Bloodstock has pretty much earned its spurs as the UK’s number one metal festival. Set on a lovely compact site at Catton park in South Derbyshire, England, 2014’s Bloodstock has plenty to offer even the most discerning metal die-hard you’d have been hard pushed to find something you didn’t fancy in this year’s line-up, if you like all things heavy and metal.
Friday’s line up has to blow the hangover cobwebs away and get the masses into the proverbial groove. Caps need to be doffed then for the excellent Bloodshot Dawn and their brilliantly crafted and executed technical death metal extravaganza on the main stage. Brutal, darkened melodies and a sense of urgency and pace that will have earned the band a large number of new fans as well as delighting the passionate throng of existing adherents to their cause as happy as the proverbial Larry. Over on the New Blood stage, No Sin Evades His Gaze are getting us quietly excited about their debut album which coincidentally has its release on the same day of their performance. They fall very neatly into the file marked “promising” and “ones to watch”.
Entombed A.D. deliver a solid, no messing about set of hardened, wizened death n roll metal which is fine as it goes but not exactly the most earth shattering performance from Lars Goran Petrov and his mates. Still they draw a large appreciative crowd.
A quick detour to the New Blood tent again to see Abhorrent Decimation. These guys are the most horrible, brutal and brilliant death metal band you are likely to come across this year. This was, simply put, a masterclass in how to pummel your audience into submission. Tighter than the chuff of a gnat they understand that the audience comes to be entertained as well as beaten up. Pure masochistic pleasure and utter brilliance.
History has not been fair to Flotsam and Jetsam. Unfairly maligned as the band that Jason Newsted used to be in before joining THAT band, the real truth of the matter is that this is a truly excellent thrash metal band and they set about reaffirming this with resilience, gusto and no small amount of flair. If there were medals for writing anthems then Flotsam and Jetsam would have a chest load of them. Enormous, fist pumping fun.
New York City’s Prong arrive on the main stage and it is like the return of a long lost friend. Riffs that James Hetfield would give his tattooed right arm for, a career spanning set list that early fans and newbies alike would have found hard to find anything remotely approaching fault with, Tommy Victor’s outfit grabs Bloodstock by the throat for 40 breathless and effervescent minutes of their blend of hardcore/crossover/industrial/whatever metal that is as joyous as it is heavy: one of the highlights of the day.
Clouds and crowds gather for the arrival of Tom G Warrior and Triptykon. Pretty much everyone knew that this was never going to be a sing-along but today Triptykon are hard work, almost wilfully so. Opening with the nine minute ‘Black Snow’, Triptykon succeed in creating an atmosphere of dark, brooding melancholy that they hold for the entire performance. At one level, you cannot fault the single mindedness but music is as much about the relationship between the artist and their audience and not simply the art itself, something that is lacking in their show today. A disappointment.
It is something of a relief to get to the Sophie Lancaster Stage to catch the black metal brilliance of Winterfylleth. By now the heavens have opened and the rain is pouring down so hard that a man called Noah popped by and asked people if they had any domestic pets wandering around. Winterfylleth might look like the latest recruits to the management training programme at your local bank but, my god, they make an extraordinary racket. A show that balances light and shade in equal, appropriate measure- pounding, venomous riffing, blood curdling howls of rage and sorrow is, almost weirdly, exactly what the day needed.
Hatebreed are never going to win any awards for subtlety but, my goodness, they are on form today. Hatebreed properly understand the phrase “work the crowd”. They are, probably the biggest draw of the day (including the headliner) and they simply nail it. Jamey Jasta is a circus ringmaster of a front man, the driving force of this outfit. He is part showman, part raconteur, and all metal. There are no surprises with Hatebreed; what you see is what you get and today.
There is a heighten sense of expectation surrounding Dimmu Borgir. Which Dimmu Borgir would take to the stage? The brilliant irascible, transcendent one? Or the achingly dull, slightly pompous one? At first, neither one does as technical difficulties abound to delay their arrival much to the band and the audience’s obvious annoyance. A real shame.
And so we come to Down. Phil Anselmo simply owns this stage. Swigging liberally from a bottle of white wine, cracking jokes and telling stories, Down silenced any doubters with a pounding performance. There cannot be man metalheads who do not love ‘Stone the Crow’, ‘Ghosts of Mississippi’ or a spellbinding ‘Bury Me in Smoke’, where the band get joined onstage by Orange Goblin. It’s clear that Down are in party mood and we are all invited to join in their Southern Hospitality. So we do. We even get treated to a little vignette of Pantera’s ‘Walk’ which leads everyone to think about when that damn reunion is going to take place. Go on, Phil, sort it. Just for us, there’s a good chap. Valedictory.
REVIEW BY MAT DAVIES & ROSS BAKER
PHOTOS OF DOWN BY RUDY DE DONCKER (Courtesy of BOA)