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Of All the metal festivals I’ve been to in the UK, Europe & across America, Bloodstock is easily one of my favourites. I’ve personally been going since 2010, I even played on the mainstage in 2016 (which was incredible). The atmosphere amongst fans is always amazing. For those of you who haven’t been yet, its family friendly, easy to get around, no overcrowding, you don’t have to pay £20 for a beer, the food is great and caters for all tastes. And of course the line-up is always diverse (as much as it can be in rock / metal).
About 50% of my friendship circle I have today, I made at a Bloodstock Festival, as did most people I know. The best bit is that Bloodstock was made by the fans for the fans, even way back in 2001 but back then it was held in 2,000 capacity indoor venue that the MIGHTY Saxon headlined. In 2005, it went open air and most Bloodstock goers now simply name it as “Home”.
EMPwere there of course, we had a stall in-between the signing tent and the mainstage where we were selling some of our merchandise and handing out cool EMP freebies. Best of all, we got to meet some really great people and of course, see some excellent bands play!
Bloodstock starts on the Thursday evening and the second stage (which is named after Sophie Lancaster – R.I.P) is the only one open until things really start on Friday. Everyone goes there to hang out, catch up with friends and watches the first bands of the festival, which obviously means party night. So, when it comes to the 1st actual day of the festival there are a lot of hangovers walking around on that field in Catton Park.
The main headliners of the weekend were Judas Priest(seriously, how awesome is their new album?!), Gojira and Nightwish. There are 3 stages all within a few minutes walking distance of each other: The Ronnie James Dio mainstage, The Sophie Lancaster second stage and the New Blood stage. Now the New Blood stage deserves a special mention here: The line-up is made of winners of the Metal 2 The Masses competition which is held all over the UK each year which gives the opportunity to up and coming bands to play at a big festival, expand their fan base and gain exposure – how cool is that! If you are an up and coming rock/metal band I highly recommend you check it out and enter. Its run by Bloodstock’s Simon Hall (legend) and EMP are a part of this too, we sponsor the finals – cool right!
The 3 days of Bloodstock for Team EMP were a fun chaotic mix of selling lots of merchandise, handing out a ton of EMP freebies, chatting to EMP customers about anything and everything, getting rained on, getting burnt by the sun, eating good food and amongst all this we even had the pleasure of interviewing some really cool bands!
These are just some of the friends old and new that we caught up with:
Blakkheim and Axe of Bloodbath
Henrik of Evergrey
Hamish of Godthrymm (who’s also my fellow guitarist and dear friend in Vallenfyre)
Lord Ragnar Wagner of The Heretic Order
Dan of Monument (video below)
Brady of Conjurer
Raimund of Nailed to Obscurity(fun fact – Raimund works at EMP too!)
Josh and Morgan of Bloodshot Dawn
Chris of Act of Defiance (cheers for the coffee!)
Karl of Memoriam (previously of Bolt Thrower)
Matt and Jason of Weight of The Tide
Huge thanks goes out to all of those guys for their time as I know they all probably had beers waiting for them to drink somewhere.
My personal highlights of the festival was watching Hamish of Godthrymm perform on the Sophie Stage, watching Henrik of Evergrey playing guitar in a way that I can only dream about, witnessing Negative Thought Process absolutely destroy the New Blood Stage just like I knew they would and seeing Gojira headlining the festival on the Saturday night – that was absolutely Incredible. It was a real “I was there!” moment to look back on in years to come!
This is my first year as the Event Manager for EMP so it was my first time working for EMP at Bloodstock and I must say that I met some great people over the 3 – 4 days there. So to those of you who came to visit us, chatted to us, bought merchandise from us, we thank you!
None of this would have been possible without the support of the Bloodstock team – Adam Gregory, Simon Hall, Alan Hungerford and your crew, we can’t thank you guys enough.
