As Catton Park prepares to open its doors once again, this time to an increased 15,000 capacity, excitement levels are reaching critical mass. Another strong line up and some UK exclusives make this the place to be for a metal party! See below for how the weekend unfolded with coverage for every main stage band plus many more, you'll be eagerly awaiting 2014!
Day One: Thursday – Sophie Lancaster Stage
Easing you in with half a day of metal madness, Bloodstock has everyone clock-watching and waiting for 5 o’clock when the arena opens. That's when the real fun can start! Kicking off the day, and indeed the whole festival, are Motherload (8) who blur the line between rock and metal with huge choruses and bigger riffing. There is carnage on the Sophie stage as Bull-Riff Stampede (9) unleash their furious blasts of thrash. No prisoners are taken and the pit action speaks for itself, expect big things from these Bristol bruisers. Now, for Brighton's finest noisy punk duo, Oaf (8). Armed with a bass, a drum kit, a tweed jacket and an array of cracking songs, Oaf proceed to shout, scream and wail through tunes like 'No More Tickets to the Time Machine' and fan-favourite 'Fuck Off Seagull' during a fun packed set. Folk Metal Yorkshireman Ravenage (6) are solid enough but fail to keep the momentum of the previous bands going and fall a bit short. Capping off the opening night is Tragedy (6), a metal Bee Gee's tribute act. Although they are camper than Millets, they are certainly a laugh but maybe an hour was a bit much as the novelty soon wears off. So the first days action is concluded at Bloodstock and what a way to start. Now all that is left to do is find the Jager truck and wake up in a hedge missing a shoe. Let battle commence!
Day Two: Friday – New Blood Stage
Pick yourself up and wipe away the vomit because another day of metal is upon us. The only place to start is the future of the music we love... The New Blood Stage! Local bunch, Cruel Humanity (7) are first up and inject some darkness into day with their black metal fury. Throat shredding vocals and a hint of keyboard batter the early risers. Equally furious are blackened beatdown dispatchers This Is Turin (7). With the day still in the AM, we are shown what the Cheshire boys can offer as they prowl the stage wearing a collective grimace. Irish death metal crew Warpath (7) continue the standard set and stomp out the crushing riffs and throaty roars to get heads banging and fists up. Nocturna (7) are next up and offer some clever song writing and an extremely well delivered set. There is no doubt about the prog-tinged metallers musical talent and they certainly must claim some well deserved new fans. The final band that I caught on the New Blood Stage were the energetic Londoners Karybdis (8) who overcome multiple technical difficulties to deliver a savage display of melodic death metal. Technically proficient and wildly talented they tear around the stage leaving behind a trail of sore necks and huge grins. There is something about them that will keep them a little bit different, expect to hear that name again.
Day Two: Friday – Sophie Lancaster Stage
Back for another round in the Sophie tent and the first band up are The Way of Purity (7). A masked and nameless four-piece whose interests include animal liberation and the end of humanity. Cheery stuff. Their hate-fuelled message is relayed through a torrent of harsh screams and pacey death metal. Absolva (8) fly the British flag with pride and show off some amazing old-fashioned heavy metal. The speed and precision that they possess is staggering and they deserve their spot on the bill. No-nonsense Norwich thrashers Shrapnel (7) offer up some great chugging riffs and keep the buzz of the day going. There are a lot of thrashers in attendance all weekend and they lap up Shrapnel's tight, energetic set. Brutality and symphonic scores can go hand in hand and Xerath (8) are out to prove that statement. The choppy time signatures and bouncy rage spreads through the crowd and everyone revels in the modern musical master-class. Xerath continue to improve with each show and could soon be a real force in metal. 'Welcome to 1989, motherfuckers!' bellows Xentrix (9) frontman Chris Astley and within seconds the tent is going mental. Since their reformation earlier in the year, Xentrix have been tearing up venues like they did in their heyday and the songs sound just as huge today. Thrashing beasts like 'Balance of Power' get the pits opening up and of course, they played 'Ghostbusters'. Headlining the Sophie stage are Swedish melo-death giants, Scar Symmetry (8). The sextet blend heaviness with uplifting Gothenburg style guitar play brilliantly and work the Sophie stage with style. Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist split vocal duties and alternate well between harsh screams and soaring cleans. What a triumph for the Sophie stage!
Day Two: Friday – Ronnie James Dio Stage
At last! The main stage is ready for another weekend of amazing music and opening up on a slightly flat note are Alt-metal six-piece Earthtone9 (6). The Nottingham bunch seem spirited enough but fail to capitalise on their chance to impress as the first band on the main stage. Bay Area titans Death Angel (7) certainly do a much better job at lifting the Bloodstock crowd but their thrash classics never seem to hit top gear. Although any band who can put out an album like 'The Ultra-Violence' deserves a slot on the main stage. Ancient Roman enthusiasts Ex Deo (8) make a much stronger impact and march upon Bloodstock with fire in their eyes and blood on their blade. Maurizio Iacono plays the emperor and builds his empire on headbanging and pit action during their first UK show. Darkness falls over Catton Park as black metal stalwarts Dark Funeral (6) take to the stage. The eagerly anticipated Swedes look the part but unfortunately, their sound is atrocious and their grim music is lost in a fuzzy mess. It is a shame that their satanic intensity was compromised and the broad daylight didn't help matters. Power metallers Firewind (8) ramp up the cheese factor but are great fun. If you can't stand in a field with a beer and enjoy Gus G's shredding spectacle, then I feel for you. The Greeks enjoy a solid showing to a fair sized crowd and look visibly ecstatic about it. Fair play, gentlemen.
The first (of many) truly memorable moments come from the ultimate party-thrash machine Municipal Waste (9). Ringing around Bloodstock is a chant of 'Municipal Waste is gonna fuck you up!' and that they do with a pioneering 'Wall of Surf'. Yes, the world needed an amalgam of the classic wall of death and crowd surfing. The bodies are flying everywhere. Total carnage! I was later informed by security that they had 673 crowd-surfers go over the barrier in a 45 minute set. Mental. Influential Canadian thrashers Voivod (8) turn out a good set. Following the madness of Municipal Waste was always going to be a battle but they just did their thing and played a great show. Not many bands innovate with every album and witnessing Voivod at a great festival like Bloodstock was a great moment. Accept (8) bring the tunes to Bloodstock and they bring them in abundance. Riff after riff and hook after hook, Accept get everyone singing along and rounding off your set with 'Fast as a Shark' and 'Balls to the Wall' is never going to end badly. Finally, after what seems like a lifetime, the king has returned. King Diamond (9) has his elaborate stage show and grandma in tow. King was packing a huge staircase, a long metal fence across the stage and a glowing, red pentagram to name a few props. He proceeds to pump out classics for an hour and a half and observe as a field full of metalheads try to emulate that iconic wail (as did the campsite for the next 5 hours). Dropping a couple of Mercyful Fate songs near the sets conclusion gets the horns up and one of metals most influential characters makes his way off stage after a scintillating start to the Bloodstock weekend.