Photography & Report by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
INTRODUCTION, GOOD & BAD
Once again, one of the biggest metal festivals from Czech is over and here is the report about some of its music and organization. As mainly a photographer and not pure journalist, take it with a grain of salt with my subjective approach and taste in music more based towards black metal and atmospheric stuff overall.
The festival was held officially from August 8th-11th, but there was a small warm up party the day before with Suicidal Tendencies headlining. Unfortunately, I arrived at midnight so it was all over and by the time I unpacked my stuff, did quick town visit for some beer and then get some sleep in a four-wheel coffin.
Photography by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
If there is anyone who has not heard about Brutal Assault festival, it is a festival which has been active for about twenty three years now. It grew from a small one day, local party into the big four day event for twenty thousand people it is today. It was also moved from place to place about five or six times to find its home probably in the best place it could be, in Josefov Fortress near Jaroměř. The place is visited by many foreigners and many other languages than native Czech can be heard. It is common for people to come from all over the world including America, Japan, and all corners of Europe. However, I personally think, this year, I have heard more of native Czech language here than a year ago.
The fortress is built as an exclusive area. Its walls create great sound isolation so several act can be playing at same times without disturbing each other or the surrounding town the festival is located within. Two main stages, Jägermeister and Metalshop, are near the entrance where you can also wash yourself or refresh in a water basin with cold water or buy something in official merchandise. A little behind this area, you could go through for refreshment of various beverages which then leads to Oriental Stage. Not many shows per day were played on this stage,usually it was more exotic stuff as name of the stage suggests. After getting through this area through a short alley, one would arrive at, so called, Green meadow. Unfortunately, it was dry, sandy, not so green. This place contained new addiction – Jameson stage, where people could try to play various instruments which were sponsored by Dean, I guess, as guitars and basses were from this brand. Many people were standing around as some acts that took this stage were really entertaining. Not a big surprise that small local and foreign bands came to attend Brutal Assault together, so they were able to play their own music on this stage with the available equipment. I can name for example Czech band Tortharry,but there were many others too. This meadow also had many small shops you could buy clothes, CDs, Vinyls and as well as other media and accessories. I really did not envy the merchants, the wind occasionally came and threw dust and sand on their goods. Such a hassle. It was bad enough a few times, that a fire truck arrived, but it was not very helpful.
From the Green Meadow you could enter into another part of the big complex. Here, there was horror cinema available to watch, starting with cartoony Mr. Pickles and then mostly Asian horror flicks later on. At the opposite side there was KAL – Keep Ambient Lodge for noise and ambient music. You could also rest here a little with all those sofas and beds. It was usually full all the time.
Nearby you could enter into a new space this year, and look for underground physical zines dating back to the 90’s and even 80’s. There was also a nice place to rest in used old car seats there as well. You could also witness the work of artisan blacksmith too. It is great to see the festival is trying become more diverse. On the end of Green meadow was the big Metalgate tent where other shows happened. It was big enough to hold several hundred people, with a screen in front of if for those, who could not get inside. The sound was usually very good.
Shantidas: Photography by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
Another new addition to the festival, you could kill some time playing bumper cars. I am not sure if this belongs to festival like this, but some fans enjoyed the possibility and satisfy their destructive needs there. There was also small library where you could,surprisingly, borrow a book and read. I am still not very sure, this should be here, but it is original at least.
Fans of the art could visit place with exposure of photos and paintings. You could also visit Lemmy’s alter dedicated to a Mötorhead icon in dark underground dungeon. With all those candles inside, this reminded me of all the stars and people who are not here with us anymore…
Brutal Assault deserves to be praised for many features,alternative food is one of them. Vegan or vegetarian options were available in many kiosks, and for some who prefer plant based food, it is like a dream. I highly recommend vegan pizzas and koptas made in Govinda kiosk. Never disappoints. Ordinary meat eaters should not cry though, there were many non-vegan/vegetarian options to fill your belly at Brutal Assault, too. You could have some tasty ice cream to cool you down as well. It was very hot this year, so you had to lick fast. For Czechs the prices are a little high, but at least seemed similar or even the same as last year. For people from Western Europe or other richer states, it is all almost like free stuff.
