SkullFucker Festival 2011 Review

By Ashley Bailey

Out of fear of the deadly case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome one would suffer after writing reviews for a mammoth twenty-plus bands, (and partly due to the negative influence of alcohol) I decided to simply write a small piece about the SkullFucker weekender. However being a perfectionist this turned into a condensed review. It was an extremely ambitious idea to have a couple of dozen artists spread over a four day period, but kudos to those at Vine for having the dedication to put on such an event. My employers appeared to make it their mission to make my attendance rather difficult – and to this they were very dedicated. I even missed the opening night as a result. Since entry was free it was easy for people to come and go at will, ensuring that there was always a steady flow of individuals – including the small group of the faithful who practically became the furniture.

Mark Chatterton had managed to secure a good mixture of both local and nationwide bands for the event, and being able to see bands such as XIII, Righteous Indignation, Clown Corpse, Infernal Creation and Pastel Jack on the same bill as Guns 2 Roses, The Occupier, Calatrilloz and Juggernort made for a remarkable experience. There was a good variety of genres that that catered to all but the most discerning of tastes; traditional metal, hard rock, thrash, groove, black metal, alt rock and even theatrical operatic rock. And of course, whatever insane category Sinarisbelong to.

The gig also served as a good platform for up and coming acts such as Self Inflicted Revolution and Heartless Angels to play to larger crowds and with more established bands and as a result introduced myself (and I’m sure countless others) to bands I otherwise might have not been aware of.

I imagine the owners of the local fast food shops were rubbing their hands greedily for the entire four days, especially since I alone spent enough money to put said shop owners’ children through university. An adage that whilst entirely clich├ęd, is made all the more poignant when you consider that this is Cameron’s Britain. This was vita perficio – a healthy access to greasy food, beer, music and aerosol flamethrowers with the welcome addition of being able go home. In addition to the live bands we were treated to the DJing talents of Martin Raper. His choice in music covered the modern staples one would expect, but with a leaning for music born out of the prehistoric time when denim and tight-fitting trousers were the height of fashion and not just adorned by the musical elite.

As I mentioned previously I unfortunately was unable to attend the Friday, which was a real shame because on the bill for Friday were Hull’s two greatest melodic bands – Pastel Jack and[in:audium]. Juggernort was scheduled to play alongside them and whilst I am short on the details, I do know that they instead played on the Saturday.

The next day was probably the most varied of all the days and the longest to boot. Firewall kicked off proceedings, playing to a tiny crowd, though at a 16.30 start this was hardly unexpected. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of Megadeth’s ballad A Tout le Monde which seemed to combine the slow verses from the original with the faster chorus from the rearrangement set-me free. Immingham based blues rock band Low Culture were scheduled to follow but had dropped out presumably due to travel issues. But we were in capable hands as Self Inflicted Revolutiontook over the place of Low Culture. SIR are a band that have quickly grown on me like bacteria on agar jelly, with a set that is fairly unique – featuring a healthy mixture of hardrock and hardcore. Considering they have only been properly on the local circuit since June, SIR seem confident in themselves and play with a dominering attitude. Pugnacious Kopperhed stormed the stage like Libyan rebels, and captured Vine, held it hostage and were not prepared to let go until they were done. Vocalist Low accompanied the pounding solos with his assault rifle impersonations, ‘gunning down’ the members of the audience. Kopperhed encompassed the energies of bands such as Five Finger Death Punch and repackaged it in their own particular style. My enjoyment of the set was unfortunately cut short however after being forced to go and deal with a prowling sex-pest, though at least Kopperhed created the perfect background music for carrying out such a task. The first of Scunthorpe’s two big hitters, The Occupier, were next up and delivered to the metal hungry proletariat a fantastic set, by combining violent trashing with Simon’s commanding and thunderous vocals which grab you by the bollocks with a vice like grip, and break-neck speedy solos featuring oriental assassin-esque deadly-precise technicality. The Occupier’s songs transcend above the thrash confines in which they are born, and become epic themes to accompany a rise to arms.

Infernal Creation put in a strong and typically atmospheric set – though the ambience is always somewhat spoiled by the formerly brooding and contorting vocalist Neiphrobous telling the audience to check them out on Facebook and enquiring about the crowd’s interest in receiving a band shirt. It was the last gig IC will be playing in Hull for a few months and it was a worthy one watched by the expectedly large and devoted audience. Juggernort were a particular highlight, a tour de force whose untamed aggression is matched only by their ability to put on a show. With the lights switched off and the audience kept firmly in the dark (figuratively and metaphorically), Arnold Schwarzenegger sound bites began to blast out of the PAs. Once the lights came back on, we discovered that Juggernort had brought with them several go-go dancers, who perched at the sides of the stage and entertained the crowd members not currently caught in a whirlwind of death at the front. Juggernort’s onstage blitzkrieg was perhaps topped only by Kopperhed. Saturday’s headliners Righteous Indignation were strong contenders and held their own compared to the two furious London bands that had preceded.

Sunday opened at 8pm, with Heartless Angels serving as the harbingers. HA are a young alternative band led by vocalist Natalie. Her rock n roll vocals synch perfectly with the band’s sound, instead of being the typical Hayley Williams’ clone which comes to mind every time I hear the term female fronted alternative band. Next up was the second of Scunthorpe’s thrash bands,ILLFLOWER, a result of an experiment in eugenics involving breeding together the equally technical side of metal and with the perpetual state of pissed-off from punk. Calatrilloz, were next to step onto the now smoke obscured stage draped in black and plastered with corpse paint. However, much to my surprise, they were not a generic black metal band, but rather an interesting mix of the gothic, rock, jazz and theatrical opera. They are a pretty unique act and an extremely catchy one at that too. They are the type of that could enter the Eurovision song contest and win hands down, whilst simultaneously holding the talent and integrity of even the mightiest of metal bands. Hull’s horror metal / black metal heroes Clown Corpse drew proceedings to a close. CC are the black metal equivalent of The Misfits – combining horror themes and dark theatrics with the fast tempos, shrieked vocals and unconventional song structure characteristic of black metal. In many ways they are the sinister side to the Calatrilloz coin.

The final day of SkullFucker had approached, and since being a bank holiday it was the most populous of the entire weekend, though this could also be in part to the mighty Guns 2 Rosestaking the headlining slot. Think about that. Guns 2 Roses, headlining a free to enter gig. Who could resist such a bargain? But first, Sinaris. For a two piece band Sinaris managed to convey a surprising amount of depth to their songs by employing a few simple but effective tricks, i.e. using a seven stringed guitar and utilizing duel vocals. Obviously Mike and Graham are talented musicians but they could benefit from the addition of a bassist. I do admire the dedication it must take to continue a band with only two members remaining and just two people can create some heavy no holds barred carnage. Sinaris were followed by a band that was quite possibly my favourite act to play entire SkullFucker weekender, G-Force - a Gary Moore and Thin Lizzy tribute act. It was a strange experience to shift from heavily distorted guitars and growling vocals to a round of blues-rock in the space of time that it takes to play a Counter-Strike match. Whilst a few more songs from Gary Moore’s solo career – namely the Still Got the Blues and Wild Frontier eras -would have been fantastic I couldn’t really fault the song choices. In addition their performances were spot on, instead of being yet another band to cover Jailbreak they mastered the songs and made them their own.

As always it was great to see XIII, the penultimate performers. By all accounts they were on form and were perhaps more deserving of the headlining slot. XIII are the type of a band which I think it would be foolish to describe as being at the top of their game, for that implies they cannot reach higher plateaus – even though they continue to grow and mature. The crowd gathered round the stage in large numbers in a situation resembling the tank scene from The Walking Dead, as XIIItore through their set with incredible ease. Lastly Guns 2 Roses took to the stage, and keeping the spirit of Guns N Roses alive vocalist Gavin was steaming drunk and the only remaining member of the line-up that last performed at Vine. And thus we were led through GNR’s back catalogue in an alcohol-fuelled frenzy which involved much drunken thriving about and borderline sexual abuse of those in the band. For me G2R didn’t have the same impact as they did the first time, whether this was a result of knowing what to expect/being desensitised to Guns N Roses by this point or due to them being off-form remains unknown. Regardless they were well received by the vast majority of those in attendance, and brought a fitting end to SkullFucker, ensuring festivities went out with a bang.

If the crowd had been as large and interactive as it had been for XIII and Guns 2 Roses throughout then the atmosphere would have been spot on. As it stands though some bands got an awkward obligatory applause after each song, which is something you expect from some sleepy pub in the middle of nowhere. But my only real grievance is that with bands dropping out and set up times, some performers were either on later than expected or there was a longer period of waiting between bands. Now this is one of those inevitabilities so I can’t really complain, though since I was mostly on my own my primary mode of entertaining myself was testing my knowledge on the quiz machine – an act which not only hurt my wallet but my ego also. The line-up changes also led to problems with keeping track of which bands were performing, which were not and which had swapped slots such as Juggernort who originally were supposed to be playing on the Friday. Running updates throughout the event would have been an easy remedy.