A Swarm Of The Sun – The Woods

It has been three years since Scandinavian-based duo A Swarm Of The Sun released the critically acclaimed album The Rifts. The time taken between records serves them well, with each release being more absorbing than its predecessor. The Woods (both self-released/Version Studio) is no exception, taking the band down a distinctly bleaker path, with a slow and menacing atmosphere that evokes a sense of unease akin to the feeling being watched by something unseen and malevolent. Continue reading

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Shattered Skies – Muted Neon

In the decade since Djent first hit the scene boasting algebraic riffs, yet also throwing back to the likes of Tangerine Dream’s spell-binding atmosphere. With Meshuggah being the catalyst and the lead that many of the scenes alumni would take inspiration, at the outset, it was a thriving community of bands and their ravenous fans. Continue reading

Muse – Simulation Theory

Over the years Muse have become the masters of reinvention, seemingly able to transform between albums and constantly keeping their fan base guessing as to what direction they would go next. Even with this fluctuating history, their eighth studio output Simulation Theory (Warner Bros.) was a high-stakes gamble, even for Muse. Continue reading

Etherius – Thread Of Life EP

When it comes to instrumental music, bands find themselves with the added challenge of how to captivate an audience without the charisma of a vocalist or a noticeable member fronting the band. It is not surprising then to discover the caliber of bands in the post-metal/post-rock community and the high bar they are setting fledgling ensembles that attempt to bring something new to the table. Continue reading

Bloodstock Festival: Day Three – Catton Hall, UK

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As the final day of Bloodstock 2015 begins, it is once again with the shock of no sign of rain once again. Someone, somewhere must have made some kind of sacrifice to some form of deity to ward off the rain and giving perfect sunshine for the entire weekend. No doubt the usual washout day will rear its head again next year, but for today, there is plenty of heavy metal to enjoy.

Kicking off proceedings for the day is one very annoying clash between atmospheric black metaller’s Agalloch on the main stage and British heavy metal masters Triaxis, who reward the rammed Sophie Tent by assuredly knocking the cobwebs of people’s hangovers away with a spectacular showcase of straightforward but massively enjoyable metal. New cuts like ‘Liberty’ and ‘Death Machine’ prove just as immediate and strong as fan-favourites like ‘Black Trinity’ as they show just why they one of the brightest lights on the British metal scene today, as today’s set feels hugely triumphant. The same can’t quite be said for the following The Izuna Drop who’s electronica bass drop tinged sounds are interesting in principle but doesn’t translate well today as a thin, curious crowd quickly empties even further.

For all the critics of the modern day incarnation of Sepultura (WAH! THERES NO MAX CAVALERA ITS NOT SEPULTURA!) they’re overlooking three important factors: Firstly Derrick Green has been a part of the band by now longer than Max ever was. Secondly the band that they are today is a very different beast to the Max incarnation; yes they play the hits like ‘Roots Bloody Root’ and ‘Refuse/Resist’ but with a somewhat different tone to those days. And thirdly, they still pack a hell of a punch, giving a strong, somewhat safe set with very few surprises (other than a brand new song aired) but one that is never less exciting than before, as the main stage crowd gives a huge response, especially to those aforementioned hits.

The likes of Agalloch and Belphegor may have suffered some of their atmospherics due to the sunshine on the main stage, so its fortunate for Saille that they perform to a darker, more intense Sophie tent, where their brooding, melodic brand of black metal is allowed its full impact. Mostly static but full of intensity, their vivid tales inspired but the likes of H.P. Lovecraft proof menacing but so captivating, and they have surely made a tonne of new friends in this instance.

You always know what you’re going to get with Cannibal Corpse, from the bludgeoning barrage of their music to the recognisable stage introductions (“This song is about shooting blood from your cock”) but it never withers in intensity, and today they are as strong and reliant as ever. The staggering amount of crowd surfers during this set tells you how well they have gone down today, and why they are such a firm live favourite.

It may be hot outside, it may be the evening of the last day, but people still want to have a bloody good time, and apparently a bit of a boogie. Good job French swing/death metal oddballs Trepalium are at hand with perhaps the surprise set of the entire weekend. Not a huge name by any means on these shores but they pack out the Sophie tent, and after a confusing sound-check, absolutely explode. Volatile death metal meets catchy, jazz like passages with stunning effect as the what could possibly be the biggest moshpit the tent has seen all weekend is surrounded by people dancing like loons to four sharply dressed musicians and a shirt-less, voodoo mask like painted nutter of a vocalist. An unexpected highlight as they prove one of the bands of the weekend.

