What better way to lift off at the festival than with none-other than our own promising compatriots, The Black Wizards. The young group got on stage early in the afternoon and needless to say, even though some technical problems did surge, they delivered a jaw dropping performance, leaving stupefied those who didn’t know them yet. The Underworld was well filled and the expectation was awarded with a great mix of blues, fuzz and soulfulness that flooded the whole crowd. We never witnessed, in three years of covering this festival, such a huge final clap in this venue, an audience fully surrendered to the band’s youthfulness and infectious rock. After that, the assault on the merch table was completely inevitable, a proper toast to a band that received the ideal welcome they deserved.
The Underworld would remain under total control of the femme fatale. Black Moth would get up on stage and new tracks like “Istra” and “Moonbow” off of their most recent release Anatomical Venus were instant hits played live. The lovely singer Harriet Bevan, herself a frequent attendee of the festival since its inception, confessed total satisfaction upon seeing such a growing female presence in the crowd, year after year, dedicating “Sisters Of The Stone” to all the women present. An intense show, which rendered the crowd completely satisfied. Imagine an association between Dorthia from Windhand, Lori S. from Acid King and DiSalvio from Elder, and this band is the closest you’ll probably get.
The Black Wizards
Black Moth, Swedish Death Candy and Old Man Lizard
The iconic Koko Theatre was back at the festival line-up and by the time we arrive there, crossover legends Zeke were just inflicting total and absolute chaos in a more than electrified crowd. Following, another famous american project got up on stage, the much awaited The Obsessed, fronted by the man himself, Wino. With some old legal issues finally resolved, they’re back in European soil once again. “Sacred” was the perfect meaning for this show, starting a whole roll of stoner history. Strong and totally hypnotic. They also made sure to promise for a near future comeback to Europe.
Zeke and The Obsessed
We quickly rushed through the Camden main street over to the Electric Ballroom, where Eyehategod would play. As if the band’s legendary status in the underground scene wasn’t already motif for excitement, their entrance left the crowd completely insane. One could hear shouts stating “It’s good see you alive, Mike!” from the crowd, welcoming back the singer who had to deal with various and serious health issues. Nothing more appropriate to celebrate his comeback, than with total decadence and putrefaction that is EHG’s music. Each and every fan favorite song gets delivered in astonishing and intense fashion, collecting what was one the weekend’s highlights, by a full margin. Welcome back!
After Eyehategod, the standard got a lot higher, but truth is, Dopelord set at The Devonshire Arms was still able to keep intensity at a strong high. Easily one of the day’s strongest moments, not sustaining any sort of stoppage to the band’s monstrous, blistering doom power. Thick, punchy and also catchy as hell. The small venue definitely helped build a suffocation and claustrophobic atmosphere, just as their sound most welcomes. Crowd totally on their knees towards this lord.
Dopelord, Jex Thoth and Warning
And if we end the first night at The Devonshire Arms, so the second day began there again for us. British Monolithian started it with a performance that left the whole crowd in awe, with their complex and sludgy doom, with some winks towards black metal that could only result in a talented and strong drummer behind the kit. What a way to start the day.
A bit later at the Dev, Snow Burial. They were in an eastern european tour with Monolithian, and the duo remained there to make sure the americans would receive a proper welcome in London. It just so happens that their tour-van got broke and, after some cancellations, this bands had to drive for dozens of consecutive hours before reaching London in time, Snow Burial last stop before heading back to the States. The heroic driver who made it all align was on stage and ready to materialize a memorable gig. Unfortunately, their bad luck remained and this time in the form of technical issues. It’s almost frustrating because the band does have so much to show. In their core, they deliver a somewhat complex mix of chaotic hardcore in fortitude with post-metal’s atmosphere. One can imagine a balance like this one, pretty impossible to reach, but to see these guys do it with such charm and style, just comes to show what great musicians are made of. Cheers guys! Better luck next time, we’ll surely be there.
Monolithian and Snow Burial
In-between their set, a quick route was made towards the Underworld, where an acoustic set from Wino himself, would take place. Always submerging the public with his introspective and landscape-ish take on nostalgic americana, there was so little that could be asked of Wino. Not the same can be said about the crowd though, seemed quite dedicated to ruin the show, with their small hussing around in the background. With such a rare sight to witness London in perfect spring weather, why don’t people just go outside and let the others enjoy the show?
Later on at the Underworld, some mass with former Electric Wizard Mark Greening, now with Dead Witches. Their promising backline was enough to put everyone on their toes, but the whole vibe was more than appropriate to suck in the public’s attention. Since the last time we saw them in Portugal, they’ve gathered a new singer, with a more conservative attire and a goth style that really complimented the band’s aesthetic.
Wino, Dead Witches and Akercocke
Literally bewitched by the muddy doom of Dead Witches, we headed over the Electric Ballroom to catch two heavyweight sludge lords. The first of which would be Weedeater, delivering one of their two sets for the weekend. Dixie entered the stage with his Jack Daniels bottle and his “FUCK YOU” attitude, for the crowd rejoice. Travis is a sideshow in himself, with all of his drum stick tricks. They played pretty well, but we’re not sure if the expectations were too high, but for some reason, they didn’t seem to convince the whole vibe of the show.
