Review by Chop and photos by Sean Larkin
Springing gazelle-like from my tent could possibly be overstatement of the year, but hugely encouraged by blue skies, warmth on my back, and an uncharacteristic lack of hangover, certainly contributed to a sense of positivity and excitement for the full metal feast that was to follow Thursday’s entrée.
Malefice were 2012’s candidate to walk into the lion’s den and get the first full day under way. Along with Hatebreed and Machine Head they – for some bizarre reason – had attracted considerable vitriol from many of the forums pre-event, something not unnoticed by the band and alluded to early on in their set. Not that they should have worried, as the first circle pit of the day erupted suitably violently within minutes of taking the stage. Job done you’d have to say. What more could you ask for from an opener? They were well drilled, incredibly tight as a unit, and unleashed enough beatdowns to keep the pit happy. The good ship Bloodstock out of the docks and sailing smoothly then….
Time to saunter over to the Sophie tent to check out The Commander-In-Chief. Clearly the gal can shred. She’s more proficient than many an axe hero can claim to be after how ever many tours. Question is, how marketable is the end product? Perhaps you liked the Sergeant Pepper’s homage with the stage gear, maybe the music’s passable. But the vocals? Sorry they just didn’t work. Sounded like Lene Lovich if truth be told. And that can’t be good married to a three piece metal outfit with a seven string uber-shredder. Great technician, work needed on the end product, to enter the realm of the school report. Not ‘must try harder’ more a case of work in progress.
Back on the RJD stage Grand Magus once more showed (if it was needed) just how good a festival band they are. Travelling back across Europe since the early hours was not going to stand in their way as they made a forty minute set disappear in no time. Impressive as they were supporting (or more accurately destroying) Amon Amarth earlier in the year, this showed the band in their true colours. From opener ‘Storm’ to set-closer ‘Iron Will’ they put not one foot wrong and enhanced their reputation enormously. Interviewing JB later in the day was a positive delight after witnessing yet another fine display from them!
Tenuous link perhaps, but speaking of interviews – Paulo Jr this time – Sepultura didn’t disappoint either. A double intro leading into a double whammy of ‘Beneath The Remains’ and ‘Refuse/Resist’ got the pit fired up. Suitably enraged they partied through to the closing duo of ‘Arise’ and ‘Roots Bloody Roots’, proving once more what a potent force Sepultura remain however many years after their inception. They can certainly still dish it out…
Having been involved somewhat in the Metal To The Masses process, legging it to the New Blood stage to witness Kataleptic was a bit of a no-brainer. Hats off to the technicians and sound engineers as they did them proud, allowing their take on old school meets brutal death metal to really hammer home. They played like their lives depended on it and won over any non-believers in attendance by the end of their stint. Currently working on a full length follow up to their recent EP, if they keep playing sets this focussed the sky’s the limit.
Grimness in a tent anyone? Enough of my boots by the end of the festival, time for Eastern Front to ply their take on black metal, which they did in exhilarating fashion. Band logo banners either side of the stage, shield on the kick drum, and revised corpse paint all proved that the band had put more than a bit of thought into this performance. Having seen them destroy at Scruffy’s a while ago, witnessing the changes in stage presence and sonic oblivion was an absolute joy. Another band with a new album in the offing, if this showing is anything to go by they’re more than ready to ascend a few steps up the ladder to the peak of the black metal summit.
Watain’s excessive pottering to ensure they bestrode the main stage at dusk was Alcest‘s gain if the packed Sophie tent was anything to go by. Having not seen them before, and rating Les Voyages De L’Ames as highly as I do, it was another no-brainer where my allegiances would lie. Alcest lived up to my pre-set expectations and exceeded them several times over, as they played a set that flitted from ethereal to transcendental via brutal and quite simply beautiful with a laid back demeanour that really didn’t attest to their undeniable musical abilities. Stunningly textured, this was not only an early contender for set of the festival, but perhaps – along with their Gallic counterparts Gojira – set of the year.
Which left Behemoth to anchor the day with a display of precision blackened death metal. First and foremost Nergal looked incredibly well and was his usual magnetic presence out front. Flanked by a band of staggering power, and with a crystal clear sound, Bloodstock was there for the taking. There had been much talk about the band bringing over their European show and sure enough it was an epic performance bolstered by flame bursts and colour washes throughout (although the stage being a sea of red may have had a few in the photo pit gnashing their teeth). Theatrical at times, crushing at others, Behemoth played a blinder. Hardly surprisingly ‘Ov Fire And The Void ‘ and ‘Lucifer’ bookended proceedings. Without tempting fate, let’s hope health issues don’t rear their ugly heads again, the band record a murderous follow up to Evangelion, and they return to these shores once more to enhance their already considerable reputation. All in all, a fine end to a more than satisfactory first day.
See more photos from Friday below: