As much as I like big festivals, I feel the most at home at Brutal Assault Festival. There’s always a heap of friends, good beer, and not that many stages to cover, so one has plenty of time to enjoy time at the festival and rest. If you would ask me to pick “my” festival, I believe this would be the one, even though this was only my third time attending. The festival took place from August 10th through 13th at Jaromer in the Czech Republic; because of my day job, we couldn’t attend the first day, so we came in on day 2, deck out with lenses like a Christmas tree (I believe I took every one that I own) and was ready to shoot some bands.
Day 1 – August 10th
We kicked the day off with BLOODBATH because it’s not that often to see that many stars on one stage performing at the same time. After that, we popped over to see TESSERACT, a progressive metal act from the UK. I consider myself a rather simple lady that cannot grasp the complex structures of progressive bands, but I had no idea that they had so much energy on stage. We rather enjoyed them and will keep our eyes on them in the future.
After TESSERACT, we opted for something more gloomy and thus went to see STRIGOI, the new side project of Greg Mackintosh from PARADISE LOST. After closing the chapter called VALLENFYRE, he created STRIGOI to explore more extreme sides of metal. This is actually perfect, as I always liked VALLENFYRE but never managed to shoot them live.
Then, we obviously had to see ALCEST, otherwise the world would probably end quite promptly. No one wants that, so you’re welcome! Nothing has changed, I still love ALCEST‘s music more than words can express.
You say JINJER, we go. We need more gorgeous ladies in metal, especially the ones as charismatic as Tatiana Shmailyuk. Then we took a little break and went to see CANNIBAL CORPSE. I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in a park, but DAMN was it intense! Corpsegrinder and co. took no prisoners, no matter if you’re a fan, photograther, or security. Also, massive respect for Corpsegrinders’ T-shirt, which made me chuckle.
To finish the day off, we went to see DARK FUNERAL, as their shows are top class. This time was no different. Harsh, to the point, and otherwise fantastic.
Day 2 – August 11th
We started a very busy day with BAEST, who I’ve wanted to capture for a really long time. Technically they aren’t anything new – they play Scandinavian-style death metal, which makes me want to drive to Ikea to grab lingonberry jam and licorice chocolate. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve heard such music plenty of times. That said, the combination of their high-energy performance and Simon Olsen’s bottom-of-the-bowel vocals sold us completely.
After that, we went to check out ONSLAUGHT, because I can’t ever say no to thrash metal gigs, as they make me as happy as a little pig in the dirt. What followed was the BUTCHER BABIES performance, because who wouldn’t want to see two badass ladies tear up the stage? We sure do!
We considered grabbing a coffee before ABORTED, but then realized – what for? We’re about to be smacked in the face anyway by the wall of sound. It’s good that some things never change.
I’m not going to lie, the last time I saw LOST SOCIETY was quite a long time ago, around the time when they released their first album in 2013 when they were still playing thrash metal. I wasn’t paying that much attention to them later and was quite surprised to see them on stage. I still don’t know what to think of them now, to be frank. Nonetheless, I was very happy to see that the stage charisma still remained and their live shows are still entertaining.
A friend suggested for we go to see and shoot PUPIL SLICER. It was a good choice, as weird combos of mathcore and grindcore are always welcome. Add some lovely stage makeup on top of that and I’m sold.
We didn’t give ourselves any chance to breathe, as we then headed straight for CATTLE DECAPITATION. If that’s what vegetarian progressive grindcore sounds like, then count me in. We really enjoyed their live performance.
After two slaps in the face, we finally needed a little break, so we went to KATATONIA‘s set. Our ears were already half-chewed up by years of sonic abuse by death metal, but we appreciated their gentler tunes for a change.
ASPHYX was one of the ones I really wanted to shoot on that night, mainly because of the sheer length of their career and their somewhat legendary status, as well as the fact that I’ve always enjoyed their songs. No disappointments there, and despite having been playing longer than I’ve been alive, ASPHYX still delivers.
We took a breather during PARADISE LOST and then headed to another death metal banger in the form of BLOOD INCANTATION. I briefly jumped into the pit for AS I LAY DYING, but got kicked out of it rather fast due to massive numbers of crowdsurfers.
We then took a moment to take a look at my favorites from NECROPHOBIC, before heading to see MERCYFUL FATE. I have to admit, after a couple of shows, I’m finally starting to fall under King Diamond’s rule, despite not being a fan of his vocals for the longest time.
We were really eager to see CRADLE OF FILTH, as I had a lot of nostalgic memories of listening to them in my youth. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Let’s just leave it at that. As a fan, I would demand a refund.
We then finished the day with FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, because they’re another one of those bands that we am conditioned to go and see, simple as that!
Day 3 – August 12th
After a crushing day 2, we took it easy the next day and showed up for yet another of my favorite death-grinders, BENIGHTED. The lads played with a smaller lineup, but managed to keep up the high bar of their live gigs. Also, let’s be serious, one can never get enough of Julien Truchan’s pig squeal.
Due to a schedule change, the next band we attended were the Canadians from COMEBACK KID. Despite not really being into hardcore punk, these types of shows are always enjoyable, as the bands typically are on a high-octane energy drink cocktail and pass that on to the audience in a split second.
We did visit SWALLOW THE SUN for a moment (they simply aren’t my cup of tea) and then proceeded to SICK OF IT ALL, who technically performed at a previous Brutal Assault in 2019. Not a complaint per se, as I loved their previous gig 3 years ago. There were no surprises here, as their gig slapped even without my favorite stage jumper to shoot – Pete Koller that is (who had to sit out this tour due to surgery).
When there’s a Polish band playing, I can’t miss it, so we obviously went to DECAPITATED – I’m a proper little musical patriot, especially abroad! Then we headed back for the Canadian black metallers of PANZERFAUST. Subsequently, we went to SUFFOCATION for the second time in 2 weeks because I just adore those dudes. And I might be a masochist, as I really like to be kicked in the gut with their live sets. It just feels good.
The last one for the day was VENOM, another massive legend of the scene that I wanted to shoot for eons now. After doing my job photographing Cronos and co., we called it a night.
Day 4 – August 13th
I was a bit upset that the band that we were supposed to kick my last day off was cancelled (PSYKUP), so we decided to visit the pit to shoot the French technical death metallers from GOROD. HAEMORRHAGE sounded like a grindcore band that I would cry if I’d miss. Excellent choice, as we got way more than we bargained for, especially since we were never sure if their vocalist, Lugubrious, was playing a stage persona or not.
For a complete change, we decided to go spectate a chilli eating contest, as we thought this might be an interesting affair. And entertaining it was! Big respect to the contestants of whom some survived around six rounds of stomach abuse that included three hot peppers, a couple of sauces, and hell knows what else. I would personally sniff the first sauce and run away crying.
We got back on the gig schedule and popped up at SOEN‘s show before heading to the VOIVOD concert, another legendary act on my list that I’ve always wanted to shoot. I first learned about them in my teens, but I believe I was too young to grasp them. Now I can say that I really have a lot appreciation for them.
We then attended Finnish INSOMNIUM because I have really soft spot for Markus Vanhala on stage. After that, we went for MELT-BANANA, a Japanese noise rock band. Since this was my first experience with them, I have to say that it was a bit too much and I would need to try to listen to them a couple of more times. But I believe there are people who’d enjoy this type of music.
From that point on, shooting became a strategic game as it started to rain quite heavily. We were lucky enough to get the drizzle at the beginning of the mainstage concert, and thus we were able to catch LEPROUS. After that, the rain became too heavy and we had to pass on Front Line Assembly.
Fortunately, rain was kind enough for me to capture one of my all-time favourites, SÓLSTAFIR. I think there’s no such thing as too much of those lads and the pure beauty of their music. We then finished off festival and night with MAYHEM – a very raw and harsh show, but definitely one to remember.
To sum up – call me biased but I was happy with this year’s edition of Brutal Assault. For me, these are like yearly family gatherings with a bonus of a gig happening. So yes, I will go next year. So it’s not a goodbye, rather uvidíme se!
Text & photos by Maria Sawicka