Live at Ghostfest 2012 on Sunday, 1st July 2012
One of several bands making consecutive Ghostfest appearances, Polar have scaled the bill to the position of opening the Impericon stage for the Sunday of Ghostfest, a task which they tackle with much aplomb and gusto. Savage cuts from their new album 'Iron Lungs', such as 'Sick Old Buzzard', go down a storm with those assembled, stirring up an impressive amount of movement in the pit considering their early stage time. Their half-hour onstage is as scorching as you'd expect from the Guildford boys, in particular on set-closer 'Tonight Matthew, I Am The Batman' which sees the audience really start to come alive in the way that a performance of this standard deserves. When they let fly with the breakdown from 'Smile, You Son of A Bitch!' all Hell threatens to break loose, and it's twists like this that keep Polar's reputation as one of the most exciting underground bands the UK has to offer not just in check, but undisputedly so; a peach of a set from the Surrey lads, and one which can only further them on their journey down the path to bigger and better things.
Empires Fade are on bullish for as they open up the Time Will Tell stage to a room which is rather well populated given the hour of day. Their metallic hardcore approach is the perfect blend of melody and muscle and is far less formulaic than many of their peers' jaded attempts. By the mid-point of their set the room is rammed, allowing a pit the size of a Jaffa Cake but little else if you value your personal space; thankfully none of the audience seem too bothered as they surge forward time and time again for a turn on vocals. Empires Fade are hardly a household name at this stage in their career, but with the quality of their recent 'Reflections' EP and the reaction they've seen today, there's little reasoning behind imagining that this will be the shape of things to come for much longer for the band.
Demoraliser's live show should really come with a health warning - there's certainly no shortage of bloodied noses as the Grimsby unit tear the Ghostfest crowd several new orifices with their vicious metal assault and selection of bruising breakdowns. The lads have brought plenty of their own fans down today - trying to count the number of their Fallout t-shirts present will inevitably result in a migraine - and they're only too willing to incite carnage amongst their following, as a brutal opening one-two(ey) trade-off of 'Bitter Springs' and 'Trading Places' proves in no uncertain terms. Fan-favourites 'Blood Meridian' and 'Checkmate' sit comfortably alongside new cuts such as 'Mother's Ruin' and 'Early Years', showing the band's consistency to be uniform and comfortingly reliable. Some initial technical glitches rob the band of a flawless start, but any lost ground is recovered in the blink of an eye, showing Leeds exactly how good this band can be. They leave the stage victorious, and the crowd completely knackered, a telling sign of the high level of performance put on by both parties.
Thankfully, Departures' set gives many a chance to recover due to the decreased chance of getting kicked in the face by a total stranger. The Glaswegians fare well today, as they deserve to; their performance is abundant in energy and more intelligent and original than many of their contemporaries', inviting merit right from the off. Despite being one of the least heavy bands to grace the Monster stage today, Departures don't let this fact put them off their stride, choosing to play their way around such obstacles in magnificent style as opposed to charging headlong at them. Departures' popularity has been on the rise for quite some time now, and with a good number of their own fans present today it's clear that the band will be headlining these stages themselves sooner rather than later, something for which we should all be grateful.
Another year at Ghostfest, another airtight performance from TRC. 2012 sees the London crew take to the stage to tumultuous applause; not bad for a band who were once deemed to be the 'most hated' name in hardcore. This afternoon is a shining example of how diverse a genre hardcore can be; that the pacey, driven 'Define Cocky' and 'Team UK' - a song which makes direct references to Dappy and Bullet For My Valentine - can fit under the same tag is not only reassuring, but heartening also. Kick-starting their set with a riotous rendition of 'H.A.T.E.R.S' sets the bar high for the band, and it's a show of their talent as a unit that they clear it time and time again, thanks to the plethora of stellar songs which constitutes their back-catalogue. 'Bastard' is delivered with undiminished venom, whereas 'Go Hard or Go Home' still stands strong as a towering anthem of dedication. Whatever your view on TRC is, you'd be hard-pushed to find fault with their performance today; love them or hate them, it's clear to see the rewards they're now reaping for doing things their way for over a decade, and you'd be flat-out wrong to claim that they didn't deserve them.
Breaking Point are on top form this afternoon, dropping a blistering set of hardcore belters at a time at which most people at home would be tucking into Sunday lunch. However, as anyone present will tell you, a roast dinner is no competition for catching the south coast straight edge lot in action, especially when they're on the sort of bullish form which makes their set particularly vicious today. 'Judgement' is perhaps the jewel in the crown of their set, but it's by no means a sole stand-out moment; indeed, every song cleaves out a relentless pit which will break your nose if you stand too close, and there's never a shortage of punters who aren't reluctant to take a turn on vocals should the chance arise. These days it has become the norm for Breaking Point to put on violent, unyielding performances, but that doesn't mean that they're any less enjoyable than they were the first time around.
