Amplified Festival 2018
Quarry Downs, Gloucestershire
July 8th 2018, Day Three
Review by Rick Tilley with help from Beth Jones
Photographs by Beth Jones
I’m not quite sure when everybody else got back to the tent Saturday Night/Sunday Morning because, as soon as my head had touched the pillow, I was away with the fairies. This is, somewhat, a double edged sword for me with my back problems. I usually don’t sleep very well but when I do, because I’ve lain in the same place for too long, I feel much more pain. Add to that the fact that camping is not very good for me, so when I woke up on the Sunday morning, I looked and felt like Quasimodo. Once I had managed to negotiate actually getting out of the tent, which certainly wasn’t as easy as it should have been, another thing hit me…it was even hotter than it had been the previous two days. My fresh T-Shirt literally crumpled and stuck to me, the sky was shimmering and the angry red orb, that was the sun, looked like it was ready to take top billing in a 1970’s apocalyptic disaster movie. Even the bullocks in the field across the road from us, who the previous day had looked like a gang of naughty teenage boys ready for a punch-up, suddenly looked like they had been let out from an old people’s home for the day and could barely stand up straight!
Welcome to Ever Metal’s review of Amplified Festival 2018 Day Three!
Once everybody was awake and ready we crawled slowly over to the arena and immediately stocked up on water. I’m not sure it’s particularly healthy but I was literally beginning to sweat salt and this was before any band had played a note!
We arrived at the Very Metal Art Stage just as the first band of the day, Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disasters, were starting their set! Cardiff’s very own rock chick, Beth Blade is always a good way to pass some time and at 10.15am, on an already ludicrously hot morning, was no exception. The first thing we noticed, from the last time we had seen the band live, was that the bass player had shrunk by about 18 inches. It wasn’t the heat but new bassist Vincent Grieve! If you’ve not seen or heard Beth before then imagine a mix of Kiss, Suzi Quatro and Joan Jet, good old 70’s/80’s Rock N Roll. She has huge power on stage, a proper gravelly rock voice and massive presence plus a great band behind her. She isn’t a shy lass, certainly woke everybody up and the sizable crowd had a blast, as well as huge grins on their faces!
Heading over to the Red Stripe Main Stage it was clear that people were starting to slow down slightly, unless your name was Michael Randall that is, but I certainly didn’t want to miss the next band. Carrying on the Hard Rock theme, albeit in a Jack Daniels coated Southern style, Thirteen Stars ambled onto the stage and promptly blew any remaining tumbleweed away with a huge bang. Hailing from the sunshine state of…Cumbria these guys are so laid back they’re horizontal but WOW, they are good. If you didn’t know better you would swear they were from Kentucky, Tennessee or Louisiana. They play proper bluesy, groove laden Rock N Roll and even though, having seen them before, I know they rip it up in a club setting, they were perfect for this Sunday Morning slot, especially in the sun with a cheeky Cloven Hoof Rum! I got so lost in the moment that, in what seemed like about ten minutes, they had ambled off stage again to rapturous applause. Absolutely superb!
Just as we were starting to get all Woodstocked up and considered changing outfits to flares and one of Simon Yarwood’s shirts we arrived back at the Very Metal Art stage and I got my soul ripped out by one of the most mesmerisingly brilliant and emotionally charged performances I’ve witnessed in many years, courtesy of the utterly incredible King Leviathan. With them being one member down and not wearing their usual garb onstage there were a few mutterings from some, before they started, as to whether it would work but I can tell you now that there wasn’t one person, who watched their performance, that wasn’t absolutely astounded at the end. Vocalist/Guitarist Adam Sedgwick was an unstoppable force on that stage and I couldn’t peel my eyes away from him. Blackened Thrash Doom isn’t usually Beth’s thing but we were both gobsmacked at the ferociously beautiful music that was coming out of the speakers. To know that King Leviathan will soon be no more is a very sad thing indeed. Completely compelling and enthralling from start to finish King Leviathan, amongst an ocean of fantastic performances over the weekend, were my band of the Festival!
