The birthplace of heavy metal (that’s Birmingham in the UK for those that didn’t know) hosts the 16th edition of Supersonic Festival over the weekend of 8-10 July. There’ll no doubt be an air of celebration over the weekend as this is the first time this event has been able to run for three years (though the renaming of the lockdown version as Sofasonic was particularly inspired). It’s a packed line-up, and here are our picks of the highlights that you need to check out.
Divide and Dissolve
Australian instrumental duo Divide and Dissolve released one of the albums of last year with their third offering Gas Lit which we loved. Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill create ethereal drone and menacing doom, all with the purpose of smashing colonial borders and bringing forward the end of white supremacy and patriarchy. More power to them for that.
Live, Divide & Dissolve are a wall of sumptuous noise as they loop melody lines against the backdrop of a sonic maelstrom that two people really shouldn’t be able to conjure up.
Another artist we’ve not been shy in shouting from the rooftops about, A.A. Williams’ debut album Forever Blue was majestic in its aching melancholic tone and exquisite vocal delivery. The highly anticipated follow-up is titled As the Day Rests and will see the light of day this October. The first single taken from the album promises a louder, texturally more gothic direction which can only be a good thing. Williams is an astonishing performer whether on her own or with a full band.
Old Man Gloom
One of the most ridiculously overlooked bands in the genre of extreme metal, Old Man Gloom are a supergroup of Boston’s finest hardcore musicians. Nate Newton of Converge, capital letter fan Aaron Turner of ISIS and SUMAC, Santos Montano of …erm… Old Man Gloom, and Cave In’s Steven Brodsky create a wonderful racket of pure energy and delight. Their sporadic and sprawling recorded output seems to perfectly match their sensibility – this is a band of brothers having the best time together, there’s no cynical game plan at play here.
UK duo Tanya (bass, keys and vocals) and Joe (drums) are Bismuth, and they make cacophonous noise in the realms of doom and sludge – think Khanate and that ilk. Their sound is claustrophobic, glacially paced and above all things LOUD. They’re the most Black Sabbath sounding band on the bill, but with a feral savagery that Ozzy and Tony’s gang never reached. Their latest release with Vile Creature is a glorious one-track affair that lasts over 40 minutes – brevity is, thankfully, not something Bismuth do.
Canada’s BIG BRAVE seem to have been touring their wonderful last record Vital for the whole of 2022. The trio combine distorted somnambulistic dirge with singer Robin Wattie’s at turns tender and searing vocals. The vulnerability of the lyrics is masked by the ferocity of the slabs of noise they create, and they are both pensive and feral in equal measure. One of the truly great bands of our times.
Mexico’s Lorena Quintanilla performs as J. Zunz, and her last album Hibiscus was played a lot around these parts.
Her work centres on cold, distorted electronics that shapeshift with subtle variations and creep under your skin and sink their teeth in. With a new album just released this week, expect some of the new tracks in amongst favourites like “33:33” and “Four Women and Darkness”.
If you’re going to name your band after one of the leading lights of surrealist cinema then you’d better (a) be good and (b) be cool. Thankfully, this band is both.
Buñuel’s album from this year Killers Like Us is a masterclass in noise and angular rhythms. Eugene S. Robinson of OXBOW infamy is behind the mic, and his signature mad-preacher style ramblings are underpinned by perfectly honed noise rock that’s often crushing in its intensity. Kind of like The Jesus Lizard jamming with Enablers.
Supersonic is, first and foremost, a festival where guitars get turned up all the way to 11 (that’s one louder, you see), yet its best quality is the diversity of its acts across the three days. Palestinian rapper Bint7alal exemplifies exactly that this year, and her political message is delivered with smooth flow and biting beats.
Supersonic 2022 takes place July 8-10 at various venues in Digbeth, Birmingham.