- Sarah Stubbs
REVIEWED: Bloodstock Open Air - Part II
As the heady, intermingled aroma of fermented sweat and lukewarm lager rises reeking from a pit already crammed with sunburnt, feverishly perspiring bodies, the less than majestic scene awaiting SEPTICFLESH this afternoon gives precious little indication of the epic carnage that’s mere minutes away from unfolding here. But the vast expanse of nightmarish artwork adorning the presently vacant Ronnie James Dio stage nevertheless speaks ghoulish volumes for the Greeks’ darkly electrifying presence before a rumbling tremor of blastbeats leaves the sizeable structure quaking to its very foundations. Displaying bewildering pacing and densely sinewy power through relentless episodes of pummelling hyperblasts and well-muscled riffage, ‘Portrait of a Headless Man’ sees whirling, delirious flurries of strings instantly flood the senses with ink-black atmospherics. With its multiple stylistic twists and fluidly graceful, operatic transitions, ‘Martyr’ is a relentlessly compelling standout whose intoxicating groove and violently churning midsection whips up an instant frenzy among fans. Borne aloft on richly sumptuous layers of dusky strings, the ghoulish echoes of a children’s choir elevate this intricate, restlessly shifting masterpiece to dizzying heights of cinematic intensity. Taking a rare moment to pause for breath, acerbic-throated frontman Seth Siro Anton snarls, “Bloodstock, we don’t have much time left! Come on!” his voice audibly charged with urgency as the four-piece hasten headlong into the turbulent throes of ‘Communion’ before ‘Anubis’s’ crushing, ritualistic slabs of bass churn and implode like immense, shattering slabs of ancient marble. And as the final hail of blasting horns and towering symphonies dissipate and the stage lights fade to black, it’s some time before fans fully awake dazed and motionless from this violently arresting spectacle.
A FOREST OF STARS exist in a shadowy hinterland where black metal greets Victorian spiritualism and Middle Eastern occultism in a wondrous madness of sound. Gracing the Sophie Lancaster stage as a misty rain fell beyond its confines, these celestial bodies burned like black flames on stage and bestowed a breathless Bloodstock audience with a powerful performance that never wavered.
Hailing from darkest Yorkshire, A Forest of Stars have been steadily perfecting their unique art and creating something rich, strange and full of cadence since their launch in 2007. While their earlier material has the twang of vaudeville and a dark folksiness, vocalist Mister Curse, the Queen of the Ghosts, the Gentleman et al have honed their music into a deeper and more elegiac resonance with their latest album, ‘Beware the Sword You Cannot See.’
To see A Forest of Stars at Bloodstock was to plunge untethered into a dusky, velveteen wilderness, lead astray by haunting melodies on violin and flute and flung into crashing percussion and throbbing guitar riffs. The more melodic elements of the Queen, at turns both harmonious and unnerving, were suddenly swept aside as the unique, gruffly-lyrical Northern vocals added gravity to the symphony, before the madness of the Gentleman’s percussion convulsed in final, soul-shaking crescendos.
Atop the Sophie stage, A Forest of Stars evoked a carefully crafted and yet deranged psychedelic atmosphere, akin to the delirious hysteria of a lunatic of the Victorian age, or perhaps the insanity of a 19th century séance where the spirits, set free, wreak havoc.
The overall, heartstring plucking effect was of pure poetry rising from chaos.
Missed out on Part I of our Bloodstock festival coverage? Check it out now at https://tinyurl.com/yboenhb7