We could almost smell the sulphur in the air, this being the most nefarious day of the three. The first band to squire us through thisDantesque journey was the rarely seen Caïna which may explain why so many decided to arrive early at the venue. Accompanying main man Andy Curtis-Brignell were Laurence Taylor (vocals), Fraser Samson (bass) and Nick Colman (drums), who proved to be more than fit to translate Andy’s studio work to live action.Laurence‘s dramatic performance was actually one of the gig’s highlights, leaving everyone as breathless as he seemed to be.
The claustrophobia-inducing Impetuous Ritual, being a kind of younger brother to Portal, sure made an impact. We could predict what was about to happen as the first thing they said was «can you fuck off the white light?» (the one resisting source of light, illuminating their faces). And then we saw their backlit nude torsos and legs, and shoeless, roughly painted black figures playing some of the best death metal Australia has to offer.
Halshug, the new kids in town, godsons of Greg Anderson and punk-crust hell raisers sure were the perfect choice to adorn the smaller stage. Presenting their first full-length “Blodets Bånd”, the simple (but not simplistic), raw (yet discernible) punk felt incredibly refreshing during the feedback/distortion-induced day. No tricks, no drama and, yet, no politics, just music and Danish bitterness.
I have the best kind of friends. The one that doesn’t tell you shit if they happen to be at the very same festival that you are. Ha! J Straight out of nothing, materializing from nowhere, this bloke of mine hit me in the arm telling Sonance was being dog’s bollocks. «Fuck off if I’m leaving Halshug, mate», I tell him, actually ending up taking a peek, minutes after, at the main stage. Dudes are heavy. Nerds kept telling me since January how berserk “Blackflower” is and now I’m positevely convinced. Was like being swallowed by a giant black hole, with no protection needed unlike what usually happens when you lose yourself in different black holes. Massive drone.
Mantar? Fucking amazing lads. Not only stellar individuals, but actually the kind of musicians that you enjoy to look at. They deliver. It’s up to you to deal with it, because these two folks will deliver, deliver and… DELIVER. I do have a penchant for groovy acts when I’m on the festival’s mood, so Mantar was spot on. They really stand out as being the perfect live act, Hanno’s on the brink of falling over the photo-dudes and Erinc just drenching his bones in sweat. How good that fucking guitar sounds, by the way?
Bölzer? Intimidating. By the time they hit the second stage I was already a bit hammered, so I got one option left: let my mind wonder. Guess I was cut down in Verdun while stepping out of the trenches, ending my life honking all over the shattered soil of France (I actually did that later thanks to Sunn). Bölzer’s tastes like war, smells like death, looks like hell. At the end, shellshock was the price to pay. Stuttering, I dragged my corpse for Goatsnake to heal. Hey, desert shamans, help this innocent musketeer with your broadsword riffs, your untarnished harmonica, your groove. Úre héanes! They did helped me, it was a restorative performance. Groove-swarmed blues as you all know and expect from these pops. New songs sounded hella good.
Maybe the patrons of Temples were wrong when asking for a main stage performance, but truth is the second stage felt way too small for Portal‘s audience. While many waited for The Curator‘sgrandfather clock/pope persona, the executioners were followed by what looked like a Renaissance cleric figure right out of a Victor Hugo’s novel. Like a religious death metal ceremony, “Swarth”’s Latin/English mish-mash marked the beginning and the end of the ritual (title-track opening, “Werships” closing) and, while the fan-favourite “Outre’” filled most of their set, every album had more than one featured song. A generous meal for a Portal gourmet, presented with an equally generous theatrical intensity.
Then, Pig Destroyer were back, this time on the main stage, playing the ghastly tale of “Natasha”, “Terrifyer”’s epilogue. As we asked ourselves how it would translate live, we also feared for an underwhelming comparison with their normal set and as the song evolved, the feeling dissipated. Contrasting with their previous performance, J.R. Hayes’ quietness and a surprisingly low-profile Blake Harrison sure seemed uninspired, but the artistic endeavour surrounding those forty minutes made up for any stoicism. The video projection and the thrilling dynamics of the song satisfied any need for emotion.
After glancing Tom G. as a proper sign of respect, my heart was just pumping crazy for the unkind Swedish crust platoon, the almighty Skitsystem. Even though the sound was reading itself to skive, trembling and spluttering, I kind of just wanted to let a lonely tear go as I had my heart on my sleeve listening to “Den Yttersta Dagen”. The chances to see them are scarce, so Sunn O))) just had to wait for the full deployment of Skitsystem’s weaponry. Blast.
The award for Greatest Third Dimension Experience goes to…Sunn O))), none other. Instead of describing the setlist or writing a qualitative review let’s just throw some facts that occurred during the performance, as everything else is pretty much imaginable. The smoke started running thirty minutes before the show and two smoke machines where kindly placed towards the audience. Some say a couple of speakers were destroyed by the louder then hell volume, causing some technical problems the following day. Atilla’s magnificent emergence only made it louder. Many rested their bodies on the floor just to feel it resonate. Empty cans of beer were seen rotating around each other. The floor was shaking to such levels than many were seen losing their balance when walking. Security guards covered their ears with their hands because «ain’t no ear-plug strong enough». And during all this drone chaos, ear-plug party, an elderly figure with wide non-obstructed ears was standing in the front row with his big clear eyes glancing at the three/four piece as only a true fan would. And this is Sunn O))), an otherworldly enterprise that gathers a diverse audience looking for more that music: a sonic hazard transformed into artistic exploit.