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Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Spotlight: Interview With Embodiment (By Paul)

Interview with Embodiment

Ahead of their main support slot with the New York Death Metal Legends Suffocation at the Bristol Bierkeller we were pleased to spend some time in the company of local technical death metal outfit Embodiment. Lead singer Harry Smithson and drummer Leslie Preston did most of the talking.

We began by asking them to tell us about Embodiment.

Harry “Well, we’re from Bristol, and we won Bristol Metal To The Masses this year, played at Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage to a packed out tent earlier on in the month which was fucking amazing. We’ve been going about three years, yeah, Bristol technical death metal”

MoM: The South West and Bristol is a vibrant scene for death metal and we asked the band whether having so much competition was for keeping them on their toes.

Leslie and Harry: “Yes, MTTM helps a lot with that, it helps everyone up their game, you know, being as tight as they can and as entertaining as they can be; it’s where you really learn with your live shows definitely”

MoM: Whilst it’s clear with a death metal band that the genre has a wide range of influences, they often range wider than expected. We asked Embodiment who the major influences were for the band. Unsurprisingly it was Decapitated.

Harry and Leslie: “They have to be like, number one for us. Bands like The Faceless (extreme Death Metal band from Los Angeles) but we love all sorts, from Killswitch to Trivium, you know, Michael Jackson!” Of course, they also declared a love for 1980s pop music which was no surprise when you hear them live!

MoM: We then took a step back and asked how the band formed.

Leslie explained “Finn (Maxwell – guitarist) and I got introduced by a friend. Finn wanted to start a group and I wasn’t playing in a band at the time, and it started from that. A bit of a line-up change and then we got Harry and the bassist (Kieran Hogarty) and from there we’ve just been plugging away. We did an album, [the excellent self-titled Embodiment], and we are working on the second album now which we are hoping to release in February of next year”.

MoM: We moved on to Bloodstock. I was at Bloodstock and although I didn’t get to see the band, I wondered what caught Embodiment’s eye (apart from the obvious Decapitated show). It was ironic to find that they almost didn’t.

Harry“We were on just after Whitechapel so we managed to run over and catch the second half of their set”.

MoM: The band picked one stand out band; “Fallujah. Yeah, that was everyone’s … and then Abhorrent Decimation, they were a lot of fun”.

MoM: What about anyone that disappointed them? Interestingly it was Testament.

Harry quickly quantified that it wasn’t Chuck Billy and Co. “The sound was just crap. They had some issues. It was really disheartening as they were amazing last time I saw them”.

MoM: I noted the curse that Winterfylleth were under and Leslie noted that it was similar with Megadeth. “I’m not sure about Dave’s vocals although instrumentally they were there”. But the guys were positive about the festival “there was nothing I saw that was truly crap” added Harry. The band agreed that Skindred were awesome which resulted in us Welsh lads eulogising about Benji and co. We all agreed that Skindred are the ideal festival outfit.

Harry: “I can see them headlining in years to come”.

MoM: I noted that I was astonished at how good their reception actually was...

Harry said “The thing was that I watched Skindred and then every else was just a bit, flat in comparison”. Leslie added “It was a bit hard for Arch Enemy coming on after them, at the end of a three-year world tour … and they probably just wanted to go home and go to sleep!” he continued “Skindred had something to prove didn’t they whereas Arch Enemy was a safe choice. Loads of people were going to see them because of who they are whereas Skindred had to prove themselves which they did … and then some!”

MoM: Wrapping our short interview up I asked what we could expect from their 30 minutes?

“Brutality” promised Harry. “Three songs from our new album, we are opening with one of our new ones and closing with a new one, but then we’ve only played them 10-15 times …

MoM: (Ed) “So, no-one will notice if you fuck up?” cue much laughter!

Leslie continued“and we’re playing a few crowd favourites including The Beast (which was awesome and went down fantastically well); It’s a jam-packed set, we haven’t got a lot of time in between songs so it’s basically bang, bang, bang, bang!”

Embodiment were true to their word and their 30-minute set really was a brutal affair. Their Decapitated/Lamb of god style works brilliantly live and they put maximum effort in to their short set. Many thanks to Harry and Leslie for taking time to chat with us. You can catch Embodiment at Fuel on 30 September at Slamdozer and at the Cardiff Chaos Festival on 17 February 2018 as well as The Fleece on 25 September where they support Car Bomb.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Suffocation (Live Review By Paul)

Suffocation, Embodiment, Seprevation, Democratus - Bristol Bierkeller

The final bank holiday Sunday of the year and a gig that had whetted the appetite ever since it was announced. A bright sunny day faded into a dark malevolent night as US death metal legends paid a rare visit to Bristol. The Bierkeller was, as always, swathed in a murky half-light and with the temperature set to level sweat it promised to be a sticky one. Earlier flyers for this gig had promised Power Trip as main support. Unfortunately, this didn't appear to have ever been the plan but it wasn’t a problem as the promoters pulled in three local bands to increase the heat.

Opening the evening was South Walian melodic death metal outfit Democratus (8). These guys nearly made it to Bloodstock this year, losing out narrowly to Malum Sky in the final of the MTTM. Having seen Malum Sky at BOA, I was at a loss as to how they beat Steve Jenkins and co. Democratus took the bull by the horns and put in one of the shifts of the night. Older material was spiced up by a beast of a new track, the impressive and crushingly heavy Blind Torture Kill. Jenkins never stops working the crowd, his strong clean vocals mixing with a more traditional death growl to superb effect whilst the twin guitars of Kerrin Beckwith and Joey Watkins sliced through the venue. There’s a lot more to come from these guys and if you haven’t seen them yet then I suggest you rectify that over the coming months with a trip to one of the several local events they are playing at. A perfect start to the evening.

Bristol based Seprevation (7) seem to have been around for ever. It’s actually six years but in that time the band has established itself as a solid opening act for many a visiting band to the South West area. Backed by a partisan local crowd, Lluc Tupman, Joss Farrington, Ian Aston and Jamie Wintle ripped through their 30-minute set of intense death thrash. Tupman’s screaming delivery isn’t to everyone’s taste but it works with the aggression that the band channel into their sound. My position in the Bierkeller left Farrington and Aston’s shredding somewhat muted but tracks from recent EP Echoes Of Mercy settled comfortably alongside more familiar songs in the set.

Main support Embodiment (8) are another band to keep a careful eye on. The band won their regional MTTM event and graced the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock this year. For a four piece, they make a rather beautiful sound and their Decapitated/Lamb Of God reverberation soon got those sat down on their feet. Vocalist Harry Smithson prowls the stage, his unearthly delivery contrasting with his between song banter. Leslie Preston maintained the groove with his fine drumming whilst Kieran Hogarty and guitarist Finn Maxwell ensured that the headbanging didn’t let up. Maxwell’s guitar was lost in the mix for much of the set but emerged razor sharp for the impressive The Beast and new track Dragged Into Hell. Most excellent. Their self-titled debut is available for free on their bandcamp page too.

During our interview with the band earlier in the evening, Suffocation (9) had promised a wall leveling performance. This promise was kept in full as the New York legends laid waste to the venue. Their technical death metal is an experience best had live, as it’s here that you really begin to appreciate the craft and skill of the band. It was an hour of the most brutal aural pummeling I’ve taken for a long time and despite a few technical issues, mainly with the band appearing to blow their back-line and vocalist Kevin Muller’s muffled microphone, this was a master class. A set list that combined three meaty chunks from this years Of The Dark Light with plenty of choice cuts from the back catalogue gave all present something to enjoy and it was noticeable that the old school tracks such as Funeral Inception, Catatonia and Effigy Of The Forgotten from the band’s 1991 debut all earnt huge cheers. 

Suffocation don’t fuck around and whilst the visceral riffage of founder Terrance Hobbs and co-guitarist Charlie Errigo was astonishing, it was left to Muller to lead from the front. Muller, frontman for the Merciless Concept is on his first European tour with the band but it didn’t show as he coerced the small but enthusiastic pit at the front of the stage to a greater and greater frenzy. Meanwhile long-serving bassist Derek Boyer contented himself with laying down the bass lines from hell whilst drummer Eric Morotti is just a machine. It was like being hit by a jack hammer, repeatedly. If you’ve never experienced Suffocation live then you really need to correct that. It was vicious, but oh so impressive. The band closed off a show that will live long in the memory with Infecting The Crypts as my ears continued to bleed. A brilliant finale to an excellent night.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Reviews: Fragile Vastness, Primordial Flame, Badge

Fragile Vastness: Perception (Self Released)

Athenian progressive metal band Fragile Vastness seem to go through vocalists in the same way Spinal Tap do drummers, this is their third full length album with their third vocalist switching things up from the previous releases by bringing the soulful pipes of Elena Stratigopoulou who I think has a similar expressive range as our own Christina from Magenta.

The band last released an album in 2005 and since then they have added guitarists George Thanasoglou and Vasilis Batilas to the base trio of bassist Vangelis Yalamas, drummer Babis Tsolakis and his wife keyboardist Evi Katsamatsa and along with Elena they have adapted their progressive style moving away from the Dream Theater style prog metal of their first album, to a more mature sound that features shorter but still insanely technical playing with Vangelis' basswork standing out with his fingerstyle playing guiding the creeping A Face In The Mirror.

This record is a concept piece I believe, there are instrumental joins, lyrical links and a spoken word piece that starts the final instrumental. The band's superior musicianship means that the songs each have their own identity, the title track is very modern prog with the cinematic keys and unusual drum pattern, I Am The Fire kicks of the record with a slow burning song built on a repeating Marillion-esque riff. Heaven On Mars meanwhile sounds like the sci-fi prog metal of Pagan's Mind. Fragile Vastness are immensely talented band with top flight playing throughout and a technical songcraft, it's must have for prog metal fans. 8/10

Primordial Flame: S/T (Self Released)

I think Gothenburg band Primordial Flame have been listening to a bit too much Yngwie Malmsteen, their melodic hard rock is driven by founding member Wílliam Marchesini's neo classical guitar playing. He is most definitely a fan of messrs Malmsteen and Blackmore with the Deep Purple and Rainbow themes creeping in on Pushed To The Limit and the folky Up In The Sky while Evil In Disguise is Rising Force Malmsteen. Elsewhere Patrik Prim tries to be Dio, Jeff Scott Soto and Ian Gillan all in one and manages Gillan the best. Still there isn't much else to this record it's pretty much just a neoclassical clone, the songs aren't particularly memorable so it's really only for hardcore guitar lover. 5/10

Badge: If It Hurts It Must Be Good (Perennity Records)

Badge call themselves a hardcore blues band from Sweden and that's a pretty accurate description, they have an album that expertly fuses the acoustic pre-war blues of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt with the electric fuzz of The Black Keys and Jack White, it's an interesting mix that has acoustic layers underneath the distortion heaviness, tracks like Trapdoor are the best evidence for this as guitarist Matti Norlin plays some mean bottle neck slide while bassist Lennart Zethzon rings the strutting bass riff.

