On Om

I took the vibrationary enlightenment path on the Northern line in November in search of sonic benediction. Here is what I found after that fateful trip on the underground.

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Photo by Nina Saeidi

I wondered in the Shoreditch Vales and found a mighty sound-hall filled

With sweeping hair and riffs that curled

Around each brick and beam of light

To fill each heart with sweet delight.

 

And for each person in that room enlightenment did bloom

Upon their faces like a bruise,

A fractal sea of blood clots stared in wonder at the three up there, exhuming ancient eastern myth entwined around each pungent riff.

 

Al Cisneros’ voice rang deep,

Deeper than the mystery of Sleep.

Lichens grew in height and power

Until a wordless bursting song

Of distorted ecstasies was flung from his great tangled thunderous lungs.

His table full of wires hung from santoors, tamboors and guitars

Each felt his fingers drum the beat

That met with Amos’ pounding feet.

 

Each cymbal crash was met with peals of sweetest steel and

Falsettos clashed in harmony with Cisneros’ Rickenbacker rumble,

 

In ecstasies to Sinai’s tip climbed bass and drum and samples hit

The core of every pulsing heart until we were back at the start.

The end of Addis shuddered down with calls of sadness,

Darkness frowned upon the stage

And a single note more was not made

 

That fateful night,

Om had played.

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Hellfest Day 3: Sunday

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It’s Sunday, and we realise that our day of taking things somewhat easier has left us no more able to rouse ourselves from our collective slumbers than previously. We are now broken men, staring forlornly at our pastried breakfasts and wondering exactly how we’re going to get to the end of the day, where looms the prospect of Swans coming onstage at midnight to terrify the living hell out of us.

Again, decisions must be made, and with a heavy heart, in the interests of our own sanity, Swans are summarily jettisoned from our daily agenda. I really wanted to see them, but with 18 hours of travel back to Blighty pencilled in at stupid o’ clock the next morning, I just can’t face two hours of metronomic space doom starting at the stroke of midnight.

What we can handle, however, is a big dose of Truckfighters, aka the happiest stone rock band on the whole damn planet. As we are becoming accustomed to here at Pigeon Towers, half an hour in the company of these happy Swedes is like a revitalising tonic, a cure for what ails you. Taking Kyuss’ sound and making it bouncier is what they do, and they do it very well. We imbibe, we inhale and we feel better. Onwards!

For these reporters, the main draw of the day is not the giant main stage headlining power of Volbeat, but the triple threat drum assault being served up over at the Altar. Cryptopsy are first up, and they set the intensity bar ridiculously high. This is technical death metal served with a side order of extra tech. We watched in awe as their drummer pulled off speeds that would leave the Roadrunner agog; extra dazzling when we found out this wasn’t even their normal drummer. There are two of these fuckers? Someone should plug their spasming limbs into the national grid to generate free, limitless electricity, instead of powerful, deafening rhythms.

Pig Destroyer are up next, and if it is intensity you’re looking for, there’s enough here to fuel the power grids of 10 cities. Adam Jarvis pulls off another display of rhythmic whatthefuckery, the first in a double bill of Jarvis action; but the star of the show is J. R. Hayes, whose snarling, unhinged, and borderline feral performance is beyond captivating.

Misery Index round off the technicality triumvirate, meaning a second set for Adam Jarvis who again delivers an astounding performance on the drums, and while his band are equally dazzling in a technical sense, after the brutality of Cryptopsy and the derangement of Pig Destroyer, they fall a little flat, having less balls-out originality to make them stand out. Much fun was had though, and we stumble out of the Altar feeling like we’d spent all night smooching with a ball-peen hammer (no tongues).

Clutch were supposed to be the afternoon delight to bring us floating down from our death metal overdose, but unfortunately they had to pull out, leaving the prospect of Down Does Covers, which we reason could provide either an interesting anecdote or a genuine highlight. What we got was one of those rare moments that you imagine will one day pass into rock folklore, a where-were-you-when urban myth—or it would have done if any proper music journalists had been there to write about it. Instead you’ve got us.

Sorry.

The tent is rammed before the band come on stage, and even though it’s mostly French chatter around me it’s clear that one word is being spoken above all others; Pantera. In amongst the anticipation, there was also a real sense of danger, little scuffles breaking out here and there between crowd-members, as most of the festival tries to cram itself into the big top. When the band appear, they are clearly fairly well lubricated, and slightly sheepish. Phil tells us to expect something a bit different, then the band launch into two of Down’s better back catalogue moments. Then Phil introduces his wife to the stage, and suddenly you have a female fronted Eyehategod slugging their way through Sisterfucker and Blank. Then there’s a slight rearrangement of the personnel and we’re watching Crowbar for two songs.

