Josefov, Czech Republic, 10. - 13. August 2016
21st edition of the biggest extreme Central European metal festival Brutal Assault took place in the usual location at the Fortress Josefov, Czech Republic between 10th August to 13th August 2016. The tickets were around 72 EUR in pre-sale (for all festival pass), 84 EUR at the festival gate (for all festival pass) and 1.300 CZK (approx. 50 EUR) for one-day tickets. Five days passed incredibly fast and offered such a nice and unique mix of musical genres. We noticed a lot of foreign visitors (much more than usually till now). From the languages we could catch around could mention just a few as: Spanish, French, German, Romanian, Polish, Slovak, Italian, Serbian, Greek, Finnish, Swedish. The crowd at Brutal Assault is so diverse… you can see all from kiddos till grandpas and grandmas. The first festival day started with problems… a big fail related to the ques for wristbands. People had to endure chilly rain for many hours and many were complaining they missed quite a few bands. The organizers did apologize afterwards and we can just hope this wont repeat again…and again. This year one of the biggest improvement and novelty were the RFID Chips wristbands. These replaced the cash and coupons. They were a brilliant choice for food and drinks (finally no more paper coupons you can lose) but sometimes annoying for entering and exiting the festival grounds (for such technology you would need stronger readers). The “currency” is the JET where 1 JET = approx.. 32 CZK (Czech Koruna), which is approx. €1.18. So quite a math to convert all in your mind but in the end one beer was 1 JET or 1.5 JET (depends which one you decide to go for). Speaking of beer… one of the best offers possible at a festival (Budvar with so many varieties). Hope this wont ever change. The merch was pretty much same as in previous years. The food offer though got remarkably better (nice choice even for vegans and vegetarians). The cruelty free zone and alley was a very crowded place many went to in order to grab some good food and take a break. Old barracks were turned into a horror cinema with a big screen and plenty of comfortable seats around the room. The movies were running almost all time (following certain schedule). Another barrack was converted into an Absinthe lounge bar with dark atmosphere full of candles and scented sticks. This time were two official merch tents, 2 expos, a nicely arranged “Lemmy” Kilmister memorial altar in the cavern where you could go and light a candle. More tunnels were opened up for the public hosting bars and stalls and you could also have a self-guided tour in the underground labyrinth of the military tunnels with art installations. Daily there were fire shows and at 7pm there was a ceremonious canon firing next to the Oriental stage. Nazguls (or batmans?) were appearing on the top of the walls, walking around the wall, standing, listening and greeting the crowd. On the fortress hills behind tent stage you could often see goats and sheep minding their own business (pretty sure they did not have a pass). Unfortunately this year there were no special BA 2016 glasses… not exactly sure what happened. The stages as we know them from previous editions: 2 main ones one next to another, one small between the fortress walls (Oriental Stage) and the tent stage at the end of the merch area. The tent stage was too small for certain performances, the sound was most times bad and if you try to sit on the left side (watching the stage) then you will have an unique aroma therapy from the wall of urinals. Generally also on the big stages were quite a few sound issues but in big lines all very decent.
Wednesday 10th August: Tesa, Dust Bolt, The Truth Is Out There, Vektor, Goatwhore, Tribulation, Gruesome, The Algorithm, Devildriver, Embrional, Neurosis, Sadist, Dying Fetus, Mortal Cabinet, King Dude, Mastodon, Shining, Abbath, Chelsea Wolfe, Brutally Deceased, Mutoid Man, Conan, Thaw.
Due to the few hours spent in the rain waiting in the queue for the entrance passes we managed to get to the festival grounds right before mister black metal himself (Abbath) and the band were preparing to start. They opened their fantastic performance with “To War” followed by “Winterbane”. The running order was pretty much same as on the album with songs as “One by One”, “Nebular Ravens Winter”, “Solarfall”. Definitely the first day headliners and the most expected act of the day for those who bravely managed to endure the tricky weather conditions. Abbath played twice at BA with Immortal before but this was the first appearance of such kind. They were professionally dedicated and true while funny and enjoyable. They had a great public interaction and you could see that just looking between the crowd at the black and white corpse paint fans. Chelsea Wolfe was something distinct from the regular festival lineup. An unique mix of drone, ambient, doom and a wonderful, strong and hypnotic voice which definitely catches the attention for the ones willing to give it a go. A very vibrant and unusual BA 2016 performance.