After the emotion of King Leviathan’s performance and also realising that, even though I had covered myself in sun tan lotion, my neck was starting to blister we found a small area of shade by the sound desk and chilled out, chatting to others, whilst the VMA stage was readied for another “do not miss” band Resin!
I’ve known some of the band for a fair few years now and having seen and interviewed them a number of times before, plus knowing violinist Emma Bennett from her other band Cadence Noir, we were really looking forward to seeing this performance as it was the first time Beth had seen them and the first time I had seen them properly live with this line-up. It was also going to be interesting to see how the, as yet unstoppable, sound team handled a six-piece band with a violin player and three guitarists. I needn’t have worried because the sound engineers nailed it and Resin were absolute class from first note to last.
Musically this is a band of ultra-talented musicians (well, cough, apart from Simon). Their songs are incredibly dark and emotional, and the performance echoed these emotions. What they do is almost installation art as well as music; with the stage being jam packed full of a motley crew of tattoos and piercings, loud shirts, and the statuesque gothic beauty of Emma. Off stage the quartet of vocalist/guitarist Dave Gandon, guitarist/vocalist Mark ‘Chez’ Roseby, bassist/vocalist Drask George and guitarist Simon Yarwood are absolutely lovely guys but on stage they are incredibly intense. This is the place where they thrive and their emotions are laid bare. Backed up by the fantastic drumming of Ryan Hextall and the beautiful violin work of Emma, Resin were nothing less than haunting, a perfect fit for the Sunday line-up and a must see if they gig near you!
Because we were covering the event and wanted to properly watch as many bands as we could we walked back to the main stage again and I thought to myself that if I hadn’t lost at least half a stone by the time I got home then I would be a bit miffed, however, it was now so stupidly hot that some people had either left the arena to find some shade amongst the trees or just stopped, wherever they were, and sat/laid down. Many had done this about midway between the two stages so that they could still hear/see the bands without moving (the beauty of no clashes working a treat). This did result in some of the Sunday afternoon bands playing to, what looked like, a thin crowd but that wasn’t actually the case, everybody was just spread out!
Next up on the Red Stripe Main Stage were Scottish Progressive metallers Ramage Inc. and, as they played, a thought went through my head and it went something like this! “Fuck Me it’s hot, how is nothing on fire?” followed pretty quickly by the realisation that something was on fire and it was Ramage Inc. Having never seen these guys before, or listened to much of their music, it was another of those ‘Why the heck have I been so stupid?’ moments! This four piece band from Edinburgh has oodles of talent and their songs are so damn catchy and dark. Equal parts melody, rhythm and power, fans of Devin Townsend will adore them, although you probably already know that as I appear to be very late to the party. On the day Ramage Inc. were absolutely superb and, since returning home, their albums “Feel The Waves” and “Earth Shaker” have been played whenever I have the spare time! They are another hugely compelling band!
While Beth nipped over to see Marc and Nici at the Corrosive Merch/Goblin Dreams Stands I ventured into the very hot and VERY crowded G’s Bar Stage to check out The SoapGirls. Now, if you don’t know about The SoapGirls they are two Sisters, Noemie and Camille, who play Raw Rock/Punk Rock tunes and they play them whilst pretty much in the nude! I got told many times over the weekend that they are both lovely girls and I’m not disputing that for one second. I’ve also got no objection to anyone, male or female, who wants to get up on stage with nothing on and play music, a prude I am not. However, I’ve heard 1,000+ bands play their style of music and play it much better. With all due respect to The Soap Girls I really don’t think they would have the huge following they’ve managed to get if they went onstage in T-shirts and Jeans. You can call me cynical if you want but it’s a promotional tool that they have used well!
By this time my body really wasn’t responding very well but, if you know me, you’ll know I don’t give in without a fight so it was back to the Very Metal Art Stage to watch a band, that we hadn’t seen live before, but were really looking forward to. I could wax lyrical about Twisted Illusion, because they were so good, but I’m going to leave this bit to Beth because her write up sums it up perfectly!
“Twisted Illusion took the bronze medal spot for performance of the weekend for me, only outdone by Evil Scarecrow and Soil. If heaven exits, this is the soundtrack that is playing! Matt Jones, Matt McDade and Mark Wagstaff are three unbelievably gifted musicians, all meeting in perfect harmony to make Prog Mecca! It reminded me of the bit in Bill and Ted, when Rufus takes them to the utopian future after Wild Stallion’s music has brought about world peace! I was absolutely blown away by the tone and range of Matt Jones’ vocals and his incredibly decadent guitar solos. It was self-indulgent and ego laden but all tongue in cheek. Twisted Illusion’s stage presence plus witty repartee and banter from Matt J made it mesmerising and they are now my new favourite band, so much so that we are going to see them for my Birthday treat this year!
Twisted Illusion – So good they make you pull a sex face!”
What I’ve heard of Florence Black, up to this point, has been really good and when speaking with people, across the course of the weekend, it was a name that had come up a fair bit as a band punters wanted to watch so it was back to the Red Stripe Main Stage to see them and we were very glad we did. A trio from Merthyr Tydfil (Hey, we definitely had to support the Welsh bands) they play thumping Classic Hard Rock, with a little modern twist, and they do it very adeptly too. Vocalist/Guitarist Tristan has an awesome set of pipes and, along with their strong melodies, this made for a really enjoyable performance. Florence Black were another great booking for a Sunday slot, especially with the good weather, and a band I very much look forward to seeing live again soon!
What I had loved about the Sunday, so far, was that the bands booked, with the odd exception, had been a little more laid back and perfect for a crowd whose energy levels were probably a little on the waning side, but if anyone mistakenly thought that things were starting to wind down, then they were rudely awoken when the magnificent Shrapnel hit the Very Metal Art Stage. Another band I have been a fan of for a fair while, but had never seen live before, Shrapnel are an utterly furious juggernaut of Thrash & Speed Metal, their sound giving a huge nod to the likes of Testament and Exodus but stamping their own twist onto proceedings as well. They sounded like a squadron of advancing Challenger Tanks and had heads snapping in all directions. I love my Thrash and this felt like a starter, main course and dessert all in one go. Rather than feel completely drained by the time they left the stage I felt utterly re-invigorated!
With a renewed spring in my limp I hobbled, with Beth, back to the Red Stripe Main Stage because there was absolutely no way we were missing the next band. We first saw Mason Hill live, about a year ago, at RockWich 2017 and they absolutely blew us away, in fact it had almost brought Beth to tears so emotional was their performance. Since then we’ve met them, interviewed them, seen them live a couple more times and have championed them on Ever Metal and we were absolutely stoked they were playing on the big stage at Amplified. Unfortunately, the heat had got the better of a lot of people by this point, so sadly the crowd was a little sparse but that never stops Mason Hill and they gave every ounce of energy they had. They play Classic Melodic Rock with a Modern twist, have great material that is really catchy, they are all gifted musically and they play with excitement and passion. They even graced us with some new tracks that will be on their debut album and they are fabulous. We aren’t the only ones who think they rock, they’re now signed to Frontiers Music and they don’t sign unless they see something special! It’s a shame more people didn’t see them because they deserved to be playing to a much bigger audience but they still made some new fans at Amplified. Part of my step-daughters photography prize was to photograph them being interviewed by us later in the day and it was a joy to catch up with five of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! We love Mason Hill!
