Yesterday was soggy meteorologically but wonderful musically. Today the weather forecast was sunny and cool, so I was determined to photograph more bands than I managed the previous days.
First to hit the tent stage were Skybrudd, winners of a competition to play the festival. The band’s name means “rainstorm” in English, so perhaps they should have played yesterday! These guys put 110% into their performance and I really enjoyed their set. Despite being the first band to play a good number of people shuffled out to see them, including the guys dressed as bananas I had seen at the barrier for Alestorm on Wednesday. Skybrudd put on a passionate performance and were clearly pleased to have won the chance to play the festival. The band will also be representing Norway at Bloodstock Open Air later this summer, so make sure you check them out if you are going along.
First on the main stage were The Good The Bad and The Zugly whose name is certainly intriguing! Their vocalist initially reminded me a little bit of a blonde Liam Gallagher as he swaggered onto the stage in a pale green parka with his hood up and displayed his middle finger to the crowd. As soon as the band started playing however all similarities to the Mancunian crooner slipped away. These Norwegians play hardcore / punk and they wasted no time cranking up the energy to get the crowd going. They bounded around the stage and put on a really powerful punk performance. Definitely a band I will check out again if they come to London.
Next for me were Tuskmørke on the tent stage. The polar opposite of the aggression of The Good The Bad and The Zugly, these guys from Oslo perform psychedelic, progressive folk-rock, in some spectacular costumes. My favourite was the wizard playing the flute, but I also enjoyed the feather collar worn by the vocalist. Tuskmørke were wonderful and I really enjoyed their set.
Another huge musical gear-shift next as German doom / punk metal duo Mantar took to the tent stage. Immediately they reminded me of The Hyena Kill with Erinc and his drum kit brought to the front of the stage and a huge wall of Marshall speakers on the other side behind guitarist Hanno. They may have been just two people but they sounded like an army, filling the tent with a huge wall of sound. Their performance was one of raw power and they both played with great passion. Mantar are a band that I will definitely be checking out further as I loved their sound.
Next for me on the main stage were Norwegian hard rock band Skambankt who had one of my favourite backdrops of the festival, featuring cycles of the moon and skeletons. The band played a great set, opening with a song that required the crowd to chant back the band’s name to them. The high-tempo was retained throughout the band’s fantastic performance and they drew a sizeable crowd.
Up next on the main stage were Soulfly from Arizona. I have heard a lot about Soulfly but never seen them live, so I was looking forward to their set. Vocalist Max Cavalera (founder of Sepultura) was very charismatic and entertaining to watch and to hear his unmistakable growl. Their set was riff-tastic and a load of fun. Soulfly are heading to the UK in August for a five-date tour in some fairly intimate venues and I will definitely be heading along to see them again!
Back to the tent stage for Skeletonwitch who brought their black and wicked thrash metal to the festival all the way from Ohio. The lighting was as dark as the music which made capturing their fierce performance was more difficult than I might have liked. Adam delivered the vocals with intense passion and his bandmates were equally as animated and engaging to watch.
On the main stage next were progressive rock / metallers Opeth, who I saw at Tons of Rock back in 2015. Just as I remembered, their music was heavy and engulfing. Mikael Åkerfeldt showcased a variety of different vocal styles which added great variety to their set. There were a lot of very passionate Opeth fans in the crowd for their set, which made for a fantastic atmosphere.
Back to the tent stage for the legendary Coven, who had by far the most impressive opening to their set that I have seen for a while. The stage was thick with smoke and lit with just red lights shot on the stage to illuminate a coffin draped in black cloth. Hooded figures walked onto the stage solemnly, removed the cloth from the coffin and opened it, allowing a cloaked figure to walk out and clutch the microphone. The hood of the cloak was removed to reveal a figure with long blonde hair and a sparkly silver mask. It was, of course, Jinx Dawson. Coven are often described as the founders of occult rock, and their music had a great 60s / 70s vibe to it that I really enjoyed.
The final band for me this year were German power metal giants Helloween on the main stage. Founded in 1984, the band are currently on a “Pumpkin World Tour” which sees former band members Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske re-join the group for a triumphant series of live shows. This has got to have been one of the most joy-filled live performances I have ever seen. Every single member of the band had a smile plastered across their face for the majority of their set, and happy vibes wafted from the stage into the crowd. The atmosphere was amazing and, as I watched the end of their set from the crowd, I was glad that I had decided to check them out. Towards the end of their set huge orange pumpkin balloons were released into the crowd who batted them around whilst singing along with the band.
Other bands who played the third and final day of the festival this year were Lüt (rock band from Norway), Equinox (thrash metal band from Norway), Kvelertak (rock band from Norway) and Black Debbath (“academic stoner rock” from Norway).
I had a fourth fantastic year at Tons of Rock festival and will most definitely be doing everything in my power to head back there again next year. Details of Tons of Rock 2019 will be announced in August, so keep an eye on their website and socials.
Photos by Katie Frost Photography