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Emperor Announced as Bloodstock Open Air 2014 Headliners

Posted in News, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 13th August 2013 by Hannah

Legendary reforming black metal giants Emperor have been announced as the first confirmed headliners for Bloodstock Open Air festival, 2014. The buzz in the arena at Catton Hall was electric on Saturday night as the hordes descended upon the main stage, both to await headliners Lamb of God and the promised announcement, and roars of delight erupted amongst the masses as the infamous ‘E’ shield logo and a promise of the ‘hordes’ returning flashed upon the screens.

Emperor, who have recently revealed their reformation in order to coincide with Wacken Open Air’s 25th anniversary celebrations, last played British shores in 2006, though Ihsahn brought his progressive-tinged solo project to Bloodstock in 2011. Their headlining performance will surely be a roaring success, and the BOA team’s coup of booking them seems like a gift to the throngs of dedicated metalheads who descend upon Derby each summer. Conversely, however, it seems that the increasing quality of acts booked have pushed ticked prices skyward, with 2014 Early Bird tickets retailing at over £120, already £20 up from last year. Even so, many would say with yet another gigantic name on offer, Bloodstock are proving their reputation as the UK’s best metal festival.

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Lonewolf – The Fourth and Final Horseman

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st July 2013 by Hannah

Lonewolf
The Fourth and Final Horseman
Released: July 2013
Power Metal
Released via Napalm Records


The Fourth and Final Horseman is a valiant effort from French power metal powerhouses Lonewolf. At times reminiscent of other fully fledged champions of the genre like Sabaton, or indeed legends such as Manowar or Blind Guardian, they also promise variety and versatility with tinges of Children of Bodom, Wintersun and even the late, great Bathory. However, this variety never fully manifests, and it’s something that lets the band down here.

Don’t get me wrong, in the long run, I think TFAFH is a cracker of an album. Jens Börner’s often criticised vocal style actually works in their favour, in my opinion; his voice is intensely gravelly, very throaty and I can understand why it puts people off, but I think it elevates their sound beyond the normally ultra-slick and squeaky clean production of most power metal bands and adds a heavy, gritty edge to their music. Of course there is a major Running Wild influence throughout but Lonewolf get too much flack for this and I think it’s time we accepted that, and moved on!

There are some fantastic tracks on offer here. Opener and title track ‘The Fourth and Final Horseman’ is a strong start, with a simple, repetitive and infernally catchy chorus that will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day- a formula Lonewolf tend to stick to throughout the rest of the album! Here, Börner and guitarist Alex Hilbert definitely show off their virtuoso capabilities with spiralling guitar harmonies; again, a formula they will stick to. Most of the time, this faithful adherence to this tried-and-tested method of song writing doesn’t detract from their sound, and I am tempted to say if something works, then by all means go for it! It works well in tracks ‘Hellride’ and ‘Time for War’, for example, but leaves ‘Throne of Skulls’, ‘The Brotherhood of Wolves’ and ‘Guardian Angel’ quite uninspiring.

Where TFAFH reaches its most impressive heights for me is in the tracks that promise echoes of something more; those hints of variety that I mentioned previously. ‘The Poison of Mankind’, for example, starts very strong with an almost cinematic, choral tinged opener that slowly builds into a stomping tune that eventually reverts to the usual Lonewolf formula, but still maintains that atmosphere created by the start of the track. A similar effect is achieved in ‘Dragonriders’, with its almost Celtic, folk-tinged melodies and in album closer ‘Destiny’, in which a slow, almost acoustic feeling promises a brooding and atmospheric closer before it once again falls into simply another stomping, energetic power metal track.

Don’t get me wrong; their formula works, and I don’t think any of the songs on this album are bad; on the contrary, they are impressively energetic, and good all-round metal songs with more than a tinge of the retro. I just wish they had the balls to stick with the slower, more melodic and quieter elements sometimes! This is why the standout track for me, by far, is the only one in which they manage to maintain that epic, melodic atmosphere throughout, and that is in the Bathory-esque ‘Another Star Means Another Death’. Change the vocals and it wouldn’t sound that out of place on Hammerheart or Blood Fire Death. It begins with a beautiful, brooding, slow burning melody that quickly builds into heaviness but manages to keep that brooding atmosphere bubbling throughout.

Overall, there is some fantastic guitar work going on throughout this album, and I enjoyed most of it. However, I can’t help but think that Lonewolf would silence their critics if they only managed to shake things up a bit, and show off the versatility that is so blatantly hiding under the surface. Having said that, I do think that this is a good album and a must for any fan of power metal, and I even think that this would be a good choice for those that don’t usually dabble in the genre. A good effort; I just want to see more variety on the next album.

3/5

Hannah O’Flanagan

 

Randy Blythe acquitted of manslaughter charges

Posted in Metal, News with tags , , on 5th March 2013 by Hannah

Lamb of God frontman, Randy Blythe, has been found not guilty in his trial for manslaughter.

42-year-old Blythe had been charged with causing the death of 19 year-old concert goer, Daniel Nosek, at a LoG show in Prague in 2010. Nosek was hospitalised after hitting his head after being pushed from the stage during LoG’s set, where he died several weeks later. Blythe had consistently stated that he was unaware of Nosek’s injury and eventual death until he was arrested upon attempting to enter the Czech Republic for another concert in June 2012; however, he had admitted to pushing a fan from the stage but believed them to be unharmed.

Presiding judge, Thomas Kubovec, ruled that the incident did not constitute a crime and acquitted Blythe of all charges. If found guilty, Blythe could have faced a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The prosecution immediately lodged an appeal after the verdict was reached.

On his Instagram account, Blythe posted:

“I have been found not guilty & acquitted of all charges against me. I am a free man. Please remember the family of Daniel Nosek in your thoughts & prayers in this difficult time. I only wish for them peace. Thank you for your support.”

 

Lamb of God will be headlining the Ronnie James Dio stage on Saturday, 10th of August at Bloodstock Open Air Festival, 2013.

 

Æther Realm – One Chosen by the Gods

Posted in CD, Folk, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 4th February 2013 by Hannah

Æther Realm
One Chosen by the Gods
Released 8th January 2013
Folk/Death Metal
Self-Released

North Carolina’s Æther Realm– no, they’re not from Finland- are a brilliant band that play no holds-barred, folk spirited metal that rouses the soul and provides an excellent soundtrack for generally epic activities- from pillaging villages to playing Skyrim. Their debut album, ‘One Chosen by the Gods’ is a solid and impressive offering that is incredibly atmospheric, and very strong from the first track to the last.

Opening on the mighty ‘Oak’, the album dives headfirst into epic folk melodies that are intertwined expertly with harsh vocals and an excellent use of both hard, metallic riffs and a softer, instrumental sound. As with the rest of the tracks, the lyrics are effective and play along to the ‘Viking’ theme exceedingly well. Second track ‘Journey of Discovery’ begins with an atmospheric, almost cinematic sound. In fact, this wonderful song in its entirety would be suitable for a fantasy epic. Fantastic effort here, with a good use of vocals and instrumentation throughout. This epic quality continues with ‘Hourglass’, which also contains a nice variation in tempo throughout, and helps to keep the album as a whole even more interesting. There are some very intricate melodies at play here, which adds to the multi-layered feeling of the track altogether. The band’s namesake song, ‘Æther Realm’ is a much faster paced track, with a heavy, stomping tempo that is reminiscent of horses galloping into battle. As heard on the previous song, this track contains some nice tempo changes and this helps to showcase the talent of the band well.

