Christ almighty, this year has passed really fucking quickly – we’re already heading back into autumn, which means I’ve enjoyed my fifteenth Infest. While perhaps not a lineup with too many “marquee” names this year, it was certainly one that had some treasures in it, and away from the bands was one of the maddest and most fun Infests in some years – a festival revitalised.
Once again Daisy and I were assisting on the Storming The Base stall, so we maybe didn’t get out and about as much as we’ve done in the past, but we did get to see all of the bands we wanted to see (and a couple more besides). But then, Daisy hadn’t been well recently, and I couldn’t drink too much either, so not so much drinking and more working was probably good for us both!
Friday night at Infest has always, always been about more than the bands. Much of the early evening is frankly spent catching up with everyone you haven’t seen in months, and as a result it can be difficult to drag people away from the bar to catch the bands. But as it turned out, festival openers CTRL ALT DEL put on quite a show and it did seem that their audience grew as their set progressed. There was a distinctly less-than-serious feel to their sound, which drew heavily from acts like ATR and Ultraviolence, but with none of the interest in politics from what I could tell – instead concentrating on providing pounding, high-tempo industrial and floor-shaking amounts of bass. Also, points for the medley of Ultraviolence covers that went down very well indeed.
Alpha Male Bling
Guilt Speed and Carbon
Assault on Cocksure 13
Beers, Steers and Queers
Other commitments on the stall meant that I didn’t catch D-K-A-G – although I’ve seen them before, at least. A row of free vodka shots at the bar wouldn’t have kept me away from Cocksure, mind – another chance to see Chris Connelly and Jason Novak’s project was of course taken up and was as good as I’d hoped.
I’d previously seen them at Cold Waves last year and also at BIMFest 2014, and it was clear from this time around that they’ve honed their craft further. Both members are of course old hands in the industrial scene, but any new band takes a while to finesse things and Cocksure are no exception. There was a swagger here that sucked many in, with a wise reliance on already-known material to start with, before rolling out some of the (very good) new album Corporate_Sting, closing off the Cocksure material with the substance shopping list refrain of Hi Talez that left a few grins on the faces around me. The other track that really left a mark was Assault on Cocksure 13, a B-side on their debut EP that is for me one of their strongest songs – a bruising industrial-dance attack that should be being used by DJs by now.
What has become clear, though, is that they aren’t simply hanging onto the coattails of what has come before – as Connelly noted in the recent interview on this ‘site, there was clearly unfinished business from the RevCo era, and it is notable that this project has not been just a rehash of old glories with the sound, it is more forward looking than you might think. Saying that, though, they aren’t stupid and are willing to dabble with the past at the end of sets, and here we were rewarded with two RevCo tracks – the closer being one of their signatures, the ever-wrong Beers, Steers and Queers, and as soon as the familiar sample appeared from the noise that ended Cattle Grind, there was a chorus of cheers and beer-soaked voices chanting along. Ok, so not everyone loved them, but with a band like this that’s always going to be the way. I’m on the side of loving it, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing them yet again later in September, once more in their home city of Chicago.
Try as I might, I couldn’t get into Empirion at all. I had this problem last time (supporting Meat Beat Manifesto), and it was pretty much the same feeling all over again. Their sleek, heavy industrial-tinged techno is good enough, but just not enough to keep me interested. After the disastrous second album from his later project KLOQ, though, I’m not surprised Oz Mosley has stuck with the Empirion revival since, and it may just be me as they attracted a big, big crowd and everyone down there seemed to be loving every minute.
To perhaps the surprise of no-one, there were an awful lot of pale faces and corresponding hangovers judging on the hushed conversations in the venue once things got underway – word was there was some serious partying going on in many locations. So it was a bit of a wonder that there was a fair crowd amassed to see AlterRed – not because of the band, but simply due to the state of many people’s heads! Those that did make it down couldn’t fail to be impressed, as far as I was concerned, at how AlterRed have changed. The old sound has pretty much been swept away – one that never really grabbed me – and replaced by an industrial rock (with the emphasis on the “rock”) sound that suits them sonically and visually very well indeed. An entertaining, forceful performance that surprised many, and certainly sales appeared brisk of their material later (and I really must get ’round to picking up the new album myself on this evidence).
Ethan Fawkes was a bit of a wildcard on the bill. I have to say that I knew nothing about him when he was added to the bill, and I’m not sure many others knew any more. One guy, with a laptop, electronics and vocals, and it was…alright, I guess? There was industrial-techno beats, a few melodies, but not a lot that stuck in my mind, really.
Brave New Apocalypse
All The Same
Create To Destroy
Point and Click
Blood + Peace
One band I was very much looking forward to was CHANT. Various friends in the US have been raving about their appearances supporting KMFDM in the last year or two, with most of them agreeing they were blowing KMFDM off the stage each night. They were right, too – they absolutely slayed. For those uninitiated – CHANT are an industrial project, and there is something of early NIN, something of Ministry, something of KMFDM, all rolled into an apocalyptic percussion-led attack that is really quite something in the live environment…But crucially, they have the songs to take this noise to the next level, too.
The title track of the new album Brave New Apocalypse, with a brutal, tribal-esque intro, was the obvious opener, and it only got better from there. Every single song had a kick, a hook and something interesting to recommend it – and Bradley and his cohort are both impressive drummers. In fact, I’m not going to ramble on any further – this isn’t video from Infest, but this will give you an idea of how how fucking great they are live (and it also explains why they didn’t play Manifesto – it clearly needs two drummers *and* a guitarist…). Their return to the UK cannot come soon enough.
