|Event:||Brutal Assault 2015|
|Date:||05/08/2015 – 08/08/2015|
|Venue:||Fortress Josefov, Jaroměř,|
Over the last few years, Aristocrazia has been traveling around Europe searching for festivals that have something to say, without relying on the usual names that we see at pretty much every major event. Over the last few years (apart from the 2014 visit to the Hellfest mainly because of Emperor’s reunion tour), the answer to our quest has been the Brutal Assault, which is still growing and has been the stage for a process of diversification that brought many projects (even unrelated to metal) to perform at the spectacular fortress Josefov in Jaroměř, Czech Republic.
As usual, our big aristocratic group (this year without Istrice, but featuring the new entries Dope Fiend and pierinz) stopped halfway — this time at Augsburg, Bavaria — and reached the destination under a scorching sun, as temperatures have definitely been the main issue over the four days of the festival. Let’s get started, since at the 2015 Brutal Assault there was really a lot to talk about.
Darkness descends upon Fortress Josefov as Triptykon set foot on stage, they are the first of the main bands that will appear at this twentieth edition fo the Brutal Assault. The indestructible Tom G. Warrior and his partners start with a bang, playing an extremely dark and monolythic version of Celtic Frost’s classic tune “Procreation (Of The Wicked)”; this won’t be the only song taken off Warrior’s old repertoire, as a couple of other songs (“Circle Of The Tyrants” and the even older “Messiah”) will also find their way in, although played according to the band’s current style. However, when Triptykon started playing their own production we began feeling the oppression and suffocating weight that characterized Tom’s latest efforts Eparistera Daimones and Melana Chasmata. An unending pitch black waterfall is the Swiss quartet’s present for us: one that goes on to fill our hearts with a discomfort that will only get bigger over the following three days.
After the intense performance by Fischer and the others, it was the turn of another big name: Katatonia, whom we had also met for an interview a few years ago). The Swedish band was already part of the 2014 Brutal Assault, but their show was hindered by technical issues and delays, so this year the organizers wanted to give them another chance. The quartet from Stockholm started a bit slow for a couple of songs, but quickly got back on track, involving the audience with some of their classics (“Ghost Of The Sun” and “July”), giving more room to the heavier tunes of their new repertoire (such as “Forsaker”) acknowledging the nature of this festival.
Uncle Max Cavalera is here. Many of us think he sucks now, and many others denied him twenty years ago, some others preferred spending some time with Perturbator’s retrowave on the other stage instead of watching him play; but when uncle Max sets foot on stage it is always a party for those who stay. The show was far from great: Max has even stopped plucking his guitar years ago and now just claps his hands while singing, just like a chubby guru. Although Soulfly‘s latest works plain suck, we are still talking about someone who basically brought a genre to a whole continent and, after having invented a new one and sold millions of records worldwide, is still going around the world guiding his tribe, his children, to sing and jump. You will be hard pushed not to jump when classics like a mutilated “Arise”, “Prophecy”, and so on are performed, even if with a completely different quality, and even if two kids (his sons Zyon and Igor Jr.) are on stage playing the drums and the bass. A riff from Pantera’s “Walk”, mockingly played in-between songs, and the cooperation with Ashmedi from Melechesh for “Territory” are two signs of the spirit of this band. Soulfly haven’t shown anything new here, but they always bring everybody to their roots. On a personal note, I am sorry to have missed Perturbator, but the tribe comes first.
The curiosity of seeing Mayhem live in 2015 must come together with the awareness that this band doesn’t have anything to do with what they were twenty-odd years ago, both in terms of style and concept. It is clear that, even when playing their classics “Deathcrush”, “Freezing Moon”, and “Carnage, the Norwegian band is much more at ease with their later material. The massive and muddy guitars that filled their latest work Esoteric Warfare are a proof of the fact that Mayhem aren’t really interested in the buzzing and frozen riffs they did use to play. Their performance is quite interesting all the same, although maybe disappointing for someone who was expecting atmospheres similar to Live In Leipzig. Eventually, we said goodbye to Attila and the others and finally went back to the tent, trying to recover some energies for the demanding days yet to come.
Thursday – AFTERNOON: LordPist
The unbelievable heat forced us to move to the festival area really early in the morning, given the impossibility of hanging around the camping site after nine AM without melting down. After a little bit of relax, we had at least the chance to enjoy some of the bands playing in the early afternoon. We crossed paths again with the Australian act Be’lakor, although this time they seemed less effective than when we saw them in 2013, perhaps also because of the worst time spot in the hottest moment of the day, they even played something new that we will hear on the next release. Things were a bit different for the local band The Tower, that played at the almost indoor Metalgate Stage, presenting the audience with half an hour of quite solid traditional doom, although still a bit generic.
