My TEMPLES FESTIVAL 2014 Experience

This is the second (and final) attempt at reviewing the weekend because the original draft reached 1,250 words by the time I covered Electric Wizard – the headliner of the first night – and I know no-one loves music enough to read an essay. So here’s my run at a brief cover of the weekend, to make it less painful for you and me. 

On the Friday, the first day, I managed to arrive at the Motion venue in time for Spider Kitten on the main stage. I’d never actually listened to them before, despite that I know they’re from Cardiff (or based) and they’ve supported an impressive amount of bands in the area. The thing that hit me before music itself was that the sound was great – hearing about Motion being an old warehouse turned skatepark had me worried about the acoustics, but it was honestly crystal clear for the main stage. Spider Kitten started the weekend well with a pretty old-school doom feel but with a more modern thunderous sound.

Next I saw Flayed Disciple on the second stage, who were great, but weren’t as hitting as the time I’d seen them before at Hammerfest 2013 (which I’d seen a fair few bands on Temples line-up beforehand). I think it might have just been a case of too early because the crowd was still pretty sober and frigid, but that didn’t stop a moshpit from opening up towards the end. Afterwards, I saw Moss, and while I sort of knew what to expect (a setlist made up from their latest album “Horrible Night”, a change from the drone-doom sound that made me a fan of them towards old-school doom metal) I still felt a little disappointed and lukewarm about the performance in general.

Then I dashed over to the second stage early to try to get a good spot for Winterfylleth, but even ten minutes before they were due to hit the stage, the room was packed! This was the first time where I realised that the second stage unfortunately had some sound problems and it was probably more to do with the room/acoustics. Standing at the back, it felt far too quiet for Winterfylleth, a band that really does thrive on volume (their set at Hammerfest was one of my highlights of that festival) and from where I was standing, I just couldn’t feel what I was expecting. My friends who managed to get near the front however said that the sound was absolutely fine. This situation appears a few times throughout the weekend.

A while later, I managed to get to barrier for Jucifer at the main stage, a band I have been dying to experience live and I was not disappointed at all. As I expected, the duo just destroyed everyone’s senses with a distorted level of volume that was never repeated again that weekend; people complained that it was too loud, obviously unaware of what Jucifer are about live (especially with their famous “white wall of doom”). I’ve not seen someone who has managed to smash his drum kit like Edgar Livingood (the screws on his cymbals literally flying off, the hi-hat collapsed for a few moments and the stand for one of the cymbals just fell limp onto a snare drum), and Amber Valentine stomped around the stage with so much power. It was a sensational set.

Soon after on the same stage was Brutal Truth and unfortunately I just didn’t dig them at all on the day; despite being a band whose music I really enjoy. The performance just felt lacklustre with barely any movement or enthusiasm with the exception of vocalist Kevin Sharp, but there’s only so much that a single member can do for the crowd. I left after 25-minutes feeling utterly disappointed and I was pretty sad that this would be my last and only experience of Brutal Truth as the legendary Danny Liker is soon to take up retirement from music. Then I saw Gehenna on the second stage, who struck up the exact same feeling in me as Brutal Truth but this time I was new to the band. After three songs, I counted myself out and left the room. Needless to say, my mood was on a steep decline and I was anxious about what I’d see next…

Electric Wizard were great though, and it was only their set over the whole weekend where security had to be placed at the doorways of the main stage to stop the room getting even more packed than it already was, making people wait until others left. I can’t even remember what what they played, not a single song, as I just found myself swaying along in a haze of their lush doomy riffs and stoned vocals, songs just blurring from one to another. I do remember seeing certain members looking frustrated at the mix desk, but at least from where I was standing, they sounded fine and ended my night on a high note.

Electric Wizard

On Saturday, wandered back onsite with one of the worst hangovers (and bangovers, probably from Electric Wizard) I’d had in a long while. I thought I was a little late, but I did manage to see Throne within minutes of them starting their set, and their nice meaty slab of stoner-ish doom vibrated my skull – not the kind of thing you want to experience with a hangover, but I enjoyed, Throne started the day well.

With nothing else planned until Bossk a few hours later, I wondered about and managed to catch a few songs of Svalbard at the second stage, who I enjoyed a fair bit despite never having heard them before. Just imagine the faster and heavier side of Kylesa but with a focus on that blackened-hardcore Kvelertak do. Plus, you’ve just got to love a band that have that no-bullshit attitude live, with vocalist Serena Cherry just bursting out “We’re Svalbard, we’re from fucking Bristol” during one brief moment in-between songs.

A little while later I saw Bossk back on the main stage for my third time ever and they just carried on the streak of flawless performances, keeping the whole audience’s attention through the soft and heavy moments – one of the guitarists started scraping his mic across the guitar towards the end making a distant sort of background static. Plus, again, they finished with my favourite track Truth. If you’ve seen them, you know what to expect; if not, you should just go find out for yourself. Perfect.

Afterwards, on the same stage, I got to the front for Conan, who are another band that knows how to put on a phenomenal gig with their acute bass sound, just rumbling the audience for thirty minutes. The worry I had beforehand (and if you know Conan, you’ll already guess why) was that the song lengths would restrict the fluidity of their set, but it was supreme – they played three tracks in full with absolute calm and in comfort. I was extremely happy.

I spent several hours passing time and was content catching up with friends outside. This is something that I really liked about Temples: there’s such a relaxed atmosphere and enthusiasm in the air that it sort of felt more like a convention for extreme metal fans. Strangers starting conversations over band t-shirts and then behaving like they’ve been mates for years. It was especially hard to pull myself away from that on the day, so I missed A Storm Of Light but I wasn’t bothered about it.

