The UK rock and metal festival market is littered with countless festivals offering varying lineups covering a wide range of bands that fall under the large umbrella that is alternative music. With household names holding their own, each year new ventures aim to get their foot in the door and make a name for themselves against the rather splendid competition. For its inaugural year, Amplified Festival aimed big with a widely varied lineup covering everything from classic rock, to nu metal, to pop punk, to thrash metal. With an intriguing mix of bands and enough on offer to whet audience’s appetites, it seemed set that Amplified Festival was to be a roaring success. Yet with everything stacked against them due to horrendous weather conditions, things did not go to plan, but the show did go on. Distorted Sound was there to experience the first ever Amplified Festival, so read on for our lowdown of the inaugural festival!
THE FALLEN STATE – Main Stage
It makes total sense that THE FALLEN STATE have toured with today’s main stage mates PUDDLE OF MUDD and TRAPT. THE FALLEN STATE‘s blend of hard rock is far from original or out-there but it’s performed decently enough and would fair well on American radio. Vocalist Ben Stenning charismatically belts out the generic lyrics to bland but inoffensive tracks like Sinner and Nova, and whilst the songs may make you scoff (depending on how mild you like your cheese) there’s no denying they’re played passionately and well.
I, THE LION – Shoot Your Hoops Stage
A fine alternative is available if you head through the forest to the Shoot Your Hoops Stage to find Cheltenham local boys I, THE LION blasting their obtuse post punk. With off-kilter guitar licks mixed in with pop punk sized choruses, they create a lot of noise on a very small stage. They have a very static yet still frantic stage presence, in the same way BIFFY CLYRO go mental but without leaving their microphones. Speaking of the BIFF, that is one of the influences worn on I, THE LION’s sleeves, especially in the solos which follow Reuben-esque heavy moments but with a youthful sounding voice in the same vein as GNARWOLVES. This exquisite recipe executed impressively is one of the many highlights of the weekend hidden away on the smaller stages.
CONJURER – The Very Metal Art Stage
Suitably grey clouds begin to form as one of the most brilliantly bleak bands in the UK right now set foot on the Very Metal Stage. By some sort of clown car magic, CONJURER creates much more sound than seemingly possible from such a small stage. Their sludgy riffs rumble out of the speakers like a stampede of mammoth whilst Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose trade of scathing black metal vocals with deep growls, and when these two vocals harmonise CONJURER sound absolutely immense. One of the loudest and heaviest moments of the weekend is when the final slow riff of Scorn explodes and echoes around the hills of the Quarrydowns.
EXIST IMMORTAL – The Very Metal Art Stage
Anyone looking through EXIST IMMORTAL’s eyes as they started there would have seen the heavens opening and literally three people enduring the sideways rain watching them and could have packed their bags, but EXIST IMMORTAL saw a challenge. The London tech-metallers pushed on with smiles on their faces, whether they were laughing at the ridiculousness of the weather (the rain was, to put it simply, taking the piss) or the lack of people watching, or whether they were just still having a good time despite the odds. Whatever their reasons to smile were they were soon given even more, as their MESHUGGAH-esque verses blasted around the deserted festival site a small crowd gathered around their stage and stayed for EI’s huge clean choruses. By the end, they had managed to force one of the biggest crowds of the day out of their tents and into the miserable weather. Where other bands would have half assed it or gone home EXIST IMMORTAL fought the elements and ended up winning a crowd.
TRUCKER DIABLO – The Very Metal Art Stage
TRUCKER DIABLO play music that you will either revel in or revolt against. Their big ballsy hard rock tunes also endure the rain but drag a very different audience out of their shelter. Their songs hit all the lyrical cliches but also find their mark with their own audience. It’s possible to enjoy with a beer in your hand but in the rain, it’ll become as watered down as TRUCKER’s tunes.
With stages flooding, food stands and wrestlers leaving, and a large portion of attendees hiding in their tents, Amplified Festival is beginning to look like an empty muddy version of Fallout. It’s a bleak site indeed until you hear something in the distance. You push through the monsoon and follow the sound to the beer tent, inside you find one of the most insanely brilliantly British things to ever happen at festival.
