Desertfest London 2016 – Day Three Review (Electric Wizard, Elder, Bast)

Desertfest 2016 Poster

After two previously excellent days, the final day of Desertfest London 2016 was upon us. Anyone who missed our coverage of the first two days can catch up here:

Desertfest London 2016 Day One Review
Desertfest London 2016 Day Two Review

It’s a little early in the day to fully appreciate Bast’s [6] genre-bending set, which combines brutally slow doom riffs with a cornucopia of influences from rest of the extreme metal world, creating momentum with superb double-pedal drumming and sporadic black metal tremolo picking. Throw in a smattering of sporadic harsh vocal sections, and a series of increasingly hypnotic, dissonant riffs that drift into the realms of post rock, and the band present a kickstart to the final day of Desertfest that’s certainly more effective than the usual morning coffee, but still feels like its missing a ‘spark’ – then again, it is still early afternoon.

As the day moves on and the festival is fast approaching it’s close, crowds are thronging to Koko for a final night of heaviness. Excitement for tonight’s headliners is palpable, but first, American stoner rock band Elder [7] take to the stage. The slot before a festival headline set is generally reserved for a band capable of bringing the crowd to a fever pitch, and Elder fulfill that role perfectly, but the atmosphere inside the venue is already buzzing as the crowd gears up for one last evening of bank holiday hedonism. The band’s sound falls somewhere between the more psychedelic, progressive elements of the Desertfest lineup, and the old-school pentatonic riffery of classic 70s rock and seminal 90s doom bands such as Sleep. Although these two seemingly disparate elements often polarise listeners, Elder bring them both together perfectly for a set that, whilst diverse, retains a distinct identity throughout, complete with a fittingly psychedelic backdrop that fills Koko’s expansive stage.

A lot of discussion across the weekend has referenced Sunday’s headliners Electric Wizard [8] as a band that has somewhat lost their edge in recent years, with lineup changes that have seen original drummer Mark Greening replaced, and a 2014 album that many felt prioritised the more mainstream, ‘radio-friendly’ elements of the band’s sound over the occult, doom-laden psychedelia that has gained them such a cult underground following over the last two decades. Despite this, if this is a band who’ve lost their edge, I’m terrified to imagine what they might once have been.

Electric Wizard close Desertfest in an absolutely gargantuan fashion, drawing heavily from classic albums Witchcult Today and Dopethrone to deliver an earth-shaking, apocalyptic hour and a half performance which is as psychedelic as it is heavy. The band retain a very old school, ‘jam band’ feel that reeks of ‘70s cool, complete with Jus Osborn’s half sung, half moaned vocal delivery, and backdrop projections that range from mind-bending fractal patterns to motorcycle outlaws. It feels like a fitting way to finish an excellent weekend, a triumphant end to another successful year of England’s premier psychedelic rock festival.

Desertfest 2016 Poster

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