David: The bad weather that had been promised all week duly arrived early on Sunday morning and by the time I made my way to the New Blood stage to check out Byzanthian Neckbeard, Bloodstock’s main arena had been reduced to a sea of mud. With the rain still falling, some of those who had arrived in the arena early enough took shelter in the tent and it was therefore the largest New Blood crowd I’d seen so far that witnessed the band’s performance at the unlikely time of 10.30am. Introduced as the band with the second best name at the festival, Byzanthian Neckbeard took their chance to impress a larger than expected audience with both hands. The band describe themselves as Doom Metal and they lived up to this claim by producing a set full of sludgy, pounding metal punctuated by brooding, growling vocals. To their credit, they even induced some Sunday morning headbanging from members of the audience and received a very well earned and lengthy round of applause as they completed their excellent gut punching set. All in all a delightfully grim way of kicking off affairs for the day.
David: Secretly pleased that I was remaining in a warm, dry tent, I awaited the entrance of Brighton band King Goat. When they arrived, it was again to a healthy crowd and the band, although beginning with a slightly subdued number, quickly got the crowd on their side with their brand of doomy, slightly fiendish metal. With definite overtones of early Sabbath mixed with little hints of U.S. doomsters Trouble, King Goat managed to create a somewhat sinister mood in the tent which was enhanced by dry ice, the gloomy weather outside and bassist Reza having a joss stick burning merrily away on his guitar. All this and it was still morning! With a lengthy track called ‘The Final Decline’ dominating the set list, King Goat went down extremely well and any band that quotes Oscar Wilde in their lyrics is OK by me! The songs were frequently peppered with well-constructed guitar solos and singer Trim gave off an amiable air despite the brooding intensity of the music. Definitely one of the highlights of the weekend for me and judging by the amount of nodding heads and the warm applause, many of those in attendance thought so too.
David: Dartford’s Unforeseen Prophecy were up next and they began extremely aggressively with a powerful opener which saw vocalist Paul Wells tear into his performance like a man possessed. He is very much the focal point of the band with his snarling, full of attitude delivery being a real head turner. The rest of the band are no slouches either with rhythm guitarist Charis Pattison additionally providing a more melodious vocal counterpoint to Wells’ aggressive style, although the power of the band did mean she got a little lost in the mix at times. Adding to this were pounding riffs and epic drumming and showed a band with real potential. ‘Burn The Sky,’ was the band’s second number and with its thrashy intro was a real high point for me. They certainly know how to whip up a musical storm and succeeded in bringing a few more people into the tent as their set progressed. As a result I can easily see this bunch of talented people moving a lot higher up the bill at future festivals.
David: From what I’d seen so far over the weekend, the Jagermeister stage performances were generally timed to coincide with the change-over on the main stage, so it was somewhat disappointing to have to witness Resin valiantly battling against a very loud ReVamp on the main stage for the first portion of their acoustic set. Looking and seeming much more comfortable when they were able to play without the sound bleed from the main stage, the band proceeded to play some fine original material including new single ‘Burn’ and additionally included cover versions of ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ and a truly sparkling rendition of System of a Down’s ‘Aerials’ which brought huge applause from the gathered audience. The songs were interspersed with humour and a mention of thanks to tea stall specialists Motley Brew for the sustenance brought a chuckle to people both on and off stage.
Alex: Anyone thinking that thrash can be easily thrown together with a few sharp chords and sleeveless t-shirts should take a look at Eradikator to see how to make a meaningful splash in the genre. Wielding a bass guitar that looks the same size as himself, vocalist Pat, leads his troops through a set that has a distinctly old-skool look but a particularly polished and refined feel. There’s a brutality and complexity on show that raises this above their contemporaries, with a nice dash of bass-led chugging to draw in those who like an even heavier vibe. The effort the band are pouring into the show is evident, and the response from the crowd duly acknowledges that they’re witnessing the start of something truly promising.
Aaron: Progressive Metallers Ak’bal were next up; the Cardiff outfit started with a serious amount of interest as the bassist knelt to use an electric drum pad as a tablas for the opening aspects to a fair few songs. The triple vocal octane was certainly different and for some a little too much, however, this uniqueness is definitely a key feature to many key features of the quartet. The vocals had different ranges and this worked well; the riffs brought the quartet alive, the incredible ability and technicality of the guitar riffs was outstanding. The heavy bass lines made your legs go funny as the booming reverb flowed through the ground; the drum beats mixed with Indian samples lit up the tent. This was some very powerful stuff and Akb’al showed real quality in all areas.
