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Published: December 8th 2013
Via Praha, I make my way northwards, to Trutnov. I arrive after five hours on three different trains, walk to my guesthouse, and learn that the room I booked has been given to someone else. Unfortunately, I don't have any written booking confirmation, as I only called them up and reserved a room using a mixture of English, German and Russian. The lady at the reception nervously makes a lot of phone calls and checks the internet for a place to stay for that sad-looking creature sitting in front of her, who doesn't even understand her language. After maybe half an hour, she finally succeeds in this task and drives me to a place out of town, which actually seems to be closer to the Battlefield, Obscene Extreme's traditional venue. For an acceptable price, I get my own apartment-type room with toilet and shower, not bad at all.
Wisely, this time I brought some sturdy old hiking boots, just for the festival. I still painfully remember the incidents of people stomping on my sneaker-shod feet of last year, and the rain and mud almost dissolving my footwear entirely. Not to mention my bloodied and muddied heels. More adequately prepared, I
Fuck the Facts
Québécois bastardised grindcore aka mulletcore
walk to the festival ground, which takes me about 20 minutes. Along the way, I meet two British lads, who tag along, as they don't know the directions. They're from Manchester, and here to see their mates from Crepitation play.
At the entrance to the Battlefield, my excitement levels soar and I get all giddy in anticipation of the mayhem that's lurking somewhere inside, just waiting to be unleashed with the help of frantic blast beats, buzzsaw guitars and earsplitting vocals. I buy my first beer and sit down, when...it starts to rain! Bloody 'ell, God, give us a break, will ya? Or is it St. Peter? Anyway, I take refuge with the other wimps under the big pavilion and watch the first few bands play, which fail to make a mentionable impression on me.
As a bridge until the rain stops, let's take a look at some of the band names of this year: Fleshless, Chapel of Disease, Malignant Tumour, Fear of Extinction, Holocausto Canibal, Aborted, Gruesome Stuff Relish, Entrails Massacre. The experienced extreme musick-freak will indubitably be able to tell by those band names what sub-sub-subgenre of metal/grind those bands perform. Other fun names include Mucupurulent,
...and his great and intense blackwork tats
Wormed, Infanticide, Warfuck, Infected Flesh, Cock and Ball Turture and Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition. But what type of music could Simbiose, Wake, Cätärro, Makabert Fynd, Smashing Dumplings and Jesus ain't in Poland possibly play?
The first band I've really been waiting for are Fuck the Facts from Québec. Their highly technical grindcore has been impressing me for at least 10 or so years, hence the anticipation. When they finally start playing, it has that main event-feel that you usually don't expect around 6:30pm. Female vocalists are rather underrepresented in extreme music, so it's always something special to witness a band fronted by one live, especially when the singer does such a great job as Mel does in FTF. Their set is intense, with the songs bordering on the experimental, but never missing that straightforward brutality, with the singer's impressive vocal range the icing on the cake.
After a few breathers, some more beer and spicy vegan goulash, it's time for the most surreal thing I've ever witnessed live in concert: Negative Approach, in 2013. One of the pioneers of American Hardcore in the early 80s, this Detroit band, like many other HC groups of that
Where's the band?
Cock and Ball Torture's somewhere in the background
time, existed for a few years only, put out a few classic records, wreaked mayhem in every town they played, and broke up in 1984 when the in-fighting among its members got out of hand. Without me noticing, they reunited in 2010 for whatever reason.
Them popping up on the OEF digital flyer in 2013 was something I didn't really think about a lot at first. It was only after a while that I realised that this is really going to happen. To put it into perspective: NA are one of the bands that helped shape my values and general outlook during the most important phases of my adolescent socialisation. Although, I do have to mention that I never got quite as nihilistic as John Brannon's lyrics. NA's charismatic frontman had the gift of writing some seriously dark shit.
Now Brannon in his early fifties, but as the band comes out and shreds through the first tunes, you can tell he hasn't lost an iota of intensity. His stage presence is so intimidating that no-one dares to even try to run up and scream along into the microphone he clutches fiercely in his hands. He's still a very
Polish avantgarde grindcore & bizarre noise
angry man. Meanwhile, the crowd laps it up as though they've been waiting for this moment for 30 years. The pit gets pretty rough, but this is an old school-pit, so no bullshit capoeira or floorpunching. Instead, sing-alongs. Everybody appears to know the words, and the stage starts filling up with people fighting over the other mics. Bodies are flying everywhere while John Brannon appears to be glued to one spot. The task of being the conduit for the collective emotions that overwhelm the audience and the rest of the band might be immobilising him, rendering him merely able to scream like his life depends on it. Not knowing what else to do, I stagedive for the first time in many years.
