Well bugger me it was almost sunny the next day! It appeared most people had survived the night by the time we had picked up our passengers and arrived, and also that more than the odd hangover was being nursed.
We also had two brilliant additions to the merch stalls with superb art caricatures from the wonderful Abbie ‘Stabby’ Art and prints, jewellery and drinking horns from the exceptionally talented Hester Aspland Artwork (this year’s t-shirt designer, and guitarist with Skoll ). Yep they both dug a well-deserved hole in my wallet…I love additions like this to a festival and they both appeared to do a great trade.
Right…music? Oh yes. How to start day two with a bleary eyed audience: stick on Scarborough’s raw black metal Anti-Inferno. I’d listened to their EP on Bandcamp but nothing prepared me for them live. A stripped down three piece of two guitarists and a drummer, no theatrics and no compromise. They ripped into those hungover, vocalist KB looking as though his jaw would dislocate at any moment so fierce was the attack. There’s that old school punk energy and total fury to them, with great cold riffs and that shade of a little doom to them too. Watch out for these guys as this was nothing short of superb.
Scars Of Sense had to follow that. Tricky at the best of times. I had no idea about them before, but they had a few fans about which was good to see. They play folk metal in a little bit of a lean towards the Korpiklaani jiggy end of the spectrum I guess, promising energy and fun. They also had a bit of a bass heavy sound and the fiddle took on the lead role really which caused a bit of a drop in the songs when it paused. They were also a little too static on stage and seemed to have little interaction with each other which jarred a bit with the music, but they are young and no doubt that will come with time. A warm reception hopefully cheered them.
I drifted off to the food by the end, I admit. Needs must and all that.
One of the best things about Warhorns is their determination to give young bands, our scene’s future, a shot at a decent festival crowd and another shockingly young band was on next. Hex Morbidity were a definite different look. Not a kilt in sight, just loose black shirts and a striking, elegant looking cellist. First bit of smoke and tape intro, the London band really came at us with tooth and claw when I was braced for My Dying Bride! I should have had more about me as I realised I’d heard ‘Decree Of The Nazarene’ on the Marwolaeth Records British Black Metal compilation.
They have a sharp and vicious tone, one mixed with a lot of that 80s post punk/proto goth sound like early Bauhaus with early Venom mixed in too but also a very British Black Metal influence like Hecate Enthroned. With a good sense of the stage and how to use it, and a high energy front man with an aggressive presence I really think they are on to something, and I think the crowd did too.
Fjords from the Midlands came up next (“Fjords?” queries a mate, “Shouldn’t that be canals?”). Unassuming in appearance they produce a warm post rock meets black metal sound. A bit of Fen, a little Agalloch, a sprinkling of In The Woods and clean vocals weave a dexterous and flowing misty epic sound over the stage which is progressive without being too fussy. Not really my thing to be honest but they are a thoughtful and classy band and the afternoon crowd fills out nicely for them.
Ah Petrichor. The band of frighteningly long memories (they recalled a conversation I had with them two years previously). They’ve been basically writing for a year but with a new drummer and guitarist they were ready to punish us now. With Crowbane the imposing frontman decked out in velvet shirt and bass and guitar Nadir and Lorgar more fierce black metal they crushed all hope with their distinctive doomed blackened death. With ‘Hope Departs’, the excellent ‘As The Dark Steals The Light’ and ‘Loss’ it’s misery in riffs, the right side of theatrical and some excellent clean vocals too. With dramatic expressions and even a little dark humour they were also the first band of the day to really try and engage with the audience. They also walked off halfway through, a backing tape playing. And returned…all velvet gone, drenched in blood and proceeded to batter us with some harsh, up tempo pagan metal. ‘We Are The Fire’ is just a fight starter and the thumping ‘A Fist In The Face Of God’ heavy as hell. Unexpected but a welcome sign that they still progress and are brimming with ideas live too. Great set, and more shiny things bought
A crowded stage and a lady with a mini coffin with a turning handle strapped to her? It must be the welcome return of Isarnos. Tech issues caused a bit of a delay but once sorted the intro tape summoned us. The crowds gathered to a favourite band and they hit us with (I think) The Gael. It’s full on, vibrant folk metal that flirts with the outer edges of heavier sounds. Harsh male vocals, clean female vocals and a plethora of traditional instruments from hurdy-gurdy fiddle and whistle delivers with huge energy and bombast. The crowd surge and the first real ‘Warhorns bounce’ hits the floor. It’s kinda joyous really, and for me with the added frustration of the tech delay transferred into a determination to play even better it’s the best set I’ve seen from these extraordinarily talented people. Eluveitie flirting with Amon Amarth? Probably not to anyone else but you hopefully get the idea. Now bloody record something so I can give you money!!!
