Bloodstock Open Air Festival is fast becoming one of the world’s premier pure metal festivals, and this year’s line-up is strong enough to pin Schwarzenegger down in a chokehold. The UK and beyond’s finest set a trail to have the best time they can over the weekend, despite the weather’s best laid plans to fuck up everything in sight.
BALLS DEEP – 5/10
The anticipation is palpable inside the Sophie tent for the first bands, and it’s Stoke’s Balls Deep who get proceedings underway. Invited back after their antics on the tiny Jagermeister stage last year, the hard rock troupe don’t quite conjure as much power as they’d hoped. It’s enough to whet everyone’s appetites for the weekend ahead of them, but it’s not really enough to light a fire in anyone’s bellies.
GETHIKA – 4/10
The Midlands’ own Gehtika are next to stake their claim for greatness, but sound issues don’t help what turns out to be another rather underwhelming performance. Dressed like some sort of confused gothic circus clan, the Bloodstock returnees’ recorded material leaves a little to the imagination. The enthusiastic Thursday crowd try their best to cause a little action in the pit, but it’s nothing that will go down in history.
INCINERY – 8/10
The party really begins when thrashers Incinery take to the point. It’s not really very difficult to be a thrash band, so all Incinery really need to do is play their songs and inject a little bit of energy. They do exactly this, demanding plenty of pit liveliness during their brief tenure on stage. Songs from both EPs (‘Dawn Of War’ and ‘Nothing Left’) provide wave after wave of fast-paced vivacity.
MONUMENT – 8/10
It’s easy to fall short of the mark in a heavy metal band these days as it seems increasingly apparent that everything has been done in terms of Iron Maiden worship. Monument‘s approach is to bring power to the fore and play all out, all the time. Dickinson et al may have set the skies ablaze at Sonisphere this year, but Monument have certainly created a smouldering in the grounds of Catton Hall. It’s good to see a British heavy metal band playing the genre well.
JALDABOATH – 8/10
It was obvious that Jaldaboath were going to be excellent before they even played really. Describing themselves as ‘Heraldic Templar Metal’ and ‘Crusader-core’ amongst other things, the Sussex four have been transported from medieval England to present day and been armed with guitars instead of swords. It’s like if King Arthur joined Korpiklaani. It really is just nonsense all night for everyone to enjoy with songs like ‘Bash The Bishop’ and ‘Axe-Wielding Nuns’. There’s even a nun just running around for some reason. Despite seeming a little half-arsed at times, Jaldaboath are the perfect end to the warm-up before the main game.
BLOODSHOT DAWN – 8/10
Despite being labelled by Aborted as “one of the UK’s best up-and-coming bands for the last 20 years”, Bloodshot Dawn still give it their all to open Bloodstock 2014’s main stage. Death metal appears to have become a lot more popular in these parts recently as evidenced by Nile‘s packed set in 2012, and Bloodshot Dawn certainly live up to their peers in terms of ferociousness.
ENTOMBED A.D. – 6/10
Despite the nonsense over the name by the founding members, Entombed A.D. certainly haven’t forgotten how to play good music. They must be mighty fucked off at having to play so low down the bill, but half the members look like they just want to go home and have a kip. The buzzsaw tone that made them so famous is sometimes prevalent, but for the most part it’s lost in the mix. Disappointing.
PRIMORDIAL – 6/10
Primordial finally make it back to Bloodstock after A. A. Nemtheanga‘s had a Calpol and his throat is fixed. However, what promised so much in 2011 lacks the same punch come modern day. The songs go on forever and fall somewhat flat in the sometime-sunshine. Most of the audience seem to be just waiting for set closer ‘Empire Falls’, which at least still manages to bring forward its usual fist-punching appeal.
TRIPTYKON – 5/10
Triptykon are another band who falter despite excellent past appearances. It’s difficult to hide the fact today that Tom G. Warrior is a bit of a pillock. His on-stage demeanour is about as warm as a 99 Flake. Insisting on playing cuts from the disappointing new album ‘Melana Chasmata’, the only older hit played is Hellhammer‘s ‘Messiah’. It’s a bit puzzling why Triptykon abstain from playing not only Celtic Frost songs, but any interesting Triptykon songs.
