Bloodstock Open Air 2014 review

Bloodstock 2014 had one of it’s strongest linep’s to date and it looked to be a great festival from Britain’s biggest independent metal festival. Here’s how good it was: 

Bloodshot Dawn are the main success story of Bloodstock’s Metal to the Masses contest, having come through the competition to play on the smaller stages before, and now they’re opening the main stage of the first day of the weekend. They already have a decent sized fanbase and there’s a large crowd gathered for their early 11am start and their melodic death metal went over well. Admittedly they don’t stand out much from the crowd of other melodic death metal bands, but they have well written songs regardless, and an even better performance to open the festival well. Entombed A.D are basically former members of Entombed playing under a different moniker after a name dispute, but they still managed to destroy at Bloodstock. Opening with new song Pandemic Rage they then moved on to play older material and rioted through a fantastic set, closing with the incredible two songs in Left Hand Path and Supposed to Rot, the former inciting a big moshpit. A great set from the swe-death giants. 

Primordial managed to be even better with a fantastic stage show to add to their own brand of black metal, With a great sound they used a trebly fuzz from one guitar to create a bleak atmosphere, while powerful, epic sounding riffs came from the other, complimented by a great bass performance to give them a powerfully moving sound. Vocalist Alan Averill looked incredibly evil with great corpse paint and hood, and gave a great show, 110% into the performance. His cleanish rasp is easy to understand and made the great lyrics come to life in a rapturous show. Ending with The Coffin ships followed by Empire Falls they gave it all in a fantastic show, making them one of the early contenders for band of the weekend. De Profundis came on the back of their new EP Frequencies to play the Sophie Lancaster stage. Though an EP that was a little underwhelming despite a great guitar performance, live they’re anything but and put on a great show, espeically when it came to their intense cover of Death’s Crystal Mountain. Their vocalist is much better in person, and with their incredibly talented guitarists they’re a phenomenal outfit live.

Prong’s hardcore with it’s repetitive drumming and dull shouty vocals was a definite letdown on the mainstage after Primordial’s brilliance. Triptykon are fairly dull on record, with a monolithic guitar tone doing little to obscure the fact that Tom G Warrior seems to be using the leftover scraps from Celtic Frost’s brilliant Monotheist album. Their boring material is matched by an equally dull performance, with Tom barely moving (and looking ridiculous in that beanie), and his monotonous vocals droned on. You have to feel sorry for V Santura, who’s also the lead guitarist of Dark Fortress, being reduced to chugging away on dull riffs, where with his other band he always delivers mindblowing material. He looked visibly bored from it, and so did I. Dimmu Borgir suffered too though, coming on late due to technical difficulties and having them recur throughout their set. Even when they were on stage they were too theatrical and their music too overblown, their set was simply a disaster. Rotting Christ were another who didn’t fare too well headlining the Sophie Lancaster tent, with their melodic black being too slow and repetitive to really incite the crowd. Without a lot of energy, after a bright start Friday night’s music ended on a flat note. 

Evil Scarecrow opened the Saturday with a hilarious set. With ridiculous songs, crazy costumes and silly stage props their heavy metal antics went down well with a big crowd. Whether on Crabulon with the giant half crab half-robot on stage and crab dancing throughout the audience, or the huge crowd doing a synchronized robot dance to Robototron, their set was a lot of fun and a great way to start the Saturday, Decapitated‘s technical death metal bought the circle pit insanity, being in great form throughout, especially closing with fan favourite Spheres of Madness. Blood Red Throne on the other hand were less potent in the Sophie Lancaster tent, their death metal being more straight forward rather than technical, but despite being underwhelming they still got a great pit going.

Lacuna Coil were coming on the back of the terrible new album Broken Crown Halo, which is completely at odds with how good a live act they are. With Andrea jumping around to incite the crowd, and Cristina having a great live voice they clearly love what they do. But lending a great performance to bad songs such as Zombies and Die and Rise doesn’t make them any less bad, taking some of the shine from their set. But when they play classics such as Heaven’s a Lie, Our Truth and set highlight Fragments of Faith they’re a really enjoyable live act. Emperor brought the night side eclipse to Bloodstock, and though having seen them at both Hellfest and Wacken already on the same tour, this was by far their best performance. Actually playing the album In the Nightside Eclipse at night added to the magical atmosphere of the music, and at Catton Hall they had the headliner status, and more importantly the fantastic crowd they deserved. An emotionally charged performance to a packed out audience hanging off their every note, you’d be hard pressed to choose a better band at the festival. The sing along chorus of Inno A Satana was spine chilling, and the circle pit to I Am the Black Wizards was intense. When the album came to an end they came back to play demo tracks of Ancient Queen and Wrath of the Tyrant as well as a spellbinding performance of the Bathory classic A Fine Day to Die. As this round of Emperor reunion shows came to an end they gave it to all. Long live the Emperor and may there be more shows in the future – they’re too important to band to leave us forever on such a high. 

