England’s biggest metal festival, Bloodstock Open Air, is one that attracts all varieties of heavy loving fans thanks to its broad spread of bands across many metal genres. Boasting an average attendance of around 10,000 people it has the appeal of being big, but not too big. This year’s edition features something for older fans in King Diamond, something for younger fans in Lamb Of God, and something for flat out psychos in Slayer.
MOTHERLOAD – 5/10
The first taste of live action for the more eager punters is Motherload, who provide a steady if not unremarkable beginning to proceedings via their punchy hard rock stylings.
BULL-RIFF STAMPEDE – 7/10
Invited back thanks to a stellar showing on last year’s New Blood stage, Bristol’s Bull-Riff Stampede get the masses moving to songs like ‘Thrashing Machine’. It’s what the thrash fans (and there are many) need, but there’s something for death fans in there too.
OAF – 2/10
It’s true that Oaf‘s appeal is being rather shit, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they are rather shit. One bassist, one drummer, lots of unimpressed faces.
RAVENAGE – 8/10
By looks alone, Ravenage don’t look like they pack any sort of a punch, but when it comes to talking time there’s some excellent blackened folk in play. Bloodstock is rather bare this year for folk bands, so fans of the genre lap up as much as they can. The same can be said for black metal, and Ravenage ensure that they’re in Satan’s good books with plenty of blastbeats and tremolo sections. Set closer ‘More Beer!’ sends the nearby bar into overload as the long night starts to crank into motion.
TRAGEDY – 3/10
Having a tribute act as the main draw of the night is risky business, and it’s not something that pays off this time by. Americans Tragedy are the self styled “Number one tribute act to The Bee Gees” with a metal twist. The glam outfits broadly overshadow the uninspiring tunes on show. It’s a few minutes in that you realise that The Bee Gees are really quite terrible and even the addition of some distorted guitars cannot save some of these songs. However, it may be all that was needed for some of the freshly incapacitated droves.
DEATH ANGEL – 6/10
Bay area thrashers Death Angel are still going after over twenty years in the business, but they’re still pretty low down on the Bloodstock bill. The talent is there, but you can’t help but notice that every song is very similar and this allows for newer songs from ‘Relentless Retribution’ to seamlessly slide in amongst the older cuts from ‘The Ultra-Violence’ and ‘Act III’.
EX DEO – 7/10
Everyone’s favourite Romans Ex Deo are on the bill thanks to the fact that they share every member with Kataklysm. There are many armour-clad members of the audience wielding plastic swords and the like who sing along where they can to cuts from ‘Romulus’ and ‘Caligvla’. It’s a marriage that makes sense between Roman imagery and death metal, but one that leaves just before it outstays its welcome at the 40 minute mark.
DARK FUNERAL – 6/10
Our annual slice of midday Devil worshipping comes from Swedes Dark Funeral who do everything in their power to give Satan the best cock sucking of his life. Bands of this ilk have sounded muddy in past years, but in a rare display of competence the sound guys manage to do some sort of justice to the ferocious black metal. It is, however, still pretty hard to take bands like this seriously when they’re playing in the light. They would work much better in the relative darkness of the Sophie stage.
FIREWIND – 4/10
Firewind‘s set is ruined thanks to the absolute ineptitude of the sound team on main stage. Throughout the set there are many loud ‘pops’ that make getting into the music impossible. You’d think that at a major festival like this you’d have someone other than a retarded ape in charge of the sound system, but apparently not.
MUNICIPAL WASTE – 8/10
Mercifully, the sound is fixed somewhat for Municipal Waste. Even the most cynical Bloodstock-ers find it difficult to not crack a smile thanks to the on stage banter between Tony Foresta, Ryan Waste and Landphil Hall. Again, there’s the problem of every song sounding similar, but when they’re about such subjects as the ‘Terror Shark’ and ‘Beer Pressure’, there’s more than enough whimsy to counteract the issue. There isn’t a time during Municipal Waste‘s set where there aren’t at least 10 crowd surfers, including a chap in a wheelchair.
ACCEPT – 8/10
Over the 45 years that Accept have been in existence, they’ve had more line-up changes and reunions than Lady Gaga has edgy costumes, but it looks like the band has finally found its feet in the last few years. The newest member is Mark Tomillo on vocals and he looks and acts like he’s been there since day one. It must be difficult to condense such a long career into one hour, but Accept manage it well with cuts from throughout the decades like ‘Balls To The Wall’ and ‘Restless And Wild’. You’ve gotta believe these guys would be big enough to headline Bloodstock and it’s debatable if they should have been under King Diamond in the first place, however they don’t let this phase them as they seem to have a great time.
KING DIAMOND – 8/10
There’s a huge hype around King Diamond that many, including myself, don’t understand. There’s a lot of gothic imagery, but the music isn’t really that good. Ninety minutes are more than enough to explain why King Diamond is loved by many as much as he is. It’s all very similar to Alice Cooper‘s set in 2012, with plenty of on stage props including a huge railing and a backdrop that give the feel of a performance in a graveyard. King Diamond‘s falsetto vocals are hard to take seriously, especially when they’re used constantly. If you haven’t heard them before, imagine what it’d be like if someone auto-tuned a newborn child. What’s even more infuriating is some of the time signatures on show during songs like ‘Eye Of The Witch’; they’re harder to follow than a lecture on general relativity. Nevertheless, there’s no arguing that King Diamond puts on one hell of a show, even if some of the elements are lost on many.
THE WAY OF PURITY – 3/10
The appeal of The Way Of Purity is based around their claim that they’re a “voice for the animals”, which animal though is unspecified. Maybe a poisoned stoat? Their chunky melodeath is muddier than a weekend at Glastonbury on the Sophie stage, and there’s very little movement from the freshly awoken crowd.
SCAR SYMMETRY – 4/10
There seem to be more members of Scar Symmetry on stage than there are ants in the world and they try their best to be as homoerotic as possible throughout their headline set in the Sophie tent. Scar Symmetry are okay on record, but there are many others that do it better than them. Some of the more greasy looking fans appear to be enjoying themselves, as they dream of a life where they’re not masturbating every night to Japanese anime whilst listening to ‘Chaosweaver’ and ‘The Iconoclast’.
CRUEL HUMANITY – 6/10
A 10:30AM slot doesn’t deter Cruel Humanity at all, and they draw a very impressive crowd. It’s not really clear what sort of sound they’re going for, with snippets of black and death metal thrown in but no real main draw. Despite this, they appear to have garnered quite a few new fans.
THIS IS TURIN – 5/10
Many fans flock to the New Blood stage, ready for a taste of tech death, but the intricacies are lost in translation a little between execution and being able to make out half the notes. Darryl Jones on vocals pleads for a circle pit, but the audience seems disinterested and it’s up to yours truly to get people moving. It’s a real shame that This Is Turin fail to live up to the potential today, but they will no doubt go down much better on different bills with more similar bands.
CRANIATION – 8/10
It’s always a satisfying thing when you catch a set that you weren’t expecting to be impressed by. Craniation have a combined age of about 12 save for one member, but that doesn’t stop them from pummeling the New Blood stage with a sound much more mature than their years. Vocalist Millie Crampton looks like she works at Blue Banana, but she has the throat of a gargoyle. Craniation could easily break into core at any moment, but they instead channel death metal along the lines of Death and Morbid Angel. Invite these fuckers back.
3 INCHES OF BLOOD – 7/10
Canadians 3 Inches Of Blood know most of the audience only know them for ‘Deadly Sinners’, but they combat this by playing it on the second song, meaning latecomers don’t miss it and others stick around to see the rest of their set. The falsetto vocals are again slightly comical, but that doesn’t stop tunes like ‘Leather Lord’ and ‘Battles And Brotherhood’ from pumping up the crowd.
