With an increasingly strong metal scene developing in Manchester, it’s no surprise that an underground festival has risen from the depths. Badger Fest has been building in popularity over the months of promotion and excitement set round it by its creator, John Badger. We checked in for the inaugural edition of Badger Fest to see what it can offer an incredible musical area and how the bands got on.
Opening a brand-new festival is bound to be somewhat nerve-wracking, and that’s just what OBSCENE NIHILIST had to do at the start of the day. Playing some of their most popular material such as Netflix and Kill, the band brought a decent crowd in and were a strong warm-up to the festival. Their energy and charisma on stage brought jokes and cheers, and vocalists Gemma and Lee performed well despite some slight nerves. As a band, their performance was tight, albeit seemingly on-the-spot, as they brought forth their extreme metal offering. The vocal exchanges between Gemma and Lee were one of the most enticing parts of their set, yet guitarist Mike Tate was on top form, providing frantic riffs with drummer Luke Shawcross backing him up with plenty of beats. While the performance was slightly shaky in places, it was a good opener for Badger Fest and the bands to come.
REAPER have had quite the successful history in a relatively short period of time. After bringing their take on thrash to the masses of this year’s Bloodstock Festival on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, the band have increased in popularity and Badger Fest recognised it. Some initial technical issues got in the way of their set at the beginning, however they overcame this obstacle with ease and demonstrated their worth with relative ease as they blasted through their material. Reminiscent of MEGADETH and old-school thrash, REAPER injected some incredible energy into the crowd. Area 51 demonstrated frontman Daniel Moran’s vocal and guitar abilities, while bassist Kayne Watson was one of the strongest performers of the band. Lead guitarist Anthony Dalton performed some incredible solos and provided strong backing vocals, making for a set that was hard to see fault with. Overall, their performance was tight and really started to hype up the crowd for the acts to come.
Deviating slightly from straight-up thrash, OBZIDIAN are next to grace the stage of Badger Fest. While their roots may be embedded in thrash, they bring elements of *stuff*. Performing material from both their original and more recent efforts offered a nice, diverse setlist as you could hear their development from more thrash-oriented metal to a hybrid of thrash, sludge, and more extreme elements. Their Legacy Has Failed was one of the most exciting tracks from the set, as vocalist Matthew Jenks brought an incredible amount of energy as guitarist Barry Foster provided bouncy and catchy riffs that kickstarted the crowd going into a frenzy. The energy and precision with which each band member played made them one of the top performers of the night, and set the bar very high for the following acts. Their Badger Fest performance demonstrated that OBZIDIAN are a band capable of going very far with their material, and we’re excited to see what this band can do next.
KRINGER AND THE BATTLE KATZ
KRINGER AND THE BATTLE KATZ are arguably one of the most interesting bands on the Badger Fest bill. Bringing forth a blend of an array of genres, from ska, to punk, to thrash and groove, one would think it was a combination too far and flop. However, when KRINGER AND THE BATTLE KATZ arrive on stage, all doubts are erased as they kick off into material from their most recent EP. Donning badger corpse paint to go with the occasion, guitarists Manslug and Iron Wrist was the highlight of the set, with their energy, crowd interaction and overall performance on point. Vocalist Lunatic Fringe was also incredibly engaging and powerful on vocals, giving it all especially towards the end of the set. The addition of brass made for an intriguing listen, and further helped cement KRINGER AND THE BATTLE KATZ as one of the top performers on the day.
Back into the swing of thrash on the bill, BEYOND SALVATION offer a little more than traditional, in-your-face thrash. The quartet from Manchester slip a bit of melodic influences into their music, which makes for a more interesting listen. One such example of this is the title track for their 2016 record, Ascension. Despite being full of thrashy goodness for the most part, a pulled-back atmospheric section towards the final third of the song completely changes the feel of the song, and such experiences were delivered incredibly well during their set. Rough vocals and traditional thrash riffs from Jon Pedley were the backbone of the set as he was the most impressive performer, with Simeon Moore performing excellently on the drums. Martin Cocker’s backing vocals and guitar work were also strong, as were Karl Stone’s bass support which held the band together as a group. Their act was full of energy and engaged with the crowd brilliantly, which only adds to their appeal.
