Festival report of Brutal Assault XIX. – 6-9th of August 2014
Report by Estelle on the 29th of August 2014
The 19th edition of the well-known metal festival Brutal Assault took place in Jaromer, Czech Republic from the 6th to the 9th of August 2014. A place where the beer is cheap, the atmosphere is pleasant, the bands are merciless and the free-time activities are numerous: besides seeing approximately 80 bands on the two main stages and one smaller tent namely the Metalgate stage, you get the chance to watch some classic movies at the horror cinema, to study an exceptional metal exhibition with diverse well-known artworks and to have fun at the green chill-out zone.
I would attempt to write a few words about the bands I managed to see.
August 6th, Wednesday
For me the festival started at 17:10 on Wednesday with the old American power/heavy band Flotsam & Jetsam. As the re-recorded version of their second album from 1987, No Place for Disgrace just came out they took the chance to play many songs off it. They noticeably don’t possess the same amount of energy and “freshness” as back in the day therefore the crowd got the this-is-not-enough feeling at times – it was still an enjoyable show recalling some aged classics, though.
At 20:55 Terrorizer got on stage with many people in front of them being curious about one of the oldest representatives of death metal/grindcore. Their sound was quite chaotic especially at the first 2-3 songs but they were still full of energy and played a decent old school setlist mostly consisting of tracks off their album from 1989, World Downfall. Despite the rough sound the drumming was flawless: it’s clear that Pete Sandoval (ex-Morbid Angel) knows what he is doing.
At 21:55 the day’s prime act, the mighty Venom hit the stage powerfully with the ultimate classic ‘Black Metal’ – in spite of the not-so-perfect sound at the beginning the crowd was already going crazy. Poisonous atmosphere, pounding rhythms, ecstatic state of mind, spectacular stage-set with the inevitable pyrotechnics and many, many insane people: bodysurfing and a large moshpit even at the mid-tempo tracks. The bestial Venom’s setlist included lots of old classics from the early ’80s; although this time they left out the nearly always mandatory ‘Countess Bathory’.
- Black Metal
- Live Like an Angel (Die Like a Devil)
- Buried Alive
- Hail Satanas
- Pedal to the Metal
- The Evil One
- Welcome to Hell
August 7th, Thursday
Thursday started with the new school American thrash metal band Havok. They apparently didn’t mind playing early before noon: the guys got every thrash fanatic moving and forming a huge moshpit in the heat by their absolutely dynamic show.
After Havok we got to see the death/thrash band Pentagram Chile also playing surprisingly powerfully and tightly with a clear sound and one fairly large crowd in front of them.
At 2 pm Church of Misery came and brang some magic to the stage with their twisted, doomy riff-flow throughout the gig which distracted people away from their everyday mindsets for about 40 minutes. After them came a great shot of brutality by the UK guys Onslaught who were no doubt one of the most enjoyable thrash acts of the festival. They equally played from their first two (Power from Hell, The Force) and newer albums and every one of their songs sounded extremely powerful live – proving this it is enough to mention the size of the moshpit they have generated.
At 15:20 American death metal/grindcore band Misery Index tore the place up and gave an intense show in 40 minutes. Then I got to see the Hungarian technical death band Gutted on the Metalgate stage who were probably unknown to most people yet created one killer atmosphere that the crowd in the little tent also started to feel.
At 18:10 we got to the highlight of the day with probably one of the most cruel old school death metal bands existing, Obituary. Standing in the second row I have never had as many people falling on and through my head as on their show, the overall mood was absolutely crazy. Just like in case of Venom, everyone was out of their minds right at the moment when the first note of the guitars could be heard – and as a consequence of the short but mostly old school setlist, people didn’t stop fighting, pushing and bodysurfing for a moment. The sound might have not been the best at the front but the completely enthusiastic audience did not seem to care, Obituary’s performance was among the best ones of the festival.
