Review by Paul Castles, photos by Sean Larkin
With Catton Park beautifully bathed in mid-morning sun you may have thought you had stumbled across a countryside show only to find that instead of morris men dancing merrily around the maypole the fields had been taken over by 15,000 marauding metalheads.
Once hardcore crew Unfathomable Ruination started slamming their way across the Sophie Lancaster Stage the peace and tranquility of rural England on a sleepy Saturday morning was well and truly decimated by an incendiary destructive device. Death metal mayhem may sit uneasily at a time of day when some punters are still trying to dislodge croissant crumbs from their whiskers but the London mash-up monsters were in unforgiving mood. Their stomping barricade of blastbeats was well received by those not still sitting around the camp fires and Unfathomable Ruination have the look of a band capable of flying the UK death metal flag in the future.
A bit later on the main Ronnie James Dio Stage the familiar high-pitched squeal of Cam Pipes told everyone within earshot that 3 Inches of Blood were tearing things up. Having named their last album Long Live Heavy Metal there’s no disguising the straight as an arrow style of metal performed by the Canadians. It’s fast and furious, with classic 70s and 80s style guitar solos but dominated by the higher than a kite distinctive vocal wizardy of Cam. 3 Inches of Blood just serve metal up on a plate and the ravenous Bloodstock pit greedily savoured every morsel.
A number of bands jetted in from the States just for the thrill of playing this great festival but local heros Hell probably had time for a light breakfast at home, catch up with the weekend papers, and then make the short hop to Catton Park from their Derbyshire base.
Hell performed on the main stage a couple of years ago and went down so well that their return to Bloodstock saw them move several places up the pecking order.
Having created their own ‘Church of Hell’ on stage, complete with a backdrop featuring more props than the Dr Who wardrobe, they proceeded to play and sing their hearts out, proving they have the musical quality to back up their outlandish occultist stage show. It’s substance not just show with these guys with mammoth songs such as ‘On Earth as it is in Hell’.
Dave Bower has a stage presence that reaches heights few others could hope to attain and there’s no disguising the theatrical background of this flamboyant frontman. Wearing a crown of thorns, and enjoying a spot of self flagellation with a blood dripping cat o’ nine tails, Bower captured the dark mood perfectly. He excelled when briefly leaving the stage only to return a minute or two later on top of giant stilts and sporting antlers of the size that Satan himself would have applauded.
If all churches were like the ‘Church of Hell’ the collection trays would be full every week and the audience wouldn’t solely consist of geriatric dribblers.
Once the debris had been cleared away Canadian crushers Kataklysm took over and delivered one of the most brutally heavy sets of the day. The sun was still beaming down but Kataklysm were grinding out a murky menace of pulverising power that hit you in the back of throat and almost forced you back on your heels.
Frontman Maurizio Iacono instigated a spot of mass crowd surfing for ‘As I Slither’ during which the front of stage crew more than earned their money with bodies flying through the air. ‘Taking the World by Storm’ and ‘Crippled and Broken’ maintained the levels of destruction with the later being introduced by Iacono with the cry of “I want to see some blood!”
As always with Kataklysm, nothing is left in the locker. This was a solid slab of power that you could put shoulder to shoulder with anything seen on the day.
The rise of Gojira has been great to see in recent years, and just a few months after their co-headlining UK tour with Ghost, the French kings were back for Bloodstock.
Technically immense, Gojira are one of the most creative bands around but manage to deliver a wall of noise that is sophisticated and sublime but still bulges at the seams with savage intent. It surprised no-one that they opened with ‘Explosia’ the opening track from their epic album L’Enfant Sauvage.
Gojira welcomed Randy Blythe on stage to guest with them for ‘Backbone’ and while that union was one of the highlights of the day things did not run as smoothly for the Lamb of God frontman at the end of the evening.
It’s always unfortunate when things go wrong with the headline act. Through no fault of their own Lamb of God’s eagerly awaited UK return did not go as well as hoped when their set was twice held up after safety issues surrounding the barrier at the front of the stage.
It was cruelly ironic that this surfaced during Lamb of God’s set following Blythe’s trials (literally) and tribulations in the Czech Republic earlier this year following the tragic death of a fan at a LoG gig in Prague.
Before the problems kicked in, the Richmond rampagers had stormed the stage in customary fashion opening with ‘Desolation’ as frisbees were sent spinning into the night sky above Catton Park.
The first problem with the pit spilling through the crush barrier was just after the third track and crowdpleaser ‘Walk With Me In Hell’. This forced a break of a few minutes while things were put back in place. Two songs further in, ‘Ruin’, became just that when a repeat of the earlier incident forced a much longer disruption in play during which Randy admirably did his best to keep the fans onside with stories about Maiden and the beauty of the English countryside.
Eventually the Virginia veterans were able to pick things up and finish the show taking in venomous favourites ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’ and the blistering ‘Redneck’.
Closing with ‘Black Label,’ Lamb of God sent everyone off to the campsites on a high but it’s a shame that their Bloodstock debut inevitably lost something due to the two stoppages.
Hopefully the course of true metal will run more smoothly when they return for a UK tour just after Christmas which includes a welcome return to the Birmingham Academy.
Covering as many bands as possible at Bloodstock means you’re stretched tighter than drum but over on the New Blood Stage worthy of mentions from the trenches were Mask of Judas (one of the few bands of BOA to feature a female singer) and The Infernal Sea.