The Bullingdon, Oxford
17/08/2019, Day Two
Review by Beth Jones & Rick Tilley
Before we mention anything music based in this review, we would like to compliment the Cherwell Guesthouse for the comfort of their beds! I had an amazing night’s sleep, which is something I never say about hotels and even Rick managed a few hours which is not something that happens often! Feeling refreshed and full of the joys of spring (or apparently summer, although I am yet to see evidence that this season exists!) we headed off to the second venue, The Bullingdon, which was usefully only a couple of minutes’ walk from where we were staying and where the rest of the Festival would take place! Winner!! Today we would be seeing eleven bands grace the stage and all of them were bands we hadn’t seen before, so we were very much looking forward to checking them out.
We arrived slightly early and met up with the crew at the ‘stage door’ to the back of the venue, where they were attempting the near impossible feet of erecting two gazebos in quite strong wind! But with a bit of logical thought and knot skills any boy scout would be proud of, said gazebos stood firm and the first band loaded in, meaning it was time for some music!
A/M (Altered Myths)
When these guys came on to sound check, and there was only two of them, I was concerned that maybe some of the other band members hadn’t got the memo that they were on first, and were still asleep, but no – there were actually only two members in the band! But flipping heck did they make a big sound! They played through their set to the small gathered crowd, sounding huge and very well-rehearsed. Drummer ‘Matik’ was also the vocalist, and was adept at both jobs, whilst guitarist ‘Eskay’ managed to make his guitar sound like two guitars and a bass all at the same time. I believe they may be wizards – anyone who can tell me otherwise gets a gold star! They call themselves a ‘Two piece original recipe meal’ and that is spot on because they aren’t easy to pigeonhole! We both thought they were a great start to the day!
From a reasonably empty stage, to a very busy one – next up were Villainous, A four piece heavy prog metal outfit from Brighton. They hit you in the face straight away with punchy rhythms and clever melodies, but the most mesmerising part of their performance was front man Sean Stakim, who was the re-embodiment of the late great Keith Flint! His punk look, with check trousers and skin head, combined with his use of the available space, movements and mannerisms, and wild eyes which were only tamed by the lights on a pair of night vision style goggles that he donned for most of the set, took me right back to a festival in Switzerland in 1997, where The Prodigy gave a performance that left 17 year old me speechless. Seeing this performance at Rabidfest excited me, because, whilst musically they were far flung from The Prodigy, the mannerisms and charisma that exuded from them on stage was right there! I spoke to Sean afterwards and he confirmed that Keith Flint was one of his biggest influences. We absolutely loved these guys! Well done!
Any band that was to follow Villainous had a tough job in my opinion. That job fell to Master Charger, who were a late addition to the bill, and were heading straight off after this performance to a gig in Nottingham later that day – that is dedication! In contrast to what we had seen so far, Master Charger served up a dose of Stoner/Groove Rock, which was sludgy and in places quite grungy. For me it was a good, solid performance and they made a good sound, but it didn’t excite me as much as Villainous had, however Rick really loves their monster Southern Groove riffs and was very pleased that he had finally got to see them!
Next up were local chaps, Damaged Reich, who we had heard a lot about, but had never seen. If anyone else is in that same boat and you like good, honest Thrash, I suggest you seek them out and go and bang your heads to one of their performances – they were really good! I am fussy with thrash – some of it bores me and leaves me cold, but this was not one of those bands, as for Rick, Thrash is one of his favourite genres so he was in his element. Again the stage was full of energy, and frontman Joe Samuels commanded the audience and drew them into his powerful vocals, backed up by the speed and groove of Adrian Irving and Liam Hodgkins on guitar, the meaty bass and backing vocals of Dan Atkins and metronomic beats of Hayden Wheable on drums.
So far this was a very successful day of metal in my book, as everyone was playing a blinder!
Want to make a statement on stage, and inflict heat exhaustion on yourself in the process? If the answer to this question is yes, then do what Ascaris do, and play a set in the height of summer, wearing full dinner suits! Why not eh!! That’s exactly what these three nutters from Gloucester did and it was bloody good! I did spend way too much time trying to get the perfect photo of guitarist Sam Godding’s hair flick, which was mighty impressive! They took us through a rip-roaring 30 minutes of Blackened Death Metal, with some killer vocals and licks, and many facial expressions, showing that a good sense of humour and Black/Death Metal can work in harmony! Again, I am fussy when it comes to this style, and like very little of it, but I could get into Ascaris and, yet again, Rick had a massive grin on his face when watching them.
Again, this is a band we had heard lots about, but not seen in a live setting. I have one word to sum up their performance – WOW!! This took it to a whole new level. This was proper! We both loved every minute of it. Hard Rock, tight as hell, and full of life! The energy and passion this performance held was truly commendable – frontman Cole Bryant reminded us of Freddie Mercury in his performance (no mean feat), giving an incredibly lively performance, most of which was spent vaulting over the pit barrier and performing in the crowd! It was exciting and accomplished in equal measures and for us was the performance of the day so far! We cannot wait to see these guys again, and will be seeking them out very soon!
From down that there Somerset way, Kinasis brought to the table some uber technical extreme metal, and they were rather good at it too! All their guitars had too many strings, and their stunningly technical riffs and rhythms made use of all of them! Whilst some technical stuff makes me look on with disdain for the level of twattishness, these guys just made me look on in awe and disbelief, because they all appeared almost shy of their talent, and gave a very humble, but completely brilliant and lively performance! They also looked so young, none more so than drummer Noah, who has the cherubic face of a child, but the timing of a seasoned master – which made Rick, a former drummer of 30 years, very, very jealous ! Damn fine technical shizzle chaps!
It was now time for one of the event organisers, Mark Gibbs, to take to the stage for the final ever performance of his band VIG. Again hailing from the local area, they brought a proper dose of thumping groove metal to the day, and the audience lapped it up. Having spoken to Mark a fair bit since arriving in Oxford, it was quite a surprise to see this pleasant and mild-mannered gent roaring like a man possessed up on the stage! They again were a band that made your rib cage vibrate! I mean, is it really a gig if you don’t come out with at least one of your internal organs slightly displaced, right? It is a shame that they are not going to be a thing any more really, because we would have recommended you all to go and see them, but now you can’t, and we have seen them so ha!
Confessions Of A Traitor
Now we were getting towards the business end of the day, the stakes were higher, and it was time to ramp things up yet again with some metalcore in the form of London’s own, Confessions Of A Traitor. To me they were basically what you would get if you fed Aerosmith lots of sugar, cigars, and bourbon, and them made them really, really angry! They were a pretty bunch who had the look of a much lighter style, but they were lively, heavy and technical as hell, and frontman Stephen MacConville’s hair metal appearance was all a ruse, as his vocals were powerful hellish growls that had the audience, which was now much larger than earlier, going absolutely wild!! Again he spent a lot of time in the crowd – even getting involved in the pit whilst still singing, whilst the rest of the band kept things kicking on stage in impeccable fashion! Energy and effort was a ‘10 out of 10’ from me!
We were outside, in the ‘performers’ area’ when these guys turned up, gurning out of the window of their lovingly titled ‘tour bus’, which was more like the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, and we knew at that point that they were going to be good fun to be around. What we didn’t know however was how flipping astronomically good they were going to be live!! Heavy/progressive/tech/death/metalcore shouldn’t work, but Red Method were here to prove that wrong! Bloody hell did they put on a show. They had everything right – the sound, the look, the energy, the charisma, the staging and the actual music itself was so fresh and exciting and heavy and punchy that you could not help but be blown away by their performance. We absolutely adored it, and definitely need more Red Method in our life! This was by a country mile our performance of the day, and it was going to take something very, very special to beat it as the performance of the weekend! But the best part was that they were all such great guys too – humble and down to earth, with no airs and graces – the way it should be. Considering they have only been around a short time you might wonder how they seem to have generated such a following, but knowing they are made up of ex members of Meta-Stasis and The Defiled puts a different spin on things. They know what not to do this time around and if they carry on like this then a Metal juggernaut has been well and truly created!!
We had heard a lot about Conan, and knew that they had a very large following, explaining their headline slot here. From what we had heard from various people, we were looking forward to seeing them. Sadly, for us, after what we had just seen, their performance was somewhat of an anti-climax. Firstly, they are Doom, which Rick likes but I don’t really do, but I was willing to give them a go. Secondly, and more importantly, because of their style, there was no lively jumping about, filling the stage, and drawing the audience in – it was more about the music than the performance. This is ok if you like that sort of thing, but for the members of the audience who wanted to bang their heads and were hyped after the likes of VIG, Kinasis, Confessions Of A Traitor, and Red Method, it was a bit like being a fly on the wall in a rehearsal room. That said, they were very tight in their performance, and the fans that had come to see them were obviously enjoying it. Perhaps at one of their own gigs, we would have had a different experience, but in the festival setting it didn’t quite work for us.
That was Day Two in the bag. There was an after party for the people with more energy but we were both very tired, very sore and very hungry, so we stopped off at one of the many Chinese restaurants on Cowley Road for some proper Chinese food and it was bloody delicious!! With full bellies and reflective thoughts, we headed back to the lovely guesthouse to get our heads down and prepare for the final instalment of Day Three!
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