Summer. A different time of year for everyone on the planet. You get to pack it up and leave to a place of your liking without worries. Well, place of your liking AND financially realistic nowadays. My pick was (obviously) The Brutal Assault festival, held at Josefov Fortress in the town of Jaroměř in Czech Republic, a peculiar little town in the middle of nowhere, but also a town that’s grown very close to our hearts due to sheer awesomeness of the festival and everything involved.
The trek started a day before. With more than a few things playing out differently (as in, improved) in my life compared to last year, the hype for this event was immense. Wanting to get a full night’s sleep before the show kicked off, my friends and I arrived at Hradec Králové, about 20ish km to the south, on Tuesday in the late afternoon. Being aware of the weather conditions in Europe, which was basically just blazing sun all day every day, we channeled some memories of the previous times at this place. So yeah, this had potential to be another one in the history books.
There was no time to waste right from the word go, as there was some amazing acts lined up already. The train tracks from our residence to the town were being repaired so the organizers set up shuttle busses which would take us as close as possible to the center stage. The wristband claiming procedure was like clockwork and it seems that, after numerous experiments, the cashless payment option is here to stay, especially since you can always “top up” using a credit card on the specialized app, making queues a thing of the past. Having completed all the administrative work that kept me out the fortress walls, I notched down my first band of the event, Steve ‘N’ Seagulls, a merry bunch by all criteria, performing blueglass covers of popular rock/metal songs. Fun as it may be, I made haste to the press area where my interview would take place.
A crackling sound spreads out all across the infant Oriental Stage, as new faces of Sludge Metal, Kurokuma, started their show. Holding nothing behind, these three young men delivered an explosion of energy and raw riffs. Their delving into the psychedelic was evident and painted a great picture. Certainly a revelation! My next band in line was Toxic Holocaust, very conveniently scheduled, for me at least, before the place would be packed. It was then time for some, well, call it experimentation, as I saw Czech alt metal band Lvmen, who managed to completely fill the niche that remained on me, after the previous (types of) performances. My choice in the matter was further simplified as somewhere else, Cannibal Corpse were doing what Cannibal Corpse do, be bland and uneventful!
Already very satisfied by the quality of the bands I’ve seen thus far, the program was far from over and it was time for the juggernauts of the scene to step up to the plate. First, Gojira returned and delivered a solid show, which was surprising given their lack of intensity in their previous appearances here. At first I thought it was just me, but then more than a few people agreed with my sentiments, so I guess you can call that a win-win. Lastly, the legendary Paradise Lost were scheduled to play. A band of such history, tons of small and big concerts under their belts, a plethora of genres spread out through their discography, it would seem as though members of Paradise Lost keep reinventing themselves. Perhaps their performances on “really big” stages fit them less well than small, intimate venues but these gentlemen could bang two rocks together and it would sound amazing, despite my disagreeing with their particular setlist of the night. It would also mark the end of day 1, as we headed back to our base to recuperate!
Without a significant change in the weather forecast (i.e. no changes), this day promised to deliver more of the same. Our optimistic scheduling went down the drain, and so the first act of the day ended up being Mortiis, on the yet another recently established stage, called Metalgate. Unfortunately, the combination of severe heat under the huge tent and overall lack of atmosphere (due to said heat) made us get away much before the end but not too far as Pallbearer would get to play on the same stage soon. Pallbearer would end up doing a bit more to move the crowd and we would eventually want to catch the back end of Dying Fetus’s show.
Following the end of that one, we decided to take a wee bit of a break to be able to prepare for the (last minute addition) Moonspell show. Immediately after the beginning, there was something really good and something really bad about this. The really good bit was the sound quality. I’ve been coming here for many years and every time there had to be at least a fair amount of skepticism surrounding the sound. We’ve seen it happen to many good bands in the past, it happened to Ensiferum, it happened to Children of Bodom, In Flames etc. but not tonight and not this year, Moonspell sounded absolutely great. The bad part? Fernando’s voice, sadly. Unfortunately, he was clearly ill and/or unprepared so any attempts of him doing anything resembling harsh vocals sounded really cringe worthy. Damn shame, because otherwise that was probably the best I’ve heard Moonspell sound in years!
