Archive for Ronnie James Dio

Details and artwork for upcoming Death Angel album revealed

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , on 7th August 2013 by Nico Davidson

It’s been three years since Death Angel released Relentless Retribution, with three years of constant touring. Now, the Bay Area thrash unit are set to return with another eviscerating thrash masterpiece titled The Dream Calls For Blood, which was recorded at AudioHammer Studios with Jason Suecof (Trivium, August Burns Red, The Black Dahlia Murder, All That Remains, Whitechapel, DevilDriver) and will once again feature cover art (which can be viewed below) by Brent Elliot White (Carnifex, Whitechapel, Job For A Cowboy). White explains:

Rob contacted me early on about doing this cover. He wanted a continuation of the work we did on Relentless Retribution. Kind of a complementary piece that featured the wolf in sheep’s  clothing again, only this time in some sort of frozen environment. I love it, I guess he’s come to be known as ‘Wolfie’. Perfect! As the concepts for the album grew, so did the details and various elements for the album cover. For example, It started as a single lone wolf, though Rob thought it important to add his pack. I guess they’re somewhat symbolic of the band. The wolves look like they’ve come a long ways, I can relate. I don’t want to try to dictate the meaning of the cover art. Suffice to say the main elements depicted in the piece are representational of the core thoughts and themes Rob poured into the album. Solar eclipse, lunar mirage, lighting from the coming storm, the killing field , blood, death, decay…those things. Though at times this one was a struggle (thanks for your patience with me DA, VJ and NB!) the album title actually pushed it to where it needed to be. I love the title, a perfect representation of the lyrics and Death Angel in general.

Jason Suecof commented on the recording process and the album in general:

Once again my metal brothers have put out an album that truly captures their live energy and originality as a band. Death Angel has not only maintained their classic thrash element, but they’ve taken every aspect of what they can do as musicians to the next level – writing, playing and maintaining an intense vibe throughout all the tracks! I believe this is an album that will stand the test of time – not just for Death Angel fans, but for fans of all genres of metal. Enjoy!

Guitarist Rob Cavestany added:

The Dream Calls for Blood is the wicked stepsister to our last album, Relentless Retribution – but even more cruel and sinister than her! It’s the first time we connected two records – created and produced by the same team in the same studio as ‘RR’, yet this release is more furious… probably because so much of it was written on the road. Brent did an amazing job with the cover art, again capturing the natural brutality of the hunted becoming the hunter… as territorial instinct turns into bloodlust! Down to the last detail, his art depicts a visual that matches our music and lyrics – making a complete package that we are so proud of! Can’t wait for you all to hear, see and feel it.  Now we prepare to bring it live!

Death Angel will be playing the Ronnie James Dio stage at Bloodstock Open Air this Friday.

Death Angel online:

http://www.DEATHANGEL.us
http://www.facebook.com/DEATHANGEL
http://www.myspace.com/DEATHANGEL

Kataklysm unveil artwork for upcoming album, titled Waiting For The End To Come

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 6th August 2013 by Nico Davidson

Canandian death metal powerhouse Kataklysm have revealed the artwork for their upcoming release Waiting For The End To Come. The artwork, which was created by Peter Sallai (Sabaton), will be featured on the standard jewel case and limited edition cassette tape versions of the new album, which is set to be released 28th October. Frontman Maurizo Iacono explains:

The new album art depicts a child, which represents innocence in humanity, covered in dirt and blood from life’s experience. In front of him is death represented by a reaper, who comes to claim his soul for the afterlife or the abyss, whichever way you want interpret what happens next. We leave it open to the fans to decide with their own beliefs. This depiction of the transition between life and death was made by Hungarian artist Peter Sallai, and will be on the standard CD jewel case and limited edition cassette tape versions.

Waiting for the End to Come was recorded by guitarist Jean Francois Dagenais and mixed by Zeuss (Suffocation, Hatebreed, Arsis).

Kataklysm are performing this weekend at the UK’s biggest independent metal festival, Bloodstock Open Air, at Catton Hall, Derby. Kataklysm will be playing on Saturday on the Ronnie James Dio Stage.

Katakylsm online:

http://facebook.com/kataklysm

 

Hell on Earth… At Bloodstock

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 17th January 2013 by Nico Davidson

NWOBHM legends Hell have been confirmed for Bloodstock 2013. The announcement came only a couple of hours ago when they were announced alongside Belphegor for the Ronnie James Dio stage on Saturday 10th August.

Bloodstock is set to take place on 8th-11th August at Catton Hall in Derby. Other bands already confirmed for Bloodstock 2013 include Lamb of God, Firewind, King Diamond, Whitechapel, Ex Deo and Kataklysm, with many more to be announced. Tickets and further info can be found here.

 

Interview: Doro Pesch

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , on 16th October 2012 by Nico Davidson

Doro has been a household name on the international metal scene for many years now, earning herself the title as the Queen of Metal. Kick starting her career in Snakebite, before joining Beast and eventually forming Warlock, as well as having a long standing solo career, Doro has stood against the test of time and proven herself time and time again. With the release of Raise Your Fist [review can be read here], Nico catches up with Doro for a chat about the new album, today’s female fronted metal scene and Terminator!

Nico: Hi Doro, how you doing?

Doro Pesch: I’m good. I’ve played some gigs, ja and I did a tour all over the world. I was in New York last week and I’m back in Germany and I’ve got a new album [Raise Your Fist] coming out next week [19th Oct] and we’re going on tour shortly.

N: Sounds like you’ve had fun then.

D: Ja, ja, ja. It’s always an adventure. Nothing ever gets boring.

N: So you’ve got the new album, Raise Your Fist, coming out on 19th October. Are there any concepts or lyrical themes that run through the album?

D: Ja, actually there is. The whole theme of the album is keep fighting the good fight and there’s a lot of anthems that I think will make people feel good and will really be connected to them, especially the song Raise Your Fist In The Air or the anthem on there called Rock Till Death and there’s some old school metal songs on it; one’s called Take No Prisoner and the other’s Revenge and another called Little Headbanger. And there’s some ballads on it. One of my favourite ballads on it is the one I did with Lemmy called It Still Hurts. It’s definitely one of the highlights and Lemmy sings so great on that song. And there’s another special guest who is Gus G – The guitarist for Firewind and Ozzy Osbourne who is playing on Grab The Bull (last Man Standing) and that’s another uplifting song which has some good metal power, some metal energy.

N: What would you say is your favourite track from the album?

D: Oh, I would say It Still Hurts [Featuring Lemmy] and Raise Your Fist In The Air and the last one on the album that is called Hero which is in honour of Ronnie James Dio and is dedicated to Ronnie because he meant so much to many, many fans including myself and it was a great honour to tour with him a couple of times. The first in ‘87 and again in 2000 and in the last ten years [before his passing] we had become really great friends.

N: If you could go back to when you first began singing for bands like Beast and Warlock, what advice would you give yourself?

D: Actually, I wouldn’t. It’s always been such an adventure and I wouldn’t want to miss anything in the past. It was always a hundred and fifty percent and trying to go for it and ja, to keep the ball rolling. I think the most difficult time was when grunge was suddenly becoming huge. That was the only time that we thought “We hope metal comes back” and when it did come back, I can appreciate it even more and I’m so grateful for everything that’s gone so well. Metal’s so big, so huge right now. I would say that was the only time I could have done with advice but it was not in our hands, but it’s good to live through some hard times and you know, work harder, be stronger, that saying – what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger. I think that’s absolutely true. So, that time only when grunge was taking over metal but everything else was great.

N: Speaking of metal, more specifically, female-fronted metal, over the recent years female-fronted metal has become bigger with bands like Epica, Lacuna Coil and Nightwish making huge success on the scene, with younger and smaller bands like Aonia and Alice In Thunderland making a name for themselves as well. How do you feel that the metal scene, in particular, the female-fronted metal scene, has changed since your career first started?

D: Ja, I think it’s great. There are so many great singers, musicians and all girl bands, it’s fantastic! And now, I think it’s much more better than it was in the eighties. Back then, it was just a handful of women and a handful of bands – There were fantastic bands that I loved like Rock Goddess from the UK and Girlschool, The Runaways. But now, I think it’s much more balanced. I think everyone is doing a fantastic job and that women really do get respected. It’s not even a big deal any more in this day and age. In the eighties, I think there was maybe some, you know, sexism going on which personally, I never felt but it was something you read from the articles in the magazines or the video producers would be putting naked, sexy girls in the videos of the bands with guys. It did not look so dignified but in this day and age, I think it is dignified. I like to try and support them on the scene, all the great female singers and musicians. On the next America tour, we’ll be touring with Sister Sin – They’re from Sweden but there’s a great singer with them called Liv. But I think the most important thing is the music, everything else is just secondary. So it doesn’t matter where you come form or if you’re a man or woman. The music always shines through.

N: You’ve done several collaborations and duets with bands and vocalists over the years,  like Tarja Turunen [Ex-Nightwish], Blaze Bayley [Ex-Iron Maiden/Wolfsbane] and Lemmy [Motorhead]. What would you say is the most fun duet or collaboration you’ve done so far?

