LIVE: Desertfest 2018: Sunday

By Jay Hampshire

Sunday sees us being primarily two things – too fucking hot, and too fucking tired. It’s a long trek to the Roundhouse, but one that’s worth it to catch Swedish doomsters Monolord. The massive backdrop of latest album ‘Rust’ gives a clue as to what the set list will be mostly made up of, but the jaunty country intro tape is a bit of a curveball. The trio come out onto a stage that’s surrounded by a wall of orange amps, which they use to create a wall of buzzing riffs, Thomas Jäger’s spacey wails and triggered synth sweeps are grounded by the dirty scuzz of Mika Häkki’s bass, which he flails around his head with dangerous abandon. The crowd nod along appreciatively, but there’s a lingering sense that maybe the three piece would have been more at home in a smaller venue.

Fresh off the plane, Rhode Island’s Elder are arguably one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, off the strength of last year’s ‘Reflections Of A Floating World’. A trippy visualizer backdrop sets the scene as the wistful guitar noodling of ‘Sanctuary’ ring out across the Roundhouse before locking into a righteous groove. The soaring riffs, pounding, filly heavy drums and wistful guitar echoes are just as much of a riot of colour as the backdrop, Nick DiSalvo’s dreamy vocals and mind melting solos stretching spacewards. Smatterings of psychedelia and just the right amount of proggy wandering make sure they go down smooth. Elder are definitely on the ascent.

Down at the Dev, Brighton based bleak blackened sludge trio Solleme throw down to a disappointingly sparse initial turnout that rightfully increases as they air cuts from their recent stunning debut, ‘This Infinite Violence’. They shift through light and shade dynamics and twisting tempos with ease, vocalist Francesco screeching acidic hatred throughout a sprawling ‘Cost Of Conviction’. They plough on in spite of an overly attentive sound crew who can’t seem to leave them alone, but the trio remain undaunted – expect big things in Solleme’s future.

The bowels of the Underworld are a fitting venue for the sonic gauntlet that Denver’s Primitive Man are about to lay down. The trio have built a reputation for truly crushing live shows, for being the heavy band’s heavy band, and tonight is no exception. Their impossibly dense, suffocating riffs seem to channel some kind of primordial subsonic infrasound that only massive apex predators should be able to comprehend. Their overdriven, groaning amps steadily drown the crowd in the kind of oppressive, molten heat that we’re sure has acted as a crucible for the band’s sound back in Colorado. From the relentless drive of ‘Victim’ to the sanity sapping atonality of ‘My Will’, there’s something bleakly hypnotic about their tectonic grooves. Ethan Lee McCarthy’s growls and grunts are beyond guttural, and even hardened extreme metal fans will be trying to piece together how these noises can be produced by a human throat. There’s no respite, no chance to breathe or think, and time seems to distort and flatten, their set seeming endless to the point where it almost becomes too much to bear. And then, suddenly, with a final squall of feedback it’s over, and we’re staggering upward trying to make sense of what just happened. Utterly peerless, Primitive Man are the heaviest band in the world, and in a world mired in fake news and bullshit opinion, that’s a fucking fact.

So heavy are the Denver trio that the will to see any more bands has been utterly spent. Exhausted and used up, we head home, having loved every minute of one of the best weekends in British music. Same time next year?