doomsday@Trillians, Newcastle, August 4 2013

2012’s Doomsday saw Sabbathian acolytes such as Bong and Conan nearly rupture the earth’s crust with their performances, so the announcement earlier this year that the festival  would be back for round two was a welcome one.

And like the inaugural event, the line-up was rich in variety – from sludge to trad doom, noise rock to drone, with the work of Aston’s finest just one of a myriad of influences on show – and bands from across the country sharing the Trillians stage. 

Openers White Veil drew a decent crowd for their short set, and they were soon followed by Tyneside’s 10-legged groove unit Druganaut, whose crunching, NOLA-fried riffs were greeted with raised beers and smiling faces. New tracks like Sex Face and Top Bunk Hunk rubbed shoulders with older gems such as Carradine’s Closet and Smoke The Dead, with tattoo-covered vocalist Craig Relf fronting the band with characteristic, jovial aplomb.

The contrast in style with North East experimentalists Corpse Twitcher was stark. The duo conjure oppressive noise/dronescapes will scare the beyjayus out of you, and like bands such as Sunn o))), aim to redefine ‘heavy’, pulling their listeners straight into a black hole. Their Doomsday set, fittingly, threatened to bring about Armageddon, and shook Trillians to its foundations.

How do you follow that? With the acid drenched psych-blues of Haikai No Ku of course. The trio, who feature Bong’s Mike Vest on guitar, received some of the biggest cheers of the day for their mesmerising (and achingly loud) performance. Showing a very different side to his playing, Vest’s wild, uninhibited guitarwork would have been a joy to witness even on its own, but crashing over Jerome Smith and Sam Booth’s formidable rhythms, it was jaw dropping.

If Vest’s playing was a force of nature, so too was the drumming of Tide Of Iron’s Rob Woodcock. The vocalist/sticksman was behind the kit for Bong’s headlining slot last year, but this time it was the punishing noise rock assault of Tide Of Iron that benefited from his skills: a world away from doom, or anything resembling traditional metal, yet as intense and as punishing as anything you’ll find lurking in the underground, the trio were on blistering form… and it’s no surprise they’ve supported everyone from Unsane to Napalm Death in recent years.

And so it was up to Liverpool’s ‘pastoral’ doomsters Black Magician to conjure the spirit of Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Cathedral et al, complete with the scent of burning incense and mammoth tritones  which could wake old Nick himself. They could be easily lumped into the burgeoning ‘occult rock’ scene on image alone (and the fact that there’s an organist in their ranks), but the quintet are following their own path, and it’s a compelling one, drawing on space rock and 70s prog… why they’re not signed to Rise Above is anyone’s guess.

Lee Dorrian’s label probably wouldn’t be interested in Lords Of Bastard however, despite the Edinburgh boys being one of the most intriguing and quirky bands on the bill. Heavy? Yep. Doom? Not really, but their set, full of twists, turns, pulsing bass lines and tinkled ivories, was a real trip… to where was anyone’s guess, but grounded in some fuzzed out, stoner riffs , it demanded attention.

As did the closing performance from Leeds quartet Humanfly, whose expansive psych-rock, akin to the likes of Earthless or Nebula, rocked a few tired heads and sore necks back into life. At their best when letting loose with lengthy, off-the-leash wig-outs, they provided a memorable finale, despite being one of the lighter acts on the bill.

But their set  – and headline status – certainly proved that Doomsday followed its own rules, rather than any ‘more metal than thou’ dogma, and may have opened a few minds (and ears) along the way.

Let’s hope for a repeat next year…

Richard Holmes