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Brutal Assault – Days 0 and 1

Nnear the Polish border, in the Czech Republic, a small town called Jaromer was once again the home to the biggest metal event in Eastern Europe, Brutal Assault. This year celebrated the 20th anniversary of the event so my attendance wasn’t in question at all. First of all, I would like to say that it was a hell of a weekend in every aspect. Scorching temperature, dust, devilish bands from all over the globe, and gigs till exhaustion.

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Picture by Vivien Varga.

It is common that at almost every open air event there are some warm up bands on the preceding evening (Day 0), before the official kick off day (Day 1). The organizers of Brutal Assault developed it much further. Already on the day of arriving, 24 bands were responsible for the entertainment of the slowly but surely growing metal mass. Unfortunately, from the stupendous line-up of Day 0, I managed to see only two but very significant performances. After Hellfest’s Cavalera Conspiracy gig, I had to see Mr. Max Cavalera’s second main band called Soulfly. It is hard to decide which one is his main project as he is active in both. Just like every Cavalera gig, their set was a fine compilation of tracks from each era. It was a great idea from them to break their habits and kick off with “Frontlines” and later on everyone seemed glad and satisfied when they took out old Sepultura tracks such as “Arise” or “Territory” which was accompanied with the singer of Melechesh. In my opinion, every single time a performing band invites a guest musician from other bands to play a song with, a piece of history is written. Of course the newest song We Sold Our Souls to Metal was played, which generated a massive mosh pit. It is literally a killer track from Soulfly’s tenth album, Archangel which came out recently.

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Picture by Vivien Varga.

The second band on my short warm-up list was none other than Mayhem. My musical taste has a strong link with the Scandinavian black metal scene. I grew up as the bands evolved and I was following most of the northern bands since the mid 90s. That’s why I felt Mayhem’s show was mandatory. As usual, the hammering of “Silvester Anfang”  opened the ceremony. This track has been a perfect intro since 1987 and like usual, they follow up the intro with “Deathcrush”. If I remember correctly, all of their albums were represented during the show, but they put more emphasis on the older ones. Songs like “Freezing Moon” and “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” still keep the ancient spirit alive and brought back the old times at least for a short time. Recently though nostalgia is not the main goal of the band. The project of “The New Mayhem is a war against the human psyche. Attila Csihar’s outfit and his so to say “beyond the grave” whispers and screams made this statement even stronger. His presence was really disturbing and sometimes the gig was also terrifying in a strange way, especially when the pale moon revealed itself from behind the dark clouds, right then when “Freezing Moon” was performed. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes.

On the first full day, not long after 12pm, a Brazilian female thrash trio called Nervosa invaded the left stage. These three South American ladies overwhelmed the audience with their energetic old-school metal. The band formed five years ago and with their debut album titled Victim of Yourself, they could break through over the sea to play on European soil for the first time. Singer and bassist Fernanda Lira emphasized many times that they don’t really like when the crowd just stands still. With the track called Into Moshpit“, they made it clear what they want to see in front of the stage. Actually, this particular song became quickly my personal favorite from them because it is simply a kick-ass trash track. I would say Nervosa follows the footpath of Toxic Holocaust as both bands have the same influences, considering their similar approach to the genre.

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Picture by Vivien Varga.

A bit later Benighted from France technically beheaded their populous audience. The grindcore they played is not easily digestible. It wasn’t easy to follow the notes that these guys produced through their instruments. I also need to mention that the vocals were a very strong component of their music. Literally it was a pleasure to listen to that animal shrieking that the vocalist forced out from his mouth. Benighted also were responsible for possibly the biggest wall of death of the weekend which took place during the song called Fritzl“. Mosh pits were also on all the time during their gig. One of my friends drew my attention to the vocalist’s habit. Apparently he always performs with bare feet and this time it was no different. God knows the reason.

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Picture by Vivien Varga.

Someone recommended to me to attend the show of Horse the Band. Well, I did. They are meant to be a metal formation but strangely their music is mixed with some odd synth tunes. According to scientific definitions, it was some “8-bit Nintendo-influenced metalcore”. I guess this little trick was supposed to make their music unique but unfortunatelly in my ears it sounded more ridiculous than remarkable. I don’t even think the members took the band seriously or at least I hope they didn’t. The singer’s farewell “We are Horse the Band. Thanks for watching. We hope you don’t kill yourself.” seems to reinforce this idea.