Thursday 11th August: Demimonde, Perfecitizen, Live Evil, Heaving Earth, Plini, Antigama, Obscura, Animals As Leaders, Aborted, H2O, The Black Dahlia Murder, Antigods, Intervals, Ihsahn, Obituary, October Tide, Tesseract, Exodus, Gojira, Leprous, Ministry, Parkway Drive, Dark Tranquility, Slagmaur, Mono, Perturbator, 1349, Mithras, Ahumado Granujo.
One of the early shows to be remembered is the technical progressive/death metal Obscura. They had a good crowd reaction and served as a nice coffee doze to most. Animals As Leaders played a contagious technical metal who got some people nodding, Their pprogressive jazzy metal compositions enchanted the crowd ears. Though not many agree and digest such musical style…is more like they play music for musicians ears. Aborted introduced the title track from their “Termination Redux” EP released earlier during the year. Front man Steven de Caluwé explained that the song is about Pokémon (in relation to the Pokémon game who made many people go mental) and that all needs to be killed: “You gotta get ’em all”. Very active and dedicated performance with many circle pits and crowd surfing, H2O unleash a dose of New York hardcore. Maybe a bit odd for such a festival but then the list would not stop here and in the end is good to have musical variety as each visitor can pick what wants to see/hear. Chaotic mad metal returns and the crowd finally starts to get unleashed with The Black Dahlia Murder. Amazing melodic death metal set, great band performance plus some sound issues here and there which did not seem to bother much the crowd busy with the largest festival circle pit. Inshan seem to have had their musical instruments lost at the airport so they had to perform on borrowed gear from other artists and organizers. They opened with “Pressure” and played at least few others from the new album “Arktis”. The album songs show a sudden jump from something more brutal (remembering of the metal well known origins) to something sooo smooth and slow. Interesting mix and composition and no…did not see anyone sleeping. Obituary opened with the instrumental track “Redneck Stomp” from “Frozen in Time” followed by “Chopped in Half”, “Turned Inside Out”, “Slowly We Rot”. Singer John Tardy takes the crowd into a trip into “Centuries of Lies”. Old school trash metal veterans Exodus showed what energy and speed mean when translated into metal. With songs as “Body Harvest”, “Blacklist”, “Pleasures of the Flesh”, “Toxic Waltz” they managed to arrange the biggest wall of death of the festival. French Gojira had a huge audience with such a great involvement both from the band side and from the crowd. They turned the place into a true battlefield, had a perfect and smooth sound. With their groovy guitars, they enchanted everyone. We could hear three tracks from their new album “Magma”: “Silvera”, “Stranded” and “Only Pain”. Bassist Jean-Michel Labadie bounces around the stage while the brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier and guitarist Christian Andreu make Gojira be a memorable act for everyone who was present. The industrial metal legend Ministry had a better show than previously on BA. They used a satirical video display on the background and their setlist mainly focused on three albums: “The Land of Rape and Honey”, “Rio Grande Blood” and “From Beer to Eternity”. Today’s headliners Parkway Drive: special effects, flashy lights, pyrotechnic arrangements, fireworks… The music itself is not the most sophisticated but their show was extremely energetic and engaging. Before they started the stage was covered with a huge curtain bearing the letters “IRE” (Name of their latest album and not the Ireland country code as some may think). They opened with the track from “IRE” named “Destroyer” followed by others as “Vice Grip” and “Devil’s Calling”. Unfortunately, Dark Tranquility played on the small tent stage where was not enough space to accommodate everybody who wanted to see their show. It was one of the bands where you can clearly see how much they love and enjoy what they do, nice performance in an unfortunate circumstance. Mono performed on the small oriental stage in the middle of the fortress. This made many mad due to the space restrictions. Such band could easily perform on the main stages without having the place to broom the dust out. This time Perturbator went on the main stage. The disco dark synth party and the long playset made many metalheads enjoyed the performance (you could not expect so many would be in for a disco party at a metal festival). 1349 is the type of band/performance who would be best to listen to while at home. They were not that impressive live, lacking a bit of “life”. Their main focus was on their current album “Massive Cauldron Of Chaos”. They also started quite in the night (close to 1.20 a.m.) so most were already sleeping or too drunk for black metal.
