Last month, Brighton played host to one of most festive metal fests around, Riffmass 2017. Terrorizer’s Jay Hampshire was there to document all the loud noises…
November 25th is too early to put up your fucking Christmas decorations, don your not-so-ironic Christmas jumpers and start blaring out Cliff Richard. It’s not too early to throw on your battle jacket, throw up the horns and indulge in a festive feast stuffed full of towering riffs. The aptly named Riffmass draws together some of the best heavy acts from around the nation, and this years’ edition at Brighton’s Green Door store was no exception.
March The Desert kick things off in style, laying down some fat, buzzing dessert rock with bass heavy swagger, replete with sleazy, bourbon soaked solos and mournful vocal howls that channel John Garcia if he gargled with broken glass. Alzir whip us away with a surprising change of pace, furious drive and unashamedly old school dirty hard rock riffs conjured by man-mountain Chris Charles and the shirtless/shoeless Will Hughes, whose bass technique consists primarily of punching his instrument.
Noisepickers add no little amount of jovial oddness to the afternoon; reverb-dripping guitar loops and near-dance drum beats adding a sense of urgency, bookended by the groaning, wobbling guitar FX of Harry Armstrong, looking every bit like Richard Branson after a decade long acid binge. Lacertilia ramp up the madness, beglittered frontman Matt Fry taking to the stage in a poncho and black marigolds to assert that they “play drunken rock and roll”. That they do, with deep, throbbing rhythmic grooves and beefy, triumphant guitars getting folks moving. Pure filth.
Gevaudan nail things back down to earth under the weight of classic doom riffing, owning the space with smooth, silky drumming and guitar layering that spirals off into the cosmos (fittingly so, considering Bruce Hamilton bears an uncanny similarity to one Mike Scheidt). Adam Pirmohamed’s vocals run from mournful wailing to glassy shrieks and moody growls, and his maddened spoken word-rants add a touch of dramatic narrative. Tonight’s only non-UK act, The Moth are a little more slick and a little more serious; brooding bass tones and bottom dredging riffs doing battle with shuddering drum fills and unexpected turns of speed.
The venue is packed by the time hometown favourites King Goat take to the stage – and so it should be, they’re the responsible for putting this whole shindig together. A set comprised entirely of new material hurls majestic, towering chords and entwining guitar lines into the pot along with savage breakdowns and a (seated) Anthony Trimming’s soaring, operatic vocal stylings. If this is the calibre of their new offerings, we’re eagerly anticipating their next release. The Earls Of Mars consist of a hodge podge of members from tonight’s other acts, their hypnotic and effortless style blending seeing smooth jazz keys pierced by lances of feedback, tub-thumping drums and clattering upright bass. Harry Armstrong (keys/vocals) implores the audience to “let the jazz into your heavy metal souls. It only hurts for a little while”, and he ain’t wrong.
No bill would be complete without Croydon’s Slabdragger, who transcend all superlatives with their rumbling sludge riffing. The one-two punch of ‘Mercenary Blues’ and ‘Dawncrusher Rising’ is a complete knockout, with their cover of Frank Zappa’s ‘Muffin Man’ descending into complete anarchy after Sam Thredder breaks a guitar string and compensates by belting out some savage screams instead. Usually anyone following on from Slabby-D has their work cut out, but Hampshire based doom crew Witchsorrow take it all in stride, as confident and focussed as only a band nearing the end of a tour can be. Pits erupt as their grandiose trad-doom takes full flight, peppered with buzzing solos, rippling drum cascades and walls of throbbing feedback. Necroskull’s vocals drip with acidic echoes, marrying more contemporary elements with the denim-clad roots worship.
Riffmass ends as a mirror image of most Christmas days: a collection of hammered revellers contended by sharing in something that brings them closer together. Only instead of suffering through endless bickering about the rules of Pictionary and the acrid assault of Brussel sprout guffs, this metal family got to indulge in an impressive spread of fuck-off fat riffing. Roll on next year.
WORDS: Jay Hampshire