Of course, the drinking regime is important as well. Especially in hot weather like this. I do not remember Brutal Assault as hot as it was this year. 2017 was iconic for the rain and mud everywhere, but Brutal Assault #23 was very hot and very dry. So dry, I had to put my upper clothes off. And I am pretty shy guy. My drink of choice was very strong special dark beer Master with nice full coffee and soil body, Its 18° and with about 9 % of alcohol. It was a strong caliber, but surprisingly, even after five of those, I was still ok. Fans of lighter stuff could get another Czech brand Radegast or classical Pilsner Urquell beer which is better suited for an ordinary thirst. Fans of non alcohol stuff could get simple watter and other beverages as well. If you like cocktails, some mojitos or absinth limonades and many other choices were available too.
Photography by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
Another nice touch was the Nazguls characters walking through the festival places and photographing with people. Also, cool keg designs are always standard. This year the main character was a zombie sheep. Some hated it – hello Martina, some really liked it – me. Another cool idea was to minimize waste so lots of one use dishes could be turned in compost or recycled. Hard to say how this worked in reality, because all the trash ended in one bin. There should be some squad to sort the stuff, but who knows…
There was one fire incident when fire canons burned up a bit of grass and started a fire at the cliff of the fortress. It was unexpected entertainment for most of us. Nobody was harmed, however it could make have made some issues for the organizers. The dry weather did not help at all. Another technical issues appeared near the end of Myrkur’s set when all electricity at the main stage went off. It was resolved pretty fast. In the end, organization was done without any major flaw.
My, and others, critique besides some lightning goes to the band schedules and program itself. Online and printed. Band order and times (other content too) were great, but the genres were missing. There are lots of us who want to enjoy only particular genres and are not in mood to check over a hundred bands at Youtube or Metal-Archives. Many people could miss something because of this. However, the promoteur admitted the mistake and I guess next year it is going to be resolved.
DAY 1 – WEDNESDAY
The first day started at 2 PM. Brutal Assault does have “brutal” in its name but it is known for bringing other genres, which surely could not be described only as Brutal. As my friend suggested, later I came to look at Steve ‘n’ Seagulls. The band known for playing in redneck clothes with classic instruments (harmonic, banjo, violoncello) for their covers of rock and metal bands. People were happy and surely enjoyed the show. For me, it was not the desired stuff. That came much later.
Steve ‘n’ Seaguls : Photography by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
Many extreme metal fans were ready that day for Cannibal Corpse, Black Dahlia Murder and other similar acts on main stages, though I picked up some strength at non-meat street as every minute in that hellish heat was so tiresome and this music was not something I was searching for.
Brutal Assault uses several stages or entertaining places at the same time. There are two main stages, where one band is playing and while the other stage is getting set up, so there is not a lot of time in the schedule and people do not have to wait. On the other side of the Josefov fortress was the third stage, Metalgate which is represented by a big tent and smaller capacities for people and little light at night, which meant no great photos were taken later on without any ambient light getting inside. The Oriental stage provided good sound, and held about 400 people – sometimes it was filled to max and it was hard to get through it. Especially when Goblin played few days after. Usually this stage is for not so well known acts or bands that require a special vibe. However, as the last year, the Virginian sludgers Cough delivered tons of heavy shit, which was the first band that got my high interest and brought goosebumps. Another band that wrecked me with their sludge music was Kurokuma. A trio from the UK. They pushed it slow and hard with a hopeless vision. The first extreme experience.
Kurokuma: Photography by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
That first day also got me interested in other minority stuff which I found very interesting. Both were located in KAL stage – Keep Ambient Lodge. KAL is used for lots of ambient, electro and noise stuff. 777 Babalon is also worth mentioning. That was one of the highlights for me that day. Imagine a few people in monk robes playing crushing ambient music. Black metal influenced stuff for sure – lots of tremolo picking on guitar with full of reverbs and hall effects for a huge sound ball which spat strong atmosphere around. Dim light helped to get things mysterious. Noisy dark one man project Shantidas also caught my attention a bit later on.
777 Babalon: Photography by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
The first day was slowly ending with Paradise Lost who gave us their doom metal quality. After them, Hungarian black metal squad Tormentor with mighty Attila Csihar of Mayhem stood in front of this legion. Crystal clear sound was great, but also pretty nice lighting surprised me a lot. I used to be used to the standard that last bands, usually black metal ones had pretty bad, uninteresting impenetrable blue lighting when played. So dark, nothing could be seen. This was the case with with black metal of Whoredom Rife before Paradise Lost, which I was looking forward to see and enjoy and also Marduk or Carpathian Forest as the big stars next days. They were interesting musically – but lack of clearer vision ruined experience for me a bit. Others may see it differently tho as an addition of atmosphere maybe…
Paradise Lost: Photography by Pavel Kovalančík / Dark Art Conspiracy
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