D: Every collaboration I’ve done so far has been a total highlight in my life. Everyone was different, sometimes you just had one or two days in the studio and I loved doing the duet with Pete Steele, but unfortunately he’s not alive any more. It was great, it means so much to me. But with Lemmy, ja, I’d say that was the greatest for me because it was at a time, when we did our first duet on my Calling The Wild album about twelve years ago, I was in in a sad desperate state of mind because my dad, he died, he was my best friend. I love him so much, he was so supportive. I had wrote Lemmy a letter weeks before that and I said “Hey Lemmy, we’re label mates now. I don’t know if you remember me but I was the little girl at the Monsters of Rock festival” and I put a picture of me with Lemmy in the letter and I said “If you feel like it’s a good idea, maybe we could do a song together or something” and then some weeks later, my dad passed away and I was devastated. A few days later, I was picking up black clothes for my mum because of the funeral and then the phone rang. I didn’t feel like picking up the phone because I was so sad and I didn’t feel like talking with any body. And my mum said “Hey, don’t you want to see who it is?” and I said “No, mum. I don’t want to talk to anybody” and she “Well, how about you check who it is?” and then I looked at my phone and it was an AA number and I just wow and she said to pick it up, and I picked up the phone and it was Lemmy. I just thought oh my god, it’s Lemmy, you know and just wow. He said he’d got my letter and that we should do something together then I said “Lemmy, I’m so sad, I don’t even know if I want to do anything, my dad passed away recently”. He said “Doro, you know what? I can hear that you’re in pain and it’s very important that you do something. Come to AA and we’ll do something nice”. Then I went to AA and we did two duets, Alone Again which Lemmy wrote a beautiful acoustic guitar piece for and the Motorhead classic Love Me Forever. I must say, Lemmy was a kind of angel for me. He gave me something which, you know, nobody could have done for me. That was probably the most important duet for me but the other duets were great too and it was a great honour for me to work with such lovely people. But Lemmy might have saved my life, so I’m happy he came to sing on my new album again as well on the song It Still Hurts.

N: How would you describe the new album in five words?

D: Only in five words? Oh god! I would say: Powerful! High energy! Very emotional! Very positive! And a good mixture between old school metal and fresh new powerful sounds!

N: You’ve been active for the metal scene for years now, so what do you feel that you owe the longevity of your career to?

D: The most important part… The fans! Always, always the fans! I owe it all to the fans because their energy, their love, their support, was what was always made me wanna go on! They helped me through the hard times like the nineties when grunge was so, so big. The fans were always there, always supporting me. They [the fans] are the most important thing in my career and in my life, it always was the fans and always will be the fans and to me, that’s the important thing. I made a conscious decision at 24 or 25 that I wanted to totally dedicate my life to the fans and not like, have babies or get married and I’m so grateful to be part of the metal family.

N: Speaking of the fans, in particular, the female ones. What’s it like being an inspiration to female metalheads around the world?

D: It makes me so happy! Somebody feels inspired and when people are like “Oh, we saw your video and started a band” or when the girls start singing or playing drums or the guitar, it always makes me so happy! If I can give somebody good energy or inspire someone to go into music and try, even if it’s as a hobby – Music is the greatest thing in my life and it’s so great when people feel inspired to make music.

N: Speaking of bands, given your years of experience as a musician, both touring and studio based, what advice do you have for young bands that are appearing on the scene today?

D: GIVE IT YOUR ALL! Hang in there! Follow your heart, your gut, your instincts! Do what you feel is right! Always got for it! Never, ever give up! Be yourself, even when people tell you that you should this or this or go in this direction. Give it your all and try and find good people who will always support you and believe in you and even if there’s nobody there or nobody believes in yourself, try believe in yourselves, give it one hundred and fifty percent, even if it takes longer than you think. Just keep at it, you will definitely be rewarded. Try and find good people who like the same music or the same style to form a band where everyone gets along. Do what you feel is right, even it’s not the latest trend or the flavour of the month. And take the advice of a good lawyer when it comes to signing contracts and stuff and always look after the business stuff as well. I always so into the music that I didn’t care or pay attention to the business and sometimes we’d sign stuff without the advice of a lawyer and I did stupid things. The rock and roll is all good fun but always get someone to help you when it comes to signing contracts just to make sure you don’t sign your life away and that you always keep your freedom to do what you want to do.

N: If you could replace the soundtrack to any movie with your own music, which one would it be and why?

D: Let’s put it this way, I would love the chance to add some parts to my favourite movies, Terminator and Terminator 2. I would love to add some parts to give it a hardcore feel or maybe some powerful guitars to the scenes where people are being chased and make it even more intense and make it a little bit more metal but I wouldn’t replace the whole soundtrack but only add to where I think I could add things and give it our own little metal touch.

N: Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?

D: Yeah, I wanna say to all the readers that I’m looking forward so much to coming back to the UK in November and that I hope everyone is doing well! I wanna thank everyone for their tremendous support and that the start of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was the start for me and it’s what influenced me the most, bands like Saxon and Judas Priest, so I feel at home in the UK and that I hope to see everyone in the UK in November and that I hope everyone loves the new record. I love you guys and girls, keep metal alive!

N: Thanks for your time, Doro! Have a good night and take care.

D: Thanks, Nico. It was every good talking with you. Take care.

 

Doro–Raise Your Fist

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on 11th October 2012 by Nico Davidson

Doro
Raise Your Fist
Released: 19th October 2012
Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast

Since the beginning of her career, Doro has gone fought and won every battle in the metal scene, eventually gaining her the unofficial title of the Queen of Metal, as well as influencing several bands in the process. With a vast and extensive discography already under her belt, Raise Your Fist, which features the likes of Lemmy (Motorhead) and Gus G (Firewind), is the latest chapter in the German singer’s legendary career.

Raise Your Fist In The Air starts the album with a powerful sound and take no shit attitude. Belting out punchy riffs and domineering vocals, the track is unrelenting from beginning to end while Coldhearted Lover lashes out with a slow, more frozen sound (pun not intended). Unsurprisingly, Doro’s vocals adapt well to the lyrical change of sound, still belting out powerful vocal sections that are really emphasised by the guitar stylings of Bas and the subtle keyboards of Luca. Some of the lines that Doro belts out are more than memorable.

Rock Til Death thrashes about with the hard rockin’ party feel while still blasting out the hard-hitting sound that has become associated with Doro’s music. I’m left with mixed feelings about the ballad track It Still Hurts. While being an enchantingly performed piece, Lemmy’s vocals just don’t seem to sound right with the soft, emotive sound of the song om the first few listens but after a while, Lemmy’s vocals really do grow on you during this track. Moving on from the slower, softer sounds, Take No Prisoner bursts in, wielding around an old-fashioned, antagonised sound which will no doubt go down a treat with fans of NWOBHM bands such as Judas Priest. The use of sirens in the song add that a certain prison-break feel and mysticism to the song as well.

Grab the Bull (Last Man Standing), which features Gus G, carries on the aggressive tone of the previous track but at a slower pace – And it still packs more punch than a leather belt across the face. Gus’ part on the album throws in a crisp, clean bit of metal, contrasting well with the raw, callous sound of the song. Engel (German for “Angel”) has all the makings for an instant classic ballad, soothing and seductive vocals and a magical piano medley. The use of German lyrics add a touch of untamed power to the sound, echoing well throughout the song. The contrasting use of keyboards and guitars do a lot to enchanting the listener as well, throwing in a certain despair that add the emotion to the lyrics and really make the vocals stand out.

Freiheit (Human Rights) continues the use of German lyrics – The track overall requires a couple of listens before you can really appreciate the composition and beauty of the song though it may be a little soft for those that are wanting something heavier like Little Headbanger (Nackenbrecher) which unleashes a fury of guitars and violent drums topped with belting vocals and face-melting basslines. Doro’s vocals morph into something more furious sounding for Revenge, dancing well with the storming guitars and raging drums. It certainly is one of the stand-out tracks on the album, crashing back and forth like a vehement ocean.

Free My Heart is a drastic change in pace and sound from the previous song, calling back the docile elements while still echoing its own grand, majestic sound complete with with powerful, grandiose keyboards and vocals that really pack a good walloping. Victory sounds like a good ol’ fashioned anthem of victory, really displaying some of Doro’s vocal talents before the album ends with the acoustic whisperings of Hero, another powerful and emotive track that is a fitting tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio. The guitars and keyboards call out beautifully, reflecting the emotions in the lyrics while at the same time screaming out with an epic sound.

It’s not hard to deny Doro’s title as the Queen of Metal and by the sounds of Raise Your Fist, she’ll be holding onto her crown for a long time to come. The album is one to write about about, with some memorable anthems and more emotion invoking tracks, so get ready to Raise Your Fist!

4.8/5

Nico Davidson

Bloodstock Open Air 2012 Review

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , , on 21st August 2012 by Hannah

Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2012 [Behemoth, Machine Head, Alice Cooper & more]
Catton Hall, Derbyshire
9th-12th August, 2012

So, another year, another Bloodstock. This year was probably one of the most controversial for a good number of years; mainly based around line up. Not only was there a massive furore over the choice of Machine Head as Saturday’s headliners, there was also much discussion of the line up, in general, being poor. Swathes of apparent regulars made it clear that the line up meant they were not purchasing tickets. This didn’t affect Bloodstock in any way, mind. There were over 11,000 people in attendance- the biggest number to date- and the organisers were able to enjoy the fact that their VIP packages totally sold out, and there were not many regular passes left by the time the weekend came around. This year’s Bloodstock was also notable for another, more special reason. Over the course of the weekend, many of the live performances were streamed world wide for the first time ever, and this decision proved to be a resounding success; over 200,000 people across the globe tuned in to watch live footage of the festival throughout the duration of the weekend. In terms of ticket sales, bums on seats and world domination, Bloodstock outdid themselves this year. But what of the festival itself?

