Read Day 1 coverage here!
Swans aside, Black Shape Of Nexus truly deserve the heaviest band of the weekend award. As one of the bands the local audience seemed less familiar with, they came in and wrecked everything – the pure negativity flowing from the titanic riffage of Negative Black’s finest cuts washing over the curious audience and captivating them with the strength of each monolithic riff, as it was obvious by the greatly increased amount of people in the room towards the end of the show. Malte Seidel is still an exceptional frontman – though he didn’t have his collar microphone on this occasion, his tortured howl is still enough to raise the hairs on your back. Hopefully everyone purchased a copy of Negative Black at the merch stand and became up to date with one of the most compelling and underrated doom bands in Europe.
Conan were still breaking in their still unofficially announced new drummer, but they were so stupidly tight that you wouldn’t have noticed it. The potency of their sound was enough to sway your beard left and right as if you were standing in front of an exhaust vent, and that really says it all about their show. Bleak, crushing and unrelenting, it wasn’t a surprise that a lot of the vinyl seen being carried around by punters throughout the day had the Conan logo on it.
Due to a health issue with his daughter (to whom we send our heartfelt wishes of a full and speedy recovery), Urfaust frontman IX wasn’t able to attend Amplifest, but in a highly commendable gesture, drummer VRDRBR, the other half of the Dutch duo, teamed up with João Filipe and André Coelho from “surprise band” Sektor 304 and Black Shape Of Nexus’ keyboards and electronics man Jan Wolf to jam out some darkness. While not, understandably, the tightest of sets by any means, it was still a unique insight into the inner workings of the four musicians, all of them purveyors of the finest bleak experimentalism which was well on display as the single flowing piece unravelled. Preserve the moment in your mind if you were there, as we might never see this configuration again – despite the unfortunate circumstances that led to it, it was still unforgettable.
The rockier, heavier impact of Refractory Obdurate compared to David Eugene Edwards’ earliest output was already obvious, but it really is shoved in your face like a chipped brick when you witness this incarnation of the band live. With former Planes Mistaken For Stars duo Chuck French and Neil Keener providing the anchor on which the stupendously thick grooves of the new album’s songs rest, this is nevertheless just another different tonality in the Wovenhand palette: Edwards remains the centerpiece, the vortex through which everything is channelled and out of which all energy is released with uncanny intensity in an all-consuming continuum. From ‘Hiss’, the second-to-last song on that last album, to the traditional ‘Horse Head Fiddle’ covered in 2002 by David’s 16 Horsepower, it’s all part of the same amazing whole.
That intimidating, scary atmosphere Wolvserpent exhale on record isn’t 100% translated to their live show, but they still manage to nail as much of it as it is humanly possible. Besides, there are some advantages to the live format – this way, you can truly witness how awesome a drummer Brittany McConnell really is, as she fiercely pounds her kit, also effortlessly switching between drums and fiddle as the movements call for. With the burning incense and the ritualistic compositions, it’s easy to just find your mind slipping away somewhere darker and more primitive halfway through the show. Mission fucking accomplished, I’d say.
Cult Of Luna
After a weekend of earthly, no-frills performances by such intense and from-the-guts performers like Swans, Wovenhand, B-SON or Peter Brötzmann, it’s hard to switch gears for the over-produced, melodic faux-weight of Cult Of Luna. It is indeed lush to witness them, but as their songs passively and predictably unfold and as the pointlessness of the two drummer situation (guys, see what the Melvins do with this, or even Kylesa) becomes apparent, one can’t help but wish something more meaty and gritty would have been picked to close out the main stage.
Fortunately, there was still a dose of infectious, unstoppable fury to contend with, in the shape of a bunch of Belgian lads called Vvovnds. Fresh off participating opposite the untouchable Amenra on a split for the The Abyss Stares Back series on Hypertension Records, they unleash all the blackened aggression of the most essential punk coupled with a very metallic obscurity. It’s sonic hatred in its purest form, and the perfect send-off to all the punters who are already yearning for next year’s Amplifest if they have any smattering of good taste on them.