REVIEW: Bloodywood – Armada of Secrets – Pulverise – Tormenta: Live at Rebellion Rock Bar, Manchester (UK)

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While I patiently waited in line to enter one of the most beloved metal and rock venues the North of England has to offer (Namely, Rebellion Rock Bar) I somehow got talking to a guy in front of me who aligned himself with, in his own words, “the communal religions”. While practices such as paganism, druidism and a vague belief in “old ways” will be familiar to anyone with a vague knowledge of folk metal themes, it became quickly apparent to me that Bloodywood, a band characterized by their fusing of traditional Indian instrumentation with the groove-laden riffage of nu-metal, is rapidly becoming an important band in the lives of many since they went viral in 2017. It seemed to me that the tribalism and brotherhood of this six-piece promote played a part in aiding this guy through depression, and for a band as young as they are, I was immediately intrigued by what they had to offer.

For a while now I have been aware of Bloodywood’s existence, but I have had little exposure to their music due to my obsession with another Asian export, The Hu, a “Mongolian throat singing” metal act, who like Bloodywood, have been playing near sell-out shows in the UK. Getting to watch these acts from the East make waves outside their country is a truly remarkable feat in itself, but on this night in Manchester, I experienced a full line-up which proudly celebrated diversity in our genre, both musically and ethnically.

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Up first was a grassroots British act by the name of Tormenta, a Leeds based five-piece whose sound is a bit like Ill Nino if they fused Latin metal rhythms with the electronicore madness of Amaranthe. While a band that wear their influences on their sleeve, their combination of soaring cleans, synthy soundscapes, and filthy breakdowns served as an eclectic but entertaining warm-up for what was yet to come. As far as underground British acts go, they were also incredibly tight performers and far from generic sonically, so if they’re performing in a town near you, I would urge you to give this young band a shot.

Another British band followed suit in the form of Pulverise, a local favorite who proudly and unapologetically hold the flag for beefy early 2000’s nu-metal in an era that has mostly forgotten it existed. Notable for their charming yet utterly ruthless frontwoman Jojo, this constantly touring five-piece are pure fun. A derivative of other acts in some ways, but in reliably delivering high-energy, headbanging riffs with the punky attitude of Skindred and Infected Rain, these guys get pits going, and that’s all you could ever want from a band of this variety.

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When it comes to musical diversity, it doesn’t get any stranger than the inclusion of Armada of Secrets to this refreshingly varied bill. They are a difficult band to pitch, mind you, but I would best describe them as a strange but admirably ambitious trio from London, who fuse disco, soul, alternative rock, dance, punk and pretty much everything in between. While I perversely enjoyed both their performance and the shiny light show that accompanied them, it seemed that for many of my fellow audience members that their style and aesthetic, while different, was somewhat at odds with the monstrous approach of the headliner. This is not to say that they were bad necessarily, as they were far from that (their live drummer kicks ass), but their peculiar setlist, featuring covers of pop hits like “Feel it Still”, while catchy and tightly performed, did not scratch the right itch, and was not what I wanted to hear before a certain group of Indian blokes ravaged the place. I can only commend the talents of vocalist/ guitarists, Caroline and Carl, respectively, but I feel I would have appreciated them a lot more in a different context. However, if they sound appealing to you at all, I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to check them out.

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Now, I have seen a lot of really heavy and long-established bands at Rebellion. Including the likes of; Voivod, Pestilence, Suffocation, Vital Remains, Havok and Anaal Nathrakh. But Bloodywood’s debut performance in the slam metal capital rivaled each of them. Not only did they have one of the most lively mosh pits I have ever witnessed at the venue, but alongside that one of the most cheerful and communal crowds. And if like me, your exposure to their quirky and innovative sound was through accidentally stumbling on the music video for “Machi Bhasad (Expect a Riot)”, you will find that the pounding thrashing nature of this song as well as the beautiful flute melodies of “Jee Veerey”, which call back to bands like Elvenkingand Korpiklaani, translate to the live environment amazingly. From the very moment, Raoul Kerr busts out the opening rap verse to “Machi Bhasad”, the manic, sweaty energy of their show just never lets up. Even when the more melodic moments of the set arrived, such as their cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, lead growler Jayant Bhadula still manages to throw in some gutturals to completely reinvent the song and give it new character, which was apparently an important one to the group’s development and passion for performing rock music. Going beyond their viral parody covers of songs like “Despacito”, Bloodywood establishes itself as a force to be reckoned with.

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Bands bringing up the topic of depression in a live environment is nothing new, and while it can be seen as a cynical way of getting the crowd engaged, Bloodywood seemed earnest to me when, halfway through the set, they brought light to the effects it can have on people. Pretty much everyone raised their hand when asked if they had suffered from it, and being from a culture which values spirituality a lot more than we do in the West, it only makes sense that Bloodywood would want to bring that feeling of belonging and positivity to heavy metal culture, which as we all know, is a family of outcasts. I can only say that their performance was brutal as hell and that they do right by the spiritual, positive themes of folk metal.

If nothing other than the quality of the music concerns you, all you need to know is that the riffs hit hard with this one. If you are in the mood for something that combines the brutality of thrash and death metal with the in your face style of rap-metal but is neither, you might want to check Bloodywood out in the future.

WORDS BY MICHAEL MILLER

PHOTOS BY LUKE DENHAM PHOTOGRAPHY*\

* photos from the Nottingham stop on the tour