With the sun shining bright without a cloud in the sky, fans begin the voyage back to Virginia International Raceway. As I walked into the main gate, the names of bands of today’s insane lineup started swirling around. And as you look at the full day schedule, this would prove to be one of, if not, the most brutal of the festival.
The day would be booked solid with another wave of great rock acts front and center on the main stages like Blacktop Mojo, Point North and Small Town Titans. And the list would certainly grow with bands like Saving Abel, Buckcherry and Candlebox. But the main draw of the day would undoubtedly be on the other end of the grounds.
The 1pm slot of the Fan Driven Stage would draw a huge crowd as Vended would make their first Blue Ridge appearance. It’s no secret that frontman Griffin Taylor and drummer Simon Crahan are the sons of Slipknot matriarchs Corey Taylor and Shawn Crahan. But these two went out and created their own sound and image and put together a killer band. They would light up the stage with songs like Burn My Misery, Bloodline and Antibody and completely blew away the crowd. At this point, the URW Stage is about to explode into chaos. First up would be Jersey City Deathcore titans Fit For An Autopsy. The five piece decimated the stage and the mosh pit as they unleashed crushing tracks like Oh, What the Future Holds, Pandora and Black Mammoth.
Little did anyone realize, arguably the most brutal set of Blue Ridge 2022 was about to erupt in front of their eyes. Russian juggernauts Slaughter to Prevail would pounce the stage, wearing their iconic Kid of Darkness masks. Their absolute brutality all but incited a riot across the crowd. Even All That Remains frontman Phile LaBonte took in their set from the side stage and it was very clear that he was blown away. Fans of all ages could be seen crowd surfing to the obliterating sounds of Baba Yaga or Bratva. The band would also christen their newest single 1984 live for the first time, and needless to say, it fueled the insanity that much more.
The Tennessee Deathcore titans Whitechapel would be the next wave of musical destruction. Phil Boseman’s iconic growl and the band’s triple guitar attack unleashed hell on the crowd. The next time slot would have fans making a tough decision to make. Take the trip back to the Monster Energy Stage for what would no doubt be a great set from Sevendust. Or stay put and rock out with none other than All That Remains. For those who chose to stay would not be disappointed. ATR would hit the stage with some new personnel. Long time drummer Jason Costa had to step aside from the band to deal with personal issues, and Anthony Barone would be filling in behind the kit. And of course, the departure of bassist Aaron Patrick from the band would usher in former CKY bassist Matt Deis. The band would light it up with their groundbreaking album The Fall of Ideals in its entirety and in a bit of a twist, would play it in reverse order. Regardless of how they decided to serve it up to the crowd, the pit and overwhelming vocals from the fans made this a set to remember.
Next, Swedish metal legends In Flames would tear it up on the URW Stage with a setlist that could easily be looked at as a greatest hits album. Tracks like The Great Deceiver, Graveland and Take This Place, the hits fired off one after another. A quick jog up the dreaded hill brought me to the HeartSupport Stage for Washington D.C. metalcore five piece Darkest Hour. The band would set it off with two heavy hitters 1000 Words and Convalescence off of their iconic 2005 release Undoing Ruin. Their high energy and crushing setlist definitely made them the highlight performance at HeartSupport. As fans and photographers alike sprint back to the URW Stage, we all had the same objective in mind. And that was to get there in time for Hatebreed. The hardcore giants pounced the fans with crushing songs like Proven, Destroy Everything and Perseverance Just to name a few. The band locked and loaded with a staggering fifteen song set that had circle pits going into overdrive.
The 7pm slot would have fans scattered around the festival trying to catch bands like Halestorm, Bad Omens and Bleeding Through. But like many cases throughout the four days, decisions would have to be made. But in fear of possibly missing the most anticipated bands of day 2, most fans stayed locked in at the URW Stage to make sure they caught Down. The anticipation to catch this all-star lineup had been stirring all day and after a short delay, Ken Windstein, Pepper Keenan, Pat Bruders, Jimmy Bower and of course, Phil Anselmo stroll across the stage to a deafening ovation. Their infectious grooves, tough riffs and tenacious vocals would rip off the stage with Hail the Leaf, Ghosts Along the Mississippi and Bury Me in Smoke.
For some like myself, it would be a full on sprint across the entire festival to catch the always explosive Gojira. And this set would be no exception. Joe Duplantier’s hypnotic and soaring vocals have always set him apart from other frontmen in metal and he would have that on full display early on. As the band rips through Backbone, pyro explodes all around the stage and the crowd along with it. The musical experience takes you through the brutality of crushing breakdown to mesmerizing leads and harmonies. Throughout the onslaught of fan favorites like Stranded, Flying Whales, Silvera, and The Cell, Gjoria continued to wow and surprise fans with more pyro and the occasional CO2 detonations, making this the most action packed show of the festival. The collective package of the incredible Mario Duplantier on drums, the shredderistic playing of guitarist Christian Andreu and the thunderous strokes of bassist Jean-Michel Labadie with Joe Duplantier at the helm, Gojira decimates every stage they step foot on. And this year at Blue Ridge was no exception.
For the final time of day 2, fan’s would have run to either end of the festival in order to catch A Day to Remember, or the iconic shock rocker Alice Cooper. I’d say for the first time so far, there was an even 50/50 split. But those who would stay locked into the ZYN Stage would not be disappointed. The band rocked fans right back to 2009 with their fan favorite anthem The Downfall of Us All. The excitement was the catalyst for wave after wave of crowd surfers, making it look quite similar to a zombie apocalypse. But The night would certainly play out with plenty of energy and tons of great music that had tens of thousands filling the air with their voices. As the band closes out their set with the rousing The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle, friends and members of the crew launch roll after roll of freshly rolled toilet paper into the crowd. And to cap it all off, ADTR sent confetti soaring into the air, blanketing the still screaming fans.
As we all look up at the enormous Mudvayne banner covering the stage, the excitement and in a lot of cases nostalgia take over the tens of thousands looking on. Soon, one of the most recognizable bass hits in the history of metal starts to palpitate through the crowd. When the curtain drops it sends an adrenaline shot of Dig going through the eyes and ears of every in attendance. It was just raw in your face energy. And looking up and seeing those iconic outfits and face paint just brings it all together. Though singer Chad Grey’s voice had been brought into question during early performances during their DWP run last year. Grey’s signature screams and squeals were just as vigorous and dynamic as they were on their legendary debut L.D.50 as he belted through classics like -1, Death Blooms and Determined.
Virtuoso bassist Ryan Martini would have fans losing their breath watching him sprint around the stage while guitarist Greg Tribbett stands idol, as his stare and riffs pierce your soul. Drummer Matt McDonough’s talents in my opinion are criminally underrated. But watching him live as he rips through those insane fills and beats just leaves your mind completely blown. Mudvayne would reach to every corner of their amazing catalog and pull out one killer song after another. They would wrap up their set with the fan favorite World So Cold before wrapping it all up with their Grammy nominated hit Happy? And they would send it off with a barrage of pyro bursts throughout the song and slapping a huge exclamation mark on not only an incredible set. But to close out the halfway point to this weekend’s musical marathon, and giving way to possibly the most anticipated days of the entire festival.