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Monday, 20 August 2018

A View From A Muddy Field Part 1: Bloodstock 2018 (Live Review By Paul H, Stief, Nick & Matt)

Bloodstock 2018

Main Review: Paul H
Contributions By: Stief, Nick, Matt where noted

(Paul) Where to start? What a weekend. What an immense weekend. For those of you who were fortunate enough to be at Catton Hall for BOA 18 we salute you. A huge crowd, weather of all types and bands who played the most blistering sets. It all came together superbly and one can only marvel at the organisation and planning that the Gregory family continue to put into this event.

Thursday 9th August 2018

Once the initial chaos of pitching those tents and drinking as much as is possible in four hours was completed, the music begins in earnest in the Sophie Tent. Opening proceedings was Hundred-Year-Old Man (6), whose sombre post-alt metal seemed slightly out of place with the party atmosphere. However, kudos to a band who only appeared on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage a year ago. Unfortunately, other attractions meant that only catching the final song of Fire Red Empress negated any real review.

That did ensure that by the time Bloodshot Dawn (9) hit the stage I was well primed for some technical death metal and boy did the South Coast outfit hit the stage with all guns blazing. Once the guitar gremlins had been removed, Josh McMorran and co unleashed 40 minutes of absolute fury. Visions was shorn of the slicing guitar work but that failed to hold back the hordes in the pit, intent on slamming each other to bits. With three albums to work with, Bloodshot Dawn now have enough material to mix up the set. With tracks from January’s Reanimation sounding massive in the tent, the machine gun drumming of James Stewart providing a huge platform to rest on, it was left to McMorran, Morgan Reid and bassist Giacomo Gastaldi to rip it up. Having seen the band in Fuel back in January, it’s apparent that their latest touring has tightened them up considerably. Their Japanese stint and a massive Hellfest appearance have given the band the confidence to really hit top gear and by the time they peaked with Reanimated there was a feeling within the tent that this is a band who with the right timing and promotion could really step up to the next level.

An air of mystery surrounds the headliners Arkona (8) and this was enhanced by the stage set and pagan rituals that introduced their entrance on to the stage. The Russian outfit are rare visitors to the UK, having completed a mere six dates prior to this headline show. Vocalist and frontwoman Maria "Masha Scream" Arkhipova swirled and captivated the audience as the band launched into their combination of folk, pagan and death metal with tracks from their eight full releases including this year’s Khram. What many of the audience were not expecting was the guttural growls that Arkhipova uses to great effect. Mixed with some stunning clean vocals made for entertaining listening, with the ethnic instruments of Vladimir "Volk" Reshetnikov adding bursts of cultural authenticity. Despite their entertaining delivery, by half way through the set I began to feel that I’d heard it all before; there is a certain repetition with Arkona’s music which doesn’t translate on record.

Friday 10th August

Hitting the main arena at 10:15am was a challenge but Scots Turbyne (8) had drawn the opening slot and proved to be well worth the effort. An energetic 30-minute set whistled by, partly due to the energy that duel vocalists Gary and Keith emitted, their contrasting styles proving an interesting mix, although I’d prefer the clean vocals which were superior. Their intense, complicated style didn’t detract from the heaviness that they are capable of and the lads from Dumfries demonstrated this with several tracks from their Origins And Endings release. A pleasing start to a long day. Having scampered around the main stage where Feed The Rhino were kicking up a storm (but not my bag), it was a quick return to catch Garshkott (6) back on the New Blood Stage. The Northampton five-piece ground out a huge sound but didn’t quite engage me as I’d hoped so I dipped out for a quick beer before one of the main events for many over the whole weekend.

Sacrificing the opportunity to catch any of Bristolian thrashers Onslaught it was vital that we were on the barrier for the next band in the New Blood Stage. South Wales brought three bands to BOA, and first up was Democratus (9). In the Semi-final in Fuel the band had raised their game in stunning style, romping through to the final with a show full of swagger and confidence. Whilst the nerves were very much in evidence as they hit the stage, this performance elevated Democratus another two levels. The band found their stride early, and quickly displaced their anxiety with a display of supreme confidence. Battering mercilessly, the band set the bar so high that many who followed just couldn’t get near. Guitarists Joey Watkins and Kerrin Beckwith were on fire, Zak Skane anchored everything with an iron grip whilst Stu ‘Spoon’ Rake was unable to stop grinning. By the time their anthem Life For A Life blasted out the tent was packed, the pit was moving, and frontman Steve Jenkins had expended every ounce of energy. A hot, sweaty mess who loved every minute. Full credit to the band who clicked superbly. Don’t be surprised if these guys are on the Sophie Stage in the next two years. There is plenty more to come from a band that is maturing splendidly.

(Nick) As the sky's opened and what seemed like an entire ocean was dumped on the grounds of Catton Hall, many retreated to the shelter of their tents, I however had come to see bands and hear some quality music, so I headed straight for the main stage to see Musipedia favourites, Memoriam (8). Taking no prisoners Karl Willetts et al ploughed through a set that can break down stone walls with the heavy, chunky riffs and the slow, deep and menacing growls of Willetts. There was no time for showmanship here as the band set about delivering there set with perfection. Memoriam produce the type of music that just forces your head up and down and there it stays until the set is over. The set opened with As War Rages On and carried on in the same vein as Bleed The Same and Resistance were sent pummelling through our ears, finishing where they started with a personal favourite Flatline. There are always gone to be similarities between Memoriam and Bolt Thrower highlighted, rightfully so. However, for me Memoriam have found a different style here, the sound is a little grungier and the topics darker. All this combined make for a band destined for great thing and one which I can’t quite get enough of, deserving of their main stage slot the guys proved their worth and made me forget about the shit storm of rain I was standing in.

(Paul) From there a quick traverse to the New Blood Stage, where Coventry three-piece Pelugion (7) were giving a great display. Across to the Sophie Tent to catch the tail end and one of the highlights of the day, as Godthrymm (8) pulled out a stunning set. The band, formed with former members of My Dying Bride, Vallenfyre and Anathema amongst others, were led magnificently by Hamish Glencross and delivered some doom and misery which went down a storm with those who preferred quality over the schlock rock of Wednesday 13. Totally humble, the band appeared overwhelmed by the response and I for one look forward to seeing the band again when they support Memoriam at their annual Christmas gig in Birmingham later in the year.

(Stief) The spooky theremin tinged intro to What The Night Brings rang in Wednesday 13's (7) horror-punk set. With several different outfits throughout his set along with some interesting choreography, the frontman seems to know what to do to entertain, and the introduction of scantily clad ladies wielding fire probably helped too. Playing mostly from last year's Condolences album, Wednesday throws in a few fan favourites including I Walked With A Zombie and Serpent Society, even going completely old school by closing with Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13's I Love To Say Fuck, complete with an umbrella adorned with a middle finger. Delightful.

(Paul) Our second foray to the barrier was next, as South Walians Sodomised Cadaver (9) lined up to give the Sophie Tent 40 minutes of quite pulverising death metal. With Charlie Rogers dressed like a total clown, his Donald Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ cap at the ready, the riffs flowed from Ryan Howes whilst Gavin Davies did his best to destroy the drum set up with his massive pummelling. When you know some of the band it can be hard to do an objective review but its fair to say that the tent was completely sodomised. With Ollie Jones fronting your band anything can happen, and the Desecration/ENT vocalist never fails. His Newport lilt and complete fuck the world attitude is perfect for the band, who delivered one of the most crushing sets of old school death metal of the weekend. Humour, energy and power are all present and when the band climaxed with Raped By Ebola it was time to feel proud to be a Welshman once more. Don’t be surprised to see these guys on the main stage soon. They deserve it.

A rush from one tent to the other and another one of the regional MTTM winners, Leicester’s Seven Hells (7) who were giving it a huge push. The five-piece have some blistering tunes and were putting all the effort into their set. Their groove and hardcore was going down well amongst their support and this band could be a force in the future. Back to the main stage for a bit of Bloodbath (8) next. With Nick Holmes up front misery is guaranteed and the band were covered in what looked like the remnants of Watain’s offal truck. Bloodbath are veterans of the death metal scene, and when your band includes Martin Axenrot on drums there will never be any timing issues, the Opeth man playing a flawless set. Holmes, who is about as much from Sweden as I am, prowled the stage, delivering classics such as Eaten, Breeding Death, So You Die and Like Fire alongside Let The Stillborn Come To Me and Anne from the band’s most recent Grand Morbid Funeral with an ease not always noted in his Paradise Lost shows. Bloodbath are becoming a real force in metal again, and with Katatonia on hiatus, expect to see a bit more of the Swedes (and that miserable bloke from Halifax) in the future.

One of the sets of the weekend followed, with extreme metal legends De Profundis (9), whose crushing technical and complex metal was lapped up by the crowd in the Sophie Tent. With four magnificent releases under their belts, the band, who are into their second decade, wasted little time in demonstrating why they are so highly regarded. Tracks from their most recent The Blinding Light of Faith combined with older songs from their other albums. 40 minutes of superb death metal whipped past in the blink of an eye, and another note was made to catch these guys again as soon as possible. In contrast, the kings of UK slam, Ingested (6) disappointedly failed to stimulate and after a couple of their songs I retired to the New Blood Stage for a much more satisfactory set from Bristol MTTM winners Body Harvest (8). A cruel sound robbed the band of their guitars for some of their set, but these guys provided the stomp, the groove and another set of crushing death metal which was massively appreciated by those who had gathered. Yet another outfit whose ascent should be rapid. Following Body Harvest should have been a real challenge but if there was one band that was equipped to meet that challenge it was Birmingham’s Trivax (8) whose black metal fused with the cultural influences of frontman Shayan’s home country of Iran to great effect. These guys have all the attributes to move forward and their 30-minute slot steamrollered those brave enough to stand in their way. An impressive entrance, plenty of atmosphere and essentially some brutal black metal songs all contributed to a fine set.

(Nick) One of the bands high on my hit list this weekend and one that I have been a big fan of for a long time, Kamelot (9). With a reasonably high up slot allowing for a good amount of time to do their thing, I was hopeful of a high-quality set... and I was not let down. Since the departure of one of the greatest voices in metal Roy Khan, Tommy Karevik has stepped in and made himself a worthy replacement. Tommy's vocals were spot on throughout the set not missing a note as songs from the entire back catalogue of Kamelot were delivered,stretching from as far back as Karma, to the present day as Insomniac was chosen to represent the new album. Fan favourites and anthems such March Of Mephisto, Forever and Centre Of The Universe were offered with great appreciation from the majority of the crowd as they joined in willingly. The main difference between present day Kamelot and Kamelot of a decade ago is that Roy Khan used to offer a show and almost played a character on stage, that would really pull you in as he crept around singing, pulling facial expressions of anguish or delight. Tommy truly has a cracking voice and I enjoy every second of it, but, he is more of a front man that wants the attention for other reasons, which has changed the dynamic of the band as a result. This for me does detract from the experience a little, however with the entire of the band on form and the addition of the staggering vocals of Lauren Hart (Once Human), Kamelot delivered a set worthy of its place on the bill and leaves me keener than ever to see them at a headline show again, sooner rather than later.

(Matt) Due to flight delays Japanese power metal band Lovebites had taken their spot on the mainstage earlier in the day, so it was into the Sophie Lancaster stage for American crossover thrash veterans Suicidal Tendencies (8), it proved to be an inspired piece of line up shuffling as the tent was packed with mad-as-hell thrash fans who proceeded to unleash hell from the moment the band hit the stage. Playing a hits packed, breathless set with Mike Muir conducting pits, bouncing and crowd surfing (including one guy in a wheelchair) turning the Sophie Tent into a sweaty club as they played what was for many the set of the day. It was a short yomp over to the Jager stage to see the alt rocking of Kamikaze Test Pilots (7) who served as a quirky hors d'oeuvre for the black metal feast that was coming on the mainstage.    

(Paul) As the sun peered down, the temperature on the stage turned ominously dark as black metal legends Emperor (8) returned to the scene of their triumphant set in 2014. Ihsahn, Samoth and Trym delivered another fabulous show, playing their Anthems To The Welkin At Night album in full, to a rabid reception. It’s difficult to describe the importance of this band to the Black Metal scene but live they are as ferocious now as they were back in the 1990s. Ihshan, relaxed and comfortable, the screams and roars as visceral as ever, whilst the breakneck speed at which they play continues to astonish. Whilst I didn’t catch all their set, the bits that I did were breathtaking.

(Stief) Meanwhile over in the Sophie Stage circle pits galore as Glaswegian metalcore Bleed From Within (7) take to the Sophie stage. With a healthy mix of music from the Era and Uprising albums, the band seem pretty solid, with Scott Kennedy's vicious growls tearing the sophie tent apart along with Steven Jones and Craig 'Goonzi' Gowans on guitars. A blistering set from some angry men.

(Paul) The main reason I missed some of Emperor’s set was to check out the ballsy in your face Southern fried Heavy Metal of Plymouth’s King Bison (8) who concluded proceedings on the New Blood Stage in fine style. The band, who were very gracious in their pre-BOA interview played a proper headline set, with frontman and vocalist Karl owning front of house with his big shouty voice and stage presence. Flanked by guitarists Ali and Milfy and bassist Rohan linking with drummer Hardin, King Bison’s deep groove and honest Southern soaked metal was a perfect antithesis to the black metal chaos unravelling on the main stage. With huge tunes, a confidence and swagger of a band much more experience, the South Coast outfit stomped their way through a meaty set which even had a vegetarian such as me dreaming of a steak later that day.

Much has been written about the demand of the BOA crowd to have local legends Judas Priest (9) headline the festival. In fact, you could trace this back over the last eight or nine years. Now in their twilight years, the band had demonstrated that they will not fade quietly into the night with an astonishingly good release earlier in the year. In fact, Firepower is likely to feature heavily in the top tens of many of our writers and readers. Shorn of every original member apart from bassist Ian Hill, Judas Priest risked turning into a cabaret act, especially given Rob Halford’s penchant for costume changes between each song. Any concern about that was quickly blown away with an opening salvo which once again proved that when it comes to straightforward heavy metal, few can get close. Firepower, Grinder, Sinner, The Ripper and Lightning Strikes opened a set which contained a few surprises along the way.

This was a full fat show, no Priest lite here, with a stage set and lighting show that rivalled all who have trodden the boards before them, Halford camped it up with denim and leather outfits galore. Alongside him, guitar hero Richie Faulkner impressed with his ability to handle the legacy of Downing and Tipton, afforded sterling support from Hell’s Andy Sneap, who must still be pinching himself. Anchored superbly by Scott Travis and the ever-dependable Hill, the Priest continued with classic after classic; Saints In Hell from Stained Glass, Tyrant from Sad Wings Of Destiny and the singalong chaos of Turbo Lover and Freewheel Burning all made for a riotous and enjoyable conclusion to day 2. Despite Halford’s evidence reliance on the autocue for several songs, and the limited mobility of a man who continues to epitomise heavy metal, there was little to criticise. The dialogue was limited, certainly until the conclusion of the set, and that allowed the band to pulverise Catton Hall. A stunning Painkiller saw Halford doubled over the legendary Harley Davidson, the crowd willing him on as he maintained that ear splitting falsetto with an ease that should not have been possible. At 66 he’s by no means the oldest front man in metal but he remains one of the greatest.

Despite all the flames, lights and stage set, the encore provided both a joyous and sad sight as Glenn Tipton, weighed down by over ten years of battling with Parkinson’s Disease, emerged for the final four tracks. As we know, Parkinson’s is a bastard of an illness, robbing flexibility and dexterity, something vital for the speed and fluidity that Tipton’s guitar work has always been famous for. Priest had clearly rehearsed hard for this, with the four songs, Metal Gods, Breaking The Law, No Surrender and Living After Midnight, all tailored to ensure Tipton could deliver those killer riffs one more time. The inclusion of a new track in No Surrender was a particularly brave move, as Tipton’s muscle memory would have been limited in comparison to the other three which he could probably still play in his sleep. With Sneap playing anchor in the background, Tipton delivered the goods, albeit allowing Faulkner to complete the intricate solo work. This was undoubtedly the last time that we will see Tipton on stage with Priest and it was a poignant moment as Halford wrapped his arm around his long-time colleague as the set came to an end. A tear welled in my eye. As the screen announced THE PRIEST WILL BE BACK, you had to wonder in what capacity that might be. Whatever the future holds, this was a performance that fully justified the band’s inclusion as Friday Headliners.

Friday night wasn’t quite concluded though, and a quick sprint across the arena allowed a decent view of the metal queen, Doro (8), who delivered a typically bombastic Germanic set. Her music is decent, heavy and formulaic and the arrival of her former Warlock guitarist Tommy Bolan ramped up the amplification somewhat. A set built on Warlock classics ensured that those who knew her early stuff were content, with Burning The Witches a particular favourite. All For Metal from the new album and Raise Your Fist from her previous long player brought things up to date but it was the old school stuff that always gets the fist pumping. A solid conclusion to an exhausting but brilliant day of heavy music.

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