Amplified Festival 2018
Quarry Downs, Gloucestershire
July 6th 2018, Day One
Review by Rick Tilley with help from Beth Jones
Photographs by Beth Jones
If you attended the first Amplified Festival in 2017 you’ll know that there were some logistical and organisational issues and that these were highlighted, even more, by the biblical storm that hit the Festival on the Friday which nearly caused its closure before it had really got started. There were also a lot of negative comments on social media, mainly from people who weren’t there. However, by the Sunday, the weather had cleared up somewhat and the people that had decided to stay had a great time, we certainly did. Organiser Gary Paterson vowed to address the problems and come back fighting in 2018 and boy has he done that BIG TIME!!
Welcome to Ever Metal’s review of Amplified Festival 2018, Day One!
This year we arrived on the Thursday evening so that we were completely up and running for the start on Friday morning and immediately we noticed how much better organised things were. With photographer Will Tudor in place as Accreditation and Media Relations Manager (a position, this weekend showed, he was born to do) everything had a place, everybody knew where to go and what to do and everyone was in good spirits.
With the weather forecast this year promising temperatures matching the inside of an active volcano we slowly unpacked the car and put the tent up. Even though I had made the conscious decision not to go as official press this year because the line-up was so strong and I wanted to watch bands, we were still in the media area as my step-daughter had won the Amplified Photography Competition (more on that later) and it was noticeable that there were more tents set up and people about than there had been on the Friday last year, a great sign, and once we had rung out a couple of buckets of sweat we headed off to check out the arena and catch up with friends at the only place you can ever meet up at a Rock Festival ‘The Motley Brew’!
The arena this year was more compact, the Red Stripe and Very Metal Art stages had been turned in the opposite direction and there wasn’t a huge separate area, through the trees, with further stages and stalls to spread everyone out. Camping areas were more sensibly thought about, on what is an extremely beautiful site, and even though things looked different it felt familiar and complete! With no clashes between bands on the two bigger stages and virtually none on the G’s Bar Stage you could pretty much watch every band over the three days if you wanted to. With smiles on our faces and beer/tea in hand we settled down for a good old chat with people in anticipation of what would happen on the Friday.
By 7am on the Friday it was so hot it was impossible to stay in the tent, it had turned into a portable sauna, so we got up and plastered ourselves in sun-cream, ready to stay hydrated, watch some great music and soak up the atmosphere!
First up on the Red Stripe main stage were British Thrash outfit, Eradikator. This was a really great, upbeat way to kick off the festival, no messing, just straight in with a precision wallop. It was immediately obvious to see/hear that, like last year, the sound engineers had got this completely right, the sound was more than superb, and for that to happen for the first song of the first band on the first day is not something that many manage. It was also pleasing to see quite a few people turn out for the band even though it was still early and most were still arriving or yet to arrive. Eradikator could easily have played much higher up the bill, such was their quality, you definitely need to check them out and their performance put a huge smile on our faces. From that moment on there was something in the air that told me this was going to be a special weekend.
As the arena was set up much more thoughtfully this year, and with the aforementioned ‘no clashes’, it was easy for us to walk over to the Very Metal Art stage to see Impavidus. They had been one of our standout bands at the Bloodstock M2TM heats in Wrexham, and although they didn’t win, we knew they were more than capable, so we were eager to see them and what an amazing performance this was. Vocalist Michelle Adamson can do such amazing things with her voice, we have no idea how such a brutal growl comes out of such a small person but she has a huge stage presence (and is also one of the sweetest people you could want to meet). In fact when she sings, I’m reminded of the legend that is Sabina Classen (Holy Moses vocalist)! Every band member has fabulous energy, they are really strong both as individual musicians and as a group (think Arch Enemy meets The Agonist) and the crowd obviously felt this and really reacted to them. Their material is of a very high standard and they were hugely impressive – A ‘Must See’ band!
It was back over to the Red Stripe stage next for the mighty Torqued!! We have known vocalist/bassist Marc Cleave for a while now, and have been watching, with growing excitement, the build up to the release of the Torqued EP “RESURGENCE” (out now), and the band in general, so again we were looking forward to this performance. We had seen them play a short set at McCleans, Pentre late last year but it was great to finally see these guys live on a big stage, especially as they should have played Amplified last year but couldn’t because of the weather conditions. Guitarist Rimmy Sinclair is an immense talent and made intricate shredding look easy, with his ginger locks flying in all directions. There is great chemistry between the guys on stage and they do definitely live up to the hype; they had a good, solid sound, again enhanced by the skills of the sound engineers. It is very chunky and bass driven, courtesy of Marc’s awesome playing (and his fabulous facial expressions) plus his connection with drummer Kurt Johnson, but nothing was overdone, and less is definitely more in this case. Torqued really don’t sound like anyone else; the best I can come up with is VoiVod playing Groove Doom. They also had a great connection with the audience who lapped up every note! #wearetorqued
At this point there was a break in the performances on the Red Stripe/VMA stages because it was time to kick-start the G’s Bar Stage into gear! In 2017, because of the horrendous weather, a stage was hastily set up in the bar tent to accommodate some of the bands unable to play their designated slots elsewhere and it was also a place where the punters could keep sort of dry… and it was a huge success, with people braving the rain and wind, with a typically British stiff upper lip, to have a beer and watch some great music which took their mind off whether their tent would still be standing when they returned. Therefore it was a no brainer to bring it back properly in 2018, and the first band on was Gloucestershire based Metalcore band Proteus. Now I’ve got to be honest, when I walked into the tent the heat hit me like a thunderbolt, the meds I take for my spine play havoc with my body temperature, and it was just too hot for me so I couldn’t stay in there for long but what I saw of Proteus was extremely positive. They were catchy; very tight; incredibly heavy and owned the stage impressively. They also had a very good crowd in there watching them and once again the sound guys had worked their magic so what could have sounded like a wall of noise was crystal clear. Not my preferred genre but I’ll definitely be checking them out more!
With the temperature rising we made a quick pit-stop to get a slushy from one of the many good and reasonably priced refreshment vendors on site before heading over to the VMA stage again, this time for Midlands Dark Death metallers Ashen Crown. We had seen lead vocalist Kieran Scott before, guesting with Mad Spanner, but not the full band. This kind of metal is not usually Beth’s cup of tea but she actually really enjoyed them and I have to agree that Ashen Crown played an excellent set. Yes, the vocals are very growly, but Kieran varies his delivery and they are never too shouty or irritating. He is also backed up by a very tight band and their material is very catchy. With more people arriving (all with huge grins on their faces) there was an awesome reaction to the band, which was really good to see. Everyone was having a great time and the smiles between people, whether you knew them or not, proved that the special atmosphere Amplified was creating was growing with each band!
After the musically thunderous and heavy start to the day, it was time to head back to the Red Stripe Stage for something completely different. Templeton Pek are a three piece Punk Rock band from Birmingham and they were great for the latish lunchtime slot they had been given! Amplified hadn’t just booked lots of bands and thrown them on stage, instead, every occupied slot felt like it had been thought about and that each band had been listened to carefully and given a slot that complemented their genre/style. Even though Templeton Pek have been around a few years I’m sorry to say I hadn’t come across them before, which slightly hampered my enjoyment of their set, but they were extremely good musicians and very tight as a band. Their performance certainly warranted me checking them out on my return home and latest album “Watching The World Come Undone” is a very good listen!
After the Punk Rock of TP, it was time to head back to the Very Metal Art stage which was lit up again with the very metal Manchester band Vice and there are only two words to describe them…’fucking awesome’! We had missed them at Hammerfest earlier in the year because of our interview schedule, but it was so worth waiting for! At Hammerfest they had given us a copy of their debut album “The First Chapter” which is a massively good slab of heaviness, if you’re looking for a comparison band then I suppose Primitai would be a good start, and we were REALLY impressed by their performance here. They have great energy and presence even though they are only a three piece and filled the stage both physically and audibly with their music sounding just as good live as it does on their album. Vocalist/Guitarist Tom Atkinson, whom I’ve known since his days in Absolva, has a cracking voice and shreds like a demon! Beth also thought he had very lovely Pantene style hair but I couldn’t possibly comment!! Check them out!
Up until this point, every band had blown us away with how good they were, and how good the sound was, but we weren’t quite as bowled over by all female, London based, ‘Basement Rock’ act The Kut, who were next on the Red Stripe stage. I know they’ve been getting a lot of good press lately and they have a growing fan-base who adore them but their L7, Courtney Love brand of alternative rock didn’t sit comfortably in my ears live, although I do quite like their debut album “Valley Of Thorns”. Maybe it was because it was so hot, or that we needed a recharge but they just left us feeling a bit meh and they looked a bit swamped on the main stage. I think they would certainly come across better in a more intimate club setting!
We made our way back over to the Very Metal Art stage because the next band on were most definitely going to wake us up big time and do it with a huge cheesy grin. None other than our favourite Mancunian lunatics, Footprints In The Custard were ready to Mankini things up to 11! Hilarious; Sharp; Crazy; Adorable and Sexy! These are just some of the words that come to mind when describing Footprints In The Custard live. They had borrowed Ward XVI guitarist David Stott, to stand in for Ross, who had very inconsiderately decided to get married…I mean, come on, that’s a terrible excuse for not playing!!! Fair play to David though, he really got into character, and I think secretly enjoyed wearing his Mankini, plenty of females in the crowd seemed to enjoy David wearing his Mankini too! Seriously, if you have never seen these guys play then you need too, they are comedy genius! From kicking off with the Thomas The Tank Engine theme tune to their closing rendition of The Weathergirls ‘It’s Raining Men’ there is laughter, groaning and head-banging in abundance They always look like they are having so much fun up on stage, their humour is so off the wall you can’t help but smile and we absolutely love them!
At this point we popped back into the sweltering G’s Bar tent stage because Leeds based Rock/Metal band Chasing Dragons had just started their set and both Beth and I had heard some of their material and earmarked them as a must see. What hit us were the amazing vocals coming through the microphone. Lead singer ‘Tank’ has a powerful and hugely captivating voice, which she can bring down incredibly wonderfully to ballad level. At one point she moved from the stage to sit on the bar and sang the most beautifully emotional song, which actually brought Beth to tears and my eyes misted up as well! You know a song is good when it tugs at your emotions like that and looking around, it was clear to see that we weren’t the only people moved! It was an incredibly special moment and one neither of us will forget. Chasing Dragons were absolutely fantastic and are another of those rare breed of bands who don’t sound like anyone else. Their forthcoming debut album “Faction” will be a must have. Ignore them at your peril!
After more slushies (which we have decided are the holy grail of hot weather) we headed back over to the Red Stripe stage to catch Irish Modern Metal outfit, Dead Label. Their name derives from not wanting to be pigeon-holed into a particular genre so I’m not going to try. We already love these guys and had a great time interviewing them for Ever Metal back in March. It was fabulous to see them on this stage, even though it did look quite big with only the three of them, however their huge, groove laden, sound matched the stage size. Claire Percival is tiny but she is an absolute powerhouse on the drums and bassist/vocalist Dan O’Grady and guitarist Danny Hall had plenty of space to do their thing and they did it with consummate ease! If you haven’t seen Dead Label before then you seriously have to check them out (a perfect chance will be at this year’s Bloodstock where they play the Sophie stage on Saturday 11th August). They are heavy but really melodic and very dark. They have something special and gave Amplified an excellent performance!
Usually, in this sort of heat I’d want to find some shade but the Amplified ‘special vibe’ was really starting to take hold on everyone and the smiles, laughter and happiness from all corners of the arena was palpable. With that in mind, there was absolutely no way we weren’t going to go and watch the next band on the Very Metal Art stage. After seeing Witch Tripper a few times now, we knew what they were going to give us…energy and effort by the bucket load, along with top-notch musicianship and great songs. They never disappoint and this performance was no different. Their style is pure good, groovy, sludgy old school heavy rock/metal. I love the bounce in their rhythms and the catchy hooks that they seem to write effortlessly. Witch Tripper really know how to rock and engage an audience. They also work their nuts off to make sure everyone gets a good show, and that is really commendable in this day and age. They tour incessantly, so if you haven’t already, go and watch them. You’re guaranteed to have a sore neck the next day!