This is all rather exciting, of course. After the Crowbar mini-set Pepper grabs the microphone and bursts into Clean My Wounds and holy shit we’re seeing CoC, and Jason Newsted is playing bass for some reason (???) and the crowd are going suitably bonkers. A fight breaks out next to us and we’re privileged to witness one of the best mandatory exits from a concert I’ve ever seen. One guy starts picking on a much smaller guy and from nowhere, a massive bloke picks up the aggressor and sprints him bodily through the crowd, before chucking him through the tent wall in a move I can only imagine he learned by watching Loony Tunes cartoons. For his efforts, he gets a round of applause as big as any enjoyed by the band. I was just about to step in, honest.

The Corrosion of Conformity mini-set comes to an end, then there are some songs I don’t recognise, with a man I don’t recognise, and then it all ends up with Phil re-joining the band for Walk. I’m sure you can imagine how the crowd reacted. Then the band departs, or all the bands depart, or all the bands break up and go and find something better to do, or something. It was all sloppy as hell but magical; one of those pinch-yourself moments you don’t get all that often.

At this point, our dear leader feels the need to slump in a tent, so it falls to the marginally younger and substantially sprightlier Will Downes to see one more band. Over to Will:

“My final act of Hellfest was to drag my battered and bruised body to see Hypocrisy, a band that in a world of melodic death metal clones have managed to create a sound uniquely theirs. Such head banging, many harmonies, wow, in the parlance of twenty-fucking-fourteen. If there was one sour note it was that I was distracted a little by an attractive lady. I don’t mean in a pervy way, you sickos; I just couldn’t work out what she was doing there, lost in a knot of sweaty virgins. Other than that, they were flawless and I got to scream along to Roswell 47, making me the conclusive winner of the evening.”

Festival review ends. Finally.

Now, to rejoin the tenuous narrative arc we began several months ago when we first began this review, after one full day of travelling, followed by three entire days at one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended, I really needed to spend a palliative day or two sleeping in luxuriant surroundings, eating green things and drinking nothing stronger than water. But no, unbeknownst to me, I had signed up for the soon-to-be patented ‘Demon Pigeon’s Ultimate One Week Weight-Loss Programme’ also known as the ‘make an absolute balls-up of planning your festival’ plan. There was no choice but to commit to it.

You’d think that packing up a tent and all your miscellaneous camping crap, legging it to a bus and riding serenely to a train station would be an easy, even trivial thing to do—and you would be right. We got up with plenty of time, packed, got the bus, and got on the first train. Except it was only at this last point that we bothered checking our itinerary properly, and discovered that our train from Nantes to Paris would leave in 34 minutes, and our present train would get into Nantes in 32 minutes. It was like a terrifying GCSE maths exam question brought to hideous life. We would need our connecting train to be at the very next platform if we were to have any chance of making our first major connection.

Obviously, it wasn’t. So we got off the train and sprinted for it with our hilarious old man gaits, made even more simian since our backs were laden with tents and waterproof trousers. We saw the train pull out just as we made the next platform. This was the start of a rather unpleasant pattern.

We got to Paris and sprinted to the taxi rank, then sprinted to the Eurostar. We missed that too. We got the next one and sprinted through the underground, then sprinted from Victoria station to Victoria coach station. Confusingly, Victoria coach station is a really really long way from Victoria underground, and we missed our coach. Each time we ran our legs started to cave, our lungs felt like they would pop, and our rucksack straps cut ever-deeper grooves into our protesting appendages.

Of course, because we spent all our time sprinting around and missing trains, we went nearly 18 hours without eating anything until 10pm that evening, when we stumbled into Leeds station as broken men and inhaled the entire contents of a Burger King franchise as fast as they could dish it up. I can honestly say I’ve never had a more wretched day in my life, and it was only my very real actual literal tears when talking to staff at every leg of our fucked up journey that meant we managed to get onto subsequent trains, coaches and taxis without incurring hundreds of pounds of additional cost.

So Hellfest. Amazing festival, slightly spoiled by absolutely terrible planning on our part. Because we’ve taken months to trickle out our review, they’ve already gone and announced the line-up for next year and it’s arguably even better than this one—and if you plan it right you can get a ticket and transport for roughly the same price as Download who, as usual, have got the same five fucking bands they had on last year.

So you should probably do that.

www.hellfest.fr

Damnation Festival – Part Three

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Editors’ Note: Astute readers will have noticed that we’re fond of breaking things into several serialised parts here at Demon Pigeon. That’s because more parts means more articles and therefore more output for less actual work. The problem with Damnation Festival is that it’s a compact, one-day affair. Spoilsports. Not even we are lazy enough to try and milk a triptych of articles out of a 12-hour festival. Until now, that is.

Rather than arbitrarily breaking the event into three or more chronological chapters as we normally would, we’ve instead decided to present to you the same review, written from three different and entertaining points of view from the assorted writing staff who took themselves off to Leeds for the day. It’s basically a bit like Rashomon, except with less Toshiro Mifune and more Carcass. The final episode comes to you courtesy of Will Downes, who filed this report on the inside of a Burger King carton.

