Festival Review: Holloween
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With Annihilation Fest tragically falling by the way side earlier this year, the spot for an independent, niche metal festival at Southampton’s Talking Heads has been wide open for several months. Never ones to rest on their laurels, the South Coast’s local metalcore hellraisers, Our Hollow, Our Home, stepped up to the task of giving their hometown the brutal get-together that it’s been desperately needing. Armed with five support bands, a shit-load of breakdowns and the most energetic melodies they can muster, the quintet introduced a sold-out venue to the first annual (and aptly titled) “Holloween” on the 27th October. Every festival has to start somewhere, so the inordinately difficult task of warming up a freezing cold collection of Southamptoners falls to Bournemouth’s hardcore boys, I, the Mapmaker (★★★☆☆). Balancing out melodic cleans, harsh growls and punky riffs, the young group make for a pretty standard, albeit very confident, hardcore opener, setting the tone for the harmonic madness set to follow throughout the rest of the evening. Lifetight (★★★★☆) are an enormous surprise early on, the group’s sheer energy and enormous, hook-laden grooves evoking comparisons to such giants as Hatebreed. One week prior to the release of his band’s debut EP, Self-Tightled, front-man Thomas Smith thanks all of tonight’s attendees for supporting local hardcore, his love for his genre soon infecting the crowd and being met with clear approval. Things are going perfectly until finale ‘Dreams’, the start of which is delayed by technical issues with Danny Reeves’s guitar (similar issues would later affect the microphones of both Holding Absence and even the headliner). Ignoring this one setback, however, Lifetight establish themselves as ones to watch for the very near-future. The arrival of metal stalwarts Shields (★★★★★) marks the night’s halfway point, with their mammoth of a set perhaps making them the best band of the entirety of Holloween. The Talking Heads fills up early, moshpits readily and frequently bursting out in the centre of the venue as Shields provide meaty melodies not only through the massive choruses from clean singer Sam Kubrick, but through his equally catchy guitar leads. The growls of the corpse paint-adorning Joe Edwards provide the perfect counterpoint, loud, brash and frantic constantly. Metalcore may get a bad rap among rock elitists, but Shields prove that the detractors just haven’t been listening to the right bands. Mixing the heavier end of TesseracT with the atmospherics of The Contortionist, Holding Absence (★★★★☆) may not match the speed and anarchy of the rest of tonight’s bill, but what they lack in intensity they make up for in aura. Donning Halloween costumes which range from Ziggy Stardust to the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the five men’s music feels as eclectic as their visuals, giving Holloween its only taste of anything close to progressive rock. Having flown in all the way from Japan to debut on UK shores, Crystal Lake (★★★★☆) make the most of their chance to create a good first impression. In turn, they deliver what can be at least described as a “brilliantly bizarre” set, with their sound consisting of equal parts deathcore, Linkin Park-style rap rock and aggressive dance music a la The Prodigy. The peak comes midway through their charismatic show, thanks to an unexpected cover of Limp Bizkit’s 2000 hit ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’. The nu metal anthem may not fit with the tone of the hardcore-orientated evening, but it’s a certified crowd-exploder nonetheless. The dulcet, metalcore tones of hometown headliners Our Hollow, Our Home (★★★★★) close out the evening, their debut album, Hartsick (2017), being played in its entirety from front to back. As was the case with Shields earlier on in the night, the clean vocals of guitarist/singer Tobias Young are met with raucous sing-alongs as ‘Lone Shark’ kicks off proceedings, the successful singles ‘Throne to the Wolves’, ‘Worms Wood’ and the title track immediately following suit. Connor Hallisey’s growls are among the most guttural and intense of the entire evening, the discordant roars busted out during ‘Worms Wood’ and ‘Karmadillo’ shaking the Talking Heads to its very foundations. It is during their set that the band announces their intentions to turn Holloween into an annual occurrence, finally giving the South Coast of the UK the communal, heavy metal hotspot that it’s been sorely craving. And with the inaugural Holloween not only selling out, but also providing a truly exciting bill packed with some of Britain’s most invigorating hardcore up-and-comers, this undoubtedly drops as welcome news. It almost goes without saying that tonight has felt like a truly special occasion, its intimate environment combining with the sold-out, hugely excitable crowd to craft a spontaneous, unpredictable and, most importantly, sweaty six hours of aural adrenaline. If this lightning in a bottle can be recaptured in a year’s time, then roll on Holloween 2018! Our Hollow, Our Home’s debut album, Hartsick, is available now via Hollow Music.