In less than three weeks time, we’ll be on the train north to Bradford, for our annual pilgrimage to the city for the industrial festival that, since I began attending, I’ve never missed. I’ve lost count of how many friends I’ve made, how many new favourite bands I’ve heard, how many great memories (and the occasional, er, lost evening) I’ve had there.
/Welcome To The Future/094/Infest 2019 Preview
Memory of a Festival/Infest
Memory of a Festival/Playlist
I wouldn’t miss it for the world, and as we’re nearly at that curtain-raising point, it’s time for the now-traditional round-up of what to expect music-wise at the festival – thankfully back to three official days again after last year’s four-day blow-out that left a lot of rather struggling by the Sunday. There is something on Thursday, though, for people who want to party longer, with Das Ich, Inertia, a few more bands and DJs to get things going.
So if you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ll know that in recent years I’ve done a preview of the festival a few weeks in advance, partly for myself to get an idea of the bands I’m going to be seeing – particularly the ones I don’t already know – and partly for you, the reader if you’re going to the festival too. Of course, opinions vary and what I think of the bands in advance, and at the festival itself, may be very different from what you think. But you know that already, right?
Anyway. I’ve split this, like previous posts, into the bands I didn’t know until now, the bands I’m already looking forward to seeing that I’ve not seen before, and then the bands I’m already more than familiar with. The photos included here are from last year’s Infest, the full sets can be found as follows on Flickr: /Infest 2018/Bands and /Infest 2018/People.
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/Infest 2019/Bands I Don’t Know
This is often the most interesting part – who of the bands new to me are going to pique my interest? There aren’t many this year, but there appears to be a few really interesting bands. Torul are the first, and they are also playing BIMFest in Belgium in December, so I’m likely to see them twice in 2019. I’ve seen this Slovenian band described as “dreamy synth pop”, and on first listen, it’s a pretty accurate description. It’s very pretty, melodic synthpop, and I’ll absolutely recommend this as I’m intrigued to hear how they sound live. Talking of synthpop, German band Future Lied To Us also belong in that realm. Their general feel is one that sounds awfully familiar. I mean, the songs are good, but if you’re aware of the likes of VNV Nation or Solitary Experiments, this isn’t doing anything new for me.
One my wife will probably want to avoid is Cacophoneuses. For a start, they’re on Hands Productions, the legendary German noise label, and yes, they have a harsh edge to their rhymthic industrial that I have a hunch will be greatly exaggerated in their live set, as on record they seem a bit…pedestrian? Maybe I just need to listen to this with the volume an awful lot further up the dial.
Probably the group I know the least about are Noire Antidote, who appear to be a Dutch industrial band, apparently with “neo-classical elements”, signed to a progressive French label called Audiotrauma. That latter element usually means that they will at least be worth a look, as they have a solid track record of launching interesting bands. I’m not totally taken on their recorded material, but that’s never always been something to worry about before an Infest performance…
/Infest 2019/Bands I’ve Not Seen
One band that will likely stand out an awful lot amid this line-up is Rave the Reqviem. There’s all kind of things going on here: stuttering, thrashy metal riffs, lightning-fast breakbeats, quasi-operatic vocals…it’s bombastic, that’s for sure. As I recall they played Resistanz, but it wasn’t one of the ones I attended. I have a hunch, though, that their live show might be worth a look.
One band nailed to the top of my list of “must sees” this year is OHMelectronic. A Vancouver-based industrial band who are very much “my kind of thing”, I’ve wanted to see this band for ages. The band are Craig Huxtable and Chris Peterson, both with history in other Vancouver-based bands (not least Front Line Assembly and the related Noise Unit). Their recent self-titled album heralded a change of name to the current incarnation from OHM, and also saw them transition to a harder-edged, more aggressive sound, which I’m anticipating should work well live. Also playing are Craig’s side-project Landscape Body Machine, who I understand are more techno-industrial these days.
The buzz band this year – last year’s was easily Promenade Cinema, who delivered on that promise in spades – are Scottish duo Witch of the Vale. Very much witchy, slow paced electronics, with appropriately pastoral vocals, they frankly sound like no-one else around at the moment, as they have clearly been paying attention to pop trends with some of their production treatments. I can’t imagine that they will be everyone’s cup of tea, but I would absolutely recommend checking them out, as I will be.
This year there are a couple of artists that are playing after the headliner – something I’ve not seen happen in the UK before but seems to be the norm elsewhere. One of those is the curious act Zardonic. There’s glitchy electronics, bass, dubstep, guitars, people in masks on stage, and would expect quite a show. I recall that they were meant to play Resistanz one year, but visa issues meant that it didn’t work out, so here’s hoping they make it this time. The other late appearance is an unusual booking, that of hugely popular industrial techno act Ancient Methods, but in the form of a DJ set rather than a live one – late on Sunday night after Nitzer Ebb will likely have destroyed us. This is industrial techno with a mass of religious imagery, themes and samples (all the tracks are based around elements of the bible – the outstanding The Jericho Records released last year has a theme around the The Battle of Jericho), and on record it’s a thrilling hit, and with it being music entirely intended for club consumption, this should slay in this environment.
