[Live Report] Ghostfest South 2015 @ Motions (Bristol) From Oathbreaker to Emmure

The Ghostfest, a hardcore/deathcore festival was celebrating his tenth anniversary this year, and won’t probably be happen again for some time, which might be a good idea. For a festival that has been around for so long, you would expect some basic rules to be respected, like putting the schedule time for each stage on each doors, or distributing some kind of program. Most people have access to the internet on their phones, but you should not have to rely on this to know when and where the next band is playing. Also, if you have two stage next to each other, never having one play at the same time as the other should be a basic rule, but it was not respected for the later part of the day (from 16:45 to the rest of the day). If the organizer decides to have another go with this festival, they should think of respecting these two rules, it would be very appreciated.

Thankfully, not everything was bad, and in fact most of it went pretty well apart from these two major mistakes. Security was very nice and the sound quality was consistent throughout the day. As for the artists, the performances were mostly good, but being able to play your instrument properly does not mean you’re playing something good, as I’m going to explain.

ghostfest line up

The first band I saw when I arrived was Make Them Suffer and it’s a mission statement… well, mission accomplished! Playing some sort of beatdown with two guitars and having a bass overpower the rest is an impressive feat but it also means that your riffs are not unrecognizable from one another. The same could not be said about Nasty, even if they play an even simpler still of beatdown. With song titles like Look me in the eyes, fuck you, you can tell that subtlety is not on the order of the day. Never mind the intelligence, Nasty are the perfect example of what can be great about beatdown. Groovy, danceable and capable of provoking the kind of ninja moves you have dreamed of seeing after watching some Guerilla Warfare videos.

Oathbreaker was up next. Smart, unpredictable, difficult, the complete opposite of Nasty for all the good reasons. Many had praised the quality of their live performance so I was prepare to be impressed but not as much as I was. These Belgians have taken some excellent lessons from AmenRa, early Young and in the Way and Converge. Definitely one of the best dark hardcore band at the moment and a ton of personality. The same can also be said about Turnstile except the part about being dark. Turnstile offers the kind of unforgettable performance you want to witness, take part of and bring your friends to. Joyful, energetic, positive, communicative, there are too many adjectives to describe this band and none of them are negative. It doesn’t matter if the singer barely sings since he always throws the mic in the crowd when he is backed by a fantastic band (and one of the grooviest drummer in hardcore at the moment) and when he concludes the show by carrying a young fan on-stage to sing the last lines of Death grip with the band. The two best shows of the festival.

It was now time to endure a lot of bad shows. Rise of the Northstar was next and I realized while watching them that they were they Pleymo of this generation. Generic manga references, badly rapped lyrics, awfully repetitive riffs… They were probably continue to get bigger until their fan bases grows up and forgets all about them.

If you had told me ten years ago that bands mixing Meshuggah and Cynic would be awful I would have laughed in your face, but when these two bands are mixed together by Born of Osiris they end up sounding like the worst idea anyone could have for a metal band… well, almost, as we will see later on.

Desolated seems to be huge over there but their metal take on beatdown hardcore is so formulaic that you could fall to sleep listening to it. They seem to have listened to some good bands since their bass player wore a Dismember shirt and that they stole their intro from Obituary‘s Redneck stomp but a good collection of albums does not make a good band and they sadly proved it too well.

Heart of a Coward reminded me of all the metalcore band that could out around the same time as As I Lay Dying, Killswitch Engage or Caliban. Their singer is very good at alternating between singing and screaming and all of the musicians know what they are doing, but no songs stands out from the collection of tunes they play.

Oceano on the other hand is a band I don’t understand. They don’t seem to play any song but just a collection of down tuned riffs with some pig squeals on top. Maybe if you play their album slowly they could sound like SunnO)))? A very boring and uninteresting version of SunnO))) mind you, but it still would be better than… this.

Things finally started to become interesting again when Despised Icon began their set. The Canadian deathcore legends are now only doing select shows around the world but they are still as powerful as ever. Opening with two excellent cuts from arguably their best album, The ills of modern man, In the arms of perdition and A fractured hand followed by Warm blooded from their breakout album, The healing process, they re-introduced themselves with ease as the best deathcore band of the festival. Sadly, it was also time to see Xibalba lay down some damage in the next room. Even if the american are also expert in the art of moshing, the atmosphere in their show is considerably darker and more violent than for Despised Icon. Enemigo from their latest album and Cold are incredibly brutal and perfect for the most apt ninja of the pit to throw down their high kicks everywhere (particularly during the slowmo ending of Cold) while every other mosher waited patiently to start doing their thing again. Also, even if they claim to be a hardcore band, it’s hard not to look at their bassist and picture him playing in a doom band as he lays down some tight groove peacefully as the crowd was going wild. Truly a very original band. Sadly, it was again time to come back to Despised Icon and catch a couple of songs including the perfect closing duo with Day of mourning and MVP to offer a last chance to throw some windmills around. Hopefully, this won’t be the last we will see of these excellent musicians as they seem to enjoy quite a lot playing these sporadic tours and were all grinning to each other while playing.

It was now time for a break since all bands on all three stages had finished playing around the same time (again, what a strange and inappropriate scheduling for a festival). Only two bands were left to play: Crime In Stereo and Emmure. Crime in Stereo was first but only twenty people bothered to show up for their brand of emo in the vein of Jimmy Eat World. Then, once Emmure started, ten left leaving a handful of people to watch what was supposed to be a headliner. A very strange choice for a festival full of mosh heavy bands.

As for Emmure, well… after having endured their whole set, I can now say that this is truly thing the second coming of Limp Bizkit, but only worse. To think that a band whose crowd-pleaser is called after a Dave Chappelle skit making fun of tough guy attitude (When keeping it real goes wrong) shows how much lack of irony and self-reflection has. Again, it’s also a band who performs with a straight face a song called Drug dealer friend where the crowd screams back to the band « I want to watch you suck his kid » without even thinking that this might be interpreted as quite homoerotic. To sum things up, Emmure is the equivalent of ignorant rap (see the definition of the genre by comedian Ron Funches). A collection of lazily written songs about the same things: Showing how tough you are, how much weed you smoke and how much better than « your enemies » you are.

After so much fake tough guy attitude in one day, it was a good time for me to leave and after Hatebreed played Empty promises, a song from their only good album, Satisfaction is the death of desire. Having heard the only songs I was going to enjoy, I left with no regrets reflecting on how much I could hate moshcore bands and pseudo macho bullshit and reminiscing on how good Oathbreaker and Turnstile were. I mostly had a good time and mostly everyone at the festival was very friendly but if Ghostfest intends to come back I hope they will make an effort to set up their schedule better and offer a more diverse set of bands. Even if the festival was solidly attended, it was too easy to move during bands which left the impression that it was far from sold-out, which explains why there won’t be a new Ghostfest next year.

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