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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Another View From A Field: Bloodstock (Review By Nick)

Bloodstock 2014

Once again our annual pilgrimage to Derbyshire was under way, after some finite planning and organisation everything seemed to fall into place. Tents were erected, flags were raised, false tents were taken down while gazebos stood tall. Following our simply magnificent Sunday roast (on Thursday) cooked for twelve on a mere four stoves… four people! We were ready for some musical delight, so to the Sophie tent we went just in time for Incinery.

Incinery

These thrashers hit you with fast, hard riffs and do not compromise at any point during the set. Full of shredding solos and neck snapping breakdowns Incinery impressed me for a first viewing. Front man James Rawlings has an odd yet satisfying growl come screech that settles nicely into the sound the rest of the band lay out. Despite all these positives; looking back I do feel that everything was a little samey throughout. Nonetheless, a good start to Bloodstock for me 8/10.

Monument

Time for some true British heavy metal as Monument hit the stage. Having seen these guys a few times before I have discovered the success of their set lies heavily on the mood/performance of vocalist Peter Ellis. Tonight, he was on form. Monument rattled through a forty minute set in what felt like ten. Deep booming bass lines, dual guitar melodies and a powerful voice tat would make the likes of Bruce Dickinson and Sean Peck shake in their boots. All I can say about these guys is they bring back the old school, make it a little more modern and inspire you to the point that you realise some of the music you own, just isn’t really metal 9/10.

Jaldaboath

Replacing Phil Campbell at short notice (Which for me was good news) was Jaldaboath. A unknown entity to me, so I decided to hang around and see what all the fuss was about. Entering the stage to a fanfare of trumpets and dressed in medieval attire the gents from Jaldaboath kicked in with great little grove and bass laden riff that made your head bounce nicely. With a little thrash riff thrown in for good measure I between things weren’t looking or sounding too bad, until the vocalist entered the stage and everything seemed to stop as he proceeded to talk/rap every lyric with virtually not instrumental backing. This perplexed me as it killed any momentum the band had and felt very disjointed. Hoping this was just the one song I hung around a little more but also, this appeared to be the trend for Jaldaboath, and not one I was getting on with. So I headed back to camp for some booze and biscuits thining…. Bring back Phil! (4/10)

Day two and an early start as it was time for Paul and myself to engage full fan boy mode for Bloodshot dawn. A lovely breakfast of bacon, bacon and more bacon warmed our bellies as we wandered over to the main stage.

Bloodshot Dawn

Making sure we were fairly close to the stage we waited for what for me has been one of the breakthrough band in the British metal seen over the past few years. Having seen thee guys live many times at both festivals and venues as small as your thumb I was eager to see how they managed the main stage of such a prestigious festival. As Josh and the band entered the stage they treated us to a plethora of tracks from their EP, first album and even a track from their much anticipated new album. Filled with their signature technical thrash riffs that I love them for, the pace changes were timed perfectly as were the melodic riffs that jump from high to low making you damage your imaginary guitar frets. New drummer Janne Jaloma beat away at his set getting every bit of edge he could from them while Josh’s vocals seemed to once again be better than ever as he growled and screamed with great purpose. The sound the band produce was and is flawless! Each instrument added something to the performance and stood out without masking another and the lads, although humble they commanded the crowd well. Calling for pits that the crowd delivered. Not much to look at I grant you, but that doesn’t matter as your head will be down playing air guitar and bouncing 90% of the time. Definitely worth their slot on the main stage and surely worth a return with a higher placement in the future? Simply brilliant.10/10
Entombed A.D

Not knowing much about Entombed A.D but hearing a lot about how they came to be I stood around to give them a chance. Filled with heavy grungey thrash like riffs and angry vocals I can see how they appeal to some people. For me I found it hard to decipher when one song ended and another began which is never really a good characteristic in music. When they introduced us to some more modern tracks it had a bit more pace and life to it but still not enough for me, Entombed did what they do and I cant really fault their skills. Very static on stage but they still seemed to be enjoying the experience of the main stage. However, when you see a person wearing their shirt walking away from their set, that kind of says it all. 5/10.