ACID REIGN – The Bar Stage
The term used to summarise British resilience ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ may have been reduced to nothing more than ironic t shirts now but Amplified Festival proved there is much more to it. It could be argued that if as much went tits up on the first day of a festival in any other country the organisers would have packed it all in, but in true Shaun Of The Dead fashion everything was moved to the bar, everyone had a nice cold pint and waited for it all to blow over. But then what do you do when you have a tent full of soggy metalheads who need their spirits lifted? You move the bands to the bar of course.
ACID REIGN are the perfect band to christen this new stage thrown together on the grass of the bar with their fun filled thrash. Had any band who takes themselves too seriously shown up it could have been a drastically different atmosphere, instead ACID REIGN come and their self aware heavy metal (perfectly summed up by singer H’s shirt which reads “Black T Shirt Of Death”) and put smiles on everyone’s faces. It’s hard to truly criticise a lot of it, the stage wasn’t visible throughout a lot of the bar (it was put together within minutes to be fair) but the surprisingly decent sound rumbled throughout and probably shook up a few kegs. By the end of the set H is frontman-ing from on top of the bar, messing with anyone, staff or punter, who gets within his cheeky reach. The set ends with the whole tent chanting ‘Norman’ to the Psycho-themed thrash piece Mother’s Love. It’s genuinely an amazing sight to see, it could’ve all gone wrong but perseverance and positivity provided one of the most uplifting sets witnessed at Amplified Festival or any festival for that matter.
PUDDLE OF MUDD – The Bar Stage
What happened next was… odd. To be honest it’s surprising the set happened at all, not just because of the weather problems but because of PUDDLE OF MUDD frontman Wes Scantlin’s history of temper tantrums and walking offstage. The set did indeed happen though, and to some that’s the most they can say about it, unless you were up against the barrier you couldn’t of seen anything, and even if you were at the barrier before the makeshift bar stage you couldn’t hear anything, especially not Wes Scantlin’s mic. Opting for a more stripped back (but not quite acoustic) set made sense in theory but in practise the sound didn’t come across well, at least with ACID REIGN’s muddy sound was loud but you could barely hear PUDDLE OF MUDD if someone was having a conversation next to you. Scantlin seemed to be enjoying himself regardless even if he genuinely didn’t seem sure where he was, like he had just been pushed in front of the audience and told to sing Blurry, his mouth was on autopilot whilst his eyes darted around trying to put the situation together. From what you could make out he did a decent job vocally, far from stunning but he was definitely trying he, probably thinking this was his MTV Unplugged moment. Sound problems didn’t matter for the band’s whopping two hits of Blurry and She Hates Me as the whole tent, still drunk off the the joy (and beer) of ACID REIGN, came together for a genuinely huge singalong. It was a surreal and short set (possibly mercifully short) which didn’t sound too great but the band seemed to have a perplexed enjoyment of the whole thing as did the audience. It happened though, it was a thing.
OUTRIGHT RESISTANCE – Main Stage
Saturday morning proved to dampen spirits further at Amplified Festival, with more downpour hitting the stages hard leaving only Main Stage and the stage in the bar now functioning. Luckily OUTRIGHT RESISTANCE came along and did a stellar job of forcing everyone to cheer up. They burst into their vicious version of Warped Tour (but heavier) metalcore. “FUCK THE RAIN” screams ‘Captain’ Paige Lee as she commands the crowd to get involved, literally throwing herself onto the soaked floor. Those who don’t start getting involved she threatens “I WILL come and find you”, and she means it running out not just into the crowd but to the other side of the field and into the bar tent where people are still taking cover. Just as OUTRIGHT RESISTANCE began promoting a message of acceptance and togetherness the sun, seemingly threatened by how much OUTRIGHT RESISTANCE want people to have a good time forces it’s way through the grey clouds just in time to catch a deathcore cover of George Michael‘s Faith within a cover of LIMP BIZKIT’s Faith. OUTRIGHT RESISTANCE need to be credited as one of the groups who helped saved Amplified Festival, if it wasn’t for their ridiculously dedicated performance and determination to cheer people up it’s possible many would have left.
PRESS TO MECO – Main Stage
To revel in the good weather, which actually seems to be sticking around, are PRESS TO MECO. Three very young looking lads who belt out heavy alt rock riffs and add pop punk sounding dual vocals on top. They sound impressive even if some songs bleed into one another. That’s not to say there aren’t some memorable, tracks the hook of Diffusion Of Responsibility is one that can wiggle into your head with ease. Ridiculously tight, clearly having a great time, and uplifting enough for a Saturday morning, PRESS TO MECO did very well for themselves.
