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infest2021Bradford University, Bradford, UK
28th August 2021
“Stay-In-Fest” (Infest) 2021 with Live on Stage: Portion Control, Tapewyrm, Witch of the Vale, Zeitgeist Zero, Red Meat, Scene Cover, Byronic Sex & Exile, La Rissa, Bone Cult and Biomechanimal

The Infest answer to Covid: “Stay-In-Fest”. Infest needs no introduction, this long running annual festival was born over two decades ago after a small group of students were asked to run a night for Goths. Over the years it’s grown into one of the key events of the Goth calendar and attracts all the big names in the scene and a multi-national crowd.

For me and many others it is the UK’s premier pure Goth festival, far superior to the more watered-down Whitby Weekend which now attracts mainstream attention and cosplaying general public. It’s a very special event, a large festival family that all melt together, from crew to festival goers, and hasn’t fragmented into arguments. It’s very professionally run and organised but has a sense of warmth and fun. “Stay-In-Fest” was born in 2020 during the height of the pandemic and lockdowns. It was purely a virtual festival in 2020, this year the guys wanted to provide a safe Infest experience and created a hybrid event - giving the opportunity to attend Infest for those willing and those not comfortable venturing into the Covid outside world. The live-stream line-up was DSTR, SHIV R, IAMX, CYANOTIC, NOISOME, A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS, EMPATHY TEST, SPANK THE NUN and NIGHTMARE FREQUENCY.


Massive tunes, dark sounds and full-on attitude. London-based BIOMECHANIMAL are a force to be reckoned with. Powerful and relentless hybrid Metal, Industrial and Drum and Bass. A set so hot and so powerful the fire alarm surrendered! Towards the end of this storming set we all found ourselves outside in the sunshine. Well, it is an Infest tradition I suppose that the fire alarm goes off. BIOMECHANIMAL provided a huge set around this interval. Maybe perhaps a set more suited further up the bill, the guys powered through a short selection of their kick in the eye, body slamming tracks. Matthew as usual giving it his all, an energy that spins a pallet full of Red Bull out into the atmosphere. Full on, fast paced. As always. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t get to one of their gigs.

01. Elder Gods
02. Crown of Glass
03. Desekreator
04. King of Cups
05. Granfalloon
06. Wasteland
07. Enter the Animal

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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Bone Cult

Guys with masks from Nottingham, UK - that have a talent for electronic music in THE PRODIGY territory. They have toured extensively throughout Europe, Asia and USA. I’ve maybe lived under a rock, but I’d not heard any material from BONE CULT before this gig. Since the festival I’ve barely listened to anything else! Powerful energy in a similar vein to not only THE PRODIGY but the likes of PENDULUM and ENTER SHIKARI. Rock-inspired drumbeats infused with chunky guitar and electronics. I was blown away as they relentlessly powered through a great set of (new to me) tracks. Their visuals are great too, the masks work really well and add to the performance. Full on. Energy. Enough said.

01. Realise
02. Tyrant
03. Cruel
04. Feed on you
05. Grief Club
06. Fragments
07. Fever to Stay
08. Miracle
09. Mansion

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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La Rissa

Two misfits making dark electronic Synth-Pop music in an attic in Leeds. Not my words, but their own. After releasing material on a limited DIY cassette as a one-woman band, LA RISSA evolved into a two-piece mixing their 80s electronic analogue synth production and powerful socio-political vocals with big nostalgic beats. Tipped by the BBC as “Ones to Watch” 2021. I love a synth-pop duo. There is something vaguely comforting and familiar about a two-piece synth band. Or perhaps I’m just showing my age and a tad too nostalgic. I’d listened to LA RISSA before this gig, but had not seen them play live. Okay, this will be easy. They are awesome. There is something very special about LA RISSA. Spooky dark melodic tunes? Tick that box - yes, they are there. Fine vocals, oh yes. But there is something very much more, a solid base that the band have built a soundscape that is instantly appealing. First time I’d seen them play; it won’t be the last.

01. Parties
02. Just Obey
03. Ultra V
04. Lies
05. Bodies

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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Byronic Sex & Exile

Joel Hayes (of QUASIMODO, ACTION DIRECTE and VIET BONG fame) latest project. Unashamedly old school broody, romantic, emotional Goth. Lyrically the project deals with themes of passion, insurrection, and doomed personal ambition. It leans heavily on the gothic literary tradition. Check out the latest release, a new album ‘Unrepentant Thunder’. I’ve seen Joel perform several times over the years, he’s a naturally flamboyant performer full of emotion and allure. He exudes an air of Gothic grandeur as he arrives on stage and quite happily creates a mood that transports you into somewhere between Pride and Prejudice and 1990’s Goth. Think of bands such as LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT and SUSPIRIA. Theatre mixes with some classic sounding Goth tunes that many of us loved in that decade. It works, it doesn’t leave you thinking “been there, got the t-shirt”. Forever a Goth festival Infest is regarded as more an electronic festival (in the sense of the likes of EBM, Industrial and Noise), and often slots this kind of surprise into their line-up. The inclusion of a BYRONIC SEX & EXILE version of a purer electronic act, VNV NATION, nods to the crowd’s grass roots. It was a highlight of the festival, a gorgeous take of a favourite song. Joel also show-cased tracks from the new album. Very enjoyable stuff.

01. Intro - Sinead O’Connor, ‘War’
02. Destiny
03. Your Name On The Wind
04. Kingdom (VNV Nation)
05. Death Or Joy!
06. Hercules

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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A side project of Fitz from SKINJOB born from a performance on “Stay-In-Fest” virtual festival in 2020. Fitz breaks down well known electronic EBM and other electronic genre tracks into stripped out beautiful acoustic versions. The anticipation from everybody in the crowd was high, they’d enjoyed the SCENECOVER set in 2020. I’d heard the soundcheck earlier, and knew Fitz was going to play at least two of my favourite tracks. He sat behind his piano keyboard, and played. He sang. The crowd loved it. I enjoyed it, but somehow it didn’t fire me up - even though I’m a big fan of SKINJOB. I’m really not sure what it was, somehow to me it just sounded a little like covers played by a cruise ship band. I have a little bit of a problem with tribute bands, as an example, so I guess I’m not a likely candidate for liking someone singing covers. Fitz had some vocal problems which didn’t help glue it all together for my ears. So, to sum up, it wasn’t terrible, I didn’t hate it.

01. Messages (OMD)
02. Scorch The Ground (Seabound)
03. Eclipse (Apoptygma Berserk)
04. Guardian (Code 64)
05. Going Away (Nitzer Ebb)
06. Regret (Icon Of Coil)
07. My Name Is Ruin (Gary Numan)
08. I Cry (Rotersand)
09. Thy Kingdom Come (Covenant)
10. Further (VNV Nation)

Music: 8
Performance: 7.5
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 8.5 / 10

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Red Meat

Founded in 2020, RED MEAT straddles the gap between 90s Wax Trax style, and Techno-based rhythms and has already taken Bandcamp by storm charting #1 in the Industrial, Electronic Body Music and Industrial Techno charts. Previously Rhys Hughes was known for DED.PIXEL. A truly blistering gig provided by Rhys Hughes and his new project! Wow! What a live introduction! I loved the recently released EP ‘Homo Vulgaris’ and was equally in awe of this performance. The whole set slammed you in the chest, assaulted every cell in your body. Powering, enthralling and completely mind blowing. Awesome energy that couldn’t fail to impress and get you moving.

01. Eat me, Beat me.
02. Harder, Deeper, Darker, Daddy
03. Wrapped in Leather
04. Three Tenets
05. Providence (War.)

Music: 9.5
Performance: 9.5
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9.3 / 10

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Zeitgeist Zero

Industrial Goth fused with powerful vocals and gritty electronics. Based in Leeds, UK their sound is a combination of heavy guitars and industrial electronics and their unique music and dark style have received much favourable media coverage, including BBC Radio 6. Well, what can be said that hasn’t been said before about ZEITGEIST ZERO and their exemplary live shows? I’m at a loss to be honest, my own and (seemingly) everybody else’s reviews have surely made it clear - a fantastically talented powerhouse of a band. Their studio output is rather splendid too, but hell, nothing on their live performance. Their blend of old school Goth aesthetics with characterful electronics verging on Industrial Rock makes for a special combination. Very few in the crowd could keep themselves still as the band urged you to get involved. Not by asking, but by providing an ample soundscape of energy your body can not fail to respond to. Teresa had a slight malfunction of her energetic body movement, and ended up briefly on the stage-floor, but she seemed fine and carried on regardless. There were bubbles, there was love from the crowd. There was a Gothic party, and all were invited. As always, ZEITGEIST ZERO never fail to impress, brilliant.