HATEBREED – 8/10
As the heavens well and truly burst for the first time, a reluctant audience force themselves to not only get beaten up by the pummeling rain, but by the crunching Hatebreed. Still going strong after 800 years, Jamey Jasta et al have found the formula for hardcore and will never stop outputting it. Because of the fact that all their songs are essentially the same, newer cuts from ‘The Divinity Of Purpose’ like ‘Live For This’ and ‘Honor Never Dies’ sound just as good as the classics in ‘Perseverance’ and ‘In Ashes They Will Reap’. Jasta doesn’t stop bouncing about the stage, constantly commanding the crowd to make noise and disregard their future selves’ inevitable broken voiceboxes. It’s good to see that metalheads enjoy music that is slightly different from the stuff that they constantly deride.
DIMMU BORGIR – 6/10
Drawing an audience of what seems to be pretty much everyone at the festival, Dimmu Borgir only leave everyone with questions as to why exactly they weren’t headlining in the first place. Despite being the most theatrical band of the Norwegian black metal scene, they’ve still got some damn good songs like ‘The Serpentine Offering’ and the newer ‘Gateways’. The set, however, falters in many places due to technical difficulties. In a set that was due to last one hour, Borgir only get through eight songs. This clearly isn’t the first time this has happened, as Shagrath comments “that’s how it is when you work with incompetent people”, referring to his own sound crew.
DOWN – 9/10
Erasing all of the hatred of the day and replacing it with no-nonsense groove are New Orleans’ Down. At no point during the 90 minute set do they begin to become dull, constantly doing something to entertain. Phil Anselmo has to be one of the best frontmen in any band, even if he constantly seems to be unaware of anything that is going on. Calling on an arsenal of great tunes, Down rifle out ‘Lifer’, ‘Hail The Leaf’, ‘Ghosts Among The Mississippi’ and many more. It’s around the hour mark that Anselmo really begins to start losing the plot, breaking into Pantera‘s classic ‘Walk’ for a while before seeming a bit lost. He asks “if you were stuck on a desert island and were only able to listen to one song, what would that be?”. The answer, of course, is a Down song in ‘Bury Me In Smoke’.
ZEROZONIC – 8/10
Zerozonic walk out to a crowd of about nine people, but as their set goes on they begin to draw quite a gathering. Nobody seems to quite know who they are, maybe due to their Norwegian origins, but their music certainly speaks volumes. Playing groove metal at one million miles an hour, Dez Fafara soundalike Daniel Olaisen cavorts about the place causing a ruckus, even if nobody down below wants to. Zerozonic are odd in their surrounding scene, like a grandmother at a hip-hop concert or a person with more than four teeth at a job centre. Hopefully, someone will hear them eventually and stick them on the right tour.
WINTERFYLLETH – 8/10
Packing a huge crowd (probably in part thanks to the torrential downpour outside), Bloodstock favourites Winterfylleth seem to be finally getting the recognition that they deserve. They play black metal inspired by the heritage and landscapes of England, and it’s not difficult to imagine being stood on a hill in the Lake District blasting their music out and terrifying a few goats and sheep. Vocalist/guitarist Christopher Naughton seems a bit off at times with his stage chat, leaving it up to Nick Wallwork (vocals/bass) to maintain professionalism. The large audience is treated to a couple of new songs from ‘The Divination Of Antiquity’ whether they bloody well like it or not, but it’s the older slabs from ‘The Mercian Sphere’ and ‘The Ghost Of Heritage’ that are really the best bits.
