LIVE: Ieperfest 2017 @ Ypres, Belgium

By Ashwin Bhandari

Here at Punktastic, we’ve always been big fans of mainland European festivals. While extra the cost of travel can be stressful, the payoff is usually worth it in the end, especially since our equivalent of Ieperfest, Hevy Fest, no longer exists. Thankfully, Ieper is one of the most accommodating festival sites you will encounter, for veterans and newcomers alike. Alongside the festival’s recycling/vegan ethos, the More Than Music tent offers stands from non-profit organisations, zine exhibitions, mental health discussions and the occasional activist film screening. Like Groezrock, the campsite is right next to the main arena, and even when you’re chilling back in your tent, you can still hear bands on the main stage with clarity.


As the Friday afternoon sun blisters down over Ypres, Venom Prison deliver on all fronts. Their material from ‘Animus’ may be far more death metal-centric compared to their first two EPs, but rest assured this has made them sound much heavier. Larissa Stupar is both captivating and terrifying with her vocal delivery, at times sustaining shrieks that shouldn’t be humanly possible, yet somehow perfected here. Given the recent call outs against her former band-mates in Wolf Down, songs like ‘Perpetrator Emasculation’ and ‘The Exquisite Taste Of Human Selfishness’ hold even further emotional weight. The crowd is attentive and while they may not play as many hardcore bills as they used to, their presence here is still very much welcomed.

Legendary Canadian Death Metal group Gorguts, present us with a live performance that enhances their strong studio efforts. The audience might not be punching each other to submission, but the caustic strobe lights over their technical mastery make for a sinister atmosphere. The punishing nature of classics such as ‘Nostalgia’ and ‘An Ocean Of Wisdom’ have stood the test of time, and despite guitarist/vocalist Luc Lemay’s few words to the audience, this career spanning set is one of the highlights of the weekend.

Returning to Ieper for the second time, Sheer Terror’s no-nonsense NYC hardcore graces the main stage. As well as churning out timeless renditions of ‘Here To Stay’ and ‘Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful’, Paul Bearer’s cynical sense of humour is enough to reel in first-time listeners.

Whilst grindcore godfathers Napalm Death are one to tick off your ‘bands you should see before you die’ bucket list, it’s fellow legendary Birmingham stars Memoriam who steal their thunder. Their thick, dissonant guitar tones, echo what made Bolt Thrower so great while taking on a back to basics approach to death metal. A sea of happy metal heads head bang along as they shred through highlights such as ‘Reduced To Zero’ and ‘Resistance’. On the whole, the atmosphere seems far more wholesome rather than brutal.

Without any other clashes in the way, Hatebreed brings us a nostalgic performance of ‘Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire’. Arguably the greatest hardcore record imaginable, the main stage tent has an almost ritualistic atmosphere in response to it. Opening with the theme from Bad Boys, from start to finish, the atmosphere is a total war zone. An abundance of stage divers and slam dancing is to be expected, but even those far away from the main action can’t help but throw fists in response. An explosive encore of their newer material also manages to keep the party going, avoiding cliches such as ‘As Diehard As They Come’, opting for stronger hits like ‘This Is Now’ and ‘Smash Your Enemies’. Overall this headline performance is a great reminder that with the right setlist, the metalcore giants are still an unstoppable force.


After Reduction give us a sharp wake-up call, Malevolence bring their brand of Sheffield fury to the main stage once again, this time treating us to fresh cuts from ‘Self Supremacy’. With mic grabs, crowd killing and gun fingers galore, they manage to live up to the title as one of the UK finest hardcore exports.  ‘No pity for fools’ indeed.

Over at the Trench stage, sludge metal group Cough showcase their ugly sound in the most bludgeoning way possible. Elements of drone are also added to their live performance, and whilst barely addressing the crowd, the cacophony of thick riffs do all the talking for them. The wailing guitar solos on songs like ‘Fuck It Up’ are delivered with such clarity that undoubtedly leaves many attendees with grins on their faces and ringing in their ears.

19 years later, the ever controversial Arkangel arrive gracefully to their old H8000 stomping ground. They’re on fairly early on in the day underneath bands that were still kids back in their heyday, but they still seem over the moon to be back. Donning black leather jackets on stage and a giant banner, the metalcore outfit dive right into ‘From Heaven, We Fall’. The sound is muddied and midway through they have to stop their set to get their fans to calm down amongst the heavy pitting, but other than that, they retain an almost flawless presence. This set is definitive proof that Arkangel is, and always will be, the enemy.

Defeater manage to cram in a well-varied chunk of their discography into a 25-minute set. Understandably there’s not a single soft, acoustic cut to pad things out, just pure, unadulterated aggression. Whether it’s the whole tent screaming “cause there ain’t nothing, but your smile, your legs and those eyes” on ‘Empty Glass’, or “and still all you see is that bastard in me” from ‘Bastards’, the Boston melodic hardcore group give us a well rounded, cathartic set.

Turnstile are renowned for their unashamedly fun live sets and tonight is no exception. The jazzy guitar effects for cuts like ‘Blue By You’ and ‘Fazed Out’ are a welcomed addition to their live sound, but it’s vocalist Brendan Yates’s punch throwing and unwavering enthusiasm that raises the bar. During ‘7’ bassist Franz Lyons even hands his bass to a member of the band’s crew and performs a jaw dropping backflip before returning to business as usual.  By the end of ‘Drop’, Turnstile are engulfed with a full blown stage invasion, with yet another successful Ieperfest performance under their belts.

Belgium/Germany’s beloved beatdown gang Nasty, treat us to a 45 minute set on the main stage. Despite their frequent visits to the UK, it’s in their home territory where the audience reaction remains the most enthusiastic. Effortlessly transitioning into songs such as ‘Shokka’ and ‘Slaves To The Rich’, their sound may not have changed much over the years, but their heavy bass drops and satisfying singalongs are always a sight to behold.

30 years into their career and Louisiana’s finest, Crowbar, are still one of the heaviest live bands around. To say that their sound is merely ‘huge’ is a complete understatement, with their obliterating guitar tone that retains its blunt nature throughout. They showcase a perfect balance of music to bang your head to with your best friend, whilst also making you want to fight people at the same time. Kirk Windstein’s trademark growl is still consistently gritty and ’90s classics such as ‘To Build A Mountain’ and ‘All I Have (I Gave)’ haven’t lost their skull-crushingly heavy edges. There are few bands that embrace human misery in such an unrelenting manner, and tonight proves once again that Crowbar are the true connoisseurs of this craft.


“It’s Jesus Piece you fake ass motherfuckers”, vocalist Aaron Heard barks to the audience at 12am on Sunday morning. The Philadelphia beatdown bring a sizeable crowd into the main stage tent, and deservedly so. Their pissed off, blunt sentiments about police brutality and corporate greed are lapped up, laying waste to everything in sight. New song ‘Deny Reality’ is blasted out, with Heard explaining what it’s all about: “There’s a movie showing in the More Than Music tent called 13th, which is about white supremacy in America. I wrote this song about the people of colour, myself and all my friends, who are consistently shit on by those people”. The socio-political commentary is praised and adds further to the aggression of their already hard as fuck beatdown sensibilities.

Shortly afterwards, it’s announced that Desolated have sadly pulled out of their set due to logistical issues, and are replaced with H8000 band Stab. Their set gets the job done, but considering that Desolated are doing their last run of shows this year, you can’t help but feel saddened that for many people, this may have been their last chance to catch the Southampton quintet.

The audience for Landscapes at the Trench stage is sparse to begin with but gradually builds up as their set progresses. Vocalist Shaun Milton has no trouble with riling up the crowd, spending most of his time off stage and screaming his lungs out. There’s a healthy balance between songs from ‘Modern Earth’ and older cuts like ‘No Love’ and ‘D.R.E.A.M’. Melodic hardcore may not be as popular as it was in the late ’00s, but Landscapes still pull off a gripping performance and hold their own.

Changing the mood entirely, Australia’s Clowns bring the drunken party atmosphere to the Trench stage. Circle pits and stage divers amass for ‘Destroy The Evidence’. The tent is loud enough to intrigue newcomers whilst retaining the unbridled chaos of a house show aesthetic.

Japanese noise rock group Boris are an odd choice for a predominantly hardcore oriented festival but nevertheless deliver on a unique set. They’re dressed head to toe in black uniforms, merely nodding to one another for the next song, creating an eerie dissonance between themselves and the audience. The stage billows with smoke through the opening chords of ‘D.O.W.N- Dominating Of Waiting Noise’. The set is heavily focused on their latest album ‘Dear’ but their sonic unpredictability is so enticing they can almost be forgiven in this instance. The wailing wall of feedback and powerful vocals are so loud, A Boris live show is total sensory deprivation in the best way possible.

L.A.’s Terror may not be as old as some of the other American hardcore bands on the bill, but they’re certainly a big influence on countless different artists in the scene, and for good reason. Vocalist Scott Vogel is on top form tonight, swaggering around the stage and getting involved in the crowd like there’s no tomorrow. 15 years into their career, Terror show no sign of slowing down, and tonight is a solid testament to that. There’s a real sense of community that comes with their shows and with an unstoppable wave of stage divers and high energy throughout, it’s admirable to see fans still being able to go in hard despite it being the third day of the festival.