If I had to pick a favourite of the nine tracks on offer here, track number five would probably be it- but the fact it was so difficult for me to decide this shows how strong all of the songs on this album are! ‘Swampwitch’ is an incredibly catchy tune, with an infectious refrain and an impressive and not too excessive guitar solo. I particularly like the group of voices shouting the title throughout the chorus. Eponymous track ‘One Chosen By The Gods’ has a ferocious beginning, and it doesn’t disappoint as the track progresses. It’s a fantastic, rasping battle-cry of a song, complete with pounding, machine-gun drums. There’s an interesting use of symphonic keys in the mix here, which adds another melodic element to the track and lends it an almost video game-esque quality to the sound. Next song, ‘Ravensong’, includes a great use of choral vocals, with (the almost signature) sweeping melodic background- another excellent song, which is becoming something of a trademark for Æther Realm! The penultimate offering, ‘Winter’s Grasp’, is almost progressive in parts, and lends itself well to comparisons with Wintersun. Even so, in some ways this would be the weak link of the album, if it was at all possible to single out any of these songs as being ‘weak’- I merely feel, personally, that a slightly rawer, folk edge would have lent itself to the song a little better. Album closer ‘Odin Will Provide’, however, is a truly epic way to bring this triumph of an album to a close. Here are, once again, a strong melody, supported by fantastic and intelligent lyrics and another catchy refrain. This track ensures that the album makes its mark on your memory!

Overall, ‘One Chosen by the Gods’ is an excellent debut offering from a band that is well on their way to taking their place in the glorious ranks of the other Viking-clad folk metal behemoths. Æther Realm’s sound is somewhere in between Ensiferum and Wintersun, and if they can constantly deliver goods as solid as this, they will have nothing to worry about. A fantastically impressive set of songs, with no real weak link among them, and it has certainly whetted my appetite for more. I look forward to seeing what more Æther Realm have in store.

5/5

Hannah O’Flanagan

 

Arthurian Shield- Arthurian Shield

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , on 19th January 2013 by Hannah

Arthurian Shield
Arthurian Shield
Released January 16th, 2012
Death/Black Metal
Self-Released

Fayetteville, New York’s Arthurian Shield are purveyors of the death/black metal melding that seems quite prevalent recently, and their self-titled and self-released début suggests that they have definitely got what it takes to take their place in the ranks. Sole member Uther’s talent for song writing and expertly blending medieval touches into the general heavy sound of his tracks is evident in this release, and whilst it may not be showcased to its best potential, it is certainly there to be heard. As someone who is currently applying for PhDs based on Medieval Arthurian literature, I was very intrigued to find out whether or not the subject matter was handled successfully, and I was mostly pleasantly surprised.

First track ‘Arthurian Shield‘ is a strong opener, and although (like the rest of the album) it is plagued with some issues with the sound quality, in general the production on the track is not bad. Regarding the track itself, there are some good death vocals present here and the medieval inspired guitar licks throughout the song are a nice touch. The overall theme of the band/album and the general sound is continued in next track ‘Merlin‘, which has a steady and rhythmic opening and creates an almost trance-like and ritualistic feel to the track, which is definitely appropriate for the subject matter. Partway through the song, the vocals seem to disappear into the mix a little and become another instrument; whether or not this was intentional (and I suspect that it wasn’t) it is actually very effective and creates a wall of sound that helps the song to feel stompy without any sense of boredom. My personal favourite track ‘Avalon Arise‘ has a much cleaner and more melodic start than the previous two, complete with stock wind sounds and an almost magical quality to the melody. This is supported by the melodic chants that are reminiscent of Gregorian chanting and create an overall effective and atmospheric feel to the track as a whole, that effortlessly encompasses the character of the mystical and mysterious Isle of Avalon incredibly well.

Following track ‘Battle of Camlann‘, dealing with the final battle of King Arthur, should have been a ferocious and epic song, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. There are blast beats galore throughout the track, but where this song fails comes mostly down to the production quality, which is a shame. The complexity of the guitar licks is lost in the mix, which means that the song falls a little flat after starting so ferociously. Penultimate track ‘Death of Uthyr Pendragon‘ starts well (strong starts are a continuing motif of this album!) and explodes into heaviness; after ‘Battle of Camlann‘ one finds oneself hoping that it can keep the energy up. Luckily, this track does succeed in staying energised, and the onslaught is successfully broken up every now and again through a recurring clean guitar line. This allows the listener to catch their metaphorical breath! Album finisher ‘Guiniviere‘ is something of a surprise, being a beautiful, soft medieval love song with wholly clean instrumentation and vocals. Uther does not possess the strongest clean singing voice, but the emotion he portrays throughout the track more than makes up for this- and the vocals get much more confident as the track progresses. ‘Guiniviere’ is a lovely way to bring the album to a close and again proves Uther’s skill as a songwriter.

