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Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

BLOODSTOCK DAY ONE - FRIDAY

Words by Gary Lukes (Pythia by Nick Holmes)

Photos by Antony Roberts (no main stage photo pass so please forgive the distance of the main stage photos)

Our Friday commences with Swedish heavy metal Vikings GRAND MAGUS, kicking into “Kingslayer” beneath the rare combination of a Swedish flag and the sweltering sun. There‘s something familiar and reassuringly kick-arse about the music. “Hammer of the North“ turns into the world’s biggest pub sing-along, while “Like the Oar Strikes the Water” could be Judas Priest on a longboat. As an impressively hairy JB swings into the stop-start groove of “Valhalla Rising”, imaginary tankards are raised to three whole days of metal bliss. 

Grand Magus Bloodstock 2012 review

Grand Magus Bloodstock 2012 review Grand Magus Bloodstock 2012 review

Grand Magus Bloodstock 2012 review

Grand Magus Bloodstock 2012 review Grand Magus Bloodstock 2012 review

Striding onstage to an epic orchestral score, symphonic Folk-Black metallers MOONSORROW don’t relent on the bombast. Epic tracks such as the astounding “Sankaritarina” and it’s impressive vocal harmonies rousing the crowd. For all the atmosphere created by the cold riffing and the dry ice billowing onstage, we couldn’t be further from the frostbitten tundras of the Land of the Thousand Lakes. Not that it matters as thousands pump their fists under the hot sun.

Moonsorrow Bloodstock 2012 review

Moonsorrow Bloodstock 2012 review Moonsorrow Bloodstock 2012 review

 Moonsorrow Bloodstock 2012 review

Moonsorrow Bloodstock 2012 review

Metallica have probably been both a blessing and a curse for NWOBHM old-schoolers SWEET SAVAGE. While their cover raised the Irishmen’s profile tremendously in the 90‘s (even apparently causing their reformation), they‘ll always be known as the band that recorded “Killing Time“. Which is kind of a shame. From the brief part of their set that I saw in the empty Sophie Stage, newer, gruff, thrashy tracks such as “No Guts, No Glory” prove they’ve done enough to stand on their own merits.

Looking for all the world like B*Witched’s burly, older brothers; denim-clad ICED EARTH head straight for “Dystopia”. The American Heavy Metal stalwarts and their ever revolving line-up seem surprisingly effective to a non-believer like myself, Stu Block’s vocals showing an impressive range. But it’s with older tracks such as “Burning Times” that the band really get to gallop unimpeded.

Iced Earth Bloodstock 2012 review

Iced Earth Bloodstock 2012 review

Iced Earth Bloodstock 2012 review

Iced Earth Bloodstock 2012 review

Iced Earth Bloodstock 2012 review

Iced Earth Bloodstock 2012 review

“Who’s that on the main stage? Iced Earth? Who the fuck are they?” DERISION seemed determined to live up to their name; but thankfully not with their music. An amalgam of groove, thrash and just the right amount of ‘core, tracks like ”Born from Chaos” create quite the racket over on the Sophie Stage. 

Meanwhile, NWOBHM/hard rock evokers DEATH VALLEY KNIGHTS are left to their own devices in front of a depressingly sparse and static crowd. The swaggering nostalgia of songs like “Before the End” deserving more. 

 Death Valley Knights Bloodstock 2012 review

 Death Valley Knights Bloodstock 2012 review

Despite possessing one of the cringe-worthy names of the entire festival (and there were a few), songs such as “Blunt Force Trauma” prove that KILLER HURTS can evoke the 80’s bay area massive and showcase some very competent thrash metal. They also get bonus points for basing a song on “John Carpenter’s The Fog”.

 Killer Hurts Bloodstock 2012 review

Killer Hurts Bloodstock 2012 review

Killer Hurts Bloodstock 2012 review

It’s been over ten years since I last saw SEPULTURA (by which time Max Cavelera had already departed on his nu-metal odyssey); and about the same amount of time since I last gave them a decent listen. One decade, another line-up change and various amounts of bickering down the line, and I once again find myself in the company of Brazil’s very own. And I find that very little has changed. Derrick Green still looks every inch the man-giant as he stalks the stage, while new-ish track “Mask” tells me the fresher material is no less mediocre than when I last left them. 

But it’s still worth it for the moment the band bust out the torrential stomp of “Territory” and the pent-up fury of “Refuse/Resist“. And really, there should be a certain amount of credit leveled their way; it’d be so easy for them to rely on past glories and stick to a set-full of nothing but the 80’s and 90’s hits. However, even Green acknowledges the rise in energy levels as they blitz into “Arise” and are joined by Tim “Ripper” Owens for the primal, muddy riffing of “Roots Bloody Roots”.

Sepultura Bloodstock 2012 review

Sepultura Bloodstock 2012 review Sepultura Bloodstock 2012 review

It is 3 years since Pythia last played at Bloodstock, and it is fair to say they have progressed a lot. They have released two albums, most recently “The Serpent's Curse” earlier this year and played a lot more gigs after that 2009 visit. Vocalist Emily Ovenden is as striking visually as she is sonically, dressed in medieval-style garb and sporting small antlers. It is like Hern The Hunter's little sister backed by a group of guys who escaped from the set of “Game of Thrones”. Musically, they are not to be lumped in with typical femme metal bands with a sound more influenced by of Dio, Maiden, Priest and Emily's big favourite, Saxon. Her classically-trained voice soars on tracks like “Sarah (Bury Her)” and “Betray My Heart”. A short but impressive set receives loud appreciation from a crowd that gets steadily bigger. It seems they have won some new fans.

It doesn’t take a scientist to figure the suppressive heat of a tent isn’t conducive to the freezing cold black metal of EASTERN FRONT. But the grim, kvlt supernatural powers of black metal trumps mortal science, right? Not from my vantage point at the back. Granted, a choppy mix and erratic vocals hardly help Ipswich’s warfront warriors. I’ve seen these black metal comrades in action many a time, and they’ve toppled a fair few gigs on their warpath. But unfortunately, this is one time they’ll have to lick their wounds.

Eastern Front Bloodstock 2012 review

Eastern Front Bloodstock 2012 review

Eastern Front Bloodstock 2012 review

Eastern Front Bloodstock 2012 review

I’ve never been schooled in polite etiquette. In fact, I’m party to many a furrowed brow whenever devour my main course using my salad fork; and I often hear muttered tuts of disapproval as I let doors slam in old lady‘s faces. But despite my lack of a finishing school education, I’ve always been of the belief that it’s pretty poor form to keep your paying guests waiting for over 20 minutes. There are either major cultural differences in certain parts of Scandinavia or WATAIN are so black metal they simply don‘t give a shit. 

But as the sun begins to set over the grounds of Catton Hall, Sweden’s most ravenous finally take to the stage, caked in corpse paint, bathed in blood and flanked by fire and brimstone. They decide to waste little more of our time; ripping into “Malfeitor” followed by a vicious “Sworn to the Dark”. Framed by flaming trident logos, the diminutive form of vocalist Erik stomps the boards as he drips blood and barks blasphemies; seemingly determined to upstage the headliners and coming kind of close.

 Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

 Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Watain Bloodstock 2012 review

Contrary to the thrashing blackness on the main stage, over in the Sophie tent, France’s very own purveyors of flouncy extreme shoegaze offer the diametric opposite end of the black metal scale. Considering the vast amounts of testosterone flowing throughout the day, it’s surprising to see ALCEST spin the dreamy melodies of “Les voyages de l’ame” around a full and spellbound audience. Much like Roadburn last year, the vastness of a festival stage doesn’t do the band nearly as much justice as the more intimate confines of their own show. But it’s easy to dismiss some seepage of atmosphere during “Escailles de lune Part 1“; as Neige and Zero trade ethereal harmonies over waves of opulent post-rock guitar.

Alcest Bloodstock 2012 review 

So, how do BEHEMOTH top Watain? With the entire stage plunged into darkness, the band slowly appear beneath blue lighting and the ominous rumble of the intro tape, beginning the ritual with the lurching “Ov Fire and the Void”. So it‘s a relief that, bathed by moody illumination and surrounded by combustible inverted crosses, the band looked every inch the headliner. 

The biggest applause is naturally reserved for Nergal, who admits “it feels good to be alive“. And in many ways, this set is further testament to his fortitude. But this is no one-man show. The entire band absolutely pummels through a set that revolves mostly around the blackened death of the 00’s releases (though we’re thankfully treated to a rendition of “Moonspell Rites” to keep the old school satisfied). Fortified by atmospheric, gloomy chunks of riffage, today’s Behemoth almost sound like a blackened version of Nile. They finish with the deadly combination of “23 (The Youth Manifesto) and “Lucifer”, ensuring Nergal isn‘t the only one happy to be here.

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

Behemoth Bloodstock 2012 review

 

Check out our review of Thursday here featuring Bloodshot Dawn and Viking Skull and head to our facebook page to check out photos of you the crowd from the Thursday night metal disco.

Check out our review of Saturday at Bloodstock here featuring Machine Head, Orange Goblin, Nile and more.

 

Tickets are on sale now for Bloodstock 2013 with Anthrax already confirmed, visit the official website for more info.

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