The last time I was in Brighton I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, on a camper van holiday of England with my family. I can recall playing a game of plastic bowls on the green at the front with my younger sister, our parents watching from a distance from the van, when there was a suddenly a boisterous gaggle of punks upon us asking for a game. They were just having a laugh, there was no malice there, and they rolled on soon enough after no doubt alarming my folks, but I can still picture the mohawks and dye, the black and the badges, the crazy gang. Who knows what early impression this made on me, and sent me down this slippery cider ski slope I have ended up on?!?
Anyway, a long time and a long way to return, but the prime reason justified was for the adventure and the chance to catch the crushing post metal of Amenra (above) doing a UK exclusive, supported by an interesting selection of UK bands. The festival was a three dayer but the mix of metal on the Friday and Saturday was collectively less appealing to me, so instead I recharged my druid powers with a stop off in Avebury to break the journey, meaning we could get to our destination late morning to be set up for a midday start. Stayed at the Bow Street Runner pub, recommend in its own right, and then a pleasant preamble along the front with some pre-drinks before finding the venue. Tucked into the archway spaces under the main road along the front, it’s nice and dark and dingy, primarily a dance club I think so top notch PA system and laid back/uninterested security. Rip-off drink prices but an offy across the road. And pretty small, this is going to be cosy!
Pretty sparse for the day’s openers, locals Solleme, but I was glad we’d made the effort as they were excellent. A tortuous blackened sludge, only a three piece but guitar through splitter and the quality system made it instantly a powerful start. With making arrangements to increase hydration only caught the end of Urne, a more expansive and melodic post metal take before things get vicious again with Kalloused (above). Also from these parts although the roving vocalist tells us he’s from Manchester, and spends the entire set in the crowd, alternating between screaming his heart out or haunting us with almost spoken word. The music is devastatingly heavy too, shattered in structure and keeping you guessing what horror is coming next.
No let up as Sheffield’s Kurokuma (below) are next, a three piece I’ve been waiting to see for a while after hearing good stuff. They don’t let up or down, as they hammer us with some psych washed filthy grooves, with a brutal roared vocal, a really hypnotic and cathartic show. An impromptu ending minus the broken string guitar doesn’t detract as it’s still an explosive performance.
Haast’s Eagled provide a mellow contrast, with a much gentler approach and sung atmospheric layered and drifting post metal. I’d been impressed with what I had heard of Wren (above) in advance, and again it was delivered in spades here, superbly heavy churning riffs interspersed with more open progressive passages, the school of Neurosis but with enough interest and impact of their own to stand alone. There’s a concentrated dark and angry undercurrent which I love, pick up their new “Auburn Rule” LP.
My partner in crime for the weekend had been raving (she’s often raving) about Grave Lines (below) since seeing them at another festival the previous week, and rightly so. Featuring an ex Sea Bastard they submerge us in a swamp of retro-infused masterfully riffed sludge. The pacing is excellent, lulling and driving at turns, but always pushing against conventional genre boundaries, a great mix.
We continue getting spoiled with Telepathy (above) next, another band thought highly of from other people’s previous experience, and adding to the draw here. An instrumental band, but I’m the one left pretty speechless by the sheer power of their riffing, majestically heavy waves of progressive post metal epic-ness relentlessly pummelling us. Not to say they don’t have a mastery of the light/shade contrasting impact, but their strength is in their riffs, truly something monumental and special. I’d have bought their new “Tempest” album if I could have afforded it.
Gotta take a sensible break at some point so duck out of the more mellow Patrick Walker (having seen him with full band 40 Watt Sun before) to go have some excellent food and crazy ambience from Beelzebab at the Hope and Ruin a bit further up into the centre, before returning in time for Ohhms (below). Been a while since I’ve seen them but they are still a deeply involving take on stoner/doom, epic songs. A whole lot of shifts in the dynamics as they move through their grooves, orchestrated up front by the engaging vocalist. They seem to have a brighter aspect on their newer material from latest release “The Fool” than their bleaker origins, maybe it’s just cos I’m in such a good mood.
Also bright and beautiful creatures next with the three piece of Vodun (above), someone else I’d heard of making waves for a while. Still within the heavy genre, underpinned with rolling tribalist drumming and just the one uptempo riffing guitar, the gamechanger is their front-woman delivering, as she does an incredible tuneful and soulful vocal. As well as interspersing it with a variety of rhythm/percussion instruments scattered around to add to the layers, there’s a big 60’s/70’s flashback going on, maybe too much for my enfeebled mind to take in at this point as the elements don’t seem to tie in entirely. I would definitely give them another go to try and get in tune with the vibe!
Finally, the much anticipated headliners, Amenra and up on the barrier to get the full effect. What an absolute privilege to see them in this intimate setting, as from when I first saw them in a pub in Leeds the meantime has seen them sonically levelling festivals like Hellfest and Roadburn, and now back to a couple of hundred (?) for this. The usual brooding start with the smoke swathed stage and stark back projections, before the bomb is dropped and the post metal behemoth blast wave rolls over us. A locked groove of insistent hypnotic mid paced hammered chug, with vocalist Colin’s anguish either the harshest wrenched from his soul, or the most fragile of broken offerings, back to us to start before screaming in our happy faces. It’s an absolute monster of a set, a focused and consistent exercise in putting the emotions through the wringer, it flies by and we’re left in echoing empty landscape.
Have the opportunity to chat to some of them after and they are very upbeat post-apocalypse, as are we. Just slightly ahead of the launch of their “Mass VI” album, but a sneak preview says its yet another stunner. We didn’t bother paying for the £10 upgrade to the VIP aftershow with London stoner mentalists Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters but as no-one threw us out of the venue we got to see them anyway. To be fair I’d enjoyed the face-painted drug fiends a lot more at Riff Fest in Bolton last year, here it was a bit lost in the fuzz and the smoke and with a bit of an after the party vibe so we drifted out while still on a happy high
A phenomenal collection of bands just in this single day, showcasing the excellent and innovative status of some top UK underground noise, plus the Ra going from strength to strength, that made the trip very worthwhile, I will keep my eyes peeled for their future events and happily head dahn sarf again if they are up to this standard.