Monday, 29 August 2011

Festival Review: Bloodstock 2011: Day 3

Bloodstock Open Air
11-14th August 2011


After abusing way too much Hobgoblin the night before, it is up to the hugely influential (and slightly deranged) Hell. They add an element of theatrics to the weekend and are gloriously over the top, which is the perfect tonic for the final day of Bloodstock.

Then comes a chill in the air as 1349 take to the stage amidst a cloud of eerie smoke. With drummer Frost absent and a shaky sound, their set doesn’t get off to a great start. The vocals are pitched too low, and the only sounds come from the drums and guitars. It takes a couple of songs for 1349 to get going, but when they do they put on a thunderous performance and end up being one of the stronger bands of the weekend.

Next up is Irish black metallers Primordial who don’t seem to be having the best luck. First of all their drum sound is mixed far too loud and then vocalist Alan Averill frustratingly losing his voice early on in their set. But such is the dedication to their fans, Primordial continue without any vocals and instead enlist the help of the crowd to fill in. Primordial, despite all their problems, have pulled off a set which shows the spirit of metal and relentless dedication these guys have to their band. Needless to say they received possibly the biggest cheer of the weekend.

Napalm Death are one of those bands that every metal head must see at least once in their life. The fact that a grindcore band is playing to 12,000 people on the main stage of a festival is a testament to their popularity. Despite being yet another band who suffer from sound gremlins, once these issues are solved they pummel Bloodstock into submission. Front man Barney Greenway is as entertaining as ever, running around the stage like a loon whilst seemingly swatting invisible flies with his arms. Napalm Death provide the crowd with the opportunity to completely lose it.

After the storming performance by Exodus, it is clear that At The Gates have a tough act to follow. The last time they appeared at Bloodstock in 2008 was an outright triumph, so ATG have a lot to prove. However, we need not worry as they put on one of the best shows of the weekend. The crowd which has amassed since the previous act is akin to that of a headliner, and there seem to be more circle pits during their set than at the entire weekend put together!

After the pummelling ATG gave us, we head over to the Sophie stage for the Eurovision metal that is Amaranthe. An odd choice for Bloodstock, particularly on the more extreme Sophie stage and they seem to be placed rather high up the bill. With an already saturation female-fronted metal genre, Amaranthe do not seem to fit in. Their blend of pop and gothic tinged metal feels out of place, which coupled with the fact they have three singers (that’s right, three) makes for a rather chaotic set. The vocals are mixed far too loud, and do the bad kind of damage to our ears.

Morbid Angel are a band who are not afraid to divide opinion these days and rightly so. Their latest effort was either a triumph or a failure (for VDOM it was the latter), but despite this they are a greatly respected band who crush and destroy wherever they go. Today’s co-headliner slot at Bloodstock is no exception, and it is clear from the beginning of their first note that the crowd are completely lost in the brutality. Their ‘classics’ are met with reverent appreciation, whilst outings from their new album including ‘Existo Vulgare’ fall flat with the vast majority of the crowd, despite the tracks sounding better live than on record. Even during the anthem-like ‘I Am Morbid’ the crowd reaction doesn’t seem much better, and it isn’t until they launch into their back catalogue that the crowd picks up. This performance reminds up why Morbid Angel continue to be such a formidable force.

Motorhead are a metal institution, and have been around since the dawn of time. Their longevity and spirit is down to, in no small part, to the wisdom and spirit of Lemmy Kilmister. He is, and always will be, the embodiment of heavy metal. Having survived for most of his adult life on JD and Cokes, you can always count on Lemmy for a good time. However, of late, Motorhead seem to have slowed down and lost some of their spark. Their rather flat performance at Sonisphere could be attributed to the very recent death of former guitarist 'Michael 'Wurzel' Burston. It could be this which explains their lack of presence on stage tonight. From opener ‘Iron Fist’ they seem to be on autopilot; they just don’t seem like Motorhead. This coupled with Lemmy retreating offstage for several minutes before returning with no explanation makes for a rather flat end to what has been an amazing weekend. Let’s hope they return to form, and soon!  

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Festival Review: Bloodstock 2011: Day 2

Bloodstock Open Air
11-14th August


Many have questioned why Skeletonwitch are so low down the bill, and the hungover crowd that has amassed at 11am is a testament to their underground popularity. Despite the grey, murky clouds hovering threateningly overhead, Skeletonwitch help the crowd forget the shitty weather.

Despite pulling a sizeable crowd, Grave Digger get off to a shaky start with dull guitars, causing a small number of fans to head over to the beer tent. However, after a rather uninteresting start Grave Digger pick up the pace and get the crowd chanting and singing along.

There is a hint of anticipation in the air as the crowds gather for Tarot’s first ever UK show (but hopefully not their last). The high of playing to a new crowd seems to invigorate Tarot’s members, in particular front man Marco Hietala and keyboard nutter Tommi Salmela. Despite a small lull in the middle of their set, Tarot received an incredibly positive reaction. And when asked if Tarot should return to the UK, the answer is a resounding “YES”!

Finntroll are one of, if not the, most requested band on the Bloodstock forums. So it is obvious from hoards of fans bundling into the main stage that everyone is here to have a good time. As soon as Finntroll take to the stage, the crowd erupts into a frenzy of moshing, crowd surfing and general beer-induced debauchery. From opener ‘Solsagan’ Finntroll prove that they are a force to be reckoned with and the sheer volume of merry crowd surfers seem to overpower security. This is what metal is all about.

After the mania of Finntroll, it is time for some blackened prog courtesy of Ihsahn. With a set list comprising of all his solo material and none of the expected Emperor covers, it is clear that Ihsahn has left those days behind him. Each song is ambient, dark and melancholic, yet with that progressive edge that always makes his music such an intriguing listen.

The first of two disappointments take to the stage, and whilst Wintersun are making a rare UK appearance, they do not live up to the crowd’s expectations and fall short of the mark.  Apart from a few hardcore fans, Therion are the second disappointment of the day. The band seems to think they’re in a rehearsal room, rather than performing at a festival. There is little or no crowd interaction, and which translates to a lack of live presence.

Rhapsody of Fire on the other hand knocks all other bands completely out of the park (or should i say field). Blasting onto the stage with more energy than a raging Dragon, and prove that power metal doesn't have to be cheesy, fast and emotionless. So it’s time to grab your wizard’s hat, round up a few of your closest Hobbits and head into battle. Beginning with an epic introduction courtesy on none other than Christopher Lee himself the band literally grab you by the balls and make you sit up and listen. Incredibly this is their first UK performance, and judging by the reaction from the crowd it won’t be their last.

Then comes the almighty Immortal. A band that has been a major request on the forums for what seemed like an eternity, and every year fans were left disappointed. That all changed in 2010 when it was announced that finally these black metal titans would be heading to our shores for the first time in a decade. It is clear from the amount of Abbath-style corpse paint attempts that Immortal are a much anticipated act. As darkness falls, they take to the stage amidst a backdrop of dry ice. Front man Abbath cuts an impressive figure, even if it is difficult to make out him or the rest of the band due to the stage being obscured by dry ice. However after opening with ‘All Shall Fall’ and ‘Sons of the Northern Darkness’ Immortal do become repetitive and just about pick themselves up for the blistering ‘Tyrants’. But this is just nit-picking at what is a triumphant return, and a definite victory of people power. Bloodstock once again proving it is by the fans, for the fans.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Festival Review: Bloodstock 2011: Day 1

Bloodstock Open Air
11-14th August 2011

After spending the best part of an hour chasing our tent half way round Midgard, thanks to gale force winds, we are finally ready to experience the aural assault that is Xerath. It is difficult to see why, after the major success of their second album ‘II’, that Xerath are on the small Sophie stage let alone being relegated to a Thursday night slot. ‘II’ was a triumph and a turning point for the band; it made the metal public sit up and take notice of a promising band refusing to be ‘lumped’ into the much lauded ‘Djent’ genre. A fifteen minute delay, caused by yet more technical issues this time with the drum mics, make the air seem a little tense. However, with a packed tent, a baying crowd and a fist full of metal, Xerath roar into life. The pounding rifts, booming bass and soaring classical elements send just one message to the Bloodstock organisers – “MAIN STAGE NEXT YEAR”!

Day 1 – Friday

Dubbing themselves ‘middle finger metal’ The Defiled seem to be, on paper at least, an enjoyable act to open the festivities. However, apart from a few hardcore fans (sorry to say, mainly screeching girls) they do nothing to excite the majority of the early risers. An explanation for this flat performance is offered when keyboardist The AvD announces he’s had numerous White Russians and ‘then it goes illegal’.

So it is up to Wolf to inject some much needed energy and party atmosphere to the proceedings, which they do and then some. Despite having numerous sound issues (a grievance which would hinder many performances this weekend), they are clearly having a good time which translates to the crowd.

Bloodstock are a festival of ‘firsts’, and none more so than Poisonblack’s first ever UK performance. Hailing from the mighty Finland, and unfairly compared to HIM, they receive an incredibly positive reaction despite being near unknowns on these shores. When they finally leave the stage after a blistering set, the majority are fans are asking the same question – “When’s the UK tour?”

Over in the Sophie stage there is an ungodly noise being provided by Glaswegian Grindcore nutters Cerebral Bore. Their set turns out to be the surprise of the weekend, the brutal and unforgiving sound goes down a treat and the Sophie tent is packed to bursting point. Stopping towards the end of their set to throw muffins into the crowd to 80’s dance music isn’t something you’d expect, but Cerebral Bore prove they are full of surprises.

After the frenzy of Cerebral Bore, we move to the dark and solemn place that is Tom G Warriors latest venture; Triptykon. The man is such a legend within metal that he seems to summon the cloud and rain. With only four songs on their set list, two of which are the amazing Celtic Frost covers (Procreation and Circle of the Tyrants), Triptykon engage the audience with their brooding, and prog infused melancholy.

If Triptykon left you in a trance, then it is up to the ‘Rush of thrash’ Coroner to rouse you. With their groove laden guitars and their obvious enjoyment, Coroner manage to get even the hardcore metallers dancing along with thrashers Kreator.

Seeing The Devin Townsend Project is an experience i urge everyone to have at least once. Every show is a feast of madness, metal and nerds, with a bit of Ziltoid thrown in. After the debacle of last year’s appearance, where he was forced to do only a 20 minute set due to half of their equipment not turning up, it was time for Devin Townsend to show Bloodstock what he is made of. And boy does he do it! Devin is a true showman, who’s only home seems to be up on stage. Gurning his way through his latest opus ‘Deconstruction’ to the ‘never before played’ Vampira, The Devin Townsend Project are a force to be reckoned with. If you haven’t got your tickets for his November shows, then what are you waiting for?!

With The Devin Townsend Project being a hard act to follow, W.A.S.P seem to really step up a gear and turn out to be the most successful headliner of the weekend. They play a tight, enjoyable set which demolishes the crowd and is a fitting end to an intense first day at Bloodstock 2011. 

Buy your tickets for Bloodstock 2012 and get roll back prices!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Unsigned Review: Dirty White Trash

Dirty White Trash

Sin - Vocals
Lyxx – Guitar
Thrusty – Bass
Crash – Drums


Sleaze Rock

You’ll like this if you like:
Motley Crue
Steel Panther

Current Release:
‘Life in the Redlight’ (2011)

Yearning for good old fashioned balls-out metal? Then look no further than Dirty White Trash, whose brand of sleaze rock hails back to the days of Motley Crue (minus the daft make-up and women’s clothing). Every track on this album harks back to those good old 80’s, where rock and metal was about getting laid and having a good time.

Dirty White Trash formed in 2007 whose sole aim was to convince us that 80’s rock n roll wasn’t dead. Fast solo’s, kick-ass drums, leather and making sure the volume went up to 11; Dirty White Trash embody the sound and spirit of 80’s rock and metal. Opener ‘Breakin’ Down The Walls’ is a fast-paced rock n roll anthem to get your head banging and moshing around like a loon, whist ‘Get Dirty’ is, as its name suggests, an altogether more dirty, sleazy affair. ‘Hollywood Honey’ is reminiscent of Motley Crue-style glam rock, whilst still retaining an air of individuality. The bass on ‘Queen of Sleaze’ is toe-tappingly delightful, and closing anthem ‘Freaks N’ Weirdos’ is the perfect way to end a very impressive debut. However, the sleazy goodness of Dirty White Trash should definitely been seen live. So look out for these guys when they come to a town near you! Just lock up your Mum’s and sister’s first!

Rating: 4/5


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Album Review: Ulver - 'War of the Roses'

Ulver - 'War of the Roses'

The general populace have a common misconception of metal; loud, aggressive and noisy. Within the metal genre is a plethora of genre's, each one vastly different from the other and often containing some real gems of experimental music. Ulver are just such band, and have often flown in face of their 'black metal' tag. They are the epitome of experimental, and refuse to be restricted by a genre's boundaries.
Ulver are on of those bands who are capable of constantly reinventing themselves without losing their musical identity. They are also capable of making music which communicates with its listeners on a far higher, philosophical level. This is particularly the case with 'War of the Roses', which is a lovingly crafted and touching concept album and is their most impressive musical invention to date.
This is the first record with Manchester born Daniel O'Sullivan, who has worked with the likes of Sunn O))), Miasma and Aethenor to name but a few. His creative input is obvious, with piano heavy melodies and the simple ambient atmospheres better equated with Sunn O))). The theme of this album is hard to pin down, but it seems to be about heritage particularly the intertwining relationship between English and Norwegian .
Opener 'February MMX' is almost poppy in its nature, with prog rock undertones which would surprise many of Ulver's 'black metal' fans. This shift in focus is clearly the result of the new partnership between O'Sullivan and vocalist Kristoffer Rygg.
'Norwegian Gothic' however is a direct contrast, and is ambient and stunningly beautiful. Kristoffer Rygg's deep melancholic vocals means the album takes on an altogether more dreary tone.
'Providence' is the album's crowning glory, with glorious piano melodies and haunting female vocals. This inclusion of female vocals in undoubtedly going to divide fans, but those who dismiss it are missing something. If you know Ulver, you'll know that the reason fans love them is their tendency to surprise us.
Moving through the sombre ballad-like 'September IV', to the grandiose and empowering 'England' and through to the unique 'Island'. The closing track, 'Stone Angels...' is utterly indescribable. Devoid of lyrics, the song is narrated by Daniel speaking words of writer Keith Waldrop. This song has so many layers, that it does take a few listens before you really appreciate it.
This is an album of utter complexity, yet juxtaposed by its blatant simplicity. It shows that when a band is not constricted by a genre, there is utterly no stopping them.

Rating: 10/10