Bloodstock – festival review and interview (Part 1)
12th-15th August 2021
Bloodstock 2021 wowed thousands of music fans in its epic return to normality; from the atmosphere to the bands, to the people who run the show. Lucy Shevchuk spoke to Barney of the infamous Napalm Death and chatted with Alex, vocalist of the upcoming incredible Malevolence.
I may have a blister on my foot that I should name at this point as it isn’t going anywhere, I may have a throat that feels like it’s exploded, and I may be rough as toast and me and my friends may have been haunted by a Pirate Commadore for 5 days. But, I have zero regrets about attending Bloodstock 2021.
I thought that attending a festival would feel surreal and put me in a dream-like state for a few days. After almost 2 years of boredom and seclusion, I presumed it would feel unnatural to walk amongst thousands of music fans once again. Bloodstock felt “normal” which is a feeling we’ve all craved. Above all, walking through those gates felt like returning home. This festival embraced us with its big tattooed sweaty arms and we were happily enveloped whilst we drank numerous pints and ruined our vocal chords.
With acts such as the infamous Judas Priest, the incredible and euphoric Devin Townsend (whose performance made me and my friend cry) and the brutal and relentless Napalm Death (interview with Barney below), I knew we were in for a treat off the bat.
However, it’s not only the music that impressed us.
The people were benevolent from the crowd to the organisers. Moreover, there seemed to be a distinct lack of those “festival idiots”. You know the types, the ones stumbling around who are only there to cause trouble. The crowd felt like a family and a community that was inclusive and understanding.
In addition, Bloodstock does more for unknown bands than any other festival.
Bloodstock demands attention for the underground scene, screaming “We’re in this for the music! “ and is run by music lovers who genuinely care. That alone makes this festival shine brighter than most, by offering slots at the Jeigermeister Stage and the New Blood stage, which houses Metal 2 The Masses winners. Bloodstock Part 2 will go into this further, where I chat with Simon Hall himself, the organiser of the awesome Metal 2 The Masses. For now, here are a couple of my favourite performances from the big names.
Napalm Death – Interview
Firstly, a band that needs no introduction is Napalm Death. Interviewing Barney from Napalm was something I’ll never forget. Their performance was bursting with enough chaotic and rampant aggression to make anyone’s eyes water. Napalm Death’s career has spanned over 30 years and there is still no letting up. Their new album Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism proves this to be true as much as their performance did, and I had a few questions to ask about their career and the album.
Louder Than War: How mad is it being at a festival again?!
Barney: It’s as mad as you’ve just expressed, it’s been so long since we’ve done something like this. I’m nervous, you know.
I was just about to ask, do you guys still get nervous?
Yeah, it’s completely irrational. But it’s the thought – I need and want this to be as good as it can be and I’m always a bit nervous that it wont be as good as it can be. You can be in a band for 50 years and you’re still going to get stage fright.
I’m sure that’s humbling to know for the younger bands. The album released in 2020, Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism, covers so many topics that seemed so relavent to the time, but did you work on this while there was any sign of covid on the horizon?
We had no idea. But we’ve always used a lot of metaphor. We don’t make it so abstract that its impenetrable, but we like to make it so there’s a bit of work involved with listening to it and we’ve always covered a lot of different issues and topics.
The song Acting In Gouged Faith really resonated with me, could you go into the meaning more?
To go back a few steps, part of the concept of the album was to think about people seeking refuge, different types of people; talking about people being so fucking dehumanised. You get people in this world that are so moralistic and religious who claim themselves to be very good people, but that’s not always the case. I try to be critical on the structures of religion and not necessarily the people and the mechanisms, what lies underneath people’s thoughts and actions. What we write about is the world in-front of us. If you ask someone “Why are you so dismissive of other people?” they cant give you an answer, which goes back to one of our titles, Backlash Just Because.
That’s also an amazing song. Is there anything you think you’ve done to be able to maintain your vocal ability for so long?
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. It seems that anatomically my bits are arranged in a way that it comes easily for me and allows me to sing in a certain way. I’ve always believed if you take care of the rest of your body your voice will follow, so I try to look after myself.
Can you let the people know what we can expect from Napalm Death for the next year?
