UK Deathfest 2022
|UK Deathfest 2022
While Bloodstock has been the highlight of my summer and festival calendar for much of the past decade, this has changed since the UK was unveiled as the latest location to host a Deathfest way back in 2019. Originally slated to take place for the first time in 2020, for some unknown reason it was postponed twice (answers on a postcard as to why), ultimately arriving two years later than planned. A stacked line-up, featuring rare appearances on UK shores from some bands and final UK appearances from some others, meant I bought my ticket nigh-on immediately all those years ago.
Much like Incineration Festival, UK Deathfest took place in Camden, London, though this time only across three venues (Electric Ballroom, The Underworld and The Black Heart). This meant that attendees had all the amenities of the local area, and could easily pop between stages while making the most of local bars and restaurants (as well as local shops and markets, if that was your proclivity).
With the sad news that this will likely be the only edition of Deathfest in the UK, it also signalled the probable end of Deathfest events outside of America (should the promoter’s social media be believed), to the disappointment of metalheads this side of the Atlantic. While it would be easy to lament the loss of another festival, it spurred me on to make the most of this unique opportunity, and to gorge myself on a veritable feast of metal.
Table Of Contents
A festival with air conditioning? Sign me up! After Sunstock a few weeks ago, the chance to enjoy some metal bands in a climate that didn’t resemble the sun became oh so much more alluring each day. Initially intended as a two-day affair, a bonus half-day was added to the Friday of the festival in 2021 to help welcome back live music prior to the second postponement, and was retained for when the festival actually happened. For a bonus day (at no added expense, no less), Friday offered up a strong run of bands that would have made it worth attending even if it did cost extra.
Morta Skuld 15:20-16:05, Electric Ballroom
Skulding hot? No, thanks to air conditioning!
Striding out to the stage with no introductions or fancy entrances, Morta Skuld kicked off proceedings by getting straight to the razor-sharp point; the audience wanted extreme music, and the band were more than happy to oblige. Although sound was iffy to begin with, with a drum and bass combo drowning everything else out, it was sorted out as the band hit their stride a few songs in, and it really did kick things up a notch. Packing in classics like “Rotting Ways” And “Useless To Mankind”, the band were on fire, with new material like “Deadweight” and “Extreme Tolerance” showing a purpose and power missing from their studio versions.
Cancer 16:20-17:10, Electric Ballroom
Where I thought Morta Skuld were solid, Cancer took the bar and raised it several notches. Beneficiaries of a strong sound throughout, the band tore through a setlist littered with hits that read like a list of hidden death metal gems. Although Walker was incomprehensible between songs, he aced his vocals, ensuring that tracks like “Ballcutter” (which I overheard someone in the audience suggest was named after a papercut to a certain body part… ouch) and “Hung, Drawn and Quartered” ranked amongst the best performances of the weekend.
Vomitory 17:40-18:35, Electric Ballroom
Clean-up on aisle… everywhere
While the band sounded great during the soundcheck, as soon as the show started, it went to crap. The poor sound and regular feedback issues hindered the set massively - vomit-inducing? More migraine-inducing. Alas, this meant the band couldn’t settle into a groove as hard as they were clearly trying to. Even the great “Terrorize, Brutalize, Sodomize” couldn’t overcome the handicap the poor live sound had on their set; it was so bad that I left early.
Fleshcrawl 18:35-19:20, The Underworld
Dragging myself away from Vomitory was easier than it should have been, thanks to the sound issues. This aberration was corrected by Fleshcrawl’s dirty and distorted metal, with “Lost In This Grave” and “Flesh Bloody Flesh” being highlights of the band’s short but oh-so-sweet show. Fleshcrawl took their opportunity and ran with it; hitting hard and hitting fast, they tore through a set like a band possessed, which only heightened the enjoyment for those in attendance.
Immolation 19:20-20:10, Electric Ballroom
How does his hair not get caught in his bass?
While Immolation escaped the worst of the sound issues that plagued Vomitory, they did have to deal with a sterile and, dare I say, safe sound. Thought all was audible, it felt like a CD was being played at you rather than a warts-and-all live performance, lacking the element of danger. The band were nevertheless tight, and cuts from their latest album slotted into the set right next to the classics, with “Blazed” and “Act Of God” sounding more like established classics rather than obligatory inclusions of new tracks.
