DYSTOPIA NÅ + support [live review]

Dystopia Nå; Vecordious; Violent X
Good Omens, Trondheim, 17/10/15

dysViolent X’s ability to blend thrash, death and average mid-decade metal is about as inspiring as their moniker, but their capacity to play a full-set while being seemingly devoid of any discernible songs is impressive.  Perhaps a bit harsh for the hopeful three-piece – it is still heavy and loud and that just about fits the requirement of a Saturday night after all (5.5).

Held in some amount of reverence locally, Trondheim’s Vecordious are met with excitement given the infrequency of the band’s live appearances, mainly due to their unstable line-up history.  Though their demo EP back in 2010 was met with enthusiasm, their blackened death doesn’t instantly seem to be anything out of the ordinary.  There’s nothing obviously detractable from their songs or performance, but it’s not exactly disappointing when their set ends swiftly as a result of their limited back catalogue (6.5).

Concluding the evening, Oslo’s Dystopia Nå are a far more interesting proposition: maintaining a compelling performance from the outset without the amateur dramatic techniques becoming common within the ‘experimental-depressive-black metal’ faction.  Similarly, the band rely less on the sampling and electronics, empathising their black metal elements more in the live setting, prompting a keen reaction from the audience, encouraged by the impassioned vocal deliver and accompanying performance from the band’s frontman.

So, next time life gives you lemons, and worse yet, you can’t find your Lifelover CDs in the ruins of your pitiful existence, give Dystopia Nå a go (7.5).

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RED MOUNTAINS + ROGUE PLANET [live review]

Red Mountains + Rogue Planet
Sukkerhuset Scene, Trondheim, 16/10/15

red mHouston, we have volume.  Last minute local replacements Rogue Planet blast-off their  three-song, thirty minute plus set with a wave of doom so loud it’s no surprise the floor shakes with the Jupiterian weight of their stoner riffs.  Surrounded by a belt of fuzz, the band rumble through the rhythmic space-doom sounds of their recent demo as well as finishing with a new and equally colossal psych-tinted track.  This Rogue Planet’s re-entry into the live sonic-system can’t come round soon enough (7.5).

Back on solid ground, Red Mountains get off to an unnecessarily slow start, but after acclimatising to the calmative warmth of their supple riffs and commodious guitar interludes it becomes impossible not to be enveloped in the mesmeric bubble of their stoner melody.  Between the addicting choruses of just-released full-length ‘Down With The Sun’ the guitar work is captivating, re-instating the entrapping charm of tracks like Moral Panic and Six Hands.  Even before the lusty, overflowing finish in the form of stand-out track Sun, it’s fair to assert this is stoner-rock done right.  Captured by their own sound the band sway through their set, with guitarist Jostein Wigenstad making faces David Gilmour would be proud of.  An impressive confirmation of the potential this band and their debut have (7.5).

SAHG + support [live review]

Sahg, Tombstones, Scornful
Familien, Trondheim, 1/10/15

Decisions, decisions, decisions.  Four stages of quality metal ‘warming-up’ for Trondheim Metal Fest (October 1-3) all running at exactly the same time and all in different club venues?  What is this heavenly hell?

Catering for all ages over at Kultersenteret ISAK, the New Blood Stage saw the appearance of locals Endogenic and Strandhugg, relative locals Halcyon Days (Oslo) and Akarusa Yami over from bonnie British shores.  Did someone say ‘djent?  Or was that ‘core’?  Sorry, kids, it’s a ‘no’ from me.

On more safe and familiar grounds, Good Omens was treated to a barrage of hits from Battery and Ovërhead, the premier tribute acts to Metallica and Motörhead, respectively, and apparently.  At least one of them would no doubt be better than the genuine article, but I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself which one.  Also on offer were Baghera: a Pantera tribute – who’d have thought it, eh?  I’ll pass, thanks.

So that leaves us with two options: The Black Stage hosted by Fru Lundgreen and The Doom Stage over at Familien.  Iskald versus Sahg.  The intrigue of Norwegian traditionalists Troldskugge and formerly Tehran-based From The Vastland versus the guaranteed guitar groove and headbang inducing rhythm of Scornful and Tombstones?

Well, sometimes it’s good to be predictable.  Doom on.