Following, the most anticipated moment of the evening, Matt Pike getting up on stage alongside with High On Fire, more than ready for an absolute devastation. Pike is an authentic encyclopedia of riffs, and he opens the book for everyone to read. The atmosphere was more than up to par. While celebrating they 20 year career, it was more than appropriate to surprise the crowd with a couple of really great songs like “Bastard Samurai” and “Waste Of Tiamat”, just anticipating classics like “Fury Whip” and “Snakes For The Divine”. There’s no better whip than High On Fire, while the fans shows off their back in their free will. Pike for president!!!
However, the night would not end without a portuguese hard partying! The Black Heart was the ideal destination for the biggest gathering of portuguese crowd, thirsty for the chaotic Miss Lava set. Truth is such sonic whirl from Lisbon created a beautiful moment of celebration. Rock n Roll spirit on the purest state. Great fun, bet won.
Weedeater and High On Fire
On the third day we bear witness to the return of the legendary Roundhouse, which just like last year, was part of the festival. The historic venue was built a long time ago as a train shelter, and while withstanding the cost of time, its architecture has been preserved and improved. Monolord would be the first ones to step up on the stage, and while being a familiar face to anyone who’s a regular attendee of these events, as well on our coverages, they make sure to never run out of ideas when trying to deliver an exciting show. With a little more time than usual to play, they took the chance and got “Audhumbla” off of their first record, among many recent contributions. We never grow tired of this power trio.
Elder never cease to overcome themselves, not only in studio, but in a live setting as well. Every time we see them, the show becomes more and more special. They’ve grown quite a lot since turning on a four-way format while we see Nick DiSalvo loosen up, just enough for him to show off his musical genius on stage. The beautiful psyche landscape in the background really did a lot of justice to Elder’s show. “The Falling Veil” is gruesomely amazing live and all the arrangement around “Dead Roots Stirring” really can take any listener to another dimension.
Monolord and Elder
Right after such a special performance, it was a bit anticlimactic to witness Nebula. The expectation upon their reunion stood at an all-time high, but the group ended up delivering a set more low-key than expected. Even with the trippy and acid guitar riffs, there was still some energy and power missing. We are sure they’ll get there during the tour, since this was one of the first sets since the comeback. If there’s one feeling that remained right after this set, it’s a wish to see Fu Manchu next year on that stage. Fingers crossed.
Going back to Camden for a couple more gigs down at the heart of the festival. Elder’s drummer was ready to get on stage once more along with his hometown friends from Boston in a band called Kind. “Look, we have a setlist for this, such pros” stated the singer in humorous tone. The remaining members from Elder showed up at the frontline for a show that really surprised everyone. A lot of quality, a promise for a new record and for more gigs in Europe. We’re looking forward.
Nebula and Kind
Next up, Primitive Man at the Underworld. What a perfect name the venue have for such a soul crushing band in a more “cosy” space. Here’s the thing with this guys, their sound is punishing, it’s as dense as a bludgeoning and as sharp as a morningstar paving the side of your head. Their sound isn’t just “heavy” in the conventional sense of the word, it’s really really fucking heavy. The crowd’s reaction is a direct reflection of how consistent, precise and monstrous, their sound was. In there, we saw expressions that welcomed crushing pressure and total physical and mental agony. By a long shot, the loudest gig on the bill. No ear protection would care enough to isolate such blistering. Slow, ritualist and pure unadulterated catharsis. One of the strongest highlights of the festival.
For one last time, the Roundhouse was the destination. On the way, one quick stop by the Dev to catch the young french act, The Necromancers. The band were ready to prove why they are considered by many to be quite promising but unfortunately for them, the time-slot wasn’t the best. Still, we were able to witness “Salem Girl Part I” played out with much passion and attitude, but unfortunately Monster Magnet were about to start and we quickly had go.
Primitive Man and The Necromancers
What was waiting for us at the Roundhouse, was nothing less than a good dose of entertainment, with a sir Dave Wyndof performing in a more than enviable physical shape. The last record may have not convinced most of the fans, but truth is this live incarnation of Monster Magnet is like a swiss clock. “Space Lord” was the highest moment of the show, while accompanied by an astronaut leaving the Earth in the background, with the crowd cheering their lungs out. Upon their exit from the stage, so much electricity in the air remained. They would come back for the encore, because after all, in “The End Of Time”, the “Powertrip” was still to come.
We end the night at the airport, getting back to reality with the certainty that this was a weekend perfectly underlined with great shows, a lot of fellowship and numerous new friendships. The festival is progressively growing and this year was quite noticeable in the smaller venues, sometimes with quite difficult to circulate in, but the vibe maintained stronger than ever and as genuine as the beginning. Til next year.