Another turn at the beautiful Antwerp’s old town and we’re heading to Trix for the last time this year. A day of rock beasts and monster performances await us and even though our bodies can’t handle much more, our minds are still in need for more.
Monolord opened the Desert stage and our minds with their massive doom. This band is turning into a serious case, proof of that is the fact the they were able to welcome more audience at four in the afternoon than Melvins did later on. Promoting the new album, they got to elevate the power of new songs like “Where Death Meets The Sea” or “Rust” yielding from the main stage sound power with a reverberating intensity slashing through the room, creating a storm of riffs blading our bodies. It was nevertheless a perfect manner to jump start the day.
Gallery with Monolord and Church of Misery
Veterans Saint Vitus turn to be still much up to-date with the youngsters and you just can’t catch a better example of classic doom metal than this. This experience by comparison with the London’s one this past May, surpasses it by a great deal. With Scott Reagers at the steering wheel, it offers up a side of Vitus that many haven't caught live. Opening with “Dark World” and “One mind” from Die Healing, and “War is our Destiny” from Hallow's Victim it made sense to start off with the albums from the Reagers era first. By the time “Bloodshed” exploded, the crowd was visibly jubilant and pleased with the songs chosen for this tour which included a bit from each Vitus era. When “Born Too Late” started, all we can say is that the entire room went nuts, putting it an epic end.
Apart from that hurricane of a lineup at the main stage, we couldn't live with ourselves if we miss a bit of Mantar upstairs at the Canyon Stage. Hanno Klänhardt jokingly stated that he knew we were all there for the hipster psychedelic, asking the audience to die a little bit with them all together. A packed and hot room created the perfect ambience and atmosphere and we all gave them our minds for them to slaughter with their sonic blades. Their sound temper with decrepit terror, felt organic to the point of haunting sensations like a group of Dementors reaching our mind. A band that can sustain and live their music to such a level can only deserve so much praise. Sadly we couldn’t stay there for the whole gig because Kadavar were about to begin at the main stage.
Kadavar brought remarkable energy and presented themselves in their heaviest and most accurate form ever. They immediately started with “Rough Times” and “Skeleton Blues”, two great songs from the new album, from which we could feel all the grooviness and heavy bass lines this record produced. “Doomsday Machine” raised the speed and soon we definitely knew that they came back to the tracks after some deviation to a grey zone with Berlin. They were so connected and synchronized with each other that they could play with their eyes closed and all would still work like a swiss clock. Towards the end, a mind blowing and eargasmic sequence culminating with “Come Back to Life” put everyone into another galaxy. We surely needed a time to deal and come back to life after this concert.
Gallery with Kadavar, Mantar and Spidergawd
Drummer Dale Clover enters, points to the banner and says: "We're The Melvins." We tremble with anticipation as this is one of the most, if not the most anticipated concert of all the festival. Steven Shane McDonald was on the bass and of course, the winner of best hairdo is King Buzzo. No one possibly know how to categorize The Melvins, it’s one of those ‘you gotta be there to know” things. An experimental, complex and full wave of hardcore doom grunge rock hit us. Every single pause, every single note was on point and in between all the chaotic sounds, they were always in tune with each other and not one mistake was noticed. Covering 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' from the Beatles was a highlight within the show. The band has clearly learned a thing or two over the course of its 30-year career. The songs naturally flowed one into the next, building into colossal walls of sound, pummeling monoliths composed of power chords, a barrage of drums, and Buzzo’s battle cry vocals. By the end of it all ears were popped and my mind was in a complete turn-a-round by the magnitude of that performance. One for the history books, without a doubt.
Still some time left for doom lords Conan to tear the place down for closure. A packed Canyon awaits them and the trio begins full throttle in front of a crowd that knows what they came for: the heaviest of riffs. If there’s a band that has become overlords of their own power, it’s these blokes. This is a power-trio that can elevate the heaviest of sounds into a punishing experience. The bludgeoning riffs can convince anyone that the mighty Conan can turn any room into a caldron of suffocating heat, and that’s exactly what we witnessed. Endless bones to be crushed, skulls pushed to their limits and bodies witnessing the true strength of the Liverpool trio. The most powerful way to end this year's Desertfest and get us totally smashed.
Gallery with Melvins and Conan
Another stellar edition. Nothing left but hearts full of memorable moments and ears still popping out of our heads. With feet destroyed to such an extent that there only remains one thing to thing to say: all totally worth it. A festival that starts with Kaleidobolt and All Them Witches, progresses into so many forms of doom rock, psyche and so many shapes and textures of doom metal, until closing the sessions with the great Melvins and axe-giants Conan, just has to be one of, if the, best in the world. We’re already daydreaming for next year surprises. Sustain the bruises, live the memories and hope for next year’s edition to be as strong as this one’s. See you there!
Text by Alexandra Martins and Bruno Pereira
Photography by Bruno Pereira