Overall, the thing that Arthurian Shield suffers from the most is the production quality, but this is to be expected from a self-released offering. Every now and again the music suffers from a little bit of mistiming, but it’s generally impressive considering that it was recorded solely by Uther, excepting the bass parts. There is also a sizeable gap in between each track, which results in a fairly awkward silence that could detract from the quality of the songs on offer, but I am still more than satisfied with the album Uther has given us. Arthurian Shield have a lot of promise here, and they faithfully reproduce their subject matter without falling into the realm of cheese. I look forward to hearing their next selection, and wish Uther luck in finding the right people to complete his line-up.

3.5/5

Hannah O’flanagan

Nightwish split with Anette Olzon partway through their World Tour

Posted in News on 1st October 2012 by Hannah

In a somewhat shock announcement, Nightwish have revealed that they have parted ways with their second singer, Anette Olzon, in the midst of their current multi-date world tour.

In a statement released on their website, Nightwish posted:

Another chapter of the Nightwish story has ended today. Nightwish and Anette Olzon have decided to part company, in mutual understanding, for the good of all parties involved.

In recent times it has become increasingly obvious that the direction and the needs of the band were in conflict, and this has led to a division from which we cannot recover.

They also announced that they will be substituting Anette with Floor Jansen, current ReVamp and ex-After Forever singer, for the rest of the dates in order to perform every show scheduled for the Imaginaerum World Tour.

In light of the under-reported illness suffered by Olzon, requiring hospitalisation and tests through which doctors discovered a large cyst in her liver, it is easy to question the motives behind the decision to part with the singer that saw Nightwish to release two of the biggest albums of their career; 2007’s ‘Dark Passion Play’ and 2011’s ‘Imaginaerum’. Even though their initial decision to hire Olzon after acrimoniously splitting with original (and much lauded) vocalist Tarja Turunen divided fans, the fact that Olzon saw Nightwish attain new heights is indisputable. One questions whether Nightwish have made the decision to split with Olzon rather than allow her to recover and perform the rest of the tour with substitutes in her place too rashly, and wonders if the decision really was ‘mutual’.

Bloodstock Open Air 2012 Review

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , , on 21st August 2012 by Hannah

Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2012 [Behemoth, Machine Head, Alice Cooper & more]
Catton Hall, Derbyshire
9th-12th August, 2012

So, another year, another Bloodstock. This year was probably one of the most controversial for a good number of years; mainly based around line up. Not only was there a massive furore over the choice of Machine Head as Saturday’s headliners, there was also much discussion of the line up, in general, being poor. Swathes of apparent regulars made it clear that the line up meant they were not purchasing tickets. This didn’t affect Bloodstock in any way, mind. There were over 11,000 people in attendance- the biggest number to date- and the organisers were able to enjoy the fact that their VIP packages totally sold out, and there were not many regular passes left by the time the weekend came around. This year’s Bloodstock was also notable for another, more special reason. Over the course of the weekend, many of the live performances were streamed world wide for the first time ever, and this decision proved to be a resounding success; over 200,000 people across the globe tuned in to watch live footage of the festival throughout the duration of the weekend. In terms of ticket sales, bums on seats and world domination, Bloodstock outdid themselves this year. But what of the festival itself?

Friday started off with a ridiculous heat wave. The fields of Catton Hall overflowed with sweaty, melting metal heads, most of them sweltering in the commonly worn uniform of black band shirt and jeans or camouflage trousers. But this sudden appearance by the sun did not stop them from turning out in multitudes to check out all three stages (four, if we count the Jagermeister Truck acoustic stage). With a cold one in my hand (one of 60+ real cask ales and ciders on sale in the Serpent’s Lair; the extra £100 odd was worth it just for that selection) I trudged to the main stage to enjoy the first few bands. Reading’s Malefice started proceedings with a valiant performance, filled with power and energy and determined to make a name for themselves. These newcomers pulled in a respectable crowd for the first slot of the day, and in my opinion started the festival off well. Followers Freedom Call kept up the energy with forty minutes of pure, cheesy German power metal, and I’m not ashamed to report that it was glorious. Their set was certainly a ‘happy metal party’ and they got the crowd jumping along to most of their songs. With their upbeat melodies and cheerful yet clumsy, Olympics centred banter, almost everyone watching their set had a stupid grin on their faces by their closer. Grand Magus were predictably epic, and the freshness of their material and stage presence makes it easy to forgot how long they have been around for. The Swedish stalwarts showed how thumping heavy metal is meant to be done.

Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to see most of the second half of Moonsorrow’s set as I quickly fell ill with what I now recognise as heatstroke, but the first half I did see was fantastic. They played a good selection of their material, and managed to put on a great performance, despite the fact that much of the crowd was flagging in the somewhat unexpected heat by this point. Their set was also far too short, especially considering most of their songs hit the nine minute mark, and it can only be hoped that they don’t leave it too long til they tour the UK as headliners. I have it on good authority, thanks to my temporary co-correspondent Joe (my brother) that Iced Earth absolutely slayed it. In three words, they were pounding, soaring and epic. The screams of ‘Iced Fucking Earth’ that echoed around the arena barely needed any encouragement from the band themselves, and they left the crowds begging for more. In complete contrast, and in a somewhat controversial claim, Joe felt that Sepultura were a massive disappointment. Clumsy and clunky, they played a set that didn’t contain enough new stuff to be purely Derrick Green era-stuff, nor enough classics to be a ‘classic Sepultura’ show, even despite the inclusion of songs such as ‘Refuse/Resist’ and ‘Roots’. I was back to the arena in time for Dio’s Disciples, the special tribute set up in memory of the late, great Ronnie James Dio, metal legend and namesake of Bloodstock’s main stage. And what a tribute it was. Each and every member of the band put their heart and soul into the performance, and it showed. Nearly every member of the band was almost in tears during their set, and they gave rousing renditions of some of Dio’s best known songs, including ‘Holy Diver’, ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Rainbow in the Dark’. We still love you, Ronnie. Whilst Dio’s Disciples got all emotional on the main stage, mention must be made of Hull’s Infernal Creation, who tore up the New Blood stage in the same slot. Bastard, Neiphrobous and Sin were joined by Cryptic Age’s Tom Keeley for the performance, due to bassist Beleth’s recent ill health (swift recovery, dude!) and they laid down their black metal credentials for all to see. Neiphrobous had the disappointingly small crowd in the palm of his outstretched claw, and whilst they deserved to pull a far greater number of people, those that were in attendance were treated to a thirty minute long aural assault of the highest calibre. A fantastic performance by a brutal underground band, deserving of greater success.

The atmosphere in the main arena grew noticeably chillier during the set up for Watain, and it wasn’t just the onset of the evening. There was almost as much of a buzz for these guys as there was for Friday headliners Behemoth. When asked about who they were here to see, countless people answered ‘Fucking Watain!’. All inverted crosses, flaming sigils and fire, Watain were truly a spectacle. Frontman Erik Danielsson (E) soaked the crowd- and pre-prepared, poncho and cagoule wearing security- with blood from a silver chalice, as ominous red lights zoomed over the crowd. They delivered their special blend of hauntingly beautiful and brutal black metal to the masses assembled in the fields of Catton Hall. Their stage show was uncompromising, being the masters of the theatrical and experts in creating an atmosphere both electric and somewhat unsettling. I managed to grab E for a quick chat on Saturday evening, and he summed their performance up in a concise way:

            I think it was very beautiful, it was during the sunset, and the sun came down in a very fitting way I would say. As far as Bloodstock goes, it’s another one of those places where two-leggers gather in the same place. I have an extremely hard time dealing with that, and it’s getting to the point of nausea, but at the same time it’s a good place.

All hail the black priests of metal!

