Now in it’s 16th year, Supersonic Festival – located in the heavy metal motherland of Birmingham – is widely regarded as the UK’s primary festival for experimental, heavy and weird music, whilst also being a bastion of inclusivity, with an ethos transcending tired genre tropes and instead focusing on intensity, innovation and authenticity.
Featuring everything from live performances, DJ sets and art installations to a number of talks on experimental music in the UK and beyond, Supersonic is a celebration of artistic innovation, experimentation and achievement. 2019’s edition of the festival, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of heavy metal’s genesis in Birmingham, is set to be its biggest yet. With this in mind, we’ve curated a number of acts for purveyors of astrally-inclined noize to seek out over the course of the weekend. A full schedule can be found here.
Godflesh (Friday – Town Hall, 7:30)
Industrial metal pioneers Godflesh have been machine-stamping their mark on the heavy music scene since their formation in 1982. From the bleak, grinding riffs and mechanical percussion of ’89 breakout ‘Streetcleaner’ Justin Broadrick and G.C. Green have embarked on a three decade long career of exploring, defining, and defying genre boundaries. Cited as influential by the likes of Neurosis, Fear Factory and Isis, their triumphant return from their eight-year hiatus in 2010 resulted in two critically-lauded records, 2014’s A World Lit Only By Fire and 2017’s Post Self. As raw and jagged as ever, their rare live performances are coveted as cathartic, claustrophobic trials by riff, and their Birmingham homecoming opening the festival this Friday will be no different.
Neurosis (Friday – Town Hall, 8:45)
Oakland post-metal visionaries Neurosis need no introduction. From their pupal stage in the ’80s DIY hardcore scene to their current tenure as one of the most post-metal’s most venerated and respected bands, they’ve towed a through-line of uncompromising sonic identity from the start. Their expansive, dynamic soundscapes encompass ethereal beauty, spiralling introspection and subterranean, primal rage. 1996’s Through Silver In Blood and 1999’s Times Of Grace have entered the metal canon as classic albums, each encapsulating different facets of the power of atmospherically-inclined metal. Coupled with a hypnotic live show, Neurosis are simply untouchable.
Savage Realm (Friday – The Warehouse, 23:30)
Having arisen from the ashes of crusty sludge unit Lich, Brum home-comers Savage Realm will be bringing their primal interpretation of Finn-death to Supersonic’s metal as fuck opening night – making a rare live appearance preceding (and perhaps even upstaging) doom legends Yob late on at The Warehouse. The band undershot the current OSDM trend with the release of their sole, limited-to-100-copies tape EP Nocturnal Savagery in 2016, a release very much in keeping with the buzzing, demo-stage rackets that defined extreme metal’s unholy origins in the murk of the ’80s/’90s cassette-trading phenomenon. The quintet’s minimal, tightly wound mastery of Finnish death metal melody (and fresh material) makes them an unmissable prospect this weekend.
Big Lad (Friday – The Crossing, 00:30)
Two heads are better than one, especially when both are committed to making fractiously loud and rhythmically skittish party noise. Comprised of Henri Grimes and Wayne Adams (known for his work producing some of the best UK underground bands at Bear Bites Horse Studios and for comprising one-half of Petbrick alongside Igor Cavalera), song titles like ‘Eating Food And Fighting Wizards’ should give you all the clues you need about the Big Lad vibe. Explosively energetic, the duo have played to audiences from across the music spectrum, at sweaty basement hardcore gigs as well as electronic festival crowds at Bangface, uniting all under the banner of irresistible, chaotic grooves. Prepare for a healthy dose of BLE (Big Lad Energy).
AJA (Saturday – The Warehouse, 20:00)
Whilst noise music has long had a reputation for unsavoury, violent expressions of toxic masculinity in the name of dissonance and catharsis, in recent years the genre has found a home within feminist and queer spaces. Having collaborated with designer Lu La Loop for Berlin Fashion Week, and travelled across the world on the advent of her acclaimed self-titled debut last year, AJA’s heady concoction of rhythmic noise, industrial, techno and drone will surely be the culmination of her well-earned reputation within the noise scene.
Mono (Sunday – The Warehouse, 18:50)
For a band currently commemorating their twentieth anniversary, instrumental Japanese quartet Mono have shown no signs of losing momentum or indeed their creative drive. Not only did the group releases the fantastic Nowhere Now Here, their tenth studio album, back in January, but they’ve also toured considerably and found time to celebrate the tenth birthday of landmark album Hymn To The Immortal Wind by playing it in full at Tilburg’s Roadburn Festival alongside The Jo Quail Quartet. The infinitely talented post-rock legends will be capping off a run of July shows at Supersonic, so expect a transcendent show from an experienced band on an unparalleled run of form.
The Bug/Moor Mother/Miss Red (Saturday – The Crossing, 00:30)
Responsible for some of the most out-there politically and spiritually driven music of the last decade, Moor Mother’s highly avant-garde 2016 debut Fetish Bones is as socially subversive as it is musically so, and her collaborative set with The Bug will be the perfect Saturday closer. Whilst Kevin Martin’s mutant bass mastery is in no question, both his and Moor Mother’s collaborative ethos’ are also firmly cemented, and with experimental dancehall MC Miss Red in tow, their performance will undoubtedly showcase everything essential to the Supersonic ethos.
Anna Von Hausswolff (Sunday – The Warehouse, 21:00)
Swedish chamber-pop songstress Anna Von Hausswolff might not be the heaviest name on the bill, but if you haven’t seen her before you might be surprised by just how imposing her live performances are. Her immense Kate Bush-esque voice is bone-rattlingly loud live, drawing you in with an ethereal essence before penetrating the moody atmosphere skilfully crafted by her all-encompassing organ and booming bass to inject a tangible but indefinable aura of ominous malevolence. The songwriter is likely to be a surprise favourite for many who descend on Supersonic expecting nothing but guttural growls and abrasive guitars, as her droning, gothic masterpieces are just as powerful as any riff Neurosis have ever put their name to and umpteen times more expressive.
Words: Jay Hampshire, George Parr, Richard Lowe