After the outstanding success of the last year’s début edition, anticipation was mouth-watering for the 2015 edition of Temples Festival, and Francis and co duly delivered with an outrageous line-up resulting in this edition selling out well in advance, so a small army of Echoes and Dust writers invaded Bristol to experience the thrills and spills and here is what occurred.
Special mention to the French raiding party of Monarch! and Celeste who gained a full house of glowing praise from all who attended!
Click on a writer’s name below to read their review.
The soundmen had done their homework as the sound from the very beginning was seemingly spot on for every band on every stage, and at an impressive volume to boot… saying that, my more coherent colleagues suggest the second stage’s sound suffered, which might explain why the likes of Impetuous Ritual, Bolzer and Portal had me walking out half way through their respective sets, the former especially sounding more like a didgeridoo played backwards in a wind tunnel than an actual metal act. Ohio’s own Enabler suffered no such problems however and quickly became my new find of the festival as their furious d-beat hardcore/punk blew the roof off the second stage with horns thrown a plenty, but it was reunited noise mongers Will Haven on the main stage who were the bone fide highlight of my Friday. I went in expecting a simple nostalgia ride, however the colossal impact of the aptly titled ‘When The Walls Close In’ ensured we were in for something special. An immense wall of sound combining with a monstrous groove increased in intensity and pure sonic force with every passing track until the demolishing closer ‘Carpe Diem’… that they certainly did.
Saturday’s Fun Fact: The patrons had actually drunk the real ale bars entire weekend supply in one day so another brewery had to be called in to fill the gap. After Caïna’s impressive opening salvo of blackened fury my Saturday was top and tailed by two extraordinary sets by two very different bands. Fist up was French doom outfit Celeste who filled the stage with so much dry ice they couldn’t be seen except for the glow of the head torches. This could have been a silly gimmick, but actually heightened the atmosphere of the already crushing post-metal/sludge RIFF assault as occasionally the fog would slowly disappear to eerily reveal the band only to be pumped back up and obscure them again.
While other bands were generating the pre-show buzz Triptykon “quietly” went about their business of delivering an incredible set of their unique take on death/doom metal from the obligatory opening of ‘Procreation (Of the Wicked)’ to the epic closer ‘The Prolonging’. There were mind bending RIFFS, swirling atmospherics and “Urghs!” aplenty with choice cuts ‘Tree Of Suffocating Souls’ and ‘Altar of Deceits’ being especially devastating.
In between this Brighton punks War Wolf played there penultimate show to a very exuberant throng who lapped up their crusty hardcore assault (and the light hearted remarks about Nails thrown in), which even a broken drum kit couldn’t dampen the spirits.
Sunn O))) did their thing, which is not my thing, but they were enjoyed by the majority and by all accounts:
- They reached 130 decibels
- They made a security guard on the front row’s nose bleed
- They could be heard from the train station over 200 meters away
Sunday’s Fun Fact: Sunn O))) actually broke the sound system so the resulting repair job on Sunday morning pushed the indoor stages back by an hour The first band to give the sound system a working over were local Bristolians Anta whose instrumental progressive post-rock (including the use of a gong) was one of the more ‘gentle’ acts on the bill, but a sterling performance still won over quite a few converts. While the ‘thanks for coming?’ award goes to Venom Prison who turned up, played 15 minutes of metallic hardcore then left without a word…
But more importantly, up next was Monarch! who’s terrifying performance at Damnation Festival back in November had anticipation amongst the patrons slowly bubbling up over the weekend, and once again they delivered, and then some! Playing their slow motion doom at a funeral procession allowed the pounding bass and piercing vocal shrieks to reverberate around the main stage and inside those in attendance with impressive intensity. So much so that every time the drummer prepared to pound his kit half the audience took a collective deep breath in anticipation! Oh and they finished with their cover of ‘Cherry Bomb’ (Yes of The Runaways fame) because why not! Their fellow tour buddies A Year Of No Light didn’t get off to such a great start as some sound issues hindered the first half of the set but once that cleared, their cinematic take on instrumental post-metal gathered substantial momentum evolving into a sublime transcendental
They slightly overrun so I couldn’t get in the 3rd stage for Goatwhore, which was operating a one out, one in policy, but no big deal as their no nonsense fist pumping heavy metal could still be enjoyed in the sun with a cider in hand finishing with obligatory ripping rendition of ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’.
Taking a punt on KEN mode found a band on inspirational form and very nearly stealing the show from everyone with a ridiculously fun and energetic set, combining their newer grunge/noise inspired material and older hardcore songs. This culminated in a demented and stunning rendition of ‘Never Was’ amplified by front man Jesse Matthewson’s disconcerting 1000 yard (which was enough to convince your intrepid punter to see them in a pub in London on the way home the next day!).
The final act of note was Between The Buried And Me headlining the second stage and while they were ferociously tight and on point, the majority of the credit should go to the sound man as they sounded absolutely humongous with the melodic chorus of ‘Lay Your Ghosts To Rest’ coming across especially epic!
After all this fun and frolics there was still energy for the after show party, which included a whole lot of dancing (and possibly too much Jäger) to round the weekend of in style. Temples 2016 is scheduled for June 3rd to June 6th and is an essential date in the diary.
Yet again, Temples has proven itself to be one of the most successful heavy music festivals in the UK right now- not only with a non-stop awesome line up, but with a well maintained atmosphere that cannot be faltered. As with any event there were a few minor niggles, perhaps the sound on stage two could have been better, bar that it was one of those rare instances in which all of the previous year’s problems were ironed out almost completely.
Last year was a heady mixture of making friends and missing bands, and this year was no different… there was just a lot less meat trodden into the cobbles outside, which was nice. I managed to see (and by ‘see’ I mean ‘was in the same room as at the same time as’) a record-low number of bands amidst my years’ worth of belated socials, but I strived to catch a good few both new and old. After locating friends for long-overdue hellos and high-pitched expletives, I started proceedings fairly optimistically by catching third band of the day and two-piece powerhouse Monolithian. Not only was the crowd and I enjoying every second of their set, but so were they. I realise it helps to like your fellow bandmates, particularly when there are only two of you, but I haven’t seen a band enjoy each other’s company like that since seeing Black Tusk- and that’s saying something! Considering the Friday line up had set me with the arduous task of hopping from one band to another to another, I didn’t quite manage to keep the pace up after Trap Them – who, stating the obvious here, were fan-bloody-tastic- despite being on at a fairly sunny 6:30pm. Not that it mattered by the time toothless vocalist Ryan McKenney had traversed the photographer’s pit and slathered the front three rows of the crowd in his sweat and saliva. Let me just add that to list of “interesting” substances my jacket has come into contact with at Temples…
From here on-out the next two and a half days became a bit of a blur to say the least, but I can confirm that every band I saw and/or heard sounded like they were putting their all in and getting all the appreciation deserved back from the crowds – who turned up in their droves – as I didn’t witness ONE empty room all weekend. I remember thinking that the addition of a third stage that ran at the same time as the main stage would be a considerable issue, as every band I wanted to see was on either of those stages, but all ran smoothly in the end with some minor overlaps and slightly off-kilter timings that seemed to work in everybody’s favour. Here is where I slip in my two cents on the weekend’s sound quality. Earplugs in for every show can deplete your enjoyment of heavy music at times, particularly when the sound levels aren’t right and all you get is an overwhelming cacophony of bass, barely any of it distinguishable. I felt that the main stage and third stage in particular had everything set to perfection. Stage two however was rather a disappointment. My first encounter with it was for Martyrdöd– who’s songs I know inside and out- but found them almost unrecognisable.
This has only happened to me once before and has set me permanently against a particular venue. However, while waiting for Torche to set up on the Saturday I listened to most of Mantar‘s set from the main room and it sounded considerably better from there. Unlike the main and third stage it feels a lot more insulated and enclosed, so (in the complete non-spirit of a heavy music festival) could have benefited from everything being turned down a bit *brandishes zimmer frame at the sound desk like the old person that I am*.
By day two we we’re all fucked because we either weren’t drunk or weren’t drunk enough… or made it through that entire Pig Destroyer set last night (Owens, we’re ALL looking at you). Luckily not fucked enough to get our arses in gear and over to the venue early to catch Caïna, who were fantastic for first band of the day, well and truly getting our broken selves, and the day, off to a superb start. Celeste, however, came along and stole the show for the entire weekend by dousing the room in fog and pure, unadulterated HEAVY. I’ve been incredibly slow on the uptake with them, but I’m glad I got my prioritising hat in gear so I didn’t miss their set. I wasn’t alone on this as they appeared to be many peoples’ surprise-favourite act of the weekend as their set seemed to come up in almost every snippet of conversation I overheard.
The evening’s plan was to chill for a considerable amount of time then see Skitsystem before catching at least a portion of Sunn O)))‘s set… well, I got the first half right anyway. By the time we’d left the third stage and shuffled over to the main room, we thought it was too late and too full to squeeze in just to squeeze back out again so we opted for a comfy listening spot on our beloved ‘secret sofa’ before copping out for an “early” night. I’m still kinda gutted I didn’t catch even a brief glimpse of them or directly experience an ounce of the sheer sonic force I heard all about, but I’m sure there will be another time- anyway, it’s not often you get to hang out with your favourite people and not have to worry about work the next day or anything more important than where your next caffeine fix is coming from. Ahh, the bliss of a weekend off.
Unnervingly under-buzzed from my morning’s caffeine intake I lined myself up for an early start with OHHMS, who until this point I’d yet to actually see live in a much smaller venue. Not that this was of any consequence as they dominated the main stage like it was built solely for them, only boosting my excitement to catch them in a more intimate setting at some point. They paved the way perfectly for Monarch!, who unleashed a musical leviathan on us all on Sunday morning, and were the only other band to come close to topping Celeste the day before. Turns out they’re another band I’ve slept on, and not the kind you can skim-listen to get a taste of… I sure as shit didn’t expect what was about to happen. For the first time in a long time, I was speechless (Steff can testify) which is saying a lot for someone who literally HASN’T SHUT UP SINCE 3pm ON FRIDAY. Their monolithic wall of drone-laden doom and unearthly vocals had every single one of us glued to the spot in absolute awe, and left us feeling like we’d been sonically violated by Cthulhu himself. And they topped off the whole (wonderful) ordeal with an almost incongruous display of humility and a polite ‘merci beaucoup’. THEY JUST DESTROYED US AND THANKED US FOR THE PLEASURE. Now THAT is how I like to kick off my Sundays. HOO-RAH.
Between this point and Earth, things were a surreal, time-warped blur of chums, chips, hijacking a camera, and failing to stave off that special strain of insanity that comes with these kind of weekends. We managed to procure a somewhat open place to stand on the balcony for the start of Earth‘s set – which we couldn’t exactly see but hey ho – and effectively kicked back for a few songs and let all our aches, pains and emotional feels ebb away to the gentle waves of ‘There Is a Serpent Coming‘. I’m not sure a better band could have been chosen to play out the Sunday night, rounding a perfect weekend off to a perfect, albeit slightly rainy, close. I can safely say we all left the venue (after party or no) happy as the proverbial pig in shit.
Other honourable mentions go to some of my all-time faves Torche and Martyrdöd as well as Year of No Light, Ghold, Weedeater, KEN mode, Skitsystem, Goatsnake, Will Haven and Nails. I really wish I knew how to organise myself better, and bought a few more records/shirts from the bands and complained less about my feet, but hey. Well, what more can I say than Temples 2015 was yet another rip-roaring success that feels more like a really bloody good holiday than a music festival. Great bands, great people and even greater vibes are what make this event stand out from any other I’ve been to. I know this will be a festival I will support with my entire being until the day it dies- and I truly hope it never does.
Mark Angel Brandt
The South West of England is not generally renowned as being a hub of extreme metal and hardcore, but Francis Mace and his team are doing a stellar job in putting Bristol on the global festival map. Temples Festival is on its second round, after a storming inaugural edition involving Electric Wizard, Neurosis, Repulsion and Clutch. This time, it’s bigger and better, with a third stage added to accommodate an even more diverse list of bands, although everything was still held in close proximity (the two main stages spitting distance apart, and the third stage a 30-meter stumble away). After a lengthy queue stretching to the aqueduct, we finally rock up inside the venue as Teef are done making ‘orrible noise.
Throats go straight for the jugular with their ferocious grindy hardcore. Vocalist Alex Wealands vents his frustrations through indecipherable lyrics, throwing himself around with reckless abandon. A pit is quick to form in front of him, possibly to unleash the frustrations of waiting in the queue for so long. At one point the vocalist hurls the microphone into the crowd, where one eager fan finishes the song for him. Great way to kick the festival off with a bang.
After dabbling in a few bands on each stage, the next main band I catch are hotly tipped “blackcore” act Young And In The Way. Usually decked in pigs blood, this time the band are as dry as their guitar tone, and the bass in their albums is virtually absent here, which results in the songs lacking impact. The band put on a great display of energy, vocalist especially, and there are more than enough heads moving in approval, it just lacks that extra punch to tip it over the edge.
Conversely, all the bass has been transferred over to the third stage, where duo Monolithian are making the walls vibrate with their sludgy mire. Snarling frontman Simon Walker, wielding a simple 4-string bass, seems a little taken aback by the warm reception of the crowd, while drummer Shannon Green focuses on smashing her drumkit to pieces. All in all a top-shelf set of sludge, opening a few ears to a fantastic band deserving of the limelight.