In the afternoon things started getting more serious, while Arcturus got on stage with their usual steampunkish cosmonaut attires. Vortex was once again a good entertainer, as the band played songs from both their classic albums (“Nightmare Heaven”) and their latest release Arcturian. The crew also went on to support their fellow countrymen Enslaved, that would perform a bit later in the evening.
The weather finally cooled down a little bit when the army led by the indestructible Martin Van Drunen set foot on stage with the usual load of genuine aggressiveness. If there is a group of bands that can always guarantee the quality of their shows, Asphyx is clearly one of them. Jeans and t-shirt, a young fifty years old man, Martin delivered a handful of the classic releases that featured him on vocals, plus the inevitable “Vermin”. About fifty minutes as heavy as a steamroller, naturally closing with “Last One On Earth”. One day, when we will all be turned to dust after an atomic disaster, Asphyx will laugh because “they told us so”.
It has been more than a while since Enslaved was a young band just entering new experimental territories, until they became one of the main names in metal thanks to such releases as Vertebrae and Axioma Ethica Odini. The unmistakable double vocals by Kjellson and Larsen took us through their endless discography, up to a black/viking destruction coming from their early ’90s material.
Bloodbath is quite a complicated thing: they are not what they were initially meant to be anymore, a Swedish supergroup founded by people that did other things, but still felt a bit nostalgic for earlier death metal. However, they remain a more than interesting band, able to compose effective and atmospheric songs, although maybe less enjoyable than in the past. When it comes to a live show, though, all hell breaks loose: Renkse and Nyström seek some pleasure to kill and get drenched in blood, together with Sodo Eriksson (ex-Katatonia as well), Axenrot, and the newcomer Nick Holmes — the first foreign member of the band. Despite being ridden with technical problems (pedals, drums, and even the microphone, while Holmes got more and more upset with the staff), the five old-school flagmen destroyed everything. The setlist included pretty much everything, from “Breeding Death” to the latest “Grand Morbid Funeral”, and of course the hits from Nightmares Made Flesh (surely their craziest release). Once again, Brutal Assault gave us some great moments, while the band said goodbye with the evergreen “Eaten” (another testament to Dan Swanö’s composition skills).
We were all waiting for this Belgian band’s performance, but none of us could have imagined what was to come. A psychological violence that can’t be described with words: humongous riffs that bent us, raped us, destroying all our cognitive senses, and letting us join the mass celebrated by the Belgian quintet. An unending strike, a spectacular chain of apocalyptic songs that took no prisoners and the violence of which even emotionally touched us. We all agreed that this was arguably the most massive show we had ever seen, and it is hard to imagine when and if the black holes that Amenra opened in our minds will close again.
It really wasn’t easy to follow up on such a devastating performance on the Metalgate Stage, and the Portland quartet knew they needed something great. I was happy to encounter them again, after having seen them a couple of other times a few years ago, although I didn’t enjoy their latest album that much. The set-list only included songs from after 2006, five tracks including “Limbs” and “The Astral Dialogue”. “Into The Painted Grey” concluded the show with an evilness I had rarely seen in Agalloch over the years, winding up a really intense and brutal show.
Again, we knew it would have been tough to play after Amenra and, as Agalloch were starting their show, some of us moved to the main stage to see Kreator (perhaps hoping it could have been a good way of restoring ourselves after that mental devastation). The German band’s show was exactly what we expected it to be: a good sing-along sequence of their masterpieces (“Violent Revolution”, “Enemy Of God”, and many more) that Bosj and I enjoyed from the hill overseeing the stage area.
It was later than 1 AM and we could finally attend one of the most awaited moments of the entire festival for us: twelve huge amplifiers in a semicircle, two guitars, a synthesizer, and a microphone. The belated soundcheck already sent a few people away, while four hooded people appeared on stage, it was the end of our existence as we knew it. Sunn O))). The two entities that go by the names of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley began overwhelming us with their eternally reverberating guitars, while Attila shrieked unintelligible words and the fourth member maneuvered all the other effects. Gradually, the unfathomable vastness of the void enshrouded us, Fortress Josefov, the Czech Republic, and probably the entire universe. Halfway through the performance, Attila disappeared and came back wearing a tunic covered with broken mirrors and a spiky headgear. From that moment on, I can’t speak with any trace of awareness about what happened: reality — or at least what I thought was reality — crumbled down, bringing every fragment of space and time down with it, and leaving room to absolute nothingness, all our needs didn’t have any reason to exist anymore. I literally had trouble breathing and standing because of the huge sound waves, but we didn’t really care about it, as Anderson and O’Malley raised their guitars adoring the amplifiers, or maybe paying homage to some deity that no one else can know of. Completely dazed and torn, questioning what we had experienced and with our eardrums still confused (I would keep on hearing a buzzing sound in my ears for a long time after the show, and could speak again only after a while), we went back to our tents, knowing that what we had just experienced was something impossible to understand for someone who wasn’t there.
