Bloodstock doesn’t sound like the place where any normal person would like to spend their weekend, but for the more interesting souls, these four days form the basis of the premium heavy metal in the UK. If you like fully grown men bumming each other over and over in the middle of a field in full view of everybody, Bloodstock is the place for you. We caught a bunch of bands performing across the weekend, and this is what we thought of them:
SATURNIAN – 4/10
It’s arguable whether playing the Thursday of BOA is an advantage or not, but Saturnian appear to draw a good crowd for the first band. Dressed head to toe in corpse paint, they’ve certainly made an effort to look the part, and they provide a sound if not a little underwhelming start to proceedings. The female operatic singer lounges at the back of the stage and looks thoroughly unimpressed by everything, but that doesn’t stop the crowd from breaking into pits wherever they can.
BLOODSHOT DAWN – 7/10
Portsmouth’s Bloodshot Dawn are a bunch of lads who know how to start a party. Their half hour of pummelling death metal lives up to their hype and metaphorically rips everyone’s tits off. With only one album under their belt, they play like a much more mature band and one that promises to savagely maim any children you hope to birth in the near future if you get in their way.
VIKING SKULL – 7/10
Viking Skull look like a band formed by tramps and they play heavy metal that sounds like it too. There’s no dancing around the subject matters here, with songs entitled ‘Beers, Drugs And Bitches’. This is music to drink beer to and get in bar fights. Thankfully, there’s only beer drinking at BOA. So much beer drinking.
MALEFICE – 9/10
Malefice raised a few eyebrows with their inclusion on the primarily breakdown oppressing Bloodstock line-up, but the haters appear to have stayed in bed (or their parents’ basements) for the official main stage opening band. Frontman Dale Butler doesn’t give a fuck either way and he hurtles about the stage belying the time of day, joined by the equally apathetic faithful in the pit. It almost seems like they’re playing the breakdown heavy songs to annoy people, and if they are then good on them. Malefice are a top band, and if you don’t like them, fuck you.
FREEDOM CALL – 6/10
What with the economy and all, cheese has become expensive these days, so it’s highly generous of Freedom Call to provide us with lashings of the stuff with their unashamedly camp power metal. It’s annoying, it’s catchy and it will probably give you a rash, but they provide the punters with a good time with songs like ‘Rockstars’ and ‘Freedom Call’.
GRAND MAGUS – 7/10
With more licks than a dog cleaning your freshly Pedigree-coated penis are Grand Magus. With only three members, you might think that they would struggle to sustain any form of heaviness, but that notion is put soundly to bed with a blistering set, featuring the likes of ‘Like The Oar Strikes The Water’ and ‘I, The Jury’.
MOONSORROW – 5/10
There’s a surprisingly low amount of folk metal on the line-up this year, so Moonsorrow will have to do for the warpainted hordes who have been treated in the past to Turisas and Ensiferum. Unfortunately, Moonsorrow‘s songs last for one hundred thousand years each, so it’s hard for the crowd to really get going.
SEPULTURA – 9/10
I tell you what, if you think that Sepultura have become any less brutal with the loss of the Cavalera brothers then you need to have a sit down and re-evaluate your life. Derrick Green is absolutely terrifying, even if he looks like he would be better suited to a Kanye West video. His roar could make Hitler himself piss his pants. The new material from ‘Kairos’ fits in well with others from their entire back catalogue, that even features ‘Beneath The Remains’. There are, of course, the classics as well; ‘Roots’ and ‘Refuse/Resist’ flatten the crowd to the floor.
BEHEMOTH – 9/10
“It’s great to be alive” says frontman Nergal, and goddamnit we’re glad for him to be saying that. After their cancellation in 2010 due to his leukaemia illness, their headline appearance at BOA was promised to be one not to miss – and that’s a statement that’s backed up emphatically. Pyros, lasers and even confetti provide awe over the Satan spooning soundtrack. With songs like ‘Slaves Shall Serve’, Behemoth are certainly not ones to hold back as they genuinely terrify 99% of the audience. Nergal‘s assortment of horrifying masks make him look like he may make the ground open up at any moment and cause hell to mate with the living world.
EASTERN FRONT – 4/10
Black metal is a very hit and miss genre. Bands like Marduk and Eastern Front toe the line between music and stupidity with their ultra-violent tunes that are supposed to mimic the insanity of war. If you try, really try, you can make out single notes, but it’s very hard for the more casual fans to think that this is anything more than just noise.
ALCEST – 10/10
Neige is clearly an unhappy chappy. Alcest‘s dreamy music forms a story of a mythical world that he imagined as a child. If it wasn’t for the fact that there are moments of full-on black metal, Alcest wouldn’t be at this festival, but it’s fantastic that they are. Their absolutely spell bounding set features such majestic songs like ‘Autre Temps’ and ‘Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles’. I don’t know how he does it, but Neige evokes emotions in people absolutely effortlessly. The set is completed with the brilliant ‘Summer’s Glory’ to set the bar so high that even Jessica Ennis would struggle to make it over.
KATALEPTIC – 7/10
Their lead singer may look like he’s about fifteen years old, but Kataleptic groove like a band that eat at the big boys’ table. It’s crunchy, gritty death metal that goes down the throat like a fish dick (why in god’s name did you just search that on Google Images?).
CHTHONIC – 7/10
Everyone likes ChthoniC; they’re an entertaining band that play music that isn’t by the book and that utilises elements from their home country of Taiwan (or China, or Chinese Taipei, or whatever the fuck it’s called). ‘Takao’ and ‘Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains’ are exactly the sort of thing that the crowd needs for lunch.
CROWBAR – 6/10
Maybe taking the ‘heavy’ mantra a little too literally (I’m looking at you Kirk Windstein) are Crowbar. They chug away and break up and down and a lot of people are pleased, but they leave others looking a little bored.
MAYHEM – 6/10
The first appearance of the aubergine on a stick is at Mayhem, who look slightly annoyed and bemused by it all. They fall foul of the same problem that Gorgoroth encountered a few years ago; that black metal just doesn’t have the same impact in the middle of the day in the sun.
HATEBREED – 10/10
As bandana wearing droves flood the arena, Hatebreed take to the stage and don’t stop pummelling us for a good 45 minutes. There’s a way of playing angry fast-paced music correctly, and this is exactly it. ‘In the Ashes They Shall Reap’ and ‘Perseverance’ are snippets of a highly enjoyable set that leaves bruises a-plenty. The atmosphere is instantly energetic and any fears that Hatebreed may be out of place are quashed almost immediately.
TESTAMENT – 7/10
After the chaos of Hatebreed, Testament sure have something to live up to, and they don’t quite make it. The thrashers are clearly having fun, but the rest of us have had enough after a few songs. The “Free Randy” (or Randy Free in this case) banner comes out, and gets a cheer even by those that support that particular cause.
MACHINE HEAD – 10/10
If there’s one thing at all to be taken from Machine Head‘s first ever UK festival headlining slot it is this: Machine Head are really fucking good. The metal elitists may have been filling their nappies beforehand, but they are well and truly shut up by a highly impressive ninety minutes of damn good songs. Whether it’s ‘Davidian’ or ‘I Am Hell’, Machine Head seem to have an endless back catalogue of great songs, five of which were voted from ‘Burn My Eyes’ by fans. ‘A Thousand Lies’ has not been played in a very long time, and you’ve got to ask why after seeing it set the crowd alight. Robb Flynn may be obviously drunk, but he still manages to shred the living shit out of his guitar in between his amicable banter with the crowd. Let’s hope they get Limp Bizkit for next year, eh? Just kidding.
DRIPBACK – 7/10
Dripback were a right laugh last year with their swaggering punky death metal and there’s a good turnout this year as well. The old school fans break out into two-step that doesn’t seem out of place despite the blast beats. Dripback look like the sort of chaps that would steal the wheels off your car, but I’m sure they’re top blokes nonetheless.
WINTERFYLLETH – 8/10
It’s good to see a band genuinely enjoying playing to a crowd, as Winterfylleth return to BOA for their second appearance. Their bleak black metal stiffens the atmosphere, even if they look like they could fix your plumbing. The aubergine makes its second appearance to the confusion of the band who are pleased to join in the fun.
