the bands of the previous day it took a few false starts to actually summon the energy and will power to return for more on the Friday. But it was another sunny day and therefore I could fool myself that I was having some civilised cultural holiday as I wandered back to get the cobwebs, the spiders, and probably a few layers of skin blasted away by the feral black metal onslaught of Iceland’s Svartidaudi (above).
They had probably been the clincher for me to come back this year when they were announced, as they had stunned me even in the broad sunshine at Hell’s Pleasure previously and here in the darkened chamber of the Green Room it was another descent into the maelstrom of epic, harsh dissonance and relentless brutality. Really on top of their game in not limiting themselves to conventions in such a confined genre, so much goes on that the head spins, but there’s a vision here delivered with precision. They are the first representatives of the Houses of the Holistic “curated” day, where Enslaved and Wardruna frontmen have been invited to select a line up, and more Icelandic representation with Solstafir are next in the main room. In a way, they were as expected as for all the occasional heavy riffing they are much more about expansive drifting atmospheres and this has not really clicked for me although their new album in particular has been raved about. Instead I have the happy revelation of Peppo Kappi and K:H:H:L (below)at the for once quiet Stage 01, while not normally a fan of Finnish folk-stylings when its warped and transformed enough to resemble some dub version of Hawkwind I am intrigued and smiling. Centred on the traditional jouhikko bowed lyre but also with homemade two string bass and guitar, they are apparently playing ancient songs that fit with the theme of the curation, but mixed with the contemporary beats to become transcendental.
Church of black metal calls me again for Germany’s Der Weg Einer Freiheit, recently signed to Season of Mist and a real rising force in blistering intensity. I don’t think the sound mix is the best this time but it still remains very impressive and progressive, in some ways they are slightly overshadowed by the other black metal of the highest standard here this weekend. Time to go goff with a first opportunity to see Fields of the Nephilim (above), playing two sets over the weekend. While I still love Sisters of Mercy for Floodland and have an itch to see them despite mixed reports on their current value I was nowhere near as familiar with what to expect here. What I got was something satisfyingly similar though, as opening up with classic tracks like “Dawn Razor” and “Moonchild” did demonstrate well the driving power of their gloomy rock. I left early for another repeat show over at Het, Eyehategod (below)back up closer and personal for an even better set in this environment. Frontman Mike was on form and guitarist Jimmy Bower was in good humour too, nice interaction all round to draw people into their swampy mix of sludge metal and rabid punk.
For something completely different, how about the ten piece of Norse spiritual music that is Wardruna? The complex, layered and building songs are stirring and anthemic, with main man Einar an image of focussed possession within the ways of old. And where else can you see two musicians gainfully employed tapping out rhythms on a four foot length of silver birch? With up to six of them, male and female, singing choir like together at times it has a really evocative, genuine feel, and the fact that they are working on music for the new Vikings TV series may even bring them to a wider audience. Inspires me on a quest anyway as I first head over to catch a bit of the old school UK psych heads The Heads at Het, I chose to get higher and watch them from the balcony chill out spot with its carpeted/padded walls. Some really solid Krautrock freakouts with driving beats getting you nodding along, next I was summoned to go and see Lucifer, a newish band but exponents of some more traditional occult rock. Enjoyed what I heard but the back of Stage 01 is not the best place to enjoy a gig so instead I went to visit the new venue to me, Cul de Sac, which is now the 5th stage of the festival. It does indeed have a stage, but this is in an hollow at the back of a busy pub so my non-early arrival for the progressive, crusty post-metal of Germany’s Downfall of Gaia meant I could listen to their structured atmospheres from a distance with no prospect of actually seeing them. Hence I swung back round to the main stage to catch some of co-headliners/curators Enslaved’s (below)first set, and was pleasantly surprised by them putting in some dark aggression in their metal as opposed to the more Pink Floyd orientated prog metal that has seemed to imbue some of their more recent releases.
Still, their efforts in heaviness are all relative and can’t really be criticised when someone like me can find greater twisted pleasure in going to have my world shaken to pieces by Profetus (above). The Finnish funeral doom band are over in the church, and orchestrate such a procession of somnambulant steamrolling riffs and guttural vocal rumbles, interspersed with sombre keyboard passages and moments of haunting, whispering stillness. It’s pretty stunning, majestic, and still engaging even at the snailpace. Getting us towards the end of the day now and I make a better, successful effort to get into Cul de Sac early and catch Mortals (below)from the front. The intimate atmosphere of this cosy club venue seems to suit the urban raw and diverse metal that these New York Inhabitants have hit the ground running with, their recent “Cursed to see the future” album on Relapse being well received. There’s black, punk, doom and death metal battered together into their energetic onslaught, and the drummer is a delight to see how much she puts into and gets out of playing.
There’s enough time for me to catch some of Skuggsja (above), which is the collaborative culmination of this curated day, with Wardruna and Enslaved playing a contemporary twist on a Norwegian history through music. It was a piece written for the 200th anniversary of the country’s constitution and as such a classical composition not far removed from the Wardruna catalogue, the Enslaved part of the partnership bringing more heaviness through the guitars. Good but I sidle to the side room for the more conventional Skeletonwitch (below), raging metal from the States. This is full on headbanging death thrash with more of a nod to old school ways, well, maybe 40 years back as opposed to 200. Different singer to when I’d last seen them, maybe not quite as much as a presence but my neck is sore and my spirits are high as I return home to find that has moved in the meantime, must be something to do with the snailpace.