- Words by Faye Coulman and Scott Emery
Anthems From the Abyss #9: The Bloodstock Edit
Just a few months back, many of us would have balked at the possibility of an actual, real-life gig, let alone an immense, five-day long music festival that famously draws heavy metal fanatics from every corner of the UK and beyond. But while the ruinous double whammy of Brexit and a second national lockdown earlier this year may have appeared to be the final nail in the coffin as far as the much longed-for return of live music was concerned, the relentlessly industrious and dedicated organisers of our beloved Bloodstock Open Air have spectacularly defied all odds, with the 20th anniversary outing of the UK’s heaviest live music event due to kick off in a matter of days. And in true Dark Matter style, we’ve been painstakingly scouring the festival’s immense line-up listings to bring you some the most brutal and darkly compelling underground gems soon set to decimate stages over a five day-long frenzy of glorious, eardrum-pulverising extremity. And so, before our merry crew of metal scribes departs for the sacred grounds Catton Hall in just a few short days, allow us to present a very special ninth edition of Anthems From the Abyss... The Bloodstock Edit.
Among the rich plethora of raggedly frostbitten, brutal and sweepingly operatic shades of darkness from which soon-to-be-unleashed long-player ‘Slain in the Spirit’ is masterfully woven, this epic offering finds Mancunian metal talents Necronautical at the towering peak of their compositional powers. Continuing their intrepid, blackly absorbing odyssey into the abyss with a genre-smashing new sound that pulls in influences from across the extreme metal spectrum, epic single ‘Necropsychonautics’ takes its name from a curious chemical reaction that occurs in the brain literal moments before death. Reported to induce hallucinogenic visions in the mind of the soon-to-be-deceased, this artfully crafted homage to the aforementioned mind-altering phenomenon is fittingly awash with blackly intoxicating ecstasies. Spanning a grandiose sonic range that’s as drenched in second wave nostalgia as it is uniquely crafted, abrasive lashings of tremolo here bristle with blackened hostility beneath icily entrancing melodic sections that audibly glimmer with otherworldly beauty. With this electrifying choice cut comprising just one tantalising facet of a tremendously varied new body of work that’s soon to receive its awaited debut at BOA 2021, fans of epic, eerily transporting metal are in for one hell of a trip…
It’s a rare and beautiful thing when, within mere moments of idly perusing new music, the sheer brilliance of the listening material in question hits you right between the eyes with full, half-stupefying force. And with their impeccable melding of blasting aggression, intricately sculpted riffage and bleakly beautiful atmospheres coalescing to create a mesmerising assault on the senses, it’s hard to believe Glaswegian death metal masters Godeater were formed as recently as 2016. Indeed, theirs is the sort of flawless, darkly electrifying chemistry many bands of an altogether more mature vintage spend years, sometimes full decades, fruitlessly attempting to perfect. And through frantic implosions of vocal caustic screams and crippling slabs of sinewy groove that churn and reverberate with all the crippling impact of a violent interplanetary collision, ‘Pale Reflection’ displays jugular-ripping command of its component parts. Spliced with a bewitching array of coldly absorbing atmospherics and expansive lines of luxuriantly unfurling fretwork that, at moments, recalls the dusky, melancholic grandeur of such towering doom legends as Katatonia and Insomnium, precious few artists are capable of creating such relentlessly compelling material.
‘The Currency of Beauty’
Seeing this band placed on the main stage on the Friday at Bloodstock is a triumph for the promoters of the festival. The Bristol hardcore visceral sledgehammer that is Svalbard unleashed what is probably one of the most vital records, regardless of genre, in years in 2020. During a depressing and soul-sucking pandemic, it was a revitalising tonic of incredible song writing and wonderfully honest and blunt lyrical content. Calling Svalbard a hardcore band is actually doing them a huge disservice. Sure, the thematic feel and message from the record is very much at home in the hardcore community, but musically they interlace entrancing melody with savage riffs in probably the most organic and natural feel any band could hope to achieve. There’s hint of crusty hardcore, post-metal/rock and even subtle nods towards black metal here and it all works together wonderfully. Catch them early, if there’s any justice in the musical world they’ll be commanding much higher billing very soon.
