Josefov, Czech Republic, 9. - 12. August 2017
As from 2007 onwards the 22nd Brutal Assault edition took place in the lovely 18th century military fortress Josefov located in Jaromer, Czech Republic. Time for summer camping and a good portion of metal music.
Year by year you can see improvements, upgrades and well-deserved changes. That of course will also leave space for comments, complaints and mentions.
This year the cashless system worked well. It was relatively easy to use, operate and charge (assuming you have a wireless internet connection available or you need to go to the top up points). It was nice to see no queues at the entrance (only occasionally at the top up points). Another great aspect was that two people can use the same account. It has its logic and system behind, but many found it a bit exaggerated that you must use it all over – especially in the merch area. If there is a need to control the sold items/amount maybe another system that would less annoy the festival participants would be better… I mean, you go and look, you find something you like then you see you do not have that amount of money on your bracelet so you need to go charge it, come back….nah… like this is more convenient to just give it up and go watch a band.
A great innovation was to have the possibility to get your festival bracelet delivered in advance together with your ticket. That was amazing and it certainly shortened and eliminated unnecessarily queues and waiting times.
As usually the two main stages are one next to another and there is always activity on both. Once on one stage a band is performing on the other there are soundchecks and preparations ongoing. Great system and concept to shorten the time needed between bands but then think of the festival capacity and available area… if there is a band with many fans it will most likely be full and public will be extended till the other stage. It is then annoying to try and watch a band and in the same time also hear the soundchecks of another. Noticed a few bands being bothered by the activity on the other stage while performing… Maybe a thing to think about…
Unique and great features of the festival area are the horror cinema, ambient lodge and the octagon itself. Horror cinema is basically a large ventilated room with seats from cars. Horror movies went on and on the 4 festival days. A great change to chill and relax for a while (while still keeping brutal and watching a horror movie). Ambient lodge is a place with a great atmosphere and ambient worth a visit or two (just think of dancers, concerts, incense sticks, candles, absinthe, pillows, dark). Then Octagon hosts pubs, art galleries, Temple of Lemmy, meet&greet, press area, game rooms and of course the Oriental stage. Whenever it gets too hot is great to have a cool place to hide in and take a break. The Oriental stage is situated in a nice décor and wall frame ensuring it offers a nice unique atmosphere. The problem is that some of the bands selected to perform there have quite a large fan base and then it gets impossible to see something, to pass around or even to get to the area (saw that after a certain capacity is reached the doors and access are closed).
The Metalgate stage is back in the merch area. It hosted quite a few famous names and bands that do gather the crowd. The stage itself is situated in a tent. It does give a more private atmosphere and feel but sometimes the sound also has to suffer. Besides for bigger names its kind of impossible to get inside the tent so you can remain out and watch the performance on the big screen installed at the end of the tent (great idea). Of course this while smelling the teen spirits as a full wall of death (toi tois) runs on one side of the tent… maybe the toilets should go a bit further from stages access areas…
One great aspect of the festival (of course besides the top lineup and amazing bands and musical variety we got used to and appreciate) are the food and drinks offer. You can find so many options that satisfy even the more picky guests as a full street dedicated to vegan and vegetarian food (very well done). The food stalls offer plenty of choices, the prices are decent (though you see the increase year by year in the price) and the quality is decent (with some exceptions here and there). You can even find a cockroach bar… who said the creepy crawlers are only for disposal as soon as noticed? You can have your revenge by having some grilled… if your stomach and brain will allow you process such option of course. As for beverages… Jagermeister ladies having walks to the crowd convincing your inner demons to release, wine, absinthe, tea, coffee, juices and of course beer (where the unfortunate change won’t go unnoticed… increase to 40 Czech Crowns and from Budvar to Kozel… emm… whyyyy? Bring back Budvar and good beer please). And yes… seems we forget about the most common and needed source of human survival… what about tap drinkable water in the festival area and in the camp area? You could find some at the bars but often you were told is not available anymore… On such hot summer conditions water (drinkable water) should be the first thing to offer…
Regarding camping… this would be one of the areas with a need of focus. You do have a few choices as hotels in the cities around or private camps if you know how to manage. But if you come from abroad and you want to stay close to the festival plus you don’t exactly know what and how in the village then you are doomed to the VIP camp or the regular one. And that’s never been a good option. If you are asked to pay for a camping spot then is decent to expect a clean slot to pitch your tent, available toilets, showers, water. Is not that impossible to arrange… some will is needed and that is a must for a festival which tends to raise at the European levels and standards. Heard many complaints about the camps conditions and facilities and also about thefts (in the camp sites and in the fest areas). Let’s not forget this is an event clearly against intolerance and violence. We all come there to relax, enjoy and have fun. Respect should be something a bit more common on the metalheads list (and no reference to any nation or specifics). We have plastic glasses to ensure the areal remains cleaner, more usable and we can take a souvenir back home. Why on earth would you steal a plastic glass from someone else (like from the backpack pocket as it happened to us)? Eh, never mind… world is full of people who share so many different views and angles…
Back to the amazing festival with the black hooded gulls walking on the cliffs (so did some goats and sheep who did not seem to care about the noise and crowd below them). The weather this year was strange… hot days when you did not know where to hide to escape for a while the unmerciful sun and heat and then the storms on Friday which caused delays in the schedule, around 30 mins break, a lot of mud and wet people. There was a power breakage in the village and the festival area as well but let’s not forget we do have a great system of sharing the updates and program changes (as the booklet then becomes unusable especially considering there were quite a few mistakes in from start).
