Infest 2019
Nitzer Ebb/She Wants Revenge/Zardonic/Dive/Light Asylum/Ancient Methods/Future Lied To Us/Kaelan Mikla/Sulpher/Rave The Reqviem/Torul/OHMelectronic/Cacophoneuses/Noire Antidote/Ded.pxl/Landscape Body Machine/Bitman/Witch Of The Vale

Bradford University, West Yorkshire - 23-25 August 2019

"Infest remains a fabulous example of what the UK needs"

Infest 2019 poster

Friday 23rd

Bitman - It has become somewhat of an Infest tradition that the first act at Infest is a little different, and arguably a little outside of the mainstream. Bitman start off by picking up that torch, dousing it liberally with petrol and setting fire to it. They start strong, despite some technical issues with power, and leap backwards from the 21st century for a simpler age when cutting edge computer music and graphics didn't involve any guest appearances by Hollywood A-listers.

What Bitman do very well is set out a theme for the whole weekend - whether confident simplicity wins over poorly-handled complexity. Modern technology gives artists the tools to overlay and combine so many and so much, but that opportunity needs a level of subtlety and finesse that is more aspirational than achieved. In this case it means a solid first half of the set descended into a much messier and for me less fun second.

Was it inevitable? Did they run out of material before sense of purpose, or was it just a gimmick as a veneer on alternative-music-by-numbers? By the time we got to Peter Gabriel you either had had more than enough of the joke, or inflatable dancing dinosaurs really do forgive all sins against music.

Torul -  They brought a solid bass-line that filled the stage and got your attention, supported by a performance that fluctuated across the confident and laconic. More than a few moments that hinted at Ian Curtis - where the music really felt like you were at any moment going to be drawn in to a personal moment or story. Then, all too often the track ended without the door being fully opened, and even worse the times when it was slammed shut by an utterly forgettable turgid synth by numbers.

It was a lesson that when your strength is projecting melancholy and other emotion there is really no need to jump so enthusiastically off the path for the sake of a live performance. Someone should tell them less is more, and three no need to hide behind unnecessarily mediocre generic tracks. Fundamentally the slow tracks suit the vocals. The fast tracks, even when they give a passable impression of Covenant and a million other similar acts, jar against the vocal style and leave you looking more lost and confused rather than in control.

Bitman, Infest festival 2019
     Torul, Infest festival 2019    Sulpher, Infest festival 2019

Photos [L-R]: Bitman, Torul, Sulpher

Sulpher - Fair to say not much has changed for these guys in the last twenty years - wall of guitar, real drums - a considered and very deliberate assault on the audience. If anyone listening in the audience have any delicate sensibilities then they won't last the set – and can probably be found crying to themselves at the karaoke. The rock poses, the massive confidence - it's all there, and somehow doesn't manage to feel stale, despite the obvious throwbacks to a much earlier time when Trent Reznor was being feted at rock festivals and the mainstream rock fans of the day were being seduced by the industrial disease. Though, come to think of it, why aren't they getting a bigger audience at Download?

What is obvious though, despite the fact it is a little rude to pick on Marilyn Manson's guitarist for covering a Marilyn Manson track, it is that the track that gets the best response from the crowd isn't an original. Sulpher can keep this up for years to come I'm sure, and their powerful yet accessible industrial rock is almost certainly going to outlast a lot of other parts of the alternative music scene.

Light Asylum - On paper it makes no sense at all - a voice more associated with soul or hip hop being applied to a more electro alternative sound. But, perhaps against all the odds It works. Actually no, it better than works it is a unique and special experience. Undoubtedly there are those who can't – or won't - make the leap from a fundamentally white scene to be open to truly new sounds and styles - but in this case it is truly their loss. Later on there is half a step back from the genius where their voice is modulated to something much more generic and normal. The power is maintained but the sound is more typical.

What remains though is a package that is confident, solid, powerful and demanding. You might not be able to quite place it, or feel, or be entirely comfortable with diversity in your face, but you can't ignore it and have to respect it. Whether you're a promoter or a fan - reject the narrow focus and open your mind to the artists pushing the boundaries of the orthodoxy. If this is anything to go by then there are some really exciting and original things going on.

Light Asylum, Infest festival 2010    Witch of the Vale, Infest festival 2019    Landscape Body Machine, Infest festival 2019

Photos [L-R]: Light Asylum, Witch of the Vale, Landscape Body Machine

Saturday 24th

Witch of the Vale - I really wanted to really like Witch of the Vale. The aesthetic, the influences, the power that was in the contrast between Erin's voice and Ryan's percussion should have been irresistible. The reality though was less consistent as a mix of tracks and what sounded like small technicals meant that some truly exceptional highs were somewhat tempered by lesser experiences. At their heart was an honesty and tradition that translates really well into the Saturday afternoon audience who are looking to build up their energy for the evening to come - who will respond to the self-belief and confidence demonstrated on stage in the punchier tracks.

The heart of criticism of the set is that they didn't always play to their strengths. The highs, when there was more call for punchy energy and power in the voice were sublime and hinted of great things to come. Correspondingly when more subtlety was called for it was more like Erin was struggling to keep her power and passion under control and the overall effect was less for it. Definitely one to watch for the future, especially if they reflect more on their strengths and keep playing to them.

Landscape Body Machine - A solid retro infused performance that shows really well the difference between old and new artists in this scene. If you wait to be grabbed this leaves a lot to be desired - there's no gimmick or hook, no big on-stage personality or idea - but each track is something to close your eyes and be pulled into. If you can manage to let yourself go it's perfectly competent, even good, at what it is. Nothing great, but give it a chance and there's plenty to enjoy.

As the set goes on the music evolves and delivers a potted history of electronic music – raw electronic noise origins, then the introduction of samples, then modern beats and even melody and rhythm. All this certainly shows a range and knowledge, but also struggles not to lose a coherent identity and associated uniqueness on the way. To call it competent sounds overly critical - there was plenty to like overall but nothing that really stood out.

Cacophoneuses - You need look no further than the label for Cacophoneuses to know what to expect. It starts off rather noise-by-numbers which can be very hit and miss for an Infest crowd who generally seem to prefer something with more punch. As the set carried on they got bolder and braver with some less expected elements of melody overlay. The result was hypnotic yet understated, but with the capacity to surprise and wrench you out of your comfort zone if you gave it a chance, and ideally yourself a shove. It didn't at any point stray all that far from safe and predictable, but remain a very creditable and welcome addition to the Infest line-up and an antidote to all those guitars!

Cacophoneuses, Infest festival 2019    Rave the Reqviem, Infest festival 2019    Dive, Infest festival 2019

Photos [L-R]: Cacophoneuses, Rave the Reqviem, Dive

Rave the Reqviem - Oh to be a teenager again! Then I would absolutely enjoy the unfettered fun and energy on stage from the polished Scandinavian metal band who were shocking the Infest crowd more with their choice of real instruments than the occasional edgy f-bomb. In a crowded scene, home and abroad there was a tangible sense of engagement with the crowd, of fun and a female vocalist without any tokenistic baggage or fanfare.

Energetic, accessible and well rehearsed, they're were still repetitive and about as edgy as a beachball. Perfect for the Eurovision song contest, if only they adopted more TV-friendly language. The crowd though, perhaps exhausted by more demanding music earlier on the bill, nevertheless lapped it up making it all a definite case of right place - right time.

Dive - Meet Dirk. Dirk has nothing to prove. Dirk demands your attention. If you choose not to follow Dirk then you should leave the room to those who understand him. You do not need to see Dirk other than the flashes of his presence under strobes as harsh as his tracks. A set that shamelessly indulged old-school fans, but that didn't mean it lost any of its power or ability to pick you up and toss you around with no regard if you gave it even a moment of your attention. It is all simple, and unrushed, and raw. But so, so good.

She Wants Revenge - Extremely confident and professional delivery of US guitar guitar-goth. Each song tells a story with confidence and verve, with the instruments working together with a precision rarely seen on this scene. The only weakness is the crowd - who despite a rapturous welcome seen to be struggling with the lyrical complexity and guitar narrative. It feels like a trademark of this scene is to be intellectual past the point where there is return on the effort, which harkens back to the most pretentious early goth of the 80s.

She Wants Revenge skirt close to falling into this trap and the combination of such an ask from the crowd with the prime evening slot means that some of the audience definitely find it too much. For those who want to listen though, there are some raw and personal tales to be heard and energy shared between those on and off the stage. A solid, sometimes an exceptional performance.

DJ Zardonic - There are times when it is inevitable you will be picked up, thrown in an industrial washing machine by DJ taking inspiration from the Predator and then emerge a few hours later not being entirely sure what happened but would definitely do it again at the earliest opportunity. Yeah. That.

She Wants Revenge, Infest festival 2019    DJ Zardonic, Infest festival 2019    Ded.pxl, Infest festival 2019

Photos [L-R]: She Wants Revenge, DJ Zardonic, Ded.pxl

Sunday 25th

Ded.pxl - Bucking the fine tradition of opening Sunday to the Infest equivalent of a coach party of confused pensioners, many had turned out to be charmed by the nonsense of ded.pxl. Enough like candy floss that you wouldn't pick any track out of others on a budget compilation, but at the time there was certainly sufficient fun to fill half an hour. Not in any hurry at all, an almost prog like devotion to the electronic equivalent of wibbly-woo-wah, and except for a lack of over use of sampling and perhaps speak and spell, virtually a masterclass in fun electronic cliche - that balances an affection for the music and material without taking itself too seriously. Oh, and much better when the microphone failed... proving that for many electronic acts the last thing they should do is imagine they can sing.

Noire Antidote - Finally some bass that makes your intestines vibrate. Noire Antidote provided the perfect level of ambient noise for hiding away from the sun too. Slightly reduced crowd as you would expect for Sunday afternoon without the home team advantage of ded.pixel in attendance. Arguably it lacks hooks and urgency, but has the confident presence, maturity and power to carry you gently and perhaps ponderously along if you let it.

Occasional tentative arrhythmic sections seem a bit of an afterthought, which renders them superfluous, if not distracting. If this is the future, call it 'experimental noise influenced by Witch House' if you like, it has a lot to recommend it. What the choice of this act shows though is the strength of Infest in taking risks with line-ups. It would, unfortunately, be otherwise rare to get such acts outside of mainland Europe now, let alone after the end of October.

Future Lied To Us - Given the collective pedigree there are no surprises in a polished but by-numbers synth-future-pop set. All the classic tropes are here - the down tempo slow track, the more poppy bouncy track - talk of love and loss tugging on synthy-future-heartstrings in a set that passes the time effectively but is at the same time forgettable in a well-served market (including of course other projects of the band members in stage).

There's no doubting they know what they are doing and the crowd know it too. The overall experience feels a bit hollow - like a take-away that is nice at the time, but doesn't really do very much to fill you up. You can dance along, echo the chorus, hear the influence of a hundred other bands and smile. But ten minutes later you will have trouble recalling a single detail.

Noire Antidote, Infest festival 2019    Future Lied To Us, Infest festival 2019    Ohmelectronic, Infest festival 2019

Photos [L-R]: Noire Antidote, Future Lied To Us, Ohmelectronic

Ohmelectronic - Technically interesting industrial electronica, but only competent musically. Some of the tracks really picked up the crowd and got them moving but even that felt like a reward for enduring a lot of very earnestly and enthusiastically delivered average that failed to live up to the promise and made the whole set feel a little empty and unfinished. There was undoubtedly passion and aggression that shone through in places and translated into engagement and presence on stage, but for me it was inconsistent and didn't hang together as a compelling experience. In a rare moment of nostalgia I realised what I felt they were missing to complete the delivery on stage - guitars. Now that was a very strange realisation.

Kaelan Mikla - It's not clear where to start with this diverse act - a female three-piece from Iceland with a hauntingly powerful vocalist and projecting a strong confident sense of identity. Musically they have more than a hint of synth at one end, but with a powerful drum line and guitar that pull towards a rockier direction. Across the set some are more generous to the haunting Icelandic vocals than others, and it's this most unique element that gets lost when the tracks get busier.

The more layers and complexity they try and pull together the more the uniqueness gets lost and the power gets diluted. In the end it is the clearest possible example of how just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and when you have something that can stand on its own and hold the audience enthralled there is absolutely no need to bury it.

Kaelan Mikla, Infest festival 2019    Nitzer Ebb, Infest festival 2019    Ancient Methods, Infest festival 2019

Photos [L-R]: Kaelan Mikla, Nizter Ebb, Ancient Methods

Nitzer Ebb - What's not been said before? Each time I see the McCarthy/Harris (plus added Gooday) roadshow they are looking a little older and a little wider; the technology has changed a little especially around the drum kit; and there's a sense of a cleaner performance - but the confidence, no - arrogance, that sweats out if every pore is the same. The pace on stage might slow a bit sooner each time, but if you get it, and make no mistake not everyone does, it remains awesome.

As well as the individual tracks, which as you might imagine from a band with a solid back catalogue were strong alone, what stood out was the flow. From start to finish the set was unrelenting without hesitation, deviation or repetition. If you don't get it, well, go find something with a few more layers of tracks, more vocal distortion and a higher bpm - there's room for all - at this Infest that commonly involved someone wearing a dinosaur costume.

Ancient Methods DJ set - The perfect coda for three days of bands, if you want to make sure no-one is left standing, is a solid techno DJ and Ancient Methods delivered in spades. For anyone with even the slightest amount of energy left in the house it was an opportunity to burn it off in style. Putting a big name on stage rather the in the DJ booth feels a little overdone, but undoubtedly saves on fiddling with equipment specifications, and the sound is just as good.

Reading back it can easily sound like it was an Infest of missed opportunities, but that would be unfair. It remains a fabulous example of what the UK needs - a taste of a wider world that tries to meet the needs of a diverse tastes in an impossibly short and hectic window. Roll on next year! 8/10

Review + Photos: Simon @ Disturbing

Photos: (C) Simon @ Disturbing

Official Infest website:

See also:
Infest 2018
Infest 2017
Infest 2016
Infest 2015
Infest 2014
Infest 2013
Infest 2012
Infest 2010
Infest 2008
Infest 2007
Infest 2006
Infest 2003
Infest 2001
InFest 2000
InFest '99
InFest '98