7th – 10th August 2014
Review by Ben Spencer and Jarod Lawley
Photography by Michelle Murphy
After a long 3 hour and a half hour drive, whilst listening to copious amounts of Metal on the way, it was time to enter Catton Park for Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2014. After setting up camp, cracking open the first beer it was time enter into the extreme realms of Metal once again.
Jaldaboath (2.5/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Heading to Bloodstock on Thursday meant it was time to catch Jaldaboath before the full festival got underway. ‘Roland the Farter’ opened up with charging guitars, steady drums and solid clean vocals which treaded upon slightly heavier growls towards the end.
Meanwhile, ‘Bash the Bishop’ enters with bass grooves and an overall upbeat sound which kept the crowd nodding along in approval. Whilst these guys may not have offered much in the way technically challenging music; they were a band who knew how to entertain with their comical lyrics and straight forward song structures. They were certainly an interesting band to ease you into the chaos that awaited in the days that followed.
Winterfylleth (3.5/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Taking to the Sophie Lancaster stage, British Black Metal collective Winterfylleth assume positions and launch straight into their blisteringly heavy set.
Full of raw energy and progressive dynamism, ‘Svart Crown’ reveals that there is more to them than just noise. Their newer material from their forthcoming album ‘The Divination of Antiquity’ also found it’s way into the set.
Full of infectious riffs, climactic build ups and tight sounding drums, these guys are definitely a band to keep a close eye out for in future.
Closing off with ‘Defending the Realm’ the balance between shrieks and clean vocals outro had fans singing back to the band cementing a strong sense of unity with the fans.
Rotting Christ (4/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Headlining the Sophie Lancaster tent stage as an alternative to more mainstream main stage headliners Down, Greek black metal troupe Rotting Christ perform their fierce and powerful display to a full capacity audience .
With a new material heavy set, but also including fan favourites from Thy Mighty Contract and grand-opus, Non Serviam, all 14 tracks of demonic dirge and chilling riffs prove to be excitable to the Bloodstock crowd.
Chanting along is saved for the folk-tinged “Grandis Spiritus Diavolos” before the set is closed with the memorable “Noctis Era”. A booking appreciated by many.
Primordial (3/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
Primordial enter with ‘No Grave Deep Enough’, a track loaded with double kick pedal drums, sonic driven guitars and piercingly clean vocals that kept the crowd locked in as even young children were seen to be head banging along.
As the bass led intro of ‘As Rome Burns’ unveils the steady drumming builds up as the vocals drive the track forward like a battle charge. The track offers up some clean guitar melodies as the lyrics “Sing to the Slaves” reigned high above the mix.
Musically, these guys proved to be fairly proficient, despite the vocals remaining fairly average when measured against the instrumentation.
Another flaw within their sound was that the Bass guitar sounded too loud and at times even disruptive. However, these were only minor issues within what was otherwise a satisfying set.
Dimmu Borgir (2/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
As Black Metal titans Dimmu Borgir unveil the sinister textures of ‘Allegiance’ the harsh sounding shrieks and blast beats smash through the opening minutes. The orchestral dynamics wade in to the sinister tapestry of their sound.
Following up with their flagship track, ‘Progenies of the Great Apocalypse’ and the purging riffs of ‘The Serpentine Offering’ the band finish off with an earlier track ‘The Mourning Palace’ which fuses the band’s classical and metallic hybrid to their highest standard.
Unfortunately due to some technical difficulties Dimmu Borgir’s set was cut short, with many fans screaming back “Technical Bullshit”. However, this was not the only flaw within their set as the live performance itself suffered from a lack of energy and even plausibility.
The performance remained fairly average at best and never really seemed to capture the true essence of what their earlier records did so flawlessly.
Down (3/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
As Friday draws to a close and after some impressive bands tore their way into Fridays stages, tonight’s Main stage headliners entered the stage to a strong fan following back them from the audience.
As Phil Anselmo burst out with the gritty sounding ‘Eyes of the South’ he directs the crowd into forming a circle pit before launching into further chaos.
