Live Review: Desertfest – Sunday


Live Review: Desertfest - Sunday
19th May 2023
Featuring: Godflesh, Ozric Tentacles, Monolord, Morag Tong, Kulk, Silverburn, Skypilot, Goat Major
Words: Julian Pepper, Jacob Schwar, Matt Noble
Photos: Jacob Schwar

West Wales occult doom three piece Goat Major kick things off at the Black Heart on the Sunday. Goat Major’s recently released Ripple Music debut album 'Ritual' is a fine slab of doom metal and one of my albums of the year so far so I was interested to see how it would come across live. It’s safe to say that the trio of Tom (vocals and bass), Jammie (guitar) and Simon (drums) did not disappoint and produced one of the sets of the festival as they summon up the spirits of Sabbath, Electric Wizard et al and turn the heat up in the Black Heart. From front of stage where I stood the sound was superb and clear, meaning that all aspects of the crushing assault could be heard and enjoyed. In particular tracks such as 'Turn to Dust', 'Mountains of Madness' and 'Evil Eye' sounded heavy and huge, with Jammie’s riffing in particular grabbing the attention and getting heads nodding. Tom’s vocals accompany the music admirably and Simon provides the thunderous backbeat that underpin everything from the rear of the stage. The crowd lap up every second of the set and go away in the knowledge that they have witnessed something a bit special!

Silverburn, which is the latest project from Jimbob Isaac (Taint, Hark), are the first band to grace the stage at Dingwalls today. Another band that started during lockdown, Silverburn released their debut album 'Self Induced Transcendental Annihilation' to critical acclaim last year and have played some notable gigs since. The album material really comes alive in the live environment with the discordant sludgy and heavy riffs on the likes of singles 'Annihilation' and 'Formless Atomization of Omniscient Particulate' sounding huge. Silverburn have a great way of changing tempo and style in songs (sometimes veering into death metal and hardcore territory), which both holds the attention and captivates in equal measure. Jimbob is a superb frontman and is clearly appreciative of the reception bestowed upon them by the crowd, who will have definitely ventured back outside with a few more Silverburn converts!

Photo Credit: Jacob Schwar

Kadabra go on early at the Black Heart, but the hotly tipped rockers draw big numbers on the Sunday. Their trippy, psychedelic stoner rock goes down a storm, and plenty are seen wearing their merch after the show. It's a seriously powerhouse drum performance, though in the grander scheme he's there to play his part and the trio all complement each other nicely as performers and musicians. Throughout the set, heads are seen bobbing away and the crowd are clearly having a great time. Here's to the next time these Washington State make it to the UK!

The first time I saw Kulk live, drummer Jade played with a broken ankle and did a superb job so it’s great to see the Norfolk two piece play a blinding set today without any injuries! Relative newcomers to the scene, Kulk play a great blend of noise rock that straddles many genres from sludge and grunge to a bit of psych. As with many duos (I’m looking at you in particular Tuskar!), it’s hard to believe that this much noise can be created by 2 people! This years 'It Gets Worse' album is a short, sharp and brutal 23 minutes of music, with standout tracks 'Beyond Gone' and 'Life Will Wait' sounding superb at Dingwalls. Singer/guitarist Thom is a bundle of energy throughout, with Jade destroying the drumkit with reckless abandon to create one of the most chaotic and captivating sets of the whole weekend.

Photo Credit: Jacob Schwar

The silliest question of the festival award goes to Skypilot Singer/guitarist David, who asks after a couple of songs “Do you like riffs?”. The answer is obviously a resounding “YES!”, which is a good thing as Skypilot deliver them in spades! This Northern Ireland 3 piece have played with the likes of Orange Goblin, Corrosion of Conformity and Crowbar, along with playing Bloodstock a couple of times, so it’s no surprise that the are a tight live unit and play a great set at the ever filling Black Heart. Their sound is quite varied and takes influences from genres such as stoner, sludge and progressive metal along the way with tracks from latest album 'Simple Beasts' such as 'Knifed on the Beach' and 'Octofuzz' sounding great and putting smiles on faces all around.

Photo Credit: Jacob Schwar

It’s been pretty much ten years since I first saw Monolord make their London debut at the Black Heart when touring superb debut album 'Empress Rising' Since then, they’ve released four more albums, toured extensively and played festivals all over the world, including a few times at Desertfest. Therefore, their set at a rammed Electric Ballroom today has a somewhat celebratory feel to it! The first thing I notice is that Monolord now have an additional guitarist stage right, who definitely adds some additional crunch and thickness to the already great live sound. As it’s ten years since 'Empress Rising' was released it’s no surprise to hear three tracks from it in the set, with 'Icon', 'Audhumbla' and the title track itself sounding as fresh and doom heavy as always! We also get treated to latest single 'Glaive (It’s All the Same)', which gets the crowd singing along and other bangers such as 'Rust' and 'The Last Leaf'. Finishing the set with crowd requested 'Dear Lucifer' is a great way to wrap up proceedings and one of the best sets of the weekend. Here’s to the next ten years guys!

Photo Credit: Jacob Schwar

Down at Dingwall’s were local doomers Morag Tong whom I hadn’t seen live in years so was a much welcome excuse to be reacquainted with their ferociously doomy soundscape. It was also a much pleasant sight to see a decent turnout for these chaps especially on a quieter day which shows this band are a must-see with numbers such as the epic ‘At First Light’ or the broodingly atmospheric ‘A Stem’s Embrace’ which made for a truly impactful experience within the live environment. Overall, an outstanding set which was also outstandingly loud but with that being said, if you like your doom with plenty of atmosphere and sorrow, do not sleep on this band!        

Photo Credit: Jacob Schwar

Ozric Tentacles' insane musical schooling is nothing less than a real treat and exactly the sort of billing that Desertfest should be about. Immersive, psychedelic freakout jams from the band above a hallucinogenic video backdrop and an intense light show make for a genuine festival highlight and an experience the crowd won't forget in a hurry. Ozric et al mix it up with Eastern-tinged, transcendental melodies into slightly dancey and reggae-inspired beats, as if there's no limits on what they can do or could be. The lead guitar shredding is technically amazing, though the use of keys and flutes adds further layers to their sound amid a musically intelligent and tasteful sound. When the set ends, it's like they've dropped us - somewhat against our will - back down to Earth. One of a kind.

The finale headliners at the Electric Ballroom were undoubted pioneers of metallic industrial with Birmingham’s very own Godflesh, a band I’ve been seeing live for many years and so knew what to expect with this duo, the fact they are a duo is in no way a dampener on their overall intensity live! Opening up their set with some newer tracks such as ‘Land Lord’ with it’s late 90’s drum sound alongside that unmistakably Justin Broadrick guitar tone which sent members on the front row into a frenzy. Though personally, I’m only familiar with their older output so was excellent as always to hear some material from Streetcleaner such as the haunting eponymous track and the pummelling ‘Tiny Tears’. Though I must admit, Godflesh were abnormally loud compared to their previous performances which made for an extremely intense and intimidating live sound, even slightly unbearable at points.

Photo Credit: Jacob Schwar

All photo credits: Jacob Schwar

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