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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A View From A Muddy Field Part 2: Bloodstock 2018 (Live Review By Paul H, Stief, Nick & Matt)

Bloodstock 2018

Main Review: Paul H
Contributions By: StiefNickMatt where noted

Saturday 11th August

(Paul) Another early start for a quick check of The Brood (6) whose bombastic death metal was clearing the hangovers rather quickly. Heading for the Sophie Tent I paused to watch some of Nailed To Obscurity (7), a German five piece whose melancholic duel guitar and well composed songs caught the ear. Raimund Ennenga’s powerful clean vocals also appealed, and this is a band whose three full releases will be sought out. Kicking off proceedings in the Sophie Tent was a must-see band, Forgotten Remains (8) whose thrash and death metal proved very much to my liking. The Chesterfield based band played the New Blood Stage in 2015 and in Sam Marshall possessed one of the front men of the weekend; full of power and presence, he was impressive as the band delivered 30 minutes of ball crushing metal.

A short hop to the RJD Stage for another of my most anticipated bands of the weekend and once again I was not disappointed. The blistering ferocity of the outfit from Dallas, Texas, the mighty Power Trip (10). Having missed them with Trivium in April I was keen to ensure that I caught a full set from the band. Kicking any remaining fogginess into the early afternoon sky, vocalist Riley Gale cajoling and coercing the pit to work harder, faster and grow through every track. As well as a punishing Cro-Mags meets Exodus sound, the hooks that Power Trip exude snare and trap, pulling you in with the power of a tractor beam. A healthy setlist relied heavily on the magnificent Nightmare Logic, including the title track, Soul Sacrifice and the catchy as fuck Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe) which went down a storm.

Remaining at the RJD stage, Orden Ogan (8) had a huge job to follow the ballistics of Power Trip but the German power metallers coped admirably. A huge stage set, and backdrop suggested this is a band who play every set like a headline show and to be fair, this is how they approached their BOA debut. With three songs from latest album Gunman alongside four from other albums, the band wasted little time in getting down to business. Using duel guitars and bass pedals allowed Sebastian Levermann the freedom to charge around the stage in his full-length leather coat, punching the air and encouraging the sing-a-long from the healthy crowd. Some pyro and theatrics enhanced the set, well, it is power metal after all,and a rapturous ovation has hopefully encouraged the band to consider a return soon.

(Matt) After the slick Germanic metal of Orden Ogan on the mainstage it was over to the Sophie tent for some Irish groove with Dead Label (8) their slamming set saw the trio batter the amassed fans with heavy groove metal as they ripped through tracks from their debut album, having supported Machine Head and going on to support Devildriver after this show they have certainly honed their stagecraft to be an impressive metal machine. They had be building up their Wall Of Chaos on social media before this show and it didn't disappoint with most of the floor in Sophie stage descending into a massive pit as the two sides smashed into each other like a Hadron Collider of black t-shirts. Having built themselves to be a formidable force I hope we get some more Dead Label shows in the UK as the band are killer live. 

(Paul) Having returned to the VIP bar for a welcome beer, I returned to catch the second half of Greek Symphonic death metal legends Septicflesh (7). Seeing a band who belong in the dark in the middle of bright sunlight is always a challenge and it was difficult to get into the band’s set, but their orchestral death metal combined with the energy of Spiros Antoniou certainly increased the enjoyment. For a band close to 30 years in the business, maybe next time deserving of a headline slot in the Sophie Tent? Of course, there was only one place to be at 14:30 on Saturday and that was the Jagermeister Stage as South Wales third representatives, the death metal trio called Cranial Separation (9) took their turn. And what a turn. Lobbing dildos into the crowd at will, their crowd funding well spent, Ray, Chris and Sam grabbed the opportunity and blasted the crowd into oblivion. Getting Fucked With A Jackhammer in early was a blinding move, although I’m still disturbed by the memory of Democratus frontman Steve Jenkins swinging anal beads around with such grace and confidence. A massive reception and hopefully these guys, whose death metal is superbly impressive can keep the momentum to get on a bigger stage in future years.

In April 2018 it looked like Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn was on his last legs. He underwent heart surgery (a double heart by-pass no less!) but heading across to the RJD stage, there he was riffing the hell out of his guitar as Venom Inc (8) ploughed their way through a massive set of classic old school Venom, with a liberal dose of songs from last year’s Ave Satanas. Having seen the band earlier in the year, I knew that they possessed massive power and Mantas and Demolition Man (Tony Dolan) covered the whole of the stage as they put every ounce of energy into their show. With Jeramie Kling hammering away behind the skins, this was the real deal, rivalling much younger bands for effort, enthusiasm and sheer hunger. Black MetalWitching Hour and Die Hard are all legendary songs and the backbone of the early listening for many of the bands on the bill. Full respect to Venom Inc.

