Review by Paul Castles and Emily Castles, photos by Sean Larkin
Bloodstock 2015 commenced under piercing blues skies and the weather rarely threatened to deviate throughout the following three days at Catton Park.
With such sleepy weather many punters were possibly still cooking breakfasts when the New Blood Stage opened for business. That would have been a shame as the quality and originality of the bands gracing the New Blood this year was simply crawling with metal-tastic excellence.
Whereas perhaps in previous years, the up and coming newbies may have been chuffed with a few passers-by poking their heads into the tent, this year the New Blood platform was a serious contender for the metal masses – alongside the Sophie Lancaster and the main Ronnie James Dio stages.
One such band was the almighty Mortishead who opened the New Blood stage on Friday, and then proceeded to set the bar high with their unrelenting ferocity for all who were to follow over the next three days.
The Bristol band consists of two zombies, a no-good school boy, a pointed-beard Devil, and quite possibly Jesus. Bouncing around the underground West Country scene for around 18 months, Mortishead already have a powerful sense of stage presence, the guitarist signing off by leaping down into the crowd in an attempt to fire-up a one-man wall-of-death.
Their mixing of genres, the ferocity of thrash with the melodic harmonies of groove, meant they were definitely not one to miss, despite the early kick-off. The band that followed, Loft, were equally experimental with their use of groove and the Cornish crew were equally as captivating in their impressive set.
Although the New Blood arena was a clear platform for musical experimentation this freedom did not always pay off. Diatessaron later graced the stage but the Canadians weren’t carved from the same stone of brutality as those mentioned earlier.
Although technically accomplished, the feeling prevailed that perhaps the Calgary visitors belonged in a West End Production of Joseph and his Technicolour Dream coat, rather than at the most extreme outdoor metal festival the UK hosts. Despite this, singer Simon TJ’s enthusiasm could not be denied.
There was an equally curious coupling to be found over on the Sophie Lancaster Stage a little later in the day, the humbly named OAF. Two men, a drum kit and a bass. They pulled in a sizeable crowd for their unusual formation alone; a businessman from the 1920’s jamming with the metal head next door (none other than acclaimed metal scribe Dom Lawson).
This duo produced a sound so brutal it was hard to believe it came from this most unlikely looking pairing, a punkish savagery that demolished Lawson’s humble suggestion that they were effectively the ‘disabled band’ of Bloodstock.
But the big hitters on the Sophie stage on day one were the Merseyside monolithic monsters Conan. The deep rumbling intro of ‘Crown of Talons’ signalled their arrival in formidable fashion. As confrontational as they come, the battle-hardened cavemen warriors proceeded to deliver a knee trembling burst of their primeval doom with both vocalists seeking to outdo each other with their warlike death cries, fought out over a dissonant drone of deafening grooves. As ever when watching Conan it’s advisable to take a shovel with you to dig yourself out of the hole they going to create for you to fall into.
There was much to admire on the RJD platform and Midlands old school hardcore reprobates Raging Speedhorn ignited the pit just after noon with the double pronged vocal attacks as vibrant and vitriolic 20 years after Corby crushers first came together.
The most gruesomely brilliant band to take to the main stage was the almighty Belphegor who as ever produced a satanic power surge that threatened to reduce any nearby village churches to dust.
The Austrian agitators wear their blackened hearts on their sleeve and their war paint on their faces. The forces of evil pulses through their savage thrash assault which does pretty much everything except conjure up the dead.
‘Gasmark Terror’ and ‘Lucifer Incestus’ were cloven hoofed nuggets, Belphegor finally drawing a blackened veil across the carnage with the imperious ‘Bondage Goat Zombie’.
Norwegian veterans Enslaved look every inch the kings of melodic mayhem these days. Raging riffs coupled with soaring melodies makes them a welcome presence and their more intimate show at the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton next month promises to be something special.
Khaki-clad partygoers Sabaton make sure no military connections are left unturned in their spectacular Euro-style Sing-a-long assault. Last year fellow Swedes Amon Amarth brought fire breathing dragons to Bloodstock – this year Sabaton matched the stage show with their own panzer tank style drum riser, while commander-in-chief Joakim Brodén is a consummate showman who could get a knees-up going at a funeral such is his infectious enthusiasm.
Opening day headliners Trivium saw their set stutter due to some technical difficulties. It subsequently turned out they weren’t the only Bloodstock headliners to suffer a few gremlins.
As the Florida thrash titans were trying to premiere new song ‘Silence in the Snow’ at the time it wasn’t the most auspicious of starts. There were several songs from their forthcoming seventh studio album, although these obviously were not familiar to the watching thousands.
The expert execution is mesmerising and Trivium’s ongoing musical metamorphism is quite possibly what has kept them still relevant to so many metal fans over the past decade.
The combination of front man Matt Heafy’s softer and heavier vocal style with guitarist/vocalist Corey Beaulieu’s relentless shredding ability certainly forges a live show well worth watching, not surprisingly bringing the house down with their epic closer ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’.
As first day festivals go, this one took some beating.
Check out more of our photos from Friday below. You can also check out the rest of our photos from the weekend HERE.