There really is something truly remarkable when it comes to European metal festivals. Its one of those things that once you experience them, you almost become a bit of a festival snob judging all other festivals in your home country by them. And in this case, call us guilty.
I don’t think its been much of a secret just how much we love Brutal Assault Festival and to be quite honest, you should absolutely love it too. Having just returned from the Czech Republic where we saw a colossal amount of bands across four full days all for the tiny price of €80, we will begin summarise the event in the first of our two-part report.
Now don’t get us wrong, The UK has a great festival scene, one we all know and love, but as we mentioned, when it comes to the European festival circuit, there really isn’t none better and with the likes of Hellfest, Wacken, Grasspop and Brutal Assault all leading the way in extreme metal festivals and all having their own little ‘thing’, its hard not to fall in love.
For those who don’t know, Brutal Assault is held in Jaromer, approximately 200km from central Prague and its held in one of the best locations we have ever seen. An old 18th century military fortress known as Fortress Josefov plays host to the festival every year. With the fortress walls and tunnels opened up housing bars and stalls, the two side by side main stages are smack bang in the middle of it all. It really is a remarkable set up. There are also old barracks converted into a horror cinema and another into an Absinthe lounge. The festival without a doubt has the most unique site compared to other festivals and its one of the selling points of the festival.
This year’s line-up has been something of biblical proportions. The sheer amount of amazing bands has been quite ridiculous and could have possibly formed one of its best line-ups yet. And whilst there were a few teething issues getting into the festival due to the technical difficulties experienced whilst the festival team activated the newly implemented wristband RFID Chips (which worked brilliantly by the way) fans were up and away to have a noisy 4 days of top quality bands.
The first day is always they day in which you start as you mean to go on. With that in mind, we wanted to see as many bands as humanly possible and set the expectation high. Of course you can imagine our delight as we woke up in our tents to the sound of pouring rain!
We managed to watch Vektor as they helped jump start the day by providing the early birds some much needed thrash. Beers were flowing, heads were banging and its was a fun and energetic way to start the festival proceedings for us. Definitely one to watch. It wasn’t the biggest crowd so early on in the festival but definitely one that garnered the attention of those there who were clearly fans of what they were watching, a great performance by the band.
Swedish metallers Tribvlation who were next up brought their incense, makeup and eerie piano intros to blister their way through their set with no remorse as the rain once more started to pour. Ironically for those who are getting their ponchos out to keep dry, the rain is fairly fitting for the band and makes up a great atmosphere. Those not braving this rain however are in the main tent of the festival keeping dry as The Algorithm get to reap the benefits of a huge crowd for them as they attempt to win potential new fans over and win them over they did! The band power through their awesome instrumental metal which makes you move your body as if you just can’t help it. Heads were banging, bodies were moving and people were mostly dry as the rain continued to pour!
Not even the rain could stop the Devildriver fans from showing up though with one of the most energetic
performances of the day without fail. The band came, they saw and they conquered not giving an inch of rest for those in the pit. Frontman Dez Fafara mid song shouting “let it rain, let it pour, we love it” were signs that the band themselves would not let the conditions hinder their performance of which featured a star studded line-up of hits. ‘I Could Care Less’, ‘Clouds Over California’ and more were all present and in turn, the crowd let the band know they were too.
Neurosis were possibly one of the stand out bands of the whole day and were without a doubt the thunder to the days continuing rain. The band, quite simply were absolutely crushing as they played to a mighty sea of beer wielding ponchos. The conditions being what they were are actually perfect and created a wonderful atmosphere of doom and gloom which made the whole thing feel so much more atmospheric. By the end of the set, we were hoping they would just come out and play the whole thing again.
At this point in the day, the relentless rain proved to be just a bit too much for us so we retreated to the Brutal Assault Horror Cinema to not only dry off and warm up, but to experience this feature of the festival too. One of the old barracks actually had been converted to a cinema. A big screen and plenty of comfortable car seats filled the room as Sleepy Hollow played. This is a really cool part of the festival with films playing around the clock. We couldn’t stick around too long though!
Much to the delight of everyone, the rain as ceased and what was left in the aftermath was mud. Lots of mud. We made our way back to the main stage as we slipped everywhere in the process and busted out some amazing ninja moves to stop us falling over. Rest assured though we were back ready for the main attraction of the day, Mastodon who had one of the most perfect times of the day to play. There was a certain calmness in the air now the rain had stopped and dusk was turning into night as the band came on stage. What little misery you felt because of the day’s weather though was soon gone as Mastodon are nothing short of amazing. They know it, the crowd knows it. The smiles on everyone’s faces including the bands is infectious as they play to the biggest crowd seen all day. There couldn’t be any more of a worthy headliner.
The great thing about European Festivals however is that there are usually more bands after the headliners play. That’s right! The fun does not stop until the early hours, so who would be so fitting to play so late? You could tell Abbath was one of the most anticipated acts of the day. His band including his masked drummer are relentless and loud and definitely appropriate for what has been a chaotic first day.
The second day of the festival starts much differently as we emerge from our tent to the rays of the warm sun that have also dried out the sloppy mud! We had a feeling day 2 would be special and we were absolutely right. We felt it as we watched Obscura unleash their technical death metal to their fans. A sea of beautiful long locks of hair swinging around as the band make their way through their back catalogue for a relatively early but thumping set. Its death metal by numbers but it does a good job at reviving a crowd who are probably still damp and hung-over from day 1!
Animals As Leaders feel like the ones to really jump start the day thought as their infectious technical metal gets everyone nodding nicely, Its technical, its chunky sounding and its damn good. But things are about to change as H2O join the stage to unleash their awesome New York Hardcore to the crowd who probably feel like the band are a little out of place. They themselves acknowledge that perhaps they don’t fit in and how amazing it is for all these different types of music to come together and play on the same bill whilst expressing their excitement to be playing on the same line-up as Exodus, something that would not happen anywhere else. They then then with the song ‘What Happened’ an appropriate ending with a certain energy not replicated by other bands at the festival so far.
The Black Dahlia Murder make their return to the festival to once more destroy everyone with their chaotic sounding metal that tears each and every face off in the crowd one by one. There are no drawn out introductions. The band simply walk on stage and jump right in like a sledgehammer to the face just the way we like it. Death metal outfit Immolation are unfortunately less inspiring though with a performance that feels like it just doesn’t really peak. For the death metal fans in the crowd though, this was probably a great set and by the looks on faces, much fun was had.
Veterans Exodus bring the old school on what has been a massively successful second day. Plenty of smiles, and banging heads/hair everywhere shows the fans still care about the band and judging by the performance, the band still cares about its fans by making its way through flurry of fan favourites and by genuinely looking like all these years later they still love what they do. Meanwhile on the other stage, tensions are high and there genuinely feels like a war is about to begin. And we are right because when Gojira hit the stage that’s exactly what happens. The biggest crowd of the day turns the place into a warzone. Gojira really are something else tonight and just when you think it couldn’t get any more mental, it did. I think its fair to say that fans, both drunk and sober wanted to be as close to the band as possible. I think its also fair to say that when things kicked off, they probably soon regretted that decision as bodies were flying everywhere. From the first note of ‘Toxic Garbage Island’ things are taken to hell and they don’t quite return until the band is finished and the dust has settled.
We popped over to the new Oriental Stage of the festival to see Mono who are simply stunning in what is a largely overcrowded venue. Whilst the band were on fine form as always, we soon departed as the room became uncomfortably full. A true shame for us but fantastic for the stages headliner who absolutely deserves to play in front of that many people.
As the day draws to a close we manage to catch Parkway Drive on the main stage as we head back to our tents for the evening. There are those in the crowd who are elated to see the band on the big stage with their flashy lights and pyrotechnics and for those people, it’s a fun time of synchronised jumping and loud sing-alongs.
After some food and some refreshments from the mighty fine facilities at the festival, we ended the day with a brief stop to watch Perturbator bringing his crazy dark synth to the late night crowd. It was a pretty cool way to end what has been an amazing second day. At this point, it dawns on us, we are half way through the festival!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Brutal Assault Festival review!