When I normally write up a festival review, I break it down day by day and band by band. For Mexico Metal Fest 2022, I’m doing it differently. I’m going to get straight to the point with pros and cons. I mean let’s face it, you’re reading this to determine if it’s worth the price of a flight these days and festival ticket. I’m guessing that you’re probably not reading this to stroll down memory lane.
This year’s festival took place at Expo Guadalupe (a popular local fairground used for rodeos and other events) which is located approximately 15 minutes from downtown Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The festival was postponed twice due to the global pandemic and several bands dropped off and were replaced before the 5th and 6th editions took place over the weekend of September 23rd and 24th.
So without further ado, I’ll get on with it.
For the sheer quality and number of bands, this has to be the most budget friendly festivals in all of North America. There were 52 artists at this year’s edition and there wasn’t a huge drop-off in talent after the headlining acts (W.A.S.P., Rotting Christ, Kreator, Hellhammer, Jinjer). In fact, the filler bands were also some heavy hitters that have headlined festivals numerous times before (Destruction, Sodom, Cradle of Filth, Dismember, Nile, plus a ton of others). The cost for a basic, two-day pass in U.S. dollars was around $170. If you do the math, that’s $3.52 a band. Go ahead and see if that value exists at any U.S. based festival right now, probably not.
The overall festival experience was top notch. You can see the stage from almost any vantage point on the grounds and the quality of the sound was excellent. Every band sounded great and I don’t remember any glitches with the band mixes throughout the weekend. The schedule was also on point 99% of the time. I remember only one band going over their scheduled allotment time and it was only by 5 minutes. Did I mention the lush and green mountain view behind the stages? You have to see it to believe it, metal paradise!
The food and beverage options were very affordable and tasty. Now, there were some cons in this area as well, but I’ll list those below. But for now, if you like tacos, hot dogs, ribs and burgers (basically any type of hunger destroying meat option), you were set. In regards to alcohol, there were stands in any direction you looked. For the most part, it only took a couple of minutes of waiting in line to order your favorite Mexican beer or libation of choice. If you ordered a beer, they always poured two bottles to fill your cup to the brim and it cost a fraction ($7.00 for 24 ounces) of what you would pay for a beer at a festival in the United States.
Merch, merch and even more merch. There were two areas that housed the merch, the official festival merch tent and another area the size of a soccer field of merch tents. If you were looking for any (and I mean ANY) shirt design from your favorite metal band, they probably had it at this festival. There was also a killer selection of patches, pins and jewelry/accessories scattered throughout this small pueblo of merch vendors. The average cost of a T-shirt was about $20, so again, not too shabby for a festival and outside of the festival grounds there were additional merch tents that were haggling their wares even cheaper. More...
I’ve seen Meshuggah three times live and the experience just keeps getting better. However, this was the first time I’ve seen them in my own city and even though the venue wasn’t as large as the other two, the Tempe, Arizona crowd made it seem like I was seeing them at a festival.
The Marquee Theater was almost at full capacity and this crowd was louder than the two previous Meshuggah shows I’ve attended. Here is my captain obvious quote of this road report: Meshuggah fans are just fucking rabid regardless of venue size or number of attendees.
Meshuggah is known for their extended mood setting live show intros. On this current tour it was different. For example, the first 3 minutes of the first track (“Broken Cog”) off their latest effort, “Immutable,” already has an intro feel to it. So, to set the scene for the next paragraph I need to explain the album’s artwork for those that aren’t familiar. The artwork depicts a person/cyborg/biology class skeleton burning via an explosion, there are shades or red, orange and black within the color palette. Like all of Meshuggah’s releases, it sets the stage.
When the band entered the stage (minus their cyborg drum god Tomas Haake, who was already perched on his throne a couple of meters above stage level), they stood still in front of lighted replicas of themselves burning like the album’s cover artwork. The lit replicas flashed on and off and back-lighted the Meshuggah front four during the tribal-esque feel of “Broken Cog.” The first half of the song felt chaotic and uncomfortable. This is what Meshuggah does best during their live shows, they control the mood.
