MAMMOTHFEST: Northampton Regional Final
Words: Anthony Firmin
It's another trawl all the way down the M6 to Northampton for Manchester Rocks. This time it's the regional final of Mammothfest, hosted by local promoters Hop Events, where the boys from Prognosis feature, flying the flag for Manchester down South. This is going to be tight – there are four worthy bands playing who fought valiantly to get to this stage, so who will get through?
First up are Stereo Skull but a quick look at the stage shows something is amiss, the drummer is missing! The band manage to pull through using drum tracks which, although it produces a cleaner sound, it is lacking that oomph that is needed, the feel and presence of a live drummer can never be truly replicated by other means. The band still work the crowd well and prove popular nonetheless with an interesting use of projections to emphasise their music, although the shouty vocals are not my thing, personally. Even drummerless this is going to be a tough act to follow, would this deflect from a win though?
Walking onstage playing an accordion belies the fact that the use of technology continues with Fleisch. Their sound owes a great deal to Rammstein and Kraftwerk and the level of professionalism is huge within their performance. Their songs are simple, bouncy and poptastic and see’s the crowd getting involved. Control harks back to the early 80’s synth bands but with a harder edge – think of a heavy Depeche Mode. Fleisch are an interesting and unusual curveball and right up my street. Did the use of samples and synths alienate the crowd and the judges or is it leftfield enough to pull them through?
Third on tonight are Manchester prog-metal giants Prognosis who, despite almost every member of the band having technical problems at various points in their set, which were admittedly hardly noticeable to the crowd, pulled through like the heroes they are and winning the crowd over with a set packed with classics. Drones seems to be played at double speed - "it bloody was, someone put 50p in Aaron tonight" guitarist/vocalist Phil Weller later told me - fitting in perfectly with the feel of the event. The number of Prognosis t-shirts is impressive too. Job done? We have to wait to find out because before the result is announced there is one more band to play.
Those Snakes, who came through the same semi-final with Prognosis, are a band who purvey a sense of 70’s prog etched within their heavy metal front. Lots of deep riffs encapsulated with subtle time changes, a sound that is proving popular with the crowd and they certainly have fans in the audience too and to my ears they are much better than they were a couple of weeks back. There is a greater gravity to them tonight, they've kicked it up a notch. Some of their material edges into sludge and doom with obligatory heavy vocals while their last song is a solid piece of thrash. Will varying their styles be enough to win over the judges?
The judges seemed to take an eternity to make a decision for this regional final, the first of 11 which strive to bring the festival even closer to the underground scene, and if I was impartial then it would have been a very difficult choice.
In the end two bands were chosen to go to Mammothfest 2018. The judge felt that Fleisch would be perfect for the black/dark metal stage on the Friday but the overall winners for the evening are: PROGNOSIS. The judge himself, Mammothfest's Steve Dickinson, admitted how tough a call it was, stressing that Prognosis' technical edge was what swung it for him.
Well done to all who took part, and Northampton… it was real, as was the hangover the following day!