From its humble beginnings as a one-day indoor festival at Derby’s Assembly Rooms in 2001, the Bloodstock Open Air Metal Festival has evolved into one of the most eagerly-anticipated events on the UK metal scene’s calender – and with a lineup boasting such legends as Behemoth, Testament, Alice Cooper, and Machine Head amongst others, it’s pretty much a given that OneMetal were going to show their faces to carouse, headbang and join in with the wholesome, metallic fun. OneMetal.com music writers Phil Whitehouse, Jack Traveller and Danny Heaton were the lucky trio stomping the grounds at Catton Hall, and here is the second instalment of their three-part review of the bands they got to witness across the three days of the festival. To see their reviews of the bands that played on Friday, click here. If you want to see their opinions of Saturday’s bands, click here.
Danny: Corrosion of Conformity (Ronnie James Dio Stage) [2.5/5]
Corrosion of Conformity prove something of a cautionary tale to those who think jumping off bass amps is big and clever, as Mike Dean scales the heights only to come a cropper, breaking aforesaid piece of hardware in the process. Luckily, they don’t take themselves too seriously, delivering plenty of tongue-in-cheek banter. It has to be said that Dean’s vocals aren’t the best, failing to effectively stack up in comparison to the absent Mr Keenan. Additionally, their sound seems to be suffering, as so many on this year’s Main Stage do. Although it’s still pretty early in the day it’s still no excuse for turning the volume down! Also, when the wind gets up, the sound distorts into a whooshing blur, although this can hardly be levelled at them as a criticism. My main criticism (and I’m aware that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record) is the placing of CoC on the bill. For a band with 20+ years experience behind them, and CoC’s level of international acclaim to be placed so early in the bill is nothing short of criminal in my book, and to call it as I sees it, we should’ve been allowed some more time to get high! That said, their show was enjoyable enough, and they kick out some gorgeous lysergic grooves, despite Woody Weatherman playing the thinnest guitar ever manufactured.
Phil: Flayed Disciple (Sophie Lancaster Stage) [3.5/5]
The last time I saw Taunton-based death/thrash metallers was when they performed on the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock 2010, and I recall that at the time they struck me as a perfectly competent, though somewhat uninspiring prospect. The intervening two years has obviously seen the band honing their chops, as today’s performance on the Sophie Lancaster Stage sees the already-toght band operating with new purpose, and boasting some beefy riffs and a killer snare sound to back them up with to boot. The group’s Slayer-meets-Cannibal Corpse approach is still very much evident – triplet-wristed thrashings backed by deathly blasting and coated by vocalist Tim Whyte’s gravel-gargling delivery – but the assured tightness of their set plus the inclusion of some headbanging-demanding material from their debut album Death Hammer made this set a far more entertaining experience.
Jack: Nile (Ronnie James Dio Stage) [4/5]
The mighty Nile, criminally low on the bill in the eyes of many, arrived on stage to an appreciative crowd, before ripping into ‘Sacrifice Unto Sebek’ and cementing their standing in the eyes of the audience. Their entire setlist was full of unimpeachable crowd pleasers drawing from a good mix of their old and new work – though, in my view, the set was surprisingly light on material from their new album At The Gate of Sethu, with only one track ‘The Supreme Humanism of Megalomania’ making an appearance. My only real gripe with the set was that it wasn’t long enough to allow the band to squeeze in a few more classic tracks. The sound was reasonable, particularly for a midday Bloodstock performance, and even middling sound was enough to please me, being as the last time I saw Nile they had severe sound problems (a crashed PA) forcing them to quit multiple songs and cut their set short. Workable sound allowed them to prove how tight they can be when given the chance, with nary a note out of place. A very satisfying, If short and sweet, set from a band I’ve admired for a long time.
Danny: Battalion (Sophie Lancaster Stage) [3.5/5]
Battalion prove very enjoyable, expounding hard and heavy thrash in the vein of Testament. It’s really one of BOA’s greatest triumphs that you can walk around and always find something to occupy yourself with, be it stomach-twisting rides, or neck-distressing thrash! With titles like ‘Thrash Maniacs’ and ‘Headbangers’, you can probably hazard a guess as to the kind of material on offer. Granted, it’s pretty dumb, and not jaw-droppingly original, but then isn’t that the spirit of thrash? At the end of the day, they play with flair and remain tight, with finger-blurring riffs and infectious (albeit monosyllabic) choruses. The perfect accompaniment to a few beverages on a sunny day.
Danny: Black Dahlia Murder (Ronnie James Dio Stage) [3/5]
Black Dahlia Murder provide a very pleasant surprise. Now, as a Yorkshireman and (I flatter myself) a death metal connoisseur I knows what I likes, and until now, TBDM have not been it! I’ve always considered them a little too screamy, and been of the opinion that their t-shirts are way better than their music. Well, shut my mouth if they’re not a bona fide, dyed in the wool metal juggernaut! Their frenetic riffing and light speed blasting well and truly distract my attention from the interesting airborne fauna and take notice. Although my background knowledge of the band is admittedly limited, having heard a smattering of songs from their first and second albums, I really appreciate the progress they seem to have made. I had previously dismissed them as yet another undeserving act in the multitude of At the Gates tributes out there, but the material on show here was original as well as invigorating. Although I’m probably not going to rush out and buy all their CDs, I’d still strongly recommend them to anyone. Good show lads!
Phil: DreamCatcher (New Blood Stage) [3/5]
Symphonic progressive metal sextet DreamCatcher pulled out all of the stops during their New Blood Stage performance, bringing heavy, yet rousing riffs together with infectiously anthemic choruses and soaring strings in a manner that made it near-impossible not to sing raucously along, as though the notes were being drawn forcefully from the audience’s throats. That said, for this particular audience member, at times proceedings drifted a bit too far into cheesier climes – particularly with the sound in the New Blood Stage at the time robbing the guitarist’s riffs of a fair amount of their recorded low-end punch and making keyboardist Adele Pease’s accompaniments sound significantlu less lush and textured than they ought. Still, the band performed impeccably and drew an appreciative reaction from the gathered crowds – expect big things from them at shows with better live sound!
Jack: Evile (Ronnie James Dio Stage) [4/5]
Having seen Evile when they played the mainstage in 2010, I wasn’t expecting them to be as good as they were. That’s not to say they were bad then, but they didn’t stand out, in terms of tightness, performance or sound quality. Not so at this year’s Bloodstock – indeed, I would hazard that Evile had some of the best sound of the weekend, certainly out of the bands I saw. The Drake brothers displaying the kind of super-dry, low-gain tone that’s usually the sole domain of Joe Haley (Psycroptic) allowing for excellent separation in the mix, with even Joel Graham’s bass cutting through with an incisive bite. The band didn’t let their sterling sound quality go to waste either, playing an admirably tight set, although I would have liked to hear more of the backing vocals that really made the studio version of ‘In Memoriam’. Nonetheless, a worthy performance, with frontman Matt Drake (a truly top bloke, see the chat I had with him here) delivering jovial, informal crowd addresses and showing all assembled just how much his vocals have improved lately.
Phil: Shattered Skies (New Blood Stage) [4/5]
It’s not often that one feels that glowsticks would be a particularly welcome accessory to have to hand during a performance at Bloodstock, but Irish technical groove metallers Shattered Skies‘ melding of low-slung, detuned groove riffs, crooning vocals and trance-influenced synth melodicism inject the djent template with a welcome dose of feel-good, wave-your-hands-in-the-air uplift to invigorating effect. That’s not to say that they’re lacking in the heft department, however – more that the lockstep kick/chug pummel is accompanied tastefully by understated, though integral dashes of dancey electronica that gives the band’s deftly-delivered djent a somewhat clubby vibe. If the bouncing, dancing crowd response is anything to go by, it’s a mix that Shattered Skies are going to have a lot of success delivering.
Jack: Anaal Nathrakh (Sophie Lancaster Stage) [5/5]
Oof. Brummies Anaal Nathrakh proved just why they deserved to headline the Sophie stage, putting in easily the best performance of theirs I’ve ever caught. One of the things I admire most about Dave Hunt as a frontman is that he doesn’t treat his audience like fools. He expects you to be intelligent enough to understand the philosophy references he makes in his lyrics, and doesn’t feel the need to patronise the crowd with stock metal crowd banter (see my Iced Earth review for more on this). He’s no slouch in the aggression department either – even while suffering from gout, he managed to put in an amazing vocal performance and call out specific members of the audience for fighting during between song breaks; seemingly, the only thing angrier than Dave Hunt is Crippled Dave Hunt. The Sophie tent is notorious for flaky sound, but (here’s a tip for you all), the bar is positioned in the tent’s sweet spot. Especially for a band like Anaal Nathrakh – whose music is dense and hard to pick apart at the best of times – you really need good sound, and my positioning in the room delivered on that account, the decking around the bar even providing me with a lip to allow me to see over the heads of even the tallest crowd members. A fantastic end to the weekend for me.
Phil: Alice Cooper (Ronnie James Dio Stage) [5/5]
I’d seen Alice Cooper at the NIA in Birmingham last Halloween, and having witnessed a show that I’d happily call one of the top three best live experiences I’d ever had, I was eager to repeat the experience at Bloodstock. Cooper, being the showbiz veteran that he is, did not disappoint. A well-chosen setlist initially highlighted the heavier moments of Alice’s timeless discography, opening as it did with ‘The Black Widow’ and ‘Brutal Planet’ – and then began a trip through a wealth of classics like ‘I’m Eighteen’, ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’, ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ and a plethora of other tracks. All were skillfully performed by Alice’s backing band, and Alice himself showed no signs of losing his iconic, gravelly voice, while sprinting about the stage and conducting the show like a demented ringmaster. Whether he was summoning enormous, glitter-filled balloons to tumble into the crowd and bursting them with his ever-twirling baton/mic-stand, slow-dancing mock-grotesquely with a sex-doll during ‘Only Women Bleed’, or (of course) getting decapitated at the head (sorry) of the show, the on-stage antics were never less than arresting and enjoyable. However, it’s the songs that got Alice where he is today, and every word of every track was belted out lustily by a crowd who were clearly loving every minute. A fantastic end to a hugely enjoyable weekend. Roll on 2013!
Corrosion of Conformity’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/corrosionofconformity
Flayed Disciple’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/flayeddiscipleband
Nile’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nilecatacombs
Battalion’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/battalionofficial
The Black Dahlia Murder’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theblackdahliamurderofficial
DreamCatcher’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dreamcatcheruk
Evile’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/evileuk
Shattered Skies’ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shatteredskiesband
Anaal Nathrakh’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Anaalnathrakhofficial
Alice Cooper’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AliceCooper