The anticipation is almost palpable upon entering The Riverside this July evening, as upcoming bands from around the country (or at least the general vicinity) battle it out for a support slot at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air. Warm-up act Killshot (2.5/5) are quick to take to the stage, and attempt to inject some life into attendees with their brand of Anselmo-worship, and plenty of excerpts from the front man handbook, perpetually requesting that we “Make some fuckin’ noise”. This is followed by a rabble-rousing address from tonight’s judge, wishing the bands well, and laying out their mission statement; “Fuck your Downloads and your Sonispheres, ‘cos they’re only bothered about trendy music-video bands and fuckin’ money!”
Thus buoyed up on righteous indignation and surprisingly cheap booze, August 80 (0/5) begin the festivities with an energetic display from vocalist Matt, as he swings from lighting rigs like a demented chimp. As soon as he starts to sing however, you get the idea that perhaps this is the sum total of his talents as a front man, as he proceeds to whine away in an emasculated emo-esque fashion, much to the displeasure of a baying crowd of metal devotees. You really have to wonder how well they thought they would go down at an event like this, and whether they really thought they were in with a shot of making a Bloodstock bill populated with the likes of Morbid Angel and Immortal? To be brutally honest this performance is nothing short of cringeworthy in the circumstances, as voices break like adolescent boys’, and at one point we’re treated to a one man circle pit! Moving away from his dire vocal performance, the music on offer here really isn’t up to to much either; a fairly standard screamo sort of fare, totally uninspiring, especially considering these guys advertise themselves as prog-metal!
Having thoroughly failed to throw down any sort of gauntlet, it’s a welcome relief as Deathwing (3.5/5) take to the stage and commence their runaway train of debauched, booze-soaked, balls-out rock-n-roll. Unashamedly taking inspiration from Motorhead and Thin Lizzy, these boys seem much more appropriate for the bill, thundering along at breakneck speeds. In stark contrast to August 80 there are some wonderfully sleazy riffs, happy-face inducing solos and great catchy choruses on offer here. What’s more, Deathwing, more than any other band of the evening, manage to strike up a real rapport with the audience. Vocalist/bassist Rob really engaging through his banter with such gems as “thank you, you crazy drunken twats!” rather than churning out metal clichés by the dozen as subsequent acts do. They even treat us to an extensive instrumental outro on ‘Whiskey Wishing Well’ just to demonstrate that they’re not just a one-trick, 3-minutes, heads-down rock outfit.
Once again there’s a huge contrast between Deathwing and Cryptic Age (3/5), who are next to vie for that coveted Bloodstock slot. A female-fronted folk-infused symphonic metal outfit, they sound almost like Ensiferum meets Nightwish. On paper this sounds as if it could all end in tears, but there truly is something inherently fun in their performance, chock full of as much frilly widdling as you can shake a rune-engraved stick at. Unfortunately vocalist Jenny hasn’t quite got the soundman on her side, and her soaring pipes aren’t quite as evident as they might be. That said, she does a stellar job on keyboard duties, duelling away with guitarist Hallam, also employing some bizarre theramin-style effects into the bargain. Their somewhat unique brand of arpeggiated oompah seems to awaken the inner caveman in a similar way as the likes of Korpiklaani or Finntroll and it’s great to see the whole band thoroughly enjoying themselves, occasionally breaking into uncontrollable grins, seemingly at their own technical prowess!
You really have to take your hat off to those involved in organising this shindig in terms of variety as virtually every band of the evening has something totally different to offer than the one preceding them. This notion is apparent once more as Nottingham thrashers Metal Cross (4/5) limber up. Playing material reminiscent of Testament, but with vocal stylings similar to Belladona, these guys are a more than passable thrash act, treating the crowd to some scintillating shredding and some tasty dive-bombs. Furthermore, their riffs are good solid efforts, more than adequately stimulating the neck muscles. There are, however some ill-advised falsetto parts, which prove a little beyond guitarist/vocalist Kristian’s range. The real criticism of this act has to be in how little they seem to embrace the spirit of this event, though, barely giving the other bands time of day, it seems as though they might just believe their own hype a tad too much!
With a notably absent bass player, deathcore outfit Shadows Lie Within (2/5) follow. Their set passes without much incident, occasionally throwing in a nice meaty blastbeat and some laudable tremolo riffs. For the most part however, this is pretty run of the mill stuff, and nothing you won’t already see plastered across magazines and music channels virtually ad-nauseam. Ultimately at odds with the judge’s initial pep talk, crowd engagement falls somewhat flat, with the only moment of real anticipation culminating (shockingly) in a breakdown.
The final band to take their places on stage tonight are hotly tipped Leeds metalcore act Hostile Rising (2/5) who launch into their set with no shortage of aplomb. They break the cycle of the evening thus far, by playing material which sounds fundamentally similar to preceding band Shadows Lie Within, although somewhat groovier and choppier in terms of riffage. They seem to motivate the audience a little more, but I must confess I’m at a loss to explain the reason for this, as they seldom vary tempo apart from the odd inevitable breakdown. It must be owned, however that they do a good job at what they play, and you can’t question their technical ability, regrettable therefore that nothing here sounds particularly fresh.
This makes the judge’s decision somewhat mystifying, as eager crowds return from half finished cigarettes to be met with the announcement that Hostile Rising are tonight’s winners, and will go on to play Bloodstock! Admittedly there had been something of a pre-show buzz surrounding this act, and they reportedly draw a good crowd wherever they play (although tonight must have been something of an exception). No doubt Hostile Rising will put bums on seats but really considering this contest was meant to be about the underdog, this decision seems a little inconsistent.
August 80′s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/aug80
Deathwing’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/deathwingleeds
Cryptic Age’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/crypticage
Metal Cross’s Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/metalcrossuk
Shadows Lie Within’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shadowsliewithin?sk=info
Hostile Rising’s Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/hostilerising