A visit to the New Blood Tent was rewarded by an opportunity to see some of the set from Northern Ireland MTTM winners Oracle (8), whose crushing metal and sheer power was encouraging and enjoyable. I’d like to see these guys again.

While Paul enjoyed reliving his youth as with Venom Inc I headed over to the Sophie stage for some modern prog metal as VOLA (8) played their brilliant blend of ambient influenced djent-like prog metal that harks back to classic prog acts while remaining in the now, bolstered by tremendous light show a crystal clear sound (something the Sophie tent excelled at this year) it was just a brief glimpse into why the Danish band are considered to be the future of prog, they were received well and were a refreshing alternative to the heavier bands they came between (Dead Label, Venom Inc, Combichrist and Conjurer who I unfortunately missed). In their own gig VOLA could really be a transcendent force so yet another band to watch out for.

(Stief) When the American aggrotech band Combichrist (8) were announced, you could hear the collective eyebrows being raised. However, when the first beats of No Redemption kick in, it's hard to see anyone in the main field not throwing shapes, however ironic they think they're being. Combichrist don't let down for the entire time they're on stage, and while Andy LaPlegua's vocals aren't the best, nobody seems to mind. Joe Letz and Nick Rossi provide a show within a show, tossing drumsticks back and forth, and just throwing them around with abandon. An odd choice, to be sure, but the band seem to go down well with the crowd

It's been 10 years since Alestorm (8) have graced Catton Hall with their presence, and their profile has increased greatly, as shown by the huge crowd, inflatables bouncing everywhere. Calls for orgies, sitting on laps, a guy crowdsurfing in a giant duck...It's all ridiculous fun from Keelhauled to Hangover, during which they bring guitar tech Joe Peters on acoustic guitar, and the balaclava wearing Captain Yarrface of Rumahoy. There's a brief lull during Captains Morgan Revenge where Chris calls twice for a wall of death (or a massive orgy) along with an injury in the crowd, that quickly gets sorted. As the crowd happily chants the lyrics of Fucked With An Anchor, you can tell the band squarely belong here, even if it seems at times they're just going through the motion

(Paul) I headed to the Sophie Tent once more and witnessed one of the most fantastic sets of the weekend. I’d reviewed Australian Progressive rockers Voyager’s latest album, Ghost Mile, last year and really enjoyed it. In the live setting Voyager (10) are stunning. Their combination of irregular time changes, polyrhythmic movements and sheer enthusiasm was captivating to the point of transcendence. With six albums to choose from, the band chose the perfect breadth of material, including a few from Ghost Mile and in front man Danny Estrin they have an absolute jewel. Deftones Chino Moreno likened him vocally to Simon Le Bon and one could see why. Having been completely entranced by their set, it was disappointing when they announced their final song. Come back soon. Please!

Avoiding the Hawaiian shirts who flooded the pit for the mighty Cannibal Corpse, it was disappointing when With The Dead announced they were unable to play. Instead we were treated to 15 minutes of Andrew O’Neill, the house comedian, who at least made us laugh. Another ‘I was there moment’ was shortly to follow as the groove metal legends from New Orleans, Exhorder (10) played their first ever UK show. An appreciative and knowledgeable tent buzzed with excitement for a band whose two albums were released over 25 years ago. DesecratorExhorderAnal Lust and Slaughter In The Vatican all got their UK debuts, as original members Kyle Thomas (vocals) and guitarist Vinne La Bella combined with NOLA veterans Marzi Montazeri (Ex-Superjoint Ritual) Sasha Horn (Forbidden) and Jason VieBrooks to devastate for their allotted hour. This was simply superb stuff and a stunned crowd was left wondering how this band had never made it across the pond before.

No time to waste though as the Saturday night headliners were already hitting their stride over on the RJD stage. A view from way back is still comfortable at Bloodstock and the sound was crystal clear as Gojira (9) proved why they were worthy headline material. I’ve seen this band at BOA twice before, I’ve seen them open for Annihilator, Trivium, Alice in Chains and Ghost and headline in small venues. They have never been less than incredible, but this headline set catapulted the French band firmly into the major league. A majestic light show, sensitive and well-planned screens and a set list to die for all added up to a frenzied 90 minutes. Flying Whales saw the sky full of inflatables, somewhat ironic given the likely resting place for most of those would no doubt be landfill. Backbone remains a spleen rupturing experience, whilst tracks from Magma and a thunderous L’Enfant Savage were greeted like timeless classics. Vacuity closed proceedings and you were left with the assurance that those in charge of booking at BOA really know their shit.

The fun wasn’t over for Saturday though and a dash back to the Sophie tent allowed us one more treat for the evening. Back in 2014 Orphaned Land (9) had wowed the Saturday afternoon with a fabulous set which ensured that those who were unaware of them then were certainly primed this time around. Despite some awful technical challenges at the start of the set, the Israeli band displayed all their qualities and proved why they were a fantastic choice of headliner. With tracks from their latest album, the stunning Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs, mixed with tracks from albums All Is OneMabool and The Never-Ending Way Of ORwarriOR, the mixture of lighter Eastern infused metal and some bone crushingly heavy sections worked magnificently. The hour flew by and when the band concluded the evening with Norra El Norra (Entering the Ark) I was once again marvelling at a band who have passed 25 years together. Few bands elicit such a response; their approach to all the conflict and strife in their homeland applauded to the rooftops.

Sunday 12th August

No rest for the wicked because there was only one place to be at 10:30 on the final day and that was in the New Blood tent where Staffordshire’s bludgeoning groove metal merchants Obzidian (9) had been handed the task of opening the day. Well, Matty, Matt, Baz and Paul were fully up for it and were at full bore within seconds. Matty Jenks was in imperious form, his snarling vocal delivery in total contrast to his between song humble persona. With four albums under their belt, these guys are a well-oiled machine and they battered the healthy crowd from the opening bars. By the time we’d hit Sins Here Are Purified the place was losing its shit. This band deserve a return on the Sophie stage in 2019. An awesome start to the day by one of the best UK bands around at present.

(Matt) Having been following the band since they grew out of the White Wizzard fold I was interested to see how NWOBHM revivalists Monument (7) had changed since I saw them in Bogiez. The stage show has certainly improved with the band bringing banners and augmentations, the instrumental section took to the stage closely followed by frontman Peter Ellis who is every inch the rock frontman from his look to his voice. Unfortunately this is where the problem was, due to the wind on the mainstage his vocals weren't really audible, meaning bassist Dan Bate was at times the only voice that could be heard. With rain in the air, the lacklustre sound didn't really make for the best showing and while tracks like The Chalice got your fist pumping it was difficult to get full immersed due to the lack of vocals and guitars. It meant that soon I followed my compatriots to the Sophie Tent.

(Paul) Skipping the British heavy metal of Monument, I headed to the Sophie Tent once more to check out Doomsday Outlaw (8) and was pleased I had. With a gentler rock ‘n’ roll approach, though still full of steel and backbone, the Derby blues machine had one of the shortest trips to the festival but also provided a huge amount of swagger, with vocalist Phil possibly the only wearer of braces on all four stages over the weekend. With a delivery that mixed Zeppelin with Alice in Chains, the band are certainly one to watch and I’ll be looking forward to their support slot with Graham Bonnet. Heading back to the RJD stage, it was my second viewing of Tom. S Englund and Evergrey (8). Considering Englund is one of the most miserable buggers around, this was a jaunty and upbeat set, full of passion, power and a confidence that comes with maturity and experience. A solid set maintained the interest throughout

Back to the Sophie Tent and another band I was desperate to catch. I’ve loved Paean Heretica, the debut release from misery riddled Brighton bastards King Leviathan (9) since I first heard it, and now it was time to hear it live. Fresh from his marriage, Adam Sedgewick and co laid waste to the tent, the demands to worship the old gods and block out the sun real as the desolation spread. Coffin SwallowerSanctificationThe Grand Congregation and Like Wolves To The Throat Of The Lion all spewed their way out, a huge pit allowing those in it a wry smile whilst the rest of us continued to wallow in our hate. Fantastic stuff from a band who will be missed when they start their hiatus later this year.

(Stief) Sound issues abound mean that the first half of Amaranthe's (5) set is replaced by the comedic stylings of bassist Johan Andreassen, who manages to keep the crowd entertained for a good 10 to 15 minutes before the band manage to sort out whatever was wrong, and Johan is finally joined by the rest of the band. It's obviously a shorter set than they intended, but the dance-laced melodeath sounds are good enough to get the crowd moving with the 3 singers, Elize, Henrik and Nils all working together to make that distinct sound Amaranthe have become known for, despite sound difficulties continuing to pop up throughout.

