Xmas Weekender 2014 poster

Desert Storm / Mother Corona / Beard Of Zeuss @ The Wheatsheaf, Oxford, 06/12/14

2014 has seen Desert Storm rise from being one of Oxfordshire’s most-improved bands, to being one of Oxfordshire’s best bands. Their upcoming third album, Omniscient, and its debut single, ‘Queen Reefer’, have already been featured in Terrorizer magazine. Moreover, Desert Storm are not alone. They are currently riding the crest of a wave of great Oxfordshire metal and heavy rock bands who’ve been relentlessly gigging and are now tasting the fruits of their labours.

There’s more. The past twelve months or more has also seen Desert Storm – under the Buried In Smoke name – work themselves tirelessly into the position of one of Oxford’s best promoters. Part of their three-day rock and metal extravaganza ‘Xmas Weekender’, and part of tonight’s opening night, which doubled as the launch of Mother Corona’s album Reburn (correctly described in this month’s Nightshift as ‘outstanding’), is the subject of this review.

Over the past few years, while the rest of the music world has been pondering the inner dynamics of, perhaps, a cryptic politico statement from Radiohead, or a post on Hypebot about using Instagram to optimise one’s ‘band brand’, this clutch of superb young Oxfordshire bands, and particularly Desert Storm among them, have been angrily hammering into being the deep, dark musical equivalent of Das Kapital.

The night was something to behold. Desert Storm, Mother Corona and Beard Of Zeuss all blaze confidence and make no apology for it. Musically, their influences are varied, although they are always loud and heavy: Orange Goblin, Karma To Burn, Tool, stoner metal, Rammstein, Led Zeppelin blues-rock, Nirvana, even Hendrix; almost like a sped-up, enraged God Machine.

From Beard of Zeuss’ ‘Fucked’, Desert Storm’s ‘Enslaved In The Icy Tundra’ to Mother Corona’s ‘Stone Cold Universe’, this music, which will soon need a name of its own, is bleak, muscular, and absolutely unrelenting. Each band powered out riffs – I’m not sure I heard a single guitar chord in any of their sets – with a ferocity and volume akin to Great War-era artillery bombardment. At no point throughout these sets was the full-to-capacity audience presented with any floaty atmospheric sections during which they could catch their collective breath.

The high quality of the musicianship was apparent throughout: it was obvious that every musician on the bill had patiently honed their instrument skills for thousands of hours, probably in a darkened room in some otherwise sleepy and ageing Oxfordshire town. This serious, workmanlike approach was apparent also in the bands’ performances. All three bands were so well-rehearsed (and I bet their neighbours love them for it), that their performances displayed an almost military discipline, but without the need for officers. Then again, there was also a sense of humour and comradeship between bands and the eclectic audience not usually present at Oxford gigs.

This gig, and the ethos which generated it, was the living embodiment of the virtues of grassroots self-organisation. It is, to modify The Prodigy’s slogan, music from an abandoned generation which is fighting back. Not only do I admire this attitude, but I also suspect that the bands in question probably do not particularly care what I think of them. They do it because they love it and because it means the world to them.

Folks, there’s a lesson in this for us all. Learn from Desert Storm, Mother Corona, Beard of Zeuss, and all the other young Oxfordshire metal bands. Whatever it is you want to do in this world, you don’t need permission from anyone: just do it.