with the dead
Ah, practical luxury to ease us into the day, with hot showers, coffee and cooked breakfast on the campsite, a supermarket 5 minutes up the road for our refreshment supplies, the good life.
Apart from the few inches of hail. A stroll into the main venue for the first “experience” of the day, Diamanda Galas. From the States but of Greek roots, there are classical conventions to the amazing operatic voice and the grand piano the she sits at to play, lit by a solo spotlight, but these are put through a blender of avant garde experimentation which is why Roadburn have got her in. And once you’re in you’re in, as access/egress is limited to between the songs to heighten the intensity and focus of the atmosphere. There’s a big exodus after the first song. It is pretty… challenging, she seems to be channelling old blues singers interspersed with a bit more wailing, but then a cover of Johnny Cash’s “25 minutes” blows me away. I don’t quite last to the end as I walk out past the motionless conga line of the Steve Von Till queue to go to the smallest venue, Cul de Sac, to ensure my place for Alkerdeel who were a stunning revelation with their intense post/black metal when I saw them here previously. Fine, I’m in their sound checking but then I spot their brand new album only available from today so I take a copy off to safe storage to return to find a queue of 50 people outside and no prospect of getting back in any time soon. A bit gutted with my foolish vinyl greed but I have fine consolation in going to see Repulsion on the main stage instead. I’ve seen the oldest of the old school death metallers a couple of times before and it’s a pretty consistent groovy blast of filthy riffing. A wry smile when they introduce a song as “This is an old one” when they have always been trading on one 30 year old album, but a bonus treat when they throw in a dedication and cover of Motorhead’s “The Hammer”.
With serendipity I go through to the Green Room to catch the retro-rockers Death Alley firing up with a familiar rumbling Rickenbacker bass intro which turns out to be a something like 10 minute psychedelic version of “Motorhead” itself, perhaps more akin to the Hawkwind version but still a thing of beauty. I also enjoy the irresistable charm of their own “Black Majick Boogieland” before heading back through to the main stage for to join With The Dead. This is the new project for the legend of Coventry and beyond Mr Lee Dorrian, ex. of Napalm Death and Cathedral, who is also the curator of this day on the main stage, inviting his eclectic pick of bands together under the title of “Rituals of the Blind Dead” and the boy has done well. He’s joined by two ex-Electric Wizard/Ramesses guys and they have definitely kept that vibe going, colossal reverberating filthy grooves of doom, a relentless hypnotic nod while Lee shimmies to and fro on stage to a curious back projection of scenes of sex, drugs and general bleakness, The music is monstrous, the pleasure palpable.
After a brief breather to catch a little Terzij de Horde ripping through some raw black metal from the back of a packed Ecstase, I return to catch Lee at the bar at the main stage and renew acquaintance from the old days of Wrexham Memorial Hall, thank him for his efforts here, and both share our excitement at his next invites here, G.I.S.M. The connection and friendship made touring Japan with Napalm decades ago has been enough to persuade this seminal (and typically mental) example of the Japanese hardcore punk to do their first gig in some 13 years, and their first ever out of their native land. This opportunity has drawn in punks from all over just for the day, maybe just for the band and it certainly inspires the some pit madness which is pretty rare in these mellow surroundings. They sound absolutely great, far better than some of their frankly ropey recordings, I’d hope they put out some recording of this mammoth set. The guys still maintain a great stage presence, especially the vocalist agitatedly pacing the stage with an expression like someone’s just pissed on his chips. Much fun, and mind melted by a back projection of some badly drawn karma sutra animation amongst other stuff!
Some socialising and merchalising (meeting a Brazilian who’d come here after work, from Brazil…) before going to catch one of the oldest of the U.S. doom bands, Pentagram. Singer Bobby remains a legend and a very gymnastically fit one for all his venerable years (ponder on whether he does yoga with my new American friend from Humbolt County), they have a superb fuzzed up guitar tone and I get to catch on of my favourites of theirs “All your sins” early on as a bit like last time I caught them here, they don’t seem to have enough to sustain my interest for a whole set, but I leave a full main room who are happy. I’m again through to next door for one of the farewell shows from the garage rockers Peter Pan Speedrock. The last time we were up in their face with no stage and 40 people in The Compass in Chester but with a bit more distance and more than ten times that number here it’s still a great, messy, rocking shindig. There’s obviously a lot of their friends here to say goodbye too with much banter, flying beers and pit party. And some great hard hitting groovy tunes. To finish there’s no chance of getting in to Patronaat to see the 10 piece Ulfsmessa gathering of the Icelandic black metal contingent with added drones and ritual and The Skull (Trouble connected) on the main stage are a bit too mellow and routine for me, so it’s time for a rest, as we are only half way though…
peter pan speedrock