(N) Valkyrian Festival 2011 Part 1 – Entity + Infernal Creation + Farewell Atlantis + Pastel Jack + Skarlett Riot.
By Ashley Bailey
Generosity isn’t a word that you’d usually associate with Vikings, unless it was featured in the sentence ‘and thus the villagers experienced Viking generosity by virtue of pillaging and wanton destruction.’ Though someone clearly forgot to give that memo to self-professed Viking aficionado Nico Davidson, the mastermind behind November 27th’s charity fundraiser Valkyrian Festival. I offer many apologies for this late review but I have been held up by staffing issues, laptop problems and procrastination. Yes, procrastination is quite the bit…oh did you know that Theaters in Glendale, California can show horror films only on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?
I decided to arrive a fair while before proceedings were scheduled to begin, being the upmost professional and all that, and I discovered that Ringside was already full of life. Though the place was still as cold as the Boomerang Nebula. Admittedly the majority of the people in attendance at this point were members of the bands scheduled to play but it still provided a welcoming atmosphere.
Extreme metal band Entity was the first band to take to the stage, and a band which I knew nothing about. So I was a little taken aback when they were introduced with the Thunderbirds intro. And with vocalist Tim donning a green Macmillan flag as a cape, I genuinely thought I had taken a wrong turn into Arkham Asylum. However it was soon business as unusual, as Entity opened with a lengthy track powered by distorted guitars and harsh, shouting vocals from Tim and guttural vocals handled by bassist Jez– a style of singing which I here forth dub the ‘out of lozenges’ technique. In places, the song reminded me of Burn the Priest (old Lamb of God). Winter Plague immediately followed, and it was a powerhouse of a track – characterised by a very fast paced tempo, to an extent were it was difficult to discern the individual instrumental sections. Again, the song was epically long, with an unusual bridge section reminiscent of the opening of White Wizzard’s Iron Goddess of Vengeance. The bridge served to break the track up since the previous track did drag somewhat. After the bridge the song became more rhythmic and featured melodic shouts, which afforded a nice change of tone. I particularly enjoyed Josh’s drumming; his utilisation of the double bass and blast beat was brilliant.
By the time of the third song – A Ghostly Touch, a song about spectral rapist, the set was becoming progressively upbeat. I quite enjoyed this song, particularly its mesmerising and chugging thrash-esque main guitar riff. My only real grievance was that the solo was overpowered by the other instruments. A Ghostly Touch also marked Entity’s trend of giving humorous and light hearted songs stereotypically black metal names; a trend continued by Under a Darkened Sunwhich concerned waking up next to a fat chick. Featuring plenty of harmonic guitar lines, especially during the outro, Darkened Sun is a lot like Edge of the Earth era Sylosis, only rawer; especially during the haunting breakdown. As I was watching Tim scream away, I found myself comparing him to Doctor Who’s Davros. Rise of the Kraken, was their final song of the evening, and one which was dedicated to me since Valk-Fest happened to coincide with my birthday.
Kraken served as the ultimate ending for what had been a fantastic set, and is definitely Entity’s most ambitious song. It was a culmination of all that is Entity – very melodic death metal intro and solo mixed with brutal vocals and omnipresent smashing drums, with an overall prog structure. Had Valk-Fest taken place in the Sydney Opera House I would have given a standing ovation, but as it transpires a good review will have to suffice. Overall Entity were an excellent opening band, one which quickly got me in an appropriate mood for seven hours of rock and metal. It is just a shame that they didn’t have a decent crowd to interact with as it would have helped them to come out of the collective shell in which they were hiding.
Up next was Hull’s premier black metal band – Infernal Creation; and after my interest was officially piqued by Entity’s set I was looking forward to watching IC, for they can always be counted on to put on an atmospheric performance. I’ve never found black metal to be rhythmically pleasing – quite frankly I find it quite droll, but IC are a band who are capable of creating catchy progressive songs with more tricks up their sleeves than a tailor shop that specialises in wizard robes.
IC played a set of five songs. Vocalist Lewis/ Neiphrobous was (as always) the highlight, with his furiously powerful vocals and a demeanour which makes it appear that he is actually capable of burning down a church. His hostility is fun to watch and yet somewhat intimidating, like watching Glenn Beck read a dissertation that you’ve written which casts a sympathetic view on left wing politics. One aspect I enjoy about Infernal Creation is the prominent bass from Beleth, Hull’s number one Sheldon Cooper look-alike, which helps the band to rival the depths achieved by bands with dual guitarists. The third song of their set,The Insidious Gospel, was almost certainly my favourite. Beginning with a sinister slower guitar section, Insidious gradually built up in intensity – not too unlike the butterfly effect, before metaphorically exploding into a juggernaut of nihilism and the thrash influences soon became abundantly clear; with guitarist Sin playing simple but extremely fast riffs. As I stated before it made for effective viewing, especially when Neiphrobous contorts in peculiar positions or when Sin helps to amplify the growling. Bastard, always efficiently manages to keep the brutality marching on with his complicated drumbeats, and this song was no different (I find it fairly difficult to effectively snap him with my antiquated camera).
