Thinking Allowed

  

Rewind back to May 28th 2001 – a bank holiday Monday in the UK. There never seems to be much going on during bank holidays that doesn’t usually involve large traffic queues or masses of people filling town centres and frequenting pub beer gardens. 

Just over 15 years ago I was in Derby attending the inaugural Bloodstock Festival with about 700 other people. I don’t know what the organisers had in mind for the festival this far along the line, but I doubt they could have imagined it being as successful and as big as it is right now. By European festival standards and even near neighbours Download it is minuscule with its capacity around the 15,000 mark – on a par with an arena – but over the years they’ve dragged bands to the UK for their debut appearance and gone from strength to strength without seemingly loosing their family run integrity. 

  

For me, the later stages of the debut lineup was pretty hit and miss for me. I’m not the world’s greatest Saxon fan and had no idea who Glen Hughes was. I’ve never really been taken to Blaze’s post Wolfsbane output. A dose of German power metal in the form of Primal Fear on what I believe was their first time here was a draw, but I recall them getting boring very quickly.  I knew members of Freebase and Underule at the time which was an added bonus. I’d never seen Sabbat during their original run, so this was my first (and I though only) opportunity to see them live. Also around that time ex-Sabbat frontman Martin Walkyier was in one of my favourite bands of the moment namely Skyclad. 

Prior to this day in Derby I’d seen the band twice (I think) at the Wheatsheaf in Stoke and a year earlier at their tenth anniversary show held in the Mapperley Social Club in Nottingham. Even though the band are still a going concern they are without Walkyier and from the snippets I’ve heard they’re are less metal and much more folk. 

Before folk-metal became popular throughout Europe and, in comparison, household names like Turisas, Ensiferum and Týr were conceived, Skyclad were the archetypal folk metal band. Skyclad weren’t too dissimilar to what he was doing with Sabbat on their two albums, they just embraced the pagan aesthetics a bit more and eventually added a violin player to the rosta. 

Martin Walkyier has always been a superb wordsmith and many titles have been puns and a play on words. Good time drinking songs sat well on the early release and rubbed shoulders with environmental and social topics.

Thinking Allowed is the opening track to the bands third album Jonah’s Ark. I think it was this record that came with a voucher where you could send of fir a VHS video of live footage. I can remember sending off for it and it taking and absolute age to arrive. I know I still have it upstairs, but I actually don’t think I’ve watched it.  

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Witching Hour

  

Another weekend is petering out with battle ship grey rain clouds filing the skies – our typical British Summers never fail to deliver! It also means we are a few days closer to another long weekend for music fans to be pitching their tents on a grassy slope and preparing for another alcohol fuelled festival. 

My next experience for three days with the smells of chemical toilets and sizzling burgers filling the air and hitting the back of your nose begins in twelve days when I partake in my annual homage to the Bloodstock Festival for the eighteenth time since its 2001 inception. I might have mentioned this festival once or twice over the last 271 posts.

Over the next few days I’ll take a look at some of the bands appearing on the hallowed Catton Hall turf imminently and some of those who graced the stage within the Derby Assembly Rooms during the festivals early days. First up one of two bands announced during last years festivities. 

Bursting out of the banks of the river Tyne are Geordie black metal protagonists Venom. Firmly ensconced within the New Wave of British Heavy Metal tidal wave of the late 70’s Cronos, Abaddon and Mantas took their crude punk infused heavy metal, added some satanic imagery for some shock value and influenced a generation of musicians to play loud, fast and heavy – and proved it could be done with a limited ability. 

Over the years members have gone, musicians have arrived. The band have split, reunited, reinvented, argued and splintered. Currently there are two versions that could claim the name of Venom, but the one using the infamous logo features vocalist and bass player Cronos with a pair of hired hands. Also performing the same songs is Venom, Inc who feature Abaddon and Mantas along with Demolition Man who fronted the “proper” Venom between 1988 and 1993. 

For some reason the well worn and beaten up vinyl version of Welcome To Hell was swapped between the few metal heads at school and I don’t think anyone found the primitive metal on offer any good. I think it ended up in my possession at least twice. 

This will be my second time seeing a version of Venom and the first time in a decade. My only other experience was during the bands Metal Black cycle when they played the Academy 2 in Manchester in 2006. I can’t remember too much about that March evening, but I’m sure there were no pyrotechnics, something they were renowned for during their most influential period. Maybe with a larger stage we might get some fire spewing from the stage. 

Witching Hour is a song that has been covered quite a few times by bands as diverse as Kreator, High On Fire, Rykers,  Slayer and Mayhem. Taken from their debut album this live version is from the bands live video Hell At Hammersmith released in 1985. 

  

Fight Fire With Fire

  

Hot on the heels of Kill ‘Em All’s 33rd anniversary on Monday comes the 32nd anniversary of the sophomore release Ride The Lightning. It’s weird to remember those days when a band released albums after a couple of years, let alone 12 months. It’s been nearly eight years since their last album Death Magnetic surfaced and rumours are abound of the tenth release appearing later on 2016 or maybe 2017. 

Depending on what mood I’m in on any given day Ride can be my second or third favourite release. Always number one will be the flawless genius of Master Of Puppets and this is on a par with “my” Metallica album …And Justice For All. 

I say “my” album as I tend to veer towards the album that I was first in a position to buy on release days as usually my favourite by that artist. For me there seems to be that air of nostalgia for the first slab of vinyl, or later on compact disc, that I physically had to make the effort to head to town – an hours bus ride away as a kid – to pick it up from a record shop. Back then it would’ve been Lotus or Mike Lloyds Music, with my money earnt from my newspaper round before and after school, seven days a week, rain or shine. Metallica is one of a few anomalies to that rule as the previous release is always top of the pile but I didn’t have it until a few years after its release. 

I’m pretty sure I mentioned it previously, but just for you – yes you – my new reader, I’ll say it again. Ride The Lightning was one of the very first metal albums I heard along with Iron Maiden’s Killers and Somewhere In Time back in the summer of 1987. It’s weird to think in twelve months time I’ll have been indulging in the “hobby” for three decades. 

Since I first saw the band live in 1990 I’ve seen seven of the eight songs featured on this album in the live arena. The only one I’ve not seen is Escape, a track much maligned by James Hetfield especially. I know a lot of fans who want to hear experience it but it has only ever been played once during Metallica’s very own curated, but ill fated Orion Festival in 2012. 

With its deceiving forty second intro lulling you into a false sense of security before the bludgeoning guitars kick in, Fight Fire With Fire is the albums opening volley. This version is taken from the Orgullo, Pasión, y Gloria: Tres Noches en la Ciudad de México DVD / CD set released in 2009. I’ve got a couple of copies littered around the house, but I don’t think I’ve actually sat and watched it. That needs to be rectified. 
  

Chalice Of Blood

   

On to my final day off until Bloodstock finally looms over the horizon in nineteen days time. Another lazy Sunday spent on the couch keeping an eye on the furry reprobate and watching some blokes race machines firstly on four wheels and now two. It’s nearly another fortnight until my gig diary begins to kick in properly again, so in the meantime here’s a random pick from the iPod. 

First track played is right up there as one of my favourite thrash metal songs of all time, four and a half minutes of fast and aggressive class by Bay Area band Forbidden. 

Originally known as Forbidden Evil this track is taken from the bands 1988 debut Forbidden Evil. According to some resource sites, the Evil part of the name was dropped to prevent them being labelled as a black metal band, but as that scene was in its infancy back then I doubt that was the reason. I’d hazard a guess it was a marketing move to appease some up tight liberal religious types. 

An early incarnation of the Forbidden Evil line up included one Robb Flynn who went on to join cult thrash metal band Vio-lence before forming Machine Head. He left the band before the album was released but has writing credits for three songs on the record, including this one. Current Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph is also behind the Paiste cymbals on this album. 

I could actually make a template for this next part for so many bands, many who have preceded this post and for many more to follow. So many bands seem to have ran the same course during their career. 

  • They were big in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. 
  • They played a bunch of shows in the UK in that time frame that I didn’t get to see due to age and location. 
  • They split up at some point. 
  • In recent years they reformed. 
  • And I got to see a version of the band at a festival, which was probably Bloodstock. 

Indeed they did split up and reformed for a one off reunion under the Forbidden Evil name for the iconic Chuck Billy Thrash of the Titans charity show in 2001. 

  

With various line up changes here and there they were active again between 2007 and 2012. They released the much anticipated and well received album Omega Wave via Nuclear Blast in 2010 and had their second British show since 1990 at Bloodstock in 2011. 

  

I’ll hazard a guess that the first time I heard this song was when I got hold of the fourth instalment of the Speed Kills compilation albums that was released in 1989 – (Speed Kills… But Who’s Dying?). Those releases were most definitely a gateway into me expanding my love and knowledge of thrash metal. 

  

Currently they are inactive, but never say never! Their Raw Evil live 12″ released in 1989 is subtitled Live at the Dynamo, and the way the current Dynamo Metal Festival has been booking some of their bands I won’t be surprised to see their logo added to the poster at some point. 

This live version of Chalice of Blood is taken from the Ultimate Revenge 2 VHS cassette that includes Forbidden alongside Dark Angel, Death, Faith Or Fear and Raven. 

My Name Is Ozymandias 

It’s been a pretty busy nine days since I last walked out of the gates at work for ten days leave. I spent the first four days over in the Netherlands with my wife, who’s birthday it was on Thursday. 

We landed back in Liverpool on Monday evening and walked into the furnace of a British Summer, which didn’t last as long as expected. Since I pulled on a pair of shorts in my Amsterdam hotel I haven’t worn any long trousers since – if it miraculously managed to snow tomorrow I’m determined to not wear trousers until Monday morning. 

Since Tuesday afternoon the rest of our time has been taken up with this reprobate…

  

Say hello to Ozymandias. 

He’s a nine week old Yorkshire terrier and he’s currently as mad as a box of frogs, when he’s not sleeping! He’s been a handful while he’s been getting acclimatised to his new surroundings, but he’s getting there slowly. 

So his name, Ozymandias. It can be a bit of a mouthful so it’s shortened to Oz or Ozzie for everyday use. There are a few connotations behind his name that my wife chose.  

  • I’m not too proud to admit that behind this heavy metal exterior I quite like a musical, and one of my favourites is The Wizard of Oz. 
  • It can be loosely attested to my slight liking of heavy metal music and a link to Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne. That’ll be the biggest assumption even though I’m not really a Sabbath fan. 
  • If I wanted to be cool and in the know we could have said he’s named after the DC comics character that appears in the Watchmen mini series, but other than one viewing of the film a long time ago I’m not aware of the Adrian Alexander Veidt character. 

He’s actually named from a poem written in 1818 by Percy Shelley – the husband of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley – about the third Egyptian pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty Ramasses II using the Greek interpretation of his name. 

    I met a traveller from an antique land, 

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 

And on the pedestal, these words appear: 

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Source: Shelley’s Poetry and Prose (1977)

 

   

We’re both fans of Egyptology and Ancient Egypt so it does seem a fitting choice. 

For our honeymoon almost 16 years ago we went to Egypt. We had a week on a Nile cruise, a few days back up in Cairo and then finished it off with a beach like stay at a resort near Luxor. 

  

As impressive as the great pyramids look they pale into insignificance when you visit the site of Abu Simbel on the bank of Lake Nasser, near the border of what is now Sudan. The iconic rock reliefs commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274BC and sat at the border to ward away marauding armies from other nations. It was as much an ego trip for Ramasses II as it was as a deterrent to Hittites, Canaanites and Assyrians. 

   

The 30m high structure, with four imposing 19m tall seated pharaohs, took nearly a quarter of a century to carve out of a cliff face and it was so precise that twice a year in February and October rays from the sun would penetrate through to the inner sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, apart from that of Ptah who is connected with the underworld and remains in the dark. 

  

Due to the building of the Aswan High Dam and a risk of losing the temples again, this time to water rather than centuries of sand, the temples were cut up into gigantic blocks and reassemble on a man made dome 200m further back and 65m higher between 1964 and 1968. 

When you turn the corner and look at the main temple head on for the first time it is such a breath taking sight.   

  

In a vague attempt to link a song to the post I was going to use the Motörhead song King Of Kings that was used as the entrance theme of WWE wrestler Triple H, but I came across a few other songs with Ozymandias in the title, but as I’ve not heard any of those either I plumped on this track is by a band called Gatsbys American Dream, an indie rock band out of Seattle. The song is taken from their 2006 self titled album released on Fearless Records – a label I’ve always associated with the pop punk and emo hardcore scene. 

  

Obscured Velitation

  

Last Thursday marked my first gig at a British venue since I saw Fallen at the Underground in Stoke at the end of May. I had a drive eastwards along the A50 to Nottingham to catch Californian death metal quartet Skeletal Remains play at the Running Horse. 

I have to be up front here but until I was doing my Hellfest “research” before my foray to Nantes I’d never heard anything by the band, I actually don’t think I’d even seen the name mentioned anywhere. Once I’d heard their 1990’s inspired riffs they immediately made it on to my must see list of bands to see at the Gaul festival. 

Much like current death metal darlings Gruesome, Skeletal Remains are not reinventing the wheel over their two albums and they have used every cliche possible from the productive Morrisound era of the genre, but they do it extremely well. There’s a huge nod to Dutch outfit Pestilence’s early output and especially with that deathly Martin Van Drunen growl. 

Their early slot on the Altar stage on Friday back on June 17th was their first date on the absolutely epic European Bloodfeast tour which has crisscrossed the continent and carries on into the early days of August. My original plans for last weekends Dynamo Metal Festival should of included their set as part of the festivals pre-party the night before, but as we ended up decamping to Amsterdam a three hour round trip on the train two days running was not viable or economical. 

I was unsure if I could have made the Nottingham date as it was my wife’s birthday that day, but I think it ended up being a case of being stuck under her feet and I was ordered out of the house! 
  

After a straight forward 70 minute drive we got parked up close to the small venue and paid our £5 to get in. I can’t remember the last time I paid such a lowly sum to see a band from the States. Their short set was absolutely crushing. The venue was no Madison Square Garden, but they performed as if they were at somewhere much bigger, rather than a pub that has shoved the tables to the side of the room, and in front of thousands as I’d seen them a month ago, rather than the paltry 30 people in attendance. 

Actually that 30 was technically less than that. Once you remove the nine members of the opening acts (who all remained to the end which was excellent to see), the promoters and the headliners van driver from the equation, less than 20 people walked up to the door and handed over a fiver (less than €6 or $7 in today’s weird economic climate in this country). 

Yet again it could be a band who may think again about coming here if they based their schedule around attendances. If they all went ahead this should have been the final UK date of a 5 show run, their debut gigs over here I believe. But can you blame them?

Here’s that word I seem to have used a lot lately – apathy. This particular show seems to have been advertised well, and according to the Facebook event page 52 people were attending with another 104 interested. It was held in the ninth biggest urban conurbation in the UK and still less than 20 people can be bothered to turn up and at least two of us made the close on 200km round trip to attend. That, and the fact they had no shirts for sale, was the biggest disappointment on the evening, but those of us who braved a warm summer night had a blast of pummelling Stateside death metal. 

As I said above I’d never heard of them until a month ago and I might not have driven there on a whim otherwise, but if It was local to me, I was available to attend and I saw a flyer with an American death metal band on it for £5 I’d pop along out of sheer curiosity. 

Obscured Velitation can be found on the bands second album Condemned To Misery that surfaced last year. It’s probably just me with my basic vocabulary, but I had to check out the word velitation as the red dotted line appeared below it, but it is an actual word and not a spelling mistake! 😉

  

Genesis 

  

As you might have gathered I have a bit of an obsession with attending gigs, not as bad as some people I am aware of, but bad compared to a regular joe. 

As I’m in Amsterdam for a few days either side of my day trip to Eindhoven I had to have a look at who else was playing while I was in the city. Our trip fall between the two stools of Between The Buried And Me who play when I’m in Eindhoven and Bad Religion who play two days after I get home. Both are playing the Melkweg and according to the venues website Japanese band Nocturnal Bloodlust are playing on Sunday evening. 

I’ve never heard the band but with a title like that it has to be some brutal death metal band. On closer investigation with the ever faithful Spotify they are a melodic death core band. From the limited songs I’ve heard they probably owe their sound more to Trivium or Bring Me The Horizon rather than Cannibal Corpse or Obituary. The few songs I heard sound alright, nothing exactly ground breaking, but it might give me a reason to cross the Melkweg off my imaginary venue bucket list. A bit steep at nearly €30, so I’ll see how the mood takes me. 

Genesis is one of the top hits on YouTube and is here for no other reason than that. Apparently it’s taken from their 2014 release The Omnigod.