When I did go back in, it was to the main stage for Amenra, who were even better (way better) than the last time I saw them at Damnation 2012. At that time, I saw them in a tiny room that was more like a big corridor and was full to the rim that I could barely see them, but on a bigger stage, they were just so fucking intense and just sounded apocalyptic; even urgent as it felt like they had to send us a message before it was too late. Vocalist Colin H van Eeckhout had his back turned to the audience the whole time and just swayed back and forth like he was going to jump into the drumkit at any second – later removing his shirt and revealing the upside-down cross tattoo that takes up the whole of his back. Their set was easily the most mesmerising and the hour passed fast. One of my top three bands of the weekend.

Then came the headliner for Saturday, Neurosis, a band you kind of have to know if you’re into doom or sludge, especially on the more experimental side. I’d seen them before with Godflesh in London, and I’d felt that Godflesh outdid them that time… and again, I just didn’t feel that much about this performance either. Granted, hearing their brooding music in person is great, but it takes a lot of stamina to last two hours of Neurosis live (and I’m sure they did go over their time). I even had to leave at one point for a break and return. They were good, but I was just so tired by that point and their dense tempo didn’t help – I was happy they played my favourite track Water Is Not Enough though.

On Sunday, the final day for Temples, I strolled in without a hangover and felt ready for the day, and managed to catch the first band of the day, Lionize, on the main stage. They’re basically a throwback to classic prog and old-school rock with bluesy riffs, swingy vocals and those bright and hyper keyboards. While I am partial to that kind of style, it felt a little out of place and the band just struggled to get any enthusiasm out of the crowd, which was unsurprisingly sparse considering it was the third day and 2.30pm. Then I saw Human Cull on the second stage, who were just as vicious as the last time I’d seen them – pure grind fury. They’re not reinventing the wheel, but the guys sound so tight live and they clearly love doing what they do, even with passive crowd they were dealt with.

I went back to the main stage straight after and saw Black Moth play their really sleazy take on doom metal, with a real rock’n’roll feel… and I honestly hated it. My problem was that it felt so fake and theatrical that it felt like I was watching the doom version of Heaven’s Basement, not to mention that it was uncomfortably over-sexualised. Maybe I’m just too moody for that kind of stuff, but after two and a half songs, I left to get a good spot for War Wolf on the second stage, who were excellent. Their highly political sludge-meets-punk style really transfers well live and while the aggression (again – this is just a problem for bands in general playing this early on Sunday) didn’t stir the crowd as much as their vocalist/guitarist Oli wanted; he got plenty of cheers while addressing problems in society and metal, explaining the meaning behind the gay rights/anti-homophobic Legalised Love and the self-explanatory Pro-Choice and Christianity (Is Dying). If they had been a bit higher up on the bill, they would have gotten the crowd reaction they wanted (and deserved).

Next up on the main stage was H A R K, a band I really have a soft spot for as vocalist/guitarist Jim-Bob was in Swansea’s Taint. Like the last time I saw H A R K, they were just on point and delivered their catchy and proggy heavy rock/sludge with such finesse and style you’d think that Temples was their gig, just so smooth. Highlights of the set were easily when they stormed onwards with their ridiculously catchy track Scarlet Extremeties (“Raaaaaaaise… your gallows!”) and Neil Fallon of Clutch appearing at the end for his guest vocals on Clear Light Of…. Just fantastic.

Back to the second stage, I managed to snag a good spot (minutes later slipping right to the barrier) for Oathbreaker who were another one of my top bands of the weekend (funnily enough, a band that has close ties to Amenra). The stage was just cloaked in smoke and blue lights, vocalist Caro Tanghe like a towering widow ghost in a black robe/dress, intimidating in it all as she shrieked and sang her way through Glimpse Of The Unseen, Condor Tongue and, my favourite, The Abyss Looks Into Me. It was also one of the few sets when the sound was faultless on the second stage. They were stunning and ferocious.

The Secret soon took to the stage and performed a sterling set themselves, vocalist Marco Coslovich managing to coax the crowd into the biggest mosh pit I saw in the room, and managing to get a sea of fists to rise every time he ordered “raise your fists, let me see your fists!”. They even had some droney moments at the beginning and towards the end of their set, which I wasn’t expecting, and Coslovich ended their time by crowd surfing, his limbs sprawling everywhere. Really good. SSS continued the party storm on the main stage with their fun-yet-aggressive crossover thrash, keeping true to their name with short, sharp shocks. However, I had to leave early to get a good spot for a band that I love on the second stage…

Dragged Into Sunlight were fucking staggering and are one of my top three of the weekend. Having seen them before, I felt like I knew what to expect and that I could ready myself for the full-on sonic assault; but again, I was punched in the fucking throat and laid out. I definitely remember them playing Buried With Leeches, Boiled Angel and I, Aurora and even had a dronish piece for a good section of their set – it felt like it was one of the songs but just slowed down to a torturous pace, but it might have been a part of Widowmaker, I’m unsure. A moshpit swirled in the room (which I really wasn’t expecting) and people just lost their shit, as I did. When they walked offstage with a simple “thank you”, I was happy and pretty much done for the day. That was my personal closer for Temples.

The legendary grinders Repulsion delivered a great set with tracks from their only album (duh) with good banter inbetween songs and played my favourite, Radiation Sickness. They were just really good. As for Clutch, the headliner for the day, I’ve never really been a fan and didn’t feel convinced to change my mind – which made me feel a little disappointed considering the whole room was dancing, my friends included. I just couldn’t dig it, and being so drained by that point, I left halfway through their set.

So yeah, that was the first Temples festival and my review of it. This is definitely something that deserves future support and I was massively impressed by the organisation and line-up of it, plus the general atmosphere. I miss it already. I want to thank all my mates (too many to individually name) and all the people I met there for making it so much fun too.

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