After being suitably roused into a black, unholy frenzy, headliners Behemoth materialised on the stage in a flash of blue light and fog like a furious quartet of Cenobites. It is so, SO good to be finally writing a review of a performance by Behemoth at Bloodstock, and just as good to see Nergal, victorious in his battle with leukaemia, absolutely ripping Bloodstock a new one. The truck full of pyro they commissioned to trek across Europe from Poland meant that they were fully able to flex their blackened muscles and deliver a full Behemoth show to the baying crowds. Ferocious and uncompromising, they delivered a spectacle that will stay in the minds of all those assembled for a long time to come. On the visual front, they did not disappoint. Burning crosses, hooded monks, and a brilliantly clever use of fog and lighting to create a massive, Ronnie James Dio stage sized Polish flag, they looked spectacular. They sounded spectacular, too. With a set list that included fearsome renditions of songs old and new, including my personal highlights ‘Christians to the Lions’ and ‘Slaves to Serve’, Nergal, Orion, Inferno and Seth were the masters of the hordes as Friday evening closed in an infernal frenzy of blackened death metal. Behemoth fucking ruled.

On to Saturday, then, and after catching the end of what proved to be an energetic set by Benediction, on came ZP Theart of ex-Dragonforce fame, and his new band IamI. Theart had a lot to prove today, and even though his distinctive vocals strained a little at times, their raw sort of power metal worked quite well. He obviously loved being on the stage, and whilst it has to be said that their material bordered on repetitive, they gave a commendable performance. Following the power metal was Taiwan’s ChthoniC, who were, in a word, brilliant. They brought their folk-inspired, mythologically-powered black metal to the assembled crowds and performed beautifully. Freddy Lim, erhu in hand, made firm friends with the crowd and inspired an anti-Chinese roar of ‘Taiwan! Taiwan!’ to erupt among the arena. Even though many of them may not have understood the significance of Lim’s impassioned tirade against the Chinese occupation of Taiwan, they sympathised with ‘Chinese Taipei’ and were intensely receptive to the band’s atmospheric sound. The less said about Mayhem, the better. I was intensely disappointed with their lack of performance and the overall sloppy state of their set. Even Attila was boring. They came onto the stage and seemed to leave again soon after, without much fuss. So very anti-climactic. In contrast, the newly reformed Sanctuary were a surprising success. Even though their reformation will probably be at the expense of the fantastic Nevermore, it’s good to see Sanctuary back together. They really entertained the crowd with an energetic and upbeat set, satisfying both old and new fans. One band that personally surprised me were Hatebreed. I did not expect to enjoy the Connecticut hardcore maniacs, but I really did. They gave a performance full of energy and proved themselves to be very proficient at what they do. With Hatebreed, circle pits were always guaranteed but what was good to see was that the pits, orchestrated by frontman Jamey Jasta with safety on his mind, were instructed to help anyone that fell back up to their feet. Hatebreed are a brotherhood, and no one gets left behind or forgotten, as was evident with their touching dedication to the recently fallen, including the Rev, Dimebag, Dio and Paul Gray. Due to other commitments, I wasn’t able to catch much of Testament’s set, but the view from Joe was that they were sick. They played a good selection of old and new and more than satisfied the crowds.

Saturday’s controversial headliners Machine Head came onstage will everything bared and a mentality of proving to everyone present that they deserved to be there. They were there for their fans, but also for every single person who would have rather seen someone else take their place. In my opinion, they more than deserved that headline slot, and proved so with a visceral, rib shaking performance. Clearly humbled and in awe of Bloodstock as a whole, Machine Head plunged into their set with no holds barred. They spattered their set with a good selection of tunes, including fan favourites ‘Imperium’ and ‘Darkness Within’. As had been advertised since their announcement, they also played the 5 ‘Burn My Eyes’ tracks that had been voted for by the fans, in honour of the 20th anniversary of the first live show they ever played, in Mike Scum’s house, for a ‘destroy the house’ kegger party. Fantastic. The tracks chosen- ‘Death Church’, ‘A Thousand Lies’, ‘Blood for Blood’, ‘Block’ and ‘Davidian’– were received with an almost rabid response; a personal highlight was definitely ‘Block’, a track that absolutely slayed the crowd with its chugging intensity. Robb Flynn also proved that his reputation as one of the ‘nice guys’ of metal is more than apt, with a touchingly heartfelt speech about the true, accepting spirit of metal and how stoked he was to be playing on the stage with so many of his metal brothers in attendance. He also showed how much of an expert he is at creating a rapport with the crowd, and even instigated some sort of epic battle between Wolverine and Banana-man. Machine Head’s headliner slot will go down in history as one of the most divisive but brutal sets in Bloodstock history.

There were a number of fantastic performances on both the S.O.P.H.I.E. and New Blood stages on Saturday as well. Witch Sorrow and Winterfylleth both put on fantastic performances; Witch Sorrow’s sludgey, droney doom metal shaking the bowels of all those cooped up in the sweaty, beer soaked S.O.P.H.I.E. tent, and Winterfylleth delivered a set full of competent, slick black metal. But the day has to be given to the mighty Orange Goblin. The fact that the crowd literally spilled out of the tent and created lines at least seven men deep as a huge number of people struggled to watch them can probably attest to the Goblin’s strength on Saturday night. Sludgey, sleazy and soaked in booze and weed, the Goblin were on form and should have been on the main stage. However, the underdog status of the second stage suited them well. Their performance was painfully effortless, and they delivered a strong, sublime set, filling the S.O.P.H.I.E. tent to the rafters with stoner madness. There were also strong performances over at the New Blood stage. Newcastle’s Reflection in Exile were brilliant, and better than many of the bands on the main and S.O.P.H.I.E. stages. Dare I say that they were better than Mayhem? Regardless, they gave their all in the performance and were rewarded with the total attention of a sizeable crowd, pulled into the New Blood stage and away from main stagers Hatebreed. Reflection in Exile are worth watching out for. Saturday’s New Blood headliners, Manchester’s Gone Til Winter, served up a slice of brilliant, dark power metal. Stealing a good size crowd in from Testament– though they deserved many, many more- they performed with their hearts on their sleeves. Vocalist  Talena is a fantastic front woman, with an easy and likeable demeanour and a good amount of stage presence. Their set list included a number of tasters from their upcoming debut LP, Hiding From The Sun. I wish them every success in the future; and good luck to Talena on the forthcoming birth of her baby!

The final day of Bloodstock 2012 dawned with a brilliant performance from epic Canadian metallers Kobra And The Lotus. I think it’s safe to say that Kobra Paige and her troupe of heavy metal warriors won over a new legion of fans on Sunday. And holy hell, can Kobra Paige sing! KATL were a fantastic way to start the final day of BOA, and served up a delightful portion of soaring, traditional heavy metal. Corrosion of Conformity were much better than I thought they would be. I didn’t expect their groovy, sludge metal to be as good as it was, but I was pleasantly surprised. Good set, despite the need for a bass amp half way through! All that can really be said about Nile is that they were fucking brutal. They played a good mix of their stuff, from older material to brand new tracks. My personal highlights were the brutal Sacrifice Unto Sobek, Execration Text and Lashed To The Slave Stick. Their mystical, Egyptological, brutal death metal crushed the arena, and their show was so intensely amazing that it didn’t even matter that the heavens opened part way through. It would be hard for any band to follow such a flawless set, but it could have proven disastrous for Black Dahlia Murder. So many people didn’t want them to be here, and so BDM had an awful lot to prove. But prove it they did. By the end, the crowd had grown into a respectable size and enjoyed their unapologetic brand of death metal mayhem. There were two people in the crowd who certainly enjoyed their set, as their doggy style adventures proved. I think BDM proved many of the haters wrong, and showed that they deserve their place on the line up as much as anyone else. I also dearly hope that Brian Eschbach got his cheesy chips with gravy. As was expected, Bloodstock favourites Evile played to an incredibly enthusiastic crowd and did not disappoint. Even though they seemed endearingly puzzled at the fact that this year saw their fourth year on the line up, they clearly loved being back on the main stage, as did the crowd. The Huddersfield troupe performed a really strong set, including the rabidly received ‘Cult’. Metal underdogs Anvil gave a roaringly successful, and somewhat poignant, performance. They were clearly enthused to just still be performing, and were well received. The success of their story was evident by the number of Anvil patches that could be seen on denim and leather jackets throughout the arena, standing side by side with big names such as Judas Priest, Megadeth and Iron Maiden. Well done, Anvil!

Goth/doom veterans Paradise Lost seemed to delight the crowds with a competent set that entertained whilst being slightly sloppy. Their set list spanned their whole career fairly well, so there was guaranteed to be something there for everyone. From a selection that included game changing album Draconian Times, Nick Holmes and his gloomy troupe played reasonably well, and finished with crowd pleaser Say Just Words. Paradise Lost could have been so much better, but with all said and done they were more than satisfactory. A band that did not disappoint was 2008 headliners and ‘special guests’ Dimmu Borgir. I’m not ashamed to say that Dimmu were probably one of the bands I was looking forward to the most all weekend, and they were astounding. They returned to the main stage with a triumphant performance, full of characteristic bombast and malignantly beautiful orchestrations, and oozing with dark charisma. They had the crowd lapping up every single note and ravenously devouring each morsel proffered, from ‘Gateways’ and ‘Dimmu Borgir’ to ‘Puritania’ and ‘Progenies of the Great Apocalypse’, with surprise appearances from ‘Vredesbyrd’ and closer ‘Mourning Palace’. It’s good to see that they have not lost any of the atmosphere brought by ICS Vortex’s clean vocals; in fact, the majestic choral recording created sweeping, epic atmosphere that melted with the brutal nature of the rest of the performance perfectly. A darkly beautiful, flawless set from one of the most professional and well-oiled bands in the industry.

What can I say about Sunday night headliner Alice Cooper? It’s been just over a week since I returned from BOA and I’m still getting over the spectacle of it all. Alice is 64 years old, and he wiped the floor with most of the other people who had been up on that stage before him. He has still got exactly what it is that made everyone fall in love with him back in the seventies, and I hope he never loses it, because he is fantastic. The anticipation started to build from the moment the vast, opaque banner was pulled up in front of the stage, obscuring the set up and preparations underway behind it, and the time it took to get the stage ready to be Coop’d seemed to fly by. The atmosphere in the arena, as Vincent Price boomed out from the speakers, was electrifying with excitement. Everyone was shoulder to shoulder as people squeezed in, trying to get the best view possible of what was to come. And what did come? A performance that showed everyone exactly how it is done. Starting with ‘Black Widow’, the man himself appeared atop a vast, cobwebbed lectern, resplendent in his spider suit, every single audience member dancing on his hands like puppets. A showman to the very end, Alice proceeded to entertain and beguile for an hour and a half that was stuffed with hits, favourites and rare titbits. I can honestly say that Cooper’s set was the best thing I have ever seen. Unlike the normal, pared down festival performances many bands deliver, Alice Cooper put on a full show, complete with guillotine, skewered paparazzo, pyrotechnics, dead dolls and a giant, guitarist chasing Frankenstein’s monster. I don’t think it would be possible for me to choose a favourite track, but the moment Alice donned a white lab coat and red, elbow length gloves during the opening chords of ‘Feed My Frankenstein’, I knew that Bloodstock 2012 had turned into an ‘I was there’ event. I was there to see Alice Cooper conquer, and prove that he is at the absolute pinnacle of rock showmanship. Almost every single band on the line up, from Watain and Dimmu Borgir to Machine Head and Black Dahlia Murder owe something to Cooper. Without Cooper, the rock concert as we know it would not exist. Theatricality and performance in concert would not exist. Without Cooper, the metal world would be a much less colourful place. Catton Hall turned into a cacophony of noise as every person present hoarsely shouted along with ‘Poison’, ‘Hey Stoopid’ and ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, and whooped with delight as the unmistakable opening riff for ‘School’s Out’ rang out through the arena. Alice finished his set by striding onto the stage, Union Jack in hand, for a fittingly ferocious ‘(I wanna be) Elected’. Alice Cooper was absolutely phenomenal, and I will remember the feeling I got when I was watching him, a man I have looked up to and admired since I was seven years old and first heard ‘Poison’, for the rest of my life.

Bloodstock 2012 was an incredible achievement, crushing records and paying homage to some of the greatest names in modern metal. I’ll see you in 2013.

Hannah O’Flanagan, 2012