Toi tois and the paid toilets… ok, a good number available on the festival ground but we notice more and more metalheads become fancier and use the paid ones (that if you can hold and wait for the huge queues… so what about adding a set of paid toilets since they are proven to be a good investment?)
9th Aug (Wednesday)
The Italians Fleshgod Apocalypse were not the first time at Brutal Assault. They encounter some sound issues at the beginning and it takes a while till is stabilized. Classic romantic metal opera with impressive scenography and eighteen century inspired costumes and artwork. Their last album “King” is pretty predictable for their style and the setlist is spiced up with operatic parts delivered by Veronica Bordacchini. Nice show, good drummer but somehow not at the scale to stick to your mind for too long. Gorguts are the leaders of one of the most peculiar genres of technical Death metal and they always deliver a good live set. They start with “From Wisdom to Hate” and encounter sound issues. The crowd is starting to gather slowly awaiting the Czech highlights of the evening as Root and Master Hammer. This year not only that Big Boss gets a nice slot on the main stage but also a solo performance following day at the Oriental Stage. At 65 he is the only remaining original member. The band itself has been around from some years and the style and direction is around Anton LaVey, Satanism and occult rock (not sure could really call that metal). They are very well received in Czech Republic and around but for a foreigner eye and ear…not much to be told. An elderly singer who mainly speaks and jokes around in Czech rather than sings, a very simplistic music, pentagrams, reversed crosses and all in the name of Satan… Maybe a bit of English would not harm (at least some wider part of the audience may catch on the so-called jokes).
Wintersun was an expected moment of epic extreme folkish metal full of keyboards and performed by one of the best musicians and composers. They open with “Awaken From The Dark Slumber”. Jari Mäenpää has an amazing voice both when using clean or extreme vocals. Though he is usually reserved and shy as approach tonight he has decided is time to show off… not exactly well digested by the fans. The set was perfectly timed and proved once more metal can be very sophisticated. American veterans Metal Church with outstanding and energetic vocal Mike Howe in his fifties passed through various changes but managed to survive and bypass all the time traps. They serve a good portion of their classics as “The Dark”, “Gods of Second Chance”, “Badlands”, “Beyond the Black” and “Start the Fire”. Some of the new songs from 2016 album “XI” are also squeezed between the setlist. Good performance from a band with 37 years of history behind them. Fireworks, light shows, calm and melancholic moments to jumpy mathcore madness… we speak about the energetic and dynamic Dillinger Escape Plan who made sure their fans are not going to stay still during their set.
Second well expected moment mainly by the Czech fans was Master’s Hammer. Second time performing on Brutal Assault and with 25 years in the background they represent the local roots of black metal. Great crowd that was almost impossible to pass gathered to see them proving this band is very well seen and received locally. The stage décor is well worked with large wooden crosses, sculptures, banners with hidden drawings along with the band logo, fire effects at the front of the stage and two ladies very summarily dressed wearing Baphomet masks who stood still all the set. Their set was mainly focused on “Ritual”. Well worked appearance (speaking about stage decorations and so) but then the grandpa looking members are not very dynamic… they are rather static and the unmercenary addition of the drums alongside the comments in Czech language made it quite bulky to follow or understand. Frantisek Storm was a good vocal but is now clear time bears its toll. A good set but a bit monotonous and not raising at the expected scale. Next band Overkill with the front liner Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth is convincing the remaining crowd with his distinctive voice and dynamic stage acting. American classic thrash metal and a growing circle pit. Polish combo Batushka became a sensation with the unusual mix of black metal and orthodox songs. Liturgical choirs are audible but nothing else seems to be is in place… The guitars lack power and the sound is somehow too crumpled. Not a bad show but probably something better to be seen indoors in a club or so.