01. Don’t Pop my Bubble
02. Toxic Twisted
03. Party for One
04. Plastic Diamonds
05. Satanic Sex Witch
06. Dance of the Fallen
07. Pushed to the Edge

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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Witch of the Vale

WITCH OF THE VALE are an unsettling electronic duo from the serene shores of Loch Lomond and the remote Outer Hebridean Isles. Gothic Electronic with Scottish Folk undertones. The duo consists of Erin’s haunting vocal style coupled with Ryan’s synths and drums to produce a performance both compelling and tortured. In 2019 I wrote a review in Reflections of Darkness for Infest - WITCH OF THE VALE played that year. I missed them and kicked myself ever since. All I heard afterwards were the ravings of people who were lucky enough to see them. I caught up listening to them with their EP ‘Changeling’ and of course when the album ‘Commemorate’ was released in 2020. I was now eager, to say the least, to hear them play live - the full-on WITCH OF THE VALE experience.

Arriving on stage they have their characteristic appearance, Erin has her lace eye mask, and Ryan looks every part the guy from the Hebrides. This time he was missing his trademark antlers - he’d left them behind at a friend’s house! The atmosphere was quickly put in place, Witch of the Vale were in the room. The synths, the traditional (enthusiastic and theatrical) drumbeats and that haunting vocal. Completely sublime. How is it possible that musically a painting can be conjured in your mind? A haunting, spectral, eerie, uncanny image musically painted by two artists of immense talent. I’d waited for two years. This was the highlight of the 2021 festival. Perhaps even the highlight of my 2021 in its entirety.

01. Commemorate
02. Trust the Pain
03. Undressed
04. Your Voice
05. The Way This Will End
06. Untitled
07. Boys of Summer
08. Fever

Music: 9.5
Performance: 9.5
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9.3 / 10

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TAPEWYRM is aggressive, unpleasant and hard to shake off once you find it. A seething pit of noise, tribal rhythms, distortion and much unpleasantness. TAPEWYRM is brutality, distortion, beat and aggression. Rhythmic Noize, TAPEWYRM offers a distinctly lo-fi take on the genre, pushing aside the traditional approach in favour of a raw, wall of noise. A massively awesome punch of raw noise. The kind that makes you wake up in a daze, punch drunk and wondering what hit you. If you don’t get the urge to move listening to TAPEWYRM playing live you are dead. It’s that simple. TAPEWYRM came on stage with one purpose. Smack you. Smack you hard. Mission accomplished. I walked away from the stage after the gig, my ears were ringing. My senses genuinely shaken. I’d been TAPEWYRM’d.

01. Entropy (1-4) – Currently unreleased
02. Hierophant
03. Dominion

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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Portion Control

PORTION CONTROL has been creating pure electronic Techno, Industrial EBM beats since around 1980. The band pioneered the use of sampling and were acclaimed for their use of the Apple II computer based Greengate DS3 sampling and sequencing system. A huge legend on the scene, I’ve followed PORTION CONTROL’s music for four decades - boy that makes me feel old! After reforming in 2002 the duo has produced some very danceable music, and in 2020/21 they released the three EPs in a series ‘Seed’. This gig is based on those three EP’s. I can say that these guys still now how to make people move! It’s an awesome gig, with everybody moving - perfect EBM style. Power beats, authoritative vocals it’s band craft at its finest. Simply the best ending to a hugely enjoyable festival.

01. Intro
02. Unwanted
03. Realm
04. Still
05. Telekinesis
06. West
07. Move
08. Regime
09. Gloat
10. PK01
11. Traitor
12. Head Buried
13. Skins
14. Possession
15. Deadstar

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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All pictures by Kevin Stevens

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