After this there was nothing much else that pulled me in on the band lists, so I returned to the camp site with fellow Musipedians Paul and Stief to invest in some more booze and a pot noodle or two… mmm tasty! 

Throughout the first day and a half many times we had spoken about how Triptykon always demand rain for their set and how on the previous occasion Triptykon and Tom G Warrior were at Bloodstock it proceeded to rain the proverbial cats and dogs mid set. With the weather so far being wonderfully warm and sunny… this couldn't happen again, could it?

Triptykon

Entering the stage to a doom filled gloomy backing track Tom G and the rest of Triptykon proceeded to play a five-track set of the slowest darkest music that you ever could hear live. But my god it worked well! Only having one opportunity to see them once before in a small venue I already knew I would enjoy this set, however outdoors Triptykon are a completely different game all together. The sound the produce echoes and resonated around the festival site as thousands of people slowly drop and raise their heads in unison, in a weird kind of worship trance. Despite his reputation Tom G was smiling between each ten plus minute track, clearly loving every minute on stage. Then came the scary part; once again the band demanded rain on this sunny day before their final offering of The Prolonging where halfway through the clouds overcast Catton Hall and proceeded to open with a down poor of rain! It f**king happened again! Still, no one budged as they Triptykon finished their set to rapturous applause and chanting. A band I will definitely be seeing again in the future but next time… indoors. For now I'm calling the warrior, the wizard. 9/10

Now away I ran to the Sophie ten to get away from the still pouring rain but mainly from in my opinion one of the worst bands ever gifted to music… Hatebreed *shudders*

Winterfylleth

Again another British band I have seen on a few occasions that have done nothing but impress me each time. A black metal band that base their music on the ancestry and folk law of Britain they represent black metal with a twist. Fast passed technical riffage with a melodic base allow Christopher Naughtons almost haggid voice to regale us with stories and myth from our history. A band that uses pace changes to its fullest in order to hold your attention and highlight a new mood within the song. Winterfylleth tell stories with their music and damn do they do it well! Brief sound problems aside this was a fine performance from the lads, although not their best they certainly id themselves no harm and certainly gained more fans in the Musipedia 8/10.

Now that the angry music Nazi’s had vacated the main stage, back to the main stage we headed as the rain had seemed to ceased, and Dimmu Borgir were awaiting, or rather we awaited them… for 20 minutes.

Dimmu Borgir

Coming onto the stage twenty minutes late the band still insisted on using their intro music that lasted a further five minutes. It soon became evident why as they clearly needed more time to fix whatever issues they had as when the first track kicked in all that could be heard was the drums and vocals. This persisted on into the second track where myself, Paul and Matt decided to head to the Sophie tent. We’d seen Dimmu many times before and we know what they’re about… unlucky guys!

Skyclad

Jigging and swinging in circles before we even entered the tent we got the tone of Skyclad as soon as we were close enough to hear them. Folk metal! Filled with great melodic solos, light thrash riffs and plenty of fiddles Skyclad are the epitome of a happy metal band. Jigg pits opening up left right and centre in a packed tent surrounded by bopping heads the crowd joined in happily with the sing along chorus’s and sing and reply sections. A good laugh and as well as some cracking music delivered with great skill and aplomb, alas there was no cow bell! 9/10

Avoiding Down with as wide a birth as I cold possibly give them without leaving the festival I decided to check out Rotting Christ. Never seeing them live I had heard a few of their songs before and liked what I have heard. This however turned out to be the best decision of the weekend!

