- Words by Sarah Stubbs and Faye Coulman
THE SHAMELESS ELITIST'S GUIDE TO BLOODSTOCK '19: PART II
Still dismayed to the sullied depths of your blackened heart by the domination of Dad rock, stoner sludge and feel-good folk and power anthems in this year’s Bloodstock line-up? Never fear! For the second part of our Shameless Elitist’s Guide, Dark Matter have once again put on our wellies and nose pegs to wade through the swampy quagmire and meticulously select the choicest morsels of brutal death, raging thrash and grim obsidian black metal to satisfy your most raven appetites. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully we’ve demonstrated that a fair amount of gems can be found amidst the chaff. You’re welcome!
STANDOUTS: 'Stormblåst', 'Dimmu Borgir', 'Gateways', 'Council of Wolves and Snakes', 'Puritania', 'Interdimensional Summit'
SOUNDS LIKE: Emperor, Cradle of Filth, Behemoth
SIGNED WITH: Nuclear Blast
Titans of symphonic black metal Dimmu Borgir have not just broken every boundary, but stamped them into submission. With roots in the original frostbitten Norwegian scene and influenced initially by such tyrants as Bathory, Celtic Frost and Mayhem, Dimmu’s first few releases were amidst the finest raw examples of the ‘pure’ black metal sound, the magnificent album Stormblåst reaching new heights of bleak blackened brilliance. However, the ever-evolving Dimmu soon moved into more progressive pastures, daringly forging ahead with their own untethered mix of doom, industrial and elements of classical opera which nevertheless has solid foundations in the bone-chilling soundscapes of their earlier material.
Although dramatically changing their style has led to accusations of ‘selling out’ for commercial gains, Dimmu Borgir remain undaunted by such criticisms and the sheer power and skill of the resulting awe-inspiring sublimities can’t be denied. An addictive, spirited fantasia of ominous, striking chords and descending, chasm-like riffs enveloped in billowing, jet black melodies echoing with the infamous Shagrath’s demonic cackling vocals, the music is so savagely beautiful it sends shivers down the spine.
Prepare yourself for quite the epic ride as these battle-scarred rebels take to the main stage on Sunday. Daubed in obscene amounts of grotesque corpse paint and heavily clad in their signature armour of toughened leather, this intimidating troupe will make your soul soar with their genre-defying, transcendent lyrical majesty.
SOUNDS LIKE: Suffocation, Cattle Decapitation, Anaal Nathrakh
STANDOUTS: 'Deep Red', 'Vespertine Decay', 'Termination Redux'
SIGNED WITH: Century Media
Top tip: When considering what to call your band, always go for name that begins with the letter ‘A’, in order to guarantee being the first thing music fans will notice when browsing potential purchases in a record shop. Such was the inspired thinking applied by founding frontman Sven de Caluwé when settling on a suitable moniker for the endlessly brutalising, grind-encrusted abomination that goes by the name of Aborted. Fast forward some twenty years, and it turns out that, when the band in question possesses the sort of rare, brutally astonishing talent that countless metal musicians spend entire lifetimes fruitlessly chasing, such crafty marketing tactics are, all things considered, a tad superfluous.
Random band trivia aside, Aborted’s two decade-long career has proved to be one of relentlessly prestigious proportions, despite an unprecedented number of line-up changes and reshuffles since the band started out back in 1995. Indeed, it’s perhaps this constant streamlining and refining of the band's unique sonic formula that, over the expansive course of nine studio albums, has been so instrumental in forging their presently unparalleled mix of pulverising brutality and insanely intricate technical prowess. With 2003’s ‘Goremaggedon’ opening up groundbreaking new levels of global exposure and critical acclaim, Aborted fast became known as one of the finest new contenders of the ‘brutal death metal’ scene. But, in the years that followed, this ever-evolving Belgian extreme metal crew would soon rapidly outgrow such narrowly prescriptive genre tags.
Fusing demented extremes of manically accelerating aggression and pulverising brute force with a host of intensely chilling blackened atmospherics, 2016's 'Retrogore' marked the beginning of a truly extraordinary and genre-defying new era. Having pushed and progressed its increasingly technical and atmospheric traits still further with 2018 epic ‘TerrorVision’, this ingenious blend of ripping, deliciously dark extreme metal and richly nostalgic ’80s horror trappings saw an electrifying live debut in the capital at the tail-end of 2018. And now, in August 2019, Aborted are finally set to return to UK shores to spectacularly decimate Bloodstock's illustrious Ronnie James Dio stage in what's guaranteed to be one of the most brutal, deeply disquieting highlights of the entire weekend. See you down the front!
