LIVE REVIEW by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy
Brighton’s annual dedicated metal festival Mammothfest makes a bigger impact each year and this year’s event was no exception, especially as they impressively managed to bag 3 UK exclusive headliners with Rotting Christ, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Amenra.
Since its return in 2014 Mammothfest has always mustered up a formidable line-up, comprised of heavyweight acts such as Textures, Venom Inc, Sylosis, Entombed, Martyr Defiled and more in the past, as well as always showcasing the best and upcoming talent, they even have a whole stage devoted to this, named the Rikstock stage, after Mammothfest director Steve Dickson lost his close friend and business partner, Rik Mosquero to brain cancer, he went on to name the stage in his honour and highlight the emerging artists, Rik himself was in local band Hole In The Sky who have frequently played the festival, including this year’s event. Along with the bigger calibre acts they bring in each year, the festival has successfully managed to upscale its venue as its new current home is The Arch located on the seafront and is a perfect central spot in Brighton, whereas previously the festival has hosted at different and smaller venues across a weekend, highlighting again the growth and expansion of this massive metal event.
Unfortunately I missed the opening day of Black Metal on the 6th October which saw exclusive sets from Norwegian black metallers Tsjuder and Greek controversial act Rotting Christ headline and from the sounds of it, this opening day made Mammothfest history as it resulted in the biggest queues ever seen at the festival and meant that it reached capacity quickly in the evening which was a very successful start and people cited that is was an honour to behold such mighty acts, what better way to open the festival.
Saturday 7th October – Extreme Metal Day
Extreme melodic metallers Kill All The Gentlemen from Exeter kicked the day off in style and force, being the first act to grace the main stage on the day. Despite the early slot and start there was a good turnout, so many got to witness their great hard-hitting sound which brought lots of headbanging with it. A very strong start to the extreme metal focused day! With a great set and sound like that, it is easy to see why they are getting offered big support slots, as they recently supported Napalm Death. A band to keep an eye on for sure!
Second to the main stage was local and fan favourites Bleed Again with their massive melodic metal sound. Unfortunately, the start was a bit shaky and not on par with their previous explosive sets, but this was out of their control, due to sounds issues which made it hard to define and hear their brilliant melodies. Fortunately it picked up as they went on and they churned out all their striking anthemic hits such as ‘Icarus’ and ‘Walk Through The Fire’ from the successful debut ‘Momentum’ which invoked some good crowd participation, whilst bassist Jonathan Liffen ramped up the crowd engagement by jumping off stage a bit to come and rock out in the crowd. It would have been good to see them on at a later time with their live reputation as they could have pulled in a bigger crowd in the evening. But saying that their closing song ‘Through My Eyes’ saw their set finish in style and on a massive high, as the crowd sang along with them until the very end which was a special moment.
London metal act Death Remains followed on nicely after Bleed Again’s set with heavy yet melodic and crushing grooves. They were on top form and brought in a good and eager crowd, with many headbanging along to their forceful and catchy rhythms. They even managed to conjure up one of the first small mosh pits, before summoning up a funny off timed wall of death which was a funny highlight, especially with the band reflecting saying “next time we will count you in”.
Abhorrent Decimation took things up a notch with their intense death metal and it was the first point where the room was packed. Frontman Ashley Scott had a very commanding stage presence and had the crowd performing any request which resulted in lots of interaction, mosh action and chanting which was impressive. This was one of the best and most intense sets of the day and even one of the best acts for me. What was most remarkable, is that unfortunately due to bad traffic they had to cut their set short, but this was short and deadly sweet and they more than compensated for their lack of time, with tonnes of quality offerings.
Meta-stasis also pulled in a good crowd with their extreme technical metal pummelling the crowds. This was the first time I had seen them play without their keyboard player Steve Dickson who also happens to be the man behind Mammothfest, so their sound was a bit different without it, but every bit as brutal and gripping. Their killer set ended with a warming heartfelt hug at the end with Steve which was a lovely moment for all.
British unconventional thrash metallers Lawnmower Deth certainly lightened the mood with their whirlwind comical songs and behaviour. Their heavier darker material proved to be a bit much for their drummer to handle, causing him to throw up during their set, and leaving frontman Pete to quickly improvise with the crowd and he went with the classic crowd shouts of “oo ah, oo oo ah” which provided more humour. They played brilliantly titled songs like ‘Did You Spill My Pint’ and ‘Egg Sandwich’, which again highlighted their fun nature. They ended their brilliant and humorous set on a great cover of “Kids In America” by Kim Wilde. They had great interaction and participation throughout their fast-paced and manic set in the greatest sense, and certainly offered up something very different which was refreshing and well placed. They were great fun and most enjoyable, everyone could get into and appreciate their craft.
Extreme metal act Akercoke from London previously offered some typical extreme metal elements, but they played a lot of their new material from their comeback album ‘Renaissance in Extremis’ which is a bit more varied and strange, creating a weird energy that we hadn’t yet seen and leaving metal heads slightly perplexed with their complex non-typical metal. Unfortunately, the beginning of their set was hard to enjoy again due to some sound issues making it hard to hear the actual music, but it was quickly fixed and they could shine through with their ferocious powerful set. They also injected some light-heartedness, again not taking themselves too seriously with frontman Jason Mendonça making some interesting faces throughout.