Birmingham's finest, Odessa, have been successfully making a name for themselves on the UK metal circuit over the last couple of years, and it's punishing performances like the one they put on today which will further help them on the road to success. The band sound sharper and heavier than on record and play their hearts out to a crowd who can't fail but to be impressed with the sheer power of their set. Rounding things off with a superb 'All I Have' prompts some mass audience involvement, a reassuring sign that the band's months of hard graft is finally paying off. Their set is over all too soon, but with tour dates covering the length and breadth of the country coming up over the next few months it's unlikely their fans will be waiting too long for their return, which, based on today's evidence, is certainly no bad thing.
Long-time favourites of the British metalcore scene, Bury Tomorrow make their return to the Ghostfest main stage to a rapturous welcome, and when they tear into serrated bangers such as 'Lionheart' with such vigour it's not hard to see why the audience holds them so dear. Occasionally their stage presence feels somewhat rehearsed - there's as much premeditated posturing as there is headbanging - but their delivery is so honest that it seems petty to hold what some would deem professionalism against them. Newer numbers such as 'Royal Blood' sit well with classics like 'You and I', both of which send fans spilling over the barrier on veritable tidal waves of crowdsurfing and incite madness on the floor below them. Bury Tomorrow have successfully managed to combine showmanship with earnestness to create a live show that is in essence unique, and even at odd points when the music isn't entirely convincing ('Anything With Teeth' isn't quite as sharp as its namesake on this particular afternoon, unless of course it's in reference to a molar) their stage presence is certainly adequate enough to carry their performance through on its own.
These days there's certainly an audible buzz surrounding Last Witness, thanks in no small part to the ferocious live outings which have helped them build such a solid reputation. Lashing out with what is undoubtedly one of the best sets of the weekend, Last Witness are on fearsome form this evening; 'Exorcism' strikes harder than a moving train, whilst 'Green Eyes' creates absolute carnage in the pit as it transforms the floor into a sea of flailing limbs. 'Snakes and Ladders' is the high point in a set which has already reached 'unmissable' status, and for many this set will easily rank as one of the finest the weekend has to offer. The room is totally rammed for the Londoners' time onstage, and it's a wonder that the front row still have faces by the time they walk offstage. Having played an abrasive mauling of a set which easily outclasses almost all the other bands of the weekend, Last Witness' popularity seems self-explanatory; either get on board or move out of the way, because there's no stopping Last Witness right now.
Pay No Respect's set is an ear-bashing, no-holds-barred lesson in hardcore brutality - despite a clash with Your Demise's performance, which sees every man and his dog cramming into the main room for a glimpse of Ed McRae's band of merry men, they've still managed to pull a crowd big enough to fill the Time Will Tell stage completely, and it doesn't take long for their appeal to shine through. Their mosh-tastic take on hardcore is hardly technical, but what it is is highly enjoyable - more aggressive than a Rottweiler on steroids, the likes of 'This World Is Ours' provide an ample soundtrack for some good old-fashioned violence to unfold, somewhat akin to Kent's answer to Hatebreed. That their set is in part being filmed gives those assembled further incentive to go wild; not that they need any more encouragement from the band themselves. If it's mind-boggling technicality you're in need of then start looking elsewhere, but for music with plenty of heart and balls the size of boulders you'd do well to find another band more appropriate than Pay No Respect.
Unfortunately for Last Witness, they're about to be eclipsed by what is undoubtedly the greatest performance of the weekend, courtesy of the mighty Defeater, who lay siege to the Monster stage with a bombardment of emotion, intelligence and fury, all rolled into one world-beating set. The band start things off by letting fly with a volatile 'The Red, White and Blues' which sends countless bodies flying into the arms of the security. Flawless renditions of 'Dear Father' and 'Waves Crash, Clouds Roll' follow soon after, cementing their set as one of the best the weekend has to offer; however it's a beautiful solo rendition of the ever-stunning 'I Don't Mind', courtesy of vocalist Derek Archambault, which truly separates Defeater from the chasing pack. There's hardly a voice in the room not singing the words right back at him, and the sight of some punters at the verge of tears is a telling sign of how uniquely this band connects with people, and how well they translate their records into live performances. Their set ends with a savage 'Cowardice', a song which underlines Defeater's ability and appeal in perhaps the most effective fashion, and as is appropriate, it incites a truly riotous response from those assembled. The audience's unwavering demands for an encore sees the band take to the stage for an impromptu yet brilliant cover of a Verse song, and then it's all over. Defeater's spellbinding performance simply outclassed the competition today, and those fortunate enough to witness it here will be talking about little else or some time now. A totally captivating performance to end what has already been an incredible weekend.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Toyan and everyone involved in putting Ghostfest 2012 on and making it such a spectacular weekend. It'll take a truly monumental effort next year to dethrone 2012, but there's little doubt that 2013 will be just that - many thanks, and I hope to catch you all again next year!