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Monday, 20 August 2018

A View From A Muddy Field Part 1: Bloodstock 2018 (Live Review By Paul H, Stief, Nick & Matt)

Bloodstock 2018

Main Review: Paul H
Contributions By: Stief, Nick, Matt where noted

(Paul) Where to start? What a weekend. What an immense weekend. For those of you who were fortunate enough to be at Catton Hall for BOA 18 we salute you. A huge crowd, weather of all types and bands who played the most blistering sets. It all came together superbly and one can only marvel at the organisation and planning that the Gregory family continue to put into this event.

Thursday 9th August 2018

Once the initial chaos of pitching those tents and drinking as much as is possible in four hours was completed, the music begins in earnest in the Sophie Tent. Opening proceedings was Hundred-Year-Old Man (6), whose sombre post-alt metal seemed slightly out of place with the party atmosphere. However, kudos to a band who only appeared on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage a year ago. Unfortunately, other attractions meant that only catching the final song of Fire Red Empress negated any real review.

That did ensure that by the time Bloodshot Dawn (9) hit the stage I was well primed for some technical death metal and boy did the South Coast outfit hit the stage with all guns blazing. Once the guitar gremlins had been removed, Josh McMorran and co unleashed 40 minutes of absolute fury. Visions was shorn of the slicing guitar work but that failed to hold back the hordes in the pit, intent on slamming each other to bits. With three albums to work with, Bloodshot Dawn now have enough material to mix up the set. With tracks from January’s Reanimation sounding massive in the tent, the machine gun drumming of James Stewart providing a huge platform to rest on, it was left to McMorran, Morgan Reid and bassist Giacomo Gastaldi to rip it up. Having seen the band in Fuel back in January, it’s apparent that their latest touring has tightened them up considerably. Their Japanese stint and a massive Hellfest appearance have given the band the confidence to really hit top gear and by the time they peaked with Reanimated there was a feeling within the tent that this is a band who with the right timing and promotion could really step up to the next level.

An air of mystery surrounds the headliners Arkona (8) and this was enhanced by the stage set and pagan rituals that introduced their entrance on to the stage. The Russian outfit are rare visitors to the UK, having completed a mere six dates prior to this headline show. Vocalist and frontwoman Maria "Masha Scream" Arkhipova swirled and captivated the audience as the band launched into their combination of folk, pagan and death metal with tracks from their eight full releases including this year’s Khram. What many of the audience were not expecting was the guttural growls that Arkhipova uses to great effect. Mixed with some stunning clean vocals made for entertaining listening, with the ethnic instruments of Vladimir "Volk" Reshetnikov adding bursts of cultural authenticity. Despite their entertaining delivery, by half way through the set I began to feel that I’d heard it all before; there is a certain repetition with Arkona’s music which doesn’t translate on record.

Friday 10th August

Hitting the main arena at 10:15am was a challenge but Scots Turbyne (8) had drawn the opening slot and proved to be well worth the effort. An energetic 30-minute set whistled by, partly due to the energy that duel vocalists Gary and Keith emitted, their contrasting styles proving an interesting mix, although I’d prefer the clean vocals which were superior. Their intense, complicated style didn’t detract from the heaviness that they are capable of and the lads from Dumfries demonstrated this with several tracks from their Origins And Endings release. A pleasing start to a long day. Having scampered around the main stage where Feed The Rhino were kicking up a storm (but not my bag), it was a quick return to catch Garshkott (6) back on the New Blood Stage. The Northampton five-piece ground out a huge sound but didn’t quite engage me as I’d hoped so I dipped out for a quick beer before one of the main events for many over the whole weekend.

Sacrificing the opportunity to catch any of Bristolian thrashers Onslaught it was vital that we were on the barrier for the next band in the New Blood Stage. South Wales brought three bands to BOA, and first up was Democratus (9). In the Semi-final in Fuel the band had raised their game in stunning style, romping through to the final with a show full of swagger and confidence. Whilst the nerves were very much in evidence as they hit the stage, this performance elevated Democratus another two levels. The band found their stride early, and quickly displaced their anxiety with a display of supreme confidence. Battering mercilessly, the band set the bar so high that many who followed just couldn’t get near. Guitarists Joey Watkins and Kerrin Beckwith were on fire, Zak Skane anchored everything with an iron grip whilst Stu ‘Spoon’ Rake was unable to stop grinning. By the time their anthem Life For A Life blasted out the tent was packed, the pit was moving, and frontman Steve Jenkins had expended every ounce of energy. A hot, sweaty mess who loved every minute. Full credit to the band who clicked superbly. Don’t be surprised if these guys are on the Sophie Stage in the next two years. There is plenty more to come from a band that is maturing splendidly.

(Nick) As the sky's opened and what seemed like an entire ocean was dumped on the grounds of Catton Hall, many retreated to the shelter of their tents, I however had come to see bands and hear some quality music, so I headed straight for the main stage to see Musipedia favourites, Memoriam (8). Taking no prisoners Karl Willetts et al ploughed through a set that can break down stone walls with the heavy, chunky riffs and the slow, deep and menacing growls of Willetts. There was no time for showmanship here as the band set about delivering there set with perfection. Memoriam produce the type of music that just forces your head up and down and there it stays until the set is over. The set opened with As War Rages On and carried on in the same vein as Bleed The Same and Resistance were sent pummelling through our ears, finishing where they started with a personal favourite Flatline. There are always gone to be similarities between Memoriam and Bolt Thrower highlighted, rightfully so. However, for me Memoriam have found a different style here, the sound is a little grungier and the topics darker. All this combined make for a band destined for great thing and one which I can’t quite get enough of, deserving of their main stage slot the guys proved their worth and made me forget about the shit storm of rain I was standing in.

(Paul) From there a quick traverse to the New Blood Stage, where Coventry three-piece Pelugion (7) were giving a great display. Across to the Sophie Tent to catch the tail end and one of the highlights of the day, as Godthrymm (8) pulled out a stunning set. The band, formed with former members of My Dying Bride, Vallenfyre and Anathema amongst others, were led magnificently by Hamish Glencross and delivered some doom and misery which went down a storm with those who preferred quality over the schlock rock of Wednesday 13. Totally humble, the band appeared overwhelmed by the response and I for one look forward to seeing the band again when they support Memoriam at their annual Christmas gig in Birmingham later in the year.

(Stief) The spooky theremin tinged intro to What The Night Brings rang in Wednesday 13's (7) horror-punk set. With several different outfits throughout his set along with some interesting choreography, the frontman seems to know what to do to entertain, and the introduction of scantily clad ladies wielding fire probably helped too. Playing mostly from last year's Condolences album, Wednesday throws in a few fan favourites including I Walked With A Zombie and Serpent Society, even going completely old school by closing with Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13's I Love To Say Fuck, complete with an umbrella adorned with a middle finger. Delightful.

(Paul) Our second foray to the barrier was next, as South Walians Sodomised Cadaver (9) lined up to give the Sophie Tent 40 minutes of quite pulverising death metal. With Charlie Rogers dressed like a total clown, his Donald Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ cap at the ready, the riffs flowed from Ryan Howes whilst Gavin Davies did his best to destroy the drum set up with his massive pummelling. When you know some of the band it can be hard to do an objective review but its fair to say that the tent was completely sodomised. With Ollie Jones fronting your band anything can happen, and the Desecration/ENT vocalist never fails. His Newport lilt and complete fuck the world attitude is perfect for the band, who delivered one of the most crushing sets of old school death metal of the weekend. Humour, energy and power are all present and when the band climaxed with Raped By Ebola it was time to feel proud to be a Welshman once more. Don’t be surprised to see these guys on the main stage soon. They deserve it.

A rush from one tent to the other and another one of the regional MTTM winners, Leicester’s Seven Hells (7) who were giving it a huge push. The five-piece have some blistering tunes and were putting all the effort into their set. Their groove and hardcore was going down well amongst their support and this band could be a force in the future. Back to the main stage for a bit of Bloodbath (8) next. With Nick Holmes up front misery is guaranteed and the band were covered in what looked like the remnants of Watain’s offal truck. Bloodbath are veterans of the death metal scene, and when your band includes Martin Axenrot on drums there will never be any timing issues, the Opeth man playing a flawless set. Holmes, who is about as much from Sweden as I am, prowled the stage, delivering classics such as Eaten, Breeding Death, So You Die and Like Fire alongside Let The Stillborn Come To Me and Anne from the band’s most recent Grand Morbid Funeral with an ease not always noted in his Paradise Lost shows. Bloodbath are becoming a real force in metal again, and with Katatonia on hiatus, expect to see a bit more of the Swedes (and that miserable bloke from Halifax) in the future.

One of the sets of the weekend followed, with extreme metal legends De Profundis (9), whose crushing technical and complex metal was lapped up by the crowd in the Sophie Tent. With four magnificent releases under their belts, the band, who are into their second decade, wasted little time in demonstrating why they are so highly regarded. Tracks from their most recent The Blinding Light of Faith combined with older songs from their other albums. 40 minutes of superb death metal whipped past in the blink of an eye, and another note was made to catch these guys again as soon as possible. In contrast, the kings of UK slam, Ingested (6) disappointedly failed to stimulate and after a couple of their songs I retired to the New Blood Stage for a much more satisfactory set from Bristol MTTM winners Body Harvest (8). A cruel sound robbed the band of their guitars for some of their set, but these guys provided the stomp, the groove and another set of crushing death metal which was massively appreciated by those who had gathered. Yet another outfit whose ascent should be rapid. Following Body Harvest should have been a real challenge but if there was one band that was equipped to meet that challenge it was Birmingham’s Trivax (8) whose black metal fused with the cultural influences of frontman Shayan’s home country of Iran to great effect. These guys have all the attributes to move forward and their 30-minute slot steamrollered those brave enough to stand in their way. An impressive entrance, plenty of atmosphere and essentially some brutal black metal songs all contributed to a fine set.

(Nick) One of the bands high on my hit list this weekend and one that I have been a big fan of for a long time, Kamelot (9). With a reasonably high up slot allowing for a good amount of time to do their thing, I was hopeful of a high-quality set... and I was not let down. Since the departure of one of the greatest voices in metal Roy Khan, Tommy Karevik has stepped in and made himself a worthy replacement. Tommy's vocals were spot on throughout the set not missing a note as songs from the entire back catalogue of Kamelot were delivered,stretching from as far back as Karma, to the present day as Insomniac was chosen to represent the new album. Fan favourites and anthems such March Of Mephisto, Forever and Centre Of The Universe were offered with great appreciation from the majority of the crowd as they joined in willingly. The main difference between present day Kamelot and Kamelot of a decade ago is that Roy Khan used to offer a show and almost played a character on stage, that would really pull you in as he crept around singing, pulling facial expressions of anguish or delight. Tommy truly has a cracking voice and I enjoy every second of it, but, he is more of a front man that wants the attention for other reasons, which has changed the dynamic of the band as a result. This for me does detract from the experience a little, however with the entire of the band on form and the addition of the staggering vocals of Lauren Hart (Once Human), Kamelot delivered a set worthy of its place on the bill and leaves me keener than ever to see them at a headline show again, sooner rather than later.