CRADLE OF FILTH
SOUNDS LIKE: Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Belphegor
STANDOUTS: 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', 'Her Ghost in the Fog'
SIGNED WITH: Nuclear Blast
On Saturday afternoon, head over to the main stage to experience the rogue rock stars of the metal world. Since forming in 1991, the riotous, fantastical and twisted Cradle of Filth have gone from strength to strength, imaginatively mashing up the atmospheric, first wave black metal of Celtic Frost and Bathory with the theatrics of Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper, and the epic force of classically-infused symphonic metal to utterly defy genre.
Rascally, infamous vocalist Dani Filth and his fiendish troupe revel shamelessly in this exuberant excess of styles and are arguably inspired more by the darker side of literature than any particular musical convention - think early/Victorian era Gothic novels and penny dreadfuls, Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the Brothers Grimm, HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. Add in some vampiric elements from European folklore and all the schlocky histrionic melodrama of Hammer horror films, with overtly sexual imagery and of course a huge dollop of Satanism present mostly for shock value, and you get the metal equivalent of gorging on a dozen chocolate-laden cream cakes all in one sitting.
And like the most intense of sugar rushes, the resulting pandemonium races through the veins like an opium-induced night terror. As fast-paced rollicking drums, screeching rock guitars and galloping riffs compete alongside maudlin melodies and syrupy dark chords, Filth’s inimitable raw banshee howls are blended with lachrymose vocals of operatic splendour, creating a decadent, yet skilfully crafted, feast of cheesy overblown Gothic romance.
In a similar way to Marilyn Manson and other such debauched left-field acts, Cradle have received snotty disapproval from up-their-own-arse metal purists for the way they tend to court the mainstream, but let’s face it, they really couldn’t give a crap what anyone thinks apart from their fans and the fact remains they are just so much wicked fun. One thing is for certain when you watch Cradle cavorting about live on stage – you won’t be bored.
STANDOUTS: 'Roswell 47', 'Eraser', 'Slave to the Parasites'
SOUNDS LIKE: Kataklysm, At the Gates
SIGNED WITH: Nuclear Blast
As Bloodstock powers up for its final day and the Sunday blues start to kick in, head over to the main stage for a pulverising treat. There’s nothing more delicious of a festival afternoon than some satisfying Swedish death metal and hardened veterans Hypocrisy certainly deliver on that score. Inspired by the flourishing Florida scene back in the good old 90s, the band have been blast-beating on and off for the past three decades.
While their classic early albums bear all the clawed trademarks of the traditional death metal style, recently the music has ventured deeper into melodic death territory. Although some of the lyrics have got seriously weird - exploring the paranormal and alien conspiracy theories - the resulting extreme sound is huge enough to rise above the questionable themes. As the ground shakes from the twisting, agile riffs, crashing waves of synth and hailstorms of hair-trigger drums, prepare yourself for some monstrous mosh-pit action.
SOUNDS LIKE: Akercocke, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel
STANDOUTS: 'Rising of the Lights', 'Beyond the Call of Emptiness
SIGNED WITH: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
The fact that word Damim loosely translates as the Hebrew for ‘bloodshed’ goes no small distance to illustrating the sheer, face-melting ferocity that characterises this rapidly rising London quartet. But despite being deliciously rich in adrenaline-fuelled lashings of abrasive thrash and bone-chilling black metal, it fast becomes keenly apparent that this is no simple, uncomplicated exercise in aggression.
Effortlessly weaving agile, lacerating flourishes of guitar and meticulously measured staccato blasts in amongst dense layerings of pulverising aggression, Damim was first conceived in the year 1997 by Akercocke talent, Nathanael Underwood. Since then, the band has undergone immeasurable changes and refinements to its once comparatively primitive early sound, evolving into increasingly more refined and technical territories while, in the same breath, compromising none of the raw, thrash-oriented intensity for which they’ve long been renowned.
Released to a glowing critical reception last month, third album ‘A Fine Game of Nil’ finds these London aggressors at the crowning pinnacle of their technically ingenious powers. And with fresh material tailor-made for a relentlessly thrilling and intense live experience, these seasoned performers are guaranteed to flawlessly deliver on all fronts.
SOUNDS LIKE: Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Anthrax, Sepultura
STANDOUTS: 'Trivialization of Murder', 'Conflict', 'Theater of Despair'
SIGNED WITH: Hostile Media
If you missed Slayer at Download and you’re still sore about it, thrash-soaked Violblast’s Sophie set might go a little way towards easing that particularly painful, still raw wound. Worth checking out as a heavier alternative to the main stage, these accomplished, hard-working newbies, hailing from sunny Barcelona, already have two successful full lengths to their name and have been blasting their way across much of Europe to try and win more converts to their powerful, shredding sound. An ear-shattering, roof-raising riot of boisterous, speedy tempos, aggression-spiked vocals and an assault battery of pounding accelerated beats balanced with some more thoughtful elements of groove, it’s a travesty that these slick Spaniards are not better known.
Missed Part I of The Shameless Elitist's Guide? Check it out right here