2012 was my second year at Ghostfest, one of the best metal and hardcore festivals in the country. £35 for the whole weekend, tiny stages held in the University of Leeds student union and free cans of Monster Energy, heavy music lovers simply cannot resist it. I arrived late Saturday morning with friends, walking through what seems like the Bronx to get to the hotel we were staying at. After stepping into Stephen King’s The Shining, all mixed together in a musty old swirly carpets and floral cocktail, The University of Leeds was the next destination. Queuing wasn’t as bad as the previous year, yet the wristbands were rubbish – like the ones you get when you’re in hospital.
Bands were spread out across three separate stages, the biggest the Impericon (known originally as Imperial Clothing) sponsored stage and here headliners The Black Dahlia Murder and Emmure were to presence. The Monster Energy sponsored stage is the one I spent most of my time at last year, as it held class acts such as Basement, Heights, More than Life and Polar. It’s an awesome stage to watch the bands that are part of your life and also to discover the ones that are going to be; small and compact, ideal for intimacy and a slight upper level balcony-type ledge if you don’t want to get pushed about at the side of the pit. The Time Will Tell stage was even smaller (this room was where merchandise was sold last year) and intense, and with bands such as Carcer City, Heart in Hand, Odessa, Pay No Respect and Feed the Rhino embracing this stage, it was bound to reach breaking point.
A sea of bobble hats and Purgatory Records merchandise, Ghostfest is known for its hardcore scene as well as putting on popular metal acts such as Suicide Silence, All Shall Perish and Bleed from Within. So, armed with free Impericon merch that I was given at the door (The Ghost Inside key chain was pretty awesome) and everybody else’s as I was very fortunately the only girl with the only bag, we headed to the Monster Energy Stage, for Scottish hardcore band Heavy Hands. The Scottish hardcore scene is escalating rapidly and the lads that are Heavy Hands are an excellent example, with band shouts and traditional riffs, following the likes of hardcore legends Madball, Terror and Agnostic Front. They seem to have made a name for themselves despite not even being a band for a year, as they’ve already gained a following most bands gain over two years. The room was full of ‘Scottish Hardcore’ tees and Heavy Hands’ own merch (printed only 20 for Ghostfest) stating ‘Irn Bru Fuelled Violence’.
Originally being the first act on the Impericon stage, then bumped up to second after Ingested being added, Heart of a Coward have stepped up their game from last year having been on one of the smaller stages (this year’s Monster sponsored, last year’s Honour Over Glory) along with Heights and Polar. Jamie Graham (ex-Sylosis vocalist) yells ‘”Ghostfest! Wake the f**k up!”’. With a heavy and tight melodic set along with synchronised band movements, Heart of a Coward really seemed to be enjoying themselves and send the crowd into uproar with the audience-unified headbang, which unites band and fans as well as the much-loved Around A Girl (In 80 Days), where everyone screams ‘I tried to forget you’.
I’d really been looking forward to seeing Aberdeen lads Grader for a long time so after HOAC it was time to head back to the Monster Energy stage. However, it just didn’t seem to be happening for the Scottish lads. Despite being on after metalcore band Desolated, for some reason it was a quiet performance from Grader which it really shouldn’t have been. Fans of Grader gathered to the back of the stage to watch; there was no going forward or mic-grabbing. However their material was emotional, raw and passionate, displayed by vocalist Liam Manson who did not ask for anything in return, except for fans to check out their merch, and Grader just powered through their set despite it being a very cool atmosphere. However, with many heads bobbing it seems to be that Grader are appreciated but lots of people were taking a break, having a chat and a smoke in time for fan favourites Broken Teeth. Let’s hope that Grader get a better atmosphere when they play at Venue in Newcastle in August, replacing Martyr Defiled. They deserve it.
Fans went crazy for Purgatory Records’ Broken Teeth, representing their label with a ‘Purgs crew’ tshirt draped across the drum kit. Dale Graham is one crazy dude, coming on in only shorts, swinging his long hair around and leaping about to BT’s grimy riffs. This was my first time seeing Broken Teeth, and I wasn’t sure what to make of them at first as they seem to be what some call a ‘merch band’ and all I’d heard from these guys a while back had been crackly-fuzz demos. They were indeed a lot of Teeth hats and tees in the room and the atmosphere was utter carnage. It has to be accepted that Broken Teeth are one of the best bands that Purgatory have to offer, particularly with an energetic, brutal performance of ‘Soul Destroyer’.
Then it was back to the Impericon main stage to watch Heights’ full set, for the first time with their new vocalist Alex Monty (originally the bassist) replacing original vocalist Thomas Debaere. The band stated in an online post that they wanted to experience different things vocally and musically. However, the whole thing seems to be a bit pointless. Monty has not brought anything new to Heights; there was nothing fresh that he brought to the original material nor are the new tracks anything of depth. There isn’t anything in the ‘new Heights’ that Debaere could not have done, which has left some fans dazed and confused. Unlike Thom’s razor sharp, bloody-throated vocals and his genuine passion that he shown on stage for Heights and their fans, Monty did nothing to prove that he was a suitable replacement. Rather than simply displaying his ability to be a frontman in exchange to the backseat of being the bassist, Monty decided to mention disagreements online about the changes in the band: ‘”You may be wondering about all the shit that’s been put online or whatever”’ then decided that he ‘”didn’t want to talk about it anymore”’. Well why mention it then? Show us the reasons for the changes of the Heights that we already loved, as these were changes that we did not want nor ask for.