(Matt) Due to flight delays Japanese power metal band Lovebites had taken their spot on the mainstage earlier in the day, so it was into the Sophie Lancaster stage for American crossover thrash veterans Suicidal Tendencies (8), it proved to be an inspired piece of line up shuffling as the tent was packed with mad-as-hell thrash fans who proceeded to unleash hell from the moment the band hit the stage. Playing a hits packed, breathless set with Mike Muir conducting pits, bouncing and crowd surfing (including one guy in a wheelchair) turning the Sophie Tent into a sweaty club as they played what was for many the set of the day. It was a short yomp over to the Jager stage to see the alt rocking of Kamikaze Test Pilots (7) who served as a quirky hors d'oeuvre for the black metal feast that was coming on the mainstage.    

(Paul) As the sun peered down, the temperature on the stage turned ominously dark as black metal legends Emperor (8) returned to the scene of their triumphant set in 2014. Ihsahn, Samoth and Trym delivered another fabulous show, playing their Anthems To The Welkin At Night album in full, to a rabid reception. It’s difficult to describe the importance of this band to the Black Metal scene but live they are as ferocious now as they were back in the 1990s. Ihshan, relaxed and comfortable, the screams and roars as visceral as ever, whilst the breakneck speed at which they play continues to astonish. Whilst I didn’t catch all their set, the bits that I did were breathtaking.

(Stief) Meanwhile over in the Sophie Stage circle pits galore as Glaswegian metalcore Bleed From Within (7) take to the Sophie stage. With a healthy mix of music from the Era and Uprising albums, the band seem pretty solid, with Scott Kennedy's vicious growls tearing the sophie tent apart along with Steven Jones and Craig 'Goonzi' Gowans on guitars. A blistering set from some angry men.

(Paul) The main reason I missed some of Emperor’s set was to check out the ballsy in your face Southern fried Heavy Metal of Plymouth’s King Bison (8) who concluded proceedings on the New Blood Stage in fine style. The band, who were very gracious in their pre-BOA interview played a proper headline set, with frontman and vocalist Karl owning front of house with his big shouty voice and stage presence. Flanked by guitarists Ali and Milfy and bassist Rohan linking with drummer Hardin, King Bison’s deep groove and honest Southern soaked metal was a perfect antithesis to the black metal chaos unravelling on the main stage. With huge tunes, a confidence and swagger of a band much more experience, the South Coast outfit stomped their way through a meaty set which even had a vegetarian such as me dreaming of a steak later that day.

Much has been written about the demand of the BOA crowd to have local legends Judas Priest (9) headline the festival. In fact, you could trace this back over the last eight or nine years. Now in their twilight years, the band had demonstrated that they will not fade quietly into the night with an astonishingly good release earlier in the year. In fact, Firepower is likely to feature heavily in the top tens of many of our writers and readers. Shorn of every original member apart from bassist Ian Hill, Judas Priest risked turning into a cabaret act, especially given Rob Halford’s penchant for costume changes between each song. Any concern about that was quickly blown away with an opening salvo which once again proved that when it comes to straightforward heavy metal, few can get close. Firepower, Grinder, Sinner, The Ripper and Lightning Strikes opened a set which contained a few surprises along the way.

This was a full fat show, no Priest lite here, with a stage set and lighting show that rivalled all who have trodden the boards before them, Halford camped it up with denim and leather outfits galore. Alongside him, guitar hero Richie Faulkner impressed with his ability to handle the legacy of Downing and Tipton, afforded sterling support from Hell’s Andy Sneap, who must still be pinching himself. Anchored superbly by Scott Travis and the ever-dependable Hill, the Priest continued with classic after classic; Saints In Hell from Stained Glass, Tyrant from Sad Wings Of Destiny and the singalong chaos of Turbo Lover and Freewheel Burning all made for a riotous and enjoyable conclusion to day 2. Despite Halford’s evidence reliance on the autocue for several songs, and the limited mobility of a man who continues to epitomise heavy metal, there was little to criticise. The dialogue was limited, certainly until the conclusion of the set, and that allowed the band to pulverise Catton Hall. A stunning Painkiller saw Halford doubled over the legendary Harley Davidson, the crowd willing him on as he maintained that ear splitting falsetto with an ease that should not have been possible. At 66 he’s by no means the oldest front man in metal but he remains one of the greatest.

Despite all the flames, lights and stage set, the encore provided both a joyous and sad sight as Glenn Tipton, weighed down by over ten years of battling with Parkinson’s Disease, emerged for the final four tracks. As we know, Parkinson’s is a bastard of an illness, robbing flexibility and dexterity, something vital for the speed and fluidity that Tipton’s guitar work has always been famous for. Priest had clearly rehearsed hard for this, with the four songs, Metal Gods, Breaking The Law, No Surrender and Living After Midnight, all tailored to ensure Tipton could deliver those killer riffs one more time. The inclusion of a new track in No Surrender was a particularly brave move, as Tipton’s muscle memory would have been limited in comparison to the other three which he could probably still play in his sleep. With Sneap playing anchor in the background, Tipton delivered the goods, albeit allowing Faulkner to complete the intricate solo work. This was undoubtedly the last time that we will see Tipton on stage with Priest and it was a poignant moment as Halford wrapped his arm around his long-time colleague as the set came to an end. A tear welled in my eye. As the screen announced THE PRIEST WILL BE BACK, you had to wonder in what capacity that might be. Whatever the future holds, this was a performance that fully justified the band’s inclusion as Friday Headliners.

Friday night wasn’t quite concluded though, and a quick sprint across the arena allowed a decent view of the metal queen, Doro (8), who delivered a typically bombastic Germanic set. Her music is decent, heavy and formulaic and the arrival of her former Warlock guitarist Tommy Bolan ramped up the amplification somewhat. A set built on Warlock classics ensured that those who knew her early stuff were content, with Burning The Witches a particular favourite. All For Metal from the new album and Raise Your Fist from her previous long player brought things up to date but it was the old school stuff that always gets the fist pumping. A solid conclusion to an exhausting but brilliant day of heavy music.

Reviews: Primal Fear, Manimal, Skyharbour, The Wheel

Primal Fear: Apocalypse (Frontiers Records)

12 albums in and German metal juggernaut Primal Fear are still firing on all cylinders Apocalypse is their latest collection of heavy metal anthems and sees them diversifying their sound adding more AOR influences that have crept in since they signed to Frontiers records. When a band release an album basically every 2 years you'd think that at some point they'd run out of ideas but when a band features songwriting machine Mat Sinner (bass) there's no chance of that as Apocalypse leads in New Rise which has rampaging drums, some orchestral swathes and Ralf Scheepers unmistakeable vocals.

Things get heavier with The Ritual which has that classic Priest speed metal sound to it. Having always been purveyors of metal Primal Fear is the heaviest of all of the projects Sinner, Scheepers, Alex Beyrodt and Magnus Karlsson are involved (and that my friends is a lot), so it means when they slow down for King Of Madness or Supernova they shift into the more melodic rock realms with the latter having orchestral swells that turn it into a bit of an emotional epic. From here though the volume is well and truly up with classic metal quota including the aggressive The Beast. Apocalypse is yet another slice of power metal mastery from the German band. 7/10

Manimal: Purgatorio (AFM)

Swedish power metal band Manimal have finally dropped their third record Purgatorio, (Italian for Purgatory) it’s a title derived from Dante’s Inferno and also the name of one of this records strongest songs, although with an album this strong it’s got a lot of competition. Manimal have always just relied on the four core members in the band, rampaging rhythms, aggressive riffs and Samuel Nyman’s Halford-esque vocal acrobatics, you could be forgiven for thinking this is modern day Priest record as Traitor, Behind Enemy Lines and the title track could have sat comfortably on Firepower. Purgatorio is the first time the band have produced a record themselves meaning that this is exactly how they want to sound, I discussed this a little when I spoke to the band last year supporting Firewind and they have a collective goal to be a completely independent band playing the music that they want to. It’s very good then that as a listener this is great metal music that doesn’t rely to heavily on symphonics, although they do appeared in a subdued manner on Denial and The Fear Within, however it’s mainly the tried and tested guitar, bass, drums and vocals formula creating catchy hooks and head banging riffs. Manimal have always been a great band Purgatorio keeps the quality of their product high, purgatory it isn’t; it’s something a little more heavenly. 8/10

Skyharbor: Sunshine Dust (eOne)

Indian/American progressive metal band Skyharbor have been one of the leading lights in the djent/tech metal scene since it started at the beginning of this decade, they have only released three albums in this time but for a band that started out as solo project of guitarist Keshav Dhar to be at the point where they're seen by a few bands as a major influence I'd say that's good going. Sunshine Dust is their third album and comes after a few line up changes the most notable was American Eric Emery taking the place of previous vocalist Dan Tompkins who is probably too busy fronting Tesseract.

Recently the band have toured with Deftones, Tesseract, The Contortionist and Baby Metal and this high profile touring schedule has influenced this record greatly, starting out a self recorded demo once they signed it was re-recorded with Forrester Savell as producer, meaning that it has bigger scope than before. What I've always liked about Skyharbor is their reliance on the more melodic, catchy, ambient soundscapes than some of their contemporaries, in places they have strong pop vein counteracted by the fluidity of the layered guitar playing and occasional crunch.

