This brilliant Sunn O))) photo is © Emily Power – click on it to check it out full size
Temples Festival 2015,
Motion Skatepark, Bristol
29th May 2015
We continue our coverage of this year’s Temples Festival in Bristol with day two, a day that opened with one of our favourite bands in the UK at the moment, SONANCE, and ended with Sunn O))) doing lots of damage and rendering people speechless. Words are still failing me when it comes to describing their set, but luckily we had Philip Allen along with us to help out in that respect. Photos all © Emily Power.
Day Two: Below.
At Stage 2, today is all about the Death Metal with Triptykon, Portal & Bolzer heading the charge, but I have to hand it to Australian’s Impetuous Ritual’s (photo above) unholy congregation. Unfettered metal from the darkest recesses rips Saturday a new one. They mean business and they have nails in their wrist wear to prove it, but what is most impressive is their passion for taking the death metal into experimental areas. It does feel they got aced by following UK band, Grave Miasma (see photo below). Having gained massive critical acclaim for their debut album, ‘Odori Sepulcrurum’, their set, despite being short, was a blast of frightening rhythmic variation, whammy bar fireworks and occult vocals fresh from the abyss. ‘They had a bit more to bite into’, as they say.
Next up is a back to back of local bands, SONANCE and Svalbard, who both went down so well last year that they were invited back again. At the tail end of 2014 SONANCE released one of the best albums of the year, a sure fire Mercury Prize contender if ever we’ve heard one (except they probably don’t have the cash to enter it) which Joshua Hart, reviewing for us, gave a well earnt 9 / 10. SONANCE are what Mogwai would sound like should that band ever sink into a blackened pit of despond, as instrumentally tight as any band who played this festival their music soars to majestic heights as much as it crushes into brutal desolation. You can’t help but be awash with emotions when listening to the soundscapes SONANCE conjure up, and talking to people afterwards it seemed they went down a storm again. Special shout out to the dude who said they should be a constant at every Temples festival from now on – we agree.
Holy Roar helped get SONANCE’s last album out on vinyl and, in a ridiculously smooth link to the next band we saw, that’s also what they’re doing for Svalbard’s first album due out around Autumn. Stage 3 might have spent a lot of the weekend utterly rammed, but it definitely wasn’t so for Svalbard’s set, in marked contrast to last year, something we put down to their clashing with Torche rather than a lack of interest in the band, which is a shame, because their set was probably the best we’ve ever seen them play. Unlike some of the bands we saw this weekend, Svalbard seem totally at home on a large stage, with the strength of Serena’s vocals being a stand out highlight for me, and whoever was mixing their sound had totally, utterly nailed it this afternoon. The songs they played off the afore-mentioned new album sounded majestic, having a confidence and maturity that makes us think they know what they’re doing by leaving it relatively late in their career to release their debut album.
Greg Anderson’s stoner desert doomers, Goatsnake on the main stage create a groove so deep, the riffs bounce and channel straight down your spine. It is easy to fall into a serious mind surrounded by such intenseness, but Goatsnake provide a necessary tonic and lift the spirit in the room exponentially. Tracks off the new album, ‘Black Age Blues’ don’t re-invent a formula, but, ‘Elevated Man’ and ‘Graves’ both sound ‘proper doomy’ among the older tracks such as, ‘The Dealer’ and set closer, ‘Mower’.
Next up, Portal decked out in executioners masks except singer, The Curator whose wearing a huge black hat and veil. There is a real cinematic quality to what Portal achieve. The very 1920’s German expressionistic influences rub shoulders with HP Lovecraft inspired lyrics to create a hellish landscape of unorthodox black and death metal. They seem to be forming a black hole with this terrific noise and we are being pulled into it. The only relief is when I realise War Wolf are about to start on the 3rd stage out in the courtyard where the beer and food is, thank God!
After some lovely food (Caterers finally turned up), a yeasty ale and quick walk round the merchandise rubicon that are selling tees and records hand over fist, Brighton’s War Wolf take the 3rd stage and proceed to pummel the audience with a slathering of their testosterone doom hardcore. Featuring ex-members of Dopefight and Seabastard, they meticulously move from crusty punk chaos to metal riffing, creating some proper anthems such as, ‘Cometh’ that appears on their, ‘Riding With Demons’ EP. Sadly we learnt that this was the band’s penultimate gig, and yet we’re sure we’ll meet them again soon, possibly in a seething pit next time Nails come over to the UK.
