Great gigs of Camp Crystal Lake

So I’ve covered the story behind Crystal Lake (here) but what about the gigs themselves?! Here are some which have us singing “MMMEEMMOORRIIEES” ala Ziltoid.

Rammstein – MEN Arena 2010. Where it all began. What’s not to like about Germans playing anthemic industrial metal pissing about with lasers and flamethrowers?!

Download Festival 2010. My first festival and I bloody loved it. I try to make it to at least one every year, calling them my “holiday”! Says it all really.

Iron Maiden – MEN Arena 2011. First time seeing one of my all time favourite bands, this was always going to be special. I’ve seen them multiple times since and they never let you down.

Black Sabbath – Download Festival 2012. My favourite performance ever. Sabbath played like it was their last ever gig and the atmosphere was spine-tingling. Blink completely losing his shit to “Children of the Grave” still gets talked about today.

Ghost/Gojira/Defiled – Sheffield Academy 2013. Outstanding value for money at a fiver, we didn’t know an awful lot about Ghost before this gig but we sure did afterwards! Papa’s people!

Nine Inch Nails – MEN Arena 2014. My first gig with Kristy and her first with Crystal Lake. Everyone got on like a house on fire and NIN were brilliant. We finished the night sitting near some statues drunkenly talking shit and eating pizza till the early hours. Win!

Hellfest 2014. An adventure from start to finish. Blink and myself battled dust storms to catch a variety of brilliant bands. Our first festival abroad, hopefully won’t be the last.

Andrew WK – Liverpool Arts Club 2014. The night we discovered the joys of partying hard. We can all learn from the positive teachings of Andrew WK. Think I’m joking? Follow him on Twitter. You’ll see.

Devin Townsend – Royal Albert Hall 2015. The comic genius of Devin Townsend’s Ziltoid The Omniscient in a jaw dropping venue was a spectacle to behold. I didn’t think it was possible to fit so much hilarity and fun into two days, but we did it! The best Crystal Lake gig ever? Quite possibly!

Foo Fighters – Old Trafford Cricket Ground/Milton Keynes 2015. The group split up into different groups/gigs but Dave and the boys kicked everyone’s arse. I came out a bigger fan after the Manchester gig, which is testament to just how good it was.

That concludes the list. Whilst short musings don’t really do these shows justice, I don’t think essays of a thousand words on each one would either. Things of this nature are fleeting moments in time which we never get back. That what makes them special. You can’t always fully express the experience you had but you know for sure it was a good one.

So roll on losing our shit to more bands and adding to this list. I’ve got a tonne of gigs coming up and frankly, I can’t bloody wait.

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The curious case of Camp Crystal Lake


“If you get on with me and my sense of humour, you’ll get on with them fine” Fred explained to me as we headed to the MEN Arena to watch Rammstein. I’d not known Fred for long and we’d met via an internet football forum of all places. We both loved metal and he was now introducing me to some of his mates. We got there early so we would get a good spot.

Then stuff happened.

My memory is a little hazy, but the thing I remember from my introduction to Blink and Simon is them charging at Fred, screaming “FFFFRRREEEEDDDDD” at the top of their voices whilst sort of rugby tackling him from a side. Meanwhile, I stood there wondering what the hell was going on. Little did I know that my life would never quite be the same again.

That was over five years ago now, and I still don’t know what’s going on.

From that day forwards, let’s just say things have “developed”. That meeting spawned a meeting of minds that is still going strong today. We are Crystal Lake, and we love music. Our secret Facebook group contains a healthy mix of music and spam. From humble beginnings, this group has now expanded into a gig going, good time machine. In this fairly short time frame, we’ve seen bands including Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, Rammstein as well as countless others.

Us in real life.

Us in real life.

It’s not just about the amazing shows though. It’s the character of this group I love. It lives in its own world, with a unique brand of weirdness that goes on. The countless song references stuffed into our conversations, shouting random things at people in the street, losing our shit at gigs, I could go on. Just the small fact we travel from all over the country to meet up for drinks and check out as many bands we can despite having varying commitments is something to be proud of. Like a great album, this group is greater than the sum of its parts and everybody contributes.