Zakk  Wylde

Zakk Wylde

All three headliners this year were subject to vitriolic responses on the internet forums at their announcement, but today’s headliner Rob Zombie probably received the most flak. Coupled with the memory of recent, stripped back festival appearances not gaining plaudits and there is a swell of anticipation amongst excited fans and those who seem to be there simply wishing for a car crash performance. Not to mention the catastrophic stage problems that plagued Trivium and Within Temptation, there is a feeling that anything could happen; fortunately for the excited throng, all goes well this time around.

 

 

 

Rob Zombie, photo credit  Fiaz Farrelly

Rob Zombie, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

 Rob Zombie, photo credit  Fiaz Farrelly

Rob Zombie, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Opening with a storming ‘Teenage Nosferatu Pussy’, Rob Zombie’s part b-movie horror flick, part cartoon brand of industrial metal proves an excellent festival closer which oozes fun. Zombie himself proves very charismatic (if at times forced) whilst the excellent pair of John 5 and Piggy D jostle and challenge for attention on stage, both giving show stealing, virtuoso performances and their own unique visuals. Coupled with such a strong arsenal of songs and it seems silly to think how it could have failed; although there seems to be reliance on a couple of famous covers to gather some momentum: an awkward rendition of James Brown’s ‘Get Up…’ and note perfect, nothing special renditions of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and ‘Schools Ou’” which surely take time away from songs people may have wanted to hear. That being said the likes of ‘Superbeast’, ‘More Human Than Human’ and a rarely aired ‘Pussy Liquor’ hit the spot, bringing the festivities to a euphoric close on the main stage (for those who still have energy and urging for a more claustrophobic disposition, Godflesh pack out the tent later on in the night).

 Rob Zombie, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Rob Zombie, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Over the weekend some issues reared their heads again, from the stage show suffering of black metal bands in broad daylight to the near comical amount of main stage difficulties which nearly derail many a set, but none of this can detract from a tremendous weekend that gave fantastic weather and even better bands.

See you in a year Catton Hall.

 

CHRIS TIPPELL and SARAH WORSLEY

Bloodstock Festival: Day Two- Catton Hall, UK

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With the Sophie Lancaster Stage headliners finishing late into the night, as well as other forms of entertainment in the arena or the Serpent’s Lair VIP Area (or for the less brave of course, beers at the tent), you’d be forgiven for thinking the atmosphere would be a little subdued on the Saturday, especially considering the scorching heat the day before. Far from it however, as Saturday greets all with even hotter weather (thankfully there are plenty of water stations and surprisingly small queues) and another day of some of the best and most exciting bands the metal world has to offer.

A relaxed and lazy morning means the days viewing kicks off in the Sophie tent with British death metallers Ageless Oblivion, whose dark atmospherics try to detract from the sunshine outside. Pulling in a strong crowd, they prove why they are one of the most exciting bands on the UK extreme metal scene, complete with unpredictability structures and relentless viciousness with hypnotic majesty.

The small size of the festival arena proves a blessing as Ageless Oblivion wrap up their set just as prog/tech metallers Xerath take to the main stage within seconds. With a large, attentive crowd Xerath prove that they are more than worthy of the upgrade from their last time here on the second stage, as their progressive tendencies hit the mark alongside a tonne of fat grooves, perfectly catering for all. The stage size does not seem to daunt them as they give a confident and crushing display.

Korpiklaani, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Korpiklaani, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Normally benefiting from people wanting to shelter from near monsoon conditions, its truly heart-warming to see masses of people supporting those bands that have come from far climes, especially when they are as good as the first of two Indonesian bands on the bill today, Jasad. As they take the stage they are greeted with a near packed tent and a euphoric response which clearly humbles them as the band can hardly contain their smiles throughout. Combined with brilliant death metal and frontman Mohammed Rohman’s sense of humour and this proves one of the most fun and triumphant sets of the weekend.

SLR_5211_Napalm Death

Napalm Death, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Very few bands are as consistently brilliant both live and on record as Napalm Death so its unsurprising that they are consistently great form today, and the huge response they get from the crowd makes this a no surprises but incredible set.

