The Bloodstock Open Air Festival at Catton Park, describes itself as the "The UK's No.1 Metal Festival", and again in 2014, it has fulfilled that mission.

It is in many ways, a festival by metal heads for metal heads! What you get then over the three main days of the festival, is a dynamic mix of different sub-genres, including death, doom, black and symphonic metal, and here are some of the highlights.


One of the highlights on Friday was undoubtedly Triptykon (12/13), led by the charismatic former Celtic Frost/Hellhammer front man Tom G Warrior, with their artful combination of black and doom metal, that embraces the dark psychological places, most bands wouldn't risk going too. The four musicians create soundscapes as much as songs, with Tom G's growled vocals seeming to come from a very desperate place. As they left the stage, their music eerily continued to echo through the mass of speakers. There is pure metal genius at work here!

Photo Credit: Gareth Allen

Hatebreed (11/13), in their only UK show this year, showed what masters they are of mixing hardcore, metal and melody, particularly with anthemic performances of songs like I Will Be Heard, with its opening defiant lyric "Now is the time for me to rise to my feet. Wipe your spit from my face. Wipe these tears from my eyes". The massive and brutal circle pits were inevitable, and not for any mosh pit newbie!

Down (12/13), of course, were worthy headliners on Friday, with Phil Anselmo as ever conducting proceedings, with an almost telepathic rapport with the audience. Their blues and sludge influenced metal is completely intoxicating, and they end their set as ever with the iconic Bury Me in Smoke, with other musicians part way through the song taking over the bands instruments, and Phil grabbing the bass. Their performance embodies the generous heart of the metal community. Phil as ever ends by asking the crowd to join the old man in singing when paying homage to Stairway To Heaven.


Saturday began on the main stage with Nottingham's Evil Scarecrow (10/13). The crowd is almost as big as for one of the headliners, and unheard of for a first band on stage at 11am in the morning. The reason soon becomes apparent, as the band have metal heads convinced to do the crab walk and the robot dance in complete had to be seen to be believed! Oh and their female keyboard player wore the most beautiful and elegant black ball gown...only with Evil Scarecrow, and only at Bloodstock! Though many people refer to them as a metal parody band, they are also great musicians and write infectious songs, and wouldn't be able to truly pull off their humorous take on metal without them.

Shining (9/13) from Norway bring a very unique hard-edged take on progressive metal, with jazz overtones. The sight of a saxophone perfectly in sync with their metal sound, just seems to make sense. Once they hit their stride, they became a formidable live presence. They finish with a unique take on the legendary progressive rockers King Crimson' s 21st Century Schizoid Man. They come pretty close to making it their own.

Photo Credit: Gareth Allen

.... and then we were smashed into submission by the incredible technical death metal exponents Decapitated (12/13). They deliver a brutal yet precise sound, that is completely irresistible, melodic and pulverising, and generates mass head-banging. A highlight being A View From A Hole, with its striking percussive start, led by drummer Michał Łysejko. They are on tour with Behemoth in the UK later in the year, don't miss them!

Lacuna Coil (10/13) were back on form, and despite recently losing two of the band members, put on a great set of the new and old. Particularly stand out were Heavens A Lie, and finishing on Our Truth, with Christina Scabbia's voice as ever completely angel like, and soaring over the audience. Not forgetting the chemistry of the vocal partnership with other vocalist Andrea Ferro, which works so well, and energises any audience.

Photo Credit: Gareth Allen

Then there was Carcass (11/13), who with their last album, Surgical Steel, offered some of their best material over a long career. As an audience member fell early on in one of the pits, they stopped the show and asked everyone to take a step back to allow aid to reach him. Later they dedicated a song to Sophie Lancaster. That's the mark of this wonderful band. Theirs is a death metal full of hook laden riffs and charismatically growled vocals from Jeff Walker. As someone remarked, they could easily be headliners,

To see a black metal band headline the main stage at Bloodstock is an historical moment. Emperor (13/13) marking the 20th anniversary of their black metal opus In the Nightside Eclipse, played the album right through from start to finish. It was an atmospheric and perfectly pitched performance, full of dark moods and powerful playing. It was striking in a live setting, how much of their work draws on an almost symphonic/classical influence, with Ihsahn's growled vocals flying effortlessly over the top of the wonderful musical cacophony emitting from the stage. In homage to one of the key influences on their music, and one of the bands that helped form the black metal genre, they also played a Bathory cover A Fine Day to Die. A great end to a great set.


On Sunday, as soon as Aborted (10/13) started up on the main stage, the sound was immense and deadly. Rumour had it that the sound could be heard in the furthest reaches of the campsite. Chaos and mud splattered pits raged, as Aborted smashed up the audience with their slamming combination of grind core and death metal. A ferocious set!

Revamp (11/13) provided the symphonic metal component from the main stage on Sunday, with Floor Jansen's (also now of Nightwish) voice providing both clean, growled and operatic styles. They went down really well with the festival audience, with Floor having a fabulous connection with the crowd. The tracks from the latest album Wildcard were real standouts, dealing as they do in part with Floor's emotional journey and challenges. Even Floor's mic cutting out made no difference to her rapport with, and command of the crowd.

Biohazard (9/13) with their infectious mix of hardcore, metal and hip hop, stormed the Bloodstock audience, and on their last number Punishment invited audience members to join them on stage. The stage announcer told us it was the most members of an audience seen on stage at any Bloodstock. They might lack a little of the light and shade and sheer emotional power that Hatebreed possess, but it was a high energy impressive performance.


Collibus (10/13) from Manchester have performed at many of the key summer festivals, including Download and Wacken, and are deservedly making their mark. On the Sophie stage they combined some dynamic progressive metal sounds with the utterly amazing and unique voice of Gemma Fox. They must be one of the hardest working bands around, and one to watch, with a real musical potential!

Amon Amarth (11/13) with their Viking metal are perhaps an acquired taste for some. However they fully justified their place as sub headliners, with a stirring set of often very catchy numbers, and had the audience calling out to Odin, one of the Norse gods, with gusto! The stage was dominated by two massive Viking longboat heads, and before the final song, frontman Johan Hegg announced, "You guys are as hard as f**king metal. You have been standing here in the rain and mud, and still managed to f**king rock out before launching into the catchy pinnacle of their melodic style of death metal, with The Pursuit of Vikings.

Bloodstock is a festival that is serious about metal music and choosing bands that will stretch the experience of metal heads. The festival has also nurtured much new metal talent through its New Blood Stage, who have then graduated to the main stage. On that note, a special mention to Scordatura (12/13), Glasgow's own death metal heroes, who played to probably the biggest crowd on the New Blood Stage, on Sunday, and whipped up a storm of circle pits and audience madness. Their death metal is full of brutal passion, and the audience loved them.... the main stage awaits them!

So there it was, Bloodstock 2014, a great line up, a great sense of atmosphere, and a real sense of the metal community at its best, running throughout the festival experience. No announcements yet about the headliners for 2015, but the rumours are rife and exciting.