I can’t help thinking that us all meeting up is more than a coincidence for me. Young lad finds himself becoming obsessed with music and wants to go to gigs and festivals but feels like he can’t cause he left school with very few friends. From nowhere a wild Fred appears and the rest is history. I’ve been on some great adventures with this lot and they’ve grown to become some of my very best friends.

So thank you my brothers, here’s to many more years of music related shenanigans! Cheers!

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8 – Electric Wizard – Dopethrone (2000)

“Once you get into one of these trips, there’s only a couple of ways you can get out. One is death, the other is mental institutions”. The opening line of the album, this spoken word quote really does set the mood brilliantly for the 1 hour + you’ll spend listening to this. If you’re like me, you might even give an evil snigger or raise a sadistic grin to yourself.

You know why I do that? Cause I know I’m at the start of one of the grooviest, heaviest and fuzziest doom metal albums I’ll ever listen to. A sheer bombardment of riffs, this just keeps on hitting you until you submit to its will. It may sometimes slow to a crawl, but this is brilliantly vicious. It goes for the jugular and takes no prisoners. This isn’t music you can really just “dip in” too, it’s an intense and thoroughly absorbing experience. When Electric Wizard do take a break from the guitars and indulge in some trippy weirdness, you should appreciate it cause you know another backbreaking riff is just round the corner!

Listen to this and lose your mind. DOOOOOOMMEEDDDD, WE’RE ALL DOOMED I TELLS YEH. (that was me losing my mind by the way)

Personal Fave Track: “Barbarian”

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1 – Massive Attack – Mezzanine (1998)

The amount of times I turned to this album and continued to play it long after first hearing it would be impossible for me to count. This album floored me when I first heard it and still does a little bit now. In fact, I actually forced told myself not to play it for a while cause I was frightened that I would fall out of love with it a little bit. I wanted to really savour this review and it’s no surprise I’ve left one of the best till last.

Generally regarded as Massive Attacks best, listening to this you can certainly hear why. The humble urban aspects of their beginnings on Blue Lines are lessened and replaced by ambitious electronics, creating dreamy soundscapes which completely hypnotise you. The use of dub on this album is fantastic and the bass is some of the most addicting I’ve heard. The production on here is simply flawless and you can tell the band have probably gone over everything with a fine tooth comb. This is a sound of a band who continually have expanded their sound and this is the climax. The whole record just flows so well, it’s such a cohesive set of songs that all perfectly intertwine with each other. Despite perhaps been considered a “chillout” album, this isn’t full of quiet subtlety. There is plenty of that to be found, but it’s balanced with some fantastic musical bombast that blows up in your face as well.

One to savour.

Personal Fave Track: “Teardrop” (such a hard choice!)

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2 – Portishead – Dummy (1994)

I still remember the first time I heard this. I was at my friend Pinky’s house (who also plays a starring role in the White Pony review a bit or so back) and we were on the beer (as usual). Music was playing and conversation was flowing. Pinky suddenly decides to change the music and on comes Dummy. I’d not heard anything like this before and my ears instantly pricked up. Conversation seemed to lower in volume and the topic turned to this album. I was hooked. The whole album just seemed to fit that moment. Cigarette smoke (not mine!) floated through the air and the mood was set.

I obtained a copy of this album pretty quickly and gave it a listen. The first time was no fluke, the second time listening to this (sober this time) was just as good. Numerous spins, and here it is in my top ten.

Along with Massive Attack, Portishead are generally generally regarded the other big name in trip hop scene that came out of Bristol in the 90’s. They aren’t a band who go for the jugular, instead they are all about the mood. On this album they absolutely nail it and this really is a perfect example of the “less is more” school of thought. It’s quite amazing how much people love this album when it only consists of understated hip hop production and vocals. But, when your vocalist is Beth Gibbons you don’t need a lot else. Her voice is so striking, yet so fragile and vulnerable. It draws you in and sets this album apart from others. It sounds like she’s putting everything all her emotion into every word and it hits you.

Such a delicate voice demands special care. It can’t be drowned out in a wall of noise. Up steps the trip hop production, but rather than bury those fantastic vocals it compliments them perfectly. Understated is the word here, with ambient electronics, subtle strings and even a little jazz combining with hip hop drum beats to create a somber backdrop which allows Gibbons to flourish. Fantastic a backdrop it is as well, some of this production sounds like it’s come straight from a strange dream.

Combine these two elements and you have the perfect “moody” album. I picture this being played in some cool low-light bar/club with only a few people in it while white smoke floats through the air. Not sure why I associate smoke so much with this record, maybe it’s the somewhat “floaty” nature of these songs! Anyway, listen and let this take your breath away.

Personal Fave Track: “Mysterons”

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3 – Electric Wizard – Come My Fanatics… (1997)

come my fanatics
Sabbath worship. Check. An obsession with horror and the occult. Check. Drugs. Check. Stick all this in a cauldron, stir well and chant some incantations. What do you get? Electric fuckin’ Wizard. A British doom metal institution, these guys are regularly championed as one of the best bands in the whole scene and with albums like this one it’s not hard to see why.

Sabbath style riffs are twisted and distorted into something even heavier. There’s so much distortion on here that some of the guitars sound like friggin chainsaws. Stretched out into psychedelic and ultimately hypnotising jams, you are drawn into this shadowy world. As the album goes on, you find yourself submitting more and more to this enormous wall of sound, which is the aural equivalent of being dragged into a black hole and discovering an unfathomable deep void awaiting you.

While this album is a bombardment of your senses, it’s constructed so well. The heaviness is broken up by some of the more experimental aspects and despite the long, droning nature of these songs you are simply never bored. You feel like you’re going on some strange trip whilst in a trance like state. Before you ask, this review wasn’t written under the influence of something, you don’t need to be out of your tree to appreciate this (though it probably helps!).

So take the trip and listen to this. You won’t regret following the beckoning finger from the hand of doom. But, be warned you probably won’t come back the same!

Personal Fave Track: “Doom Mantia”

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4 – Faith No More – Angel Dust (1992)

These past few years I’ve become fairly well versed in the grunge and alt rock/metal music of the 90’s but I cannot find anyone from this era (or any other era) that sounds like Faith No More. The sheer amount of influences they’ve managed to stitch together to create a unique sound (and be incredibly successful whilst at it) is extraordinary. Whilst I haven’t heard all of their discography, this has to be their crowning achievement? Surely? I love “The Real Thing” but this album just pips it for me.

On this record I hear parts metal, rock, funk, lounge, country, pop and rap. It all combines to create a gloriously decadent collection of songs that I find hard to describe. The best analogy I can think of is a dinner party consisting of high-flying business men in suits who succumb to substance excesses. The shindig remains classy, but it gets very strange and trippy. Perhaps a lot of credit has to go to Mike Patton, who’s CV shows an amazing variety of different musical projects of different styles. Here he croons, raps, sings and whispers to his heart’s content, a complete natural of staggering diversity.

Having spoken about how odd this album is, perhaps you’re thinking this is one of those sets of songs you only “get” after a dozen or so listens. I wouldn’t say that’s the case with Angel Dust, you’ll know if you love it or not after a few listens. Everybody is different of course, but I don’t have to tell you which camp I fall in. Anthemic and uplifting, I don’t think I can do this justice in a review so just go out and listen to this. Like, now.

Personal Fave Track: “Be Aggressive”

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5 – Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun (2014)

In the world of modern metal (and even some of the more adventurous rock circles), Mastodon are fast becoming a household name. From humble sludge metal routes, they’ve incorporated progressive elements as well as stoner rock into their sound and continued to mature into something fairly detached from their original roots. Their last release, “The Hunter” felt like a commercial watershed for the band. Thick, distorted riffs were almost deserted in favour of a lighter guitar tone and songs “simplified” (by Mastodon standards) with extra emphasis on melody. Whilst, these brought them some success, it led to a lot of the longer term fans of the band crying out for the bite of previous releases. “Where’s the sludge?” disheartened Mastodon fans asked and even led to accusations of them selling out.