A torrential downpour in the night and for most of Sunday left Catton Hall a muddy wasteland and a decent sized crowd gathered in the new blood stage to watch King Goat play a progressive brand of stoner metal. Convincing atmospheric post-metal flourishes made their music somewhat interesting, even if the whole package was a little average, Brutal death metal band Aborted came on the band of their convincing new album The Necrotic Manifesto, and even in the rain and mud they still got the moshpits going. They’re unrelentingly heavy with non stop blastbeats and pounding riffs making for a punishing sound, while vocalist Sven’s growl and demeanour bristled with fierce aggression. Guitarist Mendel’s axe prowess was scarily good, with those leads being unmatched, playing some of the best solos of the whole festival in a great set. 

Revamp came next, and the solo project of current Nightwish and ex-After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen brought the sun to Bloodstock with them. Last year’s album Wild Card was the symphonic metal album of the year, and though Floor’s already proven what a great vocalist she is operatically and powerfully with After Forever and Nightwish, with Revamp she added another dimension to her diverse vocal style with some sick death growls, and pulled them off fantastically throughout the set. Being one of the very best female vocalists in music her voice here was nothing short of spectacular and easily the best of the festival, despite her microphone having problems at one point. With great songs such as Head up High, Wild Card and Neurasthenia her band was also on great form with both guitarists being killer, and the talent of Dark Fortress drummer Matthias Landes being one of the best in the business. With Floor’s stage presence being great as her voice and getting the crowd involved they were definitely one of the best bands of the festival. 

Obituary brought some old school Floridian death metal to Bloodstock to make a change from the more technically minded modern DM on the bill, and played an awesome set of slow, punishingly heavy death metal which blew me away. John Tardy’s vocals are vicious, and Slowly We Rot is as brilliant now as it was when it came out in 1989. EnkElination’s first show since their album release at the Underworld two weeks before was on the tiny Jagermeister stage. A really energetic set, Elina’s vocals were beautiful and Shadow’s melodic guitar playing was top notch. They had some issues with their backing track, but if anything it made it a little better, sounding more natural. Insane is a fantastic song, and one of the festival’s best with that infectiously headbangable rhythm and Elina’s beautiful voice, and Shadow doming off the stage to play as close to the audience as possible. Improved from their Underworld show they were one of the festival’s surprise hits.

Amon Amarth seemed to have the biggest following and most insane crowd of the festival. With a great stage setup including smoke breathing dragons which the two guitarists climbed all over they played a great setlist mixing newer songs such as deceiver of the gods and Father of the Wolf alongside classics such as Guardians of Asgaard and Cry of the Blackbirds. The crowd went nuts, with the floor still slippery from the rain the front was one huge muddy moshpit with an insane amount of crowd surfers, being at the front amongst that was an experience in itself. Johan Hegg was the star of the show with some of the best growls in metal and getting the crowd chanting along. He seemed blown away by the crowd’s response, calling them “True Vikings”. Set closer Pursuit of Vikings had a large section of the crowd sit down and make a human rowing boat, making the best of the set’s highlight. With such a great performance and crazy crowd reaction their set was phenomenal.

It was up to Megadeth to close the show and after the craziness of Amon Amarth the crowd was still up for it, if comparatively muted. Much like at Wacken the week before they played a great set to an appreciative crowd and rattled through classics such as the opener Hangar 18, the highlight Sweating Bullets and Trust. Dave’s snarl was in good form, but with a muddier sound and less sense of occasion they didn’t quite reach the heights of that great Wacken show. But they still did a good job and added A Toute Le Monde to the setlist for a singalong as well as playing a great cover of Thin Lizzy’s Cold Sweat. Dave even showed his softer side by inviting a small child in the audience onto the stage and giving him a pick. Funny segments of video between songs from films which referenced the band added a sense of humour and when they’d finished playing the lost song Holy Wars it had been an entertaining set to end a great festival.

With a lot of fantastic bands throughout the weekend it was a phenomenal festival, with the highlight’s being Emperor, Revamp, Primordial and EnkElination, but so many others impressed as well. As a small festival there’s a great community atmosphere and throughout the music, the grounds and the campsite the people and the festival were simply killer. Recommended for all British metal fans – it’s the best in the country. 

Listen to our playlist of the best of the festival here

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One thought on “Bloodstock Open Air 2014 review

  1. Pingback: Primordial, Winterfylleth, Portrait and Malthusian at Islington Academy, 07/02/2015 | swirls of noise

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