Rotting Christ

Smoke filled the Sophie tent along with a dim orange glow of light as the figures of Rotting Christ entered the stage. Opening with some Greek chanting the band had us hooked form the off. Displaying a set dominated by tracks from their new album Rotting Christ proceeded to suck us all into their set which was a far cry from their advertised genre of death metal. Instead what we were given was a deep dark thrash sound that forces your head down and opens your ears. Every song was different but contained stunning breakdowns of slow thrash riffage with equally as dark solos. The atmosphere in the tent was eerie as the crowd just stood listened and lost themselves in what the band had to offer. The rough gravely death vocals were gently and purposely hidden behind the instruments, to add to the haunting presence of Rotting Christ. At times the band showed dual guitar skill and performance that even Accept would be proud of, as their hair flew around in circles it was clear to see that the band themselves were just as hooked as we were. As the set came to an end with more Greek chanting the crowd duly joined in giving everything they had left. There was a short but understandable silence after the last note faded, as the crowd took in every last second. Then came the uncontrollable applause and chants that carried on long after Rotting Christ left the stage. From the music and atmosphere to the simplicity of the bands stage presence and movement I, and from what I could see everyone else were left almost dumbfounded. Haunting, majestic and beautiful… purely outstanding 11/10. (I'll let this score pass..once-Matt)

After this we spent a few hours drinking and reminiscing the day (particularly Rotting Christ) and planning the next day of metal that was ahead of us. Following a night of some sleep no thanks to the camp site next to us blaring out Powerslave on repeat for hours on end throughout we all awoke to more bacon… and headed straight to the main stage for Evil Scarecrow

Evil Scarecrow.

Despite having seeing Scarecrow many many times I was still as excited as a child to see them. Arriving early we made it as close to the stage as we could, formed two lines and did our pre Scarecrow stretches (No… really, we did). Entering the stage in glorious fashion on a wood horse Scarecrow powered through their set with the humble passion and dedication they always do. Engaging the crowd at every turn as they cracked out songs such as Blacken The Everything, Robototron and the mighty Crabulon! Ten thousand plus claws, robots and crying whimpers spread across the Bloodstock field, it looked stunning. Even the on stage security were loving it! These guys will never get boring, and with e new album on the horizon, what song will they possibly drop??! Notwithstanding Scarecrows passion and performance, the thing I love most about them is their true humbleness. These guys honestly cannot understand why everyone likes them so much and really do think we’re all crazy, and I like that 10/10.

A quick mention here to Babylon Fire, I was torn for a while on whether to see these guys as they clashed with Scarecrow. I have seen these guys twice and they have impressed me greatly on both occasions. With this being lead singer Mark D’s last show with the band it made it an even harder decision. But, call me fickle, Scarecrows allure was too much. Now I don’t know how many turned up to Babylon’s set but I hope it was a good send of for Mark, and if you ever do get the chance to catch these guys live, take it… you wont regret it!

So, back to the camp to recover and consume more booze and pasta until the much hyped (by Paul) Orphaned Land.

Orphaned Land

As earlier mentioned, Paul had done all he can to convince myself and the others of this bands quality. So, there was a lot riding on this set for Paul… no pressure Orphaned land! However, to be fair to Paul he was not wrong! Orphaned Land represents a somewhat peaceful quality in metal. Deep thrash riffs at times supported nicely by a few brief cutting solos. The main attraction here though is the voice of vocalist Kobi Farhi, wow what a voice! Smooth, gentle and flawless for the melodic sections and the Israeli chanting, but also able to pull out a deep howling growl when called upon. These guys are deceptively heavy and know how to put on a good show. Two things I learnt from these guys are; peace sells (sorry) and never underestimate the power of clapping! Will without doubt be catching these guys again 9/10.

A quick walk over to the Sophie tent where we thought we would give Conquest of Steel a listen, but nope… not for me. Very cheesy with way too much effort put into visuals that I can only assume is meant to distract us from the poor vocals. When a full sized steel sword was draw and waved about for no apparent reason I was out.
Another quick break in the campsite to refresh and down some ibuprofen for my aching back then back to the main stage for the beginning of Lacuna Coil.

Lacuna Coil

There is not really too much I can say here that you haven’t already heard about this Italian outfit. When you book Lacuna Coil you know exactly what you are going to get. A good band that works hard to entertain the crowd and will always mix their setlist up a bit to keep us on our toes. As always the main focus is on Christina, be that through the bands choice or the crowds its always going to be that way. Every time I see this band Im always surprised by the quality of Christina's voice. I don’t know why as every time its flawless. But for some reason convince myself otherwise before every gig… again she did not let me down. I didn't hang around for the entire set as Orphaned Land were playing on the Acoustic stage ad that I did nit want to miss after the earlier showing. Lacuna Coil did what they did and they do it with style and the decorum they always represent. I’ll always have time for this band 8/10.

Orphaned Land (Acoustic)
Managing to find a sneaky front row side view of the stage we were ideally placed for this set. Granted it’s a little awkward when the band are a yard away from you and proceed to make eye contact but hey ho… its worth it. Also, great respect to Paul for not getting his fan boy on and managing to summon the strength to not ask for a photo. The camera was out my friends, but he pulled through and put back in his bag for safekeeping. Orphaned Land took the stage once more and played through a set similar to the one we had heard earlier, only this time the intimacy made it just that little bit better. Kobi’s voice impressed me once more, as did the sincerity of the band. It was easy to see that the guys loved not only their music but believed in the message it was sending and the power of their music. More clapping was on the menu as the nearing one hundred strong crowd sang and clapped along on awe. I'm really starting to love this band 10/10.

After this Matt, Paul, Stief and myself took a wander round the record tents and purchased some music and goodies then headed back to the camp-site to ready ourselves for the mighty Carcass!

Now before I get into the performance I'm going to have small rant (sorry matt). During this set unfortunately someone fell ill and the band had to be stopped mid song. The power was cut and the person was tended too, and rightfully so. Front man Jeff Walker was civil trying not to make light of the situation while keeping the crowd happy. As the situation was resolved the band cracked on with their set when a message was delivered to Jeff that their set would have to be cut short and again, rightfully so Jeff flat-out refused. This did become a recurring theme between every song, as it was clear that this annoyed the band. My argument is when you have a band like Carcass, one of the kings of British metal the very substance that Bloodstock is supposedly based upon you treat them with the respect that they deserve and you forget about the five minutes that was lost… its five minutes! If you do need to save time, take it off the Emperors set. This is a band back for year to make a quick buck or two and then will bugger off back to whence they came from. Their ideals are clearly completely different and in my view, not in the keeping of Bloodsock or the metal community. Priorities need to be made clearer, festivals should not have to grant headliners up in cotton wool or grant there every whim at the expense of a better and more cultured band… anyway. Rant over.

Carcass

Heads down and air guitars out for an hour is the order of the day when you are taking in Carcass live. Despite their age and plethora of albums they have to choose from this band never get boring live and never give less than 100%. After such a long career and a short hiatus these guys still love what they do and aim to leave their fans smiling (the basis of Jeff’s earlier outburst). A set that included a range of songs from Surgical Steel as well as Symphonies of Sickness and Choice Cuts, a set for all the ages really. The characteristic hard heavy thrash with brutal bass lines that are resilient and unforgiving in delivery continued for the entirety. The screeching sinister voice of Jeff is one that requires little effort but gives so much to the sound of Carcass. The basis to which both their music and live performances relies so much on this threatening voice. All issues and outbursts aside Carcass put on a great set and proved to me and many others once again why they are one of the titans of not just British heavy metal but metal across the world 10/10
The evening came and our day of music had pretty much come to an end. With Emperor unsurprisingly not impressing and Hell Yeah delivering some good music that could hardly be heard over the front man's constant swearing. So, we did a little more shopping instead before heading back to the campsite for some booze and this time… a tasty slightly overpriced burger.

A morning spent at the camp site storing our energy for the quality on offer in the afternoon. First band of the day for us was ReVamp… I shall hand you over to Stief.