I’m not sure how much of an impact such comments really made on the making of this album, but Mastodon do seem to have taken a leaf out of past albums when writing these songs. Whilst not a carbon copy of before, the guitars and riffs on this have a crunch that The Hunter lacked. At the same time Mastodon have pushed further down the progressive aspect of their sound and it really pays off. They now have best of the both worlds, their heavier beginnings are balanced perfectly with their later, more progressive sounds on this album.

Here is a band really striving for the top, not afraid of the big chorus but still intent on creating something unique to them. Mastodon have really matured here and created a richly layered collection of songs with refreshing variety. The band switches between fast, dazzling displays of prog metal to moody, psychedelic numbers with consummate ease. It matches the otherworldly cover art perfectly and I think this may well be the most “complete” Mastodon album to date. Plenty won’t agree with that statement, but I’d be shocked if this wasn’t acknowledged (at the very least) as a fine example of modern progressive metal.

Personal Fave Track: “The Motherload”

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6 – Neurosis – Through Silver In Blood (1996)


Every now and then an album comes along that just absolutely floors you. One that makes you drop everything you’re doing and just listen in awe. It might be because the songs are completely different to what you’ve heard before and it gives you a different perspective on things. Other times the music is from a genre you’re well versed in, but it blows everything else similar you’ve heard out of the water or perhaps twists it into something new. Perhaps the former is a better feeling to have, but there’s something almost as equally refreshing as a band breathing life into a genre you thought you’d heard all before.

This was a very much in the former camp for me, I’ve heard a lot of sludge metal and its various sidebranches before I came to this. I kinda knew what to expect, but that didn’t prepare for the onslaught that was to follow. The first thing that strikes me is how just MASSIVE this sounds. It’s one of those records that just crushes you and makes you feel like the tiny spec you are in this huge universe we live in. This is the sound of watching planets colliding and the world collapsing around you.

Firstly, the riffs pummel you into submission. Thick, sludge like sledgehammers batter your brains. Meanwhile, the vocals sound like the bellows of a man who is living his few hours on earth who hasn’t accepted his fate. The deep bass grooves and pounding drums only add to the sheer weight of it all.

But, that only tells half of the story. The heavy side of this album hits you the hardest, but there’s some really understated and subtle elements that really help pull together the apocalyptic atmosphere that can be heard. There’s creepy voice samples, industrial noises that sound straight out of the Godflesh catalogue, bagpipes (yes really!), violins…..I could go on and on. These are all applied with a feather touch, making these songs even more terrifying and perhaps hinting at desolation. These bring balance and allows the band to build up their songs to a devastating climax. Neurosis also sometimes strips back the sludge assault in their guitars as well, allowing themselves solemn moments.

So all I will say is, if you want an album with the intensity of Earth collapsing around you, you’ve come to the right place. Not just a collection of songs, more an experience.

Personal Fave Track: “Purify”

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7 – Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991)


My new job as an Reprographics Operator requires a lot of concentration. It’s my responsibility to prepare digital artworks to the best of my ability so they look good on the shelf and are printable on an industrial scale. Sometimes I have to go through paragraphs of text consisting of different languages making amendments. It’s no real surprise I turn to music when I need to really focus and I’ve timed checking out this band perfectly. Time and time again this year I’ve turned to this band to help me really get stuck into work.

But, for me to suggest this is just an album to put on when you have some repetitive office work to do is doing this album a real disservice. I can’t believe this album was released in 1991, because for me it still sounds so fresh today. Hip hop, electronic, dub and soul all combine to create this fantastic urban sound. Some people perhaps think urban as a dirty word, but this is such a clean, cool collection of songs I think some people may redefine their meaning of the word after listening to this.

Such variety as well, compare something the hip hop of “Blue Lines” to the soaring soul of “Unfinished Symphony”. It just works. You could put this on after the worst working day imaginable and find yourself completely de-stressed. This is where this record excels: chilling you out. And in this fast paced world we live in, that is certainly no bad thing.

Personal Fave Track: “Hymn of the Big Wheel ”

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