When I opted for food, drink & War Wolf, I forgot about Pig Destroyer (who must have the biggest collection of t-shirts here this weekend) but luckily they are playing tomorrow as well.
In what was quite a coup for the festival day two was ending with a one-two of Triptykon followed by Sunn O))). There can’t be many occasions when Triptykon have been reduced to second stage support, but I don’t think even the most ardent of Tom G fans will be arguing that they should have been playing after Sunn because, frankly, for most of us there was no concept of a world left after Sunn, least of all a world with a stage on which bands could play music. That being said, Triptykon proved to be an excellent amuse-bouche for Sunn O))) – and frankly I can imagine few other back to back schedulings over the weekend that summed up the cross (heavy music) genre ethos of Temples Festival. As for their career spanning set, well, frankly, it sounded proper massive, with Tom G Warrior’s idiosyncratic guitar sound perfectly complemented by his bandmates. Indeed, I felt more than a little disappointed in myself for sneaking off early to get myself into a prime position for Sunn O))).
The words, “Like nothing you have ever heard before” and “Watch you don’t lose your bowels, dude” have been bandied around all day when discussing Saturday headliners’, Sunn O))). I must say I was, as anyone would be, wholly unprepared for what I was getting myself into. Smoke begins to fill the room, more smoke than I have ever seen before.
There is one distinct difference between the records of Sunn O))) and the live performances of Sunn O))). Their records are massive drone epics that test the realities of sound. Their shows are like being caught ‘inside’ that sound. Essentially, the main room becomes one big speaker with sound and specifically vibration filling every space and crevice. The wall of speakers that line up behind members of the band, who are all decked out in monk’s robes, are insanely big and insanely loud. No, you don’t realize how loud I mean. It’s like being inside an engine. See the image below of the backline for Sunn’s set which Temples Festival put on their Facebook page for illustration. And yet you still probably don’t get how loud it was.
Within minutes of the first song, which is a cover of Stephen O’Malley’s former band, Burning Witch’s ‘Jubilex’, security are looking perplexed. One was overheard saying, “There are druids on stage and people’s noses are starting to bleed!” It does seem scary that this is going to last for two hours.
Once you become acclimatised to it, it starts to take on a spiritual nature. There are few words to explain the feelings, but to feel them nonetheless, fills the listener with revelation. The physical properties of the sound start to give meanings and contexts that you have never experienced. Illumination in understanding time and motion are revealed as the audience feels every note, every vibration as it happens.
Every ripple is felt from the feet upwards, demanding your presence of mind to feel music like you’ve never done before.
The singer, Hungarian-born Attila Csihar of the band Mayhem appears after three quarters of an hour of what can only be described as ‘one elongated sound vibration’, wearing a shattered, mirrored gown and glassy crown that bounce light that shines down from every angle, fracturing them into shards of lightning. Walking in slow motion across the stage, he cuts a pretty intimidating sight, and with the flanking ‘druids’ with guitars hailing the riff in this church of sound, the congregation feel more present than they have ever felt, it feels like. The sound is deafening. If it wasn’t for these bits of foam in my eardrums, my brain would be mush by now I am sure, but I feel touched by being present here.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is something very special and like the most specially profound experiences is virtually impossible to convey in any linguistic form. Words merely confuse the issue in the context of singularity because what is experienced is an awakening, an awareness of something you were unaware of before. An illumination of oneness and that vibration is the key to that state of being.
Southern Lord have just put this video of Sunn O)))’s Temples set on YouTube. To recreate the experience we recommend you get inside a snug fitting metal box in which another person’s been chain-smoking for 10 hours, surround the metal box with the hugest speakers and amps you can find along with big burly men with huge mallets. Then play the music at volume 11, speakers pressed against the box, while the burly men knock shit out of it. And you probably still won’t have a clue as to what Saturday night at Temples Festival was like. Sorry.
Temples Festival can be found online here: templesfestival.co.uk. It’s also on Facebook and they tweet as @templesfestival. They will be selling a limited number of earlybirds for Temples 2016 from 7pm Monday 15th June.
All words by Philip Allen & Guy Manchester. More writing by these guys can be found in their respective author’s archives here and here. They are also on twitter here: @ltranger and here: @guid0man respectively.