So, as soon as I saw the lineup for this day, I knew I had to be there. So many great bands that I knew about and some fresh faces on the scene that I was eager to hear live. Ghostfest was celebrating its 10 year anniversary and it was going to be one massive party. Throw in the fact that we won’t being seeing it next year just meant that every band was going to bring it. It was going to be a long day when you throw in the fact that I had to travel from St Helens to Leeds then go to the festival all day. There wasn’t one moment I was spending off of my feet.
Covering the three stages of the day on my own was always going to be a challenge, however I managed to sample a little taster of everything this day had to offer. So with that being said let’s take a look at my day out at the most hardcore day the UK has to offer…
Well this was an interesting way to open up the main stage of a hardcore festival… with a rapcore group. The Welsh rap-rockers, Astroid Boys were really talented and certainly entertained the early afternoon crowd with everyone on the floor going crazy. To be perfectly honest they weren’t really my cup of tea. However I could certainly appreciate the skill and artistry with impressive flow and a fun beat they hit the stage with a fun energy. They kept up a decent rapport with the crowd, and people just seemed to adore them. Clearly taking some inspiration from modern rap stylings and electro beat music they created a decent sound that was certainly one of the more unique of the day.
With a tonne of rip-roaring energy, Malevolence take the stage by storm. With some mega riffs and brilliant bass grooves the set the levels to eleven and made sure that everyone else who hit the stage that day had something to surpass. The Sheffield brutal masters certainly knew how to keep the crowd engaged; no sooner had they started, there was hardcore dancing and circle pits on the floor, even people doing death screams in the hall just outside of Stylus. It was a pretty intense picture. The atmosphere was just thick and Stylus was pretty full for the second act of the day. The set flowed really well and Malevolence were tight; if there was a beat out of place I sure as hell didn’t hear it. Superb set.
Make Them Suffer
A fairly popular name in the world of hardcore, so imagine my surprise to see them this early on second stage. Working with the fact that no one else is playing whilst they’re on, people rush in for them and Mine is packed out very quickly once again. The brutal bruisers, Make Them Suffer hit the stage with a megatonne of presence and personality and the audience just simply hit the roof. Which considering the size of the venue wasn’t an unrealistic feat to accomplish. There was plenty of movement as Make Them Suffer launch into drop tuned riffs and heavy guttural vocals, as the drummer goes absolutely nuts on the kit. The live production was a little shoddy here and there as at points all you could hear was the drums! However, the band ploughed on and due to the sheer atmosphere from the crowd, the set was a success in my eyes. Top stuff lads.
Utterly fantastic set from Blood Youth. The young bucks were basically my highlight of the day. Their riffs were well constructed and they just had this really fun atmosphere. I just fell in love with their sound pretty much from the get go. They were clearly into what they were doing, they kept a good party aura going and definitely kept the crowd entertained. They had a slightly thrash influenced tone here and there as moved through the set but yet at other times they a sludgy tone. I have to say the amount of variety to their set kept them relevant and interesting.
OK, so this was the first band on in Stylus that I didn’t fully enjoy. People around me were headbanging and screaming along and I just flat out didn’t get it. Unlike Astroid Boys where I knew some people who enjoyed them and I’d had some exposure beforehand…. When it came to Nasty I was unprepared. It’s not like they were bad per se, I just couldn’t get into it. Since I only had a limited time with each band on the day, it was either an impression was made or it wasn’t. There were elements that I really enjoyed; the brutal sounds coming from the stage were interesting and there were hints of doom metal here and there, which was nice. That bass tone was really good; also the atmosphere was good as the crowd was definitely thickening. Yet, after Malevolence on this stage earlier, it was hardly going to compete. Like I’ve said though, there were aspects that I liked and had I stayed the entire set maybe this would come out differently (doubtful though). Not the best, but at least they were getting people through the doors and entertaining them.