Cryptopsy from Québec wrap things up for the first night. They might be the biggest and best American (note the correct usage of the term, ignoramuses) tech-death metal band, but they fail to impress me. Flo Mounier, the drummer, is a sight to behold, though. He's like royalty in the metal scene, and for good reason, but what's a band without a decent vocalist? Cryptopsy has always suffered from too frequently exchanging their singers, and the case
of 'Let's go this guy' is no exception. Maybe he doesn't know the lyrics, or maybe he has a speech impediment, but still, growling 'ee-o, eeee-o ee-o ee-o ee-o eeee-o, ee-o' for 60 minutes is just lazy. At least they finish their set with their biggest hit, Phobophile, complete with piano intro. If you watch the drummer and ignore the rest, it's still a treat.
Day two starts strong with Six-Score from Austria, a young three-piece who know how to play their instruments and shred at an insanely fast pace at the same time. However, the first real highlight of the day are Cave Have Rod from China. Apparently, they play guttural, groovy cartoon grind, which is an understatement. Before starting their set, they tape a lot of 'used' sanitary napkins on the microphone stands and monitor speakers. Also, the tiny singer quickly runs backstage to put on a dress. By now, I've got an inkling that they might not take themselves too seriously. The crowd is so overwhelmed by the freak factor on display that once the music starts, they immediately start dancing in the silliest manner possible. CHR may not be the most
technically proficient grind band, but their enthusiasm and novelty factor more than makes up for it. After a rather shy couple of songs, they start getting more confident, which prompts the singer to lift his dress and present his Spongebob underwear. Their sound is really quite cartoonish, with the chubby guitar player providing falsetto 'lalalalalala' back-up vocals.
Ratbomb from France provide a welcome relief with their full-on violent grindcore and an enthusiastic little fatty on the mic. Their compatriots from Department of Correction dish out incredibly fast, relentless grind, with the vocalist using two microphones at the same time, although I'm not exactly sure why. I'm guessing one of them uses some sort of harmoniser effect, in any case, it's brutal as fuck.
Another oddity are Coldwar from Ireland. Haven't heard of a lot of bands of the types here presented from Éire. Coldwar's singer has the look of someone genuinely hardened by a life of misfortune, which gives their music (more the sluggish, doom-type of hardcore) a startling authenticity. Also, it appears to slightly intimidate the audience, as the pit is not as crazy and rompish as it was with some of the other bands. He has
Chapel of Disease
That spikes and cut-offs brand of Death Metal from Germany
swastikas tattooed on his face, which some people might mistake for, you know, Nazi shit. It's pretty obvious they were meant to be in a Buddhist, zen-type of context, but I reckon the majority of folks are not ready to differentiate and understand that this sign has been around for a few thousands of years as a sign of peace and spirituality in various cultures. Coldwar are an aberration in a sense that their performance exudes gloom and an intensive acrimony, which fits their music perfectly. Usually a good rule of thumb is, the more brutal the bands, the more easygoing and silly the performance. Most of them are very tongue-in-cheek in their general demeanour. But Coldwar seem to take themselves and their music very seriously, which is definitely not a bad thing, it's just something you don't see that often at Obscene.
It also raises an interesting question: what makes these bands and festival-goers freaks, and how do they act upon it? If you compare the singer of Coldwar to Gadget's (to play later) vocalist, it's like night and day. The first is almost entirely covered by tattoos, including very prominent ones on his face, which indicates that
he chose to exteriorise his inner feelings of otherness and protest, thus voluntarily alienating and marginalising himself in this world. Gadget's screamer could be an accountant or a bank clerk. He looks rather normal, that is. Both scream and grunt and growl their lungs out, uttering lyrics about alienation, religious hypocrisy, frustration with human nature, politics and war.
Manchester's Crepitation look very...Manchester. The band has two vocalists, quite a rarity in this year's festival. One of them sounds like a hysterical cicada getting gang-raped by a swarm of locusts, while the other one evokes a Thai souvenir frog flushed down a toilet, but getting stuck halfway. Not my cup of tea, but their entertainment value is undeniable. The grinders are very much into it, judging by the largish circle pit and incessant stagediving/stagehogging. The highlight is a massive on-stage pile-on with desperate stage-hands trying to dissolve it and push the silly buggers back into the pit. The smaller, stockier of the two singers sums the band's attitude up in a highly quotable statement: "If ya like what ya fookin' hear, give us yer cash, so we can buy some booze."
