Live Review: CvltFest Resurrected – Day Two

Live Review: CvltFest Resurrected - Day Two
@ Rebellion, Manchester
24th February 2024
Featuring: Conan, Boss Keloid, Slabdragger, Blanket, Sugar Horse, Wallowing, Torpor, Goblinsmoker, Grave Lines, Battalions
Words: Matt Noble
Photos: Tim Finch

With a bit of a wobbly head after last night’s action at Cvltfest in Manchester I’m back at Rebellion for the second, main day of Cvltfest Resurrected. The venue is already very much full for the early afternoon, with the crowd having been nicely warmed up by the bouncy sludge of Battalions, the uncompromising riffs of Grave Lines, and the evil doom of Goblinsmoker - of which a man in a toad mask can be seen wandering around and crowdsurfing in reference to their ‘Toad King’ lore.

The first band of my day is Torpor, who I’m catching for the first time. They leave a hell of an impression, with their claustrophobic post-sludge that forces the audience into a chokehold. Switching instruments and creating vast soundscapes, they stand under a sole set of blue lights that create a hell of a visual presence too, effectively with mere silhouettes of the band for most of the performance. During their heavier sections, they drench the room in feedback and reverb with incredibly hellish death vocals and a crushing bass tone. With that said, they know how to create contrast and dynamic range, with trance-like softer sections to keep the set interesting and the crowd engaged. The audience save their applause until the very end, seeing them off with genuine respect and admiration.

A rush of tense, electronic feedback begins to sound over a green lit stage, and lasers start to flash as Wallowing slowly enter the stage. Mixing doom, sludge, grind, noise, prog, and all sorts into a hellish melting pot, Wallowing effectively control their crowd like puppet masters, whether the response of headbanging, moshing, or standing silently in a trance is needed. Twenty-minute closing track ‘Earth Reaper’, in particular, has them dictate the energy in the room as they weave effortlessly from section to section, movement to movement. There are few experiences quite like seeing this band. Dressed anonymously in beekeeper outfits, with such extreme music, it’s frightening if very much fresh to see this kind of thing.

It’s my first time seeing Sugar Horse, whose noise-driven post-sludge really engages this afternoon’s crowd. Blending wide atmospherics and calmer moments into a grim soundboard of heavy riffs, they connect well and fit the bill perfectly; even more so during the more melodic and softer parts, in an interesting way. Ash has a dry wit on the mic between songs which makes us all chuckle into our beers. The final song of their set, ‘Truth or Consequences’, is nothing less than striking, with its a cappella vocal intro leading into a number dripping with so much desolate melody, that when they ramp up the gain and make it super heavy again, it really pops off like nothing else. With frequencies you can feel in your chest, this band are certainly on my listening homework for when I get back home.

Next up is Blanket, whose much more ethereal and dreamy vibe changes the mood of the venue completely. Their Deftones-y post-rock is a very nice contrast to Sugar Horse and Wallowing before them, as they’re much brighter and gentler on the ears. Still, with bands like Torpor, Dvne, Pijn and even Sugar Horse, who all lean heavily into the atmospheric side of music, they very much fit this weekend’s eclectic, yet focussed billing. And with floating cleans and soothing melodies, it’s a great way to mix up the bill and make the heavier bands sound heavier in comparison. The crowd are very welcoming and receptive to them, proving what a great addition to the lineup they have been. The performance is fantastic and they are notably tight as a unit, too.

Slabdragger come on to really change up the tone once again. With the venue getting lairy at this time of day, along with the fact that they don’t play very often these days, they receive a fantastic reception to their masterclass in heaviness. Boasting titanic riffs, grooves and drum fills amid their interesting song structures, their take on doom and sludge has lots going for it, though the vocal harmonies, control over dynamics and ability to create different moods through the crowd stands them out just that bit brighter than most. The venue is completely packed out and the layout of Rebellion allows for a pretty constant barrage of crowd surfers, which even the band get in on at the very end as the last note reverberates out! Slabdragger prove themselves (not that they need to) to be among the very best in sludgy heaviness for one of the sets of the weekend.

Today’s sub-headline slot goes to Wigan stoner-prog maestros Boss Keloid. They’ve come out of writing the follow-up to 2021’s ‘Family the Smiling Thrush’ to play some of their finest from the last few years, including Church Road’s reissue of ‘The Calming Influence of Teeth’, from which the sludgy, upbeat ’Skipper’s Pipes’ gets a moshpit started. The rich melodies from the likes of ‘Chronosiam’ and ‘Gentle Clovis’ entice the audience to sing along, while the Primus-infused weirdness from ‘Smiling Thrush’ and the proggy flourishes from ‘Peykruve’ keep the set suitably whacky in the way that only Boss Keloid can do. Alex Hurst’s signature prancing around the stage and ease at speaking to the crowd makes for an entertaining set as ever, though Boss Keloid always deliver with a sense of musicality that sometimes similarly unconventional bands don’t quite nail. Sublime as always.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

The headline band for tonight are Conan, with Tuskar’s Tyler Hodges performing on drums with them for the first time in Johnny King’s absence - unfortunately, due to other commitments, I’m on the last train home at this point, though I’m looking forward to catching them a couple of times on their March tour!

Photo credits: Tim Finch Photography

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