Bloodstock M2TM North Wales, Semi Final 2 Noah’s Bar, Colwyn Bay – 24/05/2019 Review by Beth Jones
The second semi-final of this year’s Bloodstock M2TM North Wales competition saw us taking a road trip to Colwyn Bay. On the A55! At teatime; on a Friday night; at the start of a bank holiday weekend… I’m not saying any more about the journey, apart from the saving grace that we had two extra passengers – Dani and Joe Maguire from Powerzone – thus making it a Power-Metal road trip! We arrived just in time to catch our first competing band of the night – the rather good Thrashatouille.
Yet again a great, enlivening performance from a very good, and very tight band. These guys are so good. They have so much fun with their performance and have a great gimmick with the food theme. Tonight, I felt they had stepped it up another level and really threw everything they had at the performance. It was very warm and very sweaty, and the space was only small, so they all looked completely shattered coming off stage, but I was fairly convinced they had just smashed it out of the park with their performance.
These guys are a conundrum for me. Music / playing wise, they are good solid groove / thrash metal, and they have a great sound, but I think their stage craft lets them down. They have improved since we saw them at the heat, but still, in between songs, it is too flat and it makes the atmosphere dip. They take too long and look a little uncomfortable – like they aren’t quite sure what to do to lead into the next song. But again, musically a great performance.
Cry For Mercy
These guys have got the whole package. They are groovy and funky, good old fashioned rock and blues, and they are just so easy to watch. My biggest concern with them is that this was totally the wrong platform for them to compete in – had this been a battle of the bands for rock and blues, they would absolutely walk it without question. I can’t wait for them to release some physical music, as I could listen to them all day. Performance wise, they stormed it, and had the gathered crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Their musicianship is so good, and so full, that it makes you feel instantly happy.
Scars Of Remembrance
Keeping up their 100% record of improving every time we see them, the lads did it again tonight with their performance, which was the most brutal and the tightest we have ever had from them. Everything was on point – with the added vocals from Harris really completing the songs. I am so impressed at how far these guys have come in less than a year, both in performance, and their confidence on the stage. They were my favourite metal performance of the night.
That was the competition bands done with, and we went off to vote and refresh before the mighty Torqued took to the stage as guest headliners. The voting was a really hard one. I was torn between two bands, but I went with my gut. Time for some Torqued to clear my mind!
What can I say about these chaps that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before! They are three brilliantly talented musicians, and excellent people to boot. They travelled a ridiculously long way to come and play for us, and boy am I glad they did. They were on point, delivering heavy grooves, immense solos, and banging tune after banging tune. My head bobbing gauge was cranked up to eleven, and the ponytail was unleashed so I could have a good old mosh. NB I think I may have broken my neck, judging by the lump I had on it for two days afterwards and I did nearly fall over because I got dizzy – I’m so metal! They have just released their second EP “Coup De Grȃce” and it is excellent – everyone should go out and buy it! A brilliant way to round off what had been a great evening of music. Thanks for a brilliant show guys. And a special thanks to Marc for producing our new merch range in his day job – Corrosive Merch!
So, to the judging – this was definitely the toughest one so far, because each band gave a great performance, and each deserved to progress, but with only two spaces, it was anybody’s game.
The public vote went to Scars Of Remembrance, which pleased me, as I thought they had really stepped it up, and were very much deserving of a place.
The judge’s vote was a curve ball – we felt that Thrashatouille would have been in that spot, but suddenly from nowhere, it was Navnløs! Now, whilst musically I think these guys are great, I’m just not sure they are at the point of readiness, in the same way Thrashatouille are. And for me, the performance of the night was from Cry For Mercy – by a country mile – but this was the wrong platform for them, so…erm…yeah! Interesting, but this is the nature of the game! Well done to Scars Of Remembrance and Navnløs, and commiserations to Cry For Mercy and Thrashatouille. We also want to mention the great turnout at Noah’s which was pretty much packed all evening!
