A three day festival in Cardiff; featuring the finest in local, national and international talent, all falling under the stoner/doom/heavy category? Well yes please!! Happily this exactly what I was attending on this fine bank holiday weekend, a festival in my own city where I could watch a day of heavy (and I mean heavy) metal before returning to my own house seemed like a godsend. Also it was interesting to me as I only knew a few bands playing so it was a nice way to see some of the new talent in the current 'underground' scene. So post work Friday myself and my old friend Lee packed up and descended, along with most of the Cardiff metal scene, on Womanby street in our fair city to watch as the alcohol-fuelled brutality started in earnest. With three venues to choose from there was enough for everyone, split into genres (for the most part), the three venues served as a guide to what was happening where.
Firstly we descended on the Moon to witness our first band; Swansea's Attercopus (7) a trio that bring a cool brand of riff filled metal (a running theme for the weekend) however they shook things up in the finale and also proved that there is a lot of room for experimentation in this genre as Guitarist/Vocalist Rob put down his guitar and took up a flute for while the rhythm section pounded away, it was during his freakout flute solo that bassist Lloyd took another drum both men began to rhythmically back the parping flute. The crowd lapped it up before the band took up their instruments again and finished to a roar. First band in and already anything can happen I think I'm going to like this festival I thought to myself. As we waited for the next band the brilliantly named Baron Greenback (7) who I think took the name from the American slang for money rather than the DangerMouse villain although I could be wrong. We waited and waited and finally the band arrived after some travel trouble with a doom, stoner blues sound the band immediately caught the crowds attention, I was particularly impressed with Max's vocals however the band could only play three song set yet they did enough to impress. Over to Fuel where the more extreme end of the spectrum was opening up we walked in as The Art Of Burning Water (6)were in full flight their breakdown heavy extremity really bludgeoning the assembled throng, not really my cup of tea but my companion and those watching enjoyed them thoroughly.
Back upstairs to the Moon for Vails (8) who were recommended by another couple festival goer, their recommendation was well received as Vails are a two piece with Bass and Drums but they sound like a lot more members, their sprawling bowel rupturing assault shook the walls and caused many pained expression however they played with so much style that it was hard to not like the band, this was a clinic in fusing melody with extremity which left many breathless, almost like they'd been winded to be honest. Back on more familiar territory with Trippy Wicked (7) who do exactly what it says on the tin, low, slow, fuzzy Goblin style stoner riffs that were the perfect antidote for Vails. After calming down with the fuzz we moved over to Clwb to catch the end of Valleys Punk rock anarchists Gung Ho (7) who managed to stir up a frenzy in the downstairs bar. So we came to the end of the day with local boys Lacertilla (10) who once again blew away the competition with their blissed out space rock. Every time I see this band they are still fantastic, with the instrumental part of the band now featuring new bassist Tom they immediately slip into a heavy groove that gets your head nodding. Kicking things off with Do Something! they followed up with a new song which shows the band still on top form, with a set made up of Tryin' To Do A Good Thing and Crashing Into The Future the band were all on top form as the rhythm section of Tom and Carl drove the groove, Lucas riffed like a bastard and Mike's lead playing added that extra edge to things. Once again all eyes were on frontman Fry who is mental dressed like an insane version of Clint Eastwood in a poncho and rubber gloves while acting like a crazy shaman throwing himself around the room as he performs in the packed out room. They are still one of the most entertaining bands on the local scene consistently trippy, brilliant and a perfect end to day one. Smiles all round then as we taxied it home (due to the few shandy's we'd had) awaiting tomorrow.
Day two and a 1:40 start was just right for the sore heads that had come from the previous day's festivities and it was straight into Fuel for heavyweight death/doom metal band Conjurer (7) who were a vicious way to start the day and pulled double duty after some bands failed to turn up. Mr Burnell loved this band and I found them to be a tight, powerful young band with some huge songs. Over to the Moon for Anta (8) who had so much stuff on stage they couldn't actually fit on it. They are an Instrumental stoner/doom band that sound similar to Karma To Burn and The Sword albeit with lashings of organ for good measure. Stoner/doom metal/rock is one of the few genres that works equally in instrumental form due to it's worship of the riff. Anta have a huge atmospheric sound with furious percussion, powerful guitars and of course the aforementioned organ all contributing to the bands immense sound. Over to Fuel for Welsh noiseists Tides Of Sulphur (Set 1 7) (Set 2 8) who also played two sets both of which were aggressive, violent and full of fury, part one of their set was fuelled by vitriol and was warm up for their slightly drunker 'greatest hits' set later. With songs like the monolithic Trench Foot and Ypres Tides Of Sulphur never fail to excite and indeed deafen. Back again to The Moon to calm down a little with Vena Cava (7) who are trippy psych rock featuring some haunting vocals from the front woman frequent changes of pace meant that they were a nice change of pace as they had a little bit of alt/psych in their mostly instrumental sound.
Any calm was blown away by Leeds scuzz rockers Blind Haze (9), coming down from Leeds (and then proceeding to liberate the venues of beer all weekend) this three piece play old school, dirty biker rock fusing NWOBHM with a bit of Orange Goblin and a shitload of Motorhead to boot with some rapid drumming from Jason Hope, shredding from Joe Clements and a Rickenbacker bass assault from leviathan frontamn Conan who also has a mighty hollar! This was just relentless riff age with Take A Look Around You and The Quick And The Damned causing a pit in the floor and copious amount of beer drinking, this band are amazing and I for one was longing for a longer set. Back down to Fuel for some extreme noise terror with The Air Turned To Acid (7) who brought a thunderous ominous riffs to the bunker stage (that's what I'm calling it now). With all of the venues being less than thirty seconds away it meant we could sample a good number of bands in a very short space of time. More stage hopping back upstairs for Valfader (7) and this young bands final gig together, this is a shame as this three piece had the right chops and some groove for good measure. They definitely went out in style with an impressive set. Next up were the South West's answer to all your riff dreams, I had seen Grifter (9) before at Hammerfest and they impressed but this time they rocked the hell out of The Moon, this was classic stoner rock with nods to Sabbath, hell they even covered Fairies Wear Boots (brilliantly I might add) with Goblin in the vocals, the southern style of Clutch and songs about Princess Leia it means that Grifter are intensely watchable and I for one will be watching them again! Ten Foot Wizard (7) were up next with more of the same with riffs a gogo in the classic style.
Over to Clwb for the heaviest band of the day (so far) with three guitars, two vocalists and a drummer that looks like Willie Nelson this Newport based band encompass colossal doom walls of doom riffage with an experimental bent, imagine if you will The Eagles meet Electric Wizard and you wouldn't be far of. All three guitars in Spider Kitten (8) make a cacophony of noise while both drummer Chris and guitarist Chi provide the sparse vocals (the band focus on their instrumentals rather than vocal work) but their noise was very good heavy metal with some southern swagger played through vintage equipment, add to this to a brave cover of Frank Zappa's Muffin Man and Spider Kitten are a band that I would absolutely watch again! Back upstairs to watch Suns Of Thunder (8) whose style of blissed out retro rock I've seen before and they played the best set I've seen them play which was a great final act of retro riff rock before the nights headliners. Saturday's headliners were a band who I will admit that when I saw them first I was not impressed by their heavy, sludgy audio assault however this time with their added theatrics and almost laser guided precision Hogslayer (10) were one of the bands of the day. As the gong was struck the hooded figures of the band arrived on stage one by one to an apocalyptic atmosphere and as their frontman made his way to the stage the band exploded into life with their sinister sludge/doom that is violent, oprressive and all-consuming. Their mix of one guitar and two bass players backed by volatile drumming and their frontman's guttural screams, the band whose appearance is even auspicious decked in hoodies and black facepaint (something mirrored by the baying mob in the crowd) The audio assault didn't stop for their entire set and the crowd lapped it up. There is a reason why they are on the upward trajectory and pulled the largest crowd of the day. A terrifyingly good way to end the second day!
