Day two of Warhorns dawned and my merry little band were still trying to figure out what the hell Whispered had been all about, but arrived with a pleasant number of others in time to catch first band Daemona. A few seconds in the teeth of their hate fuelled death metal and the world was right again: Furious, tight, rhythmic and compelling they blasted through tech problems and a curious lack of stage lighting/full house lights like a wolverine with anger issues. Front-woman Nina (now also the new Eastern Front vocalist) has such an impressive range and huge presence, the guitars from Strix Bellmer wonderful crunch and all given serious ooomph by the bass/drums (Dan Mailer/Logan Dennis). Strangely catchy, violent and hard, bordering on the technical but never clinical they gave it everything. Tracks from their EP Il Demone Dentra shone. Band of the weekend so far. Off to the merch area! (Giz)
Sathamel are a grizzly sight and look the part to blast out some deathly blackness. At odds is the rather nice smell of rose incense wafting off the stage but musically they are rank and filthy in all the right ways. They blaze away in a fashion meant to take your head off at first but have the habit of slowing things down to a choking groove with some suitably gravid parts. The Yorkshire based band get fists pumping and music has more than a touch of Behemoth about it at times. I’m sure our paths have crossed on the left hand path at some point before, the recognisable cowled figure of vocalist Cruk towering over the front of the stage is not something easily forgotten. Musically they are tight and the ‘Eternal Hunters’ capture with a presence that is not all about speed but more in line with conjuring dark atmosphere; something they excel in here.
How the hell have Isarnos escaped me, they are from London after all? Now this is the sort of band I really expected Warhorns to pull out the bag and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. We have violin, hurdy-gurdy box, pipes, tin whistle and err count them seven members doing all sorts of things on the stage. The manic brand of folky metallic goodness saw the crowd pressing themselves right down to the front and going suitably mad to the musical storm on stage. The singer talked about being united in blood and that it seemed we were. The burgeoning pace of numbers like Cunos had tales of these Isles recanted with panache and this lot are certainly entertaining making very good drinking partners. There’s some soulful female vocals thrown into the mix and plenty going on. Calling them the UK version of Eluveitie, would be no injustice.
Also from London but far from strangers are unholy trio Scutum Crux. Selby has probably sold out of certain cosmetics as they are another lot who don’t hold off when it comes to plastering themselves in corpse paint and look a touch on the grim side. Clattering off and intending to destroy they are quickly out the traps. The complexity behind the all-out pummelling attack is illustrated by some technical guitar licks and it is all pretty damn frenzied sending the unsuspecting heads into a spin. Stage front there is plenty of twirling hair in co-ordination and the Polish flavours come out in the musical storm, especially with the gargled in between song announcements. The snares and cymbals batter away crunching all the way to the back of the room and this is an energetic and hateful display that no doubt wins the band some new followers in Yorkshire.
I had noticed some Valafar shirts being sported but that’s as far as my knowledge of them went. They are apparently a death metal band from Bradford just oop road so had some support with them today. The first impression I got was that this lot were playing like they were headlining. They really threw themselves into things and went for it straight a bloody way! The players thrash it up like there’s no tomorrow, the kick drum bruises and the singer gives a powerful and belligerent, bellow filled performance. Naturally it gets necks snapping away at the front and the enthusiasm spreads and infects. Ok so it might all be a bit meat and two potatoes but made for a good enough replacement for a Sunday roast (umm Yorkshire puddings) but there’s no denying they delivered the musical goods. Moving from thrashy parts into gnarly death metal they ticked a few boxes in the process too. (PW)
The war machine that is Stahlsarg were next up. They are the first band to really use lighting to good effect and with guitarist Krieg a particularly compelling figure, they thunder their blackened death way through tracks from their debut like ‘Razed To The Ground’ and ‘Castle Wewelsburg’ with commitment and proper malevolence. Eissturm is a striking vocalist, pallid centre stage and they did a grand job of recapturing some of the crowd who had drifted out and went down well. Some of the subtleties of their debut album which I enjoyed seem to get lost along the way live this time, though, I think. Still, on this occasion although it doesn’t quite do it for me, it does for the crowd which is good to see.
Plaid outfits and a fiddle player announce Irish band Celtachor are on stage. ‘Arrival Of The Tuatha’ opens the battle, from their ‘Nuada Of The Silver Arm’ album and their vocalist Stephen Roche is a wild eyed, energetic presence and their sound is much heavier than I expected, more Primordial than twee folk. There’s a bit of the faster bits of Mael Mordha in there too, though sadly no clean vocals. It’s driving, intensely passionate stuff and they certainly have their fans in from the enthusiastic response. Heavy but with melody aplenty (whistles from Roche and fiddle from the young Liam Henry) they draw on songs from both ‘Nuada…’ and ‘Nine Waves From The Shore’ and maybe an older song (I couldn’t catch all that was said from the stage). Occasional niggling mic problems aside they put in a fine performance that keeps a good day bouncing and rolling along. (Giz)
De Profundis seem to be following me, to be fair it’s their tour with Scarab I’ve landed on here but there’s not much to say that I haven’t already about this technical death squad. It was always going to be interesting to see how they went down in a different environment from London where people are not quite as used to their sound which on first and even tenth impression can be a bit baffling. As they took us ‘Beyond The Threshold’ it has to be said it had emptied somewhat but luckily the tight technical prowess, guttural vocals and battering chops bring people back in. The band deliver one of their non-stop, driving adrenaline rides, stage lights have been cranked up and dry ice coats things as the band furrow away. The odd jazz motifs slow things down and still confuse me so no idea what they did for those getting a first impression. They are on much safer ground when it comes to taking us up the ‘Crystal Mountain’ though and recognition reigns supreme as people dig in and go for it at the front.
