Live Review: European Metal Festival Alliance [Stream]
7th/8th/9th August 2020
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings, Tim Finch, Deegan Armitage and Dan Barnes.
Our reporters head to the comfort of their armchairs this summer for a festival with a difference. Bloodstock, teaming with 12 other European metal festivals to stream three days of exlusive live music instead of gathering in a field. COVID-19 may be a blight on this world, but it has given the metal community to come together in very different and very unique ways.
Cult of Fire
The weekend of streaming kicks off with a unique set from Cult of Fire. Taking the same route as Batushka with their stage show, the band performed behind elaborate stage dressings of candles, weapons, candles, skulls and the guitarist sat atop a huge python. Also did I mention the candles? Their sound is not quite as dark as that of Batushka, theirs is more traditional metal, but they fluctuate from fast paced metal into the depths of human despair with dark passages of music. An interesting way to start the weekend. [TF]
Having seen Amenra live a number of times I wondered how their power and aggression would be blunted playing to an empty arena. Fear not, for as is evident from first notes of Children of the Eye, Amenra have organised themselves in a way to harness the energy of a crowd and turn it into either
a ferocious musical attack or a delicate stream of notes. Playing in the round with a huge circle of fire at their centre, Amenra appear to the physically distanced but perfectly in sync with each other. In the far distance beams of light slice the darkness as the band deliver a set wholly taken from the last release, Mass VI. I’ve waxed-lyrical about my love of the Post-Metal genre on this digital pages many times before, but alone in the dark and with only a primal ring of fire for company, Amenra achieve a level of raw anger and fragile intimacy that needed to have been witnessed live. The story behind the recording of Mass VI is one of personal tragedy and of catharsis, all of which was abundantly clear in their performance. For me, the highlight of the whole European Meta Festival Alliance experience [DB]
Venom Prison laid waste to the festival stream for an uncompromising hour of brutal metal. The guttural cries of Larissa reverberating through our TV speakers are Ben and Ash deliver riff after riff of extreme metal music. If you'd never seen Venom Prison before this was a great introduction as they turned out to be one of the bands of the weekend. Those existing fans knew what to expect and we loved every minute of it. [TF]
Few bands are more impressive in the live arena than the Greek extreme metallers Rotting Christ. Now comfortably ensconced in the veteran category, the band continue to pick up new fans at every show and reading the comments on social media after this show, that will continue to be the case. If you saw the band’s pulverising headline show in the Sophie Tent at last year’s Bloodstock, or their even more captivating headline slot at Catton Hall in 2014, you’ll know that the band don’t do average.
Despite the artificial environment, the lack of lighting and the disconcerting silence at the end of each track, Rotting Christ put on as good as show as could have been expected for their Friday night slot on the European Metal Alliance. A nine-song 45-minute set was balanced with eight tracks from their past three albums and a closing ‘Threnody’ from 2007’s ‘Theogoina’. With the band having traded guitarists since their last Bloodstock appearance, this was an opportunity to see new lead axe slinger Kostas Foukarkis in action and he looked and sounded the part.
Of course, Rotting Christ is the vehicle for Sakis Tolis and brother Themis, who pounded the kit with effortless ease. With bassist Kostas ‘Spades’ Heliotis now looking truly part of the band, this was a confident and professional set, which the band eased into and slowly moved through the gears. Sakis, flanked by his younger comrades has a bewitching style that captivates, his belief in his cause heartwarming. Heliotis and Foukarkis windmilled as if their life depended on it, the backing tracks added atmosphere and Rotting Christ demonstrated once more why they are such a vital band in the European metal scene today. [PH]
Venom Inc. were on top form on Saturday’s set playing an old school Venom set with some of their own music put in for good measure. A set of eleven songs which sounded solid throughout concentrating more on the music than stage effects (not that this is a bad thing).
