The Happy Soul were aptly named, as they exuded a chilled-out happiness on stage at Club Academy in Manchester. With a psychedelic backdrop of them looking happy and smiley to add emphasis to their live feel. Not much movement on the cramped stage and not much banter they very much let their music do the talking, they seemed too busy smiling to be honest.
Now, I’ve been looking forward to this gig since I first saw the poster and immediately begged the editor for a photo pass. I’d been meaning to catch Sheffield’s Hidden Mothers for a while, and headliners YOB are a band I would never consciously pass up the chance to experience live.
Heading up to Club Academy, for the first time in a number of years and I had forgotten how cramped the stage was. The seating around the venue though is a welcome change from most of the other academy venues, it is the most intimate of them, although down in the bowels of the building the phone signal was non-existent.
Consummatum Est (Messor Grandis Productions) by Grand Harvest, a band once described as ‘Sweden’s most underrated metal band’ debuting a mix of melodic death and doom, with some touches of black metal I was quite interested to hear this. Continue reading →
It’s a sight to behold the lengthy queue of hairy Viking looking metalheads snaking around Manchester Albert Hall, assuming of course the snake in question was quite hairy and dressed like a Viking, which I feel is probably stretching the metaphor a bit too far. You’d assume that said hairy, mead quaffing snake (alright, I’ll stop now) was going to be finding its way inside to some sort of very loud and very metal sort of gig. You’d be wrong, as indeed despite the roots of the headliners in Black Metal group Gorgoroth the queue is in fact for the mesmerizing solo cellist Jo Quail, and Nordic Folk legends Wardruna.
After the last few years of false starts and other covid related shenanigans the Manchester Metal 2 the Masses is once again underway. You probably know the drill, across the UK and slightly further afield, there are competitions held by Bloodstock festival. Unsigned bands compete in a battle of the bands format across the regions, and the winners get to play on the New Blood stage at the festival itself.
In the time since its 2005 inception Damnation Festival has grown to into a four-stage affair that has become a mainstay of the UK metal scene. 2021’s festival on 6th November was significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it marked the event’s return after a year off due to COVID restrictions. Secondly, it sold out in record time; as soon as the UK government announced the end of all restrictions (back in March), all tickets were swept up within a matter of weeks. Thirdly, the lineup had to be dramatically changed, with many major international acts such as Wolves in the Throne Room and Pig Destroyer having to have their appearances cancelled due to then-ongoing uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions. Fourthly and finally, 2021’s Damnation marked the end of its 14-year tenure at Leeds University: 2022’s festival will return to Manchester (where it first took place for two years) at a larger arena venue.
Having shown resounding and unequivocal support for every single band so far, the Bloodstock faithful are still raring to go after four full days of partying. As battle commences one final time, highlights on the Sophie Stage include the hard hitting Midlands retro-fuzz of Wolf Jaw, Brighton doomsters Grave Lines, the angry sounding double punch of Vexed and Pist, a debut performance from symphonic death metallers Ghosts of Atlantis, and Manchester black metal mob Necronautical.
With energy levels and festival excitement still high, quality acts such asWelsh black metallers Agrona, Norfolk thrashers Shrapnel, Liverpool doom/sludge merchants Conan, and a reinvigorated and retooled Evile invade the Sophie Lancaster Stage, decimating all before them. Birmingham grindcore legends Napalm Death complete the day’s entertainment with a reliably devastating set, the crowd gathered outside the tent almost as huge as the one inside.
Sure, we might be having to follow a series of new Coronavirus safety protocols which may or not become a regular thing for live shows, but we’re back. And judging by the size of the opening day crowds spilling out from the main entrance, car parks and campsites, not a moment too soon. Since its inception Bloodstock Open Air has always attracted early birds who like nothing more than to arrive long before the gates even open, but this time feels different. Everyone seems to be here early. Coiled springs desperate for release. The festival’s twentieth anniversary isn’t just a celebration of metal this year, it’s a genuine escape.