As the kids TV programme TISWAS used to say, Today Is Saturday Watch And Smile and with another packed day ahead at Bloodstock Open Air Festival, there was loads to smile about!
First up was The Brood laying waste to a full New Blood Stage with some full on grind. ‘Locked And Loaded’ summed up their mood as their guitars were tuned to Entombed like levels backed by a hangover nagging drum battery and vocals from Giorgio Eternity were not of this Earth. Other stand outs were heads down blast beat driven ‘The Roots Of Hatred’, matched by the Napalm Death meets The Berzerker buzz of ‘Buried’. Until now ‘Of Guts And Fire’ was their most full on number but no punches were pulled throughout ‘One By One’ tipping the lunacy scales over the edge. Overwhelming!
I knew what to expect from Forgotten Remains, first band up on the Sophie Lancaster Stage and they proved me right from the off with the straight out of the starting blocks thrash metal of ‘Child Forty Four’ followed by ‘Tormented Aggressor’ featuring an over the top drum battery from Tom Warner. ‘Twenty Two Calibre’ introduced as “An old song” by lead vocalist Sam Marshall was a vintage Bay Area rager. Brand new song ‘Shadows’ was a touch groovier but no less heavy. ‘D.O.A’ was a Haunted cover that put a deadly twist on the original. ‘Blood Of The Innocent’ was a razor sharp chugger that got the barrier fans headbanging and they finished on a high with their signature tune ‘Forgotten Remains’.
The slightly batty but always fun Cadence Noir once again entertained with their folk music in a straitjacket. Fronted by the wise cracking dry wit of Mr Noir their eight song eclectic jaunt began with ‘The Grey Dog’ as an ‘Oh Well’ like stop/start vocal added an edge to the sea shanty vibe with a metal backing coming over the yardarm. ‘The Traveller’ was a quirky hoedown as things got heavier again with the tongue in cheek ‘A Reckless Endeavour’. The eerie ‘Remoaner’ gave out the black magic but without the coffee cremes. ‘Homage’ was a foot to the floor thrashtastic short but sweet bopper. The effervescent ‘Fuck Fuck Boom Boom’ always raises a smile and lowers my intelligence when I belt out the choruses and featured some tasty slide guitar work from Nick. Energy levels remained high as ‘Your Lady Called War’ was a nifty whirling dervish and ‘Church’ finished their thoroughly entertaining set with some thought provoking lyrics.
Orden Ogan brought some Power metal to the main stage. I’ve seen them play a couple of times before, both times in smallish venues, so this was my first time seeing them on a big stage (sadly they don’t get to the UK very often and I don’t think they’ve played outside London yet). They were clearly keen to make an impression, both musically as they put in an excellent performance, and also visually with their backdrop and side screens plus plenty of flames – flames always go down well at a metal festival. I really enjoyed their set and it was obvious that the crowd were enjoying it too.
Milton Keynes Metal To The Masses winners Ashborn then proceeded to up the metal ante with five slices of frenetic fury. ‘The Third’ almost knocked me off my feet purely to the Angry Anderson like stage presence of lead vocalist Marcin Durmas and he kept this persona up as the pneumatic drill delivery of ‘We Are All Going To Die’ spread its wings into multiple time changes. ‘If The Walls Could Speak’ and ‘When Darkness Comes’ were commanded by the superhuman drumming of Marcin K who not only plays like Gene Hoglan, but looks like him to! Set closer ‘Every Word’ seemed to suck out every last bit of air from the New Blood Stage with some heavy doom and a full on drum outro!
Three years has flew by since Dead Label played on the Sophie Lancaster Stage and the tremendous trio of Dan o’ Grady on bass guitar/vocals, Danny Hall on guitar and Claire Percival on drums hopped over the Irish Sea from Celbridge once again to blow our minds. ‘Deadweight’ was a thumping opener as fiery guitar lines, bass and drums meshed into body blow grooves. ‘Are You Ready To Kill’ was aptly named as the first of many circle pits throughout their set opened up. ‘Salvation In Sacrifice’ was a hypnotizing pound midway after a rousing intro as a vitriolic vocal gave it an extra edge. The melodic hardcore of ‘Forget The Names’ forged into a lengthy powerful outro that I didn’t want to end and one final blast of rage saw the heavy dynamics of ‘Pure Chaos’ open a wall of death that stretched way back from the stage.
The sun fittingly disappeared as Venom Inc. stalked onto the Ronnie James Dio Stage and poor old planet Earth must of shifted off its axis as Thor hammer drum blows from Jeramie Kling drove set opener ‘Metal We Bleed’ along. Tony ‘The Demolition Man’ Dolan still snarls and barks his vocals with an evil glee whilst pounding out his bass guitar and to his left Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn shredded the riffs out. Miraculously he was playing after only eleven weeks ago had survived a near fatal heart attack. ‘Die Hard’ was an early crusher and ‘Live Like An Angel (Die Like A Devil)’ has lost none of its menace over the years. ‘Don’t Burn The Witch’ was a slight respite in pace as they then locked into a frantic ‘War’. ‘Leave Me In Hell’, another oldie that has stood the test of time preceded a breathtaking ‘Black Metal’ introduced by Jeff telling his road to recovery and how this song had formed the genre of black metal back in the early eighties. Set closer and my highlight was a so fast that if you had blinked you would have missed it ‘Witching Hour’.