ABHORRENT DECIMATION – 8/10
Commanding an impressive turnout for such an early slot (it’s half past 12 in the bloody morning!), London’s Abhorrent Decimation take this year’s slot of ‘death metal band with a logo that looks like someone dropped an egg on the floor’. Sometimes bands like this come across as too technical or noisy, but Abhorrent Decimation manage to sound like they’re constantly building to something like a never-ending handjob. It’s an impressive sound for a band with no full-length album to their name. One particular highlight is ‘A Putrid Vision’. Abhorrent Decimation seem like a solid choice to return next year.
UNDERSMILE – 3/10
Consisting of two girls and a guy, Undersmile play about three notes during their 30 minute stay outside the Jagermeister truck. Their never-ending songs are doom metal, but without any sort of appeal. The monotony is occasionally broken up with a harrowing scream at a volume loud enough to explode testicles. It’s something that needs to be catered for at this festival but, for whatever reason, just seems silly today.
EVIL SCARECROW – 10/10
If there was ever a band that personified the spirit of Bloodstock, it’s Evil Scarecrow. Earning their slot on main stage after a massively popular appearance on the Sophie stage last year, they draw what seems like one of the largest crowds of the weekend. From start to finish it’s a lesson in whimsy from a band that are self-signed. Highlights include ‘Crabulon’, featuring a tin-foil robot with crab arms, leading the entire audience into a mass scuttle, side to side. There’s also the genius idea of “natural party poppers”, which involve throwing grass up in the air and creating quite a spectacle. ‘Robototron’ isn’t missing either, causing most of the crowd to silently start building invisible cardboard boxes. Evil Scarecrow are without a doubt the most fun band of the weekend, and judging on the repeated hums of their music later in the day, it’s safe to say that they’ll be back.
SHINING – 8/10
It seems like an almost impossible task to follow the nonsense that was Evil Scarecrow, and it’s Shining that are given this task. Although their bizarre saxophone infused avant-garde metal is lost on many audience members, they captivate, challenging you to walk away lest you miss something off-the-wall. Even if most of the band look like they’re brothers, vocalist/guitarist/saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby is a supremely talented frontman. The set concludes with a cover of King Crimson‘s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’, although you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t listening to the lyrics.
DECAPITATED – 6/10
Decapitated are welcomed back to Bloodstock with open arms after a truly horrific past few years in their history. Death metal seems to be all over the place at Bloodstock this year, but Decapitated are maybe a little too technical for some of the corpse-paint wearing onlookers. The set consists mainly of cuts from newest album, ‘Carnival Is Forever’, including ‘A View From A Hole’ and ‘Homo Sum’. Maybe on a different day, Decapitated would have more of an impact.
ORPHANED LAND – 8/10
It’s not often that oriental progressive folk metal is out of place on a Bloodstock line-up, but Orphaned Land manage it being sandwiched between Decapitated and Crowbar. Despite this ailment, they command the crowd into a trance like a snake charmer. Commenting on the conflict in Israel, vocalist Kobi Farhi says “I was on stage with a Palestine man the other day. The only conflict we had was who was going to buy the beer!”. Orphaned Land‘s music is good, but their political views really drive their band ahead of others. It’s a message of peace that cements their name in many peoples’ minds.
CHILDREN OF BODOM – 6/10
Children Of Bodom were headlining this festival only a few years ago, yet here they are third from top in 2014. It seems that they’ve just stood still while others have progressed. They play a set made up of their hits as an ever frail-looking Alexi Laiho does his usual guitar superhero act. For whatever reason, their solid back catalogue doesn’t have its usual impact today, despite songs like ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ and ‘Are You Dead Yet?’. The whole set just seems rather stale.
CARCASS – 6/10
Carcass are another band that headlined this festival in the not too distant past, and this is not lost on frontman Jeff Walker. He comments “that’s what happens when you sell over 1,000,000 records”. Carcass‘ set is varied, but it seems like they’re always playing new songs. In reality, there were only four new songs from ‘Surgical Steel’ played, but maybe that’s a comment on the muddy nature of their output. Walker never misses an opportunity to make some sort of a statement, with one song dedicated to Sophie Lancaster and “the irony is not lost on us”. It’s believed that this is a comment on the fact that Emperor were headlining, with their drummer’s past all too obvious.
