Words & photos by Tony Gaskin and Rich Ward
After a suprisingly restful night, I was up early and went to survey the arena, expecting to see a site devastated by the previous nights storm. But despite the biblical nature of the downpour things didn’t seem too bad. Thanks in main to the hill having good drainage so the ground was great underfoot, but it was obvious the two outdoor stages had taken a battering with a lot of standing water on the stages.
Teams quickly evaluated the situation and it was decided that for a number of technical reasons, the VMA and Shoot the Hoops stages would have to remain closed down, but main stage was given the go ahead.
So with much jigging and re-jigging, the majority of the bands from the two closed down stages were split between the Beer Tent Stage, which by now had been equipped with a proper stage, barrier and PA, and the Tavern stage, now set up in the beer tent down by the camping village.
The main stage was given the go ahead to start at 11.30 and was as scheduled minus a couple of bands that had to pull out for logistical reasons. So on cue at 11.30, the heavens opened!! The Gods certainly have a sick sense of humour, but undeterred, fast rising and much talked about metallers, Outright Resistance defiantly took to the stage, and a good number of hardy souls bore witness to an explosive set of powerful angst ridden metal. This band are getting better with every show and front woman Paige grows with every performance. Image of the weekend is of her flat on her back with the rain literally bouncing off her and the stage, but their music is all about defiance, and by the end of the set the forces of nature and given way to the unstoppable force of Outright Resistance.
There was no light hearted duel between the stages today, today was all about the fans and the bands coming together to enjoy the festival and say “We want this to stay! We want Amplified 2018” and that opening set from Outright Resistance set the tone for the day. Up next was Press To Meco, who have been around a while now and are one of the hardest working bands around. Their brand of alt rock welcomes in the mornings new comers, not too heavy, but full of energy, a perfect antidote to the inclement weather.
Continuing on with the alt rock theme were Illustr8ors, but with a slightly heavier edge to them than Press to Meco. There is a confidence oozing from this band, borne out of the fact their songs are powerful and catchy, very easy to listen to.
We next have a change of style and pace with some prog inspired metal from Scarsun. Haunting vocals, and complex layers of guitar riffs drift across the sodden field, almost like a requiem, but this festival isn’t done yet!
With the rain showers seemingly on the same schedule as the main stage, it’s a constant battle for the stage crews to keep things ticking over but they do a fantastic job and we’re treated to some great music. The bands are all playing out of their skin, thankful for the chance to play, and appreciating the hundreds of fans who are determined to support those bands.
Welcome Back Delta are next up, and their light hearted take on things lifts the gloom, and they blast through a set of tunes which blend blues, southern rock, and grunge. It’s chilled and laid back with loads of humour, unlike the next band, Anti-Clone who are dark, nasty and horrific, and blitz the crowd with a pummeling display of industrialised metal. By far the most visually striking of the bands so far, it’s a turn in a set that assualts the senses, and with little encouragement needed, sees the first circle pits opening up in the crowd.
Meanwhile at the Tavern Stage, Forest of Dean trio Rebel Lust take to the grass. With BC Rich & Jackson guitars, big hair and bandanas its no real surprise that they keep the tent entertained with an enjoyable set of sleaze rock tunes with some southern rock thrown into the mix. Impressive all the more when we learn that this is one of their first gigs with guitarist Rob Riot. Just as the main tent had improved facilities, its good to see that those organising affairs in the Tavern have also managed to set up a better stage with drum riser and backline for the Saturday.
But it was time to pick the pace up and wheel out an underground favourite, Reign of Fury. After a couple of line up changes in recent months, the band have been busy writing new material and played very few gigs, so die hard RoF fans were both excited and nervous. But they had little to worry about. The new members have bedded in nicely, and the new song that was played is a killer, and the band all dressed in Hawaiian shirts brought more humour to the proceedings.
One of the most sought after names on the scene at the moment are Krysthla and they never fail to disappoint. Heavy, technical and tight as anything, they are at the top of their game. Their technical, progressive style leans on a mass of diverse influences and tracks from the new album Peace In Our Time sound incredible in a live setting.
The one band on main stage today that I’d not heard of or knew anything about was One Machine; a project of former Nevermore guitarist, Steve Smyth, and I was pleasantly surprised. They combine fast heavy thrash riffs, with more technical power metal melodies and solos, one of the finds of the weekend.
With a late change to the schedule, Phil Campbell decided he wanted to play the more intimate surroundings of the beer tent stage, so Evil Scarecrow were allowed to unleash their full stage theatrics onto the waiting fans! Unfortunately with the change in stage times, the two headliners now clashed forcing the fans to choose between the two.
If you’ve not seen Evil Scarecrow before, then it’s not easy to describe whats going on! Robots, aliens, mutant crabs, classic games console characters all form part of ES’s repertoire. They must spend hours hand making the various props and costumes, and there’s so much going on visually that you sometimes forget how good they are musically. Honestly, you have to experience it to really appreciate it!
They draw a good crowd who are dutifully rewarded with a spectacular show and the band involve the fans throughout, from Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist crowd surfing while still drumming through to making sure everyone joins in the dance moves to ‘Robototon’ and ‘Crabulon’.
So after an unsure start and some disappointment, there was music, there was beer and there were loads of fans making the best of what was on. and seeing the night out was Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons in the beer tent, which was rammed once again from front to back, leading the fans through some classic Motorhead songs such as ‘Killed By Death’, along with favourite rock and heavy metal anthems. Everyone singing along in one giant Rock Karaoke. The rain had stopped, and the forecast for the Sunday looked better. Amplified was here to stay!