Brutal Assault 2017 – a festival where you eat cockroaches, drinking water is forbidden, and everything’s a blast! (Part 1)
Let us not kid ourselves – summer sucks! It sucks raw and hard, like a beginner trombone player would suck on their mouthpiece. There’s nothing at all likeable about the blistering heat, the awkward tan, the downpour of sweat, or hearing Despacito for the thousandth time. Okay, there may be two things to save summer from itself – ice cream, and festivals! And, since it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy your ice cream year-round (especially during winter!), that leaves us with one thing only. Thankfully, it’s a pretty big one!
Choose a genre. Choose a location. Choose an event. Get tickets (months in advance). Arrive at the gate. Congratulations – you are one, or several long queues away from having the time of your life! Hopefully, you won’t be as chemically “enhanced” as not to remember your favorite band crushing it in front of thousands of maniacs just like you. Oh, who cares – in the end, you still got them to sign your forehead in black marker (non-washable) at the meet & greet tent…
Yes, summer is a doozie, but – wipe sweat from brow – festivals rule! Especially extreme metal festivals. We realize not everyone is interested in a days-long celebration of music that, at times, sounds like apes on stimulants raiding a rehearsal room. But where else will you get to enjoy a marathon of excellent musicians in well-respected bands playing complex, headbanging tunes before your very eyes, with mind-bending virtuosity and conviction? It’s the kind of thing Drooble absolutely loves, which explains how a brave devotee found themselves at the 22th edition of Brutal Assault.
The game plan? Each year, early August sees three to four days of live underground music and debauchery, spread across five stages set up in the 18th-century military fortress Josefov in Jaroměř, Czechia. If it sounds like the most metal thing ever, it’s because it is! Last year, the organizers even built a glass mosaic altar to Lemmy Kilmister (RIP!) inside the catacombs. But more on that later!
Entering the festival is easy, with three check-in tents proving capable enough to prevent the tiresome waiting lines from years past. Getting out is the hard part, because you don’t want to leave! Paying for stuff is accomplished with a cash-less system. Top up the chip on your wristband as many times as you need – preferably via online banking, so you don’t have to stand in line – and you’re all set.
Musically, the line-up is pretty much the best of Wacken, minus the super high-profile acts like Megadeth. And since the venue has little problem accommodating the 17,000 to 20,000 metalheads gathering from all over the world, you actually stand a chance at seeing your beloved bands up close and personal. That’s great, as the bill is thoroughly packed, and while clashes inevitably happen, you’ll always get what you want out of a particular show.
The two main stages are right next to each other and are being worked non-stop – as one is occupied, the other is prep’d for the next band in row. They always start in a few minutes once their neighbours are played out. Turn to your left to see Emperor kill an epic set. Turn right to catch Opeth sound-checking drums. This way, the party doesn’t stop until the early hours of the day.
If you aren’t feeling the music or need to chill for a bit, head to the raggedy Horror cinema where they project obscure pirated B-movies to your guts’ content as you occupy a torn automobile seat and enjoy the air conditioning from a big ol’ industrial ventilator. Or penetrate the neighbouring ambient lodge – an old hall where they serve absinthe lemonade (surprisingly potent!) as aromatic fumes and mood lights permeate the atmosphere, soaked in by metalheads scattered onto sofas and mattresses in blissful slumber. Right outside is one big summer party on a meadow rich with grass, Red Bull tents, and enough merch shops to equip a metal army fit for liberating North Korea. As always, the “Brutal Ass” panties remain a crowd favorite.
Nearby is the MetalGate stage, where great bands that didn’t make it to the main stages for some reason are conveniently offloaded. And so is the Cockroach bar, a grubby tent where you can savor the taste of various insects you probably thought weren’t fit for human consumption. It’s the single most metal place at Brutal Assault, beyond question! The food and drink stalls that follow are plentiful, there’s lots of variety, and the quality is all-around great. If you don’t want a protein-rich cockroach or burger right now, no problem – go get some Mongolian food, and try the homemade chocolate balls from the vegan booths. Or just drink prized Czech beer ’till you no longer feel hunger and other basic emotions.
Roaming past ecstatic metalheads chomping on potato pancakes (Bramborákyyy!), Jager girls, party types in animal pajamas, corpse-painted Dimmu Borgir rejects, modern day vikings with braided beards, fair maidens with hair in all colors, proud LGBT guys and gals, wheelchaired maniacs, rastafarians, tokers, and other festival specimens of vaguely human descent, you eventually get to feel the fortress’s imposing might by signing up for a tour of its brick-walled corridors; or hanging out at the Octagon, which hosts a pub, art galleries, the tiny Oriental stage (which played home to mighty doomers Boris from Japan and cult death metallers Incantation), the Temple of Lemmy, and the meet & greet point.
Where emperor Joseph II’s troops used to march now roam excited metal fans, wild goats, and mystery figures in mantles and plague doctor masks, armed with torches. Who knew a place so worn, stern and disciplined would feel so right for Central Europe’s biggest extreme metal festival? Or for housing the most beautiful and sincere monument to rock and roll’s fallen idol there is?
To be continue…