Review by Paul and Emily Castles, Photos by Sean Larkin
The warmer than expected – but still incredibly muddy – Sunday spectacular saw many seek refuge from the elements under the Sophie Lancaster tent where several of the more outlandish bands were to be found on the final day of Bloodstock 2014.
One of the early highlights came when fans were ordered to pledge their allegiance to either the Norman or Saxon army in order to carry out a metal-eval wall of death induced by the larger than life Haerken. Proudly strolling out onto the stage variously attired as a baron, a Scot, a reverend and a knight, Haerken’s medieval merriment was not so much an accompaniment to their sound but rather embedded into its very core.
Throwing the necessary weapons for a good scrap – blow-up swords and hammers – into the pit, the usual mosh mayhem was successfully transformed into a battle re-enactment. Singing like bawdy barons, the Brummies transported the crowd back in time with some ale swilling songs cloaked in medieval fantasy. Great fun!
The World of Warcraft vibe was swiftly blown off course by the subsequent arrival of another esteemed Brummie bunch, Morgue Orgy. Their refreshingly self-effacing set was perfectly encapsulated by an almost apologetically handwritten band logo on a sheet of A4 stuck to the rigging – in stark to contrast to the majority of creative backdrops displayed during the festival.
Their hardcore yet melodic performance drew comparisons with another Midland great in Napalm Death. When tearing through such gems as ‘Last of the Summer’s Wine’ frontman Martin Graham even displayed some suitably disjointed dance steps to mirror Napalm’s Barney. While pushing the aggression levels up a few notches, Morgue Orgy still managed to display their trademark humour by volleying some massive inflatable footballs into the Sophie tent even if Martin’s call for the crowd to join him in a collective gambol only met with limited success!
Meanwhile, over at the Ronnie James Dio stage, navigated by tip-toeing perilously through a sea of mud, there was one band able to afford slightly more than a few blow-up aids when it comes to performing at a festival.
Amon Amarth most certainly won the unofficial ‘set of the day’ award. As if two humungous dragons either side of the stage wasn’t enough, as the band members began to climb up the statue’s scaly backs, like hikers ascending Everest, smoke began billowing out of the dragons’ nostrils.
With the crowd responding to the all conquering Swedish Vikings, man mountain Johan Hegg was at his enigmatic best blasting through such stormy seafaring songs as ‘Guardians of Asgaard’ and ‘War of the Gods’.
You know a band is held in high regard when the official merch stall at Bloodstock has shipped all their gear before they’ve even performed. That honour went to American death metal icons Obituary. Formed in the 80s at a time when the dreaded hair metal was viewed by many as the bees knees, the enthusiasm and size of the Bloodstock faithful for their set spoke volumes for Obituary’s seat at the high table of death metal.
Opening with the almighty ‘Stinkupuss’ from the 1989 album Slowly we Rot, their performance was one of the most crushing of the day. New album Inked in Blood will slot nicely into any death metal collection.
Equally enjoyable were New York rabble-rousers Biohazard who also ran the crowd ragged from the RJD stage. Their punkish 80’s roots still shine through and a high tempo furious set concluded with a ferocious rendition of ‘Punishment’.
Unfortunately things did not run quite so smoothly for every performer on the final day, in particular for one unlucky band who quite literally missed their flight to this UK metal mecca. Graveyard, a bluesy metal bunch of hirsute Swedes comparable to early Kings of Leon, Led Zeppelin and even Black Sabbath, were among the most anticipated acts of the day. Due to their late arrival, they were switched from the RJD to the Sophie Lancaster as the festival organisers performed a neat shuffle of the pack that would have impressed a Vegas regular.
Although the tent was filled to the brim with fans eager to see Graveyard, the Gothenburg greats arguably did not get to play to the size of crowd they had both deserved and expected. Their performance was still mesmerising, the haunting howls of frontman Joakim Nilsson accompanying the ever so catchy, doomy and bluesy metal riffage. The focus was on new material off Lights Out but there was still a couple of great numbers from Hisingen Blues thrown in. Graveyard offered something unique and accessible, yet with a sound as heavy as any death metal band, even prompting one far from metal-head bouncer to mouth to his colleague “These are alright these, aren’t they.”
Another engaging bunch to win over the Sophie regulars were Mancunians Collibus. Gemma Fox proved a highly charismatic performer, proudly sporting a Wacken-Open-Air artist t-shirt, this was one girl who wasn’t dressing up in spikes and hotpants in order to shift a few records. Her unbridled enthusiasm and dynamic vocal delivery meant that throughout their set, passers by continued to flood in, drawn almost as moths to a flame.
Final night headliners Megadeth launched straight into ‘Hangar 18’ and then thrashed their way through a bunch of old classics such as ‘Sweating Bullets’.
Their thrash sound and pretentious posturing does look a bit dated these days while Dave Mustaine did not seem to fully grasp the ‘family festival’ reputation that Bloodstock is famous for by barking out orders affecting the photographers and even when Satan could perform their set in the Sophie tent. A Thin Lizzy cover and an incongruous version of ‘My Way’ ended their set and the festival as a whole.
As always Bloodstock leaves enough metal memories to keep you warm until the whole wonderful exercise is repeated back at Catton Park in a year’s time. Megadeth though will quickly be forgotten and certainly lacked the wit, dynamism and power of the festival’s other two headlining acts, Down and Emperor.