A Reportage On Riffs And Drunken Mayhem: Riffmass 2017

It’s all too easy in this day and age to get caught up in beard stroking complexity, even in the live environment, the complex genre-splicing of the age can renders the live experience somewhat overwhelming. Taking place in the still cobbled Green Door Store, the second helping of King Goat‘s winter all-dayer takes everything that’s great about Brighton heavy scene’s drunken, DIY attitude and runs with it. With eleven bands crammed into an eight-hour lineup, the 30-minute slots allow all of the bands an excellent opportunity to showcase the very best of their show, even if this shorter running time has some anticlimactic results with the first barrage of bands on show.

As they gleefully admit on stage, March The Desert are a veteran group, and it shows. With eight years of performing under their belt, the groups grungey, tastefully abrasive stoner rock has an excellent impact on the crowd, warming up an already solid crowd amidst a tightly wound barrage of spacey noise. In contrast to March The Desert’s gently crushing introduction, Alzir roll through with lashings of bouncy, Orange Goblin-esque riffage. The band successfully continue the stirring initiated by their predecessors on stage, bringing a not entirely sedentary crowd up with their noisy walls of whiskey-soaked fuzz and abrupt energy.

The aptly named Noisepicker live up to their name, providing a barrage of grungey, noise rock-infected riffs. One of their members has taken a bus from Manchester to be here tonight and the band very much play along with this dedication. Throughout their set, the band exhibit a musical palette which captivates as much as it destroys. Despite their long-distance issues, Noisepicker are a demonstrably well-oiled machine. The band finish in a crescendo of psychedelic noise, partially driven along by a toy laser gun, and fading into nothingness, having had the crowd enraptured from the get-go.

You know it’s going to be a madness when the dudes wearing a fucking rug. By self-admission, Lacertilla play drunken rock’n’roll, and through this, keep an increasingly drunk crowd happy. The group’s bluesy heavy metal stylings and accompanying passages of groove work together incredibly well, allowing the varying depth of their sound to breathe amongst their latent psychedelia.

Gévaudan played a faithful traditional doom set, curtailing the energetic atmosphere laid down by Lacertilia, which although lacking in energy, is satisfying enough for anyone waiting for their Electric Wizard fix, and with interesting vocals. The Moth‘s set is similarly devoid of unneeded frills, focusing on a fuzzed-out brand of brutality that revels in its unashamedly sludgy atmosphere but occasionally forays into comparatively thrashier tempos.

Whilst Alternative Carpark are more consistently energetic than their recorded material suggests, but less captivating musically, to a crowd that’s come here mostly for riffs, and a good time, this doesn’t really lessen the band. Although they come with a promising live show, their slow, proggy stoner rock resets the atmosphere before King Goat’s majestic royalty.

The most theatrical of the day’s performers, there’s a sense here that King Goat could have headlined today and no one would have batted an eyelid. Their towering form of doom is noticeably absent of the hazy feedback modern doom tends to favour, drawing comparisons to the euphoric presence of genre giants Candlemass whilst unique prog-influenced textures make their sound entirely their own. Their set is an undeniable high-point – not only are they the day’s hosts, they also steal the show on stage.

Next up is another band with an original sound, as Noisepicker frontman Harry Armstrong returns to the stage at the head of The Earls Of Mars, whose eccentric sound borrows from jazz as much as metal. Their dramatic delivery is irresistibly fun, and has enough in the way of riffs to keep the average punter happy too.

A clear standout, Slabdragger‘s set shows why they’ve been heralded as one of the UK’s most enticing sludge prospects for some time now. Dropping fan favourites from Regress and the more recent Rise Of The Dawncrusher, the trio’s gargantuan riffs fill the room with drunken doomy joy. In fact, it’s a surprise the crowd has anything left in them for Witchsorrow, whose ‘tune low, play slow’ mantra seldom strays into more inventive textures, providing almost solely what the crowd are here for – fuzzy riffs inspired by the likes of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus. Their traditionally doomy style excels on stage, bolstered by the increased energy (not to mention bigger amps) that comes with the live setting.

All things said, Riffmas isn’t a bill bursting with beard-stroking innovation, or audial complexity – rather a lineup celebrating everything that’s great about riffs, beer and good vibes. Here’s to many more!

Words: Rich Lowe, George Parr, Joe-Julian Naitsri 


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