It has to be pointed out the diversity that, appropriately, the Sophie Lancaster Stage presents over the weekend, brings some of the weekend’s greatest moments. Right near the top has to be the second Indonesian band of the day, Burgerkill as once again a packed out tent and the chaos that ensues proves truly heartening. The massive grins that adorn each member tells the story as the moshpits almost takes over the entire front of the tent. As Oaf’s Dom Lawson makes a guest appearance the importance of today for the band is abundantly clear, and they took it by storm.

Opeth, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Opeth, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Opeth are no strangers to the Ronnie Jamies Dio (main) stage, having headlined twice, once in the place of Heaven & Hell who cancelled due to the sad passing of the man for whom the stage is now named. They could play in a nightclub car park and still exude the same amount of beauty and brutality as they do co-headlining a festival. Love their progressive direction or loathe it, Opeth never fail to impress as ten thousand mesmerised fan sway to ‘The Devils Orchard’, then moments later headbang to ‘Deliverance’, showing symmetry with the bands diverse back catalogue.

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

To quote the mighty Taylor Swift – “haters gonna hate” – and those die-hard Bloodstockers who scoffed or spewed ignorant and hateful babble when Within Temptation were announced certainly did. They can be spotted a mile off, standing with their arms folded waiting for the Dutch symphonic metallers to suck harder than Lars’ drumming. But they don’t – so ha! Each song is performed with heart and soul, with the set culled mainly from the more recent Hydra (BMG/Universal) and The Unforgiving (Roadrunner) albums, and the unity the crowd feel with the band is a testament to their longevity. Sharon den Adel, who seemingly has danced in the blue flame of eternal life, rallies the crowd so that even when technical difficulties plague their penultimate song, the baying masses hang on her every note. Within Temptation bring a touch of flair and class to Derbyshine; utterly sublime.

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

 

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

Within Temptation, photo credit Fiaz Farrelly

CHRIS TIPPELL & SARAH WORSLEY

Bloodstock Festival: Day One – Catton Hall, UK

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With humble origins as a smaller, indoor festival in 2001, and being headlined then by metal legends Saxon due to connections to organiser Paul Gregory, Bloodstock steadily grew and grew until eventually in 2005 it saw an additional (not solitary) open air version. It is now the UK’s biggest open air metal (not rock) festival. Now, in the open air’s 10th year, a cursory glance at the line-ups throughout the years show its size and stature growing with bigger names from the likes of Slayer, Megadeth and this year’s closer Rob Zombie alongside the underground, the extreme and even the silly (hello Korpiklaani).

Crowd at Bloodstock Open Air 2015, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Crowd at Bloodstock Open Air 2015, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Much smaller than the likes of Download Festival, Bloodstock benefits from its close proximity to the campsite meaning if you do fancy a nap to fight off that expected hangover then you are only five minutes away. As you do enter the main arena you are firstly greeted by a cordoned off circle which later in the weekend will see infamous Knight fighting, as illustrated by the many in full knight’s armour throughout the weekend because, you know… metal!

A few paces beyond is the Sophie Lancaster Stage which proudly supports the S.O.P.H.I.E Campaign, and just beyond is the smaller Jagermeister Stage which sits just next to the grounds of the main stage, and even past that is the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, all within a few minutes walking distance, easy and convenient. Coupled with one of the most consistently pleasant, easy going, and friendly festival goers you will hope to meet (with plenty of families about) and you can’t help but have a fantastic weekend. Welcome to Bloodstock!

As per usual, the festivities really kick off on the Thursday with several bands on the Sophie tent; and a glance at the shirts about show that openers Reign Of Fury have a tonne of fans about. Later on in the day if Welsh death metal hoodlums Desecration don’t get you in the mood for debauchery then nothing will as they deliver a sterling set.

Nuclear Assault, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Nuclear Assault, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Friday arrives and the rescheduled Nuclear Assault start off the main stage as it would continue throughout the weekend; with troubles, as they play with borrowed gear due to airport confusion. Still they play with intensity and ferocity, if you can get past John Connelly’s cartoon like voice which verges between cringe worthy and suiting.

Despite the glorious sunshine its back to the Sophie tent for the loveable Pronk duo Oaf as they deliver the first truly great moment of the festival with a set chock full of obscenities, humour and incredible songs. Very little will top the image of a packed out sea of Cheshire Cat grins bellowing out the chorus to brand new song ‘Disgusted By Your Genitalia’ this weekend.