This year, it seems all the pigeons came home to roost at Damnation Festival, hosted as ever at the University Of Leeds. I saw none of my fellow pigeoneers (apologies, it was very selfish of me) and with the exception of a few texts to berate those not attending I remained a lone, solitary figure, absolutely intent on remaining engrossed in the spectacle before me. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. However, as I had left buying tickets to this late I had little choice but to embrace technology and use Passbook on my phone. That means my ticket never actually existed, and my permission to enter the event existed only on some weird and ethereal metaphysical plane. I have no idea why I have never done this before. I decree that we are now officially in the future.

Being bloody starving, I pastied up, bought a beer and prepared for the day. ‘These are some lucky students,’ I mused; although in my day, beer was significantly cheaper. So take that young people.

Like a moth to the flame I made my way to the Eyesore stage which, from now on, we shall just refer to as the Demon Pigeon stage (it sounds much better anyway). It’s as if they went through all our respective playlists and decided to make a festival stage just for us. Which was nice of them. First up were Dirge. I had neither seen them previously nor heard any of their musics, and, to my delight, they were just so bloody heavy that I became worried I might over-exert myself too early and end up partied out, spewing into a small paper cup. No worries there reader, I survived. Not just a clever name either; they played a doomy, groovy dirge that had me hooked. Instantly added to my mental playlist.

G1Dirge_Map

Pausing in thought, I had to make a decision as to which bands to prioritise, and it was quickly confirmed that the DP stage was going to be home. I just didn’t want to miss anyone playing that stage, and quite rightly so.

Tides From Nebula are a lovely Pink Floyd-esque instrumental post rock/prog band that I had my reservations about when I first caught sight of them. They all look so lovely and nice. Not very metal but it turned out that wasn’t what I was looking for. Who’d-a-thunk it. Really good guitarists too, if that’s your thing. Year Of No Light were delayed beyond belief and started roughly 20 minutes late. Frustrating for band and audience alike. This would screw up the timetable for the rest of the day, and any forays to other stages would be hampered. Even so, I’m not overly disappointed as what followed was pretty fucking fantastic.

Bravely, I abandoned my post, and went to search for the main stage, if only to see how quickly I could get from Cult Of Luna to Carcass later on. I had never heard of Shining (Nor) and had expected a black metal band. I think there is another band of the same moniker somewhere and I believe there is also one of those newfangled moving picture shows with that name. Anyway, I got to the stage to be confronted by Heavy Jazzcore. If that’s not a word, it is now, so there. These guys are total pros and must really practise a lot. I was suitably impressed by the lead singer flitting seamlessly from guitar to saxophone. These guys could be massive. In fact, they probably already are and I hadn’t noticed due to advancing old git syndrome, in which case apologies for my indiscretion.

So, knowing that the DP stage was delayed I stayed for the remainder of the set and headed back for a band I know I like. Rosetta were, as expected, fantastic. But if I were to be picky (and I am), they were a little rusty at first; boy, did they rein it in. By the end the performance was absolutely flawless. Mouths were left agape around the room, my own included. The void demanded to be filled with something, and beer and nicotine seemed as good an idea as any. Fortunately, the smoking area was right behind the DP stage: win-win. I could destroy both my lungs AND my hearing without unduly exerting myself.

tobacco-nicotine-cigarettes

Now for a band I fully expected to dislike. The Ocean are one of these bands that everyone bleats on about, and because of my natural aversion to ‘the popular’ I have never listened to them and had only previously seen roughly five minutes of them at another Damnation a few years back, on that miniscule stage up the stairs. I liked them more than I expected to; not great by any means but they ain’t no slouches. Not sure why they had boobs in their visuals though.

Perhaps emboldened by the bosoms, I was now feeling braver than a very brave thing. I thought I would give the main stage another go and see Godseed. This was a silly error on my part because they were awful. The singer Gaahl (sic) was in a semi-famous band called Gorgoroth, who are also awful, as it turns out. Life lessons aside, there was not really much to take from this, although it freed up more precious time for fermented liquids and fags; lovely, lovely fags.

Back to the DP stage, then. Pigeons away!

Crippled Black Phoenix are a mish-mash of everything and then some. So different from anything on the bill, it was highly refreshing and they were not daunted in the slightest. Good set too, if not really my thing. Having obviously not learnt my lesson and with the noblest of intentions, I then went to see Katatonia. With a little spare time before their set, I had a bit of a sit-down because my back was absolutely killing me. Before long, I’m going to be that guy at festivals that sits on a fold-out chair, even for the bands I like. What happened to all those years?

bill before lawn chair

Goths were everywhere and this is not usually a good sign; but I have had a soft spot for Katatonia since I picked up Tonight’s Decision in a bargain bin when Andy’s Records went out of business. That was ten years ago now. It feels like yesterday. It’s been so long since I’ve given them a spin that I didn’t recognise anything they played, but then I never expected to. I stayed for as long as I dared, but still in agony I left early to make sure I had a good view for the best band in the world.

Cult Of Luna, along with releasing the record of the year are, I am reliably informed, amazing live. I have lived to regret choosing Immortal over them at Hellfest, and Paul Pigeon has taken every opportunity to mock me for it ever since. He’s a great friend like that.

No superlatives can do CoL justice. The vast majority of the set pulled moments from Vertikal and Eternal Kingdom; I was in heaven. Rarely do you get to see a band in this moment; when everything is going like clockwork and they are as one unit, in perfect harmony. I was unbelievably delighted, and genuinely almost in tears at points (bloke tears obviously). Just wow. Go see them while they’re hot or you will regret it forever. There was just one sour note: The fucking photographers were seriously annoying during this set. Coming and going with their stupid backpacks full of lenses, sticking their massive great whacking flashguns up in your view, as if the gig is a publicity photocall and you haven’t paid money to be there. It seems that owning and operating a camera gives you the right to barge through people and act generally cuntish. I get that they’re trying to do a job, but it wouldn’t be that difficult to show some respect for the punters who pay for the whole thing. I am genuinely surprised no-one lamped at least one of them.

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I would also like to issue an apology at this point because if it wasn’t for Carcass, a band I have loved since I was a wee boy and had never seen live, I would have gone to see Conan, the second-best band to come from Liverpool. The first-best band were starting on the main stage.

Carcass were as tight as a gnat’s sock. All the songs, every single one you ever wanted to hear, played flawlessly. They gave a lot of time to their new material and rightly so, as it’s the second-best album of the year. I was so pleased to see them finally, but as the set went on, my broken body made its protests felt. My back was so sore, I could barely headbang, and that was all I wanted to do. I can’t be disappointed though, as it was worth the 14-year wait. A nice touch at the end of the set had former drummer Ken Owen coming to the stage, and he obviously has the desire still there. There was rapturous applause for him and they followed with one of the few good songs off Swansong.

The day was over, and with what little energy that remained to me, I hurried off to the train station. No cool bin hangouts for me. Instead, the train was cancelled. Bus replacement service. Burger King. Best sleep ever.

The end.

www.damnationfestival.co.uk

Damnation Festival – Part Two

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Editors’ Note: Astute readers will have noticed that we’re fond of breaking things into several serialised parts here at Demon Pigeon. That’s because more parts means more articles and therefore more output for less actual work. The problem with Damnation Festival is that it’s a compact, one-day affair. Spoilsports. Not even we are lazy enough to try and milk a triptych of articles out of a 12-hour festival. Until now, that is.

Rather than arbitrarily breaking the event into three or more chronological chapters as we normally would, we’ve instead decided to present to you the same review, written from three different and entertaining points of view from the assorted writing staff who took themselves off to Leeds for the day. It’s basically a bit like Rashomon, except with less Toshiro Mifune and more Carcass. This next episode has been prepared by Alex Dewie, as his Demon Pigeon debut.

Having just joined the prestigious ranks of Demon Pigeon I decided I needed some proper journalistic training before I embarked on my first assignment. I figured the best way to start would be to get myself to a university open day and see what was on offer. Venturing north to the beautiful and incredibly cold city of Leeds, I attended a special event being held across their student union complex. The alcohol was cheap and plentiful which helped to ease my way around the various rooms, each of which offered a range of talks on a variety of subjects.
[NOTE TO EDITOR – PLEASE INSERT OCEAN PIC HERE]nonamfjyfe
First up, Biology: a group of gentlemen known as The Ocean presented an audiovisual piece primarily about the ocean itself. Accompanied by two guitarists, a bassist, keyboardist and two drummists, the main speaker barked his views on undersea environments whilst footage of a naked woman being strangled by an octopus was projected behind him. All manner of arthropods and crustacea floated by majestically on the screen and several launched jets of aquatic spunk in perfect time with the beat of the drumming men.
 [NOTE TO EDITOR – PLEASE INSERT OCEAN PIC HERE]
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Overcome with the reception of the prospective students in the hall, the lecturer climbed onto the balcony and dived into the crowd and then—I don’t know how best to describe this— was actually passed along, literally on a ‘sea’ of hands. One could almost say he was ‘surfing the crowd’, to coin a phrase.
[NOTE TO EDITOR – PLEASE INSERT OCEAN PIC HERE]
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All that footage of water splashing about made me very thirsty and, having rendered it temporarily quenched with a can of Tetley’s, I went to see a theology don host an event entitled God Seed. As seemed to be the theme for this open day, he had musical accompaniment too (same sort of abrasive guitars, loud drumming behaviour etc). With his face painted a ghostly white, accentuated with grey streaks he appeared quite cadaverous—one could almost say he was ‘painted like a corpse’, to coin a phrase.
The presentation itself was rather ritualistic and focused heavily on paganism and satanism and was conducted in a mixture of Norwegian and English, which was nice. At one point someone yelled “Play Gorgoroth!“. This is not a character I am familiar with, but then I don’t read a lot of Shakespeare. In any event, this man was not about to perform a play of any description as he bellowed in rage and then wailed in despair. Perhaps not the best way to get students to enroll on the course, but the audience seemed keen enough.