Meshuggah played a total 13 songs this night including their encore. I won’t give a play by play for every song they played though, you can find that online easy enough but I will say my highlight songs of their set were: “Ligature Marks,” “Born in Dissonance,” and “Demiurge.” The setlist was great but the song that put the crowd into a frenzy was the set ender, “Future Breed Machine” off of their second studio album, “Destroy Erase Improve.” I had a feeling that something special was about to happen once they added two more microphone stands on both ends stage right before the final song started. More...
The first time I witnessed Imperial Triumphant was this past summer at Mystic Festival in Gdansk, Poland, but my actual introduction to this band took place two weeks before. You see, before I go to any festival to report on, I always research a few bands I’ve never heard of, or know little about, in order to determine if they’re worth checking out or not. I downloaded their album “Alphaville” and I think I made it through 45 seconds before I switched to another Mystic Festival band, Dopelord. I knew that Imperial Triumphant wore some rad costuming live so if anything, I’d get some cool live shots during their set. The story continues...
At Mystic Festival, I remember the line-up schedule being quite busy that day and my wife and I were hanging out with some friends between bands. I told them that I was going to shoot Imperial Triumphant and if they wanted to see something eclectic and exotic at this festival, this would be the band to see. We ventured inside and I strode into the empty photo pit with ease. Once the band took stage, I was amazed by it all; the music, the costumes and the light show. After my three-song photo allotment, I returned to the area where I left my wife and friends and they were all gone! I checked my phone and the message said, “Come outside, we couldn’t take it anymore.” This pretty much sums up this band. You either love them, or you can’t take it anymore.
A month or so after Mystic Festival, I saw that they had a tour stop in my city supporting their latest album, “Spirit in Ecstasy,” that dropped this past July. This was the perfect opportunity to see them up close and in a more intimate setting. There was already a decent crowd waiting to see them when I arrived considering they were the first band of a three-band billing with Zeal & Ardor headlining. When the house lights dropped and the blood red stage lighting was the only light source in the room, you wouldn’t even have noticed the band take the stage if it wasn’t for their full regalia costumes and crown headdress.
I’ve never driven five hours (each way) to church before. Maybe that’s not saying much since I haven’t been to church in well over 26 years. This wasn’t really church, but on a Sunday in early August 2022 I did somewhat feel like I was at church, the best one I’ve ever experienced. The spirit was strong, and I had goosebumps on multiple songs. Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon was set up like a church with rows of seats (instead of standing room only like I’ve encountered at other shows at this venue).
Helen Money began the evening with several instrumentals on her cello. I first heard of her, I think, about a dozen years ago when I really got into Russian Circle’s brilliant album Geneva, for which she laid down all of the cello work. I’ve listened to her solo work since then, but this was my first time seeing her live.
Like Steve Von Till’s solo work, some may be questioning why this is on Metal Underground since by most definitions this isn’t metal. In the sense that metal is a thick, heavy, and monumental sound Helen Money (and Von Till’s solo work) certainly qualifies. If metal requires guitars then no for Helen and no for some of Steve’s songs. However, most metalheads recognize that many bands that appear at metal festivals don’t meet the guitar definition of metal. Think of bands like Wardruna, Jo Quail, Heilung, Corvus Corax, etc. I think both Von Till’s solo work and Helen Money (even when she isn’t backing Russian Circles, Anthrax, or Neurosis) is a nice change of pace at a metal festival or on a metal dominated play list.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed her set. She played her cello with a variety of techniques and was quite heavy (for not being metal 😉) at times.
I’ve seen Neurosis many times before, but this was a Neurosis-free evening featuring only Steve’s solo work of music, along with some poetry recitation. In some ways, it couldn’t have been more different from a Neurosis show. Neurosis doesn’t really interact with the audience. There are no “Hello, Chicago”s or “Scream for me Long Beach”s at a Neurosis gig. Songs aren’t announced and the crowd isn’t thanked. This evening was far more interactive and included Steve talking to the audience before or after several songs.