In The Eye Of The Storm on the other hand starts with reverbed lap steel and just Fredrik Haake's bass drum before kicking in. The trio have released three albums in total (including this one) and they are constantly finding new ways to revive the old blues ways, for a lot of blues aficionados this music might be a bit of a step too far but personally I really enjoy the acoustic blues and almost stoner rock rhythms that slither through this record. Badge have a unique sound to them that will bewitch fans of both garage rock and blues. 7/10

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Reviews: Adagio, Resistance, Droid (Reviews By Rich)

Adagio: Life (Scarlet Records)

French progressive/symphonic metallers return after an eight year absence and a number of line up changes with album number five Life. I'm not overly familiar with Adagio's previous work so have nothing to compare this album to but what we have with Life is an interesting mix of symphonic metal, melodic progressive metal and modern djent riffs. It's an unusual concoction and will have many melodic metal fans choking and foaming at the mouth but for the most part it seemingly works especially on heavier numbers such as Subrahmanya. There are some very fine symphonic parts scattered throughout the album with highlights being the epic opening title track and midway track Darkness Machine

Also special mention must go to the impressive vocals of frontman Kelly Sundown Carpenter (also of power metallers Civil War). What does let this album down is the seemingly average songwriting. You get tracks such as opener Life where there is so much going on that it seems like they put everything they had into that track and ran out of ideas for the rest of the album. A lot of the songs start off good before falling into mediocrity. This is not a terrible album by any means and is perfectly listenable but it's not going to maintain your interest throughout. 6/10

Resistance: Metal Machine (No Remorse Records)

American metallers Resistance return with their third album Metal Machine which is a mighty fine slab of US power metal. Resistance are yet another band that have slipped under my radar so I have not heard any of their previous works but judging on this one I think I may have to check out the back catalogue. This is very much old school US power metal (e.g. Metal Church, Vicious Rumors, Helstar etc.) but there is also a slight incorporation of the European power metal sound apparent as well. I can't help but hear a bit of Primal Fear in there somewhere. 

This is an album which is going to put a massive smile on the faces of old school metal fans the world round with opening title track The Metal Machine getting things off to a fine start with plenty of old school chunky riffage and the rough yet melodic vocals of frontman Robert Hett. Other songs which will get your pulse racing are Rise And Defend, Some Gave All and the impressive closing cover of Scorpion's Blackout. A massively enjoyable piece of old school US heavy metal that will have you raising your horns and banging your head. 8/10

Droid: Terrestrial Mutations (Nightbreaker Productions)

Terrestrial Mutations is the debut album by Canadian progressive thrashers Droid following on from their 2015 EP Disconnected. Since the rising popularity of Vektor there has been a bit of a resurgence of technical thrash metal and Droid very much fall into this category taking influence from Vektor and fellow countrymen (and progressive thrash legends) Voivod. The music on Terrestrial Mutations is overtly complex and technical thrash metal with a science fiction theme running throughout though far less frantic and intense than Vektor though and far more reminiscent of late 80's Voivod material.

The songs on the album range from more straight forward thrashers such as Suspended Animation and Cosmic Debit to longer more progressive numbers with long complex instrumentation such as Temptations Of Terminal Progress and Mission Drift. Terrestrial Mutations is far from an original sounding album with the aforementioned influences abundant throughout but the songwriting and playing throughout are to such a high standard that it is impossible to criticise for a lack of originality. If you like your thrash on the complex side then this is a must hear album. 8/10

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Reviews: Dendera, The Virginmarys, Pretty Little Enemy, Sepulchre (EP Round Up)

Dendera: Part One - Blood Red Sky (Metalbox)

I reviewed Dendera's second album very highly in 2015 and we first caught the band live they were supporting Queensryche in Bristol a month after the review. They arrived on the stage with so much passion that it was extremely hard not to bang your head immediately, they play chunky modern British heavy metal that owes as much to Maiden as it doesn't Metallica. This records is an EP intended to release new material but without having to bring out a whole album, the fact that it's called Part 1 indicates that we may see a second part soon.

This will hopefully be after frontman Ashley Edison (who has a magnificent voice) has retured from his new position fronting British Power metal band Power Quest. Part One opens with galloping modern thrash instrumental The Awakening the heaviness continues on Final Warning where the counterpoint of Edison's high vocals and the rifftastic instrumental section are done very well, the title track speeds things up with yet more nods to Trivium, Machine Head or even BFMV, infact this is probably the heaviest material Dendera have produced owing more to the NWOAHM and bands such as Iced Earth and Pyramaze than the normal NWOBHM influences that are rampant in the scene.

Dendera are a band that need to be heard, this EP is a good place to start but i urge you to go back and pick up their two full length albums as well, it's excellent heavy metal that they can replicate live (Check out Paul's Bloodstock review for details). 8/10

The Virginmarys: Sitting Ducks EP (Self Released)

The Virginmarys' debut record was very well reviewed by myself shortly after it's release in 2016,  the record and subsequent tour were widely critically acclaimed, after a long tour the band reconvened to record this EP of four tracks to bring some new music to their live set. The Sitting Ducks EP opens with the stuttering title track which brings the band's trademark loud-quiet dynamics with some funky disco synths. It's a strong opener that is a trade off between The Black Keys and QOTSA, it leads into the percussive is Sweet Loretta which is a previous Classic Rock Magazine 'Tracks Of the Week' winner, it's evident that this is the track that deserves the radio play, it's catch, build on the hand-clap percussion meeting with Danny Dolan's drumming.

The Virginmarys have always been a band difficult to categorize, they are a little to rock for and indie band and too indie for hard rock but with their garage influences abound they have made themselves a very vital part of the British rock scene. Frontman/guitarist Ally Dicktay says that the matra for this EP is 'Peace, Love, Truth, Music' and that rings true from the opening notes. Sitting Ducks provides a reminder about what makes this band so unique in their field, it's an ideal introduction to new fans and a worthy addition for fans. 8/10

Pretty Little Enemy: Second Load (Self Released)

Any band that call themselves Metal ABBA can only go one of two ways and happily Somerset rockers Pretty Little Enemy are a band that can live up to their reputation, see a song such as Collide which is power pop at it's best but with some fat riffs backing up. The four piece are made up of a two blokes and two birds the rhythm section is Jason Coles (bass) Ben Dean (drums), while Georgina Bell plays a mean guitar and Louise Body sings her heart out.

The band have a real knack for crafting hook driven songs that have bite Play By The Rules has a crunchy groove to it while It's All Just A Show ramps up the heavy on a song that could easily have come from Paramore before the breakdown. Pretty Little Enemy are know for having an explosive live show and they try to channel as much of their fun-loving attitude into these four tracks as possible. Second Load has been put out to add to the bands live show and nothing here is particularly cerebral, it's just fun party pop metal. 7/10

Sepulchre: Great South Western Depression (Self Released)

Swansea three piece Sepulchre play an extreme form of metal that moves itself between the chaotic thrash noise of Slayer (Move Or Die) through the death metal mastery of Morbid Angel and the blistering Carcass (Bed Bound). Aimee Coppola thunders behind the drums as Chris Zoah Williams' bass leads Ignored's proto-grind, for a self produced EP the production here is good, nice and nasty but all the instruments are perfectly clear which means you can hear every distorted riff and growled vocals from Darren Evans. Having seen the band live I can vouch for their talent and it's writ large all over this EP, 6 tracks of death metal fury that whizz by in a flash making you want to do it all again. 7/10

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Spotlight: Interview With Karl Wilcox of Diamond Head (By Paul)

Email interview with Karl Wilcox drummer from Diamond Head

MoM: Hi, Paul here from Musipedia. Many thanks for agreeing to the email interview. Much appreciated.

Karl: No worries.

MoM: You've been with the band for a long time. What does being in Diamond Head mean to you?

Karl: Yes, I've been with the band almost 27 years. I was a big fan back in the day. It’s a strange feeling, singing songs from the stage you used to sing from the audience. Being part of the band that influenced a new generation of music and inspired the biggest Metal band in the world is very humbling. Having the responsibility of handling a lot of the backroom business is very satisfying although stressful at times.

MoM: The band appears to be as popular as ever. I've seen you several times in recent years at various festivals, what do you put the popularity of Diamond Head down to?

Karl: Perseverance and the will to keep going no matter what the naysayers have to comment on and the fans are starting to see and respect that.

MoM: Talking of festivals, I've seen you opening for the Big 4 at Sonisphere, at Hard Rock Hell and at Bloodstock. Every summer there seems to be more festivals around Europe. How does the band select which ones to play at, and when was the last time you had a summer where the smell of portaloo didn't permeate your senses?

Karl: There's over a 1000 Music festivals in the UK alone according to Radio 4 and almost 70 major Rock/Metal festivals in Europe. Some we are invited to play others our Agent or myself make an approach. *Laughs* it's par for the course portaloo smell. It's been a few years for sure. Hopefully there will be more.

MoM: I didn't get to see you at Amplified. The weather was pretty grim. What attracted the band to Amplifed, how did you find it and how did your set go?

Karl: We were invited to be part of the inaugural festival. The lineup was varied which suits us. DH are not a thrash band and we are at times put in with the Thrash Guys. The weather yes was horrible; our set was great we closed the show with a full roar.

MoM: You're always asked about the Metallica connections and there seem to be more and more bands who list Diamond Head as an influence. I know you weren't in the band in the very early days but I'm sure that Brian and the band must be proud of the Diamond Head influence. Which were the band's that influenced you to take up music?

Karl: Correct I was not part of the original line up. I've been working with Brian since 84-85 and I worked with Sean on the ill-fated Notorious project. I was part of the NWOBHM movement with a band called Requiem now Rekuiem. Being championed by Metallica is a humbling experience, at the same time a very rewarding feeling, it can be an albatross at times though. Lots of bands we meet state DH were a big influence on their playing or style.

Way back I played trumpet for 10 years. Made it to the county orchestra and big band. The drummer quit and I thought I would give it a go as he seemed to be getting all the solos and applause. So the Jazz Kats were a big influence on my playing. Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa etc. Slade as a youngster were a massive influence for me and I've had the pleasure of working with Jimmy Lea.

Once I got into Rock it was AC/DC I saw them 9 times on the Highway to Hell tour, UFO. Deep Purple. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath all the bands really from the late 60' through the 70's Tubular Bells. When I started I thought " this would be great to make a living doing. However, As a I was a trumpet player when I started my journey into rock my goal was The London Philharmonic or the BBC Radio Orchestra.

MoM: The last album was the first to feature Rasmus. I reviewed it for the blog and called it a solid slab of hard rock. What was the reaction to the album like?

Karl: The reaction has been phenomenal. Way beyond our expectations and thanks for the plaudits. We never imagined it would be so well received.

MoM: It was your first album for several years. I'm interested to know how the recording process had changed in that time. Were there any particular challenges which you hadn't encountered before?