Later on the same stage, Sea Bastard kick up an even louder filthy racket. Coming off the hype generated around their split EP with Keeper, there’s a sizeable crowd whooping after every sludgy salvo. Their guitarist Oliver Heart, bare-chested and bedecked with tattoos, has tight control of the riffs he unleashes, while vocalist Ian Montgomery rumbles and shrieks through the crushing doom. Earplugs were no doubt irreparably damaged.
On the flipside of tempos, Trap Them have the main stage dancing. Vocalist Ryan McKenney spends zero percent of time onstage, instead electing to get up close and personal on the barrier, bellowing his lungs out with zeal while his bandmates unveil pounding, crusty yet melodic hardcore. They start on familiar territory with a couple of numbers from last year’s well-received and excellently-titled Blissfucker, before delving further into their back catalog, including a blistering number entitled ‘They Followed the Scent of Jihad All the Way to Thieves Paradise’, which sees drummer Brad Fickeisen getting a foot workout switching between d-beat and blastbeat at the drop of a hat. They close on an absolute belter, leaving the crowd to stagger out unprepared for the next band on their list.
I challenge you to find a band angrier than Nails. The vitriol inflected in Todd Jones’ voice as he spits “We’re fucking Nails!” as they launch into first track ‘Conform’ morphs into a wind that sweeps the crowd into a manic pit, and the only safe spots to stand are on the stairs or balcony overlooking the stage. The band plow through their set with relentless gusto, track after track of grinding hardcore, from the fury of ‘Tyrant’ to the devastating beatdown of ‘Wide Open Wound’, and ‘I Will Not Follow’ get a heartfelt dedication to Converge. Meanwhile, as befitting of American hardcore bands, Jones has clearly attended the Jamey Jasta school of motivational speeches, giving the crowd life lessons between blasts. “One day we’re gonna be yanked out of existence, I’m just happy to share this moment with you. Fucking slam to this, if you don’t slam you are not my friend”. The moment as ‘Suffering Soul’ kicks in afterwards is exquisite pain. The last Nails song, an oldie entitled ‘Lies’, leaves the crowd utterly decimated, just the way we like it.
As if that weren’t enough aural abuse, we had grind royalty in the building on the second stage. Clinging to a pole with broken tires wrapped around it, I saw the chaos of a 23-song set from Pig Destroyer, their sound beefed by an electronics guy (Blake Harrison) and bassist (John Jarvis). Intriguingly, rather than being relegated to side-stage, Harrison was front and center next to vocalist JR Hayes, pogoing with him around the stage. The set flies by in a blur, interspersed with the band’s unique spoken word samples (c.f. ‘Jennifer’). Most recent record Book Burner gets matched up against grind cornerstone Prowler In The Yard with seven tracks each, supplemented by a handful of tracks from classics Terrifyer and Phantom Limb. Rounding out on the lovely title of ‘Piss Angel’, the crowd slowly disperses out the venue, only to be pulled back in for encore ‘The Diplomat’. A set packed with energy, and a highlight of the weekend for many, myself included.
The first morning of a festival is always the toughest. Staggering out of bed early after a slightly late night was a cruel but necessary punishment, mercifully rewarded in spades by the band who opened the day’s proceedings.
Arguably the UK’s best-kept secret in black metal, Caïna take to the stage with little fanfare, an unassuming group of individuals who suddenly wake everyone in the room up with pounding black metal fury, the backbone being hammered out by drummer Nick Colman. There’s a meaty bass from Fraser Samson in their sound – distinctly lacking in yesterday’s blackened affairs – which is devastating when combined with Andy Curtis-Brignell’s incisive guitar lines. However, all eyes were on vocalist Laurence Taylor, whose wide eyes screamed the pain of the lyrics almost as loudly as he did. He ends up hunched and kneeling on the floor on several occasions, almost crushed by the weight of humanity’s existence. The last track, augmented by Andy’s use of an e-bow, is a poignant finale to an emotional set, and there were more than a few proud faces as the room cheered for Caïna.
Celeste’s main aim is choke the audience, or at least it seems that way by the constant billowing dry ice that engulfs the stage. The French band seem wholly unfazed, walking out wearing head-mounted lasers, which are pretty much all that’s visible throughout their 40-minute set. With such a lack of visual aid, it’s just as well the music counterbalances it; thick, cavernous and sludgy post-hardcore in a similar vein to Amenra, with the odd blackened blast. The songs flow together as a journey and those who emerge out the other side feel like exhausted travellers, or at least are coughing as much.
Mantar are fun. Danceable, crust-laden, thick-as-mud sludge fun. Just how a two-piece of guitar and drums facing each other can sound so phenomenally loud and textured is beyond me, and my thanks to fellow E&Der Ross for steering me in their direction. The Germans onstage are reveling in the love for the crowd, especially the shirtless Hanno Klänhardt, who admits the band are pretty wrecked from having had no sleep for two nights after their US tour. Still they pull out a belter of a set, and you just know the party isn’t going to stop there, for them or the crowd.
After catching quite the hype with their collaborative split with Pariso last year, Svalbard have the dubious honour of competing with Torche for Temples attendees’ attention. Mercifully the room is pleasantly full when they kick off their emotional and convoluted brand of hardcore. Vocalist/guitarist Serena Cherry has an intense shyness onstage which is completely at odds with her fierce roar, complemented by other guitarist Liam Phelan. At times slightly echoing the grindier elements in Cloud Rat, it is then a surprise when the band drop into post- territory à la Devil Sold His Soul, mellowing out to Serena’s sweeter clean vocals, and giving the drummer a much-needed rest between blasts. The band seemed shocked at the crowd’s extremely warm response, but every clap is deserved, for a highlight set of the weekend.
It may be safe to claim that Portal’s name are on a good majority of Temples’ lips to go and check out, if anything just to see if they lived up to the hype. As a result, to say the room is rammed is a bit of an understatement, as people file one-in one-out to witness the robed musicians, and an eerie vocalist wearing a mask underneath an elaborate costume not out of place in Queen Amidala’s wardrobe. The band are churning out their muddy death metal, with a soundboard mixing wallowing in squalor, and it becomes tough to separate songs or even instrument tracks. There’s more than a waft of smoke onstage as well, obscuring the musicians, who by the way are performing near-blind with masks over their faces and no eyeholes. That in itself is an incredible feat, let alone the fact that the band played for an hour of this incredibly demanding style in thick costumes and smoke. An endurance test by the end of it, but worth it for the fans who’d been waiting years to see them.
Speaking of endurance tests, to say Sunn O))) are not for everyone is putting it mildly, but those who emerge from this experience were changed individuals. The drone act have garnered infamy in their live shows, firstly based on the volume of their stupor-inducing riffs, secondly on the incessant rolling waves of fog that come pouring from the machines, and thirdly the demented performance of Attila Csihar who makes two appearances during the set, dressed up in a nightmarish costume that’s part Broken Glass Jesus, part Lady Gaga nightmare. If you asked the opinions of thirty different people who saw the set, you’d get thirty very different answers, ranging from the usual jokes of “oh, they only played three notes right” down to some individuals having quasi-religious experiences. Rarely has a live performance been so divisive, even among the extreme music community, but in everyone’s case it’s the final bullet in the skull after an intense day of intense music.