Friday started off with a ridiculous heat wave. The fields of Catton Hall overflowed with sweaty, melting metal heads, most of them sweltering in the commonly worn uniform of black band shirt and jeans or camouflage trousers. But this sudden appearance by the sun did not stop them from turning out in multitudes to check out all three stages (four, if we count the Jagermeister Truck acoustic stage). With a cold one in my hand (one of 60+ real cask ales and ciders on sale in the Serpent’s Lair; the extra £100 odd was worth it just for that selection) I trudged to the main stage to enjoy the first few bands. Reading’s Malefice started proceedings with a valiant performance, filled with power and energy and determined to make a name for themselves. These newcomers pulled in a respectable crowd for the first slot of the day, and in my opinion started the festival off well. Followers Freedom Call kept up the energy with forty minutes of pure, cheesy German power metal, and I’m not ashamed to report that it was glorious. Their set was certainly a ‘happy metal party’ and they got the crowd jumping along to most of their songs. With their upbeat melodies and cheerful yet clumsy, Olympics centred banter, almost everyone watching their set had a stupid grin on their faces by their closer. Grand Magus were predictably epic, and the freshness of their material and stage presence makes it easy to forgot how long they have been around for. The Swedish stalwarts showed how thumping heavy metal is meant to be done.

Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to see most of the second half of Moonsorrow’s set as I quickly fell ill with what I now recognise as heatstroke, but the first half I did see was fantastic. They played a good selection of their material, and managed to put on a great performance, despite the fact that much of the crowd was flagging in the somewhat unexpected heat by this point. Their set was also far too short, especially considering most of their songs hit the nine minute mark, and it can only be hoped that they don’t leave it too long til they tour the UK as headliners. I have it on good authority, thanks to my temporary co-correspondent Joe (my brother) that Iced Earth absolutely slayed it. In three words, they were pounding, soaring and epic. The screams of ‘Iced Fucking Earth’ that echoed around the arena barely needed any encouragement from the band themselves, and they left the crowds begging for more. In complete contrast, and in a somewhat controversial claim, Joe felt that Sepultura were a massive disappointment. Clumsy and clunky, they played a set that didn’t contain enough new stuff to be purely Derrick Green era-stuff, nor enough classics to be a ‘classic Sepultura’ show, even despite the inclusion of songs such as ‘Refuse/Resist’ and ‘Roots’. I was back to the arena in time for Dio’s Disciples, the special tribute set up in memory of the late, great Ronnie James Dio, metal legend and namesake of Bloodstock’s main stage. And what a tribute it was. Each and every member of the band put their heart and soul into the performance, and it showed. Nearly every member of the band was almost in tears during their set, and they gave rousing renditions of some of Dio’s best known songs, including ‘Holy Diver’, ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Rainbow in the Dark’. We still love you, Ronnie. Whilst Dio’s Disciples got all emotional on the main stage, mention must be made of Hull’s Infernal Creation, who tore up the New Blood stage in the same slot. Bastard, Neiphrobous and Sin were joined by Cryptic Age’s Tom Keeley for the performance, due to bassist Beleth’s recent ill health (swift recovery, dude!) and they laid down their black metal credentials for all to see. Neiphrobous had the disappointingly small crowd in the palm of his outstretched claw, and whilst they deserved to pull a far greater number of people, those that were in attendance were treated to a thirty minute long aural assault of the highest calibre. A fantastic performance by a brutal underground band, deserving of greater success.

The atmosphere in the main arena grew noticeably chillier during the set up for Watain, and it wasn’t just the onset of the evening. There was almost as much of a buzz for these guys as there was for Friday headliners Behemoth. When asked about who they were here to see, countless people answered ‘Fucking Watain!’. All inverted crosses, flaming sigils and fire, Watain were truly a spectacle. Frontman Erik Danielsson (E) soaked the crowd- and pre-prepared, poncho and cagoule wearing security- with blood from a silver chalice, as ominous red lights zoomed over the crowd. They delivered their special blend of hauntingly beautiful and brutal black metal to the masses assembled in the fields of Catton Hall. Their stage show was uncompromising, being the masters of the theatrical and experts in creating an atmosphere both electric and somewhat unsettling. I managed to grab E for a quick chat on Saturday evening, and he summed their performance up in a concise way:

            I think it was very beautiful, it was during the sunset, and the sun came down in a very fitting way I would say. As far as Bloodstock goes, it’s another one of those places where two-leggers gather in the same place. I have an extremely hard time dealing with that, and it’s getting to the point of nausea, but at the same time it’s a good place.

All hail the black priests of metal!

After being suitably roused into a black, unholy frenzy, headliners Behemoth materialised on the stage in a flash of blue light and fog like a furious quartet of Cenobites. It is so, SO good to be finally writing a review of a performance by Behemoth at Bloodstock, and just as good to see Nergal, victorious in his battle with leukaemia, absolutely ripping Bloodstock a new one. The truck full of pyro they commissioned to trek across Europe from Poland meant that they were fully able to flex their blackened muscles and deliver a full Behemoth show to the baying crowds. Ferocious and uncompromising, they delivered a spectacle that will stay in the minds of all those assembled for a long time to come. On the visual front, they did not disappoint. Burning crosses, hooded monks, and a brilliantly clever use of fog and lighting to create a massive, Ronnie James Dio stage sized Polish flag, they looked spectacular. They sounded spectacular, too. With a set list that included fearsome renditions of songs old and new, including my personal highlights ‘Christians to the Lions’ and ‘Slaves to Serve’, Nergal, Orion, Inferno and Seth were the masters of the hordes as Friday evening closed in an infernal frenzy of blackened death metal. Behemoth fucking ruled.

On to Saturday, then, and after catching the end of what proved to be an energetic set by Benediction, on came ZP Theart of ex-Dragonforce fame, and his new band IamI. Theart had a lot to prove today, and even though his distinctive vocals strained a little at times, their raw sort of power metal worked quite well. He obviously loved being on the stage, and whilst it has to be said that their material bordered on repetitive, they gave a commendable performance. Following the power metal was Taiwan’s ChthoniC, who were, in a word, brilliant. They brought their folk-inspired, mythologically-powered black metal to the assembled crowds and performed beautifully. Freddy Lim, erhu in hand, made firm friends with the crowd and inspired an anti-Chinese roar of ‘Taiwan! Taiwan!’ to erupt among the arena. Even though many of them may not have understood the significance of Lim’s impassioned tirade against the Chinese occupation of Taiwan, they sympathised with ‘Chinese Taipei’ and were intensely receptive to the band’s atmospheric sound. The less said about Mayhem, the better. I was intensely disappointed with their lack of performance and the overall sloppy state of their set. Even Attila was boring. They came onto the stage and seemed to leave again soon after, without much fuss. So very anti-climactic. In contrast, the newly reformed Sanctuary were a surprising success. Even though their reformation will probably be at the expense of the fantastic Nevermore, it’s good to see Sanctuary back together. They really entertained the crowd with an energetic and upbeat set, satisfying both old and new fans. One band that personally surprised me were Hatebreed. I did not expect to enjoy the Connecticut hardcore maniacs, but I really did. They gave a performance full of energy and proved themselves to be very proficient at what they do. With Hatebreed, circle pits were always guaranteed but what was good to see was that the pits, orchestrated by frontman Jamey Jasta with safety on his mind, were instructed to help anyone that fell back up to their feet. Hatebreed are a brotherhood, and no one gets left behind or forgotten, as was evident with their touching dedication to the recently fallen, including the Rev, Dimebag, Dio and Paul Gray. Due to other commitments, I wasn’t able to catch much of Testament’s set, but the view from Joe was that they were sick. They played a good selection of old and new and more than satisfied the crowds.

Saturday’s controversial headliners Machine Head came onstage will everything bared and a mentality of proving to everyone present that they deserved to be there. They were there for their fans, but also for every single person who would have rather seen someone else take their place. In my opinion, they more than deserved that headline slot, and proved so with a visceral, rib shaking performance. Clearly humbled and in awe of Bloodstock as a whole, Machine Head plunged into their set with no holds barred. They spattered their set with a good selection of tunes, including fan favourites ‘Imperium’ and ‘Darkness Within’. As had been advertised since their announcement, they also played the 5 ‘Burn My Eyes’ tracks that had been voted for by the fans, in honour of the 20th anniversary of the first live show they ever played, in Mike Scum’s house, for a ‘destroy the house’ kegger party. Fantastic. The tracks chosen- ‘Death Church’, ‘A Thousand Lies’, ‘Blood for Blood’, ‘Block’ and ‘Davidian’– were received with an almost rabid response; a personal highlight was definitely ‘Block’, a track that absolutely slayed the crowd with its chugging intensity. Robb Flynn also proved that his reputation as one of the ‘nice guys’ of metal is more than apt, with a touchingly heartfelt speech about the true, accepting spirit of metal and how stoked he was to be playing on the stage with so many of his metal brothers in attendance. He also showed how much of an expert he is at creating a rapport with the crowd, and even instigated some sort of epic battle between Wolverine and Banana-man. Machine Head’s headliner slot will go down in history as one of the most divisive but brutal sets in Bloodstock history.