Sweden's Gadget ripped, but the band in general
and especially the singer have the charisma of a pickled herring. A bad-arse pickled herring, but a pickled herring nonetheless. They are the epitome of Scandinavian reservedness. Or maybe they're just shy. Anyway, I am left slightly underwhelmed. I should mention that this year, there are simply too many Swedish and Spanish bands. Immediately following Gadget are Coldworker and Birdflesh from Sweden. Coldworker features Anders from Nasum on drums, and there's probably nobody who wouldn't rather see Nasum than this band. Birdflesh are fun, their masked performance brings out the best of the audience.
This year's MVPs are without a doubt Birmingham's grind heroes Napalm Death. Probably the only grindcore band that your grandmother might have heard of, Napalm have been seminal in shaping the genre in the 80s. After releasing some very experimental albums in the 90s, they got back on track in the noughties with release after release of relentless, ultra-political grind that continues to push the boundaries. Just like Nasum last year, I can't imagine there's anybody present who's not looking forward to their set. And it surely doesn't disappoint. Their singer Barney Greenway's voice is not unlike the Cookie Monster's. Paired with Mitch Harris' shrieking
back-up vocals, ND has a unique sound that is highly recognisable and has stood the test of time. Their stellar performance ends this day on a high note for me.
My brekkie on day 3 consists of a banana, some bread rolls, cottage cheese and milk coffee that I bought in a nearby supermarket. The grassed areas outside the shop are dotted with festival-goers who lounge around drinking their breakfast beer or are busy munching on salami or other meaty things to get a break from the vegan and vegetarian food available inside the Battlefield. The petrol station owner must be the happiest man in Trutnov on this weekend. His is the closest shop to the festival area, and many people are camping in the parking lot and getting all their supplies from the little market inside the station. Nearby mobile snack stalls are making a fortune as well, catering especially to the carnivores, with many traditional meat-heavy Czech dishes on offer. Fortunately for all involved, the weather has been warm and dry, apart from the short shower on the first day.
Some of the day's first bands I find rather boring. I do
like the Frenchies from Warfuck, though. They continue the tradition of great grind duos with a non-stop aural assault that makes you forget bass guitars even exist. Horsebastard are from Liverpool, but to me, they look very Manchester as well. They're called Bob, Pete and Trip. Just like their names, their songs are short bursts of violent intensity. The audience loves it, especially the frantically headbanging horse in the front row. In between the songs, the singer mostly talks about getting drunk and fucked up. What's in the water in North England?
Japan's Sete Star Sept prove that the most headscratching band names are from Asian groups. Cave Have Rod and Sete Star Sept, say what? SSS consist of a female bass player and a drummer. The sound guy desperately tries to fix their sound, but gives up after a while due to lack of a common language. As a result, what is actually audible during their set is a big mush with some percussion on top. The chick basically just beats up her bass, screams and growls while rolling her eyes into the back of her head. The guy on drums randomly hammers away at what his sticks
are able to find. Still, the people appreciate their effort and over-the-top Japaneseness. During the last song, the chick dumps her bass, takes the microphone and launches herself to the floor, where she proceeds to screech and growl while rolling around. Now that's true dedication.
The afternoon passes by with Mucupurulent's groovy grind, Entrails Massacre's high-octane powerviolence and Wormed's ultra-technical deathgrind. When Germany's Cock and Ball Torture play, all hell breaks loose. All of a sudden, everyone with a costume seems to be there, dancing and behaving in a rather silly manner. From somewhere, heaps of inflatable beach balls, toys, animals and other gimmicks are produced and distributed among the crowd. Somebody keeps on throwing confetti. That tall, stereotypical Dutch guy waves a giant dildo about. There are nurses, crash test dummies, NYPD cops, horses, honey monsters and gas masks galore. Everybody loves Cock and Ball Torture! I have to admit, their dirty rock 'n' roll grind makes you wanna move. Also, the unleashed grindergarten is quite contagious.
Spain's horror grinders from Haemorrhage are another crowd favourite. Brazil's Krisiun are pretty good, but too much metal for my taste. The last band for me on this year's festival
are Ratos de Porão, also from Brazil. They've been existing for over 30 years and have shaped the South American hardcore punk scene like no other band. Their set is tight and professional, no sign of slowing down despite their advancing in age and the fact that singer Gordo is turning increasingly into Obeso. Nice to see a proper hardcore pit, similar to the one during Negative Approach's show.
After that, I call it a day. On the way back to my hostel I bump into the guys from Cave Have Rod, who are looking horribly lost roaming around in the dark next to a busy road. I point them to the right direction to the city centre, then ask them to take a picture with me. After the singer's girlfriend takes the photo, they actually want to take one with me as well. For a second, I'm back in Chinar! Out come the smartphones and the angry grindcore faces. Thus 2013's Obscene Extreme ends on a high note. 2014 is promising to be a big year in OEF history, and for me as well. Stay tuned and grind on!
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