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Bloodstock Open Air 2012 Review

Okay here it is, my full review of Bloodstock Open Air 2012. Bear in mind that this review will only feature the bands I caught over the full weekend, four days of music leads to exhaustion so I couldn’t catch every single band playing.

Thursday

Opening act Saturnian resembled a spitting image of Polish titans Behemoth with very similar musicianship. Yet also thrown into the mix was the addition of female clean vocals adding a symphonic edge to the brutality. With a short and sweet set Saturnian whipped the crowd into a frenzy leaving a lasting image for an opening act (8)

Bloodshot Dawn are arguably one of the biggest upcoming extreme metal bands in the UK which created a large amount of hype towards the band’s set at Bloodstock. With a short set of around 30 minutes Bloodshot Dawn had short time to leave a lasting impression. Thankfully they did, with excellent musicianship and incredible vocal work stunning the audience. Tracks like ‘Godless’ and ‘Vision’ were played to perfection showcasing that the extreme metal scene in the UK is far from dead (9)

Friday

With Bloodstock usually attracting bands that fall under the more extreme side of the spectrum it is fair to say that UK metallers Malefice had a huge task on their hands. Not only opening the festival on the first day of full music Malefice can be considered to be one of the more controversial bands on the lineup. Yet Malefice delivered from opener ‘An architect of Your Demise’ all the way to closure ‘Omega’, musically tight and leaving a lasting impression to the crowd (7)

Grand Magus delivered their doom to the friday sunshine with crushing riffs delivered by JB and receiving numerous cheers from the crowd. (7)

Unlike previous Bloodstock tradition there was a large absence of folk metal on 2012’s lineup. However Moonsorrow more than made up for the absence of other bands, from start to finish Moonsorrow obliterated the stage. With a 40 minute set Moonsorrow captured the audience’s attention, encouraging waves of headbanging from the large crowd. Mitja Harvilahti’s guitar work was exceptional with solo after solo played to perfection. The heathen themes of the band’s music was really captured throughout their set. In short, Moonsorrow were one of the best acts of the weekend. (9)

With new vocalist Stu Block at the reigns of Iced Earth their set at Bloodstock could have gone one or two ways, either incredibly successful or leaving a bitter taste in the fan’s mouth. Thankfully, Iced Earth were fantastic. With a set spanning an hour in length and mostly consisting of tracks from their latest album, Dystopia, Iced Earth played these new tracks to perfection. That, with classics such as ‘Watching Over Me’ and ‘Dante’s Inferno’ thrown into the mixer as well Iced Earth’s set was nothing short of special. Musically they were brilliant and one has to note the incredible charisma from Stu Block, who consistently had the audience cheering on his command; a trait of a truly great vocalist. (9)

Due to a dispute on lineup slots Swedish black metallers, Watain were moved up to the sub-headliner slot which coincided with sunset over Bloodstock. Opening with Malfeitor the audience was greeted to mass amounts of pyrotechnics and a black metal vibe that remained over the course of Watain’s set. With the majority of the set consisting of tracks from 2010’s Lawless Darkness it could be said it was a little disappointing to not have witnessed any tracks from Rabid’s Death Curse or Casus Luciferi. However Watain were musically excellent with frontman Erik Danielsson’s vocals shrieking across Catton Hall. The stage show consisting of numerous pyro effects combined with the darkness of Watain’s music led to leave an impressive stage show and music performance rendering Watain as one of the best live black metal bands. (8)

But now it was time for friday night’s headliner, Polish blackened death metal titans Behemoth. With Behemoth having to pull out of 2010’s edition of Bloodstock due to frontman Adam Darski being diagnosed with leukaemia, Behemoth are back and ready to conquer Bloodstock. Opening with the colossal track ‘Ov Fire and the Void’ Behemoth instantly squash any doubts about their headlining position. Through the course of their set this thought remains, their set easily supports the fact they are headlining. The 12 song set consisted of tracks from many of the band’s albums over the last decade, with popular tracks like ‘Slaves Shall Serve’, ‘Conquer All’ and ‘At the Left Hand Ov God’ all making an appearance throughout. From opener all the way to the closure of ‘Lucifer’ Behemoth annihilated Bloodstock, musically perfect and keeping true to their promise of bringing the full stage show seen on their tour of Europe.  Confetti was launched on their closure, pyro was utilised to full extent and inverted crucifixes burnt through ‘Christians to the Lions’. In short, Behemoth were utterly fantastic. (10)

Saturday

For death metallers Benediction it seemed on paper that an 11am start would render more negative results than positive. However Benediction drew a mass crowd for their early hour slot, and their musical performance showcased why Benediction are popular. Riffs were heavy, drums were intense and Dave Hunt’s vocals were trademark to the death metal style. Not bad for a band opening the second day of music at Bloodstock. (8)

Over the Sophie Lancaster stage London thrashers Savage Messiah open to a shaky start, especially in terms of Dave Silver’s vocals with amplification overriding the equilibrium of their sound. As their set progresses the audio improves and a general balance is finally achieved with their closure ‘Insurrection Rising’ encouraging headbanging amongst many in the crowd. Also lead guitar work by Joff Bailey has to be noted as simply exceptional, with solo after solo played to perfection. However for a band that is so often hailed and promoted by their label, Earache Records, it seemed that during Savage Messiah’s set there was a absence of crowd movement, little to no pits and consistent headbanging. Maybe this was due to the early slot or perhaps the early audio problems dampened Savage Messiah’s parade. (6)

Back on the main stage Taiwanese metallers Chthonic unleash hell over the course of their set. Frontman Freddy Lim’s shrieks are pitch perfect and utilises his erhu perfectly thus successfully incorporating the authentic Taiwanese elements to their music. The theme went extremely political towards the end of their set with Freddy explaining the Chinese dominance over Taiwan leading repeated chants of ‘Taiwan, Taiwan’ which added a suiting touch to their short set. (8)

Following Chthonic was Mayhem, notorious pioneers of the black metal movement. With several lineup changes over the course of Mayhem’s history today it can be argued that Mayhem live should be approached cautiously, with past reports often stating poor live performances and little stage show acts that once made them so feared. In terms of Bloodstock the same apprehension is noticeable, for such a band of that caliber a slot at 20 past 3 in the afternoon does not compliment the band’s themes. However Mayhem at Bloodstock quelled any doubts about poor performance with an excellent set at Bloodstock. With an eight song set containing classics such as ‘Freezing Moon’, ‘Deathcrush’ and ‘Pure Fucking Armageddon’ Mayhem ticked all the boxes for a great setlist. With Attila at the helm of vocal duty he performed excellently with shrieks hitting pitch perfection whilst clutching a skull close to his face. Necrobutcher’s bass tones thumped consistently and Hellhammer’s blast beats consistently upholding the black metal sound. (8)

With Bloodstock lineups usually largely consisting of bands that fall under the more extreme bracket of the heavy metal umbrella American hardcore act Hatebreed raised a fair amount of anger through the Bloodstock forums. However Hatebreed absolutely destroyed Bloodstock through pure adrenaline of their music and fantastic crowd interaction. Their 16 song set consisted of tracks covering the band’s expansive back catalogue with fan favourites like ‘Live For This’, ‘Destroy Everything’ and ‘Doomsayer’ all making an appearance. Frontman Jamey Jasta provided an excellent job at uplifting the crowd through the course of their lengthy set with energy consistently flowing amongst the crowd as well as showing the traits of a true admirable human being by allowing a child to be on stage with him. For anyone who doubted Hatebreed fitting in at a festival like Bloodstock then think again. (9)

Following Hatebreed it was time for arguably one of the most anticipated bands of Bloodstock’s lineup, thrash metal titans Testament. Testament had last played Bloodstock back in 2007 and since then released two monumental studio albums (‘The Formation of Damnation’ (2008) and the incredibly recent ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ (2012)).  With their latest studio album only released a few weeks prior to Bloodstock it was expected that several tracks would be present in the setlist at the festival. Singles ‘Native Blood’ and ‘True American Hate’ both made an appearance and were played to perfection and the anthem themed title track helped create a diverse pace for the band’s music. With Testament being regarded as one of the biggest thrash metal bands of all time fan favourite tracks like ‘Into the Pit’, ‘The Preacher’, ‘Over the Wall’ etc were also thrown into the mixer creating a huge positive reaction from the crowd. Musically the band were tight, with Alex Skolnick’s solos played blisteringly fast, Gene Hoglan’s drumming fast and pounding and Eric Peterson & Greg Christian holding the rhythm respectively. However, Chuck Billy has to be given huge amount of credit for their excellent performance, his vocals were pitch perfect and air guitar skills on the microphone stand created an element of light heartedness to their music which is a added bonus. (10)

With Machine Head being considered to be the biggest band Bloodstock had ever booked there was much anticipation for their set at Bloodstock. Also with it being the 20 year anniversary since their debut album, ‘Burn My Eyes’, their set incorporated five fan voted tracks from the album. Musically they performed in every aspect with Robb Flynn’s vocals hitting every note and the roaring combination of Phil Demmel and Robb Flynn’s guitar work was wonderful to witness. Pyro was only mainly utilised with opener ‘I Am Hell’ but created a lasting impression. Hit after hit was played; from ‘Aesthetics of Hate’, ‘Imperium’, ‘Locust’ etc all making an appearance. Musically Machine Head were impressive yet as their set ran its course boredom crept in. Maybe the countless times I had seen them had hit me or perhaps the duration of a set of that length was just too much? Regardless Machine Head did not hit on all calibers unlike on previous occasion (7)

Sunday

With Egyptian themed American death metallers Nile being the first band on my agenda for the last day of music at Bloodstock there was much anticipation towards their performance, this was the first time Nile had played Bloodstock. Despite sound problems ruining what would have been an atmospheric opener Nile absolutely decimated Bloodstock. Dallas Toler-Wade’s lead vocals were absolutely crushing, really hitting the signature death metal guttural vocals. Karl Sanders’ guitar work was astonishing with solo after solo played perfectly and George Kollias’ drumming at breakneck speed and intense as expected. With only one song from their latest album, ‘At the Gates of Sethu’, making an appearance the remainder of their set consisted of classic Nile tracks. ‘Lashed to the Slave Stick’ was intense and created spurs of headbanging amongst the crowd and closing track, ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’, featuring The Black Dahlia Murder created vast applause from the crowd. Nile made Bloodstock their slaves. (9)

Up next was The Black Dahlia Murder. With the only spell of rain that day coming down throughout their set it could be argued this affected their set, or my main issue was perhaps the over amplification of Brian Eschbach’s guitar squashed all the majority of the solos from my ears. This unbalance for me, ruined their set. However there were a few highlights, ‘What A Horrible Night to Have a Curse’ and ‘Moonlight Equilibrium’ were fan favourites leading to a great response from the crowd and both tracks were played exceptionally well. Also, Trevor Strnad’s vocals were pitch perfect; every growl mimicked their studio recordings. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the equilibrium of the band’s sound and that for me was their biggest downfall. (6)

Later that day, English doom metallers Paradise Lost took to the stage after a brief period of heavy rainfall. With such an extensive back catalogue their setlist was comprised with tracks from numerous studio albums, the most consisting from Tragic Idol, released earlier this year. Musically the band were excellent; Nick Holmes incredible vocals were a soft touch to the ears of many whilst Aaron Aedy’s rhythm guitar work kept the crowd sustained in a headbanging motion. ‘Honesty in Death’ and ‘Forever Failure’ were played to perfection and it ultimately led to Paradise Lost going down exceptionally well amongst the large gathered crowd. (8)

Dimmu Borgir were set to take the stage next following Paradise Lost and utilised the popularity of their early studio albums. Like the intimate shows in the winter of 2011 Dimmu Borgir’s set was dominated by tracks from their earlier studio albums in the place of more recent material. ‘Spellbound’, ‘Mourning Palace’ and ‘Puritania’ all being played to the massive crowd. New material was featured however, from the excellent ‘The Serpentine’s Offering’ to the anthem that is ‘Dimmu Borgir’ that really capitalises on Dimmu Borgir’s symphonic elements of their music. Shagrath’s vocals were excellent, growling and screeching to the crowd and the music was consistently representing the signature black metal sound. Dimmu Borgir are arguably considered one of the biggest black metal bands around and their performance at Bloodstock showcases why they have this title. (8)

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