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Desertfest UK 2022: Day 1 - Featuring 1000Mods, Spirit Adrift And Blacklab

Photo of BlackLab

Band Photo: BlackLab (?)

Three years is a long time to wait for anything. Think how much can happen in three years, or better yet, think about how much HAS happened in the last three years. It was back in 2019 that British doom fans, stoners and desert rockers congregated for Desertfest but finally, at the end of April 2022, they returned to the north London town of Camden to bask in the sonic sunshine and feast on some of the meatiest riffs music can offer.

This was the first time I had attended the festival, much to my own surprise, but I must say, it felt like home immediately. Camden has a large number of venues and most would be in use this weekend as homegrown talent and international musicians descended on the famous capital for three days of rock and metal. The festival is meticulously run, with staff being that rare combination of friendly and efficient, making sure people got their wristbands quickly, keeping the lines moving and once that's done, leading festival goers straight into the area where they can begin drinking immediately. This is all done outside The Black Heart, a wonderful pub and one of the venues for the weekend and features the official merch stand for the festival, which was selling shirts and hoodies rapidly. The whole thing comes together to create a perfect festival atmosphere which is normally only attained in vast fields and camp sites, an impressive feat. Still, I sense that you;re reading this to hear about another important part of the event; the music.

Opening the festivities at The Underworld was Sheffield doom metal outfit Blind Monarch. Being the first band on, it was unsurprising to see the venue packed as everyone wanted to kick the weekend off right. The saying is, "In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king," but Blind Monarch delivered a performance worthy of royalty, keeping most of the wanderers in the building who had initially only come to get their first fix of music. Blind Monarch were a great way to kick things off, giving the audience exactly what they came for; slow, crushing and relentless doom metal. Expect to hear much more from them in the future.

Personally, the next band was one of the two that made me want to come to Desertfest and it was truly an honour to see the psychedelic doom duo Blacklab perform their first show outside of their native Japan. The combination of Yuko Morino and Chia Shiraishi exceeded even the most ardent fans' expectations, as their blend of metal, psychedelia and sixties counter culture spirit won them a bunch of new fans. Such songs as "Insanity" and "Black Moon" went down a treat and fit in perfectly with the vibe of the festival, with several in attendance flocking to the merch stand during and after their set to see if they were selling shirts. A brilliant international live debut from a band which I expected much from and was still amazed by. One of the festival's highlights and a wonderful way to promote their upcoming third album.

It seems much of Friday was spent in The Underworld, as the next band witnessed would be Northern powerhouse Coltsblood. Combining doom and black metal has been done before and no doubt it's been done since Coltsblood formed, but there's something about this trio that's captivating. They seem able to get the most from every note, no matter how prolonged and contort their sound into a twisted beast which offers one of the darkest sounds of the day. The venue wasn't quite as busy as it had been during the day, but there was still a sizable number of festival goers in attendance, who were no doubt left impressed by what they'd heard. If you like it mean and evil, Coltsblood are a band you need to add to your list.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to witness all of Coltsblood as it was about time to finally climb out of The Underworld and head across the street into the more glamourously named Electric Ballroom for the first time today. Performing inside the more open venue was fuzz rock favourites, Truckfighters, who had more than their fair share of fans at the event. The place was crammed with people eager to hear the Swedes, who represented their discography well with cuts from every album, as well as the title track from the "Desert Cruiser" EP, which closed their performance. Truckfighters were probably the band which best fit the "desert" label of the festival so far, despite hailing from Northern Europe and from the front to the back, people were watching with smiles across their faces and horns in the air.

After trying to find The Devonshire Arms and failing, it was time for a kebab and then back down into The Underworld to see what may have been the black sheep of the festival, Petbrick. Petbrick stood out for a number of reasons, most notably being a duo which featured Sepultura co-founder Igor Cavalera on drums and played an aggressive form of electronic music, combining elements of Dutch gabber, hardstyle and noise to create a hardcore punk atmosphere. People came to see them knowing that they were getting something different from the rest of the lineup and that they might not be the target audience, but Petbrick came off strong. The duo of Cavalera and Wayne Adams are perfectly in tune with one another as they create a sonic equivalent to Tetsuo: The Iron Man, poking and pulling at the listener's brain and leaving them unable to fully decipher what's going on, but remaining entranced by what they're seeing and hearing. Petbrick were a good break from the norm and received a warm response from the audience, though fans of Cavalera's earlier work may not want to rush into them.

Heading back to the Electric Ballroom, it was time for the band which could lay claim to being the stars of the day, 1000mods, the Greek quartet who stepped in for Corrosion Of Conformity and were given a hero's welcome by the London audience. Now in their sixteenth year, to the uninitiated, 1000mods are perhaps best described as Greece's answer to Clutch, with their heaviness meshing flawlessly with their good time attitude and rock and roll fun. Having only four albums, it was no surprise to hear them all represented on the evening, with three from their latest album, "Youth Of Dissent" all being aired. "Super Van Vacation," 2011 debut album had the strongest showing, with the title track closing out what was an electrifying set that delighted the rabid fans, gained new ones and left everyone talking throughout the whole weekend.

Finally, it was decided to take a short wander over to The Black Heart, the pub and venue just around the corner from the Underworld which recently hosted Baest, to see Spirit Adrift, the project of Nate Garrett, who are currently promoting their latest album, "Enlightened In Eternity," released the October before last by 20 Buck Spin and Century Media. The Black Heart gets filled easily but a testament to their popularity and quality is that there were even people standing on the staircase outside hoping to hear Spirit Adrift as best they could. They certainly didn't disappoint either, with their mix of traditional heavy metal and doom a la The Obsessed keeping tired legs moving and sore heads banging from the first note until the last. Spirit Adrift already has a strong fan base in the UK, as was evidenced tonight, but with a no frills approach and a tried and tested formula which offers so much, they'll no doubt continue to go from strength to strength and become one of America's best loved heavy metal bands. A perfect way to finish an incredible start to the festival.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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