All Tomorrow's Parties - I'll Be Your Mirror 2012 - Unofficial Review Part 1

What I’m offering you instead is a feel for the festival, a take on my time there and the highs and lows of all that I witnessed.

Friday It€™s finally come around, Friday 25th of May. One train journey from the valleys to Cardiff, a second from Cardiff to Paddington. The sun shining, something fierce. Off at Paddington, hustle and bustle, impersonal and impolite. Welcome to London. Two tube trips, thankfully pulled off successfully and punctually down to the kindness of just one stranger. Guest house check in. Unpack. Ten minute taxi to €˜Ally Pally€™. One Slayer T Shirt. Two more Slayer T Shirts. Four more. A beer garden filled with Slayer shirts. En masse in black. The remaining ride all alongside the grass to Alexandra Palace, a sea of Slayer and/or various metal shirts. There€™s something in the air. The queue is huge, so we head to the onsite but non-ticket required bar. A heftily priced, but cold, pint. Welcome over the overpriced cans on the train. Queue down, in we go. The unfortunate news that Death Grips pulled out is disappointing, very even. Salt in wound with the Death Grips CDs on sale at the merch stand. However, today still brings with it YOB, Melvins, Wolves in the Throne Room, Sleep and Slayer. We€™ve missed A Storm of Light. A shame, as they€™ve a solid set of ambient and atmospheric post-metal. £5 for a hot dog, both pork and beef combined, in the smoking area is lovely. Not £5 lovely, but lovely all the same. It€™s a beautiful weekend for it, and the smoking area offers up a relaxed breather between bands in glorious sunshine. It kind of makes you long for an outdoor festival but the bands on show this weekend won€™t work as well in open top sunshine as they will in the dark. Confined. YOB being one such prime example. In the humid and the dark of the packed West Hall their sludgey slow jams sound like a swamp. No songs under ten minutes and the vocals fairly few and far between, as they wail over the top like a wounded caveman, the sea of slowly nodding heads become the swamp€™s surface. It€™s a small world when you€™re a long way from home from home and you bump into a friend from home, an old college companion and a fanatic thrash fan who was on the same drink driving course as you, who in turn gloats he€™ll have his license back in three weeks when you€™ve another two months to wait. Bastard. Though perhaps it just shows the kind of tight knit and cozy festival experience that All Tomorrow€™s Parties offer up with their off shoot sister I€™ll Be Your Mirror. Melvins begin things bold as brass in the Great Hall, two drummers, thick riffs and Buzz Osborne€™s hair. Though the grooves get the crowd going, the set doesn€™t feel all that welcoming for the casual fan or newcomers, and seems to divide the fans from what post-set toilet banter is heard in between an entirely unrelated discussion on Henry Rollins being a cunt. All stemming from someone€™s wearing a Black Flag shirt. Either way, it€™s a tight performance from a legendary act. Due to some extra-curricular activities, I am now at the centre of an intense paranoid episode. The baying crowd leaving the Great Hall through only one of its doors doesn€™t help this, combined with a powerful hunger, Wolves in the Throne Room are missed. Though the sounds caught on the breeze that drift out from the West Hall sound altogether malevolent and brilliant. I€™ll make up for this by buying a T shirt and listening to them a lot when I get home, I€™d really wanted to see them. One intense, and eternal, burger stand queue later. Sitting down at the black curtains feasting on delicious, though even pricier cheeseburgers, I see another person I know. However, due to the multilayered paranoia, I can€™t get up to go and say hello, knowing that he is on his own this weekend, untold waves of guilt ensue. Alcohol required. This is the one though. Sleep. Since I was thirteen years old with shoulder length hair and fuelled solely by cannabis, I have wanted to see these. We€™ve made our way well into the crowd and bagged our spot. So begins the heaviest, and slowest, gig I have yet to witness. Starting out with classic, label infuriating epic Dopesmoker the three piece lay out an expansive and thick, all consuming tar of a set. I€™m hard pressed to describe just how dense a sound Sleep delivered. It was the kind of set that openly flouted the law as the smoke machines billowing from the stage were met with the even more abundant fumes of the untold number of joints set ablaze throughout. There wasn€™t a head and neck set not performing the slowest and lowest headbang of their moshing career. Though one €˜confused€™ gentleman just in front uttered the immortal words €˜fuck, Slayer are playing slow tonight.€™ The set goes through some even slower and heavier renditions of classics from Holy Mountain before making its return to Dopesmoker. In this time the sun shining through the glass roof has gradually set, the air filled with smoke, and the atmosphere of Sleep€™s set been matched perfectly by the atmosphere in the air. A truly astounding performance, even if I had become convinced Sleep had actually slowed time down and only I knew their secret. Though Sleep may have drawn a massive cult following and many with respect for them, it€™s clear and has been since the start, that the stars of the show for today€™s gathered hordes are Slayer. Almost uniform in black, tattoos, piercings, beards, dreadlocks, Slayer shirts or anything metal, anything hardcore. For the vast most part, this is not a weekend crowd. This is a Slayer crowd. Headlining with a one off (though they have done this trick before) run through of Reign in Blood, in its entirety. Not just considered a classic in their back catalogue, if not €˜the€™ classic for some, but also a seminal album in thrash and metal as a whole. Not even 30 minutes of unadulterated, thrash, speed, anti-religion, politics, Nazi imagery, fire, brimstone, war and death. Starting with a warm-up set of sorts, delivering a few tracks from Seasons in the Abyss, one from Show No Mercy and a few from the most recent World Painted Blood. Just enough to get the hordes baying and keep Reign in Blood as the main event. Still in a state of confused reality after Sleep, I flirt with the idea that Slayer are personally trying to fuck with my head. A quick pint and a burrito that I spill all over my jeans required. Then with no introduction more than the unmistakable start of Angel of Death, I€™m 13 with shoulder length hair again for the second time tonight. So begins the straight blast through of Reign in Blood. Perhaps they€™re getting on a bit, or Sleep really have slowed time down indefinitely, but it doesn€™t feel as speed metal fast as it should. Still ferocious though. The majority of these songs never get an outing normally, and some of them are personal favourites so it€™s good to hear them for my first Slayer gig, despite the aforementioned youth. A fuck up in Reborn aside, resulting in a replay it€™s tight, and on the money. Signed off with the always brilliant Raining Blood. The frenetic movement of my neck in stark contrast to the day so far. In all honesty on the whole, it€™s a little business like, things are punctual, played to part and that€™s what you get. Strange as it sounds, there could be more energy and that spark that makes this an event, a gig, not just a by the book playing of the CD. However, the majority here are left unspeakably happy and I€™m glad to have seen Slayer at least once in my life now. Though today€™s winners are without shadow of a doubt (drum roll), Sleep.

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Life's last protagonist. Wannabe writer. Mediocre Musician. Over-Thinker. Medicine Cabinet. @morganrabbits