Elfie Goes To Bloodstock – Day 2

After a disastrous night’s sleep in Midgard (note to self: next year, camp in Hel!), Friday kicked off with some gloriously depraved Death Metal from Bristol-based Mortishead.  Given that it was stupid o’clock in the morning, they managed to whip up a fairly respectable circle pit.  Although it only really kicked off properly when the bassist got fed up with the lacklustre crowd response and jumped off the stage to create a pit himself!

From that point on, the New Blood Stage tent was very messy indeed!

After that rousing wake-up, I headed off to the Sophie Lancaster Stage to watch Silas.

Silas are an excellent Metalcore band and once again I find myself wondering where the industry bigwigs have been looking for all these great new bands they claim don’t exist.  Clearly they haven’t tried looking at Bloodstock.  Anyway, Silas threw out an energetic and fast-paced set and are definitely remaining on my “bands to keep an eye on” list.

Following Silas, I took advantage of the rather nicely laid out market area and went and picked up three patches for my battle jacket, including a very nice vintage Motörhead  one and… joy of joys… a long sleeve Korpiklaani shirt actually in my size!!

Death Metal legends, Belphegor... a bit dull?

Death Metal legends, Belphegor… a bit dull?                                   Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

Anyway… I’d heard good things about Belphegor, but after five minutes of their set, I was just bored, so I headed back over to the New Blood Stage to watch the mighty Mutagenocide rip BOA a new one.  The band turned up in my Top 10 albums of 2014, so watching them play to a respectably-sized crowd at the same time as Belphegor was fantastic.

They did a damned fine job of it, too.

Over on the Ronnie James Dio Main Stage, Overkill were next up for me, and were a pleasant surprise.  On a bill where the day’s highlight was Sabaton, they had fantastic crowd interaction which, mixed with some good tracks, means that Overkill have been added to my (very long!) list of bands I need to listen to more.


Overkill – The Gaffer’s little boy, David, loved them!                     Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal


Once Overkill were done, it was time for the main event as far as I was concerned: Sabaton.

The Swedes jumped straight onto my favourite bands list back in 2014 when I accidentally saw them while trying to see Týr.  As promised, Joakim and the lads had brought a tank(!!) with them, and from the opening bars of their intro tape, fellow Swedes, Europe‘s, The Final Countdown, to the confetti cannons firing blue and yellow confetti (to a chant of “I-ke-a!  I-ke-a!”, much to Joakim’s amusement) finale, Sabaton gave a headlining performance.  They were funny, they worked the crowd and every note was on point.

Ikea! Erm... Sabaton!

Ikea! Erm… Sabaton!                                                                                   Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

Sadly, they were followed by Trivium, who put on a show completely unworthy of a mainstage headline slot.  Now, before you class me as a “hater”, I LIKE Trivium a lot.  The last time I saw them at the Manchester Academy with Killswitch Engage, I loved them (here’s the evidence!), but after three songs, I was so bored, I wandered off and went to bed in a vain attempt to get a decent night’s sleep in before Saturday…

Trivium... oh dear. But then again, apparently Suzi did leave before they got their technical problems sorted out - Ed.

Trivium… oh dear. But then again, apparently Suzi did leave before they got their technical problems sorted out – The Gaffer.                                        Credit: Sabrina Ramdoyal

Elfie Goes To Bloodstock – Day 1

Regular readers and listeners will be aware that in the last year I’ve been rather ill and recently had some fairly hefty surgery with more promised next year.  All of this means that so far 2015 has been a gig-free year for me.

But before the extent of my illness was revealed, Mr Elfie had purchased me a Bloodstock ticket as an early Christmas present.  If you think eighteen tablets a day and major surgery four weeks before Bloodstock Open Air was going to stop me going to my very first Bloodstock…well… you’ve not come across me!

Once I’d done the whole “get coach, arrive, pitch tent“-schtick, it was time for things to kick off, which they did on the Sophie Lancaster Stage, lead by the almighty Reign Of Fury.

Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards
Reign Of Fury BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Reign Of Fury have had an excellent year since the release of Death Be Thy Shepherd,  and their set, which kicked off Bloodstock in an impressive style, proves that the threefold increase in Reign Of Fury t-shirts in my local isn’t due to a fluke.  The band tore up the stage, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and leaving us with the promise of an immense weekend to come.

Reign Of Fury were followed by Metaprism and Desecration who I heard from afar and seemed to do a reasonable job.

BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Metaprism BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Desecration BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Desecration BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

My second pick of the night were Red Rum who, with a set full of silliness, proved that whilst Pirate Metal is excellent, it is slightly ridiculous.  Anyway, it was a lot of fun and the crowd were in fine form with jigs-a-plenty and several crowd surfers (one of whom kindly kicked me in the stomach.  Thanks for that).  After that I repaired to bed – although it transpires that trying to go to bed early in Midgard is a silly thing, but all in Day 1 of Bloodstock Open Air was a good omen for the rest of the festival.

BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Red Rum BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Red Rum BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

Red Rum BOA 2015 by Alison Richards

SOS Festival Day 2, Radcliffe Civic Suite, Bury, 18th July 2015

The SOS Festival, for those of you who don’t know, is an annual event held in the small town of Radcliffe, near Bury in Greater Manchester.  To say it’s one of the Rock and Metal scene’s best kept secrets is something of an understatement.

Curated every year by Rocksector Records, the festival has hosted the likes of Evil Scarecrow, Triaxis, Absolva, Monument, Fury UK and Heaven’s Basement.  So we’re talking about the cream of the crop in terms of up-and-coming bands, several years before their step up to the likes of Bloodstock, Sonisphere and Download.  To that list, you can also add Gun, Avenger, Blaze Bayley and Tysondog, ably representing the more experienced end of the spectrum.

So something for everyone, then.

This year, for the first time, the festival had a Friday evening start, which meant I was unable to make it to see Triaxis, Collibus, Obzidian, Amethyst, Vice and Kill Or Cure, which was a real shame, since according to the buzz around the place on the second day, it had been an excellent night.

On to day two, I only caught part of Twisted Illusion‘s set, but from what I did hear, the youngsters that made up the band have good a very good thing going, despite their youth and inexperience.  Expect to hear from them in the future.

Lock Up Laura's vocalist, Lee McCusker

Lock Up Laura’s vocalist, Lee McCusker

Next up on The Dean Hocking Stage were Lock Up Laura (****).  The lads from Lincoln put on a high energy performance, showing themselves to be a very tight band displaying very strong, classy Hard Rock credentials.  Playing SOS in support of their recently released second album, Masquerade, in a time when the likes of Nickelback can be massive sellers, Lock Up Laura have got what it takes to really step up.

The Raven Age (****) were something of a pleasant surprise.  Personally, I’d been expecting something a lot more in the Trad Metal vein than the Nu Metal-tinged music the band purveyed.  They’ll be touring with guitarist George Harris’ dad’s band, British Lion next month as well as Skarlett Riot in October.  On this evidence, definitely worth checking out.


The Amorettes – Gill (guitar/vocals) and Heather (bass/Motorhead t-shirt)

The next band I managed to see were one I’ve wanted to clap my eyes on for a while.  If you were stood outside the auditorium, listening, you would have sworn this band were a bunch of highly experienced road warriors with a Joan Jett-style vocalist.  Take a look, though, and you discover that this band who can give Motorhead a run for their money, are three little girls from The Central Belt in Scotland.  To call The Amorettes (*****) awesome is something of an understatement.  Considering they’ve only just released their second album, Game On, their confidence and power onstage is nothing short of incredible… something you’d expect of a band with a career length in double digits and a combined age well into triple digits!

Go and see them, if you know what’s good for you.  They will blow you away.


Marco Kern – Drunk in charge of a Metal band (although you wouldn’t know it)

Teutonic Metal… you really can’t go wrong with that, when it comes down to it.  Austrians, Garagedays (****) prove that in spades.  Sound-wise, think Udo-era Accept, or even Udo Dirkschneider‘s solo stuff, as a reference.  Despite the level of inebriation vocalist Marco Kern was exhibiting in the press room, when he strapped his guitar on, it was like someone had flicked a switch to turn on his frontman circuits.  All signs of alcoholic stupor evaporated and the lads played a blinder.


Fireforce – possibly Belgium’s finest export

Staying in a Teutonic Metal vein, but with a definite twist of Power Metal, were Belgian veterans FireForce (****), making their first ever UK appearance.  These guys played out of their skins, tapping the same kind of energy as the likes of Dream Evil, Edguy and Bloodbound.  Special mention does have to be made of frontman, Filip “Flype” Lemmens.  This man has a truly incredible set of pipes, pushing notes maybe only Rob Halford can hit!

Italians, Secret Rule (**) were somewhat disappointing, if I’m honest.  Although the music itself was pretty decent stuff, very much in the vein of Lacuna Coil, and very well played, the lack of onstage charisma from the band meant I headed back to the press room to get ready for my next set of interviews, rather than waiting to be dragged off (like I had to be with a few other bands).


Marc Farquhar – Cumbria’s answer to James Hetfield?


Die No More’s Kev Smith – definitely not a Hamster.

Cumbria’s Die No More (****) were a massive improvement over the Italians.  This was a solid set from a band that really did know what they were doing.  Sonically, these guys are a part of the same movement as Evile, Gama Bomb, Municipal Waste and Bonded By Blood – Old School Bay Area-style Thrash, but brought very much up to date.  They have, apparently, been called “UK’s answer to Metallica“, but that’s selling Marc Farquhar and the lads short.  Yes, Marc does have the James Hetfield rasp in his voice and they do play in a similar style, but Die No More do have their own identity and based on this show, they’re a band to watch out for.


Avenger… erm… Avenging!


The last band I managed to see was the resurrected NWOBHM band, Avenger (****).

These guys were part of the legendary

Avenger's Ian Swift obviously enjoying himself!

Avenger’s Ian Swift obviously enjoying himself!

Neat Records stable, and that pedigree shows.  They delivered a strong, tight set of classy Hard Rock, quite obviously enjoying every second of it (as evidenced by the MASSIVE grin on vocalist Ian Swift’s face right the way through the set).

Lordi, Warehouse 23, Wakefield, 25th March 2015

It’s been a good few years since I last saw Lordi.  It was just after they’d won the Eurovision Song Contest for their home country of Finland.  That time, they played at The Carling Academy in Birmingham, with support provided by a young Finnish band called Turisas.

That night, despite a storming set from the support band, culminating in a breakneck version of Rasputin (which they eventually recorded), Lordi still managed to come out on top.  This time, at the much smaller Wakefield club, would the masked Finns still be able to pull it off?

IMG_3309Unfortunately, thanks to a parking issueIMG_3314 (as in the lack of it within the easiest distance of the venue), I missed the first few songs of the openers, Hollywood Groupies, but what I did see certainly made me want to know more about them.  The Italians certainly won themselves a few new friends on the night thanks to their obvious enthusiasm and very nice line in traditional, proper Heavy Metal, very much in the vein of their fellow countrymen, Arthemis.  These guys are definitely worth watching for the future.

Next up were Sweden’s very own Dirty Passion.

This is a bunch of guys who definitely IMG_3340know what they’re doing and what they’re about.  They also happen to do it very well.  It must be really only down to the vagaries of fashion that these guys aren’t a lot bigger.  With the seeming resurgence of this type of music, and the usual Swedish flare for doing this sort of thing right, it can only be a matter of time before these chaps become much more well known.  On that night’s performance, they certainly deserve it.


Onto the main event, then.  The Finnish Monster Squad, kicking off with new single, Nailed By The Hammer Of Frankenstein, which was the first of five songs unleashed from the new album, Scare Force One, including the title track and the instrumental track, Amen’s Lament To Ra.  Somewhat surprisingly, Hard Rock Hallelujah was the third song in the set instead of it being saved for the encore (which was made up of Scare Force One, Who’s Your Daddy? and Could You Love A Monsterman?)


