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Gig Review : Badgerfest 2021

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Review by Tammy Lomax for MPM

I’ve been waiting for this weekend all month; work has been intense to say the least and my brain feels like butter. I’ve switched my laptop off, my boots are on, and I am running, literally running for the train. Badgerfest 2021 is here, and I am squeaky excited.

After a short journey I became Manchester bound, I am inside the city, and it feels vibrant and full of life. The venue is only a short distance from Oxford Road Station and is an ideal location with transportation links and amenities right on the doorstep.

I have never been to The Bread Shed venue, but I see a herd of metal heads in front of me, it must be here. It wasn’t what I expected as the venue was situated in the back of a pub, but it was a pleasant quirky surprise, especially as I noticed two stages positioned within the venue.

This factor had answered hundreds of questions for me, I was completely dumbfounded, and mind boggled as to how there was a five-minute change over on the Saturday and Sunday. I was on a mission to pick at John’s ears to try and understand how he pulled this off logistically.

I missed the opening band Badger and The Mushrooms, but I heard they opened the festival on a high, bringing some light-hearted fun by playing covers from bands like Foo Fighters and Ozzy.

The second band to take to the main stage was technical death thrash band Brute Allies and the Mancunions definitely blew away the cobwebs. Badgerfest 2021 was in full swing by this point as the venue started to fill up with eager metal heads ready to party. This added a little pressure for Brute Allies, but they did not disappoint.

They were very clever with their technicalities, combining thrash metal with death metal and adding hints of melodic layering with the guitar; regardless of one guitar down they remained heavy and tight. Front man James Bridges lit the stage up with his hood, he showed persistence and consistency which had me totally drawn in and bass player Hassan Alemdar flooded the stage with some hefty energy too.

Grief Ritual gave an impressive, sublime performance. These fellas had travelled from the Southwest, and it sounded like a grim drive up. Looking mighty miffed off and scowling at the crowd, they were ready to tear the stage a new one. The quartet were heavy, full of aggression and they just belted you in the face.

I heard some hardcore in places but also an essence of really dark black metal, this balance was executed with sheer fierceness and was right up my street. Their overall structure was solid, and their impact was violent, the crowd certainly approved and mosh pits began to form.

Basement Torture Killings name goes without saying and they took to the stage next. I have seen this band a lot in the past and their act is full of grim and gore every time. Tonight, they had sausages lathered in blood and they were everywhere.

This band stands out from the crowd, and they portray themselves to be a fast-paced brutal band and I agree. Millie is also perfect, her vocals sound like they come from a giant, she is a versatile vocalist, and her gutturals are another level of extraordinary.

We needed to give our heads a bit of a wobble after the trauma of witnessing a teddy bear being ripped apart and what better way to do this with Agvirre who played next. They changed the atmosphere with their ambience, the vocalist had his back to the audience which added some curiosity to the table.

I have seen this done before and it works especially with black metal, they also reminded me a little of band Amenra with their projector; the rawness of emotions that echoed throughout the venue was hypnotizing. It was different but also stunning, allowing us all a moment to take a deep breath before Foetal Juice annihilated everything in the room.

The band are the destroyers of all stages and the death metallers love a bit of fun, but they also bring a massive wallop of brutality with it. The lightning drums hammered at everyone’s skull with sheer speed and adrenaline and the riffs were flooding through one after the other. Their set was flawless and extreme, ending day one with a huge belt to the face.

All this running for trains is certainly an effective way of getting your steps in, Saturday is upon us, and Ashen Reach were playing when I arrived. Their hard rock vibes and catchy beats were perfect for this time of day. They haven’t been on the scene for long but the tightness within the group is poignant and their stage presence reflects this entirely. Simplicity is a fabulous tool and although their beats may not be complex, the clean vocals and beautiful guitar solos hit the spot. The Ingester intrigued me with their costumes, and their performance was solid and very controlled, and they brought tons of heaviness.

I was excited to see Ashen Crown, I reviewed these at Bloodstock earlier this year, but this setting felt a little more intimate, they of course were tough and meticulous as ever. Ascaris gave it 110 percent even though no drummer was present, the audience gave their nod of approval and respect; most bands would have pulled out from doing the gig. They played to a packed-out room, the support and love was bursting, and they still brought everything they had. I was shockingly surprised how only two people generated such a loud sound and an enormous amount of energy.