Take the technicality of Synthetic Hands which twists into a more anthemic finale before Blind Side has a stirring ambience to it reminiscent of Anathema or Mogwai, the guitars jangle while a propulsive rhythm section hooks you in as the emotional chorus takes hold. Sunshine Dust is the next step in the evolution for Skyharbor, with a fixed line up and more touring under their belts hopefully we will see more of them soon, for now however let yourself drift away with this excellent record. 8/10

The Wheel: 2nd & 10 (Wheel Music/Cargo)

A record that begins with a track called Douchebag Blues isn’t pulling any punches but rather than the Southern rock I was waiting for The Wheel are much more grungy hard rocking prospect having the fuzzy guitars and vocal similarities of Soundgarden, with the occasional Zep strut (Last Day) giving you something to shake about. Despite the overarching Americanism The Wheel are a Norwegian five piece formed by guitarist Ørjan Kvalvik who was inspired by EVH, Paul Gilbert and Jerry Cantrell and formed the band with a vision to have a proper rock band. I’d say that vision was fulfilled as they can turn their hand to many styles with Van Halen boogie for My Machine and Hey You, then with On Through The Night and the ballad This Low singer Jan Erik Salvesen adopts the leather lunged heartbreak of David Coverdale. It’s an ode to those halcyon days of classic rock music, Planet Rock listeners will lap this up as it’s a heady mix of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s hard rock thrown together for your listening pleasure. Turn it up and get grooving! 7/10

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Reviews: Armory, Extremity, Heads For The Dead, Sathanas (Reviews By Paul H)

Armory: The Search (High Roller Records)

Another band whose sophomore album has reached us. Gothenburg thrashers Armory (not to be confused with the melodic power metal of the American outfit or the many others of the same name) didn’t set the world alight with their first release, 2016’s World Peace … Cosmic War, an album that was so old school that I said at the time ‘it takes you right back to the mid-1980s and the overlap with the formative thrash of Metallica circa Kill Em All, Slayer’s Show No Mercy and the power metal of Priest, Accept, Sacred Reich and Helloween’. Well, album number two doesn’t change the style, pace of frenzy that the debut belched up in our faces. 40 minutes of reasonable thrash, which at times appears to be so fast that it’s almost out of control. How these guys keep time when playing live I don’t know. Anyway, if you like your thrash at breakneck speed The Search should keep you reasonably happy. There are pulverising riffs, cocaine fuelled drumming and the improved vocals of Konstapel P, who has limited the shrieks which marred the debut release for me. It won’t make my top 50 this year, but The Search is an improvement on the debut. 7/10

Extremity: Coffin Birth (20 Buck Spin)

Hailing from Oakland, California, Extremity is a three-piece death metal band, made up of Aesop Dekker on drums, Marissa Martinez Hoadley on guitar and vocals and Shelby Lerno on guitar and vocals. Coffin Birth is their debut album, following 2017’s ridiculously titled EP Extremely Fucking Dead. The band have nailed their colours firmly to the death metal mast. This is what they like … and this is what they play. Growling vocals, fast-paced guitar and drumming, themes of death and war and general brutality are all packaged into a 40-minute onslaught which is of sufficient quality to attract the interest and hold it for more than two minutes. The anti-religion themes are inevitable, with tracks such as For Want Of A Nail and Like Father Like Son leaving little to the imagination. Thunderously heavy in parts, Coffin Birth follows the death metal blueprint, adds originality in places and leaves you satisfied. A pleasing debut. 7/10

Heads For The Dead: Serpent’s Curse (Transcending Obscurity Records)

The opening riffs of this debut release leave you in little doubt that this will be one fantastic album. And so it proved. The combined experience of Revel In Flesh’s Ralf Hauber and Wombbath/Ursinne’s Jonny Pettersson have created an absolute beast of a debut. Erik Bevenrud’s powerhouse drumming is insanely ferocious throughout, underpinning 36 minutes of some of the most aggressive and laceratingly punishing death metal of 2018. The brutal pounding of the opening title track serves only as a warning of what is to come.

There is scarcely room to breath between tracks, the intensity never drops and at times the power is such that I feared the speaker would explore. Combining short, sharp tracks such as Heads For The Dead and Post Mortem Suffering with longer, more malevolent songs like the brooding menace of Deep Below, this is an album of extreme metal with a death and horror theme that not only sets but clears the bar. 8/10

Sathanas: Necrohymns (Transcending Obscurity Records)

Formed way back in 1988, it’s been a long ride for New Brighton PA trio Sathanas. I must admit I was only vaguely aware of them prior to this album but surprised to discover a huge back catalogue and history. Necrohymns is their 10th full release amidst several live/split and group EPs. Unsurprisingly, the band focus their content and topics on the horned one down below; this ain’t the Stryper appreciation club that’s for sure! At The Left Hand Of Satan and Throne Of Satan leave nothing to the imagination and at 32 minutes it isn’t the longest player in the world, which can sometimes be a very good thing. Necrohymns does exactly what you would expect. It’s raucous, gnarly and sinister and the three members, Paul Tucker, Bill Davidson and Jim Strauss deliver an 80s style black metal album with some style. There’s little to fault on an album that has huge nods to Venom, Bathory, Sodom, Celtic Frost and Possessed. Once more the devil is getting the best tuneage. 7/10

Thursday, 16 August 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips, Tramshed, Cardiff

A Flaming Lips gig is somewhat of an event, a band who are legendary for gracing the stages of Glastonbury and beyond with huge stage shows where they play in an anarchic visually arresting and aurally stimulating show that enthralls from the beginning as the multi person unit play their experimental psychedelic music to a usually baying crowd. The major problem with The Flaming Lips is that they have always played huge arenas and festivals once or twice a year meaning that there is little chance of seeing them conduct these live rituals. So when the chance of seeing Wayne Coyne and his band of merriment in a more intimate space cropped up I couldn't help but get down to one of my favourite Cardiff venues to see the band in what I hoped would be full pomp.

Arriving at the sold out venue there was a sense of electricity in the air, the courtyard full of punters basking in the sunshine lubricating themselves with alcohol. I arrived late so I didn't catch the openers but with the main hall already full of bodies I waded my way in reaching the doorway at the side of stage but this was an ideal vantage point to witness the madness that was about to unfold. Then nothing... technical gremlins meant that there was much scurrying about by the band members and roadies, almost majestically Wayne Coyne took to the stage bedecked like a Cyber-Punk Pirate a wild shock of hair highlighted by a leather waistcoat and an eye patch, he explained the problems and that they'd start the show post-haste.

Back off stage there was a frenetic stressful pace but finally everything was set and the strains of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 brought the whole band onto the stage as they all struggled to fit due to the band having two drummers and two keyboardists, the first song proper was Race For The Prize which displayed the wall of noise soundscapes The Flaming Lips ply their trade with and with a bang the confetti cannons and balloons filled the arena in a kaleidoscope of colours as the visual stimuli was almost overwhelming but the crowd lapped up every moment of it as Coyne was handed a balloon that spelled out "Fuck Yeah Cardiff" in silver letters. This was put into the crowd after the song ended and was promptly ripped apart by the audience.

Next up came Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1 one of their most famous songs which prompted a mass sing along to the "hi-hi-hi" karate chop refrain and featured a inflatable pink robot that Coyne clambered over to interact, from here it was more of the hypnotic sounds and visuals as the ploughed through Flight Test, the epic The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power) which built up to the ballad of The Castle which was sedate and beautiful, although the same cannot be said for Their Should Be Unicorns which featured Coyne being led through the crowd on a unicorn on wheels while shooting streamers into the crowd. This was bonkers and the sing along to She Don't Use Jelly was almost choral!

This was a gig that featured numerous visual elements supporting the swirling musicality, I'll admit it was a lot to take in for a first timer but wow I've not seen a show like it in some time like a musical circus with Coyne as the ringleader, the one track that stood out though was their cover of Space Oddity not that they needed a cover but it was great to see them paying tribute to the Thin White Duke (admittedly while Coyne was in large clear orb which he used to run over the top of the crowd, singing most of the song in the middle of the room) as so much of their changing musical identity can be traced back to Bowie's influence. If you get the chance to watch The Flaming Lips live don't pass it up as you probably won't have seen anything like it, in a smaller venue especially, they managed to make it feel like a big budget arena show with ease. Magnificent! 9/10  

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Reviews: The Moor, Dark Sarah, Shadow Merchant, Fragile Things (Reviews By Alex Swift)

The Moor: Jupiter’s Immigrants (Self Released)

Venice originating quartet, The Moor is a metal band with a gigantic sound. Drawing inspiration from acts in the vein of Baroness or Mastodon, they are fully capable of being progressive and different without sacrificing any of the intensity of thrash and death stylings.

Lead The Difference begins the record with a juggernaut guitar and drums combination, while Enrico Loghin’s harmonious vocal passages offer an outlandish yet stimulating contrast. The ensuing Jupiter’s Immigrants demonstrates some tremendous prog-death aptitude with the growled verses and instrumental thrashing never clashing with the synthesized arrangements or the melodic theatricality of the chorus, bridge or soloing. The Profiteer is another multi-layered one, its harsh mechanical composition and futuristic effects echoing the dystopian storytelling of a world ravaged by greed and lust for expansion. On a different yet no less gripping note, Thousand Miles Away has a slavishly menacing crawl, a distinctive drum beat, tender weeping from the guitars and strained vocals pervading throughout.

Emulating traditional power metal, Enthroned places emphasis on speed, with choruses to grandiose instrumentals. Inception is not afraid to disperse mellow acoustic in between the ferocious moments, while Odin vs Jesus sounds exactly as epic and thrilling as you would expect from an anthem portraying a battle between gods. Ending strongly, The Alarmist and Dark Ruler amalgamate the ferocious and progressive, with every musician cutting their own unique ideas and every word delivered with the bravery and conviction, warranted by the ambition of The Moor.

Despite growing a name for themselves and courting endorsements from the likes of Mikal Stanne of Dark Tranquillity and Niklas Iseldt of Dream Evil, as well as working with Jens Borgen, a producer of such acts as Opeth and Devin Townsend, The Moor seem to have limited popularity, in the UK at least. However, no one can deny the allure of their experimental yet crushing sound. If their 2012 debut, Year Of The Hunger, caught the attention of all those big names, imagine what Jupiter’s Immigrants can achieve! 9/10

Dark Sarah: The Golden Moth (Inner Wound Recordings)

The Golden Moth marks the final chapter in a narrative this Finnish metal act intend to weave across three albums. They tell of Sarah – a character who must battle the dark side of her persona, and in doing so travel from the underworld to the world of spirits with a perilous enemy – the Dragon - pursuing her. Uniquely, their music has a symphonic yet vaudevillian charm, drenched in sinister showmanship. We open with Desert Rose. ‘’I’m a viper’’ hisses the Dragon – as performed by Jaha-Pekka Leppaluto – ‘’your poisons in my veins’’ answers Sarah – played by Heidi Parviainen. Enthralling exchanges like this one continue throughout, yet they are by no means the only spine-tingling aspect. Commanding guitars underpin the chorus lines on Trespasser, while the verses are orchestral yet no less menacing. My Beautiful Enemy eloquently displays our frontwoman’s place as a classically trained songwriter as we lurch from moments of joyousness to stints of panic and tension. I Once Had Wings begins as a gloomy folk song, before swelling to a crescendoing finish.

