Edinburgh, Scotland- home to Edinburgh Castle, bagpipes, whiskey, and now also home to one of Scotlands greatest extreme metal festivals, Heavy Scotland. I joined the hoards of Kilt wearing, haggis eating metalheads as we marched down the cobblestones and under the Iconic Arches of The Corn Exchange, a fantastic live music venue which ironically used to be a slaughterhouse, what a great setting for a two day festival, watching some of the best Metal Bands to hit this stage. (*cue wailing and clawing -"METAAAAAAAL!!")
Following a massive pre-party, the night before, at Studio 24, showcasing some great local acts, there was surprisingly quite a good turnout for the early starters! Kicking off day one of the festival were Scotland's Centrilla, with their metalcore vibes, technical riffs and savage vocals, they proved why they were worthy of opening the festival. Next to the stage were Welsh Death Metallers Sodomized Cadaver, and like their namesake sounds... they are savage. Leaving no place for the weak, their songs are short and punchy but their lyrical content is enough to make the mighty Corpesginder blush. The festival setup was really spacious, with all bands playing on the one main stage, with merch stalls, signing areas and the metal markets showing their wares. I bought some reasonably priced beer and headed out to the beer garden to find a yummy burrito van, burger and hot dog stalls and the sun! Yes, you read that right, there was sun in Scotland and I was drinking beer in it! Meanwhile inside, UK three piece, Dyscarnate were causing neck damage with their groove style Death Metal, riff after riff, there wasn’t a standstill silhouette in the audience. Playing one serious beast of a set and leaving their new fans racing to the merch desk, their show confirmed why they are leading the charge in the UK death metal army.
The clouds roll over and our 5 minutes of Scottish spring is over, its time for everyone to find cover, it's time for War! Warbringer that is! Lead by California's barbaric frontman, John Kevill, its finally time for some thrash and the crowd were ready. Although the band has gone through a few lineup changes in the past, this new lineup tore the corn exchange …well... a new cornhole. They treated us to an exploding set, playing a lot off the brand new album Woe to the Vanquished, which came out the previous day. (March 31st) Kevill's soldiers fisted the air and intermediately screamed "Violent!" during Remain Violent. A good sized circle pit erupts and the room is alive, two of my drunken Irish comrades take turns at sitting on each others shoulders, attempting to headbang and do some laps of the circle pit at the same time, spilling beer and falling over everyone, only to get up and do it again! Hair, beer and sweat is flying around everywhere in a beautiful, thrashy mess and I love it! TO THE BAR! After a shot of Whisky and a pint of Fosters (don’t even start!), we're eagerly awaiting some more of -shall we say the new wave of American thrash? Havok take to the stage, founding frontman David Sanchez is centre stage, his beard is mighty and his political stance is strong. Considering this is day one of their tour with Warbringer on their new album Conformicide, I'm keen to see how 'lumberjack' he is by the end of the tour. Sanchez has the vocals and the attitude to make anyone stop and listen, channeling his inner-Tom Araya he lead us through an onslaught set of new and essential moshpit pleasers. While Pete Webber assaulted our ears on drums, Guitarist Reece Scruggs being the riffmaster he is, entertained the crowd showing off his mighty windmill circumference and crisscrossing across the stage in between his backup vocals. Bass player Nick Schendzielos (Job for a Cowboy, Cephalic Carnage) after joining the band in 2015, really showed us this was where he was meant to be, flying across the stage with green lights glowing along the neck of his bass and screaming "let's turn this up!" After buying a burger, dropping it all over some poor, unsuspecting guy, then buying him an apology burger and buying myself more beer instead, it was time for some Italian classical Death metal, enter.. Fleshgod Apocalypse! At the forefront of the Extreme Metal scene in Italy their live show really was something you have to see to believe. In matching tailed and tattered Victorian coats, guitarist Cristiano Trionfera, bassist Paolo Rossia and lead vocalist/ rhythm guitarist Tommaso Riccardi nailed their synchronized windmills, which must have taken as much practice as their immense musical skills. Francesco Ferrini played an incredible performance on the orchestral's and a real piano onstage, while drummer Francesco Paoli played the entire set, despite having injured his leg earlier. As I listened to the operatic Soprano vocals of Veronica Bordacchini who stood ever so gracefully at the back of the stage behind her Venetian mask, I wondered what Mozart and Beethoven would think of the way their music has evolved, not to mention a bunch of metal heads in Scotland doing the wall of death to it!
Next up on the bill we have Party Svenske- just joking! Swedish Death metal greats GRAVE, after forming in the late eighties, the band have been noted as one of the big four Swedish Death Metal acts, alongside Dismember, Unleashed and Entombed. This was the first time seeing these publishers play and I'm telling you right now, they didn't disappoint. Although it was apparent that there wasn’t a great deal of familiar fans in the audience, after the first few songs the crowd were looking at each other in disbelief! Founding member Ola Lindrgrens vocals really are the stuff nightmares are made of; that raw, hard-hitting, eerie sound that can only be found in old school Swedish Death Metal and it was exciting to see people witness this for the first time. I met a guy next to me, who bit his lip and looked at me as though he had seen a ghost, pointing at the stage, "Holy Fuck yes" he screamed! Look, I'm not going to lie, its getting late and I'm getting smashed, that old fosters packs a punch! Outside in the beer garden, people are swarming around, making new friends, toasting to old friends, it’s a really good vibe. Meanwhile, inside the vibes are getting grim...
