As Bloodstock 2018 draws nearer, Getintothis‘ Nedim Hassan gives us the lowdown on what makes this festival such a significant one for metal’s grassroots.
Every August, metalheads of varying predilections descend upon Catton Hall, Derbyshire, for four days of real ale, real rum ice creams, wheelie-bin jousting and, above all, some of the most joyously heavy music on the face of the Earth.
The Bloodstock festival has become, in many peoples’ eyes, the spiritual home of metal and a highly significant event for the entire UK scene.
This month’s column explores some of the reasons for the contemporary importance of Bloodstock and previews this year’s rather tasty looking event. To help us do this we have enlisted the help of several prominent members of the Merseyside metal scene. In addition to garnering the opinions of local bands who have graced the Bloodstock New Blood stage, we spoke to Andy Hughes from Deathwave Entertainment who promotes and runs the Merseyside Bloodstock Metal 2 the Masses competition.
Hughes points to several factors in Bloodstock’s winning formula. Firstly, their willingness to take risks and not simply “put on bands that are guaranteed to sell tickets“. The organisers are bold enough to champion lesser-known acts that are at the cutting edge of their genres.
He also discusses how the festival galvanises entire metal “communities” in a way that he compares to football fans coming together for a cup final. Entire communities of metal fans are, as he puts it, “uprooting” and converging on Catton Park to mingle with like-minded souls.
Perhaps most importantly, Hughes asserts that Bloodstock’s Metal 2 the Masses competition, which takes place across the UK and in parts of Europe, constitutes the lifeblood of the wider metal scene. As he says, it is a “catalyst for the scene“; inspiring bands to form with the express intention of competing in the battle of the bands contests up and down the country.
The prize for those bands that win their respective regional finals is a place on the impressive New Blood stage at the Bloodstock festival.
Playing on this stage can have a profound impact on upcoming metal bands’ fortunes. Ste Moses, guitarist with Exhumation, a brutal death metal band from Liverpool who won the Merseyside final in 2016 and played on the New Blood stage, remarks: ‘I know a lot of people that have been in bands for years and are in bands that are ten times better than us and have never been offered to play. So it truly is important for underground bands as it pushes you to work harder to achieve bigger and better opportunities.’
St Helens groove metal merchants, Deified, would certainly concur with this view and they were surprised by the momentum that their appearance at 2015’s Bloodstock Festival gave them. Guitarist Alistair explains, ‘We were excited just to be playing little St Helens gigs or in Liverpool […] but after that [Bloodstock appearance] we just went on tour until December of that year, we were just gigging every weekend. 2015 was just so intense because we released our album Ascension at the end of that year.’
Inspiration for grass roots bands, the sustenance of communities and a willingness to shine the spotlight on cutting edge acts, it is little wonder that Bloodstock has become such a pivotal event on metal fans’ calendars. Having established some of what makes it so special, all that was left was for us to get some tips on who to look out for at this year’s festival.
Chris, vocalist from Exhumation: “I’d say Watain purely for the fact they are incredible – they blew the stage up when they played last – literally!”
Ste, from Exhumation: ‘As my younger industrial/nu-metal self comes into play, I would definitely go watch Combichrist! Yes, I may be a brutal death metal/slam lover but you can’t beat a good industrial set, I’ve only seen Combichrist once and that was back in, say 2008 or 2009 when they supported Rammstein and they were awesome to watch.’
Alistair, guitarist from Deified: ‘I’m just biased because I love them but Devildriver, even though they’ve got a different line-up [and]I’m just a sort of Justin Bieber style fanboy. […] Also, I know a lot of people go there just for the established bands but check out the New Blood stage because [the acts there]they are just as good.’
Andy Hughes, Deathwave Entertainment: ‘De Profundis […] are probably one of the tightest underground bands in the country. Septic Flesh are a belting band and I know loads of people are excited to see them.’
- Bloodstock takes place this year between August 9 -12. Headlining the main stage are the mighty Judas Priest, Gojira and Nightwish. Weekend tickets are on sale now.
- The Merseyside Bloodstock Metal 2 the Masses competition continues in EBGBs with Heat 5 on June 1 and the Regional Final on June 23.
We’ve been spoilt for choice over the last month with new music so now it’s time to look at the latest albums that have been gracing our turntables and mobile devices.
