date: Sunday, May 3, 2009 venue: Leeds University Union, UK reviewer/pics: Heinrich Corpseshagger Higgins
We arrived at the venue at 3.30pm just as it started to rain, and before we went inside we saw a drunken pair of metalheads outside in the church yard. One was unconscious and his mate attempted to carry him on his shoulders, picked him up and dropped him like a sack of potatoes. All the while bollocking his drunken mate who owes him £40. An entertaining incident that set the scene for the debauchery that was to come. We rolled into the venue and I was pleasantly surprised that we did not get searched by security at all. This makes a refreshing change from the London venues.
Neuroma were appearing by popular demand as they'd won the vote on the Deathfest forum. Sound issues marred their set; generally way too sludgy, although the snare and crash were strangely tinny. Played a solid, if unremarkable, set lurking somewhere in the death/grind region, with a stereotypical cookie monster vocalist. They looked a little lost on stage if truth be told, and although they generated power during the slower sections it was a fairly ordinary start to the day.
Esclavage, had a sharper, more thrash-inspired sound and played a belter. If I'm being critical, and it's a common one from me, I'd like to hear them with a second guitarist to give them a fuller, more aggressive sound. They were solid enough musically and their vocalist screamed his lungs out. Tellingly their free demo CDs disappeared at an alarming rate of knots from the merch area, so evidently they won over enough new supporters. Song titles “Gaffa Tape Gimp Mask”, “Homicide Child Posing As An STD”, “Perfect Nihilism”, and “Lobotomy” tell you all you need to know.
Ingested upped the nastiness level several fold. They got a much better sound for starters, and were more assured on stage. Shame they only had half an hour really, as their gore infested repertoire was brutal and precise in equal measure. The front man’s song introductions were most definitely not for the faint hearted, but what do you expect with music this extreme? Tempo changes were well handled and the slower sections were punishingly heavy to put it mildly. Frantic pit activity greeted “Contorted Perception”, “Skinned And Fucked”, “Intercranial Semen Injection”, and “Anal Evisceration” to name but a few. Can't wait to see them play a longer set and unleash their fury once more.
Dragged Into Sunlight didn't get my full attention I'm afraid, as I spent a long time at the Terrorizer desk after Ingested's set. What I saw made me want to see more, as they had a doom and black metal approach to their work. Think the candelabra centre stage probably gave the game away. One of the band informed me shortly after they'd finished that the three songs they played - “Boiled Angel”, “Buried With Leeches”, and “I, Aurora” - form three movements of the same piece. Hopefully they'll play a date or two around the Midlands soon.
Desecration have had their fair share of run-ins with the authorities over the years, yet they carry on regardless. Another band who had a more thrashy approach, they reminded me of the bastard offspring of Destruction and Sepultura with gorier lyrics. “Aim, Fire, Kill” and “Bacterial Breakdown” were my favourites, but everything was good. Their half hour slot flew by as they bludgeoned away relentlessly. I immediately headed for the Earache stall after they'd finished and bought a copy of “Forensix”, so clearly they impressed.
Infected Disarray didn't do much for me at all. Frenetic grindcore with a pig squealer vocalist and scarily fast drummer. Enough said. Traded speed for power, and I'm still struggling to remember one of their riffs – if they had any. As you've gathered, not my cup of tea...
The Rotted, however, impressed again. They were comfortably the best band on the recent Metal Blade Assault tour, played a blinder at Hammerfest, and powered their way through the same set here. Leaving their Gorerotted days behind, they now play punk/hardcore with staggering conviction. Furthermore, frontman Ben’s onstage banter, was as aggressive, yet magnetic, as ever, barking out lyrics during songs and summoning up old school punk links between them, slagging off the London Underground and the tabloids for dooming us all due to the credit crunch, seemingly like a pit-bull on speed haha! To compliment, the band were phenomenally tight throughout and half an hour really wasn't enough. “Angel Of Meth”, “The Howling”, “A Return To Insolence”, and “Kissing You With My Fists” were all superb, as was their cover of the Cro Mags “Hard Times” to conclude. A quality performance once more.
Black Sun slowed things down, and produced a display that leant heavily on doom, with the occasional smattering of stoner. Enormous riffs were played immaculately by a highly proficient band. Angular at times, yet always teeth rattlingly heavy, they are another act I'd like to see play a longer set.
Benediction raided the vaults with “Transcend The Rubicon” accounting for half their set. Their old school approach was refreshing, entertaining, and clinical in its execution. Frontman Dave Hunt whipped the crowd up into a frenzy, and was actively encouraging stage invasions, and the subsequent stage diving mayhem. His dig at Kerrang made me chuckle – something along the lines of “the review's already written – mediocre” - well observed I'd have said. The power they generated at times was nothing short of jaw dropping. Sorry Kerrang – this was stunning. Set list; “The Grey Man”, “Controlopolis”, “Nightfear”, “I”, “Unfound Mortality”, “They Must Die Screaming”, “The Grotesque”.
Reth were pretty much interchangeable with Infected Disarray – grindcore/pig squealer/frenetically fast/lack of power and riffs. Disappointing.
