BRUTAL ASSAULT 2016 at Fortress Josefov – The 21st edition of the extreme metal festival in the Czech Republic
Extreme metal fans from all over the Czech Republic and beyond have gathered for the 21st edition of Brutal Assault in the old army fortress Josefov. This year has conquered it all – during a four-day marathon, a record number of people had the opportunity to see this year’s crazy line-up, including over 100 bands across all the metal genres.
Despite queues and long waiting times on the first day caused by issues with this year’s new cashless system, this festival has already a long tradition which reflects on the high standard of the organization. Brutal Assault has apologized multiple times for the problems during the start of the festival, but for those who were patient enough to wait through the storm (quite literally) there were four days of quality entertainment waiting ahead. If the festival manages to fix all the problems that arose from the new system, many festivals should take an example from this kind of cashless system – chip right on your wristband that you could link with an online account created prior or during the festival. No need to stand in long lines to load the credit to the chip, an easy way of paying without having to worry about carrying money or some sort of additional card with you, and a comfortable option of refunding the extra money left on your chip.
But let’s concentrate on what really matters and what all the people gathered in Josefov in the middle of August for – music.
Melodic metalists from California, DevilDriver, introduced their latest album, Trust No One, that came out last May. Apart from the new material, about half of the set was taken from the older discography of the band, to joy of the longtime fans.
Even though sound during Neurosis certainly wasn’t the best it could be and the weather was cold and rainy, these guys did not fail to prove once again that not only their records, but also live performances, are on top level. I dare to say the storm even added on the atmosphere and their song “Stones From The Sky” went hand in hand with the weather.
After cancelling their last year’s appearance at Brutal Assault, Mastodon kept their promise and visited the festival this year as one of the headliners. There were a lot of recent songs played, but also some good old hits like “The Wolf Is Lose” or “Blood And Thunder” found their way onto the setlist. Mastodon put on a solid performance and the show was quite nice, but with a lot of fans still waiting outside, what could have been one of the biggest highlights ended up being a lot more average than what I was hoping for, especially compared to last year’s appearance at Nova Rock.
Abbath… Do I really need to say more? This black metal act is a legend that lives up to their famous name. An epic show – great communication with audience that was met with even greater response. As a perfect lullaby for the night, Chelsea Wolfe was the last one to perform on one of the two big stages.
Another American group, The Black Dahlia Murder, are also quite well-known across Europe. With their afternoon set, they might not be the biggest attraction at the festival, but having toured here more than once before, people certainly know and enjoy them. Another legend – Exodus played a lot of old classic songs during their set. Exodus is a band that has influenced countless other groups, and they certainly know how to deliver a crushing set that definitely stands out among the lot.
Not having the chance to see Gojira live before, I was quite curious about this show in particular. Full of incredible energy, whale and crocodile balloons, charismatic frontman Joe Duplantier had the audience going crazy right from the beginning of the set. That was one hell of an experience, and the band positively exceeded any expectations I had.
Dark Tranquility was the band I was looking forward to most of all. And for me, their show ended up as the best performance of the whole Brutal Assault machinery, even though they played on the third, smallest stage. More often than not, the tent where the shows are performed is hardly large enough for the number of fans that gather to see them, and it was no different with Dark Tranquility. The tent wasn’t able to accommodate all the people, and many were left to stand outside. Once again, great chemistry between the band and fans, an amazing performance on the band’s part. Dark Tranquility are one of the bands where you can clearly see how much they love and enjoy what they do, and they do it top class.
Instrumental post-rock from Japan, Mono, was a welcome change in pace, as well as a not-so-overcrowded fourth stage where only a couple of bands played during the whole festival. Parkway Drive with their latest album IRE attracted tons of people. Great pyro show, superior sound and great enthusiasm. This metalcore band certainly knows how to entertain the audience.
In The Woods was one of the many great bands worth leaving the big stages for a while and visit the tent that the third stage was in, together with next band on this stage, Year Of No Light. Certainly not for everybody, but personally their sets were more convincing than those of many of the bands on the larger stages. A more intimate atmosphere fits these bands just perfectly and it was an extraordinary experience in both cases.
Moonspell managed to gather quite a crowd in front of both of the big stages. And no wonder – there were hardly any fans who wouldn’t know the Portuguese gothic metallers, who put on a monstrous show which consisted mostly of the great hits and older well-known songs.
Satyricon celebrated their twentieth anniversary of the cult record Nemesis Divina, and they played the whole album on this occasion. Certainly different from their standard shows, from what I’ve heard from the fans who saw the band before, this was an absolutely unique black metal experience and another great highlight of this year’s Brutal Assault.
Arch Enemy has toured quite a lot in the past two years since they changed their frontwoman. Alissa might not be what Angela was, but I don’t think that it even makes sense to try and compare the two. As much as I will forever regret not seeing Arch Enemy back in the days with Angela, the blue haired Canadian who took her place does more than a great job in the band, and I enjoy their live shows a lot. Even though sometimes I miss Alissa’s clean vocals known from The Agonist, her growling voice is one of the favourite female growls for me.
Last year I had the pleasure to see the German boys from Eskimo Callboy during a small club show. They certainly did well on the big festival stage as well. These guys put on a great show and are really fun and entertaining to watch live. Insomnium is a well-known name and expectations with such tend to be high. Unfortunately, they weren’t met and many people were disappointed. The band certainly have seen better days and better shows. Fortunately, their fellow Finnish colleagues Moonsorrow more than made up for them. The only pagan band on the Brutal Assault line-up this year.
Agnostic Front is also one of the bands beyond their horizon, and having aged over the years, no one can blame them. Even though the performance can’t be compared to what this band once managed to pull off, it’s still very enjoyable.
Behemoth frequents Europe quite a lot, being from Europe and very well-known with playing a large number of live shows, one already knows what exactly to expect from this Polish metal outfit. Not that it’s a bad thing, Behemoth retain their level of quality and set the bar very high. This band just delivers, and it is no wonder that they attract large crowds and headline festivals every year. At Brutal Assault, people had the chance to hear their last album The Satanist in its entirety, but also other well-known hits, including “Conquer All.” A prime example of how exactly great black metal show should look in my book.
All in all, the 21st Brutal Assault was a huge success. Despite a few issues with sound and the chaos during first day, this festival continues to provide an excellent extreme metal experience, and I have no doubt that next year will be just as epic.