Memoriam 20:10-20:50, The Underworld
I still remember
After their strong showing at Hammerfest 2022, I was eager to see this group yet again. Bursting out of the gates with “Undefeated”, Memoriam kept the hits a-rolling and didn’t look back. The genuine happiness for being on the stage emanated from Willets, who welcomed a roll call of members from earlier bands for a bow and hug on stage. While the band could have done with being at the Ballroom, they ensured that the Underworld was packed out, and drew those at the back into the thrall.
Gorgoroth 20:45-21:45, Electric Ballroom
Aww, I was expecting Gorgonites
Granted, this was more of a checklist band than a must-see for me; while I enjoy Gorgoroth’s music, I’m not the biggest fan. However, I found them to be surprisingly enthralling, even with the stage show basically being ‘stand relatively still and look menacing’. The band locked into a groove and hammered it home, thanks to solid renditions of “Revelation Of Doom” and “Cleansing Fire”.
There appeared to be a large contingent of people who wanted to be seen watching Gorgoroth rather than actually wanting to see them, with a sizeable contingent prioritizing selfies or even livestreaming the show. Yes, I’m aware that I am saying this while writing a review about my experience seeing the show (which I saw and you didn’t, ner ner); however, without sounding elitist, I wanted to enjoy the band more than to be able to say I was there. Thought it didn’t hamper the experience too much, it felt odd being surrounded by phones aimed at the beholder rather than at the stage.
With the queue to get into the Black Heart packed (looking like I would have to have left Gorgoroth early, which was never going to happen), I decided to skip the two bands playing there and call it a night. While finishing before 10 pm felt odd, I had gotten my fill and then some, thanks to a stacked line-up. Returning to my hotel after a brief detour to the local pub, UK Deathfest had started on a high note, and one I was eager to see if it could match again tomorrow.
Either I’m getting old, or the convenience of waking up in a hotel room rather than a tent is growing on me. While I mulled over whether it was the beginnings of middle age, or mere appreciation of having amenities available without a queue, I ventured forth to the day’s entertainment. Saturday was the day that was worth the price of admission to the weekend alone, with abrely a moment to spare, such was the packed line-up.
Internment 15:15-16:00, Electric Ballroom
That poor intern never saw it coming
Fuzzy, overdriven Entombed worship: what more could you ask for? While it got samey at points, the headbang-along moments in tracks like “Eternal Darkness” and “Torn From The Grave” more than made up for it, and the band were solid. The crowd were electric from the start, eager to get the day off on a strong foot, with mosh pits breaking out soon after the band roared into life.
Massacre 16:25-17:10, Electric Ballroom
Old school death metal done right, and creators of one of the finest albums in the genre in From Beyond, Massacre were highly anticipated by me and many in the audience. Solid and hard-hitting from the off, the band mixed in newer tracks like “Book Of The Dead” next to set pieces like “Dawn Of Eternity”, along with a surprising rendition of “Blitzkrieg Bop”. Though the vocals were buried a bit in the mix, Lee had the audience in the palm of his hand, be it to orchestrate a mosh pit or to talk between songs.
Damim 17:15-17:50, Black Heart
A band I’ve heard of before, but never listened to, I decided on the spur of the moment to pop into the Black Heart to see what they were all about. It turns out I had made a solid choice in seeing Damim, whose blackened thrash hit the spot perfectly and who had a perfect sound throughout their short set, elevating songs like “In A Language They Understand”. With a razor-sharp bass courtesy of Perez, the band tore through 30 minutes in a blink-and-you-miss-it pace. I shall certainly keep my eye out for this band going forward, would recommend.
Infest 17:50-18:35, Electric Ballroom
Grind bands thrive on chaos and fury; Infest certainly had a lot of the former, while the mosh-eager crowd provided the latter. For some reason, though, the band never connected with me; even as they tore through all their classics, such as “Mankind”, they knocked on the door but couldn’t break into my attention. It was still an enjoyable sight seeing the audience lose their minds in a sea of hair, flailing limbs and black shirts.
