Being an Edinburgh resident and finding out last year there was to be a heavy metal festival weekend in my home city I couldn’t help but think it was some kind of a wind up. It was to start on 1st April and this is Edinburgh after all; the city of the world-renowned arts festival and all things Scottish to keep your big spending American tourists coming back again and again.
Months later and here it was for real. Heavy Scotland, a collection of seventeen bands from ten different nations over two days at the Corn Exchange venue on the west side of the city. With the emphasis definitely being on “Heavy” plus haggis burgers, beer and a vast merchandise stall we were off and running.
Day one kicked off with the Glasgow band Centrilia getting the early afternoon slot. Playing to their “biggest crowd ever,” this was the great start we were all hoping for and it was great to see the organisers looking to local talent to fill the first slot. Welsh death metal threesome Sodomized Cadaver were next on the bill and as the numbers in the crowd increased front man Jordan Roberts was able to encourage a sing along with the family favourite “Raped By Ebola.”
Dyscarnate, another threesome this time from Horsham, took advantage of the increasing crowd to play a crushing set with “A Drone In The Hive” going down particularly well. The mosh pit had started and would continue non stop all the way to closing on Sunday evening. Warbringer were next up bringing their own flavour of thrash all the way from California which led nicely onto the Colorado based Havok promoting their new album Conformicide. The bass playing of Nick Schendzielos was on point and all the more obvious as you couldn’t take your eyes off the LED lights on his bass.
It was at this point after the fifth band that things became a bit crowded in the pit area for the photographers. I counted in excess of ten of them who were twisting and turning, ducking and diving and no doubt getting in each other’s shots constantly. However, the three song rule for the photographers was strictly adhered to, perhaps a three photographer rule is also needed.
Day one continued with a change of mood as Fleshgod Apocalypse brought their own unique style of Italian classical metal to Edinburgh. Eighteenth century outfits and all. Those Italian accents both male and female fit the style perfectly and with the machine gun like drumming of Francesco Paoli the set was over in a flash. Mosh pits and circle pits for Italian classical metal – you bet.
As we got into the business end of the day Sweden’s Grave are about as death metal as it gets and delivered accordingly. A flawless performance as everyone waited patiently for what was coming next.
Headliners of the day were Behemoth with their only UK headline gig of 2017. A coup indeed for Heavy Scotland organiser Caitlin Elliott. The black metal titans, led by Nergal, doing what they do best with the music and visuals combining to leave everyone with a permanent smile on their face. Appearing half way through their set with horns on their head is about as metal as it gets. And of course, the three song rule for the photographers meant they missed out on all the best parts.
Day one was over and it was off to the after party at Studio 24 for some, with DJ sets from Alestorm and Tesseract, whilst others were happy to call it a day and recharge for the Sunday.
Day two, and an earlier start as local lads Lucifers Corpus kicked off at 1:10pm. Having won a recent Battle of the Bands competition to grab the last slot at Heavy Scotland they were certainly worth their place on the bill and were not out of place. Riff Heavy indeed. The Edinburgh theme continued as Disposable hit the stage. For me this was one of the highlights of the weekend as a blur of dreadlocks spun their way through a crushing set. Mosh pit back up and running to boot.
Not many people would have been expecting to see Shiraz Lane in amongst the line up but here they were. The old school rock from Finland was exacly what was needed as they delivered a singalong set to die for. It’s not every day you see a bands bass player running through the crowd. But there you had Joel Alex doing a quick lap of the arena bass in hand. These guys can surely rock. Officially they may hail from Finland but for me they travelled to Edinburgh all the way from the 1990’s.
The international flavour of the festival continued as we moved onto Belgium as Evil Invaders took to the stage. If Shiraz Lane were 1990’s metal then Evil Invaders were 1990’s metal all the way to 11 with a dash of Motorhead for good luck. The thrash/speed metal theme was back on. The band knew it, the crowd knew it. The mosh pits and walls of death had a constant refresh of new talent to keep them going.
The man with the voice was next. Blaze Bayley on stage is a commanding figure and can certainly hold a note. Calling You Home, Stare At the Sun and Silicon Messiah are the types of songs you could listen to and sing along to all night. Blaze delivered beautifully and you could tell he enjoyed every moment of it. All over far too soon.
Ingested from Manchester brought us back onto the slamming death metal path and provided the mosh pit crew ample opportunity for some healthy physical activity. A quick check of Youtube will tell you all you need to know.
Back into mainland Europe for Destruction from Germany. The trio have been going strong since the early 80’s and on this performance, show no signs of slowing down. They have probably forgotten more about the thrash scene than some will ever know. Have they really been going for over three decades? Another weekend highlight for me and also the guys from Evil Invaders who joined everyone down the front in the main arena for the set.
The penultimate band of the weekend were Finntroll who hail all the way from Helsinki in Finland. A welcome lighter break and a small piece of respite from the full 0n thrash that had gone before. It was an Alestorm like performance and it was clear the band enjoyed every minute.
Sixteen bands had come and gone and here we were at the last band: Arch Enemy. This was their first time performing in Edinburgh and a fitting end to the first ever Heavy Scotland festival. All the favourites were in there, Nemesis, We Will Rise, Ravenous, Under Black Flags We March, Dead Eyes See No Future, No Gods No Masters. A sixteen song set that signed off a great weekend of heavy metal. The fist bump between Michael Arnott and Jeff Loomis as they signed off for the night tells you all you need to know.
Will there be a Heavy Scotland 2018? If organiser Caitlin Elliott has anything to do with it then definitely. A great line up was delivered, an event well organised and a venue which can accommodate a good size crowd safely. Bring on 2018.