It’s 10.30am on Friday morning and there is an intoxicating air of excitement and electricity buzzing around the camp sites of this years Bloodstock festival, as the happy campers erect their tents, meet old friends and share war stories of gigs attended earlier this year.
The familiar ‘click’ sound of frosty (luke warm) cans being popped around the Ironwood campsite suggests that everyone in attendance is well and truly embracing the festivities and eager to get into the main arena to soak up as much Metal as humanly possible. With the weekends accommodation pegged down, we hoofed it over to the main stage to get stuck into the beginning of what promises to be one hell of a weekend!
Bloodshot Dawn take to the stage with a defining roar from the large crowd as they greet the masses of Metal starved punters, who proceed to lap up their tight, razor sharp slabs of new school Thrash with opener “Beckoning Oblivion”. Early morning pits open up and as the sun shines down on the throng, it’s clear that Bloodstock is well and truly underway and there is no better band to kick things off than Bloodshot Dawn. Smashing through a six song set, which includes “Vision, Illusion Aesthetic, The Quantum Apocalypse” and promising new song “Smoke and Mirrors” it’s undeniable that Bloodshot Dawn are a force to be reckoned with. Closing song “Godless” see’s the swelling main stage crowd kick up dust clouds and decorate the immediate horizon with a sea of horns and roars of approval. 4/5
Meanwhile over at the New Blood Stage a sizable crowd are gathering to check out Convincing Clearity who do a splendid task of whipping the crowd into shape with tunes like “King I Am” and the metalcore/hardcore cross over opus “Furious Storm”. A band well worth looking out for as they show tremendous potential and are not at all shy when it comes to encouraging the crowd to loose their shit! 3/5
The Sophie Lancaster stage is home to Cambion for the next half hour and the four piece tech/prog Metal band do their very best to hammer out their complex and at times furious riffs to the ever increasing crowd. Blasting through their set which features the roadblocking “Death March”, Cambion are living proof that Bloodstock offers a unique platform for new rising bands,Vocalist Elliot, thanks the crowd for their support and encouragement, as he explains that they had made their Bloodstock debut back in 2012 on the New Blood stage and have since featured in Metal Hammer and more recently have nabbed a support slot on the current Skindred tour, so keep your eyes peeled for Cambion. 4/5
Back over on the main stage a roar of approval let’s our across the picturesque English countryside as Entombed A.D. take to the stage. Opener “Pandemic Rage” sets the tone as the band quickly launch an razor sharp relentless aural attack on the senses with “I for an Eye, Revel In Flesh, Living Dead, Kill to Live, Eyemaster” and “Chief Rebel Angel”. The Swedish Death Metal legends proceed to rip Bloodstock a new one with “Left Hand Path” and the set closer “Supposed To Rot”. All the while the crowd feed off the pulsing energy and organised chaos that unfolds in the various pits that are sprinkled all over the main arena. Entombed A.D do a rather fine job of bringing gnarly, face punching slabs of filthy Death Metal to a sun drenched field in the early afternoon and leave us all reeling for more! 5/5
Something is rumbling over at the Sophie stage and as hundreds of punters squeeze into the now strange smelling tent, we are treated to the most brutal assault of day so far with Aghast. These guys don’t fuck around when it comes to throwing down their crushing sound and get straight into it with a set list of pure hyper extreme brutality. Mixing Grindcore, Thrash and Death Metal laced with blast-beats the guys bask in the glory of Bloodstock and seem to enjoy every second of their stage time. Aghast will release their new debut album “All The Rage” due out on October 1st, so go check them out now! 5/5
A huge crowd has gathered at the Ronnie James Dio stage for Primordial, who manage to translate their dark, disturbing and melancholy anthems despite the rather pleasant Summer afternoon sunshine. “No Grave Deep Enough” leads us in for the beginning of a dark and winding path through the bands set list. Vocalist Alan Averill, commands the crowd through each song like a possessed leader and does so with such ease and confidence. Primordial are no strangers to Bloodstock and seem very comfortable on the main stage as they push through a set list that comprises of gems like “As Rome Burns, Bloodied Yet Unbowed, The Coffin Ships and Empire Falls”. With a crystal clear sound and a performance that stood out as one of the best of the day, we hope to see Primordial back on the RJD Stage soon but much more higher up on the bill. 5/5
After a quick pit stop for some food and the obligatory gamble of the festival’s toilet facilities. It’s time for Krokodil over on the Sophie stage. This band have been making waves recently due to the announcement of a much coveted support slot with Mastodon on their forthcoming European tour in November. The band are all former members of other well known outfits such as Gallows, Sikth, Hexes and Cry For Silence and feature BBC Radio 1 Dj and Scuzz TV presenter Daniel Carter on guitar. Due to the lack of people in the Sophie tent it would seem that Krokodil have not really sparked any interest amongst the Bloodstock crowd. With what seems like forever for the band to take to the stage, the capacity of the tent fluctuates between the curious and the impatient coming and going. Finally the six strong members hit the stage and with a rather muddy sound it almost seems impossible to identify any melody or grasp any of the riffs.
