Canal mills in Leeds was the setting for the second instalment of Ritual Festival with fourteen bands playing across two stages in a day of constant noise. No clashes, so as soon as one stage finishes, the other one in the next room starts. As much as I like pretty much all of the bands on the bill, this is going to be some going to get through this, with little or no time for relaxing. The former warehouse the perfect setting for such an event.
The main stage was opened by Conjurer, who I had been wanting to see for some time after hearing some really good things about them, and they did not disappoint. Weirdly, after seeing the second stage openers Groak, this seems quite a calm set. A great opening to the main stage, it can be too long before they starting moving up the pecking order of shows like this. They played a new song, which goes down a storm with the large crowd. Conjurer are the first of many bands today that seem destined to feature further up on festival bills in the near future.
Serpent Venom are a classic doom band, and rather than heading for the more melodic faire that is common recently, they go old school with huge riffs, even bigger grooves and a chilled out atmosphere that you won’t see again all day. As heavy as any band here, but in a totally different way, with a decent crowd all nodding away whilst they were playing. Could have done with a couple more bands like this throughout the day.
Unfathomable Ruination bring a set of brutal death metal to the main stage, and do exactly what you would expect of them. With a new album to promote they play a few tracks from Finitude, and they show that they are at the top of their game both in the studio and on stage.
Bossk open their set drenched in blue light as they ease the crowd into their set. It starts quite ambient and quiet, but it’s not too long before the distortion is switched on and the riffs start flowing. Easily the most atmospheric band of the day, and one that gave a bit of respite from the chaos that was going on on the stages for the rest of the day. Another band that seem to impress whatever they do and wherever they play, and like Conjurer, should be on their way to bigger things very soon.
Anaal Nathrakh had a bit to deal with today, with their guitarist being stuck in Norway and unable to be with them today as well as a couple of technical issues seemingly delaying their start slightly, but they went on regardless and flew straight in a relentless onslaught which saw all manner of bedlam erupt in the crowd. They don’t let the setbacks hold them back too much and do what they do best, which is play some of the finest noise around, with a stage presence every bit as uncompromising as their sound. They dedicate ‘Depravity Favours The Bold’ to the stagedivers that jumped into the crowd at the start of the track and are quickly caught up in the squall of the pit. They threaten to keep playing until they are paid, but eventually finish so that Canvas can start on the other stage, which slightly sours one of the best sets of the day.
It still seems really early when All Pigs Must Die take to the stage. You would expect a band such as them to maybe headline, but it shows the quality of this festival, that there is still a couple of bands to go after this set. From the moment they start to the second they finish, its out and out brutality for forty grind soaked minutes. A formidable live force and as compelling as they are brutal.
Unfortuneatly, I didn’t get to see Ihsahn’s headlining set, as delays in starting meant he came onstage quite a bit later than planned, and by that time I was already on my way home on the last train home. Gutted that I didn’t see him, but the day had been strangely clear of too many technical issues, so I guess something had to happen at some point.
With the second stage beginning before the main one, Leeds three piece Groak open proceedings and offer up a suitably unpleasant start to proceedings. Stuck in the already claustrophobic second stage, the band sound encompassed blistering grindcore through to “proper slow” doom, and pretty much everything else in-between.
Kurokuma offered something very different as they took their mid paced sludge and added a few more unexpected elements such as tribal rhythms and big open solos. A band doing something unusual and making a damn good job of it too.
Corrupt Moral Altar sped things up a little as they raced through tracks from Mechanical Tides and the excellent Sierra Whiskey EP among others. Their tumultuous sludge taking what Groak had done earlier and taking it up a notch or two. Their grooves often disguise just how brutal this band are on record, but live there is no mistake. If you haven’t already checked them out, you need to do so, soon!
Purveyors of “Brutal Wobble Box Slam” Crepitation were up next, and the packed second stage saw the atmosphere build and more pits materialising. They really do bring it all to a show. Great musicianship, great sense of humour and there always seems to be a big party atmosphere wherever they go. A nice light hearted half hour amongst the seriously hostile noise of the rest of the day.
Another hometown band up next as The Afternoon Gentlemen created their own special brand of havoc with half an hour of pissed up powerviolence that rivalled any set on the day for intensity. Managed to get quite close to the front for a couple of photos before I was swept up in the madness that ensued. The one set I was gutted to miss some from to get to the other stage for the next band.
The Canvas reunion has been one I never thought would happen, but was desperate to see. The sixteen-year wait to see them perform live had been extended due to missing their triumphant Liverpool return a couple of weeks earlier, and then further delayed by the issues that had arisen during the Anaal Nathrakh set (see above). They absolutely slayed on this hometown return, and the crowd lapped it up. Seriously hope there is more to come from them.
Misery Index were a big addition to the line up and fitting headliners for the second stage. A rare appearance in the UK, this show was part of a four date tour with other bands from the bill and it got the packed room moving from the first track. They have a consistently strong catalogue without really getting the publicity they’ve deserved over the years, hopefully shows like this will see them return to these shores more often as their all out death metal pulverised what was left of the crowd and left them needing the more laid back (well, more laid back than the thirteen bands before them) headliners.
Overall a great day, that run perfectly to time right until the final act, and issues around payment aside (which probably shouldn’t have been aired publicly) it seemed to go down a storm with most bands and people there. Hopefully the issue that affected it this year can be sorted and it come back next year, because it’s a great showcase for the best of the UK underground, with a few special guests thrown in too. It looked an impressive bill before the show, and looking back I realise that I saw 13 great sets in one day (if I had have seen Ihsahn, I am sure it would have been a full sweep), not one weak set or disappointment and that takes some doing. It took a good few days to properly get over this show, and I wasn’t even drinking.