ILLURSTR8ORS – Main Stage
If PRESS TO MECO left you craving more tasty British alt rock then there was no need to worry as ILLURSTR8ORS were on next. Similar fat alt rock riffs but with the pop punk vocals swapped out for silky funk laden vocals which feel like a cross between Crash Love era AFI and LETLIVE.‘s more soulful moments. Even if songs feel ploddy at times they captivate the crowd well receiving a decent call and response on single Your Animal.
THE UNCHARTED – The Bar Stage
Over on the newly reconstructed stage in the bar THE UNCHARTED take up arms. Laying down a tech-metal onslaught complete with dual vocals which trade off well giving them a very BURY TOMORROW feel, and complex keys which are are unfortunately lost in the mix at times. Pete Lee is ambitious frontman, climbing the barrier and engaging with the crowd as he spits out his growls whilst Aaron Carter lets out impressive high notes and choruses, but despite the talent that Carter shows he does seem uncomfortable and less confident at times. However this band seemed very freshed faced and this performance suggests that they could grow into something very interesting.
ANTI-CLONE- Main stage
Do you like SLIPKNOT? Yeah? Do you like MUDVAYNE? Less so? MUSHROOMHEAD? Are we losing you? If you’re still here after the latter two bands then you need ANTI-CLONE in your life. These may seem like obvious comparisons that would be made as the 5-piece take the stage with their SLIPKNOT meets steampunk (Steamknot?) getup. But as soon as their down tuned MUDVAYNE meets MESHUGGAH guitars and KORN choruses kick in you realise the influences go beyond their image and ‘spooky’ behaviour. It’s undeniable they put on a hell of a show though, technically sound and engaging. Whilst some will need nostalgia’s rose tinted glasses (or in this case gasmask) to enjoy, there’s still enough modern substance for ANTI-CLONE to entertain all.
I CRIED WOLF – The Bar Stage
With bands whose ‘thing’ is invading the crowd coming ten a penny now (GALLOWS, LETLIVE., and HECK as the trend setters, ZOAX and many more follow) it takes genuine songs to separate these oh-so wacky and uncontrollable fellas from each other now. Luckily I CRIED WOLF have tunes as intriguing as their frontman is eccentric. Sounding like a mix of early emo tinged metalcore and LETLIVE.‘s approach to mixing in lounge and soul influences, especially on extra-setller track like It Takes A Slave. Singer Harry Davies bounces around the crowd changing from Frank Carter’s viciousness to Mike Patton’s sleekness with an air of camp within seconds of each other. I CRIED WOLF prove they’re far from an outworn ‘let’s go crazy’ gimmick, and they’re the real deal.
KRYSTHLA – Main Stage
From asking around in the crowd before KRYSTHLA come on two things became certain, 1: No one is 100% certain how to pronounce their name, 2: people are damn excited about this band. With ripping and intriguing thrash metal, mostly from their latest album Peace In Our Time, the field goes more mental than it has all weekend. With the speed of thrash metal and the weight of death metal on their side KRYSTHLA are unstoppable. Singer Adi Mayers barely has to command for any action in the crowd in between his accessible but heavy screams, the crowd just hear a genuinely heavy band on Main Stage at Amplified Festival for the first time today and all hell breaks loose.
EVIL SCARECROW – Main Stage
It turns out that things have been swapped around and EVIL SCARECROW will be headlining the Main Stage instead of PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS, and to be honest it works a lot better. Not only does EVIL SCARECROW’s ludicrous stage show require more space than the bar can provide, but anyone who’s taking the whole schtick too seriously is able to head to the bar and see MOTORHEAD covers instead. But for those who are either beery enough already or just in a silly mood EVIL SCARECROW are an absolute treat. Yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous and relies on crowd gimmicks like slow motion moshing or performing attack moves for End Level Boss or the infamous scuttling of Crabulon. But EVIL SCARECROW create a sound that ‘serious’ bands would kill for and when you see their character’s costumes that look like they’ve barely been made with something bigger than a school play budget you can’t help but let out a giggle. It’s the fun that so many people at Amplified Festival have been dying to have all weekend, and there’s not a drop of rain in sight.
PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS – The Bar Stage
It’s a lot more fitting for PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS to be on The Bar stage because in essence they are just a pub band with big name guitarist. Now, Mr Campbell deserves all the respect in the world for his services in MOTORHEAD, and his contribution to rock music as a whole. He and his bastard sons deliver a decent set of covers from MOTORHEAD like Deaf Forever and of course Ace Of Spades but their original material is somewhat lacking and tracks like Big Mouth have particularly cringe-inducing lyrics. Neil Starr does a decent job carrying these tunes but his voice often feels a bit too polished and clean to carry the gritty lyrics of MOTORHEAD tunes, and the band perform fine. They entertain whilst in cover mode but when it comes to their own songs it’s treated as an excuse to turn around and take three steps towards the bar.
INSTILL – Main Stage
INSTILL have a strange swagger about them, the remind of acts like THE HIVES with the way they confidently strut around in their quite twee suits whilst blasting balls heavy riffs with a PRIMUS-esque strangeness about them. With stomp worthy songs about conkers and titles like Captain Peado, they’re reminiscent of Green Jelly’s humour, all fronted by Hodge’s strange low voice. It’s an unexpected but excellent way to kick off the sunny Sunday at Amplified Festival. They’re such an intriguing band that a lot of bands who follow them onto the stage today seem dull in comparison.
COURTESANS – Main Stage
Things get a lot less intriguing as COURTESANS take to the stage, the London quartet deliver a standard performance of their doom-tinged influenced alt rock. Their electronic elements come across well and do add a layer of interest, but their choruses are very wash-away and not too captivating. Sinead La Bella is a decent enough frontwoman with a powerful voice that could be doing a lot more, even if she throws out cliches like the weird wobbly goth arms in the slower verses. They have a well meaning and positive revolutionary message in all of their songs and talk with the audience but it’s all a bit too vague to know what exactly they’re against.
MASSIVE – Main Stage
MASSIVE are yet another classic rock revival band and they’re not exceptionally worse than anyone else in the RIVALS SONS scene, but they’re not exceptionally better either. Their big beefy tunes do their job fine, tracks like One By One and Blood Money Blues are decent and any tediousness they seem to have is purely caused by the fact that they’re the unteenth band ‘bringing rock and roll’ on Amplified Festival‘s bill alone. It all goes well though, Brad Marr ends the set with a super long and well held note but that’s the only exciting thing to really happen within their set.
VEGA – Main Stage
Whilst it’s easy to get bored of countless rock revival bands, at least the majority are enjoyable and inoffensive, none of them make your toes curl, none of them are VEGA. VEGA sound like the music equivalent of a midlife crisis. Their electronic elements sound ludicrously dated, their power metal-esque choruses are lacking any self awareness or fun and just come across as overly preachy. At least the songs are performed with the gusto and pompous self importance they were clearly written with, to the degree that Jared Leto would pop in and say ‘Hey guys, maybe you’re taking yourselves too seriously’. They play as if they’re headlining an arena which is good sometimes, but there’s such little element of fun in it all that it just feels bloated. If you’re in the mood for some cheese and can’t find any food stands that do a nice bit of halloumi then VEGA’s BON JOVI on a bad day, try-to-be-epic power rock tunes will tick your box because they do play it proficiently but it’s a lot, it’s very sickly.
DIVINE CHAOS – The Bar Stage
Whilst the Main Stage of Amplified Festival‘s final day feels a bit sluggish, there always seems to be something exciting and new happening in the bar tent which is why it was a shame it was difficult to catch both. One of the most must-see bands of the weekend though was DIVINE CHAOS. The Slough thrashers rip through a blaze of impeccable thrash number with singer Benny F bringing bundles of intensity, getting in the crowd’s faces, messing with photographers, and loving every second of it whilst he belts out Randy Blythe meets Mille Petrozza style vocals. As is always the case with music, there’s amazing bands out there, they just might not be on the Main Stage.