As a testament to just how loud yesterday was, there came an announcement that Sunn O))) had damaged the stage with the sheer weight of their sound (or the amps). With the stage having to be rebuilt, everything on the first and second stage was shifted by an hour, forcing hungover and sleep-deprived metalheads to reconfigure clashes mentally. No matter, on with the show!
First major band of the day were French noise enthusiasts Monarch!, churning out a drone-doom-laden aural cacophony, topped off by the demented screams and croons of vocalist Emilie Bresson. She manipulates her own chords with various electronic instruments, and holds out the microphone for one of the guitarists to bark into, when not attempting to literally plunge his guitar straight into the stage. The red light that dominates their set lends an eerie and ritualistic mysticism to the it all, with the right level of dry ice after the deluge of yesterday. The timid “merci beaucoup” at the end of their performance from Bresson is completely at odds with the formidable sound, but the crowd are whooping too loudly to notice.
On paper The King Is Blind are a death metal band, but their sound offers so much more, and it’s on full display during their set on the third stage: the switch between thrashier passages and doom-laden moments is smooth yet bewildering. The addition of another guitarist has freed up Steve Tovey to focus on vocal duties, and his voice is in pristine shape as he bellows through the band’s numbers. The set features numerous cuts from their upcoming album, including ‘Devour’ with some phenomenal drum work, and a riff that causes Steve to exclaim “If you like meaty riffs, get your necks around this one!” The riff they bust out is meaty indeed, and the front row is headbanging viciously to it. “We felt it may be inappropriate to play this next one, considering where we are, but let’s do it anyway.” And so ‘A Thousand Burning Temples’ had another one added to it, and they leave the stage a little more decimated than it already was.
Year Of No Light may be making cinematic soundscapes on the main stage, but the real party’s with Vallenfyre. Filthy, filthy doom-death is on offer, with emphasis both on the death and the doom: kickstarting with ‘Scabs’ from last year’s spectacular Splinters, their set is blistering from start to finish, broken only by peals of laughter at front man Greg Mackintosh’s off-the-cuff humour: one highlight is a remark that “Last week we played in a warehouse in Baltimore for Maryland Death Fest, now we’re playing a cowshed in Bristol. Who said you can’t live the dream?” The other band members are on their toes as well, with Hamish Glencross and Sam Wallace delivering dirty riff upon mournful melody, bassist Scoot unleashing pure dirt, and 20-year-old Waltteri Väyrynen delivering a stunning performance on the drums, handling the blasts with ease. Time is short, their set list even more so, but even with a handful of songs the band have the crowd loudly voicing their support, and we look forward to a longer set from the band soon.
What a majestic way to end Temples Festival. After having had Sunn O))) last night, it’s only fitting we have the Earth to close events tonight. The soft tones of this instrumental desert-flavored drone/doom metal are a world removed from the racket of the weekend, unfolding as gently as the West Coast lilt in Dylan Carson’s voice as he announces the songs. While the focus is heavily on the stunning new album Primitive And Deadly, there are couple of surprises in store too, particularly ‘High Command’ from the band’s third album nearly 20 years ago, and a track each from the classics Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I and The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull. The effect of watching the band play is mesmerizing; every movement is deliberately exaggerated in a fashion that would be comical if it didn’t feel so right. Drummer Adrienne Davies embodies this with the way she seems to swell up before each drum hit, although each of the other musicians swaying back and forth evoke a similar theatrical feeling. Those who aren’t watching the band are lying on the floor (brave souls), soaking in the frequencies for their 90-minute set. It’s a moving experience, and I for one emerged from that room full of emotions and thoughts, unquestionably a changed man.
Temples Festival 2015 was without a doubt one of the best festival experiences I have had, in every aspect. Such well-run festivals don’t tend to stay in the undergrowth for long, and it won’t surprise me if tickets sell out even more quickly than they did for this edition. Details have already been announced for the third round, so there remains but one thing for me to say: will I see you there?
Let’s get straight into it and not fuck about:
The first band I saw on the Friday was Throats on the mainstage, performing for the first time since the still-confusing hiatus that happened in 2010. I could tell that I wasn’t the only one who highly anticipated this return judging by the fidgeting across the front of the barrier. Starting with a single guitarist softly strumming the lethargic outro of ‘Failgiver’, the rest soon joined and instantly jumped into a rabid set that pummelled and ripped as much as it could. While Throats were vicious and passionate, the nature of their performance and frantic music meant that the sound was pretty muddy and the vocals suffocated under it all for a good portion, but fuck, I didn’t mind by the end – which was finalised by my favourite track ‘Fuck Life’.
Next was Oblivionized on the second stage, whose shadows you could only just make out thanks to the smoke machine and bright yellow lighting (which made me think of the artwork for their latest release Life Is A Struggle, Give Up). The trio were basically tight and on-point the whole time, although at times, it felt like a bassist should have been there to thicken their sound as Sammy’s lone guitar sounded thin – although he never stops amazing me with his technique and pedal use. It was cool to see vocalist Zac really going for it too, especially after a pretty nasty fall at the barrier which hurt to see, but didn’t stop him from climbing up and crowdsurfing during the last song of the set.
The Afternoon Gentlemen played the same stage soon after. If you’ve seen these grindsters before, then you know what to expect, but if not, imagine the most chaotic punk-tinged grind with ridiculous(ly insane) vocals. Both the Gents and the crowd fed off one another and the whole thing was just pure fun. There was an odd moment when a mobile phone signal was being picked up through the amps, but this just gave the members a chance to joke around some more.
Quite a while afterwards, Meth Drinker walked onto the third stage, which can basically be summed up as a big shed. Despite sunlight managing to pour its way through the entrance and opaque corrugated roofing, the miserable trio from New Zealand manage to pummel the crowd with the same bleak, nihilistic atmosphere as they do on record. There’s not much more to say than that… just very, very nasty.
Will Haven are a sort of surprising appearance (to me), but I wasn’t complaining; I’m a fan. Thinking that they’d be a personal nostalgia trip, I got punched in the throat within seconds of them starting. Heavy, energetic and stirring, they played as if they hadn’t lost a single year of enthusiasm. Each ‘classic’ Haven track sounded fresh and punishing, they were far better than I expected.
I was meant to see Nails, but my Pig Destroyer fanboyism ended up making me miss them to get a good spot for PD, and I don’t regret it. This was the first of two sets (over two consecutive days) they would play at Temples fest, this one being their grindcore set, while the day after would see them play Natasha in full. For this grind set, they were on the second stage, and managed to fill the room easily. They played a solid 20-song set made up of classic tracks like ‘Starbelly’, ‘Naked Trees’, ‘Pretty In Casts’, ‘Hyperviolet’ and ‘Cheerleader Corpses’, with newer favourites like ‘The Bug’, ‘Baltimore Strangler’ and ‘Rotten Yellow’ sprinkled through. Basically, they fucking killed it relentlessly. Also, seeing them perform with bassist John Jarvis for the first time wiped away any doubts I had about bass being introduced to the band, and it didn’t detract from Hull’s razor-sharp riffs.
Unfortunately, I was pretty hungover this day and missed Caïna, whose set I was told only good things about, and just managed to catch the ending of Impetuous Ritual on the second stage. Unfamiliar with the band, I didn’t know what to expect and really dug their horrible blend of black, death and doom metal with a dirge tone. Straight afterwards, I caught Celeste on the mainstage, another band I was oblivious to beforehand, but ended up being my favourite discovery of the weekend. In hindsight, now that I have listened to albums, Celeste were even heavier than on record, easily. Their hybrid of black metal, hardcore and post-metal (I hate the term, but it’s the nearest I can think of) was just absolutely crushing, and the ambience created by the incessant fog on stage and the red LED light on their head just made the experience feel monolithic. If you get the chance to see these, do it.
Two hours later, I walked into the main room and watched Torche smash through a fun collection of new and old songs. Granted that the crowd seemed more interested in hearing the older stuff (I was one of those), you couldn’t help but bob and air guitar a little to every single track they got through, and Steve Brooks is just one of the most chill and jovial frontmen around. SO MUCH FUN!
A total opposite, Portal managed to pack out the second stage WELL before they started to play, so much so that security had to block the entrances to stop more people getting in, a few people even getting aggressive with the security – although this didn’t stop some people rushing them at some point and breaking through. I saw a good portion of Portal and you get what you expect: dismal, grinding and dark death/doom/black metal with the members dressed in their usual get-ups. While it was as punishing as you’d expect and want, it did get a little monotonous after a while and found myself getting a tired of it. It was probably just as well I had to leave early for my next band…
So, Pig Destroyer’s second set of the weekend on the mainstage. I was basically at the front (like their previous one) and was buzzing with anticipation. I’ll put this in perspective: I love the album/track Natasha, it never fails to give me goosebumps and to fill my mind with the imagery of the lyrics. The gruelling tale feels too real whenever I hear it. So my main thoughts beforehand was this, will they be able to pull it off and can they capture the same atmosphere as on record? The answer is: yes.
For 38-minutes, the members took the audience on the journey, backed with a film behind them the whole time. They managed to retain the feeling during all the sombre, suffocating and destructive moments; even with JR’s spoken moments being unexpectedly clear and without effects (although there was some echo at a later point). Despite hearing that they apparently managed to get through just one practice without any mistakes, they managed to play it through perfectly – the only flaw you could pick out was that the film froze for about a minute at one point, and that wasn’t in their control. The footage towards the end of a laughing female face and one of a pained man intertwining was particularly unnerving.
JR’s vocals were violent, Scott Hull’s and Brian Jarvis’s riffs were pummelling, Blake Harrison’s ambient and noise controlled the mood and Adam Jarvis’s drums was on point. One thing I noticed was that during one moment, Harrison made the police radio chatter more prominent in this live version which really pushed the emotions of that phase even further than the recording. It was just perfect. I ended up leaving after they finished literally shaking, it was so unbelievable. This is why the Natasha set easily made it my favourite of the whole weekend.
After what didn’t feel like a long enough break, although an hour, I returned to the mainstage and saw Sunn O))). All I can say is that I’m thankful that the bars provided earplugs, because during the 40-minutes I saw, I could feel my face and clothes vibrate for the duration of it. There’s really not much to say, Sunn O))) is something you feel as much as you hear, a ritual rather than a performance. I couldn’t imagine myself lasting the whole two hours, I was broken down enough through what I experienced – I wish their set had been shorter so it didn’t seem so daunting to last the whole thing, but what can you do.
The first thing I heard walking into the festival on the final day was that every band had to be pushed back an hour thanks to Sunn O))) damaging the PA/circuitry of the venue – as well as news about people getting nosebleeds and passing out during their set. I was thankful to have a bit of an extended break that morning.
I caught the tail-end of OHHMS, a new band to me and one that did grab my interest with their pretty lively take on sludge, making me wish I’d turned up earlier to see the whole thing. However, I did see the whole of Monarch!’s set, which along with Sunn O))), was one of the most punishing and loudest bands of the weekend; the second band I had to wear earplugs for. They were everything I hoped for: ridiculous amounts of bass and feedback along with smooth and scary changes between screams and clean vocals through a drone landscape. Probably my second-favourite set of the weekend.
Staying at the mainstage, I then saw Year Of No Light (who share a member with Monarch!), who were far better than when I saw them at ArcTanGent 2014. One of my problems with that time was that they were nowhere near loud enough, especially when THAT riff kicks in on ‘Tocsin’… this time, that wasn’t a problem. The sextet were majestic in sound and style, teasing with their sense of anticipation and build-ups, easily flooring the crowd when the big riffs came in. I did leave when their allotted time came to an end, but they apparently came back onstage and played some more, something I wish I had stayed for.
To bring my day and weekend to an end, I saw some of KEN mode on the second stage, who were great and energetic, vocalist Jesse Matthewson closing their performance by bringing himself into the crowd. After that was Earth on the mainstage, playing their royal and country-tinged drone impeccably, Dylan Carlson raising his guitar every now and then to cheers from the audience. They were simply great as usual, and played some older tracks alongside the latest material. A nice and soothing finish to an intense weekend.
… Also, I managed to speak to JR Hayes and Scott Hull, even telling Hayes my embarrassing Buzz Osborne story. Best weekend of the year.
The inaugural edition of Bristol’s Temples Festival was the highlight of my gig-going year in 2014, and as soon as last year’s post-festival blues were over I was already planning my trip down for the next edition.
As creator Francis Mace and his team unveiled the carefully curated line-up over the next few months, my anticipation reached fever pitch. They started announcing bands like Skitsystem, Triptykon, Earth, Voivod, Meth Drinker, Pig Destroyer (playing fucking twice!). One could be forgiven for thinking they were taking the piss. Seriously though, read those names back. Yeah, those bands, all at the same festival. There aren’t many heavy music festivals that can boast such a diverse line-up, certainly not within the UK, so it was no surprise that the event sold out far in advance.
It wasn’t just the stellar line-up that ensured I’d be back for more; it was the genuine sense of community among the patrons. Last year I’d met a whole lot of friends who came from all over the UK, and made a lot more over the course of the weekend, all of us united by a serious passion for heavy music. And food. And boozing. And dancing. And talking absolute bollocks until 2am every day.
