BACKSTAGE, EMP, Music, Special

Bloodstock Festival 2018

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”.

EMP were 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.

See you in 2019 Bloodstock, Cheers!

Sam Kelly-Wallace
EMP Events Manager UK & IE


Reviewed: Gojira @ London Kentish Town Forum, 12/3/2017

Last Sunday, French death metallers Gojira kicked off their Magma Tour UK at the Kentish Town Forum in London. What did we think?

#Repost @peterageofficial ・・・ SOLD OUT The Forum in London, England! #gojira #tourlife

A post shared by Gojira Official (@gojiraofficial) on

It’s always kind of a shame when a gig is on a school night, as you end up rationing your drinks and keeping half an eye on the clock so you can catch the last Northern line train home. But it certainly didn’t stop the crowd getting into the moshpit spirit on Sunday night when Gojira took over the Kentish Town Forum.

The show was opened by New York mathcore thugs Car Bomb with an immediate blast of aggression that made it clear it was not going to be one of those quiet Sunday nights. Their discordant and extremely heavy style with a progressive edge is reminiscent of the godfathers of extreme djent (is that a genre? It should be!), Meshuggah. In fact, whilst I was musing on how much they obviously wanted to be Meshuggah, I noticed their guitarist wearing one of the Swedish band’s t-shirts. Case closed.

The punchy start was followed up in style by Code Orange – a Pittsburgh-based hardcore/metalcore troupe who came with a mission to destroy the venue. I hadn’t heard them before, but I can say for sure they picked up a legion of new fans throughout their tightly-coiled performance. A vein of serious groove ran through their set, despite the very hard edges to their sound. Whilst punk is ostensibly at the root of their sound, and shows in the rawness of the vocals, there’s something more sinister lying underneath the in-your-face punch of their aggressively bass-fuelled music. The aural assault was backed up by astounding energy on-stage, as their charismatic bassist high-kicked his way through proceedings. If other bands are metal, these guys were adamantium. One to watch.

It’s around my 4th time seeing Bayonne metallers Gojira, but it seems that in the time I’ve been following them they’ve exploded from being one of those great niche bands that opens the smaller stage at Sonisphere, to being genuine heavy-hitters in their own right – and rarely has a band deserved that as much as these guys. Fresh from releasing their latest LP, Magma, they’ve subtly evolved their sound in a direction that’s lost a tiny amount of the aggression, but gained a razor-sharp edge that’s bumped them up into the big-league of technical metallers. Whilst ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ was good, ‘Magma’ was truly great – a career-defining album that runs like a perfectly-oiled piece of machinery. Which is lucky really, as the band drew heavily on their new baby in their set, playing almost all of the 8 full-length tracks. ‘Only Pain’ kicked things off, but for me it was the arrival of the monumental ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe’ that really signaled the start of the evening. This aural juggernaut, one of my all-time favourites, is a guaranteed pit-starter, and the ensuing circle pit did not disappoint. Unless you were hoping to get out of there without having your feet stamped on and some guy’s elbow in your eye. In fact, there’s often a pit just a few rows back from the front, but here it expanded like an oil spill, engulfing the reticent along with the hardcore stompers. Which is quite a good explanation for how Gojira’s music works live – their maelstrom of rhythms pulls you in and turns the audience from a group of people into one unified organism.

The L’Enfant Sauvage and Magma hits-parade was popular, but for me it’s all about the classic behemoths from ‘From Mars to Sirius’ and the genre-defining ‘Way of All Flesh’. No Gojira show is complete without a hefty dose of space and whales, delivered with aplomb in the form of the musical leviathan, ‘Flying Whales’. Whilst other bands cling to the same old tired themes: love, death, drugs; Gojira have never shied away from writing a few songs about ocean-dwelling mammals. One of the many reasons I love them. ‘Backbone’ is always another guaranteed hit, with a riff that just calls for you to start throwing yourself into the nearest person. It’s these inherently moshable grooves that have allowed the band to carve their place as a festival legend, and the atmosphere carries over even in a smaller and stuffier indoor venue.

No evening would be complete, though, without a good ol’ drum solo. Sometimes bands throw these in as a bit of a filler, but in Gojira’s case, drummer Mario is approximately half of the band – his ear for unique syncopated rhythms is one of the undoubted cornerstones of their sound, and sometimes the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that elevates their best songs from great heavy metal to something almost stratospheric. No surprise then, that the crowd went wild to his playful 5 minutes of fame. It was also a clever way to segue into the tectonic ‘Toxic Garbage Island’, which opens with drums that speak for themselves. By the end, a whirlpool of sweaty humans was screaming together about the injustice of plastic bags in the sea. My kind of moment.

But all good things must come to an end. Although they’d saved some of the best for last, with a serious hard-hitter to close, in the form of ‘Vacuity’. They seem to play this live much less often than the other big tracks from ‘The Way of All Flesh’, although it’s a raw powerhouse of a song. Vacuity bottles the intensity of the human instinct to survive, and had me punching the air and screaming every word. Inspiring stuff.

Gojira fan? Check out EMP’s range of Gojira merchandise, CDs and vinyl today!



What Were Our Favourite Metal Albums of 2016?

We had some epic rock and metal releases to cheer us up during a gloomy 2016. Here are the albums we’ve been loving here at EMP UK…gojiramagma

Gojira  Magma (order from EMP on CD or vinyl)

The environmentally-conscious Frenchmen have been providing us with metal that’s heavier than a neutron star for around 20 years, and their latest release Magma was no exception. Some say it’s less heavy than their previous releases, but without a doubt it’s up there with their greats (From Mars to Sirius and The Way of All Flesh, if you were going to ask). The first single, “Stranded”, had us hooked from the first seconds where that riff kicks in, and we literally cannot wait to mosh to this one when they come back to London in March. Whilst there are some more mellow and more experimental moments on here, the metal gems are rock solid, especially “Silvera”, which blends their heavier moments with a frankly genius main riff, and the title track, which lures you in with the classic, grinding guitar sound that the band have perfected over the years.

