23rd to 25th August 2019
Infest 21st Edition with Bitman, Torul, Sulpher, Light Asylum, Witch Of The Vale, Landscape Body Machine, Cacophoneuses, Rave The Reqviem, Dive, She Wants Revenge, Ded.Pxl, Noire Antidote, Future Lied To Us, OhmElectronic, Kaelan Mikla, Nitzer Ebb
Infest is an annual UK festival celebrating alternative electronic music since 1998. Each August Bank Holiday weekend Bradford fills with black clad people seeking their fix of EBM, Industrial and dark electronic music. Internationally recognised, the festival features electro-industrial and dark electronic music acts from far and wide - Canada, the USA, Venezuela and Australia, not to mention the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Iceland and Sweden.
Known for showcasing up and coming artists as well as some of the biggest names within the scene, it’s a friendly festival with an array of activities to draw festival goers together. Extra-curricular activities, for those inclined include - LaserZone (for the Starship Troopers amongst us), Ten Pin Bowling and Ice Skating. This is one of the cool things that makes this festival stand out - it thrives to bring the community together into one great big fun experience. Perhaps this is why the festival has the reputation of being a Goth Summer Camp.
Infest 21st Edition – 23rd August
New to me, a generous mix of Hardcore Techno, brutal beats, songs about biscuits and general mayhem. A sledgehammer of visual experience full of colour, men dressed in mankinis and guest appearances from a dinosaur representing Karkasaurus - who continued to turn up at regular intervals at the festival with charity collection buckets. Yes, this is the kind of festival Infest is - and BITMAN fitted in very well. A fine sonic experience, BITMAN turned up initially hooded and masked and completed a set of high energy industrial-techno, of a similar vein to his band CTRL-ALT-DEL. The skills of Lex Leibert (of BIOMECHANIMAL) on guitar helped add an extra dimension to the pounding beats, making it even more impactful. I mentioned a Sledgehammer of an experience? The cover version of PETER GABRIEL’s ‘Sledgehammer’ was apt, and devoured by the crowd, fuelled on this high energy extravaganza. A fantastic opener to the festival.
I’m a big fan of TORUL, a Slovenian band I first discovered some six or seven years ago. They are an electro act that can be regarded as Synth Pop, with a hint of the 80s, but definitely set in the alternative scene. A three piece band, lead singer and two keyboard players. They have been quite a prolific band in their time, with six albums to their name, but with differing lead singers. “New” man Maj Valerij did a fine job this evening, along with the rest of the band they perfectly covered just about the whole career. Their cover of TEARS FOR FEARS ‘Mad World’ is always a crowd pleaser. In some ways it was a shame they were offered up to the fired up crowd after BITMAN. Synth Pop can be a difficult genre to appear animated on stage, no drums, and only short stints of guitar. Even though I’m a fan, when they left the stage I somehow felt a little short changed, not their fault- it’s part of the territory. Perhaps a nod of worship to the high impact energy provided by BITMAN?
Lead singer, Rob Holliday has been part of my listening career for some time, originally popping up playing for GARY NUMAN and providing some fine mixes of Numan’s tracks. He then burst his way back into my listening pleasure playing for THE PRODIGY and MARILYN MANSON. I’ve followed SULPHER for this reason, and have seen them several times. Dressed in their trade mark shorts and boots, most suitable attire for the heat that was now building up in the University halls. A very different kind of energy now pulses through the eager audience, this is no less energy packed than BITMAN - but edgy, gritty, moody and very serious. These guys mean business with their hard Rock sound, bolstered by danceable beats and hard edged electronics. Two talented guitar players on stage, but arguably Rob provides the most visually appealing playing with vertical held guitar playing a plenty. For those that weren’t familiar with the band they were treated to a cover of MARILYN MANSON’s ‘Beautiful People’, a blast of a track loved by all, with Rob’s vocals matching those of the original. The set seemed to be appreciated by all, we were all now re-energised and ready for the final act of the night, the well anticipated LIGHT ASYLUM.
