Bloodstock!!! The perennial pilgrimage for UK metalheads was underway at Catton Hall, Derby from the 8th to the 12th of August. an unmissable date on the calendar for anyone who cares about metal's history and future, Bloodstock is an important factor in helping to bring up and coming new bands into the public's eye, as well as hosting the gamut of fine, established metal from all subgenres.
That said, while Bloodstock is the premier metal festival of the UK, second to none in showcasing new metal talent, it still didn't go unnoticed that many of bands playing the mainstage were all on Nuclear Blast's roster. That reeks of payola. Yes, these were very good bands, but you'd like to think that what bands get booked has more to do with what the fans want and less to do with a lable's BOGOF incentives.
I have massive respect for the Gregorys, and the whole B'Stock team, so I sincerely hope that isn't the case, but I calls em as I see's em.
Moving on! I tried my best to watch as much as I could at Bloodstock. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, so what follows is what I managed to drag my sleepy fat ass to, in between stuffing my face with my stash of Hunger Breaks and napping from the sheer exhaustion of doing sweet F.A. It's hard being so metal. Anywho...
Thursday night is party night! Or at least, it should be. After putting up my oversized palace of a tent (it has a carpet!) in the blazing sun, I needed a lie-down, which turned into a full blown nap. Consequently, I missed most of the bands. But, not the most important one:-
Tragedy (9) are a metal tribute to the Bee Gees, and other disco legends of yesteryear, and boy howdy, are they awesome! As if their inception wasn't genius enough, they dazzle the crowd with their reworking of songs that are already timeless gems, transcending genres to get us all in the party mood and having megalolz to boot.
Highlights include It's Reigning Men (a la Reign In Blood), and the spectacular Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight), which in this context is about werewolves! Fan-bloody-tastic. Book them for your Bar Mitzvahs and box socials, immediately.
Gavin McInally, founder of Damnation Festival, did his damnedest to get Earthtone 9 (7) back in action by booking them for their 2010 lineup, and the band have enjoyed a resurrection of their career and much currency among fans new and old ever since. A lost gem of the late 90's, the Nottingham group have cultivated an enjoyable hardcore edge, similar to Feed the Rhino. There's aggression and melody in there, and it's a good thing. It's a hard job waking up hungover metalheads, but they do their best and get a warm reception for their efforts. They're in good form today.
Over to the New Blood Stage, then. It's always a challenge playing the New Blood Stage and clashing with big names on big stages. If you can pull in and retain a crowd, you're on to something.
The first band I see, Rezinwolf (6) is a bit disappointing in this respect. Their reputation precedes them, as is the case with a few of the Metal 2 the Masses winners. They're known for being an awesome band. To be honest though, they ain't all that and a bag o' Doritos. Their thrash pedigree is obvious, but it's fairly run--of-the mill thrash. It has to be said that the solos lack cohesion with the rest of the songs they're in. It's a shame, because the guitarist definitely has the chops to play great solos, they just don't fit in at all.
Sophie Lancaster stage next, to see The Prophecy (8). I LOVE these guys, and I make no secret of that. They're homegrown progressive doom that have been drifting slowly into the same territories as Anathema and Opeth by showcasing their melodic capability, juxtaposed with guttural growls and heavy guitars. They were characteristically excellent, handicapped only slightly by the fact that the guitarist didn't appear to be able to hear himself, and was out of time for the first couple of songs. Nonetheless, the crowd was at least 10 times larger than their last Bloodstock appearance, and deservedly so. Go check them out. Now.
Back on New Blood. Nocturna (6) are bordering somewhere on aggressive and melodic. The sound desk let them down a bit by not boosting the vocals enough. That's a shame, because they had a nice, thick, layered melodic sound. When you can hear the vocals, they are rich and powerful. I was going to recommend seeing them in another setting, but when I met them in the VIP area and told them I'd be recommending them, they didn't seem to give a rat's ass and were totally nonchalant. So, yeah. these guys are actually pretty douchey. I wouldn't bother. You can't even find their Bandcamp page if you Google them, so.... Meh.
Prosperina (8), on the other hand- wow! This power trio from Swansea are the tits! big and atmospheric, at once reminiscent of new Humanfly. They're hard to categorize, so perhaps we shouldn't. They've got tight, driving rhythm-propelled tunes, over which their guitarist-singer imposes compelling melodies. More concerned with big sound than technical finery, which is a good thing, like a warm but boring sweater your nan knitted for you and you secretly love. There's maybe a bit of a Tool/ A Perfect Circle influence in there as well. Very good. highly recommended.
