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Ieperfest 2014 - The review
Every year in August, Republyk Vort’n Vis and Genet Records organize a 3-day independent hardcore festival on a little field just outside of the desolate city of Ypres. With its emphasis on political awareness, vegan food, DIY culture and an original line-up that reaches far beyond the confines of hardcore, this festival has become a well-established name within the scene. Of course Metalrage was present, for the sixth time already, to report about the amazing acts that played this festival. Just weeks before the festival the organization had to deal with several cancellations. They picked it up great with some nice last minute additions though. On Sunday they had to deal with the next problem though, but more about that later in this review. Let’s first start with the Friday and Saturday bands.
 

All pictures taken from the facebook account of Ieperfest and are courtesy of Steven Wittevrouw or Arne Desmedt.

 
FRIDAY

 
After a drive of a couple of hours we arrived at the familiar site. Quickly we installed ourselves at the campsite to be just in time to see Herder tear down the newly added third stage, the Trench. This was one hell of a start. Just as furious and vulgar as their recently released record Gods they literally fought their way through their set. Impressive stuff by the sludge / doom metallers. (Gilles)
 
After watching a couple of non typical hardcore bands I was in the mood for some real hardcore without compromises. Two bands from the Boston based record label Bridge Nine gave it to me. First it was Expire that had to deal with extreme showers, but still stood out. Judging from the windbreakers with the Expire-logo on it they made a latest impression on more people than just me. Or, in the worst case for them, they were the only one to sell windbreakers during the extreme weather. Backtrack even impressed me a little bit more. This band is one of the ambassadors of the modern wave of the NYHC and they went on with an immense energy. With the exception of some youngsters up front, the audience was more curious than really looking to show their support. In the end both bands did a good job and gained some more fans. (Gilles)
 
Last year, Jello Biafra, founding father and ex-frontman of the Dead Kennedys, played an excellent show at Ieperfest with his new band Guantanamo School of Medicine. This year we are treated to the band that is allowed to use the original name and still features two other original members. However, it does not even take one song to notice that the Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra is not the real Dead Kennedys. New singer Ron “Skip” Greer, vocalist of The Winona Ryders, tries hard to imitate the characteristics of Biafra’s voice and stage-performance, but it feels very forced. The rest of the band is also not able to bring the same intensity one would expect of the Dead Kennedys. Perhaps no one was really expecting anything special without Biafra, but for such a legendary band the crowd reaction is very marginal. Obviously, one redeeming factor for this band is that they can play classics such as ‘California Uber Alles’ and ‘Holiday in Cambodia’, but even that is not enough to make up for this extremely disappointing performance. (Bertus)
 
With their latest album Eldupp picked up by Pitchfork and receiving a 7.8, you could say Martyrdöd are doing pretty good. Pitchfork hails the album for its versatility and its attempt to expand the genre of D-beat/crust: “Crust-plus” as they call it. Judging from their Ieperfest performance I wouldn’t say crust-plus would be the appropriate term, but rather opt for something in the vein of “crushing crust punk that blows you from your feet”. Despite the fact that the singer seemed to be nursing a pretty horrible hangover, this band shows the Trench how crust-punk should be played. (Bertus)
 
Next up on the main stage it was time for Ringworm and Dog Eat Dog. Both impressed on a different level. Ringworm played a very brutal set with an admirable devotion. How the concert was depended on the position you were standing though. At the left of the stage you couldn’t hear the right guitarist and on the right there was no problem at all. Dog Eat Dog was just a straight up party. With their saxophone player they had an extra trump card to get the party going and they used it well. Their set mainly focussed on the 20 year anniversary of All Boro Kings and it was positive energy and sing alongs all the way from start to finish. (Gilles)
 