HELL – 10/10
Hell were one of the highlights of Bloodstock 2011, and this year they are the highlight. It’s more like a pantomime than a metal performance as the whitened faces of Hell power through 45+ minutes of never-tiring action. For a band with such a foreboding name there’s a lot to live up to, but Hell surpass those expectations and more. David Bower on vocals is an incredible frontman as he cavorts and bounds across the stage, coming and going with an assortment of props including a set of stilts to make him look like Satan himself, and a trident that shoots fireworks. Hell are surely destined to headline this festival some day thanks to their tremendously entertaining sets. Not bad for a band with only one album.
KATAKLYSM – 8/10
Kataklysm have a tough act to follow, and they do it the only way they know how: with crushing brutality. As one of the main death metal acts on the bill, it’s up to them to ensure that nobody leaves Bloodstock alive as Maurizio Iacono cries out for “blood and violence” in the pit. Songs like ‘Prevail’ and ‘Push The Venom’ are exceedingly heavy live.
GOJIRA – 8/10
Continuing on the superb run of bands on Bloodstock Saturday is everybody’s favourite Frenchmen, Gojira. Songs like ‘Flying Whales’ and ‘L’enfant Sauvage’ are simple, but that doesn’t stop them from being utterly pummeling. There are even a few older cuts thrown in with ‘Wisdom Comes’ and ‘Love’ along with a new song, ‘Tron’. Randy Blythe joins the band on stage during a section with no vocals of Backbone, but even he cannot hold a torch to the magnificent destruction that is happening.
SABATON – 9/10
Just when you think the day can’t get any better, it’s time for Sabaton. Joakim Brodén easily entertains the crowd after the band suffers technical difficulties after just one song. His banter explains how he’s not allowed to swear under punishment of beer, and this rule is broken a few times with cans of beer being thrown into the crowd as a result. A setlist of fan favourites includes the Swedish version of ‘Karolinens Bon’ and ‘Metal Crue’. Despite having a near entire line-up change in March 2012, Sabaton are still one of the best metal bands to watch live, hands down.
AVANTASIA – 5/10
It’s very hard to see past the fact that without a few instruments, Avantasia would be Top 40 material. Their power metal is so inoffensive it actually brings puppies back to life. Despite this fact, Avantasia might actually be alright if it wasn’t for the unbearable Tobias Sammet. He’s so full of himself it’s questionable whether he realises there are 5,000+ fans watching him. ‘Farewell’ is the only real highlight of an otherwise cringeworthy 90 minutes on stage.
LAMB OF GOD – 7/10
Lamb Of God are this year’s sympathy headliner, but they try their hardest to live up to the occasion. Frontman Randy Blythe casually talks about the death of a fan in the Czech Republic, that we all know the story behind by now. This said, there are plenty of cries of “don’t kill me Randy!” from a few fans. The music just about overpowers all matters though, with ‘Walk With Me In Hell’ and ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’ creating a mass crush in the audience that leads to a barrier failing à la Slipknot at Download Festival. When the problem is finally fixed, ‘Ruin’ continues and the set doesn’t abate until a little later on. The speech from ‘Omerta’ creates a tension across the stage that is smashed to pieces by beefy pitters. It’s odd that Lamb Of God are accepted by much of the famously elitist Bloodstock goers when they’re so similar to many of the bands that they freely lambast.
POWER QUEST – 6/10
It’s Power Quest‘s last ever show, and they go out in a flurry of emotion, taking us down many journeys from their extensive back catalogue. For many power metal fans, the clash against Avantasia was a tough one, but those who chose Power Quest from the two enjoy a great time in these 75 minutes. There are seven members on stage for set closer ‘Power Quest (Part 2)’ as the band bid an emotional goodbye.
ELITHIA – 4/10
Plymouth’s Elithia have been clubbing away through the ‘Metal to the Masses’ competition to get to Bloodstock, so it’s disappointing that nobody really seems interested when their set comes around. Many of the intricacies of their widdly metalcore are lost in the mix and it’s hard to follow what’s going on. They’ll fare better on a different day at a different festival.
MASK OF JUDAS – 7/10
Mask Of Judas are one massive clusterfuck of a band, but they make it work. They play through so many genres they give the audience whiplash, from chunky breakdowns to Paramore-like female vocals and back to deep growls. Jo Challen‘s ferocious vocals belay her image and it’s really only on the cleans that the mix sounds a bit rough. Mask Of Judas are a band that’ll surely be invited back off the back of this performance because there really is something for everyone.
XII BOAR – 7/10
Tommy Hardrocks has a mouth that would make parents dive for the remote, but it just adds to the vibe that XII Boar put out. There’s some chewy stoner sludge on offer from the Hampshire lads that draws a solid crowd. Hardrocks doesn’t let a broken string affect his performance on the final song, as he works some quirky banter with Adam Williams (bass) and Dave Wilbraham (drums).
THE INFERNAL SEA – 7/10
Finally, some black metal appears thanks to The Infernal Sea. All sporting matching logoed jackets, they plug their merch stall more than a telemarketer on a deadline but the music on show is more than enough to make some punters part with their beer money. The atmosphere is foreboding thanks to the smoke and the hellish vocals of Dean Lettice. Whatever’s going on where The Infernal Sea come from has clearly inspired them to write some seriously grimy black metal along the lines of Wodensthrone and Dissection.
GAMA BOMB – 8/10
Irish thrashers Gama Bomb are on first on Sunday, but they don’t let that deter them, claiming to have been drinking since 8:45AM. They’re great fun, playing “some Gama Bomb songs, they all sound the same” like ‘Mussolini Mosh’ and ‘Smoke The Blow With Willem Dafoe’. There’s bizarre banter about Countryfile and plenty of pits despite the early hour.
WHITECHAPEL – 9/10
As the elitists sit on the sidelines shaking their heads in disapproval because Whitechapel are slightly different to the other bands, many more fill main stage to witness 40 minutes of core action. Sure, there’s plenty of chugging, but on songs like ‘Possibilities Of An Impossible Existence’ it’s heavy as fuck. A massive wall of death opens up during ‘This Is Exile’ to rival even DevilDriver. There are a few ten year olds attempting to throw shapes, but they’re greatly overpowered by some good old fashion mosh pits.
SACRED MOTHER TONGUE – 3/10
Why do some bands rise to fame thanks to a song, and then never play it again? That’s what Sacred Mother Tongue are doing with ‘Two Thousand Eight Hundred’. They take it to the new level though, playing only the breakdown. What the fuck is the point? Fred Durst once said that playing at a festival should be a greatest hits set and you promote your new album on tour, and that makes a lot of sense. SMT‘s set is almost entirely composed of songs from ‘Out Of The Darkness’ which in turn alienates many of their older fans. Sure, there’s a few foot tapping moments, but there’s nothing that’ll stick in the mind past these 40 minutes.
FOZZY – 7/10
Ever the showman, Chris Jericho‘s Fozzy are out to force the audience into having a good time. Fozzy‘s set of heavy metal anthems are backed up with a superb stage presence, including a climb up the side of the stage whilst some worried looking security guards look on.
AMORPHIS – 4/10
There are plenty of people that enjoy Amorphis, but once the gimmick of Tomi Joutsen‘s dreadlock windmilling wears off, there’s not that much to their music. A set that visits plenty of albums searches long and hard for something to wake the tiring audience up, but most attempts fail.
EXODUS – 6/10
The onslaught of thrash continues with American heavyweights, Exodus. By now the droves on main stage have seen more than a few hours of thrash type music, and even the more hardy pit goers look tired as they call on their last supplies of adrenaline. Rob Dukes on vocals looks like he’d be in the pit full on punching people in the face if he didn’t have to sing Exodus‘ songs.
