So it’s Saturday at Bloodstock, and another day of perfect sunny festival weather, and an amazing line up ahead.
Vallenfyre (11/13) hit the Dio stage, led by Gregor Mackintosh of Paradise Lost. Gregor rather spookily says to the Bloodstock audience ““Hello day people....I myself have never been out in the day… it sucks”. It’s a perfect introduction to the band’s full on death metal set. Cathedrals of Dread is a complete physical onslaught, with a bass thump seeming to come directly out of the ground, to hit everyone hard in the chest. Magnificent stuff!
What can one say about the return to the live stage after five years, of the legendary Akercocke (13/13). Simply ...we were blessed! The crowd movingly chanted to the group “Welcome back“. The new material previewed sounds fresh and dynamic, and symbolic of a band still on a creative journey with their music.
Jason Mendonca asks the audience “Are you ready Bloodstock”, and the answer back from the crowd is an awesome circle pit!
Jason introduces The Dark Inside with “We want to play something we have never wheeled out before”. It’s a song that sums up all that is great about this band, with its sublime mix of death and black metal, prog and awesome time changes. When the melodic middle section rings out with Jason’s clean vocals, it just engulfs the audience in a transcendent metal moment. And its also a song that demonstrates what a brilliant drummer David Gray is, with his lyrical playing around the kit. Do not miss Akercocke on their forthcoming UK tour. You have been told!
Vodun (12/13) in the Sophie tent were a complete revelation. A powerful heavy psychedelic sound, with the most incredible soulful vocals from Oya.
The final number Bondeye had the most stunning instrumental section, with melodic heavy riffing, and a polyrhythmic drum sound. It filled every corner of the Sophie tent. The audience were blown away and broke into spontaneous applause. Add to this instrumental invention, Oya’s vocals elegantly floating over the top of the music to tug at your emotions, and you have something very special indeed.
Fear Factory (12/13) rarely disappoint live, and they really hit the mark at Bloodstock. Dino Cazares guitar work in particular sounds completely massive, and the band sound dynamic and inspired. Dino announces Replica with “You know what is coming next!”. The intense pits and crowd surfing, and dancing in the crowd that follow, show what industrial metal at its best can leave you feeling. The chorus of “I don’t want to live that way” is sung back to the band with real meaning. A great set!
Paradise Lost (10/13) follow on, with their very full gothic like doom/death metal sound, and anthemic songs. Nick Holmes vocals move effortlessly from clean to growled vocals, and the band sound in fine form. Nick in shades remarks on the sunshine bearing down on the stage, and like Behemoth on Friday, full on sunshine is not the ideal setting for their music.
...and then Gojira (13/13) hit us! They are without doubt, playing the best they have ever played live. The sheer controlled brutality and precision of their sound is simply astonishing. The quality of the material from the new album Magma, played during their set, is really strong. Stranded has that death metal marching sound Cannibal Corpse have perfected, but with the added eeriness that Gojira add, through a screeching guitar motif. Silvera has a fantastic combination of pummelling drums and bass and melodic guitar riffs. The crowd completely love the set, and walk away with dazed looks.
Shining (9/13) with their unique black jazz sound, played to a sizeable crowd in the Sophie tent, even though for the first 15 minutes they were in competition with Gojira. Set closer The Madness and the Damage Done really swings, and the band attack it full on.They receive a great reception, and band leader Jorgen Munkeby smiling, jumps down into the photo pit, and starts shaking hands. The sound mix perhaps didn’t do them full justice on this occasion, and their expansive music probably gains from being playing on a bigger stage, as they did in 2014 at Bloodstock.
Mastodon (11/13) on the Saturday showed they were worthy Bloodstock headliners. They create a fantastic grove, particularly with Brann Dailor's mesmerising drumming. The harmony vocals, great solo guitar flurries, and prog time signatures, create a unique form of heavy metal, that is both epic and very alluring.
When the band hit their stride in unison, there is an incredible power in their playing. No more so than on Ember City with its great chorus line of ”What do I say to you” and counterpoint guitar solos. Nice to see some crowd surfers too…Mastodon’s music demands moving as well as listening.
Too soon we are at Sunday, and the final day of the festival.
Desert Storm (10/13) open up on the Sophie stage, at the unearthly hour (for a festival) of 11am. Their song Convulsion with its precision musicianship and passionate driving sludge metal, sounds like a heavy metal King Crimson has been unleashed at Bloodstock. They also have a great vocalist, who is as good as to be a fifth instrument in the band..
Unearth (11/13) from Boston, USA, are a classic metalcore band with a touch of heaviness. They must be just about the best exponents of the genre besides Killswitch…and their breakdowns are amazing. It was their first time at Bloodstock, and they were simply a joy to see. Their classic Zombie Autopilot with twin guitar riffs and bags of melody, put a smile on everyone’s face.
Witchsorrow (12/13) create the most incredible doom sound, with a fabulous booming bass courtesy of Emily Witch. The sound might possibly come from the bowels of hell, and it certainly dominates the air in the Sophie tent. The first song seemed to go on for 15 minutes, which is incredibly ambitious for a festival, but it just sounded fabulous. There is great guitar soloing and vocals from Necroskull, and then a pacy change of gear by the band without missing a beat, with Emily and Necroskull facing and playing off each other. Just brilliant!
They are black metal legends, and Satyricon’s (11/13) appearance at Bloodstock, celebrated the 20 anniversary of the album Nemesis Divina. Satyr walks onto to a sea of devils horns, and the band launch intoThe Dawn of a New Age. Frost’s blast beats just fire out from the stage. A beautiful keyboards interlude is followed by an epic riff and choral voices, and more of Frost’s massive blast beats. After that beginning, Satyricon could do no wrong.
At metal festivals, there is often a moment, where one of the bands throws caution to the wind, risks everything, and just goes for it. Such a moment was Anthrax (13/13) walking on to the Dio stage. It was as if the crowd sensed something too, as they clapped along to the introductory music. The band were on the stage barely seconds before they thundered into the thrash magic of You Gotta Believe. The song then transforms into a bass led funky work out, over which guitarist Jonathan Donais plays a superb wah-wah soaked solo. Caught in a Mosh is just monstrous, with Scott Ian driving the band with his guitar, as if they have something desperate to prove. Joey Belladonna’s vocals are stunning, and he is covering every inch of the stage. The pits look genuinely scary, this is metal at it’s best!!
Bloodstock has always been a strong supporter of symphonic metal in its line ups. This year we were lucky enough to have Pythia (12/13) playing the Sophie stage. The really attractive thing about Pythia is the way their symphonic metal is so driven, with an almost thrash quality underpinning some of their set. It’s a unique take on the genre.
The songs played live are dynamic and gripping, with new vocalist Sophie Dorman, not just bringing to the band a wonderful soaring voice, but touching emotion too. When Sophie sings the chorus line “Betray my heart with love and fire” from the song Betray My Heart, there is an incredible emotional belief in her voice.
A highlight of the set is The Highwayman from the last album Shadows of a Broken Past. It has a lovely medieval music type introduction on keyboards, which is cheered by the audience. The layering of a traditional folk type melody with striking symphonic sounds is completely irresistible, and the audience love it. A triumphant return to Bloodstock. Well done guys.
Slayer (8/13) have been through a lot over recent years, and it’s good to see them maintaining their commitment to the band, and it’s music. Unfortunately, for a headlining set, the performance seemed a little under powered, and never seemed to really catch fire. There were highlights, such as an atmospheric version of Raining Blood and a heartfelt backdrop tribute to the sadly departed Jeff Hannerman, as the band played Angel of Death.
Goatwhore (12/13) closed the festival on the Sophie stage. They provided a totally immersive death metal experience in the darkness of a packed Sophie tent. Absolute pit chaos in the audience, and pulverising on the edge music from the stage. It really doesn't get any better than this in the metal world.
A vintage Bloodstock Festival then! How will the organisers top it in 2017!
Photographs Lewis Allen with assistance from Gareth Allen