Part One here
Hidden Mothers from Sheffield are a hardworking and well toured underground band, playing their biggest show to date and too a packed out PX3 at 11am on day 3 of a festival is an impressive feat and they play to a combo of fans and curious onlookers. Leaving no room for anyone to hang from the night before as the vocalist explosively unloads his harsh wails to a heavy dose of blackened hardcore and works the crowd with furious off-stage antics, laden with explosive guitars this is the hardest breakfast noise you will ever experience! The set is not all anger though and they mix in cleaner vocal sections and ambient riffs from the heavy sections which they double down on with a vengeance.
If he had actually departed this mortal realm then it would be likely that Witchsorrows guitarist/vocalist is possessed by the evil spirit of Electric Wizards Jus Oborn. With more than a delicious tinge of evil you can feel the dark lords energy pulsing through these vessels of doom. Engulfed in smoke and drenched barely visible through hellish lighting the trio play a spellbinding set of downright devilish doom with riffs galore to a decent sized crowd (for 11 a.m.) on the Yokhai – exuding rock star energy and belting out Ozzy style vocals to an appreciative and ridiculous crowd that even attempt the worlds slowest most pit.
Curse These Metal Hands are an unlikely collaboration of members from Conjurer and Pijn delight and amuse the Arc with their Baroness worshipping/piss taking. Adorned in the most ridiculous (but also genius) merch ever “You Better Not Believe It’s Baroness!” Their sound ranges from uplifting vibrant riffs, sludgy and metallic attacks to percussive heavy moments where a few members join in on various drums. There is even sim banjo playing in the mix to add to the spectacle as well as mysterious instruments we should probably have goggled. A bit of a gimmick? Yeh probably, but actually sheer brilliance from a collaboration of talented musicians with a silly sense of humour.
Spurv, a group of six instrumentalists from Norway, are one of the best discoveries (OK perhaps a few days pre fest) of the weekend and after a few listens to online material expectations were high, very much met, and quite possibly exceeded. The gorgeous rainbow light display matches the incandescent and transcendental, melancholic yet hopeful soundscape that is a tapestry of layered, intricate tremolos, endearing trumpet solos and methodical drums. It is an engaging performance that begs attention of the crowd who seem to be spell bound by the shimmering compositions.
It is a little late in to the set of the suited and booted (for the start anyway) Atlantan’s ‘68 on the Yokhai and we are kicking ourselves for it as we witness them play a frantic and insanity fuelled set which includes the infamous, belligerent and manic Josh Scogin of The Chariot, and Norma Jean manically howls and throws himself and his guitar ( 10 feet in the air in fact. Drummer Nikko is drenched in sweat yet still plays with a too cool for school blues musician flair to make for an attitude driven, sexy and seductive maximum rock ‘n roll affair with a hardcore tinge thanks to driving distorted riffs and fucked up, discordant, lackadaisical time signatures. A little messy with strings breaking and a need for improv but utterly captivating in its frantic chaos.
Under the Arc Holy Fawn treat us to transient haunting equilibrium with their post-rock-tinged ambient opener ‘Candy.’ The Phoenix, Arizona natives continue into the beautiful atmospheric dark melodies with vocalist Ryan Osterman soft, but potent words exploring death and the other side. A gorgeous metal gaze early afternoon pallet cleanser filled with an equal mix of their back catalogue, including two tracks from 2022’s phenomenal ‘Dimensional Bleed.’ The metaphor laced lyrics of ‘Seer’ is the perfect sendoff we need we need to round off an excitingly diverse and emotionally charged set.
© Joe Singh
Playing next on the Bixler, Glasgow’s Ashenspire have been making quite a name for themselves, following in the wake of anti-fascist black metal band Dawn Ray’d and Litvrgy (both up next) with a spicy, jazzy and dissonant twist and having added a moody saxophone. Energetically waltzing in a disorientated state between harsh noise, orchestral interludes and doomy, swarming black metal with furious, thunderous drum rolls. The charismatic but anguished vocalist wails poetically about trauma, anger, politics and poverty and at times when those wails become closer to singing, they are reminiscent of Primordials’ Alan Averills Celtic tortured cries. They are quite the spectacle, in both attire and off stage/up towers antics and somewhat alarming in both presence and ominous aural attacks that increase in ferocity and discordancy to a chaotic, captivating, and terrifyingly cacophonic climax.
Meanwhile on the Yokhai stage we also check out St Pierre Snake Invasion, a Bristol based alt rock, experiment outfit, full of beans and high-octane stage presence. Elements of math-core, desert rock, punk and metal are peppered into their repertoire of musical influences and sounds and no one can complain of boredom with this audio feast for the ears. Packing in an impressive twelve joyous, high energy, jagged guitar riff filled tracks into their set – nine of which are off their dizzyingly experimental Church Road Record’s release ‘Galore‘ . A band that simply could not be pigeonholed, but certainly their highly textured DNA and performances lead by Damien Sayell will always be welcome at the Farm. We can see big things happening for this band.
The now sadly defunct anti fascist UK black metal act Dawn Ray’d play their usual set of beautiful, punky, d-beat infused black metal with an important political message. Featuring poignant violin solos that soar over and in-between shimmering tremolos and triumphant howls.
Petbrick from London contribute a bombastic and enlivening performance on the Bixler with the ubiquitous Igor Cavalera’s of Sepultura changing up his usual tribal style to a dynamic, cannonade of machine gun drumming. In a collab with producer Wayne Glass’s experimentation with computer game effects and harsh glitching electro noise they cleverly collide grinding and thumping industrial vibes in a punishing aural assault that impossibly to not move to, whether its bodies pulsing to the infectious dark groove then thrashing to the grinding insanity. A Ministry like vocal attack is combined with complex drum rolls and blast beats then clashed with a soundscape of shifting tectonic plates that veer from psychedelic and trippy to downright foreboding and discombobulated. A sonic sensation of heavy experimental fuckery.
Post-metal titans The Ocean are another band at the top of the ATG hit list – also on, as well as lead by Pelagic Records founder and guitarist Robin Stapps. Bringing their rousing and hypnotic ambience to the farm they delve straight into the powerful ‘Perboreal’ which is layered with haunting flavours of electronica and crushing guitar parts. It is the statement piece we need from this collective, which also serves as the opener on their recent full-length release Holcene. The six Berliners post have set the sonic benchmark for the scene in recent years on both record and now again, here on Yokhai stage. A set filled to the brim with distorted guitars, radiant dark synths, with emotional lyrics full of angst and themes of alienation fired out by vocalist Loïc Rossetti who leaves us left mesmerised by the experience as we take shelter from the doomy rain outside the tent.
© Derek Bremner
Meanwhile, there is an unfortunate clash with the German post-metallers and it is not a huge surprise that the Bixler is not all that busy for the U.S duo of funeral doom stalwarts that are Bell Witch playing in day light in an open tent take away from the infamous gloomy atmosphere. Often a running joke of how many songs they play and today they introduce their new material, the latest release or composition of The Clandestine Gate. It is spine chillingly forlorn and heart wrenching played, masterfully precise and torturously slow, drawn out as to squeeze out every drop of emotion from both the soaring guitar and harrowing vocals. The bleak drone is draining yet casts a spell on the enraptured audience and while hard work, it is a painful joy to witness, strangely uplifting in all its misery with notes of hope in the desolation.
The American Swans, an experimental rock band who were formed by vocalist, composer and guitarist Michael Gera in 1982 are a bit of a marmite band. At such an eclectic festival as ATG, they l are likely (and literally do) divide the crowd because quite frankly, they do not care what you think and they are not here to please crowds or gain new fans. While we wish we were in fact more familiar with their vast back catalogue it is still a privilege to witness such understated legends do their thing. Playing an acoustic rather than his usual electric guitar an unassuming, mostly seated Gera makes indecipherable, anguished droning utterances along with Nick Cave style off key vocals into the mic. Meanwhile the rest of musicians make up the otherworldly, sprawling cacophony of downright weird but enthralling droning, pulsing soundscape. Ascending and descending discordant musical peaks and troughs of sonic reverberations full of intricacies and slightly disturbing atonal nuances.
Wallowing in the depths of catharsis and existential dread – albeit subtly, here is an aging, broken and forlorn man baring his soul. After getting a little bored or not quite getting ‘it.’ Quite a few audience members leave the tent, but sticking out the unusual sound and being immersed in the mesmerisation makes it quite the experience.
Enslaved from Norway are probably one of the most ‘metal’ of all the acts but still mix it up with progressive and blackened riffs alongside the Viking elements. They put on a wonderful performance for the busy Bixler crowd that is packed with satisfyingly crunchy and distorted guitar work in the fist-pumping, head banging rhythms and woven in between the frost-bitten, blackened vocals, meandering riffs, thunderous drumming and trembling tremolos. While Viking music can fall on the side of just a bit too cheesy, or hard to take seriously – Enslaved somehow keep it fresh and endearing with their approach of using spacey progressive elements, especially in their latest release Heimdal to honour their ancestors and portray mythical tales.
Where do we even start with Heilung, all weekend there have been fans dressed up in Viking gear which is juxtaposed to the general ATG festival goer – but adds a little hype and excitement for the band, and now the moment has come. A collaboration hailing from Denmark Norway and Germany, the main attractions in the throng of performers are vocalists and percussionists Christopher Juul, Kai Uwe Faust who start off proceeding with fast paced beats and throat singing of ‘In Maidjan’. They are followed by Maria Franz who likely has every eye fixated on her due both to her stunning intricate and historically accurate fringed and feathered adornments and powerful, otherworldly utterances. Dancers’, drummers, backing vocalists whose stunning voices also soar over the deep throat singers and those who chant along to the primitive, tribal drumming make up what is more of a theatrical production or opera. Behind a sheer screen is an elaborate stage set up of animal skin drums, bones and antlers and the light show and smoke that silhouettes the figures along with pyrotechnics is powerfully evocative of a hallucinogenic fuelled ceremony. Each person is beautifully adorned in tunics and headdresses of feathers, some brandish swords, spears and shields and wear war paint all which depicts the themes of war, be it celebratory triumph, bravery or grief and sadness that is harrowingly portrayed in the songs and desolate ululations. It is an utterly spellbinding spectacle that pays tribute to the history and mythology touching an joyful and sorrowful themes. The triumphant passage to Valhalla – invoking war, grief, loss, life, protection, love of fierce warriors – ritualistic ceremony that it is an honour and privilege to witness – pain of war and of the oppressed tribes throughout history all over the world.
The Danish quartet LLNN are another proud flag flyer for Pelagic Records, these guys have been cutting their teeth on the live circuit hard since their seismic third full length dropped, and it is one of our most anticipated sets of the entire weekend. First track ‘Imperial’ is akin to being hit with a post-apocalyptic sledgehammer to the face as the eager crowd are subjected to abrasive industrial doom on the PX3 stage. Like a veteran T100 Hunter Killer crushing the last of the human resistance they do not disappoint. New guitarist and vocalist Victor Kaas’ abrasive and tormented snarls and howls are perfectly complimented with dystopian effects, droning guitars, and unrelenting bombardment from the rhythm section. The overall effect is a creation of their own brutal hellscape layered with equal atmospheric beauty in the hypnotic drone that the shell shocked and mesmerised audience move to as one. They close with the atonal and ominous, spacey and sludgy ‘Obsidian’ with its discombobulating and drawn-out time signatures that play with rhythm and pace. If the world were to end tomorrow, LLNN would be at the forefront of its suffocating soundtrack.
Starting the final day (this time at The Arc) as we ended the last, with a band from the beloved Pelagic Records, the Belgium based Psychonaut. They arrive on stage to a warm welcome and treat the early birds to an intense, post metal prog statement that features Gojira like sprawling layers of guitars then morph into moody melodic territory, with spacey and trippy elements akin to The Ocean. The set is packed with a rich palette of complex instrumental parts and a satisfying, but merciless orgy of riffs that you could happily be comatose to. The trio conclude with the epic nine-minute magnum opus ‘The Fall of Consciousness.’ Featuring an intro of tribal ceremonial throat chant with meandering guitar rhythms, dynamic drums, sparsely peppered dark lyrical passages delivered in both clean and growled vocals. A baptism of fire for the enthralled and busy crowd.
On to Yokhai stage to see The Chilean quartet La Bestia de Gevaudan – named after an eighteenth-century the ferocious beast) who killed 100 men, women and children in France. Playing a heady mix of post blackened shoe gaze with elements that are reminiscent of ISIS, Neurosis and The Ocean, yet still with their own unique dark identity. Between the first and second track there is a stark change of pace, though still beastly, ‘Fig 5’ from the album Feral is filled with beautiful ambient passageways, fuzzed out and deep psych effects with a driving drumbeat. A dream after the nightmare or the rainbow after the storm with a kaleidoscopic of noise to follow and a dynamic mix of gentle lullabies before the harsh tones of guitar and vocals, this is post rock in its finest and purest display.
Next on the main stage is the ethereal, and imitable Gggolddd from The Netherlands who are fronted by warrior woman Milena Eva.. Capturing the hearts and empathy of the sadly modest crowd who have come to bear witness to the vulnerable, raw, heart laid bare performance.
Moving like a viper, undulating and then making static angular movements to the backdrop of dark pulsing gothic synth that is blended with shimmering tremolos and pounding drumbeats. At times best compared to the sultry but harrowing, Portishead style in many places in others almost alarmingly heavy and blackened / post metal in nature. Milena is quietly unassuming, cracking endearing jokes about ‘lipstick on her teeth’ and overcoming shyness amongst the solemn speeches about overcoming trauma and “It’s been tough, it still is tough, there’s been a lot of pain, a lot of shame and a lot of self-doubt, – This song is about overcoming that”
Her pristine and poignant vocals hovering over the dark and brooding trippy backdrop make for an unsettling and cathartic experience and when she gives a soul laid bare speech overcoming the devastating effects of sexual assault while trying to retain composure on stage and quipping, I’m not crying you’re crying” a majority of the crowd breaks with her. While many were in tears by the end this final song, the pared down but ever so powerful ‘On You’ their set is still an absolute highlight of the weekend in all its heart wrench and tear jerking empowering and delicate glory.
Grub Nap a two piece from Leeds, feat Dvne’s guitarist Dan Barter) blast out a set of filthy, dense, down tuned ‘sludge core’ which carries on the anguished cathartic theme but is so raucous that it is quite a leap from the previous sombre affair. Despite being a bit jarring, it is much a needed jolt out of wallowing in misery and a boost of adrenaline. The duo are tight as fuck making a racket made up of bombastic drumming dualling vocals yet. With intricate guitar woven into the quagmire. Ascending vocals over a riff-tastic psychedelic, spacey soundscape.