The mysterious and dark Dragged Into Sunlight offered more of a visual and sensory experience, setting the scene with candles and mist as they remained in darkness and with their backs turned to the crowd for the entirety of the set. They don’t wish to reveal their true identities offering more intrigue, which was quite eerie and captivating which was the desired effect and against their backdrop of powerful gloomy earth-shattering noise, in fact, their set sounded like one continuous song. But unfortunately further into the set, it lost its exciting appeal a bit. Although visually this was a fascinating set, with the end descending everyone into a red dark hue and at one point in utter darkness. Their set is not one you would forget in a hurry due to their presentation and sheer bleakness, offering up some of the most brutal sounds of the day.
UK exclusive theatrical Italian headliners Fleshgod Apocalypse, unfortunately, were on half an hour later than scheduled, leaving everyone eager, but luckily they were well worth the wait, delivering a set that was nothing short of epic. They were armed and fired up ready to impress with newly appointed frontman and former drummer Francesco Paoli. They played a truly mighty set and played many songs from their well-revered album and appropriate titled ‘King’ album. Their set was even more thrilling and powerful with the aid of an operatic female singer which worked wonderfully and also created a rather eerie haunting sound also, and complimented their technical melodic riffs and licks, a very depthful and astounding set. It was clear to see they were headliners and they reigned supreme and also produced one of the most monstrous wall of death’s seen at Mammothfest.
Sunday 8th October – Doom/Stoner Metal Day
Hardcore head turning Confronted from the South Coast UK were the first band of the day for me on the Rikstock (second stage) and what a start it was. After seeing them earlier this year in May at Mammothfest’s hardcore presents show I couldn’t wait to see them again after the carnage that unfolded and their mental antics. This set was no exception and if anything was even more wild than last time, with frontman Ryan Hull roaming around like a wild animal unable to contain himself and running around the venue and even outside on numerous occasions to the terror of innocent bystanders on Brighton Beach, enjoying a nice calm stroll before he manically screams and hits and throws his tom drum around and bashes on his head whilst shouting “Mammothfest bitches!” it was quite something…there is never a dull moment with Confronted and they always live up to their name! Other highlights included him standing on the bar and getting a drink poured into his mouth whilst casually laying across the bar counter. They have the whole package, a thrilling unforgettable experience with brilliant hardcore sounds to accompany their erratic moods. Definitely one of the best sets of the whole festival, as nothing quite compares to that.
Heavy doom act Thuum bought in a fairly good crowd enticing them with their massive melodic grooves and offered up some respite from Confronted’s full on set, instead gradually impressing the audience with their more upbeat doom, layered with intricate rhythms that could be appreciated by the masses. A hard-hitting sound that was well placed on the Rikstock stage.
London doom act Wren who are signed with Holyroar records also drew in quite a big crowd onto the main stage and managed to successful enthral the room into a doom trance which is just what any doom act would hope to achieve! They were perfectly placed to strike on a day that was largely centred around doom/stoner metal.
Operation Kino were a last minute addition to the Rikstock stage, but they were clearly a popular and good choice as the room packed out. They liked to get up close and personal with the crowd and engage the audience by jumping out and immersing themselves amongst the crowd, the guitarist especially, which made their set stand out even more whilst they played what they describe as post-hypnotic jazz cum punk. They delivered a vibrant and energetic set, so that was a good late addition that paid off!
OHHMS from Canterbury, UK drew an impressive crowd with their heavy doom groove. They also successfully managed to get the whole room into a synchronised doom state with steady headbanging throughout. Towards the end of their set, the bassist decided to jump onto the barrier, nearly falling into the crowd, but the fans were quick to give him and hand. They closed their crushing set with the sombre ‘The Hanged Man’, taken from their well-received new album ‘The Fool’. It is clear to see why they are making doom waves with their sound and presence.
Heavy psych soul act Vodun from London were next up on the main stage, and they were without a doubt one of the best acts of the whole weekend for me. They delivered a truly captivating set, with their frontwoman Oya impressing the crowd with her massive powerhouse and soulful vocals, accompanied by wild technical melodic guitars which quickly turned to heavy crushing rhythms with pounding ritualistic drumming thrown in the mix also, giving it another musical layer. This is one talented and unique trio who have created an amazing mix of genres which is so distinctive and works wonderfully in a live setting. They offered a completely different vibe, but this change in sound was very welcomed and they certainly stood out for it. One of the best and most memorable moments came when they played their popular and extremely catchy song ‘Mawu’. This is a live act you have to see!
The closing band and final headliner was Belgian experimental act Amenra. Before they even took to the stage, there was high anticipation as everyone packed in ready to witness the last exclusive headline act. The crowd went wild for their intriguing and alarming set. Frontman Colin H Van Eeckhout was very passionate and emotive throughout, making their performance even more immense. The crowd were left astounded and hungry to hear more but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and what an unforgettable and surreal end it was.
As someone who has always attended Mammothfest, from its very first inception in 2010 to the rebooted event in 2014 and thereafter up until now, it is amazing to see how far the festival has come and the following it is gaining. The headliners and bigger acts get better every year, but they always bring in the best and upcoming local and underground acts too, making for a brilliant combination and giving the smaller bands great opportunities to play amongst the heavy hitters. What Mammothfest is doing is exciting and they have many big plans to come, with the idea that in 2019 they will be open air, so watch this space and watch as Mammothfest paves the way for bigger and more immense plans!…See you there!
All photos by Luke Bateman