When staggering the streets of Bristol upon my arrival and bumping into folks I either saw at gigs all the time, or hadn’t seen since last year’s festival, it felt like coming home, fucking cheesy as that sounds. I had a similar feeling wandering around Tilburg during Roadburn, or Copenhagen during Heavy Days In Doom Town, so Temples is in good company.
Throats were one of the UK hardcore scene’s brightest young hopes a few years ago, and repeated laps of the tour circuit had everyone convinced that they were on the brink of greatness. Then they split up. The bastards.
So it’s with great excitement, and not a little trepidation, that a pretty sizeable crowd is gathered in the main room to witness their first show in 4 years. Would a band who never had the chance to graduate from the basement venue circuit manage to fill the main stage? Would they still have the chops after being away for so long? Would they still possess the verge-of-collapse frantic-as-fuck intensity they once did? Yes. YES. YES!
Opening with the sparse lone guitar of ‘Wait’, they proceeded to launch into the kind of vicious set that had us all frothing at the mouth all those years ago. Seeing them on a large stage, the light of day streaming in from above was a little weird at first, but the sheer power on display soon dispelled any doubts. Throats; it’s good to have you back. Stick around this time, eh?
Falmouth’s Monolithian weren’t really on my radar until a few weeks ago, until their new full-length The Finest Day I Ever Lived, Was When Tomorrow Never Came made its way into my ears, and has since taken up permanent residency. In an era where the doom scene is at saturation point (with “we’re not actually any good so let’s just play slow and hope no-one notices” the seemingly prevalent modus operandi) it’s great to hear a band actually use slower tempos in a dynamic way.
Their set opened the brand new Third Stage, a setting which closely resembled a large cow shed, which was somewhat fitting considering how many people crammed in to catch them, only to be totally slaughtered. One of the most talked-about bands of the festival, the bass-and-drums duo roared their way through a setlist heavily drawn from their new LP, with title track The Finest Day… and an appropriately plodding ‘Treebeard’ being particular standouts. Ones to watch, seriously.
Leeds’ premiere exports, The Afternoon Gentlemen, proceeded to blast their way through a set so fast and frantic it was just fucking stupid really. A smattering of ‘classics’ were dropped among tracks from their long-awaited debut LP, but everyone was too busy smacking each other and spilling their pints to really pay attention anyway. Which sounds about right.
Gothenburg’s Martyrdöd never manage to impress me as much live as they do on record, and unfortunately this time is no different. Frontman Mikael Kjellman frequently seems to struggle to keep up with his bandmates, which detracts far too noticeably from the songs, which are obviously still brilliant.
Anyone who pays attention to the underground sludge scene will have mourned the loss of Copenhagen’s Bottom Feeder. Thankfully guitarist Nikolaj Jakobsen has since gone on to form Weak, a truly brutal power trio in the vein of Unsane, who tear through one of the tightest sets I’ve ever seen. By the time tracks like ‘Catch You Later’ and ‘Dry Sockets’ are done, most of the assembled heshers are left with their jaws slack and their minds blown. Fucking brilliant.
Next up was the hardest decision I’ve had to make this year, with the only major clash of the whole festival for me. That’s right; Trap Them vs. Meth Drinker. Each band is just about my favourite within their ouvre, and I genuinely agonised for hours over which to see until I simply went with the one it had been longest since I had last seen. I went with Trap Them.
Opening with a one-two punch of ‘Habitlands’ and ‘Salted Crypts’ from latest album Blissfucker, it’s not long before they bring out the heavy hitters: ‘Evictionaries’, ‘Fucking Viva’, ‘Guignol Serene’, ‘Mission Convincers’. While the band themselves seem a little lost on the expansive main stage, it doesn’t stop feral frontman Ryan McKenney spending the whole show prowling the barrier menacingly, crawling all over the front row, and throwing his mic-clenching fist into their faces, especially during the totally-fucked-yet-anthemic closer ‘The Facts’, a multitude of ruined throats invited to howl the catchy refrain of “CANCER. FAMINE. FLOODS. PLAGUES.”. Despite the heartbreak of missing Meth Drinker, I feel like I made the right call.
After the fury of the previous set, I was probably in the wrong mood for seeing anything try to follow that, so unfortunately Slabdragger felt as slow and plodding as their name by comparison. I’ve wanted to see them for fucking years, so I’m blaming myself for not enjoying it as much as I should have. Next time guys, I promise; you bring the riffs, I bring the headbangs.
I’m going to be honest here. I always thought the band I watched next were overhyped shite for hardcore kids with too much merch money. I was wrong. Fuckin’ Nails, man. I literally can’t type anything clever about their set except that Todd Jones is angry as fuck, really likes circle pits, really hates “people that talk fucking shit”, and has a lot of angry songs about that very subject. An absolute barn burner of a set that managed to completely change my opinion of the band.
I kept the energy up by cramming myself into the very last cubic inches available in the second stage room for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, Pig Destroyer. Despite not actually being able to move my body in any real way, I managed to thrash my torso around enough to personal favourites ‘Scarlet Hourglass’ and ‘Thumbsucker’ before admitting defeat in favour of oxygen, retreating outside to crash out on the concrete and end my day with plenty of alcohol and my buds.
A slightly delayed start gave me some time to grab a couple of beers and head in to set up camp up front for Caïna. One of UK black metal’s most interesting projects for a number of years now, latest hardcore-influenced album Setter Of Unseen Snares necessitates a full band to truly bring it to life. With Nick Colman (ex-Hammers, Glarus) on drums and Fraser Samson (Voe) on bass, alongside Laurence Taylor (Cold Fell) on feral howling and band maestro Andrew Curtis-Brignell on guitar, they had the perfect line-up to do just that.
Bangers like ‘I Am The Flail Of The Lord’ and ‘Vowbound’ from SOUS, as well as a nifty wee cover of Marilyn Manson’s ‘Little Horn’, sounded absolutely fucking huge on that main stage. If you were there, you saw something pretty damn special, and if you weren’t… well then it fucking sucks to be you, eh?
I stuck around the main stage for Lyon’s Celeste, knowing nothing about their live shows, so I was mildly perturbed when the whole stage was engulfed in the emissions of 20 fog machines. “But how will I see the band?” I lamented to no-one in particular, until it became apparent they didn’t really want to me to see them. The red beams of light moving through the fog were the only thing to indicate there was a band up there at all. Oh, except for the waves of pummelling black metal blasting through the PA, of course. They were all the better for being a completely new experience.
I had to take some time to prepare myself for the next round of bands, as I was about to experience the unholy trinity of Mantar, Bölzer and Portal back-to-back. Read that again. Yep. That is a thing that happened. Bremen two-piece Mantar rattled through a cracking set of muscular noise-sludge-whatever, their unusual stage set-up meant they played facing one another. Throughout it was almost like each was daring the other to hit harder or yell louder, with tracks like ‘Spit’ and ‘White Nights’ made all the more powerful as a result.
Unfortunately the sound on the second stage occasionally fell victim to a muddy mix, which was especially apparent during Bölzer‘s set. Tracks from their EPs Soma and Aura failed to hit with the impact they should, especially guitarist KzR’s usually full-bodied tone from his 10-string BC Rich Bitch. It’s especially heartbreaking to hear majestic closer ‘Entranced By The Wolfshook’ effectively neutered by poor sound.
Fortunately for Brisbane’s Portal, poor sound doesn’t seem to mar what is predominantly a visual experience. If I’m being honest, I couldn’t even tell you if the sound for their performance was good or not, considering even on record they aim for ultra-distorted murk punctuated by fallout-shelter-piercing drums. It sounded like that, but really loud, and with horrifying costumes. So job done, I guess?
The true terror of the evening was wrought once more by Pig Destroyer. Playing their ambient horror piece Natasha in full for the first time ever, it was probably one of the best live shows I’ve ever witnessed. Having first heard it as the bonus DVD with Terrifyer over a decade ago, it’s since become ingrained in my psyche, but not in the way a song gets stuck in your head; Natasha is more like a recurring nightmare. To see it recreated, complete with projected visuals, to a reverent Temples crowd was something I’ll never forget. Even if I wanted to…
By contrast, Skitsystem were a damn good time! Tracks from across their discography all got a decent airing, but it was the few from Grå Värld / Svarta Tankar that got the craziest reaction from the assembled drunks and crusties, who all seemed to have finally gone inside to watch a band, holy shit! I still bear bruises and scrapes from the reaction to a blistering rendition of ‘Skrivet I Blod, Ristat I Sten’.
Feeling somewhat tender after maybe a few too many ciders the night before, I dragged myself into sunlight (well, the main stage) for OHHMS. Their sprawling, passionate blend of alternating hardcore and doom was a great way to ease myself into another day of loud noises. Also, yes sir, those guys can boogie.
I had to leave the room the last time I saw Monarch! play, they were far too intense for my fragile mind to handle. I’m glad I stuck around this time, as their avant-garde doom was enthralling rather than grating this time around. It’s a talented band indeed that can hold an entire room captivated throughout a lengthy set of shrieks and drones.
Closing with their barely recognisable cover of The Runaways’ ‘Cherry Bomb’, the rapturous reaction to their set seemed to overwhelm vocalist Emilie Bresson, her demure spoken “Merci… merci beaucoup!” in stark relief to her terrifying performance. One of the highlights of the whole festival for me.
Due to the main stage running a bit behind schedule, I had to miss Year Of No Light in favour of Vallenfyre, but within the first 5 minutes of their set I knew I’d made the right call. Drawing mainly from their excellent second album Splinters, the band ripped through the tracks while frontman Grimacin’ Gregor Mackintosh definitely wins the Best Stage Banter award for the whole weekend.
I stuck around the third stage for New Orleans’ Goatwhore, who ripped through a set of blackened thrash, or thrashened black, whatever the fuck you want to call it. They have a song called ‘Fucked By Satan’, so you kinda know what you’re gonna get.
KEN mode, from Winnipeg, Canada, are pretty goddamn intense. This isn’t even the first time I’ve seen them, but frontman Jesse Matthewson’s crazed stare and unhinged delivery still has the power to terrify and excite in equal measure. Despite taking things in a more focused direction, cuts from new record Success sit nicely alongside their older material, with every track delivered with the same manic energy and hefty sound.
I don’t manage to grab a good spot from which to watch Dylan Carlson lead Earth in closing out the festival, but to be honest my energy is still too high from KEN mode, so I abandon the main stage in favour of hanging out with the million excellent humans I know I won’t get to see for many months more. And there it is. The thing that made Temples 2015 such a damn good time; being torn whether to see the best heavy bands in the world, or whether to hang out with the best people who dig them.
With the dates already announced for next year, I have total faith in the organisers, and I’m already excited to make the trip to Bristol once again.
Temples Festival 2016, you’re expecting me…
After the positive reception of last year’s inaugural instalment, returning to Bristol in 2015 seemed like a given for most attendees I spoke to. Besides this year’s stellar line-up, there were more subjective arguments in favour of coming back. Temples provides a lot more than ‘just’ a nice backdrop for heavy music.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, entering the Motion venue feels like coming home to a house crammed to the rafters with your friends. Unlike many fellow festival ‘veterans’, I hadn’t found MY fest prior to Temples. Only here do I purposefully skip sets in order to catch up with great humans in the courtyard. Despite the tickets having sold out, traffic flow is well-organised, allowing for mad dashes between the three stages. Waiting times for food and drinks are minimal and the ever-friendly security do their part in ensuring a professional, yet pleasant, festival experience.
Apologies if you’re here to read about music exclusively, but I wouldn’t do the organisers justice if I didn’t stress the overwhelmingly positive and relaxed atmosphere! With that out of the way, let’s talk music. Instead of waffling about every set I saw, I’ll focus on those that stuck with me most.
One of my most-anticipated bands of the weekend, I hadn’t even heard of the Falmouth duo prior to seeing them on the bill. At a time when you have the world’s musical output at your fingertips, it still remains a rarity to discover a small band for yourself and instantly fall in love. Fortunately, Monolithian’s live presence more than lives up to my unreasonably high expectations. Playing an impossibly energetic variant of blackened doom, the band members’ huge grins are soon infectious. Music this vile shouldn’t make me feel this giddy; I haven’t had that much fun watching a drummer beat the life out of their kit since the last time I saw Jucifer. High praise, and much deserved. Outstanding blackened doom delivered by friendly humans, very reasonable merch prices- what more could you want?
Anticipation was off the charts for Trap Them’s return to this bleak island after years of absence. Getting an opportunity to repeat past bloodied encounters seemed too good to be true. Standing front and centre at the main room’s barrier, doubts were voiced whether the looming stage provides an adequate backdrop for a band usually spotted in tiny, dingy clubs. But judging by the huge turnout, the organisers couldn’t have put the band on anywhere else.
As the band takes the stage, it immediately becomes clear that frontman Ryan McKenney wastes little time on introductions. Jumping down into the photopit, he spends the entire set atop the barriers, all flailing limbs and thousand-yard-stares. While it is a shame that the other band members are quite far removed from crowd interaction, Trap Them’s performance is a fully immersive experience. Surrounded by friends, screaming ‘I am that goddamned son of a bitch’ in each other’s faces with McKenney spurring the crowd on, Izzi’s signature guitar tone making cohesive thoughts impossible… It feels good to have Trap Them back, knowing the band is not only still active, but capable of breaking down barriers (literally and figuratively speaking).
Having eagerly awaited seeing Slabdragger live since their initial release of Regress what feels like aeons ago, in this case anticipation might have proven a tad much. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy their performance, the third stage’s brilliant sound was perfectly suited to the band’s impossibly groovy, sludgy doom. But their relaxed performance immediately following Trap Them’s didn’t work for me, at least not until Murky Fen managed to cut through my own murky cranial activity towards the end of Slabdragger’s set. All in all, this was by no means a poor performance, just one I caught at the wrong time.
After having just missed Caïna play an intimate venue in Glasgow, I was extremely eager to catch them in Bristol. I can’t imagine it’d be easy to be the first band of the day AND play on a massive stage – but Caïna ended up delivering one of my favourite performances of the whole weekend.
Who would have thought black metal could be this… entertaining? Based on Caïna’s spot-on and energetic delivery, you’d never know the current line-up has only played a handful shows together. The singer’s contortions gave the photographers plenty reason to crane their necks as the rest of the band created a truly monumental wall of noise. If you get the opportunity to catch Caïna live, discard any thoughts you have on black metal as a genre; just go and experience this unique band.
I like my fair share of black/death/doom, but rarely make the effort to see bands of the genres live. When Grave Miasma took the stage, I was reminded why: I am not a fan of ‘metal’ gimmicks and aesthetics, blood and leather aren’t my idea of an enjoyable live show. I fully understand this hardly counts as objective criticism, so I was prepared to focus on the music instead.
Unfortunately, the second stage couldn’t compete with the other stage’s pristine sound for most of the weekend. Thinking my earplugs might be to blame, I asked other attendees – who mostly voiced a similar verdict. The muddled sound drowned out much of the treble from Grave Miasma’s two guitars, while turning the drums into firework farts. Due to this, I can’t honestly judge the band’s performance. All things told, the band delivered a solid set, I just failed to get carried away by it.
Another greatly anticipated performance, but similar to Grave Miasma, the atmosphere fell a bit flat for me due to the sound. Bölzer’s trademark guitar tone, which singles the band out from their genre peers, got lost in the murky sound. On the plus side, the drums sounded immense, I just wish I could say the same about the sound as a whole. Speaking to similarly underwhelmed attendees post-set, they stressed the necessity of seeing Bölzer in a more suited setting.
I would like to emphasize this was by no means a bad show – just one that failed to leave me awestruck.
Probably the band that came with the most recommendations for me, I somehow failed to listen to their recorded output before Temples, only recalling a comment of “they’re like Black Cobra, but NOT”. Okay.
Black Cobra may well be the most apt comparison, as it shouldn’t be possible for a mere two humans to create such a meaty sound. Heavy yet melodic, Mantar instill the desire to dance- preferably while smashing your workplace to pieces and swinging beer bottles. The band clearly had fun on stage themselves, delivering a much-appreciated boost of PMA halfway through a demanding festival schedule.
OHHMS made sure to dispel any notions of dreaded festival fatigue. I was only vaguely aware of the band beforehand and watched mostly by recommendation. Paul is the kind of frontman that words can’t do justice- simultaneously lost in his own world and spurring the crowd on. The whole band exudes an energy and intensity that grips you instantly. Despite paying close attention to their set, I’m unsure what niche to shove them into- progressive post-metal something? It’s probably best to check OHHMS out with an open mind and resist any pigeonholing.
Watching drone doom played live can go horribly wrong, especially when you abstain from any mind-altering substances. I must admit to lacking the patience to enjoy a drawn-out drone set, but Monarch! had me captivated instantly.
They transformed the spacious, sunlit main stage into a claustrophobic chamber of horrors through sound alone. A huge nod of appreciation to the sound desk – whatever magic was worked there over the weekend, it’s deserving of plenty praise.
I loathe to highlight the juxtaposition of the singer’s petite stature and her monstrous shrieks and howls; but it did throw me when she, for all her terrifying stage presence, closed the set with very quiet and polite thanks aimed at the crowd. Before that disorienting wake-up call, Monarch! treated the audience to their otherworldly cover of ‘Cherry Bomb’.
Going by recommendation alone and having confused them with another band, I had no expectations regarding KEN mode’s set.
And I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised, as the band provided the weary masses with some very welcome energy. KEN mode undeniably enjoy playing live, as there wasn’t a moment of stand-still. I would have wished them a slightly more alert audience, as we all seemed to be flagging by this point. Their powerful blend of noise rock and punk would have deserved to be sent off with a massive pit.
Looking at my friends’ faces before the last band took the stage, I saw the same melancholy expressed that I felt. Earth’s sombre tones provided a fitting soundtrack to the Post-Temples Blues that would grip us for days to come. The weekend’s final performance had an emotional impact on me that cannot be put into words, rendering any attempt to review Earth’s set moot. For no particular reason, I had never properly delved into Earth’s discography, but this closing performance alone ensures I will finally discover the band’s output.
To draw a line under this beast of a review, I can’t stress enough that Temples Fest is in a league of its own in only its second-ever instalment. Minor flaws throughout the weekend (cancellations, changes in set times) were dealt with promptly, and I can only imagine how much hard work went into the organisation of it all.
There is no doubt I will return in 2016, and I will once more value the music as much as the friendships.
Tamar Elderton (Photographer notes)
ANTA blew me away. I was so impressed by their performance I went straight to the merch and bought both their albums.
OHHMS were also really impressive. It’s always great to see musicians throw themselves into their performance and the singer and bassist both definitely did that.
Wow, shooting Sunn O))) was an experience to say the least! Standing that close to that noise, I’m surprised I didn’t receive any permanent damage. Everything was vibrating so much; parts of the floor were massaging my feet when I was standing on them, my vision was blurring presumably because my eyeballs were vibrating, even with earplugs it was painful at times! People’s drinks on the floor, barrier steps, and even the bar at the back, were spinning and moving around the surfaces they were on. Apparently they broke the PA system which is unsurprising, but it could be a miracle that the building didn’t collapse! The sound could be heard from the train station a good 5-10 minute walk away from the venue. Don’t get me started on the smoke.
Some highlights of Temples Festival were to get to see pretty big bands in rather small settings. Triptykon headlining stage 2 were one, and it was brilliant to get to see them in such an intimate setting instead of an open air stage or larger indoor venue. The PA couldn’t quite fully deliver the clout of their super heavy music but it was still a fantastic set.
Between The Buried And Me:
Another stage 2 headline set that I really enjoyed in the smaller than usual setting. Between The Buried And Me’s set was shorter than expected, but boy was it sweet. They blend heavy with intricate, and screams with melodies so well. An excellent performance however some big hitters were left out of the setlist.
Celeste were very hard to photograph because of all the smoke, however with the red lights they were wearing it made for a great effect, which would’ve worked better if there was no natural light coming into the venue. It created a mood however, and set the tone for a great performance.
Always awesome when a band break out a second bass guitar during their set!