London’s Savage Messiah (3.5/5) kick off the main stage on Saturday and are no newcomers to the scene and I have to say they have a very impressive looking setup on stage with one of the best backdrops on show all weekend, and some very professional looking banners too, and the band themselves are no slouches. Having seen them before I knew they they were good, but somehow translated to the larger stage this was amplified, some bands die on a big stage and some look like they were born to be there, they were born to be there. Playing material almost exclusively from last years “The Fateful Dark” this is a set full of aggression and the crowd, which is considerable for the early hour, seem to be really getting into it.
There’s good versatility in Dave Silvers vocals and he certainly works hard to get the audience involved in their set, which is always great to see, sure there are some large slices of reminders of their bigger influences such as Maiden (probably most prevalent in “Cross Of Babylon”, which is still a very good track), but that’s never an issue as long as it doesn’t dominate what they do and it doesn’t. With the exception of the drummer the other three guys are buzzing all over the stage throughout the set, baying for the crowd to give more back to them and all done with a big smile, which is hard to beat, musically Savage Messiah fall into the Metal/Power Metal bracket but with a thrashy edge, there’s some speedy numbers here and there, and it’s all well written, but the next album will be the crossroads for the band I think, this stuff still sounds good live, but in reality it’s three years old now even though the album only came out a year ago and something fresh molded from new experiences might just bring out the best they have to offer, still you could happily watch this band play on any Festival bill and be entertained for a whole set.
Having played Bloodstock in 2009 and 2013, Xerath (4) have not been hiding their hunger for a taste of the main stage and are rearing get things started. As the midday sun is ignored by the large crowd, the band launch straight into Machine Insurgency and the fantastic 2053. Sounding bright and sharp, all eyes are focused on the guitar wizardry of Irish shredder, Conor McGouran, who effortlessly makes grown men cry with frustration, as his fingers dance up and down the fret-board.
As circle pits open up at the front of the stage, the band are unfortunately struck by technical problems and are forced to cut their 40 minute set to just 30 mins, which dampens the spirits of not only the band, but also the audience, who stay loyal and still lap up final song False History. Technical difficulties aside, Xerath are a breathtaking band that will no doubt return to Bloodstock higher up the bill in the future.
1349 (4) hit the stage, in what must be the most uncomfortable stage gear of the day. Draped in black hooded gowns and corpse paint, the crowd react immediately to opener Sculpture of Flesh, with a sea of hands in the air and welcoming gazes. With deeply ornamented drumming from the mighty Fost and the pounding bass of Seidemann by his side, 1349 rock the Dio stage unmercilessly with Slaves, I am Abomination and Atomic Chapel. Olav “Ravn” Bergene interacts very little with the audience and lets the music do the work as he cuts an evil, dark presence regardless of the epic summer weather.
Starting on the jäger stage just as 1349 finished Divine Solace(3) drew quite a big crowd. This four piece progressive metal band, is great if you are a fan of Dream Theatre in the 90’s, Lamb of God and early Children of Bodom and well worth checking out.
Korpiklaani (4) are certainly one of the more interesting bands on the scene these days, they play an uplifting style of Folk Metal that honestly is extremely hard not to like and in their early evening slot on Saturday at Bloodstock they somehow manage from very early in the set to get the assembled crowd throwing all sorts of shapes and there is just something different about the atmosphere they generate, it’s just joy. It’s not just the crowd, the band is having a ball, sheer joy in some of their faces and Jonne (Vocals) is whipping things up nicely, Adding to a standard bands setup we also have an accordion and fiddle player in the ranks, there’s underlying metal riffs and they can be quite heavy at times, with songs like “Ratu” but somehow today it’s a little lighter and brighter and “Journeyman” just shifts us into a higher gear which lifts the spirits once again, looking on from the side the guys have managed to amass one of the larger crowds at the RJD stage for the day and long may their addition to large Festivals continue, they are great to watch, fun and the music is infectious.
