Before I start I guess I should apologize for the lack of pictures in this chronicle. On our way back home my phone died from the heat and fried my memory card in the progress… I do encourage everyone to google a bit on pictures from this festival though, it really is one of a kind.
Me, my girlfriend Alina and my friend (Andreas) Hall flew together down to Munich on Tuesday the 7th of August and then took a rental car the last bit to Telfs in Austria, where Alina grew up. We went to get her dad’s camper van and packed it with the supplies (read alcohol, water and breakfast stuff) we needed, had showers and then tucked in for a couple of hours of sleep. To be able to be at the festival, which is a 7 hour drive from Telfs, we had to leave insanely early. When we were dressed and ready to leave the time was about 3.30 in the morning. The major upside of this was that it was cool and nice in contrast to daytime temperatures that was about 35 degrees Celsius in central Europe at the time.
Being the only one with experience with old vehicles without steering or break servo I had to drive the whole way, but we managed very well and got there in decent time and with only one stop on the way for gas and the Czech highway vignette, needed to use the highways in the country. Unfortunately we weren’t really sure on exactly where to drive once we had gotten to the festival, the caravan parking wasn’t located in the same spot as we had last year. When we stopped to ask the guards at one of the other campsites we realized that we just had gotten a flat tire somewhere in the village. Air was still flowing out around a big screw that had dug it’s way straight through our left front tire. Luckily we stood at a decent spot… Not much more to do than trying to solve it, so we started to search the van for equipment to change the tire. We found the jacklift and a lug wrench but still had a small problem; the extra tire was screwed onto the underside of the van with nuts on screws too long to be able to use the lug wrench.
Luckily two Swiss acquaintances of Alina came to our aid. We went to the bus parking hoping they would have a wrench we could borrow. Using both English and German was a bit hard with the personnel but we finally managed to make ourselves understood. One of the guys from the parking lot went away for a while and told us to wait, soon he was back and apparently he had went and bought a brand new wrench just for us to borrow. Now that’s service and hospitality in it’s purest form!
Once we had the wrench we could finally get the extra tire on after some very sweaty manual labor (mainly by the Swiss guys to be honest) in the blistering sun and scorching heat. We’re eternally grateful for your help David and Finn! With four complete tires we drove to our parking, which comfortably enough was placed less than 100 meters from the main entrance. Finally time for some drinks! The sun guard and Halls tent was quickly set up and we could finally relax and start enjoying one of the best festivals around.
Now, this festival is special because of a lot of different reasons, one of these is the cashless system. On your wristband you have a chip that you charge with money via your phone, computer or in top-up stalls at the festival. Everything at the festival is then payed by scanning the chip twice in quick succession. This type of systems have been tried at other festivals with very varied results, at Brutal Assault it works perfectly though and at every transaction you see on a screen how much you have left on your chip. Another special, and extremely great, thing with this festival is the selection of food and drinks. First of all it’s all very cheap from a Swedish point of view, second of all there is such a huge amount of food available that I know of people that go as much for the food as for the bands. I would even consider describing myself as one of them, some of the best food experiences I’ve had in the last two years have been here. Great Czech beer for between 1 and 2,50 Euro and amazing food of all varieties (including a whole street of just vegan food) for great prices makes this a paradise for us metal heads that suffer from a hint of the foodie virus.
Since several hours had passed trying to solve the flat tire issue, we were a bit later than calculated, which unfortunately meant we missed the Armored Saint gig. But, you always manage to miss a couple of gigs you’ve planned to see at festivals and our spirits were still high when we changed our tickets for wristbands and had a little stroll around the festival grounds.
This festival’s location is a story in itself, it’s not really possible to wish for cooler surroundings than this. The whole festival takes place inside a part of the 1700’s fortress Josefov in the town of Jaroměř close to the Polish border. There’s catacombs with bars, courtyards with stages, baracks with a movie theater, fortress walls with live goats walking around and so much more in this amazing location. The area offers lots of shade and cooling fortress hideouts to get away from the heat, and since its divided into so many different parts it rarely feels like it’s a festival with around 15 000 visitors. It’s all feels very exotic as well as familiar and people you meet always seem to be open and genuine. All in all a great place to spend a couple of vacation days!