I headed up the bank for a respite at my first visit of the weekend to the Jagermeister Stage but Norwich based Alpha Omega put paid to that plan by squeezing ten songs in about half an hour at deafening volume. It was literally like standing in a wind tunnel as opener ‘Witches Burn At Dawn’ blew my hair back like David Coverdale in his shit MTV videos. ‘Blackbirds Sing’ on paper sounds quite sedate but in reality barked like Bomb Everything in their heyday. Manowar proclaimed that “All Men Play On Ten” but ‘Mechanical Heart’ seemed like one hundred and ten! I’d had enough of writing by now so it was pen and pad put away and time to soak it all up on the barrier. Loudest band I’ve heard for quite some time.
In complete musical contrast, Combichrist were just as captivating with their metal fused with electronica set. Coming over like Jean Michel Jarre fused with Rammstein they were totally captivating. Frontman Andy LaPlegua strutted around the stage like a drill sergeant backed by an eye catching band, point proven by the non stop showmanship from both drummers. Highlights were the Prodigy fierce ‘Fuck That Shit’ that eased into a sedate electro throb. Memories of Cubanate came flooding back during ‘Bodybeat’ but show stealer was the over top ‘What The Fuck Is Wrong With You?’ complete with fire dancers.
Just as over the top were Sheffield Metal To The Masses final winners Aonia, a seven piece band squeezed onto the New Blood Stage. Fronted by the astonishing twin vocals of Joanne Kay Robinson and Melissa Adams they had the captivated crowd in their hands from the off as gripping set opener ‘Reflections’ built on a crescendo of majestic prog rock and sugar sweet vocals. ‘Violet Hours’ was all about the angelic vocals that seemed to hypnotize the crowd. The high standards set by these two forged ahead with a triple salvo of ‘Heartsword’, Sirens Lament’ and the over the top ‘Still, I Rise’.
To say I’m not a fan of pirate metal is a bit of an understatement but Alestorm, returned back to Bloodstock after a ten year gap to turn the Ronnie James Dio Stage into the biggest party I saw all weekend! The scene in front of me was a huge crowd hurling a sea of inflatables stage wards and all around me were huge smiles belting out the lyrics. Lead by Chris Bowes, an early set highlight was the rollicking ‘Sunken Norwegian’ as he addressed the crowd by “Drink your beer and stick your inflatables up your own arses!”. Lunacy prevailed with ‘Nancy The Tavern Wench’ and their hilarious set ended with ‘Drink’ as we hollered back “We are here to drink your beer”.
A solo acoustic set was on the cards next as Iced Earth bassist and Absolva rhythm guitarist Luke Appleton stepped up to the plate on the intimate Jagermeister Stage but the huge crowd was far from that and I recognised many faces in the throng. His set was split between three tracks on his currently available wearing his heart on his sleeve How Does It Feel To Be Alive EP and five covers. He wisecracked off the cuff with us throughout and during a guitar tune up someone shouted out “Come on Chris’ brother” that had us all roaring. Absolva was represented by ‘Rise Again’ and ‘Never A Good Day To Die, two Iced Earth covers of ‘Mellow’ and a monstrous ‘Watching Over Me’ but the raw power he generated during a sublime ‘Last In Line’ was an emotional rollercoaster for performer and fans.
Second to last band on the Ronnie James Dio Stage today was the fiendish Cannibal Corpse who last ripped it up here three years ago and their reputation is second to none. Death metal does not come much more evil than this since their formation in Tampa Bay, Florida 1988. Their material is so extreme that over time Russia and Germany have prevented them from touring there and banned the sale and display of certain album covers. Frontman George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher, the man with neck muscles of steel leads the charge and his windmill headbanging has to be seen to be believed. Towards the end of their rain drenched but well attended set he asked the front rows to try and keep up with him even though they would fail miserably and they did. They always deliver and I’m sure they will return once more.
Headliners Gojira were given a hard act to follow but even though the rain got heavier, they rose to the challenge with their brand of extreme metal. Given the weather conditions notes made were few and far between as they opened up with ‘Only Pain’ backed by a blinding Close Encounters Of The Third Kind light show. Lead singer Joe Duplantier cut an imposing figure centre stage as he bellowed over pummeling rhythms. The metronomic assault of ‘Heaviest Matter Of The Universe’ followed and other set highlights were the adrenaline rushes of ‘Flying Whales’ and ‘L’enfant Sauvage’. Lesson learnt for next year is to bring an umbrella!
Orphaned land headlined the Sophie stage. They’re a band with a unique sound, which is largely down to where they come from. They’re from Israel and unusually include both Jew and Muslim in their members, and the different cultures are just part of what makes the Orphaned land sound so unique. It really is a blend of influences not just from the middle east but from a much wider range, so there are all sorts of Metal influences as well as those middle eastern ones. This is a band that doesnt just cross musical boundaries, this is a band that has fans in Muslim countries as well as Israel, and I’m betting there aren’t any other israeli bands that have that level of cross community support. It’s a great set – the music is complex but really good and they draw a good crowd for their set.
Review by Dennis Jarman, additional bits and photos by Ant May[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157672567218328″ size=”z” count=”100″]