However, ICS Vortex, the legendary ex-bassist and backing vocalist of Dimmu Borgir lead the band Arcturus, which I thought was a promise for quality music. Obviously, the hard work that they put into the albums and songs cannot be questioned but unfortunately, the end result was just boring for me. Their performance was also well-prepared and professional, but somehow I had the feeling that it wasn’t the right place and festival for them to perform. The whole atmosphere and the entire show was way too theatrical and this just doesn’t match with the atmosphere of Brutal Assault. Maybe it just wasn’t their finest hour… or mine.

Out from boredom, the performance of Hour of Penance worked as taking a deepbreath after a deep sea dive. They took their place at the small stage at the back of the festival, which was the stage which held the best parties over the weekend as it turned out in the end. This Italian technical brutal death machinery sounded like a storm. Tight, fast-paced brutality to its vein. Hour of Penance’s technical skills filled their music with elegant riffs and unforgettable solutions. I guess that’s why amplifiers were invented many decades ago. This band was simply born to perform.

Thanks to the benefits of my press wristband, I could make it up to the limited grandstand where I decided to watch tonight’s two headliners. The first one was the masters of death metal, Cannibal Corpse. No need to introduce them to anyone in the world of extreme music. Despite the age of the forefathers, they still can devastate any stages and force any bands to kneel in front of their greatness. Their choreographed headbang sequences are also hilarious. Joe ’Corpsegrinder’ Fisher’s guttural growls and sophisticated phrases, such as “Demented Aggression” and “Hammer Smashed Face” are well-known world wide. These monsters  were in a good mood tonight. Corpsegrinder was laughing on his own jokes, burped and wasn’t scared to sing with his clean voice between tracks either. But there were only a few pleasant moments during their almost one hour long cruel performance.

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Picture by Vivien Varga.

Just a few minutes after the cannibals finished their torture ceremony, the German thrash legends Kreator kicked off with their set. At this point, the crowd didn’t have to move from one stage to the other because it became one big impenetrable human mass. The stage was professionally set up with background projections; the gig was accompanied with constant pyrotechnics and other effects and the lighting technicians also did an impressive job. With all these factors and extras, they managed to create a quite crazy atmosphere to dance to during songs like “Violent Revolution”, “Terrible Certainty” and the all time best “Pleasure to Kill”. Vocalist-guitarist Mille Petrozza’s voice is still outstanding even after 31 years of screaming and he can still deliver the same quality that a lot of bands can’t after three decades of existence. All in all, it was a great show from a great live band and definitely the highlight of the first day from many aspects. They never disappointed the crowd.

The only reason why Sarke was attractive to me is the fact that Darkthrone’s Nocturno Culto supposed to be with them tonight. Maybe I was uninformed but Mr. Nocturno didn’t show, so after a few tracks a I decided to head back to the main stages to see as much as I could from the weirdest gig of the festival. I know it wasn’t nice of me but unfortunately I had lost interest.

The gig of Sunn O))) was a disturbing live “music” experience. It’s really difficult to describe a Sunn O))) performance or the genre of drone in general but I will try to do it here. I suppose the sonic creation of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’ Malley featuring Attila Csihar’s bitter screeches and hellish chants were meant to be the amplified and distorted sounds of hell or something like that. The stage was completely embraced with deep mist and it gave me the impressions of a smoky post-apocalyptic wasteland where some tortured souls tried to tell their stories to anyone who is able to listen to them. During their entire set, I had a strange feeling that something is about to start, but in the end, nothing happened. What was also remarkable were the reactions from the audience. Some people raised their fists and firmly went into the non-existent mosh pit, meanwhile others were confused and turned their heads to find someone who could explain to them what is really going on. From my personal point of view, it was a good show to escape from the fast pace of the day and let me rest in peace, after it was all over.

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All live photography courtesy of Vivien Varga and MetalRecusants.com.

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