As the day wore on it was clear the event was proving extremely popular with the attendees, many of whom were very vocal during the presentations and one even showed her breasts, such was her enthusiasm for the Vallenfyre session in the Terrorizer hall. It wasn’t exactly clear to me what their course subject was, but from the look of them I assumed it was bricklaying or badger culling.

Although I was tired and somewhat inebriated, it was clear there was palpable excitement for the final session of the day—pathology. A Liverpudlian professor held forth on all manner of forensic dissections, autopsical procedures, post-mortem degradation by bacteria, and occasionally threw cans of beer at the audience. With a banner behind him proclaiming Carcass, it was obvious this was to be a gory 90 minutes. The lecture used detailed photographic images to highlight ailments such as twisted diseased genitals and fallen-out-of-a-man’s-head eyeballs, although no theory on cure or treatment was ever proffered.

The pictures (along with the customary musical backing) did, however, inspire several swarthy young men to remove their tops and have a bit of a sweaty wrestle at the front of the hall. Eventually a rather enormous bearded man (presumably the victor) was held aloft and passed towards the stage to be presented with his prize (a cuddle from a security guard). The music itself had a jarring, grating sound—almost metallic—and the subject matter was exclusively morbid. One could perhaps describe it as ‘metallic death’, to coin a phrase.

So. Overall, I learned that lecturers today are much louder and more aggressive than I remember from when I was a student, yet university alcohol is still incredibly cheap and above all I am excellent at coining phrases.

Pelagial – A film by Craig Murray – score by The Ocean Collective:

Damnation Festival – Part One

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Editors’ Note: Astute readers will have noticed that we’re fond of breaking things into several serialised parts here at Demon Pigeon. That’s because more parts means more articles and therefore more output for less actual work. The problem with Damnation Festival is that it’s a compact, one-day affair. Spoilsports. Not even we are lazy enough to try and milk a triptych of articles out of a 12-hour festival. Until now, that is.

Rather than arbitrarily breaking the event into three or more chronological chapters as we normally would, we’ve instead decided to present to you the same review, written from three different and entertaining points of view from the assorted writing staff who took themselves off to Leeds for the day. It’s basically a bit like Rashomon, except with less Toshiro Mifune and more Carcass. This first installment is by lovely Geoff Owen

Leeds is constantly trying to do things to make people think it’s better than Sheffield. Whether it’s having bands like Hawk Eyes and Humanfly release some of the best music of 2013, (Humanfly have split up now anyway, so 1-0 Sheffield) or finally building itself an arena to lure the likes of Nickleback and Elbow further up the M1 (We got The Wanted, Leeds—so suck it up!)  The latest of these was a one-day festival headlined by someone called Carcass.

I headed over from the magnificent Steel City for a day, purely for research purposes, and to make sure there was no danger of Leeds’ attempt at a festival troubling the magnificent Sheftival of 2012.

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When I arrived at Leeds it was raining but by the time I got to the venue it had stopped so I’m willing to let that one slide. Damnation had taken over the whole of Leeds University Students Union for the day, and it’s always amusing to see the reactions of people who have just popped in to get their NUS card renewed or grab a potato from the potato shop. I also overheard two ticket touts having an extremely detailed conversation about the amount of black clothes on show. Big shout out goes to the guy next to me at the pasty place that ran off towards his friends yelling “SOMEONE’S JUST BOUGHT A VEGETABLE PASTY!” It was good to have the day begin by having my food choice loudly ridiculed. I hope he gets some good dinner party stories out of the experience.

Anyway, I missed the first four bands because I was crying into my vegetable pasty but I had the rest of the day meticulously planned out in my phone calendar. It was only after I arrived that I realised I hadn’t left myself any time to wee, drink, sit down or walk between the stages. Thankfully, Year of No Light sorted that problem out for me by banging one drum during soundcheck for so long that it made that whole stage run 15 minutes behind schedule all day. To be fair to the double-drummered, triple-guitaristed, no-singered, silent film-soundtracking French doom-drone-ambient shoegazers, once they did get started they sounded magnificent. The records are heavy, but played live the songs took on new levels of atmosphere and enormous massiveness. Five vegetable pasties out of five.

I caught Shining just in time to see them channel Bill Pullman in Lost Highway.

Fortunately, this was not followed by a terrifying man approaching me and telling me that he was in my house, leading me to wake up in prison having transformed into another person entirely. Instead I went and saw Dyscarnate.

I enjoyed their vest-metal, and was tempted to bust out some Biohazard arm movements but it was too early in the day for synchronised jumping armchops. Also, I’m 35.

