Festival Frolics: Friday, I'll Be Your Mirror 2012.

This may not be Butlins, although the essence of All Tomorrow's Parties is seemingly becoming increasingly well established and correctly configured to the bulkily impressive environs of Alexandra Palace. Last year's inaugural London leg of I'll Be Your Mirror, the festival's flipside in both moniker and manufacture boasted a quite dreamy line up pieced together by Portishead, the dulcet tones of whom enliven every quietened room between nigh on every last band over these three days. Although herein lies an inherent development: thousands shirk whatever it is they'd regularly be doing – however lacklustrely – come Friday afternoon in favour of indulging in a progressive bill of progressively heftier stylisation.

Minor qualms were however raised with the running of last year's festival: teething problems included the clogging of corridors thanks to an unorthodox oneway system through this labyrinthian lair usually reserved for trad headliners yet to lodge the whiff of Wembley up scarcely functional nostrils. And this baby's gums remain bloodied for this heterodox anti-flow remains more obstructionist than operational; as gungeing as the much-lambasted loo taboo to tarnish many a more conventional festival. There's then the inescapable issue of the glass ceilings of the venue's Great Hall attributing a greenhouse effect that, when paired with the searing global warming-radicalised weather beyond, makes for a stifling ambience. However that's probably as you'd thirst for given the heady rundown of pioneering, pedal to the (varying subgenres of) metal to come.
Ill-advisedly perhaps, to hear the corrosive effervescence of Death Grips' The Money Store glare through meticulously, and unendingly marvellously equilibrated PA feels like the introduction of acid to freshly incised gash given their recent retraction from all estival touring responsibilities. With El-P also out the spectrum of genre and indeed all musical scope are concentratedly focussed on guitars and beards and beer-soused "distortion boxes" yet you sense that they who today descend upon N22 – certain shirts abound in accordance with the adherence of those who so unfailingly berate whichever nearby beloved F.C. – couldn't give two Skitzos about any of the intrinsic complications aforesaid.
The festival was similarly berated from some corners of the www. over a deficiency in "big" names yet from the moment both the Melvins and Buzz Osborne's ash-hued hive emerge, no sound could seem more monumental. The Montesano, Washington sludge metal stalwarts' dual drum approach may initially appear somewhat parodical, whilst Osborne's faux-grunting contributes to this impression of the unashamedly histrionic yet further – histrionics albeit fed through some veritably belly-emptying distortion. However all barnyard imitations and howls at the softly rising moon, and adorned in an infantile playsuit-cum-death dress he is the questionably deranged, every-move-a-picture kinda front guy reserved for the unfailingly atrocious who tend to have this place on the flimsiest of tenterhooks smacked into the side of the skull by some rancorous and barely readable mag. And today transpires to be a day for great unconventional showmen of Osborne's ilk although to revel in their groggy mire for a short while, the Melvins are tonight, conversely, utterly brilliant: whether it be an indecorous cover of the Wipers' Youth of America, or the dense wallop of opener Hung Bunny, or the industrial dread of The War On Wisdom from recent Scion A/V-presented EP The Bulls & The Bees that's almost akin to the clunkiest of Queen, they proffer an intensely captivating hour. And they may only be deemed to be bettered in sheer brutality by ATP-endorsed cohorts in laying unprotected ears to waste, Boredoms. They end in a barrage of noise whiter than the epilepsia-inducing spotlights flickering about overhead as Jared Warren fires off thuds of bass as though it were a musket, before thrusting the thing out between crumpled devil horn gesticulations in an appositely dramatic conclusion. Osborne's out schmoozing once they're done and again, although the venue may change the ATP ethos remains. Thus amid one united seethe of throng, its every limb plastered in a variegated patina of tattoo; its every chapped lip sloshed in overpriced intoxicant; its stench of putridity all-pervasive, for the first time this year a convincing festival aesthetic is conjured.
With no clashes and a perhaps somewhat sparse lineup, Friday assumes the feel of a glorified and periodically quite glorious gig; a direct parallel to The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin showing of yesteryear. Clashes are all but obliterated as a consequence although the day certainly burdens the heftiest, most vessel-haemorrhaging stuff of the weekend on its shoulders and as such respite feels imperative. Such stuff still attracts the archetypal eccentrics documented superbly by Jonathan Caouette's visual eulogy to Barry Hogan's brainchild although much of the cast from Heavy Metal Parking Lot seem to have stumbled upon this one; as though freed from the tube-screened confines of ATP TV for another round of elaborately coiffured hedonism and lethargic partying like it's 1986. Such blithe jouissance seems something Wolves in the Throne Room may be yet to fully experience as swathed in an impenetrable darkness the Olympian pairing furnish us with some royally ungodly black metal in the West Hall.
Infinitely more visible and essential to the evening's proceedings is Matt Pike, the respective focal point of revered San Jose stoner metallers Sleep. Myriad shirtless wonders roam the Great Hall by this point, and they're joined by the not so much pot- as barrel-; less beer- than brewery-bellied Pike. For he is the somebody of this particular show; a show that is as persistently inescapable as the metronomic frenzy brought about by malfunctioning alarm. Posing as much as playing, he and they tuck into Dopesmoker (Part I) like Ozzy may a nocturnal mammal: with a perfectly inconsiderate, Iggy-esque desire for danger and destruction. It's devastatingly loud and ever so suitably, the creeping linger of verdant illegal waft soon perfumes the place as the emergency services stand by beside this most gargantuan of stages. Indeed bassist and lead vocalist Al Cisneros later implores anyone in possession of hashish to "please ignite it at this time" prior to excreting the stentorian sludgefest that is the as yet albumless Sonic Titan. Cisneros facetiously requests for the lighting to be left alone as if protecting reddened sclera from direct exposure to the sunset-doused day before dry ice enshrouds the stage although alas, seemingly all aromatic illicitness has already gone up in smoke. The ruinous Holy Mountain and roisterous blues of Dragonaut follow in what may only be regarded as an unremitting deluge of sludge and even if it may all roll into one somewhat, it's a bestial entity to bulldoze any resistance to staunch entrancement. This is what it must feel like to any insentient, decrepit building on the receiving end of the most merciless of wrecking balls – Pike's bulbous paunch here endowed with a figurative symbolism. Their voluminous resonances thereby bone-shuddering to the point of turning the marrow of a vegan to a flammable stupefacient, From Beyond may be defined as a shuddering, arm hair-bristling, gale-emanating clod* (*interchange with similar onomatopoeia) although it's punctuated frequently by ever more irate growls of Slayer (or Slaaaeurggh) from they that have the tag emblazoned boldly across all vital organs or scrawled rather more indelibly all over backs and necks and forearms where it's oft preceded by a certain obscenity. Like devolution, these irked snarls become increasingly insistent and decreasingly human; the Neanderthals among us restively awaiting what is incontestably the main attraction here; their war cry: Reign in Blood.
For whilst they may not potter this far down the Piccadilly line for, say, Diabolus in Musica in full, given the evident anxiety you're led to presuppose that they'd be prepared to hang about some Hadean, irrefutably infernal environ for just shy of an eternity to feel the full force of Reign in Blood. Not that the band itself are ever in full fettle: Jeff Hanneman's spider symptoms still show little sign of palliating in this present although Gary Holt reproduces each thrashy chug with an unimpaired accuracy. The tribalistic baying for the band eventually coax the Californians from backstage slumber and, well, they do their thing. Kerry King is the proverbial anarchical star of this one as he wrangles the neck of whichever signature B. C. Rich like vitriolic poulterer on an atypically tough scruff and although their thing they do torturously well, Reign in Blood is Reign in Blood, just as Reign in Blood plus Psychopathy Red and Dead Skin Mask and Snuff amongst other add-ons is Reign in Blood plus Psychopathy Red and Dead Skin Mask and Snuff amongst other add-ons. Tom Araya's shrieks beguile; his bass ruffles chest feathers as you half expect sanguineous fluid to surge from mutilated ears before (see Sleep), during and after although it's hard not to sense that had Sleep but got on with it and more pertinently with London Records then they may well have been here topping the bill; afforded the opportunity to air Dopesmoker in its stifling, singular entirety.