This year’s Ieperfest line-up features two grindcore bands that have released a game-changing record in the year 1989: Terrorizer and Repulsion. Whereas Repulsion has not recorded anything else since that point, Terrorizer has released two more albums that have already been forgotten. World Downfall, on the other hand, is still considered an absolute classic and it is for this reason they play the record in its entirety: a real threat for the old-school grinders! With all the right ingredients in place it is only a matter of great execution and luckily we are far from disappointed. The setlist is amazing, the blasting drumming is flawless and the sound is optimal. Despite the fact that the band members are obviously aging, this is definitely one of the hardest performances of the day. (Bertus)
 
With Blind To Faith closing the first day of the Trench stage it was war all over again in Ieper. Floor monitors were literally flying through the air, there were stagedives from the speaker on the side of the stage and there was just overall mayhem in front of the stage. Total annihilation during a short and heavy set by these grinders / sludge metallers. One of my personal highlights of the festival. (Gilles)

 
 
Converge has found their way to Ieperfest for the third time in a few years now. However, despite their recurrence, it does not seem anybody ever gets tired of their energetic performance. Especially since their latest album All We Love We Leave Behind is an excellent output, we are very glad to see them back. While the start of the show seemed a bit stiff, Brandon quickly picked up pace and with more recognizable songs being played, the crowd becomes increasingly eager to participate. Converge might be a bit weird and out there for a massive mosh-pit, which is often the gauge for quality for hardcore bands at Ieperfest, this is an amazing show nevertheless. And despite the fact that ‘Jane Doe’ is unfortunately not included in the setlist, as was the case about two years ago, ending with ‘Concubine’ and ‘Last Light’ is definitely the icing that the cake-called-a-Converge-show needed. (Bertus)
 
A remarkable show for the first-to-last slot of the day is Jesu. Of course this band has been around for ages and has built an incredible reputation for itself, but you would expect the closing band of a hardcore festival to be, well, a hardcore band. Therefore, as expected, the calm and, for some perhaps, sleep inducing music of Jesu caused the tent to get increasingly emptier as the show progressed. However, the few people that remained in the tent were treated to an incredible performance, because once you allow yourself to get immersed in the hypnotizing drones of Jesu, combined with the stunning visuals, you will be temporarily transported to a dark and beautiful space. This might not have been the best programming choice, but an incredible show nevertheless. (Bertus)
 
Seeing No Warning play is probably a once-in-a-lifetime event and I’m happy I had the chance at this year’s edition of Ieperfest! This NYHC-inspired Toronto, Canada based act had split up in 2005 after a couple of releases, some extensive touring and different ideas of directions the band wanted to take. Last year they reformed to do a 7” in support of their old bassist Zach and it a quote of singer Ben Cook was added that “he had no interest playing live”. Fortunately they showed up in Ieper as a headliner on the Friday and for a guy who wasn’t interested to play live Cook was really enthusiastic. With his passion and energy he fired up the crowd as a veteran, while only being in his 20s when I’m correct. Maybe a bit too catchy for some, but definitely a worthy headliner of the day. (Gilles)
 
 
SATURDAY

 
Today we’re starting our day off early with Link, a crust band from Belgium that has been around for quite some time, used to be female-fronted and use a drum computer, but is now a straightforward three-piece. What we get is a very solid performance, where I think the label crust-plus is better in place than with Martyrdöd, since Link’s songs have a lot of diversity. There are slow and epic parts, combined with more melancholic and atmospheric parts, but the fast and heavy crust riffs always remain the basis. For everyone that was still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, this was definitely a good wake-up performance. (Bertus)
 
Playing early isn’t been put away for everyone. The difference was for example big between the shows of Devil In Me and Pushed Too Far. Where Devil In Me tried to be as energetic as possible to fire up the crowd, Pushed Too Far made no impression with their too standard hardcore. During Devil In Me’s show there was some nice chaos going on by the way. The muddy fields of Ieper were transformed into big haystacks by the organisation and this was fuel for the guys and girls in the pit. Hay was flying everywhere and, unless for the people with hay fever, it was fun to watch. (Gilles)
 
One of the many last-minute additions to the program was Agent Orange, a punk rock band that has been around since 1979. However, judging from the fact that they still have to play a 12:40 slot, it does not seem that their long existence has granted them the status of a legendary band. Their performance confirms this, because it is far from spectacular. Sure, the band seems to be enjoying playing for the handful of people that showed up and the setlist is a nice mixture of new songs and songs from the memorable record Living in Darkness. But at the same time, the singing is way too forced and eventually mediocrity is the feeling that reigns after watching this show. (Bertus)
 
Just like the first day of the festival, the shows in the third stage, the Trench, are well attended and make a great impression. Both Redemption Denied and Broken Teeth also try to tear down the stage and they almost literally succeed. Especially at the end of the short set of Broken Teeth things get pretty wild and we’re witnessing the first proper stage invasion. Like this shows in the tent, this is what a hardcore show should look/feel like. Good vibes. (Gilles)
 
As already mentioned in our preview, Church of Misery holds the record of most Roadburn performances, so needless to say we were very excited about this Sabbath worshipping performance of these Japanese weirdoes. Luckily we are not disappointed, because crushing riffs and entertaining dance moves from the singer (which compensate for his lack of English) are what sum up this performance. Ending with their classic ‘Born to Raise Hell’ and ‘El Padrino’, both from Houses of the Unholy, there can be no complaining about the setlist either. (Bertus)
 
Over at the mainstage we had a Baltimore scene thing going on. Many bands were referring to Angel Du$t and Turnstile in their shout-outs, so the bar was set and expectations were high. Both bands did have a high attendance, but especially Turnstile proved to be more than just a hype. Where the reactions at Angel Du$t’s show were a bit tame, except for the handful of guys singing along in the front, Turnstile had the whole festival field on their hands. I should have known judging from the interest in their merch this morning. It’s catchy, they have a nice groove and they bring it with lots of enthusiasm. All in all they just killed it. Would love to see them again! Unfortunately the show they play in my hometown is sold out for months now and I now know why… (Gilles)
 
Misery Index then to pick up the pace. This band has just released their latest album The Killing Gods so obviously we hear some of these new tunes, which do not to be as interesting as the previous material of off, for example, Heirs to Thievery. Especially because of the fact that they seem to have lost some of their pace on the new album. This does not, however, prevent a lot of kids to continually circle-pitting to their songs. When faster songs like ‘Embracing Extinction’ and closing song ‘Traitors’ are played it becomes clear again why we love this band so much. The way drummer Adam Jarvis, who since a couple of years also drums for Pig Destroyer, easily pulls off the sickest blast beats is insane. This band is one big chunk of energy.  (Bertus)
 
The real death metal legends of the evening, however, are not Misery Index, but Suffocation. It’s always a pleasure to see vocalist Frank Mullen on stage. Not only because of his characteristic hand signature during the blast beats and his obvious joy when he is on stage, but he also treats us on a very detailed and somewhat graphic speculation about where and how some of the younger audience members have possibly been conceived (basically: mom is at a Suffocation show, gets drunk, dad sees mom and thinks she’s hot, sex ensues and now the result of this intercourse is here at the Suffocation show again, therefore closing the circle). All in all, I would argue that the festival environment does not completely do justice to the blunt force that is called Suffocation, so I would advice for seeing them play at a club show. Nevertheless they succeed in blowing us off our feet. (Bertus)
 
Any festival at one point needs a band to break with all the clichés. Yesterday we had Dog Eat Dog to give us a break from the serious stuff going on, today it’s Deez Nuts. With their party/semi-gangster hardcore style they delivered what was expected from them. Fun, but of high quality, this was a real party like there was no tomorrow. With the singer from Devil In Me also checking in there was a nice stage invasion during ‘Band Of Brothers’ and there were only smiling faces. (Gilles)
 
2 out of 3 headlining spots for the Saturday were given to NYHC bands. First of all Antidote NYHC played its first ever show outside the United States. In a packed tent they didn’t lack interest and they showed everyone it’s a shame they didn’t sort their passport issues out earlier. With their early 80s hardcore punk the kept the party going and the stagedivers were all over the place. It all came to a climax when Stigmata’s Bob Riley joined them to sing Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above’. Way better than Black Flag’s own attempt last year by the way. (Gilles)
 