Friday – AFTERNOON: LordPist
Friday was all but a day of transition, as we had the chance to see some quality bands in the early afternoon already. My day began at the Metalgate Stage with the over-the-top and surrealistic music by the French ensemble Sebkha-Chott (confirming the positive impression I had about them at a previous Brutal Assault) and the solid black metal played by the English band Winterfylleth. A good performance by the German post-black project Lantlôs as well, currently perfectly at ease on their own legs and capable of offering an interesting set-list in the Czech late afternon.
We knew straight from the start that Brujeria‘s would have been one of the craziest and funniest performances, and here they entered accompanied by the racist monologue that opens “Raza Odiada (Pito Wilson)”, unleashing their unending rush of death metal, grindcore, Mexican pride, and drugs straight away. Despite the unbearable heat that plagued the area, the numerous crowd was all but indifferent, quickly starting to mosh and crowd-surf recklessly with hits such as “Colas De Rata”, “Matando Güeros”, and so on. After a while, a barely clad girl got on stage acting as the female character from “Pititis, Te Invoco”. Brujeria perfectly attended to their task: sweeping the audience and having loads of fun, especially when they said goodbye with the classic “Marijuana”.
There is a clear difference between Brujeria and the band from the Republic of Ireland, but Nemtheanga and his mates really know how to create absolutely unique atmospheres through their humongous rhythms. Soon, I found myself singing along “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” (a great song when played live, although I had not listened to the album yet), followed by just another song taken off the eponymous album, and four of the band’s classics: “As Rome Burns”, “No Grave Is Deep Enough”, “The Coffin Ships” and the amazing “Empire Falls”. Six songs for fifty minutes, yet another spectacular performance for them, and for this edition of the festival as well.
We got back to the smaller Metalgate Stage in order to see KYPCK: their unusual choice of Russian language for the lyrics (it is a Finnish band), their passion for Soviet history, and last but not least the fact that their bassist plays a single-stringed version of the instrument, all contribute to stir some interest. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy their latest release, KYPCK‘s doom metal remained pretty solid on stage (not unforgettable anyway). The quintet played material from all three albums, including a new song, and concluding with the great “Stalingrad”, that could move any bolshevik heart without a doubt .
Here we reached my personal main event of the festival, an incredible wait for me (as I had hoped to see Candlemass live for years). The absent Killing Joke were replaced by the founders of doom metal on the Metalshop Stage, for a huge crowd that wouldn’t have fit in the smaller stage. Unfortunately, the band’s mastermind Leif Edling couldn’t join this tour for health reasons, but the quality of the show was terrific all the same. The set-list began with some of the faster tunes such as “Mirror Mirror” and “Black Dwarf”. After a brief guitar solo by Johansson we got to the second half of the show, culminating in a devastating doom triptych: “Under The Oak”, “At The Gallows End”, and an immense rendition of “Solitude” have all been sung along by the audience, for one of the most participated shows of the entire festival. The overall tone of the evening would have changed soon.
Contrary to popular belief, doom metal is actually an extremely diverse world, and the contrast between Candlemass and Skepticism in less than an hour makes a perfect example of this. Back to the more intimate environment of the Metalgate Stage, we welcomed the Finnish quintet that, among other things, is able to create its unmistakable sorrowful atmospheres without using a bass. The tone of this performance, beginning with Matti’s vocal style, was on another planet compared to what we had just seen on the main stage, a planet made of evil and suffering (ours, in short). The authors of some of this genre’s masterpieces (such as Stormcrowfleet and Lead And Aether) dragged us into a hopeless dimension, dimly lit by the never invasive guitars and keyboard. Once again, Brutal Assault proved a perfect stage for atmospheric funeral doom, as it had been the case for Shape Of Despair a few years ago.
Saturday – AFTERNOON: LordPist
On the last day things got complicated, as we were quite worn down after a really intense festival and nonsensical temperatures. Gathering some remaining strength, I managed to see the quite effective Rosetta show at 1:30 pm, great effort by Mike Armine. Among other things, the band was also one of the many “post-” projects that toured China over the last couple of years. Then it was the turn of Chilean doomsters Procession, a good performance for about half an hour in the afternoon with their style influenced by the ’80s. Ne Obliviscaris was substituted by the Polish band Outre at 3:30 because of some scheduling issues; despite not exactly being the most original band around, they delivered a really solid performance that every black metal fan enjoyed. One of the highlights of the afternoon surely was the unexpected (at least for us) post-punkish approach by the Luxembourger act Rome, one of the musical “intruders” of this edition of the festival. Jérôme Reuter’s band here abandoned their neofolk sound in order to play some danceable rearranged songs from their immense production. Classy trolling.