Leather – II (Divebomb Records)
Leather Leone has spoken recently about her frustration with a male-dominated music industry and the associated gender expectations. As the voice of power metal outfit, Chastain, throughout the 80s she produced some stunning performances on albums such as Ruler of the Wasteland and For Those Who Dare.
This should have led her to enjoy the same levels of success and critical acclaim as many of her contemporaries such as Doro, Lita Ford and Joan Jett. Yet she refused to conform to the wishes of the image-obsessed record company executives and became disillusioned, taking a long hiatus away from the business.
Recent Chastain releases have seen Leather return to a raw, more aggressive, as she would put it, ‘nail spitting’ vocal style.
Her latest solo album, II, carries on in this vein and delivers some of the strongest material of her career to date. Backed by a stupendously tight band from Brazil, led by the dual attack of guitarists Vinnie Tex and Daemon Ross, the album is a joyous celebration of old school metal with a contemporary edge.
While tracks like Juggernaut and Black Smoke are the sonic equivalent of Leather sticking two fingers up to the corporate dickheads, it is on the more melodic tracks where this album really captivates.
Let Me Kneel pays homage to Dio’s solo albums with its frantic, urgent guitar hooks and anthemic chorus. Hidden in the Dark features Judas Priest style riffing and the soaring, wailing guitar licks provide a superb complement to Leather’s heartfelt chorus.
This album is the triumphant sound of a veteran artist re-invigorated and Leather’s passion for metal shines throughout.
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian (Nuclear Blast)
Dimmu Borgir’s latest opus, Eonian, has certainly met with a mixed critical response.
Those expecting a return to their sound on Death Cult Armageddon will be disappointed. They continue to pursue their bold approach to modern symphonic black metal and have no time to re-tread old ground. Yet those willing to give Eonian a chance will be rewarded with a compelling and immersive listening experience.
The band set out their stall on opening track The Unveiling. Choral chanting heralds the arrival of cosmically warped riffs before Shagrath’s menacing but slightly subdued vocals enter the fray.
The presence of a choir is a dominant one throughout Eonian, adding to the grandeur of choice cuts such as Alpha Aeon Omega in which choral harmony does battle with a wall of black metal distortion.
The usual orchestral flourishes are interspersed with diminutive, sometimes raindrop-like keyboard melodies on tracks such as Archaic Correspondence and Lightbringer. Both lyrically and musically Dimmu Borgir firmly transcend their black metal roots on this record to construct otherworldly meditations, rather than post-apocalyptic ones.
Robespierre – Garden of Hell (Shadow Kingdom Records)
Way back in 1983, Liverpool’s Robespierre were part of the blossoming New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene. They recorded two demos but these never saw the light of day until 2011 when they were part of the compilation Die you Heathen, Die!
Now, 35 years since their original formation, the band are finally set to release their debut album, Garden of Hell. Sounding as if they have been preserved in carbonite (forgive the Han Solo reference but we’re excited about the new Star Wars movie) since the early 80s, Robespierre have delivered a doom-laden epic on their maiden record.
Melding Sabbath style riffs with a NWOBHM emphasis on urgency and virtuosity on tracks such as Mare of Steel and Feed the Fire, the band invite the listener to raise their horns and salute. But it is on the slower, longer cuts such as Dagon Rises and The Black Mirror when this band truly mesmerises.
Buzz-saw riffing, reminiscent of a slowed down Hell Awaits era Slayer, gives way to a soulful vocal performance by David Cooke, who sounds like the bastard son of Jim Morrison and Steppenwolf’s John Kay. Altogether, this is a spellbinding debut. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait so long for its follow-up.
To round things off, we’ll take a quick look at forthcoming gigs for the month ahead.
June is looking like an exciting month for local black metal fans with two unmissable events. Wolves in the Throne Room bring their atmospheric stage show to Invisible Wind Factory at the end of the month on June 27.
Before that, a quartet of the finest acts from these shores, Coscradh, Lunar Mantra, Wode and WHXRS, bring the noise to Drop the Dumbulls Gallery on June 15.
If doom is more your poison then Liverpool’s own crushing harbingers of misery, Iron Witch, play their only local show of 2018 on June 14 at Sound.
We will see you at the front or see you at the bar. Keep on supporting your scene.