Infest has become, in the now seven years that I have attended, the one thing that gets pencilled in first for each year no matter what. It doesn’t really matter who is playing, I know that whether I like the bands or not I’ll have a blast as most of my friends made across the country (and sometimes beyond) will all be there. As was proven this time ’round – there were some good bands, some really, really fucking good bands, and some not so good. But socially it was as good as ever.
As usual organisation, logistics and information were all top-notch, the staff (both Infest staff and venue staff, and even the security) all friendly, helpful and tolerant – something other festivals of similar size (and in the same vague ‘scene’) in the UK could really do with emulating.
And so onto the bands. Friday was the day, in terms of bands at least, that I wasn’t all that interested in. For me Infest Friday is all about catching up with all those people that you haven’t seen in the past few weeks/months/year, and there seems also to be an unwritten rule that no matter who they are, the first band on may not be all that good. This year proved that rule rather glaringly. Schmoof had the honour of playing first…and I’m sorry, but I really didn’t like them. Bad synthpop, shitty (retro) synths and a caterwauling vocalist. I could stand two songs from the photo pit before I beat a retreat back to the bar. Apparently they do a cover of Sweet Child O’ Mine, but I couldn’t face the trainwreck of the rest of the set to see if they played it or not.
Second band of the night was the one that I was bothered about for the night – Destroid, the first of two Daniel Myer‘s projects that played over the weekend. A somewhat less cerebral animal than his main Haujobb stuff, the emphasis appeared to be on pounding beats and getting people to dance rather than the atmospheric industrial of Haujobb. Daniel is far more energetic on stage than I thought he might be, and that helped to get the crowd going, too – as did his rather dry humour. And even if Judgement Throne does sound like VNV, it still rocks.
Headline band for Friday were Lab 4. And perhaps I just don’t “get it”, but giving the impression of “larging it”, gurning at the crowd and “playing” sub-standard industrial trance…? Sorry, no. After lots of hype from people telling me how great they are live, I was bored rigid. Maybe with the right kinds of chemical assistance, they could be vaguely entertaining, but as I don’t, they weren’t.
Onto Saturday…and first band O.V.N.I. were entertaining (and certainly better than related band Seize who I saw earlier in the year), an odd mix of synthpop, breakbeats and electro. Shame the vocals were a little flat, though, as it became rather difficult to hold my attention, frankly.
No such problem with S.K.E.T, who were angry industrial noise of the highest order. I always thought it difficult for politics and other viewpoints to shine through in instrumental music, but there are ways, and S.K.E.T. have it in spades. According to their site they are more interested in the Socialist Realism movement rather than being a part of it, but through clever use of samples some form of commentary appears. Away from the posturing and sloganeering, perhaps, they simply make music to dance to. It is relentless, fast and powerful, but never boring. Little respite from the beats in the thirty-minute set meant many exhausted noise-heads at the end, but it was all worth it. And Revolution Of The Pigs still fucking rocks.
Like Lab 4, much had been said to me about Reaper in the run-up to his appearance, and in my opinion lived up to none of it. All style, image and little else, this was sub-standard industrial trying to be much more than it actually was. I couldn’t work out whether a) the guys in the monks outfits played anything at all on their synths or b) some of the songs simply stole lyrics from other bands or were attempts at covers (in the case of Cause Of Death: Suicide – Butchered by Reaper especially). I should add – I have no issue with bands that basically mime, as I am aware that some gigs I have attended that have been truly fantastic have not exactly been entirely live. However, you need the tunes and a show to hide the fact, and this had neither.
Speaking of a show, Unter Null certainly was. As per the album artwork, Erica arrived onstage daubed in fake blood, and over the course of the following forty-five minutes proceeded to tear the festival the proverbial new one. It certainly sounded different, too – onstage her vocals don’t appear to be treated whatsoever, unlike on CD, and this meant that many of the songs aired sounded incredibly raw, which actually worked in her favour. In what way? Well, the more visceral tracks sounded even more intense, and Sick Fuck was just four minutes of pure rage. You Have Fallen From Grace was the perhaps a little surprising opening track, and it sounded even more creepy than before. One of the most talked-about sets of the festival, this, and it seemed to split opinion heavily, but it got the thumbs up from me.
I didn’t catch all that much of Architect, which from other reports turned out to be something of an error. What I did catch was ok, but not all that engaging – spare ambiences with thumping drum’n’bass. Maybe I just caught the wrong part of the set?
My eyebrows weren’t the only ones raised when Rotersand were announced as Saturday headliners, but their swift rise to top of the pile is not without good reason, and as it turned out they were pretty good value for their billing. I’ve always thought of them as being more than just another EBM act, as although many of their songs do teem with hooks and beats to dance to, they do use elements from other genres that just make them that little bit more interesting. It was also nice to see a band that were genuinely happy to be there, and to interact with the crowd, as up to this point there had been precious little that had managed to cross that divide. Still, with songs of the quality of Almost Violent, The Last Ship and of course dancefloor smash Exterminate Annihilate Destroy, it would have been hard for them not to. Other points of note were the percussive attack of Storm, and the encore of Dare To Live, Lifelight and Merging Oceans, all of which were superb. Not so great was the insipid ballad One Level Down, which once again sucked the momentum out of the set. Again, not a set that everyone liked, but going on the big crowd for them some did at least!
Finally onto Sunday…and first up was a local act – and one of my friends, Tony Young as Autoclav 1.1. And the boy did rather well. Pulsating, twisting industrial noise, beats flying all over the place unpinned by basslines that hurt your chest. So all good, then. Also noteworthy was how well the album tracks translated to the live setting, with some of the tracks feeling a lot more…complete. The new stuff from the forthcoming album was also really rather good, and the final flourish of Theme From S-Express (no, really!) was a twist of evil genius, and the set as a whole appeared to have gained Tony a whole new set of fans.
Following this up was always going to be hard, but Vasi Vallis’ second appearance of the weekend was probably even poorer than his first in the shape of Reaper. Frozen Plasma were, in my opinion, all that is bad about contemporary synthpop – dull songs, little in the way of hooks and (again) flat vocals. Alongside Schmoof, quite possibly the weakest act of the weekend.
Thankfully Stromkern were on hand to blow the dust away in some style. Their set (which felt all-too-short for its forty-five minutes) was brilliantly and tightly set-up, with eight of their best songs that are no strangers to dancefloors or industrial radio, and to say that they have never played the UK before, worked well as a quick overview of their career so far for those who weren’t already aware. Opener Terrorist was simply brilliant, an almost perfect synergy of industrial beats, hip-hop styled vocals and a political awareness way beyond many other bands in the scene. Old, old track Im Traum faded slightly after this, but the pace was picked up again by the staccato attack of Night Riders and the wake-up call of Stand Up. Re-Align was a rare uptempo track (most Stromkern songs are slightly slower, the pace kept up by the vocals) but still as powerful, while the ever-building fury of Reminders just proved to me what I have reckoned for a while – this the best song from Light It Up. Perfect Sunrise was always better in it’s remixed form, I thought, so it was good to see elements of the outstanding IoC remix used. Last track was a lengthy workthrough of Heretic, and they deserved all the calls for more, even if there was no time. So a triumphant debut, and probably the set that finally woke everyone up for the rest of the day, as the place was buzzing afterward.
Unusually titled Wai Pi Wai were next, and in my opinion were good, but I just wasn’t in the mood. Again, the set was underpinned by truly fearsome amounts of bass, and set flowed very well, but I don’t think that it was really anything to keep my attention for more than twenty minutes or so.
Of course, they were the last band before the long, long-awaited return of Front Line Assembly to the UK. By the time they took the stage, the live arena was utterly rammed, very very warm and ready for a show that had been ten years in coming. And what a show. Bill Leeb and the rest of the band were teeming with energy, and the expectant crowd were rewarded with what amounted to a greatest hits set. Just two songs from the recent return to form of Artifical Soldier – one of which was the opening track, the breakbeat attack of Buried Alive, the other being Unleashed later on – the remainder took a trip down memory lane. Highlights? Fuck, where do I start: The stomping roar of Vigilante and “bring on the metal” of Millenium, a mesmerising Bio-Mechanic…oh, and an utterly thumping Plasticity to close the main set. It got even better for the encore, with three of them pounding out the intro for Gun, before a quick race through Mindphaser…just short of ninety minutes and they were gone. Worth all the many years wait to see them live and much, much more, meeting up with friends afterwards we simply couldn’t remove the grins from our faces. This is how industrial should be in the live arena – a valuable lesson to many aspiring bands. Next time, though, guys, please don’t leave it so long.
After all that, what else to add? Well, my wallet may take a while to recover from the hammering it has received this weekend – although my CD haul was pretty good, and I really do recommend the Terretron album as it’s fucking great (think nineties-US industrial).
So, another triumph for the Infest organisers? Too right. And next year brings the tenth one…It can’t come soon enough.