There were a number of fantastic performances on both the S.O.P.H.I.E. and New Blood stages on Saturday as well. Witch Sorrow and Winterfylleth both put on fantastic performances; Witch Sorrow’s sludgey, droney doom metal shaking the bowels of all those cooped up in the sweaty, beer soaked S.O.P.H.I.E. tent, and Winterfylleth delivered a set full of competent, slick black metal. But the day has to be given to the mighty Orange Goblin. The fact that the crowd literally spilled out of the tent and created lines at least seven men deep as a huge number of people struggled to watch them can probably attest to the Goblin’s strength on Saturday night. Sludgey, sleazy and soaked in booze and weed, the Goblin were on form and should have been on the main stage. However, the underdog status of the second stage suited them well. Their performance was painfully effortless, and they delivered a strong, sublime set, filling the S.O.P.H.I.E. tent to the rafters with stoner madness. There were also strong performances over at the New Blood stage. Newcastle’s Reflection in Exile were brilliant, and better than many of the bands on the main and S.O.P.H.I.E. stages. Dare I say that they were better than Mayhem? Regardless, they gave their all in the performance and were rewarded with the total attention of a sizeable crowd, pulled into the New Blood stage and away from main stagers Hatebreed. Reflection in Exile are worth watching out for. Saturday’s New Blood headliners, Manchester’s Gone Til Winter, served up a slice of brilliant, dark power metal. Stealing a good size crowd in from Testament– though they deserved many, many more- they performed with their hearts on their sleeves. Vocalist  Talena is a fantastic front woman, with an easy and likeable demeanour and a good amount of stage presence. Their set list included a number of tasters from their upcoming debut LP, Hiding From The Sun. I wish them every success in the future; and good luck to Talena on the forthcoming birth of her baby!

The final day of Bloodstock 2012 dawned with a brilliant performance from epic Canadian metallers Kobra And The Lotus. I think it’s safe to say that Kobra Paige and her troupe of heavy metal warriors won over a new legion of fans on Sunday. And holy hell, can Kobra Paige sing! KATL were a fantastic way to start the final day of BOA, and served up a delightful portion of soaring, traditional heavy metal. Corrosion of Conformity were much better than I thought they would be. I didn’t expect their groovy, sludge metal to be as good as it was, but I was pleasantly surprised. Good set, despite the need for a bass amp half way through! All that can really be said about Nile is that they were fucking brutal. They played a good mix of their stuff, from older material to brand new tracks. My personal highlights were the brutal Sacrifice Unto Sobek, Execration Text and Lashed To The Slave Stick. Their mystical, Egyptological, brutal death metal crushed the arena, and their show was so intensely amazing that it didn’t even matter that the heavens opened part way through. It would be hard for any band to follow such a flawless set, but it could have proven disastrous for Black Dahlia Murder. So many people didn’t want them to be here, and so BDM had an awful lot to prove. But prove it they did. By the end, the crowd had grown into a respectable size and enjoyed their unapologetic brand of death metal mayhem. There were two people in the crowd who certainly enjoyed their set, as their doggy style adventures proved. I think BDM proved many of the haters wrong, and showed that they deserve their place on the line up as much as anyone else. I also dearly hope that Brian Eschbach got his cheesy chips with gravy. As was expected, Bloodstock favourites Evile played to an incredibly enthusiastic crowd and did not disappoint. Even though they seemed endearingly puzzled at the fact that this year saw their fourth year on the line up, they clearly loved being back on the main stage, as did the crowd. The Huddersfield troupe performed a really strong set, including the rabidly received ‘Cult’. Metal underdogs Anvil gave a roaringly successful, and somewhat poignant, performance. They were clearly enthused to just still be performing, and were well received. The success of their story was evident by the number of Anvil patches that could be seen on denim and leather jackets throughout the arena, standing side by side with big names such as Judas Priest, Megadeth and Iron Maiden. Well done, Anvil!

Goth/doom veterans Paradise Lost seemed to delight the crowds with a competent set that entertained whilst being slightly sloppy. Their set list spanned their whole career fairly well, so there was guaranteed to be something there for everyone. From a selection that included game changing album Draconian Times, Nick Holmes and his gloomy troupe played reasonably well, and finished with crowd pleaser Say Just Words. Paradise Lost could have been so much better, but with all said and done they were more than satisfactory. A band that did not disappoint was 2008 headliners and ‘special guests’ Dimmu Borgir. I’m not ashamed to say that Dimmu were probably one of the bands I was looking forward to the most all weekend, and they were astounding. They returned to the main stage with a triumphant performance, full of characteristic bombast and malignantly beautiful orchestrations, and oozing with dark charisma. They had the crowd lapping up every single note and ravenously devouring each morsel proffered, from ‘Gateways’ and ‘Dimmu Borgir’ to ‘Puritania’ and ‘Progenies of the Great Apocalypse’, with surprise appearances from ‘Vredesbyrd’ and closer ‘Mourning Palace’. It’s good to see that they have not lost any of the atmosphere brought by ICS Vortex’s clean vocals; in fact, the majestic choral recording created sweeping, epic atmosphere that melted with the brutal nature of the rest of the performance perfectly. A darkly beautiful, flawless set from one of the most professional and well-oiled bands in the industry.

What can I say about Sunday night headliner Alice Cooper? It’s been just over a week since I returned from BOA and I’m still getting over the spectacle of it all. Alice is 64 years old, and he wiped the floor with most of the other people who had been up on that stage before him. He has still got exactly what it is that made everyone fall in love with him back in the seventies, and I hope he never loses it, because he is fantastic. The anticipation started to build from the moment the vast, opaque banner was pulled up in front of the stage, obscuring the set up and preparations underway behind it, and the time it took to get the stage ready to be Coop’d seemed to fly by. The atmosphere in the arena, as Vincent Price boomed out from the speakers, was electrifying with excitement. Everyone was shoulder to shoulder as people squeezed in, trying to get the best view possible of what was to come. And what did come? A performance that showed everyone exactly how it is done. Starting with ‘Black Widow’, the man himself appeared atop a vast, cobwebbed lectern, resplendent in his spider suit, every single audience member dancing on his hands like puppets. A showman to the very end, Alice proceeded to entertain and beguile for an hour and a half that was stuffed with hits, favourites and rare titbits. I can honestly say that Cooper’s set was the best thing I have ever seen. Unlike the normal, pared down festival performances many bands deliver, Alice Cooper put on a full show, complete with guillotine, skewered paparazzo, pyrotechnics, dead dolls and a giant, guitarist chasing Frankenstein’s monster. I don’t think it would be possible for me to choose a favourite track, but the moment Alice donned a white lab coat and red, elbow length gloves during the opening chords of ‘Feed My Frankenstein’, I knew that Bloodstock 2012 had turned into an ‘I was there’ event. I was there to see Alice Cooper conquer, and prove that he is at the absolute pinnacle of rock showmanship. Almost every single band on the line up, from Watain and Dimmu Borgir to Machine Head and Black Dahlia Murder owe something to Cooper. Without Cooper, the rock concert as we know it would not exist. Theatricality and performance in concert would not exist. Without Cooper, the metal world would be a much less colourful place. Catton Hall turned into a cacophony of noise as every person present hoarsely shouted along with ‘Poison’, ‘Hey Stoopid’ and ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, and whooped with delight as the unmistakable opening riff for ‘School’s Out’ rang out through the arena. Alice finished his set by striding onto the stage, Union Jack in hand, for a fittingly ferocious ‘(I wanna be) Elected’. Alice Cooper was absolutely phenomenal, and I will remember the feeling I got when I was watching him, a man I have looked up to and admired since I was seven years old and first heard ‘Poison’, for the rest of my life.

Bloodstock 2012 was an incredible achievement, crushing records and paying homage to some of the greatest names in modern metal. I’ll see you in 2013.

Hannah O’Flanagan, 2012

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review] Part One

Posted in Live with tags , , , , , , on 26th August 2011 by Hannah

Bands: WASP, Finntroll, Kreator and more
Location: Catton Hall, Walton-Upon-Trent
Date: 12-14th August, 2011

Bloodstock Open Air 2011. A whole weekend (and a bit) dedicated to metal, metal, mud, booze and a bit more metal. A weekend full of dodgy food, over-priced but somehow incredibly delicious beer, and bands at every corner. Bloodstock provides the metal connoisseur with three stages chock-full of music to tickle all fancies; from unsigned but ridiculously talented bands at the New Blood stage, the headliners of tomorrow at the Sophie Lancaster stage, and the big names that draw the crowds on the Ronnie James Dio stage. Plus, as an added bonus, Bloodstock provides a temporary home for the Jaeger-truck and its’ low key acoustic stage, with a limited number of bands performing pared down, unplugged sets for the passing crowds. As I spent most of the weekend ducking and diving between bands I wanted to see on each of the stages, as well as gleefully making my way through security at the VIP section to conduct interviews, my experience of the festival was unlike the experience I had the previous times I had been. In some ways, I regret not enjoying the weekend like that sooner! Rather than stand around all day, trying to get a great spot by the barrier, watching bands I don’t particularly like on the Dio stage, I flitted from stage to stage and discovered a number of bands that I would have been oblivious to before. There’s something to be said about taking the time to go and check out the smaller stages; one of the highlights of my weekend took place in the Sophie stage, but I shall come to that in due course!