Birmingham’s Napalm Death (4/5), have been the grandfathers of Grindcore for over thirty years and there’s absolutely no sign of them stopping or slowing down. They have maybe never really looked the part and when you listen to frontman ‘Barney’ Greenway, his thoughts on the world and society are very different to what you expect from 99% of extreme bands. Today we are sadly missing Mitch Harris (guitar), but have a very able replacement in John Cooke, who also shares guitar duties in the band War Of The Second Dragon, with ND’s bassist Shane Embury and Cooke nails every song. I always feel sorry for Photographers when I watch Barney live, the guy is like a Tasmanian Devil, wind him up and he keeps going for ages, doesn’t stand still for very long and it’s not like ND have any ballads where the pace really drops. The set itself is drawn from all eras of the band and everything is effortless, playing “Scum” early in the set was great and kicked the pace up a gear, songs like “You Suffer” and “Suffer The Children” from the Harmony Corruption era still stand up well today and it was nice to see tracks from this years Apex Predator – Easy Meat, integrated in the set and working well, it’s amazing that in twenty eight years Shane Embury has changed very little, not so much in looks but in stage style, he just gets on with the job at hand, hammers out bass lines as if there’s nothing to it and makes mere mortals look silly. On this occasion, as they usually do, the band throw in a cover of Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”, which always goes down well, no matter where the crowd, Bloodstock would appear to love Napalm Death, and so they should.
But after they end, we get back to the thrash and heavy metal, because Dark Angel (4/5) shredded everything in sight, after a 25 year absence from the UK. They turned up the volume and made people rock out hard. Opening up with the title track from one of Thrash’s most ambitious albums “Time Does Not Heal” there’s something a bit special going on here, obviously it’s hard to go wrong with Gene “The Machine” Hoglan on drums and he’s on double duty today playing with both Dark Angel and Death DTA, as usual he’s an absolute monster, Ron Reinhart is like a whirlwind on the stage and off, he’s walking out onto a decidedly wobbly speaker stack and just giving it socks wherever he is, there’s a number of runs along the barrier during the set and he is loving the sea of crowd surfers coming over the top, and if any band this weekend is giving the audience what they want it’s Dark Angel as they play no less than four tracks off the seminal Darkness Descends album, “The Burning Of Sodom” is immense and I would doubt anyone avoided the hair on the back of their necks standing when the dulcet tones of “Darkness Descends” kicked in, with Jim Durkin and Eric Meyer nailing the riffs and Michael Gonzales totally in sync with Hoglan this really has been an impressive performance from a band on the rise once again it will be very interesting to hear what the new material sounds like. The sun is blistering during their set, but they are having a great time and loving the response of the Bloodstock crowd, Leave Scars is represented by “Never To Rise Again” and the classic “No One Answers”, of course being greedy a few more tracks would have been nice, but for their allotted time they nailed it, sadly all good things have to come to an end, and for this crowd that comes with a rousing rendition of “Perish In Flames”, hopefully the new album Tour will make it’s way to Europe, because there is plenty of life in this band.
Death DTA (3.5/5) brought the instrumental magic with plenty of years of experience under their belt. Their dedication to mastering their instruments is still remarkable and their fans let them know. This is hardly surprising though as I don’t think you got to work with Chuck Schuldiner unless you were a talented musician, the list of former members is very impressive. This tribute to Chuck “Death DTA” is made up of Gene Hoglan (Drums), Steve DiGiorgio (Bass), Bobby Koelble (Guitar) and Max Phelps (Guitar/Vocals) and although Phelps was not a former member of Death he was in the closely aligned Cynic, and damn is he good. The band run though as much as they possibly can in the time allotted and at the same time DiGiorgio manages to interact with the crowd as much as humanly possible, continuing to spread the work and ensure that people know that the guys are simply trying to keep the music of Chuck and Death alive, and they do such an impressive job, at the end of the day this is a tribute, but hell the music is that good it needs to still be played, from The Philosopher to Left To Die, Overactive Imagination to Symbolic and “Zombie Ritual” there’s such a wide range of absolutely top class Death Metal, the progression in song writing and complexity is huge but everything fits together, and Phelps uncannily does sound (and if I’m honest looks a bit like too) like Chuck, of any tribute I’ve ever heard this is the best, DiGiorgio is a beast, be it on his five string or three string bass (who needs more than three strings), Koelble is and excellent and commanding guitarist and everything works in a fitting way, you can see the guys are proud to be continue to honour their former bandmate, friend and one of the most talented guys extreme music will ever see. How else could you end a set like theirs but with Pull The Plug and the voices in the crowd raise in volume, the perfect end to an excellent set.