The next full set I saw was from The Ocean and was without doubt one of the highlights of the day. The set was made up entirely of songs from this year’s Pelagial album which we reviewed here. There was a lot more jumping around and extreme stage diving than I expected, having never seen the band play live before. In keeping with the album’s theme of plunging deeper into the depths of the ocean, we were treated to a back projection of some truly messed-up undersea creatures and some boobs. As a regular viewer of Octonauts on Cbeebies, I enjoyed spotting some of my favourite characters. There was the vampire squid, the angler fish and the giant octopus. It was a shame we didn’t get to see the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa or the Nackerwhacker, but they probably had to cut those out to fit the boobs in.

I managed to grab some tea (dinner, for you southerners) without being ridiculed this time, although I think I went a bit overboard with the ketchup. If only Veggie Pasty Guy had seen that, he’d have had another excellent Damnation story to tell. “ERMAHGERD SOMEONE PUT A BIT TOO MUCH KETCHUP ON THEIR BURGER AND IT WERE OOZING OUT OF THE BUN!”

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Crippled Black Phoenix were up next and even though they didn’t manage to get through their whole set, denying us the chance of a Burnt Reynolds sing-along, they put on a great show. CBP were probably the least “metal” band on the day but the fact they didn’t seem out of place on a bill that included bands like Negura Bunget, God Seed and Conan is a testament both to the band’s excellence and the festival organisers’ ability to put together a diverse yet cohesive bill.

I saw a couple of songs by Cult of Luna who seemed to be on crushing form but I was already starting to feel anxious about getting good position for Carcass so I headed over to the main stage and plonked myself front and centre with no intention of moving. I’d also been feeling anxious about the possibilities of a high level of twat attendance for the headline set, as the effects of a whole day of booze and moshing began to take its toll on the stinky, lank-haired throng. I needn’t have worried though, as on top of being an expertly curated bill and a slickly organised event, Damnation 2013 also managed to attract a pleasingly small number of gig twats.

Carcass’s headline set was everything I hoped it would be as I entered full-on pit mode for the first time since Killing Joke last year. (I used to go in the pit all the time but then I took an arrow to the knee/hurt my ankle a bit at an Anthrax gig.) There was an infectious sense of joy coming from both the crowd and the band as Carcass ripped through a career-spanning set, songs from this year’s magnificent Surgical Steel slotting in perfectly alongside classics such as Heartwork, Corporal Jigsore Quandary and Genital Grinder. The band seem genuinely happy to be back and the joy spread upstairs to the posh balconies where members of many of the day’s other bands had gathered to watch. Essentially, it was a room full of people grinning, moshing, hugging, moshing and grinning. In an emotional moment towards the end of the set, Ken Owen came onstage to play some drums and thank the fans and I got some dust in my eye.

The set ended with a Black Star/Keep On Rotting medley and that was it, the day was over, ending as all good days should: With three Demon Pigeon writers standing in the rain next to a bin.

www.damnationfestival.co.uk

Hellfest Day 1: Friday

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Before we get into the nitty and the gritty of our recent French escapades, we’d like to take a minute (just sit right there) to talk to you about a brand new and exciting innovation from your friends at Demon Pigeon Dot Com.

If our readership mirrors our writing staff in any way, then there’s a good chance you are a pale, pathetic, balding maggot of a human being, your ever-saggier gut creeping ever-further over jeans that became too tight a long ways back. You are constantly fighting, in a ceaseless struggle to navigate your way through the world, populated as it is by healthy types with their skin unsallowed and their trousers undenimmed, their figures lithe and supple, smirking faces shorn of wiry pube-like growth. If only you could shed a few of those pounds and get that lustrous glow back into your ill-advised breakdown beard, maybe they’d stop sniggering about you.

Well, for once it’s good news, Grandad! Now you can try Demon Pigeon’s ultimate one week weight-loss programme, designed to get you completely in shape over just five short days. We call it the ‘make an absolute balls-up of planning your festival’ diet.

‘But Paul! How does it work?’ I hear you cry. It’s simple.

First, book yourself into a European festival of your choice. We chose Hellfest (advertisement), but other festivals are available. Then, work out the most convoluted route you can imagine to get there.

This should include but not be limited to: Hitch-hiking, regular hiking, yogic flying, penny-farthing rides, overnight coach journeys, skateboards, multiple trains, taxi rides across unfamiliar capital cities, more trains, Oppan Gangnam Style, and at least two forays into London’s festering toilet-smelling underground network. Next, make sure you pack every conceivable thing you might need and some additional stuff that you certainly won’t, so that your backpack is both unnecessarily stuffed and bewilderingly heavy.

These are the basic prerequisites for step one of the diet, but then you need to take the following actions:

On the outward journey, make it to London and discover that one of your company has decided to leave his sleeping bag at home. Next, hike all over London for half an hour while carrying the equivalent of two dead people on your back; beg and plead with an outdoor goods store to open early and sell you a replacement for said sleeping bag; then hike all the way back, taking time to note how both journeys seem to be inexplicably uphill. Then, get back to Kings Cross and discover that the person who did bring their sleeping bag has now somehow lost it in the throng of awful Londoners. At this point, allow 15 minutes in your itinerary for some cardiovascular work; weeping openly and remonstrating red-facedly with the other member of your party.

