Supersonic's explosive opening night features home grown talent

Supersonic 2011 review

published: Tue 1st Nov 2011

DJ Scotch Egg

Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd October 2011
The Custard Factory, Gibb St, Birmingham, England MAP
£75
daily capacity: 2500
last updated: Thu 29th Sep 2011

TLast year Capsule’s Supersonic festival offered fans the chance to see three of the most important bands in the development of metal and industrial music: Napalm Death; Godflesh; and Swans. This year's roster was slightly less star studded, but no less important and certainly no less inspiring.

Perhaps realising that many people would struggle to get time off work, the organisers had the Friday night kick off around 9.30pm. Taking advantage of this strictly evening affair, the bill (at least in the 'Boxxed' stage) was heavily skewed towards the dance side of extreme music.

DJ Scotch Egg
DJ Scotch Egg, a firm favourite of Capsule's, made his return to the festival wielding all the energy and gimmicks fans have come to expect. Running around stage with his hands clawed above his head like he was pretending to be a monster, Shigeru Isihara shamelessly played out his unique mishmash of break-core, Drum and Bass, and what can only be described as 'Gameboy music'.

Not everyone's cup of tea: breakcore usually inspires a marmite love-hate response in people. But at the worst this music is cheeky enough to bring a smile to your face; at best, it is enough to have you dancing like you're on fire. On this night, however, I think the crowd were mostly in the former camp, their static bodies suggesting they were just watching for the spectacle of it.

Cloaks
Next on in the Boxxed stage were another group which known for their merging of styles, though more serious than the previous act. Cloaks are a duo who have latched on to the dark sound of the relatively new dubstep genre, and made it darker still by taking sounds and ideas from industrial and ambient music. Each song was a process of building up a vast and shimmering soundscape, then adding a churning, clanking, dubstep beat to drive it to its conclusion. More mainstream dubstep songs are often defined by their 'drops', the blow of the main bassline and beat kicking in at once. Cloaks' music, however, was unashamably devoid of any such structural features.

To see this defiance as a bad thing would be to misunderstand the point of this kind of music; but for an audience to be interested enough to see a set like this to its conclusion, there had better be something else special going on. Unfortunately, there was not. The ideas and sounds were good, but not quite rich and stimulating enough to make their rejection of the standard format an asset rather than a drag. In fairness, the last track they played did approach the high standards I am setting for them, so if this is a new tune of theirs, hopefully they are heading in the right direction.

Headlining 'Space 2' on Friday were masters of prog, Secret Chiefs 3, and if nothing else, these guys really looked the part. Dressed in long black pointy robes, with pentagrams dangling from their throats, each member was a light hearted representation of a warlock. And their music was as impressive and fun as their attire. They played long extravagant prog metal that, devoid of vocals, was carried entirely by the imaginative progressions between each technically fascinating, and tuneful clause. There was also an intriguing Persian element to the sound, brought by a wailing violin.

The closing act at Boxxed was former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris under his electronic producer alias Scorn. This set was not so much heard by the audience, but felt. This man has been experimenting with dark, bassy industrial sounds for over a decade now, and that experience has paid off: he has managed to make some of the most brutal bass music I have ever heard.

Overlaying the pummelling, chest vibrating low end noise was machine like clanks and chimes cut together into a dubstep beat. But dubstep this was not. This was pure, devastating industrial music, beefed up and slowed down and fed to the audience one crushing blow at a time. And the intensely psychedelic and strobe-happy visuals extended this barrage to your sense of sight.

An explosive beginning to Supersonic Festival, and from some home grown Birmingham talent too. Scorn set the standard high for the weekend.
review by: Robert Knowles

photos by: Robert Knowles

Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd October 2011
The Custard Factory, Gibb St, Birmingham, England MAP
£75
daily capacity: 2500
last updated: Thu 29th Sep 2011


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