Imagine the most ungodly hour possible for a self-respecting metallian to be crawling from their pit – and then move it back an hour or more… well, while most of our readers were most likely turning over for your second sleep, your reviewer was up and about in the wee small hours to catch a red eye flight and head into the bear pit of the second incarnation of the Temples Festival, which this year promised to bigger and better than last year’s debut offering, with more bands and higher levels of intensity… well, it certainly succeeded on both levels!
After the aforesaid early morning flight, two train connections, a five day camel ride back and forth across Bristol and a lengthy wait in the queue, PM finally battle our way into the main arena, where Throats‘ (6) dense, bass-heavy grind contrasts with the bright sunlight streaming through the corrugated gaps in the roof overhead. Action in the second room kicks off with Oblivionized (7), their crushing, manic death metal grindcore delivered over walls of white noise and all the more impressive for their lack of a bassist: the opening of the third room brings the first clash of the weekend, with Monolithian (5) living up to their name with huge slabs of dark noise bringing a dark but ultimately unfulfilling aura to the still cavernous barn.
Young And In The Way (8) vocalist Kable Lyall may look like a throwback to a late ’80s classic rock band but he and his fellow North Carolinans deliver barrages of blastbeats under grinding, droning yet harmonic riffs which helps them open up the first pit of the afternoon, before the fast and furious deathgrind, of The Afternoon Gentlemen (9) – steeped in traditional punk values, especially in their use of vocal harmonies – provides the fieriest and fiestiest performance of the day, as well as one of the highlights of the weekend. Back over on the third stage, Sea Bastard (8) win the award for the hardiest band of the weekend, with drummer George persevering with their albeit shortened set despite a broken wrist: in turn, their demonic, downtuned drone has many standing captivated, with a few heads nodding to the enervation hidden within the darkness of their noisome doominess.
After Enabler (8) ram the second room and get the crowd surfers doing their thing for the first time, it’s time for a double dose of hardcore, with Harm’s Way (8) doing it old-school style – and vocalist Hammers McPligue very much reminding of Henry Rollins in his prime – while Trap Them (8) frontman Ryan McKenney (pictured right) starts the party from the photopit, before the band tear into a heady, heavy blend of punk, ‘core and doom – the latter more evident in their longer instrumental passages. Magrudergrind (8) deliver more HC-edged punk at a furious pace, but the audience don’t seem to be losing either their appetite or their energy, and the band reciprocate by the spade load, especially in the latter department.
Will Haven‘s (8) tight, accurate metalcore is as charismatic as it is earnest while Nails (9) take proceedings to a whole new level of intensity, delivering an unremitting and unrepentant beatdown on the seething mass of humanity that the main room has become, urging the crowd to even greater levels of craziness in the process. Next door, Pig Destroyer (8) are firing on all cylinders with their rapid fire foray of blastbeats, while Bongzilla (9) close proceedings on the third stage with their deep sludgy suvern blooze and songs about smokin’ dope and gettin’ laid which provide almost the perfect end to the epic first day.
It’s late into the second day before PM makes it back ’round to Motion, arriving in time to see Goatsnake (10) pound and ground with their dirty, doom groove, delivered with a dense, bluesy passion and a swampy vibe. Their use of the likes of harmonica adds both an homage and a depth to the rich harmonics of the blues heritage to which they proudly pay tribute. ‘Procreation Of The Wicked’ hails the arrival of Triptykon (9) and their dark, doomy, nihilism, as Tom G Fischer’s distinctive growl echoes around the room and dark, grunting riffs create an hypnotic, captivating atmosphere which more than matches the now extremely claustrophobic nature of the second stage, which once again is overfilled to a distinctly unhealthy level, thus serving as an unneeded and unwanted distraction from the enjoyment of the events on stage.
The third day kicks off (for PM anyway) with the moribund morbidity of Ohhms (8) and their dank-soiled riffs with more dirt on them than a festival-goer’s underpants, their deep delta blues harmonics also cognizant of dark psychedelia. Despite the sunshine still streaming through the roof of the barn that passes for the third stage, Tribulation (9) weave dark mystical patterns which mix progressive black metal with traditional classic rock sensibilities, the band’s wild-eyed energy coupling with plenty of headbanging fury. Likewise, Vallenfyre‘s (10) deep-throated BM/DM crossover brings the dark shades of winter back to the early summer evening – and, the irony of their surroundings is not lost on vocalist Gregor Mackintosh: “last weekend, we played a car park in Baltimore, today it’s a cow shed in Bristol – I’m living the fucking dream” he chuckles in a rare moment of levity amidst the dark intensity.
Goatwhore (9) also defy the sunlight to bring pure evil demon-summoning death metal played with a blitzkrieg of blastbeats and horns raised high throughout the room: their deep, grooving vibe has a fist- and heart-pumping momentum as their thumping, grinding old school DM is delivered at a furious pace and with a similar intensity. If you added a second guitar, this probably would be something like Judas Priest would sound if they had chosen to tread the left-hand path. Despite playing their headline set in broad daylight, there is absolutely no doubt that Voivod (10) have brought their A game to the late Sunday afternoon, with their trademark punk/tech metal delivered in a set which is viciously tight and shows that they haven’t lost one iota of enthusiasm for what they do, even after three decades: if anything, they are more abrasive and devil-may-care than ever, and flawless in every respect. Away is ferocious and dynamic behind the kit and, despite struggling with an obviously shot voice, Snake is energetic and shows his determination to always deliver to the best of his ability, and the band are rewarded with a suitably manic crowd reaction.
Temples is not the best organized event in the world: in fact, in terms of the (at times almost dangerous) overcrowding of the rooms, it is far from it. But, there can be no faulting the drive and determination of the organizers to bring the best that this particular end of the metal spectrum has to offer to as wide and appreciative an audience as possible, and for that they must be applauded – as must the excellent bar staff and the superb sound engineers, who delivered a nigh-on faultless aural experience throughout the weekend. The result was, overall, an enjoyable weekend with a quality line up of bands and very few moments of unwanted disappointment.
Live photographs by Sam Shepherd / 3songsandout.com.