Later, Sky Sailing proves one of the most impressive cinematic pieces, and can be envisioned as being a composition for an epic adventure film (should Dark Sarah ever receive the deserved recognition and budget to match their clearly phenomenal sense of ambition). Featuring Zuberoa Aznarez of Diabulus In Musica, Netta Skogg of Ensiferum, and Marko Hietala of Nightwish, The Gods Speak is towering, multi-layered and visceral, as you would expect from a bringing together of some of the most proficient acts within theatrical metal. Bringing the album to a close, Promise is complete with a marching drum rhythm and euphoric guitar solo, while Golden Moth proves an eerie yet achingly emotional ballad.

Like any album taking opera or theatre as a musical compass, this one can seem ridiculous at times. Still, I will argue that it is better for a band to be ambitious and exaggerated, than reserved and safe. Everything from the way the traditional metal instrumentation interacts to the way the male and female vocals play off one another flaunts the influence of foundational symphonic metal acts (Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation) while melding a style and a concept which is unique to Dark Sarah. 8/10

Shadow Merchant: Tomorrow (Self Released)

A sense of psychedelia underpins Shadow Merchant. Tomorrow is their second full-length release, and it certainly makes an impression. Invisible Energy has a familiar classic rock vibe, with a stomping riff and luscious keyboards adding to the vintage atmosphere. While Shadow Merchants Influences are never invisible, they are plentiful and diverse. From the Zeppelin-esque bassy thud and shriek of Beginning Of The End to the intense and brooding New Life, to the musically complex and intricate Stars, every one of these experiments keeps the album from feeling like a retread of ideas we have heard copied countless times. Looking for a metal song? Valkyrie satisfies that craving with its frantic drumming and impressive guitar arpeggios.

Hoping for a piano ballad? Summer is a beautiful and poignant yet non-cliché one. Need something a little more proggy? Silhouette and Adelaide are perfect and technically rich songs, with some strange yet intriguing wordplay. Vocal duties here are shared between Yvonne Blackwell and Howard Whitman, both of whom have their own unique style, which irrespectively mixes well on moments like Moving Standing Still. Overall, Tomorrow can have wide appeal amongst classic rock fans, but also anyone willing to keep an open mind 7/10

Fragile Things: Echo Chambers (Self Released)

Bristol Based hard rock act Fragile Things have been having one hell of a great year. Beginning with an endorsement from Planet Rock Radio, a UK wide tour and a slot at Steelhouse festival alongside Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, they have a lot to be excited about. Expertly combing the Charisma and vigour of hard rock with the smooth production and emotionality of the growing number of sounds labeled alternative, they certainly have a lot of potential. Starting with a punch to the eardrums, the opening title track doesn’t so much try and get your attention as it does grab you and demand you listen on! A powerful riff starts while lead guitars wail along next to it with ferocity and Richie Hevanz (ex-Heaven's Basement) lead vocal lines come in short, sharp surges! Adrenaline slows the tempo a little, yet still has enough hook and distinctive playing to stay memorable. Pick Your Poison brings the two together as the more subdued verses lead into to an explosive chorus and energetic guitar solo.

Disappear even sees Fragile Things perfect a fully-fledged power ballad with some contemplative lyrics ‘Sometimes in life we find our past defines our future’’. On a comparable note, Angry deals with overcoming adversity, with the lines ‘’What if you woke up to find you’re not angry anymore, its time to light up the truth let it chase back the shadows’’ seeming relatable and proving a great example of hard rocks ability to deal in serious lyrical territory. Better Than This serves as a motivational closer, emanating vigour and enthusiasm. For a debut EP, Echo Chambers does more than enough to prove staying power and potential, showing an ability to write meaningful songs with a strong melodic core and a lot of dynamism. There is certainly room for growth of these ideas, but after seeing how far Fragile Things have come in 2018 alone, I can see no reason not to be optimistic for their future. 7/10

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Reviews: Daron Malakian, Jungle Rot, Indica, Brimstone Coven (Reviews By Paul H)

Daron Malakian And Scars On Broadway: Dictator (Interscope)

Although only just released, this second album from the System Of A Down guitarist was actually recorded six years ago. Malakian has been quoted as saying that it was delayed mainly due to the uncertainty about SOAD and their future. Well, this may well be the album that SOAD should have delivered. Immediate and accessible, full of crunching riffs, memorable hooks and a pleasing heaviness, this should get the seal of approval from all those SOAD fans who still yearn for a follow up to Hypnotise, which quite astonishingly was released 13 years ago! With Malakian playing all the instruments and delivering the vocals as well, this could well have been a disjointed performance, but it is the complete opposite, coherent and fluid throughout.

Opener Lives, a commemoration of the Armenian genocide is a hard-hitting track very much in the SOAD style. However, as the album develops, more styles are explored and progressed. Guns Are Loaded, a poignant, slow paced track is more relevant now than it was six years ago. Talkin’ Shit contains the same vitriolic aggression that SOAD so often did, whilst covers of Gie Mou, originally by the Greek Elvis, Stamatis Kokotas and Skinny Puppy’s Assimilate close out the album in style. I was never a massive fan of SOAD, but this album is worth getting involved with. 8/10

Jungle Rot: Jungle Rot (Victory Records)

Now past their 25th anniversary, Wisconsin death metal legends Jungle Rot show no signs of slowing up. Their self-titled tenth album is a visceral slice of aggressive thrashing death metal which cannot fail to get the neck snapping. Huge meaty riffs, slow stomping melodies and ferocious passages of all-out speed all combine to provide a brutal release. Delusional Denial neatly nestled in the middle of the album contains everything that you could want from a band who despite numerous line-up changes remain so relevant to the scene today. Opener Send Forth Oblivion sets the pace, full throttle thrash combined with the guttural vocals of Dave Matrise so sweet. It continues throughout the 38 minutes, all the way through until Terrible Certainty, by which time the initial sheer ferocity which hit you like a forearm smash has continued to pound the brain until you submit in a pool of your own juice. Geoff Bub’s battering drumming, the gargantuan bass lines of James Genenz and Matrise’s huge riffs make Jungle Rot an album you cannot afford to miss this year. 9/10

Indica: Disparity Of A Day (Self Released)

Not to be confused with the Finnish female outfit who have supported Nightwish on separate tours in recent years, this is Indica from Brisbane, Australia. Disparity Of A Day follows on from their 2016 debut Stone Future Hymns. As frontman Jayesh Talati says it’s “much more of a spiritual journey than our previous album. The lyrical content and musical energy flow from song to song, tying together at the end in an ouroboros-like effect.” In case you hadn’t gathered by now, this is a band who play lengthy doom and stoner rock, and I mean lengthy, with four of the tracks on this release close to or over 13 minutes each in length. Wanderer, the second track on the release, is a crushing, menacing meander with angst ridden vocals, wave after wave of crushing riffs and crashing cymbals.

Drummer Michael Flint: "Disparity Of A Day is more than just a second album. It represents a positive shift in all areas of Indica’s collective and individual lives, musically and spiritually. A fully collaborative effort between the four of us (five when you consider how much work Chris Brownbill put into production).” There are times when you just must let the music wash over you. This is 72 minutes of astonishing heaviness, slow and spiritual, similar in many respects to the legendary Warning UK, St Vitus and Pentagram, to name but three. 7/10

Brimstone Coven: What Was And What Shall Be (Self Released)

Back in February 2016 I reviewed Black Magic, the sophomore release from the West Virginian outfit who filled their sound with doom and stoner occult themed hard rock. Well, album number three is here and doesn’t change the style or sound, with more occult flavoured tracks such as Lucifer Rising and the haunting The Red Witch. According to the band’s Facebook there has been a change with the band now down to three piece, Dave Trik having replaced Justin Wood and guitarist Corey Roth and bassist Andrew D’Cagna now sharing the vocal duties. Roth’s guitar work remains as compelling as on previous work, a dirty fuzzy sound blended with the retro vibe the band effortlessly create. With more Sabbath riffs than you can handle, What Was And What Shall Be is another quality release. Take a ride and head to the Coven. 7/10

Monday, 13 August 2018

Reviews: Airrace, Baest, Leviathan, Man With A Mission (Reviews By Stief)

Airrace: Untold Stories (Japanese Edition) (Frontiers)

Get your hair backcombed and your dad-rock dance moves out...that's right, it's another AOR review. Surprisingly, this is only the third full album in 35 years from hard rockers Airrace. who have been around since the early 80's and boast Jason Bonham (Son of Led Zeppelin's John) among past members.

The newest iteration boasts some impressive additions, with this being vocalist Adam Payne's first recorded stint. Original member Laurie Mansworth continues on guitars with his son Dhani (of The Treatment) taking up the drums. Lionheart's Rocky Newton throws out some excellent bass lines, and Linda Kelsey-Foster is wonderful on keyboards. The first thing that's noticeable is the sound. Despite being a year younger than the band's founding, Adam Payne is definitely a great choice for the vocals, his voice fitting perfectly with the hard rock/bluesy sound that the band have evidently refined over years of touring.

It's your standard AOR fare, with tight melodic guitars, harmonies, great piano work and even some layered vocals in places. You even have your classic ballad, with Lost, which is a nice rest stop before the get-your-lighters-out chorus of Love Is Love. The inspiration from their peers is evident, with some songs including the aforementioned Love Is Love taking cues from Queen and Led Zeppelin amongst others, whilst still retaining their own personal style. A definite one to add to the collection for any fans of hard rock. 8/10

Baest: Danse Macarbe (Century Media)

As you can probably tell from the name (which translates to beast in Danish), this isn't any old metal band. This is the first full album from the Danish quintet, and straight from the outset, they grab your eardrums, assault them and barely relent. The band certainly live up to the name, with Simon Olsen's guttural growls sounding extremely vicious, especially working with the tight guitarwork from Sven Karlsson and Lasse Revsbech. Sebastian Abildsten's drumming pounds into your eardrums, and 'Muddi' Melchiorsen's basswork helping to bring the band's sound to that dark place we all want to be when we look for death metal.

It's hard to believe this is Baest's first album, as the band sound extremely polished, and it seems the its no surprise they've been seen supporting greats such as Dying Fetus, Entombed A.D and the like. What's also interesting is the way the band isn't afraid to shy away from the acoustic, with interlude Ritual giving a well needed rest before tearing straight into Vortex. Similarly, the title track begins with a calming acoustic solo before ripping you apart with melodies and deep growls. Definitely a band to keep an eye on! 9/10

Leviathan: Can't Be Seen By Looking: Blurring The Lines, Clouding The Truth (Stonefellowship Recordings)

This is a journey. One of those strange journeys with some odd twists and turns, a journey that when you finish, you're not sure where you are, and unsure if you were heading anywhere in the first place (bit like getting to Llantwit Major then? - Ed). Leviathan have a storied past, with several different versions of the band popping up since their founding in 1991. However, the latest includes John Lutzow doing a triple stint on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Mark Zonder on drums, Brazilian Raphael Gazal taking up vocals and Derek Blake covering the bass. The band's sound is very decent and ranges from borderline power metal to pure prog-rock, Gazal's skilled range easily fitting into any category.

The changes can be jarring at time to time, and often feel like 3 songs in one, which is actually the case for The Struggle To Be Seen As Human, which is seemingly split into 3 distinct topics. Voice clips - including Will McAvoy's impassioned speech about America from The Newsroom - are peppered throughout the album, which all highlight the theme of the album. In the words of the band themselves; "focusing on the decline of the worlds middle class, corruption in politics and poisoning of the environment" with some of the titles being a bit more on the nose than others (Lies Are The New Normal [No Lesser Of Evil] being one that comes to mind.) Although it does help bring the message through, it often feels like the clips are being used as filler in places. Overall, as mentioned at the beginning, it's an odd one, and definitely needs a few listens before you decide exactly how you feel. 7/10

Man With A Mission: Chasing The Horizon (Sony Music Records)

When a band of wolf mask wearing people claim to be created by Jimi Hendrix as the ultimate life form, you know you're not getting some basic album. The band's sound ranges from disco-esque electronica with rap interludes, to pure nu-metal. Tokyo Tanaka's vocals would not seem out of place with bands like Fallout Boy and the like, whilst Jean-Ken Johnny's rapping would fit perfectly well within Limp Bizkit or Linkin Park. It's hard to put a pin in the exact sound of Man With A Mission due to the diversity. There's mixing and sampling from DJ Santa Monica, straight up riffs from Jean-ken, and Spear Rib's drumming varies between the manic drumming during Dog Days and the steady rhythm of songs like Sleepwalker.

One second you're listening to Mindless Self Indulgence, then you're thrown into soaring distorted guitars a la 30 Seconds To Mars. However, there are some nice touches, including the band using their native Japanese in Find You, and even jumping between English and Japanese in the calming album closer Sleepwalker. This is the first of Man With A Mission's albums to be released internationally, so pick it up, give it a listen and decide for yourself. Definitely worth a look in at least 8/10

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Bloodstock 2018 Preview

Bloodstock Preview

It’s now just a matter of days before the Metal calendar reaches for what many is the highlight of the entire year. Four days of camping, boozing, and most importantly music with like minded metal heads from across the globe. Since its humble beginnings in 2001, Bloodstock has mushroomed into THE metal festival in the UK. The attractions are many; an eclectic but predominantly pure heavy metal line-up which you don’t get at Download; a short walk from the campsites to the arena and even the walk from the car park to the campsite doesn’t kill you; but most of all, you get four days of sheer relaxed enjoyment where you can catch as many or as few bands as you want and meet new and old friends. This year, with an increased capacity and a new campsite, things may be a little more congested but there will still be room to navigate comfortably between the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, the Ronnie James Dio Main Stage and the Sophie Lancaster Stage. Throw in extra entertainment during the day and after the bands finish, and a range of food and merch to satisfy the most demanding punter and it all sounds perfect. If they would just get rid of the fun fair next to the Sophie Tent, then I’d be happier than a pig in the proverbial brown stuff.

But the main reason we go is for the music, so here’s my view on who I’ll be hunting out over the weekend. Everyone will have their own highlights but feel free to use this as a guide. I take no responsibility for any disappointment though. There’s no accounting for taste!

Thursday

Predominantly dominated by arriving early, getting sorted and then getting on it, Thursday can be brilliant or an absolute disaster. Getting totalled is the norm, having more than you usually drink on a Friday night by 3pm is routine and collapsing in a heap by 9pm expected. If you can drag yourself to the Sophie Tent, then there is a range of great bands. Don’t miss the ballsy rock of Fire Red Empress, whose hard-hitting hard rock is ferocious live. If you like your technical death metal, Bloodshot Dawn, a band who opened the main stage a few years ago will be looking to impress following their stunning third album Reanimation which was released early this year. The opportunity to catch the Russian/Polish pagan black metal of headliners Arkona, a band of some repute and who rarely tour the UK will also be one not to miss.

Friday

Always a brilliant day, as the RJD stage opens with the big guns, this year is no exception with the headliners that we’ve wanted for years, Judas Priest, sure to pull out all the stops. Hopefully we will get to see the legend Glenn Tipton get on stage for a couple of numbers. Stand-in Andy Sneap is no stranger to the RJD stage, having played there a few times with Hell. It’ll be all eyes on the Metal God Rob Halford as he prowls the stage. If you’ve never seen Priest before, then make sure you don’t miss them. With an arsenal of thunderous classic tunes complementing this year’s blistering Firepower, the legends will take some beating as band of the weekend. Directly before them are another legendary band, making their return to the RJD stage as special guests, black metal overlords Emperor who will, if I am right, be playing their magnificent Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk in full. Earlier in the day, I’ll be doing my utmost to catch the death metal of Memoriam, whose Bolt Thrower legacy remains a huge pull. Karl Willerts and co will let the music do the talking and with two albums in just under a year, they have a decent amount of material to crush skulls with. I’ll also hope to catch some of Bristolians Onslaught, whose thrash should go down a treat in the pit, alongside the brutality of Bloodbath, who I may or may not catch, having seen at Damnation last year. I’m likely to sacrifice Suicidal Tendencies, the shock rock of Wednesday 13 and the power metal of American’s Kamelot in favour of other stages.

On the Sophie Stage it’s a real smorgasbord of delights; choosing highlights here is hard. In fact, you could spend all day in the tent and not be short changed. Headliner Doro is a legend whose hard-hitting classic heavy metal should be a superb end to day 1. In contrast, the Oriental power metal of Love Bites should be interesting. There’s plenty of face melting opportunity as well, with De Profundis, Ingested and Reprisal all geared up to smash you over the head. Highlight of the day will of course be the joyous ditty Raped By Ebola, from our death metal South Walian brothers Sodomised Cadaver, who have been kicking Europe’s arse during the summer. If it is too sunny for you, then take the opportunity enjoy a little doomy gloom from Godthyrmm, who with former members of Vallenfyre, My Dying Bride and Anathema will ensure that it is raining in your heart by the end of their set.

As if that isn’t enough, the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage is bursting at the seams with talent. Scots Turbyne, with their progressive metal will be the polar opposite of Birmingham’s Trivax, whose bludgeoning death metal and Iranian influences should get a decent crowd. More brutality awaits from the Bristol death merchants Body Harvest, who will flatten the place. If the posters are to be believed that the day will be topped off by Southern Fried heavy metal from King Bison who are finger licking good. Of course, for the large Welsh contingent, watching Democratus will be quite an experience. Fingers crossed Spoon doesn’t clout Steve in the head with his bass.

Saturday

With the festival in full swing, pacing yourself for day 2 is a challenge. There is plenty on the main stage to keep the interest. The hardcore thrash of Power Trip is a must for me, especially after missing them on their support to Trivium in April. These guys will certainly shift the hangovers. Following Power Trip, some Germanic power metal, and superior power metal at that with the much-anticipated arrival of Orden Ogan, who will make me very happy if they play Gunman. I will remain in front of the main stage for the might of Greek’s seminal Hellenic death metal outfit Septicflesh, who are intense. This should be an occasion with the shouts of “destroy” and “my friends” from frontman Spiros Antoniou inevitable. If you haven’t heard Codex Omega, the band’s last album, then get your ears around it as soon as you can. Venom Inc are likely to be shorn of Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn after his recent heart issues, but with Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan up front and Antony ‘Abaddon’ Bray back behind the kit, you can be sure that the old school Venom classics will rip through the Derbyshire air for the second time in two years. I’m nonplussed by Alestorm but the special guests, the mighty Cannibal Corpse will once again pump up the Hawaiian shirt clad mosh pits, “alrighty then”, before headliners Gojira move your internal organs. Rumour has it that Global Warming may be on the set list, which will make many fans extremely happy.

Another blistering line-up in the Sophie Tent, with Orphaned Land a must see for me. This is a band that get better with every album, and live their humility comprised with some heavy tunes makes for something special. Everything else in the tent is totally watchable, from the gut splitting of Exhorder, the antipodean progressive rock of Voyager and the extreme progressive metal of miserable bastards Conjurer, whose latest release Mire is a masterpiece. A Forest Of Stars were brilliant in Fuel recently whilst Lee Dorrian’s return in With The Dead should draw a crowd. Top picks in the New Blood Stage? Well, Valafar have been drawing big backing, the symphonic metal of Sheffield’s Aonia should win friends and the weirdness of Cadence Noir should be interesting.

Sunday

As the beers continue to flow, suddenly it is the last day but fear not, there is still plenty to see. Not so much on the main stage for me, although the traditional metal of Monument is a decent opener and followed by Swedes Evergrey may keep me in my spot. Jasta promises something special with a plethora of guests including Howard Jones, Kirk Windstein and Dino Cazares. However, it’s the wild card of Mr Big that will be one of the moments of the weekend as the melodic rockers will smooth out all the wrinkles in the field before Devildriver’s insanity (not that I’ll be watching Dez and co. Boring as hell live). The final combination of At The Gates and Nightwish allows for last minute moshing and some quality symphonic metal. Not my cup of tea but I shall probably watch from afar

At least that will give me time to get a safe spot for the closing band of the weekend and what a battering to finish as Watain hit their headline spot in the tent. It should be intense and with blood, guts and fire, a classic finish. However, Sunday in the tent could be the wild card, with the might of King Leviathan, the arrival of New Zealand youngsters Alien Weaponry and the Indian death metal veterans Demonic Resurrection all must see bands. Act Of Defiance contain ex-Megadeth members and play solid thrash metal whilst Pallbearer are a decent option for those not fussed by ATG. The New Blood Stage meanwhile has plenty to offer. Expect a huge crowd for Staffordshire groove merchants Obzidian, who should be in the bigger Sophie Tent, youngsters Ethyrfield are expected to deliver good things, whilst Dead Before Mourning and Sellsword are other bands well worth checking out.

Of course, we all have our bands to watch, which is what makes BOA so brilliant. Watch out for our reviews of the weekend on the blog, although it might take us a few days to come back to earth first.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Review: Doro (Review By Paul H)

Doro: Forever Warriors Forever United (Nuclear Blast)

Let’s start at the beginning. What an album cover. 35 years in the business and the art work remains stunning. Not only does Doro appear with the body of a 20-year-old, but she appears to have Nikki Sixx on her left shoulder, surrounded with other ‘metal’ fans on the march. Maybe it is? Who knows. Anyway, regardless, this double release to coincide with the Metal Queen’s 35th anniversary is her 20th release and for that she deserves full horns up. 29 years ago, I recall seeing the diminutive frontwoman take on the hordes at Monsters Of Rock with Warlock, opening a day that culminated in Ozzy’s headline performance and which also featured Motörhead, Scorpions and Def Leppard. (Bad News also appeared but I hated that they took the place of a proper band so that’s the end of that). Since that day, Doro has, with a drive and determination that can only admired, forged a path for traditional metal. It’s a remarkable achievement and one that many in the UK probably don’t quite understand.  The curse of being an island nation is that we often look the wrong way across the water, taking our steer from the States rather than mainland Europe, where bands such as Doro remain huge. It’s our insular approach which makes metal a minority music in comparison to some of the dirge that gets so much attention. Joining Doro on these albums are Luca Princiotta and Bas Maas on guitars, Nick Douglas on bass and Johnny Dee on drums. This the first double album the Metal Queen has released, and it is crammed full of brand new tracks which vary greatly in their style, range and delivery but all retain the vital trademark Germanic stamp.

Forever Warriors sees Doro present herself as a wild warrior, with a fistful of thumping anthems which should get the head banging. Opening track All For Metal, features amongst others, Mille Petrozza, Chuck Billy, Sabaton and the late Warrel Dane. The pace intensifies with Bastardos, firing at breakneck speed before the vicious duet with Johan Hegg on If I Can’t Have You, which shouldn’t work but somehow does. With two guest guitarists in Doug Aldrich and former Warlock man Tommy Bolan adding to the shred. The latter having contributed to 1987’s Triumph And Agony. Anthemic metal is what Doro does best, and only Saxon write better classic heavy metal in my opinion. Soldier Of Metal, Turn It Up and Blood, Sweat, Rock ‘N’ Roll all deliver in exactly the way you’d expect. 

The unexpected but impressive cover of Whitesnake’s Don’t Break My Heart Again precedes the Doro tradition of a mid-tempo track sung in German, this time Freunde Fürs Leben, which deals with a deep friendship, like Für Immer. Forever United is an emotional rollercoaster, full of anthems about life and seizing the day. The anthem to Lemmy, Living Life To The Fullest, written on the plane to legend’s funeral, will get the hardest metal head blinking back the tears, whilst the mix of hard rockers and power ballads capture the feelings perfectly. Lift Me Up and 1000 Years slow the pace, allowing Doro to deliver sensitive performances which contrast with the harder edged Resistance and Love Is A Sin. A fine cover of Motörhead’s Lost In The Ozone closes the album in poignant fashion.

It’s hard to be anything but uplifted by listening to this album. Doro believes passionately about her music; she’s stuck stoically to her path, supported by a fiercely loyal fan base (especially in her home country). At times the lyrical content may be a little on the corny side, but with such passion and heart in every track she writes, who gives a damn. A headline slot at Wacken in front of 80,000 should be unbelievable and with her headline set in the Sophie Tent at BOA now just days away, what better chance to show the Metal Queen what we really feel. 8/10

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Reviews: King Company, Born To Murder The World, Sinsaenum, Gravewards (Reviews By Paul S, Stief & Sean)

King Company: Queen Of Hearts (Frontiers) [Stief]

Some more melodic rock from Finland here. King Company have been around for 4 years, and this is the 2nd album since 2016's One For The Road. This is also vocalist Leonard F. Guillian's first recorded performance, and it's a great debut for him. As soon as the opening title track kicks in, you can hear his voice is perfect for the band's style, just that bit melodic with an edge of gruffness. The sound itself comes in two flavours throughout the album; Fast paced and frenetic with a hint of synth (Queen Of Hearts, Living In A Hurricane), and the ballad (Living The Dream, Never Say Goodbye). Both styles seem to work perfectly for the band, with Antti Wirman's guitar work gelling perfectly with Time Schleifer's bass. Jari Pailamo's keyboards can be soulful and emotion one song, then energetic the next. The same goes for Mirka Rantanen's drumming. If you're looking for some new rock to listen, and want a bit of kick with it, then pick up Queen Of Hearts. 7/10

Born To Murder The World: The Infinite Mirror Of Millennial Narcissism (Extrinsic Recordings) [Paul S]

Born To Murder the World is a side project of Mick Kenny (Anaal Nathrakh, Mistress, Monkeys are Machine Guns), Shane Embury (Napalm Death, Venomous Concept, and so many other side projects) and Drunk (Duncan Wilkins of Fukpig, Mistress). Considering the bands that the members of BTMTW make their living with, it isn’t really a surprise that this is a rather extreme project. BTMTW play Grindcore, and a fairly apocalyptic brand of Grindcore it is too. The albums 12 tracks come in at just 16 minutes in length, 4 of the tracks are under a minute in length, and the longest track is 2 minutes 34 seconds long.  So, should the listener feel short changed at such a short run time? No, not at all. This album absolutely rages! There is more anger, more wrath, more aggression than on five or six normal metal albums. The riffs are razor sharp, the drums blast and batter the listener and the vocals are staggeringly raw, in your face and so, so angry. In fact the vocals need a special mention as they are extremely good, and really make this album stand out. 

Duncan Wilkins (Drunk) screams, bellows, snorts, snarls and pig squeals and makes every kind of sound that it is possible for a human to make, and by god it sounds great! Musically, you can tell which bands the members are from. There is a touch of Anaal Nathrakh about the production job, and the sound on offer here. There is also a certain Napalm Deathness to the structure and form of the songs. But, well, I can’t criticise them for sounding like themselves.The Infinite Mirror Of Millennial Narcissism is an incandescent scream of rage, an a staggeringly angry, dark piece of work. Ok, it’s over really quickly, but then, so was Nail’s Abandon All Life, and that was one of the best Grindcore albums ever made, and the fact that I can compare the 2 albums says a lot for BTMTW’s quality. Fantastic piece of Grindcore! 8/10

Sinsaenum: Repulsion For Humanity (earMusic) [Sean]

Ee gads! Looking at this bands resume, one can be easily forgiven for assuming that Sinsaneum would’ve been a confused musical endeavour. Each member spans multiple genres, at times inhabiting polar opposites of the metallic spectrum. *deep breath* We have a supergroup formed by Frédéric Leclercq (bass, guitar) of Dragonforce, drummed by Joey Jordison (Slipknot), Stéphane Buriez (guitar) of Loudblast, Heimoth (bass) of Seth, Sean Zatrsoky on vocals (Daath) and Mayhem’s Attila Csihar providing backing vocals and lyrics. Whew! I haven’t even begun to mention who the members have already played for! Ridiculous CV aside, Frederik really has assembled an impressive army of seasoned musicians in sole pursuit of crafting something heavier than his day job. Answering this call, Sinsaenum was carved into existence. Having (mostly) silenced the doubters and the confused on their debut in 2016, the international horde returns with their latest offering Repulsion For Humanity.

The opening title track sets the bar fairly high, all whammy bars and blast beats aplenty. I’m immediately struck at how 90’s the guitars sounds, with its missing mids a throwback to the golden days of Roadrunner Records and Scott Burns. This translates to the music too, the riffage conjuring memories of Deicide, Death, a whiff of Domination era Morbid Angel and Black Metal for good measure. Final Resolve slows things down with a hefty dose of groove, slithering into the blackened chug Sworn To Hell. Both are strong enough tracks, if a bit predictable. I Stand Alone (c’mon guys, really?) briefly confuses me, adopting a borderline Pantera (or even Godsmack) approach with its “tough guy” chorus. Begrudgingly it works, though the lyrics are cringe inducing (sorry Attila). 

My Swan Song, however, really grabs my attention for the first time. The muscular march builds towards a powerful chorus and Sinsaenum really do conjure a genuine sense of menace. Perhaps it’s the more measured pace, downplaying the somewhat generic riffing or that all elements are allowed to breathe here. It continues with Nuit Noire, boasting some truly otherworldly solos. Forsaken, the album closer, is another highlight and showcases what can happen when the styles of each member mesh seamlessly. There’s far more of an emphasis on the epic, the synths really filling out the dynamic space to great effect. 

On the whole, Repulsion For Humanity is a solid album crafted by individuals at the top of their game, but it is not without its flaws. For all the belligerence and bravado, the straight up Death Metal elements come across as somewhat tepid and a touch uninspired. The stylistic transitions between each song occasionally feel a bit jarring, as if the band hasn’t really settled on a cohesive vision. It’s only when Sinsaenum move beyond those constraints, beyond the textbook do they transcend .They become far more than just another extreme metal supergroup, displaying what a unified approach can truly achieve. Sinsaenum have yet to reach their peak but there’s no reason why you shouldn't shouldn't give this a spin, it’s quite fun when it gets it right. For that and the highlights alone, Sinsaenum still deserve your attention.7/10

Gravewards: Ruinous Ensoulment (Unspeakable Axe Records ) [Paul S]

Gravewards are a 3 piece Death Metal Band from Athens. They’ve been going since 2015 and Ruinous Ensoulment is the bands first album. Gravewards play a fairly old school style of Death Metal, there's no technical or progressive elements on the album. The band all have single word names (Fotis, Vasillis and Nikos), that fits in with the early nineties feel of the the album. This is not messing about Death Metal, although a lot of the album is fairly mid paced they do blast as well, Destruction Of Logic is a good example of this, fast and unrelenting, and starts with a slightly off kilter drumming rhythm that batters the listener into submission. Ruinous Ensoulment could have come out in 1992, the song structures, the song and album titles which sound like the band definitely own a thesaurus (incidentally, why is there only one word for thesaurus?). 

This is the band's first album, and it sounds like it. Although, it’s well written and played, it does sound like a whole load of other bands. In the last few months, I’ve listened to quite a few albums whose sound is pretty much indistinguishable from this album. It’s a good album, but the band need to find their own sound, so they will stand out. They can clearly play, but they need an identity of their own if they are to have a future. I don’t want to be too harsh on this album. It’s a good, solid piece of work, well written and played. If Gravewards are going to have a future they need to have a bit of uniqueness about them. Ruinous Ensoulment is a good first album, but there are too many other bands out there doing the same thing. If they can take what they’ve done here and build on it, they might be on to something. Solid, if unremarkable debut album. 7/10

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With King Bison and Kinasis (Interview By Paul H)

King Bison Interview

Another band that I’m looking forward to with some relish is the West Country Southern Fried Heavy Metal of King Bison. Big, ballsy and in your face in the style of Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity, these boys will rock the rafters of the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage. Frontman Karl was good enough to supply the answers to my questions.

Paul: Let’s start with a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up.
Karl: “We started King Bison in 2016 although most of us have been in bands together for about 20 years. My name is Karl and I am the shouter, we have the big man Ali on lead guitar, Milfy on rhythm guitar, Rohan on bass, backing vocals and the beat master is Hardin”.

Paul: I had a listen to your EP, Snake Head Burial, which I think was released last year. It’s a stomping bit of heavy which I enjoyed very much. For those who haven’t heard of you, summarise the King Bison sound.
Karl: “Thank you very much. Our sound is a solid blend of Southern heavy Rock and Metal. Big grooves and catchy choruses with my gravely bark thrown in”.

Paul: Who are the main influences for the band?
Karl: “Lots of influences really. The obvious Pantera, Down, Clutch, Metallica and then also stuff like Snot. They had great style and variation on the album Get Some. A truly great record that is still played regularly me now”.

Paul: Surprise us with something you also like? What’s the guilty pleasure?
Karl: “I am into a lot of different music to be honest and I like what I like. Future Islands are a regular go to for me”.

Paul: You guys are from Plymouth. What’s the metal scene like there. How would you describe it?
Karl: “Plymouth has a pretty good metal scene to be fair and being in the metal to the masses competition has highlighted just how strong the local talent is. I don’t get out as much as I’d like, and I don’t get chance to support the scene as much as I wish I could but there are some good venues and good people working hard to keep live music in general alive and kicking in the city so big hats off to them”.

Paul: The main purpose of our interviews is to preview some of the bands who qualified for the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage via Metal To The Masses. Every band we’ve interviewed has worked incredibly hard to get to a position where they were ready for Metal To The Masses. Tell us your road to the final story
Karl: “Well in 2017 we got to the semis of the comp but had to withdraw because of one reason or another. We were gutted and said 2018 will be our year! We knuckled down hard and got our set in order and just took each heat as it came and made sure we were tight enough so we could really enjoy it rather than think about it. It made all the difference and we rocked our way to the final in true King Bison style.

Paul: Did you feel confident you could get to the MTTM final?
Karl: “Yes, very convenient we could get to the final. We have worked incredibly hard with this band and knew we could deliver good live shows and stand out from the crowd”.

Paul: Tell us about the build-up to the final; how did you manage to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone?
Karl: “It’s a tough one as we did not want to bombard and beg people to support us but we also knew we had to advertise and get people there for us as votes count plus the more people there the better the venue does and hopefully they will continue to host the comp. Tuesday night heats in Saltash were always going to be tricky for any band to drum up support but to be fair our support was good and we are very grateful to anyone who came down and supported us and supported Livewire. The people who run that place are superb and what they do for the community is just incredible. The world is a better place with people like that around”.

Paul: And the final itself? What was that like and how did it feel when you got announced as winners.
Karl: “A really good turn out on a Friday night, really great performances and being announced as Simon Hall’s special guests was just insane. We were buzzing!”

Paul: You’ve got a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage; You’ll know your times, but the current billing looks like you could be going toe to toe with Emperor. Regardless, you are playing at Bloodstock and there are some brilliant other new bands. What can we expect from you guys – why should those who are undecided come and watch?
Karl: “You can expect one of the most entertaining 30 minutes of the entire weekend. A big groove injected Metal N Roll party with plenty of laughs and attitude. Oh, and a little surprise thrown in for good measure! Seriously tho, if you are undecided on what to do at the time we are on, come in and give us a go. I guarantee you will be head banging and drunk before you know it!”

Paul: Who are you looking forward to seeing at BOA this year?
Karl: “Judas Priest, Devildriver, Fozzy, Suicidal Tendencies, Gojira to name a few”.

Paul: Have you been to Bloodstock before? For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go?
Karl: “First time for me but the lads in the band who have been before rate it as the best metal fest in the UK. They have said it’s a great lay out and set up and seriously well organised and on top of that a fantastic Ale selection. I can’t wait!”

Paul: You’ve been going for a couple of years. Share some of your highlights so far.
Karl: “It’s been slow and that’s down to the nature of the business these days. We all have full time jobs and family’s so it’s hard trying to get a band on anything or anywhere especially if you are new. People don’t really take a gamble on bands they haven’t heard of, so it’s been tricky getting gigs out of town.
Supporting Hed Pe in Plymouth was a wicked night tho so that is one of my highlights so far. Getting to Bloodstock is obviously our greatest achievement yet and when we play Friday it will be a dream come true”.

Paul: After Bloodstock what ‘s next for the band?
Karl: “Hopefully we will be spotted at Bloodstock and given a record deal and shit loads of cash and the chance to tour the world................. If only ha! We have said that after the festival we will come straight back in the studio and record our debut album. Then just take it from there. Hopefully getting the chance to play around the country would be ace”.

Paul: Finally, you describe yourselves as Southern Fried Heavy Metal. I’m vegetarian. What can you do for me?
Karl: “We can offer you first dibs on Hardin’s veg patch”.

I’m not sure of the quality of Hardin’s veg patch in comparison to my own; Mrs H is a ferocious gardener but I’m looking forward to chowing down on 30 minutes of stomping metal with the boys from Plymouth. Huge thanks to Karl for taking the time to answer the questions and I hope that he enjoys his first BOA.

Kinasis Interview

First, many congratulations on winning through to the New Blood Stage. With a week to go we’ve only just been asked to do this so if you guys can turn it round quickly we can get it onto the website, so people can have a read. Thank you for your time and have a great Bloodstock.

Let’s start with a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up.

"We formed in 2009. We'd all previously played in different bands and for the most part knew each other from various gigs. At Bloodstock our line-up is: Tom H,  Vocals, Marcus, Guitar, Tom S, Guitar, Tristan, Bass, Noah, Drums

I had a listen to your EP, Pariah, which was released last year. It’s a slice of brutality alright. Impressive stuff. For those who haven’t heard of you, and I know you don’t like any tags or labels, how would you describe your sound.

"We love to write in odd-time, which helps bring together a groovy,technical, progressive passage through songs. We draw from a wide range of influences skipping through sub genres all over the place to create something which sounds a bit different. Our songs can be frenetic at times and controlled and melodic at others, brutal in places and more subtle and haunting in others. My personal favourite word to describe us is groovy, it's all about the groove. The word we most often get used to describe us is heavy even on bills where we have the only clean vocals of the line-up. As always the best way to find out how we sound is to have a listen."

Who are the main influences for the band?

"We have a massive range of influences among our members with us all enjoying music from a multitude of genres inside and outside the metal bell-curve. The bands we're most often compared with sound-wise are Meshuggah, Tool, SOAD, Fear Factory, Korn, Strapping Young Lad among others."

Surprise us with something you also like? What’s the guilty pleasure?

"We honestly love music from all sorts of genres, there aren't really any guilty pleasures as such.
Between us we like such a range of music it'd be hard to leave any particular bands here. All music has a time and a place.

Pariah followed your debut album, Divine Self Intervention which came out in 2015. There are some subtle differences and a progression in the song writing. How did the album and EP come about?

"The album was written over a long time period, we were all finding our way a little and pushing our boundaries. The songs were written as individual songs and we hadn't really concentrated on the album as a whole.
When it came to writing the EP I feel we had found our sound a bit more. We had a concept to write the entire EP around which helped define a solid start middle and end. This also helped with the songwriting knowing how certain tracks should sound as an overall theme and having an idea for lyrics from the Pariah story."

You won the Bridgewater area final. That’s Somerset to the uninitiated. You are in striking distance of a few cities but what’s the metal scene like there. How would you describe it?

"We have a small but veracious up and coming scene in the Bridgwater area, with a good returning fan base in the venues around town. The cobblestones has become a touring stop for some bigger bands in recent years which is great for local music fans and gives smaller bands an opportunity to gig to new people and bigger audiences.  It's fantastic to see Metal to the masses coming to Somerset, the quality of the bands show that there's great music around  the UK even outside the larger cities."

The main purpose of our interviews is to preview some of the bands who qualified for the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage via Metal To The Masses. Every band we’ve interviewed has worked incredibly hard to get to a position where they were ready for Metal To The Masses. Tell us your road to the final story.

"We've worked hard in recent years to write and record an Divine self Invention and the Pariah EP while gigging sporadically around the UK and Ireland. This was our third Metal to the masses. The other times we had entered the competition they were based in Swindon and Bristol so it was difficult to get our fans to make all the heats. These  were great exposure letting us play to new audiences and meet bands who we've stayed friends with. This year when it was announced the competition was going to be on our doorstep it was a no-brainer, we got to play alongside friends in local bands and see the local scene flourish."

Did you feel confident you could get to the MTTM final?

"I guess the best answer is we were quietly confident. We knew we had the potential to do so and that we have a great fanbase to support us but as in all competitions it's difficult to predict the final result. We played alongside a load of great bands providing tough competition throughout. We just concentrated on doing what we do to the best of our ability and waited for the result."

Tell us about the build-up to the final; how did you manage to balance gaining support and avoiding saturating everyone?

"In the build up to the final we refined our set and made sure we could perform at our best for the occasion. We had a show beforehand to test the new set to a fresh audience, this helped us prepare. The show was well advertised, we're lucky enough to have the support of great fans and the buzz for the final was immense. There wasn't a lot of time between us being announced for the final and the event itself so over saturation wasn't really an issue."

And the final itself? What was that like and how did it feel when you got announced as winners.

"The final was fantastic. I hadn't played Bridgwater town hall before and it was a great venue with a great turnout. The entire night had a great vibe with bands mixing with each other despite the obvious tension of the occasion. All the bands gave it their all and the crowd was great. The show went well and we all had a great time. When we won it took a while to sink in and being on stage with Simon was a total manic, elated blur. Obviously we were over the moon when it all sank in. Winning a slot at the best festival in the UK was a dream come true!"

You’ve got a Friday slot on the New Blood Stage; You’ll know your times already, but Friday seems a bit of a bonus as it gives you the rest of the weekend to relax and Friday always has the biggest buzz as things start getting into gear. There are some brilliant other new bands on the New Blood Stage as well as the Sophie Tent. What can we expect from you guys – why should those who are undecided come and watch?

"Having a Friday set at Bloodstock is amazing, as you said getting to play the Friday and then having the rest of the weekend to relax and enjoy the rest of the festival is a great prospect, we're stoked. In regards to our set you can expect a full set of frantic energy. Something a little bit different. We don't just play we put on a show. Expect a wide range of musical ideas coming at you sporadically. Come along and see for yourself!"

Who are you looking forward to seeing at BOA this year?

"We're looking forward to quite a few bands. Some main acts such as Gojira and Judas Priest are on our to do list and we can't miss the Cannibal Corpse Ace Venturathon.we are also looking forward to seeing loads of the best up and coming acts  in the scene such as King Leviathan, Mallum Sky, Cadance Noir, Mortishead, Turbyne and Obzidian to name a few. There's an epic lineup this year so we'll be in for a treat."

Have you been to Bloodstock before? For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go?

"I personally haven't been to Bloodstock before but I've always wanted to. Loads of my mates have sang the festival's praises for years and it's amazing that I'll finally get to experience it myself. Tom S has been to the Festival numerous times and could be considered a veteran at “The best metal festival in the UK”.

I read that you supported Sepultura and Sylosis to name but two. Share some of your highlights so far.

"We've had countless great moments during our time in the band. Gigging in Italy was amazing and our Irish tour was fun too. We've been lucky enough to play alongside loads of great bands over the years. Playing alongside Napalm Death was amazing and Sepultura and Sylosis were also fantastic. Hammerfest was certainly a noteworthy high point. We've had great fun touring around the UK over the years and seeing the great metal communities up and down the country with more great gigs than we can count. Recording with Justin Hill was great. We've been really lucky to have the support of Enso Music management making the past couple of years fantastic. Winning Metal to the Masses has probably been the biggest highlight of all. I can't put into words how much we're looking forward to this."

After Bloodstock what ‘s next for the band?

"After Bloodstock we have a tour at the end of August with more dates coming through for the rest of the year. There are loads of ideas flying about at the moment and we are working on new things to come. Watch this space!"

The Spotlight: Pre-Bloodstock Interview With Demonic Resurrection (Interview By Paul H)

Demonic Resurrection Interview

Whilst most of the interviews we’ve completed are with bands playing in the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, we also managed to sneak a bit of time with Demonstealer, real name Sahil Makhija, the driving force behind India death metal legends Demonic Resurrection. Demonstealer started Demonic Resurrection when he was a mere 17 years old, and 18 years later the band is returning to the scene of their triumphant UK debut on the Sophie Stage in 2012. I started off with some of the background.

Paul: You’ve been around as Demonic Resurrection for 18 years. Congratulations on the longevity. Whilst many of us are now familiar with you and the band, for those who are not, can you give us a quick history of the band and introduce us to the current line-up?

DS: I formed the band way back in 2000 when I was 17 years old and I had been writing my own music for about 2 years. I was always looking for musicians to play along with, but I had no luck till I finally decided to get on stage with my computer and just play along. That was when I found my first set of musicians and the band kicked off. As you could guess the line-up changes have been a regular feature of the band with me being the sole member from the original line-up. The current band line-up is just me and drummer Virendra Kaith. We have sessions musicians filling in on bass and lead guitars. In India we have Leon (Zygnema) and Vignesh (Albatross) who fill in and so far for our overseas tours we have Arran (De Profundis/Virvum) and Shoi Sen (De Profundis) who are touring members.

Paul: You released your first album Demonstealer in 2000 and your most recent, Dashavatar last year. Your sound has certainly progressed between those albums, with Dashavatar a fabulous release. You’ve been labelled many things, from Blackened Death Metal to Symphonic Black Metal.  How would you describe the band’s sound and how has it changed since the early days of the band?

DS: Honestly even back then we were a melting pot of many sub genres of metal and that’s why I chose to call ourselves ‘Demonic Metal’ and of course I took cues from many famous bands who gave themselves a custom genre label. I remember Immortal being called ‘Holocaust Metal’ or something to that extent and I said ‘yeah, we’re going to be Demonic Metal’. I think the essence of the band is still the same, it’s a sound that doesn’t really limit itself and pretty much anything goes. I would say that ‘death metal’ has been the consistent element in our sound but then again, it’s not the very traditional sort. I think for easier labelling we generally stick with Symphonic Death metal.

Growing up in India, I wondered who were the main influences on Demonstealer, especially when originally forming the band?

DS: It’s quite a huge list but obviously Metallica, Iron Maiden were the bands I started out with and then I got into a lot of Fear Factory, Pantera, Sepultura, Marilyn Mason, Devin Townsend. I followed that up with Dimmu Borgir, COF, Emperor, Ancient and lots of black metal along with Vader, Nile, Cryptopsy, Cannibal Corpse and then I had a power metal side which was Blind Guardian and Nightwish. As you can see there was such a wide variety of metal that I liked that it was all part of what influenced our sound.

Paul: And which current bands continue to influence you?

DS: Right now, my playlist is mostly technical death metal like Obscura, Beyond Creation, Augury, Inferi, Archspire, Persefone and then there is a lot of stuff like Leprous and Agent Fresco and of course I love the symphonic death metal bands like Septicflesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse and I also listen to a lot of Ihsahn’s work. Just too many to mention really.

I moved on to explore life in India and the metal scene in particular.

Paul: I’ve read many interviews with you over the years about the scene in India. Many of those reading this may be oblivious to it. Could you give me your view on how challenging it is to be a metal musician in India and describe how the scene is doing at present.

DS: Being a metal musician in India is an expensive hobby and that is pretty much what it will always be. The audience is very young here with many of them being 18-24 years old. It’s also for some reason very much a phase that they go through in college following which they grow out of the music or just leave the country. This results in an audience with not much disposable income and pretty much every metal head wants to or has their own band, so we’ve just got struggling musicians who eventually grow out of the music. Of course, not all is bad, it’s a much bigger improvement than say in the 90s when cover bands were the only ones around, you got booed if you played original music and everything from the infra structure to the equipment was rubbish. Now you have the best gear in the world and the music venues that exist have state of the art gear. The fans that exist look for original music and cover bands are a rare occurrence. So, some good and some bad.

I thought Dashavatar was the band’s best release although The Return To Darkness holds a special place for me as that was the first Demonic Resurrection album I heard. Were you happy with the response to Dashavatar?

DS: I think the fans really enjoyed the album and I think it got a great response from them as well as the press. I have to say it was well received.

Moving on to the Bloodstock Festival, you played here in 2012, which I recall was your UK debut after you were unable to get to Sonisphere that year. I remember the show well, and I recall how busy the tent was and what a great reception you received. What are your memories of that gig?

DS: I was extremely nervous about that gig especially since we also filmed it professionally with 6 cameras and multi-track audio. So, it was a big one for us. The crowd response was what calmed the nerves and it really felt good to receive such a warm reception from the UK crowd. It made us keep coming back all these years J


Something that we often moan about is bands who don’t seem to tour the UK often. Perhaps it is because of more than just poor promotion. I asked about the challenges the band face just getting to the UK.
Paul: You have since played in the UK several times but each time you face issues just to get here. We take travel for granted here so I’m interested to know what are the challenges that you face getting across to Europe from India.

DS: The biggest issue with the UK has always been the cost and process of getting the VISA. We are required to get work permits even though we lose money on each tour and these permits require something called a CERTIFICATE OF SPONSORSHIP from an A Grade company in the UK who must claim liability for you. In the even they do not, you need to have £1000 in your band 3 months prior to travel. This is per person! Each visa costs £220 plus the COS is another £40 (it went up to £100 last tour) and this is again per person. So, we were out £1250 in VISA costs each time and over this the flights. So, it’s a massive loss. However thankfully there now seems to be an option of a cheaper visa which we’ve been able to get for this trip but whatever we had to spend for the previous trips was a huge hit for us.

Paul: Your most recent UK tour was with Wretched Soul, who are a great band. I had the pleasure of meeting you and watching the band play at Eradication Festival in Cardiff in May. How was that tour overall?

DS: The tour was so much fun! I mean doing 10 cities was a big deal for us and the guys in Wretched Soul are super chill and fun to hang out with. We bonded really well, and it was fun driving around the country and playing places that I’d never even heard about before. Financially as well it wasn’t too bad for us. If we’d gotten a cheaper visa we’d have only lost the flight ticket money which wouldn’t have been too bad.

Paul: Coming back to Bloodstock 2018; you weren’t initially on the line-up although I know that the band has been keen to return. With Bio-Cancer pulling out, how did you get the call to play?

DS: All credit to our agent Stephen Moss from Artery Global who called me said do you want to do this. I thought about it, seemed to be worth doing. We said let’s do it.

Paul: So, once you were confirmed for Bloodstock, what are the logistics that you face to get here? I was pleased to read that you had your visas which means you will be there, but what do you have to go through to get to the Sophie Tent on 12th August?

DS: Well on the bright side this time was much less stressful. The UK has another visa called the PPE (Permitted Paid Engagement) by which we could come and play the festival. It costs much less than the work permit. We had to make a pretty solid application and case for it but nothing that was too painful. So, we managed to get everything well ahead of time and applied as soon as well could so no stress about anything. We’ve booked our tickets as well, so we fly in a few days in advance, have a few rehearsals and then see you all at the festival.

Paul: You play on the Sophie Stage on Sunday 12th August Will you guys be at the festival for the entire weekend or just the Sunday?

DS: Since we’re coming all the way we’re going to come and have a good time at the festival. Such an incredible line-up on all 3 days so I can’t wait to check out some of my favourite acts and meet a whole bunch of people.

Paul: I’ve seen you twice and know what your live show is like. For those who haven’t seen you before, what can we expect? Why should those who are undecided come and watch?

DS: Well I think we put up a good show and if you like your metal heavy, with a bit of melody and a touch of tandoori then come on down to the Sophie tent. I promise you’ll leave with a smile on your face. I’d like to think we’re just good honest metal.

Paul: For anyone who has yet to experience Bloodstock, why should you go?

DS: It’s an incredible festival, a stellar line-up of bands, stages that aren’t miles away from each other. The atmosphere is electric, and the fans are friendly. It’s really just something to experience. And fingers crossed the weather is good.

Paul: I know at times it has been a massive struggle for you as a musician and as a band. Let’s focus on the good times. Give us a couple of highlights of the career of Demonstealer and Demonic Resurrection.

DS: For Demonic Resurrection it’s been the amazing shows we’ve had at festivals like Inferno, Brutal Assault, Bloodstock and many others. Getting to tour India and play to packed houses and some of the biggest festivals. Getting signed to Candlelight was a huge deal for us when that happened. On my personal musical front being able to have George Kollias (Nile) drum on my 2nd solo album and the incredible line-up of musicians I got to work with for my 3rd solo album. These are all the best parts of doing what I do. Most of all the constant love and support from the true fans. The ones who make all this possible who support everything I do with more than just a ‘like’ on facebook.

Paul: And finally, after Bloodstock, what does the future for the band look like?
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DS: Right now, it’s just darkness I see but I will see where this road takes us. I honestly am tired after 18 years of doing this and if something good comes along, I’ll take it but otherwise for now, I’m done.

Well I for one hope that there is some light for Demonstealer and his band. I have total sympathy for the exhaustion that he must feel. 18 years battling for what you believe in must be incredibly tough. If this is to be Demonic Resurrection swansong, you owe it to them and all who fight for metal across the globe to get in the tent and cheer them to the fucking rafters. Many thanks to one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet.