The sun dawned over the final day of Catton Park… well, it would have if it could have been seen through the heavy clouds and incessant rain which had unleashed itself over southern Derbyshire in the early hours of the morning and showed no sign of abating a sodden campers streamed back in an arena which quit easily could have been re-christened Mudstock!
Nevertheless, main stage openers Arthemis did their best to blow the rain clouds away – and managed to do so briefly with their impressive and powerful European power metal sound. Over at the Sophie Lancaster stage, early comers were afforded the protection of the tent – and thrilled by the impressive young talent of 16-year old blues guitarist Aaron Keylock and his extremely tight trio.
October File‘s dense and grinding sound was played with plenty of bottom end, and highlighted an early problem with the second stage sound system: it was far too bass heavy – which proved a major distraction for Midlands medievalists Haerken, who certainly put on an entertaining show but struggled to make themselves heard over the abominably loud bottom half of the mix.
Back on the main stage, it was the weather that was wreaking havoc with the sound mix, but that failed to stop Aborted‘s blastbeat-fuelled death metal assault being as brutal and effective as a Centurion tank rolling over the nearby countryside. Dutch goths ReVamp were another one of weekend’s revelations: a seeming anomaly in the midst of all the testosterone-fuelled death metal and hardcore action around her, Floor Jansen succeeded where others had failed and finally chased the clouds and downpour away. With the sun starting to shine, the singer’s mellifluous vocals and the band’s operatic style, despite the continuing sound problems (including the singer’s mic cutting out right at the end of the set), brightened everyone’s spirits no end…
Back at the Sophie stage, the sound issues seemed to have been sorted in time for Morgue Orgy‘s classic death metal played with a ‘no guts no glory’ attitude – with plenty of the former earning similar amounts of the latter from the packed tent.
As Biohazard ran riot in the main arena and evoking a suitably insane response – including inciting the first (and only) full-scale stage invasion of the weekend in the process – Northern Ireland retro-metallers Rabid Bitch Of The North got the tiny Jager stage well and truly grooving, before things got a little bit silly behind them, with the clownish freak show that is Avatar having been promoted to the main stage after Graveyard missed their connecting flight: sorry guys, but Evil Scarecrow had done this comic book circus thing so much better the previous morning!
Stahlsarg relived the early days of Scandinavian black metal with their appropriate and effective mix of atmospherics and theatricality, before Stormzone, despite Harv’s vocals being all but lost in the mix, powered through their set with enthusiasm, panache and infectious riffs and smiles.
Sound problems were continuing for Saxon on the main stage, as the wind snatched and grabbed it right from the opening bars of ‘Sacrifice’: however, while the guitars of Nibbs Carter and Doug Scarratt drifted over the fields, the ‘Power And The Glory’ of their ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ – and especially Biff Byford’s still rich and commanding voice – bruised through in true ‘And The Bands Played On’ festival spirit, with the frontman commanding his ‘Battalions Of Steel’ with the ease and assurity of a true general. The only disappointing aspect of the set – and it could have been such a specialmoment – was the guest appearance by Dave Mustaine on closer ‘Denim And Leather’, as the Megadeth frontman contributed absolutely nothing to the otherwise accomplished performance.
Saxon set list: Sacrifice / Power And The Glory / Heavy Metal Thunder / To Hell And Back / And The Bands Played On / 747 (Strangers In The Night) / Crusader / Motorcycle Man / Wheels Of Steel / Princess Of The Night / Denim And Leather
What was always destined to special was the appearance of Viking warriors Amon Amarth – and so it proved to be, as the Swedish marauders pulled up their giant longboats and unleashed a firestorm of pyrotechnics in what was most definitely the most spectacularly produced performance of the weekend. With dragon prows perching almost 30 feet above the stage, Johan Hegg commanded the stage and the arena, while the band ripped through a set which was a mix of crowd-pleasing back catalogue favourites – the highlights of which undoubtedly were the gigantic ‘Guardians Of Asgard’ and the tumultuous ‘Twilight Of The Thunder God’ – and a surprising four songs from their most recent ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ opus. With Hegg and guitarists Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen taking it in turns to climb the giant props, and huge explosions rocking the arena virtually every other second, it was a truly triumphant performance from a band in command of their art of entertaining the masses, be it in a festival setting such as this or, as two short nights later, in a sweaty back street club.