It makes sense for one to start off at the New Blood Stage, and work my way up to Ronnie James Dio. The first band I saw on the New Blood Stage was Primital, and what a good find they were. Primital filled the stage with an awesome amount of energy, and they really played well to the crowds. For such a small band, they had managed to pull in quite a number of people, and I think this is testament to the accessible, catchy and melodic metal they were playing. I found myself drawing comparisons with both 36 Crazyfists and fellow Bloodstock artists Wolf; they had good, thrashy riffs and melodic hooks throughout their entire set. My next foray into the New Blood world was with Rannoch, the progressive death metallers from the West Midlands. They were impressively technical, as each of their songs was comprised of neatly harmonised guitar lines and several changes in pace, which helped to keep what can occasionally drag on interesting. Vocalist/guitarist Ian cut an impressive figure onstage, filling the tent with his strong, brutal vocals and fronting a band that were well put together and very successful in delivery; although their set was far too short to gauge the fullness of their range, beyond generic technical death metal. Another of my surprise finds was Haerken, the medieval band hailing from Birmingham. I had seen the members of Haerken, dressed in full Medieval gear, handing out flyers throughout the weekend, and I was glad to say that they were more than just their gimmick. Prithee, their music doth enchant the mightiest of the warriors of Bloodstock of Olde, for they hath procured a crowd most worthy of the noblest bands. Their sound was melodic death metal, and they coupled this with their neatly put together Olde English aesthetic. It must be noted; they managed to draw a significant number of people into the tent and away from mainstagers Therion. Their songs proved that they have the talent and the substance to go with their image, and their short but sweet set proved that they are most definitely in danger of becoming a tour-de-force of the metal world. One last point- any band that comes armed with a plethora of inflateable swords and throws said weaponry into the crowd, in order to spark a war between ‘The Normans’ and ‘The Saxons’ will always be a hit with a Bloodstock crowd! Next up were Sheffield’s Northern Oak; and I must say, with a little more experience under their belts, they will be a blackened folk force to be reckoned with. After their slightly shambolic- but nevertheless entertaining and enjoyable- set on the Jaeger stage the day before, I was looking forward to seeing them in their proper environment. I wasn’t disappointed. They have a great energy live, with each member bringing their own eccentricity into the mix- from bassist Richard bouncing around the stage like a whirling dervish of unending energy, to flautist Caitie ethereally standing in front of the crowds, flute in hand and adding that special edge that sets them apart. Their music was at once both moshable and jiggable, and with a little superficial polishing, they will be great. Last but not least was Sanguine, with a unique sound that is truly all their own. The word unique gets thrown around alot; indeed, it seems to be a bit of a buzzword sometimes, but it is definitely one way in which to describe this band. Frontwoman Tarin commands a voice that is both banshee-like and beautiful, switching effortlessly from clean vocals to a haunting scream throughout song after song. Their sound was at times reminiscent of Tool-ish prog, other times reminiscent of classic metal, and other times even punky and violent. They have a groove and an attitude coupled with a spleen shaking metal sensibility, and an incredibly polished live act to go with it. From the moment the sirens started blaring as Tarin waved a Union Jack upon the darkened stage, to the end of fantastically irreverent song ‘Bangkok Nights’, Sanguine delivered a fantastic set. Their short time on the New Blood stage was not enough.

I only really managed to catch one band on the Jaegermeister stage, apart from Northern Oak’s extra set. Obsessive Compulsive, a Manchester-based band that scream high-energy, managed to tone their set down enough to deliver an accomplished and impressive acoustic set. It takes a special kind of talent to fill such a small stage with so much energy and- as singer Kelii put it- to ‘balls it up’ with such gusto. They drew a significant number of people in, to crowd under the awning of the Jaeger truck and listen intently to their well put-together set. We were treated to songs that Obsessive Compulsive would not normally be able to play live, and to raw, toned-down versions of others. A personal highlight for me was the song The Decay of Hope. Kelii’s impressive voice held an incredible raw passion and emotion that made the song both brutal and moving. An excellent band, with an impressive stage presence.

My one experience of the Sophie Lancaster Stage has to be one of the highlights of the weekend, period. Evil Scarecrow. To try and put into words how brilliantly entertaining and- to be frank- fucking awesome their set was seems almost impossible. But try I shall. They were a rare entity- a comedy band with both the wit and the slick showmanship, not to mention pure, epic talent, to back up their intense metal sound. Perfectly put-together, their stage show was full of nuances and choreographed moves that showed they were taking not taking themselves seriously, very seriously indeed. From goose-stepping during their opener, to running through the crowd and launching onto the bar to deliver an epic solo (that nearly eclipsed the four-note solo from earlier in the set, but not quite), they knew what they were doing, and they did it well. When they called for claws to be raised during Vampire Trousers, even toddlers complied. From breaking a Guiness World Record during the genius Robotatron, to covering motherfucking Thunder Cats, there wasn’t a low point during their set. Finishing with an almighty cover of Europe’s The Final Countdown, complete with singalong from the crowd, Evil Scarecrow were amazing. Enough said.

Hannah ‘Hammi’ O’Flanagan

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review]

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , on 21st August 2011 by Nico Davidson

Bands: Wasp, Therion, Motorhead and more
Location: Catton Hall, Walton-Upon-Trent
Date: 12-14th August, 2011

It’s August again – and time for the Metal Militia to mobilise, monster-like, and materialise in the munificent meadows of Catton Hall, Derby for another magnificent Bloodstock Festival.

Bloodstock is a festival ‘by the fans, for the fans’ and the organisers genuinely cater for this by running active online forums and IRC chatrooms (in which they participate), taking into account the festival-goers’ suggestions each year to improve the event. Having attended four previous Bloodstocks (2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010), Bloodstock 2011 was, by 12 parsecs, the best Bloodstock I have attended.

Disclaimer – I attended this festival as a fan and a punter rather than as official press. I was not able to see every band due to conflicting stage times, hangovers and basic human needs such as food, water and ale.  Additionally, while this review does cover bands in the black / death / grindcore genres, due to my personal preferences in music, I saw many more power / melodic metal acts, so the review will tend toward these bands.

Overall organisation

Having queued in the past for – literally – hours to enter, I was pleasantly surprised at the efficiency and organisation of the door staff. Arriving approximately half an hour after the gates opened, we were through the entrance and pitching our tents within 15 minutes.

The layout of Bloodstock was well thought-out, with the camping areas clustered around the main arena and festively named ‘Valhalla’, ‘Asgard’, ‘Midgard’ and ‘Hel’. ‘Hel’ was the quiet camp and provided a positive environment for families and others who did not wish to be disturbed by revellers late into the night.  A small fairground was set far enough back that the noise from the rides did not disturb the enjoyment of bands on the Ronnie James Dio (main) stage and a market brimming with music stalls and alternative clothing and jewellery offered a variety of products that can be difficult to find out in the mundane real world.

The only negative aspect of the layout is that, for the past two festivals, the New Blood stage is at the side, beyond the Ronnie James Dio stage and near the Bloodstock Arms bar. In 2008, the stage was placed between the arena entrance and the main stage, which meant that many bands drew in a crowd due to simply overhearing something they were interested in listening to. Its current placement meant that crowd members had to make a conscious effort to go and check out unsigned talent and this meant that some acts which could have had bigger crowds simply didn’t.

Four stages offered a variety of acts, with the Jaegermeister stage and Ronnie James Dio stage alternating showtimes, which meant that, without moving from a vantage point just behind and to the right of the sound desk, patrons could enjoy eight hours of almost interrupted music – without even venturing to the Sophie Lancaster tent (second stage) or the New Blood stage (which housed unsigned acts).  In general, as well, acts on Sophie and New Blood stages were of a different genre to the Ronnie James Dio stage, which meant that there was always something of interest to watch, catering for the wide variety of tastes that rockers have cultivated.

Security at the arena entrance was tight as they searched bags / pockets for weapons and alcohol (got to protect the beer sales in the arena!). Showsec staff, mostly, were pleasant, friendly and joked with the crowd as they filtered through. The proximity of the campsite and the efficiency of the Showsec staff meant that it was easy to move quickly between the camping areas and the main arenas. The festival cloakroom also provided a secure place to store bags, phones, coats and purchases from the market stalls – my husband and I purchased a weekend ticket at £16 and found the service invaluable for keeping our goods protected while he went to play in the circle pits for…pretty much the entire weekend.

Toilets, while offensive to the olfactory sense, were generally clean and well-stocked, especially in comparison to Download, Sonisphere and previous years.  Showers were available in the Midgard camp for £3.00, though a ‘no time limit’ policy meant that queues were longer than the M1. (I did not partake. I don’t have to smell myself.)

Jaegermeister stage

The Jaegermeister stage provided an acoustic venue and offered the opportunity to see bands in a different light and in what felt like an intimate environment.

Alternative Carpark – Mark (vocals) started the gig with a good crowd rapport, offering good-natured abuse to festival-goers as they walked past the stage following Coroner’s set. His clear baritone voice and easy nature drew in an audience, who appreciated friendly banter and the band’s distinctive, eclectic style. The mixture of metal and blues with a funk-style slapping bass got the audience grooving and created a feel-good atmosphere.

Rannoch – Unfortunately, I was not able to see this band ‘plugged in’ but their acoustic set showed their strength as musicians, with interplay and harmonies between the guitars and bass. The vocals oscillated between an accomplished death metal growl and occasional, contrasting clean vocals. The band seemed at ease on stage and the addition of an Irish drum (and drummer) borrowed from Middle Age-inspired death metal band ‘Haerken’ added a folk element that gave the music a unique dimension.

Obsessive Compulsive – Energetic and driving, Obsessive Compulsive’s set comprised dark, anthemic tunes complimented by Kelli’s powerful, gravelly, alto vocals. A confident frontwoman, she genuinely appreciated the audience’s enthusiastic response and expressed her gratitude to the festival for their work with unsigned musicians. As the bass pulsated, driving riffs and intricate guitar work got the crowd’s heads banging

Guardians of Andromeda – This band is one of my favourite finds of the weekend. An easy nature and sense of humour go a long way in a cosy environment like the Jaegermeister stage – and frontman Mikael has both in spades, along with a tenor voice that is reminiscent of Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian fame. Confident guitar work and haunting melodies with a tribal undertone further sustain the fantasy-world feeling of being transported to realm of mystery, honour and valour.  Layers of vocals gave a more orchestral feeling to the acoustic set. Joined by Sarah, of Zocolo fame for the last songs, intertwining tenor and alto vocals wrote a story which was supported by inter-band interactions reminiscent of powerful, classic musical theatre duets. Guardians of Andromeda’s music is a gourmet recipe, drawing ingredients from the whole world of music, rather than simply metal and the final product is nothing short of extraordinary.

New Blood Stage

The New Blood stage showcased some of the best unsigned metal acts that the UK – and Europe – have to offer. Venues across the nation and in Norway hosted ‘Metal 2 the Masses’ heats and the winners of these competitions were handpicked by Bloodstock organisers and the founder, Simon Hall.

Entro-P – Jake’s dark, driving bass pushes Entro-P’s songs forward and several tempo changes into Meshuggah-like non-standard time signatures are ably managed by Sean, giving Entro-P’s music a sensation that takes them out of the realm of normal run-of-the-mill death metal bands. Expert tremolo picking by the guitarists, along with several complex articulations combined to create a bed of nails upon which the growling vocals can rest. All elements merged to create a gritty, doom-laden sound that is heavy as a two-tonne weight in a black hole.

Training Icarus – Vacillating between dark, heavy songs and lighter, happier tracks, Training Icarus showed a breadth and depth to their repertoire and musical talent. Frontwoman Leigh displayed a strong passion throughout the entire set. Enchanting mezzo/alto/belter vocals rested comfortably on top of Maidenesque guitars and metronone-like, driving drums. Infectious, anthemic choruses became brainworms that refused to leave. (I found myself humming ‘Nightmares’ days after the performance.)  Orchestral accompaniments provided atmosphere between the songs. The backing track also sat low enough in the mix to add a subconscious feeling of fullness while sampled harmonised vocals emphasised key phrases and gave Leigh the opportunity to provide soaring descant ad-libs over repeated choruses. In a day when metal bands often never find their way out of minor keys, the bouncy, quick-tempo, major-key tracks provided a welcome contrast that left a happy, lively feeling.

Brezno – ‘Innovative, exciting and stunning’ are the three best adjectives to describe this band. Hailing from Slovenia, the seven-piece band’s half hour set on the New Blood stage took the crowd by surprise and by storm. Keyboards, violins, wind instruments and four vocalists, ably led by Sara wove a tribal blanket of sound that was comfortably worn by everyone in the New Blood tent. A traditional Irish folk feeling haunts Brezno’s music and the lilting melodies call forth images of warriors fighting for honour, justice and truth.

Soulsphere – Despite their vocalist being unable to attend, atmospheric doom metallers Soulsphere pulled off an energetic performance with ably ad-libbed lyrics provided by stand-in Gary from the band Fallen Few. Brutal, heart-pounding riffs overdriven by a thumping bassline and jackhammer-like drums offered a suitably aggressive base for Gary’s throaty growls. Soulsphere’s brand of in-your-face metal is like a left hook to the jugular – swift, brutal and leaves you gasping for breath.

Sacred Illusion – If Iron Maiden ever decide to retire and create a reality TV programme where the younger generation audition to replace them, these guys are it. The frontman – Bruce – beyond being the namesake of one of the best voices in metal, shares with Dickinson a stunning tenor voice with an operatic tone found in the very best power metal bands. A driving rhythm section created a strong foundation, which face-melting lead work uses as a launch pad into the heavens with spiralling riffs and anthemic melodies. Tighter than many signed bands, if Sacred Illusion carry on delivering blistering performances as they did on Sunday, they will skyrocket to the top of the metal mountain in no time.

Twilight’s Embrace – Dark doom metal with some floating melodies over the top comprised Twilight’s Embrace’s set. Frontman Dee effortlessly switches between clean vocals and a powerful, death metal-inspired growl. Clean guitar behind chugging power chords creates an ethereal sensation and lonely distorted lead creates echoes of emptiness reminiscent of some Opeth tracks.

Sophie Lancaster Stage

A new addition last year, the Sophie stage this year was much more effectively used to showcase a range of bands, giving crowdgoers an alternative to the music on the Ronnie James Dio stage.

Evil Scarecrow – Parody black metal is a risky style of music. Black metal in itself is quite obscure and oftentimes black metal fans can be somewhat elitist about the genre, rejecting what could be seen as an attempt at poking fun. However, Evil Scarecrow have persevered through being ignored by metal record labels and have, grass roots style, cultivated a massive fan base who packed out the Sophie tent (capacity approximately 3,000) on Sunday. Post-gig Facebook updates have also hinted that the band members themselves handle all merchandise sales – they are the very definition of a DIY metal band. Tight as a watch spring, the five-headed, ten-legged monster appeared overwhelmed and humbled by the response of the crowd, including several crowd members who came decked out in full robot regalia for the band’s signature tune ‘Robototron’. Tracks with interweaving melodies such as ‘Blacken the Everything’ and challenging changes between time signatures such as ‘Vampyre Trousers’ affirmed that the best way to parody any sort of music is to be accomplished musicians who write good music – then add in satirical lyrics and a ‘bloody’ good stage show! Doctor Hell’s sung introduction to the most metal cover of all – ‘The Final Countdown’ –  in a clean, strong baritone voice also proved what black / death / thrash metal fans have known for years: to be a good growler, you must first be a good vocalist! True fans of metal, the band members could be seen throughout the festival not just on the Sunday but throughout the weekend – and despite the overwhelming response to their music they were still humble, down to earth and genuinely thankful to the crowd.

Powerquest – With soaring, screaming guitar riffs that flew fast as lighting from the fingers of Andy Midgley and Gav Owen, melodic and atmospheric keys from Steve Williams and some frenetically fast drumming from Rich Smith, melodic metallers Powerquest unleashed a tsunami of sound that reverberated throughout the Sophie tent. Elevated over the top of this frenzied orchestration were supreme vocals from Chitral Somapala that cut through the music like a hot knife through butter. Reminiscent of Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire) and ZP Theart (ex-Dragonforce), Chitral’s operatic tenor voice and passionate performance provided the icing on the cake (an extremely powerful cake) of a musically accomplished band.

Amaranthe – An unusual blend of three vocals – a male growler, a clean tenor and a mezzo / belter female – Amaranthe has a very unique sound. With thundering bass and melodic guitars providing a scaffolding for these three to climb to the stars, the mixture of vocals was novel. I was disappointed to say that the sound during this set was of less quality than previous performances (at one point the left speaker stack cut out completely) so at times it was difficult to differentiate between Elize (female vocals) and Jake’s (clean male) vocals. Animated interactions between the vocalists onstage made the band fun to watch as well as listen to – a strong performance from all involved.

Ronnie James Dio Stage

Named after the fallen legend, the RJD stage was the main stage in the arena, housing the very best of metal talent from all over the world.

Wolf – Classic metallers Wolf, hailing from Sweden, put in a solid performance that was full of fun and life. Niklas and Simon’s lead and backing vocals intertwined like ivy and the guitars and bass provided a thrumming support that was like a magnetic draw to headbang. The band draws clear influences from 70s and 80s metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest which could be heard in their galloping riffs and seen in their enthusiastic stage show.

Forbidden – Circle pits erupted almost instantly during Forbidden’s set as Matt Camacho’s gritty bass thundered. Craig Locicero and Steve Smyth provided sweeping, face-melting accompaniment on the guitars with brutal, in-your-face riffs. Forbidden is a band grounded firmly in American early 90s thrash –reminiscent of very early Metallica – and these guys have stuck to this overall feeling in their music. Russ Anderson’s vocals – almost a scream, almost a shout and almost sung – add to the aggressive and brutal tone, building a 45 minute wall of anger that swept over the cloud like a thunderstorm.

Triptykon – Arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Celtic Frost, Triptykon’s heavy, doom-laden sound slowed down the pace of the day and provided a welcome rest from the circle pits and frenzied pace from earlier. Tom Gabriel Warrior’s part whispered, part growled, part sung vocals created a sense of intimacy in an open field designed for 10,000 people – not an easy task! Slow, heavy guitars painted a backdrop of darkness for the anger-fuelled lyrics and created a sense of trepidation in the crowd. Solos drifted over the top like a murder of crows, hanging heavy in the air.

Coroner – With a slow, melodic, acoustic introduction, Coroner misled audience members unfamiliar with their work to believe that their set would be a laid back one – this was definitely not the case! Self described as ‘technical thrash metal’, Ron Broder (bass) and Tommy Vetterli (guitars) illustrated this expertly, alternately juxtaposing intricate melodies and layering complex, galloping riffs that ploughed forward like a steam train. Marky Edelmann’s drums drove the music forward while never drawing emphasis from the melody at hand. Ron’s vocals were strong, a gravelly tone – almost a scream – and they rested comfortably on top of the guitars.

Wasp – Enthusiastic crowd interactions from front man Blackie Lawless created a feeling of togetherness in the crowd. The band seemed genuinely pleased to play the festival and they involved the crowd by running competitions and even pulling a fan from the crowd to sing ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’. Catchy songs and natural showmanship left the audience calling for more. Their choice of a ballad encore was unusual but finished off the day quite nicely, in a peaceful and happy ambience.

Tarot – Marco Hietala, of Nightwish fame, fronts this classic style metal band that were widely requested on the Bloodstock forums. Marco’s voice is incredibly unique – a gravelly baritone that often spirals into a higher, distorted tenor. Contrasted with Tommi Salmela’s classic rock style falsetto, the two men’s voices criss-crossed into a tapestry of pure energy. Zachary Hietala’s melodic guitar and Janne Tolsa’s keys similarly supported each other, alternating lead that floated above Marco’s metronome-like bass. Despite tripping over Tommi and one point and falling down backward onto the stage, Marco’s playing was solid and his frontmanship is second to none with humorous stories between songs and enthusiastic interaction with the crowd. The members are all clearly at ease and comfortable with each other, laughing their way through the set and genuinely enjoying each other’s company onstage, interacting effortlessly and occasionally poking fun at each other in a light-hearted way. Tarot appeared to really enjoy playing Bloodstock and the overwhelming sensation of happiness swept over the crowd, who eagerly chanted for them to return.

