Live Review: Desertfest - Sunday
7th May 2023
Featuring: Acid Mammoth, Weedpecker, Everest Queen, King Buffalo, Boris, Celestial Sanctuary
Words: Julian Pepper
Photos: Jacob Schwar
Sunday starts with a catch up and pint at a rather subdued (I wonder why?!) Black Heart before wandering over to the Underworld to see Acid Mammoth. Now I’ve been to the Underworld many times, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as rammed as it was for this Greek doom four piece! Having managed to find a suitable vantage point I witness my set of the weekend and new favourite band! Kicking off their set with the superbly named 'Jack the Riffer', Acid Mammoth are a sight to behold with their synchronised headbanging and huge doom riffage. Father and son guitar duo Chris Babalis Senior and Junior sure know a great Sabbath inspired riff and continue to churn them out during 'Berserker' and 'Tree of Woe'. The temperature rises even further in the Underworld as more people join the throng and AM continue to pummel the crowd with their doom onslaught lurching into final tracks 'Them' and 'They Live'. The enthusiasm and energy being transmitted from the band on stage is contagious and everyone leaves at the end with huge smiles on their faces and fully aware that they have just witnessed something a bit special!
I’d previously seen Weedpecker at the Black Heart a few months ago but the superior sound at the Underworld today took their complex, psychedelic stoner rock to new levels. Once again the Underworld is very busy as the Polish four piece kick into 'Molecule' and 'Liquid Sky' from their 2018 release 'III'. One of the things that sets Weedpecker apart from other similar bands is the dual harmony vocals provided by Piotr and Dominik, that are superb throughout the set. Both 'Big Brain Monsters' and 'No Heartbeat Collectives' from recent album 'IV: The Stream of Forgotten Thoughts' sound superb in the live environment and the set is concluded with the excellent stoner riff fest that is “Sativa Landscapes” from their self-titled 2013 debut, which brings to end an absolutely superb set.
In 'Murmurations' Everest Queen released one of my favourite albums of 2022 so it was great to see them receive the recognition that they deserve at Desertfest. Their post metal sludge sound is best experienced live and sounds huge in the Powerhaus today. Opening track 'Sunken Thor' sets the tone with its slow, mellow start building into huge riffs from Adam and Tom that get the crowd nodding in appreciation. Further tracks from Murmurations continue to impress and I’m gutted to have to leave early to get up to the Roundhouse to see King Buffalo. Thankfully, they play at Sarcomafest in September, so a full set will be witnessed then.
Having previously seen King Buffalo play smaller venues and stages it was an absolute pleasure to see them on the large stage and confines of the Roundhouse. Whilst only being a three piece and not exactly renowned for stage movement, King Buffalo fill the stage and venue with their superb heavy psych/stoner sounds during their hour long set. The Rochester, New York trio of vocalist/guitarist Sean McVay, drummer Scott Donaldson and bassist Dan Reynolds produce a hypnotically heavy sound that’s interspersed with moments of calm that momentarily transport the crowd to another place. Drawing heavily from latest album 'Regenerator' and 2021’s 'The Burden of Restlessness', tracks such as 'Eye of the Storm' and 'Mammoth' keep the crowd entranced and the instrumental ending towards the finale of 'Hebetation' is King Buffalo at their superb best. Stand out track of the night though is the title track of their latest album, which perfectly marries their lighter synth infused side with their heavier, fuzzier side to great effect. The set is brought to a fitting close with a superb rendition of 'Kerosene' from 2016’s debut album 'Orion' that leaves the crowd exhilarated but wanting more!
You never quite know what you’re going to get with a live Boris show and this diverse but mesmerising set was no exception! Including everything from straight up metal, drone, full on hardcore fury and belly dancing (yes, belly dancing), Boris absolutely pummel the crowd with their sonic thunder. The set mainly consisted of tracks from 2022’s 'Heavy Rocks' (the more metal songs) and 2020’s isolation album 'NO', which provides the more hardcore, thrash and D-beat songs. Boris are super loud all set, but this doesn’t distract from the musicianship displayed by all four members who own the stage throughout. Final song '(not) Last Song' sees lead singer Atsuo surfing above the crowd before the band leave the stage to a fitting finale of a wall of feedback. What an aural experience!
After three days of stoner, doom, post rock and heavy psych the only way to finish the festival is with a good old slice of death metal! The Black Heart is impressively busy for Cambridge’s Celestial Sanctuary as they come on to the sounds of 'Swords of a Thousand Men' and then smash through a set of their New Wave of British Death Metal songs. Tracks from their debut album 'Soul Diminished' are well received and a pit breaks out a few times during the set (how have people still got the energy?!) to tracks such as 'Mass Extinction' and 'Relentless Savagery'. The set concludes with 2022’s single 'Trapped Within the Rank Membrane', which provides a brutal but brilliant finale to another superb edition of Desertfest. Bring on Desertfest 2024!
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats