Slam Dunk Festival 2015 – Midlands, Wolverhampton

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Slam Dunk has become one of the most prestigious festivals in the alternative scene. With 2015’s edition of the festival catering arguably the strongest lineup to date there was plenty on offer for all those who have a taste for the alternative. With a breathtaking lineup across seven stages, clashes were inevitable. And as much as we would love to be able to watch every band, reality struck so we at team Rock Sins were limited to how much we could watch. Never the less here is Rock Sins’ full review of Slam Dunk Festival 2015 live from Wolverhampton!

Beartooth (7)have been building a solid reputation over the last year or so and after opening slots on this year’s Kerrang Tour, the American five piece came to Slam Dunk on an all-time high. Unfortunately, the band didn’t quite reach the same heights as they do on record, with frontman Caleb Shomo’s vocals not quite replicating the sound of their superb debut, Disgusting. With a setlist comprised of material solely from the band’s debut, the band covered everything fans have come to expect and despite an average live sound, the band were warmly received by the swelling crowd at the Monster Energy Stage.

Trash Talk (9) are arguably one of the strongest bands in the hardcore scene at the moment. With a solid reputation of a live show packed with carnage, the expectations were unbelievably high for the band. From the first note Trash Talk layed waste to the Wolverhampton streets with Lee Speilman spending more time in the pit than on stage. The band’s DIY and somewhat basic sound packed an almighty punch live, with Spencer Pollard’s bass tones setting the mood for their set. Violent, brutal and chaotic. That sums up a fantastic set by one of hardcore’s key players.

Similar to Trash Talk, Thy Art Is Murder (9) are considered to be one of the leading bands in the modern deathcore scene. With the band’s latest record, Holy War, set to be unleashed in the coming months it was perhaps surprising that the Australian beasts didn’t unleash any new material. Yet their somewhat short setlist of eight tracks was packed with the utmost brutality. From the anthem of The Purest Strain of Hate to the old school classic of Whore To A Chainsaw, Thy Art Is Murder were on explosive form from start to finish. Guitarist Andy Marsh was a pleasure to watch shred and solo, Lee Stanton’s drumming replicated the sound of machine gun fire and CJ McMahon vocal deliveries replicated the sound of Satan himself. With Holy War set to be unleashed this summer, Thy Art Is Murder proved from their performance that they are leading the pack of deathcore and will continue to do so over the coming years.

Following their appearance at the recent Impericon Festival in Manchester, Stick To Your Guns (8) carried an identical performance but by no means is this a bad thing. Opener Nobody set in motion what was to be a performance bursting with energy and passion. From the emotion driven Amber, the aggressive What Choice Did You Give Us? And We Still Believe driving the carnage, Stick To Your Guns covered all aspects of their 12 year career. With the five piece enjoying tight form, musically the band replicated the sound of their studio record, an impressive quality indeed. Yet it was frontman Jesse Barnett who excelled, with his vocals driving the passion of their subject matter. Stick To Your Guns have been driving the melodic hardcore movement for a while now and judging from their performance at Slam Dunk, they will continue to do so for the coming years.

Serving as ‘special guests’ for the festival, Bury Tomorrow (9) have been enjoying a high point in their career. With the excellent Runes leading to increased popularity and sell out shows across the UK, their performance at Slam Dunk showcased why the British metallers are so revered in the metalcore scene. With Man on Fire being the only song performed from Runes, it was surprising that the band didn’t include more off their latest record, a record they are theoretically touring in support of. Instead, Bury Tomorrow payed homage to their past by delivering a set of their ‘greatest hits’ so to speak. Lionheart, An Honourable Reign and Royal Blood all made an appearance and the crowd reacted in grand fashion. Musically, Bury Tomorrow excelled with Jason Cameron and Kristan Dawson combined guitar work providing the slick groove and crushing breakdowns. Frontman Dani Winter-Bates relished the roaring crowd and responded with a fine vocal performance. Bury Tomorrow more than demonstrated that they are flying the flag high for British metal.

With Slam Dunk boasting a lineup catering for the deathcore and metalcore side of the alternative spectrum, it was a breath of fresh air to witness the emotion driven acoustic sound of This Wild Life (10). With the room of the Fresh Blood Stage packed to the brim, This Wild Life were met with thunderous applause from the second Kevin Jordan’s soft vocals crept across the room. Including their cover of Bring Me The Horizon’s Sleepwalking, the song that built the band’s fame, This Wild Life covered a large majority of material from their debut record Clouded. Despite the two piece focusing solely on the intricate play of guitar work and combined soft vocals, This Wild Life were an absolute pleasure to witness. The vocal combination of Kevin Jordan and Anthony Del Grosso raised the hair on the back of the neck, the guitar work was intricate and mesmerising and the addition of drumwork to climatic finale Concrete was absolutely monumental. This Wild Life proved from their performance at Slam Dunk that they are taking the acoustic side of pop-punk by storm.

To many, Finch (5) are a treasure of old for the post-hardcore scene. Their performance at Slam Dunk however showcased that somethings are sometimes better left in the past, whilst classics such as What Is To Burn and Stay With Me were performed well and sent the crowd back to the early 2000s, the band’s performance as a whole was flat. Vocalist Nate Barcalow failed to replicate the sound of their studio albums as the rhythm of Alex Linares’ guitar and Alex Pappas’ drumming drowned the vocals, leaving a distorted mess. It wasn’t the performance that was to be expected and served nothing more than a basic nostalgia trip.

Similar to Bury Tomorrow, While She Sleeps (9) have been flying the flag high for British metal over the past few years now. Despite the turbulent past few years, the band’s follow up to 2012’s This Is The Six, Brainwashed, more than demonstrated that While She Sleeps are still on fine form. And their performance at Slam Dunk was jam-packed full of energy and carnage, from both the band and fans themselves. With While She Sleeps taking every moment to climb the nearby trees and dive off the stage, the band’s performance was chaotic from start to finish. New material such as Four Walls, Trophies of Violence and Brainwashed sound absolutely immense in a live environment where as classic tracks such Our Courage, Our Cancer and Death Toll replicate the studio sound perfectly. With their form at an all-time high, musically While She Sleeps laid waste to the Monster Energy Stage through Loz Taylor’s destructive vocals and the slick riffs of Mat Welsh and Sean Long. Slam Dunk demonstrated that While She Sleeps have returned to the metalcore scene with a vengeance and made a statement of intent of reconquering their rightful throne.

With the Main and Desperados stage overcrowded for headliners You Me At Six and Reel Big Fish respectively, Monster Energy Stage headliners Architects (10)drew an equally large crowd. The British metalcore mob’s form has replicated that of a roller-coaster with any progress made tarnished by underwhelming records. 2014’s superb Lost Forever // Lost Together demonstrated that the band still have what it takes in an overpopulated scene so the pressure was on to deliver a performance of real character at Slam Dunk. Sam Carter and co’ proved the Naysayers (see what we did there?) wrong through a performance of true musical quality. With a setlist covering the band’s greatest material, Architects were able to truly shine. Alpha Omega demonstrated groove, The Devil Is Near showcased the intricate riffwork of guitarist Tom Searle and Follow The Water sent the crowd into a frenzy. Sam Cater owned the stage through a charismatic vocal performance, hitting every note perfectly whilst commanding the stage, constantly oozing energy. That is the best way to sum up Architects’ performance, energy. They more than proved that they are still able to command the modern metalcore scene and set the bar even higher for what is to be expected from the Brighton mob.

After that, all we can say is, roll on Slam Dunk Festival 2016!

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