6th May 2018
Review by Gabor Csete
Photography by Ryan Whitwell / Shotison
Third and last day of Desertfest came: I started it at the place I started every day: Greenland Place. The weather was just as amazing as it had been the last two days but there were much fewer people around. It was because of two things. Firstly: the main stage of the day was the Roundhouse. Secondly: I guess people started later. Everyone I saw this time – festival attenders, press, photographers, bartenders, etc. – looked exhausted.
Bismuth opened at The Underworld today. The duo, made up of Tanya on bass/vocals and Joe on drums, eased us in to the final day with some slow and distorted doom.
Over at The Black Heart, hard rockers Pist were firing up the room.
Hard stoner rock is what was on offer, and it certainly blew the cobwebs off after the previous two days of the festival. Loads of movement and energy on the little Black Heart stage from the front man too.
There are different ways to get from the Black Heart to the Roundhouse, but I chose to walk… which was hell. I mean if there’s a hell it’s like Camden High Street and Chalk Farm Road on a weekend day with good weather. The amount of tourists there is just simply unbearable…
Roundhouse was half full, but it was only 3 ‘o’clock when Monolord started to play. The Swedish power trio started only 5 years ago, but they’ve released 3 great EPs since. They’re not just simply Swedish, but are from Gothenburg, which stands for quality in heavy music. The audience started to cheer as soon as they came on stage, and before they started, vocalist/guitarist Thomas V Jäger introduced the band in a simple way: “We are Monolord” (one of the best band names ever by the way).
At the beginning of their set the drum sound wasn’t the best but after a couple of songs everything was where they had to be. During the gig more and more people came to see the guys and the way they played the sonic Armageddon, which lifted the crowd into different dimension; they headbanged with raised fists the entire duration.
People who had tickets but did not come to witness Monolord’s outstanding performance missed out big time.
A walk back on the same hellish path wasn’t worth it at all – only in one case: to see LLNN. This band from Denmark is one of the heaviest bands nowadays. The Black Heart was nearly full. The sound was good. But what came out from the speakers wasn’t joyful music. This was negative and destructive. The fast parts with kinda old school black metal vocals were perfectly balanced with the slower, keyboard-filled parts, which made the music atmospheric: it got deeper, darker and more depressive. The drums sometimes sounded like wardrums calling the audience to battle. After a few songs the venue was packed, and everyone left the place with a heavy heart. I had to sit down for a while after this experience… Anytime LLNN will come near me I am going to attend to their gig. And you should too.
Fister gave The Underworld a thumping. The St Louis, Missouri based band filled the space with some properly aggressive, blackened stoner metal (at times becoming more like death metal).
Up at the Roundhouse, Boston’s heavy psych rockers, Elder, took to the stage.
Plenty to enjoy here. Proggy, extended instrumental sections with some vocals scattered around. Something to really nod away to and lose yourself in.
Suma were next up at the Underworld. After an issue setting up some kind of synth type device, the Swedish stoner band gave the packed out Underworld something to really test the neck muscles.
Slow and low, with some hard hitting drums adding a bit of complexity to the drawn out chords and simple melodies.
Fortunately the next band in the Black Heart was Blackwulf. These American guys play stoner/doom with a touch of heavy metal, and their stuff is party capable; the audience of the venue (which was packed again) enjoyed it a lot. It is not easy to be active on a tiny stage but some can manage it and the lads in Blackwulf nailed it. After their set I felt tired, but at least I get back my will to live.
When I got to Bison the Underworld was already rammed and people were headbanging and moshing for the somewhat melancholic tunes of the Canadians.
Bison is a great name for this band and it actually describes them pretty well: their sound crashes you like a herd of bison would do. They were another band that shouldn’t be missed. Their energy just ran through the audience.
Hawkwind, who have been around a while, walked onto the stage at The Roundhouse to an anticipating crowd. The old school legends of psycadelic rock opened with a sermon, of sorts, read through a megaphone as a dancer moved to the alien sounds.
After the speech, which included some talk about simultanious orgasm (?) (it was hard to tell as the megaphone distorted things somewhat), the real music kicked in.
It was psych, pure and simple and people began to really get into it once the rhythms were established.
If you’ve never heard of Primitive Man, then you should know that their name describes their music perfectly. It is primitive, raw, agressive. It’s savage. Their last album was amazing so no wonder why the Underworld was full and the audience headbanged and moshed through the whole set. The energy and aggression coming out of these Americans was so massive that noone could just stand and watch them. The changes between the super slow and the super fast parts just made the whole effort more heavy… Their death sludge would be the perfect soundtrack to the end of the world. Not in a romantic way, but in a case when humanity reverts back to a primitive mentality and mankind kills each other due to pure hatred.
At The Black Heart, things were a bit more stoner orientated as King Buffalo played to a capacity crowd. There were some great bluesy riffs in there, with their flowing psych vibes sounding fantastic.
If you’ve never heard about Monster Magnet then you’re probably way too young or listen to crap. Obviously the Roundhouse was full and everybody was unable to wait in silence for the band. So here’s another obvious thing: when they got on stage cheering got even louder.
Visually Monster Magnet’s show was the most advanced. People loved the whole gig which was absolutely flawless.
There wasn’t a song that let the fans down but if you have a career of 29 years so far you have a discography it shouldn’t be an issue.
The sound was amazing too but I still have one question: why does frontman Dave Wyndorf have a guitar at gigs? It makes no difference to the sound when he plays it…
All in all Desertfest was as brilliant as always with an amazing variety of stoner/doom/sludge bands (and some even outside of these genres) in the best venues of London, the weather was amazing – there was nothing else to wish for. Still, the only problem is: we need to wait another year ’til the next one.