Prepare your ears, prepare your wallets and prepare your livers! Desertfest is nearly upon us once again and as ever, Shaman Lee and Pete Green will be fully present and correct (and likely dazed and confused!) in Camden to bring you coverage of all the action right here on The Sleeping Shaman.
Now into its fifth consecutive year, Desertfest has gone from strength to strength over past half-decade. Starting out from humble beginnings as series of shows from the belly of Camden’s Underworld, The Black Heart and several other nearby venues, the three day event has now grown into the UK’s premier psyche/stoner/doom/sludge festival, attracting fans from all around Europe and beyond to the busy streets of London. Headlined in 2015 by the almighty kings of stoner metal Sleep, last year set the bar for performances even higher as Desertfest invaded the huge KOKO venue for the first time. With another garden of devastatingly unearthly delights on show this coming April, we know already that the headlining power trio of Corrosion Of Conformity, Russian Circles and Electric Wizard certainly need no introduction. Therefore, Pete Green and Shaman Lee saw it only fitting to take a trawl through The Sleeping Shaman’s Top Ten Must See Desertfest Bands for 2016 from deep within the real underground…
Bringing some much-needed Northern banter to the capital by the skipload, Leeds’ sludgiest threesome BongCauldron are bona fide headbangers of the highest order. Whilst they’ve kept us waiting for that elusive debut album, the self-titled and Acid Cattle EPs have both been on heavy rotation in my headphones since Bongers burst on to the scene in 2014. Imagine Bongzilla, Dopefight, Weedeater and seventeen other marijuana-munching, shit-kicking bands trying to do an Otley Run pub-crawl together in record timing and you’ll be somewhere close to the ethos of their triumphant sound. Tight as a box of cable ties and funny as fuck between songs, don’t miss BongCauldron as they open up the Human Disease/When Planets Collide Stage in The Underworld on Saturday April 30th.
Track to add to Your Playlist: Gauze Rite
Dubstep? Techno? Electronica? At Desertfest?? You must either be barking up the wrong tree, had a few too many craft ales or talking exclusively about London’s two bleakest knob-twiddlers Necro Deathmort. Formed in 2009 by Matt Rozeik and AJ Cookson, NDM have been wringing out their distorted beats, punishing dark soundscapes and fragmented electronic brutality across the capital and beyond ever since. Utilising guitar, bass, synthesizers, vocals and a terrifying array of assorted other electro gadgets, Necro Deathmort are as enthralling live as they are mystifying on record. Proving themselves to be a prolific twosome having released a combined total of ten albums and EPs in less than seven years, there’s no doubt that their dingy, warped, ugly mash-ups of Khanate, Kraftwerk and Jesu are here to terrify the shit out of us for a good while yet to come.
Track to add to Your Playlist: The Heat Death Of Everything
Pronounced “doo-ser”, don’t you know sir, this German duo have leapt into several saddles all at once to straddle the very limits of noise-rock, stoner-fuzz, prog-rock and garage-punk to bring you a mash-up of quite epic and bizarre proportions. With Jarii (drums, vox) and Andre (guitar, vox) though, things are never anywhere close to what they seem as the twosome judder, jar and spar with each other, both verbally and musically, from the start to the end of every show, like some kind of stoner-prog Reeves and Mortimer. Also iconic are their stage outfits: two un-matching, yet paired halves of two different shirts, sewn back together to make new shirts. Yep, it doesn’t make sense does it? Yet somehow, it all falls into place pretty neatly for DŸSE. Just go see them, you won’t find a reference point any better than I can!
Track to add to Your Playlist: Treppe
The first time I saw France’s monoliths of droning funeral doom, I practically wept for my mother to drive over and pick me up to just save me from their evil claw of nightmarish heaviness… Nah, just kidding, I was loving it! With Eurogirl’s genuinely terrifying vocal screams somehow steering this swaying galleon of crawling Bayonne bombast, there’s simply no forgiveness in those basement-dredging guitars and apocalyptic drumming to enable anyone to see light on the other side. Whilst an oddly prolific bunch, who’ve managed seven full-length records since 2005, 2015 brought a new direction to Monarch’s journey down the left-hand path in the form of a couple of covers of Die, Die My Darling and Cherry Bomb, both of which brought unknown levels of misery to those upbeat pop-rock classics. But to be at home with the Monarch sound, you need to go in hard, deep, lengthy and low into one of their many pilgrimages to truly sludged-out oblivion. Not a band for the faint-hearted, Monarch are simply perfect for the HDP/WPC Stage in the grimy Underworld on Saturday afternoon.
Track to add to Your Playlist: Black Becomes the Sun
Canterbury crusaders OHHMS have been an absolute revelation since bursting onto the prog/doom/stoner/metal/whatever scene in early 2014. With the heartfelt, uplifting vocals of Paul Waller riding the gigantic walls of riffing glory that span songs as wide as twenty minutes across, OHHMS build bridges to marry mature progressive yearnings with some seriously sludge-trawling grooves. Quickly snapped up by Holy Roar just in time to release two stunning EPs in the form of Bloom and Cold, OHHMS throw simply everything they have in their bodies into every live show, fully prepared to come out the other side with blood, sweat, gear and tears littering the stage floor. Not a band you should catch a cheeky five minutes of before sneaking out the back door of The Underworld, theirs is a performance as immersive as any. However, they’ll reward your patient ears with some beautiful psychedelia and your proud chest with some awesome looking t-shirts,
Track to add to Your Playlist: The Anchor
Oh those riffs! Oh those melodies! Oh those gorgeously self-restrained climbs and triumphant climaxes! It can only be Samothrace. Helmed by the humongously powerful vocals and heroic live emotions of Bryan Spinks, this Seattle four-piece will have you in the blender for the long-haul with their usually post-fifteen minute spacey epics. With Spinks and co, gear shifts are practically seismic; from painstakingly slow funeral doom, through to the pastiches and restraint-free open plains of post-metal and back again via some backdoor cactus-coaxing jams. Their hymns are journeys which take you way out beyond the beyond and yet further beyond still to land where the guitar solos dance with both demons and the angels alike around a campfire of solid sonic yearnings and half-buried dreams. And if that all sounds too intense, you’d better get off the island before these titans get started.
Track to add to Your Playlist: A Horse Of Our Own
Belfast is a beautiful, modern city all right, but the way Northern Ireland’s bruising heroes Slomatics are going, it’ll be a crumbling mass of fractured brickwork and warped steel girders in next to no time. Known by some as the distant cousins of fellow doomcrushers Conan, Slomatics are arguably the more righteous kings of THAT low-slung, ultra-spacey, fuzzed-out sound known by many as simply pure TONE. With Marty Harvey’s vocals booming out from behind his drumkit like some kind of distress call from a star destroyer in a galaxy far, far away, with Chris Couzens and David Majury leading with the kind of riffs that could implode supernovas, Slomatics are a force to be reckoned with on any stage, on any planet. Rumoured to have new material in the bag to hopefully sit snugly next to plenty of sublime cuts from the recently devastating A Hocht and Estron LPs, you really canNOT afford to miss these underground legends bring their A-game from one great capital back to another.
Track to add to Your Playlist: Lost Punisher
Never afraid to ruffle some feathers, open their beaks and swoop down upon a flock of sublime rifforama, Illinois’ Pelican have been there, done it, hatched their young and flown back to the nest to tell their instrumental tales from the great skies and beyond. Often mistaken for simple riffians on the fly, their sound is one of huge, totemic landscapes; barren wastes and swamplands giving birth to new life right in front of your very eyes. Schooled in the same backyard as the likes of Russian Circles, Tombs, Isis, Bongripper, Cult of Luna and Botch, the fourpiece skilfully blend emotive guitar hooks and carefully calculated drum mastery into a sense of metallic rhythm that will have you weak at the knees and teary at the eye. Backed up with a ton of material from a vast series of releases including the sublime What We All Come To Need, the crunching City Of Echoes and that scorching debut Australasia, you can’t expect any vocals, but you can expect a guitar-laden masterclass from one of the very best in the business. Get ready to gulp down Pelican’s tasty chops as a delicious hors d’oeuvre before Russian Circles blow your tiny minds on Saturday night.
Track to add to Your Playlist: The Creeper
Urrrghhhh!! Well, I must admit, I’m only a recent convert to the great hall of the Mantar kings, but by Jeebus, have I made up for lost time lately by letting this Bremen duo blister the life out of my ears ever since! Dirty, yet inventive, punky, yet astute, vicious, yet calculated – Mantar’s roaring cacophony is quite remarkable for a band of just two men. Imagine Black Cobra, Black Breath and Black Flag uniting, wearing black t-shirts, throwing some doom-claws in the dark and gargling some blackened rum together and you’re in the ballpark of what this gruesome twosome are capable of. Their debut album Death By Burning, is a vicious, yet intricate celebration of monster riffage, grooving beats and black n’ roll’s most predatory growls through the likes of Astral Kannibal, Spit, The Huntsman and that mighty closer March Of The Crows. With record number two Ode To The Flame literally about to drop, now is your chance to catch Europe’s new lords of blackened rage tearing the concrete from The Black Heart’s very foundations.
Track to add to Your Playlist: Era Borealis
It was only a matter of time before Ryan Lipynsky got a serious case of the heebie-jeebies and just had to scratch that niggling itch by picking up his beloved six string once again. As big of a fan of Serpentine Path as we are at Shaman HQ, its predecessor was also solely missed, so it was with great rejoice when the hiatus was lifted and Unearthly Trance were announced to not only play DesertFest London, but also headline the Underworld on the Saturday night. With the much anticipated album number six, also in the works for release later in year, whether we’re treated to any new tracks is anyone’s guess, but what we can guarantee is a sonic wall of nihilistic destruction when the three New Yorkers of Ryan Lipynsky (guitar/vocals), Jay Newman (drums) and Darren Verni (bass), crawl to the stage to annihilate the baying crowd with their tortured blackened doom. The trident has risen once again!
Track to add to Your Playlist: God Is A Beast
Scribed by: Pete Green