We recently took a trip to Bristol for the mecca of all things heavy and experimental – Temples festival. Over three days the likes of Converge, Earth, Triptykon and Sunn O))) decimated eardrums and made noses bleed (seriously). Here’s what we learned from our experience…
**Bigger Is Better **Bristol’s Temples Festival might only be in its second year, but they’re clearly not dicking about, with this year’s edition featuring a third stage and an additional 20-something bands. But would it work? Would there be too many clashes? Would it give us anytime at all to make it to the bar, or to stare slack-jawed at the dizzying array of merch on offer whilst we try to work out how we can both pay our rent and buy the absolutely necessary cart load of Sunn O))) t-shirts and Converge vinyl?…
Of course it worked! Thanks to some smart curation, and a running order that was clearly agonised over, most of the people Hammer ran into seemed to be carrying so much merch they had t-shirts stuffed into every hole and a copy of Monoliths & Dimensions stapled to their forehead, yet were also able to very drunkenly tell us why Slabdragger were their band of the weekend… So yeah, we guess it fucking worked. Nice one, Temples!
If You Didn’t Get A Nosebleed During Sunn O))) You Weren’t Doing It Right Sunn O))) are loud, very, very loud. Motion (the club and Bristol institution that houses Temples) is a loud venue, a very, very loud venue… What could go wrong?
The sheer physicality of Sunn O)))’s sound is as important to the experience of the group as the ‘songs’, and whilst you might think you know them from their records, until you’ve stood in front of their monolithic henge of amplifiers and withstood the peculiarly tranquil and terrifyingly bracing cacophony of drones, amp squeals and throat singing, you don’t really know Sunn O))) at all. Thankfully (and perhaps somewhat sadistically too) this weekend the initiated and the uninitiated alike were treated to one of the sternest performances the group have delivered on these shores in a very long time. At least three people suffered mid-set nosebleeds, more than one person passed out, and they did such damage to the PA that Sunday’s running order had to be put back an hour in order for the necessary fixes to be made. And we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Pig. Destroyer. Remarkably, Temples represents only the third time in their history that grind legends Pig Destroyer have made it over to the UK. Yet whilst their Friday set on the second stage saw the now quintet indulge us with their choicest cuts of gory, grinding ferocity, on Saturday the main stage was treated (perhaps ‘treated’ is the wrong word, unless you consider waking-up to find that during the night your stalker has sawn your toes off a ‘treat’?) to something extra special and never before seen: the band playing the half-hour horror of sound collages and sludge riffs that is Natasha in full. Accompanied by an increasingly disturbing non-narrative film projected behind them, whilst the performance may have taken some liberties with the exact structure and tone of the original track, the journey was nothing less than totally captivating… Which is saying something for what is essentially the story of a man suffering a severe mental breakdown, and subsequently inhuming himself in the same deep, muddy hole as he buried his dead teenage girlfriend.
Portal Ain’t For Everyone So anticipated was the performance of the mysterious and primitive, hooded and masked Australian black metal troupe that even before they’d played a note the second stage was packed to the point of an essentially one-in, one-out policy. “Don’t bother trying to get in there, mate”, Hammer was told by one departing punter as we craned our necks and tried to slither in, “this lot are fucking shit!” Who this sweary and bizarrely disappointed punter was we’ll never know, but a mighty ‘hails!’ to you for exiting, as your departure allowed us to squeeze in and catch one of the weekend’s undisputed highlights.
**It May Have Taken Celeste 10 years To Make It To The UK, But It Was Worth The Wait **The four Frenchmen that make up Celeste are a principled lot – your average post-affixed blackened hardcore band doesn’t use militant feminism, women’s rights, incest and child abuse as subject matter, for example – and their reluctance to play the UK is well publicised. But all this is forgotten when the shadowy quartet emerge onto the totally blacked out stage, engulfed in a thick fog of dry ice, switch on their head-torches, and then proceed to flatten us with a relentless sonic battery that sounds like a someone chucking corpses into a jet engine. With only the red beams of their torches visible, scanning the audience like alt metal Cylons, their set is an attack on almost all the senses with a blistering dirge that proves to be almost as positive and purging as it is destructive.
“You’ve run out of what??!!…” Okay, yes, we know it’s the venue and not the promoter that is responsible for keeping the bar well stocked, but c’mon Motion, this is a metal festival, not a congregation of pill-popping acid house junkies; we’re powered by booze in the same way a time-traveling Delorean is powered by plutonium – i.e. running out of beer before the last bands have finished playing is pretty much as bad as it can get! Aside from the fact that you need as stiff drink after Sunn O))), the last time a guy called ‘Doc’ made Hammer an alternative source of power we woke up a week later in a ditch in Hull…
**Will Haven Continue To Prove The Doubters Wrong **We love Will Haven. But if we’re being honest, perhaps due to their uncomfortable (and never really warranted) association with the nu metal scene, Will Haven’s booking had a slight sense of the ‘square peg’ about it… And then they emerged on stage, played ‘the hits’ and channelled more energy than would even be needed to power Sunn O)))’s backline! Rumours suggest this may’ve been the last time we’ll see the Sacramento legends on these shores, and the quintet certainly played like it. From guitarist Jeff Irwin climbing the PA and diving into the front row, to vocalist Grady Avenell screaming as if he wished his own lungs to burst, any notion that the band weren’t worthy of their booking was dispelled by about the second note of When The Walls Close In.
You Probably Won’t Be Able To Book Ghold To Play The Brixton Windmill Anymore Eyebrows were raised, too, at not so much the booking but the high billing of London-based sludge duo Ghold. Given higher placing than both Monarch and Year Of No Light could the pair pull it off? Yes, yes they absolutely pulled it off. Not only did they pull it off in fact, they pulled out a performance of such weight and tight, cohesive mastery that they blew away half the bands that had appeared before them over the entire weekend! They’ll be disappointed with a poor vocal mix, but their brutal, Melvins-meets-Harvey Milk-meets-Stig Of The Dump stomp sounded like a colossus marching across the south west to crush the entire venue into the mud. Expect big, big things from them in the future.
Such A Strong And Genuine Sense Of Community Doesn’t Happen By Accident A festival is always about more than just the music, it’s about trying to create a ‘vibe’ as well, an atmosphere of inclusion, of shared passions and genuine community. For a myriad of reasons Roadburn is often held up and the prime example of achieving this weirdly intangible sense that you are stepping into some sort of temporary autonomous zone, in which every man with a beard is youR brother and every woman in a Conan t-shirt your sister. You can’t force it, you can only create as best as you can the conditions in which that atmosphere can best flourish. And Francis Mace and the team at Temples have achieved it and them some… Random conversations about Skitsystem led to friendships; beers were shared by strangers; security staff were hands off and thanked because of it; problems arose and were quietly dealt with, with little or no complaint; and bands moved un-accosted through the crowds… To miss-quote Garth Algar: Temples, not just a place, but a state of mind.
You Don’t Have To Own A Beard To Go Here, But It Helps… Apparently “I think I’m the only person here with no hair… And no beard either!”, notes Pete Stahl midway through Goatsnake’s triumphant set. You ain’t wrong, Pete, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Roll on next year!