What does Parkway Drive’s headline slot at Bloodstock Open Air tell us about contemporary metal music culture? Getintothis’ Nedim Hassan considers its impact and new music from Carnal Forge and more.
We will not join the heated debate about whether Australian metalcore outfit, Parkway Drive, are worthy of a main stage headline slot at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air. However, amidst all the frenzied activity of keyboard warriors, another more interesting aspect of the recent announcement has been lost. Namely, that this choice of headliner firmly underlines metal’s global appeal; illustrating how it has expanded way beyond its initial roots in the UK and US.
None of the headline acts on the Bloodstock main stage this year are Anglo-American. Joining Parkway Drive (who headline the Saturday) are Friday’s headliners Sabaton (Sweden) and the festival will be closed on the Sunday by one of continental Europe’s most successful veteran metal acts, the Scorpions (Germany).
In comparison, Download 2019’s line-up of main stage headliners is entirely derived from some of the most famous Anglo-American metal and hard rock acts – Def Leppard (UK), Tool (US) and Slipknot (US). Indeed, with the exception of Rammstein in 2013, historically all of Download’s headliners have either come from these shores or the USA.
This is not to be critical of such an approach to booking. Download is billed as ‘the UK’s premier rock festival’ and although it has booked some of the heaviest and influential metal acts on the planet, it has to also cater for a broader rock fan base.
The wider point that we are making is that, as the late academic Dave Laing noted back in 1992, of all the popular music genres since the 1980s onwards, ‘heavy metal is probably the most international in appeal.’ Although it may now be rivalled by genres such as electronic dance music, the enduring international appeal of metal should not be underestimated.
Bloodstock as an event distinctly marketed as a metal festival has come to embody the genre’s transnational scope. A cursory glance at previous main stage headliners confirms this. In recent years we have seen main stage headline sets from Gojira (France), Nightwish (Finland), Within Temptation (Holland) and Emperor (Norway).
In addition, the second stage at the festival has been routinely headlined by bands from far and wide. Last year alone saw Orphaned Land (Israel), Watain (Sweden) and Doro (Germany) topping the bill on the Sophie Lancaster stage. Indeed, many of these European acts have been at the forefront of national scenes that have helped to redefine the generic boundaries of metal, with Norway’s rich heritage for extreme metal being perhaps the most obvious example.
So, as we endure a historical period that may become increasingly marked by isolationist politics and new forms of nationalism, let’s not forget that our music cultures (as with other cultures) have been enriched by transnational (often European) interactions. Long may that continue.
In the spirit of the international flavour of this month’s column, we check out some of the latest releases from around the world.
Carnal Forge – Gun to Mouth Salvation (ViciSolum Productions)
After an eleven year lull, Sweden’s vicious thrash metal outfit, Carnal Forge are back in business with their eighth full length album. With frenetic thrash riffing that assaults the listener like a barrage from an AK-47, songs like Reforged pay tribute to the rejuvenated power of this band. The album reaches its peak at the mid-way point with the outstanding Bound in Flames, which features staccato guitar hooks and a climax that builds in cleaner vocals to enhance Tommie Walhberg’s gruff groove metal delivery.
Mortal Scepter – Where Light Suffocates (Xtreem Music)
The debut offering from French outfit, Mortal Scepter, is a satisfyingly old-school sounding affair that fuses death and thrash to brutal effect. Title track Where Light Suffocates extols their primitive virtues with echoing, shouted vocals and a tempo and production quality that recalls early Pestilence and Dark Angel. Adorned with both slower chugging riffs and frantic soloing, songs such as Lust Spells and Perish with the Flesh feature impressively evocative vocals that enhance the music’s dark themes.
Lord Divine – Facing Chaos (Fighter Records)
Argentinian progressive metal combo, Lord Divine, turn everything up to eleven on their fourth opus, Facing Chaos. Featuring some extraordinary guitar soloing, this record contains scorchers such as Into My World, which displays a combustible combination of prog and power metal. The standards of musicianship and production are sharp throughout, although the high point has to be The Darkest Light with its dramatic duet between vocalist Diego Valdez and former Yngwie Malmsteen frontman, Mark Boals.
Although it won’t be released in time for us to review it fully this month, the Door to Doom, the twelfth studio album from Swedish doom metal icons, Candlemass, looks set to be an early contender for album of the year. Featuring the return of original vocalist Johan Langquist after 32 years, teaser tracks Astorulus: the Great Octopus and The Omega Circle are simply astonishing.
What’s more, the former song features a blistering solo from none other than the maestro of the riff himself, Tony Iommi. Needless to say, we are anxiously awaiting the full album release on 22 February.
Closer to home, rising Liverpool metal upstarts, Death Blooms have announced a new EP for 2019. Entitled You Are Filth, the record is set to drop on 26 April. If first single, Crosses, is anything to go by then this year could see the band’s stock rise considerably.
Right, we’ve been good to you for long enough. We’re off to recuperate our neck muscles that haven’t quite recovered from Orange Goblin‘s ludicrously good set at their recent gig at the O2 Academy. Until next time, keep supporting your scene.