Welsh three piece Tor Marrock were a band I first caught a couple of years ago at Warhorns and I have to say they are a difficult prospect for anyone first time around and sadly the crowd presence showed it after Isarnos. It’s a shame as, second time around I got them, or at least began to. This is thoughtful, dense music full of intelligence, introspection and atmosphere. They have an eerie presence with smoke, long black coats and white half face masks, and the music lays gothic melodies over heavy doom laden sounds. ‘Angel The Second Beast’, a new song particularly worked it’s intense way within. I am very glad I persevered as there is a lot here to love. Thank you.
Utter change of pace as Na Cruithne from Galway somehow brawled their way onto the stage. I think there’s seven of them, it was hard to tell me being less than 5′ 6″ and the rest of the room bouncing around like nutters. Their songs use a strong mandolin melody which work brilliantly with fiddle and guitar, and the burly vocals, charisma and energy of the front man (who was strangely obsessed with the lack of eggs in Eggborough) just set fire to the rest. Critical faculties be damned this was catchy as hell folk metal with balls; The Pogues brawling with Darkest Era and Mael Mordha as the fiddle player whipped up a storm. The crowd went a bit nuts which really was the only sensible response.
Fantastic. More stuff bought.
The Prophecy had the impossible task of following that. I mean these guys have always been a professional and class act centred firmly on the immaculate voice of Matt Lawson, but their brand of doom death which now veers more towards doom/goth rock was difficult after such in your face energy. Still, they had a good audience and a good if quieter response I reckon. I eventually headed in search of a seat and a little more food and water (no, really, water…)
Which leaves us with headline international act Sojourner. To say quite a few people had turned up because they were playing is probably slightly underplaying it. The vibe I got was that they were the second most anticipated act of the weekend for some after Kalmah as being so scattered they don’t play live much. I only have one album by them, and that I bought less than a week before the festival so I’m not a dyed in the wool fan but the album had built up a lot of anticipation for me too with its folky melodic and atmospheric death tinged metal. They had a stand in bass player (their actual member is NZ based, the rest across Sweden and Italy I think) but hit the stage like pros with confidence and a blaze of sound and Bound By Blood. They singer grabbed the song by the scruff of its neck his direct harsh vocals setting the scene for the set itself.
The sound seemed a little disjointed at first but the crowd got into it and it seemed to settle down. The band are fine musicians and as I say on CD I had really warmed to them. It was by ‘Aeons Of Valour’ though that I began to have misgivings I’m afraid. I’m not going to go into an anti-backing tape routine but it seemed that it possibly caused a little issue for the sound desk at points. In addition though there was, apart from the frontman, little movement on stage and it seemed as though I was watching five very good musicians rather than a band. It was just lacking something. I began to find the vocals too unvaried too. It all began to slip away I’m afraid, and I noted others did wander to the bar and such as well. Maybe they were simply a little rusty with lack of stage time and rehearsal but I just didn’t find myself swept away I’m sad to say. I stayed until the end but more out of obligation than desire.
The existing fans loved it, there is no doubt and so they should. They had a ball and the reaction from them was loud and enthusiastic, and the band really worked hard too.
But for me, a regretful pass, and talking to people the next day I wasn’t alone by any stretch. Sorry, just not for me in that night.
We hadn’t a clue what the next day had planned for us…
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