This was my first time at Live Evil Festival although it has been running for a couple of years. The premise is to put on bands over two days (along with a Friday evening pre-show which we were not at) who have all been handpicked by Darkthrone’s Fenriz as his bands of the week. So in a way he is the curator but it was always on the understanding that he did not actually have to be in attendance. So it was left to others to arrange and organise and a damn good job of it they have been doing to on my first impression. It was very slow getting in but that was more to do with the venue than anything else and also due to the fact that dedicated metal maniacs many from outside the UK by the sound of it all turned up to catch as much as possible, wanting to get in from the start. Many of the bands are still at the demo stages and have not played before and there is a wide array of sub-genres to be found on the eclectic bill, making it a varied and interesting weekend all round.

The first of these Bastardhammer were unfortunately in full swing when we got in but we still managed to catch a good dose of these self-proclaimed “Four shit wankers, off their bollocks on rubbish drugs.” It was not all new to me either as the band members have been witnessed in various other underground sewer acts such as Dead Existence, Slabdragger, Astrohenge & NDM and I had previously caught them supporting Labrat and Dripback. Living up to their name this was thick, crusty-coated sludge with fearsome rampaging parts and others that were all about down-tempo sluggishness. It was a good way to get the day going after battles with TFL and Arsenal fans and they helped the first few beers slide down the throat nicely. Romantic tunes such as ‘Sloppy Firsts’ were lovely serenades and last number ‘6 Million Ways to Die in a Rock ‘n Roll Band’ was a hard practiced lesson in distempered violence, leaving the set to finish all too quickly.

The one band I had previously listened to and thought I would probably not enjoy were Eliminator. In fact I was reminded that I had seen them at Full Moon Dog prior to the show. Personal thoughts aside there was absolutely no denying that they put on a balls out metal show that was incredibly full of conviction and a powerful one as they came on fast as a sharkanado and proceeded to tear things up. Galloping heavy metal was their order of the day and they threw out the shapes to go with it. Songs flew out with a fist pumping fervour with steely grit and twin guitar histrionics flowing around the warbling vocals. I have to admit these were not to my tastes and despite the on stage enthusiasm it did not seem to be spilling into the audience who were doing little more than nodding along in appreciation. The band asked for a mosh pit but were probably well aware they were not going to get one so hopefully were not too disappointed when they didn’t get one to ‘Traitor’ I tried my best with this lot but was honestly glad when they finished with ‘Danger In The Skies’. Plenty more to come and you can’t like everything at a show like this and after another quick stage turnaround it was time for something very different.

Time for some action from a band from outside the UK and mine and no doubt most others first encounter with Necrowretch from France. This lot have quite a bit of material out there and battered into things with ‘Sadistic Expiation which had a nice and suitably vicious and hollow cavernous sound. This was more like it, extreme and uncompromising stuff with the band playing in really low lighting and foggy dry ice that was great atmospherically if not for attempting to take any decent pictures. The vocals barked and guitars seethed virulently to this morbid death worship as the band ripped into songs from their Century Media debut album ‘Putrid Death Sorcery’ They were not pissing about either, songs were short, sharp and sinister with an eldritch demonic feel about them. Heads cracked in time to the drums and it seemed the audience were getting into things. There were the odd Slayer sounding riffs cutting through the mire and giving things a recognisable slant and the band were receiving rousing cheers between songs so were obviously doing something right. It did seem a bit odd to witness a band this feral and raw playing to so many at such a time of the day but I guess it went hand in liver with the beer we were all knocking back and the short 30 minute exercise of evisceration was just the right length and as it culminated with ‘Zombie Ritual’ it’s necromantic charms had certainly paid off.

Call me an old Goth but Beastmilk were one if not the draws of the day for me.  I had already been sent a review download of forthcoming album ‘Climax’ and got in a few listens prior to the show. If you are in the dark, this lot are one of many projects of Mat Kvohst McNerney and unlike all the others past and present (Hexvessel DHG, Code etc) this lot look back to a different musical era taking in gothic and post punk territories right back from the gloomy 80’s. Christian Death shirts on display and looking suitably morose they quickly deluged us with gangly skeletal riffs with perfect melody glistening through the speakers with crystal clear clarity. I had kind of expected them to lose a large proportion of the audience, this is not the sort of stuff for the dyed in the wool metal head, so I thought, but by the time EP track ‘Void Mother’ tribally bit in with pounding beats and wailing vocals it looked like everyone was getting into things around me. I tried to place the sound here but it was not easily identifiable and it is obvious that although from a different era the music is quite unique as are the vocals which at times had me thinking Ian Astbury Southern Death Cult era along with Kirk Brandon and even Glenn Danzig; whatever, they were really hitting the spot. Newer songs like ‘Love In A Cold World’ had people jigging about to its angular jaunty grooves and the singer suitably twisted himself into shapes and ‘Death Reflects Us’ is a real anthem from an album that deserves to be massive. All that was missing was the stench of patchouli and it was evident that Beastmilk had propelled things to another level and were clearly the first really professional band of the day.

Swede crypt lurkers Vampire have caused a lot of cult rumblings despite only having released a highly sought after three track cassette in various colours, which have naturally all sold out. It sounded like a Fabio Frizzi score that was used as an intro and as soon as this finished the trio battered in playing on another suitably smog filled stage which saw them cast in blood red hues. There was nothing camp about these vampires as their death thrash tumult honed in. Things were evil and vocals snarled and bit hard. Compared to the professionalism of the last band this was uncouth and messy sounding not that this did not fit in, it’s a sound that was never meant to be polished. We think they played five numbers or so and they flew by in a savage fashion that had these vamps far from slow moving and predatory but more like feral wolves hungering for blood. Hopefully they will have some more material soon so we can really get our teeth into them.

Recent interviewees and scorers of a whopping 10/10 on this site for new album The Malefice, Pentagram Chile were not only one of our main draws of the day but it seemed with the rapidly filling up venue quite a few others too. Around since 85 and it being their first album we hoped it would be good and had high expectations for them live. Anton Reisenegger and his assorted Criminals did not let us down in the slightest either as they flew into their ‘Spell Of The Pentagram’ getting me one of the many free showers of beer I received over the weekend in the photo pit. Whereas all the earlier bands had a 35 minute set which was just right (certainly considering how much material some had at their disposal) this was a much longer set and the band made all of it count. By the time I fell out of the photo pit to ‘Temple Of Perdition’ seeing it was hemmed in throughout the front of the venue there was only one place really to go, and like an eager teenager I found myself compelled to the pit to head bang like a loon. The pulverising death metal was solid and thick and sounded excellent, the drumming thudded away and opening album cut ‘The Death Of Satan’ was thankfully not prophetic for the headliners who were waiting in the wings. Rapid fire drumming was precisely honed and it was a neck snapping display taking in many of the songs from the album which everyone seemed to know well. By the time they were drawing to a close a much needed beer and some calmness was necessary but with a final salvo of ‘Demonic Possession’ taking things right back to 1987 we were going to have to wait a little while longer before staggering out for some fresh air and falling over.

I’m certainly not going to profess to be any expert about the headliners Satan although the Newcastle acts status as NWOBHM icons is incredibly well documented and a crash course in return album ‘Life Sentence’ had helped. I have to wonder when so many bands are supporting why people only bother coming along for the headliners but Satan had obviously drawn a big audience as by the time they came on the place was literally heaving. ‘The Trial By Fire’ started in earnest and a clap of thunder with the band dropping us straight back in time to 1982. Blitzkrieg singer Brian Ross hung over us dominating the stage, his vocals with a beseeching warmth about them and the high yells hitting the roof. The rest of the band simply got down to playing some infectious metallic licks and naturally it took no time to set the crowd off.  With ‘Blades Of Steel’ forged it was obvious those wanting a genuine retro trip way back in time were not going to be disappointed.

Those who were newer to the game got some recognition and tracks off that comeback album followed. ‘Time To Die’ obviously being good enough to get those with youth still on side launching themselves off the stage. Luckily I managed to duck but it was time to go and witness the rest of the set from a safer distance and try and dry off from the constant beer soaking and do what you are meant to do with the stuff and actually drink it. Twenty Twenty Five was an infectious number and with space I managed to enjoy it more and found the jagged riffs and power croons really hitting the spot. The galloping pace was hard not to get enthusiastically caught up in and looking over heads from the back many were banging along in time. Massive cheers between songs as they ran through them from old ones like ‘Oppression’ and instrumental ‘The Ritual’ giving the singer a pause to the fresher likes of ‘Siege Mentality’ with its gung-ho call to arms vocal clamour. It was a long set and the day had taken its toll especially as it was a case of doing it all again tomorrow so I missed the crush and bowed out a couple of songs early and made my escape with ‘Cenotaph’ ringing in my ears. All in all a great day and I had a feeling Sunday was going to be even better.

Sunday review is here

Review and photos © Pete Woods