The bad taste in the mouth or so to speak, was luckily short lived, as the fortress and everyone in it would end up witnessing what might just be one of the greatest shows by one of the most underappreciated bands in the history of music. I am of course talking about the attraction called Laibach! Originating from former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia in 1980, they have established so many trends in music, they have influenced so many acts, I mean even Rammstein admitted they have (shamelessly if I may add) stolen Laibach’s gimmick. Controversial and disputed, they have always moved the barriers and now they have reached a new one: playing at a festival comprising almost exclusively extreme metal acts. Their sound, albeit not technically fitting the bill, was a straight home run! The power of the instruments, the vocals, the scenes on the big screen behind them, all conveyed a singular message: Tanz Mit Laibach!
However, this kind of performance kind of took its toll so even though the lineup for the day was not over, we called it a day soon after the opening of Converge, who have long since elevated all Core to a new level and are pretty much regulars at this event!
There’s been a U turn when it comes to weather during the night so the following morning brought a much more relaxed outlook. Half the festival was done but the hype was certainly still very much up there despite the lineup being just a tad disproportional. Ever the brutally charming Pestilence shook up the place but I really wish they were bumped later in the schedule. Then there was a bit of a gap in our plans, and it would be a while before we would see At The Gates! This legendary band with a VERY turbulent career has fortunately returned to the fortress, bringing with them some of the older craft.
Which was good for them but not good for the likes of Ministry. I really can’t stress this enough but there has to be time when a band must learn, or rather, should learn the limits of their creative endeavors. For Ministry though, I am of the opinion that their time has passed a fair bit ago and they are on proverbial life support. Kinda like Jason Voorhees, they just refuse to die. Their obsession with political commentary is unmovable at best, especially since there are many bands who do it better at this point!
This disappointment though had a short span because another one for the ages was about to unfold. Love them or hate them for the change of style, Behemoth are a serious force. With the sound quality still very much amazing, my worries that I might not be able to hear them properly were blown away! It was nothing short of spectacular. The adrenaline rush carried over a bit into Carpathian Forest, which was a nice way to end day 3!
At this point it’s usual that everyone’s on their last legs, we have seen so much, we have done so much. Hell, we have drank so much, it’s been a good holiday option and we’re gonna wrap it up with a bang, or so help me! But before that, please if everyone watched Akercocke, let me know. Their set was scheduled way too early for me to catch!
Anyway, arriving sometime before Belphegor would begin, there really wasn’t a sign of tiredness on anyone. It was clear that everyone had the same in mind as we did. The same would apply for everyone who watched Pain of Salvation, which I suppose may have been an odd choice but it worked well, they have some amazing stuff. I then tried and succeeded in meeting up with some old friends from previous festivals and we even got to see most of what is currently known as Sepultura. The story of this name can fit in a book, given the amount of just about everything that’s been going on since the mid 80s. I was actually pleasantly surprised. As you know, the Cavalera brothers are not a part of this for quite a while now but the current lineup, including some relatively new guys did a fine job!
Another blast from the past was in the form of Danzig and boy was that a sight. Glenn Danzig, who is the, well, mother and father of all this, is still writing music. He’s also producing music and apparently, he makes erotic comic books if that’s interesting to anyone. His band though, nothing short of stellar. They were on point, very much in sync and if there was anyone else singing, this would be a really really REALLY good show. But since Glenn Danzig is a person you can’t possibly take seriously anymore, it all fell a bit below par. His comments mid set that “we all play real instruments, there’s no playback or anything here etc..” unlike who exactly, Glenn? Unlike 100 other bands who I’m pretty sure all do THE EXACT SAME THING?! You there you have it, some really good music sung by a really irritating goofy old man, enough said.
But we weren’t losing steam. Next up were Wardruna, a completely new project formed by some really good musicians, in an attempt to bring back some of the Norse folk traditions of old. Truly an amazing concept on paper, but it just doesn’t fit on a metal festival stage. The sentiment was there, the atmosphere was there but they simply lacked what a live performance needs. This is great music, amazing choice to listen in your living room, but certainly not in a place like this.
A brief break and we returned to Brutal Assault tradition, having a Funeral Doom band perform a sending of the festival. This year the honor went to English veterans Esoteric who really made the most of the dwindling crowd but still excellent sound. Last on the list, and also the one I was very much waiting for, was Wiegedood! A new project by experienced musicians, members of different gatherers of the “Church of Ra”, this vicious, raw and intense display of post-black metal send shivers down my spine. Uncompromising and relentless, Wiegedood admittedly, delivered the “proper” sending of the festival!
Following the end of the show, I could feel the sadness enveloping me. While it was a great festival, it’s always hard to believe it’s over so soon and that it’s gonna be a whole year before all this again. The food and beer stands are all cleared and even the stages were starting to get dismantled. It was over and it was time to sail back. Regardless, we will be back in force!