Hailing from Poland and for their only exclusive UK show for 2017, blackened-death metal overlords, Behemoth are making their hooded way through the smoke-filled stage. Armed with spikes and flamed torches, the infamous frontman Nergal steps through the smoke to begin the ritual. As the room filled out, the crowd came to a standstill and I watched the faces of many eager fans who for most, this was the first time experiencing a Behemoth live performance. With Seth and Orion by his side and Inferno taking his seat behind the drum kit, Nergal guides us into The Satanist album, commencing with the unforgettable riffs of Blow your Trumpets Gabriel. They play the album from start to finish and it is of course, flawless. The room fills with incense as Negral swings the chain of his Thurible and O Father o Satan o Son arrives along with the costume change, que the illustrious- horned devil masks. As an encore they are back after a few moments to play Of fire and the Void, Conquer All and they finally leave us bereft with Chant for Eshaton 2000, all the while spitting fake blood as a thank you to the front row for purchasing their new white Behemoth Hoodie at the merch desk.
The corn exchange really did look like it was still a slaughterhouse after that incredible performance. While blood-covered bodies made their embarrassing way home via public transport, I jammed some of the guys from Havok into a cab and we sped down Edinburgh's medieval streets, to the official after-party at 'Keep it Steel'-Studio 24. This is where things get messy... this was one hell of an after party, seriously! Members of Destruction, Alestorm and TesseracT were spinning the tracks for the evening, so you could imagine the mood was set to loud and heavy. Every second face was smothered in the free Corpse Paint, I was falling down stairs, the dancefloor was going crazy and the sumo suit wrestling was hilarious! The Black metal Brewery beers were going down way too fast, I was dancing on tables, the bartenders were walking along the bar pouring buckfast (Scottish tonic wine) into thirsty metal mouths, I was covered in Buckfast.. You can see the pattern here. I think a good time was had by all? I woke up on the floor of my room, fully clothed with an empty bottle of very fancy champagne next to me, apparently I jumped out of a moving taxi at some point as well. In my drunken stupor, I had slept through the first 3 bands, Lucifers Corpus, Disposable and Finnish glammers, Shiraz Lane, Sorry guys! Kicking myself and wearing the same makeup as the previous day, I grabbed a can of beer for hair of the dog and ran back to the venue!
Day two, I fell into the venue to the smell of an entire hog roast on a rotisserie in the beer garden. Fresh roast pork with some crispy haggis on top, stuffed into a fresh bread roll was the best hangover cure this girl could ask for! With a belly full of one very heavy metal piggie, (you were sacrificed for a good cause mate), I scurried along to see one of my favourites for the day, Belgium's Evil Invaders. These guys play some of the raciest thrash metal I've seen in a long time, although they are young in age, their music and presence on stage makes me feel like I'm watching them in some dive bar in the 80's. Tight denim, chained jackets, bullet belts, moustaches and one hell of an attitude, this foursome really know how to put on a dramatic performance. Blasting through a light show vigorous enough to break me out of my hangover, they steam through songs from their 2016 EP- In For The Kill, while encouraging a very entertaining circle pit of metalheads literally sprinting, to keep in time with the speed. Vocalist and guitarist Joe who plays with his own custom made axe, (J-axe Guitars, check them out, they are baddass) with his jaw clenched tight he stares through his fringe, making crazy-eyes at the crowd. All the while maintaining his devilish gaze, in Fast, loud 'n' Rude, Joe shreiks notes so high, that I'm worried the windows will shatter. He is joined by lead guitarist Max Mayhem in some incredible thick guitar duals, Senne Jacobs on drums is like a machine gun from hell and assaulting our ears on bass, Joeri Van de Shoot shoots his bass at the audience like a gun in time with the blasts. Darting and thrusting around the stage they finish off the set with Victim of Sacrifice, playing with absolute conviction and security it's no wonder these guys are going on tour with Destruction next month! I bought the shirt and a patch, watch these guys!
Blaze Bayley, a timely name around the UK metal circuit over the last 20 odd years. Having been known for his time as the vocalist with industry giants Iron Maiden in 1993, where he toured extensively and recorded two albums, also as the frontman of English rockers Wofsbane. Blaze has been touring on his solo career, with his band BLAZE BAYLEY, for quite some time now so the presence of many of his own songs was no shock and he certainly had some fans in Scotland. Playing Wolfsbane's song Man Hunt as well as treating us to a few from the old Maiden days such as Man on the Edge, he created a nice little crowd sing along with the "woahhhs" and the "Arhhhhhhs". As Blazes impressive voice echoed around the hall, his vocals sounded like they hadn't aged a day. And now for something completely different, I step inside to get split wide open by the guttural lead vocals of Jay Evans of Manchester's Ingested. Slated as one of the most memorable performances of the day by a lot of punters I spoke to in the aftermath of one hectic wall of Death, they really did live up to their reputation as one of the UK's most Vicious Death metal acts. With Sean Hynes and Sam Yates, both on guitar and vocals, Brad Fuller on bass and Lyn Jeffs on drums, they provide us with some backbreakingly heavy breakdowns, deep key changes not to mention their theme of gore/ serial killers to get the romantics on board!
Whisky, whisky, whisky! Did I say whisky?.... and thrash! Now it's time for one of the big four German thrash acts, Destruction and the crowd is ready for chaos by now. Kicking off the butchery with some new work, Under Attack, Shmier's vocals are as gritty as ever and his bass lines are sharp as he leads this trinity of hate though an epic list of anthems. Mike Sifringer on guitar and Vavver on drums got out their bibles for us with Nailed to the Cross and no Destruction set would be complete without Thrash till Death. Meanwhile in the pit there is a bit of a chase on with some young lad who got a nice cut on his forehead, in all the excitement, he hadn't noticed and kept headbanging, causing a nice little blood splattering effect on anyone within a metre radius. After a game of cat and mouse with security, he came back to the pit with a plastered forehead and a fist in the air, after all this was a Destruction show! We traded in our battle vests for some pointy troll ears and prepared ourselves for some dancing as we got ready for the mighty Finntroll! These Finnish trolls were perfectly timed on the day because the mass was full of booze and bad manners! Sporting Troll ears of all different shapes and sizes, as well as the finntroll style vertical warpaint all members arrived on stage with enough energy to move mountains. Their sea shanty-es que tunes swept us up in Finnish folklore, vocalist Vreth deeply growls their tales in Sweedish of anti-Christian trolls and myths as he twirls around the stage! Standing in for Virta on keyboards, Felipe Muñoz, adds a lot to the overall sound and really gives us something to dance to. Guitarists Routa and Skrymer enchant us with their melodic spiels and on stage antics. Mikael crosses over the stage to battle it off with Skrymer and they give each other a fist bump of Fuck Yeah- before moving back to their guards. They play Solsagn, one of their more heavier songs, in which Vreth takes off his jacket, swings it around his head- like a troll-stripper from the pits and tosses it to his fair maidens (sweaty metal dudes at the front barrier). I was eagerly awaiting the iconic chants of Trollhammaren and so were the Scotts, even though their lyrics are in Swedish, it seemed everyone in the hall knew the words to this song. Although being named as Folk metal in nature, Finntroll have quite a lot of Thrash, Black and even Death metal elements, a finntroll -'first timer', in the crowd, described them as fun but still brutal and I would have to agree with him. They really did put everyone in a good mood and make us want to drink more!
Arch Enemy take the last position of the night and what a great way to end the festival. A few years ago, if you would've asked me about Arch enemy, I would have said they have lost a bit of their zing, that zing, possibly being the departure of former vocalist Angela Gossow. Despite the lineup changes, although playing in that same style and playing the same heavy metal anthems that became popular earlier in their career, as well as new material, I would say that they are totally owning it. Alissa White-Gluz is the most magnetic being on stage, her costume looks as though it was sewn onto her body with straps and tassels suspending from her arms as she swishes the straps over the audience. Don't be fooled by her pocket size and mermaid-like hair, for she is one fiery goddess with vocals deep enough to tear out your soul with one note. Guitarist Jeff Loomis of Nevermore also brings new life to the band after joining in 2014, he is complemented by founding guitarist Michael Ammot as they share long winded solos' and harmonious signatures. Sharlee D'angelo on bass and drummer, Daniel Erlandsson kept the heartbeat of the band strong and this lineup created one of the tightest sets Ive seen Arch Enemy play. Alissa commands the crowd to sing and jump through the likes of We Will Rise, War Eternal and after a three song encore they finish on Nemesis, which of course makes everyone lose their minds, flailing around in the moshpit like piranhas in a tank of goldfish, the crowd cheer and applaud as the last act of the festival take their bows.
The deflated sweaty bodies of Edinburgh's finest head home to probably work on Monday and I head off to yet another ridiculous after party! I won't go into the nitty gritty but let's just say it ended at the very wee hours of the morning at a Casino somewhere with some Finnish trolls, Invaders that are Evil and I had quite the luck on the old roulette tables! With the weekend done and dusted, I have to shout out to the Heavy Scotland festival Director Caitlin Elliot, she really did pull off one amazing festival and something fantastic for the Edinburgh metal Scene. The smiles on every face when leaving the Corn Exchange on the last day proved it. Caitlin and Heavy Scotland also work with a charity called Little princess Trust who make wigs for children with cancer. She offered up to 20 metal heads that donated twelve inches or more of their hair to the charity - free tickets to the festival. I think this is a brilliant initiative! I've spoken to Caitlin since the festival and she sounds excited for next year's festival and assures me she has already hooked some great bands in for Heavy Scotland 2018 so stay tuned!!