Seven Churches Festival 2011

The Fighting Cocks, Kingston 25/06/2011

Seven Churches Festival went ahead on Saturday 25th June in spite of some high profile cancellations (Jucifer) and even bands breaking up between agreeing to the gig and the event itself (Groan). The Fighting Cocks in Kingston played host to the Terrorizer-endorsed all day event which claimed to be a “sermon to the blackened and the occult,” but in reality was just a bunch of great bands playing some seriously filthy music to an enthusiastic crowd of degenerates.

Dopefight kicked things off in suitable fashon. The first of two gigs for them today (the other being a rather enviable support slot with Church of Misery and Eyehategod in Bristol) the guys were clearly well rehearsed and well up for it. Their sound is similar to Weedeater and Buzzoven; in fact a fellow punter (Tom from Greg(o)rian) described their sound as a “ten-car pile-up of riffs” and I’d be inclined to agree with him. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon it was a bit too early for Dopefight to make the audience do anything but nod their heads in approval but if they’d played later in the evening as originally planned they would no doubt have elicited a far more enthusiastic response. Nonetheless, they were awesome and one of the highlights of the day.

Next up were Rise of the Simians who had some great moments where they evoked the desert scene with some sand-swept grooves but the start of their set was a little uninspired in places. However, things improved three or four songs in when they took their time with an atmospheric, suspenseful intro into a song with interesting dynamics and arguably the best songwriting in their set with hints of Crowbar. By the end of the set they’d won me over and I, like many others, was keen to grab one of the free CDs on their merch table. Good stuff.

Bast are seriously fucking heavy; their guitars are down-tuned so many steps it should probably be discouraged but they sounded amazing. Throughout their set slow, deep grooves gave way to blast beats and moments of hushed exploration. The use of samples added an unexpected exotic ambiance to their set; at times they sounded like they were playing from the bottom of a tropical cavern (seriously) and for a three-piece they made an amazing amount of noise, with a sound similar to Eagle Twin in places. The initially slight crowd grew significantly during the course of their set which is surely a sign that Bast were one of the revelations of the day.

Seven Churches Festival 2011

I can’t speak for anyone else in attendance, but I really enjoyed playing with my band Undersmile – the crowd was great, the sound was huge and we all concurred that we gave one of our best ever performances. I can safely say that I have never been so thoroughly drenched in my own sweat after a gig. You’ve got to hand it to the musicians today – The Cock Pit is one of the hottest places on earth and the combined effect of the lighting and a crowded room left even the best of us stewing in our own filth.

The excellently named Bong arrived on stage a good twenty minutes late leaving the two organisers a little flustered. But fortunately the organisers had the good sense to make allowances for such incidents (these are, after all, stoner bands) but even more fortunately Bong were well worth the wait. Given their name it’s not surprising what Bong sound like – they played one long jam based around one never-ending groove, with guitar solos and some stellar drum work adding some variety to the hypnotic mix. The zither-like instrument being played by one of the members added an exotic sound and contributed to the mystery of the band and their monolithic groove. With elements of Sunn O))) and Zoroaster (due to the subtle vocal melodies and chanting) Bong sounded like a bad trip at a Grateful Dead concert. Awesome.

Winterfylleth brought some black metal to the thus far stoner and doom-filled event and to their credit they provided a welcome jolt to the system after Bong lulled us into a weed-induced haze. They’re not to our tastes in all honesty and rumours of some diva antics and their emphasis on their proud Northern European heritage don’t help endear them to some of us either. On the plus side, their songs rely on a frenetic, driving melody which elevates them beyond many of their contemporaries. That being said, I’d definitely heard enough after two songs. It’s hard to please everyone at an all day event like this and I’m clearly missing something as the crowd was singing along to their songs and generally gave Winterfylleth a hero’s welcome.

Unfortunately, as an out-of-towner who was relying on a lift from someone who didn’t particularly want to hang around till the bitter end, I was unable to stay beyond the opening moments of Black Sun and it would be unfair for me to give an opinion based on a few fleeting moments. Reports from attendees who stayed-on were more than enthusiastic however. I will endeavour to check them out in the future.

And so Seven Churches Festival came to a close. Throughout the day the bands and audience were friendly, encouraging and enthusiastic to be together for a celebration of heavy music, a day that displayed the diversity and creativeness within the alternative community. It was a warm evening as we left Kingston and I’m sure I can speak for everyone else when I say that we look forward to the next instalment of Seven Churches festival. Congratulations and thank you to Matt, Josh and all the staff for putting on an excellent event.

Scribed by: Tom McKibbin