At its molten heart, Rock music should be a very simple beating beast indeed. It should inspire and excite, yes, but it doesn’t need complicated rhythms, progressive tendencies, cerebral lyrics, analysis, politics or a whole plethora of interesting and additional ingredients to be successful or do what it sets out to do. And that is to, unequivocally, “Rock”. Continue reading →
Cast your misconceptions aside; it’s fine, you don’t have to pretend you don’t have them, I know you do. Yes, it’s Scott Stapp (wasn’t he the guy from Creed who ended up out ‘there’, homeless and bankrupt and blah blah blah?) and, yes, it’s Bumblefoot (wasn’t he the guitarist in Guns n’ Roses when they were shit and blah blah blah?) and aren’t they uncool, and all that other bollocks that clouds the judgement and blah blah blah becomes far too important for far too many people…?
I like being in early to an empty festival arena; the main stage with its welcoming wide arms enticing you down into big open area that later on will be filled by up to 80,000 pairs of feet. But at 10.30am, while taking it all in, there were pressing ablutions-related priorities while the facilities were still clean…
Having completed the exiting part of the cycle, it was time to begin filling up again. Running a ring round the perimeter of the whole arena is van after van of greasy and fast food vendors, and this is next port of call – though the stomach was not up for any of the kebab or burger related fare, fortunately there are a couple of recommended less greasy options – the ‘Vegan and Vegetarian’ stand doing a fine falafel and hummus and coffee (and I’m not even a veggie) to kickstart my heart (or at least brain). If you can be bothered to search off the beaten track as we did later in the day there are some decent food stalls in the “Kennels” by the acoustic stage, and right over by the far side of the second stage, where I picked up a very tasty and unsaturated teriyaki chicken noodle feast.
With all of the “main” three stages running simultaneously throughout the day, there are choices to be made… Heart of a Coward was, by all accounts, the right choice to “wake the fuck up” with. At 11 o clock, in front of only a hardy few in the rain (the opening of gates had been delayed to allow the site to be tidied and made safer by the laying down of straw following the previous nights’ downpour) you feared for the Milton Keynes boys, but by the time the set ended people were sprinting down the hill to catch them, hangovers forgotten as circle pits, choreographed headbanging and angsty shouts over slab-heavy grooves well and truly kicked things off.
With Funeral For A Friend completing their slide from the grace of being main support only a few years ago to the same slot they appeared in at the first Download with a performance as gray as the skies, it was time to wander away from the mainstage for another coffee and something different.
I had meant to see Malefice, but I benefitted from that most festival of experiences of accidentally seeing a new band. Stage three at Download is a good one for that; not only does it shelter from the rain by driving in hundreds of people out of the elements, it provides up and coming bands with a captive audience, and Stray From The Path won over some cold, wet new fans.
Saturday arvo was all about the second stage. Apocalyptica offered something different, and won over the inquisitive; Ace Frehely was, by all accounts, a surprising success that occurred while I got drawn into the unmitigated fun of Hollywood Undead instead, who had the main stage eating out of the palm of their hands. Brilliantly entertaining, which is, surely, what mainstage festival bands should be all about.
Back over second stage, Testament crushed with a consummate set of testicles and big fucking riffs, before Carcass continued the smackdown laying. Motionless In White drew the youngest crowd of the day (by the time we left to not be able to get in to see Dub War in the oversubscribed tent of the fourth stage, TeenFest 2015 was in full swing) as Chris and the boys delivered. While wandering to and from others, I caught the first and then later, the last songs of A Day To Remember (‘Downfall of Us All’ and ‘All I Want’), their best two, and all you really need to see, before taking up a good vantage point for Faith No More and Muse. I’d have liked to have seen Body Count, Marilyn Manson, Andrew W.K., and Black Veil Brides – all of whom played during Saturday’s Main Stage one-two knock-out blow, but from the first peals of the massively catch ‘Motherfucker’, to the dying Western-meets-Maiden/Queen of ‘Knights of Cydonia’ the main stage was where it was at.
Faith No More, by Hillarie Jason Photography
During FNM we had lounge jams, 50,000 people singing to Lionel Ritchie song (‘Easy’, natch) casual abuse of one pissed-off looking bedraggled girl in the front row, a set list that held enough back for their upcoming headline show while still showing how far above most other bands they are, arrogance and a performance of excellence; Mike Patton note perfect and enticingly sardonic. It even stopped raining.
People in the UK get particular about their festival headliners, and Muse weren’t selected from the normal pot. However, they were absolutely the right choice. Matt Bellamy is a sickeningly talented individual, nailing Eddie Van Halen guitar techniques while simultaneously hitting falsetto notes that could crack glass, all to the back drop of videos, a stunning light show, pyro, fireworks, streamers, big bouncing black Prisoner balls and a cleverly tailored, dark, heavy set that saw them fire out rarities like ‘Dead Star’ and ‘Agitated’ and epics such as ‘Hysteria’, ‘Micro Cuts’ and ‘Citizen Erazed’, which had even the most sceptical won over even before a last forty-five minute hit-factory, with fervent reaction all the way back as far as the eye could see. Muse more than matched up to Slipknot, the first two days at Download further proving that there are bands, and there are “bands”. And then there are bands. And then there are BANDS.
With things a lot dryer , even the walk back to the tent was alright, though I’m far too old to be lying in a field kept up until 4am by a bunch of young pissheads blasting out Slipknot. Hotel next year for me, methinks!
Just when you thought winter was on its way out and happy, sun-drenched times were on the way, along come Forgotten Tomb with another slab of depressive black/gothic/doom metal to remind you that life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows; it’s full of pain and sorrow. Having said that, the Italian quartet are nowhere near as bleak as the raw black metal of their early days, and seventh full-length proper Hurt Yourself and the Ones You Love (Agonia) sees them crawl further from the crypt into the glare of stadium rock lights, albeit one located in the depths of your own personal hell.
Still heavily influenced by fellow travellers in woe Shining (the creepy black metal lot, not the jazz weirdos), Forgotten Tomb’s songwriting continues to improve, with big stomping riffs and twisted grooves propelling songs such as ‘King of the Undesirables’ forward with grim intent, like a reanimated corpse that wants your hand in unholy matrimony.
Of course, everything is still coated in an impenetrable layer of darkness that prevents these anti-anthems ever being acceptable to the normals in the light-world, even though there are plenty of mournful melodies that the likes of Paradise Lost and Katatonia would sacrifice their first born for. The frequent lurches into ragged, speedy black metal keeps things dangerous and reminds the listener that the band have not forgotten their twisted, blood-smeared roots.
They’re still eager to court controversy as proven by the eyebrow-raising cover art, album title and over-the top lyrics (“I’ll fuck your daughter, slit her throat then bathe in her blood” anyone?) but thankfully have the musical muscle to back it up. The repetitive, marching dirge of ‘Dread the Sundown’ is the longest walk to the gallows you will ever face while the cold emptiness of coda ‘Swallow the Void’ ends thing on a stark note.
Forgotten Tomb will never hit the big leagues but it would be a crying shame if they did. Their twisted talent and the uncompromising vision of frontman Herr Morbid is something that belongs in the underground, where it thrives away from the light. Hurt Yourself… is a grimly satisfying peek into that darkness.