BoltfestFrom the moment this gig was announced, it very quickly sold out and became one of the most keenly anticipated shows of 2012. Originally the gig was announced as Bolt Thrower with special guests and tickets would be £6 with proceeds going to the Teenage Cancer Trust, and it very quickly sold out. Later on when they announced the rest of the acts and the availability of two hundred extra tickets, they rapidly followed suit and the anticipation grew even further for this show. The night seemed to take forever to come around, but when it did it proved to be worth every second of waiting and this one off event will prove to be a special event remembered for years by everyone who was lucky enough to be in attendance.

When we got in after some extensive queuing round the block, first up was Vallenfyre, one of the main bands I wanted to see, but was hampered by even more queuing that was the main down point on the night. Despite being inside the venue before the band started it seemed to take an age to get up to the balcony as the merch stand was upstairs and the stairs were packed as a result of people wanting their souvenirs of this special event. When I finally did manage to take my seat, I was in for a treat, the band played through the majority of last years “The Fragile King’ debut, which was high up in many peoples album of the year lists, and proved to be a very worthy inclusion on the bill. Gregor Mackintosh doing a fine job after moving to be front man from his usual role in Paradise Lost. It was disappointing, that because of the problems getting into the auditorium, the crowd was pretty small for this death metal supergroup. Due to their other bands recording and touring schedules, opportunities may be limited to see these in action, but on this form any future shows will be a must see.

Next, Birmingham based death metal veterans Benediction were the first of the old school bands to take to the stage tonight. I had only managed to catch them once before, at the Damnation Festival a few years back and they were on form on both occasions and giving all for the cause they so vocally supported during their set. Their combination of death metal and punk amped up the speed and the energy of the night, showing more energy than a lot of bands many years their senior. Similar to the headline band, Benediction are a band often forgotten about when people think about the nineties, often overlooked for bands such as Carcass, Napalm Death, At The Gates and the like, but this short set proved they were every bit as important as any of their peers, and still have a part to play in the scene they helped create.

Discharge gave a brief respite from the death metal bands by offering up half an hour of furious hardcore. Lead by vocalist Rat, they set about showing exactly why they are such an important band in the early extreme metal days. Bands from every successive generation since have labelled Discharge as an influence. Hindered by the only technical problems of the night, when Bones guitar cuts out, the rest of the band carry on without missing a beat, with Rat offering his best to make up for the lost noise shouting along with his best “DA NA NA NAR” with the rest of the band when in between vocals, it took a little bit of time to get everything back up and running again, but the set never threatened to fall flat. Hell, this is punk, its not supposed to be perfect, and anything that adds to the chaos is all well and good!

“About fucking time…”said vocalist / drummer Chris Reifert as he addressed the crowd early in Autopsy’s set, he spends the next fifty minutes directing everything from the back of the stage, with Coralles, Cutler and Trevisano assisting with vocals and providing the sick noise that has been the bands trademark over the years. 22 years since they last appeared in the UK, they made up for lost time by pulling off one of the finest sets I’ve ever seen (I realise I said this about Decapitated’s recent show, but I guess I have just been lucky with shows so far this year). I never thought that something so heavy, distorted and filthy could come through so well through a big PA, and not lose any of their intended rawness. While the pits opened up below, many folk who were sat around near me were amazed at what they were seeing and hearing. A set comprised of classics from throughout their long career, shows their credentials as one of the foremost bands in whatever genre they happen to be playing. Their mixture of death, doom and punk still sounds innovative even on tunes that are twenty years old. Pure class, and set the bar very high for the headliners to follow.

Bolt Thrower finally took to the stage shortly before ten o’clock to rapturous applause from the packed Forum. It is here that I must confess that while I really do like Bolt Thrower, it was Autopsy that was the big draw for me, and it was going to take a near perfect set to get anywhere near close to what I had just witnessed. But, this is Bolt Thrower and they spent the next hour churning out classic after classic with a set list that a majority of bands would be jealous of.  Going through their back catalogue in chronological order, it was a reminder of just how strong a band Bolt Thrower were, and still are. No matter how long it seems to be between records and shows, when you see a band that have been together this long have been, the experience shows through, as tight live as any band I have seen, another exceptional performance on the night and a fitting way to end Boltfest and to celebrate a British metal institution.  The band did had previously said that they would stop once they had recorded the ‘perfect Bolt Thrower album’ which they said they achieved with 2005’s “Once Were Loyal”, but with the way the show built up, from original announcement to the stirring intro music to the final song, there will surely be a clamouring for more from the Midlands mob. I for one would love to see what comes next for them.

All in all, a very special night, no one I spoke to had anything other than good things to say about it. For £6, this had to be the best value gig of all time, and considering the whole thing was a charity event, most people would have gladly paid three or four times that to witness al this. With that and all the merchandise being cheap too (all t shirts were just £10) it meant everyone got a good deal and the charity made a fair bit of money out the night.  Just about as perfect as a gig could get in my opinion.

Vallenfyre setlist:

All Will Suffer – The Divine Have Fled – Ravenous Whore – Cathedrals Of Dread – The Grim Irony – Humanity Wept – Seeds – As The World Collapses

Benediction setlist:

Intro – Unfound Mortality – Nothing On The Inside – Nervebomb – Nightfear – They Must Die Screaming – Jumping At Shadows – Subconscious Terror – The Dreams You Dread – Suffering Feeds Me

Discharge setlist:

The Nightmare Continues – Look At Tomorrow – The End – CCTV – Aint No Feeble Bastard – Hell On Earth – Cries Of Help – Protest And Survive – Hype Overload – War Is Hell – Never Again – State Violence State Control – Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing – Decontrol – The Possibility Of Life’s Destruction – The Blood Runs Red

Autopsy setlist:

Intro – Hand Of Darkness – Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay – In The Grip Of Winter – Severed Survival – Gasping For Air – Slaughterday – Dead – Mauled To Death – Voices – Charred Remains – Ridden With Disease

Bolt Thrower setlist:

Intro (Battle For Britain Theme) – In Battle There Is No Law – All That Remains – World Eater – Rebirth Of Humanity – Warmaster – The IVth Crusade – Ritual – War – Remembrance – …For Victory – No Guts, No Glory – Powder Burns – Inside The Wire – At First Light – The Killchain – When Cannons Fade