Up next were the heavy as f*** Belgians, Oathbreaker. I will admit I was a little tired already at this point and I was ready to crash entering Mine for the third time and thinking of the rest of the day to come. Yet, Oathbreaker caught me totally off guard, with their occultist appearance, heavy songs and some of the most controlled guttural vocals I heard of the day. With a flair of black metal to them it was certainly a different experience from the day so far. The ominous tones were excellent and the songs were well executed; this was definitely leaving a good impressions on me. Everything about them just felt big, I would actually love to see them in an open air environment. Not much else to say, I just really liked them.
Well…. I wasn’t expecting this. An acoustic set at Ghostfest. Not only acoustic but ambient folk music and you know what? It was damn good. It was a nice break from the heavy hardcore so far and, like Asteroid Boy, it didn’t feel too far out of place. I’m really serious; although this was a day of hardcore, Seafoal fit in with the atmosphere and people were really getting into their set. Add in a Fall Out Boy cover of ‘Dance, Dance’ and I was completely sold too. There was just something really entertaining about their set, from the calm melodies to the beautiful harmonies to the silky smooth vocals. Another great set for the day.
Alright! Time to get some punk on. As soon I walked into Stylus, I was hit with sheer intensity and noise. Turnstyle had this post hardcore-nu metal vibe to them with, of course, that punk rock insanity. They had the complete package as far as this festival was concerned. They were brutal with brilliant tonal grooves and a great stage presence. Their music mixed with their live presence almost grabs you by the throat and says “listen to us!”. Stylus was only getting hotter by the minute at this point and I was just looking down at the people on the floor. I can’t even imagine how they’re coping as it gets hotter, sweatier as the bands will get more and more brutal throughout the day. Turnstyle, put on a pretty decent show, I would actually love to see them live again sometime as their more punk-esque stylings lend themselves really well to a live performance. Cracking band, cracking set
Born of Osiris
The American brutal masters Born of Osiris hit the stage and almost immediately I was stunned, dammit I almost dropped my drink when some of the heavier beats kicked in! I think it’s safe to say the bar had been firmly raised once again at Ghostfest. They were definitely the tightest band of the day yet and, it’s not like I was counting, but there were definitely more people in Stylus for them. Their riffs and beatdowns were pretty damn tight and their overall set went over pretty nicely. Ronnie Canizaro on vocals was just awesome, with well executed screams and bellows he hit them all on the head. They got the crowd moving and I don’t know how but the pit definitely got a whole lot bigger. What made me laugh was after the brutal death guttural vocals, Ronnie just politely and quietly said “Thank you”. I have to admit that made me chuckle. The band carried some great melodies and songs like ‘Open Arms to Damnation’ and ‘Bow Down’ went over really well. One of many highlights to the day.
Well you can’t say there was a lack of fans; there were so many Desolated t-shirts that I was curious to hear what the fuss was about. I quickly realised I was in for a treat from the opening moments of their set. With such a vicious tone and a fierce performance from Southampton metallers, I took note in an instant. Desolated carried on with their unique brand of heaviness, featuring pitch perfect riffs and breakdowns with the tightest of rhythms, with and slick guitar skill. The vocals were well handled to and melded into the songs with style. The sheer size of the crowd by this point was getting me scared a little the place was getting fuller by the minute and there was this general buzz going around the stage. People were standing on the tables and benches just get a better view. It looked like chaos and Desolated were jumping around the stage having the time of their lives. One brilliant performance.
Slaughter to Prevail
Another incredible set from the Pulse stage. Slaughter to Prevail just completely dominated the stage and Pulse was packed, making for a great atmosphere. To be honest they were the first band on in Pulse that made it feel like a nightclub and not a rehearsal room. It was just pure carnage coming from the speakers with heavy tones and thick bass lines and ultra loud riffs. They hit the audience with everything they had, they just stomped all over the stage and brought this fierce presence, it was almost intimidating. I loved every single second I got to watch of them. I hope to get to see them again and hopefully for a full set.