We kind of miss the whales, but musically speaking Joe, Mario and co. have really outdone themselves on this one.


In Flames  Battles (CD | Limited Edition CD featuring 2 Bonus Tracks | Vinyl | Limited Edition Picture Vinyl | EMP-Exclusive CD & 2-LP Boxset with Photo Card, Poster, Slip Mat, Certificate of Authenticity and More)

Who doesn’t love a good bit of melodic death metal? Are you with us? If so, you are not going to want to miss Battles. Our favourite screaming Swedes are back in style with this all-round rocking release. Sing along or mosh? It’s hard to decide, with instant classics like “Drained” combining top-class singable choruses with impassioned screams and soaring melodies alternated with punchy metal riffs. In fairness, nothing has really changed here. If you liked Siren Charms, you will not be disappointed by Battles. Considering that these guys haven’t really changed their sound one bit since the 90s, you might be forgiven for wondering if it’s worth picking up the new CD, but we say ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ If you’re new to In Flames, and 60 minutes of high-energy metal with great clean and growled vocals sounds like your cup of tea, then you should definitely give this one a try. If you’ve been listening since Jester Race days like us, then you’re not going to be able to argue with one of the most technically flawless slabs of metal the band have ever released.


Amon Amarth  Jomsviking (CD | Vinyl | EMP-Exclusive Viking Ship CD Boxset with Bonus Live DVD)

Let’s face it. Every time there’s a new Amon Amarth release, you kind of know what’s coming. 60 minutes of Viking battles, gutteral growls and a mixture of brutality and joyful Norse spirit that only the Swedish thunder gods can reproduce time and again with aplomb. It’s immediately clear that festival season will see us all raising our horns (and beers) to the chants of epics like “Raise Your Horns” along with a legion of muddy and sweat-soaked fans. The melodic elements are intact, and show up time and again, especially on our fave from the album – “Wanderer”. In case you’re wondering what a Jomsviking is, they were actually Norse mercenaries, and the album follows the tale of a young man who swears revenge after his love is married to another man. Not everyone loves a concept album, but Amon Amarth struck a good balance here between providing Viking fireside stories and the semi-melodic, semi-brutal death metal that we know and love.


Opeth  Sorceress (CD | Limited Edition 2-CD Digipak | Vinyl)

Every time Opeth bring out a new album, it has us all on tenterhooks waiting to see whether it’s going to predominantly feature blistering death metal, folksy acoustic rock or complex jazzy blues. This time, it turned out to be a mixture of them all. As the last few albums have hinted, the Swedish prog death maestros have been drifting away from the truly heavy material they produced on classic albums like Ghost Reveries and playing a hell of a lot more proggy, jazzy experimental stuff that has split opinion. Well, that stuff certainly hasn’t disappeared on Sorceress. In fact, the title track seems to be the distillation of years of work on each of these styles, and perfectly demonstrates Åkerfeldt and crew’s ability to make genres that really shouldn’t work seem like they were born to be together. Coming in at ‘only’ 6 minutes, Sorceress is as close to perfect as anyone could wish. Even fans of the sublime prog rock produced by compatriots like Beardfish are going to be blown away by the mix of bluesy guitars, proggy solos and soothing folk elements. The only people who are going to be disappointed are those who expect to have their faces ripped off by the type of death metal that Opeth have produced in the past, but those types have had more than their fair share of warning. In fact, this is classic Opeth but with a real leap forward in terms of experimentation and seamless blending of styles. Don’t miss it.


Metallica  Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (CD | 3-CD Digipak Deluxe Edition | Vinyl | Limited Edition 3-LP Boxset with Bonus CD)

You didn’t think we’d have any sort of ‘best of’ list without including Metallica, did you? Come on! Anyone who thought that Metallica were past their best had to eat a pretty big slice of humble pie when they heard Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. Whilst it doesn’t quite match up to their …And Justice For All glory days, it makes a pretty good attempt. The title track makes it clear what’s to come: a relentless slab of classic riffing, with catchy melody after catchy melody hitting where it hurts. Our highlight has to be “Moth Into Flame”, which could easily have nestled in among the hook-driven classics on the black album, with guitar work that reminds us all why Metallica are the KINGS of modern thrash. True, there is no track that stands out quite as well as, say, “Master of Puppets” but the progress made since the opinion-dividing St. Anger is clear. Welcome back, Metallica!


Sabaton  The Last Stand (CD | 2-CD Digipak with Bonus Live DVD | Vinyl | EMP-Exclusive Limited Edition Red Vinyl )

2016 delivered a heavy blow to power metal fans with the semi-breakup of genre legends Rhapsody of Fire (ok, that’s another post in itself), but it’s not been short of epic music for fans of the musical answer to Dungeons & DragonsThe Last Stand, as the name might hint at, has drawn inspiration from a number of historical ‘last stand’ battles – such as the final battle between the samurai and the Japanese army in “Shiroyama”. If you don’t find yourself shouting along with rousing refrains such as ‘overrun but never outdone’, or ‘surrounded and outnumbered’ then please send back your power metal fan badge right now. Otherwise, stand alongside the last 500 samurai, raise your fists and sing along. Power metal gold right here.

Loved these releases, or totally disagree? What were your top picks for 2016? Let us know! Here’s to 2017 rocking even harder.