(Paul) There has been a massive amount of hype about New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry (6) which was evident by the swollen numbers in the Sophie tent as the band took to the stage. Whilst they certainly have the power and energy, they did little to inspire me, with their repetitive riffs going nowhere. I was pleased to find I wasn’t the only one who felt like this although I was in the minority.

(Nick) After seeing a few songs of Alien Weaponry and being generally unimpressed and wondering what all the hype was about, I made my way to the main stage to catch a band I've seen a few times in the past, Fozzy (7). The band fronted by professional wrestler Chris Jericho have always been one that change my mind every time I see them. Sometimes I walk away beaming, others I am left disappointed. This time I was left smiling, but mainly down to the persona of the self-proclaimed “GOAT” Jericho. Auto tuned throughout Jericho marched around the stage, crowd, amps and gantry owning every step. Controlling the crowd like puppets with the help of a smoke gun, Jericho commanded the 40 minutes with ease, showing any front man how it should be done. The disappointment for me was that the set was dominated by the new album, which, although good, for me doesn't hold a candle to some of Fozzy's earlier offerings. Songs such as God He Pounds His Nails or Friday The 13th would have gone down a treat with this crowd, instead the band opted to go with a set filled with their newer more pop rock/metal style music such as Bad TattooLights Go Out and Do You Wanna Start A War. This combined with the obvious auto tuning of Jericho's voice was a bit of a downer, nonetheless the powers of Jericho and the general passion that the band showed, together with the tightness of their musicianship won me over this time. 40 minutes well spent in my book.

(Matt) Just after Fozzy it was over to the Jager to see Dawn Of Anubis (7) ripping it up with their aggressive metalcore, born out of the cover band The Bench That Rocked this Leicestershire 5 piece were just the pick me up needed after the slickness of Jericho and co. Sending the smallest stage into a rage it was the ideal way to get wound up ready for what was about to unfold on the mainstage.

(Paul) Two minutes of Sangre was two minutes too much. That allowed me time to catch a bit of Jasta (8) and friends who were ripping up the RJD stage. I don’t mind a bit of the Hatebreed frontman on record, and I am partial to a bit of Hatebreed in the right mood. However, this was Jasta and Friends and he certainly has some good ones. First up was Howard Jones who showed that he still has the pipes. Next up was Dino Cazares, the Fear Factory guitarist cranking out the riffs to Edgecrusher and Replica, a move which saw multiple spontaneous losses of shit around the field as the old school began taking notice. I missed the arrival of Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein but his contribution included Bury Me In Smoke which by all accounts was epic. Back in the Sophie Tent Nepalese metallers Underside (5) had awful technical problems which segued into a schizophrenic sound which only confused me.

(Nick) A bit of a curve ball when announced for many, but nothing but happiness and excitement flowed through my veins when I heard the news that Mr Big (10) would be playing Bloodstock. Met with very mix opinions throughout the forums and social networks, Mr Big would have to prove a point to many, and oh lord did they?! Filing on stage with little pomp, the four-piece fronted by the great Eric Martin immediately broke out the big guns with Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (Yes, the electric drill did make an appearance) and Rock And Roll Over. Those in the crowd familiar sang along with gusto and showed their appreciation jut as strongly. While some confused and annoyed faces walked out of the crowd (Poor Sports), those who remained were slowly pulled in and converted over the next 45 minutes. Songs such as Price You Gotta Pay, an acoustic delivery of Cat Stevens Wild World and Addicted To That Rush gradually won over the crowd as the noise between each song got louder leading to the moment where thousands of metalheads were serenading each other with To Be With You, a surreal moment in my life I must admit! With the likes of Paul Gilbert, Billy Sheehan and Eric Martin on stage we were never going to get anything less than 100% and a bit of a party. Each musician showing why they are some of the best in the business, after all these years they are still having fun running around the stage with zero fucks to give. Without doubt one of my highlights of the festival. Come back soon Mr Big

(Paul) I watched the start of Mr Big but was determined not to miss Mumbai’s death metal legends Demonic Resurrection (10), a band who played BOA six years ago and who tore up Eradication Festival in Cardiff earlier this year. With Shoi Sen and Arran McSporran of De Profundis supporting Sahil ‘The Demonstealer’ Makhija and drummer Virenda Kaith, this was a vitally important gig for the Indian outfit and they absolutely tore the place apart. In between tracks which were mainly from their superb Dashavatar and their 2010 release The Return To Darkness, Sahil demonstrated a superb sense of humour which always goes down well. His stories about eating beef, “medium rare”, and this a song from that album … not that any of you give a shit” earned him warm laughter and his amazement at crowd surfers and a huge pit that saw young and old circling in a quite gentle style was heart-warming. The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance closed a technically flawless set, and one of the nicest people in metal today was left happy and content [especially when all his merch was sold out shortly afterwards].