Playing old school greats like ‘Black Metal', ‘Witching Hour’ and ‘Living Like An Angel (Die Like A Demon)’ and newer Venom Inc. material including ‘Metal We Bleed’,’ Forged In Hell’ and ‘Time To Die’. Over all a great performance and one that I could happily watch again. [DA]
Terror’s set from Brutal Assault 2018 was the epitome of short sharp shock. Included as a Bonus Feature the forty-five minutes spent in the company of the LA bruisers were some of the best of the weekend. Having honed their collective skills with seemingly endless touring, Terror arrived in the Czech Republic ready to take on all-comers and they left as last man standing. Scott Vogel was on top of his game as he spat out tracks ranging across Terror’s long career. From the title track of 2003’s Lowest of the Low EP to Spirit of Sacrifice from the as-yet to be released Total Retaliation, the band smashed their collective way, giving no quarter and asking for none either. The band dedicated Stick Tight to headliners, Behemoth, urged the crowd to put the security guards to work before cranking out The Solution and even managed to compliment an inflatable penis as the introduction to Always the Hard Way. If ever there was a perfect blending of band and festival, then it was Terror at Brutal Assault. [DB]
It’s probably fairly pointless to do a live review of Napalm Death these days, as the veritable National Institution that they are do not seem to be able to play even a mediocre set. Recorded at the Summer Breeze Festival in Germany, Barney and co walk onto the stage and fire immediately into Unchallenged Hate followed by Instinct of Survival. When it comes to laying down a marker to show intent then Napalm Death’s opening salvo leaves no one in any doubt that they are here to grind. For the next hour the band launch musical bomb after musical bomb, mixing classics Suffer the Children and Scum with blitzes The Kill, Dead and, of course, You Suffer, alongside newer additions to the set in the shape of Everyday Pox and Smash a Single Digit. It all seems to fit together seamlessly and is topped by the now obligatory cover of the Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off. They even manage to slow things down for their Killing Joke-moment of Standardisation. Barney rages at the injustices he sees in the world, both through his lyrics and his between songs announcements, but all he wants people to do is think for themselves. I always believe that an hour spent in the company of Napalm Death is an hour well spent and this was an hour very well spent indeed. [DB]
It was somewhat disappointing that we didn’t get a bespoke set from Primordial, but if this show, from Party San in 2105, is what we get then that’s fine with me. Announcing themselves in the usual way and promoting their then current album, Where Greater Men Have Fallen, the band open with the title track and appear to have pagan fire in their bellies. Primordial are not a casual listen; they have brooding, epic darkness, laid out in an intensity which demands attention and which enraptures the faithful in a way many other bands cannot. There is a subtle play of light and shade throughout the band’s music which feels even more apparent in the live environment. Songs are allowed space to breathe and to tell their stories, be they the fall of empires or the diaspora of a people. Alan Averill stands as a ghostly portent of the themes of Primordial as the band themselves create hypnotic soundscapes. A Primordial show is an experience so, perhaps, that experience is better to be had by thousands of festival goers in the German night than a few cameras in a rehearsal room. [DB]
As the weekend’s festivities drew to a close, my final viewing was probably the best. London’s Orange Fucking Goblin Baby decided that despite being in a studio with no-one in front of them, they would play as if they were headlining the RJD stage at Bloodstock. The last time I’d seen the band was as HRH Doom vs Stoner and whilst the band were on form that night, frontman Ben Ward was slightly tired and emotional, and it wasn’t his best performance. Having seen Goblin play multiple times over the years, it’s rare that you get anything but balls out biker metal in your face and as their 25th year anniversary plans had gone to tits due to Covid, it was clear that in front of the cameras Ben, Chris, Joe and Martyn were determined to stomp a size 11 mudhole in your memory to ensure that come BOA 2021, you’ll be front and centre when they deliver their main stage set.
A five-camera set up provided enough angles to keep you involved and whilst the lighting wasn’t spectacular, there was plenty to match the powerhouse music that was spewing forth from the Marshall stacks. Fired up from the start, the band raced through a set filled with tracks from eight of their nine albums. 12 songs in 50 minutes, led by the ever reliable ‘Scorpionica’ and bookended with ‘Red Tide Rising’, this was worth the cost of the virtual ticket on its own. In between we got some of the more traditional Goblin songs; ‘Some You Win, Some You Lose’, ‘Saruman’s Wish’, a rare outing for ‘Renegade’ from the last album ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ and a blistering ‘The Devil’s Whip’ all got the head nodding in the living room.
Ben Ward, clad in an Entombed shirt (poignant given the sad news about LG Petrov which broke mere hours before the set aired) roared his way through it all, flanked by the power duo of Joe Hoare (surely one of the most underrated guitarists in metal today) and bassist Martyn Millard, whilst Chris Turner’s machine gun drumming was made to look as easy as ever. Ward had proved to be a fine interviewee for Tim as part of the Bloodstock weekend on the website and once more, Orange Goblin demonstrated why they remain much loved and revered within the UK scene. Roll on next year. I demand to watch them with a beer in my hand, surrounded by 10,000 fellow metal heads. Anything else is just not an option. [PH]