Temples Festival’s quite phenomenal opening gambit in 2014 was an unmitigated triumph. With great bands, a friendly and up for it audience and an attentive and understanding organisation, there was probably no better festival within the UK last year.
This year’s edition has more bands, with the addition of a third stage, and retains everything else that was great its inaugural year. “One louder” would be a good way of summing up the ethos this year. A slight miscalculation on the thirst for beer means that Sunday is a little dry for some, but it’s a minor gripe in the face of the colossus that is Temples.
Friday gets off to a slightly baffling start with a few stage time alterations, but once Young And In The Way get rolling with their blitzkrieg hardcore, there’s no looking back. Harm’s Way follow in a similar hardcore fashion (although Power Violence has been used to describe them too), pitching up somewhere between early Rollins Band and Entombed. Singer James Pliggue prowls the stage like a cage fighter with a grudge against pretty much everything. Intense is a word that describes pretty much every aspect of the band. Trap Them complete an early(ish) hattrick of hardcore inspired mayhem as vocalist Ryan McKenny heads straight into the audience whilst the rest of the band set about creating a d-beat driven metalcore mash. Only Converge’s blistering and wide eyed charge as mainstage headliners at the end of the day gets close to matching the levels of rage served up here.
It’s not all hardcore fury though, elsewhere, there’s grind to be had too. Pig Destroyer’s first set of the weekend is about as brutal as it gets. Playing to a rammed second stage, they don’t let up from the first second. Black might well be the default setting around these parts, but it’s a white hot intensity that Pig Destroyer kick out, resulting in scenes of chaos in the pit. Their second doom set on Saturday sees them playing a single song; it’s from a completely different musical spectrum, but it is no less impressive.
Setting the bar high for doom early on is the two piece Monolithian, who might just be the heaviest thing to ever come out of Cornwall, but two of the finest sets of the day come from the stoners. Weedeater’s performance on the smaller third stage results in a crush at the entrance with a fair few left to take it all in from outside (it’s loud enough – so it’s not a problem). The solitary security guy does a fine job at keeping order – made all the easier, it must be said, be an perfectly understanding crowd. Bongzilla, who provide the chilled alternative to Converge’s intensity are one of the highlights. Their rolling riffs, humour and continual insistence that everyone get stoned (Stone A Pig is a particular highlight – pun intended) take the edge off what is a pretty intense first day.
Saturday is a little more melodic, at least to begin with. Torche’s set is a phenomenal coming together of solid riffing, pop nous and showmanship. With every song picked with the intension of keep heads moving, there’s not a single moment of rest, even the newer material from Restarter punches home with assured muscle. Goatsnake might not have the pop-edge, but they certainly know a killer riff. After a considerable hiatus, it’s great to have them back sounding vibrant and enthused. The soulful vocals of Pete Stahl (of hardcore legends Scream and the much under-appreciated Wool) give the band a distinct edge, and the new material from Black Age Blues is phenomenal. It’s a set also made notable by what might be the only appearance over the entire weekend of a harmonica and a tambourine.
The first UK appearance of Australian death/black metal lunatics Portal is one of the most eagerly anticipated sets of the weekend. So much so, that the second stage quickly fills to capacity, leaving those outside to wonder exactly what vocalist “The Curator” is wearing on his head today. Evidently there was no time for a cuckoo clock this time around so he opts for an Arabian influenced take on Wordy from Words And Pictures, whilst the rest of the band stick with the classic executioners garb. Musically it’s actually pretty generic, but an Arabian Wordy? You don’t want to miss that.
Along with Black Sabbath, Death and Venom, Celtic Frost are one of the most important bands in terms of influence on extreme metal bands. As frontman of Triptykon Thomas Gabriel Fisher (or Tom G Warrior as he was when he was pioneering Death Metal) quickly establishes his credentials, pounding through a set that possesses melody and nuance, as well as the trademark guitar sound that made his name. It’s a little old-school perhaps, but without the old school there’d be no Temples to worship at.
Worship is about all you can do when Sunn O))) finally take to the stage. They’ve pumped the venue full of dry ice for 30 minutes before they come on, and in the murk, there’s a backline of amps that might well be louder than a jet taking off, and could probably also knock it from the sky. When they finally let the first note ring, the audience collectively exhales, not because they want to, but because Sunn O))) have pummelled the air from their lungs.
Loud doesn’t quite cover the two hours of their droning ordeal. Their music is more physical than anything else. It thickens the air, it rattles the organs, and it is almost possible to touch the notes as they fill the smoke filled venue. On Sunday, there are rumours of people leaving the venue with persistent nose bleeds, which seems entirely plausible. Sunn O))) are impressive, but at times it feels like an assault. They’re the kind of gods you worship because they’re pretty terrifying and awesome, and yet, you worship them.
As might be expected, there are some fairly sensitive souls to be found around the site on Sunday after the relentless pummelling handed out the night before. Swedish ages-of-man-come-to-life death metallers Tribulation provide a big, dumb kick start. Looking like they’ve been plucked from a variety of metal bands from across the years, they’re nothing if not fun. With their fists in the air, Zappa on drums, guitar god posing, and joss sticks, fire and bones attached to the microphone stands they’re a complete riot.
Year Of No Light are a little more refined, their post-rock influenced sludge is almost delicate by comparison to some of the weekend’s offerings but is no less impressive. With no vocals to speak of (or, more accurately, growl of) they could almost be considered light relief. Similarly, Vallenfyre’s Gregor Mackintosh (also of Paradise Lost) has a quick way with a quip and a fine ear for the doomier end of the spectrum. Just what’s needed on a day of recovery.
Headlining the third stage is Voivod, a blast from the past maybe, but like Triptykon, they put in one of the sets of the weekend. The danger of festivals that cater for the more extreme end of the market is that that it can easily become a little po-faced and one track. The likes of Voivod’s old school approach (the cusp between thrash, prog, and speed metal) gives the line-up some balance and a sense of history. Voivod are greeted like a band of returning heroes and rightly so. The past is a strange place, they do things differently there, and by god is it fun.
Following Pallbearer’s delightfully sludgy set is Between The Buried And Me (or BTBAM – if you prefer). A full on clash of prog, NWOBHM and pretty much any genre of metal you care to mention, they’re a masterclass in technique, preferring to dazzle with guitar runs, drum heroics and impressive vocal gymnastics.
Closing the festival is Dylan Carlson and Earth, the pioneers of drone metal. Whilst the likes of Sunn O))) have taken drone in an earshattering, chest-caving direction, Earth has evolved subtlety and nuance over the years, taking on board folklore, folk, and more pastoral aspects. Tonight though, Carlson is in full on rock god mode. The band’s music still has the pulse of a pachyderm in need of a pacemaker, but somehow cutting rockstar shapes as the motifs slowly establish themselves makes perfect sense. It’s a bubble that’s slightly punctured at the half way point when Carlson breaks his guitar, and spends a good five minutes locating a spare. Once back on track though, Earth are utterly sublime and a perfect way to end a perfect weekend.
Next year’s dates have already been announced. Expect great things, after all, third time’s a charm and the first two attempts have been nothing short of extraordinary.