Originally a two piece band, with the addition of a live keyboard player, I’d heard Bruno Coviello was no longer involved, and that Shannon (Funchess) was appearing at the festival alone. This worried me, I prefer at the very least an element of live music, rather than backing tracks. I settled into place to take my pictures, she came on stage and I listened. Admittedly with an open mind, because I like the bands CD sound - I’ve never seen LIGHT ASYLUM play live. I needn’t have worried, I may have preferred a fuller musical experience with live playing… however her voice and emotion carried it. I was soon hooked. There’s a huge homage to much of what I like from 80’s, but packaged in a modern way. Pounding beats, blinding hooks and some great song writing give a performance that stays with you afterwards. Yes, LIGHT ASYLUM’s live performance would be greatly enhanced with musicians playing live, but her voice and sheer commitment to giving the audience a punch in the head with her emotion works. Enjoyable.
Infest 21st Edition - 24th August
Firstly, apologies for missing the first two bands! But, well, you know… However I heard, from all I spoke to, that WITCH OF THE VALE were excellent, and a highlight of the festival.
First coming to my attention at Leipzig, but not actually getting to see them, I was intrigued with this appearance. Sandra is by herself, having never seen them before I am not sure if this is the norm, I have read that she has a partner in crime. Sandra got on with the set, by herself behind her desk. For me, I tend to enjoy this kind of band as a CD band, I’m of an age that prefers to see more musicians on stage that just one. However I did enjoy the set. Visually there was sequences of images on the backdrop which fit in well with the soundscapes created. The dark techno sounds were infused with industrial noise, distortion and included some great melody to complete what was on offer.
Rave the Reqviem
What can be said about these loons that hasn’t been said before? Their reputation of being a fantastic live group follows them with the same faster than light kind of speed bouncing around stage antics. They are a photographer’s gift, playing to the camera whilst they perform - a true gift that not many bands achieve. Sonically they rip into their trademark sound, with precision and high level of musicianship - it’s an enticing mix of electronics and Rock, but not entirely in the Industrial fold. They encompass Dubstep, Drum ‘n’ Bass and Metal whilst they burst through tracks such as ‘Skydweller’, ‘Mono Heart’ and ‘Ikaros and Aeon’. A true highlight of the festival, in my opinion, fantastic performances. I especially loved The Prophets over the top American style accent - reminded me of the vampire hunter kid in ‘The Lost Boys’.
The latest DIVE album sees Dirk Ivens join forces with Ivan Iusco (MINUS HABENS) and Rafael M. Espinosa (GEISTFORM), but tonight he is playing completely solo. I’ve always liked THE KLINIK, Dirk being the lead singer, but have never seen one of his solo DIVE gigs. I knew that he relied on a darkly lit set, only lit with a pulsing strobe light - combine this with his black outfit it was impossible to get any good images of him performing. I’m perhaps not the best reviewer to be giving DIVE a review - I struggle with a live performance consisting of backing tracks. For me, there was little to make the set stand out, one or two tracks I got into, possibly because I recognised them more than the others. On the whole, I’m sorry, it wasn’t for me.
She Wants Revenge
I was relatively surprised to see this band at Infest - a festival known to be based around the electronic sounds of EBM and Industrial. SHE WANTS REVENGE, to my ears, are edging towards traditional Gothic Rock. I have over the years been into such bands, but have always stayed true to path of electronics. Perhaps, like DIVE (but for different reasons), I am not the man to give a favourable review. I’ve not seen them play live before, and wouldn’t purposefully see them again. Very dreary, the set just chugged along. There are some melodies, and undoubtedly some fine musicianship, but combine this with some very poor choice of lighting (Infest has some pretty good quality lighting in its arsenal) I did not enjoy the set. I left the set after about thirty minutes, completely forgetting the DJ ZARDONIC set, by all accounts it was something very special. I thoroughly wish I could have left Saturday night on a musical high, rather than the flat feeling I was left with after SHE WANTS REVENGE.
Infest 21st Edition - 25th August
Apologies again for missing one of the early bands, this time DED.PXL. I must take my reviewing role more seriously…
Benjamin Sch is the man behind NOIRE ANTIDOTE. I’d heard a little about them, he describes his sound as “post-industrial”. Interesting. He arrives on stage, complete with a hood more befitting of the monk from hell. Visual backdrops start, and once behind his desk, the music starts - right, he’s a one man band - this reviewer isn’t wild on such things. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did - much like CACOPHONUSES the night before it worked. The soundscapes created, with aggressive drum beats, melancholic melodies and neo-classical meanderings created an emotion within me - the visuals on the backdrop working alongside the music. Good stuff. The hood lasted around ten minutes, presume it was too hot!
Future Lied to Us
A band filled with members of other successful bands is often referred to as a super group. FUTURE LIED TO US consists of Thomas Lesczenski ([:SITD:]), Krischan Jan-Eric Wesenberg (ROTERSAND) and Vasi Vallis (NAMNAMBULU, REAPER, FROZEN PLASMA) - some of my most favourite bands. It was fair to say I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time. So, the three arrive on stage, two at the desk, one at the front (no drums) - simplistic to say the least. The electro Synth Pop EBM “typical” sounds fill the hall - it’s not an original approach but hell it sounds good. Catchy melodies, punchy lyrics - the quality of the band members shines through as they blast through tracks such as ‘Suffocate’, ‘Embrace A World’, ‘Faded Faces’, ‘Falling’, ‘Drops Of Silver’ and ‘Born In Silence’. The audience seem to get it too, everybody is in a party mood and FUTURE LIED TO US are providing the theme tune. Well worth the wait.
After abysmally, and regrettably missing Craig Joseph Huxtable’s other band earlier in the festival (LANDSCAPE BODY MACHINE) he returns - and I manage to attend! He joins forces with Chris Peterson - both can be considered as electro-industrial pioneers in their own right after being involved in FLA, NOISE UNIT, DELERIUM and SKINNY PUPPY. Both attending to keyboard / mixing duties, they pile into a huge powerful wall of sound. The combination of Craig’s emotional vocals and the resulting synth riffs, sonic shaping and masterful mixing of Chris Peterson creates this power - boy it’s good! From beat laden ‘Everything is Gone’ to the groove of ‘With’, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole of the set.
A three piece band, all girls, from Iceland - a keyboard player, a bass player and a lead vocal. A quite unique sound, despite the traditional leanings. Laufey Soffía (vocals), Margrét Rósa Dóru-Harrýsdóttir (bass) and Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir (keyboards) enter the stage, wading through the dry ice, accompanied by moody lighting. Theatrics are important to the band, Laufey blows smoke kisses from her hands, and moves around the stage, with almost a ballet like flow. She’s dressed in white, long flowing ghostly gown, her hair tied - the lights catching her recent set of braces on her teeth. Accompanied with the synthesisers and old school bass playing, it’s all quite mesmerizing - Margrét and Sólveig are both dressed in black - it’s all acutely gothic. Laufey has a huge vocal range, from subtle to screaming banshee and she is in fine form tonight. There’s cries from the crowd expressing love for the girls - especially Laufey. It’s musically an outstanding set, performed well and they played all the songs the crowd wanted. This band was relatively new to me, and proved themselves to be the utmost highlight of the festival. If you’ve not experienced the KAELAN MIKLA effect, you need to.
What hasn’t been said about NITZER EBB? One of the originals on the EBM scene, starting out in the early 80’s and hugely influential on the scene. These chaps know what they are doing as Bon Harris (programming, synthesizers, drums, vocals), Douglas McCarthy (vocals), and David Gooday (drums) arrive on stage it’s with a confident swagger. They own this show, the crowd and all involved. As they slide into a fast paced set including all of the well-known songs including ‘Join In The Chant’, ‘Murderous’ and ‘Godhead’ its completely obvious why they have stood the test of time. Slick, powerful and armed with a back catalogue most artists would kill for, nothing was stopping NITZER EBB tonight. A mightily impressive end to the 21st edition of Infest.
Infest on the whole has a lot to offer, and is rightly a popular and important festival within the Goth scene calendar. It’s well organised, and the organisers seem to have a knack of choosing a well-balanced selection of bands to keep people occupied for three nights. Combine this with the level of commitment to provide social bonding activities, some great food choices (including vegan), rooms in the university hall of residence, great sound and lighting equipment, ample car parking - and for me easy, well organised access to a press pass. A highly recommended festival. This year there was a “warm up” night on the Thursday, organised by Flag Promotions and Cryonica Music. Bands in included DAS ICH and INERTIA. If this happens next year I will try, again, to get a press pass allowing me to take images - this year I tried to no avail. Four nights in Bradford? Bring it on!
All Pictures by Kevin Stevens (Coast to Coast Image Works)