Live Review: Rabidfest 2022 Day #2 (Sunday)!
It maybe pouring with rain outside but we have the warmth of The Bullingdon as refuge in the heart of Oxford for day two of this year’s incarnation of Rabidfest. We just hope that any homeless folks have managed to find shelter from the inclement weather as we prepare for another tsunami of riffs, powerhouse rhythmic pummelling and throat splitting vocals, from what on paper at least, is going to be the the heavier of the two this weekend. It’s simple. The bands being the heat, the venue serves the beer, we write the review. That’s the deal. Ready?!
Today’s opening act are a last minute change with Sin Dweller dropping out but Bring The Onslaught [7.5/10] are a pleasant surprise as since the last time we witnessed in the live arena things have changed. The parts they do well in crushing Metalcore riffs and unclean vocals still slay but there is marked improvement in the clean vocal department with the strained moments of the past melting away, giving them a sharper edge. It maybe early enough still to be drinking coffee but the beer is already flowing in the venue and heads are already banding so it’s all good in the hood. What?!
Public Execution [9/10] are the kind of band who fall asleep listening to the lullabies of Cannibal Corpse and dream in pure unadulterated violence. The first Grindcore band to grace the Rabidfest stage, if larynx has warranties then their frontman has used his up because his vocals are so caustic if he spits it burns a hole in the ground like Alien blood. Short, fast, incendiary bursts of high energy, cut through the audience like a blunt butchers knife, reminding that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to sound good while bringing the two steppers out in force. When Kate Moss told a bartender she wanted something to “wake me up and f*** me up“, it wasn’t the Worlds first Espresso Martini she had in mind. It was Public Execution.
After an extended gap between sets Elimination [8/10] arrive on the stage and blitz through a collection of Thrash cuts including “Straight To Hell” leaving the Rabidfest audience as lambs to the slaughter. The bass maybe a little heavy in the mix and the drum sound a little volatile but that gives them a raw charm and a nostalgic appeal, a reminder that Kings of the Metal Underground gather in venues that, unlike The Bullingdon, don’t always have the best sound systems in the World. Elimination power through and love every minute with blistering cuts like “In The Name Of Violence” from 2020 EP “Of Gods And Beasts” going down a storm and sounding razor sharp before recent single “Icons Of Despair” delivers us to evil with it’s flame thrower of a solo.
The last time we saw riff worshipping Stoner Sludge Doom Metal duo Wall [9/10] who are two Princess of Oxford Royalty in twins Ryan Cole (guitars) and Elliot Cole (drums) known for their work in The Grand Mal and Desert Storm was at Camden Underworld where they opened for Will Haven. This afternoon’s more laid back setting finds them bathed in blood red lights as they perform some mesmerising instrumental tunes that are fit for a film score. As with the best of instrumental bands they’re able to pain pictures in the imagination while pulling out every intricate trick in the book to keep us entertained, clearly inspired by the likes of Karma To Burn, High On Fire and of course Black Sabbath.
Another of the last minute changes saw Symphonic Deathcore champions Draconian Reign drop out but fortunately the powers that be were able to locate another suitable replacement in Deathcore collective To Obey A Tyrant [9/10] and their performance is like the venue has been filled with Napalm. Brutal downtuned sinister riffs, a powerful rhythm section and scalding demonic vocals give bands like Enterprise Earth a run for their money throughout an incredibly tight set as the Bournemouth quartet bring out the breakdowns with “Sanctus Infernum“. A favourite that incorporates some almost inhuman vocal parts, it has a Symphonic edge that gives it an epic lift as the ground shakes and the tectonic plates rumble at the bass drum. Usually a quintet, they’re a four piece this afternoon, a guitarist down due to a back injury however it doesn’t matter as they nail the performance as a without the extra strings, the Downtempo groove of “Ov Fire And Sulphur” being absolutely savage.
