- Words by Faye Coulman and Sarah Stubbs
THE SHAMELESS ELITIST'S GUIDE TO BLOODSTOCK '19: PART I
Does the thought of basking in the bright August sunshine listening to good-time rock ’n’ roll make you spontaneously dry heave faster than a three day-old, overflowing Portaloo? Had it up to here with perky, arena-filling ‘life metal’ killing your grim ’n’ frostbitten buzz year after year? Yep, us too. So, for the second year running, allow Team Dark Matter to help you weed out the weak stuff and catch some of the most stirringly savage extreme metal highlights set to grace the hallowed grounds of Bloodstock Open Air this year.
STANDOUTS: 'Ze Nigmar', 'Enuma Elish', 'Fire God and Fear'
SOUNDS LIKE: Immortal, Behemoth, Septicflesh
SIGNED WITH: Season of Mist
Those Blood-stockers lucky enough to begin the festivities on Thursday should make a beeline for Rotting Christ’s headline Sophie set. On what is usually something of dead night, lost to the inevitable piss-up following the rigours of tent-pitching and hours-long queueing for wristbands, for those who take a gander these Greek metal titans’ dusky blackened sound, and catchy choruses that you’ll want to growl along to, will be the perfect inky aperitif to the carnage ahead.
Although starting out initially as a grind-core unit in the late 80s, Rotting Christ soon started to take inspiration from the newly emerging black metal slowly spreading it’s insidious, corruptive stain across Europe’s underground scene. No strangers to controversy, a large part of the band’s allure was in part down to their very black metal condemnation of religion; for them, Christianity, and all such creeds, are ‘rotting’. Indeed, their ethos is so vehemently anti-religious that bands have refused to be booked with them, and they have even been arrested for suspected terrorism. However, their music goes beyond the usual tired satanic tropes trotted out by more mediocre purveyors of the genre and has proven a richly accomplished and ever-inventive kind of beast that is no less than visionary. As they cunningly crafted the dark and twisty gothic style that is distinctly Rotting Christ, the two brothers at the heart of the band, Sakis (vocals/guitar) and Themis Tolis (drums), quickly became the stuff of legend, instrumental in defining the budding Greek black metal sound.
The band’s influences range from doom to industrial metal, and with several successful album releases behind them, their ingenious, infernal inventiveness is seemingly endless as they set rich, baritone vocals and wickedly subverted liturgical chants against opulent, velveteen atmospherics enhanced by epic chords, lunatic drums and plunging riffs. If a bunch of hell’s demons got together and formed a weekly choir group, this is no doubt how they would sound.
STANDOUTS: 'Ymr', 'Snjóva', 'Ísuð'
SOUNDS LIKE: Enslaved, Taake, Kampfar
SIGNED WITH: Dark Essence
“We’ll be around creating music from our hearts until we die,” Norwegian black metal visionaries Helheim once passionately proclaimed. And now, nearly a full three decades since their inception back in 1992, the raw, heartfelt sincerity underlining this impassioned pledge can be heard, seen and, indeed, tangibly felt at every blistering, stirringly evocative turn of their illustrious back catalogue. With prestigious roots in the now-legendary second wave of Norwegian black metal, Helheim wasted little time in evolving and progressing their sound into the stuff of savage, stirringly evocative excellence, having borrowed their title from the Norse underworld of the same name. Since then, their evolution into the 21st century has proved a constant source of excitement and fascination for listeners across the extreme music spectrum, with each painstakingly crafted opus displaying its own set of unique musical traits wholly independent of its predecessors.
Numbering perhaps the Norwegian collective’s most stunning and compositionally inventive offering yet, 2019 epic ‘Rignir’ sees ripping extremes of aggression collide with a darkly introspective wealth of sweepingly epic, frostbitten atmospherics. And from viciously acerbic vocal contortions and sinewy layerings of icily abrasive tremolo through to dusky whorls of mind-altering, fuzzed-out distortion that hold the unsuspecting listener rapt in their coldly inexorable embrace, precious few live experiences compare to the endlessly exhilarating pleasure of witnessing these deathly anthems in motion.