I don’t know if you ever read the depression-era masterpiece “Of Mice & Men” by John Steinbeck growing up? I never did but I did see a YouTube recap before writing this blog and I can see why the California based metalcore band took their name from the book. Of Mice & Men have always been ambitious, but even with their success they’ve faced their fair share of challenges. When Shayley Bourget (now Dayshell frontman) left the band in 2012, people thought the band was dead, but the band were adamant on keeping on Jaime’s Elsewhere vocalist Aaron Pauley to the line-up as clean vocalist and bassist, and kept going with their 3rd album “Restoring Force”.
The band kept going for a few years until December 2016 when frontman Austin Carlile decided to focus on his health. Of Mice & Men being one of the heavy hitters in metalcore were now faced with an ultimatum: do they throw in the towel after losing Austin or do they keep going as 4 piece? The very fact that I’m writing this now should hint to their choice. Now they recently released “Defy” their newest album, to a decent reception, and when I talked to them they were closing in on the end of the European leg of their tour with Sylar and Wage War!
I arrive at KOKO in London late afternoon and after a quick chat with the fans waiting in line (you with the Shrek mask, if you read this say hi!) I got a text that it was time. I got to chill a bit backstage before Aaron and Tino came in and had a quick chat while setting up, and we got to chat a bit about touring, albums and me managing to mispronounce Tino’s name 5 minutes after meeting. Anyway check out the interview below and enjoy!
Us metalheads have to face the harsh truth that the Grammy’s is never going to acknowledge our genre. It is true that they give out an award for “Best metal performance” but it’s usually announced before the actual show during an un-televised event where the house band introduce Megadeth with “Master Of Puppets” and the bands just show up for the open bar. Luckily the magazine Metal Hammer decided to take matters into their own hands and founded the “Golden Gods Awards” in 2003. EMP have been invited to many over the years and here we’re going to give you the low down on what happened on the 16th anniversary!
The evening started off on the black carpet. Artists and journalists alike were all excited to see who would take the awards home and were all mingling in front of the media wall sharing laughs and stories. I had the honour of once again bumping into Betraying the Martyrs‘ Aaron Matts, whom the observant EMP follower would know I interviewed a few months ago and we had a quick catch-up before heading upstairs to catch the main event!
The show started off with a hilarious MC warming up the crowd, mostly by making us yell, growl and scream in a matter that took me back to my college days studying music. After the vocal warm-up, the show started with a brilliant performance from “Carpenter Brut” firing the starting gun. After a performance with a ton of energy to make sure the crowd was in a good mood, it was time for the awards.
The time from there on out flew by! The ever so talented Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed guided us through the nominees and guest presenters brilliantly and it was exhilarating seeing bands like Wolves in The Throne Room and Code Orange getting the awards and recognition they deserved! (full list of winners at the end of the blog)
After the first half of the awards the stage was made ready for the band that would win the Inspiration Award later in the evening: Meshuggah! Meshuggah, to no one’s surprise, delivered an amazing show with great songs and a performance for the ages, showing that even though they have been around a while and are starting to get older, they have no intention of stopping! After the progressive-djent metal that is Meshuggah wrapped up their last song, it was time for an acoustic performance by Myrkur! She walked on stage with a cello and a single drum preforming a haunting song that instantly took you to the dark forests of Scandinavia with trolls and hulders – a truly a mesmerizing performance that proved she was worthy the “Best album” award. The last band before the second half of awards were Grammy nominated band Baroness.Baroness preformed a set that combined punk and sludge in a fun way and was the perfect choice to wake up the audience before the last half of the awards with heavy hitter awards like the “Icon” and “Golden God Award”!
The second half of the show starts of Jamey Jasta making some jokes and once again introducing guest presenters to give out awards like “Defenders of Faith” and the “Inspiration award” One of the highlights however was the “Global Metal Award” that made its debut this year, and the recipient Kaoteon from Beirut was well deserving. Kaoteon came from a world where they’ve been arrested and beaten simply for playing the music they love; they truly deserve our respect for standing steadfast and facing adversary for the genre we all love. The last award of the evening however was the famous “Golden God” award introduced by none other than Zakk Wylde himself honoring the winner Ozzy Osbourne with a brilliant speech about Ozzy’s accomplishments throughout a 50-year long career. After Ozzy received the award with a simple “Thank you, it’s an honor” it was time for the main event and fresh “Defender of The Faith” winner: Parkway Drive!
