With everyone firmly into the swing of things by now, Saturday’s main stage openers Nailed to Obscurity opened proceedings strongly enough but were promptly blown out of the water by one of the major surprises of the festival – Power Trip. A combination of thrash and early death metal, the Texan act were a blur of riffs and speed, whipping up the early afternoon crowd into an explosive cyclone of energy. Continue reading →
Nowadays rightly regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of Extreme Metal, at the time, Newcastle Neanderthals, Venom, were dismissed as hideous noise polluters by many of their numerous critics. Happily, Venom never gave one single, solitary fuck, and from 1981 to 1985 went on to consolidate themselves as one of the UK scene’s major players. From essential albums like Welcome to Hell, and Black Metal (Neat Records) to their parent-scaring live performance on Channel 4’s tea-time Metal show ECT (Extra Celestial Transmission), where many people got to witness stage diving for the first time, it was clear that Venom were a force to be reckoned with.Continue reading →
After a wobbly Saturday morning start, Akercocke carried on from where they left off a few years ago, improving and gaining/regaining fans as they went along. Rotting Christ sounded fantastic, The King is Blind completely owned the second stage for forty brutal minutes, and Fear Factory treated the crowd to all of 1995’s Demanufacture album while singer Burton C Bell tried his best to keep his voice from cracking. Paradise Lost played a set filled with heavier material, and Gojira stunned the majority of the audience with a set that not even headliners Mastodon could come close to touching. A typically eclectic set, the Atlantan four-piece struggled to get any momentum going, and even with the aid of some fancy video screens, only occasionally showed signs of being genuine headliners. A new version of old UK thrashers Acid Reign also managed to steal Mastodon’s thunder all the way from the second stage, playing one of the fastest and most enjoyable thrash sets of the festival while singer, ‘H’, looked resplendent in his shocking pink suit and top hat.
Gojira, photo credit Bloodstock Open Air on Facebook
And so to Sunday, and to the wonders of Ghost Bath. Only possessing the vaguest of knowledge about this band, I was simply unprepared for the next forty highly confusing (and occasionally eye-wateringly funny) minutes. Imagine a Black Metal band fronted by the shrieking goat from YouTube and you’d have a good idea of what I witnessed that morning.
Although the pedigree of the members of Metal Allegiance is not in question, I’m afraid the same cannot be said of their collective efforts. Cover version after horrible cover version was mauled and discarded, as people turned to each other in disbelief and disappointment. Playing all of 1996 album Nemesis Divina in full, Black Metallers Satyricon put in one of the performances of the weekend, even in the blazing sunshine. Finland’s Whispered took to the stage in their Japanese costumes and make-up and proceeded to win over an entire tent of confused onlookers. Technical Thrashers Vektor followed and even more people left with smiling faces. Symphony X gave everyone on the main stage plenty to sing along to, but Anthrax obliterated their memory in seconds. The last time the New York outfit played here in 2013, it was all fairly average, maybe even disappointing. But not this time. They were on fire from the second they launched into ‘You Gotta Believe’ until they left the stage to ‘Indians’. Nobody even cared that they dropped a couple of favourites in order to showcase newer material.
Anthrax, photo credit Gary Alcock
Even headliners Slayer struggled to keep up. Again, like Anthrax, it was a much improved performance from 2013, but things seemed to go a little awry in the latter stages of their set. For some reason, ‘Hell Awaits’ became an instrumental after the first chorus, and Tom’s demeanour changed from happy and smiling to fairly disinterested around the same time. Still, when they came back out for the encore of ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Raining Blood’, and ‘Angel of Death’ everything was quickly forgiven and forgotten. It was left up to New Orleans bandGoatwhore to close the weekend on the second stage, and they did so imperiously with one of the loudest, heaviest hours of the festival.
Slayer, photo credit Gary Alcock
From the almost comical amount of crowd surfers (Acid Reign alone clocked 263 in one hour – an average of over four per minute) to the spontaneous chant of “MAN IN YELLOW”, directed to one of the security staff stood on the scaffolding before Slayer, to the glorious weather and generally contagious good feeling of everyone in attendance (even a lot of the campsite toilets were still usable by the Monday morning!), there was only one place to be last week.
There were a few odd little problems, of course. Since the festival ended, a story has emerged that a girl was sexually assaulted in her tent, and the amount of moshpit idiocy seems to be on the increase again. Not, this time, from the shirtless circle-pitters and kung-fu merchants, but this time from the people who stand on the barrier all day, doing their best to punch and deliberately tear clumps of hair from any crowd surfer (male and female) unlucky enough to invade their personal space as they get dragged over the front. Making sure at all times, of course, that security have a firm hold of their target first so that they can’t retaliate.
The worst thing this year though was the repeated loop of the same bloody music videos on the big screen all weekend. When I arrived in the main arena on the Friday, I said “hey, this new Wormrot song’s great. I’ll definitely be getting the album”. By the time Saturday evening came around, I never wanted to hear fucking thing again. And as for the constant exposure to the videos of Wakrat and Blackberry Smoke, let’s just say that if I ever meet either of those bands in person, then it won’t end pleasantly for either of them.
Overall though, and yet again, Bloodstock Open Air was a roaring success.
For those of you who may be unaware, Bloodstock Open Air is a UK festival which began at the Derby Assembly Rooms in 2001. After four successful years, the decision was made to turn one festival into two. One would remain at the same venue, while a bold, open air venture would take place at Catton Hall in nearby Walton-on-Trent. The outdoor festival proved to be a hit, the indoor show was subsequently dropped, and the annually held event has gone on to expand in both size and stature ever since.
Bloodstock 2016 Thursday crowd, photo credit BOA on Facebook
Thursday’s festivities were kept fairly low-key as usual, with short, enjoyable sets from Karybdis and Sumer, with Ireland’s Psykosis left toreally get the party started. The evening was rounded off by the newly renamed Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons (formerly Phil Campbell’s All Starr Band), the former Motorhead guitarist ploughing through a selection of Motorhead covers plus ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie, ‘Sweet Leaf’ by Black Sabbath, and ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ by ZZ Top. Joined on stage by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider and Pepper Keenan of COC for a truly memorable version of ‘Born To Raise Hell’, the band eventually brought things to a rousing climax with a cover of ‘Silver Machine’ by Hawkwind.
Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons with Dee Snider, photo credit BOA on Facebook
Friday is where the entertainment really begins at Bloodstock though, and you don’t get much more entertaining than songs about unicorns and space wizards followed by a battle cry of “We are Gloryhammer and we sing songs about hammers!” Evil Scarecrow followed, and you simply haven’t lived until you’ve held your pincers in the air and scuttled from side to side for the mighty ‘Crabulon’. Corrosion of Conformity played a typically crowd-pleasing set of which my only criticism would be ‘Clean My Wounds’ being used as the backbone for a rambling, ten minute long jam session. Venom‘s Legendary bassist/vocalist, Cronos, snarled and joked his way through their set, but the band let themselves down with a poor choice of songs. No such problems from Behemoth though, who played latest album ‘The Satanist’ in its entirety before finishing with a blistering encore of ‘Ov Fire and the Void’ and ‘Chant For Ezkaton’.
Britain has always held a special place in Twisted Sister‘s heart and it really showed in their last ever performance here. Drawing the biggest ever crowd for a Bloodstock headline act, it was the perfect send off for one of the finest American Heavy Metal bands to ever grace a UK stage. Diamond Head finished off the evening on the second stage in competent, if unspectacular style. At least they didn’t sound like a tribute act to themselves like they did the last time I saw them.
From The Very Depths (Spinefarm), the fourteenth entry in the Venom canon, sees Cronos and company delving into the roots of underground punk and heavy metal, resulting in some satisfyingly atavistic blasts of noise. No squeaky clean production values are present to water down or blight the impact of the crunchy thrash riffage and relentless aggression present here.
