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Day one of Mammothfest 2014 – words and pictures!

Mammothfest 2014

There’s nothing quite like a healthy local music scene. I’ve certainly noticed over the last few years that more and more bands emerging from Brighton and its surrounds, and many of them are on the bill of this year’s re-energised Mammothfest.  We could only make it down to the coast for the first day of this two-day festival, held in the cosy little Green Door Store, conveniently located literally underneath the railway station, but it was more than worth a look.

Exilethetitan Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

The commuting gods were smiling upon us, so we walked into the venue just as opening band Exile The Titan were starting their set. Despite the early start, a fair few punters had already made their way to the venue, meaning Exile The Titan weren’t subjected to the empty room than many bands at the bottom of bills like this are forced to play to, which is an encouraging omen for the day.

The band kick the day off to a fine, solid start. Their NWOAHM/Metalcore songs pack some good grooves and dynamic song structures, and they even manage to generate a bit of movement from some of the early bird punters. Even if guitarist/vocalist Jace could have done with a boost patch for his tapped sections and solos, the sound is clear and the band set the quality bar high for the day ahead.

The solidity of this start is retrospectively made all the more impressive when I subsequently discover that Exile The Titan are usually a five piece, and had played this show without their lead vocalist Drew. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on these guys.

Stonecircle Mammoth

 Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

Hot on their heels come Stone Circle. This is the third time this summer I’ve seen these guys play, and this afternoon’s show is definitely blessed with the best sound to showcase their stoner-prog grooves. The quartet’s long songs draw people into the small live room and keep them there, so there are at least as many watching this afternoon as caught their last-minute appearance at Tech Fest recently.

Easter Island” is a real stand-out track, with proper lip-curling, crunchy riffs. The songs are refreshingly stripped-back, dynamic and interesting without being  fussy. There is both mature songwriting and solid musicianship on display here – even if their short set only gives them time for about three or four of those long songs – but nevertheless, watching Stone Circle is a particularly statisfying way to spend half an hour.

Headface Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

Next up are local quartet Headface. Their more traditional blend of thrash and death metal is not really my usual cup of tea, and they don’t quite do enough to win me round. There’s not much happening in terms of stagecraft, but the performance is at least tight. Their four-piece configuration means that the sound becomes uncomfortably thin during the guitar solos, so maybe the addition of a second guitarist would help thicken things out a little. Whilst Headface may not be my bag, they certainly seem to be engaging those for whom it is.

Porshyne Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

Hell’s teeth.  I had heard encouraging things about Porshyne, yet another Brighton-based band, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for just how good they were going to be. With a hefty nod in the direction of sadly defunct progressive-rock supremos Oceansize, Porshyne deliver an incredibly strong set of genuinely immersive songs with a huge sound. I’ve had a bit of a bugbear recently about bands featuring three guitarists but not really utilising them all – but such concerns are entirely redundant with Porshyne, as they tapdance on their pedals and wring interesting, richly textured riffs from their instruments.

These triple-guitar riffs and textures are underpinned by an imaginative rhythm section, with the drummer utilising the shells of his kit to great effect, and topped off by some incredibly strong vocal melodies, that at times are reminiscent of Muse and Jane’s Addiction.

I could have happily watched Porshyne for twice the length of their set, and my biggest disappointment was discovering they had no CDs available for me to buy. The strong dynamics and catchy hooks meant that when I woke up the next day after a full day of music, it was “Hubris” that was still bouncing around in my head. Porshyne have now firmly established themselves near the top of my ‘ones to watch’ list.  Outstanding stuff.

Coreofio Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

Things are starting to happen for Core Of Io, yet another Brighton-based quartet (you see what I mean about local scenes?), with a great little EP followed up swiftly with new single “14 Stitches”, I was very much looking forward to finally getting to see them play, and they didn’t disappoint. Charismatic frontman Bob is pulling a double-duty today, acting as stage manager as well as performing – but even overseeing a number of gear changes at break-neck speed already had not dampened his enthusiasm as he took to the stage himself.

The band as a whole are energetic to the point of effervescent, with the tracks from the EP performed a fair few beats per minute faster than their recorded versions. Even at this increased pace, the band handle their spidery, Postman Syndrome-esque riffs with flair, and bassist Gareth is particularly impressive. The band clearly have a strong local following who are out in force, packing out the room with the largest crowd of the day so far, and the band ensure that nobody leaves disappointed.  Core of Io manage to inject a real sense of fun into their progressive metal sound, proving that technical music doesn’t have to be po-faced and serious all the time.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what these guys do next.

Mordecai Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

However, having watched five bands in very quick succession, Mordecai’s sound doesn’t quite hold my attention, so I slip out after a couple of tracks for a bit of a sit-down. However, I’d certainly seen enough to warrant giving them another go in slightly more favourable circumstances, and fans of straight-up, no-frills heavy rock would be wise to do the same.

Collisions Mammoth

 Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I bloody love Collisions. Like Stone Circle, I’ve already seen Collisions play twice this summer, and at least half a dozen times in total, but this is the first time I’ve seen them play on home turf. Regular readers will know exactly what to expect here – Collisions give us another set of their high-octane, drum & bass propelled metal delivered with passion and energy.

By far the best indication of just how hard drummer Will goes at his is kit is that it takes two guys the majority of the set to hold the bass drum in place after someone set the kit up with the bass drum legs pointing backwards – but the on-stage activity doesn’t dampen the performance one iota.

It’s easy to see why Skindred recently hand-picked Collisions to appear at Breakout alongside them, as festivals really are their ideal environment. Vocalist Olly is becoming particularly adept at controlling the crowd, and also drops a cheeky couple of lines from Shaggy’s “Boombastic” into firm favourite “Believe in This”. I already know I’ll be seeing them again just a few weeks after Mammothfest, and I can’t wait.

