20 years of Brutal Assault at Fortress Josefov in Jaromer. Twenty years documented in an exhibition on the festival grounds were every line up and every mistake was documented as a critical look on what had been achieved and the ground that remains to be broken. Despite their name, the festival is still going strong and finding new converts from outside the Czech Republic and Poland. This year more french people could be seen as well as some Englishmen. With a lot of the previous years line up returning to the party, the international line up keeps getting better and this year was no exception to the rule. Hours of metal spread over four days with a varied bill going to the softness of Rome and Touché Amoré to the unreletting agression of Cryptopsy or Defeated Sanity. A perfect festival for an open mind.
First task to have a good time, get some festival money. The merch tables accept, and welcome euros, but to eat and drink on the ground of the festival you need some tokens. 32Kr for one, which translates to £0.8 or 1,18 Euros. Considering that most drinks are priced at 1 or 1,5 tokens and most food stands between 2 and 3 token, you won’t have to spend much to get drunk and leave with a full belly.
For a pre-fest day, the festival ground are surprisingly full of people but it’s also the first time that so many international bands are booked on that day. Most of the time, only one or two international act play on that day which was reserved for local bands. Now this pre-fest is just a shorter festival days with a lot of bands worthy of a headline spot on their own like Melechesh who are playing while I wait. The Danish fourtet play with a crystal clear song some excellent eastern influenced metal. Even if the bill is very varied, BA is still mostly a death metal festival so it’s quite welcome to hear some non occidental influences in their extreme metal. Even after arriving ten minutes late in the fourteen minutes set time, I am still queuing when Nuclear Assault arrives on stage. It has now become a rarity to see Dan Lilker (Brutal Truth) on stage but he does not disappoint accompanied with his cross-over brethren. Like the old bunch of punks they are, Nuclear Blast stumbles a bit but still nails most of their material with a good sense of humor going from Rise from the ashes and ending with Trail of tears along some classics such Hang the pope, Critical mass, Sin or Betrayal. As a side note, it was the first time that Nuclear Assault was playing at the Brutal Assault but it’s their name who inspired the choice of the organizer for this festival according to the panels at the exhibition.
I then switch to a less metal sound with Touché Amoré. According to frontman Jeremy Bolm, the band was very anxious to play here considering how un-metal they are (even if he got to meet one of his teenage idol, Max Cavelera). However, the sparse crowd grew bigger when they started playing as the power of their punkish screamo cannot be denied. Starting with the touching Amends, they quickly moved to some more frantic material like Art official or later Honest sleep. With Touché Amore, every song feels like an anthem and even the non-anglophone crowd could be heard singing the lyrics. With a large gap between the stage and the crowd, Bolm only went down to meet his peers during Honest sleep but he did with the same enthusiasm and happiness he express every time I see him on stage. A perfect set to start an otherwise very metal festival.
Moving on to Katatonia kept the mood mellow as the band proceeded in visiting the last ten years of their career from Viva emptiness to their latest, Dead end kings. The drumming and Jonas Renske‘s vocals are the strongest point here as the riffing is now synchronized so much with the rhythm that it feels very nu metal. Renske‘s voice also sounds a lot like Maynard James Keenan’s making Katatonia a kind of second rate A Perfect Circle. Still enjoyable and quite morose but a bit dull towards the end.
Still, the dullest point of the day was watching Max Cavalera trying to summon the metal gods by playing Arise and failing miserably. His voice is not as strong as it used to be but it’s his musicians who are far below the level of any era of Sepultura. As for his material in Soulfly, the tired thrash he tried to play goes nowhere near the brilliance of his old band’s material. It’s sad to say that I preferred he played some of the tribal nu metal from the beginning of Soulfly rather than the repetitive and muddy metal he started his set with. I didn’t stay to witness the rest so I won’t comment on the rest of his set as I left to prepare myself for the second day.