KOBRA & THE LOTUS – 6/10
Hailing from Canada, KATL seem to have just hit popularity. They don’t seem particularly different from any other female fronted heavy metal band, but they give a good showing for the first band and warm the crowd up nicely.
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – 7/10
CoC seem to have been round since the dawn of time, but here they are still belting out killer riffs, now as a three-piece thanks to the removal of Pepper Keenan. They’re catchy and groovy as ever with their endless armada of tunes, even if they are a bit less chunky with less members.
NILE – 10/10
Place your penis inside a hungry rottweiler’s mouth, go on. That still isn’t as a harrowing experience as seeing Nile live. They draw one of the biggest crowds of the weekend because everyone loves Nile for some reason, and it’s not hard to see why. Even if they do love Egypt a little bit too much, they still crush us to a fine paste like so many Pyramid constructors. At times, it genuinely seems like they might tear the very fabric of existence with their tearing chugs and blast beats. Maybe a longer set next time would be a better idea.
THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER – 7/10
Lead singer Trevor Strnad looks like he’s just finished a shift at PC World, but his ungodly screams shriek out over the audience. TBDM are a band that are hard to pigeonhole, but if you stop thinking about what they’re playing, they’re a pretty good band.
EVILE – 7/10
Playing BOA for the 4327th time, Evile have bounced around the line-up like anal beads stuck in a washing machine. At one point, they were opening second stage, but they end up replacing Deicide on main. For those who have just come to have a good time, Evile are exactly the right sort of band. Frontman Matt Drake mocks the no swearing rule with his request to “go flipping nuts, you plonkers”.
ANVIL – 2/10
It’s always hard to give a bad review to bands who are obviously top blokes, but Anvil really are poor live. It’s easy now to see why they haven’t made it if they’ve been playing like this for the last 35 years. Songs are out of time and solos are sloppy. Lips playing the guitar with a dildo is Anvil‘s gimmick, but when it’s done for 10 straight minutes it’s a bit tiring. They play about five songs in an hour that seem out of date, even with self-proclaimed metal anthem ‘Metal On Metal’. It’s a shame that Anvil are so bad, because they’re such a likeable band. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
PARADISE LOST – 6/10
In the mid-UK, Paradise Lost fit in nicely, hailing not far from Catton Hall. Lead singer Nick Holmes seems a tad distracted between crowd banter, and they do shy away from the more popular songs to the dismay of the fans. Not an earth-shattering performance, quite frankly.
ALICE COOPER – 9/10
Bloodstock has a habit now of booking classic bands for the final night, what with Europe in 2009, Twisted Sister in 2010 and Motorhead last year. Alice Cooper then is perhaps the most classic of all, having been round since your parents were born. His appeal is the live show, which does not disappoint. From the second the massive banner covering the stage falls and he walks down from his prop staircase, the whimsy starts. There is a 10 foot tall Frankenstein that appears from nowhere for ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ and Alice himself is beheaded later in the show by a masked executioner. ‘Poison’ and ‘School’s Out’ conclude a set that almost feels like a performance at a theatre. The only downside to the choreographed nature of the show is the complete lack of crowd interaction. What is lost in communication is made up for though in sheer charm, with giant balloons shooting out that Alice pops with his cane. Certainly an experience that is worth having if you get the chance.
FLAYED DISCIPLE – 8/10
(in a death growl) “We are Flayed Disciple” (in a Somerset accent) “from Somerset”. Flayed Disciple have been upgraded to second stage after their New Blood performance in 2010, albeit clashing bizarrely with Nile who are of the same genre. A lot of death metal can sound pretty stupid, but Flayed Disciple have managed to construct a sound that’s both groovy and fresh.
ANAAL NATHRAKH – 2/10
For the amount of death metal on show at Bloodstock, the last thing you’d expect is a band sounding too heavy, but Anaal Nathrakh‘s over aggressiveness just isn’t any fun at all. The pits are full-on fights with no respect for the fallen where people don’t seem to care if their skulls get caved in by a flying punch. It’s strange why the music doesn’t work, but it does just sound like constant noise. There’s really no need to be this aggressive, and Anaal Nathrakh just need to chill the fuck out. Having such an unpleasant air about a live show is downright uncomfortable. Maybe I’m just a gigantic wuss.
Written by MG Savage