Bad weather, criticism of novelties and great line-up: How this year’s Brutal Assault fest was held

Bad weather, criticism of novelties and great line-up: How this year’s Brutal Assault fest was held

Brutal Assault is a well-known music festival that has been held for over 20 years in the Czech town Jaroměř. This year Noizr team again visited the event held in early August this year.

2016 was a real challenge for most open airs, which were seriously affected due to bad weather. Some promoters (RockPart, Rock am Ring) even have had to end earlier because of a storm warning. However, many people were injured by lightning, also, unfortunately, there was a fatality. Therefore, if we compare the weather conditions at this year’s European fests and during Brutal Assault, it can be said that the Czech open air was quite lucky.

Bad weather and novelties

On the first day of Brutal Assault, on August 10, it was raining heavily, almost without stoping, from midday till evening. Bad weather caught many visitors into a 3-4 hour waiting for the festival wristbands. And if all accredited guests were in the line with length up to hundreds of meters, then for those who bought tickets in advance, it stretched nearly a kilometer. The long wait, caused by the novelty of the chip bracelets, was accompanied by downpour because of which many got wet and were chilled, passing besides a good part of line-up. The road to Brutal Assault by fest’s shuttle did not set much mood too, because that day it took about one and a half hour due to traffic jams on the way to Jaroměř. In general, about 5-6 hours we spent on getting to the festival’s opening.

Musical program: Wednesday

After spending half an hour instead of thirty minutes on the road and more than three hours on waiting in the line, we have missed sets of Vektor and Tribulation, which we had planned to catch. Standing for the bracelets closer to the fest’s entrance, I heard the cover for Awolnation’s "Sail" performed by DevilDriver wafting from the main stage. At that time, I bitterly realized that I would also miss the performance of California’s metalheads.

Frozen and staggered because of the long marking time in one place, we went to the festival area where Neurosis set has already begun. In July, the Americans announced their eleventh album, so while performing, along with old hits, they played two new songs "Bending Light" and "Broken Ground" from the upcoming release.

Neurosis were replaced by colleagues from Dying Fetus, who also pleased their fans with the update about a new album release. The musicians opened set with furious "Schematics" and "One Shot, One Kill", going to the not less significant things from the records "Destroy the Opposition", "Descend into Depravity", "War of Attrition", tracks from the latest at the moment release "Reign Supreme" and grindcore theme "Killing on Adrenaline" from the self-titled LP. One of the songs from Dying Fetus’ setlist was a new single "Induce Terror", presented by the band during the European tour in last year’s June.

One of the first day’s headliners were the Americans Mastodon, whose performance, in the anniversary for the festival 2015 year, was canceled because of the band’s tour in Canada. Grammy nominees began their set wth the last album "Once More 'Round the Sun" songs, continue playing such favorite compositions of the fans as "Blasteroid", "Oblivion", "Aqua Dementia" and "Blood and Thunder". Since I saw Mastodon live for the first time, I pointed them out for myself as the most singing band of the last festival with memorable performing style (because after all, drummers vocalists in groups are not common thing) and repertoire, full of songs with groove and catchy melodies.

The second headliner was the band Abbath, which earlier this year has released its debut full-length album. This project, named after its founder, mainly draws attention by the personality of its cult leader, musician Olve 'Abbath' Eikemo. Rather controversial debut LP, which, according to Eikemo’s former colleagues, included songs written for the successor of "All Shall Fall", was presented in the setlist by tracks "To War!" and "Winterbane". The rest of Abbath’s concert program featured covers for the most famous Immortal’s songs and one cover for the mastermind’s solo project I.

The first day’s evening on the main stage was closed by the singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe, one of the most interesting contemporary singers, whose multifaceted oeuvre attracts lovers of experimental and avant-garde music. Wolfe’s setlist for Brutal Assault featured composition from the albums "Abyss" ("Carrion Flowers", "Dragged Out", "After the Fall", "Simple Death", "Iron Moon"), "Pain Is Beauty" ("Feral Love", "House of Metal") and "Apokalypsis" ("Demons", "Movie Screen", "Pale on Pale").

Saturated Thursday: Obscura, Animals as Leaders, Aborted, Tesseract, Gojira, Dark Tranquillity and Parkway Drive

The second day of the festival for us began with the performance by the German band Obscura, which presented their new album "Akróasis" at the beginning of the year. In fact, most of their program included tracks from the new LP and two songs from the release "Cosmogenesis" ("The Anticosmic Overload" and "Centric Flow").

Obscura were replaced by the Americans Animals as Leaders on the main stage. Since their show on schedule lasted only 40 minutes, the band managed to play quite short but tight setlist with six songs. Despite the recent announcement of a new album, the band didn’t provide new tracks, playing compositions from the last full-length album "The Joy of Motion" ("Ka$cade", "Physical Education", "The Woven Web"), as well as recognizable from the very first notes "Wave of Babies", "Tempting Time" and "CAFO" from the debut same-named album, thanks to which the band became famous. Animals as Leaders attract to their creativity by unusual technicality and complexity of the musical parts. Doubts, while staying at the musicians’ performance, do not occur — this is a band of really talented people under the direction of the virtuoso Tosin Abasi. It remains to look forward to Animals as Leaders’ solo concert in Kyiv.

For a couple of hours before the Belgians Aborted went on stage, we made a walk along the Meet & Greet territory, where metalheads were able to meet their idols. Aborted became one of those band that agreed to sign autographs and take pictures with the fans, despite the relatively large number of visitors.

The death metallers Aborted, in honor of the band’s 20th anniversary, pleased their fans with two new releases this year. They opened set with two tracks from the last album "Retrogore" ("Divine Impediment" and "Cadaverous Collection"). Next, the musicians played an old, but well-known to listeners material from the albums "Engineering the Dead" ("The Holocaust Incarnate"), "Goremageddon: The Saw and the Carnage Done" ("Meticulous Invagination", "Parasitic Flesh Resection", "Sanguine Verses (…Of Extirpation)"), "Global Flatline" ("Expurgation Euphoria") и "The Necrotic Manifesto" ("Necrotic Manifesto" and "Coffin Upon Coffin").

Made a breather after progressive and brutal death metal, we decided near the MetalGate stage, where the Swedish doom metallers October Tide, preparing for their show, amused the audience with the vocal soundcheck. After them, Tesseract’s technicians made a check for half an hour, setting up the equipment before the group’s coming. The British Tesseract presented a short festival program, playing a couple of tracks from the latest album "Polaris" ("Dystopia", "Phoenix", "Survival"), and two or three songs from the first two albums "One" and "Altered State". It was the first band’s performance, which I was able to see, and I was most impressed by Daniel Tompkins’ singing, who has a beautiful clean vocals, perfectly combined with Tesseract’s music.

Another gift for the progressive death metal fans was Gojira’s set. Being one of the second day’s headliners, the French band played an hour-long program, the predominant part of which was devoted to the tracks from the album "The Way of All Flesh", "From Mars to Sirius" and, of course, the last full-length "Magma", which already has got enough warm reviews from critics. A couple of tracks were also played from the releases "Terra Incognita" and "L'Enfant sauvage". The last, by the way, I was able to enjoy during the band's performance at the Brutal Assault in 2013. Back then, the band captivated me with its energy and powerful material performance, thanks to which I repeatedly tapped "L'Enfant sauvage" in full. According to the musicians’ familiars, Gojira are real workaholics, who hone their skills with almost daily rehearsals. Well, the result of this attitude is visible to the naked eye.

If Gojira was the opening band for me at my first visit to the Brutal Assault, so, this year I gave the palm to the Swedes Dark Tranquillity, for whose concert I could not get for one or another reason. Surprisingly, the musicians set to play at the same time with the headliner Ministry, who took the main stage Jägermeister. Due to it, Dark Tranquillity were on the small MetalGate, where they gathered nevertheless a huge number of people. There were so many those who wished to see the band that even the vocalist Mikael Stanne periodically sent greetings to the metalheads, standing far off-site. In July, Dark Tranquillity announced their eleventh album "Atoma" release, but the musicians didn’t present any tracks from the upcoming LP, playing tracks from the previous ones. Active public strongly expressed its delight from each new song performed by the group. Jumping with whole lines, a sea of hands and chorus of voices singing along to Mikael Stanne — this is how I remember this incredibly atmospheric evening.

Despite my lukewarm attitude towards metalcore, backed by a terrible cold night and the desire not to interrupt aftertaste from Dark Tranquillity’s show, I still remained to listen to the Australians Parkway Drive. From the first minutes of their performance, my skepticism quickly dispelled because the musicians make, indeed, a spectacular show, due to which they manage to keep in a fist the attention of even a big festival audience. Here you get confetti explosions, flashes of fire and light show, as well as the singer’s ongoing work with the audience, motivating the crowd to circle pits and mosh pits. In terms of music, Parkway Drive also caught my fancy, not so much, of course, that I wanted to listen to couple of their albums on repite, but it was really difficult to look up from the stage during the band’s set.

Friday: Satyricon, Septicflesh, Moonspell and Arch Enemy

On Friday night, the first group that we were able to listen to, was the Greek band Septicflesh, whose setlist, in principle, was not much different from the songs list for last year’s Ukrainian CAMF. As then, the opening track became a powerful composition "War in Heaven", and closing — one of the most memorable from the latest album "Titan" — "Prometheus". It’s worth noting that the concert completely absorb the viewer's attention due to the unification of such successful show’s components as scenery, costumes and music, epic-sounding due to the abundance of orchestral parts and aggressive death metal.

Moonspell’s set, following couple of hours later, once again forced us to dance from the heart. This year, I was lucky to attend well-known Portuguese band’s shows for three times: I saw them at the solo concert in Kyiv, at the Graspop Metal Meeting festival in Belgium (where the musicians performed a special set dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the album "Irreligious") and, in fact, at the Brutal Assault. The list of the band’s performed compositions at the Czech open air was a shortened concert programme of their show in Kyiv: during beginning, the musicians played two tracks from the last album ("Breathe (Until We Are No More)" and the title "Extinct"), the most part of the setlist were known songs from the previous group’s LPs. Within an hour, Moonspell played their branded songs "Opium", "Vampiria", "Full Moon Madness", "Alma Mater" and "Awake!", also they didn’t overlook an upbeat folk song "Ataegina" to which metalheads famously danced. As it turned out later, the musicians have come to the Brutal Assault with the vocalist Mariangela Demurtas, but for some reason the band didn’t play that evening the songs feat. female vocal parts. Overall, it was a great cheerful set, accompanied by the words of gratitude from the band’s leader Fernando Ribeiro addressed to the audience, organizers and fellow musicians.

After Moonspell, the Norwegians Satyricon came to the festival’s main stage. The band has previously announced "a never-to-be-repeated series of exclusive European shows", so, during the performance, the musicians played for the first and last time their third album "Nemesis Divina" in full in honor of the record’s 20th anniversary. Before playing the LP’s title track, the band’s leader Satyr said a few words about the anniversary release.

"It’s not really with the nature of this band to look to the past… 20 years in itself is not an achievement, but the album somehow made an impact in our career and a lot of people we have met for our whole life (the fans of black metal) got into this kind of music with "Nemesis Divina" album. And it’s more important than 20 years, 20 years is just a number, but to do something that has its kind of impact in people’s life — it’s a privilege and an honor. Thank you so much for sharing the music of Satyricon!"

Next, the musician urged the metalheads actively sing along to the album’s title track. The last played song from "Nemesis Divina" was the most famous and beloved by the band’s fans song "Mother North", to which the audience immediately began to sing, just hearing its intro. The musicians finished the set with the tracks "Black Crow on a Tombstone", "The Pentagram Burns", "Fuel for Hatred" and "K.I.N.G.".

The culmination of the evening for us was the powerful performance of the Swedish death metallers Arch Enemy. After the line-up changes, joining of the new talented vocalist Alissa White-Gluz and the outstanding guitarist Jeff Loomis, the band's career has quickly rise up for the past two years. The solid new material and high quality shows open the doors for the group to headliners of most modern festivals and the key star of any of these performances is Alissa, of course. After getting in its line-up such a workaholic, the Canadian singer White-Gluz, the musicians now break into smithereens a huge crowd of metalheads. Blue-haired diva, dressed in garment emphasizing her beauty figure, rocks audience so hard that she seems to be able to control a crowd just with one wave of her hand. "She is an example for any metalhead", my colleague shared his opinion with me. From the latest album, recorded already with White-Gluz, the band played the tracks "Stolen Life", "You Will Know My Name", "As the Pages Burn", "Avalanche" and the title "War Eternal", otherwise the focus was on Arch Enemy’s old hits. In particular, they played "Ravenous", "We Will Rise", "Nemesis", "Under Black Flags We March" and "My Apocalypse".

Saturday: the final day of Brutal Assault

Saturday's festival schedule, almost completely made our company stay in front of the main stages, as one after the other, the groups Insomnium, Moonsorrow, Agnostic Front, Behemoth, Distruction and Mgła played there that evening. Unfortunately, the set by Insomnium, which I visited for the first time, wasn’t impressive to me, so let’s turn to the report about their compatriots' performance.

50-minute set by the Finns Moonsorrow consisted of just five, but very lengthy compositions. The musicians opened their performance with the last album "Jumalten aika" tracks ("Jumalten aika" and "Suden tunti"), further playing "Ukkosenjumalan poika" from the album "Suden uni", 2001, and the 16-minute "Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)" also from the latest record. The metallers finished their show with the epic composition "Sankaritarina", before playing which, teased the audience with the phrase: "There will be one more song, but do you think you deserve it?" I was one of many who affirmatively shouted from the crowd, responding to Ville Sorvali’s question. A good performance, work with the audience and, of course, high level of the material definitely made Moonsorrow one of the most memorable bands of the festival’s last day.

The brutal hardcore Agnostic Front staged a memorable evening not only for their fans, but for the whole festival fraternity. The Americans played a set full of groove and drive. People near the scene, and even on the viewpoint Greenfield, were moshing and circlepiting. Such public reaction was caused by the musicians themselves, who cheerfully jumped and ran around the stage during the whole performance. Agnostic Front played the setlist, based mainly on the compositions of the band's old albums, including "Victim in Pain" and "The Eliminator" from the first two LPs and "Friend or foe" from the debut EP "United Blood". During the one-hour concert, the musicians have played about 18 tracks, four of which appeared on their latest album "The American Dream Died" ("Social Justice", "Police Violence", "Only in America", "Never Walk Alone"). Traditionally, they performed "Gotta Go", "For My Family", "Addiction", "Dead to Me", as well as covers for Iron Cross’ "Crucified" and Ramones’ "Blitzkrieg Bop". The latest one, by the way, stirred up almost all watching the show metalheads, who for a long time after the end of the set continued to shout "Hey Ho, Lets Go!".

Perhaps, giving the public an opportunity to calm down, the Polish black metallers Behemoth made about a 10-minute break after Agnostic Front’s leaving. The main stage was plunged into darkness and the public, languishing in waiting, began to hurry the start of the show with impatient clapping and cheerful shouts. As I have written earlier, nowadays Behemoth give performances of such level, which surely should be visited. Accordingly, even though I have seen the program dedicated to the band’s tenth album "The Satanist" several times in last two years, I was not only set up to see it again, but was also strongly campaigned to this my fellows.

Behemoth’s setlist repeats the songs’ list and order from "The Satanist". The performance gained momentum with the opening "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" and ended up with causing catharsis "O Father O Satan O Sun!", over which the band’s members, we can already say, traditionally come on stage in horned masks. After completing to play "The Satanist", the musicians left the stage, and our company, meanwhile, was betting what the Poles would play for the remaining 15 minutes. As a result, Behemoth prepared some of the most famous songs of its discography for an encore: "Ov Fire and the Void", "Conquer All" and "Chant for Eschaton 2000".

Next, after Behemoth, was Destruction’s set which I remembered thanks to the performance elements in their show. For example, during the track "Mad Butcher" playing, the same "crazy butcher" appeared on the stage and started to chase the snaking dance "victim". At the end of the composition, he caught her and thrown over his shoulder, went to the backstage. In addition, their set was accompanied by fire pillars, which bursted in front of the band’s members. The musicians, released this year a new full-length album "Under Attack", played only two songs from the record: the title track and "Second to None". The rest of their setlist consisted of old hits "Curse the Gods", "Nailed to the Cross", "Thrash Till Death" and finally left "Bestial Invasion".

The Polish group Mgła became the last seen at Brutal Assault band for me. The black metallers, hiding their faces behind dark dense fabric, technically played a set consisting of eight songs. The opening track was "Further Down the Nest I", further the musicians played "Mdłości II", a couple of tracks from the album "With Hearts Toward None", as well as songs from the latest release "Exercises in Futility". Mgła’s set, personally, left me with a pleasant aftertaste of seen and listened to. Hope to see the band soon in Kyiv.

Resume

What we liked:

The festival’s line-up. In fact, we have visited BA because of the bands. Dark Tranquillity, Satyricon, Arch Enemy, Behemoth, Septicflesh, Shining (which, however, we were unable to see because of their performing in the same time with Arch Enemy), Moonspell, Abbath, Tesseract, Mgła and many other wonderful groups whose sets we would have liked to attend at the Brutal Assault.

A small stage finally got a good site. Hooray! In 2014, I wasn’t able to listen to some bands, which performances took place at the third stage of the festival, because it was located in the stupid tent. The sound there was just awful and a lot of groups put off their sets, because they could not have a decent sound check. Furthermore, the previous location had a problem with ventilation "thanks" to which there was an oppressive heat. This year's new venue resembled a large hangar in the spirit of Graspop Metal Meeting. The sound became much more better and ventilation problems came to naught.

Brutal Assault’s ambience. The fest achieved its special vibe thanks to its location in the 18th-century Josefov Fortress and a well-organized infrastructure. We have already written an article about 5 reasons to visit Brutal Assault festival, regarding its delicious cuisine with plenty choice of drinks and food, and a large number of toilets and trash cans which help to make a fairly low level of beastliness, unfortunately so common thing at the European fests.

Free access to Greenfield. A bracelet for access to the viewpoint, where you can comfortably watch the bands’ performances on the main stages, can be bought for the reasonable price of approximately 90 CZK, and not for inadequate VIP-package price, as the other organizers do.

Organization of leisure. Brutal Assault had its own cinema where you could brighten up the waiting of the bands’ sets by watching documentaries and horror movies. Also, there were several exhibitions and indoor chill-out zone at the festival.

Impressive metalmarket, which took up most of our time. In addition to clothing, accessories and various necessary and not things in metalhead’s collection, sellers also offer a huge selection of vinyl records, CDs, box sets, tapes and other official bands’ merchandise.

The cigarette company representatives have come to occupy much more smaller fest’s area compared to the 2014 year. Two years ago, when I was at the Brutal Assault for the last time, the promoters did their best, placing under its brand several entertainment activities, to participate in which was possible in exchange for the purchase of two cigarettes packs. Such catnip worked very well and in the end, it seemed like every second person smoked everywhere at the fest’s territory, even at the firstfronts near the stages, in the dense lines, in poorly ventilated areas of the fortress, right in your face... It was absolutely annoying!

Meet & Greet. During all four days, Brutal Assault’s visitors had the opportunity to meet their idols in the designated area, not far from the main stages. List of artists was completely impressive, which is why the metalheads each day were standing at fairly dense and long queues, eager to meet their favorite musicians. It’s necessary to pay tribute to the organizers, the schedule was very tasty: for a couple of the festival’s days, the visitors can even chat with headliners as Gojira, Septicflesh, Moonspell and Arch Enemy.

The convenient location and transferring. Yes, the fort is located in a small Czech town, but in a town which has a developed transport infrastructure, so you do not have to wrack your brains with choosing the most suitable route and say goodbye to civilization for a few days, just to get to the event. For example, the festival buses were going regularly, once every 20 minutes until 3 a.m., also there were available taxis and bikes, the last ones you were able to take for rent directly at the Brutal Assault’s entrance. In addition to aforesaid, you could have got to Jaroměř by train.

What we didn’t like:

Bracelets with chips. Probably, this innovation allows to facilitate the work of Brutal Assault’s staff, but it was wildly uncomfortable for the visitors, because:

  • the metallers stood in lines to get this bracelet for 3-4 hours on the first day;
  • you had to stand in a line to load money on a bracelet for half an hour. And if earlier it was possible to ask a friend to buy you dozens of tokens and not to stand in line once again, so, now you could not do this with the individual bracelets.

Confusion with the tickets booked in advance. In particular, one of the fest’s visitors had "burned" 10 euros because of using euros for a ticket’s deposit, the rest of the amount she also had to pay in this currency to get a bracelet. In this case, neither the fest’s exchanger or its ATM provided for the purchase or taking anything except CZK which the cashier categorically refused to accept. All these proceedings for half an hour were followed by comments of the festival workers in bad broken English: "We are very sorry and we understand that it's stupid rules, but we can’t do anything with it". As a result, the girl had to buy a new ticket (because tickets with "at the door price" you could get for CZK) and then again go to the end of the kilometer line for a bracelet. Later, it turned out that for all four festival days she did not manage to get from the staff (referring to missing senior administrators or managers in bad English) any explanations how to return the deposit euros.

From the preceding paragraph, here is the following problem of "centralized power" among the festival’s crew. Emerging issues related to deposit returning or difficulties with getting the fest’s knives (booked in advance on BA website) have been solved long and dreary, as it turned out that staff helping you didn’t have enough power to fix it. In the end, you either hear, "The senior manager is absent now, try again tomorrow", or, at first,you were fretted by long wait and forwarding from one info center to another, then to hear casual "try again tomorrow".

Staff with poor level of English. An important remark applies to those festival’s crue who contacted the most with the public: cashiers, information service center and ticket men.

Increased number of inadequate visitors. Large European fests are "famous" by the presence of a certain category of people who are coming to the open airs behave inadequately: mainly they piss everywhere and for all to see (sometimes not even hesitate a public defecation), and smoke in the most inappropriate and even dangerous places. Unfortunately, that which is considered as savagery in most countries of Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine for such behavior people are derived from the territory without the right of the entrance, in Europe called "rest". Security and staff turn a blind eye to such acts, because it is not a demonstration of oddity by metalheads, but rather the standard behavior of many Europeans on holiday or just over the weekend.

The absence of steps leading to the Greenfield area. According to users’ comments on Facebook, on the first day, many people fell due to the fact that the road to the area was washed away by rain.

Despite a big part of negative comments on social networks, and the above-mentioned problems, I still like the organizers’ personal approach to the festival’s preparation. Notwithstanding the fact that the Brutal Assault has been held for 21 times, the promoters have retained a personal interest in making their event the best in all respects. Thus, you can see their attention to the wishes of the visitors, acknowledgement of mistakes and work on them. Therefore, it is hoped that 2017 will please metalheads with a new cool line-up, as well as the thought-out and improved organization, taking into account the comments on the previous year. See you at the Brutal Assault 22!

Text by Anastezia, photos by Dmytro
Noizr Zine thanks Brutal Assault and Schizmo for the accreditation