Live gig review by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Twelve months ago, on the Saturday night of the Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2013, the promoters promised the audience a special announcement. Moments before Lamb of God played their headlining set, the news that Emperor would perform at the 2014 festival was delivered to the excited fans via a short video presentation on the big screens. And now, the big day has finally arrived for those who bought their tickets on the back of that announcement.
Our first band on this second full day is the Polish technical death metal quartet Decapitated. A big crowd has already gathered and are curing their hangovers with a healthy routine of head-banging and moshing. They break into spontaneous chanting and clapping as they are entertained by blistering guitar solos, thundering double bass drumming and harsh screamed vocals. An excellent choice to start our day, which looks likely to stay dry and sunny; a welcome prospect, as we plan to spend most of it at the Ronnie James Dio Stage exposed to the elements.
After filling up on a “Dinosaur Leg” from a Texas Smokehouse van for lunch, we check out our “New Blood” band for the day; the Bournemouth-based melodic progressive metal group Metaprism. Formed in 2012, they have already released an EP and came out on top in their local Metal 2 The Masses competition to play here at Bloodstock. With six members in the band, including male and female dual vocalists (beauty and the beast), they pack a heavy punch and deliver a very professional sounding performance. Backed by four talented musicians, the vocal styles of Jut and Theresa complement each other superbly, and the mix of harmonies and solo growled/melodic vocals sets their act apart from most. Don’t be surprised to see them back at Bloodstock again.
Shortly after Metaprism wrap up their set in the New Blood tent, Italian gothic metallers Lacuna Coil, start theirs on the main stage. Whether due to intentional scheduling or coincidence, the similarity between the acts in terms of the male/female dual vocalists was bound to draw fans of the style to both stages. Opening with ‘Trip the Darkness’, the bass rhythms pound in the chests of the audience with a clear and distinct quality. Renowned as one of the few female vocalists in heavy metal, Cristina Scabbia easily commands the attention of the audience as she introduces the band and tells us it is good to be back, having previously performed at Bloodstock in 2007. She relates a question from an interviewer earlier in the day who asked “What is so special about a festival like this?”, to which she replied “The community. Keep it alive!”. Playing a mix of old and new songs including three from their 2014 release Broken Crown Halo, they entertain loyal fans and casual listeners alike.
Once again, a torrential downpour of rain sends the crowd running for shelter, and the main stage looks pretty desolate before Children of Bodom take to the stage. Their first track ‘Hate Me!’ ironically draws thousands of admirers as the wet weather yields. Lead vocalist Alexi Laiho tells us “We are Children of Bodom and we’re from motherfucking Finland”. Their third stint at this open air festival, including headlining the very first outdoor Bloodstock event in 2005; they appear to have attracted a considerable dedicated fanbase to their set. The crowd feverishly headbang while absorbing the rapid, intricate and precise guitar solos and keyboards, and chanting “Bodom, Bodom, Bodom” between tracks. Laiho asks “Would you like to hear something faster? Would you like to hear something HEAVIER?”, before launching into the title track from their 2003 album Hate Crew Deathroll. As if the opening tracks weren’t fast and heavy enough, the audience respond by forming the biggest circle pit of the day so far.
The crowd swells further as the time for Carcass to hit the stage approaches. Artwork from, and video clips inspired by their “comeback” album Surgical Steel are projected onto large screens around the stage as the Liverpool-based grindcore pioneers blast out a balanced mix of new and old tracks from their back catalogue. Frontman Jeff Walker makes some humorous chit chat between tracks including a dig at the Sunday night headliners, saying “This song is a bit like Megadeth. But a bit heavier. And a bit better.” A short interruption to the power during their set prompts requests from the festival organisers for them to cut their set short, but Walker defiantly declares “Fuck it! This is our set! They’re pushing us for time. That’s what happens when you sell over a million albums from your back catalogue… They treat you like shit!”. Despite the hiccups, Carcass deliver a quality performance which is exactly what the massive crowd had anticipated.
Finally it is time for Norwegian black metal legends Emperor to play their long-awaited headline set. Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their debut album In the Nightside Eclipse, they perform the album in its entirety. The thick fog of theatrical smoke onstage is mimicked offstage by the heavy misty rain that has descended on the arena, but the weather does not deter the faithful fans who soak up the music and drizzle equally. It’s hard to believe that tracks like ‘I am the Black Wizards’ are twenty years old and still sound so fresh; performed tonight with amazing accuracy and commitment. Not content with performing their debut album, they also perform two tracks from their earlier 1992 EP; ‘Wrath of the Tyrant’ and ‘Ancient Queen’. The smell of sweat and pyro is thick in the air as they end their set with a Bathory cover; ‘A Fine Day to Die’, and the crowd slowly disperses from the arena.
We must confess that we did sneak away from the main stage during Emperor’s set to see a little bit of Hellyeah who were the clashing headliners on the Sophie Lancaster stage. Perhaps helped by the light rain, the tent was almost full to capacity with folk here to see the American supergroup featuring Vinnie Paul of Pantera, Chad Gray of Mudvayne and Tom Maxwell of Nothingface. We catch them playing ‘Sangre por Sangre’; the pseudo-title track from their latest album Blood for Blood, with Gray singing into the microphone through a loudhailer. Expending plenty of energy by jumping around the stage, the band incite the audience to mosh and surf as much as possible. Before starting into ‘The war in me’, Chad tells them that heavy metal saved his life and that “this song was written for you to be aggressive in the pit”.
As we make our way back to the campsite after Emperor finish their set, we check out “Bloodstock’s Got Talent” at the Sophie Stage to see how it’s going. Simon Cowell would need pretty quick reflexes to keep up with whoever was hitting the buzzer, as hopeful guitar, drum and vocal soloists plucked up the courage to perform in front of a couple of hundred onlookers, only to be heartlessly rejected after a few futile moments. We do witness one chap avoiding the dreaded buzzer with an impressive drum solo, but we don’t hang around long enough to see what, if anything, his prize would be. Instead, we have a couple of beers and hit the sack, already looking forward to the final day of the festival.