Speaking of Bastard, Omega Cult is where he found a place to shine. The general pace of the song was a slower and all-round more thoughtful than the majority of the set (or as close as Infernal Creation can get), and the drumming reflected this; yet it remained still retained the ferocity one would expect from the band. The final song of the evening was the relentless Cataclysm. The song was incredibly catching (in a black metal way) and I found myself attempting to nod my head along with every hook. Neiphrobous really hammered home Infernal Creation’s dark creed in this song, even going as far as shouting his lyrics during the bridge section. In ever there was a song to unite all the lost souls to unite and rise up against man-king than surely Cataclysm would be it. All in all I couldn’t identity any faults with IC’s set; five songs of unbridled anger matched only by the brutal technicality of the band’s members.
Travelling all the way down to Hull from the land of funny accents and Geordie Shore were Farewell Atlantis, a post hardcore band. Their official Facebook page lists them as a five piece but they were a four piece tonight; unless one of their members has also been studying the same field of optical density as H.G Wells’ famous character – Griffin. In the type of Face-Heel turn usually reserved for wrestling storylines or the trickster god Loki, ever since I started DnL I have gone from being supercilious about the hardcore genre to having an obsession for it that borders on the fetishistic; and due to this realisation Farewell were one of the bands playing Valk-Fest that I was really looking forward to.
Vocalist Liam performed both the shouting and melodic vocals which created a nice trade-off, with fist pumping aggressive passages and the more melodic arms-waving-in-the-air sections. The clean vocals sounded too soft and were often drowned out by the instruments, a bit of a trying to light a candle in the wind with five o’clock stubble situation. After playing their intro FA immediately followed up with the unusual titled ‘I Trade Sex for Monster’. Powered by an almost ‘pop-punk’ main guitar riff from one Craig Jobey, the song served as the perfect primer for FA’s style featuring; raw melodic vocals interspliced with some expertly done screamo, catchy riffs and great drumming by Keelan including a speedy beat that comes completely out of left field after the bridge section. At this point it was clear that Farewell were successful in attracting the first active crowd of the evening, with a handful of individuals doing the typical two-step routine followed by Butterfly Kicks – just because they can. The band themselves weren’t as static as previous bands (with an obvious exclusion of IC’s Lewis), bouncing around on stage like a spring that has forgotten to take its medication.
They followed up with Never Say Never (We’ll Never Survive), one of the strongest of their set. The majority of the song’s vocals were melodic, though bassist Henning and Keelan helped to perform the scream vocals which sounded particularly aggressive during the breakdown; complemented nicely by military styled drumbeats. This breakdown was immediately followed by a tasty metal guitar riff. Before song number four Farewell had to contend with some minor technical issues. Keelan, who was also responsible for the sound sampling, had trouble with an orchestral prelude. This issue was promptly solved and a cover of T.a.T.u’sAll the Things She Said followed. On paper a hardcore cover of the Ruskie pop duo’s iconic song sounds like it had as much of a chance of working as Spontaneous Generation, but Liam managed to smoothly transit between the haunting melodic vocals of the original song with the savage vocals characteristic of the hardcore genre. Hot off the heels of the fantastic cover came Death of a Stranger, the best part of which was the seemingly Trivium inspired opening riffs which worked well to showcase the band’s versatility.
A brief interlude involving a sample of John F Kennedy’s iconic ‘ask not what your country can do for you’ inaugural address broke up Death of a Stranger and Failure is Always an Option. Failure was without a doubt the most brU74L track of the set, a full frontal assault on the primary auditory cortex. And that this song was dedicated to me (as part of my birthday celebration) helped to solidify its status as the second roughest thing to occur on my birthday – the first being that stripper in cake from Bransholme. Farewell ended their set with a very short song named The Day You Became Family, which reminded me of the intensity of Napalm Death’s less lengthy tracks. During this last song Henning jumped off the stage and engaged in the pitting crowd.
