Death metal and doom metal, two of the most polar opposite genres in the heavier end of the metal spectrum. One is frenetically fast, a pummeling aural maelstrom; the other is lumbering, with crushing riffs that ebb and flow. What unites these two genres is a lack of respite, that your ears are assaulted from the first moment to the last. So, what better way to experience the two genres than play them off each other in alternating rooms? The wittily-titled Till Death Doom Us Part festival at The Croft in Bristol sought to do just that, bringing on board 7 bands to showcase these two harsh and mostly inaccessible genres. Those who haven’t visited this particular venue in Bristol are more than encouraged to do so, in order to support local metal and maybe catch a word or two with the bands when they’re not leaving people’s ears ringing. Naturally, I felt obliged to try out each band, although this meant sampling roughly half of each set band’s set except the headliners, and quite a bit of running in between.
Despite the event being billed as a festival, it felt more like two concurrent concerts under one roof, with some people switching between stages. Someone was clearly having fun with the PA; I distinctly caught Municipal Waste in the ‘doom room’ while Rush were entertaining the ‘death stage’. But the metalheads all took it in their stride, most of them solving this problem by going out for a smoke while the bands set up. Considering the whole lineup, they covered quite the range between the two. They were, in order of appearance: Greenhorn, Cryptophile, Caravan Of Whores, Black Skies Burn, Witchsorrow, Engraved Disillusion and De Profundis.
First up were Greenhorn in the slightly claustrophobic front bar room (with the stage a mere inch off the floor), a relatively quick replacement for the two bands that dropped out (Khthon and Overlord). They set a strong first impression: thick and crunchy mid-tempo riffs and rasping vocals greeted our ears, with occasional sweet leads and clean singing (“Witch’s Bridle”) to balance it out. Despite doom’s tendency towards the slow, the band weren’t a stranger to speed, more than once getting up to a hurtling pace. The tracks I caught sounded great, particularly the one that had previously wormed its way onto Terrorizer’s covermount CD a while ago. Their influences of Electric Wizard (well, who else?), Mastodon and Iron Monkey made sense pretty quickly during the half-set I caught, and the free 3-track The Plague Doctor’s Mask CD I picked up is sounding delightful in my stereo.
On the other side of things, Cryptophile were kicking up a racket with their brutal death metal sound. Old-school dirty riffs flew around under relentless pounding drumming, and a hulking vocalist was making inhuman pig squeals and rasping screams into the microphone. A reassuringly familiar sight. While the songs themselves were quite synonymous, the set itself was fun to watch, particularly the mountain of hair flying around from the vocalist, and the looks of concentration on the musicians plying their trade. Fans of early-era Death would greatly enjoy these guys, stay tuned for their début album.
Semi-instrumental psychedelic stoner-doom was up next from the wonderfully-named Caravan Of Whores. They put the ‘power’ in power-trio, serving up some king-sized riffs and tasteful drumming, including huge floor-toms that suffered a fair beating, and random staccato blastbeats on “Mister Bendy Man”. The guitar-work was also high-caliber; a melancholic solo out of left-field blended in neatly during a particularly trippy section, as well as the aforementioned riffs. Finally, the bassist/vocalist had a wonderful bluesy quality to his voice, as well as a propensity for onstage banter to alleviate the nearly tangibly-thick atmosphere: the introduction to “Your God Is Dead” was greeted with a round of laughter. Overall, an excellent set from a band I’ve now set on my radar, and not just because they’re one of the few bands who will be playing Bath in the near future.
Watching Black Skies Burn was proof to me that I should do more research about unknown bands before seeing them. I was completely not expecting to walk into that wall of deathgrind those maniacs were churning out. Front-and-center, the cowboy-hatted vocalist was doing a good job wrecking his throat in a variety of styles while the rest of the band were kicking up a racket, including some solid footwork on the drums and a very unsteady microphone for the guitarist. The tracks were packed with bravado and punch, with titles like “Hunt. Maim. Kill.” and “Instigate The Violence”. That said, they were also clearly a band alright with having a laugh, as they dragged up a friend onstage to deliver a catchphrase after a particularly blistering track (“Waste Of Space”), which rounded out a particularly striking set.
No matter the lineup, there are always going to be bands at a festival that never quite click with you. Perhaps it’s the music, perhaps it’s something intangible. In the case of Witchsorrow, it was mostly the vocals that put me off. The trio started off in strong form with a heavy and buzzing guitar tone setting a despondent ambience over the audience, as wave after lumbering wave of riffs swept through, and a thick bass tone to match. In the vocal-less moments, it was easy to slip into a headbanging groove. However, when the gravelly throaty singing kicked in, it rubbed me the wrong way, and I found it difficult to concentrate on anything else. A shame, because instrumentally the band have a lot going for them, and those more established in the doom scene would do well to check these guys out. Just the style of singing, which is often used in this kind of doom, was not my cup of tea.
In stark contrast to them, Engraved Disillusion had my interest from the get-go, once they finally got to playing. 15 minutes of delay made their set incredibly short, but the Swedish-influenced melodeath went over very well, with the tasteful guitar harmonies taking center-stage more than once around the vocalist’s snarls and shrieks, the latter of which very much reminded me of countrymen Sanctorum. Despite only squeezing a short number of tracks out in the time remaining, they left a great impression, and I’ll be hunting for a copy of their album Embers Of Existence, as should fans of Dark Tranquillity, Sylosis and The Black Dahlia Murder.
Finally, it was time for the headliners De Profundis, a band with whom MetalRecusants is intimately familiar (interview here), but alas I had neglected to give them a proper spin before the show. What I witnessed was an incredible show of extreme metal, blending together black, death, and progressive variations of both in a technical display that outstripped the other bands on the set. There was even a magnificent-looking 5-string bass being wielded in capable hands, with Obscura-esque bass solos emerging among the guitar solos. The imposing-looking shirtless frontman had unbelievable vocal capabilities, running through the full harsh range in their set, and rounding out with spoken word and singing to boot. The final track was a welcome surprise: a cover of the Death classic “Crystal Mountain”, which the band moulded to their unique style. It was just an incredible shame that, by the time these guys took to the stage, the majority of people had departed, and missed out on a great live performance. If your musical tastes are under the ‘extreme’ umbrella, and chances are given you’re reading this far, then do yourself a favor and pick up The Emptiness Within, their third album.
In short, Till Death Doom Us Part was a lively evening down at The Croft, and provided me with a list of bands to check out further. Salutations to Black 7 Managements and Promotions for putting on the event, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in the future.