Bloodstock Festival has become an annual pilgrimage for me, having not missed one since 2008. Unquestionably the best metal event of the year in this country, 2014's edition of the festival was brilliant as always. Boasting Emperor, Megadeth and Down as headliners, the festival continues to grow year on year attracting many bigger bands, but without losing sight of the unsigned and up and coming groups, which for me is part of what sets it apart from the bigger and noticeably soulless Download and Sonisphere.
For the 7th year in a row, I made my way to the festival site by train, then by cab rather than the usual shuttle bus, and arrived in the glorious sunshine on the Thursday, looking forward in particular to Monument and Jaldaboath that evening on the Sophie Stage, before the festival kicked off in full on the Friday. Alas, I didn't make it to the Sophie Stage at all that evening. Who knew that starting drinking with a breakfast can of Magners and drinking throughout the day with no food until it was already too late could make you ill? My evening ended with regurgitated ravioli being spewed over the majority of the left hand side of the Midgard campsite as you enter from the arena. I'll catch Monument and Jaldaboath somewhere, sometime though.
So Bloodstock musically really started for me on the Friday. I had intended to see Bloodshot Dawn open the main stage, but was a little late due to a hangover from the aforementioned ravioli spewing, but also was caught up walking through the arena by the sound of Gurt, who were playing the Sophie Lancaster tent at the same time. Their doomy/sludgy sound isn't something I'm overly familiar with so forgive my lack of any real knowledgable input here, but Gurt were a great discovery, check them out.
Entombed A.D (not Entombed) took to the main stage next, so called due to a dispute over who owns the band name, the same thing we saw with Gorgoroth a while back. Unfortunately I'm rather in the minority when it comes to Entombed, I prefer the later stuff to your Wolverine Blues or Left Hand Path, but for the majority I'm sure it went down as a really good, old school Entombed set. I'll have to save my enthusiasm for a later tour when they play the less popular new stuff.
Ireland's Primordial are up next, and they're one that myself and a lot of people I know were really looking forward to. The last time they played this festival, front man Nemtheanga overdid it and damaged his voice so badly that he couldn't continue the performance. This time, his voice is noticeably less visceral, but no less impressive. Primordial smash through pretty much everything you could hope for from them, the only slight disappointment for me was the lack of Gallows Hymn, which is by far my favourite song they have done. Still, good job, Primordial, good to see you guys back here again after so long.
A need for lunch and a total cock up in timekeeping meant that I missed the seriously impressive De Profundis, who have just supported Demonic Resurrection on their UK tour. I caught De Profundis at Out of the Ashes festival in 2013 and was seriously impressed by them, they're certainly a band to see if you get the chance.
Triptykon are pretty much the natural progression of Celtic Frost after they disbanded in unpleasant circumstances after the absolutely incredible Monotheist album. Slow and crushingly heavy, Tom Fischer's ensemble effortlessly create an incredible stage presence without actually really doing that much. Maybe it's the nature of the music, maybe it's the incredible respect that I and so many others have for Tom, but the fact that he is a genuine legend in our music almost doesn't register, such is the humble nature of the man. A real personal hero of mine, it's good to see him finally crack a smile to break his usual sullen appearance.
Once Triptykon finish crushing the main stage, it's time to check out England's very own black metal monolith – Winterfylleth. Unfortunately, the heavens open and the Sophie Stage tent is absolutely packed out, there's no way I could have got in without being packed in like a sardine. Disappointing not to be able to catch them this time, but they are playing in London with Ancient Ascendant and Ethereal very soon, so all is not lost!
The rain keeps coming meaning that I take refuge in the tent until it's time for Dimmu Borgir to take the stage. Anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely love this band, and anyone who was there will know that the sound team horrible let us down. When they finally did get the sound sorted out, they were fantastic, but it was so disappointing to see them unable to create their full symphonic black metal majesty because of the poor sound for the first half of their set.
Phil Anselmo's Down then take to the main stage, but they aren't my thing, so it's back to the Sophie tent to see Rotting Christ. One of those bands that I've always heard of but never listened to, Rotting Christ are impressive in their stage presence and in musically, and the tent is well pleased by the set as a whole. A good end to the night.
On Saturday morning, a massive crowd is assembled for the mighty, mighty Evil Scarecrow. Bloodstock loves these guys, they are absolutely bloody ridiculous, and at the same time are an excellent band, and they've always gone down well here over the years. The crowd for them opening the main stage on Saturday morning is probably bigger than the crowd for Dimmu Borgir the night before, and everyone gets involved in a mass scuttling during Crabulon, drawing their own perfect robot square in Robototron, marching in whatever song it is that goes “I'm looking for war, have you seen her?” and, my highlight, improvised party poppers by throwing grass into the air. They've just achieved their goal in a kickstarter for their second album, which I'm sure will be equally silly. Evil Scarecrow are just one of those bands you HAVE to see at least once. Unless you don't like fun of course.
The searing heat unfortunately meant that I didn't catch all of Decapitated's set, although opinion was pretty much unanimous that they played an absolute blinder of a show. Again, I'm not too familiar with their music, but you know when you see a band at a festival and you know you have to check them out when you get home? Yeah, they're one of them. Absolutely brilliant.
Lacuna Coil are a strange one for me, not a band I would have thought I would have liked, but having had a Bloodstock playlist going for the past couple of days before the festival, I realised that actually, they're pretty good. Live, they really know what they're doing. They even played Our Truth, which is the only song I know about them, apologies to the bloke in front of me for having to put up with my singing along.
Children of Bodom then produced what was for me one of the best shows of the weekend. A real mixed bag going through pretty much every album (though nothing from Blooddrunk if I recall correctly), Bodom have really sorted their shit out. The last couple of times I've seen them they've been pissed on stage, forgetting how the songs are meant to go, Alexi blaming Janne for cock-ups etc. But this time, Bodom are absolutely incredible. Alexi proves just how good a guitarist and frontman he really is, as Bodom power through Lake Bodom, Angels Don't Kill and Hate Me. I forget the exact setlist because honestly, I was going a little bit over the top with the old headbanging/air guitar. But Christ, Children of Bodom, thank you for that. I still love you.
You know how earlier I said about you have to see Evil Scarecrow unless you don't like fun? Well Jeff from Carcass doesn't seem to like fun. “The trouble with festivals is you have to wait for all the shit bands to finish before you can play” he says. That's not a fun thing to say, that's a bit of a knobby thing to say really. Anyway, Carcass are okay, they cover a fair amount of their old grindy stuff, but for me, they get a bit boring after a while. Sorry.
Emperor are headlining tonight with the 20th anniversary of the In The Nightside Eclipse album show. “We are now complete again” says Ihsahn, the vocalist, referring to the band being re-joined by their infamous drummer Faust, who has been released from prison after serving his time for the murder of a gay man in Norway in the 90s. It's a little uneasy watching Emperor, and the crowd's reaction seems decidedly mixed towards the return of Faust. Still, overall Emperor go down a storm with the Bloodstock crowd and even throw in a Bathory cover for good measure.
Sunday starts with an absolute deluge falling on our heads. Emerging from a leaky, wet tent, I eventually managed to get into the Sophie Stage for the splendid Haerken. Their brand of medieval themed thrashy death metal has the tent absolutely heaving, and a full scale inflatable war breaks out after the band throw out dozens of inflatable maces and swords, which kept rearing their heads for the rest of the weekends. It was Haerken's last show with their current drummer, I did speak to the singer (apologies, I can't for the life of me remember his name) and he handed me some flyers to give out about them seeking a drummer. If I handed one to you, please do get in touch with them, they're an absolutely brilliant band. If I didn't hand you one, find them on Facebook and give them a shout. They're based in the midlands though so do keep that in mind. Anyway, I'm babbling. Haerken were fantastic as always.
Morgue Orgy are a band I've managed to see a few times. At Beermageddon last year, they gave me a copy of their album “Murder's Most Foul” on the condition that I elbow dropped another CD, and at Out of the Ashes this year, they gave my brother an award for having the most fun during their set. This time, my brother took frankfurters into the stage with him and they eventually ended up on stage with the band, before being hurled into the audience again. Morgue Orgy are tremendous fun, but again, like Evil Scarecrow, they don't use fun to compensate for a lack in quality, they are fun and at the same time they are absolutely brilliant. The stage was again full for their set because of the stormy weather outside, but surely they must have won plenty of people over who came in to avoid the weather. Absolutely brilliant band, and certainly one of the most fun bands I've ever seen. With Evil Scarecrow, people know they're silly, they're expected to be silly. With Morgue Orgy they're not expected to be silly really, unless you've seen them before. A truly excellent band and I hope they can be given a main stage slot in the future.
Next, and still on the same stage, are Voices. I liked Akercocke as much as the next man, but it does seem like Voices are only on the bill because of that connection. Maybe I'm missing something with their brand of blackened death metal, but there's no stage presence, and nothing particularly interesting in the music for me. I'm sure there are plenty of people who will disagree and that's absolutely fair enough. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I don't like to mention bands that I don't enjoy. Any band that isn't to my taste doesn't deserve to be badmouthed by me because I know full well that others will like them.
Obituary are next on the main stage, but the wind really doesn't do them any favours. Of course there's nothing anyone can really do to combat the weather, and Obituary are a fantastic band, but the poor sound meant that I went to the New Blood stage for the first time, to catch one of the bands I'm most looking forward to seeing – Scordatura.
OH MY GOOD GOD SCORDATURA. You know when you see a band for the first time and they just do everything right? These Scots are a band I've been aware of for a long while, they seem to play with Cancerous Womb a fair bit, that's certainly how I first became aware of them anyway. With a little help on the bass from Unfathomable Ruination, Scordatura absolutely smash the living shit out of the New Blood Stage. With a huge amount of people coming in from the main stage, the vocalist calls everyone bastards for having had the chance to see Obituary. Honestly without even the slightest hint of exaggeration, I was more impressed with Scordatura at Bloodstock than I was with Obituary at the Garage in London when they played a couple of years ago. Seriously, if you get the chance, go and see Scordatura. Also, they have their album and t shirts for sale on their bigcartel for £5 each. Go and buy their stuff, but leave one of each for me, I can't order mine until payday. Absolutely my band of the weekend.
Back to the main stage having had my mind blown by Scordatura for Saxon. I wouldn't say I'm a massive Saxon fan by any stretch of the imagination, but they're decent enough and their setlist is solid enough to keep me interested for the duration. Dave Mustaine even makes an appearance on Demin and Leather, after Saxon have powered their way through 747 (Strangers in the Night), Wheels of Steel and And the Bands Played on, but I can't recall any of their other tracks that they played. They were decent enough, but I was still getting myself together after the onslaught I'd just received on the New Blood Stage.
After that, it's Amon Amarth, who are the headliners for me as I'm not a fan of Megadeth or Satan. Not a bad way to sign off for the weekend though as they come out with giant dragon heads shooting smoke out of their mouths and more fireworks than you can shake a Mjollnir at. A good mix of old and new tracks from the Vikings, with tracks from Deceiver of the Gods, the Fate of Norns, With Odin On Our Side and a bunch of others. There's no Without Fear in the setlist which is a little disappointing, and I can not wait for the day I see them play Under The Northern Star live. Johann is his usual jolly massive Viking guy self and visibly enjoys every minute of the show. A great way to sign off from Bloodstock 2014.
Weirdly, no announcement of next years headliner as we've become accustomed to over the past few years, but we're told that an announcement is coming soon! My money is firmly on Judas Priest.
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