These days, the summer offers so many great festivals that it’s not easy to decide where to spend your year-worth of paychecks. We have Graspop Metal Meeting and Alcatraz Hard Rock and Metal Festival, France has Hellfest and Download Festival, Germany has Wacken and Summerbreeze… But after a couple of years, I guess you get the point. Same gargantuan but predictable line-up, same crappy beer (except of course for the Belgian festivals), same boring environment.
But there is hope! For three years now, GRIMM Gent hosts trips to the wonderful festival of Metaldays in Slovenia. Still crappy beer, but a very refreshing line-up with attention to minor genres in a breathtaking environment of mountains and river banks. This year, almost 300 Belgians had the time of their lives for over a week, but it still wouldn’t be enough. Moreover, after the Metaldays experience, all big mainstream festivals just seem dull as hell. What oh what to do about this massive case of post-Metaldays blues?
In fact, there is only one solution if you want to survive this: pack your bags and head to the Czech Republic for their greatest metal festival: Brutal Assault! Voted by Rad Season (and many others) as the best European festival after the big four (Hellfest, Wacken, Graspop and Summerbreeze), this experience meets all the criteria of beer quality, environmental beauty and line-up diversity. With the glorious Czech pilsner tradition, you can drink as much as you want without risking indigestion (it’d rather be alcohol poisoning, we reckon).
In terms of environment, imagine the barbed-wired Warzone at Hellfest or the Prison Stage at Alcatraz Festival, but then for real. Brutal Assault takes place in the historical site of Fortress Josefov, built by the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in 1780-1790 to protect the north of the empire form barbarian invasions. How ironic that over two hundred years later, hordes of metalheads from all over Europe storm the beautiful Bohemian landscapes and flood the fortress walls for three days of extreme metal frenzy! I mean, seriously, how much more metal can a festival site get??? Obviously on such a site, ecological efforts are made and there is a minimal waste policy. Even more heart-warming is that the local metal community actually acts as volunteers to restore and maintain the fortress. Thank you!
Before we address the bands that will play at this year’s edition, there is another feature that makes Brutal Assault different than your average metal festival and more like a metal holiday. Every year, the organization puts a lot of efforts into new sorts of animation on the side. Over the years there have been an indoor sport area for friendly sets of table tennis and so forth, a cozy cinema made from old car seats, a Lemmy Kilmister commemorative hall, coffin exhibitions and freaky art installations… The popular concepts stay, the others make way for even cooler ideas. Curious to see what they have thought of this year! Efforts are also made to keep your stay as comfortable as possible (e.g. camping accomodation and cashless system)
Let’s talk line-up (click here for the running order). All genres are well represented – a feature the organization puts a lot of effort into – but Brutal Assault is mainly an orgy of death metal, grindcore and metalcore. Big names this year are Cannibal Corpse, Carnifex, Dying Fetus, Misery Index, Origin and The Black Dahlia Murder from the USA, At The Gates as the founding fathers of Swedish melodic death metal and their Viking brothers of Unleashed. Other interesting bands worth checking out are – amongst others – Coffins from Japan, the Brazilians from Brujeria and their Andorran friends Persefone, Eskhaton all the way from Australia, the Italian Guineapig and Neocaesar, Pestilence and Ulsect from the Netherlands. Local talent is represented by Anime Torment, Beast Within The Sound, Cuttered Flesh, Godless Truth, Gride, Hypnos, Innersphere and Poppy Seed Grinder (CZ).
Next to death metal, hardcore and punk are also strongly represented by an almost exclusively American line-up. All the titans are there: Broken Teeth, Comeback Kids, Dog Eat Dog, Jasta, Municipal Waste, Suicidal Tendencies and Terror. You might also want to check out the Belgian beatdown of Nasty, the weirdly positive Krishnacore – yes, apparently that is a thing – of Shelter (USA) and the oldschool Brazilian rampage called Ratos De Porao.
Thrash metal is a rather small genre on Brutal Assault, but here too, some nice bandnames adorn the poster for the 2018 edition. Hirax (USA) always puts on a great live performance with their insane singer Katon De Pena – I still haven’t completely gotten over their show at Hellfest 2017 – and the Austrians from Insanity Alert were both brilliant and hilarious on EMP Resistance Tour 2018. Hawaii shirts and bermudas, flipflops and carnival sunglasses, styrofoam plates with the lyrics in sloppy graffiti… Love it when a band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. And then of course, there are also the unstoppable forces of Toxic Holocaust, Act Of Defiance, Exhorder (all USA) and Messiah (Switzerland).
