Written By Sass_Metal, Photos by Luke Bateman, Luke Bateman Photo
If you were expecting a straight up review on how the bands were and how the crowd responds to them, I’m sorry you are in for something a bit different. This is the story of how a Heavy Metal kiwi travelled 26 hours and had THREE Tuesdays in three different countries, to get to a little beach side town on the south coast of England called Brighton, to a not so little festival, called Mammothfest.
My musical adventure in the UK started the Wednesday before the festival, in London at Black Heart in Camden, as Materia from Poland were playing, and I knew that the night they were playing the festival, I might not catch them, as the stages were running so tightly together, and one always needs food and water breaks too! I loved Materia’s live energy at the London show, and knew I would have to see them again at Mammothfest. In fact, I liked them so much, I had to head bang, even though I had been in the country just over 24 hours and my Jet lag hadn’t settled down. I had hoped by tiring myself out I would get a good night sleep, I did for 4 hours. In fact, before the festival, I had managed a whole 8 hours sleep since landing 3 days before hand. This night was also made all the more special, as I also got to meet the promoter of the London show and a label rep, who couldn’t stop raving about Mammothfest and how much fun I was going to have.
Traveling to Brighton, Friday morning, was probably my least adventurous travel journey to date in the UK, but that’s another story. Other than the boots I had worn over for my holiday falling apart the night before the festival, I managed to navigate my way to Brighton on very little sleep and no miss caught trains. I arrived in Brighton and found my way to the Hostel where all the bands and crew were staying, and where I had been put up with a few people who were also traveling solo, and where some of the crew were also staying. It was then I was greeted with a ‘Hi-Yay!’ and met my first new friend of the weekend, Vix. After unpacking and getting changed, I decided to wander down to the venue and have a look around before the insanity started, and what a welcome that was! Greeted by Paul Marshal, the band booker for the Friday night, who gave me a HUGE hug then yelled out to Steve the festival promoter who came over in awe, not believing I had made it (at that point neither could I!) Then Paul took me around the venue and introduced me to everyone, while we watched ROTTING CHRIST soundcheck. It was then it hit me, that I was on the other side of the world, and that in less than two hours the doors would be open, and the venues would be filling up with people from all the corners of the world – and that they did! I met people from Poland, Greece, Russia, Italy, Australia, South America and all the corners of the UK. It was then my grin became permanently attached to my face, and this welcoming theme of instant comradeship, family and metal brethren continued the whole weekend. I only managed to sit down once by myself for about two mins, early on the Saturday night, when I had to stand because I got asked about 15 times if I was ok in that time J
The venue – ‘The Arch’ is built into two arches under the main waterfront road, literally right on Brighton Beach, with the black interiors and concrete walls it was the perfect spot for a heavy metal takeover, complete with lovely ‘heavy metal venue toilets,’ which in my travels, seem to be a global thing! The venue, I thought was perfect, especially given its proximity to the beach – literally there was only a walkway separating the outside area of the venue to the beach, and it was the PERFECT spot for a breather between bands and conversations with bands and media alike. Even if the security were lacking in knowledge of how heavy metal crowds work, and had no clue on mosh pits, and tried to break up ‘fights’ or as we know them, mosh pits.
After meeting all the crew and some of the local bands, I meandered back to the hostel taking some of the sites of Brighton, filled with a mixture of excitement and fear and disbelief, that I had made it. After a quiet drink in the hostel, and a few deep breaths, I was on my way back to the festival, where the anxiety lifted pretty much as soon as I left the hostel and found myself surrounded by instruments and band members; quickly found myself at home all over again. Then, as I started walking towards the festival and saw the crowds of Black clothing, I knew I would have an amazing time. Which is probably the understatement of the century.