Scouse metallers Carcer City delivered a brutally energetic set, bringing their recorded material to life with massive bass-drops. The microscopic Time Will Tell stage was destroyed by City and pint-sized vocalist Patrick Pinion with wonderfully deep vocals. However, I only managed to come back into the room for ‘The Road Journals’ as I was being smashed against a wall during the set, there was literally no room, and ended up storming out annoyed and frustrated, going outside to calm down. Even after ‘The Road Journals’ I was pushed out of the room again due to masses. However, I still feel I can do Carcer City justice, with full evidence of the overcrowding, the destructive atmosphere and due to the fact that I have actually seen them before, not too long back, in Stereo, York with Surrey’s finest Polar. All in all the crowd were loving it, stage diving off the bar, and whirling into an absolute frenzy to the synchronised band movements. Pity I missed a lot of the set, awesome band.
Now back to the Impericon stage for the absolute legends that are Comeback Kid. The hardcore kings make it so clear that they’ve been doing this for years, with their passion for what they do best – fast-paced hardcore. I love Comeback Kid, there’s no dragging out their set by talking for ages, they just get on with it and everyone loves them for it, and has massive respect for them. Andrew Neufield was born to be a frontman, and an incredible one at that. With flawless performances of ‘G.M. Vincent and I’ and the hysterical ‘Wake the Dead’ the crowd goes insane and explodes with energy they didn’t know they had, all due to being in the presence of one of the best hardcore bands in the world. All hail Comeback Kid.
Heavy metallers The Black Dahlia Murder sure have a lot of fun doing what they’re doing. The band shows the reason they were chosen to headline, and smash the main stage of Ghostfest with brutal force. I hadn’t really listened to this band since I was about thirteen-fourteen, so seeing them was something I could now tick off my ‘list’. Trevor Strnad and Frankie Palmeri (Emmure vocalist) fall into the same category in the terms of someone has really p****d them off, big style. My feet are seriously aching now, day one of Ghostfest is officially over and it’s time to sit in the takeaway and eat fried chicken.
Alarm goes. Time for the second and last day of Ghostfest to begin. For my musical tastes Sunday was the better day overall, as the bands I wanted to see went non-stop until a couple of hours break later on in the evening. First band of the day was Surrey lads Polar, who are hitting up the UK by storm at the moment with their thrashy, big beat sounds and supporting bands such as Defeater and Heart in Hand. But due to many people being hungover, plus the amount of energy drinks and drugs consumed the previous day, Polar did not get the crowd they deserved, and had the difficult task of waking up the Impericon stage. Despite a consistent performance from the band and screeching, engaging vocals from Adam Woodford, fans were just too hungover and on a comedown at this point to really put themselves out there. However, Woodford still managed to entice the movers into a wall of death, and there were hardcore dancers, just not as many as there should have been. Polar just need to be patient, they’re one of the best bands in the country at the moment and they will get the recognition they deserve.
Then it was straight to the Monster Energy stage to watch Welsh hardcore band Crossbreaker. Again, the lads had the burden of many fans on a comedown, or had just crawled out of bed, and there was no waking them up, despite Crossbreaker giving an even and impressive performance. With Crossbreaker’s potential, sure enough like Polar people will realise and come to appreciate them fully. This band really did impress me a lot so after the set I raced off to pick up a tee. Represent.
Grimsby lads Demoraliser are becoming massive and this was shown by the crowd surrounding the Impericon stage waiting for them to come on, as well as people swinging off the banisters as though they were waiting for the headliners. Demoraliser stepped up Ghostfest’s Sunday with loads of movers and the people standing couldn’t help but nod their heads as the band keep it simple and deliver. They absolutely smashed it.
Purgatory Records’ lads Breaking Point were bouncy, energetic and utterly savage with an incredible set that took place on the Monster Energy stage. Due to grimy riffs and relentless energy, BP have mass support from the fans which was reflected around Ghostfest with the amount of Purgatory Records tees, ‘Life Sentence’ long-sleeves and BP hats. The room was packed to ‘breaking point’ as well as before and after their performance fans overcrowding their merch table. One of my personal favourites of the weekend without a doubt.
If you have the chance to see hardcore band Pay No Respect then don’t pass it up for a second, your loss otherwise. Utter. Chaos. Fans played hell with each other inside the tiny Time will Tell stage, and vocalist Joe Kenney’s roaring vocals did not disappoint along with the band’s ruthless hardcore commotion. The chaotic ‘Game Over’ shows how unbelievably good Pay No Respect actually are, who have toured with the likes of Death Before Dishonor, Terror, Madball and Hatebreed.
Southern band Bury Tomorrow are known for their ridiculously heavy live performances and smashed the Impericon stage with their delightfully catchy metalcore. Dani Bates and Jason Cameron flowed back and forth from each other with thunderous to harmonious vocals, and the guitarists were to perfection with everybody banging their heads to the gruelling breakdowns. Anybody who hasn’t seen these guys live before will be astonished by how heavy they are live in comparison to the records.
Finally, after much debate (concerning the clash with the legends that are Defeater on the Monster Energy stage) it was now time for the closing act of the main stage, Victory Records’ Emmure, to send Ghostfest 2012 out into absolute chaos. And Emmure proved more than capable to take on that responsibility. The sound was massive, identical to the records they have produced, and they are clearly on the top of their game now. Frankie Palmeri is a man of few words and has an ultimately soul-sucking stare (‘Look into my f*****g eyes’ in ‘Drug Dealer Friend’) and destructive presence, showing the band’s potential with the colossal response towards fan favourite ‘Chicago’s Finest’ and finally ‘When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong’, with everyone screaming with Palmeri ‘Won’t you be my bride’. Insanely creepy. Top marks, they were absolutely incredible, and they killed it. What an ending to a truly amazing weekend.
Ghostfest sadly over for another year, it was time to self-indulge in lots of fried chicken. Again. Next year cannot come quick enough.