If you happen to be near the Ronny James Dio stage early doors on Saturday then make sure you stop to watch one of the UKs finest bands, and if you’re not near that stage then haul your ass there pronto! ‘Thankless’ encapsulates everything that makes Conjurer so vital, an utterly suffocating heaviness weaving itself around lush and beautifully crafted melodic passages. The band have an amazing sense of songcraft, knowing exactly when to flow from loud to quiet and never sounding stale or predictable. Incredibly hard to pin down stylistically, the band definitely take on board influences from sludge and post-metal but add in a polish that is uniquely their own. Remember how vital and impactful Mastodon were in their heavier early days? Well Conjurer carry that same impact and are without doubt one of the most promising bands in metal today.
Sourcing their title from that of a sizeable parasitic worm frequently found lodged deep in the intestinal tract of its unfortunate human host, Ascaris are every bit as nasty and vicious a proposition as their namesake might suggest. Structured around frantically accelerating episodes of pummelling ultra-violence, lacerating screams and tautly muscled layerings of endlessly contorted fretwork, theirs is a sound that owes as much to intelligent pacing and impeccable arrangement as it does to the searing extremes of aggression with which latest album ‘The Raised Hand’ is liberally furnished. With its humongous slabs of luxuriant, tombstone-heavy guitars tumbling forth in a pitch-black profusion of ritualistic grandeur, epic opener ‘Incantation’ takes ample time to weave its atmospheric magic on the senses. From here, we’re hurled headlong into a raging cyclone of bone-splintering hyperblasts and churning fretwork whose deliciously visceral throes leave the synapses instantly crackling with adrenaline. And from white-hot implosions of battering percussion to sweepingly majestic soundscapes whose epic scale is nothing short of astounding, both the explosive energy and innovative musicianship Ascaris possess in spades is guaranteed to make for a jaw-dropping live spectacle.
'I Chose to Burn'
From their ghoulish, corpse paint-slicked aesthetics to the blackly opulent, Dimmu-esque flourishes with which their diabolical craft is liberally furnished, Agrona are, in one respect, as gloriously grim and frostbitten a proposition as you could possibly imagine. Scratch the tantalising, brimstone-scorched surface of this South Wales-based ensemble, however, and it fast becomes apparent that classic black metal is but one ingredient in an altogether more complex and intricately melded mix. With its insanely propulsive central rhythm section hammering the senses into submission beneath flesh-scalding strains of wolvish, frost-stricken guitar work, ‘I Chose to Burn’ combines the brutalising intensity of death metal and malevolent, second wave darkness to utterly searing effect. And that’s all before we’ve even begun to revel in the rich array of scorching progressive intricacies that elevate this diabolical banger to the stuff of apocalyptic excellence.
‘Fornicating in Ethically Sourced Fair Trade Chocolate’
Slam death metal seems damn near perfect for a drunken afternoon at a festival and I can’t think of a better band to deliver it than Party Cannon. Formed in 2010, these Scottish madmen have unleashed two EPs and one full-length and each one is wonderfully ridiculous. The band, as you can tell from their name and song titles, don’t take themselves too seriously and avoid the unfortunate lyrical and thematic path that slam bands can often find themselves going down in terms of misogyny. They do, however, take their sonic craft very seriously and hit everything you’d expect from a good slam band. Guttural lows, chugging guitars and genuinely pit-worthy slams. Try and tell me there’s anything better for a Saturday afternoon than chugging a few brews and throwing yourself in to a Party Cannon-led push-up pit!
For full line-up details of all the bands set to perform at Bloodstock Open Air, click HERE