Opinion Piece

Bloodstock Open Air – Don’t focus on the headliners – dig deep for the real gems

With Bloodstock Open Air just a week and a half away, the focus remains (as with all festivals) on the artists that the organisers have managed to book as headliners. This year has been a challenge with the bands unable to perform or travel as a result of the ongoing pandemic. We’ve lost Behemoth (but only until 2022) and Mercyful Fate, who seemed like a real ‘must see’ moment had to decline as well leaving thrash gods Kreator to step in and save the Saturday night.

But does it matter? Yes, the headliners will probably help sell the tickets but in a year ravaged by COVID-19 and live gigs non existent, is it any surprise that Bloodstock has all but sold-out this year? People are desperate for a gig and would probably have come in droves if the organisers had booked Jered Threatin to headline on the Saturday night.

We need a festival, we need a live gig, we need Bloodstock and for that reason, people will be far more willing to investigate all of the acts on the bill across the 5 (yes 5!) days. Running from Wednesday this year and making full use of the smaller stages, the 5 day event has some brilliant acts on the cards and many that you may well have never heard of.

Whilst we could break down them all by genre, style, impact, history and more, we have instead pulled from the lower cards, some of the bands we think deserve your attention. Pretty much everyone is aware of who Judas Priest, Devin Townsend and Kreator are and the same can be be said of some of the headliners and acts on the Sophie Lancaster Stage, where bands like festival regulars, Evil Scarecrow, Napalm Death, Onslaught and more are playing.

So as we delve deeper and look at the the new blood on offer to metal fans from around the world, here are our key choices for those bands we may or may not know much about:

Wednesday 11th August

First up we have

Raised By Owls

Raised By Owls is an extreme metal band spawned from the depths of Derbyshire. As such their video for ‘Satanists on T’Yorkshire Moors’ sees the band embracing the quaint northern traditions of terriers, ale and pubs whilst in full corpse paint. A far cry from those Finnish bands that film in the remote northern forests and disused quarries of Finland (before getting lost and having to call in search and rescue). Fusing together musical elements from various strains of metal and imbuing the lyrics with a humour moulded by misspent youths lived in rural England. It’s the sort of humour that has worked for the likes of Evil Scarecrow so look out for these guys on the Sophie Lancaster stage as the festival opens on the Wednesday.

With influences including Behemoth, Carcass, Napalm Death, and The Black Dahlia Murder, it is obvious as to what to expect from Raised By Owls. Their music is a no holds barred assault intended to pay homage to their influences as much as it is to purvey their own brand of warped comedy: the band strives to create technically challenging music that conveys their irreverent perspective of the world and they do so to great effect.

Thursday August 12th

As the World Dies

With all of the shit going on in the world at the moment, how can we not mention a band with a name like ‘As The World Dies’ ? If ever a band named summed up the last 18 months it’s this one.

A new breed of Progressive Death Metal from Birmingham, England… which of course we all know is the home of Metal! Combining talents of Memoriam, Pemphigoid, ex Ashen Crown and Victormonica. If you’re not hooked by now, then you should be. Memoriam alone sold the band to me.

As The World Dies was re-ignited in 2018 by Scott Fairfax (Memoriam) and Chris McGrath (ex- Ashen Crown) after years of jamming together. They are joined by Ash Cotterill (Pemphigoid), Bill Richmond (Pemphigoid) and Jay “Hellfire” Price (Victormonica).

If you like your metal with a sense of melody, brutality and a sound that offers evolution and progression rather than the tried and tested formulae then this is for you. If you like them you have a debut album to listen to this year AND you can claim you were at their first ever festival appearance.

Ashen Crown

A personal favourite and whilst they’ve been around for 4-5 years now, Ashen Crown deserve some love, some support and definitely your attention when they hit the Sophie Lancaster stage on the Thursday.

Formed in late 2016, Ashen Crown are another Midlands based Metal band, proving beyond a doubt that there’s something in the water up there. If you’re a fan of Bolt Thrower, At the Gates, Benediction, Slayer, Obituary and early 90’s Sepultura then stand up, roar, cheer and bounce to what will become a regular fixture on the festival circuit in the coming years.

Former Metal to the Masses winners from 2017, Ashen Crown then delivered a hugely successful major-festival-debut, laying waste to a packed-out New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Festival 2017, they’ve gone on to play Hammerfest, Uprising, HRH Metal Meltdown, Manor-Fest and Amplified. Delivering hard hitting tracks, filled with raw energy, the band certainly pride themselves on getting the pit well and truly moving wherever they play!

Debut album `Obsolescence` was released in November 2019 with a lyric video for the lead single `Blood Beneath Us` (video above) receiving rave reviews from both media and fans.

Friday August 13th

Pearler

Bloodstock may well be known for putting on some of the most brutal and destructive metal acts on the planet in front of rabid metal fans but they also mix it up very very well and ensure all tastes are catered for. I’m a sucker for a tune and some melody but without having to descend into the the fiery pit and be condemned to an eternity of Journey. There are limits…

Providing the tune, the melody and retaining the heavy are Pearler. A superb slice of proper music and the sort of tune that appeals to all. You can be as black or death metal as you want but I’m watching you and your foot is tapping, don’t lie!

These festival veterans have attended Bloodstock as fans from the days of the Derby Assembly Rooms to the 1st Bloodstock Open Air event and all that followed. For them to be performing here is huge and helps the festival continue to grow year on year.