Not shy for being one of the main bands at Bloodstock, the Swedish five piece, Opeth (5/5), start their set slow and delicate with mesmerizing, accuracy and passion. As the magical blood orange sky seeps into the Derbyshire countryside, you could not want for a better band to be providing the soundtrack to such a beautiful evening. Sounding incredibly tight, Opeth take us on a fantastic journey from start to finish. A crystal clear and punchy sound, bleeds from the stage PA throughout the bands entire set. Mikael Åkerfeldt is in particularly fine form, as he drops his strait faced Swedish wit on the main arena, while the rest of the band ooze confidence. Utterly fantastic!
Closing the main stage tonight is Within Temptation (3.5/5), who have pulled out all the stops and brought a production that is rather impressive, to say the least! Returning to Bloodstock once again, the Dutch symphonic masters open their set with Paradise (What About Us?), with a stunning display of atmospheric lighting and blasts of pyro. The presence of Tarja on the large LED screens behind the band add to the vocal delivery of the Sharon den Adel’s lead, as she commands the stage in a white basque and black cloak.
Within Temptation look on form and ready to conquer Bloodstock, as they deliver Faster, In The Middle of the Night and Stand My Ground, to name but a few. Technical issues caused the power from the main stage to fail a few times and we were treated to an impromptu drum solo, following Edge Of the World and The Heart of Everything. As they finish off with an encore of Covered By Roses and Mother Earth, Within Temptation regain control of the Bloodstock crowd and finish on a high.
Wake up motherfuckers because P.I.S.T (4.5/5) are cracking open a big cold bottle of good times and everyone’s invited! Sounding way to awesome for this time of the day, P.I.S.T just rip the bollocks off Saturday morning and give it 100%! Vocalist, Dave Rowlands, clearly had his Weetabix this morning, but used bourbon instead of milk. Can’s and bottles are opened and raised to the sky, with a sonic assault that would have the likes of Red Fang standing to attention. These guys have the potential of going all the way and beyond. Catch em if you can before it’s too late!
Very sadly I only managed to catch just over half of the Ethereal (4/5) set, but I am so glad I headed over to the Sophie Stage on my food run, because now there is another Black Metal band on my radar, and a damn fine one at that.
Walking into the Sophie Lancaster tent, there was a sheer force emanating from the stage, that it was hard not to break out into a bit of a smug grin for making the sensible decision to walk in there in the first place, but the sound of a modern Black Metal Band from the UK in full stride was a joy to witness, the vocals appeared to be coming right out of the darkness and the bombardment of the drums was just incessant, the name was familiar to me, but how had I not checked out this material, power and bleakness neatly gathered together in one tight knit driving force, to my ears this was at the very least equaling what was being displayed on the RJD Stage, so much so, that I really didn’t want it to end as abruptly as it did, there have been very few UK bands of this genre that display a complete package as well as Ethereal, the guitars are cutting, the bass blends in really well with the dominant drums and as mentioned the vocals were just top notch, hopefully this performance will push them up the bill on a future show, the clash with 1349 was definitely a hugely unfortunate one, as I think BM fans would have enjoyed both in equal amounts.
Jasad (4.5/5) are excited and humbled to be here and gathering from their blistering performance today, you would be hard fixed to find a band that display a combination of brutality and boundless energy! Like their fellow Burgerkill countrymen, Jasad also hail from Indonesia and have been rattling ear drums with their exceptional death metal anthems for the best part of thirty years. Vocalist Man, summons the guttural demon God, throughout the entire set, putting on remarkable and highly energetic performance. Circle pits open up sporadically throughout the bands set before reaching a climatic finish to deafening roars of approval!
In true rock and roll style Godsized (5 /5) make the Sophie stage their prisoner, the crowd erupting into fist pumping, head banging and singing in all the right places. Having played the festival in 2009, they treat the audience to both old and new tunes, reminiscing on the past and promoting the new. This new, old school band never disappoints. Fantastic!
You gotta love Battalion (5 /5 )! Starting before their scheduled time lead singer Silvan Etzensperger gives beers to the audience and has cheerful banter between songs. Each tune is catchy and an absolute head banger. Unfortunately the heat has left the circle pit wanting but some soldier on despite this afraid to hit hard in case they fall. You couldn’t leave the Sophie stage without loving these guys.
Talk about a come back! San Francisco, Bay Area thrash / funk pioneers, Mordred ( 5/5) are clearly happy to be here. Chugging through an infectious set-list that reminds everyone just why Mordred are so fucking awesome, the band just pack in a relentless barrage of killer anthems in their forty minute set! Tunes from Fools Game and In This Life, are received with open arms and beaming smiles, from the packed out tent. Having seen Mordred back in the day, the guys are sounding as fresh as ever, with a stage presence that could power a small village! Vocalist Scott Holderby, stalks the edge of the stage as the band rip through classics like, Sate of Mind, Every Day’s A Holiday and the epic Falling Away, leaving all in attendance thoroughly satisfied and screaming for more!
Burgerkill (4/5) were already in the process of destroying the Sophie Stage when I arrived and damn do this band have great energy and presence. After travelling all the way from Indonesia the talk about them was absolutely spot on, the hair is flying, the drums are pounding, the guitars are really grinding and there’s a ferocity being unleashed in the vocals that’s just a joy to hear, this is a band that just loves what they do and they want everyone else to love it too.
Beaming smiles and extreme music don’t normally go hand in hand, but with these guys it’s really infectious just like their music, something in the tempo and groove, yes it’s Death Metal but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a fun experience live. We can only hope that Burgerkill’s stock continues to rise and they get to play on this side of the world more often, there have often been bands from less fashionable Metal regions championed and pushed, but this band is the real deal, their very honest relationship with Dom Lawson (Oaf, music journalist) has to be of some assistance in getting their music out there and it was only fitting that he joined them for the for the penultimate song of the set, definitely a band to keep in your sights.
Planet of Zeus (5/5) were simply amazing. A deeply passionate band that hail from Athens, Greece, who have more swagger and kick ass riffs than most bands could ever wish for. Sounding as big as a juggernaut pile up, Platen of Zeus take the Sophie Lancaster stage on a journey through Eleven The Hard Way, Macho Libre and the recently released Vigilante album. Imagine Rory Gallagher ripping it up with Clutch, soaked in whiskey and set alight! Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the Bloodstock weekend so far!
Having seen Jettblack (3.5/5) a few times before, so I was wondering had anything changed with their sound in recent times. To be honest, they haven’t changed that much, and that’s no bad thing, their dual guitar assault of a hard rock and metal fusion, does exactly what it says on the tin, having the guitarists also share vocal duties, also gives them a bit more flexibility and for this set, as previously, it’s the screaming guitars that really gets you caught up in what’s happening on the stage. Both Will and Jon can sure as hell sing, but when they are soloing, you just peek the head up and focus you. They have once again entertained the crowd they have to work with, this set is probably as heavy as Jettblack get, but most importantly it’s fun.
Their sound is pretty much fresh and modern, and funnily enough 2010’s ‘Get Your Hands Dirty’ still sounds so new and kicks ass, and it has that ability to lift a crowd, add to that newer tracks like ‘Explode’ and you have a nice kick going on. Sure Jettblack aren’t reinventing the wheel, but live they continue to exude good positive energy, play ballsy Rock ‘n’ Roll and are a really good fun band to watch, there’s a good sized crowd in the tent and they have once again entertained that they have to work with, this set is probably as heavy as Jettback get, but most importantly it’s fun.
Italian technical death metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse (4/5) give a mesmerising show. The lighting department deserve an Oscar for their technical magic. At some points, it looks like some of the band disappear totally from the stage, the smoke and the differing light sequences hide them from time to time, only to have them re-appear momentarily. Perfectly timed to every beat, the strobe lights perfectly supported the deceptively dark atmosphere of the songs. In full black tie dressing, they deliver a punch to the gut that leaves you asking for more. A few tech issues, with the power supply delayed, their entry by about 10 minutes, but they gave the audience exactly what they wanted. The wizardry of their show is unbelievable from start to finish. How anyone, let alone 6 people simultaneously, can keep that up is beyond me. There isn’t a beat missing, and despite a small power outage before Wrath of Poseidon, they kept their composure and gave one hell a show to remember.
First off today in the New Blood Stage are Manchester’s Amethyst (3/5), and this thrash metal quartet intend to take their chance and run with it. with James (Guitar) and Dan (Bass) working the vocals/backing vocals between them, these guys lay down some really nice riffs and very groovy bass lines. Although not familiar with the bands work to date, the stand out track for me is Acts Of Betrayal. Very nice way to blow out the cobwebs and set people up for the day ahead, there’s hunger in their eyes and as their short but powerful set ends, the guys look delighted with their spot on a Bloodstock stage, as they pass out their two track EP to the crowd and chat. Keep your eyes open for these guys if they are playing anywhere near you.
Saint Helens five piece, Deified (4/5) hit the New Blood stage and just own it from start to finish. It’s only 11.15am and the earth is already cracking under our feet due to the crushing groove heavy riffs and the face melting vocals from Jamie Hughes. I can’t recommend these guys enough. Expect to see big things over the next few years. The future of metal is in safe hands which these guys! Awesome!
Soulborn (3 /5), keep the high energy of the New Blood stage pumping, with a selection of catchy tunes that tend to lean towards the Southern end of the metal spectrum. With just an EP out at the moment, Soulborn are planning to record some new material and take things to the next level. Well, worth a listen, if you get the chance.
A huge mammoth sound of groove / symphonic hybrid style metal, tinged with death overtones pours from the house PA as Codex Alimentarius (4.5 /5) open up their performance. Vocalist Ray, looks menacing and almost possessed, as he directs his four colleagues through a thirty minute set to a steadily growing crowd. Their sound is unpredictable, cleaver and grabs the listener from the start.
Get your ears around Bloodyard (3.5/5), when you get the chance. Coming from the North West of England, the four piece waste no time in getting stuck into the Bloodstock vibe and unleash an almighty sound of quality groove / death combination metal. Vocalist Donna Hurd looks right at home on stage, as she paces back and forth and rouses the crowd throughout, keeping things on a high energy level.
Having played at Bloodstock back in 2011, Akarusa Yami (3.5/5) return to Catton Hall to drop their progressive, industrial / technical, compositions on the Saturday afternoon revelers, who lap up every second of it. Complex riffs, married to peculiar, shifting tempo’s make for interesting and gripping sounds. Not for everyone but well worth a listen.
Winners of the very first Northern Ireland Metal 2 The Masses, Overoth (4.5/5) sound fucking epic! A fantastically brutal outfit, who will no doubt be gracing bigger stages in the very near future. A tornado of blast beats, mixed with buzz saw guitars and old school riff’s comes fast and hard at the New Blood stage punters, who windmill in appreciation. Overoth are a fantastic live band and should be witnessed at any given moment. Make them a part of your life now!
Northampton based From Eden to Exile (4/5) had the pleasure of taking to the stage just as the evening was beginning to settle in, proving to be a solid band that have the tunes and the swagger to match. With the intensity of a bar fight, From Eden to Exile, win over the crowd with well constructed compositions that pack a serious fucking punch!
Describing themselves as “Hobo Sludge / Sexy Trampcore”, Victorian Whore Dogs (4.5/5) bring a refreshing sound to the New Blood Stage. Slow, doom like melodies with buckets of atmospheric guitar work from Adam Marrelli Crawley, pulls the listener in before being dragged though a mile of broken glass and barbed wire with vocalist Danny Page, who musters up some of the most evil sounding noises of the weekend! Fantastic stuff!
Words – Oran O’Beirne, Karyn Corrigan, Shaun Martin and Stephen Brophy
Photography – Steve Dempsey Down The Barrel Photography 2015
All contents © OVERDRIVE 2015
GET THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY BELOW.