Saturday morning at Bloodstock 2012 and both Benediction and I Am I provide portions of breakfast crunch on main stage, giving good accounts of themselves, in front of reasonable gatherings for the time of day.
Next up on the Ronnie James Dio main stage are Chthonic. Not often are bass players the focus of attention but then not all bass players seem to have been injected with some kind of ultimate beauty steroid. In Doris (yes really!) Chthonic have that very thing, and with testosterone levels high around Bloodstock-land the Taiwanese outfit are in with a shout. Points are scored for originality and cultural inclusion (frontman Freddy’s Taiwanese erhu) but some sloppy musicianship means this is mostly metal manga – OK if you like that kind of thing.
Crowbar turn-up and fill the place with sludge. Masses of thick, New Orleans, metal sludge – and then they ram everybody’s face right into it. Visually there isn’t that much to behold, but that’s not Crowbar’s M.O. It’s alright though, it’s just what is needed as many may be conserving energy for later, absorbing the ‘lower than a Catfish’s belly grooves’ fully. Main man Kirk steps up to the mic and vows to “jam their balls off”, which, with songs like ‘Burn Your World’ and ‘High Rate Extinction’; they do so for the next 40 minutes. It’s a great set from Crowbar.
Next to enter the fray are black metal pioneers and alleged church burners Mayhem. It’s fair to say that Mayhem shows have oft courted controversy to say the least with tales of violence and extreme behaviour, so one can’t help but wonder exactly how many in the healthy size throng are there just to see if it goes off! The rubber neckers are left disappointed as the Norwegians realm of evil power only seems to stretch as far as the first four rows and the set passes off without incident. Songs like ‘Death Crush’ and ‘Carnage’ flat line harmlessly away. It’s pretty much a non-event, and as Mayhem slink off the local clergy can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
In contrast, the Saturday teatime crowd that remains for the appearance of Sanctuary is like Wayne Rooney’s barnet, a little thin. It’s clear from the off that the “pit from hell” demanded by frontman Warrel Dane just aint going to happen. It’s a pity really because Dane & Co. are tight and highly adroit as they blast their way through their set which includes ‘Taste Revenge’, ‘Mirror Black’ and ‘I Am Low’. As ‘Battle Angels’ winds things up, the poor turnout means a good performance has gone begging. Meanwhile the noodle bar down the way is doing a roaring trade.
Fed, watered (lagered) re-energised and ready for more the acolytes return in time for the arrival of Hatebreed. The air raid sirens that greet the Connecticut metalcore exponents turn out to be a real warning because the ensuing assault is nothing but ferocious. In amongst the onslaught comes ‘Defeatist’, ‘As Diehard As They Come’, ‘Hands of A Dying Man’ and ‘Tear It Down’, all belted out like turbo charged cluster bombs as the pit returns, matching Jamey Jasta’s hyperactive display bounce for bounce. The crushing guitars of Wayne Lozinak and Frank Novinec thrust out wave after wave of solid metal hardcore before ‘Destroy Everything’ winds things up. Jatsta’s declaration that nobody ever regrets giving 100% best explains why Hatebreed win friends and respect wherever they go.
Testament stride out onto the Ronnie James Dio stage to be greeted by the kind of enthusiasm that gives way to unashamed affection. It’s a fact that one of the inventors of something as momentous as Thrash Metal are worthy of reverence. Songs ‘Rise Up’, ‘True American Hate’, ‘Into The Pit’ and ‘D.N.R.’ are all given the veneration they deserve, and as the set closes with ‘3 Days In Darkness’ many people are able tick off another from their list of “bands to see before I die”.
Labelling Orange Goblin isn’t easy. Are they trad metal, stoner, blues rock or what? Vocalist Ben Ward clears that one up for us straight away when he walks out onto the Sophie Lancaster Stage and announces “We’re just gonna play some metal for ya”. In that instant Orange Goblin claim the packed to the back crowd as their own, and triumph is guaranteed. Whatever Ben wants Ben gets. Devil horns, air punching, clap-a-longs, sing-a-longs the watchers respond to every demand Ward makes of them. Pumping out anthems such as ‘Time Travelling Blues’, ‘Blue Snow’ and ‘The Ballad of Solomon Eagle’, with newbie ‘The Fog’ becoming an instant hit. Fair trade indeed. Guitarist Joe plays it straight down the line with his hard and heavy blue collar riffage, drummer Chris rolls around his kit effortlessly, bassist Martyn thuds out his bass lines behind a curtain of hair like a head banging Cousin ‘IT’ while Ben growls out the vocal like a big grinning grizzly. Orange Goblin leave with everyone baying for more. Not surprising as these Metal Team GB flag bearers are probably one of the best nights out today, tomorrow and probably forever.
Machine Head probably divide opinion as much as any metal band on the planet. Fronter Rob Flynn’s relationship with both press and fans has made for some choppy seas at times over the years. And there have been a lot of years, twenty of them to be exact – to this very day. So tonight, any and all differences are forgotten, as we get to celebrate the anniversary of one of metals authentic game changers. Bathed in a sea of red light Machine Head jammed the festival into hyper drive with ‘I Am Hell’, starting as they mean to go on. Singing duties are turned over to the crowd during ‘Imperium’ before the whole gig is turned over to them, by way of five audience selected tracks from the classic ‘Burn My Eyes’ debut album. The five tracks ‘A Thousand Lies’, ‘Death Church’, the still insane ‘Blood for Blood’, ‘Block’ and ‘Davidian’ haven’t seen stage time for, on average, around fifteen years. Machine Head perhaps need to think about that, as it is these songs that keeps tonights set alive. The truth is, there are many who think Machine Head’s best work is years behind them, but they will always stick around to hear what made them such a revelation back in the day. On-stage technical problems and a PA that was at least two notches too low didn’t help, but all in all it was a decent bash, as the devotees traipse off to carry on the shindig over at tent city.
Review: Noel Fischer
Photography: Steve Johnston