(Matt) After the breeziness of Mr Big on the mainstage meant I missed Demonic Resurrection (bloody To Be With You was the culprit) I got caught up at the Jager stage for drink and the stoner riff rocking of Melbourne outfit True Believer (7) who brought a little Mastodon riffiness and some pop sensibilities to the smallest stage rocking to a pretty big crowd, they played well and seemed like they were having a bloody good time. Quickly though it was time to get ready for the last quarter of the last day.

(Paul) I’d been keen to see Act Of Defiance (8) since I reviewed their debut release Birth And The Burial, and the band didn’t disappoint with 45 minutes of slicing thrash metal. Led by the aggression and growls of Henry Derek, the band were tight and keen to demonstrate their quality. With Shawn Drover on the drum stool and Chris Broderick on lead guitar, this was always a band with quality and talent and the addition of Matt Bachand’s driving bass lines combined to provide a solid show of power and strength. Just a shame that the majority of the crowd were in between Devildriver and At The Gates. Talking of the latter, the last time I saw the Swedes was in The Globe in Cardiff, where they played a superb set. Buoyed by the positive reaction to the their latest To Drink From The Night ItselfAt The Gates (8) fully justified their high billing as special guests with a masterclass in melodic death metal. Tomas Lindberg prowling the stage, restless and unstoppable, although interestingly the band’s set list contained only three tracks from the new release, with the bulk of the set made up from At War With Reality and the seminal Slaughter Of The Soul. Ferociously tight, the band looked in command from the start with new guitarist Jonas StÃ¥lhammar ripping out solos for fun.

At last year’s Damnation Festival, I was a little underwhelmed by Americans Pallbearer (9) but the band dispelled any doubts I had with a majestic set which, similar to Voyager the day before had me transported to other places. Playing tracks from all three of their albums, including the superb 2017 release Heartless, Brett Campbell, Joseph Rowland, Devin Holt and Mark Lierly were perfect, and the crowd reacted accordingly. By the time their set closed, the emotion was high, and another festival highlight was added to an increasingly long list.

(StiefNightwish (10) make a triumphant return to the fields of Derby, and what better time to bring their Decades tour to our shores than 10 years after they last headlined and closed the main stage for the weekend. Since their last visit, Floor Jansen has taken up the helm as frontwoman and it's obvious from the beginning of End Of All Hope that she's a perfect fit for the Finnish band, engaging the crowd, inviting them to dance with her, windmilling with the best of them. Despite a slow start, she comes into her stride, covering all ranges of vocals, be it the operatic highs of Ghost Love Score or the great I Want My Tears Back. Marco Hietala's gruff vocals compliment Floor's well and the band is boosted with Troy Donockley, who has also become a permanent member since their last time here, on the uilleann pipes. Founding members Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen are more than happy on keyboards and guitars respectively, with Kai Hahto keeping a heavy beat throughout on drums. 

Being the Decades tour, there's something for fans of every album that Nightwish have produced since Oceanborn, with classics such as End Of All HopeWishmasterNemo, and Sacrament Of Wilderness all on the menu. The band are arguably one of the most prominent symphonic metal bands in the world today, and the stage production reflects this. The entire show is a journey, both visually and in regards to the discography of the band. One moment we're sailing through the forest, another moment, high in the mountains. One stand out moment (among many) is during The Greatest Show On Earth (Part III) with the words 'We Were Here' forming in the stars as the band sing it with a choral background. It's all over too soon as the classic Ghost Love Score indicates the close to an excellent lineup on the main stage, arguably one of the best Bloodstock has put out in years. There are chills as Floor hits the closing notes. We Were Here. Yes you fucking were, Nightwish.

(Paul) I struggled to watch 30 minutes of the Eurovision pomp of Finns, before taking up a decent position for the final band of the weekend. Few bands can match the intensity and self-belief that surges through the veins of Erik Danieslsson and Watain (10). Whilst their outdoor show as special guests to Behemoth a few years ago was impressive, this was something else; a true black mass. The heat from the burning stage and the smell from the sacrificial offerings powered through the tent, matched by a set that delivered three tracks of the 2018 Trident Wolf Eclipse, two from Lawless Darkness amongst others. A rammed tent stood in reverential awe as the band powered through their set, and by the time Waters Of Ain closed proceedings, there was nothing left. Watain and the audience was spent. A quite astonishingly intense climax to possibly the best Bloodstock ever. Can’t wait to do it all again.

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