Published on May 16th, 2017 | by Gareth Allen0
Ritual Festival – Canal Mills Leeds
Photographs by Lewis Allen
The Ritual Festival is in its second year, and is a one-day two stages event, held at Canal Mills Leeds, focusing on the heavier and more extreme genres of the metal scene, with a dash of hardcore/punk influence. The stage timings are worked out to ensure there are no band clashes, a real plus for the metal-heads in attendance.
Canal Mills itself is a great space, with a really open feel and good acoustics.
A reclaimed textile mill, the wooden beams and stonework are still atmospherically retained. All the food on sale is vegan, which feels to be another bonus.
Conjurer on the main stage, with their post-sludge sound, play a very engaging and powerful set. They create a wonderful sound, where guitars crash around you, and rhythms thrash through the song melodies, accompanied by double death growled vocals. It’s pretty intoxicating, and when the guitars hit a gentle pastoral section, the sense of relief is palpable.
Conjurer commented from the stage on the days line up “Leeds you are being spoiled!”. We certainly were with Conjurer’s set…..a band to watch!
Serpent Venom are a phenomenally tight band, with a driven stoner doom attack. The sound rolls out from the stage in waves, punctuated by Garry Ricketts echoing fierce vocals. Add in some piecing guitar soloing from guitarist Roland Scriver and you have a very heady mix….that seems to have risen out of some deep and evil swamp.
Corrupt Moral Alter on the second stage offer intense grindcore crossed with bags of melodic signatures and blast beats. The screamed vocals are almost spat out at the audience, and there are some awesome break down sections with ringing guitar chords. “Are you having a lovely time…..”, the audience are asked. You bet!
On the second stage, the slam madness that is Crepitation, were absolutely one of the highlights of the festival! They played to a packed audience, who knew all the dance moves and completely let go. With the resultant mosh pit, being only for the bravest of metal souls! Conceived in Mortification illustrates perfectly what this great band are all about .….stunning growled and pig squeal vocals from Chris and Sparky are engulfed by an impossibly fast blast beat led maelstrom, that then segues into a groove laden breakdown section.
The faces of disbelief at the back of the audience are amazing! At one point Chris charges out into the audience to join the slams, accompanied by a crowd surfer carried round the pit. Crepitation are also really good musicians. To play with the ferocity and groove they do, takes real precision and musicianship, and they have loads of it.
Then there is the metal meets dance music finale of their final song, which I probably can’t write the name of here. The surreal intro tape of McMaNGOS I Love Horses sets the scene for one of the best slam dances of the evening. A total musical triumph for Crepitation!
Bossk bathed in blue light on the main stage, create a total sound, that combines power and beauty, in a totally unique take on post-metal. Kobe the final number of the set, from the Audio Noir album, is in many ways their signature song in this respect. Building from a beautiful and danceable guitar refrain, it breaks loose into a metal whirlwind of intense sound and screamed vocals. Another stand out set.
Nothing but nothing could have prepared the Ritual Festival audience for what was to come next. Anaal Nathrakh, without Mick Kenney, stranded with airline problems, took to the stage and lit the blue touch paper! They were incendiary, with vocalist Dave Hunt during the first number prowling the photo pit with menace, and audience members stage diving in increasing numbers. Musically every number was played like it was seemingly the last number the band would ever play on stage. The applause is absolutely massive.
Dave announces midway through the set that “…we are not good inside”, and the whole set seems to rail against the inhumanity often so evident in our world. The Lucifer Effect is a complete tour de force, with the brutal black metal sound having the dial turned up past 10, and Dave spitting out desperately each and every word.
Dave and the band are on absolute fire, and the audience is completely with them on this rollercoaster ride of a set. A career defining set by Anaal Nathrakh who played their hearts out!
All Pigs Must Die mix thrashy metal and punk in equal measure, and attack their set impressively on the main stage. Primitive Fear from the 2013 album Nothing Violates This Nature shows they can also add a groove aspect to their music. Kevin Baker also shows how good a metal vocalist he is, over a completely full on set. They have the feel of a metal Sham 69, one of the pioneers of punk rock, so yes pretty amazing!
Misery Index have an incredibly intense death metal sound, that’s has some great tech death and blast beats that are almost impossibly fast! Mix in some grindcore influences, and its no wonder they get a fantastic reception from the audience after just one number. The pits and head banging that accompany their set literally engulfs the whole of the audience. This is definitely a band you want to catch live. Another festival highlight.
In a coup for the festival, the headliner is Ihsahn, one of the founders of highly influential Norwegian black metal band Emperor. Ihsahn has carved out a very successful and highly respected solo career, that has seen him mix extreme metal with more prog and classical music elements.
After some technical issues, Ihsahn turns to the audience to say “Shall we start the show”, and the audience gestures a mass of devil horns. Opener Hiber starts the set off in very prog mode, with lots of dramatic time signatures and chords, and expansive keyboards, still with the black metal edge that only Ihsahn’s growled vocals can add.
Pulse has some lovely clean and harmony vocals with some very evocative and atmospheric guitar lines, that produce a really romantic feel to the song; and demonstrate the range Ihsahn brings to his music.
My Heart Is Of The North feels the magnificent centre of the set, with its astonishing lyrical guitar riffs and vocal screams, and softer sheltered musical sections, that allow the audience to catch breath. Ihsahn also plays some great intricate solo lines on the guitar.
It’s a great show and at times Ihsahn and his band sound like a turbo charged Mahavishnu Orchestra!
So for the second Ritual Festival an excellent line up, with some real stand out performances, in a venue that really works for an extreme metal festival.