Then undergo a further twelve hours of travelling.

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All this is step one. We will teach you the remaining steps as we go, so keep reading.

So, Hellfest. Did you go? Well, if you didn’t then you are an idiot, or as the French would call you, ‘un idiot’. Why? Because Hellfest is properly good. I mean, really good.

There are six stages, all staggered and within easy reach of each other. The food stalls contain things that would make Adam from Man Vs Food run away crying, and for the same price as you would pay for seven soggy chips at Drownload. Oh, and they have their own wine; it is delicious, and we drank a stupid amount of it. It was €4 to fill a big plastic cup with it. We drank a lot of wine. We ate a lot of food. (NB: If you’re worried that this might impact on the Demon Pigeon Diet Plan, don’t worry, you’ll burn it all off on the way home, trust us.)

The first band we go to see, once we have stopped plodding around the arena with our mouths open, wondering why the hell we can’t have something this good on our poisonous little shit-isle, are Polish death metal funsters Hate.

Well, we say that, but they’re a bit rubbish so we immediately decide they shouldn’t be the first band we see. Instead we march over to the Valley tent to see Eagle Twin, who aren’t rubbish. Eagle Twin are a stone rock two piece, who become the first in a long line of bands appearing at Hellfest to eschew all signs of having a bass player. We’re not sure anyone could tell the difference. We shall call this ‘The Great Hellfest Bassist Cull of 2013’, and see if Professor Brian May fancies getting a campaign up about it. Anyway, they’re delightful, all groove and power and a man hitting his drums hard enough to break ground on a second Euro Tunnel.

Black Cobra are next up, and continue the bassistless theme. Their overdriven stoner-played-very-fast-without-changing-the-pedals-like-you-probably-should works better in the slow bits than in the pure rock fury bits, when it all gets a bit sloppy-sounding, but they have some cracking riffs in there and were fun enough. Black Breath continue the ‘Black’ theme, (honestly, there’s so many bands on with black in their name that you half expect to run into a Front National protest on the way out the door) their Death n’ Roll flattening the assembled collection of very stoned French people into a skin crêpe filled with thunder. Marvellous stuff.

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At this point, your reporters decide that we should go and see some of the other stages, and perhaps stock up on vitamin D, so we go to see our first band on the outdoor Warzone stage. Unfortunately Deez Nuts are playing, their hip hop inflected hardcore so utterly wretched as to make paying attention past the five minute mark seem like aural suicide, so that is enough of that.

We don’t fare much better with Testament, either, who bluster through their second stage set with all the finesse of a diseased sow. Their excellent back catalogue sounds insipid and flat as it is blown over the crowd’s head by the insouciant French winds. And yet, they sound like all-conquering elder gods compared to Twisted Sister. We make it halfway through their 10-minute cover of the Rolling StonesIt’s Only Rock and Roll before stomping off in search of anything remotely enjoyable. Yes, with only a 30-minute set and a 30-year back catalogue at his disposal, Dee Snider is so confident in his own material that he spends a third of his set playing someone else’s song.

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Agnostic Front are our next destination, and while their sound seems more diluted than a Download Festival lager, and while Roger Miret sounds less like a hardcore vocalist than an enraged Pomeranian these days, they are enormous fun—mainly because they look like they would rather be up on that stage than anywhere else on earth.

As the skies start to bruise for the night, we head back indoors to see Sleep. I’ve got to be honest, I was really hoping to see Dopesmoker in its entirety, but what we get instead is most of Holy Mountain, delivered somewhat leadenly. It’s all perfectly okay, and Matt Pike with his top off is always something to behold, but I can’t say the earth moved for me like I was hoping for from my first live Sleep experience.

At The Gates, on the other hand, do not fail to live up to expectations. I never really got past ATG in terms of sampling other melodic death metal bands; mainly because after I’d heard their seminal Slaughter of the Soul there really didn’t seem much point. Nearly twenty years on, these Swedes prove me absolutely right, pummelling the huge crowd in all the right spots with laser-like precision, for an hour of death metal brilliance.

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Now, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t at all biased about Neurosis headlining ahead of time. They are like golden gods to me, unmatchable angels of modern metal, who I have adored for over a decade without ever seeing in the flesh. So take this with a pinch of salt if you so desire, but tonight Neurosis manage to transcend what I thought was possible in a festival set, their new-found stripped back set up (minus all the flashy visuals from ousted Josh Graham) freeing them to opt for a relentless bludgeoning assault of terrifying intensity. Relying mainly on their last two albums (which now appear criminally underrated). They play precisely none of the songs I want them to, save for a ridiculously intense Locust Star, but that doesn’t matter a jot. This is an outpouring of pure malice, hatred, bile and anguish, and it is bloody glorious.