I was very excited to see the opening band of the festival, Vehement, as I was one of the few people who was able to review their new Album, Ashes before it came out (Ashes Review) and I was also given their expected set list and my favourite track from the album was on it – Tidal verse. The crowd was slow to start moving for Vehement, but given the early start time – 6pm, there was a very good crowd and it was the same sort of size early on the whole festival. Vehement’s atmospheric introduction ‘Carapace’ was the perfect way to start the festival, with the soaring guitars and ethereal vocals. Their banging finishing track ‘Tidal Verse’ was one of my favourite songs of the Friday night show. Vehement were the perfect opening band for the festival, combining energy and power and setting the scene for the Friday Black Metal Night so well.
Next it was up to the second stage for that stage’s opener. Most of the weekend I found myself enjoying the bands on the smaller stage a lot more than on the main stage. I hadn’t had a lot of time to check out the local UK bands before the festival, but I was excited for the opener on the 2nd stage Necronautical, and I wasn’t disappointed. Like most of the bands on the Friday night, they also provided a visual aspect to their performance, with corpse paint and by wearing military costumes, pyrotechnics on stage, and also performing with synchronised head banging. In terms of their music, my notes say: THOSE drums were SO TECHNICAL, and I have a suspicion this is going to be all of my notes, in terms of the music from the bands. I know I didn’t want to leave Necronautical, but the next band on the main stage, Infernal Sea was one I had been told to check out.
If I was impressed by the first two bands, Infernal Sea BLEW MY MIND! I’ve never seen a band and stage set up like they had. It was hard to see how many people were on stage, with the amount of smoke in the room, but on stage with the band, there were at least 3 men with plague masks and cloaks standing, still holding lamps, and with the band also in cloaks with either masks or corpse paint, it was very much a visual experience, as well as an audial one. In fact, this performance was one everyone kept coming back to in my discussions with people over the weekend as one that stuck with them, it has definitely stuck with me, and I made sure I saw them one more time in London, before I left with some of my friends, that I made at the festival. As I write this review, a week after, I’ve landed home and almost a month after the festival I can safely say that this set has still stuck in my mind as one of the most visually different and musically brutiful shows I’ve experienced in my life. I hope The Infernal Sea want to tour the world, because I would happily take them on tour!
After the Infernal Sea, I went to check out the merchandise desk and was again welcomed by Steve, who was helping the crew out on the Merch desk, as it was swamped by people. Steve very generously gave me some extra merch – I know my new beanie will be most welcomed when I travel back to the UK and Europe in January. It was then I saw they were also doing corpse face painting for a couple of quid, and by the end of the night, when Rotting Christ were on, seeing that mosh pit, with hundreds of painted corpse painted faces is something that will stick in my mind forever.
Heathen Deity were next up upstairs, and all my notes say ‘HEAD BANGED,’ so by this stage, the standing back and watching all of the bands, trying to be an impartial viewer wasn’t working. I do know that at one point on Friday, I was given a beer from one of the crew, so I assume this was one of those moments where I let myself go, feeling the music and let myself become part of the live ritual before me on stage, and what a ritual it was!
Tsjuder was up next on the main stage and they were straight into it, with the crowd finally getting more active, having said that I looked at the time and it was only 8pm, so it was still early and there were still three bands left to go. During their set, as I was walking around the crowd, so many people where grabbing me and hugging me and trying to get me to mosh, but I had used up the energy I had left for Heathen Deity and my jet lag and lack of sleep was starting to hit me hard.
Tsjuder are a 3 piece straight from hell, and if Satan suddenly appeared in the pit, he would have been at home in this pit of debauchery. It always amazes me when I see three pieces that are as loud as 5 or 6 piece bands, and Tsjuder made me think of the last time I had stood in front of a band so loud. That would have been Conan, last year in New Zealand. During their second song, I had found a perch next to one of the security guards on the stairs, close to the Merch desk, and FINALLY a mosh pit erupted, followed quickly by the security guard I was standing next to jumping into the pit, with his torch blaring, assumedly to break up ‘a fight’ which was something that occurred throughout the show, I guess as security staff changed shifts etc. Even by Sunday they were still trying to break up mosh pits. Back to Tsjuder… THOSE DRUMS (see told you!) it’s like SATAN was here, unleashed behind the kit. I started thinking of home and wishing that so many of my friends were here, because we have very few shows this brutal, dark and heavy back home, and I can only imagine what kind of damage my NZ Metal family and I could do in the pit, with these bands on stage.
Ethereal were the last band on the 2nd stage before Rotting Christ and all of my notes say the same for these bands playing this slot, before the headliners the whole festival – I wish they had more people for them, as I feel these three bands Ethereal, No Raza and CORE OF IO were some of the best three I saw over the course of the festival. Ethereal were the first band I got to talk to, and was part of a radio interview along with Chris Pullman, who became one of the people I spent most of the time with, between downtimes and after the shows, chatting or just generally around and about. Ethereal made me forget all about my fatigue, their energy on stage was like they were playing to a room larger than the one downstairs and the crowd they did have, they had them eating out of their hands – when they said jump the crowd jumped, they had them fist bumping and wind milling along with the band. Their last song ‘Wrecking Death’ had the best blast beats of the night, hands down.
Finally, it was time for Rotting Christ! I had the unusual experience of watching them from the mezzanine floor above the crowd, in the backstage band and media area, which was located above the main room in the rafters, and next to the second stage. I’m glad I had this spot though, as after Ethereal’s set, I was held up talking to the band and Chris, so there was no way I would have been able to see anything. From my vantage point upstairs, I could see that even the stairs were filled with people overflowing, and the barrier at the front had been pushed forward, with the photographers squished down the sides of the stage.
The whole venue downstairs was one GIANT sea of seething, jumping, heaving bodies, moving like a giant ocean, with two separate circle pits going, one at the back and one near the front. Immediately my eyes are drawn to the crowd, and I can see so many smiling faces, and immediately I know that THIS is the band that everyone came to see tonight. This is the largest circle pit I’ve seen all year, out of all the bands I’d seen up to this point, including Meshuggah, Kreator and Angelcorpse and looking at my clock, I’m blown away that it’s time for the headliner at 9.30pm, which was very much a culture shock, as in New Zealand maybe one or two of the support bands would have been on by 9.30, with the headliner on between 10.30-11.30.
I didn’t get to see all of Rotting Christ’s set, but what I did see was raw, fast, in your face, insanity and I’m pretty sure I was standing there with my mouth wide open, for at least one of their songs, as their raw intensity took me over. While I was wishing I was on the ground floor partaking in their ritual with them, I know with my jet lag, I wouldn’t have been able to keep myself standing, in the insanity that was that pit. (that’s if I had of been able to even push my way close enough to see anything!)
Ethereal were soon ready to chat to Chris, so I went outside with Chris and the band, and observed my first radio interview for the weekend. I learnt a lot about the industry in that conversation, and it’s one I’ve continued to have over the days since the festival, with both Chris and Ian, the guitarist from Ethereal. After our chat Ethereal gave both Chris and I a shirt and CD each, which I became so grateful for, mostly because after returning from traveling with Belphegor, I had no clean clothes left with me, while I was away. Ethereal’s release ‘Opus Uethereum’ is one of the best releases I’ve heard, ever and before I got home, it was on repeat on Spotify daily, and since I’ve been home, the physical CD has been living in my stereo.
I couldn’t stay this night for the after party, as at only 10.30 my body started shutting down, and I had the full on shakes from jet lag, it was then I was introduced to a friend of the promoters called Adam, who offered to walk me home, and we spent the walk talking about the bands I should check out over the weekend. I’m still very grateful for his presence, as with my extremely fatigued state of mind, I’m not sure I would have made it back to the hostel as directly as I did, I’ll also never forget that first British kebab you bought me, I’m grateful for the gesture but it was REVOLTING – I just remembered I owe you a drink still my brother! It was half consumed before I took a sleeping pill and finally got to sleep for about 6 hours (with the light on! I don’t remember who it was but someone in the hostel wanted it on and I was too tired to argue!) thankfully when the crew came back, they turned it off.