Slam Dunk Festival 2017 promised to be excellent from the offset and, without spoiling the review, it delivered in spades. Plenty of genres to choose from, and a plethora of people to enjoy it with, it was hard not to find something to enjoy. Metal Recusants was present at Slam Dunk South, at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield.
Like Pacific opened up the day on the Monster Energy Stage and their quaint melodies with rhythmic punchy punk is filled with energy from the get-go. Channelling lyrical anger and frustration with melancholic licks but with a twist of aggressive hardcore makes Like Pacific stand out immediately and carry throughout an impressive opening set.
Following this, we took a brief stopover to the Fireball Stage to catch punk rockers The Ataris play their early 2000’s infused alternative rock with supreme passion, that was evident in both their heavier and softer tunes. Vocally, Kristopher Roe was on point. But the heaviness was taken to a whole new level when Japanese metalcore mob Crossfaith took to the Jagermeister Stage and unleashed hellacious levels of vigour and positive fury (if ever such a thing exists). Crossfaith have often been regarded as a live band that stand amongst the very best, and the Slam Dunk faithful need no convincing. Their dual-guitar evolution has tightened the band’s sound, giving it some extra depth and dynamism.
But it’s nothing that Orange County punkers Zebrahead have absolutely no trouble surpassing, considering their incredible presence, crowd interaction and impeccable ability to weave cheesy rap rock with melodic pop punk never fails to impress. With this being the umpteenth time witnessing the band, comparing it to other shows is a challenge, but this one stands out amongst the absolute best, largely due to the incredible MFZB trio of “Rescue Me”, “Hello Tomorrow” and “Falling Apart” making me smile like the 13 year old boy I was when I first saw them.
Metal is represented by paid meet-and-greet haters Bury Tomorrow, who don’t hang around in shifting the party into another earth shattering gear. You cannot deny the energy these five possess, but what is apparent is the inability to keep in time at odd moments, but the crowd doesn’t care. The Southampton metalcore crew have brilliant stage presence, and have a wonderful time amongst themselves but their set is lacklustre overall that would be much better if the stage banter wasn’t so predictable and the drums kept the rhythm. A shame really.
Beartooth waste no time in continuing the moshing with their furious fast-paced anthems, that permeate their vast Slam Dunk audience, who respond with enthusiasm and drunken debauchery. Holding the record for arguably the largest circle pit of the festival, an appearance from Crossfaith’s Kenta Koie and an experimental choice of setlist songs cement Beartooth’s set as one of the highlights of the weekend.
Things slow down a bit when Hunstanton rockers Deaf Havana unveil their melodic sonances that are both rhythmically sound and vocally flawless as expected. Whilst they may not have been at their zenith due to a restricted set time and a tendency to drift, their songs (particularly ones off All These Countless Nights) sound nothing short of mesmeric. It’s wall to wall enjoyment even considering that the tiniest of minor adjustments are needed to make it perfect.
At the other end of the festival, Stray From The Path unleash eight shades of unforgiving hell as only they can do. As a fan quickly gets escorted from the pit due to a face covered in blood, their set barely stops there. With pure vitriol and toxicity from vocalist Drew York from start to finish, a plethora of unrelenting riffs and non-stop heaviness, Stray From The Path stand head and shoulders above the rest and wear that badge with honour.
Don Broco are sub-headlining the main stage and quite deservedly so considering the amount of people on hand to see them. Their intricate amalgamation of soaring harmonies and devilishly enjoyable chord sequences is par for the course, and the crowd welcomes the bangers they churn out en masse. That being said, Less Than Jake at the Fireball Stage keep party mode in full swing with their comedic and grandiose ska music, which I don’t know much about but found thoroughly entertaining from the opening note. It’s a perfect light-hearted break for what is to come though.
It can only be appropriate that the night finishes with local (ish) heroes Enter Shikari playing the signature album that many at Slam Dunk consider a household staple as they were growing up. As the entirety of Take To The Skies is played with all the precision, fury and venom as perfectly as it should be, frontman Rou Reynolds channels more of his passionate and well-spoken bile directed at the current political spectrum. With that, there isn’t a single thing not to enjoy about their set, and this performance pushes Shikari to the top of the UK music chain of bands we should both be grateful exist, and can expect more from.
And with that, Slam Dunk comes to an unfortunate close for another year, where the vibes all around had left us completely blue within minutes as we make our way back to Hatfield station and back to normality. But it will be remembered for the superb bands, great vibes it had, and the people who we got to enjoy it all with – and that can’t be replaced.