Tonight’s bill has been a while coming with the bands extensive tour cycle taking in the USA towards the end of last year and charging through Europe with many shows selling out this year. It’s already busy at early doors as the 1st of 3 Nuclear Blasters get ready to take the stage. The Napalm band Jinjer had a visa explosion and not made it to the UK making a lot of people quite disappointed. However this means extended sets for the two co-headliners.

I think it is fair to say that Nailed To Obscurity were pretty obscure to all but those who lurk in the underground before they found a new home on NB 4 albums into their career, getting a much wider exposure in the process. It is quickly evident they are a good fit tonight their atmospheric and highly melodic brand of death metal with doomy touches had something rather Finnish sounding about it even if they are German. I am reminded a bit of early Amorphis as well as the likes of Swallow The Sun and a bit of Insomnium by them. Their Black Frosty sound is good and there is plenty of atmosphere about them garnering plenty of applause between songs. Long flowing guitar parts virtually weep out the speakers, the drummer fires out rigorous salvos and pounds away, vocals are suitably rough and gruff and nice and powerful with it. The sound is thick and clear and no worries about the 1st band of the night not getting a good mix in that respect tonight. NTO are not adverse to throwing in some long and graceful instrumental parts and these are really involving making the songs easy to lose yourself in before suddenly being snapped back into life by the next more violent section. A long tone rings out at the intro to one number toward the end of their set making me think a bit of My Dying Bride, there’s plenty going on here including a spot of clean singing. For me that does not pay off particularly well but fair play for attempting it, there’s no denying the growling parts are spot on. Only a brief set which culminated with Desolate Ruin but a more than enjoyable one, I was happy with the misery the Germans projected and soaking myself in their numbers.

Speaking of happy, next up are Soilwork and I was not sure how I was going to get on with them. Our paths had crossed and I have kept a passing interest in them although the last album I actually got on disc and really liked was Figure Number Five way back in 2003. I just about limped to the end of new unpronounceable album ‘Verkligheten’ and knew a massive 18 track set was going to be a bit of a challenge. There’s absolutely no disputing the power and passion of the sextet as they hit the stage literally running. I guess I have the best seat in the house for the 1st few numbers in the photo-pit and the dynamic charge of the band can hardly be described as Crestfallen, they really do come out all guns blazing and utilise every inch of the stage. They also have (shock horror) great lighting which makes a pleasant change after seeing so many bands playing virtually in darkness such is the way with more extreme metal acts. They also have plenty of support, the place is rammed and seems energised to the hilt. As I walk around later there is no shortage of people bouncing about and singing along, seeming to know near enough every word coming out of vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid’s gob.

New songs such as ‘Full Moon Shoals’ give me the impression many here have picked up the recent release and as I tried to get a vantage point in the seething mass of people as the band play ‘Death In General’ I try and evaluate what I am hearing. You can definitely see how the band have progressed through the years from “old school shit” such as ‘Like The Average Stalker’. There’s plenty of melodic licks and tried and tested Swedish rifferama but the lighter side of things and the commercial sheen on it all with clean vocals really isn’t to my tastes. I am pretty much in the minority though as plenty seem to be losing their shit and in the case of old numbers even reliving their youth to a certain extent. I dipped in and out of the set. 18 songs is a lot if you are not totally into a band. It’s not like Soilwork have abandoned their past like others such as In Flames seem to have done going down a much more commercial route and they would certainly be a great band to see and get a crowd at a festival going.  Hell it certainly isn’t as bad as a band like Parkway bloody drive and the audience rammed from front to back at times resembles a sea of pumping fists. A couple of songs crop up that I knew ‘Bastard Chain’ being a more thashy bastard and near conclusion ‘Stabbing The Drama.’ The band played like they were headlining the event and to many they were. In a way I wish they had been as I would have probably left before the end but there is no denying that for many including our writer who gave the new album a score of 9/10 Soilwork have still very much got it.

Speaking of album scores a top mark awarded to ‘Queen Of Time’ is still the only one given by this particular writer and I am pumped up to get songs from it live. Last time I saw Amorphis was at the Islington Academy and I said they had outgrown it and they are damn close to being in danger to doing so here too. From the instant we are stung by ‘The Bee’ I feel completely re-energised and totally invigorated now that finally these songs from the Kalevala are unfolding in front of me. Lights are again great for the headliners going from cold blues to deep reds and everything in between. One thing I noticed straight away was that Tomi’s old school radio style microphone has gone replaced by a normal one but apart from that it is business as usual from the band. Songs are gorgeously rendered and there is no way I will ever get bored of listening to these Finns. Melody is sublime and passion spills off the stage infecting the audience. A warm glow encompasses us all with songs such as ‘Sky Is Mine’ bringing heaven down and raising the roof in the process. ‘Sacrifice’ is one of many numbers where the crowd join in singing along, harmonies are fantastically poised and feet are stomped to the upbeat oomph and folky jig of ‘Message In The Amber.’

If one wanted to look for something to complain about it is that many great albums don’t get a look on in the set-list but with numbers such as the storming ‘Silver Bride’ included I doubt anyone is complaining too much and they do occasionally dip back into ‘The Smoke’ of the past. There is little time for chatting and again there is plenty of material with 15 songs being played. Folky embellishments and Celtic caresses pepper the storming bravado of perfectly marrying the elements together. The sparkling near psychedelia of ‘Wrong Direction’ is just one of many highlights. I’m not sure if the crowd emptied very slightly after Soilwork but as things progress there is a few odd spots opening up to get a better view. 5 hours is a long time to spend with just 3 bands on the bill. The old fans were not going to up and leave early though and you could tell what some of the more hardened battle jacket wearing members of the audience clutched to the back bar area were waiting for. They are rewarded with a step right back to a very apt ‘Black Winters Day’ and there’s plenty to grunt along to in appreciation as this classic has a special place in many memories. ‘House Of Sleep’ seems like a good place to end and as the bands prepare to march onto Paris that’s definitely where I am heading, happy and content after a night of solid entertainment.

(Review and Photos Pete Woods)