Heart of a Coward
Well these guys won the award for band of the day. With ease. There you go; that’s my review. These guys were as near to perfect as you could get. Great songs that instantly get stuck in your head, a well executed performance, an adoring fan base that was going crazy and just an overall fun ass set. Heart of a Coward completely stole the show for me at least. They just had everything going for them and they put on one incredible set and I think everyone that saw it was talking about it long into the night and long after the night was finished. Jamie Graham, is a spectacular frontman always giving the right amount of energy, his screams were spot on and were only matched by his clean vocals. Being one of the few full sets that I managed to catch all day, I loved hearing tunes like ‘Mouth of Madness’ and ‘Psychophant’. Also throwing the new single ‘Hollow’ in there was cool. Most songs got big sing-alongs as they just have this anthemic feel to them. If you ever get the chance to see them, do not pass it up.
I almost didn’t get into see Martyr Defiled as Pulse was filled to breaking point and as soon as I walked in I was met with an ocean of people and a wall of heat and sweat. Those heavy buggers played one hell of a set. Evil sounds were coming from the speakers and the pit was going crazy. Martyr Defiled went absolutely crazy with heavy riffs and breakdowns, well executed vocals and crunchy basslines that made the entire crowd go nuts. This was just one of the funnest sets all day. Their heaviness was only matched by their technical skill and song structure. With a brilliantly flowing set this was another cracking highlight from Pulse.
So, the only death metal band of the day gets on stage and they go down reasonably well. I guess you can tell from the previous segment that the rest of the band aren’t going to get such a glowing review. However, Despised Icon were pretty damn decent. Due to some unknown circumstances they came on just a little late. Yet, when they did get on stage, they were met with fanfare and a wild crowd ready to go nuts. Displaying the same heavy drop tones we’ve come to expect from this festival, they kicked into a riot of a set. I mean that too, on the floor it looked like a genuine riot! Though not as melodic as Heart of a Coward they still managed to work some cool hooks into the set. From a technical standpoint they definitely stood to impress, I don’t think there was a single issue and nothing felt overdone. There wasn’t as much distortion and what the genre usually offers, so you could hear the guitar playing, rather than distorted noise. The band also seemed to be genuinely grateful to the fans which was really nice to see, there was just something in singer’s voice; he actually sounded a little choked up, but then he threw himself right back into the set. Decent set overall really.
It was a real shame that Emmure had to pull out of the Leeds Ghostfest show, it really was. Their replacement Broken Teeth! was originally supposed to play in Pulse but got moved up to Stylus. What an opportunity right? Opening for Hatebreed? It’s a shame they had to follow up three absolute exquisite bands. To start, they didn’t even play a full set. They were supposed to play on Pulse from 20:30 – 21:15, and we were promised the same set time in Stylus. I saw them open at 20:30 as scheduled, but then they barely played through to 21:00. I was a little confused to say the least. I’m giving leniency here considering the last minute change. To be honest they put on an okay set. Their riffs were decently heavy, they were almost on a stoner/groove metal level. Like I said after the three titans of heavy on before them they had a lot to work up to. Still I found a lot of the songs to be quite slick and stylised. The basslines were really well put together and the set flowed in a nice enough fashion. To be honest the delivered more than I could have asked for, from such a last minute change. They got the crowd going and they played loud music, good enough for me!
Crime in Stereo
Finally non-screamed lyrics, a set with pretty much all clean singing and no heavy toned guitars. My ears could finally take a break from the really heavy stuff and just enjoy some melodic punk. Though I love hardcore, one does need to take a break from it now and again. Crime in Stereo are very much your typical punk band. As night started to fall the rockers from Long Island invade Mine to a somewhat depleted crowd. Which was a bit unfair because they were really damn good! They had this USA surf punk style but heavier if you can imagine and they worked the stage really well. It was also the first time in the day I could just stand and relax. Overall, they were just a funass band to listen to, I wish the crowd had have been a little bigger because this was something a little different and worth listening to. Had a great time with them and I want them back in the UK sooner rather than later. They were definitely my discovery of the day.
Whilst Stray From The Path were destroying Mine and Hatebreed were setting up in Stylus, Pulse was getting a dose of RnB with ex-Ghost Runner singer, Jonny Craig taking the stage. As the girls swooned and their boyfriends got jealous, Jonny delivered a silky smooth performance with some nice beat and cool tone. Jonny’s vocals were incredible and he just exploded with personality and charm. To be honest it was a little weird having a pop set at Ghostfest. I mean, I get it but it still didn’t feel like it fit with the tone of the day. Even with bands like Seafoal and Crime in Stereo playing, Jonny just didn’t fit. Still it was very nice. I unfortunately didn’t stay long because I wanted to get to the other stages. However, Jonny Craig sounded good on the whole. He was entertaining and if it was your thing then good for you but just know it didn’t do much for me.
Stray From the Path
As people are gearing up for Hatebreed in Stylus and enjoying Jonny Craig in Pulse, Mine goes into chaos mode with Stray from the Path. The band goes mental and invites the crowd to do the same, invitation accepted. Suddenly Mine is completely flooded with people for one last hurrah. The band are magic performers; they were jumping around the stage with an abundance of personality and flair. The crowd simply ate it up and we were back to the hardcore dancing and mosh pits. They used a great mix of old and new material to keep the set exciting and flowing. Which it did really well and I particularly enjoyed. Their riffs and bass lines were well executed and the sheer energy from the band kept the set together. They broke up the set to talk about the current state of the police enforcement in the US and they became rather political when talking about police brutality. They were the only band of the day to have a serious moment that made the crowd stop and think. Stray From the Path’s music has always had that serious tone to it and it cool to hear their honest opinion, even in a country they don’t call home. They joined everyone together and said “Fuck it, we’re here together that’s what matters. So let’s do this shit” and got everyone bouncing. It was a fantastic moment that just show that this music isn’t just noise, it’s a statement.
Wow, just simply wow. This is why Hatebreed are and will continue to be one of my all-time favourite live acts. They just deliver, no matter where the go, they give every crowd respect and love and hit them over the head with a fantastic live show. To be honest I have seen them do better, or maybe that’s because I was so tired after watching three stages of music all day. It was really appropriate that it’s the 10th anniversary of Ghostfest and the 20th for Hatebreed; I don’t know, there’s just something so poetic about it. They brought out all of the all of the old standard from ‘Live For This’ to ‘Everyone Bleeds Now’ even to the newer songs that have become ingrained into the very nature of a Hatebreed show like ‘Honor Never Dies’. Hatebreed just know how to play to a crowd and make them feel like the best show on Earth. The atmosphere was good but you could tell everyone outside of the floor was getting a little tired as the stench of energy drinks and alcohol filled the air. Jamey Jasta was ever the charismatic frontman, shouting words of motivation to keep the weary crowd alive through songs like ‘This Is Now’. Truly an unforgettable end to a spectacular day of hardcore. As Jasta said himself… If people say “Metal is Dead” we can look to events like Ghostfest and say…. “No it isn’t!”
It was safe to say that I was completely exhausted by the end of this and my feet were killing me. However it was totally worth it! Every second of this day was fun from the brutal screams to the heavy riffs, all the bands put on a great show. My highlights of the day were Blood Youth and Slaughter to Prevail in Pulse, Make Them Suffer in Mine, also Heart of a Coward and Malevolence in Stylus. In addition, my hat is tipped to Jonny Craig, Stray from the Path and Hatebreed for headlining their respective stages and putting on one hell of a show, making the 10th anniversary of Ghostfest so special. What a fantastic day!
Review: Mick Birchall