Rabid Bitch of the North
David: Northern Ireland’s wonderfully named Rabid Bitch of the North were itching to get going on the Jagermeister stage but a few teething problems delayed the start of their set by a couple of minutes. When they did kick off the bass was too high in the mix and unfortunately drowned out the guitar. However, they quickly got this under control and pummeled out a rather exciting sound, at times crossing the churning riffery of NWOBHM titans Angelwitch with a touch of early Metallica thrown in for good measure. Vocalist and bassist Joe unleashed the highest male vocals I heard over the weekend instigating comparisons to a very young Geddy Lee in my mind. The songs, including a great track called ‘Your Misery’ thundered along at a cracking pace invoking a feel of prototype thrash metal all the while with the high vocals, as they often do, splitting opinion in the audience. Guitarist Gerry, resplendent in his headband, looked a little like Atomic Rooster’s Vincent Crane as he launched one guitar assault after another, all the while concentrating fervently on playing the right notes. Rabid Bitch of the North had pulled the stops out to deliver a very good set.
Aaron: As the bands flow from one to another, Leatherneck was next up for their display. It was bloody brilliant stuff as the larger lads of the band used their girth to hilarious brilliant as the beat out the drum solo on the exposed bellies to the delight of the crowd; this just summed up the fun and frolics the band created on stage, with the gathering basking in their warmth and silliness. They had fantastic chemistry with one another and a stage presence that veterans of the game would be proud of, the catchy powerful and groovy sounds of Trucker Metal made them a delight to listen to; to add to that the faces and antics on stage of the band just made it a delight to watch and listen to. Leatherneck has some serious skills and an attitude to go with it of just having fun, makes them a band to watch out for.
Maddo: As far as marketing campaigns go, free beer is one that’s pretty much guaranteed to prevail, especially at a metal festival. It’s unsurprising then that Psykosis are met with a packed out New Blood tent for their UK debut, but from the first note it’s clear that the crowd’s not going to leave once they get their beer. An absolutely perfect display of ‘80s-inspired party thrash, featuring inflatables and an Irishman’s penis, are the reward for succumbing to an enticing deal. The band’s blend of horror imagery and songs about drinking unite the tent in a crazy, awe-inspiring set, and it seems a little unfair that the band aren’t playing the main stage to thousands of fans. It’s completely brilliant and easily one of the best sets of the weekend, and the humbled response of the band just makes you love them even more. If Psykosis aren’t playing the main stage in a few years, I’ll eat my thrasher hat.
Today the Sun Dies
Maddo: Following the mass exodus after Psykosis, Today the Sun Dies play host to an almost empty tent, and their fairly standard brand of brutal deathcore fails to get much of a reaction even out of those sparse few. Crushing riffs, complex solos and guttural growls do little to excite the crowd; even those who appear to be existing fans aren’t content to show their support beyond some polite headbanging and courtesy horns. Perhaps it’s the niche sub-genre that alienates many metal fans, and perhaps it’s the lateness of the festival that’s burned out the festival-goers, but it’s clear that it’s not the band’s day. A more intimate room packed out with stalwart deathcore fans would probably the best place to see them, as even the New Blood stage seems to dwarf this band.
The Heretic Order
David: Be afraid, be very afraid. The Heretic Order is coming for you! Imagine the spirit of Jimi Hendrix listening to the first four Black Sabbath albums, and then writing 30 minutes of material while watching horror movies and you’ve pretty much got The Heretic Order’s devilish song themes implanted in your mind. Looking truly menacing with dreadlocks, white face paint and evil lenses over his eyes, main man Lord Ragnar Wagner led his band through a disturbingly satanic set full of grinding and unsubtle music created to gleefully put terror into the hearts of Christians everywhere. Some great harmonising guitars fuelled with gruff, growling vocals will mean that this band is memorable musically as well as visually. When Wagner introduced a song about werewolves, he asked the audience if anyone believed in those mythical creatures. Seemingly affronted by the negative response, he stated that they do actually exist and by the end of the number I was starting to believe him. So, All Hail The Order! And remember to stick your tongue firmly in your cheek when you inevitably bow down before them!
Aaron: If the gale force winds weren’t strong enough for you, especially when you consider they gave it a good go to take down one of the visual screens, then Stoneghost was going to just blow you away; the incredible guitar skills were just breathtaking, such technical skill oozing out and then the crunching riffs that slam out, you knew this was a band with that very special octane that makes you stand up and pay attention. The London quartet were a force to be reckoned with as the vocal growls ripped out to the full capacity tent; the Hard Rock meets Modern Metal sound was a true joy to the ears and it has to be said, one that could be something of the future, this was a show stopper if ever there were one; the blistering drums, the thumping bass lines and the snaking riffs mixed with the grunting vocals was the perfect recipe.