Finntroll – Black folk metallers Finntroll are repeatedly one of the most requested bands on the Bloodstock forum. With two keyboardists and three guitarists (‘Trollhorn’ doubles), intricately intertwining melodies rolled forth at the speed of light, evoking images of Middle Earth or of days long gone by. Catchy melodies flowed easily over heavy guitars and several pits erupted at once when they played their signature tune ‘Trollhammaren’ with several crowd members dancing Irish jig-style. Windmilling instrumentalists added to the spectacle and Vreth’s growling vocals fit easily into the mix, loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to distract from the melodies cascading from the keys and guitars. While it would have been nice to see the band in full regalia (fake troll ears and all), they put in an exciting and energetic show.

Ihsahn – Black / progressive metal, Ihsahn (from Emperor stock) provided – at times – screaming, blistering riffs that exploded off the stage, with aggressive, growling vocals and melodic keyboards. The machine gun-like staccato of the drums carried the melody forward in these tracks. Contrasting, slower songs carried a sense of trepidation, supported by the rasping black metal inspired vocals.

Wintersun – Hotly anticipated by fans who feared that the band would pull out of the festival, as they have in the past, Finnish folk metallers Wintersun did not disappoint. Switching between lightning-fast, syncopated, tremolo-picked, euphoric riffs that burst from the stage and slower, sweeter melodies that evoked a sense of peace and sorrow, Wintersun truly showed their range as musicians. Enthusiastic frontmanship accompanied a tight set. Jari Mäenpää’s vocals provided a rougher contrast to the smoothness of the music; his clear enunciation meant that his lyrics could be easily understood. Solid double kick drumming from Kai Hahto added to the frenetic feeling of the faster songs, while providing articulation and accompaniment to the slower tunes. The melody lines are infectious and memorable, providing a testimonial to the fans that their pleas for Wintersun’s appearance have not been in vain.

Therion – If Wagner had Marshalls, he would have written this. Combining the very best elements from classic opera and heavy metal, Therion is the most innovative band I saw throughout the weekend. Each song told a story, ably pantomimed and staged by four talented vocalists. Samples added to the orchestral, operatic feeling of the music, in addition to a melodic flute solo. The set started off slowly with ballads, and the band’s new mezzo soprano vocalist (Linnéa Vikström – Thomas Vikström’s daughter) was introduced. Lori Lewis’ coloratura soprano easily soared over the top of the other three vocalists, providing descants that spiralled into the stratosphere in a clear, piercing tone that would make Sarah Brightman jealous. As the band moved to heavier songs, the instrumentalists struck traditional metal poses, headbanging and interacting with each other, which juxtaposed effectively with the vocalists’ theatrical performances. The pent-up energy of the crowd exploded. The best way to describe this performance would be as a Gothic rainbow of energy and sound – eclectic, powerful and amazing.

Rhapsody of Fire – Possibly the most technically accomplished guitarist in the metal scene (if not the world), Luca Turilli’s fingers of flame did not disappoint the thronging crowd. With such an accomplished musician in a band, it can happen that other musicians become overshadowed – however, this was distinctly not the case! Patrice Guers’ jackhammer-like bass seemed glued with industrial strength adhesive to Alex Holzwarth’s drums, over which the guitars could leapfrog. Fabio Lione’s vocals were strong and clear, like golden laser beam shooting over the crowd. Christopher Lee’s voice provided a suitably epic introduction. The inclusion of the Italian language ballad ‘Lamento Erocio’, while a strange choice, was a fantastic performance, delivered with sentiment and intensity that brought a tear to the eye. Finishing strong with the frenetic, harmonised ‘Emerald Sword’, Rhapsody of Fire’s performance lifted the mood in the audience to euphoric levels and left them begging for more.

Hammerfall – With a slightly odd set list that left out a number of old classics (‘Renegade’ for one), Hammerfall, nevertheless, gave an enthusiastic performance with a number of songs that got the audience singing along, including the Quiet Riot cover ‘Bang Your Head’. Joacim Cans’ voice was on top form and his easy nature with the audience created a lively, fun atmosphere of celebration. Changing between slower, heavier songs (‘Last Man Standing) and technical, intricate songs that sped faster than a speeding bullet, Hammerfall clearly demonstrated their range as musicians. As they ended with the anthemic ‘Let the Hammer Fall’, the 45 minute set seemed far too short.

Motorhead – A statement released after Bloodstock explained that the three-piece hard rock band had been suffering from a virus which explains why their performance was not up to the standard expected by their fans. Firebreathing girls added some spectacle and guitarist Phil Campbell did his best to take over frontman duties, offering an extended guitar solo. Drummer Mikkey Dee had to leave the stage at one point but returned to perform a phenomenal drum solo from his perch high above the stage. Disappointingly, the band finished 20 minutes early after a somewhat lacklustre performance – while this was explained in retrospect on the Bloodstock forums, it would have been preferable to have that explanation on the night because, after the quality of music heard all weekend, the disappointing act of the final headliner left the festival on a bit of a down note. If there had been an official explanation before or just after Motorhead’s performance, the crowd would have been grateful to the band for making the effort to come on and play, despite less than ideal circumstances, rather than disappointed and annoyed.

Overall, Bloodstock this year was the best Bloodstock I have attended in terms of organisation, variety of bands and atmosphere. Well done to the organisers and roll on BOA 2012!

Melissa Adams

Iron Maiden w/Airbourne @ Motorpoint Arena [Live Review]

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , , on 25th July 2011 by Nico Davidson

Band: Iron Maiden, Airbourne
Location: Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
Date: 24th July 2011

Airbourne and Iron Maiden – a Match ‘Maiden’ Heaven

Australian heavy metallers ‘Airbourne’ and home-grown titans of metal ‘Iron Maiden’ stormed Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena last night.  The sold-out stadium thrummed with the energy of thousands of metalheads – from very young to very old, from Maiden virgins (losing their ‘maidenheads’?) to veteran fans – all eagerly anticipating what was certain to be a night of metal that would never be forgotten.

Airbourne –

I feel genuinely sorry for any band who supports Iron Maiden – such is nature of most Maiden fans that if (through dark voodoo witchcraft) a Maiden support band was created with Janis Joplin and Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Jimi Hendrix on guitar, Mozart on keyboards and Cliff Burton on bass, the crowd would still watch with politeness and mild disinterest, wandering to and from the merch table and the food stalls, killing time until Maiden started.

However, Airbourne held the crowd’s attention and more – exploding onto the stage from the outset with ‘Raise the Flag’. As driving riffs, supported by heavy, thundering bass, flew toward the heavens, Joel O’Keeffe hurdled monitors, playing ferociously. Ably supported by David Roads and Justin Street on backing vocals, the chorus instantly incited the crowd, shouting ‘Raise the flag!’ with fists pumped high into the air.  Screaming scales throughout the solo and outro reminded the audience that, while the main riffs in this song sound simple, the band is made up of talented musicians whose guitar playing will tear your face off.

Slowing the pace down with ‘Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women’, Airbourne brandish their heavy rock influences both in the almost country rock-style build up but also in their stage show, with synchronised headbanging and guitar swaying.

Ryan O’Keeffe’s drumming is clear; he drives the tempo changes and adds some unexpected syncopation at times, which suggests that, while these guys are firmly rooted in classic hard rock and heavy metal, they aren’t bound by the expectations of the genre – they are willing to experiment and create their own identity.

Justin Street’s bass playing is solid as a rock, providing a strong foundation upon which David Roads and Joel O’Keeffe can build their pyramids of power chords under spiralling riffs and complex solos. Roads’ rhythm is animated and pounds along, giving the set a feel of consistent acceleration.

Joel O’Keeffe’s voice is like a laser – precise, strong , and cutting – capable of destroying cities or performing intricate surgery. He tactically uses it, oscillating easily between a powerful, classic rock style falsetto that appears to slice through the stage fog as it drifts down from the catwalk and a lower, gravelly baritone timbre that reverberates against the stadium walls.

Throughout their set (which continued – Steel Town; Diamond in the Rough; Blackjack; No Way but the Hard Way; Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast; Stand Up for Rock & Roll; Runnin’ Wild), Airbourne continued to prove themselves as future legends of rock, ready to receive the torch from the bands who established the genre (and clearly inspire their playing) begin to retire.

Iron Maiden

As the stage crew performed their duties, shrouded behind a mysterious black curtain, the atmosphere in the venue steadily climbed, zeppelin-like, toward the sky. The scent of beer and hot dogs pervaded the air and such was the excitement that even the quick line checks on the guitars and vocals brought cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. As the opening strains of UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ tantalised the ears of the waiting crowd, the sense of euphoria and anticipation reached the stratosphere.

The lights dimmed and ‘Satellite 15’ began. Frenetically flashing red lights and on-screen video melted with the surreal, progressive music, masking the removal of the black curtain and the reveal of the set. Behind the flashing red lights, all that could be seen of the set was a dark back cloth, studded with the pinprick lights of stars – a thousand points of light. This was mirrored in the crowd with the pale glow from mobile phones and digital cameras, ready to record the moment for posterity – or possibly for YouTube. (Good luck to Motorpoint with enforcing their ‘no cameras or recording devices’ policy!)

As the band crashed into ‘The Final Frontier’, the stage lights illuminated a set which can best be described as ‘retro-futuristic’ with white ‘communication’ towers either side and a grey semicircle which suggests a 2001-style satellite (labelled ‘S-15’ as a clear nod to the opening track). The starscape remained illuminated throughout tracks from The Final Frontier, though a number of dropcloths were used throughout the show to support and occasionally introduce the more classic Maiden tracks.  Throughout ‘The Final Frontier’ and the second song (‘El Dorado’) Steve Harris commanded the stage with his signature stance, using his bass like a rifle and pretending to shoot crowd members.  Janick Gers rested his heel upon the edge of the set as if he was stretching out his hamstring – and, judging by the marathon he proceeded to run on the Motorpoint stage, this is, most likely, exactly what he was doing!

The first of the old classics ‘Two Minutes to Midnight’ brought the crowd to a frenzy, desperately shouting ‘Two! Minutes! To midnight!’ as they press toward the stage. Dickenson strikes a good balance with this song, bringing the crowd in and allowing them to feel a part of the moment, while still singing most of the song himself.  It can be a temptation for bands as well established as Maiden (with a strong fan base who know their music) to allow their vocalist to become somewhat lazy and let the crowd sing most of their well-known songs – yet Dickenson remains in control the entire time.

‘The Talisman’ could easily become a muddy mess through the jangling, occasionally discordant beginning; however, Nico’s skilful drumming keeps the song moving forward and somehow the discord and non-standard timing… just works. It proves that Maiden are willing to keep changing, keep pushing themselves as musicians, keep progressing – rather than simply sticking to a tried and true formula.  ‘The Talisman’ also shows off Dickenson’s low bass range, proving that – despite being known for his screaming, soprano-like falsetto, he can provide just as much power in the bellows of the basement.

The first song introduced by Dickenson was ‘Coming Home’. He explained that whenever they go on a world tour, they always fly the same way – so that they are ‘coming home’. Dickenson again strikes a balance with the crowd – the audience feels as if it is a part of the Maiden community, with millions of people worldwide, without bordering on the cheese exhibited by other musicians who can often come across as a motivational speaker in their crowd interactions! Dickenson also assured the crowd – to wild applause – that, despite the album and tour being named The Final Frontier, Iron Maiden are not retiring.

For this reviewer, personally, the gig was really kick started as Iron Maiden revealed the dropcloth for and spoken introduction sample to ‘Dance of Death’.  The stage darkened to create a mysterious mood and Dickenson was illuminated in pink and orange dancing lights that suggested a mystical fire. The first tempo change in this song seemed to be slower than other live recordings of the song; however, this was very effective as it allowed for more time to establish the story and atmosphere. This was the first song in the set that was highly theatrical and Dickenson’s storytelling skills were ably supported by  the lighting – dramatically ending with Dickenson ‘blowing away’ the spirits, at which point the gold faded from the lighting palette and the band were bathed in blue light, throwing larger-than-life shadows against the dropcloth.

As the final strains of ‘Dance of Death’ faded, the dropcloth for ‘The Trooper’ was revealed. The audience’s raucous cheer was the entire introduction Maiden needed – the iconic, harmonised opening, perfectly synchronised, blasted throughout the arena as all four guitarists took centre stage. Dickenson’s mid-song costume change into classical British military regalia, along with triumphant waving of larger-than-life Union flags charged the atmosphere further and created a fevered air of celebration.

The dropcloth which suggests ‘The Wickerman’ was next to be revealed behind the set – and, again, the cheers of the crowd careened into the introduction. Strong, chugging guitars from Adrian Smith and Dave Murray drove the song forward, train-like, and built a bridge which brought the tempo down from ‘The Trooper’ to…

‘Blood Brothers’. Dramatically drenched in blood-red lighting and sentimentally introduced by referencing recent tragedies in Oslo and Japan, a sense of togetherness was created – without relying on references to an ‘army’ of fans, as so many other bands do. Bringing 13,500 people together in a sense of belonging and collective identity should be challenging – however, the anthemic chorus passionately delivered by all members of the band – and belted by all members of the crowd – created a sense of unity and wholeness which was reinforced by mobile phones being held high, swaying in time – the modern version of swinging a lighter in the air!

The final song of the slower portion of the programme takes the audience back to The Final Frontierwith ‘When the Wild Wind Blows’. Already feeling banded together from ‘Blood Brothers’, the band now creates a sense of intimacy during the plaintive atmosphere of the introduction, with precision harmony from the guitars and bass. So many Maiden songs are unfathomably complex, with riffs that intertwine like ivy and gallop faster and more frenetically than a racehorse. ‘When the Wild Wind Blows’ is the opposite – the simplicity of the guitars and vocals evokes a feeling of emptiness, innocence and sorrow backed by a thinly veiled passion. Inspired by the graphic novel ‘When the Wind Blows’ (which details the tragic subject of radiation poisoning from nuclear fallout), the lyrics overbrim with human emotion – sympathy, terror, pity, heartache. The circular nature of the song creates a sense of finality and though the themes fit into the futuristic ‘Final Frontier’ concept, there is a terrifying premonition that this could, one day soon, be very real. The audience becomes still, almost unmoving as the song concludes, before exploding with excitement for…

‘The Evil That Men Do’. Following the dramatically harmonised introduction, all guitarists – while energetic before – start to really come out of their shells. As I watch the musicians dashing back and forth across the stage, I can’t help but wonder if, like Michael Flatley of Lord of the Dance, the musicians in Maiden lose half a stone of body weight in each performance.

As the band ‘winds up’ to play ‘Fear of the Dark’, again, the tempo of the introduction felt more in keeping with the studio version than with live versions – however, as soon as the distortion kicked in with Dickenson’s powerful scream, the band returned to the delirious pace with which they had bombarded the rest of the set. This is the second piece which was highly theatrical and skilled camera work from the crew displayed Dickenson’s exaggerated facial expressions to the arena. Dashing back and forth upon the top of the set, he was upstaged by the appearance of the robotic ‘Eddie’ who arrived onstage to boisterous cheers. Gers took the opportunity to spend the remainder of the song repeatedly running between Eddie’s legs and around his back – to the great amusement of the crowd – which was emphasised by the display of the ‘Eddie Cam’, which gave the audience a clear point-of-view shot from Eddie’s perspective. Adrian Smith’s solo was delivered with a gargantuan grin as he leaned over the crowd, holding his guitar off to one side.  During this song in particular, it was obvious that the musicians in Iron Maiden love what they do and are genuinely thankful to their fans – who ensure that they have the best job in the world.

Ending the main set on the iconic ‘Iron Maiden’, the tumultuous pace continued. Gers, in particular, swung his guitar around his neck, played under his arm and behind his back, all while constantly dancing his way around the stage, his intricate footwork highlighted by his white trainers, aglow from the blacklights –all without missing a note.  Harris’s hands seem to positively fly around the neck of his bass, plucking the strings faster than the speed of sound. Through the lens of the onstage camera, his hands seemed like two spiders that had taken several amphetamines and then had a spider-sized cup of coffee. Eddie made another appearance here – this time as a larger-than-life animatronic creature who arose from behind the set and perused the arena, surveying the audience and band. Finishing on a legendary crash ending, McBrain shows his true skills, circling his oversized kit at a deranged pace, which was reflected by the electrical storm of lighting. As the guitarists threw their plectrums to the crowd, McBrain his drumsticks and Dickenson his sweat-covered hat (ew), the arena became a lion that roared for more.

Personally, I find the notion of encores irritating. The audience knows that the band has more songs – the band knows they have more songs – just play them! However, it has now become an expected convention of live music that headlining bands leave, wait for a shout and then come back to finish the set. Maiden judged the timing effectively, returning to stage after letting the tension build but not after so long that the audience lost momentum.
The first encore, ‘The Number of the Beast’ garnered high accolades from the crowd, complete with dramatic red lighting and an animatronic devil who crouched threateningly upon the set. Dickenson again proved his legendary lung capacity with his striking, theatrical scream that bridges the introduction and the main riff.  Straddling monitors in their symbolic poses, Maiden reaped more commendation from the crowd. From above, the sea of arms, clapping, waving, pulsating toward the stage, in time with the vigorous beat of the drums and bass, was reminiscent of the surface of an alien planet and reflected the earlier, futuristic theme of the evening.

The second encore, ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ was simply phenomenal. The passion in Bruce’s voice belies the terror of a man about to die, questioning God’s existence and motives. Similarly passionate playing creates the atmosphere of terror, placing the audience into the perspective of the persona of the song. More behind-the-back playing, swinging, twirling in circles from all band members encouraged an already enthusiastic crowd – they must have played the song thousands of times, yet still make it seem fresh, which shows the respect they have for their fans. Though the band has repeatedly played this song, each gig is someone’s first Maiden experience and for that reason, the band keeps their performances special. (Besides, if I had written a song as epic as ‘Hallowed’, I would want to play it thousands of times too!)

Happy, bouncy positivity ends the encore with the feel-good ‘Running Free’ and it is pleasing to see that, after so many years, Dickinson still introduces the band, giving everyone a time to shine. Metronomic drums and bass keep the rhythm going as the guitars and vocals seem to almost play, child-like, over the top.  Laughter and merriment reign throughout the dancing audience as the song finishes and the band retreat offstage – genuinely, this time.
As the exiting audience is reminded to ‘Always look on the bright side of life’, I personally left with a buoyed spirit – with metal in my heart and tinnitus in my ears.

Melissa Adams