King Diamond (8)
You know when you watch anime, when you wouldn't normally? Maybe a friend recommended it to you, and insisted that it was perfectly accessible, and the overdubbing wasn't that bad; the plot totally followable? So you watch that show/ movie your friend recommends and at the end you have no idea what was going on, why the story jumped around so much, why some characters were so very angry/ happy when seemingly unimportant things were happening, and you just chalk it up to "Maybe some things just get lost in translation"?
I've never seen or heard King Diamond before. I just didn't get it. Maybe it's my age; maybe I fail to grasp how groundbreaking it was when it first came out, maybe the lyrics are poorly translated into English, I'm not sure. But I'm afraid I didn't get it.
That 8 is because, even though I didn't get it, I can recognise the effort that went into the stage show, and the excellent musicianship of the actual band. Yes, full marks for showmanship, especially since the King himself recently recovered from having bypass surgery and was really very ill for a while. Kudos to him for coming back at it with such gusto. What a brave, strange little man. Bravo.
First band I make it to are 3" of Blood (8) on the main stage - these guys are a hoot! They waste no time in breaking out crowd pleasers like Deadly Sinners and Metal Woman, to rapturous glee from those in the know. Their obvious Judas Priest influences have been honed into something truly enjoyable, and still unique. They sound good today, too. I can't see how anyone could not like 3" of Blood.
I plod over to the New Blood Stage to check out Gethika (8), a band I have been aware of for a while but not actually seen yet. It seems they have picked up where American Nightmare left off, makeup and theatrics included. American Nightmare were a good band, so kudos. They're minimalistically theatrical, to be fair, and thoroughly brutal. this band have already made a bit of a name for themselves, and have recently appeared on one of those compilation CD's that comes with Metal Hammer- so, they're getting out there, and show promise to be able to achieve well-known status shortly.
there's an obvious and visible fanbase here. They're all wearing plastic bowler hats. Which is disturbing.
Next up are Scarab (9) in the Sophie Lancaster tent. Like Nile, but actually Egyptian. Brutal like Nile, too. I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics are about, but it sounds epic. These guys purport to be "Egypt's Black Metal Band", as in their only Black metal band. It's a fair claim, as they risk severe punishment for playing and expressing themselves as they do back home, which few would risk doing. That's how much they love and respect the power of metal.
They are obviously truly grateful to be playing here, to such a receptive crowd, and they make that known. Later I see the band members milling about in the festival crowds- hi-fiving people and stopping for pictures and a chat. They really are over the moon to be here, and they deserve it, because they played a blinder of a set.
The wife and I sit back to enjoy Gojira (7), who have the misfortune to have had all their gear lost in transit to Bloodstock. Quelle horreur! They had to borrow a lot of stuff, so couldn't offer their usual level of amazingness and presence, which you will have heard they have in spades. I have to give them the lower score, because it wasn't what it could have been, but Gojira are still amazing, and L'Enfant Sauvage still sounds the DB's.
Sabaton (9) follow Gojira. SABATON!!!! Love em. they have a slightly similar problem to Gojira, in that singer Joakim Brodén have forgotten something utterly quintessential to Sabaton's allure. He isn't wearing his vest. Not to worry though! He somehow spots a chap in the crowd of the exact same build wearing an identical vest, and asks to borrow it. I think the guy tore off a nipple ripping it off to give to Joakim, who is the absolute master of crowd banter, and vocal about how hard it is for him not to swear in English (the performance is streaming live, so subject to Ofcom's rules). He promises to swear when singing in Swedish, so no-one will know.
Brilliant set, the highlight of which is the massive, pounding anthem Panzer Elite, and part the way through he somehow coerces the crowd into chanting for Ikea... "Ikea! Ikea! Ikea!" Funny shit.
Ermahgerd! LERMEHGERD!!! Lamb of God (10) are tonight's headliner. Everyone, especially himself, is so overjoyed to see Randy Blythe free, following his detainment and court appearance in the Czech Republic. Randy has had a rough time, and he celebrates his freedom by throwing himself around like a madman and pouring everything inside him into the mic, washing over the crowd, who in turn give the same energy and joy back to him. The air is full of horns for LOG.
They aren't a technically complicated band, or a pretty bunch of guys, or a showy and theatrical band. They are honest, energetic, and consistently bloody good, and that's all that they need to be to give 100% tonight. They are the jewel in the Bloodstock crown this year.
Fans go ape for Walk With Me in Hell, and Black Label is a familiar friend. Yes, they brought the goods.
There were some big technical problems during the set, and they had to stop playing a few times when power failed. But, the crowd waited, patient and expectant, giving them the reverence they deserve. They finish up, and we all go 'home' happier for having seen them.
By crikey, it's already Sunday! Let's get going, then.
Gama Bomb (7) are good craik! Being of that party-thrash breed, like Municipal Waste, you're guaranteed to have happyfuntimes with the megging-clad Celtic heroes. a good and necessary edition to their year's thrash-festooned lineup.
Whitechapel (8) Have a difficult crowd to win over here. these young guns have enjoyed relatively mainstream success- something which can leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the old crusties, that had to play every dive and toilet just to get a glimpse of a look-in back when.
Whitechapel are the real deal, though. they are completely and utterly brutal- something which their neat little scene haircuts and drainpipe jeans belie. Singer Phil Bozeman clearly gargles with rocks every morning to achieve his guttural and fierce growl.
Verdict: They look like hipster scene kids, but they bring the pain 110%. Good stuff.
Sacred Mother Tongue (6) are not dissimilar to Fozzy. It's balls-out rock with strong vocal melody, so very acessible. The crowd has gotten noticeably smaller, though, which is probably because this isn't really heavy enough for Bloodstock. You can't please everybody, I guess- perhaps a good booking for Download, but not so much for this festival
Neon Halo (7) are another player in the New Blood showcase. They go for the grindcore jugular with gusto, which I am surprised about, given their name sounds like it may have been something more proggy.
Extreme metal pilgrims have been filtering in steadily, seeking shelter from the dulcet tones of Scared Mother tongue.
Song highlights include Penetration Trauma and Fucked Into Remission, love letters both to pioneers like Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and the like. Definitely worth a gander!
So, Fozzy (7), then. Not content with being a kick-ass wrestler, Chris Jericho has only spun himself a career as a kick-ass frontman as well! Again sporting that USA radio-friendly tunefulness that frightened off the death metal fans, Fozzy (like SMT) are arguably more suited to a Donnington crowd. But, it often depends on the mood of the day. t's sunny, the music is fun and sounds good. what's not to like, really? It is contrived, but it's not bad.
You can hear a power metal influence in there, too, and we likes us some power metulz, we does.
Plus- wrestling and music go together like peanut butter and chocolate. You might think it's a bad idea and shun it at first, but once you get a taste you realise it's so right! Drowning Pool, case in point, who were great without wrestling, but WWF endorsement made them a massive success
EVIL SCARECROW (11)!!! That's right! this review goes up to 11! There aren't words for how much I love Evil Scarecrow. they aren't just funny as balls, they are amazing musicians, and super nice guys. They have some kind of ability to bewitch and win over any crown- audience participation is almost certainly 100% at each show, as all are commanded to draw the robotic square box during classic Robotatron, and to scuttle and claw at the air during new hit Crabulon, and all comply. Not to mention that they distributed party popper to the crowd to be makeshift pyrotechnics during War- which was nothing short of hilarious.
The Sophie tent was absolutely HEAVING, as it was the last time they were billed. Bloodstock organisers need to take notice and not try to fit them in there again. they are mainstage material fo' sho'!
If you haven't seen ES before, you better do, or I'll find you and I'll hurt you.
Back on the thrash wagon, stalwarts Exodus (8) pulverise the crowd with unrelenting power and vitriol. People are so stoked when Rob pays tribute to UK soldiers, and they launch into War Is My Shepherd, which is greeted with a roar of appreciation. Bonded by Blood is dedicated to Jeff Hanneman, which also elicits approving cheers from the fans who mourn their loss at a seminal guitarist.
If you're going to have this much thrash at a festival, Exodus are a necessary ingredient.
I caught Betraeus (8) almost by accident while walking past the Jagermeister stage. I'm shocked that they aren;t part of the proper lineup, because they are excellent. No other word for it- they sound huge, tight and complex. they're proggy like Opeth, and you should look out for them.
Breed 77 (7), like earthtone 9, are a bit of a blast from my past. what are they? Not sure. they weren't nu metal then, and aren't now. they mix a range of cultures and styles into what they do. It's exotic and crushing at the same time. they're done a good job of mixing the sound for this set, giving the vocals a necessary boost- because they are what carries this band. They do the best cover of the Craberries' Zombie I've ever heard, as well.
So, the Sunday night headliner is Slayer (6). I want to tell you that they did their best, despite losing Jeff, and the reason I gave them a 6 is because they were so mournful it was hard for them to perform. The truth is, they were just a bit lacklustre, and didn't put the effort in that the other headlining acts did. They seemed distant and unwilling to interact with the crowd. They're Slayer. You know what they are supposed to sound like, and they are legends. If you love them bazillions, you probably would have enjoyed this performance regardless, but for me it wasn't enough for the slot they were given.
That concludes my summary of the Bloodstock experience. The uninitiated amongst you should seriously consider getting your sad ass over there for 2014, not least because the first big announcement had already been made- reuniting and playing their only known UK appearance in 2014 are.... EMPEROR!
I'm literally weeing with delight. Fucking fantastic!
Catch you later, scumbuckets!
Many thanks to Jess for taking the time to write up this fantastic review!!