Fantasy festival billing and incandescent new music in the latest metal column from Getintothis’ Nedim Hassan.
News over the last few days has certainly made for grim reading.
The risks arising from COVID-19 are starting to have an impact on a number of public events and it is hardly surprising that UK metal festivals have been affected.
Nonetheless, it was still a shock to learn last week that both Hammerfest and Hard Rock Hell AOR had been postponed.
With both festivals due to take place later in March and with various parts of the world declaring a state of emergency, further postponements of impending UK music events that involve large gatherings and international acts seem inevitable.
Situations like this call for drastic action and we are rising to the challenge. Not only will we bring you our usual pick of the best new releases that have shook our eardrums, we are also here to chase away the postponement blues with our very own inaugural fantasy metal festival.
The rules are simple. You have a time machine and can bring back six bands from any era onto one stage. Name the band, name the year and if possible justify your choices.
Imagine if you will that we are back to the days of Monsters of Rock. A one day festival of all killers, no fillers.
We will start the ball rolling with our picks but they come with the disclaimer that this writer is an unashamed old school 80s nerd (and just plain old for that matter).
Headliner: Van Halen (1984)
The greatest entertainers of the 1980s sadly never headlined a UK rock festival, although they did have a special guest slot to AC/DC for Monsters of Rock 1984.
Eddie Van Halen revolutionised metal music with his cosmic brand of guitar shredding, while David Lee Roth was the quintessential frontman. In 1984 they were still the most exciting band on the planet and would have had the crowd eating from their hands.
Special guest: Judas Priest (1984)
The greatest heavy metal band to ever emerge from these shores released their finest moment in 1984 with Defenders of the Faith. A set that would have been chock full of the likes of The Sentinel, Rock Hard, Ride Free and Night Come Down, together with classics like Breaking the Law would have the crowd thinking they were in heavy metal heaven.
Ozzy Osbourne (1981)
This was a tough call because Jake E Lee era Ozzy was stupendous. But ultimately the thought of seeing songs like Believer, Crazy Train and Suicide Solution played by the sadly missed Randy Rhoads in his prime was simply too tempting.
They remained a formidable live force for years to come and would have taken some topping in their prime.
Thin Lizzy (1983)
Late 70s Lizzy would also be mind-blowing, but borne from a selfish desire to see them unleash the monstrous riffs of Cold Sweat alongside their other hard rock anthems on the live stage, it just had to be this incarnation of the band. John Sykes’ guitar tone remains one of the most raucous in rock and the late Phil Lynott was still amazing, even if he was spiralling into drug dependency by 1983.
W.A.S.P. were ferocious in 1989 and would be the perfect openers for this fantasy bill.
Arguably their finest moment, The Headless Children album featured some of the heaviest tunes they would ever produce. The savage Maneater, together with the harrowing title track and their bucket load of earlier 80s hits, would have set the dandruff flying among the faithful.
Thoughts of our fantasy bill certainly got us to reach for our air guitars, but now is the time to find out which new releases this month made us want to turn them up to eleven.
Burning Witches: Dance with the Devil
With the weight of its brilliant predecessor, Hexenhammer, on its shoulders and the recent departure of previous vocalist Seraina Telli to contend with, it is fair to say that there was a lot riding on Dance with the Devil.
Yet, this is Burning Witches we are talking about and any doubts about their continued ability to produce classic heavy metal are quickly dispelled on this all important third album.
The elements that make them such a compelling proposition are still there in abundance – the soaring Tipton-and-Downing-like dual guitar work of Romana and Sonia, the occult and supernatural lyrical themes and the ability to write infectious fists-in-the-air anthems remain in place.
There are highlights aplenty on this one. Black Magic is a tender ballad that showcases the impressive range of new vocalist Laura, Wings of Steel cranks up the heaviness while delivering euphoric vocal harmonies, but it is the glorious title track which steals the show with its theatrical and brilliantly bombastic take on 80s metal.
Beast of Revelation: The Ancient Ritual of Death
This is a crushing debut from this newly formed doom-death outfit. Beast of Revelation are a trio consisting of luminaries from the death metal underground led by guitarist/bassist A.J. van Drenth (Temple, Throne, ex-Beyond Belief), and Incantation‘s John McEntee on vocals.
Lumbering doom metal riffs form the backdrop to McEntee’s gravelly, churning vocals on monsters like Legions and The Fallen Ones. The high point is the harrowing title track in which the vocals take on an otherworldly quality and the slowed down buzzsaw riffing seeks to bore a hole in the listener’s head.
Deathwhite: Grave Image
Season of Mist
For those who cannot wait until the latest Katatonia record emerges in April, Deathwhite’s sophomore album may be a remedy.
At times evoking the majesty of Katatonia’s Discouraged Ones era, Grave Image is a stark collection of sombre gothic metal tracks.
Tensions between soft flowing passages of prog-inspired guitar work, the deeply rich velvet vocals and heavier guitar riffing abound throughout this impressive sounding album, which features sharp production from producer/engineer Shane Mayer.
Standout tracks include the stunning title track with its immediate and darkly evocative guitar tone and Among Us, which simmers with riffing that evokes latter day Gojira.
My Dying Bride: The Ghost of Orion
Perhaps it is the understanding of the challenges that My Dying Bride faced both prior to and during the making of this record that makes it such an emotional listening experience
Vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s five year old daughter’s cancer diagnosis and the departures of a number of other members meant that guitarist Andrew Craighan had to write The Ghost of Orion on his own.
Yet, despite its difficult birth, The Ghost of Orion is still in many respects classic My Dying Bride.
It is slightly more accessible than some earlier releases, particularly on first single Your Broken Shore which features an immediately gripping riff and a memorable, growled chorus delivered in Stainhope’s typically powerful style.
It’s now time to check out what’s going down on the live front, where the gigs are coming thick and fast over the coming weeks.
The following night on March 14 Sound Food and Drink plays host to the launch party for the Video Nasties’ debut album, Dominion. Joined by Chinsniffer and Shuck this will be a party that will definitely bring the noise.
On the same night, Korpiklaani and Burning Witches head to the O2 Academy Liverpool as part of their Land of a Thousand Drinks tour.
Make sure you’ve got leftover pennies from the raid on your piggy banks because the very next day on March 15 upcoming Liverpool hard rockers Ashen Reach top a bill at EBGBS which also includes Nocturne Wulf, A Ritual Spirit and Kilonova.
Heading into April, Liverpool black metal trio Dawn Ray’d have announced a short run of European dates in support of last year’s impressive album Behold Sedition Plainsong. They will play at Riffs Against Fascism at DIY Space for London on April 10.
Away from the live front, Liverpool slam death metal cavemen, Colpocleisis have been busy recording, and have released two new singles within the last few weeks, with another one to follow in early April. Third Degree Gurns and the charmingly titled Masturbational Burnout are out now and feature the band’s customary uncompromising sonic brutality.
Well, that’s all for another month folks. Stay safe, don’t forget to tell us about your fantasy metal festival bill, don’t stockpile toilet roll at the expense of other people and, most of all, support your scene.