Torqued – Coup de Grace EP Self-released Release date: 29/03/2019 Running Time: 19:14 Review by: Alun Jones 8/10
Regular Ever Metal readers may remember that Torqued’s 2018 EP, “Resurgence” was reviewed by yours truly not that long ago. You may also recall that I declared a new EP from the band would be released soon. So soon, in fact, that the EP is already out and I’m hurriedly trying to cobble this write up together!
“Coup de Grace” builds on the successful formula we heard on the previous collection, but piles on the intensity. This time, Torqued are taking us into deeper, darker territory – a trip into the recesses of the mind where anxiety and depression fester. Great lead vocals from Marc are spat out with vitriol, the tortured lyrics given malevolent form.
Musically, the four tracks on the EP deliver a battering ram to the senses. Opening with the title track, Torqued are in full-on attack mode with crushing metal. ‘Open Wound’ follows with a relentless pounding, which bleeds effortlessly into a mighty lead guitar break from Rimmy.
Savage riffs are tempered with passages of melancholic breaks, perfectly executed in ‘The Darkest of Shadows’. All of these songs are multi layered, featuring haunting lead and even keyboards (?) beneath the main pummelling. Very cleverly put together – it’s as if we’re hearing the conflicting emotions within someone’s head.
The songs gallop along with a groove thanks to Kurt’s drumming and Marc’s bass, as demonstrated in final track: ‘The Revelation’. Torqued have also tempered their sound with a Trent Reznor-like despondency that’s added a further dimension to their music.
So, there you have it – a blistering hot metal EP that drips with torment. Torqued have cooked up a winner with “Coup de Grace” and I can’t wait to hear what’s next. I predict…
Nah, that would be telling!
01. Coup de Grace
02. The Revelation
03. Open Wound
04. The Darkest of Shadows
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Alun Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Torqued – Resurgence EP Self released Release date: July 2018 Running Time: 34 mins Review by: Alun Jones 7/10
AAARRRGGH!! Run for your lives! The machines have risen, they’ll destroy us all! Humanity can never survive the relentless, cruel onslaught of metal machinery in revolt!
Wait, no – it’s OK. It’s just the start of the first track, ‘Forgotten Soul’, on Torqued’s brutal “Resurgence” EP. Phew, thank goodness for that…
Bursting out of the gates, this “groove laden heavy metal” trio call the southern UK their home. This is their debut EP, one I was keen to review having caught them live at last year’s Pentre Fest.
Both the opening song and the follow up, ‘Follow Me’, rage with a Machine Head like power. It’s full on, crunching metal – like Robocop driving a Mustang full-pelt into a tin can factory. Lead vocals are barked by Marc, who also handles the bass duties in satisfyingly chunky fashion.
Third track, ‘Overload, I Die Inside’ changes gears with a spellbinding instrumental opening section. I really loved the slow build up, starting with Kurt’s tribal pounding as Rimmy’s melodic guitar begins to chime. It builds to an Eastern sounding riff, before settling into a huge groove that would make classic Pantera jealous.
‘Hollow Core’ then shifts the pace up a bit, with another fierce yet catchy riff. Great spooky breakdown in the middle, too!
The final two tracks are live versions of tracks 3 and 4. Usually I’m sceptical about live tracks as just filler, but here they do serve to demonstrate that Torqued can dish this stuff up in a live setting.
The “Resurgence” EP is a great introduction to a band with a hell of a lot going for them. I’d like to hear a full album rather than just an EP, but have no fear – the next EP is on its way very soon. In the meantime, enjoy this initial sampler from Torqued, before your toaster or lawnmower try to kill you.
01. Forgotten Soul
02. Follow Me
03. Overload, I Die Inside
04. Hollow Core
05. Overload, I Die Inside (Live)
06. Hollow Core (Live)
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Alun Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Badgerfest -The Sequel Saturday 13th October 2018 Rebellion, Manchester Review by Beth Jones
Badgerfest 2018 had been hotly anticipated here at camp Ever Metal, and so you can imagine our dismay when Rick’s illness demons reared their ugly head throughout the night before. To say he wasn’t a happy bunny was an understatement. Luckily Sian, my third man, stepped up to the plate with the enticement of taking pictures and seeing old friends again. As we headed to the venue, the weather was murky and grey, which could mean only one thing – we were in Manchester!! This was my first experience of the much talked about Rebellion venue, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised at how well laid out it was. With one main area housing the main stage, then a side area housing the second stage, it was a good-sized space for an all dayer!
The one thing I love about going to a metal gig is that pretty much wherever it is, you are going to see someone you know – the metal family is much extended, but close knit, which is why it is the best family to be a part of! Today was no exception, as when we arrived, the first person we saw was a very smiley Nick Gregory (Radio Deeside), who was one of our fabulous compéres for the day, along with Steve Tottle – fully kilted up and ready to go! By the time we had got in, said our hellos and found somewhere to dump our stuff, it was time for the music to start, so we headed to the main stage, or The Mushroom Stage, as it was called. Today’s billing was going to be loud, fast and heavy as f….udge, so we had our ear plugs at the ready ( health and safety of course being our main priority here 😉!)
First up was Blackpool boys, Daybreaker. Bang! If ever anyone wants a lesson in how to be the first band on at a gig and make an impression, watch these guys! They were like a tightly coiled spring, bursting with energy and ready to set the tone for the day. Bass player Lynden was superb and had bags of stage presence. They included quiet, more toned – down middle 8 sections in a couple of songs, and this contrast worked really well. Their sound was superb, with vocals that were screamy, but not over the top and great guitar work, all kept in check by the crazy drumming of Tom, who looked like he was having some sort of episode but couldn’t half hit them bangy things well! A great start to the day. We were all now very much awake!
After a brief digest of the stonking set just delivered to us, we headed over to the second stage – The Snake Stage – covering the massive 20 foot walk in a matter of seconds! Norwich based noisy people, Hedra, had the pleasure of opening this stage for us. They had some sound tech issues to start with (more on that later) but it was sorted quickly, and they soon got into the swing of things. These guys really know how to create the full package. A quick visit to their Facebook page will show you their level of professionalism, and I really like the fact that they almost had a band uniform, black shirts with the logo and band name on – which I liked a lot – it is good to see a band thinking about their whole image, not just the sound. They are very technical rhythmically and have lots of nods to varying genres in there, most noticeably modern djent style guitars and cross beat rhythms, but with more power. Their new drummer, Shaun, smashed it, and had some sweet sounding cymbals! For me, the only criticism was the bass was a little high in the mix. My god we were in for one powerful day!
Over on the Mushroom stage, the next act, Lancashire’s Promethium, were ready to go. Rick had been sent their album earlier in the year, so we were interested to see them live. The one thing that stood out for me was the great guitar solos. Unfortunately, to me, every song sounded a bit the same. The singer was very passionate but maybe pushing too hard and it ending up sounding like he was shouting a lot of the time – maybe he couldn’t hear himself enough in the mix. The lead guitarist did have a lovely classic sound and liked a bit of wah, which is always a plus. Things picked up a bit towards the end of the set, but they didn’t blow me away sadly. Whether we caught them on a bad day, or they were having some unknown sound issues on stage, I don’t know. I need to see them again to make a proper judgement really.
Back over to the Snake Stage, for another new name to me – God Shaped Devil. One word. Yes!! This was more like it! For a start, they looked more into it, and worked really well together. They were extremely well – rehearsed but looked like they were having fun with it. They had a fantastic thrashy sound and really great vocals. The sound was much better now on this stage. Their songs were well constructed, and even though they were still heavy, they had a real good groove and excellent melodies that you could really get in to. The drummer, Luke, was having a great time thrashing out, with some cracking double bass pedal work backing up his relentless pace! The fast-paced penultimate song, ‘Deadly Sign’, was superb and really got the crowd going. I think a lot of people really appreciated their energy as there was plenty of audience participation. Every song was a big hitter, with really well thought out riffs and beginnings and endings, which can sometimes be the hardest part of song writing! Absolutely loved their performance. My band of the day!
After that amazing performance the room was buzzing, and the excited energy continued to build, for next on the Mushroom Stage was new super-group Frozen In Shadows, fronted by none other than Footprints In The Custard’s Russ Custard, and with our intrepid organiser, Mr John Badger giving his first of two performances of the day on percussion (because, why just give yourself the stress of organising an all dayer, why not chuck a bit extra in with two rounds on the stage innit!). Now, for those of you who know and love Footprints, and were expecting a comedy band, you would have been disappointed, but for those wanting something kick ass, heavy and in your face, this is most definitely for you. I had purposefully not listened to the recently released EP, as I wanted the results of this meld of minds to be a surprise….Fuck me sideways! If the day’s proceedings so far had left anyone in any doubt about what sort of music we were all there for, then that was blown out of the water with this performance! They fired straight in to the set with an insanely fast, killer song and then carried on in the same vein throughout. It was so in your face it was like being beaten with a brick, but in a brilliant way! It was full on, high octane stuff, performed by consummate professionals. Some superb drumming from John who at one point nearly lost a cymbal he was hitting it that hard! I personally couldn’t hear Russ’s vocals at times. He was using a radio mic and there were issues with feedback and getting the levels right – I don’t think the desk could get the mix right, a theme that I eluded to earlier in the review, and that would continue through the day, which I will talk more about that later! Regardless, this was the business. Start to finish. Considering this is a new project and only their second gig, it was mind-blowingly good, and whilst I love Russ’s comedy side, he has shown here that he is just an all-round great frontman!
After the crazy dose of ear porn that we had just been served, it was time for Northern heavy heads, Skeletal Damage on the Snake Stage, where none other than Footprints drummer Alex Sladen (their plan to secretly take over the world, one band at a time has been put into action, and no-one will ever find out about it unless someone says… oh, wait, what, no! Forget you read that bit!) With some very fast blast beats from Sladen, they set the pace for their performance almost as quickly as Frozen In Shadows had, however they had a very tough act to follow, after what we had all just witnessed on the Mushroom Stage. For me, they were just ok. They know what they are doing and are solid, but I just wasn’t feeling it. The connection with the audience wasn’t quite there, but I think a lot of that had to do with the space they were in, as they were good to dance to and it was crying out for a circle pit in a bigger venue!
We first saw the next band, Fractions, at Uprising 2017, when they were fairly new in their current line-up, and we were kind of undecided about them at the time – and for us there was something missing; they didn’t seem quite ready. What a difference a few months makes! It was like watching a different band! From Leicester, they bill themselves as Metalcore and Progressive, and that is now clearly evident in their writing. They gave us a full-on set of really complex tunes with intricate guitar and lots of cross rhythms throughout, with absolutely superb vocals from Christophe Hare. It was all very polished, and they seem to have grown unrecognisably in confidence since we last saw them. It was really pleasing to see the progress they have made in the last year and the strong fan base that they have. Well done lads, you have me converted! Fractions! Fractions! Fractions!!
I was in a really good mood now after that and headed back to the Snake Stage for Reprisal – from the shiny bit of the country that us lot up here call ‘The South’. They bill themselves as Brutal Thrash. They aren’t kidding!! The vocalist, Tom Johnstone, JEEEBERS!! Now there is an angry man if ever I saw one!!! Or at least his stage persona is!! They are a bloody heavy, brutally fast wall of noise, which makes you feel like a hedgehog facing up to a bulldozer! They got some in the crowd going a bit too much for my liking and things started to get a bit ugly, so I got out of there – Ross Kemp fashion. I’m only a titch and, with no photo pit, and some seriously large people all going a bit Jackie Chan behind me, I thought it was best to retreat before I got squished! Musically, it wasn’t really my bag if I’m honest. It was a bit too brutal. I do like a bit of tune with my growl! But that said, they did what they do really well, and the drummer was insane and in perfect time, which isn’t always a given with drummers!!
