Brutal Assault 2009
|Event:||Brutal Assault 2009|
Brutal Assault 2009 by (124)
Brutal Assault 2009
This year Metal Storm finally had the opportunity to cover one of the most impressive young festivals catering to fans of extreme music - Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic. This was the 14th edition of the fest and already I could see that things ran very smoothly. It will only get better with future editions.
Something definitely needs to be said about the site of the festival. You see, Brutal Assault takes place at the base of the fortifications of an 18th century castle. The whole atmosphere created by this location is terrific, with the ominous high brick walls suiting extreme music extremely well. But that is not all, the camping site was also unusual, with the ability to camp in what is basically a forest. I think the photos below show just how picturesque the site is.
The camp site itself was organized fairly well, although there were by far not enough showers. There could have also been more disposable toilets. Another gripe with the camp site was that it was separated from the festival area by a hill. On the one hand, it allowed for some relative peace and quiet due to the sound from the stage being muffled by the hill; however, one could easily kill themselves trying to go down said hill at night with no light. Finally, there was no proper place to store valuables at the camp site, with only the pricy VIP area having this facility. I was not aware that any such facility was available and therefore chose not to bring along expensive equipment. Further complicating my job as a reviewer was the lackluster press area and poor organization of press-related things. I won't bore you with the details but this aspect of the fest definitely needs improving.
There were two stages with bands playing one after the other but not at the same time. This meant shorter setlists but no clashes. I was skeptical with this approach as this meant some of my favorite bands would get very short playing times. Nevertheless, with so many bands playing, in the end I was convinced that this was a good choice. The area in front of the stages is concrete, so one needs to take care not to fall down. The concrete doesn't turn into mud though and although it didn't rain this year, I imagine the concrete is actually preferable when the weather isn't very good. One final thing worth mentioning about the stages was that there was a special terrace above the ordinary space for the audience. This was great as it allowed for people who were tired to go up there and chill out while still being in front of the stage and enjoying the show.
Beer. Yes, it is true what you heard - beer is only 1 EUR a pint at Brutal Assault. This obviously meant that there were a lot of passed out people at the festival and in surrounding areas but come on, a metal festival needs beer and lots of it and Brutal Assault delivered in this aspect. It would have been nice if there was some kind of currency exchange office on the site though. But I digress - the beer was pretty good (Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquel) and the people with whom I drank it with were great. One always finds all kinds of freaks at metal festivals but without a doubt, Brutal Assault takes the prize for craziest people from all the fests I've been to.
Anyway, let us move on to a short summary of some of the great music I got to hear. I wasn't able to see every single band and not all were worth mentioning, but here are some of the highlights:
Sadus was the first band that I wanted to see on Day 1 of Brutal Assault and their Sodom-inspired music was the perfect way to get things going. Rotting Christ were up next and at least in the beginning of their show, they were insanely impressive with their own brand of Greek black metal played at high speed. With this said, it seems that the band is more in their element when blasting along than when playing slower material and sadly, their Brutal Assault setlist favored the latter kind of music. I felt that said setlist was a miss and the show left me disappointed. Madball then brought back some of that aggressive spark back with their typical NYHC attack dominated by strong screaming courtesy of vocalist Freddy Circien. Those who have already seen Agnostic Front or Sick Of It All live would probably have been slightly disappointed with Madball; however, their injection of hardcore into this day's repertoire was much needed and therefore very well received by the audience.
After this show, I quickly went over to the beer tents in order to avoid Pain, a band I can't stand and had no interest in seeing live at all. I made a good decision too, since the music reaching me from afar while sipping beer sounded terrible. I was instead looking forward to seeing Biohazard live and they didn't disappoint. The band is considerably slower than what is the norm at Brutal Assault; however, one can't just hear blastbeats all day long and not get bored, right? For this reason, Biohazard was a well needed change of pace and the fact that they delivered a tight performance with a lot of old hits only increased my enjoyment of the show.
Cynic was supposed to play after Biohazard; however, due to some technical difficulties, Brutal Truth took the stage instead. Frankly, this schedule switch worked out for the best since Brutal Truth's insane grindcore went well after Biohazard's hardcore attack. Besides, Brutal Truth easily played one of the best shows of the festival, one of those shows that will remain lodged in my memory in spite of having lackluster sound. Kevin Sharp and the other guys simply destroyed the audience with their chaotic brutality, the energy was tangible, the music catchy and the growls inhuman. At one point, a disabled fan was allowed to go onto the stage and he started moshing right there in his wheelchair. Truly, a moment to remember.
The night ended with Mithras, followed by Cynic. Once again, this was a good schedule switch since Mithras' surprisingly psychedelic brand of death metal flowed really well into Cynic's full-on progressive approach. Mithras was probably the biggest surprise for me since I find their albums to be fairly boring. Nevertheless, live this band is an entirely different entity. Fast and brutal beyond belief and yet interesting and even avant garde. The sound was crystal-clear as well, making this one of the highlights of the entire festival. The extremity of Mithras also clearly made a lot of people tired and so it was fitting that the laid-back Cynic ended the day with a relaxed show that allowed for the audience to chill out. After all this, it was easy to go back to the tent and happily pass out after the long day.
The first band I wanted to check out on Day 2 was Obscura. Their music wasn't really as heavy and aggressive as many of the other bands gracing the stage of Brutal Assault; however, everybody was there to check out Jeroen's bass playing anyway. And from this point of view, the band certainly did not disappoint. Meanwhile, Grave brought us back to some more traditional death metal. The band had a lot of power live; however, otherwise their show was fairly run of the mill.
Sadly, the same can be said about Atheist and Pestilence (Dagoba cancelled). Both bands were obviously having fun on stage; however, their performance didn't really impress me that much. It was definitely passable death metal but nothing special. I've seen Atheist before and they were far better back then, in Brutal Assault they lacked the famous ease and improvisational approach to music that previously attracted me to their shows. Pestilence was similarly somewhat contrived, although their show had more energy.
Luckily, Brujeria was the polar opposite. Their music was as simplistic as possible but it was performed with a lot of humor and a clear sense that the musicians were all enjoying themselves. Considering this lineup included Jeff Walker and Shane Embury, its not difficult to imagine why the performance was good. The two vocalists were also extremely fun to watch, particularly Juan Brujo who paraded the scene with a machete. Opeth followed and hey, it's Opeth. They play every single festival under the sun so you should all know what to expect by now.
A lot of people came to Brutal Assault only to see Testament and these people were certainly happy when the band finally burst into their set of songs seemingly hand-crafted for this brutal event (as no ballads were performed). Fans were happy but I was left rather unimpressed. The energy seemed too rehearsed with the musicians walking around and posing for photographs on stage. Moreover, the sound was terrible with the trebles so painfully high that even my earplugs couldn't protect me from them fully.
After Testament, we finally got to see the single non-extreme band on the bill ie. Ulver. Let me tell you, as far as I'm concerned, this was by far the best show of the entire festival and indeed one of my favorite live experiences overall. Ulver might not be extreme when using the traditional metal definition of the term; however, when it comes to actually causing shock and discomfort to the audience, there is no better band. The ubiquitous film montage presented behind the band was similarly jarring and powerful (amusingly, it displayed the message "Forgive us" for 5 minutes before the show). Needless to say, Ulver was an absolute hit and in a way, the only truly extreme band to perform in Brutal Assault. The day was the finished off by Dark Funeral, which is really only notable for how ridiculous the musicians looked in their necro battle armor.
I was tired on Day 3. For this reason, the first band that I really paid attention to was Anaal Nathrakh and boy am I glad I woke from my slumber at this point! Probably the fastest and most ridiculously aggressive band on the bill, Anaal Nathrakh definitely became one of my favorite black metal bands to see live. The clean vocals didn't sound as impressive as the insane growls and screeches; however, that didn't prevent this from being another huge highlight of Brutal Assault. Atrox was another positive surprise since they were one of those bands that mixed different styles together, mixing somewhat sludgy stuff with pure death metal.
Two of the biggest stars of the festival were up next. First, we had Suffocation and they were essentially perfect live. The sound needs to be mentioned since it was exquisite - heavy, dynamic, yet pristinely clear. The band's performance was not as good but I don't think anybody would disagree with me if I said that the overpowering sound more than made up for the sometimes apparent lack of energy on stage. Immortal was the opposite. The band had plenty of energy and were also having plenty of fun (you know, of the cold, constipated and grim variety) and this more than made up for their somewhat thin sound.
The night was finished off by Marduk playing an entirely forgettable set of songs and finally Skepticism, the final great highlight of the festival. Seriously, I needed something slower after 3 days of almost exclusively blastbeat driven music. Skepticism fulfilled this need and surpassed my expectations of how much fun a funeral doom show can be. It was a strange but ultimately fitting coda to an over saturation of extremity.
So there we have it. This was my first experience with Brutal Assault and I have to say I enjoyed it thoroughly, small gripes mentioned earlier notwithstanding. The people were great, the atmosphere was terrific and the music by and large very good. I had a great time, drank rivers of beer and will certainly return next year. Hopefully with a bigger team so that we can cover every single band and generally have more time to experience the whole thing. I recommend this festival to fans of extreme music since the lineup is great and the organization above average. Hope to see some more Metal Stormers there next year!
Thanks to Schizmo for everything. And also, a special thanks to my brother Michael for taking the pictures!!!
||Written on 03.09.2009 by With Metal Storm since 2002, jupitreas has been subjecting the masses to his reviews for quite a while now. He lives in Warsaw, Poland, where he does his best to avoid prosecution for being so cool.|
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