One of the most famous, and popular, festivals in the world, Glastonbury has long overlooked heavy metal as a genre of music. Happy to fill their camps with middle aged glampers listening to everything from Beyoncé to a man reciting poetry while banging his head on a saucepan, Glastonbury has always been a festival for those with eclectic music tastes. As long as that doesn’t include metal.
Please note some, but not all, of what is said below is done with tongue pressed firmly in cheek!
Glastonbury has long been a festival I have frowned upon. It essentially stands for everything I think is wrong in live music. Huge ticket prices, an overcrowded festival where watching the main stage from 100,000 people back becomes more of a “watching it on the big screen to stand a chance”. A crowd full of flags, just to make sure any chance you have of seeing anything is quickly washed away. A festival your mum and dad are more likely to go to, chuckle about how they saw someone with a spliff and get a temporary flower tattoo on their cheek before hitting up Instagram to show the world how young at heart they still are.
My biggest issue with it though is a simple one. I only go to festivals for the music. Not for the camaraderie, not for a chance to spend time with friends or family, just for the music. The rest is a bonus but a bonus I don’t want without the music. That is where Glastonbury fails most for me. Not in just the fact that they tend to treat heavy metal with disdain, but more that they sell out all their tickets before a single band is announced. For fans of poetry, pop, pop-rock or electronic nonsense, that is fine. With so many bands on show, you can grab a ticket and be safe in the knowledge that you are going to be catered for. That is not the case with metal.
There have always been a handful of hard rock or metal bands that accidentally slipped into the line up. Motorhead have played there, as have Deftones, Foo Fighters and even, Bring Me the Horizon. The big one of course was Metallica, not just playing there but headlining the Pyramid Stage. Now we know Metallica are a cross over band well known outside of metal but that was a huge surprise. They owned it and hopefully taught some middle class wannabe hipsters that hearing heavy metal may not be the end of their credibility and instead may actually give them some.
The thing is, no heavy metal fan is buying a ticket to Glastonbury on the off chance they book a single metal band for the whole long weekend. Well, I certainly wouldn’t. So that is why we have metal festivals. Running a format I agree with. They announce bands, we decide if we want to see them and then buy a ticket if we do. Worse case, you buy a ticket without knowing any announcements but safe in the knowledge that they will be booking heavy metal bands so you are covered.
Perhaps off the back of the Metallica show, perhaps a desire to bring in an untouched fanbase – who knows but slowly Glastonbury has started opening it’s arms to heavy metal. A little like an uncomfortable handshake with an ex you run into 10 years after a break up but it is still an acknowledgment.
Bring forth Earache Records, a prestigious label that has brought forth bands like Napalm Death, Godflesh and Carcass to prominence and an agreement with Glastonbury organisers to put together a line up across the metal spectrum for Glastonbury goers. That means that this year at Glastonbury there is a proper heavy metal stage. Called Scum, hopefully in honour of Napalm Death who celebrated 30 years of existence at the festival last year, but probably how most of the goers will reflect on those in the mosh pit.
This year sees a wide variety of metal bands ply their trade on the Scum Stage. Extreme metallers Venom Prison (who also play on the Truth Stage), Entombed AD, Employed to Serve, The Damned, Slave to Sirens and more all take to the stage, ready to tear Glastonbury a new one. Meanwhile the big announcement is the appearance of Gojira on the environmental and political stage, the Truth Stage. That could be amazing, they only have an hour but their message should be well received and hopefully their crushing groove will be too.
It still isn’t perfect yet and still feels a little like we are the inbred, deformed creature hiding in the cellar. The Scum Stage only opens at night. On the Friday, the first band doesn’t play until midnight with Venom Prison hitting the stage at 02:30 am so they seem nice and hidden away but it is a start. Generally our bands are playing through the early hours of the morning when a large chunk of the festival will presumably be tucked up in their tepees or high spec caravans so their days of kazoo playing ex radio DJ’s aren’t disturbed by anything too noisy. But it is a start.
Not quite enough to entice me to the festival yet, though I doubt that desperately upsets the festival much. I mean, I would have to sleep during the day to go and see my bands at night for a start but also, until I know this is a permanent fixture, and hopefully a growing invasion, you would still need to buy a ticket before anything gets announced and that is too much of a risk, but, it is a start.
Credit to the festival for finally opening their eyes and arms. Metal has arrived at Glastonbury at long last. Not in the odd appearance of a band but with a dedicated stage. Now we just need more. More bands, some day time slots and earlier announcements. You never know, if the invasion goes to plan, in a couple years time the fields of Worthy Farm may soon be awash with an army of battle jacket wearing metallers alongside the rich, the famous, middle class professionals, hipsters and parents running through a mid life crisis. Then it can truly claim to be the most inclusive festival of them all. Rotting Christ headlining the Pyramid Stage in 2021 or 2022? Yes please!