Well, that all depends. I don’t think in Europe things are going to be as they were until next year. We’ve got a tour in America at the end of the year but that may not happen. We may have a mini album out at some point, but mainly we’re going to gig the album.
Malevolence – Interview
Their pits started before they even started playing, that’s how buzzed and excited the crowd were. They are a powerful and tight unit, with dynamic songs that celebrate melody within the brutality. Their breakdowns are SAVAGE and they have stage presence and chemistry of a band that have been performing double the time they have. Watch these guys, they’re going to be big. I was lucky enough to speak to Alex Taylor, Malevolences vocalist.
Louder Than War: There aren’t a lot of bands where before you even go on stage people are going mental to no music, you really were amazing. Was that the biggest gig you’ve done?
Alex: It’s definitely up there. We did the Download Pilot a couple of weeks ago and that was to 7000 people. I’m unsure how many people were here, but it was enough to make me shit myself.
Yeah, probably don’t shit yourself on stage. It must’ve felt ridiculous. How long was it before the Download Pilot since you’d gigged?
16 months. I was nervous before that show but I think I was probably more nervous today. I don’t know why, I cant explain it. but when you get out there within a few minutes you’re thinking well, I’m here and this is it.
You honestly wouldn’t be able to tell. You seem to be really creative with your songs and writing processes, doing things and adding things that aren’t typical for the genre. How does your writing process work?
Josh our guitarist will normally write a lot of the music and demo a lot of stuff. We’d then sit and go through it: for the new album he wrote 20 songs and we’d pick our favourite ones and chop and change. That’s a collective effort, and when it comes to writing and the lyrics that’s a collective effort as well. We pick a topic that we all want to talk about and bounce off each other. I feel like this new album we’re working on is coming together easier.
Did you manage to meet up or were there restrictions to you guys getting together?
I live two minutes away from the unit we’ve moved into where we run our label, our merch store, studio and practice room, and we all managed to be able to stay there. We built that place from scratch and had a lot of late nights there.
I’ve noticed that you’ve brought quite a few featured artists on a lot of your tracks, what made you want to get more people involved and how did you manage it?
It’s mainly just our mates. The guy on Keep Your Distance, Bryan from Knocked Loose – we were already boys with them before and we met them at a show in the US in 2016. We’ve been mutual fans of each other’s bands and had a tour planned with them in 2019, so we just asked ‘do you want to jump on a song”? I love working with different people, it brings a different dynamic but I’m still picky with who does certain parts.
Your vocals are insane I’ve got to say. What prep do you do?
Half an hour warm up anytime I’m about to go. I never used to do it until a few years ago, I was having so many blow outs on tour and thought, ok, I need to get round this now.
How do you even get round a vocal blow out?
Sleep. Sleep is the only thing and not talking to anyone. People tell you about teas and stuff, but honestly rest and hydration is the best stuff.
Being from Sheffield, what’s the scene like over there? I’ve never really gone to Sheffield to watch live music but I want to.
There’ve been so many good bands come out of Sheffield, Bring Me The Horizon being one of them. It’s really good for indie music too, but has a mix of genres, a bit of a melting pot.
Do you have any tips for bands in a similar genre on how to progress their careers, and can you tell us anything you think you’ve done well to get you where you are?
We’ve always had quite a hands on approach to everything and have our own way of doing things. We like to be in charge of everything, from the creative process to the video, to the music, to the business side. Just do it yourselves. It’s possible to do it, it’s more work but the benefits are greater. And write some good fucking riffs.
We both walked away shouting, “lets get the pints in lads!”
Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 and Part 3 of Louder Than War at Bloodstock 2021, where I go into more of what Metal 2 The Masses is and chat with Simon Hall, plus more band interviews with Ashen Crown, Elimination, Netherhall and more, who represent the sheer talent of the underground. I may even tell you about how me and my friends were haunted by a Pirate Commodore.
Bloodstock, you have won me over.
All words by Lucy Shevchuk. More writing by Lucy on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive.
Photography by Simon Reed. His website Musical Pictures is:
https://www.musicalpictures.co.uk/ and you can visit his author profile for Louder Than War here: https://louderthanwar.com/author/simon-reed/
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