UNZUCHT – Main Stage
It is odd, having a dramatic German heavy metal band on the Main Stage before REEF, but by all means we’re here for it and the Main Stage needed another curveball today. UNZUCHT come out with a killer look and unleash their gothic blend of epic metal. At times it feels very EVERGREY and doomy until a sudden industrial riff is thrown in, or sometimes an odd DEPECHE MODE influence electronic moment. The faster paced moments are the more pleasing but both ends of UNZUCHT‘s spectrum are performed well with Der Schulz being a tantalising and dramatic frontman and De Clercq firing off the industrial riffs with stereotypical German proficiency.
HECK – The Bar Stage
HECK might be the furthest thing from UNZUCHT in the whole world, and they’re on directly after in the bar. Where UNZUCHT felt cold, calculated and precise, HECK are sweaty, angry, and literally all over the place both physically and musically. HECK bring their now infamous carnival of carnage to Amplified Festival with joy, they don’t care if their stage has moved to the bar because as always they don’t need no goddamn stage. Guitarist and singers Johnny Hall and Matt Reynolds instantly leap the barrier and bring the fury direct to the audience laying of THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN riffs and wretched vocals in the process. It’s one of the more active crowds of the weekend, mostly because the two are literally forcing them to move if they’re not standing on top of them. If you’ve not seen them before it’s the immense immersion that a first HECK show is, if you have seen them before you know chaos is HECK‘s business and business is good.
MILK TEETH – The Bar Stage
From one exciting UK band to another, although for very different reasons. MILK TEETH‘s 90s tinged pop rock comes barrelling out of The Bar Stage. It’s a different and much sweeter taste than what’s been on over the weekend, but even those who came for Phil Campbell are enjoying themselves. That’s what makes MILK TEETH exciting, it is their ability to entertain everyone from pop punk kids, to thrasher to old school rockers, and even kids who have been brought by parents, all of which are accounted for and having a blast in their crowd at Amplified Festival. The band themselves and bursting at the seams with excitement too, guitarist Chris can’t stop moving like a child who’s had too many sweets, drummer Oli has a mile wide smile practically glued to his face, and despite singer and bassist Becky’s more nervous nature at times she engages and connects with the crowd well. For the first time over the weekend at Amplified Festival you can hear the singer in between songs because everyone is listening, no one is having a natter. Amplified Festival has celebrated the nostalgic acts headlining across the weekend, but the crowd seems to be unified in agreement that MILK TEETH are the future here.
REEF – Main Stage
REEF put on a decent set to close the Main Stage for the weekend. Proving they’re not just a window to the past which people can peer into and pretend they’re in the 90s their newer material such as How I Got Over and Ball And Chain go down well. Singer Gary Stringer’s voice has mellowed slightly but aged well and drummer Dominic Greensmith plays exceptionally tight and well especially on some of the more experimental percussion. The essential hit Place Your Hands gets thrown out surprisingly early but proves that REEF has enough confidence in their entire catalogue, not just one tune.
DIAMOND HEAD – The Bar Stage
DIAMOND HEAD have a similar challenge to REEF tonight which is proving to the casuals that they are more than their hits Am I Evil? and It’s Electric. DIAMOND HEAD however cakewalk this challenge. Frontman Ramus Bom Andersen has injected new life into the NWOBHM legends since joining in 2014 and they have a certain determination to prove themselves on new material from last years self-titled album, this determination brings out a wholly vicious beast in DIAMOND HEAD. The only DIAMOND HEAD OG remaining Brian Tatler and Andy Abberly’s dual guitars sound electrifying as they blast through both classic tracks like Shoot Out The Light and new gems like Shout At the Devil. Drummer Karl Wilcox sounds crazily tight and gives one of the best performances behind a kit this weekend. As much as DIAMOND HEAD prove they’re so much more than a two hit machine, they are hits for a reason. It’s Electric sounds brilliant but it’s the beast of Am I Evil? that sends the tent into a headbanging frenzy. Andersen departs the stage and patrols across the top of the bar and leads the crowd in a huge sing a long to end a long weekend.
It was touch and go for a day. Things went wrong, some people got mad and went home, some persevered. At the end of the day, this was Amplified Festival‘s first year and they dealt with the soggy hand they were given as well as they could. As DIAMOND HEAD burst into the final riffs of one of the most important metal songs ever written people are in arms with each other loosing their minds and having a blast, to look at this snapshot you would have thought the whole thing had gone off without a hitch.
Check out our extensive photo gallery of Amplified Festival 2017 from Serena Hill Photography here: