After a well deserved, senses saving nights sleep and full English breakfast, we lead our merry way to Bloodstock Open Air Festival for more metal. Cambion, first band of the day on the Ronnie James Dio stage had been highly recommended to me and they did not disappoint. Fronted by Elliott Alderman-Broom, they tore into their brand of technical/progressive metal with the Destruction like ferocity of ‘Virus Part Three’ which got the early morning headbangers moving with its chugging finish. Their slow grooves flowed through the heavily epic ‘Look For The Signs’ backed by a clean and growled lead vocal. ‘Midas’ featured some Opeth tinged heavy prog with intense guitar flourishes. Any sleep deprivation was blown away by the time changes and churning riffs during ‘The Mechanics Of Extinction’ and their all too brief set ended with the captivating virtuosity of ‘Virus Part Four’ and the brutal grooves and the lighter side of early Emperor during ‘Virus Part Five’.
Leicester based stoner rockers Mage were the second band of the day to grace the Sophie Lancaster stage and raised up a storm. I got there just as they were charging through second song ‘Old Bones’ like the faster side of Motorhead. ‘Cosmic Cruiser’ fizzed along on a Blue Cheer like buzz as ‘Nowhere To Nothing’ got the crowd moving with a heavy boogie that saw the song end on slow grinding bass and guitar feedback. ‘Dark Matter’ upped the ante with some full on metal and Prong like soloing from guitarist Woody. An intro of “This is our drinking song” came prior to set closer ‘One For The Road’, a full on stomper that lumbered to a close on crushing bass lines and wah wah guitar solos.
A mad dash once more to the Ronnie James Dio stage saw one of the heaviest sets of the day from death metallers Vallenfyre. Lead vocalist Gregor Mackintosh was doing double duties today as he also played guitar for Paradise Lost only four hours later on the same stage. Set opener ‘Scabs’ oozed out of the p.a system with an Entombed like malevolence as if to try and eclipse the sun that was beating down on them. “We are here to bring the filth to this festival,” from Gregor introduced the all consuming bleak riffs and double bass drum pounding that was ‘Odious Bliss’. Another super human drum assault from Wallteri Vayrynen pushed the crushing grind of ‘Cathedrals Of Dread’ over the edge. Asking for the fastest circle pit, Gregor got his wish during the warp speed ‘Instinct Slaughter’. Their set ended with the double horror whammy of the seismic ‘Splinters’ and ‘Desecration’ where the drums were that powerful, they were almost pushing us back. Gregor left us with “We are Vallenfyre and we don’t give a fuck. Good afternoon!”
Edinburgh based rockers Ramage Inc. gave my first taste of the day to the New Blood stage who certainly like to write long songs, just about squeezing four into their half hour set. Opener ‘Transparency’ eased its way in before morphing into power chord heavy bluster. ‘Guardian’, an intense heavy ballad featured a shredding solo and showstopping lead vocal from Bryan Ramage. ‘So Far Away’ was an Alice In Chains like moody opus, chock full of crashing chords and a haunting vocal. ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ riffed full on like the heavier side of the Wildhearts, finishing their set on a high.
The majestic Greek quartet Rotting Christ strode onto the Ronnie James Dio stage looking like a Greek incarnation of Manowar with Sakis Tolis on rhythm guitar, George Emmanuel on lead guitar and Vaggelis Karzis on bass guitar lining up side by side providing vocals throughout. Sakis and his brother Themis on drums formed the band in 1987 and have remained to the present day. Set opener ‘Ze Nigmar’ was a slow, pulverizing, rib rattling number which sounded like the Greek gods were pounding it out. The Earth’s axis must have surely shifted when the one hundred miles per hour raging ‘Kata Ton Demona Eautou’ burst forth. Pits opened up for the double bass drum dominated orchestral death metal of ‘Elthe Kyrie’. The epic ‘Apage Satana’ was a drum heavy triple spoken word vocal followed by a foot to the floor delivery to ‘The Sign Of Evil Existence’ which saw the arrival of a sea of crowd surfers. Their overwhelming set ended with the marching beat rhythms and piercing lead guitar lines in ‘Noctis Era’.
The mosh pits were now given a chance to prove their endurance as the legendary Fear Factory stepped up to play their ground breaking second studio album Demanufacture in its
entirety. A stone cold classic to say the least when it was released in 1995, it set the bar high for industrial metal. Lead vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist Dino Cazares remain from the original line up. Burton still roars like a man possessed but seemed to struggle on some of the cleaner vocals whereas Dino’s riffing was nothing short of razor sharp. The album was more famous for ‘Self Bias Resistor’ and ‘Replica’, the two singles taken from it but it was the final two tracks ‘Pisschrist’ and ‘A Therapy For Pain’ that I was looking forward to and they were my highlights from the set.
No rest for the wicked so it was another visit to the New Blood stage to catch the self titled “darkened melodious metal’ of Bristol based Mordrake. Stage clashes meant I missed their opener but fronted by James “Drakkar” Mardon they were just hitting their stride in ‘Reaper’s Puppet’, clattering out of the p.a system like a raucous early Cradle Of Filth. The drum work of Jake “Sparrow” Squire was unbelievable! ‘Chambers’ was so heavy it could have been the warning of the apocalypse, total death metal. ‘The Dark Behind The Shadows’ gave us chance to take a breather as its Iron Maiden like guitar lines were backed by a much more evil vocal than Bruce’s and their all too brief set closed with ‘Bloodstained Winter’, rumbling along in the vein of early Opeth.
I stayed put as following band Regulus had also been recommended to me. The Sheffield based quartet dished out thirty minutes of bluesy classic rock to a very appreciative crowd. ‘Blunderbuss’ had a heavy blues vibe with dizzying Lizzy like twin guitar melodies flowing throughout. The barroom boogie rhythms of ‘Dominion’ flowed into the Molly Hatchet like stomper that was ‘Last Chance To Die Young’, air guitar heaven! The heavy dynamics, twin guitar blues jam and full heads down finish to final number ‘Regulus’ had a near full tent shouting for more.
A mad dash to the Jagermeister stage saw my second gig from Bury/Manchester based Vice in 2 months and both were off the scale. Set clashes once again meant me missing an opening number so they had just started the heads down mid paced thrash of ‘Bored Of The Horde’, twin lead workouts from Tom Atkinson and Jack Trelawny gave the Dragonforce boys some serious competition. There were that many in and around the stage area you could hardly see the band apart from the odd nodding head. New song ‘Sloth’ had a fizzing intro riff that eased into more melodic passages as a riff heavy finish got bodies moving in front of the stage. ‘Greed’ was pure Judas Priest carnage with some serious pounding from drummer Connor Summers and thundering bass lines from Simon Robertshaw to push the needle into the red. Set closer ‘Web Of Iniquity’ was surprisingly even faster as a lengthy speed metal intro backed by Maiden like choruses led into a buzzsaw riffing midsection with warp speed twin soloing.
French metallers Gojira came close to being my band of the weekend after their overwhelming set on the Ronnie James Dio stage, giving headliners Mastodon a very hard act to follow. The quietly spoken frontman Joe Duplantier transforms into a force to be reckoned with when onstage, barking out his environmentally themed lyrics. Set opener ‘Toxic Garbage Island’ had no let up in brutality with its hammer blow drum patterns from Joe’s brother Mario and staccato riffing. Pits broke out immediately. ‘The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe’ lived up to its title on a crushing rollercoaster ride of churning grooves. There was no let up as the claustrophobic pummeling of ‘Silveria’ preceded the technical dexterity of ‘Stranded’ backed by enough front of stage pyro to heat up the burgers at the back of the arena. Set closer ‘Oroborus’ saw Joe singing as though he could hardly contain his anger, a very passionate performer of his beliefs. Swathes of guitar over a cavalcade of drums made this my highlight. Thankfully, they were allowed an encore and finished off what was left of our hearing with the almost Rammstein like industrial tones in ‘Vacuity’ as it progressed into an almost death metal finish.
I’ve not seen Mastodon for some years now and both times were at a small venue so I wondered how their complex songs would translate onto a big festival stage. My fears were quelled as opener ‘Tread Lightly’ burst forth in a hypnotic Killing Joke like vibe from latest album Once More Around The Sun, followed by the pedal to the metal headbanger ‘Feast Your Eyes’ from the same album. A brave move but it paid off judging by the reception they received. Two things stood out immediately, the trippy images projected onto the back of the stage and guitarist Brent Hind’s white fringed Ozzy Osborne like jacket. ‘Blasteroid’ was a short, sharp burst of angst. My first big hitter of the set was ‘Iron Tusk’ from Leviathan. The sludgy, rolling riffs from Brent and Bill Kelliher were backed by the snapping snare work from Brann Dailor. This was followed by a gnarly run through of ‘Mother Puncher’, matched in intensity by the almost punk like ferocity of the full throttle ‘Aqua Dementia’. A pairing of ‘Blood Mountain’ tracks ‘The Wolf Is Loose’, another frenetic number driven by some over the top drumming and the full on doom of ‘Crystal Mountain’. An intense headlining set ended with the sheer face melting complexity of ‘Megalodon’ and the guitar heavy ‘Blood And Thunder’.
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