Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2014: Part II, South Derbyshire, UK




Bright sunshine and lots of happy greet Evil Scarecrow who have become something of the house band at Bloodstock. What is there not to love about watching 15,000 metal heads moving crab-like across a field during the brilliant ‘Crabulon’? ‘Robototron’ is equally brilliant with two robots appearing out of fake Marshall stacks at the rear of the stage. Gloriously silly.

Over on the second stage, Essex’s The King is Blind are throwing down the proverbial gauntlet with their delicious blend of doom and black metal underpinned by a groove and drive that recalls Corrosion of Conformity. Lead singer Steve Tovey cuts an imposing, belligerent presence, driving his band mates on. The drive and ambition is self-evident as is the quality of the songs from start to over far too sudden end.

Back at the main stage, transport problems means that half of the gear belonging to Shining is still in Frankfurt. They still put in an infectious and beguiling show of their self-monikered black jazz shtick that, in the wrong hands would be arch and hard work but with these guys it seems the most natural thing in the world.

We’ve been trying to book these guys for years” snarls the announcer for Poland’s Decapitated. Decapitated might be described as a death metal band but their technical brilliance, creativity and sheer dynamism means that they are much more than just a “death metal band”. Stunning.

Crowbar are just unremitting. There is no light in their darkness, only gloom. Riff after riff this is heavy metal as fine wine. Complex, dark, intense. There is much to admire here just don’t expect there to be any let up in the heaviness delivered by Mr Windstein and co. You will only get one response to any plaintive cries for levity- more riffs.

Children of Bodom have become a staple of Bloodstock but showboating and overt reliance on sweep picking marks them as just a show pony. ‘Hate Me’ and ‘Silent Night, Bodom Night’ are decent, but the later material such the mid tempo ‘Transference’ is truly dire. If these Finns want to reaffirm their place in the scene they need to return to the aggression of their early work and rein in the Yngwie Malmsteen indulgence before they become more indulgent and pretentious.

Suffering from a poor sound mix with more backing tapes filling in for the lack of a second guitarist Lacuna Coil fail to give a great account of themselves. Sure ‘Nothing Stands In Our Way’ from recent Broken Crown Halo (Century Media) opus gets a good response but without the vocal talents and presence of Cristina Scabbia, LC this performance would have been a write off.

Jeff Walker’s sardonic wit has served Carcass well over the years. Walker cracks wise about Emperor Sticksman Faust although while dedicating a song to the late Sophie Lancaster. A fall falling halts proceedings for a new minutes but this does little to derail the grizzly exhumation of cuts like ‘Unfit For Human Consumption’ and a stirring ‘Heartwork’.

Emperor deliver an exemplary performance. Clearly the main draw of the day: the anticipation and sense of this being “a moment” is palpable. They are raw, passionate, terrifying and utterly astonishing. A main set list of ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’ which many will regard as their masterpiece was delivered with an absurd level of dynamism. Despite being twenty years old the material still feel incredibly vital. Some may bemoan the lack of corpsepaint the band employed back in the nineties, but such trappings would be unnecessary. ‘Cosmic Keys to My Creation and Times’ and ‘I Am the Black Wizards’ are awe-inspiring, draped in drama and magnificence. An epic performance few acts could hope to emulate.

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The magnificent medieval metal of Haerken is cut from a similar cloth to Amon Amarth with Scottish folkloric tradition replacing tales of Viking daring. A cunning and clever trick of throwing two dozen inflatable swords into the audience only warms the audience to the band even more.

Having carved a mean reputation for aural depravity, Aborted are a sadistic lesson in violence. Schizophrenic breakdowns and hyper-speed blastbeats are delivered with ridiculous facial expressions which suggest the Belgians realise how such insane outbursts can be highly entertaining.

Dutch symphonic metallers Revamp begin during torrential rain yet the dynamic performance of front woman Floor Jansen is anything but damp. Demonstrating just why Tuomas Holopainen choose her to front Nightwish, Jansen has an innate charisma not to mention a vocal range many would kill for. ‘Of Wolf And Dog’ brings the set to a triumphant close which even the sun has returned to witness.

Since Evan Seinfeld decided to swap hardcore music for hardcore adult movies there has been something lacking about Biohazard. Billy Graziadei leads the band into battle but much of the danger factor seems to have left the veteran New Yorkers. At least the band can muster response on tracks like ‘Tales From The Hardside’ and ‘Punishment’, the latter of which sees the biggest stage invasion in Bloodstock history.

The unsettling and often disorientating music of Voices. Rising from the ashes of Akercocke this astonishing black metal act pulled off the trick of being deliberately obtuse yet strangely engaging at the same time. Their set veers, often weirdly, from beautiful black metal riffing to obtuse experimentation, often in the same song.

The offer of free beer is clearly too hard for the Bloodstock masses to pass up, so there is a packed tent for the old school thrash metal of Dublin’s Psykosis. This mob clearly fall into the thrash revival camp which is no bad thing and their straightforward, gutsy thrash metal is a veritable tonic in the New Blood tent. Psykosis do exactly what they say on their tin. Echoes of Acid Reign, early Nuclear Assault and Anthrax and you have a very tasty brew, thank you very much.

Avatar: I keep wondering whether the world needs another Marilyn Manson tribute act but it is fair to say that there are plenty here who not only think you do but actually have come with their faces made up like the band’s showman vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom who, to give him his due, works the stage like the madman he clearly is.

Belfast’s Stormzone are proper heavy metal. They hark back to a more innocent time of big riffs, big choruses and bigger hair and tales of being out on the highway and all that stuff. Lots of riffs, massive sings to get your teeth stuck into and the most effortlessly entertaining forty minutes of the weekend. It would be really easy to be cynical about Stormzone it would also be wrong. They make music that is life-affirming and music that puts a huge smile on your face. You cannot ask for any more than that.

Florida bruisers Obituary have many crushing numbers in their arsenal. Jon Tardy has a vicious snarl that could strip paint, but with the wind working against him, he is fighting an uphill battle. The ugly and unpretentious likes of Slowly We Rot still generate a more than healthy response from the audience. Over by the VIP bar groovy rockers Ten Foot Wizard put in their second shift of the weekend with a semi acoustic set of 70s inspired riffola which provides a nice foil to the bludgeoning Obituary delivered. Gary Harkin’s gruff yet soulful drawl marks these promising stoner rockers as ones to watch with their distinctly British flavour.

There have been millions of words written about Saxon; you know who they are and what they do. Saxon play heavy metal. Saxon have written a few classic albums and are part of heavy metal’s heritage. Yet tonight their performance was efficient but unspectacular.

The Sophie Lancaster stage has seen many fine performances but the appearance of Collibus was more than a bit special. Gemma Fox has grown into a fantastic front person to match her substantial vocal capabilities. Neither opting for growls nor overloading her performance with vibrato. It is near impossible to take your eyes away from this powerful dynamic performance.

Amon Amarth are just brilliant and should be Bloodstock headliners. A stage set of two smoke breathing twenty-foot high dragon’s heads that double as stage risers for the band, this is one of those laying down a marker for the future sets. Amon Amarth are getting themselves ready for the bigger leagues and the bigger stages and here is evidence of how they are going to do it. Amon Amarth bring fire, explosions, smoke and yet more flames. This is heavy metal at its most theatrical, it’s most absurd: some might argue, it’s most brilliant. What impresses most about Amon Amarth is the supreme effortlessness of it all. They have clearly been preparing for this slot for a while. That they could simply amble on and deliver a superb performance of collective will, artistry and intelligence without losing sight of the fact that they are OUR band, is testimony to their endeavour.

Orderingthe shutdown of all stalls playing music and demanding that second stage headliners Satan postpone their set till after his, it appears Dave Mustaine is on the warpath again. Tonight we see both the best and worst of Megadeth in equal measure. Hangar 18 and Sweating Bullets are killer cuts and we are largely spared material from disappointing Supercollider (Roadrunner) opus but Mega Dave’s voice sure isn’t what it used to be. While he can clearly shred with the best of them it is quite painful to hear him straining to hit certain notes.

Video clips from hit movies such as Wayne’s World are used between songs but while they provide light relief it seems sad Mustaine needs to rely on such gimmicks to improve this presentation.

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A touching moment occurs when this Mustaine stops the show to invite a young boy to sit onstage presenting him with a plectrum in a touching fatherly gesture, reminding you that old flame locks can’t be all bad. Classics like ‘A Tout Le Monde’ and ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ are rapturously received which all goes to show that when he sticks to the task of being a musician rather than kicking up controversy old Dave is a good egg but quite how long he can sustain performing live is anyone’s guess.

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