People who shrug their shoulders at the mere mention of Metal 2 The Masses or band members who are far too ‘cool’ to be associated with anything resembling a battle of a bands competition should really take 6 steps back and consider what goes on here.
You hardly need to be Mr or Mrs Objective to see the influence of Bloodstock’s flagship unsigned stratagem and the ripple effect it has through local scenes. Bands visibly squeeze out an extra 5-10-15% due to the pressure, the excitement and the opportunity ahead of them, something that rarely happens at ‘just another gig’ and let’s face it, London doesn’t need anymore ‘other gigs’ with 3 people in the crowd and about as much apathy Gandalf would muster up with an apathy spell. The crowds are more energised, maybe making that extra effort to come see their mates band, a particular band they like or most refreshing of all, catch all the bands, soak up the atmosphere and let their hard earned money seep back into the local scene rather than (or in addition to) the back pocket of the likes of Avenged Sevenfold at one of the many commercial rock festivals they will headline in the next decade or so OR even worse using said money to gain entry to the Koko, across the road from the venue which tonight sees X-Factor cash cow Demi Lovato perform God knows what monstrosities to a collection of entertainment-bound consumers who would watch twenty hours of reality TV rather than listen to a real band perform their own songs.
The serial shruggers may still snort at all of the above, wondering what happens to bands after Bloodstock. Well, Bloodstock isn’t your mum. It’s not there to change your nappy when you find yourself playing to 7 people in Milton Keynes on a rainy Tuesday night, but what it does do is insert some of itself into the veins of each and every musician who treads the boards of the unsigned stage. Just watch those bands who have had that experience. Take Kremated who tonight headline as guests. Since that fateful day in August last year they have been coated with an syrupy confidence, tightness and a swagger that shouts “we’ve played Bloodstock, we can easily do this joint”, so much so that they may as well have dragged the Bloodstock turf around with them as a flag of triumph. Anyone who witnessed the London thrashers since especially ‘that’ show supporting Exhumed and Toxic Holocaust at the Underworld will surely testify to this.
All this aside though, tonight is about 4 bands who have yet to taste the Bloodstock cherry, but have moved through the heats and into the final which going by the quality floating around London at the moment was always going to be rather tight.
First up are Londoners DARKEYE (8) who are the latest in a long line of bands from the South East London-North Kent area that has given Bloodstock no less than 12 bands since The Inbreds spat their metallic bile over the place back in 2008.
There are more tech-metal bands around now than you can shake a ‘PHP For Advanced Minds’ guide at but with a spine made up of ex-Violation Complex singer/guitarist Dean Hanfrey and super hitter Frazer Plank they have experience pre-dating the rush for tech-metal’s autograph. This has left them in good stead in the current climate as any youthful desires to be technical for technical sake have long been abandoned for a much cleaner and sleek model. While some techy material can leave you cold, Darkeye’s music has an aura of foreboding, a little like Triptykon with touches of prog, the dark, mournful tidal wave of riffs during ‘Portent’ crashing down with enough power and melody that it leaves the crowd wondering whether they should be shedding a tear while losing their balance. Set closer ‘Nibiru’ has enough condensed rhythm to make even Gojira choke on their after show sandwiches and a chorus that soars as high as the ceiling allows.
The band are probably a song short of a truly mind blowing thirty minute set but it’s not hard to imagine how the current collection of colossal sculptures will sound inside the unsigned tent in August when the band play their as deserving guests.
If Darkeye set the musicianship bar at astronomically high levels it seems SUMER (8) are taking those measurements and stretching them into a mind-consuming soup of outer worldly sounds. The music is strangely uplifting, tugging at the senses and allowing the vocals to take a back seat, at times leaving them as a secondary factor completely. The likes of Karnivool and Tool are obvious influences, especially during ‘Vanes’ which could easily slip into classic track territory if someone rewrote history and scrawled the song title into the track listing of ‘Lateralus’.
Sumer are not what you would call a typical Bloodstock band but such a description in becoming more and more redundant on a yearly basis. A quick look at the festival line-ups from 2001 to 2005 and then 2013 confirms this and if Damnation festival can dedicate a whole stage to the sonic pleasures of post-metal/prog then a band like Sumer should fit in nicely at Bloodstock in 2015 where they will perform as guests.
Standing out like a sore thumb on a hairy foot, VIOLENT OFFENDER (7) could be seen by some as the Antichrist of anyone who despises 90s-infused rap metal, but to write them off would be an act of treason towards action packed performances. Almost acting as a small man, big man attack the 2 singers work in tandem, playing off each other in a natural and cohesive manner. If Chris Rodrigues is the rapper-come-melodic side of the front 2 who comes packed with the more natural long haired metal look, Adam Stevens provides the short haired hardcore aggression, complete with rasping to roaring vocals and a polo topped punch of British grit, straight to the nether regions. Taking the hardcore crunch from the likes of Biohazard and smashing it over the head of more British influences such as TRC, Violent Offender are an onstage wrecking crew waiting for their moment to ‘Burn it down’. Rusty on guitar provides the razor edged riffs, adding that vital metallic edge.
As most of the venue goes bezerk it’s hard to imagine how every promoter in the country won’t in one way or another try getting their claws into the London crew (they have since been signed up with STC Touring). There can’t be many unsigned bands in the UK who garner such a reaction, the sheer fun and exuberance flying off the crowd and bouncing from one wall to the other before starting again is rarely seen at such climates. Compared to the other three bands tonight it’s slightly more obvious VO have only been together since September last year but that could be slightly unfair considering the musical direction of the parties involved but in any case before they play Bloodstock in 2015 as guests they could of easily played venues twice this size.
Final band JACKKNIFE SEIZURE (7.5) are in some ways tough to pin down and that is exactly what sets them apart from the other acts. While the band roll out a Sabbath-style blanket of groove there is also a heavy 90s feel to proceedings. Imagine Soundgarden downing too many red bulls and unleashing a prog manifesto of twisting guitars and throbbing bass. Singer Gerry at times unleashes a jittering Ozzy vocal style grabbed and strangled by some At The Drive In melodies that seem to operate in a completely separate universe to the sonic wall behind them. The all-encompassing ‘Amphibiman’, complete with an evil drumming master class and left-field guitar solo sucks the London M2TM title into its vortex, meaning all 4 bands will play at Bloodstock (Darkeye and Jackknife Seizure this year, the other 2 in 2015) which must be a first at any M2TM final.
Guest headliners KREMATED (8.5) haven’t rested on any laurels since August last year, packing in as many festival and support slots as possible leading to the recent release of second album ‘Three Minute warning’. Band leader Pete Dee; as snarling and spiteful as ever spits out the likes of newbies ‘Wake The Fuck Up’ and ‘Fighting For Your Life’ with a confidence and power only found in Bloodstock alumni. Kremated as a band have never sounded better, especially that punk-infused chip on the shoulder that sticks to every track like a rotting kebab from the weekend before mixed with some glorious all out thrash like ‘Three Minute Warning’.
It’s easy to knock the sound at some London venues (especially the Forum) but tonight the sonic bliss inside the Purple Turtle created and maintained by the sound man should be saluted, with every riff, vocal line and drum beat sounding pristine and proper. Hell, even the bass players can be heard! While all the band’s sound big tonight Kremated’s thrash attack is unstoppable, ‘Total Warfare’ from the debut album stomping over anyone within striking distance with its Godzilla-sized attack.
Once Kremated have wrapped up a feeling of goodwill spreads throughout the venue thanks to an evening of fine performances and quality music with the sound and organisation to match. One of the best finals in memory and a perfect example of London doing it right.
August can’t come soon enough for Darkeye and Jackknife Seizure who follow in the footsteps of the likes of One For Sorrow, Stormborn and Pure Negative winning their place on the New Blood Stage.
Bloodstock is coming!