Rockharz Open Air is celebrating 25 years as a festival in 2018. This year’s fest is already loaded with talent and grows all the time, now with six new bands. Joining the lineup headlined by In Flames, Powerwolf, Kreator, and Hammerfall are Bannkreis, Versengold, Winterstorm, Oni, Blind Channel, Manntra with special guest, Michael Rhein (In Extremo). The fest takes place from July 4th to July 7th 2018 in Ballenstedt, Germany. Tickets are on sale now and a sellout is expected. Continue reading
Rockharz Festival, celebrating 25 years in 2018, has completed their incredible line-up with the addition of Powerwolf, Cannibal Corpse, and Sodom. Tickets are on sale now and Ghost Cult has the full details. Continue reading
The 25th Anniversary edition of the Rockharz Festival has added Alestorm, Primal Fear, Ahab,Erdling, Letzte Instanz and Nothgard to the 2018 event. Rockharz takes place next July 4th to July 7th 2018 In Ballenstedt, Germany.
The full lineup for Rockharz 2018 so far includes: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.
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.
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.
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.
Roll on next year.
WORDS BY GARY ALCOCK
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.
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.
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.
WORDS BY GARY ALCOCK
Part four of the Ghost Cult Album of the Year countdown for 2015.
One staff team. Over 550 albums covered by Ghost Cult over the last twelve months. One epic race to be crowned Album of the Year.
Read on to dive into the Ghost Cult Top 20…
20. Soilwork – ‘The Ride Majestic’ (Nuclear Blast)
“The Ride Majestic continues the slow and subtle evolution of the Soilwork sound; sounding fuller, richer and shinier than all that have gone before. In a career of great albums, the aptly named The Ride Majestic is truly outstanding.”
19. Parkway Drive – ‘Ire’ (Resist/Epitaph)
“While the main focus is still here in the now frontier, by opening the floodgates, Parkway have allowed themselves to write a batch of great metal songs that reference classic rock, traditional metal, 90’s groove metal and metalcore while still sounding resolutely and proudly Parkway.”
18. Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – ‘N.V.’ (Prosthetic)
“A genuinely effective whole, the Noise elements are relatively subtly played, often used to accentuate and highlight the Metal rather than entomb them. Whether judged as a collaboration between two artists with similar aesthetic goals or as an album in its own right, N.V. is an unrestrained success”
17. Bring Me The Horizon – ‘That’s The Spirit’ (RCA/Columbia)
“That’s The Spirit is Horizon maturing into a fine young adult, confident, strong and secure in themselves and the knowledge that they are now master craftsmen. Successfully combining every good aspect of alternative rock and metal of the last fifteen years, That’s The Spirit is Bring Me The Horizon’s ‘Black Album’ moment.”
16. Elder – ‘Lore’ (Armageddon Shop / Stickman)
Exemplary progressive stoner metal, with meticulous dynamics and depth, breadth, power, restraint, and mountainous music that builds to an almighty epic of a crescendo
15. Between The Buried And Me – ‘Coma Ecliptic’ (Metal Blade)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month –October “The record that they were always promising to make but you weren’t sure was possible, on Coma Ecliptic, Between the Buried and Me have exceeded all expectations and delivered not only the album of their careers but one of the most monumental ambitious rock concept pieces this side of Operation Mindcrime.”
14. Gloryhammer – ‘Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards’ (Napalm)
“Gloryhammer are ridiculously entertaining. If you somehow manage to listen to new album Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards without grinning like an idiot all the way through it, then quite simply, you’re getting Metal wrong.”
13. A Forest Of Stars – ‘Beware The Sword You Cannot See’ (Lupus Lounge/Prophecy)
“Enthralling storytelling and atmosphere, as well as explorations into psychedelic territory and pastoral folk amid the crushing black metal dynamics; fourth effort Beware the Sword You Cannot See is an unabashed masterpiece.”
12. Goatsnake – ‘Black Age Blues’ (Southern Lord)
“Clear, soulful tones elevate the songs above the rest of their stoner/doom brethren and vocal lines will lodge in your head for days after. An excellent comeback album from a band that has been away for far too long. Let’s hope they decide to keep this motor running for a little longer this time around.”
11. Royal Thunder – ‘Crooked Doors’ (Relapse)
“There are no throw away songs on this album, and every track rewards repeated listens. Crooked Doors is the sound of pressure cooking sand into glass and then into diamonds, all with an alchemy fuelled by magic and loss.”
If there’s a question more thorny in the world of Metal than the purpose of live albums, it is surely, what is the point of comedy bands? The line can sometimes be hard to draw in a genre where even our revered classics border on self-parody, but there is a palpable difference between the essential silliness of the style and a band built around a joke, and there’s something hard-to-swallow – something almost “un-Metal”, as elitist as that might sound – about the latter.
The first thing you notice about ORCumentary is the guitar sound – it sounds like a collection of roughed-up, distorted midi-files strung together into riffs. Then you realise that that’s exactly what it is. Destroy The Dwarves (Orc Rock) is entirely the work of sole-member Orc Adams, who has created all of the music on his keyboards and added vocals over the top. Once you realise what’s going on it’s actually quite impressive, and sounds better than you might expect – honestly, I’ve heard Black Metal bands that sound less like real guitars – but once the shock of the unusual has worn off the music has to be judged alongside other folk-tinged Black Metal, and, even in the frequently shoddy genre, it doesn’t do well. There are some effectively catchy riffs, and the keyboard melodies are often as sharp as you’d expect from a keyboardist’s band, but its assembled crudely and often hangs together unconvincingly, riffs mashing into parpy sections with little real sense of why. The closest comparison is probably someone like Nekrogoblikon or old Finntroll, but ORCumentary are firmly the bargain-basement version.
It might be easier to overlook some of Orcumentary’s musical shortcomings if they were actually funny, but once again their efforts in this direction miss the mark. Humour is, of course, a very subjective thing, and I’m sure there’ll be people laughing out loud at Destroy The Dwarves’ squeaky dwarf voices and chants of “You! Must! Procreate!”, but they left me cold. It also doesn’t help that this is clearly played for laughs; front-loading the humour and practically screaming “this is funny!” after every song – compare with the recent album by Gloryhammer, which delivers lines of total over-the-top silliness with an utterly straight face, and succeeds in being considerably funnier as a result. Destroy The Dwarves in comparison feels more like a drunk student joke, and not a great one.
It’s difficult to seriously criticise Destroy The Dwarves, for the simple reason that all of its flaws are so clearly deliberate, and it can’t be denied that putting together an album of this nature by yourself with nothing but midi-synths IS impressive, but when held up alongside other albums it’s just not enough. Shit on purpose is still shit, and a smart trick is worth less than a regular band if it can’t deliver the goods. Perhaps worth listening to once just for the novelty, but I’d honestly be surprised if many people even finished the album, let alone came back for more.
Gloryhammer are a Swiss/Scottish five piece, founded by Alestorm‘s Christopher Bowes. Referring to themselves as “Heroic Fantasy Power Metal Warriors”, they write songs like ‘The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee’, they have a drummer called Ralathor, the Mysterious Hermit of Cowdenbeath, and are quite clearly madder than a sack of badgers.
Most importantly though, Gloryhammer are also ridiculously entertaining. If you somehow manage to listen to new album Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards (Napalm) without grinning like an idiot all the way through it, then quite simply, you’re getting Metal wrong.
Opening with ‘Infernus Ad Astra’, quite possibly the most Star Trek introduction ever, the story (of course there’s a story) begins in the distant future of 1992 and war, as always seems to be the case in science fiction, has returned to the galaxy. Apparently, it’s been 1000 years since Angus McFife defeated the evil Sorcerer Zargothrax in the battle of Dunfermline, but now a cult of unholy chaos wizards are planning to release Zargothrax and unleash him upon the universe again.
The absolute bastards.
The album kicks off properly with ‘Rise of the Chaos Wizards’, a song which not only pumps the purest Rhapsody of Fire blood furiously through its veins, but also happens to be better than anything either incarnation of that band have produced since going their separate ways. ‘Legend of the Astral Hammer’ follows with its fierce and manly True Metal chorus – stupidly simple and twice as catchy, you’ll be striding around your house, chest out and holding an invisible tankard of ale, singing it for days. The Rhapsody worship returns on the brilliant ‘Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy’, and ‘The Hollywood Hootsman’ has another one of those choruses which you’ll keep in your head far longer than is medically recommended. ‘Victorious Eagle Warfare’ sounds like Iron Maiden and Stratovarius went to a keyboard party at Judas Priest‘s house. ‘Questlords of Inverness, Ride to the Galactic Fortress!’ will make you sing its daft lyrics out loud and in public, and the fast, pulsing rhythm of ‘Universe on Fire’ will have you dancing in your seat like a deranged gibbon. ‘Heroes (of Dundee)’ is nice and straightforward, and the lengthy and melodramatic ‘Apocalypse 1992’ finishes the story off in the manner you’d wish for, with gravel-throated narration, jabbing and swirling keyboards, mighty riffs, and lines such as “like tears of a unicorn lost in the rain, chaos will triumph this day”. The album is rounded off by instrumental ‘Dundax Aeterna’ and the first thing you’ll want to do after it finishes is go back and to the beginning and start the whole thing up again.
If you want your Power Metal to be original or innovative, then you’re in the wrong place. Gloryhammer don’t just wear their influences on their sleeve, they have them emblazoned across battle armour, embroidered over wizards robes and branded onto unicorns arses.
Faster than a laser bullet indeed.