Cronos’ spiteful delivery on ‘Temptation’ exemplifies what Venom have always been about; a gritty, go for the throat approach which requires little deviation from their original blueprint of crust covered heavy metal. ‘The Death Of Rock N’ Roll’ sounds like recent Darkthrone covering Mötorhead and with only one number on the album exceeding the five minute mark, things are kept nice and concise, as is the rough-shot blast of first single ‘Long Haired Punks’. The tongue in cheek old school hokum may not work for actual black metal fans but these japing Geordies were never ‘grim’ or ‘kvlt’ to begin with; luckily Cronos appears aware of the ridiculousness of his lyrics as he barks on the former “Line up the Marshall stacks! We’re killing King Creole!” while axeman Rage churns out some pumping speed metal riffage. ‘Evil Law’ rides a crushing mid-paced ostinato but overt repetition certainly kills its momentum, and the wah injected ‘Smoke’ is a questionable entry.
At fourteen tracks, this opus feels fleshed out in places with the elaborate intros of ‘Eruptus’ and ‘Ouverture’ adding nothing to proceedings, but luckily the album adopts a ‘play it straight’ ethos and is, for the most part, shorn of the modern influences or ham-fisted experimentation which has made their recent outings rather ponderous.
Creating menacing vicious heavy metal is what Venom is about and any deviation from this simple formula feels unnatural and forced. All the elements of the bands classic sound has been recalled in what may be the current line up’s finest work since the late nineties, although if you are looking for material of a quality akin to Black Metal or Welcome To Hell (Neat) then you will be found wanting.
A decent, if unspectacular, entry that preaches to the converted.
Veteran British extreme metallers Venom have confirmed the release of their new studio album From the Very Depths, out January 27, 2015 via Spinefarm Records. The band is led by original vocalist/bassist Conrad “Cronos” Lant.
“This album is perfect, all three members are totally over-the-top confident with the new songs and the production. We had a great atmosphere in the studio while we were recording. Dante created pure thunder from his drums, while Rage tears the flesh off your face with his riffs, making everything fall into place so well. It’s a strong release and really shows the band maturing into an unstoppable force of pure Black Metal. We can’t wait to play the new songs live for the Legions… Hell Yeah!”
They have announced they will be taking part on this year’s 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, on its voyage from Florida to Jamaica in January 2015. They will play two sets on board, as one will focus on greatest hits and the other will be an Exclusive Live World Premiere of their forthcoming new album.
It’s a weird universe where Babylon Whores and earthtone9 are only allowed to release three albums, despite being interesting, unique and intelligent bands, distinctive and critically acclaimed who undersold and vanished into the ether (only to return years later to suffer the same fate) and Grave Digger get to release seventeen albums of middle of the road uninspired dross.
Raise your fists and yell… “Fuck off!” For no-one’s favourite band are back! After 30 years of peddling (slightly “harder” than) Running Wild, Judas Priest and Blind Guardian speed and power metal, and 18 years since their best album Tunes Of War (GUN), the ‘Digger release Return Of The Reaper (Napalm).
The band is clearly capable of being competent. Axel Ritt can chug, widdle, and chuck out a bog-standard old metal riff with the hordes. Chris Boltendahl is, as always, a slightly more tuneful Cronos, though notably hasn’t improved his range or delivery over the years, and Stefan Arnold holds down that double-bass and uptempo snare beat that all speed metal requires.
Presenting eleven more predictable slabs of dated speed metal, the German quintet are so deep in their comfort zone it would be surprising if they got off the sofa while recording. Everything is exactly as expected. ‘Satan’s Host’, possibly the pick of the tracks on offer, sounds like an off cut from Running Wild’s early 90’s output and the remainder is Teutonic 80’s speed metal by numbers with choruses and lyrics so cringe-worthy most teenage thrash bands would have binned them off.
I fail to see the validity of Grave Digger as a current recording artist. They’ve had plenty of chances to say what they’re trying to say, and it wasn’t interesting the last ten times. I wish the band members no ill will, and if people are continuing to support them then fair play to them, why should they pack it in and retire, I just cannot understand who still buys the records of one of the most pointless bands in existence. By all means, tour, do festivals, play the “classics” (do Grave Digger have any classics other than the one about bagpipes?), but no record collection is crying out for a new Grave Digger album in 2014.