The band also takes a moment to reflect upon former Ex Pantera member Dimebag Darell as ‘Lifer’ gets dedicated to his name. The track ploughs through with plenty of hook lead guitars and husky sounding vocals.
‘Ghosts Along the Mississippi’ remains one of the band’s stronger tracks as the vocals seem more prominent with the melodic touches within the instrumentation. The use of lead guitar works well at giving the band a more matured sound, whilst the drums provided enough steady head banging from onlookers.
After dedicating ‘Conjure’ to Black Sabbath, Anselmo enters into another slower sounding song. The guitar’s remain murky tones as the drums pound down with a gloomy sounding array of cymbal crashes and drum rolls.
Closing of with ‘Bury Me In Smoke’ the guitar led intro strums out with pounding drums as the tortured sounding vocals coarse with desperation and vitality. The downbeat sound remains consistent as the chorus kicks in with well written lyrical passages.
Whilst Down certainly had a strong following and their performance was on par with some of the predecessors of the main stage, they fell short at certain points with many of the songs following formulaic patterns and predictable outcomes. This being said, when they pulled out their standout tracks they certainly showed their worth as being tonight’s headliners.
Darkeye (3.5/5): New Blood Stage
Joining this year’s M2TM winners on the New Blood stage, UK metallers Darkeye take some elements of traditional metal and add on not only a progressive, but also a cutting technical edge.
With their modern and heavy sound, these South-East Londoners delivery brutality to a much delighted Bloodstock crowd. All four members appear modestly-dressed with little if any stage show, leaving a lot of room for some futuristic improvement in these areas however.
Still in the growth stages, this band do show a good amount of potential, recommended for fans of Opeth. Meshuggah, and Fear Factory.
Blood Red Throne (3/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Full of technical guitars and guttural vocals, ‘Unleashing Hell’ was a track that stays true to its name as the gathering crowd encircled the Sophie Lancaster tent eager to hear more.
The fast drumming and speedy pace kept the adrenaline running high with several fans head banging.
‘The Light, the Hate’ followed in a similar fashion with a stronger sounding bass running alongside the gliding guitars as the vocals remained as demonic as ever. The mid solos kept the pace soaring high with their loyal fans began performing air guitar motions in reciprocation.
These guys certainly stood out for their musical stance and provided that hard hitting metallic punch that made them a distinctive band on this year‘s bill.
Old Corpse Road (3.5/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Following on from a fierce campaign from fans to get this band booked, Darlington’s masters of folk tales and things-that-go- bump-in-the-night return for their second appearance at BOA, this time on the large Sophie Lancaster Stage. With only 30 so minutes to perform, the band struggle to pull together a smoothly flowing, comprehensive set list, missing out on all important tracks such as “The Witch Of Wookey Hole” and “The Crier Of Claiffe.”
However, the six-piece’s performance is near top-notch, with all 3 vocalists on great form. Unfortunately their near static stage presence and clothing of green polo shirts and army pants leave a lot of room for atmospheric and visual professionalism in the band’s stage show; however, musically this is one of Britain’s top black metal bands, and with their second album fast approaching, Old Corpse Road are ones to watch.
Hell Yeah (4/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
American alternative metallers Hellyeah offer a certain alternative to the kvlt main stage act Emperor, and with Vinnie Paul, Chad Grey and Tom Maxwell among the line-up, it certainly is an all-star show.
With one of the biggest crowds to fill out the Sophie Lancaster Stage, it’s obvious that they are a worthy band of Bloodstock Open Air, and as they take to the stage the crowd roars with excitement for Hellyeah.
With a bass heavy sound and hard rocking beats the band and their agile stage presence blast through a set list of tracks from Blood For Blood and Band Of Brothers.
Evil Scarecrow (3/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
After opening with a cranked up Metal rendition of the Thunder Cats theme, with plenty of growls to match, Evil Scarecrow are received with a mass applause from their onlookers.
As the crowd begin clapping along to ‘Crabulon’ the vocalist shouts “I want to see all of those crab claws in the air”, as the drum led intro leads into as the harsh sounding vocals and riffs keep everyone strapped in.
‘Robotron’ is received as an instant crowd pleaser as the fans join in singing lyrics with hands held high in the air.
