With Bloodstock fast approaching, it won’t be long until we’re bin jousting, moshing and drowning in warm cans of lager for the first time in two years at those hallowed grounds at Catton Park. You may be unsure of some of the names on the bill, though, so here’s a list of a few bands you may want to see if you’re short of ideas. By no means an exhaustive list – I could have easily mentioned twice as many acts – here’s a cool filthy fifteen to get excited about, with a balance of bands near the top of the bill as well as the bottom.
Really, I could have made this list twice as long. There’s so much talent this year.
It seems hard to believe, but Priest’s ’50 Heavy Metal Years of Music’ headliner for Bloodstock was announced almost twenty-one months ago now. Any appearance from the Metal Gods is a treat for any festival-goer, though, and if their storming 2018 set is anything to go by, they haven’t lost a smidgeon of firepower over that half century. There’s not really a lot I can say about these legends that hasn’t been said. As Rob Halford once said, ‘heavy metal is immortal, but we’re not.’ Skip over them at your peril.
What to expect: Leather, motorbikes, the Painkiller™, ear-piercing screams.
One of the brightest up-and-coming bands in the United Kingdom at the moment, Conjurer’s rapid ascendancy seems to have no bounds. Their fans await a follow-up to 2018’s Mire with bated breath, which was received to huge acclaim from critics, fans and fellow musicians. They’ll be on the Ronnie James Dio stage early on the Saturday, only five years and a day after they ripped the New Blood Stage to shreds in 2016 as relative unknowns. Conjurer are better than your band and will be worth shaking off the hangover for.
What to expect: Earth-moving riffs, blastbeats, moshpits, and a new song (maybe?).
Bristolian quartet Svalbard have earned themselves a well-deserved slot on the Ronnie James Dio stage on the Friday, where they’ll be playing songs from the fantastic When I Die, Will I Get Better?, which came out last autumn. They bring a new meaning to heaviness in a lyrical sense, as songwriter Serena Cherry fearlessly tackles topics of sexual harassment, revenge porn and social media in her art. They’ve been one of the most talked-about bands from the UK underground for the last decade, but this set could promote them to those coveted bigger leagues.
What to expect: Hypnotic atmospherics, vicious anger, fist-pumping hardcore energy.
Winners of the Planet Rock competition to open the Sophie Stage on the Saturday morning, defeating over 500 other bands, Netherhall are not a band to sleep on. With intelligent, proggy compositions in an alt-metal style that sounds vintage enough to be familiar, but not so backwards-facing that it sounds dated, you could consider them to be Great Barr’s answer to Tool. With the promise of new material from their upcoming album, they’ve earned this spot and could be on the cusp of something huge.
What to expect: A captivating live show, taking you on a journey, forcing you to stop for breath by the end.
Ginger et al. will be bringing the party at teatime on the main stage on Friday. Again, they’re one of those bands who need no introductions, and after over thirty years of getting their groove on, there’s no indications of them slowing down. If you miss them this time round (shame on you), they’ll also be at our ten year anniversary celebration gig in November with Raging Speedhorn – who are also on at Bloodstock this year – and our very own Pete K Mally.
What to expect: A fun, raucous rock n’ roll party.
The Liverpudlian mob will be bringing their dirty, dour, downtuned doom to the Sophie stage late on Friday evening. It’s an exciting time to be a Conan fan; 2018’s Existential Void Guardian was arguably their best and most varied album to date, and it can’t be long before they hint at their next offering. For now, we can appreciate a band who’ve come up through the Bloodstock ranks who understand how to make crushingly heavy material without pretence or over-complication. Be ready to be blown away.
What to expect: Dual vocal interplay, drop F riffing, the sheer force of heaviness.
Ashen Crown could count the number of shows they’d played on one hand by the time their Wolverhampton Metal 2 The Masses final came around in 2017. That gig propelled them straight to the New Blood Stage – but they haven’t rested on their laurels, with a blistering debut album two years later, titled Obsolescence, an active social media presence, and a firm presence on the gig/festival circuit. They’ve gained the recognition of the likes of Memoriam’s Karl Willetts and their spot on the Sophie stage this time round is thoroughly deserved.
What to expect: Crushing death metal and a sore neck by the end of their set.
Sound of Origin
This year’s Metal 2 The Masses winners up in Leeds, Sound of Origin mix a 90s rock aesthetic à la Alice in Chains and Kyuss with the force of modern sludge metal. At the moment, they’re teasing an Alice Cooper cover and new (Sound of) original material, but they released The All Seeing Eye last summer, which was a personal musical highlight of 2020 for me. Head over to the New Blood Stage on the Friday to find out why. The best kept secret of the North.
What to expect: Vocal acrobatics and dense, memorable, Sabbathy riffs.
Nottinghamshire trio Master Charger will be well-known to many of the regular gig- and festival-goers in the UK, but that’s no reason to miss out on them this time. The storming Origin of the Lugubrious was released last year, and their spot on the Jägermeister Stage on the Thursday may be your first chance to hear a song or two from it. If you’re not yet aware of them, their sound was once dubbed a ‘Satanic Blues Rumble’ after a show in Birmingham. That sums it up nicely.
What to expect: Sludgy rock songs over a thundering rhythm section and powerful, vicious vocals.
On the Sophie stage, early on the Saturday, you’ll find five lads from Merseyside creating a moral panic. They’re Video Nasties, and their identity borrows as much from horror movies as it does from all sorts of extreme music; death n’ roll, black metal, punk, thrash, and so on. Last year’s debut Dominion would become APF Records’ best-selling release – why not find out why? They’re not for the faint of heart, mind…
What to expect: Gritty, morbid fun.
Raised by Owls
Raised by Owls became cult heroes in the local metal underground over the last five years or so with a strong social media presence and an ugly grindcore style that borrows from all sorts of extreme metal bands. They’re known for their online comedy skits, that appeal to a specifically British sense of humour, poking fun at others as well as themselves. Yet the blistering music is so technical, excessive and extreme that it truly adds to that brand of silliness. This set will be talked about for a few years to come.
What to expect: Over-the-top blasts and a few laughs for good measure.
One of the leading English thrash metal institutions, Evile are finally back as they were after a period of instability that saw lineup changes and the rejoining of Ol Drake, now on lead vocal duties as well. Last year’s Hell Unleashed was jaw-droppingly aggressive and showed that their time away from activity hadn’t diluted any of their power in between. Those of a younger generation may have missed them the last time they were this active on the gig/festival circuit, but there’s no excuses now.
What to expect: Blistering, balls-out thrash metal shredding.
You might not know WALL, although you may know Desert Storm or The Grand Mal, the better-known bands of the Cole twins. This time, they’re on their own as a two-piece, playing a crushing form of sludge metal. Formed over lockdown, their debut EP showed their command of both fast aggression (see Wrath of the Serpent) as well as slow heaviness (such as Obsidian). Another is due tomorrow; really, WALL is testament to the power of The Riff – there’s no vocals, frills or pretension, and they do it really effectively.
What to expect: Riffs.
Birmingham Metal 2 The Masses winners Insurgent are slowly but surely on the rise. After a couple of singles and a run of gigs as far out as Ukraine, the band went off-radar as the world shut its doors, but have reemerged even more convincingly than ever with the stunning track ‘Dogma’ to precede the release of Sentient a week before they play the New Blood Stage. Their hard-hitting, progressive take on modern metal is complemented wonderfully by soaring vocals. Don’t be surprised when they’re playing to bigger audiences on bigger stages soon.
What to expect: Chunky, technical riffwork, thunderous drumming and powerful, anthemic singing.
Oh, come on. You weren’t really going to miss out on a Napalm Death set, were you? They’re going to pack out the tent and beat you senseless, and you’re going to be there, having a great time.
What to expect: Napalm Death.