Both Beth and I are huge Power Metal freaks, I’ve been there since Helloween first appeared, and my favourite Power Metal band is Gamma Ray, so we were hugely looking forward to seeing Southampton based Power Quest on the Red Stripe stage. If you don’t know, Power Quest were formed by ex Dragonforce keyboard player Steve Williams back in 2001. Sadly, this was to be guitarist Andy Kopczyk’s last gig with the band so it was a special evening. I know classic Power Metal isn’t a huge pull in the UK but Power Quest were absolutely amazing and more. By that point in the day Beth had lost the ability to express energy and excitement physically with the heat and I had to sit for much of their set but inside, our heads were going bananas with excitement!! I was absolutely blown away by the vocals of Ashley Edison (Dendera) as well as the technical skills of every musician. It was such a great atmosphere in the crowd too, with everyone having a great time and losing their shit in a good way to some full on, swashbuckling metal! I think this is why we both love power metal so much, it’s bouncy, uplifting, awesome and well…powerful and Power Quest absolutely epitomise what the genre is all about!
Even with the best will in the world we had to take a break at this point so we headed for the oasis that was the Motley Brew for a cuppa (honestly Phil and his team are absolute saints) and then to some shade in the media area where we were able to just chill out with others and discuss what had been, up to then, one of the best days of live music I had ever experienced in 35 years of Festival attendance. Once our energy levels had replenished and we had poured water over ourselves it was back to the Red Stripe stage to witness the lightning bolt that was German Thrash band Dust Bolt! Holy thundercrackers where do these guys get their energy from? They supplied Classic Thrash, German and Bay Area styles with aplomb, so Destruction, Exodus, Kreator and Testament fans were all catered for. They had immense energy and connection with each other and the audience. I love my Thrash, but Beth is pretty picky, in the same way that people are with marmite, she either really loves it, or really hates it. For her Dust Bolt were definitely in the ‘really love’ pile! It was so good that literally the only thing that annoyed her was that the corner of their banner, at the back of the stage had come unhooked, and it looked untidy on the photos she was trying to take! We really hope we get a chance to see them again, believe me they are absolutely phenomenal!
Trying to conserve some energy, but not succeeding, Beth nipped over to the Very Metal Art stage again to catch South Wales based Alternative Pop Rockers The Dirty Youth, who were filling the headline slot and these are her thoughts. “They were a little heavier than I was expecting, after watching their YouTube videos, but they were still a lot lighter than most of the bands throughout the day, which was actually kind of nice to wind down to. However, they were a bit too modern and ‘Kerrang Style’ for my liking. I’m getting older now and much of this more modern stuff just sounds the same! That said you couldn’t fault their musicianship, vocalist Danni Monroe had a cracking set of pipes and the sound was still impeccable!”
All that was left then, at least for us, were Red Stripe Main stage headliners SOiL! I had never been a huge fan of the band (at the time the 90’s were a bit of a lost cause for me music wise), but Beth loves them and never thought she would see them live, so she was like a chuffed fangirl waiting for them to get onstage. I have to admit I thought they were excellent and we spent the duration of their set jumping. The first half of their performance was really great, incorporating loads of classic tunes which got the, now much larger, crowd bouncing, and meant that Beth could squawk along with her rapidly disappearing voice. They did have some technical issues with wireless systems on both the bass and guitar, which lead to a bit of a delay and they somewhat lost the plot after that and had a weird game of sing a bit of a song and see if you can work out how to play it on the spot! Then it all went a bit more random when vocalist Ryan McCombs decided it would be fun to dive into the audience just for shits and giggles! I did get a big hug from him on the way back to the stage, and that, along with the fact that he had spoken to me, directly from the stage, earlier in the gig, made my night! It was definitely one of Beth’s favourite performances of the weekend, despite its randomness, and in me, they have found a new fan…even if I am about twenty years late to the party.
After that, we left the youngsters to go and party at the G’s Bar Stage with Voodoo Blood closing the night, whilst we made the huge walk of about ten yards to the Motley Brew, for the best mug of coffee I had tasted in years, a good chat with loads of mates about the performances that day plus the absolutely amazing atmosphere and then it was back to the tent for a damn good sleep before starting again for Day Two. Stay tuned for that…!
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All photographs are the property of Beth Jones and PhotograBee – http://www.facebook.com/PhotograBeeImages