The set itself was very well balanced.  There was literally something from everything, to twist the old phrase.  Since this is Lordi, the vast majority of the songs are the best ones Kiss never wrote.  With some lyrical modification, virtually anything Lordi have ever recorded could slot into almost any 70’s album from their back catalogue.  Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the most recent Kiss albums had co-writing credits featuring an obviously Finnish name.


Anyway, special mention has to be made of both the theatrics (this is a Lordi show, so there has to be some showmanship and some gore), which were always spot on and just the right level so they didn’t overshadow the music, and the musicianship, especially from Amen (guitar) and Mana (drums).  Being able to play that well in full costume makes what they do even more impressive.

As for Mr Lordi himself, he was in fine form, striding the stage in total command.  The venues may have become smaller, but The Monsterman hasn’t.  Could we love a Monsterman?  Yes.  We did, and we still most definitely do.

Amaranthe, Wakefield Warehouse 23, Wednesday 18th March 2015


So on an ordinary Wednesday night, I made my way to a new venue in Wakefield by the name of Warehouse 23.  Having got inside, I was genuinely surprised that my feet weren’t sticking to the floor and that the toilets had toilet paper and didn’t stink of urine.

On top of that, the bar prices were very reasonable, being much more “pub” than “venue”.  This was the first time in quite a while that I’d bought myself a drink at a gig and not felt like I’d been done.  The venue are also building a bit of a reputation thanks to the bands they’re putting on since they opened last year.

On this particular night, it was the turn of Swedish genre smashers, Amaranthe, supported by the Modern Metal of Engel and throwback Glam/Sleaze Rockers, Santa Cruz.

IMG_3185The first band up, somewhat surprisingly having read the poster, was Santa Cruz (****).

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I will freely admit that from my position right down at the front in the photo pit, it was somewhat difficult to gauge the sound and the reception the first two bands got, but the Finns seemed to be playing something of a blinder.  They were definitely not a band going through the motions.  All shapes thrown were genuine as were the smiles on the members’ faces during their set.???????????????????????????????

As for the set itself, it was like being back in the late 80’s, very much following in the footsteps Hanoi RocksMichael Monroe.  Classy Glam/Sleaze Metal, straight off Sunset Strip, but infused with that characteristic Finnish know-how and confidence.

The boys from Helsinki certainly made themselves a few friends, going by the comments I heard from various members of the audience.  Then again, with this type of crowd, the type of music Santa Cruz play and their Finnish attitude, failing to connect was never really an option for them.  They connected big-style.

Next up were the band I had been expecting to see first, Gothenburg’s very own Engel (***½).

They seemed to be an interesting choice for the bill, especially since Amaranthe’s bass player, Johan Andreassen, is a former (albeit a shortlived stint, nearly a decade ago!) member of the band.

Obviously no sour grapes from either side, then.

Their style of music is very much straight-ahead Modern Metal in a similar vein to the more melodic sides of bands such as Killswitch Engage and current iteration of The Agonist, contrasting clean and Death Metal vocals over a Melodic Heavy Metal base.  The band themselves were very professional and self-assured.  Their level of experience was obvious (only accentuated by relatively new vocalist Mikael Sehlin’s mentions of the band’s “fourth album“) and they used that experience to put on a solid, if unspectactular show.

Finally, to what had to have been a somewhat disappointing crowd (which more than likely got more to do with the newness of the venue and it being a Wednesday night not long before payday, than it has to do with the quality of the bands on offer), Amaranthe (*****) hit the stage.

Olof Mörck

Their enthusiasm and the obvious joy of performing was incredibly infectious.  It was virtually (and literally!) impossible not to stop a huge grin spreading over my face as I snapped photos in the pit and then from the punters’ side of the barrier following the traditional three songs.

To say that, onstage, Amaranthe are a well-oiled machine would make them seem soulless.  They’re not, by any stretch of the imagination.  They’re actually a lot of fun to watch.  The triple vocal line-up of Jake E, Elize Ryd and new boy Death Metal vocalist, Henrik Englund worked a lot better than expected on the surprisingly spacious stage.

When propelled by guitarist Olof Mörck, bassist Johan Andreassen and drummer, Morten Løwe Sørensen, they form a truly formidable live outfit.  One of the tightest I’ve seen in a long while.  They were almost effortless in their stagecraft and were very obviously enjoying themselves as they powered through a set made up of songs from all three of their studio albums.

As for the music, it’s bouncy, catchy feel-good stuff, ample proof that good Metal doesn’t need to be grim, angry and aggressive.

Jake E

Jake E

Not even a technical fault early on that took down the vocals, guitar and bass could even slow their momentum.

There were no tantrums or hissy fits from the stage, which was a very pleasant surprise.

They actually finished the song before joking around with the audience and each other until the power was restored, at which point they carried on as if nothing untoward had happen.  Extremely professional and very refreshing.

Johan Andreassen

Throughout the whole set, probably the only miss-step was the entirely gratuitous (but thankfully not long) drum solo.  Then again, it did give the rest of the band time enough to gather themselves before carrying on.  To say the two hour set flew by would be by no means an exaggeration.  The pounding encore-closer and final song of the night, Massive Addictive came far too soon.

An apt way to finish, really.  It would be cheesy to say that Amaranthe, as a live act, are Massively Addictive… but they are.  Their sheer joy at being on stage and the quality of the songs and musicianship on offer make that something that really does have to be said, despite the fermented milk factor.


Hayseed Dixie, Wakefield Warehouse 23, Saturday 21st March 2015

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Guest Reviewer: Kath Runciman

I first would like to address the venue for this gig.

Having never been to Wakefield’s new venue, Warehouse 23, I was unsure what to expect for the evening.  What I experienced was polite, pleasant staff who were attentive and supportive and who showed a level of empathy with disabled audience members, I feel has to be mentioned, as there were several large motorised wheelchairs, several visually impaired and hearing impaired people there and what I saw was a superb level of support to ensure that they had the best experience the venue could offer. Yes, there is still room for improvement but I don’t think I’ve seen that level of genuine inclusivity in any venue before….well done Warehouse 23.

So….downside…..no support band, so there was a long wait before Hayseed Dixie came on, but for me, that is the only negative of the night.

Once on stage, Hayseed delivered on of the most fun and enjoyable gigs I have ever experienced. The level of energy from the band members and musical ability was superb and they competently carried the audience through renditions of classic rock tracks, hip hop, Britney Spears (only for a moment, fortunately) and triumphant renditions of classic tracks such as Bohemian Rhapsody.

John Wheeler engaged with the crowd brilliantly with a blend of banter and interesting (and insightful) political commentary on issues both American and British.  He finished a staggering rant quoting several philosophical and scientific theories, with, “I’m not just a redneck, I’m an educated redneck and that’s something to be afraid of“.



Getting back to the music, renditions of Motörhead‘s Ace Of Spades and AC/DC‘s Highway to Hell whipped the crowd into a sea of horns up waving hands and when they broke into Journey‘s Don’t Stop Believing, young and old embraced their inner Glee demon and sang along and danced equally. The band also introduced the crowd to some of their original material from the No Covers album which was well received.

The musicianship was phenomenal and the band members, apart from Jake ‘Bakesnake’ Byers on acoustic bass, swapped between instruments and showed a level of classical aptitude, mixed with thundering rock interpretation that was awe inspiring for its execution and truly brilliant.  The fiddle playing (as a classically trained and experienced concert violinist) was breathtaking at times and beautiful in moments of classical and softer renditions, something which in a climate changing in temperature constantly due to the mere heat of the crowd in such an intimate space, was very impressive.

Finishing with a staggering rendition of Pink Floyd‘s iconic Comfortably Numb, the audience were left with no doubt, that Hayseed Dixie had given their all to Wakefield and after 5 minutes, all of the band were in the bar with the fans, drinking, signing autographs, having photos and selfies done and relaxing, no sense of rushing away, a genuine desire to meet, greet and relax with the fans who supported them, old and new.

If you see Hayseed Dixie are playing a venue near you, if you need to feel the joy of music and the fun of not taking life too seriously, you cannot go wrong with a trip to one of their gigs. 10/10 and thank you for an amazing night.