Lik (SWE) 18:35-19:15, The Underworld
Lik it up
Playing to a packed-out Underworld, Lik (SWE) were clearly on everyone’s must-see lists. Continuing the Entombed worship, Lik (SWE) showed why they were one of the best bands in that vein, with tracks like “Deranged” and “Corrosive Survival” among the best tracks Entombed never wrote. The group were on fine form and certainly earned the step up to a bigger stage since they were last in the capital; hopefully the Swedes will become regulars to these shores, as they certainly knew how to whip the audience into a frenzy.
Nuclear Assault 19:15-20:10, Electric Ballroom
Assaulting the senses
As a self-confessed thrashaholic, I was in heaven for the hour (having started early) that Nuclear Assault were on stage. The band I was most looking forward to delivered and then some, with only two short stoppages due to technical difficulties seeing them ease up from full-throttle thrash. Compiling the best cuts from their first three records and EP, they treated a packed-out house to the best of the best, as the searing “Sin” and “Critical Mass” sat next to the still-funny “Butt Fuck”. It’s a shame that Nuclear Assault never pushed on from Handle With Care; with a live show like this, they should have had a more illustrious career than they ended up with. Still, I am glad I got to see Nuclear Assault one more time: easily one of the highlights of the weekend.
Autopsy 20:45-21:45, Electric Ballroom
A one-two of Nuclear Assault and Autopsy? Sign me the hell up! Stomping out onto the stage with the opening “In The Grip Of Winter”, Autopsy treated the audience to one of the finest signings Peaceville Records ever made, with a setlist spanning their hits, as well as a taster in the form of “Maggots In The Mirror” from their upcoming albumin Mobility Triumphant. Hard-hitting and bulldozing the audience with their seemingly effortless grooves, Autopsy signed off a day that put the Friday in its shadow, capping off a day of back-to-back runs through some of the best that extreme metal has to offer.
With the queue to get into the Black Heart once again large, I decided to savour the memories of the bludgeoning that Autopsy just doled out and headed home to catch Match Of The Day. A solid day overall, and one that exceeded expectations for sure, thanks to solid performances from a packed-out line-up.
The Third and final day already? It’s the way with festivals that, just as you are getting into the mood of immersing yourself in the glut of music on offer, things start drawing to a close. While it’s easy to feel a bit melancholic about this, you should instead take it as a motive to go out and savour each and every remaining moment there is. As a result of this, I ensured I headed down and caught the first band on, even though, truth be told, the Sunday had the weakest line-up for me personally.
10 Plagues 14:35-15:15, Underworld
I had no idea who 10 Plagues were, since they were a last-minute replacement a few days before the festival began. Still, sometimes jumping in blind can lead you to discover your next favourite thing. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case here, with the band (head)banging their head against a wall trying to connect with the sparse crowd without having the songs to back it up, with much of the set sounding like generic death metal.
Avsult 15:15-16:00, Electric Ballroom
‘av slut? Don’t mind if I do!
While the band seemed lost on such a large stage, they were decent, and one left with a good lasting impression, even though I wasn’t overly familiar with their material. While much of the audience had yet to materialize, those who turned up were eager to mosh, and Avslut were more than happy to provide the ideal soundtrack to inspire mosh pits.
Decrepid 16:00-16:40, The Underworld
My achy bones certainly feel that way
Unfortunately, this band were the victims of circumstance. Suffering from technical difficulties that hampered the first portion of their set, Decrepid were robbed of the impact that a second guitar offers. When that issue was eventually sorted, the crowd was already starting to ebb away, owing to a clash with Craft over in the Ballroom. Thus, those who left early were only witness to the band at half strength. Still, for those like I that remained, it was a solid showing, and I hope they get a chance to put on another performance without these constraints sooner rather than later.
Craft - …
What’s that? They opened up a Wendy’s in Camden? Excuse me for a moment…
Barshaketh 17:10-17:50, The Underworld
A short trip over to catch this group before leaving to claim a good spot for Benediction. I had no idea who Barshaketh were before seeing them, and I’m not overly in a rush to find out more after my brief stint watching them. Their blackened leanings were not to my tastes, and I found myself leaving earlier than originally planned.