Karl: This time we went into a studio as a band. On What's In Your Head? I put the drums down at my place in California and sent the files back to the guys; which is a way folks work these days. We wanted to make the album more like the old days when you get a smile when it starts feeling good or you drop a clam and the guys say, “you fucked up there but it sounded great keep that”. No real challenges only how we were going to work as a band in the studio.

MoM: And you've just laid down your work for the new album. What can we expect and when does it drop?

Karl: More of the same we hope and April / May next year. Again, it was old school in a room going through the parts. We booked Circle Studios in Birmingham and I nailed the drums in just under two days.

MoM: Congratulations on the Murat Diril endorsement. What does that mean in practical terms for you?

Karl: For me it's a crowning achievement. We played Bang Your Head Festival and it's the first time I've done a show as a Cymbal (Murat Diril) drumhead (Remo) drumstick (Vic Firth) and drum (Crockett Tubs) endorser. CT have just finished a 26" bass drum set for me in antique mother of pearl finish. Be using it in Vegas and the upcoming US / Canadian tour. I stoked about that. Old school baby

MoM: What music do you listen to? Is there anything that would surprise us?

Karl: I listen to most things. I'm a big Jazz (Big Band) fan. When you here the drummer swinging and driving the band it's like a freight train and nothing's going to stop it. Stuff with groove and a pocket. When I studied at the Drummers Collective in NYC I became exposed to lots of stuff. Afro Cuban, Fusion, Be Bop etc. I've always listened to Motown and RnB. There's a couple of Kats that I listen to for inspirational moments. When I was invited to be part of the Bonzo Bash which was a great experience. I got to hang with many of my peers. I started re-listening to Zeppelin. There's a lot of Jazz and RnB in Bonzo's playing.

MoM: I'd like to finish by asking you to tell us something interesting about Karl Wilcox.

Karl: I'm a huge Humphrey Bogart fan and a fan of Film Noir. I'm currently looking to buy a house in France and raise a few goats I enjoy 4 X 4 desert roaming in a jeep and listening to plays/audio books. I'm constantly working on improving my playing and technique. I enjoy talking and debating.

MoM: Good luck with the album. I really appreciate the time taken for this.

Karl: Thanks for asking Paul. Hope to meet up at a gig or festival in the near future.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Reviews: Kim Seviour, Arturius, Doom Side Of The Moon

Kim Seviour: Recovery Is Learning (White Star Records)

Kim Seviour is the former vocalist of British prog act Touchstone, she had to step down from the band she was with for the best part of a decade due to health issues. However despite not being with the band anymore she was still focused on writing and recording new music. The music on this record as the title probably suggests was written while Kim was coming to terms with her CFS, she found solace in the music and art she loved so the record acts as part of her catharsis.

The record was written in conjunction with John Mitchell (Frost, Lonely Robot, Co-Owner White Star Records) who I believe not only co-wrote most of the music but also plays most of the instrumentation and produces the record, the collaborations between John and Kim grew naturally with Kim putting her heart on her sleeve for most of the albums lyrical content.

As I've said it's a cathartic record and interviews have revealed it gave her a sense of freedom to explore a little more with the compositions despite being very ill during the recording. Kim's vocals have always been beautiful, playful and pure, her angelic tones are perfect for the emotional Where She Sleeps and Fabergé which are both slow burning tracks with a lot of drama, but she also shows she can still go pure prog of The Dive while Recovery Is Learning is an uplifting anthemic title track.

Every song has different style to it letting you explore her musical freedom with every listen, personally I think she's hit gold with the prog pop of Mother Wisdom which is one of my favourite songs on the record. I've always been drawn to Kim's voice Touchstone ranked very highly in the UK prog scene for me and it was pleasure seeing her on their final tour dates, this solo record has everything good from that period but this frank and earnest record take more creative risks, which can only be a good thing. 9/10

Arturius: Arturius (Self Released)

Well this came out of nowhere, Arturius are a Swedish symphonic metal band, they have apparently been around fro 10 years but this surprisingly is their debut album. What attracted me was the mythical story line, the moody masquerade promo shots and the inclusion of Spiritual Beggars, ex-Firewind front man Apollo who returns to the power/symphonic metal genre for the first time since leaving the Greek band. Arturius are a different prospect than Apollo's previous employers though the use of orchestral synths and cinematic flourishes mean that the record has more in common with Kamelot or Serenity.

The whole album carefully treads the balance between hard rock anthems, galloping metal and classical overtures (the track Arturius Theme is a stirring instrumental while Emperor's Herd to lures you in as a Zimmer-like piece) meaning that despite the rough and readiness of the production the record doesn't just pass you by.

The band are helped by their intelligent compositions which are progressive and melodic enough for broad appeal, the record is made by the players with all of them at their best as the synths are the major element of but the guitars shred and solo, the bass gallops like a thoroughbred at Kemptown and the drums rumble and rock from the outset. The record is moody, heavy, dramatic and does sound an awful lot like Apollo fronting Kamelot especially when the female vocals come in for the duets of 7 Days & 7 Nights before the  the female singer (there is very little info on band members) takes the lead on the breezy love ballad Always Will.

This record is a bit of mystery, I've never heard of the band, I know none of the members (other than Apollo) but the music is right up my street, conceptual, symphonically led metal that is equally as influenced by Andrew Lloyd Webber as it is Iron Maiden. A strong debut record that would be very special if given better production values, still you can't fault the music on offer. 8/10

Doom Side Of The Moon: Doom Side Of The Moon (Self Released)

I'm a massive Pink Floyd fan, I've got every album, seen every DVD, watched every tribute act, seen both David Gilmour and Roger Waters and hell I even saw Floyd reunite at Live 8 (watching them twice in 2 days). Because of my fandom I have also heard every iteration of every Floyd song, from Gvt Mule, through to Blue Floyd there is very few Pink Floyd covers, reinterpretations or projects I haven't heard.

I will admit though most of them are shit, some are good and some even come close to abysmal but on the whole it takes a special kind of band to really nail the other-worldliness of the Floydian soundscapes (Anathema & Crippled Black Phoenix stand up please). So coming out of Texas like a Pig On The Wing, the Doom Side Of The Moon project have formed to play, you guessed it, a doom metal tribute to Pink Floyd's seminal album (the 7th highest selling album of all time and the highest album in the list never to be number one).

The whole project was the idea of The Sword guitarist Kyle Shutt who came up with it after consuming some suspect substances. Roped in to help him are The Sword band mates Bryan Ritchie (bass), Santiago Vela III (drums) along with Alex Marrow of Brownout/Brown Sabbath (vocals), Jason Frey (Sax) and Joe Cornetti (keys) and rounding out the project is Stuart Sikes who sits int he Alan Parsons chair of being engineer and mixer. 

For a project it's pretty ambitious, not content with maybe a cover song on an album the band have set about covering Dark Side Of The Moon in sequence in it's entirety but with a heavier emphasis on low tuned guitars. Due to the reasons stated in my preamble I expected to hate this but I really, really don't. It's actually really lovingly done, the rock elements are heavier by a country mile but they don't detract from the iconic songs, there are still those long instrumental sections you know. 

However tracks such as Money, Time and Us And Them are given a meaner sound but the heaviness is never overwhelming, this is more Clutch than Electric Wizard with dreamy desert rock and fuzzy stoner the major soundscapes. What I found particularly interesting was the way they adapted the songs, The Great Gig In The Sky for instance hasn't got Clare Torry's immense vocal performance but a sterling effort from the sax. Many will hate this and label it blasphemy but not me, I like this album I played it back to back with the original and it is so faithfully recreated that I loved every second of it, now if only I could by a physical copy in the UK? 9/10    

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Reviews: Dyscarnate, National Suicide, Overoth (Reviews By Rich)

Dyscarnate: With All Their Might (Unique Leader Records)

Back in 2012 with the release of their previous album And So It Came To Pass, Dyscarnate were the centre of adoration in the UK metal media cited as 'The Kings Of UK Death Metal' but seemingly went into hibernation afterwards. Now with the release of their third album With All Their Might they are ready to take back that title and with the strength of this album Dyscarnate are going to be conquering everywhere. This is a hulking colossus of an album with riffs that could flatten a city and the aural intensity of being hit by a lorry at 90 mph. 

Songs twist and turn from the bludgeoning groove of Iron Strengthens Iron to the explosive attack of All The Devils Are Here to the almost Godflesh-like ominous atmosphere of closer Nothing Seems Right. This is an absolutely no thrills death metal album with no flashy technicality but which uses the simple power of the riff to absolutely annihilate everything in its path. It's an approach used by many bands but the quality of music on display here is far and above nearly every death metal album I've heard this year. An absolutely flawless release and possible contender for album of the year. 10/10

National Suicide: Massacre Elite (Scarlet Records)

Since the thrash metal resurgence in the early 2000's the metal scene has been absolutely bombarded by bands trying to recapture that 80's thrash metal sound. Some of those bands have done tremendously well and are now looked on as fondly as the original thrash bands from the 80's but at the same time there is an ocean of these retro thrash bands that get lost in mediocrity or simply don't get noticed. National Suicide are one of these bands who have slipped under my radar and I'm a massive thrash metal addict which is a damn shame as Massacre Elite is a brilliant piece of old school thrash metal. 

Massacre Elite is the third album for these Italian thrashers and it is one of those thrash albums which really recaptures the spirit of the 80's scene with a sound that is frantic, chaotic and damn good fun. There is an absolute plethora of riffs on display which will not fail to get your head banging included in songs such as I'm Not A Zombie, Take Me To The Dive Bar to the all out speed of the title track. The vocals of frontman Stefano Mini have that old school appeal sounding like a cross between Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth and Udo Dirkschneider. If you don't like thrash metal then this album is definitely not one for you but if like myself you love a good thrashing then this album is definitely recommended. It completely lacks in originality but 100% channels the party spirit of old school thrash metal. 8/10

Overoth: The Forgotten Tome (Hostile Media)

The Forgotten Tome is the second album by Belfast death metallers Overoth. Overoth are a band that seem to have attained a lot of hype in the UK extreme metal scene and that hype is most rightly justified with this album. Overoth perform a very dark and brutal style of death metal which although rooted in old school death metal has a very modern sound to it. There are also hints of black metal through some of the tremolo picked riffs in the albums duration. Overoth also incorporate a symphonic element with a huge sweeping orchestration which sounds cinematic and epic in scale. 

The vocal style used by frontman Andy Ennis is suitable guttural and compliments the evil and malevolent feel throughout the album. Symphonic death metal is a style becoming more prevalent in extreme metal popularised by bands such as SepticFlesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Shade Empire and with strength of The Forgotten Tome, Overoth rightly deserve to stand up there with the other bands in this subgenre. A highly recommended release showing that the UK is fast becoming a major player when it comes to extreme metal in 2017. 8/10

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Reviews: Venom Inc, Rex Brown, Dawn Of Disease, Thor (Review By Paul)

Venom Inc: Avè (Nuclear Blast)

Way back in the early 1980s a black metal band from the North East blew a hole in the metal establishment. Venom were the originators of early black metal. Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon, a three-piece outfit shook the world and their influence in whole movements of metal cannot be underestimated. Despite the contempt which many held them in at the time, there is no disputing that Black Metal, Welcome To Hell and At War With Satan are legendary albums. Since then of course, it’s all gone a bit weird with numerous line-up changes and tepid albums. Cronos continues to perform and record with his own line up under the band’s original moniker whilst Abaddon and Mantas returned with the rather unimaginative Venom Inc, alongside bassist and vocalist Tony ‘The Demolition Man’ Dolan, reuniting the Prime Evil era line-up of 1989-92.

Avè
is the latest work and overall, it’s a decent release. For those of us around in the early 1980s, the most noticeable thing is how much more accomplished the musicianship is on this album. It retains some of that raw grit of the early days, with Mantas’ guitar riffs instantly recognisable on opening track Avè Satanas. Dolan’s vocals are gruff but work perfectly whilst Abaddon’s powerful drumming is impressive throughout the album. There’s little to grumble about on this release to be honest. It’s hard, aggressive and dripping with anti-Christian sentiment and Satanic imagery. The sinister Dein Fleisch with its industrial tone, the battering ram approach of War and the savagery of I Kneel To No God are all good honest neck breakers. Comparisons with From The Very Depths are inevitable and I still prefer the snarl of Cronos to Dolan’s growl but this isn’t a bad release in any way. Apart from the Saville impression that closes the release. Possibly the most sinister moment on the entire album. 8/10

Rex Brown: Smoke On This (Entertainment One)

The former Pantera man has kept a relatively low profile over the past few years (apart from his work with Kill Devil Hill) but he’s returned with a blues soaked rocker which improves with every listen. The rocking edge of Low Rider opens the album with Brown’s southern drawl impressing. His fuzzy bass lines are complimented by the lead guitar work of Lance Harvill and Joe Shadid whilst drummer Johnny Kelly keeps compact time on the skins. There’s also some sweet Hammond tucked away. It’s a refreshing release, veering towards country rock at times but the Cajun sound of the Deep South is never far away. Buried Alive has shades of Zack Wylde whilst the heaviness returns for Train Song. There’s also more than a bit of Brown’s early musical influences hidden amongst the tracks with The Beatles one of the more obvious, for example on the gentle Fault Lines. Best Of Me is a perfect calming song whilst album closer One Of These Days smoulders before allowing Brown to conclude a fine album in style. 8/10

Dawn Of Disease: Ascension Gate (Napalm Records)

Many death metal bands lurk in the shadows for years and years. German outfit Dawn Of Disease probably fit into that category. Their fourth album Ascension Gate is a solid if unspectacular offering with all the death metal checklist fully ticked. Mammoth riffs, cascading atmospheric arrangements and some quite delicious hooks at times. The band reformed in 2009 after a two-year hiatus and most of the original line up remain. Most notable is vocalist Tomasz Wisniewski, whose gravel gargling delivery draws immediate comparisons with Swede Johann Hegg of Amon Amarth. I’ve played this album several times and it does grow considerably. It just doesn’t quite capture the attention in the same way other bands can do. Perfectly competent, I’d really like to see these guys in the live arena where I bet they are monstrous. 7/10

Thor: Beyond The Pain Barrier (Deadline Music)

Back in the 1970s a Canadian body builder decided it would be a brilliant idea to combine rock with muscle. Thor the band was born. Jon Mikl Thor was the instigator; a former Mr Canada, Mr USA and no doubt Mr Small Penis. In 1984 Thor took up residence in the UK and we were subjected to the banality of Thunder In The Tundra, Let The Blood Run Red and other such gems. His 1985 album Only The Strong received reasonable responses but I recall at the time wondering how long he would last. Apparently, all those steroids prolonged his career and his back catalogue is quite astonishing.

Well kids, by Odin’s beard, the muscle bound one is back again and still unable to get that box down from the top shelf. However, he has managed to squeeze out a stinking turd of an album which is the worst piece of crap I’ve heard for many a long year. Completely out of tune, the singing is excruciating and the irony of listening to a wailing twat howling about Beyond The Pain Barrier is not lost on me. However, there are many contenders for the golden shite stick award of most dreadful song on the album. I present On Golden Sea as a challenger, whilst opener Tyrant sucks more than a toothless grannie with Wayne Rooney.

This really is 52 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back but if you want to listen to lyrics of utter bollocks, then I dare you to listen to Galactic Sun, three minutes of utter tripe. If a worse album than this exists then please lock it in a lead lined box and drop it deep into the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, I’ll permit the littering. If you step in this album be warned, you’ll never get it off your shoe again. To quote Marty Dibergi (Rob Reiner) in Spinal Tap, it’s a shit sandwich. 2/10

Monday, 21 August 2017

Reviews: Nightlord, Devil Electric, Subservience, EZoo

Nightlord: Reborn In Darkness (Evil EyE Records)

Nightlord come from that wave of British thrash bands that took on the American big boys in the late 90's as they morphed into more mainstream commodities bands such as Onslaught, Lawnmower Death, Xentrix, Acid Reign and Nightlord retained that all important spirit of the underground that thrash needs to really put across it's point. The band lasted for one Demo and an EP before splitting in 1993, but as is the circular nature of these things they returned in 2010 right as a new breed of British thrash was in full swing. In that time there have been tours along with the band organising Titanfest but new music has not been forth coming, fortunately they now have a full length album which is technically their debut full length.

So what is Reborn In Darkness actually like to listen to after all this time? Well the style is summed up by Very Metal Art's modern but retro artwork of chained Golem in the titular darkness, this record is a retro as it gets in 2017. Proper, snarling old school thrash, volatile riffs and a pounding rhythm section that get your head banging for all your worth, the record was produced by Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Bruce Dickinson, Exodus, Helloween, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy) who used analogue equipment to make this record sound as if it has come straight out 1990, Nightlord have got everything you'd want from a thrash band they can do chunky grooves (Last Rise Of Our Dying Sun), crunching doom on Ghosts From The Machine and pit inducing madness on Butcher's Bill. Reborn In Darkness is Nightborn returning to the metal scene with a statement of intent, British thrash has always been the underdog but that's the way we like it! Get in the pit! 7/10

Devil Electric: S/T (Kozmik Artifactz)

Do we need another occult loving, female fronted, doom band? Well if you follow Australian band Devil Electric then you'd answer yes as this is exactly what they are. When I reviewed the bands previous four track EP I said they had promise and this promised has developed into real talent, they have managed to bring a blues rock undercurrent to the classic Sabbathian (it's a word) riffs. The songs brood and swagger with a cocksure confidence as Pierina O'Brien conducts the ceremony with her banshee-like wail as the big riffs of Christos Athanasias (guitar) and Tom Hulse (bass) crash through on Acidic Fire, Lady Velvet as Mark Van De Beek is the anchor for everything.

Hulse brings the low end noise to the knuckle dragging heaviness of the instrumental Monolith which is followed by the albums doomiest song The Dove & The Serpent (which originally appeared on the EP). The debut from Devil Electric is a moody, mysterious record with huge doom riffs throughout, there are a wealth of occult doom bands at the moment but this Aussie mob bring a flair that will see them shashy out from the crowd. 7/10   

Subservience: Forest Of The Impaled (Black Bow Records)

Well shave my head and call me Ross Kemp, Subservience get it, they understand how death metal is supposed to be done. Complicated instrumentals, throat shredding roars, a drummer with footwork faster than Usain Bolt, it's all here and it comes at you like a swarm of angry bees from the very first second, the songs twist with a progression that is never overwhelming, time signatures change but the pure skull crushing fury is retained.

Make no mistake though this isn't 'core or djent or anything else that many believe have diluted death metal it's about as old school as you can get the band site Death, Cannibal Corpse and Carcass as influences and you can hear all those hear as well as big fat helping of British death legends Bolt Thrower whom Subservience owe a massive debt to, with the Coventry band the clear frontrunner in the influence stakes for this West Sussex mob.

Forest Of The Impaled is loud, brash with a underlying groove and a technical ferocity that never detracts from the main bulk of the song, the production is just raw enough and the songs while all similar do have enough individuality so as not to make the record boring. If you can think of nothing better than windmilling in a pit full of your own ilk than Subservience maybe the soundtrack to your next whiplash. 8/10

EZoo: Feeding The Beast

Dario Mollo has teamed up with some of the best, but in many respects underrated vocalists in rock and metal, he's probably most known for his Cage project with Tony Martin (the third best singer in Black Sabbath), Glen Hughes in Voodoo Hill and most recently his Crossbones project with Carl Sentance (Nazarath/Persian Risk), this time it's the man who perfected the Hawaiian shirt look while fronting a rock band, Graham Bonnet. Unfortunately it's Graham Bonnett at his worst, his vocals are cracked and out of tune which means tracks such as You Are Your Wallet is hard to listen to.

Mollo is a more than capable guitarist relying heavily as always on his neo-classical style of playing, but these projects are always made by the vocalists and in this case Graham wakes up, puts on his shoes and blows it big time. His vocals are even terrible on songs he actually sang, this album features 3 Rainbow covers, one a lighter shitter version of Since You've Gone, one is an appalling rendition of Eyes Of The World and also as a bonus track All Night Long where Bonnet sounds like an impersonator badly doing bad karaoke. Unless you are Bonnet or Mollo completest then avoid and if you are then you should still avoid it as you're clearly barking mad. 2/10

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Reviews: Devilfire, Portrait, Twelve Boar

Devilfire: Dark Manoeuvres (Self Released)

Devilfire is a band hailing from Birmingham formed by producer Alex Cooper (no relation to the master of schlock rock) and Uli Jon Roth drummer Lars Wickett they were working together on a project and set about recruiting guitarists Baz Blackett, Richard Bloomer-Davies and bassist Davey Bennett to create a fully formed band. they recorded the album in Long Wave Studios in Cardiff with Alex Cooper co-producing along with Romesh Dodangoda who also mixed the record. What has come out of those sessions is Dark Manoeuvres the debut album from the band who have called themselves Devilfire.

These songs have been forged on the road with the band taking part in a 10 date tour with Tarja Turunen playing to 2000 person sold out venues as special guests to the former Nightwish frontwoman before playing at Hard Rock Hell AOR earlier this year, not bad for your first tour right? You can hear that the band have meticulously honed these songs there is no wasted motion, not a note out of place, none of them go on for any longer than they need to containing every drop of talent this band have.

They are classed as a melodic rock act but that's a bit too simplified, the fist pumping opening track Ready For War is very much and AOR rocker with massive keys, guitars and chorus kicking the album off with mid paced rocker that explodes into tight guitar solo action. It's a statement of intent and on the basis of this song alone you'd be forgiven for thinking of Eclipse or Brother Firetribe but there is so much more to their sound, they go a little darker on this album than other bands considered to be in the AOR scene, Shes's Like Fire and Kill Your Love have the soulful Gothic darkness of The Cult, (In And Out Of Love) All Of The Time adds some filthy, flirty blues, Waiting For A Rockstar pairs a crunching riff with orchestral flourishes that bring to mind Sixx A.M.

It's an album that puts Alex Cooper's last four years on a plate for everyone to hear, he clearly loves this music but has the air of tormented rock god about him, through his moody appearance and vocal delivery which is a real revelation, he says himself that the record deals with "Love, loss, hate, jealousy, arguments, all thrown against a background of excessive drink, drugs, and ego fuelled behaviour." The music here pushes the boundaries of what melodic rock is. (You Gotta) Revolution is a defiant classic hard rock call to arms that channels Empire-era Queensryche, there's the Thunder-meets-Zep on Lay It On The Line, we get some sad Skynyrd slide on Tear Me Apart and Devil In Your Eyes has the Gothic metallic rock heart of H.I.M.

The rhythm section of Wickett and Bennett power along these brooding rock tracks letting Blackett and Bloomer Davies explore their six string mastery playing powerful head nodding riffs but also contrite, incendiary solos. Devilfire deliver British hard rock from a the end of the last millennium with a new millennial swagger, multiple listens are mandatory but immediate gratification given, don't give these manoeuvres the swerve. 10/10

Portrait: Burn The World (Metal Blade)

Ready for some nasty Swedish heavy metal? I know I am and there are few bands that skillfully capture aggression than Portrait, the band play dark, thrash inspired classic metal with razor sharp riffs, squawked vocals and plenty of horror imagery. Burn The World is the bands fourth full length and and their fist since 2012 and once again the music contained herein is violent speed metal that straddles thrash and black metal, think Mercyful Fate and Priest but with the aggression of Venom or Celtic Frost.

As you can tell from the title they are not the happiest of chaps and their music on this album reflects this, it's probably their fiercest album to date gripping you by the haunches and not letting you struggle free until it's done with you, but it does get more melodic and epic towards the end especially on the cataclysmic To Die For. Per Lengstedt has a large vocal range and displays it throughout as the rest of the band rapidly fly through the album at the speed of a bullet train. Helping out on the record are Kev Bower (Hell)  and Set Teitan (Dissector) who both add to the occult trad metal on this record. Burn The World lays waste to everything in it's path with traditional metal fury, it's Portrait's best album yet and for any discerning fan of pure heavy metal it needs to be heard. 8/10

Twelve Boar: No Forgiveness (Self Released)

The band formerly known as XII Boar return with an altered name but the same attitude as before, classified as a metal n roll band Twelve Boar play groove-laden aggressive rock n roll with a gilded metallic edge. No Forgiveness is the band's third album and their second in two year with Valley Of The Triclops released just last year and it maintains the band worship of stoner rockers such as Clutch but also they pay their respects in (ace of) spades to Motorhead, the record kicks off with Steppin' Up which is anchored by groove bigger than the Grand Canyon and pokes fun at the bands that expect fame without any sacrifice.

It's this playful style and infectious need to have a good time that have made the band a go to for festivals such as Bloodstock, their quirkiness is witnessed on Golden Goose which is a part rapped, funky track that tells the story of the titular goose and features schizophrenic vocals from Tommy who moves away from his normal Lemmy rasp on this track but it comes back in full force on every other track, Tommy is also the riff machine and shredder of the band playing the guitar backed by Adam who thumps his bass like he's Pepper Keenan.

Rounding out the trio (because three is always the magic number for bands like this) is drummer Dave who destroys his kit from start to finish. The music on this record is filthy, furious and freaking fast (check out the what I'd call Southern Black Metal of Elders From The Deep) with the exception of the title track which is a Southern campfire song with clean bluesy guitars and Snake On A Lead which has a jazz odyssey in the middle of it! If Clutch and Lionize were drinking a shitload of beer and jamming Motorhead track they'd probably come out with tunes that sound like this, call your friends crank it up loud and boogie Twelve Boar have rejigged their name but the song remains the same. 9/10

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Another View From The Field: Bloodstock 2017 (Review By Rich)

Bloodstock 2017, 10 – 13 August, Catton Hall, Derbyshire

The yearly pilgrimage of metal to Catton Hall was another brilliant weekend full of fantastic music, fantastic company and plenty of alcohol flowing. This was also my first time going VIP at the festival. Here are my thoughts on the 2017 edition of Bloodstock Open Air.

Thursday

With the horrifically terrible weather we have been having in the UK of late people were a bit nervous as to whether the site at Catton Hall would be a mudbath or not. Luckily our fears were put to rest at the sight of plenty of grass and blazing hot sunshine when arriving at the VIP campsite on Thursday afternoon. Once the tent was up and airbed inflated drinks were cracked open and Bloodstock had officially started. I am guilty of using Thursday evening more as a social event rather than watching bands and this year was no different with the majority of my evening spent chatting and drinking at the Serpents Lair bar.

I did manage to get to the Sophie Lancaster stage to catch a good chunk of Gurt (7) who brought their dirty filthy riffage to a respectable crowd. A muddy sound meant that their normally powerful sound was lost but their performance cannot be faulted. The only other band I managed to catch on Thursday night were headliners Battle Beast (10) who were one of the absolute highlights of the weekend. Playing to a fully packed out tent their mix of power metal and traditional heavy metal really got the party started with the powerhouse vocals of frontwoman Noora Louhimo demanding a fervent response from the inebriated audience. Tunes such as Bringer Of Pain, Black Ninja, King For A Day and Touch In The Night had the crowd banging their head and singing along and you could tell the band were enjoying themselves just as much as their audience. An absolutely fantastic start to the festival and a brilliant way to bring the Thursday night party to a close.

Friday

Some of the definite perks of VIP camping are the nice 'proper' toilets, the availability of hot showers and the quietness of the campsite meaning that when you are done partying you can get yourself a good nights sleep meaning that when I woke Friday morning I felt refreshed instead of my normally repulsively hungover self. Friday was probably the weakest day of bands for me overall but I got into the arena early and caught a good chunk of Forever Still (6) who played an interesting but rather forgettable style of modern melodic metal. I stuck around to watch a bit of Chelsea Grin (2) but immediately regretted it. Chelsea Grin are one of those bands I had never heard but was aware of so thought I would give them a chance and ended up being the living personification of everything I despise about modern metal. A complete overreliance on soulless breakdowns, monotonous chugging riffs and a one dimensional frontman. I give them points for effort and that's it.

Next band I managed to catch were the Dani Filth fronted Devilment (7). These were a surprise for me again having never heard them previously. A nice mix of influences from heavy metal to thrash metal with gothic metal undertones the band played a varied and enjoyable set. Next up were one of my most anticipated bands of the day Sweden's melodic metal masters Soilwork (8). It had been a while since I had last seen Soilwork and they absolutely did not disappoint playing a fantastic set which covered a good chunk of their discography including songs such as The Ride Majestic, Bastard Chain, Late For The Kill, Early For The Slaughter to sing along set closer Stabbing The Drama. The band were on absolute top form especially the vocals of frontman "Speed" Strid. The sound was a bit muddy to start but improved as the set went on.

Next up were one of the highlights of the weekend the mighty Decapitated (10) who played an absolutely ferocious and flawless set. I didn't give an overly positive review to their latest album Antikult but the songs from the record performed live sounded absolutely vicious and sat comfortably alongside older songs such as Day 69, Homo Sum and Spheres Of Madness. This was a set of precision and brutality which absolutely floored the crowd at Bloodstock. Absolutely sublime stuff.

Being an old school thrasher the next band up was my most anticipated of the day - Bay Area thrash legends Testament (9). I managed to get a nice spot very close to the front which ended up being a massive plus as during the set a bit of a breeze whipped up affecting the sound quality for those further back in the crowd. For me the sound wasn't affected and I got to see a fine set from one of the best thrash bands in the business with new songs such as Brotherhood Of The Snake and Stronghold sitting alongside old school classics such as Into The Pit, Practice What You Preach and a rarely played Low. By the time they walked off stage my neck was tense and my voice was hoarse which is exactly how things should be at the end of a good thrash show.

Next up was the special guest slot and an absolutely triumphant return to Bloodstock of power metal legends Blind Guardian (9) who played an absolute blinder of a set. Opening with the epic The Ninth Wave from 2015's Beyond The Red Mirror album' from there on it was nothing but old school Blind Guardian much to absolute joy of the audience who were one of the loudest of the weekend. Ripping power metal tunes such as Welcome To Dying, Born In A Mourning Hall, The Script For My Requiem and Valhalla plus acoustic sing along The Bard's Song - In The Forest were performed impeccably with special mention going to lead guitarist André Olbrich and powerhouse frontman Hansi Kursch. This was a set which proved that power metal still has a massive part to play in Bloodstock and that we need more bands such as Blind Guardian on future lineups.

And then it was onto probably the most anticipated set of the weekend - Friday night headliners Amon Amarth (9). This was their first big festival headlining show and Amon Amarth brought all the goods with an epic stage show to match the epic Viking themed melodic death metal of their music. As the intro tape started the audience started going absolutely berserk with the excitement in the air like electricity. Amon Amarth hit the stage opening with the classic The Pursuit Of Vikings and a barrage of flames jetting from all over the stage. An impressive 90 minute set followed with a set that contained songs such as First Blood, Destroyer Of The Universe, Runes To My Memory, Death In Fire and all time classic Twilight Of The Thunder God. A huge section of the crowd (myself included) partook in epic Viking longboat rowing to the rousing Varyags Of Miklagaard which was an amazing sight to behold and one that I hope was caught by the film crew. This was easily the best I have seen Amon Amarth perform and they absolutely proved that they are capable of headlining a festival. They can only go up from here and they absolutely deserve it.

With Amon Amarth bringing things to a close on the Ronnie James Dio stage there was still one band left to go on the Sophie Lancaster stage and that was Colombian black metal fiends Inquisition (8). I didn't watch the whole set after being pushed around for an hour and a half during Amon Amarth I desperately needed a sit down, food and a drink but what I saw was an absolute crushing display of black metal might with savage riffing and a maelstrom of blast beats raining down like hellfire on the audience. For a two piece Inquisition made a lot of noise and a big impression on the crowd watching. A nicely violent way to bring the bands to a close on Friday night.

Saturday

Another hangover free morning and a wake up to glorious sunshine signalled a good Saturday at Bloodstock or as I called this day 'Thrasherday'. Things got started with Fallujah (8) who were determined to wake up the crowd with their progressive and technical take on death metal. A brilliant set with sombre melodies and atmospheric sections mixed in with some ferocious riffs and stunning lead guitar work that unlike a lot of tech death bands did not descend into wankery. A great way to get things started.

Next up were UK black metal heroes Winterfylleth (7) who played a rousing yet vicious set of atmospheric black metal which was unfortunately let down by poor sound quality. The band performed impeccably and with a good sound mix this could have been one of the highlights of the weekend. Then it was one of the many thrash metal bands of the day the first being Havok (8) who played a full pedal to the metal blistering set of politically charged thrash metal. The foot came off the pedal slightly for the funk metal influenced F.P.C. and 1984 influenced Ingsoc but the rest of the set was a blur of thrashing frenzy with songs such as No Amnesty and Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death whipping the crowd up.

A hop over to the New Blood stage to catch the brilliantly ridiculous Raised By Owls (8). Through their hysterical videos on YouTube and lots of word of mouth Raised By Owls achieved the largest crowd ever assembled at the New Blood stage with people literally piling up outside trying to get in. The band absolutely took it in their stride and played a blistering set of death metal and grindcore all themed around the silliness of British culture. We had such ridiculous sites as the crowd dancing to the Chucklevision music, a wall of death based on the two different ways of pronouncing scone and the brilliant hilarity of songs such as Ross Kemp On Gang Bangs, You've Been Mary Buried and Ainsley Harriot Advises You To Give Your Meat A Good Old Rub. This was one of the most talked about sets of the weekend and I'm sure Raised By Owls will be returning to Bloodstock in the near future.

After a little break I returned to the Ronnie James Dio stage for one of my most anticipated bands of the weekend - Canadian thrash legends Annihilator (9) who were making their very first appearance at the festival. The band played a generally old school set with songs such as Set The World On Fire, W.T.Y.D. and the classic Alison Hell. What was a big surprise was the inclusion of a brand new song entitled Twisted Lobotomy which is easily one of the most ferocious and aggressive songs Annihilator have ever done and leaves me feverishly anticipating their new album. Party thrashers Municipal Waste (10) arrived after that and proceeded to literally lay waste to the Bloodstock crowd with a high intensity set of high speed thrash. The crowd absolutely lapped it up with probably the biggest circle pits of the festival to thrashing anthems such as Beer Pressure, Sadistic Magician and Born To Party. Last time they played Bloodstock they attained the world record for number of crowd surfers during a song. Having since lost the record Municipal Waste were determined to regain it and with the assistance of a rabid Bloodstock audience they absolutely smashed the record with an amazing 711 crowdsurfers.

Next up were hardcore heroes Hatebreed (9). I'm not a massive fan of Hatebreed finding their albums dull and repetitive but these guys live are a whole different experience. A crushing set of all out violence as well as all out positivity this was a huge adrenaline rush from start to finish. Jamey Jasta proved himself as a first class frontman pumping up the crowd for blinding hardcore anthems such as Defeatist, Live For This and In Ashes They Shall Reap.

Then it was for me the finest set of the weekend the unstoppable German thrash horde of Kreator (10) who for the first time to Bloodstock brought a full stage show complete with impressive stage dressing, confetti, ribbons and plenty of fire. These were just minor enjoyments though in comparison to the absolutely jaw dropping performance by these German thrash legends. Unusually this was a set majorly made up of 21st century Kreator material which shows how strong their recent output has been. A set which featured modern Kreator classics such as Gods Of Violence, Satan Is Real, Phantom Antichrist, Civilization Collapse and Enemy Of God had the crowd eating out of their hands whilst old school classics such as People Of The Lie, the ultra violent Pleasure To Kill and Total Death off the debut album had the old school fans in an absolute thrashing frenzy. One of the most memorable and moving moments of the set was the performance of Fallen Brother off latest album Gods Of Violence which is a rousing metal anthem to all the musical idols we have sadly lost over the years. Images of the fallen appeared all over the screens on stage as Kreator tore through the song. A brilliant tribute. Kreator have always been an absolutely fantastic live band but this set was on another level. Easily one of the greatest sets of heavy music i have ever seen performed. Absolutely flawless. I really did not want them to leave the stage.

I hopped over to the Sophie Lancaster stage to catch some of the recently reformed Xentrix (7). These old school UK thrashers have very recently gained a new frontman and guitarist in Jay Walsh of Bull-Riff Stampede. A very fine choice as the band performed a very tight set of old school thrash. After that set by Kreator this felt a little pedestrian but that's no fault of Xentrix who played excellently. I think any band playing after Kreator would have felt a bit weaker. The headliners on the Ronnie James Dio stage this evening were the mysterious Ghost but I am not really a fan so I took this time to get some food and then have a sit down and several pints of cider with friends in the VIP bar.

I resurfaced in a bit of an inebriated state and made my way to the Sophie Lancaster stage to catch final band of the evening - murder obsessed metallers Macabre (8). I have been a fan of Macabre for years and this was my first opportunity to see them live. They did not disappoint. If you are unaware of Macabre all their songs are based around serial killers and mass murders. The music was a deranged mix of thrash metal, death metal and grindcore with the unhinged vocals of frontman Corporate Death echoing around the tent. There was a long monologue before the start of each song demonstrating the bands wonderfully dark sense of humour. We also got treated to the Macabre Minstels acoustic rendition of The Cat Came Back as well as the country influenced punk of The Bloody Benders. A lot of people were seemingly confused by this musical mixing pot and the dark sense of humour throughout but I absolutely adored every second. Definitely a band I would like to see return to the UK soon.

Sunday

Due to the excess consumption of alcohol on Saturday night I woke up on the Sunday morning feeling rather sorry for myself. After a very long shower I went back to my tent and sobbed for about half an hour before I picked myself up and dragged myself down into the arena for the last day of bands. I managed to catch the last few songs of Cardiff's own Venom Prison (7) who performed a vicious set of their hardcore inspired death metal. I have seen Venom Prison in small venues around South Wales so it was awesome to see them up on a big stage playing to a respectable crowd. The audience were a bit muted but I think the majority of people were suffering this morning.

After some food and a bit of the hair of the dog it was back to the arena for Brujeria (7) with their Mexican drug lord themed death metal and grindcore. Although they all wear bandanas across their faces for anonymity one of those playing was unmistakably Shane Embury of Napalm Death. The band played short sharp songs with a cool old school death metal groove helping the audience shake off the last vestiges of their hangovers. Next up were another of my most anticipated bands of the weekend - the godfathers of death metal Possessed (9). This was my first time seeing the band live and expectations were fully met. The band got things started with material off The Eyes Of Horror EP working back to the Beyond The Gates album before finishing with material from the legendary Seven Churches album. A truly ferocious set showing how relevant these 30+ years old songs are with select cuts being Confessions, Tribulation, The Exorcist and genre defining Death Metal. We even got a new song off their upcoming album which will be the bands first release since 1987! A wonderful set of extreme metal nostalgia.

Following Possessed were another death metal legend - Florida's own Obituary (10) who played one of the most blinding and heavy sets of the festival. A perfect sound helped the band bring absolute devastation to the Bloodstock crowds. There were no gimmicks just a straight up set of pummelling old school death metal. The set was very heavy on songs from the first two records Slowly We Rot and Cause Of Death which was very pleasing to the old school fans in the crowd. Material from new album Sentence Day sat comfortably with the old material as Obituary are not a band who have really modified their sound. They are a bit like the Motorhead of death metal but if it ain't broke don't fix it.

From a set with no gimmicks and showmanship to a set chock full of it next up were UK old school heavy metallers Hell (8) with their fire and brimstone set (and there was plenty of fire). Despite technical difficulties such as microphones and guitars cutting out Hell kept the show going and had the crowd enthralled with a set of theatrics, pyrotechnics and shit kicking heavy metal. David Bower is one of the most charismatic frontmen in metal always putting 100% and more into his performance. The theatrics of the set were fantastic with David Bower dressed as a 15 foot Satan, huge jets of fire and exploding bibles amongst other things. This didn't detract from the music though which is fist pumping old school heavy metal with a very English horror flair throughout. Absolutely brilliant stuff.

I really cannot stand Skindred so went and drank cocktails with friends for the duration of their set returning for Arch Enemy (8). It had been a good while since I last saw Arch Enemy with both Jeff Loomis and Alissa White-Gluz joining the band in that time. This was a set made up of half Alissa fronted material and the other half older material. You got songs such as You Will Know My Name, As The Pages Burn, My Apocalypse, We Will Rise and Nemesis. I was slightly disappointed that there was no very early material played but the band only had an hours set to play with. This was the final show of the War Eternal tour cycle and the band played absolutely perfectly with the dynamic between guitarists Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis being of special mention. Alissa also proved herself as more than a worthy replacement for Angela Gossow.

It was time for the final headliners of the weekend the legendary Megadeth (8). Landing myself a good spot at the front of the audience I was ready for a set of metal nostalgia. Megadeth were the second metal band I ever listened to and hold a special place for me. Seeing them live is always  transports me back to my 14 year old self and the excitement of finding all this wonderful metal music. This set was no exception. There was very little interaction from the band with them simply bombarding the audience with songs from throughout their long career. Kicking things off with the classic Hangar 18 they then jumped to recent album Dystopia for The Threat Is Real before a barrage of classic songs such as Wake Up Dead, In My Darkest Hour, Sweating Bullets, She-Wolf and a surprising performance of Mechanix (Tallica's Four Horsemen with different lyrics) from debut album Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good!. The performances from the band were second to none but special mention must go to lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro whose playing was one of the highlights of the set. An absolute jaw dropping display of guitar pyrotechnics and easily one of the best guitarists who has ever played in the band. As well as more songs from Dystopia and more classics dotted throughout the set we got a closing trio of Symphony Of Destruction, Peace Sells and a truly blistering rendition of Holy Wars...The Punishment Due. This was a fantastic set to bring about a close of festivities on the Ronnie James Dio stage.

There was however just one more band left to go and that was the mighty Wintersun (9) bringing the party to a close on the Sophie Lancaster stage. It's been a good few years since their last appearance at Bloodstock and Wintersun made sure they made up for that time by playing an absolutely epic set. The only new song played was opener Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring) with the majority of the set taken from the self titled debut album and previous album Time. We were treated to absolute feast of epic metal from Winter Madness to Starchild to Sons Of Winters And Stars and closing epic Time. This was an absolutely triumphant set and a fantastic way to bring Bloodstock 2017 to a close.

This was the biggest Bloodstock to date with a sell out crowd for the first time but also some of the biggest stage productions ever seen at the festival. There was a bigger diversification of bands playing with big mainstream acts such as King 810, Skindred and Ghost performing alongside bands such as Blind Guardian, Kreator and Obituary. This diversification can only be a good thing especially for ticket sales but there's always the worry that the organisers are now going to chase the big mainstream metal bands rather than the ones who actually fit in with the ethos of the festival. Whether this will happen only time can tell but things are already looking good for the 2018 edition of the festival with both Gojira and Nightwish confirmed as headliners

A View From The Field: Bloodstock 2017 (Review By Paul)

Bloodstock 2017 10 – 13 August, Catton Hall, Derbyshire

A mouth-watering line-up of some of best heavy metal around meant that for the first time the weekend camping at Catton Hall sold out several weeks before the festival started. With a decent weather forecast the weather gods shone brightly once more on the righteous and there was more demand for sun screen than ponchos and wellington boots.

Before getting into the music, a few observations about the event. The positives as always far outweigh the negatives.


  • The simple but oh so helpful ramp at the pedestrian crossing on the way into the festival site was a godsend. No more lugging precariously loaded trollies up and down steep steps. A real positive move and one that made accessing the site so much easier
  • Then there was the sensible idea to open the gates earlier than advertised to keep the crowds moving. Being in and pitched with a cold one in hand by 12:30pm was a fantastic feeling and as the queues mushroomed as the day progressed due to the necessary bag searches, it was impossible not to feel a little smug for getting the arse out of bed and on the road a little earlier
  • The nightmare scenes which have confronted every festival goer when opening that portaloo only to be confronted by a turd mountain are a thing of the past at BOA. The toilets were cleaned regularly and every one I visited was clean, stocked with loo roll and hand sanitiser and about as much as I could demand as a punter. Plus points to the team for a brilliant job (haha!)
  • Apart from one year when the Gestapo took control of security, it has always been friendly and well organised. This year was no exception with most of security, be it ShowSec or the Festaff volunteers, magnificent. My one complaint is minor but for the guys on the entrance to the arena, use the word “please” when asking to search my bag. It makes it much more pleasant and costs you nothing. Thanks!
  • The overall running of this event blows my mind every year. 2017 was fluid, smooth and ran to time in most cases. The sound was generally spot on, the visuals stunning and getting Sy Keeler from Onslaught as a compare was a stroke of genius. The impressive performances from those at the Explosive Ape weight lifting ring, improved range of food stalls and merchandise made the whole event incredibly professional. A superb effort and my hat is very much doffed in your general direction.

There are few negatives. My main beef is one I’ve taken up directly with BOA. The fairground next to the Sophie Tent has irritated me for years. My frustration peaked this year when all I could hear was fucking Sandman when watching Seasons End. Move it or mute it. Please. My only other real beef is with the campsite fucktards who give not one shit for their fellow metal heads. Five in the morning is designed for quiet. I’m happy to admit that I hit the sack by midnight on every evening. I’m not a fart, I just need my sleep. I’m expecting to be disturbed until the early hours by choosing to camp in Valhalla. But 5am? Really? Anyway, I’m looking forward to VIP next year.

Thursday

Thursday is regarded as party day at BOA. Having arrived and set up the main goal is usually to chill out and relax with mates whilst getting a few beers down the neck. The serious music starts on Friday. But kudos to BOA, they usually whet the appetite with a few decent bands in the Sophie Tent on Thursday evening. First up and with the honour of opening the festival was Edinburgh based Ramage Inc (6). Led by the affable Brian Ramage, the Scots progressive ambient metal was sufficient to get a fair crowd enthused and they gave it their all. However, the band sounded slightly disconnected at times and their complex style was a struggle to appreciate fully. Ramage appears to have adopted almost full Devin Townsend intonation which often distracts from the solid sound which the band are clearly capable of making.

The power metal of Pisa’s Wind Rose (6) promised much. With three full releases under their belts including this year’s Stonehymn, the Italians confidently took to the stage dressed like extras from the Dothraki scenes in Game of Thrones. That’s where the promise ended as the band’s schizophrenic sound which combined folk, thrash and more time changes than a Meshuggah back catalogue. A strong reaction from the metal hungry and alcohol fuelled crowd was encouraging but the band’s confusing output was ultimately disappointing.

Finland’s Battle Beast (7) have built a solid reputation over the years with supports to Nightwish providing them with a good amount of exposure. Their visits to the UK has usually been limited to the odd night at The Underworld in Camden. The crowded tent told you that this was Thursday night and the masses usually lap up anything that is on offer. The Finns certainly offered a strong show and their symphonic power metal was appreciated with the harder edged Black Ninja and We Will Fight inviting the necks to warm up for the weekend ahead. In between songs, it was guitarist Juuso Soinio who did most of the speaking, coming across very much like a Eurovision Song Contest compere. The band’s vocalist Noora Louhimo captures the attention with her strong clear vocals although the head of steam which had built up dissipated quickly with the ballad Far From Heaven.

Friday

Shaking the cobwebs at the ungodly hour of 10:30am, Swindon’s Merithian (6) kicked off proceedings in the New Blood Stage. The band have a sound which mixes KSE with Slipknot and their heavy groove was designed to blow out any remaining beer aches. Unfortunately, with frontman Liam Engel masked up ala Corey Taylor and a vocal style to match, the band’s chunky style didn’t quite work. I’m not sure about the image or the sound but there is promise within this band.

The Copenhagen symphonic metal of Forever Still (5) did little for me last year when they supported Lacuna Coil and I should say that unfortunately their generic sound did nothing to improve my view of them. Lead singer Maja Shining has a decent enough voice although lacking the power of other singers of this genre. Maybe it was a big ask for the band to kick off the day.

No such problems for the groove stoner rock of Bradford’s Iron Rat (8) who took their opportunity to showcase their filthy sound with both hands and didn’t let go for the full 30 minutes. Their doom laden riffage soon had the crowd in the Sophie Tent moving and their enthusiasm was infectious. Playing tracks from the new album Monument, Chris Flear and co were the first of many to deliver their own headline set.

The deathcore of Salt Lake City’s Chelsea Grin is a sound I cannot abide and their opening assault was sufficient to drive me to calmer areas of the site. Luckily it was to catch the sheer dynamism and energy of Leicester’s Internal Conflict (8) whose groove laden metal was deservedly catching a warm reception. Slashing riffs and some screaming vocals from enthusiastic frontman Adam Kyle were well appreciated and this is a band to watch out for. Certainly a plus point for a Friday lunch time.

Next up in the Sophie Tent was Bristol outfit Endeavour (8) These guys have been kicking on the door for some time and their latest release Bring Upon The Rising Day has been on the stereo for some time since its release back in May. Chris Hawkins is every inch the front man with his strong vocals and continued encouragement of the crowd. Their progressive metal was well suited to a festival like this and the head crushing pieces soon got heads moving. One of several outfits who played their sets with such passion that you could have sworn they were the headliners. Big things to come from these guys.

Hampshire outfit Dendera (9) are another outfit who have big things ahead of them. Two years ago they put in a blistering opening set supporting Death Angel and Queensryche in Bristol and their set was one earmarked from the day they were announced. In vocalist Ashley Edison, who also has the front of house gig with Power Quest, the band have a natural front man and one hell of a singer. Their classic yet totally current sound won over the very healthy and receptive crowd. The twin pronged attack of guitarists Stephen Main and David Stanton retain a very British approach. Tracks from the newly released Blood Red Sky EP segued effortlessly with older songs. One of the sets of the weekend without a doubt. Catch these guys soon. You won't be disappointed.

Back on the main stage, having avoided the squealing Dani Filth and the mundane melodic death of Soilwork, it was time to change gear and oh yes, it was pushed into sixth. Poland's Decapitated (8) have visited BOA before but this is a supremely confident outfit whose latest release Anticult is surely a contender for album of the year. Opening with a double from said release, the band rode out a minor technical hitch with ease and eased into a 40-minute masterclass in death metal. Kill The Cult sounded as crushing live as on album and that hook is just immense. Rafa Piotrowski's gravel soaked vocal barked out the lines as Waclaw 'Vogg' Kieltyka made it sound like there was at least two of him, such was the intensity of the shredding. Spheres of Madness helped close the set down far too early. Just superb.

Hampshire continued to rule in the Sophie Tent with a breathtaking set from progressive symphonic metallers Seasons End (8) making their fourth appearance at BOA. In Becki Clark the band possessed one of the most beautiful voices of the weekend which contrasted perfectly with the brutality on display across much of the weekend, whilst David Stanton pulled double duty after his set with Dendera; 20 minutes to turn around and then back on stage. A real trooper. The band's live sound is encouragingly heavy and the audience knew how to respond with huge cheers. With a follow-up to 2005's The Failing Light promised soon, 2017 should be a good year.

If Decapitated pushed the temperature up a level, the next band on the main stage stoked the furnace even higher. Californian thrash veterans Testament (9) are approaching their 35th anniversary but these guys show no signs of slowing down. This was an astonishingly impressive performance, effortless and intense. With a catalogue to die for, the only problem that Chuck Billy and co had is what to cram into their hour-long set. The band went balls out with four from last year's Brotherhood Of The Snake, including a scorching Stronghold before a smattering of classics got the old school members of the crowd roaring. Into The Pit ensured that the action at the front remained intense whilst Low, Practice What You Preach and Disciples Of The Watch allowed Chuck Billy to prowl the stage playing his microphone stand, hitting ever note of messrs Skolnick and Peterson's solos. Meanwhile it was once again a masterclass behind the drums as Gene Hoglan laid waste to the field with his machine gun performance. Testament should have headlined by now and I'd have cash available for a bet on them getting there in the next couple of years.

The UK thrash continued to be represented by Shrapnel (7) whose incisive shredding made ears bleed in the Sophie Tent. The Norwich outfit have been carving their own niche in recent years and a previous appearance at BOA had impressed. It was no different this time as the band thrashed through their set.

One of the most requested bands for BOA on social media for many years has been German power metal legends Blind Guardian (7). The band are capable of headlining Wacken with ease so it was somewhat surprising to see large gaps in the audience as the intro music to The Ninth Wave filled the air. A rather muted performance from a band who are usually so spectacular live was quantified when vocalist Hansi Kursch explained that all their show and gear had been lost by the airline flying them into the Midlands. Guardian continued making use of Amon Amarth’s warm up gear and performed admirably. Kursch has a stunning voice and interacted with the audience superbly. An interesting set including Nightfall, The Script For My Requiem and Mirror Mirror before the audience participation of The Bard’s Song and of course, Valhalla. This band deserve another go and hopefully they will be back before too long.

Occupying the ghost shift in the Sophie Tent, Maryland funk rockers Lionize (10) took their hour long set to the max. As the tent slowly filled, the groove of a rock band who have been on the road for several months must have surely enticed many. For the uninitiated Lionize are unique. Their fusion of blues, rock, reggae and funk is spectacular. Technically there was not a band on the weekend who got close to them. Picking their heavier material and beefing up some of their lighter tunes, the band started hard with Replaced By Machines and didn’t slow down until they hit the end. Guitarist and vocalist Nate Bergman, resplendent as always in his shiny bacofoil jogging suit, played some mean licks whilst the clever lyrics never fail to bring a smile.

To his right, the soulful Hammond organ of Chris Brooks who adds mean backing vocals whilst left side stood Henry ‘Hank’ Upton, all charged up energy and rampaging bass lines. Securing the back line, drummer Chase Lapp looked at times to have many more than two arms as he flailed all over his kit. Closing with a stunning ten-minute plus freestyle session, the band pulled out one of the sets of the weekend. You get the feeling these guys play as hard to two people as they do to 20000. Possibly the highlight of my weekend and an honour to watch.