Aaron: If legendary Death Metal wasn’t enough for you, new bloods Scordatura were next to wave that flag of contagion. Scottish Death Metal was their slogan and death metal was their craft; they had a really good ability to keep the crowd going with a great awareness of the stage, clambering down to the barriers and belting out the death growls into the ears of those stood there. They had all the right notes to entice the death metal maniacs out there; the massive pit that formed showed how much they were soaking up the experience. You couldn’t argue with the pull on the crowd as the New Blood Stage filled very well with the whole throng bouncing to the death beat.
David: After the satanic majesty of The Heretic Order, a little light relief was called for and this came in the shape of the truly magnificent Ded Orse. I’m sure the guys in this band will forgive me for saying that they were a little older than most of the bands that had previously graced this stage, but what they lacked in youth, they more than made up for in canny experience. The second track ‘Long Way Home,’ was a powerful, lengthy number with booming vocals and great instrumentation, all driven by drummer Jon ‘Spanka’ Spalding ’s manic stick work. ‘Playing God’ was dedicated mischievously to singer Queasy’s wife and continued the excellent music on offer. Their set was a genuine revelation and showed that there is still a demand for aggressive but melodic rock music in the U.K. The crowd seemed to love it as much as I did and no-one seemed to mind being offered out by Spanka because he didn’t think we were cheering loudly enough! zThe final number, ‘Ded Orse Rising’ was a gritty, bluesy affair and was a fitting climax to a great set and left me wondering how the hell had I not encountered this band before? So it’s a big ‘Up The Orse’ and thanks for a great set!
Kill all the Gentlemen
Aaron: Next up for the slaughterhouse was Kill all the Gentlemen, all the way from Exeter. The quartet had some good riffs that caught the attention but on occasions they tended to drift away; they really grow on you as you continue to listen and watch their passion on stage, before you know it, you head over heels fall for the Exeter quartet. There was something about how they built up from the nerves of the start to the open house blood bath of thumping riffs, massive bass chords and solid skin shreds. All in all, they really put up a great fight that made them stand up and be counted. They should be watched out for as their metalcore sounds reverberated around the small venue much to the delight of the fans.
David: From Brazil to Latvia next as I walked back into the New Blood stage for a viewing of Metalcore exponents Once Upon. Latvia’s probably not the first country you might think of when discussing rock acts but judging by Once Upon’s performance here, more attention should perhaps be given to acts from this part of the world. The disappointing news was that the band, clearly full of anticipation and excitement drew only a few people into the tent; up against Saxon and some long overdue sunshine the odds were unfortunately stacked against them.
Beginning with a slow number that had an almost Post Rock feel, there was nothing by way of an introduction from the band themselves until singer Janis Naglis announced himself with a mighty roar. The songs had a real rhythm to them and Naglis’s vocals spanned the full range of pitches from high screams to deep growls. Some clever time changes were also evident to counteract some of the more aggressive elements of the songs. Seeing the low turnout must have been disappointing and Naglis had almost a pleading air to his attempts to get the attendees a little more into it. Having travelled all that way, I did feel for this promising band that hopefully made an impression on those who did actually bother to turn up and see them.
Aaron: The last of the bands to set up on the Jager Stage was London based quartet EnkElination. Though the backing tracks weren’t working for the initial tracks, it had not phased the quartet too much, and let’s be honest here, gave us a new perspective to what the music could sound like; well it sounded brilliant without and even better with when it finally kicked into gear. The guitar riffs had an interesting high tempo to them as the gorgeous vocals rang out like siren calls to the wild. The bass chords were prolific and added an edge to the songs that other operatic metal bands miss. It was a vibrant, emotional and atmospheric sound that is typical of operatic metal, which was expected, yet they still had tricks up their sleeves made the eyebrows move up with some fantastic hard rock tracks mixed in there. It can definitely be argued that we were witnessing the blossoming of the new born stars of operatic metal.
David: Due to an unexpected change to the time table, my last band for Bloodstock 2014 was The Self Titled from the South East of England and yet another band really working well as a cohesive unit. Although they had the privilege of closing the New Blood stage for this year, singer Neil Dean couldn’t hide the fact that he would have loved to have seen Amon Amarth who had just kicked off on the main stage. What I think he was also hinting at was the fact that once again, the turnout was quite low in the tent. I enjoyed their set and found myself almost wishing that the rain would start again to draw a few more people in. Highlight of the set for me was the track “Running Scared” a song which is clearly designed to get an audience rocking out and which achieved its purpose with some aplomb. Dean has only been with band for about three months and despite delivering a couple of slightly awkward introductions to songs, is clearly fitting in well and revelling in his front man status. The rest of the band is highly competent and kicked up more than a little dust as they played. They concluded the New Blood festivities in fine style and became another band on my ever growing ‘must investigate further’ list.
Review: David Lack, Alex Bishop, Aaron Emerson & Andy Maddo
Photos: Heather Mc & Rich Price