Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Tony Gaskin
The closing day of the Midlands Rocks-backed Fearfest was billed loosely along the lines of doom and stoner so the pace was inevitably going to be a tad slower than the balls to the wall antics of the previous two days consisting essentially of punk, hardcore and grind. This though does not equate to a diminishment in the intensity or power of what was to follow. Indeed, for the doom disciples gathered at the Asylum 2 for the final day of three, it really was a case of saving the best until last.
A stack of bands took to the stage but this review focuses on the final four acts with apologies for those who performed earlier in the day.
Iron Void are an absolute delight and their energetic brand of psychedelic doom had every head in the Hockley haven spinning. Their songs, such as ‘The Mad Monk’, have plenty of vigour and are cleverly crafted while ‘Drowning in Eternity’ opens up with a shuddering bassline that threatened to dislodge the optics nestled behind the bar.
Vocals are shared by the band’s bass playing original surviving member (from 1998) Jonathan Seale and Steve Wilson on lead; original sticks supremo Damien Park making up the trio. Iron Void make a quick return to Brum from their Yorkshire home this Friday when they play on another doom-laden bill at Scruffy Murphy’s alongside Arkham Witch and Hooded Priest.
While always wary of pigeonholing acts, it must be said Amulet did not really seem to fit the theme of a doom night – too cheerful by half!
The Londoners play a pretty standard old school heavy metal thrash which while fine on its own, did seem out of sync with the majority of the other acts booked for this Festival curtain closer. They did show occasional inclinations towards a heavier sound with tracks such as ‘Evil Cathedral’ but the small Asylum2 stage was probably not designed with the mic stand wielding antics of frontman Jamie Elton in mind.
‘The Sacrifice’ was another stand out offering but Amulet’s aspirations and inspirations are clearly wrapped up in the ‘80s denim diehards. On another bill I’m sure they’d do well.
The moody melancholy and mesmerizing moodiness were definitely back in vogue once the billowing clouds of green mist cleared to reveal Hampshire harbingers of doom Witchsorrow.
This bludgeoning bunch would lose a race against a hearse such is the solemn crawl with which they attack their songs. As always with this genre, that lack of speed does not equate to an absence of energy. The power is all here with Witchsorrow, bespectacled bassist Emily coming down with intensity on the four strings as guitar playing vocalist Necroskull arches his neck to the mic , letting out an anguished cry full of desperation and dread.
Songs like ‘The Trial of Elizabeth Clarke’ and ‘Impaler, Tepes’ hook you in early with rushing riffs but while the tempo is one of restrain, Witchsorrow have a healthy habit of letting loose towards the end of the song when the shackles are shaken loose to reveal a rampant thrash-happy tyrant.
Next time Farnborough’s finest are up this way do yourself a favour and get along.
The final crew, not just of the night but of Fearfest 2013 itself, were Conan, and if you know a band with more crushing ability than this lot then please raise your hand now.
Opening with the oppressively heavy ‘Hawk as Weapon’, Conan played with staggering authority and their cataclysmic brand of suffocating doom practically sucked up all the air in the Asylum. Vocals are shared between bassist Phil Coumbe and guitarist John Davis with Paul O’Neill crashing through more cymbals than a physicist trying to explain the complexities of the periodic table to a group of sixth formers.
Conan’s sound is ambient doom, laden with creative warlike vocals perched precariously on top such as on the pulsating groove shaking ‘Grom Tormentor’. If you’re heading to Damnation at Leeds University later this year, then pencil these monolithic monsters in as ‘must see’.
All that’s left to add is that the raffle for a signed guitar was won by Midlands Rocks’ very own Tony Gaskin (stewards enquiry!) and the incredibly hardworking and dedicated team behind this three-day jamboree have already surpassed themselves by announcing that Fearfest 2014 will be a four-day affair.
Counting down the days already!
See more of Tony’s photos here;