Cambion Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

Devon quartet Cambion arrive, and the crunch factor goes through the roof. The band quickly prove that they are probably the tightest of the day, with their modern metal resting on a bed of staccato riffing that demands that they all be absolutely on point. Which they are. Mixing Meshuggah-esque grooves with more soulful clean sections, they come across at times as the bastard love child of TesseracT and Fear Factory, which is no bad thing, and their set gets pretty much every head in the room nodding.

There are a couple of extra touches that show Cambion to have great potential – a singing drummer, a great, dirty sounding bass tone and some particularly tasteful guitar solos on top of the powerful riffing all show that these guys mean serious business. The songs are perhaps just a little samey, and they may not have held my attention for much more than their set, but for thirty minutes this was a minor concern.

Existimmortal Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

One problem with such a high quality bill is that, even with the best will in the world, everybody needs to take a break sooner or later. It is perhaps unfortunate that a large proportion of those attending to day have chosen Exist Immortal’s set as the time to take that break. The London quintet take to the stage to a substantially smaller crowd than had greeted some of the preceding bands.

However, this may actually be no bad thing. There has been a substantial change in Exist Immortal’s camp recently, with long-time drummer Fergus leaving the band and new guy Charlie taking his place behind the kit. This change is a recent one, and Charlie only had a couple of weeks to get up to speed before heading out on a short run of three dates, with this being the third.

One consequence of the speed of the change, coupled with the complexities of Exist Immortal’s songs, is that Charlie plays with a book of notation on the floor by his left foot for reference. Even at this early stage, however, it is clear to see that the change is for the best. Despite having to reach down periodically to flip the page in his notes, Charlie is obviously more comfortable with the demands these songs place upon a drummer, and his feet, in particular, deliver the precision that is really necessary.

The remainder of the band deliver the kind of performance I’ve come to expect from them now, throwing their voluminous hair around and striking all manner of rock god poses whist wearing enormous grins. They run through “The Omen Machine”, the closing track from latest album Darkness Of An Age, which I don’t recall hearing live before.

Given how long Exist Immortal have operated with their previous line-up, the decision to change must have been an incredibly difficult one, but once Charlie is properly bedded in and up to speed with the tracks, they will almost certainly have taken another step up as a band.  The future for these guys is looking brighter than ever.

As I said everyone needs a break. We held out as long as we could, but the lure of fish and chips on the seafront became too great, so we missed Abhorrent Decimation. Maybe next time.

Maskofjudas Mammoth

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

We get back to the venue just after Mask of Judas have started their set. Last time I saw the band, they were performing as a quartet, without second guitarist Reece and it transpires the same is true this evening.

But coming to the end of a week-long tour with Taken By The Tide (appearing on this stage tomorrow), they are well primed for tonight’s show and on fine form. I have to squeeze my way through the responsive crowd to find myself a good vantage point.

The band have hit upon a formula that draws pretty much equally from the groove and death schools of tech metal, and the results are remarkably successful, and the newer material they aired particularly so. The musicianship on display from all members is exemplary, but Sam’s guitar solos are so absurdly good that even I enjoy them, which is no mean feat. They also prove that the odd spot of open-string, palm-muted chugging needn’t be boring or derivative – legions of metalcore bands should take note.

It feels like we’ve been waiting an awfully long time for some new recorded output from Mask of Judas - but it shouldn’t be too much longer now, and pretty much guaranteed to be worth the wait.

Metastasis Mammoth

 Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

The room is full to bursting as Mammothfest head honcho Steve Dickson takes to the stage with Meta-Stasis, whose tech-death threatens to rip the faces of each and every attendee and hurl them all against the back wall. The sound they spit out is, in a word, intense. It’s almost too intense for my tastes, but there’s something lurking in the brutality which draws me in.

The sound is somewhat dominated by some genuinely astonishing double-kick drum action, which does somewhat smooth out some of the detail in their hyper-tech sound – but when it all falls into place, Meta-Stasis are intoxicatingly evil.

The band take to the stage dressed in camo-gear which – like Exist Immortal’s uniform black shirts – proves that just a little bit of presentational effort goes a long way, and the band look as cohesive a unit as they sound.

I think that to properly get to grips with these songs, I’m going to need to spend some time with their recorded versions when they appear.  Although they sit right on the very edge of the extremity of my tastes, it’s clear that a little bit of time and effort will pay dividends in the enjoyment of their fearsome and ferocious delights.

My need to get back up to the capital means that I have to leave shortly after Savage Messiah take to the stage for their headline slot, but again, I’m fairly confident that there isn’t much for me in their traditional thrash fare. – plus I’m still reeling a bit from Meta-Stasis, so I can’t really take in what little I hear from them.

As I slump down into a seat on a London-bound train, moments after leaving the venue, it strikes me just how many really great bands I’ve seen today – making it possibly the highest quality all-day event I’ve attended in some considerable time. Whilst I might not have enjoyed a couple of the bands, that was more due to personal preferences of genre than anything seriously lacking in their respective performances.  All of which makes me slightly regret not being able to hang around for the whole weekend.

Mammothfest has had a slightly bumpy history, but today’s proceedings have been a virtually unqualified success. Kudos is due to Steve and his team for putting on an excellent, well-run event with a genuinely outstanding line-up and a thoroughly friendly atmosphere. Mammothfest 2015 has already been confirmed as a go, and we will almost certainly be making the trip back down to the seaside for it. Great stuff.