With just over a week to go until 2011′s Bloodstock Open Air Metal Festival kicks off at Catton Hall in Derby, certain members of the OneMetal.com team are practically vibrating with anticipation of the feast of metal goodness that awaits them. In the first of a three-part series, Mike Perry highlights five of the acts on the festival bill that he’s most looking forward to witnessing. Rob McAuslan and Phil Whitehouse’s ‘Ones to Watch’ will follow shortly…
The Devin Townsend Project – Friday, Ronnie James Dio Stage
The word “genius” is often extremely overused, but few other superlatives can do Devin Townsend and his extremely varied canon sufficient justice. If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll also know that other words that could be used to describe him include “bat-shit” and “crazy”…
For example, take The Devin Townsend Project, DT’s latest venture (and ostensibly his current touring band, although his live show spans his entire career). It’s a four-album curve that showcases the full range of Mr Townsend’s ability, ranging from downbeat rock (2009′s Ki) to pop (Addicted from the same year) through to new-age (The recently released Ghost) and to, well, possibly the most insane metal album ever committed to CD (the frankly ludicrous Deconstruction).
His previous work isn’t half bad either; from Ocean Machine right up to his last solo outing before the DTP, Ziltoid the Omniscient, Devin’s shown that he’s capable of turning his hand to pretty much anything. Considering his almost flawless back catalogue and his reputation for putting on a great live show, if you’re watching any other band while he’s playing at Bloodstock, then I would question why you’re at Bloodstock at all and not down the road at V Festival instead.*
*I am aware that V is now the week after Bloodstock, but then that would spoil the joke, wouldn’t it?
The Devin Townsend Project’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dvntownsend
At the Gates – Sunday, Ronnie James Dio Stage
Often imitated but never matched, melodic death metal godfathers At the Gates are inarguably one of the most influential metal bands of the last 15 or so years. Their landmark 1995 release Slaughter of the Soul is rightly considered one of the greatest metal albums of all time (not just by me; go ask any self-respecting metalhead…), and even now, it sounds fresh and current, and infinitely better than most of the bands that have since attempted to ape their sound.
Having originally split up in 1996, the band reformed in 2008 for a handful of festival shows, including a slot at Bloodstock, which at the time, was supposed to be a final farewell tour. However, they obviously enjoyed playing together so much that they’re coming back to once again lay waste to Catton Hall; and, if the 2008 show is anything to go by, it’s surely going to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Considering they’ve already been and gone twice before, this could well be the last chance you get to see them, so make sure you check them out.
As excited as I am for this, it does, however, mean I’m going to have to save my pennies for another “final tour” t-shirt now…
At The Gates’ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AtTheGatesOfficial
Xerath – Thursday, Sophie Lancaster Stage
If you happen to arrive on the Thursday (and why wouldn’t you? That’s when the fun begins, after all…), then you should head to the Sophie Lancaster Stage to check out London-based tech metallers Xerath. Their first album, I, released in 2009, was simply brilliant, and gained the band the plaudits they rightfully deserved, while their second effort, the imaginatively titled II, released a couple of months ago, looks set to propel them even further into the spotlight, such is the near-unanimous praise that it’s been receiving.
If this band has so far passed you by, then to sum up, think John Williams film scores meets the crushing and polyrhythmic technicality of Meshuggah. It’s epic (in the most literal sense of the word), symphonic, progressive, experimental, brutal, thrashy, groovy, “djenty” (if you people insist on using that word), and most importantly, bone-shakingly heavy. Now, if that doesn’t sound like an intriguing prospect at the very least, then I really don’t know what does…
Xerath’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/xerathuk
Spires – Sunday, New Blood Stage
Like Opeth? Of course you do. Then chances are you might like Spires, who, like the aforementioned band, have taken death metal and progged and jazzed it up almost beyond recognition, but still manage to sound as heavy as their more straight-up genre peers. They’ve been quietly making a name for themselves as one of the most solid and consistent bands on the circuit in their native North West, and, if there’s any justice in the world, their set at Bloodstock should hopefully spread the word of Spires much further across the country.
I first chose them for this list on the strength of seeing them live just the once; however, having listened to them again in the process of writing this piece, I’ve discovered that I like them even more than I thought I did. This may be down to the very obvious influence of Opeth (a personal favourite of mine); however, there’s more to this band’s sound than just that, with elements of other prog metal luminaries such as Cynic and Atheist coming through as well. What’s more, they’re incredibly tight live, something that not all overtly technical bands can pull off, so definitely worth checking out if you can.
Spires’ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SpiresOfficial
Bludvera – Saturday, New Blood Stage
Liverpool-based Bludvera earned their place at Bloodstock this year by quite rightly triumphing in the North West Metal to the Masses regional final. While I wasn’t there to see them crowned champions, I was lucky enough to catch them in one of the preceding heats, during which they resoundingly thrashed (pun intended) all the other challengers with their spot-on old-school revival sound that’s part Slayer, part Kreator, and all awesome.
Depending on when the New Blood Stage finishes for the evening, they may possibly clash with some band from Norway called Immortal or something. But, if last year is anything to go by, then they should be finished long before the Sons of Northern Darkness take to the stage, so if, like me, you’re partial to a bit of thrash, then you could do a lot worse than watching these guys headlining the third stage on the Saturday and head-banging yourself senseless for half an hour or so.
Bludvera’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Bludvera
Bloodstock Open Air Metal Festival 2011′s Website: http://www.bloodstock.uk.com