From a photography point of view Beth says that, Misfit’s guitarist, Doyle’s band was her favourite of the weekend. ‘Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein’ is an incredibly striking subject with his sculpted make-up and hair, body of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and towering stature enhanced by some magnificent platform boots! Musically Doyle are, unsurprisingly a bit like The Misfits, churning out catchy, Horror themed, sludgy Punk/Rock n Metal. Frontman Alex ‘Wolfman’ Story is also an intriguing character. He looked like he had sunk three bottles of Jack Daniels before hitting the stage and his banter, in-between songs, was unusually humorous with each track being introduced as ‘this one is a love-song that you can dance to if you want’ in a slurred accent, before launching into another great performance. It was too hot to dance and there were a few too many love songs but Doyle are the embodiment of US Rock n Roll excess. You feel like they should have been playing this material at New York’s CBGB’s club in the 1970’s whilst throwing TV’s out of hotel windows and driving vintage cars into swimming pools. It’s hard to believe Mr Doyle is actually a vegan! Make sure you catch them on tour!
By this time my legs were completely numb, it’s very weird walking on what feel like lumps of wood, but I had said at the outset that I intended to watch as many bands as I possibly could and next up on the Very Metal Art stage were a band I hadn’t seen live for many years…Xentrix!
Alongside Onslaught, Xentrix were always one of my favourite UK Thrash bands and it’s hard to believe that it’s nearly thirty years since I trudged into London, as I used to do on a regular basis, to buy their debut album ‘Shattered Existence’. Like many bands they’ve gone through a couple of break-ups and many line-up changes but at Amplified they were utterly superb. Bull-Riff Stampede guitarist Jay Walsh is now also vocalist/guitarist in Xentrix and he did a cracking job. They were tight with razor sharp riffs and thunderous drumming fighting for supremacy and once again, any thoughts of slowing down from the Amplified crowd were banished as necks shook and legs stamped. As the sun slowly started to dip and the inferno level temperature subsided by a degree or two, it looked like everyone had been given booster pills! This was a fantastic performance from an excellent band and it certainly won’t be years until I see them again!
Back on the Main Stage it was time for Industrial/Alternative Metal heavyweights Sulpher to crank up their amps but I had to bow out due to needing medication/water and a fresh t-shirt, however, Beth went to watch them so here are her thoughts!
“I really love Industrial Rock/Metal, I don’t know why; I think it’s the raw edge power of it. The low bass and harsh drums just get to me. I think that the band were on stage, although it was a little difficult to tell sometimes with the amount of dry ice that was being pumped out! Having not seen Sulpher before, I didn’t know if this was a normal occurrence or if someone back stage had broken the switch on the machine but it certainly added to the atmosphere of their music! Again, the crowd was a little thin as many were still in the process of finding shade/nursing burnt skin or were in the G’s Bar Stage watching the, much talked about, Ward XVI and unfortunately I think this got to the band a bit with the between song banter being a little harsher than was necessary. It was a shame because, musically, Sulpher were absolutely outstanding”
I will add that even though I couldn’t see the band properly, I could hear them pretty well (I hope those sound guys were well paid because they deserved every penny) and Sulpher sounded fantastic. Since returning, Beth and I have checked out a fair bit of their music and neither of us would hesitate to go and see them again!
We were now heading towards the twilight of Amplified 2018 but the Headline band on the Very Metal Art stage was one I love but didn’t think I would ever see live so, even though I felt like a rat with no legs stuck up a drainpipe, I was as close to front and centre as I could be. With a massive portable lighting rig having appeared on stage along with a drum kit the size of a military cargo plane there was very little space left to actually stand but when Belgian Thrash/Speed Metal machine Evil Invaders flicked the on switch it was like they were playing Wembley Stadium.
