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Back again for its ninth consecutive year, the UK’s number one place of worship for all things super hardcore or brutish metal Ghostfest is back with two stages of zero clashes, getting rid of the third stage they introduced for last year’s event. Still, the two date plan remains, each with secret headliners announced just a couple of weeks before its kick off, and with 40 bands in total, it looks like the weekend of welcomed punishment will be as strong as ever.
EARLY SEASONS – 7/10
Making their UK debut here today, Parisian melodic metalcore lot Early Seasons understandably aren’t a familiar name to the Ghostfest crowd, but they certainly give it their all. With hangovers all round, the crowd stays reasonably static throughout the band’s set and, though when hitting his high cleans frontman Marty Degenne sounds a little nasal and whiny, his screams are formidable.
NOVELISTS – 6/10
Another act making their first appearance on UK shores today, who much like Early Seasons are also from Paris, are Novelists. It’s quite a big deal for them to be here, considering they’ve only been active for just over a year, but their anonymity on most of the crowd again brings them an inactive crowd. Unfortunately, Novelists don’t make much of an effort to change this, other than Matt Gelsomino pacing around and wiping his nose every other minute. If they bring a bit more djent and confidence into future apperances, they could be a hit over here.
NEXILVA – 8/10
Rarely will you ever come across a band who are equally as pissed off as they are technical sorcerers on their chosen instruments. However, Nexilva most certainly carry that repetoire. Frontman Gary King boasts a piercing scream and beastly roar that would make you think one of his parents must be a hydra. Axe-men Simon Atkinson and Craig Robertson must go through more strings than they’ve hot dinners, and combined Nexilva may be the most progressively technical and menacing death metal acts surfacing from the UK.
MARTYR DEFILED – 9/10
Keeping with the tone of death metal that could only have been manufactured in Hades’ lair, Lincoln’s Martyr Defiled are becoming regular additions at Ghostfest, returning to main stage again, and it’s not hard to see why they keep getting asked to come back. Now carrying with them an extra arsenal of songs from the scornful second album, ‘No Hope No Morality’, they burst in with ‘Demons In The Mist’, and right away we know they mean business. Matt Jones‘ highs are undoubtedly impressive, making his sound like a madman. Diving onto the barrier to share the mic through ‘Goldstein’, to which everyone tries to clamber to scream along, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be a few spots higher come Ghostfest 2015.
MALEVOLENCE – 8/10
Sheffield heavy hitters Malevolence should have a bit more luck here today than they had at Download earlier this month, who had their set cut short due to their stricter rules. The amount of Malevolence merch seen across the weekend definitely secures them as a Ghostfest favourite, and cuts taken from the band’s debut album ‘Reign Of Suffering’ delivers just that to the pit. Their blend of metal and hardcore is a hit, in more ways than one, and Malevolence walk away with another successful set. This time around, they got to finish it.
TRC – 8/10
Often getting a lot of stick in the hardcore scene, from both regular punters and peers in other bands, TRC‘s blend of hardcore and rap doesn’t sit happily with everyone. Though perhaps an unconventional name in the UKHC collective, TRC are as tight as a gnat’s arse today, aside from Ben Dingwall being told last minute on a few occassions on the next song to be played. The thing is, alongside playing a clearly adored set including ‘#TEAMUK’ and ‘London’s Greatest Love Story’, TRC are delightfully down to earth, on a few occassions joking about still not being fully accepted in the scene and just generally look like they’re having fun. Haters gonna hate.
BEING AS AN OCEAN – 9/10
It seems like Being As An Ocean‘s popularity is forever climbing without any sign of a speedbump in sight, especially since they dropped second album ‘How We Both Wondrously Perish’ in May. Joel Quartuccio is as caught up in the thrill of the moment as he always is, rarely staying on the stage and climbing on top of the side stage tiers, or even jumping into the crowd and screaming alongside them during ‘Death’s Great Black Wing Scrapes The Air’. Newly recruited guitarist Michael McCough‘s pipes really bring some new life into older songs ‘The Hardest Part Is Forgetting Those You Swore You Would Never Forget’, and BAAO walk away after performing one of the best sets of this year.
HEART OF A COWARD – 8/10
Smashing their way through their competitors on the UK metal circuit, and trampling underfoot anyone who gets in their way without fail, Heart Of A Coward keep their success rate going with today’s Ghostfest appearance. Jamie Graham is one of the best frontmen in the genre, powering through crowd favourites like ‘Deadweight’ and ‘We Stand As One’. At one point, a fight almost breaks out, to which Graham brings back to order, stating “mosh or get moshed. If you’re gonna fight, get the fuck out.” They might just have two albums to their name, but Heart Of A Coward are set for the long run.
STICK TO YOUR GUNS – 8/10
Getting into Leeds for Ghostfest just in the nick of time, Californians Stick To Your Guns take to the stage for their subheadlining slot, and immediately the crowd are going insane to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking STYG are today’s headliner. Powering through ‘Empty Heads’ and ‘Bringing You Down’, to name but a few, this hardcore outfit just seem to get better and better. A short speech mid-set from Jesse Barnett about making a difference in the world and not letting things get out of hand gets waves of applause, and with a promise to be coming back to the UK again “very soon”, you’d be a fool not to get involved.
MEMPHIS MAY FIRE – 7/10
Looking back at all of the past main stage headliners Ghostfest has held over the now 9 years it has been running, it goes without saying that Memphis May Fire are easily the most melodic, least expected and out of ordinary choice to be given the job to date. It’s unsurprising then, and unfortunate for MMF, that they take to the stage to finish this year’s festival to a crowd that looks minimal even compared to some of this year’s far less recognised acts.