“Helheim are really looking forward to play the Bloodstock festival as we not often play on UK soil,” reports vocalist and bass player V’gandr. “We will serve the audience a cocktail of songs from the previous nine years. Though we’re one of the smaller bands on the bill we still hope people will turn up and make the night unforgettable. See you all there and remember that Heathendom is resistance!"
SOUNDS LIKE: Nile, Scarab STANDOUTS: 'Pyramid Slaves', 'Beyond The Path of Amenti' SIGNED WITH: Listenable Records From the ancient dust and sun-scorched heat of the desert comes a mesmerising collective whose every crippling, marble-weighted blast and lacerating spiral of reverb abounds with all the gilded awe and majesty of the gods. First forged in Cairo, Egypt back in 1998 out of a shared admiration for such iconic heavyweights as Dissection, Death and At The Gates, Crescent’s early beginnings in orthodox black metal soon began to give way to an increasingly diverse and intricately crafted sound. Seamlessly melding classic elements of black and death metal with the traditional scales and instrumentation of their ancestral forefathers, the release of 2014’s ‘Pyramid Slaves’ brought with it groundbreaking new heights of technical complexity and apocalyptic vision. Underpinning electrifying feats of insanely detailed fretwork, blackly grandiose atmospherics and pure, brain-liquefying aggression, it’s easy to see why this impeccably executed long-player so quickly captivated listeners on its release back in 2014. With this deliciously vicious epic catapulting the fast-rising collective into the thick of a major, international touring cycle, the years that followed have seen Crescent steadily building their ever-growing profile alongside some of the finest names in extreme music. Having decimated audiences up and down the globe from Germany’s Wacken to Norwegian extreme metal haven Inferno, August 2019 sees the Egyptians finally set to make their maiden voyage to UK shores. "Performing at Bloodstock also represents our debut appearance in the UK!" comments the band. "So it will be a massive experience for everyone. We have had a loyal fanbase in the UK for some time now so it's about time we make it there, and it makes sense that the first time is at the biggest metal festival in the country. This will also be complemented by a massive show in London, supporting Deicide and Krisiun. We will be playing a set from our latest album 'The Order of Amenti', and a fiery ritual/performance should be expected. Once we get on stage, hell breaks loose and an Egyptian blackened storm is unleashed. We are looking forward to leaving our mark on the UK Extreme Metal scene."
SOUNDS LIKE: Mayhem, Dark Funeral
STANDOUTS: 'From Once Beneath the Cursed'
SIGNED WITH: Independent
From brimstone-scorched bursts of ragged, manically accelerating aggression and pulverising blasts through to intricately woven lashings of frostbitten tremolo, you’d be hard pressed to track down an entity more gloriously blackened than this freshly-forged Brummie collective. Since formally establishing a full, tautly cohesive line-up back in 2016, Master’s Call were quick to cement their growing reputation as a viciously compelling live spectacle, with their ritualistic blend of blackly immersive audio and Satanic, candlelit visuals entrancing audiences across the UK extreme metal circuit.
Fresh from decimating stages up and down the country, the dawn of 2019 saw the Black Country quintet unleash debut EP ‘Morbid Black Trinity’ to a unanimously glowing critical reception. Revelling in explosive stints of bristling, raggedly abrasive thrash and crushingly expansive grooves that lure the unsuspecting listener deep into a nightmarish netherworld far removed from this earthly realm, this impeccably crafted EP is as deliciously vicious as it is darkly transportative. And with these intensely sinister energies finding their ultimate, violently mesmerising manifestation in the ritualistic throes of their notoriously wicked live stage show, Master’s Call are, by all accounts, guaranteed to make one hell of an anticipated debut at BOA later this month.
“We can’t wait to bring our blackened chaos to Bloodstock this year!” the band enthuses. “As attendees of the festival over the years we are certainly honoured to now be stepping up to the plate as a performing artist. Expect an especially visceral performance of our EP songs with some forthcoming material. If you are into the more extreme and darker sides of heavy metal then it will be worth checking us out!"
Itching to know which bands made the cut in Part II of our BOA festival special? Click HERE to find out.