10th August (Thursday)
Fallujah and American technical atmospheric deathcore. Young musicians who definitely stand out from the lot and know how to be effective. A quality show even after the departure of the Canadian vocalist Alex Hofmann last July. He was replaced by Monte Barnard and you could barely spot the difference. A nice set and a good pass through the Quebec Cryptopsy. Good sound, a very receptive crowd, a lot of charisma and energy alongside names as “From Slit your Guts to Benedictine Convulsions” and “Graves of the Fathers”. Again, a new singer and a decently kept show. For a contrast we switch to the Americans Miss I May for a short portion of metalcore… not exactly fit but assumingly their own fans have a different view. Energy is restored by Havok for a clean portion of trash metal. A nice surprise and a straight and effective set.
Arkona are then back after some years of silence. From their classic “Goi Rode Goi” to the newer material the band impresses by their energy, stage and musical performance and precision. Their next album seems to follow the same direction of the dark progressive pagan/folkish style. Though at times during their set could notice a weaker voice on the singer. Nile performed without the singer guitarist Dallas and many feared the worst. But it was soon clear the new comer can handle very well and they again impressed by their ten minute “Unas Slayer of the Gods” full of stops between acoustic guitars and double bass.
Electronic dark metal Swiss from Samael with their computers and synths were an expected act. Though the band made many journeys touching various musical styles it looked like a come back is to be sniffed. The audience was great and “Baphomet’s Throne” ruled once more. Hatebreed insured a good time and moments for circle pits and stage diving. Modern influences and a good atmosphere for the fans (while a break for the others).
Why everybody came to Brutal Assault in 2017? Of course… Emperor. The festival ground darkened and became ultra-crowded, fans waiting for a moment of history on the extreme metal scene. Dense, crystal clear and powerful sound, crazy crowd singing along and a special Emperor show. What more could you wish for? The intro “Alsvartr (The Oath)” resounds with trumpets and in addition to “Anthems…” Emperor will offer a title of “IX Equilibrium”, two of “In the Nightside Eclipse”, “Curse You All Men!”, “I Am the Black Wizards ” closing of course with the well expected ” Inno a Satana “. A sophisticated and very well produced and delivered set even after so many years. Amazing how this band can be so unique and remain so true to what is called Emperor. Musical perfection and by far the festival highlight and after this set was a true challenge to continue watching other bands.
Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth will try to capture the crowd attention with his clear voice, great guitar riffs and of course… his jokes. Is clear Opeth has a great group of fans and their set goes on smoothly and delights the ears. The new version of Suffocation with “Thrones of Blood/Pierced from Within” sticks to the atmosphere and ensures the night is not yet over. Time for the Greeks from Rotting Christ who again prove to have a loyal fan group that is not concerned about the late hour in the night or weather conditions. Impressive stage presence, powerful show, great precision but somehow a bit too static and monotonous this time.
11th August (Friday)
Friday was the dooms day. If we were complaining about the unbearable heat and temperatures mother nature decided to serve us a portion and leave us face its strength and mud rivers, chilly water and natural sky shows. Or maybe it was Thor getting bored and decided to make his presence felt at Brutal Assault. Before that Crowbar starts by saying “We are Crowbar, we come from the New Orleans and we will kick your ass!”. Excellent sound, imposing charisma and dirty voice. The setlist flies over the rich discography of the group from New Orleans with 11 active albums to date. Italians from Graveworm cool down after the energetic Crowbar with melodic black metal. Incantation are centered on the new album and face natures destructive force. Delays and issues but who survived gather in front of the main stage for a short portion of August Burns Red. Time to hide and try on the Metalgate covered stage where Igorrr is performing. A very long soundcheck but once done an amazing and powerful performance. Swallow the Sun seem to be serious today as there is not a trace of sun on the sky. Good atmosphere for the Finnish classic doom death melodic set. Funeral and depressive, clear vocals, powerful growls and a perfectly fit and in sync moment. A bit short though (maybe due to all delays and changes in the festival playlist). Florida’s Trivium have a clear sound and seem to be focused on the older material which has more to do with metal.
Carcass made our mind go back to their amazing “Heartwork” album and this ensured a great reaction from the audience. Classic death metal who were placed instead of Morbid Angel (after a short cancelling notice). Jeff Walker managed to save the day and perform mainly on borrowed instruments. The weather starts to be more stable and calm and so is next band Electric Wizard. The sound is a bit problematic and their show goes to a chosen part of the audience who enjoys it. The rest still wonder what exactly is happening but stare at the background screen broadcasting groovy, psychedelic and erotic images. Time to wake up for a portion of Finnish Rotten Sound. Short and precise tracks academically performed… all together with a great stage presence and a set touching older names as well as newer releases.
Swedish crossover veterans from Clawfinger ensure a good mood and a responsive crowd. Even if you don’t like Clawfinger its impossible not to find yourself in the crowd singing along the band. The excentric now at a certain age Zak Tell makes sure he spares no one. He jumps all over the place, goes stage diving and having walks through the crowd. “Biggest & The Best” or “Do What I Say” brings the audience to an unforgettable moment. Viking grandmasters Einherjer were good, enthusiastic and with a rich set mainly from their starting album “Dragons of the North” but it was late and that was no easy day to pass (or survive) through.
12th August (Saturday)
Last day of the festival, last day to embrace music and freedom before going back to our own reality.
French scene was present with Svart Crown from Nice playing on main stage in front of already gathered audience. Their new album “Abreaction” served as an early portion of death black metal. A good solid sound and time for Artillery. Vocal Søren Nico Adamsen enchanted with his strong voice and their album “When Death Comes” is not something to miss. While She Sleeps bridged us to English shores of metalcore. Powerful singer but not something to really remember.
Can’t say same about the Polish death metal Decapitated who once more proved they are like home. Clean and clear, powerful and direct, the Polish made sure everyone is awake and watching them. Time for something different, something a bit out of the line with post metal calm and heavy Oathbreaker. Flemish group with a female lead singer who at first seems quiet and serene but then you wake up with a solid portion of growls. The sound was not the best and playing during day light did not fit that well with the groups oppressive musical direction but was something interesting and definitely caught the eye. Songs like “Glimpse of the Unseen” from their first album delivered an intense feel. Reformed once more Demolition Hammer are a legend. With a new drummer and based on the motto “Nomen est Omen” the Americans make sure the audience is awakened and jumping in continuous mosh pits.
Another great surprise and well expected act was Tiamat who promised a full set of “Wildhoney”. A beautiful and unique album, one of the best for the doom metal scene and its history. Many gathered to witness a moment full of emotion. The band started playing and as soon as the singer Johan Edlund opened his mouth question marks started to raise between the crowd. He was hardly standing on his feet, hardly speaking or articulating and about singing… not really. Even band members seemed to be embarrassed by what is happening on stage and were making signs and gesture apologizing to the public. Whole set was ruined by Edlund’s ignorance… a true massacre, painful, embarrassing and unworthy. Edlund may have his personal issues and problems but his attitude and approach at Brutal Assault 2017 killed completely the “Wildhoney” splendor and its musical colors. A miserable approach proving no respect for his fans, for his music, for the band members or for himself. Had to think hard to decide if to leave and go do something else or stay and watch the poor parody. Towards end he is smashing his guitar and he is then told that was not the last song (which seemed a surprise for him at the moment). Such a pity and such a terrible moment.
Vallenfyre have a new solid album and their death metal surely served as a reminder that music can sound good both on album in the studio and live on stage. The Canadians from Devin Townsend Project had a perfectly powerful sound and as usually were a true sensation. Such a precision, such a monumental moment. Of course, all together with the funny approach we know Devin has used his audience to. Progressive melodic metal at its best quality.
Hell can open with bands as Tsjuder and songs like “Ghoul”, “Kill for Satan”, “Mouth of Madness” or “Primeval Fear”. Intense and at full speed the Norwegians prove metal suits well. Amorphis is surely a great live band (and so is in studio of course). Captivating songs stretching from the new material to the old classics, clean sound, fantastic voice, melodic details and amazing harmonies, smooth guitars… all you need to ensure a perfect set and performance. Do not think ever to have seen a bad Amorphis show… these guys certainly know what they do.
Though different story about the next act of Mayhem. Once upon a time they were a great band, widely recognized and appreciated. Time, line up changes… something somewhere went wrong. They had a very worked show with a huge effort on scenography (what a surprise). Attila Csihar is as master of ceremony and “Freezing Moon” captures publics attention. Ok sound, good setlist and only two of the original members of the album were on stage (Attila and Jan Axel Blomberg). Solid show but a bit too much based on visuals (black robes, corpse paint, reversed crosses, skulls, candles). “De Mysteriis Dom Satanas” remains of course a classic but their performance was somehow far from where it should be. So the decision was to move and end up the festival in a dark humoristic way with the Czechs from Gutalax. Rolls of toilet paper flying through the air, inflatable balloons and crocodiles, flamingos, toilet brushes being waved in the air and a funky atmosphere were everyone is jumping, dancing and having fun. Nothing you could really take seriously but a great moment to put an end with a “cauky mjauky” as the Gutalax singer greeted his audience at the end of the set.
Was an amazing time with many great moments to remember and unique bands. The 23rd edition, which will take place from August 08th to August 11th, 2018 already announces names as Perturbator, Carpathian Forest, Dead Congregation, Protector and Whoredom Rife. Plus, much more to come. Great organization, amazing efforts and devotion to what we all appreciate: metal. See you next year :-)
The full gallery is available here.