Still, fan or not, MMF definitely deserve to be commended for taking to the opportunity with a positive outlook and treating it like they would any other show. Frontman Matty Mullins manages to flip between belting roars and soaring cleans with ease, and songs like ‘Prove Me Right’ and set closer ‘Legacy’ certainly deliver the goods you’d hope from a headliner. It goes without saying that perhaps a bigger crowd may have helped bring a better vibe into play, but in terms of playing the hand they were dealt, Memphis May Fire come out as winners.
COUNTING DAYS – 8/10
Today playing what is their second ever live show, it’d be expected that Counting Days would be a bit of a shaky live experience, even considering the members and their backing CVs that compose this somewhat hardcore supergroup. However, for what’s very almost their live debut, the four-piece provide a crushing introduction. Frontman Thomas Debaere‘s screams have definitely come along since his days as part of Heights, and a surprise cover of ‘(sic)’ by Slipknot to round things off cements an undoubtedly strong future once they finally drop an EP.
LOCK & KEY – 7/10
With less than a year together as a band and no official release to their name, Lock & Key are certainly making impressive waves on the UK circuit regardless. Leaving his past with Odessa behind him, frontman Richard Lardner‘s yells have definitely come along, and with the pummeling drum work being emitted from Josh Murphy with ‘No Acceptance’ and ‘Down But Not Out’, to name but a few, sounds delightfully forceful. This is just the beginning for L&K.
GRADER – 7/10
Hailing from the high lands of Aberdeen in Scotland, melodic hardcore boys Grader slow the tempo down a little bit that’s already been raised, but with a somewhat haunting yet at times hard hitting presence, they kind of come across as a La Dispute, Landscapes or Piano Becomes The Teeth in training. It seems like a form of catharsis for frontman Liam Manson, screaming along to tracks from their two vinyl presses. It’ll be interesting to see where these guys go come an album release.
SHIELDS – 7/10
Londoners Shields are slowly starting to edge their way into the scene’s limelight over the past few months, and the amount of people who have turned up to their set today is testament to their work to make an impression so far. When he’s not screaming at the top of his voice, vocalist Joe Edwards is either jumping, spinning or stamping his feet. They might not quite pull in the same amount of pitters as some of today’s earlier acts, but Shields may well be a name you hear an awful lot more this time next year.
BLACK DOGS – 9/10
If you ever want to enlist a band to unquestionably tear you another arsehole and feel happy about it after they’re finished with you, then Northern dirty hardcore lot Black Dogs are up for the job. Frontman Gollo starts of by screaming for people to come forward, not long before throwing himself across the stage and even clambering into the crowd at the side of The Mine room. The rest of the band seem to struggle to keep themselves still too, and with a set that includes ‘Bitterness’, a song that Gollo always refers to as being about “the biggest cunt” that he knows, Black Dogs leave the crowd ravaged and thirsty for more.
TRIAL & ERROR – 6/10
Returning with some Scottish manufactured hardcore, unlike Grader the Stirling four-piece Trial & Error are much more of your straight-up and to-the-point hardcore, cutting out your conventional melody and instead settling for a groove to make you 2-step all day long. Dougie Boyd is clearly very thankful for the opportunity, confessing just four years ago he was in the crowd at Ghostfest, wanting to play it himself, and now he is. A few loose nuts need tightening, admittedly, before we can see the full potential of Trial & Error.
PAY NO RESPECT – 7/10
Combining a lethal of dose of metal and hardcore into the mix, Kent heavy hitters Pay No Respect manage to draw in quite a bulky crowd into The Mine room, and with dense slabs from across a series of their releases, the crowd pay little respect by bouncing across the room like mad men. Holding one of the strongest growls we see all weekend, frontman Joe Kenney‘s voice booms throughout the room, holding us down with a tight grip and drawing in new fans come their new EP this Autumn.
THE CATHARSIS – 8/10
Following a few festival appearances set in place already this year, including Takedown back in March and Butserfest later this year, The Catharsis are starting to get some real pushes forward towards bigger audiences to expand their fanbase. With sets like today’s, everyone should be thankful and jumping at the chance. The Birmingham outfit are a ruthless and erratic prospect, and frontman Morgan Tedd‘s presence is a big part of that. His screams are some of the best on the UK circuit right now, and with his bandmates bouncing about on the stage like rabbits on cocaine, The Catharsis are going to be a staple name come album number two.
DEAD HARTS – 8/10
Hit within mere seconds with an unknown power cut out of nowhere, Dead Harts‘ 30 minutes hits one of the biggest speed bumps they could’ve hoped to avoid, and for a while, it seems like the first few moments of their set is all that we’ll hear. Thankfully, after a blackout just short of 15 minutes, Dead Harts have life once more, and focus on spending the half of the set they still have left showcasing offerings from their upcoming second album, ‘Cult For The Haggard Youth’. Even though they may have had the biggest setback all weekend, Dead Harts definitely still stand higher than a lot of the other names on this year’s bill.
BROKEN TEETH – 8/10
Often regarded as one of the best bands in the current UKHC, an acclaim made by hardcore fans and peers in fellow hardcore bands alike, Manchester’s Broken Teeth pack in the biggest crowd into the second stage all weekend, and even surpasses the crowd that headliners Memphis May Fire bring in just as they wrap up. If you’ve never been to a Broken Teeth gig before, their name says exactly what you’ll have if you go into the pit. The amount of pitters is insane, swinging their arms and any other limb as fast as they can wherever they can. Frontman Dale Graham really riles up the crowd, screaming along to their two-step groove, with fans diving at any chance they can get to scream along into the mic.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)