Unlike most big European festivals, Brutal Assault doesn’t really believe in heavy metal bigshots as headliners. No Judas Priest or Iron Maiden or whatever, but there are some bands defending the honor of oldschool heavy metal and hard rock. Danzig is their absolute champion alongside Armored Saint (USA) and local talent Hentai Corporation (CZ) and Malokarpatan (SK). Occult rock has a more interesting line-up featuring the Fins of Grave Pleasures (boy, what a party at Hellfest 2018), Goblin (IT), Aluk Todolo (FR) and Unsane (USA).
Before we address my personal favorite genres, some bands related to the industrial scene are worth mentioning. None less than the Swedes from Pain will perform, as well as Perturbator (FR) and Ministry (USA). If you love this genre but are not afraid of a little black metal, be sure to check out the Czechs of Gorgonea Prima!
So now I can feel my adrenalin levels shooting up! Such a beautiful black metal bacchanal Brutal Assault prepared for us in 2018! With Hellfest and Metaldays 2017 and 2018 fresh in mind, I can personally vouch for the fiery show of Behemoth (PL), the unstoppable energy of Belphegor (A) and Bölzer (CH), the trve cvlt evilness of Carpathian Forest (NO), Marduk (SE) and Mispyrning (ISL), the emotional extacy of Harakiri For The Sky (A), the pagan beauty of Myrkur (NO) and the high quality of Pillorian (USA). Arkhon Infaustus (FR) put up a great show in our own Grimm venue Asgaard, so I’m curious to see them on a bigger stage! Eastern European pearls such as Azarath (PL), Depresy (SK), Root (CZ) and Tormentor (HU) are titillating the imagination and of course Aura Noir (NO) and Diabolical (SE) never disappoint. Finally, expectations are very high for my first live show of the Dutchmen of Dodecahedron. For those who like a bit of folk in their black metal, there are the shows of Cruachan (IRL) who have just released their new album Nine Years Of Blood and their eastern counterparts Ramchat (SK) and Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy (CZ). And while you are at it: PLEASE check out Mortiis and Wardruna (NO)!! Their show at Hellfest 2017 is still hands-down the most impressive festival experience of my life.
Post-metal (and –hardcore), stoner metal, doom metal and sludge offer some more treasure at Brutal Assault. Celeste (FR) was truly heavenly at Hellfest so I’m dying to see them again. They really take the audience to another place in between dark clouds and silver linings… Pallbearer (CAN) and our own Wiegedood (BE) blew the audience away at Metaldays with doom metal and sludgy post-black metal respectively. Also, one should never skip an opportunity to see doom titans such as Paradise Lost (UK) and Obscure Sphinx (PL). The experimental post-hardcore of Rolo Tomassi (UK) has really triggered my attention and I was very pleasantly surprised by the local talents of Daerrwin, Lvmen and Ravelin 7 (CZ). Can’t wait to see them live! These genres are obviously big in the UK, hence the presence of Kurokuma and Dragged Into Sunlight – something we can all relate to this summer.
Finally, for those who like it weird, there is a strong delegation of progressive and alternative bands. Be sure to check out Steve N Seagulls’ (FIN) nutty combination of bluegrass and metal, the eighties brass avant-garde of Laibach (SI), the technical perfection of Akercocke (UK) and the French brutality of Gojira. Czech homeboys Prvni Hore are obviously completely bonkers, but at the same time sound like an enormous party with elements of retro music, Balkan rhythms, movie soundtracks and high-pitched vocals. It’s like they went shopping in the Mall of Music, put all their groceries in a blender and threw that blender off the stairs, but it definitely works! Honorable mentions here are Helmet (USA), Pain Of Salvation (SE) and Sepultura (BRA) (simply because I didn’t know where else to mention them ;-))
In short, Brutal Assault 2018 promises to bring together all the great features of the metal subculture. Not only the best music each genre has to offer, but also our visual culture, respect for nature and love for decent beer and food (try the fried maggots!). A festival that is still underground enough not to be overrun by Metallica-T-shirt-wearing idiots fresh out of high school, but not too underground to guarantee enough diversity. Just get your ass to the Czech Republic and join the party!
Want to start planning your trip? You can find all the practical info right here. No excuses!