Parkway Drive is a band I’ve seen 4 times already and their shows always include a lot of fire – something which the fire department in Oslo, Norway can attest to after a show I went to 2016 where front man Winston got a bit too excited playing with flares. This show also included a lot of pyro and the stage production quality was through the roof with drummer Ben Gordon spending a large portion of the set playing upside down in a huge hamster-wheel! The set (which I wish never ended) flew by playing both new and old songs; but alas it had to come to an end and with it a brilliant evening honouring the musicians and bands we all love.
I must give a huge thank you to Metal Hammer for putting this together. Metal is a wonderful genre in that it’s so vast and inclusive: you could stand in the crowd and see strangers from all walks of life hugging and having a great time because at the end of the day, we were all there sharing the same passion and same love; and with that it’s okay that the Grammys might not ever properly acknowledge us. Us metalheads are a huge family with friends at every show, and that shared community is worth more than all of Kanye West’s awards multiplied by 4. (he got 231 if you were wondering)
Venom Prison formed in 2014 and in the space of 4 years they have become one of the leading up and coming UK death metal bands.
In April, they embarked on a European tour supporting Trivium and I caught up with vocalist Larissa Stupar and guitarists Ash Gray and Benn Tomas before the show at London’s Brixton Academy speaking about all things Venom Prison and gaming:
After the interview, Venom Prison got ready to hit the stage and I went into the venue to get ready for the aural assault that they were about to unleash upon us. Brixton Academy is the biggest venue on the tour and when they appear on stage, they bring with them a wall of technical death metal that is not only played super tight (no easy feat) but with also so much energy that any newcomers to the band can’t help but be impressed.
Circle pits appear and Larrisa is dominating the crowd as Ben and Ash lay down riff after riff of technical brilliance. They are clearly on top of their game; I’ve seen them before and they were awesome but this show… this is something special and I cannot wait to hear what comes next from them. Like they said in the interview, a new album is being recorded in July so keep an eye out for that but in the meantime check out their debut album “Animus” and more band merch if you haven’t already!
Formed in 2008, Betraying The Martyrs is the perfect example of English and French cooperation, after releasing 3 albums they have proved themselves as a consistent and solid band known for heavy death-growls and incredible piano leads courtesy of their clean vocalist and keys player Victor Guillet.
I was lucky enough to sit down with their frontman Aaron Matts back in March when they played Borderline in London where we talked pineapple on pizza, their latest album and touring in America. See the interview below:
After a chat and a drink we went each to our own, and I got ready for the show. The opening bands “From Sorrow to Serenity” and “Modern Day Babylon” played tight sets and were perfect to get the crowd ready for the main event!
The show being in a tiny bar without a barrier already told me this would be a show for the books! Out walks Aaron and the rest of the band ready to go, towering over the crowd in an almost religious manner, and from the first note the crowd went insane. I stood as close to the stage as possible, turned around for a second and there I see a late 40’s Irish guy I met a few hours earlier going mental in the pit together with strangers from all walks of life.
For the next 45 minutes or so the entire room was taken by an incredible energy and Betraying the Martyrs sounded stronger than ever! There were mosh pits, jumping and hugs all around – even though we were all strangers, everyone was friends during that show. After the set, all the bands hung out at the merch table sharing laughs and having drinks, showing there were no room for egos on this tour.
All in all, the experience was incredible and if you haven’t seen Betraying the Martyrs but are intrigued after hearing their music, definitely go if you have the chance, and I hope to meet you the next time they are in London!
Check out our Betraying the Martyrs and more band merch!