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Friday, 25 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Eradication Festival 2018 (Live Review By Paul H)

Eradication Festival 2018, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

Day 1

Now in its fifth year, Eradication Festival, for the uninitiated is held over two evenings and two days at Fuel Rock Bar, Cardiff’s premier rock and metal club in Womanby Street. The festival showcases some of the best in extreme and heaviest metal from across the globe. Building step by step, as with all good festivals, this year promised to be the best yet, with a host of acts who would bring a vast array of styles to the Welsh Capital.

Day 1 consisted a four band “play-off” for the right to play at one of the most prestigious festivals in the UK, Mammothfest which takes place in Brighton in early October. On top of that, three main acts followed. A very healthy crowd for a Thursday night spilled from Fuel out into the balmy Cardiff evening before watching the opening battle. Incursion (5) gave it a good go but this death metal trio who like to thrash hard really weren’t on top form with Jonny’s vocals a little ropey. A healthy enough response for the Rhondda boys but opening slot is never good, and you felt that with the quality they were up against that it wasn’t going to be their night.

Local outfit Democratus (8) are well loved by this blog and as usual, front man Steve Jenkins played as if he was headlining the closing night at Bloodstock Open Air. Full of powerful jagged riffs, the band raced through their set of melodic death metal with the ambitious but correct step of airing two new songs, the impressive Creator Of Poverty, aimed at the current government and Damnation. Both sounded promising and the new EP should be very enjoyable. The band seemed a little nervous at times, totally understandably, whilst the sound didn’t help that much with Kerrin Watkins’ lead lost in the mix. However, set closer and now firm favourite Life For A Life really lit up the room, and earned the band a deserved solid reception from the masses on the floor.

I must be honest here. I saw last year’s Metal To The Masses winners Malum Sky at Bloodstock and was bored to tears by their music. So, with apologies to them, we’ll move on to one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. South Wales doesn’t have many black metal outfits but the one that is creating waves now is Agrona (9). With the band crammed onto the stage, lead vocalist Taranis choosing to deliver the offering to the masses from the edge of the pit. Having had a sneak preview of their debut release Realm Of The Fallen, and having been told much about the band by Musipedia brothers Rich and Matt, the wait was worth it as the band tore the place apart with their fiery delivery and quality black metal. In full corpse paint and battle gear, the band’s darkness snuffed any light out of the room with Immaterium and Storms End superb (sadly minus Steve Jenkins, who belted his parts out from his seat behind me regardless), guitarist Arawn doing a great job in covering those clean vocal parts. The reception at the end left you in no doubt that the band had done enough to take the prize and so it proved. Realm Of The Fallen is out on 25 May and should be purchased by anyone who likes quality black metal.

The crushing blend of metal, punk rock fury and dark horror doesn’t work on me so I’m afraid that five minutes of the raging HeLL PuPPeTs was sufficient for me but too few minutes to offer a review. There are times when you realise that you must widen the net in your listening. The 40-minute face melting set from Colorado’s Skinned (9) was one of those moments as the Americans grabbed the bull by the balls and blew a hole in the roof with their ferocious and oh so tight brutal death metal. With John Meyer’s imposing presence brooding at the front of the stage, Skinned didn’t piss about and destroyed from the start. A few tracks of the latest and very fresh release Shadow Syndicate were lapped up by a crowd who appreciated the quality. I must admit that I didn’t move much during their set as I was staggered what I was watching. I don’t always enjoy death metal, but this was top drawer stuff and it was a privilege to watch a legendary band in such close quarters.

The hype around Derbyshire’s grind core nutters Raised By Owls (8) has been building for a couple of years and the huge crowd they drew at BOA 2017 is indication of that. Their brand of comedy and grind core is extremely humorous, and the large crowd immersed themselves completely, with the ‘scone’ wall of death hysterical. After a long week and with two days to go, I made my excuses about half way through and headed for home. A great opening night with all bands putting in decent shifts.

Day 2

A shorter visit for Day 2 but just as rewarding. Arriving shortly after 7pm, the masses were once more spilled across Womanby Street and it was again encouraging to see both old and new faces in decent numbers. The set up remained the same but with the arrival of some extreme merch there was more to do and browse. Day 2 had started about three hours earlier and by all accounts there were some impressive sets. Our apologies to all who we missed. Sometimes life gets in the way. Having grabbed a Guinness, it was time to check out the Austrian bedlam of VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC (7). Their music is a blend of goregrind and slamdeath, which according to my research means dancing parts ala Cock and Ball Torture alter with groovy and brutal waves of slam-attacks. Okay, got that? Regardless, the band is a bit different to your usual goregrind, with the pig/duck squealing of vocalist Franz Stockreiter astonishing in both delivery and sound. The drums are programmed and orchestrated by bassist Wolfgang Ott but quite frankly it’s best when watching these guys to either fully engage with the looneys in the pit or sit back and allow the bizarre to wash over you.

The main reason I’d bought a ticket for the whole weekend was to guarantee the opportunity to see East Anglian post black metal legends Fen (9), who were making their Welsh debut. The three-piece, who delivered a masterful piece of work with their superb Winter last year, didn’t disappoint with 40 minutes of intricate atmospheric black metal that was lapped up by the crowd. Whilst some of the more intricate and layered elements of the band’s music did get a bit lost in the mix, the overall quality of their music did get through and it was a superb set.

Following on from such quality was a challenge but Newport’s Death Metal Bastards Desecration (8) are your go to band and Oli, Mik and Andi didn’t disappoint with a cranium crushing set which ran the edge of chaotic from start to finish. The partisan local crowd provided excellent banter which fired the band into a session of brutality. Always a pleasure to watch this gnarly old school outfit, even if they were all over the place as usual.

Day 3

With the great orb continuing its visit to South Wales, Day 3 dawned bright and having negotiated the thousands of families, hen and stag parties in the City Centre, mainly there for the Monster Truck headline show in the Principality Stadium, the sanctuary of Womanby Street was a joy. Opening day 3 were Neapolitan Parthenopean epic black metallers Scuorn (6). Their brand of black metal was an acquired taste but those who had made it in early were treated to a full show with the band, who I understand is a one-man project from the frontman Guiliano Latte supported by a touring party, treating us to a range of traditional Neapolitan folk instruments which added authenticity and atmosphere to their sound.

Next up was one of the bands I had been waiting for, Canterbury’s Wretched Soul (9) who delivered a blistering 30 minutes of their thrash/death metal. The only disappointment was the low turnout in the audience as the band deserved a much larger audience. Chris Simmons clean vocals made a welcome change from the traditional guttural growls but didn’t soften the visceral delivery one iota. The bulk of the tracks coming from the excellent Ghost Road album, with Necromancer, Bury The Heretic and We Made The Gods outstanding. A superb set from a brilliant band.

The challenge of the weekend was to get back into the venue in time to catch every band and Gavin Davies and crew did a magnificent job in keeping the festival to time. Soaking up the sun and chatting to other festival goers delayed the viewing of Slough’s Divine Chaos (8), but their intense death metal certainly agreed with me and the larger crowd who were loving every riff. After a brief wander across to City Hall to see the RAF 100 Year display and a bite to eat, back into the gloom to catch Slovakia’s Doomas (7), whose doom filled dark melodic metal was ideal for the darkness that envelopes the stage area in Fuel. Huge riffs, thunderous drumming and just impressive stuff. Scotland’s Party Cannon (6) certainly brought the party, with balloons being blown up on stage and thrown into the audience but I found their brutal slam death metal unexciting and after a couple of songs and a description of singer Stony’s smart meter installation, I headed back out for another beer.

It was time for another of those must-see moments and a decent crowd had swelled the venue as India’s Demonic Resurrection (9) delivered a fabulous set. Relying on some backing tapes with the absence of their keyboardist, the Indians, led by the diminutive and really nice Demonstealer ripped through 40 minutes of top quality symphonic death metal, with the majority of the set pulled from their 2017 release Dashavatar. I’d seen Demonic Resurrection deliver a fantastic set at Bloodstock a few years ago and the band pushed that show hard. A pleasure to have seen these great guys once more. Final band of the night for me was GrĂ  (8), whose Swedish black metal was top quality. With Dark Funeral vocalist Andreas Vingback aka Heljarmadr adding an imposing presence up front, the band provided one of the most well received sets of the weekend.

With apologies to Dyscarnate, who I had intended to see, it was time to leave. Once again, a fantastically organised and well-run festival, with some of the friendliest folks I’ve spent time with for a good while. Roll on next year and another hit of extreme metal.

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