Being a bit overwhelmed with how great it felt to be back, and to show Hall around a bit since he was a first time visitor, we didn’t really see that much during the first evening. We watched a bit of WHOREDOM RIFE, which unfortunately sounded like pretty generic modern black metal. We also heard a bit of the PARADISE LOST gig before the big name of the day, which was of course TORMENTOR. Sadly their gig was OK, but not more. It felt a far cry from the amazing concert I witnessed at Chaos Descends merely weeks before. Perhaps it was the bigger stage, or just that they had a bad day, but it left me a lot less excited than I was the first time I saw these Hungarian heroes.
By the time Tormentor had finished I had been awake for about 24 hours or so, of which 7-8 hours hade been driving. I was totally pumped out and sleeping was on the top of my agenda. That night I was out like a bear in hibernation.
After a good night’s sleep the second day started with groggs in the shade outside the camper. Good times were had and besides a quick visit to see SADISTIC INTENT, who were great despite the early hour, we stayed a lot at the campsite. Before the evening bands started around 18 o’clock we went to a new lounge area that debuted this year, it was nice to get away for a while and come to a more relaxed atmosphere. Inside the baracks here they had a very nice and interesting exhibit on fanzines and early metal culture in Europe and the Czech republic. A very cool initiative that I would love to see more of at other festivals. Second band up was BLOOD INCANTATION that we managed to see a bit of, great musicians but maybe nothing I’d put on at home. Imagine if Nile started playing doom/death and cut out the grind, that’s kinda how Blood Incantation sounds. After that we had a couple of beers and met some nice people in one of the catacomb bars before we went back to the tent stage to see a couple of songs with MORTIIS. He wore his nose and ears as pointy as ever and played his cinematic and bombastic ambient music well, but it must be said that two songs was enough to be able to say that I’ve seen him and move on.
Straight after on the same stage it was time for PALLBEARER and we just managed to sneak away for a beer during the change-over to get back to when they started. My expectations wasn’t set too high over the gig but I was massively surprised by the band’s performance. This american gang manages to sound quintessentially British with their slow, heavy and gloomy doom metal. Mainly they sound like Warning and early Solstice, that sad, grief ridden ambiance is ever present. A great gig that we started watching in the far back but ended up standing close to the front row.
After that great doom experience we went to see GRAVE PLEASURES. Now, I was never a fan of Beastmilk. To be honest I think they were absolutely terrible… With that in mind this new reincarnation of the band does sound better, but in my ears it mainly has a vibe of being a Green Day for metal people. Alas, nothing that impressed me at all. Before the gig was over the electricity went out and everything went both silent and dark. An unexpected end for everyone, especially the people I assume enjoyed it. The festival solved this by letting the band play again the day after, yet another proof of the level of professionalism that this festival is operating on.
Next band up was MOONSPELL, a band that has been of great importance to myself growing up. Their album Irreligious from -96 was a constant companion during the late 90’s and, despite not really loving any of their other albums, they’re a band that I’ve wanted to see for ages but never managed to. The concert was, for these reasons, extremely emotional for me and the amount of songs from the Irreligious era surprised me and made me give in. One of the best gigs of the year without any doubt. The band was great and Fernando Ribeiro was just the right amount of both cheesy and brutal. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing them again now when I know what I’ve missed out on.
After this there wasn’t really any other bands we had a great interest in so we decided to eat. The burger we had, from a food truck named Tommy’s, was the best any of us ever had and we had a unison near-religious experience while eating. As I said, the food is amazing at Brutal Assault! On my way out I saw a song or so with MARDUK. Competent and well played like always, but they’ve never really been a band I’ve been very in to. So we went to bed and had yet another night of great sleep. There’s nothing that makes festival camping better than having a camper van or caravan.
On this day we didn’t really see many bands, or do anything at all to be honest. We mainly had drinks and good food. Towards the evening we passed by AT THE GATES when they played, but didn’t see enough to make any judgement. We saw a few songs with WRATHPRAYER from Chile. They performed good and all, but their black/death metal combination wasn’t really anything new, so we moved on to the Oriental stage to see Icelandic black metallers MISþYRMING. To be honest the singer looks exactly like the picture perfect Waffen-SS officer with his haircut and persona, but once you’ve learned to ignore that you come to the conclusion that this is well performed, modern black metal. Maybe not deserving all the praise and hype as of late, but still not bad at all.
After this we tried to watch some ALUK TODOLO but none of us got what the thing is with this french psychedelic “occult rock” band, so we left pretty soon. After a while me and Alina felt tired and decided it wasn’t really worth over two hours wait to see MALOKARPATAN, even though I really need to see them. Luckily they’re booked for next year’s Hell over Hammaburg, another great festival. Anyhow, we went to bed and Hall got left alone to go out on an adventure. From what I’ve learned afterwards the night included free drinks, hanging out with a gay couple and a motorcycle club among many other strange and wondrous things…
Waking up on the Saturday I must admit that I felt a bit like I was done with the festival life. This soon turned into the opposite when I could sit in the shade outside with a drink and watch Hall trying to orientate himself to the toilets in his still very drunk state. Once he’d managed and gotten back, he slept a few hours more in a chair before he was himself again. By that time we went in to see MESSIAH, the Swiss brutal thrash legends. Unfortunately it wasn’t that captivating and it soon turned into background music for Hall’s stories of the night before. I’m happy I’ve seen them anyways, it was far from bad.
This day we had quite a few bands to watch, so after a few beers the ball was rolling and we saw a series of bands in a row. First out was PROTECTOR which sounded great. Their German/Swedish thrashy death metal got us excited over the rest of the evening and was a perfect kick off to our versatile schedule ahead. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay very long because next up was ABYSMAL GRIEF on the same time slot. This is a band that I haven’t really listened to a lot. My picture of how it would sound wasn’t very accurate at all. I thought it would be a lot more doomy and not as much a theatrical, Italian heavy metal version of Bigelf. The gig wasn’t bad or anything, it was just so far from what expected that I didn’t really get it. Maybe they can convince me at some other gig in the future.
The next band played at the same stage, and now we had taken front row positions because this was one of the things I looked most forward to, namely GOBLIN. Funny with two keyboard/organ driven bands from Italy playing after each other on the same stage… Anyways, if you love old horror movies and horror movie soundtracks you can’t really have missed Goblin and/or Claudio Simonetti, that made the soundtracks to Argento’s Italian classics Suspiria and Profondo Rosso, as well as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, among many others. The band has a string of hits that all sends shivers down your spine and brings a tear to the eye of yours truly. An amazing performance by the entire band from start to finish and it’s impossible not to love Simonetti, looking like a typical Italian in his designer glasses while playing murder music to a bunch of stinky festival metal heads. Even now when writing this the hair stands up straight on my arms, yes it was that good.
DANZIG on the other hand was a sad story all together. Bad vocals, bad performance and generally just not good at all. I kinda wish I hadn’t seen it, but I did so now it’s a permanent memory. The following gig with Norwegian WARDRUNA was the absolute opposite. Great performance and such a fascinating band with a totally unique style. Maybe not metal, but still fitting somehow. The musicianship was excellent and the ambiance that they manage to create is epic beyond comparison. I was enjoying every second of their playing time to the fullest. The same can not be said for the electro/dance crap that followed in the form of PERTUBATOR, how can it even remotely connect to metal or the metal scene? The pumping bass and techno beats got me a bit sad over the future of metal… Luckily we checked out a few songs with AURA NOIR, which really were at the top of their game. Hard, brutal and relentless, just as it should be. This was a great lift, and a perfect ending of the evening. The day after was a looong drive home, so it was time to hit the sack.
To summon it all up
Festival: Brutal Assault
Location: Jaroměř, Czech Republic
Accomodations: There’s both unsupervised and V.I.P. campsites as well as special parking for both cars and campers/caravans. Buses to and from the nearby hotels an hostels.
Food: Absolutely amazing!
Drinks: All you could ever want and more!
Best: The food, the prices, the surroundings, the high level of professionalism, Goblin, Wardruna and Moonspell.
Worst: Pertubator, the scorching heat, the flat tire, Danzig and that my phone died completely. To be fair, only the Pertubator booking can be blamed on the organizers though.
Would I go again?: Without any doubt! This was my second visit and I hope to come back many more times. A very highly recommended festival!