It’s a sunny Saturday in Bristol, not that you’d realise from the horde of pasty-faced, black clad Metal Heads who descend on The Fleece for a night of extreme metal. These are the “Temples rejects“, as All Pigs Must Die frontman Kevin Baker terms them: those who had been eagerly awaiting Temples Festival 2016, only for it to be abruptly cancelled with less than a week’s notice. Following the festival’s cancellation, The Fleece provided a life raft for bands and fans alike, with this and other replacement events over the weekend. Outside the venue is a small gathering of unlucky fans who were unable to get tickets – some of whom had travelled far to attend the festival, judging by the range of accents – holding signs pleading for spares. Those who manage to get in are more than happy to help out the bands financially by visiting the Church of Merch in the adjacent Church of St. Thomas the Martyr.
The opening two bands make a solid impression despite problems with the sound. Kicking off the day is Aberdeen powerviolence trio Boak, who tear through a set of frenetic hardcore, with lyrics focussing on politics and animal rights. They are followed by Welsh five-piece Venom Prison, who play muscular, old school death metal in the vein of Floridian legends Morbid Angel. Frontwoman Larissa, closes their set by summoning forth unseen powers with arms outstretched, eyes wide, and voice in bloodcurdling form.
Next up is ((OHHMS)) from Canterbury, whose droning, psychedelic doom is clearly a hit, judging by the large number of people seen wearing ((OHHMS)) t-shirts following their set. If the pace of their gargantuan riffs is lethargic their performance certainly is not; vocalist Paul Waller moves like a marionette throwing a tantrum, while bassist Chainy Chainy swings around a supporting pillar, his lank fringe spraying sweat over the crowd.
Denver, Colorado’s Primitive Man are one of the most unique and distinctive bands in underground metal, not to mention one of the most genuinely horrifying noises ever created by man. The imposing stature of vocalist/guitarist ELM and bassist JC is equals the overwhelming heft of their dissonant doom riffs, which hang in the air like a thick, black smog. ELM delivers his growling vocals like a man possessed, eyes rolling into the back of his head. Their misanthropic music is offset by their amiable demeanour between songs: “make sure you don’t get SunnO)))-burnt”, ELM jokes, referencing last year’s Temples headliner.
Norwegian noise-rockers Årabrot take to the stage in matching white shirts and black trousers, with frontman Kjetil Nernes sporting a wide-brimmed black hat. Heavy, but not stereotypically metal, the band’s set leaves some in the audience nonplussed, but this is nothing new to Årabrot, who have been puzzling audiences for fifteen years with their innovative music. Following is crust punk supergroup All Pigs Must Die, who whip the audience in a frenzy with an impassioned set of raging D-beat. Kevin Baker glowers above the swirling moshpit, tearing violent testimony from his throat as a maelstrom of noise unfolds around him. The plagiaristically-named ACxDC (an acronym for Antichrist Demoncore) match them in hardcore ferocity, unleashing a blistering half hour of “vegan-straightedge-satanist” powerviolence, averaging a song a minute.
After the exhausting pace of the preceding two bands, Ramesses provide a welcome contrast. The recently reunited Dorset doom-mongers slow things down with their sludge-caked riffs and horror-inflected lyrics. It is almost impossible to tear your eyes away from drummer Mark Greening; the bizarre physical shapes he pulls as a result of his unusual kit set-up are almost as distinctive as his thundering throwback style.
Britain’s Dragged Into Sunlight bring a touch of theatricality to the evening with some gothic stage props, lighted candles and strobe lighting. The infamously anonymous black metal outfit play with their backs to the audience which, in some cases, could be off-putting; yet, there is no doubting the intensity of their performance, which the crowd reciprocates with fervent moshing.
The day is capped off with a workmanlike performance by ‘miserable Chicago doom’ group Bongripper. Their gut-rumbling riffs induce dutiful head-swaying from the audience, but over an hour-long set they become monotonous and with no vocals there is little to distinguish one section from another. Finally, everyone leaves the venue grateful to The Fleece for rescuing what could have been a disastrous weekend for Temples ticketholders and musicians.
This article was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.