Now comes an example of what I was talking about regarding musical authenticity whilst slating Whispered yesterday. Scarab are the real deal, they are (nearly all) from Egypt and meld ethnic melodies with battering death metal. They had proved commendable at Bloodstock a couple of years ago and on recent album Serpents Of The Nile. In this small venue they really took our heads off. It felt like word had spread about the band from the land of the Sphinx too considering the reaction they got. The arid heat from the bands brutal inferno scorches those down at the front and the whirlwind precision is comparable to uncorking a Djinn from a bottle, all we can do is dig in and weather the storm. Their message is not one of hate, vocalist Sammy calls out a message of freedom, something not particularly prevalent in their home country as witnessed by anyone following the extreme music scene there. The melodies are brilliant, the keyboard player really transporting us off to another place and even better is seeing the pit kick up and the band getting the reaction they deserve. Band of the weekend for me without a shadow of a doubt.
It’s off to Bonnie Scotland for some heather scented and rather windswept, thistly black metal next courtesy of Saor. Main muse behind them Andy Marshall had impressed with his side project Fuath recently so it was good to get the chance to dip into material from three albums that he has released with this his better known outfit. Songs are incredibly long and intricate and sound absolutely fantastic in their professionalism. It is easy to see why the group are this high up the billing and the crowd react by pushing down towards the front and completely losing themselves in the intricate music. Soar make the experience not one just to hear but one to completely absorb. Behind the gruff vocals and musical ballast there’s a bit a jaunty and although not quite hey-nonny-nonny vibe one that enough to get fists pumping and people bouncing about. The surges of pure adrenaline are really great and all that is missing is live keyboards, possibly a pipe triller and hell they could have gone the full hog and got a bagpipe player in, that would just be silly though. Totally representing the scene from North of Hadrian’s Wall this was a rather special show and one that gives me another act that I really should explore in more detail. (PW)
With little fanfare, the legendary Solstice announce their arrival at Warhorns with the guitar melody of ‘White Horse Hill’ and the magnificent voice of a curiously nervous looking Paul Kearns rings out. The distinctive dual guitar tone is full and epic and there is immediately a powerful rise in the riff and just a terrific rumble in the rhythmic engine room that goes right through you. A little messing with a persistently recalcitrant mic cable that has plagued a few bands today and ‘Death’s Crown Is Victory’ hits us next. The band are in full flight now, Rich Walker and Andy W trading guitar roles beautifully and the interplay between bassist Izak Gloom and drums (was that Rick Budby back on the stool?) just superb. They drop a gear down into classy doom with ‘The Sleeping Tyrant’ from New Dark Age and then rise up into the magnificent recently released song ‘To Sol A Thane’. The vocals are just unbelievable, immense, clear and powerful and full of character, and the melody utterly haunting. A rolling, thunder storm and call to arms; amazing songwriting. They close with a grand rendition of the classic ‘Cromlech’ which just about wrecks my neck. At one point Mr Kearns wonders if they might not be odd ones out on the bill but to my ears and those around me there is no fear of that: Epic, crushing skulls, mythic. That’s what Warhorns is about and Solstice bleed it. Brilliant set. My band of the weekend. (Giz)
Over the course of a day and a half we had been treated to a wealth of talent spanning a broad spectrum of styles with some more successful than others. Headliners Månegarm closed the festival and were making their first visit to the UK, but hopefully they’ll return soon for some more shows given that the crowd knew their material particularly well. The band started about 20 minutes late which doesn’t help people when they’ve travel arrangements in place for the end of the night. As the intro piece started it was suitably brooding as the band went into “Tagen Av Dava” unleashing an audience symphony of woahs which was capitalised on by the band. The sound was decent after the trials and tribulations experienced over the course of festival but it still felt wispy, lacking substance and definition on the instrumentation especially. “Hordes Of Hel” continued the joviality and increased the aggression as the first and from what I saw the only pit of the weekend on “Legions Of The North”, even if it was short-lived. The band was in fine form and whilst not as brilliant as their show at the Inferno festival earlier this year, the bands professionalism and self-assured ability was unquestionable as they spent little time with audience chat. Closing their set with a doublet of “Fimbultrollet” and “Odin Owns Ye All”, the crowd lapped up their dense Viking metal thunder and left their mark on the festival even if it was a little less prominent when compared to other bands of the weekend. (MH)
With Darkest Era from Belfast, Old Corpse Road from Darlington, Annwn from Swansea, Valafar from West Yorkshire, Vehement from Brighton and Aklash from Reading already announced for next year this is going to be a festival well worth putting in your diaries. Watch for more announcements including headliners at the following links.
(Pete Woods, Giz & Martin Harris)