Friday 12th August: Fox Territory, Catastrofy, Jack The Stripper, Jig-Ai, Kronos, Burry Tomorrow, Iron Reagan, Grave, Voivod, Textures, Blues For The Redsun, Septic Flesh, Immolation, Nod Nod, In The Woods…, Terror, Coroner, Year Of No Light, Rebaellium, Moonspell, Satyricon, Cattle Decapitation, Arch Enemy, Die Krupps, Sigh, Unearth, Dark Funeral, Taake, Monarch.
Canadian progressive sci-fi trash metal Voivod played during the day when it was too early for most of the crowd to gather. Though was clear the metal legends know well what they do. Technical metal masters Textures had a quite nice gig with a sophisticated sound. One of the first must see acts of the day was Athen’s symphonic death metal four-piece Sceptic Flesh. From the very first moment you could see a big support coming from the fans, lots of energy and very nice crowd interaction. Was a perfect and flawless set of classic Greek metal. They included songs from the latest albums as “Titan”, “The Great Mass” and “Communion”. “Prometheus” was the last cherry on the cake for their set at BA 2016. A good set for the true and dedicated fans offered the Americans from Immolation. Their death metal playlist included “The Purge”, “Father, You're Not a Father”, “Despondent Souls”, “Immolation” and “All That Awaits Us”. Many which we may now call “old school” were curious to see In the woods… on stage again after such a long break. They played in the tent stage which was completely full till the very back. Many newcomers in the band, sound issues but yet… still able to recreate and bring back that misty “in the woods” feel and atmosphere. The veterans and metal pioneers from Coroner announced a new album due for release in 2017. Good show, big crowd and great atmosphere. For the Portuguese gothic metal legends Moonspell the festival ground became fully crowded, taking all space in front of both stages. The set started with the melodic, catchy and full of oriental vibes “Breathe”. New and old materials were put together with songs from “Irreligious”, “Extinct”, “Night Eternal” and of course “Wolfheart” (haven’t seen a Moonspell set without it). Fernando’s remarkably deep and charming voice plus the bands accurate, amazing and dedicated performance made the set and performance be one of the best… but somehow short (or at least time slipped away too fast). A special and exclusive BA 2016 appearance was Satyricon. They did play before but nothing as this year- 20 years old Nemesis Divina full album setlist - first and last time played on full live, definitely one of the highlights everybody was waiting for. Classic black metal spread over the fortress, cold guitars and echoing voices made everyone tremble. Was a very interesting set but yes…have to admit there was also place for mistakes…sometimes the guys were bit out. You can not exactly compare the live version to the album one, not 100% the band that used to be as year pass and they ask their toll. Though Satyricon are always a good choice. A little bonus were songs as “Black Crow On A Tombstone”, “The Pentagram Burns” and “K.I.N.G”. The fully remastered edition of “Nemesis Divina” was released in May 2016 and Sigurd Wongraven (Satyr) and Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad (Frost) are working hard on new materials so a new album should be released in the beginning of 2017. Do not know what exactly to say about Arch Enemy. On one side (for the ones who knew the original band formula and had their expectations set on old times) it would appear as a ghost of an once good band. New singer is trying but nothing can bring back the good old times when Arch Enemy were moving crowds like mosquitos around the bulb light. On the other side the new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz proves her worth with an incredibly powerful performance, appearing totally comfortable and confident in all she does (though she wont ever get to the deep growls). The band itself also changed the musical direction over the years (but yes, this happens often)… their performance was light and playful, full of energy and with ok crowd interaction. The playlist included some tracks from their most recent album “War Eternal” released in 2014, “Wages Of Sin”. Many familiar songs delighted our ears: “Ravenous”, “Dead Bury Their Dead”, “Ravenous”, “My Apocalypse”,”We Will Rise”. Oriental stage was kept the whole day for the Sigh concert. Hidden between fortress walls the stage ensures a proper atmosphere for such act. Only downfall to this is the limited amount of space so not everybody who wanted to see the band managed to do so. The performance was theatrical and it had jumps between older and newer albums. It started with “Scorn Defeat”, “In Somniphobia”, “Ghastly Funeral Theatre” EP, “Imaginary Sonicscape”, “Scenes from Hell”, “Graveward” and ended with fastest album “Hangman's Hymn”. The successful pioneers of electronic and industrial music Die Krups concert started with a deeper industrial sound softened by the heavy metal music. It later transformed into experimental with “III - Odyssey of the Mind” and back to full force with “II - The Final Option”. It was an interesting mixture of hard electronics and dance beats. The band has a strong interactive performance, the singer was giving his microphone to the public, the guitar was being smashed in the end. A crazy set indeed that everyone present seemed to enjoy. The “blackest black” band Dark Funeral celebrated 20 years of “The Secrets of the Black Arts” - their first full length release released in 1996. The setlist was well balanced between new and old songs from “Attera Totus Sanctus”, “Diabolis Interium”, “Angelus Exuro pro Eternus” but maybe it was a bit too late, a bit to “dark”. It was somehow misunderstood by the public still hanging on their feet. The new line-up and Heljarmadr (Andreas Vingbäck) on vocals the bad sound without guitars was also an issue who sent many to sleep.
Saturday 13th August: Keep On Rotting, Hypnose, Knuclkedust, Disavowed, Lost Society, Holy Moses, Ektomorf, Stick To Your Guns, Stuck Mojo, Venom Inc,, Eskimo Callboy, Omnium Gatherum, Lighting Bolt, Insomnium, Moonsorrow, Birdflesh, Angelcorpse, Agnostic Front, Behemoth, Defeater, Debustrol, Archgoat, Electric Wizard, Destruction, Misery Loves Co., MGLA, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Wolfbrigade, Valkyrja.
Was a bit too early during the day for London hardcore Knuckledust but was surprising to see fans alive and enjoying it considering is the last day of the festival and the early hour. German thrashers Holy Moses were formed in 1980. Another band who had to play with rented instruments as it seems theirs got lost somewhere in Spain. Their setlist was dominated by early times plus two new songs from their “Redefined Mayhem” album released in 2014 (only album under current lineup): “Hellhound”, “Undead Dogs”. They of course included “Dead Kennedys” and “Too Drunk to Fuck”. Stick To Your Guns gave an energy portion for the hardcore and punk lovers and was a nice break for the rest not keen in such movement type. Insomnium had a quite short set but was right on point for the true fans. This is a good band but maybe more suitable for a bit different environment (as a club or something more restricted and with a more suitable atmosphere). The Finnish guys from Moonsorrow did what they know best: offer a portion of energy and true metal. The crowd was shouting song requests but the band cares less and went ahead with what they had prepared on the setlist. BA 2016 visitors were again given an incredible opportunity: to listen Behemoth’s full album “The Satanist”. Their show was accompanied by plenty of special effects as pyrotechnics, smoke, incense and confetti. The crowd went totally insane. “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”, “Conquer All”. They were professional (as usually), sophisticated but a bit too cold…all done to the book and nothing more. The fire and pyrotechnic effects continued with Destruction. There were plenty of theatrical acts during their performance (as a bald fat butcher chasing a blonde nurse around the stage before “killing” her during the song “Mad Butcher”. Was a great explosive show and the crowd seemed to really enjoy the performance. Misery Loves Company did a decent job on stage but they did have a very small crowd. The mist and fog came back upon Brutal Assault with the Polish from MGLA (or at least this is how we understood their name would be translated). Not exactl y a live band, would be more suitable for a smaller venue or just to play their music home. The faceless black metallers performed hooded with their faces fully covered in black nylon stocking. Maybe a way to distract the attention from the looks and direct it fully to the music. The music was brutal and heavy and the crowd surfing was restless. They included material from the recent album “Exercises in Futility”. Even very tired curiosity was too big to leave so decides to give it a go for the last band (initially saying few songs and off we go to sleep). But Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult was a really pleasant surprise. Pure black metal with an amazing show (outfit, stage decorations, fire effects) and well played set. The kind of performance that makes you stay stuck to your legs and watch it till the last breath. Not to mention the singer is a female that does know how to growl (amazing voice and overall brilliant show). And so went by another Brutal Assault edition. Amazing line up, very nice changes and improvements…some back downs but not all can be perfect. Overall a very good place to be if you like good music. Next year is going to bring up a big name and rare surprise: Emperor. So make sure you won't miss it.
The full gallery is available here.