After a brief robotic voice introduction the synth and guitars take flight as the growls roar violently. The lead guitar propels everything and certainly compliments the instrumentation.
Whilst these guys may not be for everyone, they certainly know how to put on a decent show through both their interesting style and great stage presence.
Shining (3.5/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
Schizophrenic black jazz act Shining are certainly a more unusual card to throw at the typically insular Bloodstock attendee.
It is undoubtable that their early morning slot on the Ronnie-James Dio stage gives the line-up some much need variety.
Although, performing to a slightly bewildered audience, these eccentric Scandinavians certainly prove a point that they have something fresh to offer.
Children Of Bodom (4.5/5): James Dio Stage
Bursting onto stage with “Hate Me”, Children Of Bodom display that youthful energy which they have been disappointingly lacking live over the last few years.
However, with an old school set and a high-dosage injection of Alexi’s trademark swagger and arrogance, the group perform at their top and throw all the bands prior to them aside.
Laiho’s solos are precise and tight, the drumming is fast paced and anger fuelled, and the whole band appears to be on their highest gear.
Although the days where Children Of Bodom could (and did) headline are gone, the Finns prove that they have not lost that flair that originally made them as special and important as they are.
Carcass (3.5/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
Plunging into ‘Buried Dreams’ the infectious riffs and consistent drumming pervades throughout the opening minutes. Vocally, the growls cut with a clear sense of precision as the band wasted now time in delivering one of the best performances on Saturday.
After greeting everyone Sonisp.. The vocalist stops in his pace and rewords “Welcome Bloodstock“. After tearing into ‘Incarnated Solvent Abuse’ their song is cut short as someone in the audience faints which leaves the on stage members of Carcass talking with the crowd during the time in which it took on site medics to address the issue.
Having lost some significant time the band raced through the rest of their set with ease and offered up thunderous drumming of ‘This Mortal Coil’ and the technically eccentric ‘Unfit For Human Consumption’.
This was a great performance by a band whose quality control of their style was met some great crowd interaction.
Emperor (4/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
As the darkness gathers and the rain begins to pour, the anticipation is high for Saturdays headliners Emperor. With little deliberation the Norwegian Black Metal pioneers assemble on stage and launch straight into the opening track from their debut record ’Into the Infinity of Thoughts’.
Full of intense guitar work, top notch raspy vocals and enraged drum work these guys prove right from the outset that their skills have not diminished over the years.
Following on with the beast like ‘The Burning Shadows of Silence’ the solid use of keys and drumming remain ever prevalent as Emperor deliver another strong dose of destructive energy.
The band pretty much remain rooted in their material from In the Nightside Eclipse as ‘Beyond the Great Vast Forest’ and ‘Towards the Pantheon’ prove to be as formidable live as the fans remain enticed throughout.
Returning for an encore, Emperor delve even further back in time with the heavily layered ‘Ancient Queen’ which was taken from their first Demo recording Wrath of the Tyrant. Whilst this remained true to Emperor’s rawest sounding track on the set, it retained the crowds interest as the eerie sounding keys and blood thirsty vocals carved their way through.
Closing off with Bathory’s ‘A Fine Day to Die’ cover, the acoustic tonality and clean vocals worked rather well as the crowd remain fixated. A further chaotic spree of drums and vocals erupted within the first couple of minutes before scaling into climactic solos towards the end.
Emperor’s set was one that remained as jaw dropping as that first time when you discovered their albums and they have certainly cemented themselves as not only one of Bloodstock’s strongest contenders but also as the true Godfathers of Black Metal.
King Goat (3/5): New Blood Stage
The doomy sounding guitar melodies of ‘The Final Decline’ sweep over the masses congregating toward King Goat’s mammoth sounds within the opening minutes of their set.
The tormented vocals and progressives guitar effects pull together in a hypnotic and weighty sounding trance.
The staggering, ‘Cult Obscene’ was a standout moment for these guys.
Full of crushing guitars and heavy drum pounds, the distorted guitars dug further into the band’s claustrophobic wall of sound.