Next up on the Mushroom Stage, were Manchester’s own, Impavidus – with John Badger making his second appearance of the day. Before that though, it was time for our fabulous compéres, Steve and Nick to have a bit of silliness with the audience, in the shape of the renowned ‘Badger Dance’! After a quick audience training session, the whole room was jigging about to the ‘Badger Song’, and having a right old party! Great fun was had by all and it breathed a new lease of life into the crowd, just in time for Impavidus to come on and do their thing.
So, what can I say about these guys that I haven’t already. I love them. They are so good together as a band, with each member being superbly talented in their own right; and with having such a good balance of growl and clean vocals, their music is always interesting and intriguing. You never get that same old same old feel with them. I am also completely in love with Michelle and want to marry her, because her vocal ability is stunning, and she is also the nicest person you will ever meet. Sadly, one thing that I will say about this performance is sound issues, and not through any fault of the band. I have mentioned earlier in this review that I would come back to this issue, and this is the point I am going to. Up until now, there had been some issues with levels, and feedback, and not enough of one thing or another in the monitor, however this is where it got real, and unfair. During the badger dance, the main stage sound tech had disappeared, and hadn’t arrived back by the start of Impavidus’ set, leaving the booth completely unmanned, and not having turned on the stage right mic, or monitor, which was needed for Bassist Patrick McBride. Myself and Sian happened to be stood on that side of the stage, and he was not a happy bunny one little bit – and completely understandably! I had ignored most of the issues until now, because they were only small, and sorted quickly, and with live events in a venue like this, you expect there to be the occasional issue, but this was a whole different level of unprofessional in my opinion, especially considering this was the main band of the guy that has organised the whole thing and was essentially paying the sound guy’s wages! Not only was the bass player about to go apoplectic, but there were issues with feedback, and Michelle’s vocals were very low. Eventually after about three songs, the scarlet pimpernel returned and just about sorted out the sound issues. Thankfully, the band just got on with it and the crowd loved them, so much so, that at the end of the set, they chanted ‘One More Song’ until they guys came back to do a thoroughly deserved encore!
After a short delay, due to the impromptu encore on the main stage, Nick Gregory was able to very enthusiastically announce the wonderful Torqued. Having travelled 7 hours up from Devon, they were hoping for a great show and the crowd were right behind them from the very start. Yes, you’ve guessed it – today’s running theme – some sound issues to start, with gremlins in the wireless equipment, but it got sorted pretty quickly. On speaking to Bassist, Marc Cleave, briefly before hand, he had said that Rimmy, their awesome guitar megaman, was now also going to be sharing the vocals with him. This worked really well, as their voices blend very nicely together, and it added another element to their sound, which is already mightily impressive for a three piece. They are also becoming a lot tighter the more they play. I love the Bass tone that Marc uses – it is really meaty and adds a lot of depth to their sound, and with Rimmy’s solo work just making everyone a little moist, they are a proper contender for one of our stand-out bands of the year. It was a good reception from the gathered crowd too, which was great to see. By now, the venue was packed to the rafters, which is a shining success, and tantamount to the hard work that John has put into the promotion of this event.
If metal music was like car manufacturing, our next band, This Is Turin, would be the Japanese model – impeccably technically mastered and something to drool over. This was a bunch of amazingly talented people delivering a perfect set. They are heavy and industrial, unrelenting and powerful, and great to watch. The double bass pedal work was Incredible and would have most drummers salivating and crying with envy! This set was a bit of a photography nightmare with complete red lighting throughout, but it did give a great effect and tone for their performance – it was almost like a vision of hell, bathed in fire and fury. Vocalist, Darryl Jones, was really animated and got the crowd really pumped. I loved this – it was super heavy, super dark, and super technical. Well worth checking these guys out.
Back over on the Snake Stage, Manchester death metal outfit, After The Abduction were just about to start. I have to admit that I was flagging at this point and had to wimp out cos my brain was fried, but what I could hear from the beer garden was brutal as! Thankfully the beer garden was situated adjacent to the Snake Stage, so it was still possible to see and hear what was going on, and I can tell you that not only did they sound brutal, but it was packed, and the crowd was brutal! It was great to see everyone having such a good time, and again, even though their music was a bit too much for me, they were certainly pleasing the crowd.
Next up were the positive folk orchestra, Isarnos, a seven-piece outfit, including violin, hurdy gurdy, penny whistle and Irish bouzouki, who marry up folk music with metal! Holy Moly! They certainly filled the stage, and this was right up my street! Having roots in classical instruments, and having played in a folk band, I was really stoked to see these guys in action. Again, the soundman couldn’t quite keep up, with levels all over the place to start with. In fairness, the range of instruments here would make even a hardened sound tech, sweat like Satan’s armpits! But it was an extremely good merger of folk instruments and heavy, almost symphonic metal and I need to listen to more of them! My one note would be that occasional tuning issues were apparent. I’m not sure how they tuned, but it could have done with being tuned to the Hurdy, as the drone sometimes seemed a little off. But massive kudos for them to do something as epic as this, and different, but still managing to fit in so well on a day like this. I really enjoyed them, but it was a shame that the sound wasn’t great again!
Out headliners on the Snake stage were up next – Prognosis. A good dose of extreme heavy prog to close out the second stage was perfect. They were very heavy and again very technical, but a real crowd pleaser. The place was completely heaving by now, and the space on this stage was noticeably cramped. The sound was now a lot better. Yey! For anyone who likes their prog on the heavy, very technical side, these guys are definitely ones to check out, it was a great, fast paced set and a brilliant way to close out that stage.
Our final act and headliners on the night were Londoners, Divine Chaos. Three words: In another league! You could tell that these guys had been going a good while and lived for the band. They also brought with them their own sound tech, who knew exactly what he was doing and what sound the band wanted. In all honesty, he was a little too fussy, and took a bit long sorting out tech issues including the second mic, that decided it couldn’t be arsed working any more. They eventually started 30 minutes late, which I think was detrimental as the crowd thinned a little with people needing to catch last trains. But, and it is a big but, their performance was absolutely stunning!! Thrash at its very finest. It was impossible not to like them, with their great hooks, catchy riffs and superb vocals, which really got everyone moving and singing along. They were a brilliant choice as headliner and a perfect example of British Thrash at its best. Their final song was all about crowd participation, and they had the entire place singing along and waving their arms, stadium style. They brought in another level of entertainment and breathed a new lease of life into the weary crowd. This is what these events are about. Still seeing that joy on people’s faces at the end of a high-octane day. There wasn’t a single person in that room who wasn’t having a good time.
As the houselights came up and the room cleared, one thing was certain – we had all had a stunning day. Yes, there had been issues with sound, but hey, it was a great gig with some really great bands, and everyone had a fantastic time. My Absolute Highlight of the day were God Shaped Devil. A totally new name, that blew me away! I love it when this happens!!! A very close second to them were Frozen In Shadows, just for their pure power and professionalism. Hats off to John Badger for stepping up to the plate to organise it all, and to all the other people behind the scenes – the stage crew, headed up by Simon Robertshaw, our fabulous compéres, Steve Tottle and Nick Gregory, who made sure the day flowed and that everyone knew who was next; the bar staff and security staff for keeping everyone safe and stocked with beer, Michelle Adamson and Abbie Taylor et al, for manning the doors, and looking after Sian; and the sound team, who did try their best – every experience is good experience. I Cannot wait for next year! If I had one ask, it would be for a proper photo pit at the front, because I don’t want to die of being squashed in a mosh pit, unless I am in the middle of it on purpose, not by default! Thanks again for inviting us John, and a massive well done to you. We are not worthy!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of 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.
Amplified Festival 2018 Quarry Downs, Gloucestershire July 6th 2018, Day One Review by Rick Tilley with help from Beth Jones Photographs by Beth Jones 10/10
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…!
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.