Temples Festival – Motion, Bristol 4 May 2014
A quick trip across the Severn Bridge on a sunny bank holiday weekend to visit the inaugural Temples Festival was too tempting to miss. We parked up in the vibrant city centre early on Sunday afternoon near our hotel and fought our way through the heaving throngs enjoying the glorious weather. 25 minutes later we arrived at the Temples Festival, located close to Temple Meads Railway Station. This was day three and I'd already heard good things about the festival which had seen well received performances from a range of bands including headliners Electric Wizard and one of the heaviest sets ever witnessed from Neurosis. One fellow metaller told me that he had never heard anything so loud in his life.
The layout of this festival is simple. Located in the Motion venue on the edge of the River Avon, there are two stages which adjoin each other, a merchandise section and ample outside seating with numerous bars and food stalls. Okay, the beer was pretty limited, with staples like Red Stripe, Guinness, Stowford Press cider etc. available in cans at relatively high prices but there was the option to wander in and out at will. Anyway, I appeared to manage to get rather bolloxed without leaving the site for more than half an hour (Where I did manage one of Brett Perry’s magnificent 7.8% French lagers.)
We were too late to catch Lionize who were also supporting Clutch on their current UK tour which was a bit gutting especially as Ant, who had travelled to see the evening’s headliners Clutch in Nottingham the night before raved about them all the way to the venue. However, we arrived in time to catch the last half of Black Moth’s set which was a bonus. The Leeds outfit, led by vocal powerhouse Harriet Bevan have a doomy Sabbath infused sound which is really infectious and for 15 minutes we were pinned to the wall by the wave of sludgy metal. Mental note to self: check out their debut album The Killing Jar as soon as possible. A great introduction to the festival. 8/10
Next up for us was Beastmilk, from Finland who inevitably became known as Breastmilk for the rest of the day. These had been on my radar since early this year when the infectious Fields of the Nephilim sounding Death Reflects Us had appeared on a Classic Rock compilation CD as one of the bands to watch in 2014. I clearly wasn't alone as the second stage was full to capacity. The ‘Milk (as I shall call them) didn't disappoint with a number of tracks of the excellent release Climax. Led by the excellent vocals of Kvohst their sound is a mix of Joy Division, The Mission, Killing Joke and even a dash of Echo and the Bunnymen, albeit with a slightly heavier tinge. Standout tracks for me were Surf the Apocalypse and the already mentioned Death Reflects Us which received a very enthusiastic response. 9/10
Featuring former members of Taint and Whyteleaf, Welsh outfit HARK drew a healthy crowd in the main arena. Fusing angry post-punk with elements of sludge and doom, HARK got straight to business with a run through tracks from their latest release Crystalline. Guitarist and vocalist Jimbob Isaac can riff with the best and demonstrated this throughout, cutting and scything out at will. Ably supported by bassist Nikolai Ribnikov and drummer Simon Bonwick HARK are a driving force who gallop along at full force. Excellent stuff and when Neil Fallon joins them for Clear Light of … which he also contributes to on Crystalline then you know they can't be bad. 7/10
After a quick breather we headed back towards the front for the Bristolian power trio Gonga. Described as a heavy stoner band, Gonga are an instrumental outfit who defy the word heavy. Formed in 1998 by brothers George Elgie (guitars), Thomas Elgie (drums), they (line-up completed by bassist Latch) proceeded to lay waste to all around with wave after wave of deep powerful free styling that shook the very foundations of the building. At one point I’m convinced my liver had realigned itself and I had to keep a check on the walls just in case masonry began to break lose. However, there is also huge groove to this band and as I scanned the crowd everyone was nodding along vigorously. These guys don't play short stuff mind, with the opening two tracks clocking in at close to ten minutes each. This was captivating stuff and no-one left during the set. Finishing to an almighty ovation Gonga are one I will definitely see again. 8/10
I have to admit that we took a bit of a break after this and spent a couple of hours enjoying the lovely evening whilst catching up and having a couple of drinks. Having watched a few minutes of Doomriders, but not enough to make a genuine comment, we headed back to the front to wait for Clutch. This meant I only had chance to stick my head around the corner to watch death metal legends Repulsion blasting their way through a powerful set. However, at my age and at 23:15, I need something to lean on and the barrier provided an inviting space for me.
Now, this was my fifth time of seeing Maryland’s finest, Clutch, and most of them have been close up. What hasn't changed is the raw energy that this band, now nearly a quarter of a century, possess. What has changed is the quality of their music. Latest album Earth Rocker was the album of 2013, and having seen them at London’s Forum on the Earth Rocker tour, I knew the new stuff fitted into the set like hand in glove. Clutch rarely if ever play the same set twice, and once again they threw in a couple of gems. Kicking off with the immense The Mob Goes Wild, they laid down a 75 minute headline set of absolute quality. Delivering a huge nine tracks from Earth Rocker, the set also included some older gems. Pure Rock Fury got the place moving with Neil Fallon in fine form, all bluster and shape cutting. One of the world’s most under rated drummers, Jean-Paul Gaster combined with Dan Maines to provide the backbone whilst Tim Sult delivered some absolutely stunning fret work. The Yeti from The Elephant Riders was a welcome addition as well as blinding versions of Gravel Road and The Regulator. The main set closed with The Wolf Man Kindly Requests and then a more traditional ending of Electric Worry and One Eye Dollar from Jam Room rounded off a thoroughly brilliant set. This is a band that just gets better and better. See them whilst you can. 10/10