LIVE: Temples Festival @ Motion, Bristol

By Glen Bushell

When festival season arrives, the calendar of events becomes more jam-packed with a wide array of festivals taking place both home and abroad to cater for almost every musical taste. Now in it’s second year, Temples Festival in Bristol played host to what was undoubtedly one of the most impressive, diverse, and monolithic line-ups in European festival circuit, and a vibe unlike any other of its nature. Completely independent, with no sponsors, no gods, and no masters, it categorically provides one of the best festival experiences for its patrons that have travelled from across the world.

After we saw Bossk and ..And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead kick off the pre-show the night before, we headed down to the Motion venue for the weekend to join in the festivities. While it was impossible to cover every band, we did consume a lot of cider, had our eardrums pummelled daily, and enjoyed a whole host of bands across the weekend.

Friday May 29th

After shaking off a hangover, we made it down to witness the return of London hardcore band Throats. You would not think this is their first show in over 4 years as they play like seasoned veterans, and just as tight as the last time we saw them. With ‘Wake’ and ‘Failgiver’ still sound as intense as before, it is a pleasure to have them back.

For their debut UK show, Young And In The Way could not have picked a better place than Temples Festival. While they often have a stage show, the North Carolina blackened crust band are more stripped back in that sense today, but the visceral ‘Fuck This Life’ and ‘Be My Blood’ show the band do not need to rely on anything other than the sheer power of their music. A triumphant first show outside of their homeland for YAITW, and given the size of the crowd, it was one a lot of people were waiting for.

Years ago it may have seem like an odd choice to have Harms Way on a bill like this, as they were traditionally more of a hardcore band. However since the release of their stunning album ‘Rust’ earlier this year they have embraced a more metallic sound. Opting to play a set heavy on the aforementioned album was a perfect fit to the main stage, and their sound is absolutely colossal. Mountain-like vocalist James Pligge prowls the stage like a rabid pitbull during ‘Amongst The Rust’, and there is no questioning their place on today’s bill with the crushing ‘Left To Disintegrate’. They have clearly transcended hardcore now, and will only go on to bigger things from here on out.

While it was difficult to fight for a position to see most of the bands on the Third Stage due to the crowds that every band drew, we managed to squeeze our way in to catch some of Slabdragger. They are easily one of the finest sludge bands to come out of the UK in recent memory, and their slow, doom-laden riffs that are complimented by the occasional dirty blues solo easily match up to their US counterparts. Much like their name suggests, they sound as though they are pulled straight from the swamps, but with a performance like that they wont be staying there for long.

They may have had their ups and downs in their near 20 year career, but Will Haven still sound every bit as relevant. While they once stood in the shadow of the nu-metal bands that they shared stages with, Will Haven look and sound rejuvenated as they play a career spanning set. Naturally ‘I’ve Seen My Fate’ and ‘Fresno’ provide huge nostalgic sing-along’s, but the new material from ‘Open The Mind To Discomfort’ shows how they are still a stirring force to be reckoned with in the worlds of metal and hardcore.

Drawing arguably the biggest crowd of the main stage so far today, Nails launch into ‘Gods Cold Hands’ and with the adoration they instantly receive they could have been headlining tonight’s festival. They race through their set with volatile intensity, and air all the favourites such as ‘Unsilent Death’, and ‘I Will Not Follow’ which is prefixed by a moving tribute to headliners Converge by front man Todd Jones. Their ferocious fusion of punk and metal was made for a stage this, with ‘Tyrant’ whipping the crowd into a frenzy before they close with a storming cover of Entombed classic ‘Wolverine Blues’. All areas of the punk, metal, and hardcore communities have embraced Nails, and when they provide such staggering performances like tonight, its understandable why they receive the acclaim they do.

Before they have even hit a single note, the Second Stage is packed to the rafters. It even gets to the point that so many people want to see Pig Destroyer that a “one in, one out” policy is put into place, but those of us lucky enough to witness this rare UK performance by the finest grind band on the planet were treated to an awe-inspiring display. Covering all corners of their back catalogue from ‘Prowler In The Yard’ to ‘Book Burner’, they play a cacophonic 20-song set, and show they are still unmatched in this area of music. Whether it’s ‘Deathripper’, ‘Pretty In Casts’, or ‘Piss Angel’, the crowd laps up every moment of this mesmerising show from Pig Destroyer, but there’s more to come from them later….

It’s impossible to imagine ever going to see a bad performance from Converge, and as you can imagine, their headline set at Temples Festival tonight is nothing short of perfect as always. Their energy is unmatched, and it’s exhausting just watching their incomparable vocalist Jacob Bannon throw himself around the stage while pouring every ounce of his being into ‘Eagles Become Vultures’ and ‘Aimless Arrow’. While Converge often say they are suited better to small clubs, they still make their performance feel intimate, as they draw you into their huge sound. For over 20 years they have been the most consistent band in aggressive music, and no matter whether it’s ‘Reap What You Sow’, the spine-chilling ‘Trespasses’, or the visceral ‘Concubine’, the cohesion in their song writing is impeccable. Unsurprisingly the highlight is the emotionally intense, 10-minute long ‘Jane Doe’, which virtually brings Temples Festival to its knees. Always incredible, and always inspiring, Converge simply own today.