Overlooking all the swearing caused by the decision to put Cryptopsy and Demilich pretty much at the same time of the schedule, I approached the Metalgate Stage sadly abandoning Flo Mounier for Antti Boman and Demilich, since I had never seen them live. The Finnish band didn’t fail to meet my expectation: an old-school (dated 1991-1993) death metal blow straight to our teeth. Boman’s growl and the technique and groove of the music which really were unheard of at the time, this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Boman is easy-going, having plenty of fun while playing his music, and his comrades in arms (the full classic line-up except for the bass player) follow him with expertise. For truly nostalgic fans.
We can’t say that the Icelandic quartet hasn’t had a hectic year, between the release of a great album like Ótta and all the controversies with their former drummer Pálmason. On our pages we always prefer to talk about music, so we will focus on an impressive performance by a band perfectly at ease on such important stages (and after the convincing show they put up in 2012). A five-track setlist, including the usual “Fjara” and the stunning “Náttmál” off their latest album, Sólstafir concluded the late afternoon slot of the final day and once again proved themselves one of the main names in the “post-“scene.
It was finally time to discover the peculiar Oriental Stage, a small area dedicated to the performances of Phurpa and Cult Of Fire (that unluckily we couldn’t see because of the huge crowd). We just had to wait for a while before the Russian band began, and it is necessary to make something clear: this band’s music is not suitable to a context such as the Brutal Assault; the Russian combo’s ritual approach is in fact based on a branch of Tibetan Buddhism, a concept quite difficult to convey in such an environment. Nevertheless, we still managed to enjoy and get closer to what the band had to share with us: meditative chants that enhance our spiritual perceptions, we surely need to delve deeper into their production in order to grasp more about their music, and in a different context.
I was just about to give up, on the way to Phurpa’s show instead of the nth Heaven Shall Burn‘s concert; and yet, while I was about to leave the area, “Counterweight” stopped me, with its H-U-G-E riffing: I found myself dancing and screaming. Still, I wanted to give Phurpa a chance but, soon after finding out they were not exactly my cup of tea and that the Oriental Stage was too crowded, I went back just in time for “Black Tears”, the only representation of Edge Of Sanity’s immensity. Huge, part two. The rest was utter destruction, with “Awoken” the crowd set apart, two walls studied each other, the hearts got on fire. “Endzeit”, the end of the world. A massive circle pit that you rarely see out of the Wacken huge crowds, total violence. By far the best performance by the men from the former DDR that I have had the chance to attend. They concluded by accompanying the audience with a (quite generic) track off Veto and the usual anti-rightist slogans, but the show was over, the world had been destroyed.
I knew I needed to save some energy for Esoteric, so I asked LordPist to tie me to a bench on top of the hill, in order to prevent me from joining the mosh pit when At The Gates started playing. Fortunately, I managed to resist for the whole show, also because I was extremely tired, but their usual set-list full of classics off Slaughter Of The Soul — plus a couple of extras and a few new ones from At War With Reality — was an adrenaline rush. Tompa is understandably starting to feel a bit of fatigue, considering that intensive tours are much more demanding that random shows here and there, but the overall impression was more than positive.
Accompanied by Anaal Nathrakh’s sonic terrorism (once again reminding us that we were born between shit and piss), we finally went back to the main stage for our final episode of this Brutal Assault: devastated by the four days, we were just waiting for Esoteric to give us a finishing blow. The five Englishmen (authors of such masterpieces as Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum) set foot on stage at a quarter past one in the night, and began to pierce us with three guitars spreading slow, monolithic, and grievous riffs. Together with Greg Chandler’s deep growl, the music instilled a feeling of undying discomfort in all of us, an apocalypse of pain that went on for more than an hour. Four songs through which the British band brought upon us an unrivaled amount of suffering, a depression that would have probably made the Italian writer Giacomo Leopardi look like a joyous child. Abysses of affliction and existential struggle cracked open below our feet, engulfing every feeble glimmer of hope and leaving us there eternally writhing, confronted with the harsh truth that LordPist will utter shortly afterwards: life is not beautiful.
Thus, filled with an abnormal psychic ordeal, we said goodbye to the 2015 Brutal Assault, as we had an insane amount of hours to drive on the next day; just to make sure that our agony wasn’t finished yet, that is, if it ever will.
In conclusion, in organizational terms we have noticed some interesting improvements compared to the 2013 edition, including the addition of some Wi-Fi spots where also who doesn’t have a Czech SIM card can contact their friends, plus a further shortening of the queues (also the showers were considerably better than before). On the other hand, there are still a couple of areas that can be improved, for example a better management of the covered areas in the camping site (the heat was simply unbearable), or more variety in the merchandising area. The food stalls were again really diverse, including vegan and vegetarian items. We will see what happens next year, with Exodus already confirmed in the bill.