Akercocke intrigue me. Combining their extreme sections with more fluid, technical, almost modern prog interludes should be right up my street – but I just don't get them. I was distinctly unimpressed when I saw them at Bloodstock last year, and although I warmed to them more this time, I was still a bit baffled at the end of it all. The prog-inspired parts were bearable, but the faster sections left me cold. Great musicians, perhaps they're one of those bands who are never quite going to work for me? I'll give their CDs another play or two to see if my opinion alters...
Lazarus Blackstar, like Black Sun, played a set of crushingly heavy doom. Musically they reminded me a lot of Birmingham's I Am Colossus, although the vocals were way more vicious. Fans of monolithic, funeral, or drone would, if you'll excuse the irony, warm to them. They developed enormous power throughout and were highly impressive.
Origin were devastatingly fast and colossally heavy – although I still question the end result of their labours. The technicality of the musicians is unquestionable, with the bass player, particularly, being outstanding. I wonder what they would sound like a fraction slower with a second guitarist though? I was evidently in the minority as the pit was going wild, and my earlier comments regarding Akercocke are equally fitting here. Great band, nothing wrong with them, they just don't endear themselves to me. For those muttering murderous oaths I'll list a few song titles - “Implosion Of Eternity”, “The Aftermath”, “Wrath Of Vishnu”, and “Staring From The Abyss” all got an airing, amongst others.
DAM were the low point of the day for me, and bored me senseless. I had to force myself to stay in the venue. Formulaic and dull beyond belief. Next!!
Repulsion recorded one lone full length album, “Horrified”, that is revered around the extreme metal circuit, and the anticipation of their first ever UK appearance was almost tangible. Shame their sound was so bad, bass guitar heavy and sludgy. Whilst I can see entirely why they are so influential (there were moments that were pure Slayer or Possessed to name but two) I wasn't at all impressed. The sound didn't help, but I thought their performance in general was sloppy, with the crowd addresses bordering on cringe worthy. Again I'm probably in the minority, but that's the beauty of music – subjectivity. Stage presence was non-existent and I just couldn't warm to them. They played short, punchy, aggressive songs that have clearly influenced grind, in particular, and extreme bands in general, by the dozen. “Decomposed”, “Splattered Cadavers”, “Pestilent Decay”, “Six Feet Under”, and “Maggots In Your Coffin” were the songs that most impressed.
Leng Tch'e were a band I really shouldn't have liked – pig squealer vocalist (for the most part) and grind based – yet I found their set utterly compelling. Perhaps it was because of the tightness of the band, or maybe the ferocity which didn't flag for a second. There was a groove to their music, and a surgical chunkiness in the style of Pantera or Lamb Of God, amongst all the extremity. Their recently acquired vocalist, whilst performing at a pitch I normally detest, was feral in his delivery and commanded the stage. Let's hope they return soon.
Which left Vader to complete the hostilities. The crowd reaction was strangely subdued despite the frontman's considerable efforts. They played a stormer, old school death metal at its finest, evoking memories of early Morbid Angel. Musically they were fast, technical, choppy, and brutal, and were a fine way to end the day. Their sound was again odd – quiet, and not well balanced, with the guitars sounding very thin, especially when soloing. All eras of their back catalogue were visited, although I'd nominate “Silent Empire”, “The Crucified Ones”, “Black To The Blind”, “Rise Of the Undead”, and “Testimony” as the highlights.
Bearing in mind the tickets prices that Judas Priest, Metallica, and AC/DC, amongst others, have charged this year, Deathfest was remarkable value for money and I salute the organizers for the ethos behind the event. The venue itself was good, although the sound on stage one, in a strange mirroring of last year's Bloodstock and the recent Hammerfest, was hit and miss all day. Generally too quiet, it rarely seemed richly mixed, in stark contrast to stage two, which improved throughout, and was way more dynamic. Again I salute the Damnation team for their organization; this was one of the best run events I have attended. Hot food was delivered phenomenally quickly (albeit a limited choice, but hot dogs, burgers, chips etc are always going to sell well) and the well stocked shop had a more than adequate range of sandwiches, crisps, and general confectionery to keep most happy. The UV lighting in the main arena was also a bonus, as it made writing my notes far easier than the usual scrabbling around in the dark with my mobile for a light! Bar service was good, and the draught reasonably priced – although cans at Guinness at £3.20 was excessive (I don't pay that for draught!). All in all Deathfest was a resounding success, and I'm looking forward to Damnation in October – Therapy?, Rotting Christ, and Mistress will be worth the admission money alone.
1. Hallig - If I Am The Storm 2. Vurtumnus - Calling From Darkness 3. Damned Creed - Enemies Among Us 4. Destroyers Of All - Into The Fire 5. Neurotic Disorder - Matancer 6. Trallery - Pluralized Chaos 7. From The Vastland - Vortex Of Empty Cosmos 8. Designs Of Chaos - Infected Inhummanity 9. Acidity - Break Your Bones 10. Grind Zero - Blood Soaked Ground
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