L’Ame Immortelle rather paled in comparison to that – not that I was ever interested in their music anyway, to be honest – so I chose to take a break outside rather than watch them. It also gave me a chance to have a breather before the intensity of Klangstabil, who were another band I’ve wanted to see for a while. Yeah, so they are an Ant-Zen act, but theirs is not a modus operandi where noise splits your skull. Instead, they strip back their electronics to a stark shell, with instead thoughtful vocals and near-soulful melodies to move you. In fact, they were so good that they were able to play two very different versions of both Shadowboy and Math & Emotion (the Square Root of One version of the latter in particular being absolutely, heartstoppingly brilliant) without any complaint from any of us. One of those artists where I’d happily have kept them onstage for another hour to continue to enjoy their wonderful set.
The only problem with that, of course, is that it might have meant that I wouldn’t have seen Mind.in.a.box. A few eyebrows might have been raised at their elevation to headliner status, but after their perfect show here in 2011, there was no real argument – we had to have them back. The band had made it clear, too, prior to the event that this was a new show – totally reworked, with new kit and many newer songs – and then to compound maybe a few concerns, word got out on Friday that their luggage hadn’t arrived with them.
Light & Dark
Happily, everything worked out. Luggage arrived in time, sound issues were avoided, and once again, MIAB were frankly breathtaking. Their recent album Memories has maybe taken a little while to get into (but then, why should it be immediate?), and a fair chunk of it was played here, but it all sounded glorious. As I’ve noted before, for a band with a cold sound – the vocodered vocals are part of it – they have an extraordinary emotional impact, capable of creating songs (and the stories that anchor them) with characters and feelings we can relate to, and empathise with. And song after song hit home here, particularly older songs Change and Remember, played back-to-back mid-set. Both have always had emotional clout, but the extended chorus of Remember is still amazing live, even now I’ve seen it four times.
What was perhaps even more amazing was that despite their headlining status, they were confident enough in their own abilities to avoid having to play many of the “hits” (so no Fear, Stalkers, Amnesia, Identity, among others), relying instead on a coherent set and narrative – and the result was a set that passed oh-so-quickly, and the warmth of the reaction from the crowd easily coaxed them back out for an encore.
I still don’t know how this band have managed to translate the brilliance of their (deeply introspective) recorded material into something so crowd-pleasing. Part of it has to be a realisation on their part that taking the risk of changing their songs to work live was one worth taking – after all, how many other bands would have the balls to change up a song glorifying 8-Bit computers into a stadium rock monster? Once again band of the weekend, for me (although run close by CHANT). I’ll even forgive them for not playing Fear.
Sunday brought more hushed tones as it seemed that some partied even harder than on Friday night, so it took a little while before there was much of a crowd for the first band. But they got there in the end. That first band was Mechanical Cabaret – one of those scene survivors, having lasted for what seems like forever, while most of their peers have long since gone. I’m afraid I just don’t see the attraction, though: electro industrial that has not evolved one iota over time, with a slavish devotion to Depeche Mode and/or Soft Cell that borders on plagiarism, and lyrics that made me twitch (One choice couplet: ‘It’s in my veins / it holds my reins‘).
“Saying and screaming the same old things“, went one of their songs. They do, they really do.
Do they teach “stompy German Industrial 101” in classes over there or something? That was my first thought watching ReADJUST, who brought perfectly servicable, stompy industrial to the festival. And while they were by no means bad, and seemed enthusiastic, it was hard to get that excited about a band that basically were playing the same songs as many other German acts have played and still do.
At least Bhambhamhara were a little different. A bright, positive-sounding band, with a live drummer that really helped to add some impressive – and much-needed at this time on Sunday – energy to their performance that made many friends and had many bouncing all over the place. I only realised later on that one member was Axel Ermes, previously of Girls Under Glass and The Cassandra Complex, both bands I was introduced to in my youth – in other words, a long, long time ago!
Late replacements for the sadly missed Melotron (a band I’ve wanted to see for ever, and will now be waiting for longer), at least it turned out that Syrian were a band of a similar ilk – pleasant, space age synthpop, as a general rule, with the opening track a belting example of how good this genre can be. But the covers. The covers. Enola Gay into Everything Counts was fine, but Take on Me was an abomination. They have Geneva Conventions against that kind of thing, I’m sure.
There was a heck of a switch in styles for Monolith, to be honest – the only real “industrial noise” act playing over the weekend (Klangstabil are far too cerebral to be called “noise”). Monolith seems to have been a going concern for ever, and while this was the first time in four years (since Kinetik, actually) I’d seen him live, there wasn’t a lot of difference. It’s still one-man-and-a-laptop, some fantastic, loud rhythms, some not-so-interesting bits, and the eternally evergreen Disco Buddha to finish. It will probably surprise no-one to find that Monolith left Daisy (my partner) entirely non-plussed.
Back after having to pull out last year, Project Pitchfork appeared to pull out all the stops to make up for previous disappointment, and in my opinion were vastly better than their previous headlining appearance in 2010. There was a friendly nature from the band inbetween songs, keen to keep the crowd onside, although that was certainly helped by the airing of all kinds of old favourites – Timekiller and Existence perhaps predictably near-bookending the set, but even better were (even older) songs like Carnival and Steelrose, which nowadays are pretty much industrial from another era, and are likely older than some of the punters were.
Needless to say, this was once again a hugely enjoyable weekend, full of friends old and new, and enthusiastic fans of all kinds of industrial music – reflected in the wide variety of live acts. Infest has always had a knack of finding bands that we hadn’t heard before (or seen live) and get us excited about them, as well as getting bands that already have large followings, and I’m sure this will continue next August at Infest 2016. Quite how the madness of Poxyclipse Sunday will ever be topped is another question entirely…