The New Blood Stage over the weekend will play host to numerous winners of Bloodstock’s Metal To The Masses winners as well as other great new talents, proving a very worthy place to go if there is a gap in your schedule. Early on in the day is Brighton’s winner, thrashers King Leviathan who combine the pace and energy of thrash/death metal with black metal’s fascination and imagery of the occult. With impressive numbers and a formidable display, it seems the future of metal is in good hands.

Arnocorps vs Alien vs Predator, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Arnocorps vs Alien vs Predator, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Shortly after, the sunshine doesn’t appear to be helping the black metal bands of the weekend as they vividly corpse painted Belphegor seem to be greeted by not only it brightening but butterflies flying around the stage, which proves too hilarious.

 

There is even plenty of Prog over the weekend, with a wide range of progressive minded metal bands across the stages, which brings up your scribes’ first major clash of the weekend. It wouldn’t be Bloodstock if a stage or two wasn’t plagued with sound issues, and it’s a testament to the loyal masses that Enslaved’s inaudible vocals did not detract from the raucous response from a crowd who adore this darkened, Nordic prog. Outings from newie ‘Building With Fire’ and old favourites like 1997’s ‘Alfablot’  amalgamate perfectly to create one of the sets of the weekend, proving that the spirit and character of a band can cast away sonic snags. An entirely different beast, Australian tech metallers Ne Obliviscaris pack out a rapturous Sophie tent with a rare visit to these shores, and a mind bogglingly complex but stunning set which has everyone in attendance hooked.

Ihsahn, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Ihsahn, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

The main stage gremlins make yet another appearance as they wreak havoc on Ihsahn, causing a long pause during the set to sort out monitor difficulties. Not that you would have noted the band’s distraction at all as aside from this delay they/he perform an absolute masterclass. Plus it’s a testament to his deity like reputation and the open minded crowd that he can close with a brand new song in ‘My Heart Is Of The North’. The Prog continues with relative newcomers Diatessaron on the New Blood Stage with, sadly, some signs of nerves kicking in and a sound that feels too out of place for the festival, the band seeming too thin and reward with a somewhat disinterested crowd.

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Making good use of the close proximity to the campsite means it’s time for a rest to recover from the heat. A few drinks in and it turns out we have accidentally missed the mammoth heaviness of Conan (dammit), but its back in time to see Swedish power metallers Sabaton continue their ascent to one of the UK’s favourite metal acts. Kicking off, as ever, with ‘Ghost Division’ they charge in with the subtlety of a Panzer battalion as the likes of ‘Carolus Rex’ and a rare UK airing of ‘No Bullets Fly’ cause sing-alongs a plenty. The band themselves are certainly having the time of their lives up there, but the set derails somewhat by their insistence on rehearsed comedy routines which are completely unnecessary, especially with the songs they could have played in their arsenal. Still even this cannot take away from one of the most fun sets of the day; plus they have a huge fucking tank on stage.

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Since they have been huge favourites in the UK since their inception, and the history they have with UK festivals (that infamous main stage opening slot at Download), it seems about time that Trivium are given the challenge of headlining a major UK festival, in what seemed like it could have been another historic and defining moment for both the band and festival. Sadly they hit problems immediately as they choose to open with the live premiere of brand new song ‘Silence In The Snow’ which has not only been out for only a few weeks but also does not prove captivating enough a song. Things are unaided by the absence of guitarist/growler Cory Beaulieu due to microphone difficulties which result in him getting electric shocks (those gremlins again).

Trivium, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Trivium, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

 

When issues settle however and they hit their stride they show strong a band they are with quite the arsenal of anthems, from stirring renditions of the likes of ‘Like Light To Flies’ and ‘Into The Mouth Of Hell We March’. However the set does prove very inconsistent as for each great moment, there are those that fall flat, like ‘Strife’ and ‘Black’, plus another new airing in the trudging ‘Blind Leading The Blind’ towards the end of the main set. It’s a real shame as at times they are almost exquisite, but at others they seem tired and daunted by the event. The crowd is firmly behind them, but what could have been a monumental occasion sadly proves frustrating.

 

WORDS BY CHRIS TIPPELL & SARAH WORSLEY