ReVamp (Review By Stief)

Despite the rain, ReVamp come on to a sizeable crowd and a warm reception. They immediately burst into The Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown : On The Sideline followed directly by The Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown: The Limbic System, both of which gives the crowd a taste of Floor Jansen's vast vocal range, changing flawlessly from clean vocals to brutal growling during On The Sideline and showing off her soaring operatic skills during The Limbic System. Microphone problems essentially turn Head Up High into an impromptu instrumental performance, giving the audience a chance to focus on the rest of the band, who give a solid performance throughout. Despite these problems, Floor manages to continually engage with the audience, who seem to be perfectly happy to headbang, vocals or no vocals. Whatever problems there were are cleared up for the title track of their latest album Wild Card, which is followed by classic song Here's My Hell. They then break into the third part of the Anatomy trio of songs, Neurasthenia, with guitarist Arjan Rijnen filling in for Devin Townsend's vocals quite nicely. ReVamp then end with a one-two hit of In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part: Disdain and Wolf And Dog. With a roar and a chant of ReVamp from the crowd, it wouldn't be surprising to see Revamp further up the bill of Bloodstock in a few years. 9/10


Back to the tents again after a further peruse of the record tents then Paul and I set off with devious plan to catch Obituary. However, as we walked past the Sophie tent a beautiful sound of a Dickinson-eque voice caressed our ears and drew us in where we were presented with Stormzone.
Stormzone

After much deliberation and refusal to believe what we were hearing, we were astounded to find that British power metal actually lives! Old school power metal at its best is what this band produce. High-octane vocals with quick paced ascending descending riffs and plenty of cheesy lyrics to go around. All the band moved around the stage with vigour and purpose as they were clearly in their element as the shovelled this beautiful music down our ears. Air guitars we at the ready and as Matt snuck in beside us we threw away our cares and lost ourselves in this music. Apparently supporting Saxon at the end of the year, I CANNOT wait to catch these guys again 9/10.


Saxon

So this was it one of the moments I had been waiting for, the popping of my Saxon cherry. Having grown up listening to Saxon I am ashamed to say that I have never had the chance to see them live and wow… what have I been missing! Entering the stage to a sea of applause Biff and the band wasted no time in ploughing through a set of great hits with the large majority of the crowd singing along to every syllable. Motorcycle, Hero, 747, Princess and Wheels Of Steel to name but a few echoed across the ears of thousands. Biff’s voice sounding as good live as it does on the albums that I have come to love. Each member playing with a smile of their face, there was a mutual love and respect that could easily be felt. A surprise appearance from MegaDave himself could have ruined it all… but no not even this man's ego could take anything away from the mighty Saxon. For me these guys should have been headlining and I doubt many people would have complained if the had. Stonking! 10/10.


Amon Amarth

Another contender for future headliners and probably should have been this year took the stage and quite frankly destroyed it. This review will be brief as all you need to know is there was smoke there were pyro’s galore, there were serpents and there was a giant hammer. Couple all this with a set list of Amon Amarth’s greatest hits delivered with astounding energy and flawless presentation what you get is a crowd that is not quite sure what just hit them… but f**king loved whatever it was! 10/10.

Megadeath (aka MegaDave)

A band that I have seen twice before and has, on both occasions, let me down greatly. I had planned to skip this and catch Satan for a bit of a change up. But, MegaDave himself appeared to have played the ego card again and ensured no one else was playing while they were on stage… poor sport. So, I stood and I watched as a string of hits were deployed to the die-hard fans delight and in all honesty, to my approval also. Now, for me Dave’s voice is simply poor and I will never ever be swayed of this, but this time unlike previous occasions there seemed to be life in the band as well as Dave himself. There was effort, which I had never seen from them before live. It gave the songs more life and I began to see what Paul and Matt had been trying to convince me of. Nothing special production wise but I stood happily bobbing my head and strumming my mystical guitar as the set flew by. Fair play MegaDave… you win this round 8/10.


So the sad moment arrived as Bloodstock came to an end. A great year again considering I thought this to be the weakest line up for the festival in a number of years when considering the entire weekend. The music ranged to the jaw droopingly good to the shockingly bad, but at the end of it all there was booze, there were friends and most importantly… there was metal! 10/10.


On a final note, 10/10 to Admiral insurance and NCH Autos of Tamworth who managed to break into my car without a scratch when I locked my keys in the boot outstanding service… oops! Finally, a shout out to the person who found and returned Matt’s camera when he lost it during Megadeth; With or without the ass pic, you would never have got such community at other festivals such as Download or Sonisphere and that is a fact, also the reason that Bloodstock is without doubt the best music festival to currently grace the shores of Britain.










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