Now it is one o’clock in the morning, we’ve been on our feet all day, and we have drunk quite a substantial amount of wine, but still there is the prospect of the aptly-named Sick Of It All. Forgive us though, dear reader, we just can’t face it. We sit outside the entrance and listen to them, and they sound a lot like you’d expect them to sound. I’m sure they’re great, but we are old and frail, and eventually we give up and skulk off to our tents to have a lie down (without sleeping bag) and listen to young French men walking around screaming ‘SLAAAAYYYYEEER!’ at the top of their lungs until the sun came up again.

www.hellfest.fr/

Wormrot

The Old Angel, Nottingham, Saturday 2nd June

What is a Wormrot? Before Saturday, I couldn’t have told you. Today, I still can’t really tell you. Their chief purpose in life appears to be to write songs that sound like exploding slurry vats, and inspiring exceptionally daft behaviour in apparently otherwise-sensible men.

I walk into the Old Angel, a favourite haunt of my completely uninteresting youth, thinking I’m going to see a death metal band. This meaningless genre appellation is immediately snatched away from me by a more informed compatriot and replaced with ‘grindcore’, which presumably has much richer and more subtle associations in the addled mind of the metalhead. Wormrot sound more or less like all the death metal I’ve ever heard except maybe a bit quicker, so I dunno.

Before that, though, I catch the dying moments of Pine Barrens’ set. I elbow my way to the front, noting the especially strong reek of sweat in the venue. I watch the band play out and get off stage, then realise that this guy walking past me through the dispersing crowd is actually the vocalist. I’d brushed right by him vocalising from the middle of the crowd and, distracted by an incongruous necklace bass guitar, had not even noticed his absence from the stage. Cool. No wonder he fucking stank.

And actually standing in the crowd proves to be an immediate mistake, as I am clouted unceremoniously off to one side by a frantic mosh that explodes as soon as Wormrot strike their first dischord, and I go spinning off into a corner. I’m not used to this, because at most of the gigs I go to it takes a song or two to warm up to that sort of pitch; by which time – when you’re my height – you’ve squashed yourself against a barrier or secured yourself to the leg of a nearby giant.

So I take up position against the wall, and some burly bloke’s back utterly obscures my view of anything but the goonish antics of the moshpit. But I find I’m okay with that, because they’re probably far more interesting to watch than the band, no offence intended.

Fat, balding men in their 30s and a smattering of geeky hipsters make up this vanguard of drunken clowns. One guy is enacting the aggression signal of a silverback gorilla, complete with hooting. Over there is a dude pushing people over and then helping them back to their feet. This guy is trying to make his neck keep up with the beat. He looks like a woodpecker who’s found a tree made of solid amphetamine. There’s about four women in the place altogether; one of them is dispensing the wristbands and the others are admiring my beard and face.

The band itself has no bass player, which makes perfect sense in context. And from just a guitar, a drum kit and a larynx, they’re wringing out one heck of a distressing noise. It sounds like exactly what you’d expect; someone with a sore throat barking sweary encouragement at two baby chainsaws fighting to the death in a sack.

Every so often it all slides down-tempo towards what I would call ‘actually heavy’, and thus begins to sound like something somebody bothered to write, with actual riffs and grooves and fills and variation and tune and things. Naturally those bits are there for contrast and never last very long, but the crowd fucking love those bits, they do. They go mental for those bits. And I’m stood there all like ‘what.’ Because if that’s your bag mate, I’ve got entire fucking albums of that. Days’ worth.

The energy of the crowd is infectious, so it’s hard not to grin – even if I do have to constantly fend off sweaty bodies from crushing me against the Old Angel’s pissy wall – and they’re all about whatever it is Wormrot are doing. The best moment is when the singer declaims ‘BIRMINGHAM YOU NEVER LET US DOWN’, which raises the most confused and unenthusiastic Nottinghamian half-cheer I’ve ever heard. I considered a Nottingham Forest joke to go here, but that would have been dishonest of me, as I have no idea what Nottingham Forest are for.

A song or two later, he’s realised his mistake and amends this sentiment to ‘FUCK BIRMINGHAM’, and that’s all good with us. Wormrot are Singaporean and touring the world in a rock ‘n’ roll band has to be confusing work, bless ’em. Nottingham, Birmingham, what’s the difference? (One is a city, the other is merely a realistic mock-up of one.)

There’s barely even an instant’s pause at the first set’s end before they launch into their encore. Altogether we receive forty minutes of frantic clattering, if that, and they’re gone. Wormrot just blur into a soupy mess of horrible noise and play-fighting.

I’m still kind of baffled by the music of Wormrot, and thus by ‘grindcore’ or death metal or whatever the fuck in general; but as usual, it all makes sense when seen live. The crowd all goes a bit savage and unhinged and the music sounds like a tropical downpour of spiralling insanity, so you can see how it fits together.

Why you’d ever put it in your ears outside of that context, I’m not quite certain. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to these 90-minute stoner-space-prog-doom jams featuring no more than five notes or three chords at a time and a tempo that never rises above ‘celestial’.

http://www.facebook.com/wormrot