Few bands work as hard as Friday night headliners Amon Amarth (9). A band that have served their time on the circuits around the world and are finally in the big league. Their headline set promised much and did not disappoint. More pyro than the US 5th Army, rampaging Vikings running around the stage with their swords raised high, a huge long-boat dominating the centre of the stage and even a sea beastie appearing towards the end; visually it was captivating. However, all the props in the world mean nothing if you don’t have the tunes and by Odin do the Swedes have a locker full of anthems ideal for this event.

As the sun set The Pursuit Of Vikings heralded 90 minutes of chaos, rampage and most of all fun. A packed main arena raised their horns, sang and chanted, gasped at the ridiculously glorious spectacle on the main stage and banged their heads in salute to the pure heavy metal that was in front of them. And then we rowed. Oh yes, the sight of thousands of metal brothers sat on the floor doing the death metal equivalent of Oops Upside Your Head was glorious. This is what BOA is all about. Johan Hegg is an ideal ring leader, grinning from ear to ear, cajoling the masses in front of him to pump the air every few minutes with horns or fists. It was magical escapism and by the time Twilight of the Thunder Gods had blown the final bits of dry ice into the East Midlands night there was nowhere any of that crowd would have preferred to be.

Saturday

Technically progressive death metal may not be everyone’s cup of tea at 10:45am on a Saturday morning but a fair crowd gathered in front of the main stage to catch San Francisco’s Fallujah (7). Having lost their singer Alex Hoffman under a month ago put additional pressure on the band but they did a fine job of crushing skulls and shaking that Friday night hangover out of the system.

No strangers to BOA, Manchester black metal masters Winterfylleth (8) took the tent by storm a few years ago with a massive headline set. Watching the band in the blinding sunshine is an unreal experience and as often happens, the band’s detailed technical metal sound initially suffered from a poor mix with Chris Naughton and Dan Capp’s guitars drowned out by the punishing drumming of Simon Lucas and Nick Wallwork’s thundering bass. Despite this the band delivered yet another stunning set although interestingly nothing from the latest The Dark Hereafter. Their winter tour should be nothing short of breath taking.

Birmingham’s Kroh (6) changed the mood to a more gothic feel in the Sophie Tent but their rather routine metal was of limited interest and attention soon wavered. Meanwhile the routine thrash of Havok (6) on the main stage encouraged a decent crowd to open the pits and as the sun continued to beat down early casualties slowly emerged.

If you wanted a lesson in how to thrash with quality, then Canada’s top selling metal band of all time Annihilator (9) proceeded to hand it out on a plate. Jeff Waters may be as nutty as that other crazy Canadian Devin Townsend, but he knows how to craft a tune and the band raced through 40 minutes of very new stuff via the unreleased Twisted Lobotomy and plenty of old school with WTYD, Alison Hell, the splendid Phantasmagoria and set closer Human Insecticide all receiving huge receptions from a very healthy crowd. Long overdue and an outstanding debut.

South Wales MTTM winners Malum Sky (6) had managed to gather a decent turnout in the New Blood Tent but sadly their progressive metal appeared to be griped with nerves as the band struggled to be cohesive. The Welsh theme continued in the Sophie Tent as Merthyr upstarts Florence Black (7) followed up their boisterous Steelhouse Festival appearance with a raucous set which had the trio sounding as heavy as I’d ever heard them.

If you want carnage, then you invite US thrash head cases Municipal Waste (8) to your party. 45 minutes of absolute chaos ensued, with the valiant security at the front hoisting 711 crowd surfers [that’s about 5% of the entire crowd folks!] The band’s no-nonsense approach really is an acquired taste but for those that like it, the taste is delicious.

All this paled into insignificance in comparison to THE set of the weekend which followed. With a huge stage set in place, German thrash legends Kreator (10) delivered an absolute monstrous set crammed full of evil brutality. From the opening Hordes Of Chaos to the concluding Pleasure To Kill, Mille Petrozza and co hit the throttle hard and then pushed the boot through the floor. Huge blasts of red and silver confetti may not sound particularly sinister but it worked magnificently. Fallen Heroes contained a montage of rock legends no longer with us with the faces of Lemmy and RJD looming large. This is a band who are at the top of their game. Imperious and confident, Kreator have a game plan which they stick to and it works magnificently. If these guys are not headlining in 2019 then not even Satan is real.

After the announcement of not one but two headliners for 2018, a quick hop to the Sophie Tent saw UK thrash icons Xentrix (8) really in their stride with new vocalist Jay Walsh looking comfortable and adding quality to the really good quality sound the band make.  

After that it was a bit of an ask for Ghost (8) to match it. However, the mysterious Swedes (if that is what they still are) did their best. An impressive church stage set, cleverly targeted lighting and enough dry ice to fill the Vatican added to the spectacle. Of course, the music is still the main thing and even though the band has incredibly only three albums to its name, there is sufficient in the catalogue to keep most happy. The purists were no doubt secretly loving it whilst standing arms crossed and scowling or back at their tents consoling themselves on yet another can of lager. Rumours abound that Dave Grohl was hitting the skins as one of the nameless ghouls but regardless who it was, the ghouls rocked hard and were more animated than I’d ever seen them before. What slowed the band somewhat was the theatrics of Papa Emeritus III whose narratives were lost towards the back of the field and some long pauses between songs. The arrival of the Sisters of Sin was another five minutes where we could have been rocking. There was the difference with Kreator whose assault didn’t allow time for air. By the time encore of Monstrance Clock arrived, I was ever so slightly bored.

Sunday

The final day and the sun was still blazing across the field. The Strong Men were in full swing with their huge guns lifting astonishing weights. One of the most anticipated bands for me were GraVil (8) whose two releases No More Forgiveness and Thoughts Of A Rising Sun have received regular airtime. The technical groove supplemented by Grant Stacey’s roaring vocals ensured that the earth moved early on a Sunday for the first time in a long while. Visceral riffs sliced through the air and those who made the effort were rewarded by a far too short 30-minute set which flew by. More GraVil as soon as possible.

Two years ago, the Jager Tent reverberated to the sound of Leeds rock ‘n’ roll powerhouses Blind Haze (9) kicking out all the jams with Ben Ward from Orange Goblin looking proudly on. The band, whose recently released Bastard EP is stonking were the perfect tonic with their old school approach hitting all the right notes. Front man and bassist Conan’s self-depreciating humour belies a magnificent attitude and the band delivered a set of rollicking good three-minute songs which sit very much in the Motorhead/Budgie/Goblin/Tank box. Whilst Conan grabs the attention, it’s fair to say that John Nicholson on guitar is the author of many tasty licks whilst drummer Jason Hope is very much from the Philthy Animal school of drumming. I expect big things from Blind Haze. If you get the chance, see them. They rock!

I really wanted to see Brujeira (3) but their cacophony of regurgitated vomit meant I lasted one song before fucking off. It was not something to tolerate when other options were around and instead I got the opportunity to catch some of Wretched Soul’s (7) fabulous set. The Canterbury thrash/death outfit had drawn a good number and their intense honest metal was refreshing. The band led by vocalist Chris Simmons were on fire, another outfit who were taking their opportunity by the balls. Deep cutting riffs, intricate hooks and good heads down thrash always does the trick. Another band I’ll be keeping an eye out for in future months.

There were very few bands I hadn’t seen before at BOA 2017 but one I was determined to see was the grandfathers of death metal, San Francisco’s Possessed (9). With sole original member Jeff Becerra accompanied by long time drummer Emilio Marquez, guitarist Daniel Gonzalez, bassist Robert Cardenas and new boy Claudeous Creamer, this wasn’t quite the old school line up but boy was it hideously good. Becerra may be confined to a wheelchair but that doesn’t stop the legendary vocalist from coughing up those horrifying guttural screams as he rolled around the stage, headbanging with all his might.

The first of a double whammy of death metal, Possessed captivated the crowd with an astonishing set comprising legendary tracks from Seven Churches and 1986’s Beyond The Gates. When the intro to The Exorcist cut across the Catton Hall turf the hairs on the neck just leapt up. There are few times when it really is a privilege to say I was there but to see such a revered band having such a great time was amazing. With Possessed signed to Nuclear Blast and promising a new album in 2018 the legends may be back on our shores sooner than expected. Mighty stuff.

As if having the legendary Possessed wasn’t enough, the afternoon hazy sunshine was shattered again with the arrival of Floridian death metal masters Obituary (9). With necks still aching it was time to get back in the pit. It’s been three years since the band played BOA and nothing changes. John Tardy and co walk out onto the stage, lay waste to all around and then walk off again. It is simple stuff but oh so clever. Bookending their set with two of three tracks from debut Slowly We Rot, this was a band in imperious form. Tardy says little between songs, saving his breath for the growling delivery synonymous with the band. Two new tracks from this year’s excellent self-titled release fitted into the setlist without a problem, Ten Thousand Ways To Die particularly gruesome. Slowly We Rot inevitably closed a mighty display from another absolute masterful outfit.

Having seen Hell earlier this year I used the opportunity to sort the final bits out for the return journey. By all accounts the pyro was off the chart although some new material would be welcomed. New material will be forthcoming soon for Newport’s finest, who were making their BOA debut. Unsurprisingly, Skindred (9) destroyed the entire field, and despite the controversy of booking them for an all-out metal festival, there is no denying that in the live arena few bands can get near them. Sound The Siren, Doom Riff, Pressure and Nobody kept the action intense in the pit and encouraged a fair bit of awful bopping at the outer reaches. As Warning arrived with the inevitable excitement of the Newport Helicopter, a premature ‘copter allowed Benji one more potty mouthed tirade before the entire field erupted. Full marks to the ShowSec crew who all joined in, to much mirth.

Having seen Skindred three times this year allowed me the opportunity to pop into the New Blood Stage for a final time and catch Mist (8). A fantastic decision too as the Solvenian doom outfit blew me away with their Sabbath influenced occult metal. Bone crunching riffs and the atmospheric soaring vocals of Nina Spruk spiraled those in the tent away from the ragga metal raging outside and to a different place. Mist have massive potential and I hope to see them again. The hunt for their album has commenced.

Sadly it was almost time to depart the hallowed halls of BOA due to other commitments, but I finished on a massive high with a blinding set in the Sophie Tent from Italian power metallers Arthemis (8) who may have been playing for one of the smaller crowds of the day but delivered a headline set of stunning quality. With a catalogue of eight albums including this year’s Blood Fury Domination to choose from the band had little difficulty ramping up the thrashier side of their sound whilst Fabio Dessi’s infectious enthusiasm was as brilliant as his clear sky rocketing vocals. A huge ovation from a band rarely seen on these shores. If you get the chance check them out.

So with a heavy heart I skipped the Arch Enemy set and made my way to the car park and the drive home. I was aching from camping and walking more than 40 miles over the four days (yes, seriously, my pedometer recorded it all). This BOA was superb for all the right reasons. 2018 can’t come soon enough.