GhostFest @ Leeds University Union

The Black Dahlia Murder, Carcer City, Heart Of A Coward & More
Leeds University Union, Leeds
30th June, 1st July

Saturday

Since Ghostfest started back in 2005, it has become one of the biggest metal-hardcore festivals in the UK. The initial festival only consisted of one stage over 2 days and was held on Leeds Cockpit’s smaller stage. In the 7 years since then, Ghostfest now boasts a 2700 capacity venue with 3 stages at the Leeds University Union and has showcased upcoming bands such as Bring Me The Horizon, Architects and Your Demise as well as established acts like The Black Dahlia Murder and Suicide Silence.

This years festival kicked off on the Impericon Stage with Manchester’s kings of gore Ingested. Their lightning fast beats and guttural vocals were mediocre at best, but their fan favourite Skinned And Fucked gained much appraisal from the crowd and warmed up the pits for the rest of the days bands.

Over on the Monster Stage, Scottish five-piece Heavy Hands failed to keep the same level of energy in the crowd. I could only feel that their set would have been much better if the quality of the instruments was at a respectable level. However, the crowd was just treated to fuzzy riff after fuzzy riff. Whether this was a fault with their equipment or the technician, I don’t know. But I do know that Ghostfest could have had a better start than it did.

Following Ingested, Heart Of A Coward took to the main stage. Their melodic blend of groove metal received much earned applause from the thousands in the crowd. As well as tearing the place apart with ground shaking breakdowns and circle pit initiating riffs, they also made the sure the audience was having a good time. At one point, their vocalist asked for lines of head bangers which ascended into half of the crowd being linked together and head banging in sync with HOAC’s unique brand of metal. So far, they were the only band to truly show the weekend’s potential carnage.

My first time to the smallest stage in the venue, the Time Will Tell stage, was to see Welsh metalheads Continents who I must say were disappointing. Technical difficulties during their set didn’t help either, but I expected more from them. Many people amongst the crowd still moshed and danced, but I don’t think their energy was reflected in the band.

After seeing rising stars Silent Screams on a much smaller stage in my home town, I decided to watch them on the Main stage to see if they could emulate their performance on a much bigger stage to a far larger crowd. I was impressed to see how far this band have grown, but I still find what they offer rather droll. I found their set rather boring, but much of the crowd enjoyed breakdown after breakdown after breakdown. The crowds movement and energy drove the band to push their performance to match, but there is only so much you can do with such repetitive material.

Another band I had also seen in my home town was Scottish Hardcore quintet Grader, and they always put full effort into their set. This performance was no exception, but unfortunately the crowd never fully connected. I felt sorry for them as they gained unenthusiastic applause after each song, until their hard hitting anthem Keep Love blasted out and many of their fans (including me) stormed to the stage to sing along. However, I felt that their set could of gone much better if the crowd matched their on stage effort.

The next band I saw were post-hardcore band Heights. They had recently received a lot of controversy after their vocalist was kicked out and replaced, which caused quite a stir amongst fans who felt the band wouldn’t be the same. However, the crowd went wild for them at the Impericon stage. Songs such as Lost And Alone and Forget ripped the crowd apart with walls of death and circle pits. Their performance showed that they don’t care what people say about them and that they’re just there to give a good show. I couldn’t agree more with them!

Australian legends Comeback Kid were the next band I saw. Despite their huge fan base and roars from the crowd, I felt that their set was one long build up to nothing. Their breath taking hooks and drops just didn’t have the same appeal as they did on CD. However, a surprise appearance from Your Demise vocalist Ed McRae did add a little extra element to their set, but I don’t think they ever fully impacted as well as they were expected to.

Over on the Time Will Tell stage, Liverpool heroes Carcer City were one of the best bands of the day. They kept the crowd moving throughout their entire set with their enchanting riffs and stomping breakdowns. Despite some of their set being a bit repetitive and predictable, this clearly didn’t matter to either sides of the barrier. Both the crowd and the band worked in harmony to deliver a mind blowing set.

The headliners on the Monster Stage were welsh hardcore crew Brutality Will Prevail, and I must confess myself as a huge fan. I also noticed on my travels around the venue that many people were wearing their merch or ‘Purgatory’ (their record label) merch. It further became clear that Purgatory is more of a family than a label. BWP played a rather sloppy set. Their rhythm guitarist had to keep checking what the other guitarist was playing, which is very unprofessional in my eyes. It wasn’t brought to our attention whether he was a stand in or not, so I just presumed that he hadn’t rehearsed as often as he should. However, the crowd for BWP was phenomenal. The ‘Purgatory family’ was in full effect and made sure the venue was erupting from start to finish. Whether the band deserved such a response is a different matter, but their fan base were extremely loyal and made sure they had a warm response.

Michigan giants The Black Dahlia Murder headlined the main stage, but failed to reach the same level of response. Their performance was flawless and this was reflected in the emotion of some of their dedicated fans, but many of the members of the crowd were self professed ‘hardcore kids’ and weren’t massive TBDM fans. However, the band made sure they delivered an astounding set list of huge songs and gave their full effort into their performance. This was greatly appreciated by people who were actually there to see the band.

Despite starting with a few poor bands who could have played much better, Ghostfest went to a great start with bands such as Heart Of A Coward and Carcer City showing the huge potential that could be offered on the second day.

Sunday

 

After a good nights sleep in a cheap hotel and a belly full of chicken, I was more than ready for part 2 of Ghostfest. However, just like part 1, it went of to a slightly disappointing start. The last time I saw Polar, they destroyed a local venue in my hometown. Once again, they smashed their way through a bone crushing set of huge beats and rock riffs. But it appeared that much of the crowd drank a little too much or didn’t get enough sleep the night before as there was barely any movement for their groovy set and what appeared to be a sympathetic applause between songs. This was no fault of the bands though and they looked like they were enjoying their set.

One of the reasons I had wanted to go to Ghostfest was to see Demoraliser. There was much anticipation amongst the crowd on the Impericon stage as the band appeared to have technical difficulties while setting up and had to delay their set. However when they finally did start their set, the technical difficulties continued. They were so bad that guest vocalist Scott Kennedy’s (Bleed From Within) appearance was ruined due to his microphone not being turned up on the sound desk. This was clearly no fault of the bands and they still went on to infect the crowd with their spine tingling riffs and heart pounding breakdowns. They received one of the best crowd responses of the weekend, at the expense of a few fans. For example, one over enthusiastic fan ran past me after having a piercing ripped out of his nose in the pit, and I heard that someone at the front of the crowd lost a few teeth.

Next on the main stage were TRC and they were easily one of the most entertaining bands of the weekend. As well as blasting out classics such as ‘Define Cocky’ and ‘H.A.T.E.R.S.’, they also treated the audience to small bouts of humour between songs and also expressed their feelings on the current state of the music scene. TRC’s set was inspiring to say the least, and the crowd went wild for them. They couldn’t have asked for a better response.

Over on the Monster Stage, Breaking Point, another member of the Purgatory Family, followed in Brutality Will Prevail’s foot steps. The only difference was that Breaking Point’s set was less sloppy. Their hardcore grooves had the crowd going mad and for those who weren’t in the pit, the band played with immense energy and put on a good stage show.

When I saw the Ghostfest line up, I was very confused to see Dubstep-metal band Astroid Boys as they differ far from any other band on the festival. However, they turned out to be one of the best. Their amazing blend of dancey dubstep and breakdowns were a breath of fresh air from the constant metal and hardcore that Ghostfest had to offer. And the pits were far from normal too. Seeing fans hardcore dancing to dubstep is one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed. Overall, seeing Astroid Boys is an experience I will never forget.

All Shall Perish were a band that I wasn’t too excited to catch, but I’m glad I did. Their set was absolutely flawless. The solos sent shivers down my spine due to the sheer perfection of them. However, the constant riffs seemed repetitive and became boring after a while but the die hard fans of the band had the time of their lives.

After seeing them twice before ripping up 2 separate venues, I was curious as to how the lads in Odessa from Birmingham would react to playing their first set at Ghostfest. Despite playing on the smallest stage, they were quite easily main stage material and I would happily place a bet on that they will be on the main stage within the next few years. Their set did become quite tiresome after a few songs, but that didn’t bother anyone as what they played was top quality. Their riffs complimented the vocals so well and the breakdowns made the room move like an ocean. They are definitely one of the bands that Ghostfest will be proud to say it showcased in years to come.

Another band that I had seen (and enjoyed) before was Bury Tomorrow and they were even better and heavier than ever before. Their breakdowns and bass drops were surreal and Daniel Bates’ vocals sounded refined and perfected. As well as cheering on the crowd, the moved around the stage and put on a great show. Bates also spoke to the crowd about how they shouldn’t care what other people think about them, which was very inspirational and added an extra dimension to their set.

Martyr Defiled were also a main reason as to why I looked forward to Ghostfest. On CD, they are one of the most brutal upcoming bands out there. Their live experience doesn’t differ either. Before the band had even begun playing, a pit had opened up without them asking and it didn’t cease until the end of the set. Crushing anthems such as ‘The Act Of Sedition’ are proof of why this band are going places and how their live process shows no signs of calming down.

One of the most anticipated bands of the weekend were Your Demise, and they didn’t disappoint. After their recent album tore fans apart because of the pop-punk vibe, there was speculation amongst fans as to whether they would actually be any good live. Apart from Ed McRae’s ‘on and off’ vocals, the band played a belter of a set. By mixing in both classic songs such as ‘Burnt Tongues’ with new songs like ‘These Lights’, their performance was surprisingly refreshing. However, it was evident that McRae’s singing voice is his best attribute.

Emmure are a band that a much like marmite; you either fall in love with their style, or you hate the band entirely. This was clear amongst Ghostfest’s inhabitants. I tried to keep an unbiased view on the band and I must admit they did perform well. Despite a bit of sloppiness here and there, they were by far one of the heaviest bands of the weekend. Like a lot of bands this weekend though, they were very repetitive. Drop tuned breakdown after drop tuned breakdown became tedious, but their fans seemed to love it and they had some of the biggest pits of the weekend.

The headliner on the Monster stage was Defeater, and there could not have been a better way to end the festival. A huge and loyal crowd formed to watch the band, and their singing for Defeater’s set was deafening. Their emotional brand of hardcore was inspirational to say the least. Defining songs such as ‘Dear Father’ and ‘Cemetery Walls’ had me, and the rest of the crowd I’m sure, in awe. Half way through their set, they stopped for a play through of tearful acoustic song ‘I Don’t Mind’. Vocalist Derek Archambault’s voice was inaudible for much of the song due to the crowd singing along. This was something that he generously thanked, as it is an artists dream to see hundreds of fans singing the songs you wrote back at you. If that wasn’t a good enough reaction for the band, after their set the room echoed with the sound of “one more song”. And even after an unexpected encore, they were still asked to play another. Unfortunately, they didn’t return to the stage for a third time.

After experiencing Ghostfest 2012, I began to understand the effect of it and what it stands for. As pointed out by Bury Tomorrow’s vocalist Daniel, it is festivals like this that inspire fans to support local music and even start bands of their own. Ghostfest also made me realise that over the last 7 years, the metal-hardcore scene has only become bigger and bigger, and currently shows no sign of simmering down. Bring on Ghostfest 2013!

Sam Axup

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