Well this was an odd day for me I’m afraid. Good intentions had gone out of the window and distracted by Bristol we arrived late for… well the first half I’m afraid. Still, for me the day was all based around getting a good place for Neurosis so I decided regretfully it was best to stick to the main stage for day two so missed the collected punk and hardcore of the second stage.
So really it was up to Conan to shake the cobwebs out and introduce any new people to their ludicrously earth crushing sound. They never disappoint. Even my clothes were shaking. Tight as a singularity and heavy as the gravitational pull even with the standard 30 minute Temples set it was a joy to feel that wave just blast through me. ‘Foehammer’ was notably superb and the hooded ones did a grand job.
Next up was my surprise of the weekend. For some reason I had not really paid much attention to A Storm Of Light despite the bands they have played with and the label they are on. They were the first band who really used the back projection too and it pulled you into a dense, hugely intense world. I made notes that made no sense as my brain was scrambled by the glorious punishing sound coming from these guys; Killing Joke meets Isis and Hawkwind somewhere as the world collapses. Just sheer musical muscle and a coherent, clear sound that pinned me to the spot. Really if like me you have treated them in the casual manner of “Oh, no not another bloody post-rock infected band..” then get out and see them and make sure your words were printed on something edible. Just superb, guys, just superb. And the crowd reaction showed it.
The imposing guys from Tombs had the misfortune to follow that and, to be honest despite a good workmanlike performance they didn’t really grab me. Heavy of course, very much so, and they got a reasonable reaction but their brand of heavy riffs and post-metal didn’t do it for me this time, sorry.
Amenra faired a fair bit better. Another band I haven’t really got on with in the past but the live arena was a far better place to get to know them. Intense and again using a truly hypnotic back projection the Belgians’ dark, heavy sludge and metalcore sound blasted Temples. The singer, mostly with his back to the audience (sorry, just never got that) poured every bit of energy and fire he had into his performance and the crowd responded enthusiastically. I’ll have to pay their music another listen because on the strength of this they have a lot to offer.
The day however was never going to be anyone’s’ other than Neurosis. And they didn’t so much take no prisoners and nuked the planet from orbit. Intense, loud and frighteningly focussed they absolutely killed it. Two hours, close enough, of songs chosen mostly from Honour Found In Decay and A Sun That Never Sets this was never an easy ride but always compelling and they put all of themselves into it. Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly sharing vocals and guitars, the hugely impressive rhythm section of Dave Edwardson and Jason Roeder who somehow keep this earthquake of sound anchored and some of the most involved keyboard playing I’ve seen in an age from Noah Landis these are guys you just wouldn’t dare interrupt. They radiate a truly frightening aura and from ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ onwards we are dragged through their darkness and light. They have a touch for dynamics which no one else has had on the day, not even A Storm Of Light; they know how to make soft, quiet passages every bit as intense as the wall of riffs and you are just taken on their ride, no way to get off until they decide they are done. ‘We All Rage in Gold’ is particularly stunning, my neck is in pain and my legs hurt but we plunge on through songs like ‘My Heart for Deliverance’ and ‘Bleeding the Pigs’ until they bring down the apocalypse with the end of times ‘Stones from the Sky’. Beautiful, bright, dark, stunning. Neurosis turned in a simply jaw dropping performance proving that they are a rare jewel in extreme music. Never underestimate them and never, ever believe that they are not better than they have ever been.
Well we made it. Last day and Sunday is the day we rock out which is perfect pacing after the intensity of the second day.
Lionize, Clutch label-mates and touring partners open up a lazy and still rather slow afternoon crowd and they were just what the doctor ordered. Warm bluesy grooves and bouncing rhythms they are fine and almost funky, reggae tinged rockers. Never having heard them before they surprised me with a catchy, very well played set which I guess is mostly culled from their Jetpack Soundtrack CD. Good enough for me to invest in a copy. Cool.
The next lot I found myself in front of was Leeds based five piece Black Moth. With the ever smiling and very expressive Harriet Hyde on vocals they impressed me with their brand of hard rocking stoner doom. There’s a lot more heavy metal in these guys than some others and the riffs are pleasing and tight and there are some fun, charismatic songs in there. Another nice new discovery for me. I would have had another CD in my swag but unfortunately their merch stall stayed stubbornly absent
Beastmilk were on the second stage and their very curious melding of Joy Division/Bauhaus old school goth with much more metal attack was actually rather engaging but due to my own incompetence I had to cut their short set even shorter I’m afraid. I will not make that mistake again as again they are definitely onto something.
