Words by James Halstead & Nicholas Holmes, photos by Tess Donohoe.
It’s reached the waning end of Summer in the UK once again so that means one very important thing to the UK metal community – it’s time for the Bloodstock Open Air Festival. The 2014 instalment of BOA had one of the most impressive and diverse line-ups in the festivals history and Rock Sins was on the ground to cover the entire weekend’s action. Let’s launch straight in with the happenings of the first full day, the Friday….
Bloodshot Dawn (8) got Bloodstock 2014 stage off to a pummelling start getting the circle pits moving early. Certainly one of the bigger successes of Bloodstock’s Metal to the Masses scheme what they lack in the spit and polished live presentation they make up for with a extremely tight performance.
Next up, on New Blood No Sin Evades His Gaze (7) manage to draw a decent amount of people despite only having really emerged and Entombed AD playing on the mainstage at the same time. A tight and accomplished live act on only their sixth gig it’s exciting to think of how good No Sin are going to be in a few years given time to grow as a unit and grow their fanbase.
Ireland’s Primordial (9) evoke the spirit of legendary band Bathory and Game of Thrones with a short but epic set. After peddling their combination of historic tales and prog-influenced metal for almost 30 years they were welcomed as returning heroes by a large and enthusiastic crowd, which is impressive as it was barely even lunchtime. After a brooding classical intro “No Grave Is Deep Enough” kicked in with painted and hooded frontman Nemtheanga (aka a dude called Alan who writes for Zero Tolerance magazine) stalking the stage. He saluted the long-time fans and dedicated “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” to his band and loyal followers. Stirring stuff.
On the Sophie Stage Aghast (8) blast through the kind of relentlessly noisy set anyone who’s seen them live in the last few years would expect. Except this time there are a few thousand more people than usual; a tribute to Bloodstock’s excellent efforts to promote unsigned UK metal talent. Aghast fully play up to the increased audience singer James dedicating songs to former students in the front row and even get the entire tent doing the ‘blast beat fingers.’
Flotsam and Jetsam (5) will always be the band that ‘Jason Newsted used to be in’ in a way that someone like Suicidal Tendencies aren’t the band that ‘Robert Trujillo used to be in’ unfortunately though it really is the most interesting thing about them. The thrash veterans churn out a tired half hour of songs that weren’t particularly good when they came out thirty years ago.
Prong’s leader is one helluva dude. Tommy Victor started out doing sound at iconic New York venue CBGBs before he formed his own band. Over the years he has played with/put up with Glenn Danzig and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen as well as being cited as an influence by Jonathan Davis and Trent Reznor. Prong are fucking awesome. They played an energetic set heavy on riffs and angrily spat lyrics. “Revenge Best Served Cold” has to be one of the best “fuck you!!!” songs ever. Wrestling fans might recognise anthem “Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck” plus the disco-like rhythm of “Whose Fist Is This Anyway?” had the crowd grooving and moshing in the sunshine. Fucking brilliant 10/10.
Prong’s Tommy Victor during their triumphant set.
One good Tom deserves another and Thomas Fischer, formerly known as Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost, is also a revered elder statesman of the metal world. Triptykon (9) changed the mood sound-wise with a heavy dose of Scandinavian darkness. It was kind of odd watching a black-clad dude in a woolly hat growling about “Black snooowwww!!!” in glorious summer weather. But it was cool, not cold. He broke the gloom with a joke that he had seen the “Messiah”, presumably the rather convincing “Buddy Christ” guy wandering the festival. “I met him today!” laughed the openly Satanic singer before roaring his way through the Hellhammer classic.
Triptykon’s Thomas Fischer / Tom G. Warrior doing what he does best.
Just as Triptykon departed the weather gods took a massive, deluging piss all over Catton Hall, much to the advantage of New Blood Stage act Dog Tired (8). The Edinburgh four-piece ended up playing to a packed crowd of rain and booze-sodden types impressing with heavy crunchy grooves and Cookie Monster roars. The party was most definitely indoors for a while and the band must have won many new admirers as a result.
The tent playing host to new talent then began to empty as Angerman (6), all the way from Norway, took the stage. The rain had stopped. Sadly more folks left as the band started up with a mellow swirly intro and clean, decent vocals. Singer Tommy seemed a bit awkward and yet more people left. The second track was more animated and the influence of Alice In Chains and Layne Staley was evident. It was a competent but uninspiring set. Unfortunate timing as the weather improved meant it being a bit of damp squib.
Hatebreed (8) following up from Triptykon on the Ronnie James Dio stage certainly stand out like a sore thumb on today’s lineup but this doesn’t stop them from braving the torrential downpour that opens their set and kicking out non-stop metallic hardcore anthems. It feels a little bit sluggish for the first fifteen minutes; probably more due to the rain dampening attitudes but soon picks up largely through Jamie Jasta’s relentless enthusiasm and the near-constant barrage of riffs. By the end the atmosphere was kicked into high gear with shout-a-longs including ‘As Diehard As They Come” and bass-driven closer “Destroy Everything”.
Like so many bands today it really isn’t Dimmu Borgir’s (5) day. A catalogue of technical errors leads to the band starting pretty much when they were meant to leave the stage and, beyond that, when they actual get going in earnest they never feel like more than a one-dimsensional cardboard cutout of a band. Tonight is nothing more than going through the motions and throwing extravagant poses to hide the utter dearth of depth.
Shagrath during Dimmu Borgir’s issue plagued set.
Down (8) are a fine choice to close out the Friday night of Bloodstock 2014. Phil Anselmo is one of the most iconic frontmen in metal and he proves it and then some tonight, at one point even picking up photographers from the pit and placing them on-stage with the band. There is absolutely zero production about Down’s stage show it’s just a bunch of dudes with beards jamming out the hits opening with an extended jam which leads into ‘Eyes of the South.’ Of course, as well as being fantastic performers Down also have a huge catalogue of hits: ‘Lifer,’ ‘Stone the Crow,’ ‘Bury Me In Smoke’ and a hugely atmospheric ‘Conjure’ being the obvious highlights.
Mr Philip H Anselmo conducting the masses.
So Down bring the first day of Bloodstock Open Air 2014 to a thoroughly enjoyable close with beer glasses hoisted aloft and the smell of…shall we say…familiar substances in the air. Stay tuned for the second instalment of our Bloodstock 2014 coverage with the Saturday including Emperor and their full supporting cast.