The Bierkeller in Bristol hosted a 2-day indoor death metal madness called Bristol Deathfest during the Easter Weekend. The line-up was very promising and it didn’t fail to deliver. The first day Vader and Immolation co-headlined, which attracted a lot of fans, however, the second day Hour of Penance and Defeated Sanity couldn’t gather that many people to headbang. Unfortuntely, the turnout wasn’t balanced with significantly less people having showed up the second day. Perhaps death metal in big doses is not for everyone. Almost every band appearing on the bill is out with a new album so other than the good old tracks we could expect some new material being performed.
Body Harvest opened the pit for Saturday. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, i.e. not being able to finish my pint quickly enough, I missed most of their set but what I witnessed was pretty good. These local boys from Bristol killed it and I definitely recommend everyone not to miss them. Scordatura was up next. Scottish lads from Glasgow played a very enjoyable set with slow and groovy bits alternating. At this point I was more than ready for some more brutal death metal and didn’t have to wait for too long. Necrosis got on stage and, fair to say, they tore the place apart. These local hooligans won me over big time and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for their gigs in the future. Check out their debut release Catatonic Psychosis.
It seems to me that death metal is flourishing in Scotland and Man Must Die is another good example for that. They got the moshpit going straight away and played a savage set. They played an excellent set and if you missed it, I strongly recommend giving a spin to their album, Peace Was Never An Option, where Max Cavalera does guest vocals in ‘Abuser Friendly’. Kraanium was one of the bands we were really looking forward to seeing. During their set nearly everyone in the pit was holding an inflatable hammer as was slamming to the brutality of Kraanium. The crowd was clearly going apeshit. Unfortunately, a few days after Deathfest fans received some terrible news about vocalist, Martin Funderud. Martin was battling against his demons but they took the best of him. Our deepest condolences go out for his family and band mates.
Nader Sadek curates a group of musicians to collaborate to different death metal projects. In this one we were lucky to see Derek Roddy (ex-Hate Eternal/Nile/Serpents Rise), Destructhor (Myrkskog/ex-Morbid Angel/Zyklon), Sarah Jezebel Deva (ex-Cradle of Filth/Therion) and Mahmud Gecekusu (Perversion) performing together. Nader Sadek and his band of excellent musicians brought an artistic vision to life on a stage densely decorated with tree branches.
Immolation, on the other hand, did not bother with any stage props. All these guys brought was powerful, brutal death metal. Immolation’s latest full-length Atonement was released in February so many tracks were played; including ‘The Distorting Light’, ‘Destructive Current’, ‘Fostering the Divide’ and the closing track ‘Epiphany’. I’ve seen these guys many times so far but their best sets were always the ones played in small club venues. For me, this set was definitely a highlight of the first day.
By the end of Immolation’s set the Bierkeller was pretty much full and everyone was eagerly waiting for Vader to go on stage. Despite the little technical hiccup with Piotr’s guitar lead, which thankfully got sorted out quickly, the set was unstoppable. The Empire has been released earlier this year, however their set wasn’t overloaded with new tracks and they left some room for ‘Dark Age’ from The Ultimate Incantation. There was no question who was headlining today. The set kicked off with the Imperial March and lots of smoke and mist throughout the whole gig. There is not much else to say about the Polish kings of death metal other than that they never cease to amaze us. Perfect closing for the first day of Bristol Deathfest.
While many of us decided to attend the afterparty at The Gryphon, others chose the comfort of their beds. Either way the next day I saw more sleep-deprived faces than not, but everyone seemed to be ready for the next round. I myself managed to miss the first two bands, Ascaris and Abrupt Demise.
Ancient Ascendant was the first band I witnessed and I have to say I had a very good surprise. They define themselves as groovy black/death metal and I really enjoyed their set which didn’t lack death metal and nice melodies.
Epicardiectomy from Czech Republic slammed through their set and it felt very quick. Shortly after them Cytotoxin from Germany invaded the stage. This band is greatly inspired by a nuclear catastrophe and its consequences that happened at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in 1986. Despite they do not bring too much new to the death metal genre musically, they sure have a rich theme and a brilliant show to put out. Their new album Gammagedon is coming out in July and it is strongly recommended to keep your gasmasks at hand.
There has been a band in the British death metal scene for years, called Dyscarnate. Their second full-length So It Came To Pass was a massive success and their third album is already on its way. However, there is no exact release date issued yet but we were lucky enough to hear some of their new tracks at Deathfest. A small band with a massive sound, very straight to the point, brutal and technical death metal. I cannot praise these guys enough but if you do not believe me, go and give their album a spin or see them live.
Defeated Sanity, the first headliner for Sunday was up next. This long running band from Germany played their EP Disposal of the Dead in its entirety. It consists of 6 songs, raw, fast paced brutal death metal with some cheeky slam here and there.
Hour of Penance, the second headliner for Sunday did what I was expecting them to do. Give a lesson on how to do majestic, relentless death metal. Beautiful solos throughout the set but well-balanced with unstoppable blast beats and heavy bass. The melody and the atmosphere of their tracks are very powerful. Few times I have seen Hour of Penance so far and their performance was flawless every time. They are consistent with whatever they do and you can always expect a powerful, tight and precise set. By the way, their latest piece Cast The First Stone is out and it is phenomenal.
Unfortunately, the second day was not as busy as the first but nonetheless still pretty good. If you attend a festival dedicated to one single genre it can be a bit boring after a while. However, here every band managed to bring something that made them stand out from the rest. Surely there were similarities here and there but all in all it was as diverse as it could be. I hope next year’s edition will be similarly smashing. There’s no news on the next edition yet but I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
All photography by Vivien Varga.