Benediction 17:50-18:35, Electric Ballroom
A predilection for Benediction
It was only when pointed out by the returning Dave Ingram that I happened to witness Benediction’s last UK show with Hunt and their first festival show in the UK with Ingram back at the helm. Either way, Benediction were one of the must-sees of the weekend for me, and with the performance they put on, it wasn’t hard to understand why. With much of the set derived from the band’s latest album and the excellent Transcend The Rubicon, Benediction had the songs and sound to knock it out of the park, with “Nightfear”, “Progenitors Of A New Age” and “Unfound Mortality” moments that were seared into my brain.
The return of Ingram was also a delight, for his witty banter kept proceedings light-hearted and fun, such that the band kept the audience entertained on all fronts.
Birdflesh 18:35-19:10, The Underworld
Deep fried and served in a bucket
Comedic grindcore is a bigger genre than you would think, with Sweden’s Birdflesh one of its longest-serving bands. With the group balancing wackiness with a solid live performance, it was a good show, albeit one constrained by the limitations of the band’s stylings. It killed time and brought about a good few laughs, so I got my time’s worth for sure.
Sacramentum 19:10-20:05, Electric Ballroom
Romeo, Romeo, where art thou? Have ye gone for a pint in Camden Town?
I was looking forward to Sacramentum, but it wasn’t long into the set before that initial enthusiasm turned into stifled laughter, as I witnessed what was onstage. I don’t know if Nisse Karlén aspires to be a Shakespearean actor, but the way he over-emoted constantly throughout the set turned what I think was supposed to be satanic grandiosity into a comedy show. While the rest of the band were solid, they were unable to draw my attention away from Karlén’s antics, even when tearing through “Fog’s Kiss”. It seemed the promoters miscalculated the band’s appeal also, with them playing to a surprisingly sparse crowd (particularly for a subheadling) when only Liquid Shit (I shit you not) were clashing with them.
Thanatos 20:00-20:45, Underworld
Lords of the Underworld
This was their last UK show and penultimate show, so of course I loved every minute of the band I’d never see again *sigh*. Thanatos could at least say they went out on a high in the UK, playing to a packed-out Underworld that hung onto every note torn from the guitars with precision and aggression. Old school Dutch death metal is an overlooked genre, with the thrash-based stylings of Thanatos being one of the most criminally underrated bands of the lot. Even if it’s seemingly too little too late, the group ensured that those at the Underworld knew what they would be missing.
Hellhammer/Triumph Of Death 20:45-21:45, Electric Ballroom
Welcome to Hell… UGH
Alongside Mercyful Fate, Triumph Of Death (Tom G Warrior’s tribute/excuse to play Hellhammer material) were (an incarnation of) a band I thought I’d never get to see. With arrior walking out to a hero’s welcome, Triumph Of Death let the music to the talking for the most part, with audience interaction kept to a minimum. Every track had new life breathed into it in the live setting; “Messiah” and “Blood Insanity” were the highlights of a set of wall-to-wall classics. With Warrior’s oft-used “Ugh!” becoming an instant meme with the audience, the brief moments in between the band launching into songs were met with a cacophony of “Ugh’s!” from the crowd, which was the icing on the cake for a great show.
While my plan to be a glutton for live music on the final day didn’t reward me the way I had hoped for, it was more than made up for by stellar showings from Benediction, Thanatos and Hellhammer/Triumph Of Death. Still, I could say it wasn’t for a lack of trying that I didn’t unearth a diamond in the rough; with tat said, I can say I had a fun time, courtesy of Birdflesh and Sacramentum’s (inadvertent, in the latter’s case) comedy value.
It is a big shame that the promoters don’t intend on continuing outside of America, as I can say UK Deathfest was the festival of the year for me (thus far, stay tuned), and one I’d be eager to return to should it make a comeback. With all bar 1 or 2 bands putting in top-tier performances, it was an incredibly consistent festival that mixed in new discoveries with some must-see acts and returning heroes.
With summer festival season drawing to a close, it’s time to go back to the real world once more… until winter festival season starts up, at least.
|Written on 28.09.2022 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.
Comments: 4 Visited by: 45 users
A Nice Guy
Hits total: 1678 | This month: 13