Speaking of the crowd, some of the PNW’s finest musicians were in the audience, including Mike Scheidt of YOB.
The sound was excellent. I was very familiar with the songs, listening to little else in the week or two prior. Steve’s solo work ages well. In fact, for anyone that doesn’t “get it” on a first listening, I would strongly suggest waiting to form an opinion until the music has had time to germinate a bit in the brain—maybe on the fifth or sixth listen. After having experienced it live, I have to say that it has taken on a whole new, even-better flavor in my head.
How to describe the music? You can certainly hear some of Neurosis’s calmer moments in Steve’s solo work. His voice is rich, deep, and thick. A bit of a psychedelic vibe weaves itself through some songs. You can listen for free for yourself through the links above.
Better yet, catch one of the remaining seven shows on the tour:
August 9 in Oakland, California
August 10 in San Jose
August 11 in Los Angeles
August 12 in San Diego
August 13 in Tucson, Arizona
August 14 in Salt Lake City, Utah (consider it church 😉)
August 15 in Boise, Idaho
The final day of Mystic Festival 2022 had arrived. It was bittersweet in a way, but I was totally exhausted by this point. After arriving at the festival grounds, I had to check out the Death Mask exhibit. Most of the masks and art had a very Tom G. Warrior influence. I wasn’t sure if this was his exhibition specifically, or a tribute to him by Mystic Festival itself. In any case, it was worth checking out even if it was for only 5 minutes because yours truly was kicked out for having a beer in hand. I’m sorry, I can’t read signs written in Polish, Mr. Polish security dude…
Today was avant garde day for me because the first two bands I checked out were Igorrr and Imperial Triumphant. If you’re feeling adventurous and have never seen either of these bands, I highly recommend it for the visual aspect alone. Both of their stage shows blew me away. With Igorrr, you get the feeling you’re at some bizarre, metal performance musical/opera. On the other hand, with Imperial Triumphant, you’ll see their incredible costuming with cacophonic bursts of jazz metal thrown in for good measure. If you want to broaden your metal horizons, these two bands will do the trick.
I also was able to check out a little bit of Weigedood. They were excellent and exuded a “the end of the world” atmosphere with some black metal overtones for flavor. After a couple of songs, I had to haul ass to the main stage to catch Poland’s hometown heroes, Vader. Exclusively for Mystic Festival 2022, Vader played their “De Profundis” album in its entirety. In addition, they played a KAT (One of Poland’s most influential metal bands) cover and introduced new song, “Of Moon, Blood, Dream and Me,” which had never been played live before. Even with the amazing pyrotechnic show and 17-song set, their crowd was still chanting for more after they finished.
Today, I woke up a little hungover. Realizing that Day Two of Mystic Festival was going to start in a few hours had a greater effect than the bland coffee at the hotel and I was soon on my way to the festival grounds. My must-see list for the day included a total of six bands with a lot of stage hopping in between. I started my day at the Park Stage and finally witnessed the Polish stoner/doom legends, Dopelord.
Dopelord was everything I would hope they would be. They’ve never toured the United States so to see them on their home turf was something special. There was a lot of Sabbath worship, but it only added to their aura. The bassist even had a shirt that said “Sabbath Worship,” at least they have no shame! A couple songs into their set the PA went out but it really didn’t matter; they carried on with the song and then conquered the crowd for the rest of their set.
Next up were NWOBHM legends, Saxon. This was my first time seeing this historical band and afterwards I knew why they’ve stood the test of heavy metal time. At this stage of their career, they may appear that they should be at the bingo hall snacking on prunes but all jokes aside, they command a stage like they’ve have been for 40 years or more. Their style of heavy metal may sound dated but it in all actuality, it has aged like a fine black leather jacket through the decades.
