Festival Preview: The Underdogs of Desertfest London 2022

It’s been a long time coming – three whole years, if you can believe it. Tickets have been sold out for two cancelled iterations, the line-up has changed somewhat and there are now even more stages with the addition of PowerHaus, but the defiant organisers have pushed through all the shit to bring the UK the Tenth Anniversary of Desertfest London – and what a line-up it is. At The Roundhouse revered veterans such as Yob, Elder, Eyehategod, Electric Wizard and crusty punks Pissed Jeans will (dis)grace the stage. Swedish occult doom act Witchcraft will headline the Electric Ballroom on the first night, with Steak carrying on the after-party and Shellac closing things up on Sunday. With all those hard hitters Astral Noize decided to suggest checking out the lesser known bands of the festival that are absolutely worth seeing; the underdogs, if you will.

Friday 29th April

Blind Monarch, The Underworld – 14:30-15:15

Kicking off the festival is this sludgy four-piece from Sheffield, who formed in 2017 and released their debut full-length What Is Imposed Must Be Endured in 2019 to great critical acclaim. We’ve previously described it as “one of the finest sludge albums the UK has seen in recent years”, as their brand of droning doom with blackened howling vocals is quite simply hypnotic and addictive. The record was even recorded in a derelict building. Gnarly.

Gevaudan, The Black Heart – 15:15-16:00

Hailing from Hertfordshire and gracing the UK and beyond with their sorrowful yet devastating flavour of doom, Gevaudan never fail to impress live. Their first full-length release in 2019, entitled Iter, was a perfect iteration of their sound with plenty of rumbling groove and beautifully unique vocals to boot.

BlackLab, The Underworld – 15.45 – 16.30

A Japanese duo formed in 2017 and signed to UK based New Heavy Sounds, BlackLab describe themselves as a “Dark Witch Doom Duo”. Dark is certainly right, with plenty of Sabbath and Big Muff fuzzy worship they incorporate dashes of grunge and riot grrrl attitude. Through howls, shrinks and intense riffs they conjure up a chaotic and transfixing atmosphere on record which is bound to translate brilliantly on stage. Check out their just released video for ‘Abyss Woods’ below.

Shooting Daggers, Powerhaus – 17.15-1800

Another on the New Heavy Sounds roster, Shooting Daggers have been making waves in the hardcore scene, playing gigs and fests despite only having put out a handful of released singles since their inception in 2020. A trio of pissed off queercore punx flexing to take down the patriarchy while combining elements of thrash and grunge with bags of antagonistic bravado. Their debut EP Athames is due to be released in May, so expect a sick a preview of great things to come.

Petbrick, The Underworld – 19:45- 20:45

Featuring Iggor Cavalera (who needs absolutely no introduction) and Wayne Adams of Bear Bites Horse recording studio, this experimental noise duo describe themselves as “an exploration of weirdo noise, face-melting gabber, break-core and even an excursion into immersive krautrock territory.” Despite being a relatively new project, this iconic pair already have a number of releases under their belt. Petbrick are an absolute must if you like your music experimental and loud as fuck.

Alunah, The Dev – 21.30- 22.30

A bluesy doom four-piece from the land of Black Sabbath, Alunah have just released latest record Strange Machine to critical acclaim from the underground. The record features new vocalist Siân Greenaway whose vocals soar above the stratosphere, though Siân also whips out the flute on occasion – injecting their psychedelic sound with even more riotous flare whilst still retaining a filthy rock ‘n’ roll grit. Alunah stand to be a great headliner for The Devonshire Arms on the first night, so get there early!

Saturday 30th April

Konvent, The Underworld – 15:45 – 16:30

This four-piece act has been making a bit of a stir in both the death-doom and black metal scenes. Guttural death growls over doomy foreboding riffs combine to create a dynamic sound with clarity and intrigue. Formed in Copenhagen in 2015, Konvent waited until 2020 to release their debut, and their latest offering, Call Down The Sun came last month under Napalm Records. Certain to be enough to shake Friday’s hangover right out of you.

Part Chimp, The Roundhouse – 16:30-17:30

This experimental English rock band have been making an absolute racket since 2000 with a discography spanning nine releases. Their latest, Drool, came just last year. Turning it up to wat past eleven, expect a riot of fucked up noise and spacey, fuzzy Melvins/Sonic Youth-tinged sludge.

Green Lung, The Underworld – 18:30 – 19:30

At this stage in the game Green Lung probably need no introduction given how they stormed the doom scene both prior to and after the release of Black Harvest in 2021, which followed in the wake of the also brilliantly fun Woodland Rites from 2019.  Bewitching, groovy, folk horror hard rock that explores the occult and the power of the riff sung by a frontman who is surely possessed.

Gurt, The Dev – 21:30-22:30

If you like your music as fun as it is heavy then look no further than Gurt. In the twelve years they’ve been doing their thing, they’ve released a whole bunch of singles and EPs along with three full-lengths, their latest offering Bongs Of Praise being a beautiful example of their party positive attitude and featuring the grooviest of their down-tuned, dirty-as-all-hell riffs.

sunday 1st May

Under. The Black Heart – 15:45-16:30

An utter cacophony of controlled chaos from this manic Manchester trio comes in the form of crushing doom, psychedelic mayhem and intense noise with a huge spoonful of humour for good measure.

Wallowing, The Dev – 17:30 -18:4

Prepare to have your skull caved by the dystopian sci-fi misery of this quintet comprising of current and former members of Sūrya, Prisa Mata, King Goat, Aerosol Jesus and Herd Mover. Since forming in the creative hub of Brighton in 2018 they’ve had a solid amount of support from the scene owing to their distinct aesthetic and phenomenal debut LP Planet Loss. Though admittedly a hard call they are arguably the loudest band of the weekend, and to experience them live is nothing short of immersive and devastating in all the right ways – expect bee suits, fairy lights and lasers.

Poseidon, PowerHaus – 18:45-19:30

Likely to be a dirty secret at Desertfest, this trio of doomsters and ‘masters of tonality’ are not to be missed, especially if you are unable to make it to The Roundhouse. Having released their last album back in 2017 there is a certain elusiveness to their history but the rifftastic, obliterating, Neurosian droning doom heard on their debut release Prologue should be enticing enough to check out this hidden gem. If that’s not enough, their ranks also feature members of Slabdragger and Sea Bastard (to name just a couple).

Slabdragger, PowerHaus – 20:15 -21:15

This South London-based trio have been an on and off fixture in the UK doom scene for some thirteen years, and they’re still yet to be equalled. The sprawling, groovy, sludgy doom that they create, paired with a mix of uplifting vocals and devastating growls, is truly masterful – they never fail to put on a killer show.

Opium Lord, The Black Heart – 21:00 – 22:00

Having been compared to the likes of Deftones for how captivating and beautifully miserable they are, and Pitchshifter for their tendency to bend your ear with pleasantly strange time signatures, British quintet Opium Lord are something of a hidden gem in the UK doom scene. They’ve been going strong for a decade now and their latest release, Vore on Sludgelord Records, was incredibly well received. Get down to their headlining set early if you want to drench yourself in delicious musical melancholy.

As usual there are a whole bunch more stellar bands depending on what takes your fancy, a few more we wish we could divide ourselves in two for are Also keep an eye on: Gnod, Coltsblood, Slift and Integrity on Friday, Shellac, Earthless and Old Horn Tooth on Saturday and Human Leather, Shrykull, Tides Of Sulfur, Morag Tong and Naxatras on Sunday.

Words by Abi Coulson and Soozi Coleman


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