AMETHYST are a band who are expected to perform at a high standard. In their 4 years of activity, they’ve supported the likes of SEPULTURA and EVILE, and bagged a slot on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage at Bloodstock in 2015, which is testament to their live performances. On the night of Badger Fest this was no exception, with their set being one of the most engaging and well-executed of the night. James Schofield is an excellent frontman, who engaged with the crowd and built up hype for the bands to come. For a band who have only released their debut EP in 2015, AMETHYST are on the fast-track to something rather big should they continue on this trajectory. In a genre that’s becoming diluted with bands of a similar vein, AMETHYST are a breath of fresh air that seem to stand out of the crowd and make themselves known as a separate entity.
Another of the most successful bands on the bill for Badger Fest is DEIFIED, who have a similar success story to that of AMETHYST. Supporting a wealth of big bands and performing at Bloodstock certainly demonstrates a bands ability, yet the bar was being set increasingly higher with each band that performed today. Vocalist Jamie Hughes burst right into material from their latest album, Ascension, while delivering a mix of high and low screams that were reminiscent of Randy Blythe. Despite falling flat on a few notes, his performance was excellent, going hand-in-hand with the ferocious riffs and breakdown-like sections from guitarists Matthew Pike and Alistair Blackhall. More melodic sections, such as that from Lo & Behold, gave a nice bit of diversity to their set, which is beneficial as it’s quite easy for groove to begin sounding monotonous after a while. Overall, their set was tight and thoroughly enjoyable, and more than proved how DEIFIED have had such a successful run so far.
Next up on the bill are IMPAVIDUS, who are an interesting band indeed. Their latest release, Eradication of Mankind, demonstrates their blend of melodic death and groove, which has only developed and improved since they blasted onto the scene somewhat unexpectedly in 2016 with their debut EP. Tonight, vocalist Michelle alternated between clean vocals and growls/screams with apparent ease, which made their set indefinitely stand out as their vocal offerings differed from other bands on the bill. Paddy and Gav on guitar and bass respectively were also on top form, with Gav delivering both crushing riffs and very strong solos, and both providing backing vocals. Badger Fest‘s own John performed on the drums, providing strong percussion support to the rest of the band and tying the whole set together. Overall, their set was strong and enjoyable, with a heavy ‘ARCH ENEMY meets CARCASS’ vibe to them, and certainly worked well with the rest of the line-up.
Up next on the bill are BLOODYARD, who offer some good old-fashioned death metal to the pot. Mixing groove influences into their material, the band stood out on the bill right off the bat for sheer diversity compared to the other acts. Vocalist Donna Hurd dominated the stage and performed excellent lows that suit the music perfectly, with Matty Lee on drums providing intricate drumming support and Nick Adamson shaking the room with devastatingly heavy riffs and complex breaks. BLOODYARD’s performance only aided to build the hype for the bands to come, and lived up to the success of IMPAVIDUS’ set. It provided a dose of incredibly heavy music that differed just enough from the rest of the line-up to almost act as a breath of fresh air from the more thrash-oriented bands of the night. Material from their EP Darker Rage went down a treat, and made it clear to see how they’ve come to support bigger and bigger bands since their origin.
Badger Fest overall has comprised has comprised of nine strong performances so far, which sets the bar incredibly high for the progressive/extreme metal band KRYSTHLA. The pressure was certainly on, but with arguably the longest and most successful career of the Badger Fest bunch, KRYSTHLSA did just that and simply dominated the stage. Adi Mayes vocal performance was immense, with each growl coming with enough force to try and shake the crowd. The progressive and bouncy yet crushingly heavy riffs from tracks such as Luminosity simply lit the stage up, while their significantly heavier sections with spectacular contributions from Carl Davis on bass and Wayne Minney and Noel Davis on guitar provided for an intense set overall which ended the night on the perfect level. For an ending of such a consistent and strong festival, KRYSTHLA sealed the deal perfectly, with a performance that was incredibly hard to criticise.
Emerging as Manchester’s most popular new metal festival, the first Badger Fest was an overall amazing experience to behold. The small and intimate venue of Star & Garter made for an all the more immersive and intense experience, as all bands on the bill performed at the top of their game. We can see very big and bright futures ahead for, not only the bands who played, but Badger Fest itself. With the next Badger Fest being held in Rebellion next year across two stages, we can’t wait to see how this festival develops, and who sits on the bill next year.
Check out our photo gallery from the day’s action at Badger Fest from Occult Photography here: