Photos and Review by Chandler Mays
Nophest is described as “a non-corporate, no-bullshit music festival thrown every year in Atlanta”. After its sixth successful go-round, Nophest has become a highly respected festival that seems to keep improving each subsequent year. With the amount of raw talent showcased over the jam-packed weekend, you begin to feel as if you’ve committed a crime for only having paid $10 for a day’s worth of incredible and varied live music. I began my Nophest on Friday, and was treated to some of the best live post-rock I’ve ever experienced. The only setback that day was the scheduling issues. Due to some delays, none of the venues were on schedule, which made it almost impossible to plan out an itinerary for the day, and choosing bands turned into a crapshoot. Although I missed a few acts I wanted to see, the day was nevertheless a huge success.
The Ascent of Everest @ The Earl
This seven-member group from Nashville plays avantgarde post-rock coupled with haunting guy/girl vocal harmonies. The best aspect of their sound is the cello player, who infuses classical arrangements into the atmospheric blending of distortion and loud-soft dynamics. Their music aptly conforms to their name, The Ascent of Everest. The songs would treat you to extended moments of bliss, conjuring images of a barren mountainside, which would then abruptly be destroyed by an avalanche of distortion, all the while still remaining melodic and beautiful. It was quite an emotional experience.
Bearknuckle @ Eastside Lounge
After ascending to the peaks of the Himalayas, it became time to descend to hell’s house party. Bearknuckle is a rock band that effortlessly combines elements of 90′s grunge and classic heavy metal. The lead singer had a spine-tingling scream, and the guitarist would deliver infectious metal riffs in the vein of Black Sabbath. During my favorite part of the show, one particularly catchy riff began to speed up. The song continued to accelerate to three times its original speed, charging like a freight train to hell. The drummer pounded the drums so hard I thought he would pierce a hole in his snare. Bearknuckle provided a rip-roaring, head-banging good time.
Hail the Titans @ The Earl
Alabama’s Hail the Titans was quite a new experience for me. The band seems to suffer from a severe case of post-progressive personality disorder, a musical ailment that I intend to submit for its inclusion in the DSM-5. Their creative style experiments with stark contrasting sounds of ambient soundscapes and psychotic prog-rock freak-outs. These two sounds sit side-by-side within a single song like oil and water, and it keeps you on edge the whole time. Even when the band is serenading you with ethereal guitar melodies, you remain constantly aware of an impending attack of circus robots from the ninth circle of hell. The progressive breakdowns are intense exercises in noise rock, blending haunted house music with video game melodies over insane shredding and drum beats that change time signatures like Carrie Bradshaw changes shoes. Then, as quickly as it began, it would stop, making you wonder if it every actually happened. Hail the Titan’s provided an exhilarating live show, and I highly recommend them.
Reklein @ The Basement
Reklein (pronounced “recline”) is a dj that produces experimental electronic music. His arrangements are glitchy and abstract, yet danceable. Mechanical cricket chirps spattered atop heavy bass beats and dub wobbles that would vibrate your ribcage. Over the beats, he added ambient layers of wavy synth-sounds that permeated the songs’ chattery rhythms and made for a pleasantly versatile electronic trip.
Powerkompany @ 529
I was quite disappointed that I was only able to see the last song from Powerkompany’s set, because that one song blew me away. They closed with “Walking Away”, a minimal and melancholy tune that consists of a faint guitar strum underneath the two female singers’ breathy vocals. The melody was achingly beautiful, and burrowed into my brain immediately. At the end, the lead singer repeated the melody at progressively higher octaves, perfectly hitting super-high notes that many singers wouldn’t dare attempt at a live show. I was left starving for more, and I definitely intend to catch these ladies at their next Atlanta show.
Nigredo @ The Earl
Nigredo is Atlanta’s premiere post-rock band, and I would argue that they’re one of the best post-rock bands in the country. They compare their sound to a mix between Mono, A Perfect Circle, and Deftones. I agree, and don’t know if I could describe it any better. While there’s five members in Nigredo, they create such lush and layered compositions, that at times, it sounds like there’s twenty musicians on stage. To create these layers, they use more pedals and modulators than any band I’ve ever seen, and probably will ever see in my life. Once all of the equipment is set up, there is literally no visible floor-space left on stage. At first, all the pedals might seem a little redundant, but after a few minutes into any of Nigredo’s gorgeously grandiose songs, you immediately understand the necessity for it. While they are a strictly instrumental band, the surprise of the night came when Nigredo was joined on stage by Mel Parsonz, the lead singer of Royal Thunder, who has a transcendent rock’n'roll voice that will shake you to your very core. Nigredo’s screaming instrumentals coupled with raw vocals from arguably the best singer in Atlanta made for an unforgettable experience that sent chills down my spine. Nigredo is a must-see for anyone that has eardrums. This marks my third Nigredo show, and they are only getting better with each passing day. Be sure not to miss their next appearance.
R_Garcia @ The Basement
It only makes sense that one of the co-founders of Nophest is a multi-instrumentalist who belongs to multiple bands. Randy Garcia sang and played guitar in his three-piece band for us at The Basement, delivering punky alt-rock songs with catchy bass-lines and chanty vocals. It was a pleasant change of vibrations for me, because I was still convinced the world was going to end from the Nigredo show.
From Exile @ The Earl
The closing show of Nophest’s friday night line-up was Atlanta’s own From Exile, a melodic death metal band with prog-rock tendencies. After being crushed by multiple walls of sound all night, I didn’t think there was anything left of me to crush… I was wrong. From Exile brought the thunder, and I was reduced to rubble. Their songs are intense and highly complex, full of rhythm changes, thrashing metal riffs, and mind-unraveling guitar shreds. While the unrelenting distortion threatens to break your bones, their melodies also give you an epic, glorious sensation that makes you want to dive off a cliff, land on an eagle’s back, and soar into the sunset… ‘Merica!!
All in all, my Nophest Friday was one for the history books, and I’m curious to see if they will be able to up the ante next year.
Full Gallery after the jump…