At the beginning of this century I found myself single again. That spurred me on to start thinking about attending gigs and going to clubs again. I found a goth community in Brighton and started going to the events that were going on there. The gig going side of me decided that I should find out more about the current heavy metal music scene and start going to more gigs. After realising that the music press had changed I subscribed to Metal Hammer to catch up on the latest. I quickly came to the realisation that the heavy metal genre had mutated, leaving behind a lot of the older bands – Quo, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Iron Maiden – and had spawned a new sub-genre, metal. That came in many forms, starting with thrash, death metal, Black Metal, symphonic metal to name a few. I carried over my taste for the older stuff plus the goth and industrial music that had caught my interest in the previous years. I started to get into bands like Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, The Gathering and then picked up on more through the magazine cover discs.
My tastes got heavier, encompassing many of the more melodic ends of the sub-sub-genres. One of the cover discs was done in the style of a radio show, with a well known metal DJ doing it. There was one amusing section where he was trying to describe Opeth’s music without using the “P” word: progressive metal was still something for the future.
In 2002 I was involved with John Otway’s second hit, recording as part of the choir at Abbey Road Studios. He had been asked what he wanted for his birthday by his fan club: his reply, “Another hit.” About 900 of us, split into three shifts, provided the heckle to “The House of the Rising Sun.” The track appeared on the B side of one of the CD singles released for the track Bunsen Burner. We got to number 9 in the UK charts.
By the mid 00s I was listening to and going to the gigs of bands like Opeth, Cult of Luna and went to Download in 2006. It was a Cult of Luna gig that opened up a wider range of music to me. Up to that point I had not really “got” the growly vocals a lot of bands were employing, so when the tour support, Bossk played two long mainly instrumental tracks as their set, with the vocalist appearing on stage to growl only briefly, I had a lightbulb moment. Bossk also got me into Black Metal, indirectly. I wanted to see them again and when I found out that they were on the bill at the Engine Room in Brighton, supporting Ephel Duath, I went along. The evening opened with a local Black Metal band, who I found amusing more than anything. Bossk were on next and after them the main tour support set up. On came a wooden horn that looked like a digeridoo’s bigger brother, a big bass drum was put on stage, separate from the drumkit, a wooden xylophone appeared, along with the more conventional guitar, bass and keyboards. And a plank of wood. They played everything, including the plank of wood. I was hooked. Negura Bunget was the band and I made the effort to catch them as many times as I could after that. I started listening properly to other Black Metal bands too.
As I got into the heavier side of things the section of Metal Hammer that most interested me was a small section at the the back dealing with the more extreme bands. I subscribed to Terrorizer as that seemed to cater more for that end of things. Interestingly, the first issue that I received was one that dealt with folk music in relation to metal, giving me a feeling that I was really thinking on the right lines.
In 2008 I decided that I needed to find some different metal festivals, having not been impressed with Download. I travelled to France and Belgium on two weekends in June that year to Hellfest and Graspop, thoroughly enjoying myself at both. At Hellfest I was able to speak French for the majority of the weekend, only using English for a couple of Aussies who were travelling around Europe. The first person I spoke with after arriving seemed surprised that someone of my age was there: as the festival grew in subsequent years and the number of legacy bands became larger, the ages of the punters also increased. I was wearing a Mortiis T-shirt and a Spanish guy, who was known as Mortis, made friends with me and gave me a Mjollnir, which I wore almost constantly after that.
I hadn’t just been going to metal gigs and festivals. For several years I had a renewable energy business and took a stall to a variety of festivals including Guilfest, Off the Tracks, Ely Folk Festival, The Levellers’ Beautiful Days and Canterbury Fayre where I got to see a wide range of bands after closing down for the evening. I also went to quite a few as a punter, including several of Fairport Convention’s Cropredy festivals, Wickham Festival and the Oysterband’s Big Session. In 2005, my ex-partner had her 30th birthday and, jokingly, we discussed having a festival to celebrate. We ended up putting on the Mad March Fayre on Hastings Pier with local bands providing the music.
At the end of 2008 my life changed again. I had volunteered to serve in Afghanistan and I travelled to Germany to join the regiment I was to serve in. Luckily I was back in the UK for training when Negura Bunget played London and I was also able to go to a Mithras gig, a band I had thought I’d never see live, at which a new northern band, Winterfylleth, played live for the first time. I had a friend who was promoting gigs in Rotterdam and I went to a couple of events there. Whilst in Afghanistan, I was unable to attend festivals like the Big Session and Hellfest. After coming back, I went on an extended holiday to California, catching up with a friend in LA before travelling around. I went to a few goth nights whilst I was there but didn’t get to any gigs. I did see some live music at the Folsom Fair in San Francisco.
Back in the UK, as the decade drew to a close, I kept going to gigs and festivals, including Infernal Damnation which allowed me to see Negura Bunget again, along with a band I had picked up on Myspace, The Way of Purity, one of the many bands that Myspace introduced me to before its sudden change in direction which made it less music friendly. Also at that festival were Fen and De Profundis who I got to see for the first time. The headliners were Ragnarok.