A warm spring sunshine welcomes festival-goers to Edinburgh's Corn Exchange. The air is heavy with anticipation, heavy logos adorn attendees tees under the heavy weight of leather, head's heavy under vast quantities of hair, the line-up is heavy, hell, even the beer is heavy! I'm pretty sure you can guess where I'm going with this by now... This, my friends is Heavy Scotland where the heaviest of expectations lies in the success of our wee country's newest metal festival (for those of you less familiar with Scottish jargon, the word 'heavy' can be used instead of the word very, but can also be used to describe bad news). Leaving cultural 'patter' lessons aside for now, let us commence and hope no one leaves heavy disappointed!
Most festivals usually begin with a bit of a slow burner to wet your musical whistle but not so with Heavy Scotland; heavy is as heavy does and from the outset, our musical senses are pummelled by none other than fellow 'weegies' Centrilia. The four-piece technical groove experts are introduced as 'Scotland's best unsigned metal band' (nae pressure lads) and after witnessing another well-honed, seasoned performance from a band NHC have followed for some time now, it's easy to see why. Unsigned they may be but Centrilia appear completely unfazed by the venue/stage size providing their own slab of thoroughly modern (I'm a sucker for pertinent media sampling) metal. The sheer force and dynamic delivery of 'Tsunami' has my hoodie vibrating to the point I'm wondering if it will disintegrate altogether! Of course it would be biased of me to expound upon the earlier preamble of 'best' but I will happily go on record in stating that these guys, are without doubt, one of Scotland's finest.
Our next ferocious foray is delivered by Celtic brothers-in-arms Sodomized Cadaver from 'the Valleys'. With a plethora of thumping nods to OSDM and a soupcon of sludge thrown into the mix the trio manage to instigate the first ten person moshpit of the day, blasting through the ever-cheery 'Skull Fracture Massacre' and inspiring a heart-warming crowd sing-along of "Tortuuuuuure!". Few bands have the ability to juxtapose brutality with humour but the boyos manage to do just that with a thumping set sprinkled with one second drum solos, lilting banter and an abrupt (you had to be there) cover of Napalm Death's 'You Suffer'. Now brutal death metal can be a bit like Marmite, you either turn into a yeast craving weirdo or you gag but, given their somewhat questionable lyrical themes (surprising a nasty fungal infection hasn't featured on a track yet! Next EP perhaps?) I'm pretty sure they wont mind the comparison to weird beefy paste.
Stark b/w lighting sets a more sombre tone and it quickly becomes apparent that Dyscarnate from South of the Wall mean serious business. Now I normally reserve the term 'icy' (as 99% of reviewers do) to describing the more blackened end of the metal scale but this style of death is cold maan, littered with complex riffage and tech-laden percussion (that type of which you don't exactly know which style of headbanging to employ) and only warmed by fervent dual vocals. Previously lauded with the accolade of “the new kings of UK death” they have a weighty task underhand which is evident through a diligent delivery of a set as current and as clean-cut sounding as these guys appear; death metal with a good haircut!
Next in line are a band that have been on the periphery of my metal view for a while but who now have my full atten-shun! Sir! The appropriately named Warbringer charge forth with breakneck speed, rapidly infecting the room with pitch-perfect energy, inciting the audience to boiling point in challenging "What is this, England? I thought this was Scotland?" and laying to waste any introspective pondering the previous set had induced. With chunky, chugging hooks and more noodling than a packet of Koka (a staple of the central belt diet) 'Remain Violent' invites the now-chanting 'Warbringer!' crowd to party and you can't have a guid party in Scotland without a fight right? This is the freshest, thrash metal in it's purest form and the next time I get asked the exhausted question of who will step into the well-worn boots of the 'Big Four' I know my answer.
Adding to the veritable thrashfest Warbringer have lambasted Edinburgh with are fellow (headlining) tour buddies and brothers-in-arms Havok. On the back of their most recent release 'Conformicide', Havok dole out an abrasively crushing dose of shredderific stringwork, hacked through with ear-splitting, soul-piercing screams and basslines almost as funky as the bass itself looked (it had lights and everything!). "When you fuck over millions of people just to make money, I consider that treason. I don't know about you but I say it's about time we fucking hang 'em high!" is the introduction to (you guessed it) the gallopingly anthemic 'Hang 'Em High'; a track about dirty corrupt politicians (we *cough* wouldn't know anything about that in the UK now would we?). Going by the braying response of the audience and given our current political climate here in Scotland, I half expect a temporary gallows to be erected amidst a flourish of nooses but this is a metal festival so what do we do in place of public execution? We crowd surf!
Photo accreditation: Bruce Cowie