Live Gig Report and Photo Credit: Reg Richardson
Hello dear readers, I have to admit that the dark arts of the metal world are not entirely my thing so I was hoping for some enlightenment at Catton Park this weekend. After some minor hassles getting into the media area, security only lost me the first band of the day, the Devonshire prog-metallers Cambion, so instead of photographing them, I watched them. Having seen these a few years ago, before they became contenders for a Bloodstock main stage spot, I knew largely what to expect….and wasn’t disappointed. From among the flying dreadlocks came some decent guitar riffs on songs taken mainly from the re-released VIRUS EP which had had some extra tracks added – so now more an album and less an EP. With its growling vocals Heterodox was probably my track of the set.
Next up were the highly energetic Mancunian metalheads Kill II This. This was a very good set of industrial/nu-metal with lots of high energy visuals. What was a little disappointing was the lack of any new material, with the band relying on their 1998 album, Deviate, to provide all but 2 songs, with the other two coming from the 2000 album Trinity. The band haven’t released an album since 2003 – maybe it’s time they did because they’re capable musicians with a decent following and great stage presence; a show topped off by guitarist Mark Mynett taking air from the speaker stack and his continual engagement with the crowd.
Third on the list were Vallenfyre, a band drawn together from several sources and fronted by Gregor Mackintosh, who would make a second appearance later in the day with Paradise Lost. Like the band before them all songs were taken from 2 albums, 2014’s Splinters and 2011’s A Fragile King, a title that refers to Mackintosh’s late father and his battle with the big C. A fine set comprised of the bands signature death metal infused with plenty of doom for good measure, best song for me was the set closer, Desecration which actually had my feet tapping!
Vallenfyre made way for Akercocke, who delivered black metal from darn sarf, London to be exact. I have to be honest and say that I really don’t get Akercocke’s style of black metal but there were thousands of fans watching them who certainly did get it. It was at this point that the crowd surfers really started to get their act together because from here on in the number of travelers landing in the press pit at the front of the stage started to multiply rapidly. The set was one of sprawling, growling, deafening noise which was only one notch of the volume control louder than the fans watching. What else I say about their set? It was loud, it was dirty, it was black….as black as they come.
Another black metal outfit hit the stage next, Rotting Christ, hailing from Greece. This is a band that’s been around for a considerable time having formed in the late 1980’s so are another of the extreme metal bands that have stood the test of time. Interest in the band has been maintained by the regular release of new material with their 12th album, Rituals, being released earlier this year on the Season of Mist label. The backbone of this set was songs from that album but contributions came from a number of earlier releases. The bands’ style of music clearly appealed to the crowd leaving the security personnel to have to deal with almost 200 crowd surfers during the set. Sonically not as deep or as dark as some of the previous bands; many of the songs were unusually musical with some extremely skillful guitar work and you can’t mention Rotting Christ without also mentioning the synchronized head banging.
One of the bands I was looking forward to were up next, Fear Factory. Industrial metal specialists Fear Factory played a set that comprised entirely of the 1995 album Demanufacture played start to finish and so started with the title track from that album. The band produce a well organised mix of highly musical groove metal mixed with elements of thrash and death metal that throw listeners from pillar to post as their hybrid style changes hit hard. Dramatic intros, 100 mph drums and vocals that swing from the industrial to the melodic, this set had it all in spades.
In between bands visitors to the event were able to see all the usual sights, lads dressed as nuns (getting a bit stale now boys), American Indians, Middle Earthers and in the VIP area a plague of zombies were eating the fans, obviously they taste better than those in the cheap seats outside. At various times we also had storm troopers, ninjas, fairies, doctors & nurses and stilt-walkers, oh, and Freddie Krueger! Plenty here for the people watchers to watch.
Metal Brotherhood at BloodStock Open Air 2016
My band of the day, Paradise Lost, were on stage next with Vallenfyre’s Gregor Mackintosh returning to the stage, this time on guitar. For me these were one of the best bands on show; not as dark as most of the other bands on the main stage, but their take on Gothic Metal was superb. Like many of the other bands the reliance was on older material for their 11-song set. The majority of the songs were taken from their 2008 album The Anatomy of Melancholy with a sprinkling of songs from their current album, The Plague Within released last year, Draconian Times (1995) and their second album, Gothic (1991). An energetic performance, again, from Mackintosh as the band opened with No Hope in Sight from the latest album; an album that many fans think is their best to date. Stinging guitar work intersected with dark riffs, hammering bass and some fabulous vocals from Nick Holmes which swung from the obligatory growl to the highly melodic; a fantastic performance all round.
The band of the festival, according to a huge section of the fans, was on stage next. This was Gojira. With a setlist containing songs from every studio album by the band this was a showcase for how the band have developed; it also contained a bit of a twist by the inclusion of the hidden track tagged on to the end of In The Forest from the bands inaugural album Terra Incognita. This is an instrumental that is far more post-rock than metal with its layered effects and repetitive chords, it is a fabulous piece of music. The band start with a bit of a history lesson playing Toxic Garbage Island from The Way of all Flesh followed by the title track from L’Enfant Sauvage and The Heaviest Matter of the Universe off From Mars to Sirius. Gojira then brought the audience bang up to date with songs from Magma released just a couple of months ago.
By this time the crowd surfers were well into their stride and by the end of the set the beleaguered security folks had dealt with more than 350 of the flying fans. The set ended with Oroborus from The Way of all Flesh but a return to the stage for an encore saw the band throw out Vacuity from the same album. A triumph of musical endeavor showing the huge contrasts in style that the band can adopt, a brilliant set.
The day closed with the much hyped Mastodon making their first ever appearance at Bloodstock. The set didn’t start well for the group of photographers down front with the band playing to a back lit stage. This gave rise to the familiar WTF moment as every photographer looks at every other photographer wondering what the hell to do. The answer was simple, get a silhouette against the back lights and go, and that’s pretty much what happened.
My problems aside, the band from Atlanta were to supply a monstrous 20-song set with tracks taken from each of their 6 studio albums and they started out with two from their current offering, Once More ‘Round the Sun, released in 2014. The songs, Tread Lightly and Feast Your Eyes, set the tone for the rest of the set, a complex mix of progressive metal mixed with good quality, and, I have to say enjoyable, heavy rock. During the first half of the set songs from the current album featured highly with the second half of the set being a more of a retrospective of albums past. The band managed to keep the fans engaged throughout this near epic set but fell short on the crowd surfers. The songs from the current album, in particular, had some poignant, intelligent lyrics over the music as the masters of the heavy metal concept album hammered out the tracks.
For more than an hour and a half the band continued to hit the fans hard and by the end those left watching were as exhausted at the band themselves. The final song was Blood & Thunder, taken from the 2004 album Leviathan, the bands first concept album based loosely on the story of Moby Dick.
I didn’t get around the other stages too much but one band deserves a mention, and that band is Shining, any band playing so-called Black Jazz and who can find a spot for a saxophone in a metal band has to be worth a watch – and they were. I didn’t see the entire set but what I did see was truly entertaining.
For me it was an ‘interesting’ day, a mix of highs and lows, with the highs including Paradise Lost, Fear Factory and Gojira, the biggest low was not getting to the front for Cambion.