One of the most unique performances of Ieperfest is possibly that of Morning Again. The band has only played a couple of shows in the last years since their reunion. As the band calls it, the Ieperfest show is a specific version of the band, namely one that was active between 1995 and 1996 and in which they released the Hand of Hope record, which they now play integral. In a lot that singer Damien Moyal says, it is apparent that the band thinks back to this time with a lot of love. And for many people, this is apparently also a special record, because the crowd reaction is insane. However, for those who are not initiated the heavy ‘90s metalcore can become a little monotonous after a while. Nevertheless, the emotions that the show conjures up and the fact this band is still able to deliver a monster of a set makes this a very memorable one. (Bertus)
 
And whether our throats weren’t soar enough, Gorilla Biscuits entered the main stage to play some more melodic NYHC songs to sing along with. With the highly influential record Start Today this band can’t just do anything wrong and they didn’t. With classic after classic they were a true headliner were everybody had been looking forward to. The attendance was huge, both beside as in front of the stage and all the people were out of control. In a good way that is. Immediately at the sound of a trumpet reverberating over the fields of Ieper the party was on. It didn’t matter whether they played an original song or a cover, the band gave everything and the audience did as well. Just as classic as on record. (Gilles)

 
 
SUNDAY

 
Waking up after a nice little 90s after party and with hearing the rain ticking on my tent was a bit hard, but Toxic Shock didn’t let me down with my choice of seeing the as the first band playing today. I saw them before at Slow End Fest and when the security has to watch the band instead of the audience you know they’re tearing a stage down. Today was no difference, except for the presence of security though. With a fierce and powerful set they were a perfect sledgehammer alarm clock. (Gilles)
 
One of the other last-minute replacements is German hardcore band World Eater. Despite their generic sound and predictable speeches, this band definitely seems to be a crowd pleaser that gets a lot of kids moving already. Of course, if you play a Cro-Mags cover there is not a lot you can do wrong after that. (Bertus)
 
With No Zodiac entering the stage we got treated with some heavy negative hardcore that was as solid as a brick wall. Unfortunately the sound system wasn’t that solid when it comes to rain. Halfway through their set there was an electrical breakdown due to the weather that stopped the show for several minutes. Eventually they could finish their set, but the damage was already done. The organization didn’t want to take any risks with the weather forecast being as bad as it was so they decided to not let the bands play the main stage anymore. After a period of confusion the announcement was made that the Trench stage would be unharmed and that all the other bands, 11 in total, would play the Marquee.
 
Apparently the guys from Cornered already bought their Ieperfest tickets before being asked to play. The tickets they bought were afterwards exchanged for consumption tickets. This pretty much sums up Cornered’s attitude towards hardcore: extreme dedication and emphasis on fun (drinking?) rather than violence and generic principles. And according to the singer one can only have true fun when you start looking into the hardcore classics. Therefore, the set features a Breakdown and Agnostic Front cover. Besides that there is a nice mixture of old and newer songs that all, except for the song that is going to be featured on the new album coming at the end of this year, caused a lot of moshing and singalongs. This band is always a pleasure to watch and hopefully they will be able to take the whole thing to the next level with the new album so they can grow to the more internationally established name that they deserve to be. (Bertus)
 
One of the bands that were pretty decisive for the face of hardcore in the 2000s was Bane. They just released a new album called Don’t Wait Up, but luckily the focus is on most of their classic songs such as ‘Can We Start Again’ and ‘My Therapy’, amongst others. With such influential tunes under their belt and featured in the setlist this turns out to be a classic hardcore show with plenty of singalongs, moshing and positive vibes. Especially the jolly dance moves of the singer are a pleasure for the eye. Before the last song he briefly mentions that the band will be coming back again next year. Let’s hope this means that even though they released their last album, they will continue touring for a while. (Bertus)
 