The only band so far this weekend to use a backing track to fill the silence between tracks where they’re tuning up, Brighton Metalcore merchants Bleed Again [9/10] are a well oiled machine that fly through the songs like a formula one car doing laps of a race track. They may only get thirty minutes but their set time is filled with a collection of cuts that skip over genre clichés and instead give us the best that the genre has to offer, the clean vocals from bassist Sam Jones sounding strikingly similar to those from the late great Chester Bennington this afternoon. The source material is largely from their 2021 album “Resurgence” and rightly so, “Forgotten Ghost” gaining a certain something extra live that it doesn’t have on the record. They’re greeted by a moshers galore and unclean vocalist James Dawson inadvertently becomes an advert for Red Stripe when someone hands him a can for a slurp but he can’t get to it for a minute or so due to an extended vocal part – all the while holding it label forward.
Having written their letter to anguish and introduced their new vocalist Dylan Alves in style, Harbinger [10/10] continue to go from strength to strength and tonight greet us with a forty minute set of razor sharp Groove fuelled Death Metal that slaps harder than a lover scorned. Cuts like “Hate File” are nailed as the band pull out all the stops for an incendiary performance that reminds us that despite being one of the countries finest, they remain something of an underrated prize fighter waiting for that single first round knock out to allow them to reach critical mass. It is surely only a matter of time as in Alves they have someone with a stunning vocal range that can help deliver that dream as he nails both the clean and unclean parts with the verve and panache to match the bands instrumental prowess. It is something of a surprise that “A Fractured World” from 2016’s “Paroxysm” makes the set but a cameo from Shoot To Kill who made their debut at last years Rabidfest is a very nice touch indeed. From here Harbinger go on the Faces Of Death European Tour trek with Rivers of Nihil, Fallujah, Allegaeon and Inferi…
As with all festivals the later in the day you get, the longer the sets are and Masters of Progressive Sludge Metal Desert Storm [9/10] are a band deserving of that based on their last album “Omens” alone. Featuring in their ranks members of The Grand Mal and Wall, they are a seasoned quintet of musicians who can barely fit on the stage but there is no room for any of them to stalk the territory in front of the stage, such is the turn out, even if it is a Sunday. The riff worshippers have united to see off guitarist Chris White in style as he retires from touring but will remain in the band in a writing capacity and both he and the band clearly love every second. There is promise for the future too as we are treated to a new song with the suggestion of a new album in 2023 while an almighty rendition of “The Machine” threatens to make the roof cave in.
Having previously graced the stage of Rabidfest in 2019, Red Method [8/10] waste no time in converting those few yet to witness them in full flight, joined by fill in drummer James Perry of Onslaught and This Is Endless and bassist Lew Berl of Dishonour The Crown to ensure things go off without a hitch. “Messiah” maybe a blatant piece of Slipknot worship but it’s done very well with the band inciting a mosh pit following a wall of death before “The Absent” crushes the weak with a circle pit. It has to be said that the bands sound works better in a sweaty club than on the Festival stages as the intensity is increased and provides an air of tension with a level of unpredictability to what frontman Jeremy Gomez is doing, although to be fair, most clubs don’t have a stage big enough for the six piece. They slow things down for “Slaves to the New World Disorder” a cut that promises much for the future as they feel half past due a new record, while “Split” is a good five percent faster live than it is on tape and sets the place alight.
To find Divine Chaos [10/10] back for the second year running is a welcome surprise and they prove exactly why they were given the opportunity within the first few minutes of their set, hammering out some fretboard smoking solos that threaten to set the place alight. The early Metallica influenced leads of “Upon The Shrine” catch the attention before the Melodic Death Thrash enthusiasts bring the rhythmic destruction with the groove laden “The Myth“. While some vocalists struggle to know what to do with themselves on stage during extended instrumental passages, the man mountain that is Jut Tarbor stalks the stage and headbangs to the point of snapping his neck, loving every second. “Serpent Words” gets the best crowd reaction in a non stop set while a call back for an encore that actually happens is a special moment. Long live Rabidfest! The team know how to put on a special event and this weekend has been exactly that!
Rabidfest will be back in 2023 at The Bullingdon in Oxford across the weekend of 4th and 5th November!