Pearler sum up their music very, very succinctly.

“Remember the greatest nights of your life, the greatest ride, the best song you’ve ever heard, the most amazing meal you ever ate, the finest trip you’ve ever been on, the moment you saw the most beautiful creature you ever seen, the greatest pint you’ve ever drunk…”

If you want to add to that list “the moment you saw Pearler for the first time” then make sure you check them out on the New Blood Stage on Friday.

Severenth

Severenth are a vibrant, tech-infused adaptation of Nu Metal and can be heard on the New Blood Stage on Friday afternoon. They’ve been playing together for several years having formed in North Wales/Chester in 2007. With performances at Wacken festival, Hammerfest and HRH Ibiza already under their belt, a US tour and the accolade coming from winning Playmusic’s best unsigned metal act award means they were quite the hot property at the time.

As with all things, they don’t always last and the band sadly disbanded in 2013, but sense prevailed and now, Severenth are back with a new upcoming album and a stage show more vicious than ever.

Saturday August 14th

A prestigious weekend slot, for that moment when the crowd really swells and the festival is in ‘full on’ mode is a dream for many of the bands on the bill. Some have been playing for years, others are fresh out of the blocks but there’s no denying that the buzz from a packed crowd on a hot sunny festival weekend is a dream many of us would love to experience.

For those of us on the other side of the barrier, watching the acts over the weekend, we would recommend people check out the following:

First up, a band whose logo warrants a picture rather than text:

Sometimes we all need a bit of colour. If metal lives by it’s blackness, clothing, sound, image, then there has to be room for some party colours and Dunfermline’s idiotic rockers Party Cannon have somehow taken brutal slamming death metal and made it suitable for a 5 year old’s birthday party [maybe].

Dubbing their unique style as ‘Party Slam’, Party Cannon have combined the brutality of bands like Devourment and Gorgasm with the grinding party vibes of bands like Gutalax – pushing the already ridiculous genre to new and obscene grounds.

They’ve been around long enough to make waves and their debut EP ‘Partied In Half’ is now considered an iconic release within the slam death metal scene. Party Cannon’s second set of studio output is set for release sometime this year.

If you need a respite from the effects of the sun and the beer during the day, well tough shit… The band have decided that the IQ at this festival has been too high for too long so they’re finally here to do something about it.

You’ll walk away from a Party Cannon set with a nose bleed and far fewer grey cells between the ears than when you walked into the tent.

Cottonmouth

Formed in late 2017, Cottonmouth have spent the time give to them crafting their sound and solidifying a great line-up of talented musicians with the ability to write catchy and solid hard rock songs. With original material that meets many inspirations, Cottonmouth provide soaring leads, dynamic vocals and thundering rhythms that deliver a great live performance in any venue.

With a series of well received singles released in 2019 & 2020 on all major platforms, a debut album is on the horizon.

A definite underground metal success story, they’re now signed with Forge Music Group Management Roster who clearly see what we do in the band and with multiple small venue live shows generating a real vibe about them I think Cottonmouth have something to look out for.

Catch them on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage on Saturday.

Sunday August 15th

Black Spiders

Ho-lee-Shit – They’ve come back. Fuzz kings of the north, Black Spiders called it a day after two fantastic albums and much to the despair of fans, it seemed like that was it…

It was June 2017, the Sheffield rock beasts, took a well thought out decision and went on hiatus, waving goodbye to an army of loyal fans with some sonically charged sold out shows at London’s House Of Vans and Sheffield’s Corporation, before retreating into the shadows to lick their wounds and shed their skins. It caused a huge ripple in the rock and metal scene because the band seemed to be on the cusp of greatness.

But all was not lost… During the summer of 2019, the seeds of a Black Spiders return were planted, when singer and guitarist Pete Spiby began floating the idea with guitarist Ozzy Lister, to start writing new material. Before they knew it, they had amassed the best part of 40 songs in a very short period of time which they honed and whittled down to album contenders, ready to hit the studio…..

With original drummer ‘Tiger’ Si Atkinson no longer available, a surprising turn of events saw Planet Rock DJ Wyatt Wendels occupy the drum stool. Without having played with him, and in some cases, never having met him, they demoed some of the songs through the wonders of modern technology and booked the studio (Axis Studios in Doncaster) with producer and engineer Matt Elliss, who had recorded both previous Black Spiders albums.

The end result is album three, one that was released on vinyl as part of the 2021 Record Store Day. My copy is on regular rotation!

Liberty Lies

With eps showcasing early influences from the likes of Guns n Roses, Shinedown & Alter Bridge, the band’s debut album, ‘Reflections’ saw them expand their sound to incorporate more progressive elements and it was an album I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing.

Follow up ‘It’s The Hope That Kill You’ with singles , ‘United Nothing’ , ‘Are You Listening’ and ‘Mouth Breathers’ all receiving international radio play proved that the band had found their niche and the world was ready to listen to them.

If you’ve not come across the band before, then do check out an act that warrants a spot in your music collection.

All that and no headliners….

It would be easy to wax lyrical about so many bands playing at the festival this year. Headliners sell tickets but the under-card MAKE a festival. Don’t just sit in front of the main stage all weekend, put in the effort and check out the other stages. You might just see the first festival appearance of the biggest band in the world (to come). 

COVID 19

There are considerations and health and safety comes first – please read the rules and the logic behind it here:

 HEALTH AND SAFETY FIRST – BLOODSTOCK AND COVID-19

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