- Chopped in Half
- Turned Inside Out
- The End Complete
- Inked in Blood
- Slowly We Rot
Then came the also entirely crushing gig of Suffocation who did not let the crowd take a deep breath after Obituary at all, they ripped and left everyone in the dust by their brutal, technical death metal music.
Even though Bring Me the Horizon is definitely not my kind of music, as far as I could notice they have attracted plenty of people enjoying metalcore and the dynamic gig of the British band after the different-style Suffocation. At the same time there were Inquisition playing on the Metalgate stage with far less people being curious, but the two-piece representatives of black metal were worth to see: they brang such an atmosphere to the small tent that the thrilled tension they have created was almost touchable.
At 21:40 on Thursday, the headliner of the XIXth Brutal Assault festival, Slayer hit the stage.
In general I would have to say it was a disappointment regarding both the sound and the energy and enthusiasm of the band members. One of the oldest and most famous thrash metal band’s setlist completely consisted of old songs except ‘Hate Worldwide’ and ‘Disciple’ and it still felt like they were simply weak and faint, not even approaching the group they used to be back then – nothing to be suprised about with only two of the original members, though. The lineup was solid: we got Tom Araya on vocals and bass, Kerry King on guitars, Gary Holt (Exodus) on guitars replacing Hanneman and Paul Bostaph (ex-Exodus, ex-Forbidden, ex-Testament) on drums replacing Dave Lombardo again – but the difference between their older shows and the one perfomed on Brutal Assault was clearly appreciable.
The setlist was definitely a plus with songs not often performed (e.g. ‘Captor of Sin’), but sadly the atmosphere and overall mood did not get close to what they were able to do long ago or even a few years back.
- Hell Awaits
- The Antichrist
- Mandatory Suicide
- Hate Worldwide
- War Ensemble
- Captor of Sin
- Seasons in the Abyss
- Dead Skin Mask
- Raining Blood
- Black Magic
- South of Heaven
- Angel of Death
After the main headliner, (the lots of) fans of melodic death metal had the chance to see one of the largest bands of the genre, Children of Bodom. Again melodic death is not my kind of music but the huge crowd seemed to be enjoying what the popular Finnish group was doing.
August 8th, Friday
On Friday the first act I was able to see was the American black/thrash band Skeletonwitch, whose show did not give much to me – the way how they played their music was somewhat boring, a little too modern and on account of the vocals did not seem to be black/thrash metal (how the band is originally labeled). After them came Fleshgod Apocalypse whose music doesn’t exactly fit my personal taste either, yet their show was strikingly powerful and had some kind of an unexplainable atmosphere that did get the audience moving.
At 17:35 we got to the top of the day still in daylight with Unleashed. The beginning of the Swedish old school death metallers’ performance did not have a strong impact on the curious people but afterwards from the second-third song, as we got to the catchier tracks and more effective commentaries from enthusiastic frontman Johnny Hedlund, people started fighting. Unleashed basically only played newer songs from 1997 on but the gig was still totally energetic reaching its top with the incredibly fast song ‘Hammer Battalion’.
At 7 pm Six Feet Under with ex-Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes got on stage and tore the place up. They were full of energy, they were loud and they had a satisfying sound. They have also played two Cannibal Corpse songs at the beginnging and end including ‘Hammer Smashed Face’, giving some frame to the show.
After them on the Metalgate stage ex-Pungent Stench guitarist/vocalist Martin Schirenc gave a fairly long show and played old school Pungent Stench songs under the name of “Schirenc plays Pungent Stench” as some kind of a tribute to the split-up death metal band with three other musicians. Fanatic people who knew the songs off their first two albums were extremely keen about hearing them live so that the crowd filling the tent was moving all along.
In the evening one of the headliners, The Devin Townsend Project with frontman Townsend, vocalist of Strapping Young Lad came and played a long set to the enthusiastic audience. I personally do not understand much from their music, although their sound was good and their fans were all satisfied with what they have seen.
Similar case occurs with another following headliner, Amon Amarth. I was never a fan of melodic death metal nor the idea that Amon Amarth presents but one cannot deny the fact that the Swedish band knows how to collect fans: almost everyone who attended the festival was standing in front of the main stages and seemed to be impressed by the scene.
As the last performance of Friday we got to see Broken Hope at midnight who gave an energetic death metal show to many people in the audience.
August 9th, Saturday
On the last day in the afternoon Impaled Nazarene, the Finnish black band played passionately to an equally energetic crowd. Later at 17:25 came the American Christian metalcore band August Burns Red whose music barely has anything to do with the other acts of the day but who managed to obtain a huge fanbase watching them playing on the festival.
Right after them on the other large stage one of the bands holding my greatest expectations, Sodom was already tuning. As they finally started the show filled with old classic thrash songs the pit got even bigger than on Obituary and the same amount of people started enjoying themselves bodysurfing. Unfortunately Sodom’s sound, at least in the front, was not as good as expected: I personally know the lyrics of almost all the songs they played and the sound was so chaotic at some parts that the tracks weren’t recognizable for 30-40 seconds. Still, the huge moshpit and incredible amount of pressing didn’t stop and people managed to sing along with vocalist Tom Angelripper.
- Agent Orange
- In War and Pieces
- Outbreak of Evil
- Surfin’ Bird (The Trashmen cover)
- The Saw Is the Law
- City of God
- Sodomy and Lust
- Blasphemer (end with Venom´s Black Metal)
- Remember the Fallen
At 19:40 in the small tent we got to see the old school death metal/grindcore group Repulsion who played their album from 1989, Horrified as a whole with a modified order of its tracks. It doesn’t happen everyday that one gets to hear an entire album at a festival therefore the audience was really cheerful and lively.
Later on the large stage another headliner, the Czech death(/thrash) band Krabathor gave a surprisingly intense performance. Then even more people gathered and watched the popular Down labeled as “southern metal” – again a band that doesn’t meet my taste completely, their show seemed to be rather leisured than heavy to me, even though many others were enjoying it.
At 10 pm came the old school death guys Benediction on the Metalgate stage – even Repulsion and Schirenc plays Pungent Stench filled the tent up, and this time the small stage was a bad choice for Benediction: there were 1,5-2 times more people seeing them than the size of the place. The show itself was short but extremely massive – they got everyone moving and forming a giant circle pit in the middle of the tent, running round and round listening to the brutal old school sounds.
After them the Norwegian black band Satyricon played a quite long setlist to the plenty of black metal fanatics rejoicing at the show.
Late at 00:25 the unique gothic/doom group My Dying Bride gave a performance to lovers of their kind with just a few long, extensive doomy songs of theirs.
And then eventually we got to the closing act of 2014’s Brutal Assault: Hail of Bullets at 01:20. Martin Van Drunen’s (Asphyx, ex-Pestilence) voice is still as perfect as ever and doubtless one of the best voices of death metal in general – he sounded flawlessly on stage with the band in the background performing their brutal, catchy old school riffs. The only downside I could mention was the rather funny fact that Van Drunen was talking or even whining for almost a minute between every track they played – he told us three times that guitarist Stephan sadly couldn’t be there, he made birthday announcements, he called Master’s Paul Speckmann up on stage and he was constantly thanking the crowd for coming – I had the feeling that they could have played two-three more songs if he only said a few words between the songs. But judging by their show people don’t have many things to complain about: Hail of Bullets gave an appropriate ending to the festival with an absolutely energetic way of playing and with a lot of people even at this late hour.
Summarized, strongest standout bands for me were: Venom, Onslaught, Obituary, Unleashed, Hail of Bullets.
On the whole, in spite of every minor problems mentioned, the XIXth Brutal Assault was absolutely worth going to, both regarding the overall experience and the financial part of the festival. Do not miss out on it next year!