This year’s edition of the Desertfest was once again a fantastic edition but it wasn’t the only event of the weekend as two bands on their way to the Outbreak fest in Leeds were also playing in London, Higher Power and Incendiary. Choices had to be made and time had to be spread to accommodate both events but I managed to see every band I wanted to see. So, instead of doing a live report of the Desertfest only, I will talk about the five best performance of the festival and the sets from Higher Power and Incendiary that I managed to see at the Unicorn in-between Trouble and Godflesh. To read a full live-report of the Desertfest, go on The Heavy Chronicles to read my contribution to the website’s live report in both French and English.
Oranssi Pazuzu @ Electric Ballroom
Once Värähtelijä was released I became obsessed with the idea of seeing the finish quintet play material from their last album. However, as the date approached, I became painfully aware that it would be quite a feat to perform such an album live. I still made my way to the Electric Ballroom during Elder and found out that I had nothing to fear. Oranssi Pazuzu is one of a kind, a band that will influence many and stands apart from everything else. Although not every minute was as gripping, most of it was an intense bath of sound that resembled neither psychedelic rock nor black metal but something completely new. The subtleties of the album are a bit loss when every musician plays but the sum of their part is much greater than the minutia they contribute individually.
Monolord @ Koko
My colleagues had The Heavy Chronicles had proclaimed them « the new boy band of Doom » and truthfully this Swedish trio is the new face of Doom. They both claimed the heaviest sound of the festival but also some of the best songs. Even their new material, with it’s Iron Man melody, was instantly memorable, so imagine how anthemic the songs from Vaenir and Empress rising sounded, to say nothing of the titular track played at the end of the set. If you want to fall in love with a new Doom band, look no further, these guys have the muscle and the melodies to grab the heart of any self-respecting fan of Doom.
Unearthly Trance @ The Underworld
Unearthly Trance was the main reason I was excited for the festival. Although I had seen them twice in Paris before, their live shows always felt incomplete because of the bad sound quality of the rooms they played in. At the Underworld they finally had a stage to deliver the goods, and deliver they did. The trio pulled songs from the most recent album, before their break-up, but mostly from In the red, my favorite album of their. Despite the kick of the drummer being not as loud as I expected, the rest of the trio shined with ease, most importantly Ryan Lipynsky (ex. Thralldom, Serpentine Path), with his mastery of both his guitar and his vocals. Pulling one dissonant chord after another he mastered the art of creating order out of chaos to make his music sound memorable while retaining all the abrasiveness of the genre. Unearthly Trance were so good that they sounded like they had just made a pact with the devil.
Samothrace @ The Underworld
Seeing Samothrace perform a flawless set was not surprising at all since they had managed to pull a similar feat a few years ago in a dingy little squat in the suburbs of Paris. A band that could sound that good in a room unsuitable for live music could only sound like a million bucks in a great room, and sounded great they did. Samothrace is quite simply the best modern sludge band around at the moment. Their heavy parts are incredibly dynamic, thanks notably to a drummer with two crash cymbals put two meters high, and their melodies grab you and make you fly over the mountains. Their is only one rule: Never miss one of their performance. If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. If you weren’t, don’t do it again.
Godflesh @ Electric Ballroom
The Birmingham legend had the task to close the festival and everybody knew it was in safe hands. No matter what, Godflesh always play great shows and this one was no exception. Compared to my previous encounter with the duo, I would say it was the best show I have seen them play. The new songs from A world only lit by fire are fit to crush eardrums and make you dance like the best Drum and Bass while the old tunes still feel like visions of the future. Godflesh did not predict the future of music, they created it, and they are still living in it, and on that day at the Electric Ballroom, they had a fantastic sound and some moving visuals to showcase how apt they are to represent the spirit of the time.
Meanwhile, at the Unicorn on Camden road, while stoners were getting stoned, moshers were moshing to the sound of some the best UK hardcore to prepare the crowd for the exceptional, and free, show of New York’s finest, Incendiary. When I arrived, Higher Power were setting up so I missed Transcendence, Life Betray Us and Splitknuckle. It was only my second time seeing Higher Power but their mix of Shelter and Crown of Thornz always sounds good. The material from their upcoming LP may go towards a more mosh friendly sound but the uplifting melodies are still the main appeal. As for Incendiary, I expected a lot from them and they delivered the perfect set I expected. Most of the set list came from their latest LP, Cost of living, with a few songs from the first one, but the biggest surprise for me was to hear Survival from their split with Xibalba. From the beginning with Force of neglect to the end with Primitive rage, Incendiary demonstrated how to deliver an anger fueled set while still sounding positive and politically minded. The hardcore needs more bands like this.