My only real gripe is that Liam didn’t really display the demeanour typical of a frontman; he came across as quite sheepish and rarely interacted with the crowd. This wasn’t a major issue as it wasn’t exactly detrimental to Farewell’s set but when hardcore frontmen are known for being more in-your-face than an America riot officer dealing with an Occupy Wall Street protestor it is a little disappointing.
Denim and Leather regulars Pastel Jack were band number four, and having left the Ringside to grab a half pound cheese burger to fuel my increasingly effete body it was refreshing to return and witness frontman and vocalist Neil commanding the entire room with his usual swagger and animalistic showmanship. In my absence I had missed Flatline, which had served as their opener. Personally I can think of no greater opener as the drum and guitar work from Tom and Pete (respectively) is absolutely intense and likely to blow you away like a well connected Hadoken from Ryu. Methematic followed which was an unusual choice as the song’s length and anthemic feel fits better in the usual opening or closing slot. Though this is an aspect about a Pastel Jack gig that I really appreciate – it is almost guaranteed the setlist will differ wildly from gig to gig, which is quite a rarity as bands are often content with following the Call of Duty rule of ‘same shit, different day.’
The third song was the newish Game of Chance, an absolute blinder of a track, featuring soulful harmonies from Neil and Pete and outstanding drumming during the outro. My only real grievance is that bassist Dave doesn’t have much to play with, though I have heard from the man himself that he is going to rewrite his sections. PJ closed with The Gentle Art of Combustion, a mid-tempo mellow song. Now I don’t know if it was just because I hadn’t heard the song in awhile but to me it sounded different; more psychedelic and more like an anthem. Neil’s soulful vocals were amazing and matched the tone of the song perfectly. The pre-solo section still remained amazing to behold, with Pete string bending and a nice relaxed underlay of bass from Dave. Strangely, whilst watching I imagined that Combustion would work perfectly as a music video for Finding Nemo.
With the entertaining authority of a hundred cockney hardmen vocalist Skarlett brought her hard rock/AOR outfit Skarlett Riot to the stage. If you’ve never seen Skarlett Riot before, all you need to know is that they are the result hypothetical result of a VersaEmerge-Heaven’s Basement collaboration. Their sound is instantly accessible and enjoyable in a rock out with your nether regions on display kind of way; but the real star is Skarlett herself. I don’t strictly mean that in the lecherous sense, but rather her unrivalled stage persona. The only criticism I can lay at Skarlett is that her ‘Americanised’ performance does begin to grate after awhile since it feels forced and unnecessary.
SR played a set of around seven songs, divided up as a healthy mix of hard rock and angsty alternative ballads. I missed the first two songs due to being otherwise occupied, though I managed to return in time for You’re the Enemy. The song played as a mixture of the two aforementioned archetypal styles, opening with a melodic intro before transforming into a heavier almost metal riff. Same with the lyrics – during the verses the lyrics are more downbeat and drowned in weltschmerz, whereas the chorus is harmonic and sung in an anthemic fashion. Throughout the song lead guitar duties seemed to switch back and forth between Skarlett and Danny.
Villain followed and disappointingly was a similar affair to the preceding song, with the anger factor cranked up and sans Skarlett on guitar, helping to give a more intimate performance. The lyrics seemed quite personal and I imagine this to help with the leading lady’s delivery. However the best part of the song was Luke’s impressive drum solo which led us into the next song Take it All.
Take it All featured an amazing pre-solo section with an almost cadence like drum beat, followed by what is arguably the strongest solo of SR’s repertoire with Danny shredding away. In an AOR set full of hooks Take it All features an infectious chorus; I didn’t even fully know the words but I couldn’t stop myself from singing under my breath. Proceedings finished up with Walk Away, which was more entrenched in the alternative genre than either hard rock or AOR. Despite not having the same impact ending with Take it All would have, but performance wise they went all out. Tom traversed a series of tables set up near the stage whilst continuing to play, t-shirts came off – if I remember correctly and Skarlett held a near PA destroying note for fifteen to twenty seconds. I dare any doubters of her singing ability to bold facedly continue to claim as such after witnessing such a feat.
Anyone who was in attendance could probably testify to my statement two paragraphs up; because though the crowd since dwindled since Infernal Creation and was as lively as a marijuana convention, Skarlett, Danny and bassist Tom managed to all put in a performance worthy of a far larger crowd. Whilst I do enjoy SR, I found in this particular instance the middle of the set seemed to drag with three of the four songs having a slower tempo and a melancholic tone. When Skarlett Riot are blasting out the faster rock tracks they are very enjoyable so a slouch in the middle can be described like a minor bump in the road like a woman catching man-flu.