Third day, less booze and more music, with the capital busy as hell it was a nice to have a restbote filled with heavy music. First up is Tradish (7) a three piece who have expansive desert rock sound full of blissed out rhythms and grit and provided a cool opening for the day. Next up were local lads Ak'bal (9) who once again were phenomenal, otherworldly and heavy as hell. The familiar opening of The Ride started things of with their tribal power as Thoby and Rob played frenzied guitars, as Michael provided intricate bass patterns and Mic played double kick drums with ferocity, their unique progressive delivery is always awesome to watch and as they moved through the anthemic Equilibrium showing off their dual vocal delivery. The band finished up after three songs, their finale being Totally Recalled which brought things to a heavy close. A more stripped back than usual only relying on their wide pedal set up for the changes in sonics a fully charged electric set, that was to be followed by an acoustic set later in the day. Away from the progressive to the downright weird with valleys oddities Dead Shed Jokers (8) the bastard sons of stoner rock, The Doors and Frank Zappa. the jokers are gonzoid hard rock with a trippy edge. Swirling psych meets thumping hard rock. They get better every I see them and since the last time I saw them I feel I understand the band now they are finally on the right kind of bill, they were perfectly suited for this bill with their hip shaking mind expanding rock n roll.
After the weird and wonderful Dead Shed Jokers it was time for Gulah (9) They ply their trade with proggy, classic Sabbath style doom, huge riffs and some Down style vocals, even if frontman Chong had been caning it a bit hard meaning the vocals were a little raw, along with the Stoner doom they also have a huge chunk of southern groove. This was bud smoking, beer drinking, hard riffing rock music to bang your fucking head to. The band finished their set with a song christened Red Sun which like the rest of the set was a hard rocking solo filled riff-fest. Moving on from the stoner riffs we went into see the hardcore crossover of Grand Collapse (7) who delivered maximum aggression with stabbing guitars super fast punk and buckets of noise. A real wake up call to shake off the evening comedown. followed by yet more aggression with Nomad (7) who were brought their riff based beatdowns, huge noise and harsh vocal delivery to the table and brought to mind Superjoint Ritual with the shouted vocals massive booming bass and guitars and a nod to the more extreme side of doom/stoner. Something quickly washed away by the dreamy hippy psych of Elephant Tree (8) who have a a unique delivery of the traditional instrumentation plus the added effect of a sitar pitching them somewhere between Monster Magnet, Ravi Shankar and Captain BeefHeart especially in Riley Macintyre's vocals, who knew that the sitar would combine so well with stoner rock riffage? Elephant Tree were a worthy addition to the bill with their hippy influenced blues based stoner rock. Back to Fuel with the local Instrumental stoner legends Thorun (8) who showed yet again why they are revered with a solid set of bass driven stoner rock that got heads a-bobbin and fists pumping yet again showing that vocals are optional.
I am a little annoyed that I missed Bast however the allure of an Ak'bal acoustic set was too much as the band collected in the small Full Moon for their second set. Ak'bal (9) they were sans wires this time with acoustic guitars, Mike on tabla drums/bass, extra man Jimmy on cello, drummer Mic on bass and indeed drums, with Rob fixed to the guitar and Thoby moves between guitars on Equlibrium which still retains it's power while getting an Eastern twist, they then played stripped down acoustic cover of Comfortably Numb before taking everyone on a journey with the Tool like Pacha Mama which saw Thoby on tank drum before moving to violin for the finale, never ones to do what what is obvious they waived a Tool cover in favour of a Puscifier cover to finish which saw Thoby using a unique Bohran/guitar. The band have a problem though which is that really they need to fuse both of their style however this would require a lot more members however this is minor in regards to my other problem; which is that the Full Moon was a free entry venue meaning that their were many there just on a night out and had no interest in the band which destroyed the ambience, still this is a minor gripe in what was an otherwise fantastically organised festival. These small gripes were washed away by the no-nonsense, balls to the wall filth and fury rock and roll of The Admiral Sir Cloudseley Shovell (10) who are style wise a cross between Chas & Dave, Budgie, Motorhead and The Goodies. This is rock n roll with no frills just punch you in the face biker rock. Opening with the immediate Do It Now! which came after the set up, no warm up bollocks just straight into madness. The band are all very professional in their looseness looking as if they don't know what they are doing is a skill. There was a major cockup with a broken string and no back up guitar but time was filled by bad jokes and one note bass solo and it was all gloriously shambolic. with tracks like 2 Tonne Fuckboot, Tired And Wired, Bulletproof, Scratchin And Sniffin' and the final one two of the doomy Red Admiral, Black Sunrise and the chugging The Thicker, The Better (dedicated to the ladies). A fitting final band for this hard rocking, hard drinking, hard living festival! Same time next year guys yeah!?