After Saxon, it was Benediction on the same stage. I haven’t heard much of them as of late and even had to Google them to find out when was the last album they put out (turns out it was in 2020). That doesn’t really matter anyways because Benediction’s brand of death metal went over well with the Mystic crowd. They were super energetic and enthusiastic throughout their whole set. Lead vocalist Dave Ingram was quite a jokester between songs. On more than a couple of occasions he made sure that everyone within an earshot of the stage knew that Friday was “Benediction Day” and we should all drink. Ok, dully noted.
Six years ago, in my little town, Club 66 closed its doors. As the midway point between San Francisco and Portland, Ashland, Oregon makes perfect sense as a place to play between the bigger city shows. Until 2016, you could head over to Club 66 and catch a metal act or two several times a month, sometimes even multiple times in the same week. Since then, I think there has only been one metal show—Anthrax back in 2018 at the Ashland Armory.
In those glorious Club 66 days, San Francisco’s Hemorage came through several times. Today they returned, to play, WITHOUT leaving their tour bus.
Hemorage has creatively transformed touring with their playing-from-the-bus shows. They’ve been doing this since October of 2021, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area. Previously they would set up near a venue with a much larger act and become the unofficial and unauthorized openers.
They made a few headlines after the cops shut them down in April before an Exodus show. Gary Holt gave them a positive shout out so the unauthorized aspect of their performances doesn’t seem to piss off the bigger names whose crowds they momentarily borrow.
The current tour had them making 17 stops in eight days as they covered much of the territory between Sacramento and Seattle. Several of the stops didn’t happen due to timing, and most had a change of time or location at the last minute, so if they are coming to your town, and you want to see one of these shows, you’ll want to follow them on Instagram and/or Facebook where they post the last minute updates.
On this afternoon in Ashland the time got changed from 2 to 6 p.m., and the venue moved to right next to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The area in front of the old Black Swan Theater provided space for a circle pit. Seeing the looks on the old people’s faces that were heading to OSF was priceless. Some had big smiles and others looked horrified.
Is this the wave of the future? Will other bands follow suit? Who knows? All I know is Hemorage made the return of metal to Ashland, Oregon a lot of fun on this afternoon.
After some sightseeing around Gdansk during the early part of the day, I headed over to the Gdansk Shipyard for first “official” day of Mystic Festival. As I got closer to the festival grounds, I noticed there were definitely more people going to the festival today. It now felt like a traditional European metal festival to me. The Main Stage had also now opened up for the headliners. Additionally, there were more food and drink vendors near said stage which was really convenient.
The first band I caught was Norway’s Kvelertak. This was my first time seeing them and I was really surprised by the energy they exude live. Frontman Ivar Nikolaisen was multitasking singing while balancing a full microphone stand in one hand and smoking and holding a bottle of wine in the other. The amazing thing was that nothing was ever dropped or spilled while he plowed through the first two songs of their set like it was nothing. Unfortunately, after I photographed the first three songs, I had to head over to the Main Stage to catch Mastodon. I'll definitely check out Kvelertak live in the future.
The crowd had already started filling in the open area in front of the Main Stage for Mastodon by the time I arrived. If I remember correctly, Mastodon was the replacement band for Gojira when they dropped off the pre-pandemic line-up. Mastodon was a worthy replacement and played some of their older material in the beginning of their set. That was great because honestly, I can’t stand the band they’ve become over the last few albums. They’ve also never been the most exciting band to watch live and today was no exception.
Next up was one of the bands I was most looking forward to throughout the whole festival, Heilung. If you’ve never seen this band live before, how can I describe it to you other than it’s a religious experience. Between the stage setup, the ceremonious rituals and last but not least, their music; there is nothing else like it in regards to live shows right now. They started off their set with some material that I wasn’t familiar with (probably new material), but ended their set with songs off their much acclaimed “Futha” album. I’m excited for the new album which will be released later this year.
After a two-year delay and a change of location, my dream of attending Mystic Festival finally became a reality. The festival was originally supposed to take place in Krakow, Poland, but thanks to the pandemic, the location shifted to the picturesque and the most metal of places, the Gdansk shipyard in the extremely photogenic city of Gdansk, Poland.
The shipyard is actually home to a few nightclubs, pubs and eateries so the locals already knew the layout. For the rest of us, the festival grounds were easy to navigate with short walks from stage to stage. There was plenty of food and beverage tents and most importantly, Porta John/Toi Tois everywhere. Mystic Festival had about 3 festival merch booths and another dedicated to the bands that were playing that day. In addition, there were about a dozen or so vendors selling everything that you could imagine that would be sold at a metal festival. The prices of everything for sale at Mystic was fair I thought. No price gouging at all like some other festivals I’ve attended.
The first band I saw on the warmup day was Carcass. They seem to land on just about every festival lineup that I attend, so I didn’t stick around for their whole set. I’m an old school Carcass fan so I was quite surprised when they played “Exhume to Consume” right out of the gate. Jeff Walker and Bill Steer haven’t aged a day and they still play with the same vigor they did when I first saw them in 1990.
After Carcass, I headed over to the indoor Shrine Stage and caught Bay Area thrash legends, Heathen. Heathen never garnered the same popularity that Metallica, Exodus, Testament and Death Angel did during their heyday, but when you’re still playing larger festivals, does it really matter? Heathen played a blistering set that included songs from all over their discography. One thing I noticed is that founding guitarist, Lee Altus, was not present. After some quick research, I learned that he’s back at home tending to a sick family member. We wish him and his family good fortune and a return to the stage soon. More...
Late in 2018 I began toying with the idea of going to the 2019 Brutal Assault Festival. I was excited by each announcement of new bands being added to the bill, and when Windhand was added I was thrilled. However, once the running order was released just prior to the festival itself, I was saddened to see that Windhand was playing at the exact same time as Kampfar. Windhand was playing on a new stage that was very difficult to get to and from, and they are from the USA so I figured I may have more chances to see them in the future. I elected to go see Kampfar and was not disappointed, but I have still regretted not seeing Windhand ever since. Until now.
I was visiting my daughter in Portland a few weeks ago and drove past the Aladdin Theater in her neighborhood. Alas, Windhand was on the marquee, and I decided that a return trip to Portland was in order.
Un, a doom metal band from Seattle--not to be confused with the other 5+ bands with the same name, opened the evening with just two songs. I believe one lasted for over 10 minutes and the other clocked in at about 20 minutes.
There is a wide spectrum of doom metal out there, and only some of it works for me when I’m sober and not at a live show. Much of the rest will touch my nerves correctly only in a live and/or properly intoxicated state. The slower stuff (funeral doom, etc.) is of the latter category, and Un lean that way. The more varied types, with some uptempo passages and changes of pace, are my preferred versions.
I thoroughly enjoyed Un. Beyond the music, one reason was that—unlike some opening acts—the headliner and/or venue gave them decent lighting that changed. A funeral doom band playing in unaltering darkness is only interesting for so long. That was not the case here.
The guy next to me leaned over and asked “Who are these guys? I could totally trance out on them.” I can absolutely see where he was coming from.
Windhand, likewise, had pleasantly surprising lighting that was altered for each song. The shadows of the band members on the Aladdin Theater walls was also a trip for those not too close to the stage to miss the effect.
This was my first time at the Aladdin, and I was impressed. There was no photo pit, and things appeared fairly packed down front, so I never went near the stage. However, the front row of the balcony was absolute bliss. One could take in everything without the distractions of the crowd. For music in the realm of Windhand, this was perfect and quite meditative.
This was an evening I will not soon forget, and Windhand was well worth the wait. I hope it isn’t the only time I am able to experience them live.
I’ll be posting more photos from this evening over the coming months here.
The Black Angels and Primus are not two bands that pop into your head when you think Metal Underground, but I needed a distraction from all of the “I’m missing Copenhell” (where I normally am this time of year) thoughts that were going through my head. So I headed down I-5 to Redding, California to check out this tour.
The Black Angels have a new album coming out in September called Wilderness of Mirrors from which they played three songs.
Not familiar with The Black Angels? Imagine if The Doors, early Pink Floyd, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats had a baby. Great sound if you like your rock on the heavier psychedelic side of things.
My only complaint was the lighting was brutal for photography. (My photos make the lighting seem much brighter than it actually was.)
Way back in February 2020, Primus announced their “A Tribute to Kings” tour which would include the trio playing Rush’s classic 1977 album A Farewell to Kings in its entirety (in addition to their own music). Of course, just a month later, the world went to hell, and everything got cancelled or postponed.
I texted a good friend who lives a few hours south of Redding on the day of the show to see if he would meet me for this gig, and he dropped everything for the chance. I learned later in the day that his very first concert was Rush on their “A Farewell to Kings” tour back in 1978 so this was some serious time travel for him.
Redding was 100 degrees, but the Redding Civic Auditorium was quite comfortable inside. Spectators had their choice of standing or sitting, and the staff at the venue were outstanding.
The stage was huge for Primus so they were set a ways back from the audience. The first set featured a bunch of Primus classics like “Wynona's Big Brown Beaver” and “My Name Is Mud”, but it also included all three tracks off their new Conspiranoid EP.
The second set was, of course, every note of “A Farewell to Kings” including identical instruments and similar outfits to Rush’s tour some 44 years ago. For me, Rush’s sweet spot was the 2112 through Hemispheres era, but I was too young to catch any of those shows. So this recreation was absolute magic that was brilliantly executed. Perhaps Primus will be kind enough to do 2112 and/or Hemispheres next?
Eight more dates of this tour in the USA remain. After which, Primus will head to Europe for 16 more shows.
If this review wasn’t metal enough for you, remember that Primus guitarist Ler LaLonde was the guitarist when death metal was born (as a 17-year old member of Possessed).
What comes to mind when you think of Italy? Great food, great wine, fantastic scenery? How about death metal? No? Ok, well there’s such a thing and leading the charge is Hideous Divinity from Roma. They’re currently on a package tour that includes Hypocrisy, Carach Angran and The Agonist and I had the pleasure of checking them out during their most recent stop in Mesa, Arizona.
I have to admit that I’ve heard great things about Hideous Divinity but have never had the opportunity to check them out until now. Brutal, relentless, technical death metal are the only phrases needed to describe this band. They are raw as rusted steel and to the point. This band doesn’t need an extravagant stage show to get their point across, they just sheer your head off without remorse with their ferocity.
They kicked off their set with “Acheron, Stream of Woe” and if anyone in the audience was in the “it’s only the first band” mindset, it was over within the first 30 seconds. The crowd was now fully awake and in death metal show mode. Headbanging, moshpit shenanigans and beers destroyed. Hideous Divinity had flipped the switch!
Enrico Di Lorenzo stalked the stage from side to side throughout the whole set. Guitarist Enrico Schettino locked down his side of the stage with constant riffing. Bassist Stefano Franceschini is beast within his own right and his fingers were a blur the whole time. It goes without saying that no death metal band is complete without their blast beat machine/drummer, and Giulio Galati made it look easy all the while wearing his headphone monitors. A true master of his craft.
After a quick and scarring 6 song set, Hideous Divinity had definitely made an impression upon the Mesa, Arizona crowd. If these desert metalheads didn’t know anything about Hideous Divinity before the show, they knew now… After a round of grazies from the band, they promised to return to Arizona soon. Judging from the applause given, in addition to the clamoring over picks and setlists gifted to them from the band, they’ll be back for Hideous Divinity next time and in greater numbers. More...
The North American Siege 2022 Tour, featuring Arch Enemy, Behemoth, Napalm Death, and Unto Others in 19 cities, wrapped up on Sunday night in Los Angeles. Arch Enemy and Behemoth traded places as the headliner. For the (Friday the 13th) night of May 13, 2022 in Berkeley, California at The UC Theatre, Arch Enemy finished off the evening.
The UC Theatre has a capacity of 1,400, and the show was sold out. During the Behemoth set, it felt like there were 2,000 in attendance as movement was near impossible. The UC Theatre is arranged in three tiers. Visibility is good from the bottom tier but only from the front third of each of the upper two tiers. Unfortunately, if you find yourself in the back of either of the upper two levels you will be watching the light show on the ceiling and not the bands (and this is true even if you are over 6 feet in height). Personally, I think they should reduce capacity/ticket sales by 10-20%. Other than those factors (and the $14 beers), it’s a great venue and metalheads appreciate the frequent metal acts the UC Theatre books.
The bands on this tour were quite diverse. The differences in music made it almost feel like a festival rather than a billing of similar bands. I can’t imagine anyone into metal who would be into all four bands or who would dislike all four either. There was something for everyone. From the way the audience came and went, it was apparent that some showed up for only one or two bands. More...
There's no feeling more bittersweet than the last day of a good festival. On the one hand, you know that you've still got another day of fun ahead, but on the other, it's back to the real world tomorrow and all that goes with it. If it's time to go though, it's best to do it in style and so it was that the final day was spent entirely at The Roundhouse, a beautiful venue a little further away from the others in Camden, but well worth the small trip. It's hosted so many legendary bands over its history and has been the setting for live albums from such bands as Kreator, Opeth, X-Ray Spex and Paradise Lost to name a few. There really was no better place to experience the atmosphere and spirit of Desertfest, which by now has become as important in the doom fans' calendar as Roadburn.
While there were of course many upset fans when it was revealed that The Obsessed were unable to perform, the announcement of Dvne as their replacement was met with a great deal of excitement. Promoting their latest album, "Etemen Ænka," it was easy to see why people were so fascinated to see them. The band are hard to pin down, taking elements of doom, progressive and post metal and creating a soundscape which borders on the ethereal. Despite having two albums under their belt, it seemed to be only songs from the aforementioned "Etemen Ænka" on display, which didn't seem to bother their fans at all, who were lost in the atmosphere created by the Edinburgh quintet. If you're interested in music that paints a picture, then Dvne should definitely be on your list. More...
Following a fantastic opening day marking the tenth year of Desertfest in London, it was time to head back to Camden on the Northern Line for another day of doom, desert and stoner music, in a city which may not embody the aesthetics of the music, but provided an excellent area with quick access to most of the venues. After arriving on the tube and having a quick chat with the Socialist Workers booth outside the station, it was another descent into The Underworld to begin what would no doubt be another highly enjoyable day of rock and metal.
Not having the same advantage that Blind Monarch did the day before of being the only band on, Scottish heavy/doom metal band King Witch still drew an impressive crowd and once they began playing, it was easy to see why. Think about all the things you loved when you first discovered heavy metal music and you'll notice that King Witch has them all. Led by the Doro-esque delivery of vocalist Laura Donnelly, the quartet's take on traditional metal is a refreshing one, not drenched in denim and leather, but taking the melodies and darkness that made metal so challenging for the status quo to begin with and bringing them into the modern world. They looked like they were having just as much fun as the audience and it was so easy to like them. I also can't remember the last time I enjoyed the bass so much! A fantastic start to the day from a band who will surely be back at Desertfest and much higher up on the bill in the future. More...
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. More...
Metal has come a long way when it comes to women in the genre. Where once there was hardly any women at shows or performers on stage, groundbreaking acts like Girlschool, Doro and Lita Ford gave them a voice in the field and showed that they can rock just as hard as the guys. Fast forward to 2022 and some of the best musicians and bands in metal are women, with hardly anyone batting an eye. So it was a natural choice that two of the breakout all female bands would team up at some point and treat fans to hell of a tour, which exactly what happened when the new look Nervosa paired with the Switzerland founded Burning Witches.
Having unfortunately missed the opening band and being unimpressed with Hunting Horror, we begin our review with Burning Witches. On a personal note, both bands are special to me as I was not only there for both of their British debuts (in 2015 and 2019 respectively) but also interviewed them. Three years on and both have made some big changes to their ranks, meaning this was the first time I'd seen Burning Witches with vocalist Laura Guldemond and guitarist Larissa Ernst. It's fair to say that the spirit they displayed three years ago still lives on as Burning Witches pay tribute to classic metal bands with their own brand of traditional heavy metal. More...
Unquestionably one of Europe's fastest rising death metal bands, Denmark's Baest has been on a relentless stampede ever since releasing their debut album, "Danse Macabre" in August 2018. Only a year and a month later, the quintet would unleash the superb, "Venenum," with their third full length, "Necro Sapiens" following in March 2021. Not one to rest on their laurels, Baest will be releasing a new EP, "Justita" this month and to celebrate, the band has been headlining venues across Europe, including a stop in London to perform at The Black Heart.
The Black Heart is an interesting venue, tucked away on Greenland Place, the next street over from The Underworld, it boasts a fantastic downstairs bar, decorated with gig posters and the best soundtrack a metal fan could ask for. Upstairs, just past the toilets, is where you'll find the performance area, where on this occasion, deathcrusties Sewer Trench were kicking off proceedings. Honestly speaking, Sewer Trench were fine. They had some good support locally, but most of those who weren't part of their circle of friends seemed a bit nonplussed. They were a solid band to open a death metal show and may be worth checking out if you like the style, but offered little in the way of memorable songs or stage presence. More...
“An End to Nothing” was the song Goatwhore chose to kick off their set during their most recent stop in Mesa, Arizona. That was the perfect play on words considering the Goatwhore touring machine was shut down for a couple of years by the pandemic. The extreme metal masses have missed them without a doubt and their fanbase in Arizona was no exception.
Tonight, Goatwhore played like they were shot out of a cannon. The energy level after a two-year hiatus from touring was evident. Their set only consisted of seven songs, but it felt like there were 666 of them. We relished every second of it. Every note lasted forever and every beat was in slo-mo like “The Matrix.” It was the first night of the tour but they played it with such intensity, it had the feel as if it was their last show ever.
If you’ve never been to a Goatwhore show, they exude a ton of energy and it flows non-stop between band and audience. Ben Falgoust is one of the most underrated frontmen in metal. He’s constantly interacting with the audience and egging them on. Sammy Duet, sounds like he’s playing two guitars since his rhythms and leads are so tight and crunchy throughout each and every song. The rhythm section anchored by Zack Simmons and Robert Coleman are the cement thickening all this heaviness into one amazing must see, live band.
Even with just a seven song set-list, the band just about touched on every album within their discography. Every generation of Goatwhore fan was fulfilled. I was super stoked to hear that “Apocalyptic Havoc” made the cut. This is my favorite of all Goatwhore tracks and in my opinion, should always be included in their set-list. It should come as no surprise that the show’s closer was “FBS,” definitely “Le Roi” of all Goatwhore tracks. The Mesa, Arizona audience responded in earnest and their reaction was the high that Goatwhore needed to carry onto the next stop and beyond. Laissez le bon temps rouler! More...
The Islington Assembly Hall in North London is quite an interesting little place. Standing for almost a hundred years, the venue has hosted everything from community meetings to dances to tea parties and now hosts a number of live shows throughout the year. Amusingly for a venue with such innocent events taking place in its history and with the motto "Deus per Omnia" above the stage, it's become a great place to witness black metal, having hosted such bands as Rotting Christ, 1349 and Moonspell. This past Sunday, another of black/pagan metal's most beloved bands took to the stage, as Primordial brought their "Heathen Crusade" tour back to the English capital, four years on from their last visit.
Opening the show was Luxembourgish dark folk band Rome, an outlet for musician Jérôme Reuter, which to date has released fourteen albums. While there's very little to say with regards to stage presence, which features Jérôme along with a drummer (possibly Patrick Damiani) simply performing the songs, saying "thanks" now and then and moving on, there's definitely something to their music. It should be made clear that Rome isn't a metal band, they're more in line with dark folk music, which served as a fine opener for the night's lineup. An interesting listen, which provided enough intrigue to stave off the boredom many metal fans can feel when confronted with something they can't headbang to. More...