And now for something completely different: Swedish post-rock band EF. This band might seem a weird fit in the line-up, but they have actually played at Ieperfest before. And I think it is a positive thing to diversify the line-up a little with such bands. That being said, there is actually a lot more merit to this band than simply being a band that diversifies the line-up, because they play their post-rock incredibly well. They stick to most of the post-rock rules: slow build-ups, climatic eruptions and a wide range of strange little instruments, but the execution is incredibly good. Even though their music is pretty much all instrumental, they have the ability to convey a lot of emotion with the music. Something the guitarist needs to let loose at the end of the show when he is screaming his lungs out in the audience’s faces. All in all a very powerful performance! (Bertus)
 
 Just after Maroon had finished in the Marquee there was finally some activity on the main stage again. We assumed H2O would play up next, but on their request the changed with Belgium punk band The Kids to also play the Marquee instead. From that moment on the other bands would play as advertised, but with a little delay of course. H2O wanted to play the Marquee because it’s a smaller and lower stage and they like this better. Seeing as much kids stagedive as I did I think it was a good choice. The audience went wild and the band was in a great shape. With just classic songs the set was over before we knew it, but they left us was a big smile on our faces. (Gilles)

 
One would expect that if the schedule is running incredibly late it is a blessing in disguise when a band cancels, since that would mean you could get back on track. This is not how the Ieperfest organization thinks about it though. When DYS cancelled, Ieperfest immediately replaced the band by Belgian punk-rock oldies The Kids. Even though, apart from a handful of people in front of the stage, nobody really seemed to be eager to see this band perform, they did make the best of it. Fast and catchy no-nonsense punk rock songs that combine very well with the sun that is finally breaking through the clouds. (Bertus)
 
One of my personal favorite albums released this year is Grand MagusTriumph And Power. Prior to Ieperfest I hadn’t expect to see them here live for the first time, but I’m glad the organization booked them. Due to the delay they played at the same time as Boysetsfire did, so the Marquee was badly filled, but the ones we were present were treated with a slick heavy metal show. An advantage was that there were almost only real heavy metal fans present, so everyone was interacting with the band. Banging heads, raised fists and metal horns; a great image on a hardcore fest. (Gilles)
 
Back on the main stage we find Boysetsfire, a band that despite their solid reputation does not seem to have a lot of fans present at Ieperfest. Besides that they also have the problem that because of the wind the sound “blows away” and becomes completely horrible, especially during the clean parts. All of these conditions do not seem to hinder the band from having a good time onstage though. The band members make jokes on stage and the roadie is pulled on stage to show off his feminine pink pants. So despite the horrible sound and the marginal crowd participation, this eventually turns out to be an entertaining show, especially when they end with their classic singalong songs ‘Empire’, ‘Requiem’ and ‘Rookie’. (Bertus)
 
I always have mixed feeling with an Ignite show. Yes, they play solid. Yes, they have catchy hardcore songs. Yes, they know how to play a great, but they do just lack variation. The main reason is the long wait for new material. This has all kind of (valid) reasons, but almost every year touring with an album for this long, 8 years, is just too much. Fortunately they had some new material for us and they just need 3 more songs to finish a new album. Thank god. Nothing to bitch about this particular set, but unfortunately I saw this set too often. Can’t wait till the new record is released. (Gilles)
 
As mentioned before, one of the groundbreaking grindcore bands that are playing Ieperfest is Repulsion. They only released a record in 1989, but the material still sounds incredible. The sound is dusty and a bit trashy, but everything about it is still tight as hell. The guys are also clearly enjoying their time on stage, especially when someone enters the stage who has the cover of their 1989 record Horrified tattooed on his back. For us Repulsion means going out with a fucking blast! (Bertus)
 
Looking back, we had a great weekend in Ieper once again. The organization had to deal with some difficult challenges, the weather and the big amount of cancellations, but they dealt with it in a great way. Respect to them, but also to the shitworkers (the volunteers) and everyone else involved in this festival. We’ll definitely be back!
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