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LIVE REPORT: Raw Power Festival
Cal Cashin , May 30th, 2018 13:58

At Tufnell Park’s annual celebration of filthy noise, punishing metal and visceral experimentalism

Mirrored Lips photo by Nick Sayers

All manner of vulgar and ugly musical things fester alongside one another to create a truly awesome spectacle at Raw Power. In an inversion of the loathsome Woodstock idea of a utopian free-love festival, Raw Power simply brings dark, brooding and often horrible music to dark (but very well-ventilated) spaces. The results are phenomenal year upon year.

Headline sets from Godflesh (Saturday) and Circle (Sunday) embody the RAW and the POWER. In the red corner industrial-metal titans Godflesh bring a punishing experience - they sound utterly ruthless and the power from GC Green’s bass leaves us quivering in its wake. In the blue corner we have Circle, one of metal’s wackiest propositions. The Finnish six-piece enter carrying vocalist Mika Rättö above their heads - it’s a kind of vaudeville funeral procession in reverse - before Rättö springs to life like an S&M Count Olaf. The group storm through a theatrical set that juxtaposes real fire-breathin’ metal scorchers and camp grandiosity.

Ghold, 11 Paranoias and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs all channel Tony Iommi’s power of mechanised guitar wizardry, with Pigsx7 perhaps stealing the show on Saturday night with their sweaty set at the Dome. The stoner riffing is so almighty, the electric performance from frontman Matt Baty is so raw, and they blast through their set with such prowess: even on a night where Godflesh perform at their brutal best, the band so good they were named seven times are the best in show.

Slowcoaches photo by Nick Sayers

Riff-heavy, hard rocking groups are what I’m here for, but once you’ve seen Pigsx7, Godflesh and Ghold perfect this formula everything else seems a bit fatiguing – luckily, several antidotes to can be found. Slowcoaches’ set is a powerful, full-frontal lesson in noisy skate-punk, while Snapped Ankles channel the power of forest spirits. The Snapped Ankles set is probably the most unusual and in some ways most exciting of the festival. They wear sasquatch ghillie suits while yeti hype-men throw themselves around the crowd, and they use their trademark synthesizer-sticks to create mangled motorik party music that brings rural wilderness to the Big Smoke.

Madonnatron channel the power within - a power that is both supernatural and riled. They stand in battle formation as their barrage of clashing vocal harmonies cascade over the swampy organ-led garage psych. Mirrored Lips followed on a sunny Sunday afternoon - a similarly visceral Russian noise-rock trio who create a phenomenal sound from a drum kit, a guitar and a larynx. Vocalist Lyusya belts out venomous lyrics and performs some kind of frenzied modern dance - it is mesmerising and inspiring.

Raw Power has perhaps made its name through impeccable curation of heavy rock and psych acts but, this weekend, it’s perhaps at the moments that boldly deviate from this great formula that they really strike gold.