King Goat were exquisite as ever, they have such a sophisticated approach with their layering and their overall sound is massive.

Trimms vocals are powerful, I mean the guy has a huge talent and why not beef it all up some more by adding monstrous backing vocalists.

GodEater for me, were outstanding and I salute their entire performance as it was everything any extreme metalhead craves. The Scottish group absolutely brought it and everything they did was incredible, the tone of the bass was heavy and clunky, their elements glued together like concrete, and they gave an offering of sheer force. This band was by far one of my highlights of the whole festival. Absolutely mind blowing.

Red Method display an intense and aggressive performance every time and it’s visually obvious they give it their all no matter where they are. They are passionate and openly expressive about the effects of negative mental health, and this is reflective in their performance.

Front man Jeremy is not shy, he has a huge energy presence, and he stomps every inch of the stage, marking and claiming his territory. The energy in the room became massive and the biggest mosh pit of the day formed; it was pure chaos.

Headliners Krysthla were another highlight for me, admittedly they are up there with one of my favourites in the underground scene and they are one of the most genuine too. Like many bands, Covid has prevented anyone from being on stage and promoting their new material and front man Adrian expresses his gratitude and gratefulness, thanking everyone in the room before destroying everything in the way with his virtuous full-on attack vocals.

They have been around the block for a while, and they know how to please an audience. Their performance brought another level of experience and talent to the festival and showed us all exactly how it should be done. They ended their set with one of my favourite tracks of all time, ‘Luminosity’ and that riff will never ever get boring, the balloons and strobe lights added more weight and the whole room went ace balls crazy. Truly, a fabulous and memorable ending to Saturday.

Sunday is upon us all and the atmosphere feels a little more chilled and Clashmute was next on my list. These young lads are balanced between heavy metalcore and thrash which sounds alluring and heavy, they are also EXCEPTIONALLY talented.

Bringing a new fresh modern sound to the table isn’t exactly easy but the Manchester group are clear in their visions and know exactly what they expect to achieve in the future. They are the next generation of metal, and they excite me a lot, their music feeling very contained and efficient. Without doubt, their ideas are a form of art, and I cannot wait to see what 2022 brings for them.

I was excited to catch Beyond Grace as this is a band that keeps on giving and they are accelerating upwards at an insane speed in the scene. I applaud how outspoken and political their new album ‘Our Kingdom Undone’ is and their message is being heard.

The venue was fairly packed out and it was time for their music to do the talking. Generous riff playing and cultivated bass playing are just the tip of an iceberg. Ed Gorrod is a brilliant drummer; his grooves and beats are intense and effulgent and vocalist Andy’s gutturals were assaulting and sharp.

Suffolk group Ghosts of Atlantis had passion, individually they were focused and absorbed in their instruments. They slowly built on their black metal sound, progressing, and evolving into what felt like a little tech metal.

You could feel every single note played and it was simply stunning. Harbinger were beyond belief, they were excellent, especially with their riffs and drops which ended my day on a high.

I had such a huge smile on my face as they are everything I love about metal. If you don’t feel those drops shaking your guts from the inside, you must be broken, they shook the room as they stomped and buried their heaviness into the ground. I was unable to catch the mouthwatering Raging Speedhorn which is slightly disappointing but duties call, and I have another intense brain buttering week at work, but I will look forward to the next time.

I have met some more amazing people at Badgerfest this year and it was so nice to mingle and listen to some blind bowling talent that leaked from both stages. The venue was great and accommodated for everything, two bars, seating and food was all at hand and I definitely will be coming back for 2022.

In all honestly, I feel that Badgerfest has proved there is a strong, always growing metal scene in Manchester. Every single band gave it their all and more importantly, John and his team did an amazing job at running a very tight ship.

They all looked like they were enjoying themselves too, I even witnessed some bum jiggling happening, everyone had a smile on their face, and it was an evident display of happiness and that is something to be proud about. Badgerfest is a fast-growing independent festival which has organically grown from the roots, headliners are being booked for next year and their future is exciting.

Photography by Simon Dunkerley for Badgerfest 2021Owner of SD_Photography.

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