Day Three – Friday 3rd April
Two days of extreme metal done, two to go as the third day started with Italian death metal act Ade whose melodic death metal was tinged with a keyboard like backdrop and some backing female vocals which added some depth to their songs as they got under way with “Duelling The Shadow Of Spartacus”. With a good stage presence the band was formidable and with such an upbeat tempo they were a perfect antidote to the previous days extremity, and whilst not groundbreaking in any sense I enjoyed their easy on the ear metal, much like the powerhouse of US act Goatwhore with their brand of grubby death and black with slimy hints of thrash on the riffing. With half a dozen albums already under their bullet belts the band had a rich reservoir to tap into. Their tempo change dynamics were excellent and even though the audience was a little indifferent to their brand of aggression they were in top form as they thundered through “FBS”, which stands for “Fucked By Satan” if you didn’t know. With the bassist breaking a string that took a while to sort out pure old school evil still seeped from their songs where boiling demonism was emptied onto the audience during “Collapse In Eternal Worth”, who had decided they liked the band a lot by now as I reluctantly gave way to head downstairs to catchy Egyptian progressive metallers Crescent.
I was expecting great things from this band during my pre-festival revision and whilst they gave a good account of themselves by displaying some competent Immolation and Nile like hooks the band looked distinctly nervous and it manifested itself in some jitters during their set where their lack of live experience and in particular playing to a sizeable crowd not knowing their stuff was patently obvious. Coupled to that their stage presence suffered as a result making their show musically fine but performance wise lacking impact and momentum meaning deserting their show for a beer, buy the Goatwhore vinyls, drink more beer, take stupid photos and buy a Skeletonwitch shirt before they sold out, then ponder which damn Skeletonwitch vinyl I had at home because I had stupidly forgotten.
With the proposition of catching Skeletonwitch twice in a week (they were playing the UK the week after) I decided that I could buy the vinyl there instead and greedily wanted to catch them here as a precursor of what to expect later in the tour and they did not disappoint as they rocketed onto the Rockefeller stage by blazing into “I Am Of Death” leaving much of the crowd carbonized in their wake. With a stand in vocalist (who was phenomenal in his vocals and stage persona) and rumours rife on the internet about the split, the US band were the archetypal thrashers, macho screaming licks and bellowed vocals atop a rhythm section that could lay waste to buildings. Announcing song titles in a barked out croak is not easy but I’ll guess at “Stand Fight And Die” which was unleashed like a pack of ravenous wolves. Yet again the crowd seemed unfamiliar with the band but did warm to them as their set progressed which showed they had good taste in my opinion. With the bands set flying by it was once again time to vacate to catch another band at the John Dee stage.
Yet again the smaller room was rammed and the air was heavy with anticipation for Norwegian black metal enigma Dødsengel, (which translates to “Angel of Death”). Live outings for their majestic and yet raw black metal are few and far between, which added to the sense of occasion for this set. The band appeared in robes, and when the vocalist’s hood came down, the face was still obscured by a silver mask. When some bands cover up with robes, masks and hoods they claim it is to allow attention to focus on the music, but with Dødsengel, these were very much part of the show and complemented the music as part of the show. This was one of the stand out sets of the festival and I was pleased to find one of the CDs at a record shop the next day.
Yorkshire’s My Dying Bride were up next, and sitting at a table next to some of the band and crew at breakfast while they were discussing their set, had piqued my interest. Their gothic inspired doom slowed down the pace, but did not let up in intensity and it was difficult to manoeuvre in the main room once the crowd had gathered. The atmosphere was dense in the Rockefeller as they conjured up an atmosphere of windswept barren landscapes and although I was enjoying what I heard, after a few songs I took a well earned break in the other market area where your wallets and purses were tested to the limit and had a small gallery of photos taken at the festival plus a couple of sofas to relax on as well.
For me this day was all about seeing Sargeist and making sure I was stood at the front was critical which I did by arriving very early via the bar to decamp at the barrier and watch the scrum of photographers try to get into the photo pit which was microscopic and ended up looking like a mini world wrestling pit of photographers and was really quite laughable though I felt sorry for the majority of them; some were just plain arrogant and holier than thou unfortunately. Every other band that I had heard that day was utterly obliterated by the most noxious and hellish encounter I’ve had the pleasure to witness live. Decked out in full corpse paint and looking like they had all just been dug out of the ground the blackened Finnish zombie horde proceeded to strip the ears of everyone present the moment they opened with the appropriately titled opener of “Black Fucking Murder”. The venom that haemorrhaged from the stage was an aural violation unmatched over the festival as they went straight into “The Shunned Angel”. With no interaction with the crowd this was tyrannous blasphemous filth that felt dirty, sounded dirty and left you with that mordant taste of being completely sonically raped. Tune after tune engulfed the crowd which was fluidised and rolling like a pack of rats behind me. Within their set the crests and troughs of their music were reeling as all out pulverising was blended with deft troughs of sublime sombre serenity, before skull splitting the crowd on the crescendo aspects during songs like “Empire Of Suffering” and “Satanic Black Devotion”. A truly devastating and perniciously unrivalled performance.
After the annihilation by Sargeist it was time to head back to the Rockefeller stage and try and gain a decent vantage point to watch the now progressive metallers Enslaved headline the evening. Looking down from the balcony the crowd was a seething mass as they tessellated themselves like a human jigsaw ready for the set. With a lot of smoke lingering in the air around the venue, the aura was perfect as the band calmly walked on stage to a great cheer. These days Enslaved have become intelligent and progressive extreme metal where their blackened roots are sewn together with more laid back passages and of course their clean vocals which tonight were marvellous. Launching into the bands new material they aired the opener off “In Times” called “Thurisaz Dreaming”, epic and possessing an inherent ability to take their songs on a journey the embittered aspects of the song knitted seamless to the clean vocal parts creating a veritable buffet of experiences. Finishing the song Ivar stated “Happy Crucifixion Day” in honour of it being Good Friday, before playing “Ruun” as I gazed down on the band from up on high that offered a very different experience and I’d have to say that whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the songs being played I wasn’t to too enamoured by the performance as a whole. Faultless as the musicianship was I found my attention wandering during “Ethici Odini” and decided that that was enough for this day and headed back downstairs to squirm through the masses and head back to the hotel with the sound of Sargeist still rattling through my psyche.
(Review Martin Harris Photos © Andy Pountney)