Hevy festival takes place in the environ of Port Lympne, Kent, in a gloriously isolated piece of ground adjacent to the Wildlife park there. A small festival, this is the first year that it has expanded to a three day event and, given the fact that it is its first attempt, it is a resounding success.
Arriving late on Saturday thanks to a lengthy spell on London’s very own extension parking lot (also known as the M25), SonicAbuse found itself stopping off in a well-appointed car park before proceeding to the main gate where a brief search by the friendly security staff saw us enter the festival grounds itself. Housing a tiny campsite which was already packed, the most notable thing about Hevy festival is the friendly atmosphere with a campsite official appearing to ask if we were OK while we scoured the site for a space (a festival first!) and the assortment of festival-goers mostly interested in enjoying the excellent selection of music on offer rather than laying waste to everything in sight. Having sorted out our faithful tent it was time to head into the arena and check out some bands.
Arriving at the Rock Sound tent just in time to catch the scarily awesome Hexes who come on like the ghost of the late and much missed McLusky with a hint of Refused’s art punk thrown in for good measure, the band play to an enthusiastic crowd and simply exude energy. They will most certainly be ones to watch in the coming months and in the meantime you can check out their album ‘White noise/black sound’ which contains the song ‘Kiss the guns’ which was the highlight of the band’s stage set. The next band we catch is over on the mainstage. Comeback Kid play to a packed field of crazed hardcore kids and after overcoming an initially muddy sound mix (although this was quickly sorted) they unleash a simplistic, yet heavy-as-f*** sound to an appreciative audience. With a nice groove complimenting their hardcore sound and a great stage presence we were just lucky to see the band in such an intimate festival as this. Sucioperro, meanwhile, offer a greater variety of music with a more alternative than punk sound, but disappoint on the vocal front often veering out of tune and lacking the power and precision of bands such as Kerbdog and Wilt with whom they share some similarities.
Trying to catch two headliners in one evening never properly works and we ended up scurrying between the two stages trying to make the best of both worlds. On the main stage Gallows showed true headline presence with plenty of banter between their songs and an excellent command of the crowd as well as a wealth of heavy hitting songs. However, while the crowd undoubtedly prefer Gallows, SonicAbuse was more taken in by the Fugazi-esque squall of the impossibly named and largely hilarious Dananananakroyd who headline the smaller, Rocksound tent. Musically much more adventurous than Gallows and taking the whole thing with a hefty dollop of humour they are the band of the day and, if their vocals initially suffer in the live environment, it’s largely down to the ambition sparking off the group on stage and the necessary inhibitions of playing live rather than a lack of talent. They provided a hugely enjoyable end to the day and set us up nicely for the more metal orientated Sunday.
Given the size of the festival there is not as much to do at night than at the larger venues, but even in the absence of entertainment and with fires prohibited, the festival still maintained its lively and friendly atmosphere late into the night and so SonicAbuse awoke late on the Sunday morning but ready for a day that was to conclude with the mighty Sepultura. However, between us and the headline act was almost ten hours of festival madness. With toilets surprisingly efficient and clean for a new festival, getting up was less painful than it could have been and with a wide range of food reasonably priced food available breakfast was easily sorted. First band of the day Me Vs Hero do absolutely nothing to justify the crowd they receive. Rarely moving beyond a heavy-guitar-followed-by-whiny-and-weak vocal they just sound lame, tired and predictable. They seem to go down well with the kids but a better prospect is the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage which offers up the amazingly tight, Lamb of God groove of This is divine. Sadly having not heard of the band before, SonicAbuse didn’t catch any song titles, but they were a ferocious live act and well worth tracking down. Bury tomorrow on the second stage are less inspiring with some great riffs let down by metalcore’s idiotic tendency to throw a melodic chorus into every damn song (SonicAbuse Vs Metalcore rant #23) which ruins what would be an otherwise damn fine metal band. Happily Sylosis are much more brutal and inject a great dose of heavy riffing and vital energy into proceedings. Very much an up and coming band at the moment, Sylosis are a genuinely exciting force in metal combining the monstrous groove of Kataklysm with the demented rage of Neurosis (whose T shirt the lead singer is sporting) and we’re looking forward to catching them again at Bloodstock, but at Hevy they set things alight at the second stage and the fire didn’t flicker out until Sepultura had razed the stage to the ground.
Next up we have Despised Icon who played to a packed tent (we only just managed to squeeze in the door to discover that the place was an inferno of sweat and adulation) and manage, despite the confines of the darkened hole that represents the second stage, to set up a wall of death that sees at least half the audience go completely mental. It’s an impressive sight and a testament to the searing riffs pouring out of the band that the audience manage their energy levels 100% despite the blistering heat. Tragically this is the last time that Despised Icon will play these shores and credit has to go to the organisers of Hevy for getting such an awesome act to play one of their farewell shows at the festival – it makes for a memorable and slightly poignant occasion amongst the growls and brutal riffs. However, if there’s ever a band who are going to make you feel better it’s the Black Dahlia Murder who amble on stage looking like the internet geeks form next door, make a brief, cheery plea for weed and then reduce everyone in the tent to shivering wrecks with their none-more-heavy take on death metal / thrash that sounds not unlike it’s been ripped from the very bowels of hell by the five grin-sporting demons on stage whose good humour and excellent musicianship receives an excellent reception and brightens the day for all those present.
Seeing Napalm Death at such close proximity is always an invitation to go nuts and that’s precisely what the crowd do as Barney and his merry men do, ripping the heart out of their amazingly prolific back-catalogue and offering up nearly an hour of churning, brutal grindcore the like of which has never been bettered. Songs such as’Nazi punks f*** off” set the crowd ablaze while tracks from seminal album ‘Scum’ are more than welcomed by the enthusiastic throng. With Barney on amazing form and the sound crystal clear an deafeningly intense, this is the best I’ve seen Napalm play and from the blistering speed of the tracks to Barney’s entertaining on-stage banter this would have been show of the day if it wasn’t for the sheer, irrepressible might of Sepultura who close the evening with such a forceful performance that there is no doubt that they’re ready to take on the world once again now that they’ve partnered with Nuclear Blast records.
Celebrating their 25th (really??!) anniversary, Sepultura come pounding onto the stage with the thrilling Moloko Mesto (the opening track of the awesome ‘A-Lex’ album) before leading the crowd through a guided tour of one of the finest back catalogues in metal. Despite assertions to the contrary Sepultura have never released a bad album and it’s noticeable how well tracks from the amazing ‘nation’ album sit alongside the perceived classics from ‘Chaos A.D’ and ‘Roots’. Derrick is a mighty presence, growling his way through the set but also displaying a deft sense of humour (“this is the cosy tent” he states at one point) that is often overlooked when the Seps are reviewed. Highlights come thick and fast with tracks such as ‘Refuse/Resist’, ‘troops of doom’, ‘Ratamahatta’ and ‘convicted in life’ sounding almost pointedly tighter than ever. The final blast of ‘Roots’ sees the crowd go truly ape shit and if there’s any gripe to be had it is that I’d still like to see more of Sepultura’s current material included in the set-list, but then this was a festival set and it’s not surprising the band chose to play what essentially amounted to a greatest hits. As thrilling and essential live as metal gets, Sepultura easily provided the highlight of the Hevy festival and it’s fair to say that not a single soul left the tent disappointed following such a monumental performance.
With the music over and the weekend drawing to a close, Hevy festival shows that to create a great festival doesn’t take a huge amount of money or the latest chart botherers (take note – Reading organisers). What it takes is commitment, passion and a nose for talent (there were so many good bands, both signed and unsigned that SonicAbuse rarely knew which stage to head to) as well as some common sense in how to lay the festival out and the Hevy organisers succeeded on every level. The camp-site was well run and friendly, the facilities clean and well looked after (although the urinals did get a little scary towards the end!) and the choice of music and stalls available well thought out and kept at a decent price. It’s also worth mentioning that the security staff at Hevy was fantastic. While our experiences were largely of the arena entrance and the second stage, the personnel were great – friendly and competent and it was their good humour and professionalism that helped to make the festival such a great place to be. With luck Hevy will be back next year and if you didn’t get a chance to check it out this year it is a thoroughly recommended, well priced and organised festival that offers something for anyone with a love of alternative music.