Preparing for their imminent jaunt to Eastern-Europe, Trondheim locals Scornful kick-off the evening with a heavy set of doom-influenced metal that has a definite modern twist to it.  There’s obvious traditional doom weight in the riffs, but the groove is spliced with of-the-moment time changes and youthfully harsh vocals.  Despite this evening being the debut of the band’s new bassist and drummer, they give an undaunted performance, deserving of a far bigger audience than that which has found its way to the intimate venue (6.5/10).

Stealing the evening, Tombstones throw, flail and lunge themselves head on into the reverberations of their stoner doom sound cloud.  Slow, steady and surging grooves colliding with reaching, impassioned vocals from ardent frontman Bjørn-Viggo Godtland make for a set which does a lot more than just warm-up or simply match the reputable headliners.  Tombstones: as heavy weight and deadly serious as the name suggests (8/10).

Sahg are good, perhaps if it hadn’t been for Tombstones they’d be very good; but they’re not good enough to live-up to the hype.  Disappointing, especially given the desire to be proved wrong and for the live incarnation to finally make the underwhelming albums click.

Heresy!  Well, if you want.  But seeing a band with the both the hope and expectation to be convinced, and yet remaining not quite so, is fairly telling.  Sahg may have a weight of experience, coupled with generally well-received material behind them, but in this instance, there’s no overt effort to push the muscle of the riffs or the potential for performance.  At least not as much as their burgeoning supporting acts do.  The sense of urgency and the essential feeling that the band need to deliver the music is missing.

All said, Sahg have the songs behind them to fulfil the needs of a headline set, and for the sufficient number of fans in attendance, the band deliver (7/10).

And as a warm-up gig for the main event, of course, the doom delivers.

NB: keep eyes peeled for the full Trondheim Metal Fest review.  More details in good time, friends…

BandcampBiweeekly (‘August 30’) feat. Regulus

Quick-fire round-up of the last couple weeks’ best bandcamp investments…

Regulus – New E.P. and back-catalogue.

Steel City stoner rockers Regulus are carving canyons and whipping-up sandstorms once again with their latest self-titled E.P. following last year’s debut full-length, ‘Smoke;’ and with all their releases currently available ‘name-your-price’ on bandcamp, it seemed the ideal time to take a trip into the back-catalogue…

The End E.P.
Self-released, February 2013

The antithetically entitled debut E.P., ‘The End,’ begins with droning fuzz before the pins-and-needles static of Witch Hunt bursts into life and speeds-off, rough the endand fuzzy, like five o’clock shadow…except, it’s five a.m., you’re red around the eyes, and haven’t slept for days.

Throughout the E.P. the paranoid riffing and rumbling bass maintain both groove and pace.  The production is rugged, which works in their favour stylistically the majority of the time, but increasingly the vocals are slightly too blurred, nasal and distant, such as on Bloodclot, which is frustrating rather than conducive to the vibe, especially with such a good riff writhing behind (7.5/10).

Highlight: Witch Hunt

Titan Moon E.P.
Self-released, November 2013

Following late the same year, ‘Titan Moon,’ is in fact a ‘concept E.P.’
Given its titanlength it may be more of a concept anecdote than story, but the more psychedelic sound gives ‘Titan Moon’ the illusion of scope.
The three-track release begins with a welcoming riff and the return of the gravely vocals, with the improved production allowing their sound to stretch.  However the addition of keys expands it just a bit too far and the psychedelic vibe orbits without a lot of purpose (5.5/10).

Highlight: Departure (The Spiral’s Edge)

Smoke
Self-released, October 2014

Full-length ‘Smoke’ reigns in the psychedelia somewhat, but the newer tracks – smokethe album is made up of six new tracks and four from ‘The End’ – retain a much blusier feel, balanced somewhat by the cranky fuzz of the older numbers.

Though initially not feeling the heavy blues of opener Big Business, by the end of the track I find myself inadvertently and aggressively table-drumming.  But despite that good sign, the album’s ability to penetrate the consciousness wavers inbetween the ballsier older tracks (6/10).

Highlight: Promised Land

Regulus E.P.
Self-released, August 2015

‘Regulus’ sees the band re-instating the rougher edge of ‘The End:’ gruff vocals
overlay driven, grooving and weighty riffs which combine meandering melody with regulusforward momentum.  The blusey, desert swagger remains, but is supported by beefy riffs, enabling the psychedelic climaxes to flourish rather than flounder.  Regulus, the track, encapsulates the sound the band have been melding through their previous releases: a momentous chorus, riding a grooving riff, completed with a barrelling finish.

You know you’re on to a winner when you find yourself sitting at the kitchen table, lips pursed doing the side-to-side head bob.  Fans of riffs and spliffs need to get on this, now (8/10)

Highlight: Regulus

All available at: https://regulusband.bandcamp.com/ to download at name-your-price rate; and CD copies of ‘Smoke’ for £8.

In sum, go check Regulus out.  I may only now have the first and latest E.P.s on rotation, but that in itself keeps me interested in where they’re headed next.  No doubt judging by the speed of output so far they’ve got plenty more up their magic sleeves, hopefully building on the honed sound ‘Regulus’ demonstrates.

BandcampBiweekly feat. Bathsheba; Warlok

Quick-fire round-up of the last couple weeks’ best bandcamp investments…

Bathsheba – The Sleepless Gods 10” E.P.
Svart, 2015

Faaaaaack, what is this?!
The doom riffs!  The malevolent licks!  Those sinister, yet siren vocals –
this is scarily good.  Occult, female fronted doom, hypnotic, but without the usual psychedelic bathtendencies.  Straight into the cave grim, no meander in the enchanted forest on the way.

This two-track EP follows last year’s tape-only demo, seeing the Belgian four-piece – made up of ex-members of SerpentCult, SardoniS and Death Penalty – already signed to Svart records and working on a full-length to be released in 2016.  The Sleepless Gods is a dark and foreboding precursor: uncanny doom craftsmanship, finished with a gloss of black magick (8/10).

Highlight: The Sleepless Gods; Daughter of the Oath
Available at: https://bathshebakills.bandcamp.com/album/the-sleepless-gods-10ep (Download: €3; Vinyl: €13).

Warlok – Summoning the Sickness Demo
Self-released, 2015

Need a pick-me up after all that doom and gloom?  Well here it is.

warOregon native Matthew Edwards conjures up a one-man steel-plated demo of classic, heavy metal, taking respite from his other solo-project, the black metal, Terra Deep.  Harmonic vocals, razor-sharp guitars and pulsating rhythm making Summoning the Sickness worthy of the 80’s hallmark.  Night Rider heads off at break neck-speed, before Summoning Sickness swaps speed for a monster chorus hook.  Final track Judgement Bell whipping the two together and providing the requisite “ohhh waaaaaaaAAAH” trad-high note.  Quality.

Highlight: Night Rider
Available at:  https://warlokmetal.bandcamp.com/album/summoning-sickness-demo (name your price).

NB, if you want the Yang to Warlok’s Ying then Terra Deep’s latest full-length ‘Part of This World, Part of Another’ will be released this month on Dusktone.

BLOODSTOCK-OPEN-AIR 2015 [review]

Bloodstock-Open-Air Festival, Thursday 6 – Sunday 9 August 2015
Catton Park, Derbyshire, U.K.

Bloodstock: it’s the best.  The bands, the atmosphere, the ale, and this year the sunshine, y’just can’t beat it.  Whether it’s beaten you by Monday is another question altogether.  But for now let’s not worry about the general disrepair and despair characterising the metal hoard that diffuses yearly from Catton Park, let’s instead hark back to a better time…

THURSDAY

With five acts warming the engine, Thursday night is hardly a dismissible add-on these days, as evidenced by the volume of enthusiasts filling the Sophie Tent for Reign of Fury.  The home-grown thrashers rip through their set, the palpable melody of this year’s ‘Death By Thy Shepard’ full-length superseded by a heavy combo of guitars and drums.  Winning fans and whetting appetites (7/10).

Unfortunately Metaprism prove to be only temporarily satiating, however.  Their “modern, melodic metal” doesn’t exactly suggest anything particularly memorable and despite the uncommon attribute of male-female dual vocalists, their set, though palatable at the time, is entirely forgettable (4/10).

Everyone’s favourite Welsh death metallers Desecration take to the stage next, bringing brutality, gore and cheer in equal, if seemingly contradictory, measure.  Aim, Fire, Kill peaks their all too short appearance, with bodies and hair flailing on both sides of the barrier (7/10).

Red Rum: think Alestorm with less keyboard and you’ve pretty much got it, and by this point in the evening you’d be hard put to find any landlubbers not on board.  Especially after the port of call in Middle Earth for their ridiculous cover of internet classic: They’re Taking The Hobbits to Isengard (7.5/10).

Maintaining the seriously silly – or sillily serious – theme are California’s Schwarzenegger aficionados ArnoCorps, decked out in the appropriate audio-assault gear and co-ordinating a full-scale take-over of the Sophie Tent.
I never thought I’d find myself in a tent shouting “The Hobbits!  The Hobbits!  The Hobbits!” and “MY NAME…IS NAT…QUAAAAAAAAID” along with a thousand others within the space of an hour but there you have it (7.5/10).

FRIDAY

As always, Thursday night descends into chaos, this year supported by the dangerously drinkable ‘Beast of Bloodstock 6.66%’ ale, and of course the need to 11924283_1032019856828712_5725829053563560508_nget tanked enough to believe the 4 DJs of the Apocalypse can actually DJ – a feat aided on their part by the whisky water pistols and fire-throwing ladies – but nothing a balanced breakfast of coffee and Foster’s can’t fix, and it’s off to the New Blood stage for first band of the day, Mortishead.  An enthusiastic bunch, with the only particularly offensive thing about them coming from the Mac garishly occupying the stage; but an earlier diet heavy in nu-metal is apparent between the bounce of the tracks, the bassist’s insistence on clod-hopping round the stage and the all-too-Slipknot matching armbands (5/10).

Opening the Ronnie James Dio mainstage, New York veterans Nuclear 11953157_1032014900162541_5909848580455786631_nAssault (left) are an air-raid siren of a wake-up call, prompting decent activity down front from a sizeable morning crowd, already warmed-up by the promising sunshine.  It seems unlikely from this performance, coming as part of their ‘Final Assault’ tour, that this will really be the last we see of them (7/10).

Another branch of the Anthrax family tree comes in the form of Armoured Saint (below right) who ‘can deliver’ but sadly, and surprisingly, the package doesn’t quite meet the expectation.  They roll out a host of good tracks but their livarmoured sainte realisation fails to
push them into greatness, inadequately utilising the band’s presumed combined experience and enthusiasm like it should.
They leave, literally, on a high note though, with John Bush’s young son joining them on stage, contributing to Dad’s vocal duties and shredding on
guitar; neither missing a note nor batting an eyelid at the crowd whilst effortlessly posturing.  The kid’s got style (6/10).

Though definite12003149_1032016040162427_859319401117712148_nly less cute, Austrian extremists Belphegor (left) hand the photographers their best shots of the weekend: corpsepaint, demonic facial expressions and goat skeletons and gas-masks adorning the stage.  But it’s not just the cameras that are in for a treat: Belphegor crush with their precise blackened death, establishing the force of last year’s ‘Conjuring the Dead.’  The title track itself demanding synchronised, lumbering headbanging all round.  They exit the stage triumphant, lobbing bones and gnarly bits of skull as they go.
And now as the proud owner of one of these relics, I can provide the inside scoop that the charred nasal passage of a goat smells a bit like a roast dinner.  You’re welcome (8/10).

Overkill 
(below right) follow with another bout of old-school thrash.  Bobby Blitz gives a 11988372_1032016320162399_7501131309804961615_nfrontman masterclass, alongside the rest of the hardened line-up who excel through a career spanning setlist that riles the pit into a frenzy (7/10).

Having first gotten the Sabaton (below) experience back at Bloodstock 2009, when the Swedish champions sat criminally low on the mainstage bill, I’ve since unashamedly had the chance to catch them a further five times, each surpassing the last.  And this ‘special guest’ performance is no exception.

As always they storm on to the stage mid the compulsory “SAB-A-TON, SAB-A-TON, SAB-A-TON” chants to Ghost Division (following their Final Countdown intro) and proceed to charge through To Hell and Back, No Bullets Fly, Resist and 10995296_1032016640162367_1011731934676835670_nBite and Far from the Fame from last year’s ‘Heroes’ album.  All are received with the same intensity as later aired favourites Screaming Eagles, The Art of War, Swedish Pagans and the much-appreciated inclusion of Panzerkampf.

Though omitting some of the onstage skits which interject tour shows, they invariably reinforce their reputation as the happiest and humblest band going, zealously animated while maintaining grins throughout.  Despite the unwavering madness at the barrier the significance of the watching Sabaton perform in front of cascading pyro with yellow and blue confetti flying from the side of the stage, and feeling the rapturous reaction around to the encore of Night Witches, Primo Victoria and Metal Crüe, is unmissable.  Heroes indeed, headliners imminently (9/10).

SATURDAY

When you can’t remember much about a band apart from the fact the bassist has a great beard it’s probably not a good sign.  But having looked up Amethyst again to jog the old memory (and/or marvel at the goblin-chic facial hair) a vague recollection of some standard, modern, groove modulated thrash returns.  Hard to disagree with and relatively well-received first thing in the morning (5/10).

Having initially been pissed off by PIST when I caught them back in April [see here], I’m curious to see if they can: a) make it onto to the stage this early; and b) change my mind.  Bottle of bourbon in hand, they do a fine job of both.  They preserve their ‘pist’ shtick while functioning enough to deliver a professional performance where the riffs surpass the blood-alcohol count; their stoner groove reeling in a considerable and receptive audience (7/10).

Also earning themselves a fair amount of new fans in the Sophie Tent, Anihilated impress with the fiery thrash of this year’s ‘Anti Social Engineering.’  Having returned in 2008, there’s nothing lacklustre or nostalgic about these old-guard thrashers, the immediacy of the new material is obvious, in tandem with their onstage vigour (7.5/10).

Combatting the sunshine with striking corpsepaint and fury, 1349 (below) infect the RJD stage crowd with frenzied blastbeats and black metal vehemence.  A dose of the extreme just as the doctor order, executed with precision and fervour (7.5/10).

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From ferocity to folk next, as Korpiklaani (below right is pre-Korpiklaani.  Thankfully for them, not during) take to the stage.  Their barrel of raucous folk-metal tunes are difficult not to enjoy in the beer-hydrated afternoon 11986362_1032018796828818_5176667320203419264_nsun but they don’t manage to arouse quite the levels of mass jigging and reeling as have been seen previously (7/10).

Reformed and appearing at Bloodstock as part of their “limited” and “selected” European festival jaunt, Dark Angel (below) later take to the stage with aplomb, met with an equally enthusiastic response for their lighting-fast, heavy 10451693_1032019063495458_482618727901546479_nthrash advance (7.5/10).

Over in the Sophie Tent, the anticipation surrounding the appearance of Indonesian death metal exports Burgerkill (below) – as well as fellow country-men Jasad – elevated by recent press coverage, contradicts the average numbers they are welcomed by.  However, with Death on the RJD stage, the unfortunately named hopefuls don’t have the ideal slot.  Seemingly unaware, they proceed to dish 11951916_1032019156828782_8560084766509238858_nout meaty death, supported by appreciative chanting and headbanging.  Genuinely humbled, they leave to an expanded crowd and emphatic cheers (7.5/10).

Open to, but not particularly ardent in respect to Saturday headliners Within Temptation, the Dutch symphonic machine successfully surpass expectations.  Adding weight to their sound but allowing Sharon den Adel’s powerful vocals to remain focal, the band bring not only professional showmanship but inarguably epic, if lightweight, choruses to boot.  Adding to their appeal, the band, and den Adel in particular, are personable, avoiding the tired, aloof image of other symphonic giants.  No time is this more apparent than when Ice Queen is abandoned in good-humour after three attempts to coerce the backing track to play.

Are Within Temptation a band I want at Bloodstock?  Not really.  But neither are Napalm Death because I think they’re shit.  But both have their fans.  The former with legions of them on the continent.  It’s a festival, a growing festival: accept that, have a beer, and chill out.  Or even better, have too many beers and sing along (8/10).

SUNDAY

Final first-band of the weekend on the New Blood stage, Londers Skarthia play simple modern metal with additional groove and vocals from guitarist Sapir that lightens their sound somewhat.  Not overly offensive but played with an affable enthusiasm (6.5/10).

Agalloch wither slightly on the RJD stage, their atmospheric post-metal being less effective in the space and sunshine of the mainstage, the layers of sound disappearing into the ether rather than building dense ambience within the confine of a tent, small venue or depressive’s bedroom (6/10).

11220898_1032020080162023_1300815136676733335_n180 degrees in the opposite direction (perhaps matching the scorching heat) the mighty Wolf (right and below) tear onto the stage offering no option but to join in their rampant, heavy metal celebration.  The huge choruses, sharp trad-metal riffs and buoyant NWOBHM spirit and sound matching the crowd’s eagerness to stretch their vocal chords to classics including Voodoo, The Bite and Speed On.  The rabid Swedes are barely containable, literally, with frontman Niklas Stålvind bounding off the front of the stage at the untimely end of their set to dish out highfives and take photos (ahem, see below) (9/10).
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Taking another detour it’s back to the New Blood stage for blackened death upstarts Incipit (below).  The auspicious Norwegians deliver a solid performance, the Behemoth influence clear but bypassing the need to push their material with crowd and photographer snagging make-up and spikes (7/10).
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It’s with the most excitement of the weekend we head for the Sophie tent cautiously early to wait for (relative) locals Alunah to take-over the stage.  Their casual emergence belies the majesty of the sound they go on to radiate from the speakers: crashing waves of doom riffs, oscillating under Sophie Day’s hypnotic voice.  The uncanny reverberations of Bricket Wood Coven, the hypnotic Heavy Bough, the climatic vocal force of Scourge and the Kiss and of course, the brain-melting, ground shaking, mesmeric White Hoarhound are paragons of music’s capacity to transfix and transcend.  Sheer magick (9/10).

Left with feelings of exaltation and insignificance in equal measure, it’s in a slight daze we wander back towards the RJD stage.  Kilted Finns Ensiferum (below right) make 11954817_1032022506828447_6285401187744548686_n
quick work of stirring one’s inner heathen however, charging through made-for-festival folk metal favourites Heathen Horde, Twilight Tavern and Iron.  The gyrating and barely clothed ladies that join them on stage latterly are slightly incongruous, but there’s worse crimes (7/10).

Cannibal Corpse (below) on the other hand have no time for such tactics, getting straight to work pummelling Catton Park with their usual bloody sledgehammer death metal.  The mosh pit swells in front of the stage, staggering wider than I’ve ever witnessed at Bloodstock and it’s later reported that during their 40 minute set 455 crowd surfers tumble over the barrier.  If watching the carnage in front of the stage wasn’t entertaining enough, Cannibal Corpse dish out the prime cuts and Corpsegrinder’s trunk-neck once again demonstrates why it deserves to be recognised as a natural wonder of the world (8/10).

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As has been widely acknowledged Black Label Society are disappointing, the guitar wankery is impressive, granted, but unsustained by any showmanship.  We go get beers (4/10).

In stark comparison, mainstage festival closer Rob Zombie brings the show, despite the absence of the usual stage props.  Backed by only lights and screens of classic horror movie characters, Zombie and crew expertly execute a mixed set of classics, a couple White Zombie numbers (More Human Than Human and Thunder Kiss ’65) and covers of Blitzergrig Bop and, um, James Brown’s Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine.
The attempt to start his own “Zom-bie, Zom-bie, Zom-bie” chant is a bit cringe, but all is forgotten as Dragula closes the show.  Certainly in the thick of it the ale-saturated crowd laps it up.  Whether the excitement filters through the rest of the crowd is open to interpretation, but it seems once again Bloodstock gets it right, and Zombie delivers a proper horrorshow finale to Bloodstock 2015 (8.5/10).

So there it is: four days in a world all of our own.  Sunshine, booze and glorious, glorious heavy metal.  I told you: the best.  And really, with Behemoth and VENOM already confirmed for next year, there really ain’t much more I can say.

Lay down your soul: early bird tickets already on sale – http://www.bloodstock.uk.com/

[Hails to my more-metal-than-thou Dad for the photos, tickets and rounds…]