One of the bands I was most looking forward to at Temples was HARK. Their Crystalline CD blew me away with its brand of classic, huge heavy rock riffs and musicality. They didn’t disappoint either me or the nicely full crowd either. A great power trio, they rocked through a set culled from their debut and, just as on the album, they once more impressed with the energy involved and the ability of Nikolai and Simon to keep the song and the rhythm interesting when Jimbob is wrangling those lead rips out of his guitar. Always on the move, energetic they were a great band for the Sunday and, of course, even managed to coax a certain Neil Fallon out for the song ‘Clear Light Of…’ A bit of a triumph that set, I think. Excellent.
Now I did once more catch SSS at a festival and for the second time I have to say my opinion is seemingly so at odds with everyone else who I asked that I just have to throw my hands up and say “I guess I just don’t get them!” Manic as ever the distinctive figure of Foxy prowls and jumps around and the crowd get a pit going in seconds as usual. Seriously hard working band on stage too and even if the banter didn’t make me smile much, they seem to have a fine relationship with their fans. So as I say everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves except sourpuss here. I just kind of booked my place on the balcony for Clutch and wondered at the running order of the day.
And next great surprise for me was Doomriders. Another band I’d neither caught live nor really heard, the Boston four piece were just a revelation of punk ‘n’ roll at death metal/hardcore intensity and frankly they just rocked my arse off. Loud as hell, heavy as death and hard as nails they were tight, sharp and just all round excellent. They will cost me money. Must catch them live again soon.
And so to festival closers Clutch. If you have seen them before then nothing I can say will be new. If you haven’t, then this is the simple truth: Four unprepossessing looking guys, working stiffs in t shirts, jeans and trainers. One hat, one beard, modest drum kit. And they come together as just about the greatest rock and roll band on the face of Mother Earth. They are genius. From the moment that Neil Fallon’s blues rich voice rings out for ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ we are just on a rollercoaster. He is like the wide eyed preacher on the corner of the street, every song a conversation with the crowd, every wave of the arm or twitch of the head expressive and that voice… that voice just rings so many blues, rock, bells. The slightly odd, head down, motionless figure of guitar maestro Tim Sult to one side of him, the more slender figure of Dan Maines on bass the other and the incredible drumming of Jean-Paul Gaster behind, Fallon just becomes their mouthpiece and their prophet and takes into his world of clever lyrics and soulful but high energy rocking. With a couple of diversions into Blast Tyrant era and of course ‘Electric Worry’ as an encore, they mostly concentrate on their stunning Earthrocker album with a slew of tracks that the crowd just go mad for. You can see those waves setting up in the crowd below, rocking back, forth, round and round and the arms raised. The sound is perfect and the band are just on a mission. The only time it lets up is for the brooding tones of ‘Gone Cold’ but that is soon swallowed by ‘The Face’ and ‘The Wolf Man Kindly Requests’. Beautifully paced, performed with the ease that only the truly great can and with such fun, feeling and power that when they are on stage there just is no one else you would rather be with.
Perfect, stunning end to a great weekend.
I avoided the afterparty, being mostly knackered (but by all accounts it was a great laugh – well if you could get my friends dancing to Bon Jovi at a 90s disco until 5 am after three days of black, death, grind, sludge and stoner it had to be a laugh….).
So, my own personal awards:
Award for best merch stall: Neurosis who had everything from a huge range of CDs and vinyl and with items from a couple of quid up to £30 and friendly staff they really did have something for everyone and for every pocket. And allegedly shifted around more than £13k during the day. That’s DIY.
Award for most imaginative range of Band merchandise: Bossk (besides the usual, they had stuff in jars, leather wallets, all kinds of fun stuff.)
Award for most amusing/desperate approach to merchandise: Dragged Into Sunlight with their truly hideous limited edition shirts, bongs and assertion they would consider any offer of weed seriously.
Award for best hair product usage: Liz Buckingham’s silken locks.
Duracell Bunny award: That tall blonde guy with the light blue shirt who just kept going and going and going. For three days.
Award for least obvious sartorial choice for the festival: The Hawaiian shirt crew.
The “Really???” award: The guy who had a photo pass and used an iPhone in the pit…
Award for quote of the festival: ‘I’d rather shit in my hands and clap… “ (My mate and Winterfylleth stalker extrordinaire Peter)
Award for best choice of reading matter: The Neurosis fan we met at the Brew Dog pub reading Thomas Ligotti. Happy stuff…
In the clear light of a Bank Holiday Monday, it was clear that Temples had been a fair old triumph. The organisers had really tried to address any of the (very few) complaints that were in their power to address, had done their best to be reactive to events and had put in a sterling display for a first attempt at a three day festival so all the respect in the world to them and I think it’s fair to say that things, for the punters at least, ran smoothly. The city of Bristol was welcoming and a beautiful place to be based in, the security were laid back and polite, and the fans were great and friendly. And the bands were brilliant. Really what more can you wish for? Congratulations to all involved and thank you Temples.
I guess I was expected after all..!
Review By Gizmo