DEVILDRIVER – 8/10
It’s with horror that you glance at the line-up poster and realise that DevilDriver are on next. There is going to be so much running. Sure enough, there are over 9000 circle pits to everyone’s favourite NASCAR-core band. Circle pits however are pretty fun, especially when they’re commanded by songs like ‘Meet The Wretched’ and ‘I Could Care Less’. ‘Clouds Over California’ is the main draw and the oval whips into a cloud of dust as fatties are pummeled to the ground as they puff and pant. One gentleman manages to throw up an entire serving of perfectly preserved noodles before one idiot throws them into the crowd. Delightful stuff.
ANTHRAX – 8/10
By far the least underrated of The Big Four of thrash metal, Anthrax are arguably the best live. They have the classic element of songs that you didn’t realise were Anthrax, like ‘Got The Time’ and ‘Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t’. There’s a dedication to Dio and Dimebag during a new song ‘In The End’ that doesn’t sound drastically out of place, and of course there are the classics of ‘Caught In A Mosh’ and ‘Indians’. Judge Flight joins the band on stage for ‘I Am The Law’ while two scantily clad ninjas wander around with ‘Caught In A Mosque’ boards. There’s even time for a couple of covers, with ‘T.N.T.’ and the excellent singalong set closer, ‘Antisocial’.
SLAYER – 4/10
Slayer, like it or not, are sloppy. Up against their competition on second stage (Dying Fetus) it’s like comparing the Theory of Relativity to Pingu in terms of complexity. The drums are out of time, there are wandering notes on guitar and bass, and the vocals are uninspired. Maybe Slayer are getting old, or maybe they’ve been affected by the death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman more than they’ve been letting on. Tom Araya sounds and looks like he’s high as apple pie and Kerry King is the only one who looks anywhere near competent. The classics are saved until the end, with back-to-back ‘Raining Blood’, ‘South Of Heaven’ and ‘Angel Of Death’ proving to be the only real highlight of an otherwise disappointing set.
BOSSK – 9/10
They may not be the usual booking for Bloodstock, but boy do Bossk know how to get the attention of a crowd. Their atmospheric post-metal harks instantly to Devil Sold His Soul and Rinoa. The first ten minutes of their set trick the audience into thinking this is an instrumental band before a Chris Martin lookalike wanders onto the stage and lets out a roar that would make Satan shit his devil panties. This is Sam Marsh, who wanders on and off whilst the rest of the band partake in gloomy instrumentals including an unreleased track, ‘The Reverie’.
DYING FETUS – 9/10
If there’s one thing that Dying Fetus‘ set on the Sophie stage proves, it’s that an alternative to the main headliner will be watched. It’s insane how Bloodstock still refuses to accept this fact, and hopefully this set will get them to sort their shit out. Dying Fetus are charmingly named, but all three of their members are virtuosos in their chosen field. Trey Williams on drums is a constant double bass machine, Sean Beasley beats the shit out of his bass, and John Gallagher‘s fingers are spiders on ice on the guitar. If the Sophie stage was built of brick, it would be crumbling to pieces under the weight of songs like ‘Homicidal Retribution’ and ‘One Shot, One Kill’. The pits are barbaric but save for a few bruised arms and faces they’re a great way to get your aggression out.
BOUND BY EXILE – 8/10
Don’t tell the elitists, but there was a core band playing this weekend, and that was Bound By Exile. The Exeter lads are a constant breakdown, but boy do they do it well. Despite not having a full-time guitarist or drummer, Bound By Exile have called on someone or other to join Luke McCarthy, Alex Frampton and Jack Brown on stage with them. McCarthy towers over the crowd and commands them to cause mayhem as the chugs start to sound more and more like a thundering locomotive.
Written by MG Savage (@MGSavagewriter)