/Infest 2019/Bands I’ve Seen Before
Not unusually, there’s a number of bands that I’ve seen before (some of which in very different contexts) across the weekend, although in some cases it’s been an awfully long time since I have.
The festival opening slot this year falls to Bitman, who was a whole lot of fun at Beat:Cancer in London a little while ago – one guy, a mask, silly samples and lots of electronics. I hadn’t noticed the album titles before, though – The Dark Byte, Bitman Begins and The Dark Byte Rises…I see what he did there. I might suggest he avoids Bitman versus Superbyte for the next one, though – that would likely be far too long and not especially interesting…
One welcome – and probably long-overdue, frankly – booking has been of industrial rock band Sulpher, who’ve recently released their second album, seventeen years after the first. Maybe a little more restrained and a bit lighter of touch at points than the jagged, savage power of their debut, live the new songs come across well alongside the old. This will somehow be the sixth – or seventh if I end up at Reptile in a couple of weeks time too – time I’ve seen them since they returned to touring earlier this decade.
Another artist I’ve seen more than a few times – and he’s played Infest under pretty much all his guises now – is Belgian industrial legend Dirk Ivens, playing this time around as DIVE to mark three decades of the project. DIVE, if you’ve not heard it before, is noisy, abrasive and often shockingly intense. Be warned – the only lighting for this is white strobes for the entire set. He’s amazing, but needless to say the lighting and volume may put some off.
Two other bands playing that will most certainly invoke comment and divide opinion, potentially, couldn’t be more different. Kælan Mikla are a really interesting, feminist Icelandic post-punk band beloved of Robert Smith of the Cure (he’s invited them to support The Cure personally on a number of occasions), and their choice to sing entirely in their native Icelandic gives them a unique, otherworldly sound. Their latest album Nótt eftir nótt comes highly recommended from this site – the band are very much rising stars and don’t miss your chance to see them in this more intimate environment before they doubtless move onto bigger things. The other band of interest, opening Sunday, are Manchester-based DED.PIXEL, a space-prog-industrial project by an old, old friend of mine called Rhys. Expect keytars, long songs and potentially even a Philip Glass cover – and don’t let the idea of space-prog put you off.
The headliners are really quite a mix this year, too. Two of them hugely unexpected, and the last was confirmed and announced at Infest last year. Friday night’s headliner is Light Asylum an incredible soul-infused darkwave/electro project from Brooklyn. Lead singer is Shannon Funchess, who being an African-American is very much a standout in our “scene” (sadly I honestly can’t remember the last time a non-white singer performed at Infest, or indeed any other UK festival of this kind). I saw her at BIMFest last December and she was the highlight of the weekend, so don’t miss this.
Another US group for the Saturday night headliner, as LA band She Wants Revenge will do the honours. A hugely popular – and unexpected – booking, they’ve been around for a while and recently returned from a hiatus with at least one new song, but no sign of another album yet. Their sound is probably best described as sleazy-darkwave-post-punk, with a fistful of memorable, exciting songs and a sense that the band would be dangerous for you in so many ways.
Reforming for a second time – they first returned in the late-2000s to tour their career-spanning Body of Work collection, that was the very definition of “all killer, no filler”, and the live show was similarly thrilling – Nitzer Ebb have returned again as their legacy as EBM pioneers has perhaps finally been given the credit they deserved all the long. At least for the first three albums, their stark, aggressive sound was incalculably influential on so many bands that followed, and even when they slowed things down and began experimenting on Ebbhead it still resulted in a number of fan favourites (although probably best we don’t talk too much about Big Hit, which was a step too far in the wrong direction, and I wasn’t a fan of the post-reunion Industrial Complex, either). They don’t really have anything to prove anymore, mind, and I’m sure a lesson in sweat-drenched, fist-pumping EBM anthems will be delivered and lapped up by the festival crowd.
Anyway, I hope this gives you a taster of what’s to come. Go check out the bands for yourselves, prepare as much as you wish, but as always, keep an open mind. Festivals like this have a habit of springing surprises, pulling out otherworldly performances from artists you didn’t expect to do so. But as well as that, it’s about the social aspect of the festival, the lunacy that can happen when the bands have finished, the afternoon events that you might wish to attend, the money raised for charity, and the glasses charged and raised for absent friends.
Infest has become a way of life for many of us, something we count down to each year as a time we know we’re going to love. See you down the front.