Fortunately, the sound issues are cleaned up by the bands second song and it now becomes apparent of just what’s under the hood of Krokodil and it does not disappoint! With a now healthy crowd in the tent it’s time for the guys to smash through their remaining 20 minute set and let the music do the talking. Vocalist Simon Wright displays a range from melodic to mountain moving screams that bounce off the interior of the tent drawing in masses of punters to the now packed out Sophie stage. Krokodil are a fucking savagely good band that have the potential to tear down buildings however there is a longing to see them in a dark, sweaty club to witness their true damage potential. Catch them on the Mastodon tour with Big Business in November. 4/5
Flotsam & Jetsam hit the main stage with such vigor, that one can’t help but ask the question as to why has it taken so long for the band to make it back to European shores? Kicking things off with “Hammerhead” the entire Bloodstock crowd who are standing before these Thrash icons loose their collective shit, but none more than Mr. Simon Hall who can be seen with the biggest shit eating grin of the weekend side stage playing what looks like a very difficult air guitar! As the band proceed through a lesson in Thrash with hits “Iron Tears, Dreams Of Death, Desecrator, Escape From Within, I Live You Die” and the insanely good “No Place For Disgrace”. The band are in great form with an overall energetic performance. The only criticism was that guitarist Steve Conley’s sound seemed to be non existent and resulted in a major guitar solos missing from practically the entire set. Apart from this Flotsam & Jetsam, just destroyed Bloodstock and just being there and witnessing these Thrash icons was a unforgettable pleasure that will not be forgotten any time soon. 5/5
Having destroyed Dublin the previous night, New York’s finest Prong, take to the stage and get straight down to business with there festival friendly “bounce” along anthems. For a three piece band, Prong just blow other bands away! Opener “Eternal Heat” get’s the circle pits going with the Hardcore minded folk displaying their rather unimpressive “high kicks” and air punching. Classics such as ” Lost & Found, Rude Awakening and Carved Into Stone” go down like a well aged malt whiskey, while newer material such as “Turnover” sits along side perfectly and is translated to the enthralled crowd with such intensity that they lap it up as if it were a stone cold classic! Tommy Victor is in fine form today as he engages with the crowd at every given opportunity and works off the energy that is exchanged between his bands mates and the Bloodstock crowd.
Finishing up with “Who’s Fist Is It Anyway” and the anthem that is “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck”, Prong leave the stage to a raucous crowd of ecstatic Metal-heads who wander from the depths of the front of stage pit, delirious, semi-naked and dazed with sweaty faces and wide smiles. Job done! 5/5
As the sun gradually sets across Bloodstock 2014, we have the pleasure of witnessing the dark and doom filled compositions of Triptykon. A sombre Tom G. Warrior takes to the stage and get’s the dark sermon underway following the “Crucifixus” intro and leads into “Black Snow and “Alter Of Deceit”. As the sun finally disappears behind some very appropriate menacing looking clouds, the opening chords of “Messiah” (Hellhammer cover) generate a deafening roar from the large crowd. A final lash of the Triptykon whip sees the grim, yet brilliant opus that is, “The Prolonging” drip out of the PA like an infected, evil mantra before Celtic Frost’s “Winter” rings out across the fields of Catton Park signalling the demise of the Summer.
Back over at the Sophie Tent, Gothenburg Death Metal crew Deals Death skulk about the stage with intent on doing some damage to the sizable crowd that has gathered to see the Swedish five piece rip a new one! Deals Death hammer out their craft to all that care to listen and provide a decent enough sound and well worth checking out. 3/5
At this point in the day the most unholy of rain clouds finally bursts and as thousands of lather clad “Bloodstockians” rush to find shelter all we can do is take a moment to witness this downpour of biblical proportions!
As if the man upstairs was listening to the bitching that must have been echoing around the festival site, not five minutes before the mighty Hatebreed were due to hit the stage for their second appearance at Bloodstock, the rain stopped and like a colony of rabid fire ants the main stage area was thronged with festival folk, ready to listen to the sermon of Mr. Jasta and his fellow brothers in Hatebreed. Right from the get go, the guys just fucking destroy! With anthems such as “To The Threshold, Dead Man Breathing, Honor Never Dies” and “Everybody Bleeds Now”Bloodstock is treated to the full power of exactly what Hatebreed can do. During their set, Jamie spots a young boy with his Dad and invites them up on stage for the best seat in the house, much to the approval of the audience! As Jasta works the audience like a pro, the mud pit down the front is churning up a storm and all that can been seen from the middle of the field and from the back is hoards of muddy boots and legs, bouncing and tumbling all the way towards the overwhelmed security, who did a stellar job in taking care of each and every body that came over the barrier. Hatebreed and Bloodstock just work together in perfect harmony and long may their appearance at the festival continue. 5/5
As the darkness looms above Bloodstock, it can only signify that that headliners and the big hitters are not too far away and case in point with Dimmu Bogir who’s appearance is delayed by technical issues. This gives the punters the extra time needed to drain their bladders and stock up on more beers. Finally, as the band takes the stage and launch into their set with Allegiance, Progenies of the Great Apocalypse and Leper Among Us. Technical issues aside (the band left the stage for a while), they do their best to push through what can only be a frustrating situation and manage to deliver a main stage performance. Blasts of fire and corpse paint flood the stage as Dimmu Bogir continue with “Vredesbyrd, The Serpentine Offering, Gateways, Puritania before finishing with “Mourning Palace”. Overall, Dimmu Bogir managed to save the day despite their set-list being cut short because of the major audio/technical difficulties before and on stage. According to Shagrath after the performance “That’s how it is when you work with incompetent people”, referring to their own sound tech that they’d brought with them. 3/5
Finally we get to our headliners for the evening and as the lights from the carnival glow in the dark and the mass of festival goers congregate at tonight’s alter of Metal, all we can do now is wait. Suddenly, the lights flash on the backdrop and a mighty battle roar is let out from the huge crowd waiting for Down. Out comes Phil Anselmo who has the swagger and presence of a Rock Star (wait a minute)! As the band launch into “Eyes of the South” it is instantly apparent that Phil and the boys are in great spirits. The chemistry on stage with Down tonight is beyond anything you could wish for. A genuinely happy band on stage tonight with laughs and beers being cracked open and shared, makes for an incredible atmosphere. The set list delivers with “We Knew Him Well, Hogshead/Dogshead, Witchtripper, Lifer, Pillers Of Eternity and Hail The Leaf”. Each song comes rumbling out of the traps and bellows over the Bloodstock crowd like a plume of thick heavy smoke.
As Phil, slugs from a bottle of white wine, his between song banter becomes more hilarious and provides just as much entertainment as the music itself. We love a happy, drunk Phil! next up is “Ghosts Along The Mississippi, Conjure, Losing All and the fucking epic “Stone The Crow” before the band tear into a condensed cover of Pantera’s “Walk” (insert bat shit crowd reaction).
Finally, to end the Friday night headline slot at Bloodstock and with out the pyro or usual fanfare that you will normally find at such events, Down erupt with the anthem that is “Bury Me In Smoke” and simply fucking destroy! With a whole host of friends and cohorts invading the stage at the end and swapping instruments every punter in the main arena is smiling and feeling the hospitality of the deep South in the very English country side. Down came and they fucking kicked our asses! 5/5
Words – Oran O’Beirne
All Photography by Steve Dempsey – Down The Barrel Photography