Amon Amarth set list: Father Of The Wolf / Deceiver Of The Gods / As Loke Falls / Guardians Of Asgard / Cry Of The Black Birds / We Shall Destroy / Asator / War Of The Gods / Victorious March. Encore: Twilight Of The Thunder God / The Pursuit Of Vikings
As the last flames from AA’s set died down, fellow countrymen Graveyard kicked off their rescheduled set in the Sophie stage – and their psychedelic, bluesy doom sound definitely seemed more appropriate to the darkening hour, as the Swedish quartet entranced and mesmerized, rewarding the patience of those who had waited to see them or those – like this reviewer – stopping off on their way home early after another day of rain- and mud-soaked but hugely enjoyable festival shenanigans… For those who stuck around, however, there was the small matter of the return to the main stage of the man with the most famous snarl in metal…
I’ve seen Megadeth many times since 1987, and have never seen them play a bad gig – but also never an exceptional one – but at Bloodstock they pulled all the stops out and finally did it. It takes a special performance to close the final day of Bloodstock – and their 90 minutes proved my point. A crystal clear sound gave their technicality and brutality a chance to shine as the ‘Prince Of Darkness’ intro gave way to an unexpected ‘Hangar 18’ (I expected this to be an encore). Dave Mustaine delivered the vocal with his trademark snarl as the song developed into air guitar heaven. There was no pause as ‘Wake Up Dead’ burst forth, still sounding as vicious as it did in 1987; ‘In My Darkest Hour’, which Dave wrote in memory of Cliff Burton from the 1988 ‘So Far, So Good, So What’ album, never fails to send chills down the spine and the emotional vocal was there for all to hear as the warp speed thrash ending was played as hard as ever, with Shaun Drover testing the power of his double bass drums, backed by Chris Broderick on second guitar and original bassist David Ellefson.
Before ‘Skin O’ My Teeth’, a jovial Dave acknowledged the huge crowd and the bands that had played that day: the guitar overload here certainly got the front rows moving as ‘Sweating Bullets’, another number off ‘Countdown To Extinction’, with THAT instrumental breakdown midway raised the bar even higher. A roaring ‘Tornado Of Souls’ prompted a sea of crowd surfers followed by ‘Poison Was The Cure’, another high energy number with some heavy duty bass runs running throughout. Before we got ‘She-Wolf’ Dave stopped the show after seeing a young fan in the crowd: he asked for him to be sent to the front, whereupon he stepped down from the stage, shook his hand and gave him a guitar pick. ‘She-Wolf’ was one of a pair of songs, played back to back along with ‘Trust’, from the 1997 ‘Cryptic Writings’ album: they showed the more commercial side of Megadeth with backing vocals from Chris and Dave. ‘A Tout La Monde’ unfortunately saw no guest appearance from Cristina Scabbia but it was still a sterling rendition.
Newer material ‘Public Enemy No.1’ and ‘Kingmaker’ showed that the writing is still strong, as the riff of the day for ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ caused some furious headbanging. The set was coming to a close as David strummed the opening bass chords to ‘Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?’ and got the crowd singing out loud to the “If there’s a new way, I’ll be the first in line, but it better work this time” part. It was now encore time and no Megadeth gig would be complete without ‘Holy Wars’ – technical thrash metal at it’s ultimate as it built up to Dave’s piercing solo. The band took their bows and they left to an outro of Sid Vicious’ ‘My Way’.
Megadeth set list: Hangar 18 / Wake Up Dead / In My Darkest Hour / Skin O’ My Teeth / Seating Bullets / Tornado Of Souls / Poison Was The Cure / She-Wolf / Trust / A Tout Le Monde / Public Enemy No. 1 / Kingmaker / Symphony Of Destruction / Peace Sells. Encore: Cold Sweat / Holy Wars… The Punishment Due
Megadeth review by Dennis Jarman.
Photographs by Anthony May.
NOTE: Our review of the New Blood Stage is published separately.
Early bird tickets for Bloodstock 2015, which takes place from August 6-9, are now available, costing £120. To get yours, visit the Bloodstock Website