Bloodstock 2014- Catton Hall, Derby
At the ungodly hour of 7:00am the crew departed for the hallowed turf of Catton Hall for our annual weekend of pure heavy metal and good times. Our earlier planning had paid off as all parties arrived at the rendezvous site, Strensham Services on the M5 by 8:45am, gripped with excitement and anticipation. An hour and a half later we were queuing with the other early birds at the main gates, cider already open under the blazing sun. This team knows how to get pitched early and by 1:00pm we were all set up. Seven beautiful tents in a circle with our gazebo centre stage, providing some welcome respite from the beating of the sun’s rays. A couple of trips to the cars allowed us to bring about a gazillion cans of cider and at least three pigs worth of bacon to the pitch. All set up and ready to party! Oh, except for Nick who managed to lock his keys in the boot of his car. All credit to Admiral Insurance who sent a Saxon loving recovery man to break in and retrieve them. Last year it was Burton A&E, this year Admiral Insurance who wins our legends award.
Last year we jokingly referred to having a Sunday roast at BOA. Don’t chuckle, dear reader, this happened. Lamb chops from Matt, veg from Brett, potatoes from Paul and Nick’s gravy meant that at 5:30pm we were sat, resplendent in our new Musipedia polo shirts, tucking into a full fucking roast dinner. Awesome stuff. Of course, as anyone knows, a roast needs a decent wine to accompany it. We didn't have that but we had Brett’s 15 litres of rose which was just the job. Unfortunately, Brett decided to pour a substantial amount down his front (and into the mouth) which resulted in first casualty of the day at 7:00pm. Yes, Brett hit the deck like a giant redwood. Nurse Nick checked Brett’s pulse, put him in the recovery position and then said “right, let’s get some thrash”. Later that evening Brett was apparently observed crawling on hands and knees towards his tent before passing out again on the floor. This man is a legend.
Into the arena for our first visit; past the Showsec Nazis on the gates (who were one of the low points in the otherwise excellent organisation) and there was the rather enticing Sophie Lancaster tent. Caught in its gravitational pull we entered just as UK thrash band Incinery kicked off proceedings in fine style. Incinery (7/10) play old school thrash which went down well with the good sized crowd. A few early pits opened up in response to the all action delivery and the band received a very positive reaction from the crowd. Straight forward metal is the middle name of Monument (8/10). Their Maidenesque delivery proved very popular as the numbers in the tent swelled and heads all around started to bang. Frontman Pete Ellis is the real star of this band, doing his best Bruce Dickenson impressions throughout, engaging with the crowd and possessing an air raid siren of a voice. The band recovered well from some early sound problems to provide a solid set of pure old school type heavy metal. We gave pythonesque outfit Jaldaboath ten minutes but they were just a little bit too boring and with the beer still calling we headed back to the tent for a few more tins before bedtime.
Waking up to decent weather on Friday morning, the crew had high hopes for the day. This was mainly because of the main stage openers Bloodshot Dawn (8/10), who we have championed for a long time. We’ve seen BD many times over the past few years and it was genuinely intriguing to see how Josh and the boys brought their technical death metal to the main stage. Boy did they kill it. A brutal 40 minute set with a number of tracks from their self-titled debut as well as the airing of a new song which was excellent. Former drummer Doug Anderson joined the band on stage for a well-deserved round of applause and lead vocals on Illusion Aesthetic. A big performance from a band that stood up to the plate and stomped all over it. I’m already looking forward to their November tour. Unfortunately, despite putting in the effort, Entombed AD (6/10) were pretty dull and uninspiring. Their latest album Back to the Front is a decent long player with some good hooks and riffs. Live, the guys appeared a little jaded and were unable to maintain my attention for the whole set.
One of the joys of BOA is the fact that the arena is a mere five minutes from the camp site and so I gave Primordial (Primordial were good but not really sunshine material, they would be better indoors- Matt) and Flotsam and Jetsam the swerve and headed back for a round of bacon sandwiches and a few cans. However, we were back into the arena in good time for the arrival of New Yorkers Prong. Led by veteran Tommy Victor, Prong (8/10) delivered a storming set, with a nice mix of old classics and a couple of tracks from the excellent Ruining Lives release. Prong has a real raw energy about them with bassist Jason Christopher supporting Victor in coercing the crowd to get moving. A true power trio, the sound was immensely heavy. Closer and all time Prong classic Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck had the entire place moving. The atmosphere then took a darker turn with the arrival of Thomas Gabriel Warrior and Triptykon (8/10). As the clouds gathered, Triptkyon delivered 45 minutes of melancholic doom and dark metal. A mere five songs in their set, they provided some of the darkest moments of the weekend. Opener Black Snow set the tone, along with Altar of Deceit from the excellent Melana Chasmata before things got a bit quicker with Hellhammer track Messiah. As the rain started to fall, Mr Warrior noted with some satisfaction that this was the second time he had summoned the rain to BOA. His name was subsequently banned from our tents for the rest of the weekend.
A quick charge to the Sophie Tent as the heavens opened meant that Winterfyllyth (7/10) obtained a few more admirers than they might have expected. A brutal set of UK black metal was provided by possibly the most unlikely looking metal band of the weekend. Honestly, this lot look like a bunch of dentists but the sound that they create is far and above anything that the dental school can generate with a phantom head. This was my first time watching Winterfyllyth and they totally deserved the reception they received. I'm looking forward to catching them again with Behemoth later this year. Meanwhile the younger members of our party braved the elements to catch Jamie Jasta’s Hatebreed (8/10) tear it up on the Dio stage. During the weekend there was much debate about the musical ability of these “angry white men” but the feedback was that Hatebreed delivered in much the same way they did two years ago. It may not be your bag but they deliver what you want if you like them.
A 30 minute wait due to “technical bollocks” meant that most of us only caught the opening chords of Allegiance by Dimmu Borgir before heading off to the tent. However, what I did see suggested that the band remain a decent live act, despite the absence of guitar sound in the opening few minutes. Silenoz and Galder might as well have not been on the stage in parts. However, another band gained much appreciation and respect as a result. This was Skyclad (8/10) who have been around for many years, leading the folk metal genre with their combination of thrash with huge doses of electric violin. Lead guitarist Steve Ramsey and bassist Graeme ‘Bean’ English would also be on duty later in the weekend with final night Sophie tent headliners Satan; however, along with the bounciest violin player in metal in Georgina Biddle and brilliant vocalist Kevin Ridley, they helped deliver an extremely energetic show which commanded a healthy audience. After the deluge that Tom Warrior and co conjured up earlier in the afternoon, Skyclad was just what the doctor ordered and there were smiles and jig pits all over the tent.
A quick jog back to the main arena for a rendezvous with the crew and then it was time for the Friday night headliners. As Down entered stage right, Phil Anselmo began his tedious utterings. I love this band but his vocal delivery and constant aggression and profanities for no apparent reason (do you use swear words as a substitute for intelligent speak?) make watching them incredibly difficult and it was a no-brainer to head back to the Sophie tent for Greek metal legends Rotting Christ. These were a band I’d never seen before but with a Greek in our midst it was not only polite but also a bloody brilliant decision. Rotting Christ (10/10) were THE band of the day by a mile. Not so much the death metal I’d expected but awesome thrash in the vein of top quality Slayer and with a stage presence to match. Atmospheric lighting helped to create a real dark environment as Sakis Tolis and his band punched a hole in the end of the day. Those of us who made the move to the tent wore huge smiles as we were absorbed into the set which was full of blasting riffs from Tolis, guitarist George Emmanuel, bassist Vaggelis Karzis and drummer Themis Tolis. An excellent evening to conclude a brilliant day of metal. And things were only going to get better on day 2.
Emerging on Saturday morning to a cloudy but dry day, our crew were ready to go from early on. Fuelled by bacon, scrambled eggs and cider we made our way to the main stage for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend; the elevation of the mighty Evil Scarecrow (10/10) to the main arena. Last year the Scarecrow blew the roof off the tent and was rewarded with the opening slot on the Dio stage. And what a set it was. Incredibly we had five Scarecrow virgins in the party, along with the rest of us gnarly veterans who had provided a full briefing in all things Scarecrow before we left the tents. Scarecrow hit the stage at pace and led by Dr Hell proceeded to spend 40 minutes laying waste to the main arena with their comedic black metal. Now, they are funny as hell but don’t forget that they are also exceptionally talented musicians with some great songs. Of course, the usual ridiculous sight of 10,000 (estimated) people scuttling left and right across the field to Crabulon, the robotic movements during Robototron and the homemade ‘grass poppers’ all added to the fun. The disbelief in the band’s faces was a delight as they attracted a huge crowd. Airing a new track for the first time in a good while, Space Dementia, complete with new improved robot was excellent and whets the appetite for the new album. Pledge your money folks. We need these guys on a headline set before too long.
Time for a quick wipe down with a couple of drinks after all that excitement which meant that Shining didn't get a look in. Back in plenty of time for one of the sets I was most looking forward to, Israeli outfit Orphaned Land. Now, I was in the rare position of being the only one who had seen this band out of our entire crew and having built up how great they were, I was willing them on with every sinew in my body. Not that I should have worried as Orphaned Land (10/10) delivered a beautifully paced set. Opening with All is One from their last album, they provided their Eastern tinged metal in stunning fashion with tracks from their last three albums. I openly admit to having a few tears in my eyes as Kobi referred to the conflict in Gaza and their relationship with the excellent Palestinian outfit Khalas when introducing Brother. A mix of tunes from Mabool and the excellent The Never Ending Way of OrWarrior kept the metal quota high and as I watched Alex dancing along to an Israeli couple at the front I had a smile I could barely contain. The verdict from the crew was universally positive and we are already plotting how to get to London next year to watch them support Blind Guardian. In the meantime I'm trying to work on a day at head office to catch OL playing Mabool in full in London later this year. Great stuff indeed.
Having seen Crowbar earlier in the year I headed for the Sophie tent to watch Conquest of Steel’s (3/10) final show. Thank fuck for that. They were dreadful and I lasted a whole two songs before I headed back to watch Kirk Windstein’s bearded brothers. Crowbar (8/10), on the other hand, are bloody heavy live. You know what you get with Crowbar – huge crashing riffs and the feeling of being hit by a juggernaut. A huge Walk with Knowledge Wisely from their latest release Symmetry in Black was followed by a number of Crowbar classics including a blinding Planets Collide to conclude the set. It was time for something a bit easier on the eye after Crowbar with the lovely Christina Scabbia and Lacuna Coil. Now the Italians are always good value and this was no different with a selection of tracks from Dark Halo interspersed with classics such as Heaven’s A Lie. The only problem I have is that Andrea Ferro, endearing as he is, just can’t reach the vocal performance of Scabbia and as a result his vocals on occasion actually detract from the overall song. Still, they are always relatively decent and this time was not different (7/10). I skipped the end of Lacuna Coil’s set to ensure a prime spot for the Orphaned Land (9/10) acoustic set of the Jägermeister stage. This was pretty special and the band cut it big time with a mixed set included some acoustic versions of the day’s earlier set and some very early stuff from the 1990s and a perfect version of Let The Truce Be Known from All is One. Watching the band from a yard or so was quite breath taking and a very special moment.
Having given Children of Bodom the widest of berths and obtained some welcome refreshments from the tent, we headed back in for one of the most brutal sets of the day. Carcass (9/10) arrived and basically blew the shit out of the main arena for an hour. Frontman Jeff Walker’s delivery is drier than sandpaper but their music just makes you bleed. A brutal force ten gale of death metal was delivered perfectly with a range of classic tracks and a smattering of newish stuff from 2013’s Surgical Steel. This was a real master class in old school death metal and Carcass received a huge reaction. We then moved to the evening’s headliners. Was it to be black metal legends Emperor or Vinnie Paul’s HellYeah? We headed to the tent but dear god, what the actual fuck? Lead singer Chad Gray, also the main man in Mudvayne got up my nostrils in about four minutes with his nu-metal approach. After two songs I could take no more and headed back to the main stage to see Ihshan and his crew blasting the crap out. Impressive light show but so boring. Oh dear; controversial? Yep, I don’t like Emperor and as the rain started to fall again I went shopping. Yes, metal shopping. At least I got some new CDsJ.
After a night on the lash, Sunday morning broke to a different kind of lashing; quite astonishing amounts of rain on the tents. Emerging later than usual, it didn't stop the morning bacon fest or the opening of a few tinnies before we braved the conditions for the main arena again. First up for me were Dutch outfit Revamp. A good sized crowd were already inside as Floor Jansen and Revamp (7/10) battled through some atrocious sound problems. A decent enough set with Stief in particular staring at the stage with his jaw open. However there was a clash imminent so I scurried off to the New Blood Stage to catch Cardiff band Akb’al. I’d seen Akb’al at the final of the Metal to the Masses in Cardiff to earn their slot at BOA and had been very impressed with them. I was not disappointed in the tent as Akb’al (9/10) played a stunning three track set which was both heavy and progressive and generated an excellent response from the small crowd. Michael Young-Temple on bass, djembe, didgeridoo and growling was the band’s focal point whilst guitarist and singer Thoby Davis held his own with a beautiful clear voice and some excellent guitar playing. Fellow guitarist Rob Miles provided some rhythm but mainly lead guitar whilst drummer Mik combined with Young-Temple to lay down the groove. Our only disappointment was our inability to queue on the correct side of the stage to grab hold of a freebie or two. Anyway, Akb’al was refreshing and quite stunning.
As the disappointing news that Graveyard’s delayed arrival meant that their set had been moved to later in the day and that they would clash with Amon Amarth filtered through, Biohazard crashed onto the stage which prompted me to head to the tents once more for liquid refreshments. As we returned for Obituary, our heads were turned by the sound of quality power metal and we discovered an absolute gem. Yes, Stormzone from Northern Ireland had just launched into their set in the Sophie tent. Unsurprisingly, mere minutes after Nick, Stief and I entered the tent, Matt and Kona also arrived. That boy can sniff power metal out at a thousand paces. Anyway, Stormzone (8/10) were great, playing a set of straight forward but excellent melodic power metal in the Iron Maiden and Saxon mould; lots of choreographed moves which at one point had us convinced they must be German! They played a range of tracks including tunes from their latest release, the excellent Three Kings and earlier release Death Dealer. Stormzone will be supporting Saxon and Hell and will also be at Hard Rock Hell so I shall look forward to at least another two encounters with John ‘Harv’ Harbinson and band. Unfortunately that did mean we missed the brutality of Obituary apart from the last strains of Slowly We Rot. A shame.
It was time to head down to the front for an hour of classic British heavy metal in the form of Yorkshire’s finest tea drinkers, the mighty Saxon (9/10). Now, this is a band that in a lot of minds has enough about them to headline and it was clear from the opening bars of Sacrifice that Biff and co harboured similar feelings. A quite awesome set, full of classic tracks including my all-time favourite And The Bands Played On as well as the obligatory Wheels Of Steel sing a-long before the ace of all aces was pulled and no less than Megadave himself, Dave Mustaine joined Saxon on stage for a ripping version of Denim And Leather. As Brett and I collapsed into our usual Saxon inspired emotional state, we were able to wipe the debris from Nick, Stief and Kona whose Saxon cherries had popped for the very first time. Mine went too … 32 years ago!
A quick wipe down and it was back into the throng as the strains of Father Of The Wolf heralded the arrival of those Scandinavian Vikings Amon Amarth (10/10). I've seen these guys several times but bloody hell; this was the headline show that never was. Huge dragon heads, pyro galore and an hour of blistering melodic death metal. Deceiver Of The Gods, Cry Of The Blackbird, As Loke Falls, Guardians Of Asgaard; get in and bang your head. Johan Hegg and crew were determined to deliver a set to remember and they achieved that with ease. Finishing with the ultimate one-two, Twilight Of The Thunder Gods and Pursuit Of Vikings, Amon Amarth demonstrated why they will headline BOA within the next two years. Stunningly brilliant and totally cool. A quick sprint to the Sophie tent caught a short bit of Graveyard but it would be harsh to provide a review on two songs. Suffice to say Ant was enjoying the mellowing effect.
We moved to the final band on the RJD stage, disappointed that apparently Sophie tent headliners and NWOBHM stalwarts Satan had been pushed back to a 10:45pm start to ensure that everyone could watch Megadeth. Wow! Thanks Dave! As it happens, Megadave played a blinder and it was worth staying to watch the full show (unless you are Stief of course). Opening with Hanger 18 and seguing nicely into Wake Up Dead this was Megadeth (9/10) at their finest. A full light show and visual effects kept the attention focused, whilst A Tout Le Monde, She Wolf and Skin O’ my Teeth kept the audience fully involved. Long time bassist Dave Ellefson laid down the foundations with Shawn Drover’s powerful drumming, allowing Mustaine and Chris Broderick to deliver some fine riffs and solos. Having shown his softer side when getting a young fan up on the stage, Mustaine closed the main set with Symphony Of Destruction and the ever brilliant Peace Sells. An interesting choice of encore, with a cover of Thin Lizzy’s Cold Sweat before Holy Wars wrapped up a stunning weekend on the main stage. A final dose of metal in the form of Satan (8/10) in the Sophie tent completed the musical entertainment for another year. Big thanks to all the crew that made this year yet another brilliant weekend. I'm already in the queue for next year but please BOA, dangle the carrot of a headliner before too long. We need incentives. Cheers!