EMPEROR – 10/10
Even if their selection as headliner is rather controversial, you can’t fault Emperor‘s truly magnificent set. Appearing sans corpse-paint, the Norwegians’ music is larger than life, only being helped by the torrential downpour. ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’ is played in full, and at no point does it sound outdated. It truly is grim as fuck. After the album has levelled everyone to the floor, Emperor call on some rarities. ‘Ancient Queen’ and ‘Wrath Of The Tyrant’ are proto examples of black metal, being over 20 years old. Played live in the encroaching darkness, they sound like they could have been written yesterday.
OBSIDIAN KINGDOM – 9/10
Perhaps the hidden gem of the festival are Spain’s Obsidian Kingdom. Those who don’t want to watch Lacuna Coil mozy into the Sophie tent and are greeted by a truly intriguing band. Beginning with full on black metal, Obsidian Kingdom weave and meander through elements of post-metal, alternative rock, and industrial. With only one album under their belt, the Spaniards sound like they could have one hundred. They even play a remix of one of their own songs. How they manage to do this is rather impressive seeing as they wrote the damn thing.
CACODAEMONIC – 5/10
Sounding a little bit like Skreamer from last year, Nottingham’s Cacodaemonic do the usual third stage death metal thing of having quite a few people watching them, but not enough to set them apart from the competition. Vocalist Pat‘s ripped physique actually manages to surpass the strong nature of their music. Cacodaemonic are seen watching other bands on the New Blood stage throughout the weekend, so that’s really nice to see.
ABORTED – 8/10
It’s a shame that Sven de Caluwé is a massive pillock, because Aborted are really quite good. They deliver relentlessly heavy death metal as the skies explode. Songs like ‘Fecal Forgery’ tear holes in the increasingly smelly air with insane guitar skills and some massive breakdowns. Mendel bij de Leij and Danny Tunker throw guitar solo after guitar solo at each other as everyone looks on in horrified awe. There’s no ‘Coronary Reconstruction’, but new album ‘The Necrotic Manifesto’ looks to have gone down well.
AVATAR – 6/10
Graveyard‘s flight is delayed, so Avatar are chosen to step up and replace them on main stage. Their music isn’t particularly out of place, but it lacks a certain edge to it that would transform Avatar into a revolutionary band rather than an ordinary one. Vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom looks like Marilyn Manson if he joined My Chemical Romance. Avatar gain a few new fans, but their set is nothing to shout about.
AMON AMARTH – 9/10
When will the rise and rise of Amon Amarth end? For a band that makes pretty much the same album over and over, they’ve performed admirably to reach their current status. They’re surely only a year or two away from headlining, and on the popularity of their appearance this year that won’t be controversial at all. Two massive stone dragons billow out smoke throughout the set and fire reigns down. The Swedish vikings hammer through ‘Asator’, ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ and ‘Guardians Of Asgaard’, effortlessly churning out anthems that make you want to punch Odin himself in the throat. There’s even a longboat pit. ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’ signals an encore before the set is powered out in style with ‘The Pursuit Of Vikings’.
MEGADETH – 8/10
Megadeth have been threatening to headline Bloodstock for a while now, so everyone seemed pretty pleased when they were announced. Despite Dave Mustaine‘s huge ego, they do deserve to be here, and everyone is determined to have a jolly good time. There’s not as much visual flair as other headliners, but the music really more than makes up for that. Opening with ‘Hangar 18’, it’s straight to business for an unusually to-the-point Megadeth setlist. There’s only two songs from new album ‘Super Collider’ as the vibe stays mainly pre-2000. Scores of weary legs run on adrenaline alone in the pits to songs that they’ve heard many times before at their weekly rock club, like ‘Sweating Bullets’ and ‘Peace Sells’. ‘Tornado Of Souls’ even makes an appearance. Love them or hate them, Megadeth know how to put on a good show.
MORGUE ORGY – 9/10
It’s around the time that the lead singer of Morgue Orgy starts lobbing hot dogs at people that you realise they’re no ordinary black/death metal band. It’s utter nonsense from start to finish from the Brummies, proving that you don’t have to be dull or somber in this genre. Morgue Orgy sound like The Black Dahlia Murder with the occasional breakdown. There are plenty more gimmicks to keep everyone interested, including some sort of waving hand movement that happens every now and then, a DIY band banner written on a piece of paper, and some official Morgue Orgy dildos hurled into the audience for a couple of worried looking young metalheads to take home. Morgue Orgy are definitely worth your fucking time.
VOICES – 9/10
London’s Voices earn the honourable tag of being the bleakest band of the weekend with their terrific 40 minute set on the Sophie stage. There’s an heir of hipster about them, but that doesn’t detract from their ferocious black metal. Jeff Goldblum lookalike Sam Loynes on guitar does his best to look the most out of place musician in a metal band. With only one album to their name and only a handful of live appearances, the ex-Akercocke members have come back with a band arguably better than the first.
SATAN – 6/10
Earning the slot entirely off the back of their name, you’d be forgiven for expecting utter pap out of Satan. However, their set is actually quite enjoyable, providing a cheap mosh at the end of the festival for those who haven’t quite had enough. Their set begins at midnight (some 90 minutes later than billed), reportedly due to Megadeth‘s cronies “requesting” that they only have themselves playing at one time. Vocalist Brian Ross thanks Mustaine for giving them the headline slot, so it actually works out pretty well for Satan. From a personal standpoint, I believe having a band after the final headliner is a great shout, and I’d welcome it back in the future.
ERADIKATOR – 3/10
British thrash is on the up at the moment, and that inevitably means that there are hundreds of bands who sound very similar. One of the many are Eradikator, who unfortunately don’t really bother the imagination much. Sounding like Evile, their set isn’t terrific, but it’s not particularly bad either. It’s just not unique enough.
TODAY THE SUN DIES – 3/10
Utterly horrifying everyone within a 50ft radius are Newcastle’s Today The Sun Dies. They make a fuck load of noise during their 30 minute set, and it’s lost on the vast majority of the crowd. Their deathgrind is pretty repetitive, and the breaks aren’t helped by the vocalist and guitarist constantly talking over each other.
STONEGHOST – 6/10
Stoneghost are great fun. Their bouncy metal is a welcome break from all the angry shouting, and vocalist Jason Smith seems like a really top bloke. Their music is in the vein of The Safety Fire with less djent. The New Blood stage is designed exactly for bands like Stoneghost, and here’s hoping they go places off the back of this performance.
SCORDATURA – 8/10
If there was ever a band that you’d expect to have breakdowns littered across their tunes, it’s Scordatura. However, there isn’t a karate kick or a flailing fist to be seen, only circle pits and the promise of more circle pits. The Scots play death metal how it’s supposed to be played; at a breakneck pace and full of moments to kick your cat to. They also have the blessing of being from Scotland and being actually understandable when they speak, so they’ve got that going for them too. Scordatura are the sort of band that you’ll be terrifying your kids with in years to come.
KILL ALL THE GENTLEMEN – 3/10
There’s a lot of hype around Kill All The Gentlemen, who won a competition run by Hobgoblin to be here. However, there’s an awful lot of space in the New Blood tent for the duration of their set. KATG‘s music isn’t terribly inspiring and it dwindles a lot in places. The band do their best to arouse some heat in the place, but ultimately there’s just not enough to cause any more than some sore ears.
ONCE UPON – 5/10
Bloodstock always has a band from Eastern Europe on the bill, and this year that honour falls to Once Upon from Latvia. They do their best to rise to the occasion, but they do seem a little baulked by the occasion at times. They sound a little bit like Caliban and frontman Janis Naglis achieves some minor crowd participation, despite the language barrier. The set is helped by another downpour, meaning that hundreds of people pour in from watching Saxon. Bloodstock truly does have a global appeal.
Written by MG Savage (@MGSavagewriter)