Saturday May 30th

After the first day of Temples Festival ruining us mentally and physically, we still manage to make it down in time to see Celeste. They fill the stage with smoke and are only visible by red L.E.D lights from the stage, but this French bands take on black metal is truly mind-blowing. Their set draws largely from their ‘Animale(s)’ album, and is both enthralling and caustic. Yet while there is not much to see on stage, Celeste are still a chilling spectacle to be in the presence of.

There’s something special about any band that can be considered “fun” in the world of aggressive music, and Torche are a special band indeed. They add a certain sense of melody to their take on doom-rock, with ‘Minions’ and ‘Kicking’ sounding glorious next to the pummelling newer tracks ‘Barrier Hammer’ and ‘Annihilation Affair’. The best thing is watching a band like Torche look like they are enjoying every minute of it, as vocalist Steve Brooks grins from ear to ear during ‘Charge Of The Brown Recluse’ and invites the audience to party with him afterwards. A great contrasting addition to the darkness of the majority of the bands on this weekends bill.

Doom legends Goatsnake have no trouble in making their main stage set sound colossal, and having been at this for so long they are a well-oiled machine when it comes to delivering the riffs. Old favourites from ‘Flower Of Disease’ stand well next to material from their new album ‘Black Age Blues’, and how many heavy bands can incorporate using instruments such as a harmonica and harp into their sound and make it work? Probably not many, but Goatsnake manage to add these elements with style, and show any young doom bands how this music should be done.

It may seem like there would be little merit in reviewing the same band twice at one festival, but it would be criminal not to mention the stunning second performance by Pig Destroyer of the weekend. While the Friday saw them tear through their regular grind set, tonight is something truly special witnessing them perform their 40-minute epic ‘Natasha’ in full for the very first time. The track is the prelude to their 2004 album ‘Terrifyer’, and accompanied by a harrowing visual movie that tells the story of how the protagonist Natasha becomes the ‘Terrifyer’, provides a chilling and unsettling experience. A far cry from their grind sound, and played in a slower, monolithic doom style, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and a highlight of the weekend.

Before they are due on stage, smoke is poured into the entire venue, making it near impossible to see the person in front of you, and when SunnO)) emerge in their trademark hooded cloaks the noise is almost instantly deafening. Their droning sound is utterly blistering, and it has to be said that we only lasted approximately half an hour before a sick, and almost depressed feeling that there was nothing good left in this world encapsulated us. It truly is a spectacle that people need to experience at least once in their lifetime. Even those that were attended to by paramedics for blacking out, and suffering nosebleeds from SunnO))’s sonic assault would no doubt say that what they did endure was intoxicating.

Sunday May 31

Due to a technical hitch on the Sunday morning – possibly due to the velocity of SunnO))’s set the night before – things run an hour late, but that means we make it in plenty of time to see Kent doom band OHHMS. Without a doubt this is the biggest show they have played yet, and possibly the most important of their career so far, but they pull it off with precision. They play a cohesive set that provides a colossal wall of sound for solid and unrelenting 30 minutes, and the perfect sound that the main stage has provided all weekend showed the brute force of OHHMS attack.

Arguably the underdogs on today’s line up, Swan Song bring a more straight up hardcore sound to Temples Festival, but they have no problems in making their presence felt. They have Brutality Will Prevail front man Louis Gauthier filling in on vocals, and he is ball of energy for the duration of their set as he bounds around the stage narrowly missing failing guitars. They carry enough of a metal leaning though to impress an ever expanding crowd, and with the odd’s stacked against them as an unknown quantity on today’s bill they certain gained a few new fans tonight.

If there were an award for surprise set of the weekend, it would have to be handed to Canadian noise-rock band KEN Mode. Their bass-heavy sound is huge as they tear through ‘These Tight Jeans’ and their latest single ‘Blessed’, and it’s like watching a young Melvins jamming with members of Big Black. By the time they close their set with the chaotic ‘Never Was’, they leave they room wide-eyed and open-jawed in awe of this special set they have just witnessed. With their new album ‘Success’ about to be unleashed to the world imminently, 2015 will be the year of KEN Mode.

Did you ever imagine a time when doom metal could be so powerful, and even emotional, that it leaves you feeling overwhelmed? We didn’t think that was possible until we stood in the presence of the mighty Pallbearer. While there are obvious comparisons to Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, Pallbearer have the power to attack your senses in a way that those bands can’t. From the gigantic riffs of ‘Worlds Apart’ through to the heart-wrenching epic ‘The Ghost I Used To Be’, their main stage set is utterly moving. Ending on ‘Foreigner’ and fading into darkness as the house lights go down, they receive a deafening show of appreciation from the crowd. They are categorically the future of doom metal, and with a performance like that, they will be selling out venues the size of Motion on their own before long.

Closing a festival of this magnitude is no easy feat, but Seattle instrumental icons Earth have no problems in bringing Temples Festival to a close in spectacular fashion. While Dylan Carlson’s band was at the forefront of drone in the late 80’s, the band have progressed through the years into a more expansive territory. They twist and turn through the beautifully serene moments of ‘There Is A Serpent Coming’ to the cavernous riffing of ‘Badgers Bane’, and are sonically enchanting with every aspect. It is near impossible to not be transfixed on the stage as their sound engulfs the room during ‘Torn By The Fox of The Crescent Moon’ before they make their exit with the sprawling ‘Old Black’, and provide a grandiose end to a perfect festival.