I’ve already told you how much I like my Thrash and that there had been some awesome Thrash bands on over the course of the weekend but Evil Invaders took it to Def-Con 4. Their energy levels could have supplied the National Grid, which was just as well considering the amount of aircraft landing lights onstage. Vocalist/Guitarist Joe looked like the bastard lovechild of Lemmy and the Tasmanian Devil, his scowl utterly monstrous, and was a whirlwind of adrenaline from start to finish. Lead guitarist Max and bassist Joeri weren’t far behind and how the three of them managed to circumnavigate the space available without crashing into one another was astounding. All you could see of drummer Senne from behind the massive framed kit was a tornado of arms and hair and the occasional maniacal grin. If you’ve never heard of, or seen, Evil Invaders before then rectify that now because a band that is made up of equal parts Kreator, Heathen, Holy Moses, Iron Angel, Metallica, Exodus, Motörhead and a pinch of Septic Death is a pretty magnificent one in my book! They were a perfect wat to bring proceedings to a close on the VMA Stage and I really hope I get to see them live again!
During the Evil Invaders set Beth and I discovered Rum Bellini’s from the Cloven Hoof stand and they were absolute nectar, just about giving me enough energy to walk, one last time, to the Red Stripe Main Stage!
“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…” Here we were for the final performance on the Main Stage for another band from Beth’s formative years, Irish Rockers, Therapy? Now I’m going to be honest, when people, including Beth, talk to me about music in the 1990’s I nearly always do a ‘meh’ face. However, I cannot deny, that I was proved wrong yet again! Therapy? gave a fabulous performance with a mix of classic tracks and new material from the forthcoming album “Cleave”. Andy Cairns must be one of the nicest frontmen I’ve ever watched and between him, bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Neil Cooper they make a heck of a lovely noise!
Everyone was having the time of their lives, singing along to just about every track and the atmosphere was electric, as the angry sun finally dipped below the horizon to give us some respite. It was almost as if Therapy? were battering it into submission! We had to sit down for most of their set, because we had definitely hit the proverbial wall. My back was agony and my legs were in serious danger of losing circulation plus Beth had developed elephantiasis in her ankles, but from our picnic blanket which had been very kindly supplied by the Motley Brew and with our cuppas aloft, we sang and cheered and smiled that melancholy smile you do when you know that something utterly fantastic has happened, but is coming to an end. Thank you Therapy? for an enthralling and brilliant way to end our Amplified 2018!
If you wanted still more then Welcome Back Delta were getting ready to play on the G’s Bar Stage but, like the previous two evenings, we finished with the Main Stage Headliner. We settled back down in the Motley Brew tent and chatted to anybody and everybody that arrived and we said goodbye to some who were packing up and leaving that night. There were no words to describe how we felt by this point, we were ridiculously tired, sweaty, dirty, in pain, drained, thirsty and a thousand other things but we also felt elated, thrilled, rapturous, enthralled, inspired and intoxicated, not by alcohol, but by the atmosphere and experience. It was very clear to see that we weren’t the only ones who felt like it either. After what felt like a wonderful eternity we finally dragged ourselves back to the tent for much needed sleep.
We didn’t get any sleep because a group of people, camping near us, decided that Sunday night was party night, hey they were just enjoying themselves, but with very groggy eyes we finally gave up trying to sleep at 6:00am and started to pack up. Mercifully, but also ironically, the temperature had decided to drop, somewhere in the region of 15 degrees, overnight. Had that happened a day earlier there would have been more people watching bands on the Sunday and my neck wouldn’t have looked like a bad case of Leprosy but I can say, with a clear conscience, that this was the best open air Festival weekend I have ever attended. It may not have had the largest audience, every event has to start somewhere, and it may have been hotter than everlasting purgatory in Hades but the atmosphere was the best I’ve experienced. You all know that we are family and I have never experienced that family feeling quite as much as I did at Amplified 2018. It would take me too long to name people individually so thank you from the bottom of my heart…you all know who you are!
I’m only going to mention one name because without his vision, drive and stubbornness Amplified wouldn’t have happened in the first place and, after last years debacle, it certainly wouldn’t have got to year two without his bloody mindedness. Gary Paterson take a bow and make sure you have a rest because Amplified 2019 is going to be even bigger and better, I’m not sure how but it will be!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of all parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Shrapnel & Therapy? Photographs courtesy of Sian Irvine Photography
All other photos courtesy of Beth Jones