Voices (4.5/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Carrying the ashes of Akercocke in one hand, and tears of urban desolation and loneliness in another, Voices fuse together the avant-garde, the experimental, the trance and the insanely heavy to form what is one the most exciting bands in Britain. Screaming and blasting all the way through their short-lived set, front man Peter Benjamin and drummer David Gray are the stars of the show, but it is the riffing of guitarist Samuel Loynes which many will remember.
Their exhibition of pure art and expression leaves a mark on all in the audience, and as the bands flies through tracks from their impeccable debut From The Human Forest… and also their forthcoming album, it is the only the muddy sound and poor mixing that slows this ferocious display, before it all ends in a frantic blur of disillusion and agony. A strong contender for band of the festival.
Stahlsarg (4.5/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Eastern Front ex-guitarist Krieg’s assault of black metal is a cold, brutal, and unforgiving addition the Sunday line-up. Although still in the early stages as a band, the troupe shows no signs of immaturity on stage, with their arrogant and violent display of war torn riffs, machine gun blasts and dying shrieks.
Their only downfall being that their sound is slightly monotonous, their set proves to be memorable and inspiring as the band exits the stage after their grand slaying of Bloodstock.
Krow (4/5): Sophie Lancaster Stage
Brazillian death-metallers Krow may not have the biggest audience, but the enthusiastic moshers at the front certainly make up for it in their display of aggression; as do the band themselves, with their chromatic riffs and monstrous vocals. Even for those not so keen on the genre, it is hard to deny that Krow certainly pull of a highly enjoyable live display.
Amon Amarth (3.5/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
After a brief intro upon a stage decorated with Dragon heads Viking Metaller’s Amon Amarth unleash vibrant sounding ‘Father of the Wolf’.
Full of deep throated growls, adrenaline induced riffs and tight drum work. The lead guitar sections worked well and helped to remind us of the band’s epic sounding style.
The vocalist roars to the crowd “Do you want Metal?” to which ‘Guardians of Asgaard’ slithers in with steady riffs and a wall of raised fists from the crowd.
As the band return to the stage for an encore, with a replica of Thor’s Hammer in hand, they return with the appropriately titled ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’, to which the mass of head bangers rejoiced to the droning riffs and ecstatic drums.
Amon Amarth are a band whose sound is tangible and revered by many Metallers gathered over the weekend and after witnessing their energetic performance its easy to understand why. Full of well crafted guitars and grandiose sounding compositions their songs harbour toward that much needed epic scale.
Megadeth (4/5): Ronnie James Dio Stage
As Bloodstock’s final day draws to a close, Thrash Metal masters Megadeth are not only one of the most anticipated band’s of the festival but they also show that they are certainly a band worth waiting for. As the TV screens on stage light up and the smoke ascends the band took up arms on stage.
Opening to the eccentric guitars of ’Hangar 18’, the band led the enraptured crowd though an impressive array of guitar solos, consistent drumming and strong vocals. The mid lead guitar section had fans both nodding along whilst flexing their own air guitar skills.
Next up, the heavily bass driven ‘Wake Up Dead’ plays out with further solos, harsher sounding vocals and a strong verse and chorus transition. This track appeared to have more of a kick to it as the catchy guitar work remained as one of the strongest attributes of the song.
Personal highlight, ‘Tornado of Souls’ came loaded with infectious riffs and impressive drum work. Meanwhile, ‘Symphony of Destruction’ had a grittier sounding backbone and had fans singing along the whole way through.
Returning for their encore, Megadeth dive into the sonic driven ‘Holy Wars…The Punishment Due’ as the galloping drums and charged guitars race ahead at full force marking this as a high point of the evening.
What was great about Megadeth’s performance was the tight sounding musicianship throughout, revealing that these guys are truly masters of their craft. Even those who are not fans of the genre will no doubt take something positive away from their set and understand why these guys have passed the test of time.
With so many great bands and performances on this year’s bill its easy to see why Bloodstock has been gradually expanding during recent years to become the UK’s most highly revered Metal festival.
Full of some of the best talent and the most dedicated crowd of music lovers this festival truly stands out from any other. More importantly it is the same strong following that will no doubt propel the festival further as a growing success for the years to come.