The fifth edition of Mammothfest took place at The Arch, not a venue widely known for its metal chops. There’s a lack of seating, a tiny outside area and it’s full of staff that seem just a little confused about what on earth is going on. Still, there’s a throng of the metal elite in attendance, with punters having travelled from far and wide to be here this weekend. With a line-up like this it’s hardly surprising.
Friday is billed as ‘Black Metal’ day and the Mammothfest team have pulled out all the stops, offering corpse face-painting stalls to make it feel just like we’re in Norway circa 1992.
The first band on SOURCE’s radar tonight are local boys Vehement. They bring a steady fix of South Coast black metal to a slightly interested crowd. They seem to be having fun, even almost reaching a harmony on a couple of occasions. By the end a small moshpit has sprung up, surely a sign of a successful set.
Over on the second stage northerners Necronautical are doing their thing. They’re painted like corpses with a load of candles up on the stage and we get the impression this is a health and safety nightmare for the venue. The band are on strong, extremely chuggy form though. They headbang in unison and frontman Naut gives some incredibly evil looks to the crowd, all part of the act. Unfortunately the sound is not brilliant and many of their solos get lost in the abyss.
Next it’s the turn of The Infernal Sea. They wear masks reminiscent of Eyes Wide Shut and are joined onstage by some costumed folk standing so incredibly still that for a while we wondered if we’re simply looking at mannequins. The band offer a very traditional take on black metal which the crowd, growing steadily larger, seem very pleased by.
Tsjuder hail from Oslo, the true home of black metal. They take to the stage at 7.45pm to the biggest crowd so far and many initially seem content to raise their metal horns and nod. The band’s second wave black metal soon takes a hold though, and the Norwegians are clearly having a fantastic time up there prompting the first circle pit of the night (security look somewhat concerned by this). The double bass-drum beats work overtime and by 8pm the pit has well and truly opened up.
However, it’s clear who the majority of the punters are here for today and headliners Rotting Christ come out to a sea of horns in a full capacity venue. The band have obviously been looking forward to this show and windmill their hair from the off. The sound seems to have been well and truly pushed up for the headliners and the band deliver a coherent set with the guitar solos a strong highlight.
Frontman Sakis Tolis commands a circle pit from the crowd which lasts right through to the end of the set. The band return for an encore which is met with thunderous applause and huge chants of “ROTTING CHRIST!” showing that the black metal scene is indeed alive and well and on Brighton seafront of all places.
Day two of Mammothfest brings a slightly older crowd to enjoy a day of death metal and the bands are certainly up for it. The first thing that’s noticeable when Abhorrent Decimation get going on the main stage is that the drum sound has been remarkably improved since yesterday. The frontman of this London outfit is certainly enjoying himself, although the already sizeable crowd don’t seem to share his enthusiasm. A small circle pit does erupt at one point, unfortunately not lasting long.
The epic power solos from the eight-stringed instruments of Meta-stasis tear through the venue like a katana through silk. There are some awesome guttural vocals from the frontman too, possibly the best of the weekend so far! The band try very hard to get the crowd going but only seem able to muster a few polite nods from the crowd. Maybe it’s still a little too early.
Next up we get Nottinghamshire’s Lawnmower Deth, legends in their field of comedy filled thrash. The crowd really starts to come alive now, pogoing all over the place to the fun and funny music that fills the venue. “Bucket list ticked!” shouts Mammothfest organizer Steve Dickson after their set. Judging by their response, it seems many in the throng are of a similar mind.
Akercocke may have ditched the suits and cut their hair since their early noughties heyday but the band still enjoy a packed room and deliver some crushing riffs. “Are you ready for some weirdness?” asks frontman Jason Mendonca. The crowd doesn’t respond too much but the band themselves are on top form, belting out classics like ‘Disappear’ with all the gusto you could wish for.
The smoke machine goes into overdrive, heralding the arrival of Dragged Into Sunlight, who all face away from the crowd for the entire set. The punters don’t really seem to know what to make of this but it certainly proves a talking point. The band deliver a solid death metal set featuring explosive, powerful vocals and very punchy guitars. It is, as they say, “All about the music.”
By 8:30pm the bar has completely run out of beer. There’s none left, zilch! Despite that, the crowd swells for headliners Fleshgod Apocalypse. Raised horns aplenty greet the band as they take to the stage. The kindness is of course returned by ultra-aggressive frontman Tommaso Riccardi who berates us with shouts of “You fucking bitches!” amongst other things you wouldn’t repeat to your gran.
The solos are nice and pronounced and the there’s some live, operatic female vocals too which the audience absolutely laps up. The strobe goes haywire, turning The Arch into a disco of death. Fleshgod Apocalypse can also lay claim to prompting the first wall of death of the weekend as well. The bouncers look highly confused by this, not at all sure how to handle the situation of half the crowd running straight into the other half. Mammothfest has done it again, and the punters quite obviously cannot wait for the final day!
Sunday dawns and local boys Kalloused bring their noisy, Cult Of Luna-esque sound to the main stage. The singer wanders through the crowd confidently during the set, causing something of a frenzy. Nothing can prepare us for what awaits on the second stage though…
A goblet of spit narrowly misses us as we enter and one of the scariest looking dudes of the weekend is staring at us in the eyes. It transpires that we are witnessing Confronted, and they aren’t taking any prisoners!
Their blend of hardcore and thrash works tremendously in the small room and all eyes are fixed in fear and amazement at frontman Ryan Hull as he covers every (and we mean every) corner of space available to him. He climbs onto the bar where he helps himself to some cola from the tap, he screams in people’s faces and a floor tom is wrenched from the stage and bashed to death in the middle of the crowd (eventually over his head no less). He even manages to take the action outside, just to frighten the Sunday afternoon passers-by. Confronted have certainly won the weekend and the punters who were lucky enough to catch them are left to pick themselves up and try to make sense of what exactly it was they just experienced.
Later on Negative Measures are having fun. Punky vocals and a hardcore sound seem to be their thing and they’ve attracted a modest crowd of head-nodders. Though the band are enjoying themselves, a slowly dwindling crowd suggests it’s possibly not what the metal elites came here for.
We headed to the main stage next to catch Grave Lines getting sinister. They seem to have the opposite effect, starting with a rather sparse turnout but filling the floor by the end. They bring a nice blend of stoner and doom and some lovely haunting vocals over slidey solos. The frontman enjoys a bottle of wine for his onstage tipple and the vocals get superbly aggressive by the end.
After that we catch Ohhms who bring us grungy vocals and thrashy choruses. All members of the band put on a show, although the singer possibly takes it a little too far by waving his hands in the air like a drunk uncle at a wedding. Some clean vocals make a nice change here, but the sound goes a little off and we can’t make out the lyrics. Ohhms clearly don’t give a fuck though.
It falls to Belgium’s Amenra to close out the 2017 edition of Mammothfest. The crowd is obviously very excited at their impending arrival and when the band take to the stage the headbangers are out in force. Doomy hardcore is the name of the game here and the set begins to resemble something like a black mass. The singer kneels at the front of the stage and an image of a church is projected onto the backdrop. They don’t address the crowd though, Amenra prefer to let the music do the talking and the gathered bodies absolutely love it.
Steve Dickson and the Mammothfest crew have done it again! 2017 saw the biggest names ever to grace the local metal scene’s event of the year, and with talk of it going open air people are already counting the days until the next event.
Mammothfest 2018, The Arch, October 6th – 8th 2017
Words and photo by Samuel Smith