Brutal Assault 2009

author AB date 13/10/09

Long overdue, not so long in the works, here comes a shortish summary of my adventures at the Brutal Assault Festival. First and foremost, my sincerest apology for the delay (the festival took place August the 6th-8th), but I obviously couldn't waste the rest of my summer vacation writing stuff for you guys. Luckily it's school time now, so I have nothing better to do. Secondly, let me ramble a bit on how I ended up going all the way to the Czech Republic for a festival (bear with me). Though I am not as experienced in the art of attending festivals as PP, TL or EW, I have been to one or two, most notably Roskilde Festival and Wacken Open Air. I loved Wacken, and I have had some of my fondest concert and festival memories there (pissing on, and subsequently getting chased and battered by, a ridiculously huge German guy; a very tight, blue wrestling suit; being so hammered I don't really remember the Iron Maiden concert; seeing Carcass live, the White Russian Tree; waking up and realizing I've managed to get an entire shopping trolley full of beer all the way from Germany home to Denmark; being stupidly drunk in a wheelchair in a hospital; the list goes on and on...), but the last few years, the festival has gotten more and more expensive, with worse and worse bands playing. So naturally I've been looking for alternatives. The Hellfest in France has been tempting, but in the end, Brutal Assault won out - you just couldn't compare with neither the artists nor the price level.

DISCLAIMER: Without press accreditation, it was not allowed to bring cameras to the festival area. Thus, there aren't really any concert photos (Note from PP: Basically I failed to apply for this in time). Some from my camp did sneak in a camera or two, but didn't use them too close to the stages, from fear of having them confiscated (or whatever the penalty was). Sorry.

So me and my mate Erik flew from Copenhagen to Prague, jumped on a two hour train to the small city of Jaromer and walked about 20 mins to the camping area. Here's the first major difference from the festivals I've attended previously - it's an open camping. No fence, no check points, no nothing. Apparently the one tiny little gravel path that goes right through the camping area is considered a public road, so it is illegal to fence it in. That has led to Brutal Assault generally being seen as a festival with a very high amount of thefts, since everybody and their dog can go in and out (though according to the police, the festival guests are the ones who do most of the stealing. Fuckheads). However, I would like to emphasize that neither we, nor anybody we talked to, had any problems whatsoever with theft or the open camping area in general.

So the first day we put up our tent, right next to the first nice Frenchmen I've ever met (they gave us absinth) - we camped with them for the festival. We couldn't get our wristbands before the day after (August 6th, first day of the festival), so we just got drunk. Happy times. A quick note here - to buy food and delicious beverages, one had to buy coupons which then were exchanged for delicious beverages. One coupon was 28 Czech Korunas (if memory serves) - a little less than a Euro, and delicious beverages were 1 coupon, food between 1½-4½. Cheap! And you don't have to fiddle with change. So, next day. Wristband day. Festival day. Music day. So we climbed the gigantic, steep-as-shit hill between the camping area and the festival area (without steps or lights - that thing is dangerous!) and got in line to get our wristbands, which went surprisingly fast – no more than 30 minutes or so. Then in through the entrance into the festival area…

The festival area itself was situated right next to and in between Jaromer Castle, an old medieval army castle, and was quite narrow. First stretch were the usual beer tents (yay), before one arrived at the two stages. Two quite big stages, maybe around half the size of Wacken's finest, with a big screen between them. The stages were surrounded by low castle walls, which surprisingly interacted quite nicely with the sound. One could either stand in front of the stages as normal, or pay two Euros (I think; we didn't use it) to climb a small hill with a viewpoint a bit further back, giving one a great overview of the stages.

Slightly behind the stages were more food and beer stalls, as well as a small Metal Market with the usual goodies of t-shirts, albums, photos and so on.

Friday - August 7th

Mithras @ Metal Shop Stage: 00:45

I've been wanting to see this British progressive brutal death metal outfit for quite some time, as they play a very interesting mix of large ambient sound scapes and brutal early-Morbid Angel worshipping blistering extreme metal. This translated fairly well into the live setting between the castle walls of Jaromer Castle, which helped give the band a tremendous sound. As on record, I personally find their use of ambient pieces extremely pleasing when they are worked into the death metal - which Mithras does flawlessly. However, the songs that only consists of pure ambient normally bore me some, which was also the case here, though it did undeniably come off as cool with strobe lights and whatnot. Luckily, most of their set did consist of either straight death metal, or death metal mixed with small interludes of quieter, atmospheric pieces, giving Mithras much scope to showcase their incredible instrumental skills - their solos were as always breathtaking, and the riffs wormed their way in and out and behind the galaxies and nebulas that make up Mithras' lyrical content. Especially crushing was their rendition of my favourite of their songs, "Wrath of God", so even though the set included too many straight ambient pieces for my liking, I can't really complain. [7½]

Psycroptic @ Metal Shop Stage: 12:50

Way too early in the day for extreme technical death metal, but Psycroptic joined stage nonetheless. I must admit that I was kinda worried walking to the concert, as current front man Jason Peppiatt's work with the band has been rather wanting compared with the work of former vocalist Matthew Chalk. I was especially concerned about how Peppiatt would handle the old material by Chalk, since their vocal styles are so different. About 2 seconds into set opener "The Colour Of Sleep" (a highlight from the Chalk period), it's clear that I needn't worry - Peppiatt's doing a hell of a job matching the vocal awesomeness of the early Psycroptic works. His vocal work here was so, so much better than on record, I was blown away. Quickly the mosh pit basically explodes, with one of the most violent and aggressive pit behavior I've seen, and what great fun it was! The band plays expertly, taking us through some great songs, including the title track of last year's "Ob(Servant)", "Initiate" (I think..) and the title track of album debut "The Isle Of Disenchantment", which was a very pleasant surprise. It was also really cool when front man Peppiatt dedicated the song "Skin Coffin", one of my favourite Psycroptic tracks, to me after I yelled and asked the band to play it in a quiet moment between two songs. Needless to say they also played "Skin Coffin" flawlessly and with unmatched ferocity - great job all around, and Peppiatt really impressed me. [8½]

Testament @ Obscure Stage: 22:35

Details are starting to be a little hazy around this time, but I am told that we went to see Testament from a beer tent. I am also told I liked their performance. Hmmm. [-]

Saturday - August 8th

Hate Eternal @ Metal Shop Stage: 16:50

Hate Eternal has been a personal favourite of mine for a long time, so to say I was looking forward to finally catch them live is probably an understatement. Well, at last I got to see them, and it was great. Their brutal, chaotic death metal turned out to work really well in a live setting, though some guy in the sound tower evidently had fucked up; Hate Eternal was the only band I caught at the festival with a, if not bad, then way-less-than-perfect sound. This didn't seem to bother the crowd much though, as the Czech festival goers once again put the collective metal concert attendees to shame in a frenzy of mosh pitting. The set list included many of the best from Hate Eternal's back catalogue, with bits from every album present. Highlights include "Behold Judas", "I, Monarch", "Para Bellum", an especially frenzied version of "King of All Kings" and a crushing "Bringer of Storms" from the new "Fury and Flames" album as set closer. Like Mithras the band really showed just how competent they are at handling their instruments, as seldom have I seen a drum kit being violated that much or heard as super solos - but I wouldn't have expected less from front man Rutan and co. [8]

Anaal Nathrakh @ Obscure Stage: 18:50

This was probably the one concert i had looked forward to the most. As some may know, I am pretty fucking impressed with Anaal Nathrakh in general and their new album "In The Constellation Of The Black Widow" in particular. It was with great joy, then, I saw Irrumator and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. enter the stage backed with their 3 mercenaries on bass, rhythm axe and drums. It was quickly clear, that while Anaal Nathrakh mainly is a studio band, they weren't daunted by playing on a big open air stage. They quickly went all in; their total, almost over the top, bat shit crazy ferocity from the records were clearly present in vocal monster V.I.T.R.I.O.L.s delirious screams, exalted operatic clean vocal arrangements, Irrumator and hired sword guitarist Venator's pulverizing riffs, and St. Evil's pummeling drums, that, indeed, matched the speed levels from the programmed drums on record. The crowd licked it all up and ate from the hands of Irrumator and V.I.T.R.I.O.L. and probably matched the excitement, rage and straight up madness on the stage with that in the pit. The blistering musical muscles were especially flexed during songs from the new album, or maybe it is just me that have focused mainly on the new album since it was released, and thus were easily pleased during the new songs. Anyways, both the musical henchmen and the two masterminds did an astounding, impressive, very convincing job, and the only thing I remember being dissatisfied with was the shortage of the set (about 45 minutes). [9]

Suffocation @ Obscure Stage: 20:25

Veteran brutal death metallers Suffocation took to the stage expertly - they have after all been in the game for a good 20 years. Even more expertly they guided the audience through some of death metal's greatest songs, though the focus clearly was on songs from their new album, this year's solid but not mind blowing "Blood Oath". Though tracks like "Blood Oath", the brutaler-than-thou "Dismal Dream", "Mental Hemorrhage" and "Bind, Torture, Kill" (from "Suffocation") work great on stage, and clearly pleased the crowd, personally I liked the older songs more - it was really great to see stuff like "Infecting the Crypts", "Effigy of the Forgotten" and "Breeding the Spawn" again! Suffocation was the only band I caught at Brutal Assault I've seen before, back then it was in an indoor venue, and I must admit that I feel that that worked out better for them. Though front man Frank Mullen continuously told us we were a sick crowd and the rest of the usual stage banter, and generally was very active on the stage (anyone who's ever seen Suffo will know his crazy hand and tongue movements which basically means: go nuts!), his communication and crowd interaction was much better back there in The Rock a couple years ago. Though overall they did a great set, one could really tell just how experienced these guys are; being dinosaurs in the scene it seemed they were a little prone to go by the routine. [7½]

The Rest

Yeah, I only caught 5 bands. Though, that's not "only" for me - at my first Wacken I saw 2, at this year's Roskilde Festival I ended up with 4-5 I think. Not that I'm too worried, the only band I missed that I really wanted to see was Pestilence - on the contrary all 5 concerts I did see were excellent, and I got to see some of my favourite acts (and no, I am glad I didn't saw Immortal though everybody kept raving about them - I saw like two minutes and seeing those snowman-corpse painted black metal leprechauns didn't do anything for me - even my black metal friend Erik said they were crap).

Well. Other highlights? More info? We had awesome weather all throughout the festival - it was really hot, but not blisteringly so as on this years Roskilde. Luckily we had covered beer gardens (something Roskilde really, really needs), something everybody who's been to Wacken knows and loves, the difference being that here, a beer cost a fourth of Wacken prices - so we spent a good deal of time there. Obviously, I was very very happy with my camp - a more crazy bunch of metal heads and general fuck heads I haven't met in a long, long time. Hope to see you soon - Hellfest anyone?! Thanks guys!

Another cool anecdote was randomly meeting Craig Smilowski, he's a former Immolation drummer - amongst other things having drummed on one of my favourite albums, Immolation's "Here In After" as well as their album debut, the classic "Dawn of Possession". His wife just called me out as I was walking by wearing an Immo shirt, and introduced us. They were both very friendly, cool to chat with, and they camped like 50 meters from us - Craig was also very funny, and very drunk! Speaking of meeting band members, Brutal Assault had a very extensive Meet 'n' Greet - something I realized way too late!. I did get to meet Hate Eternal and Suffocation - all very nice guys (I think Hate Eternal is, anyways, I weren't entirely sober there...). The guys from Suffocation were really cool, as soon as they realized I just wanted to thank them for creating some of my favourite music ever and not wanted to take a "brutal" picture with them or get their autograph, they eased up a little; guitarist Hobbs gave me a beer and we got to chat about music a minute or three. Sadly, because I found out about the Meet 'n' Greet by chance I got there too late to say hello to Anaal Nathrakh and a few other bands. Oh well.

Another really cool thing I didn't get to do was the after party. Brutal Assault had arranged for Suffocation to play another concert, this time in Prague, the day after the festival (with one or two other bands from the festival, I don't remember which). If one brought a festival wrist band, the ticket was really, really cheap too. When we got to Prague we decided not to however, as we had other, very important stuff to attend to, in a certain bar-like basement. Much fun was had, except for the next day (sorry to our Hostel by the way). All in all it was a really great experience, and I am sure to go next year. Weather was great, people were awesome, bands were fantastic, everything was so amazingly cheap, and except for assaulted by the worst hangover I've ever tried, there was not a single bad experience. I can only recommend it to everybody who likes a little metal, little sun, and mucho beer.

Photos courtesy of Cristophe Catelin, Aurélien Bataille and Sarah Fougères

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