It’s now just a matter of days before the Metal calendar reaches for what many is the highlight of the entire year. Four days of camping, boozing, and most importantly music with like minded metal heads from across the globe. Since its humble beginnings in 2001, Bloodstock has mushroomed into THE metal festival in the UK. The attractions are many; an eclectic but predominantly pure heavy metal line-up which you don’t get at Download; a short walk from the campsites to the arena and even the walk from the car park to the campsite doesn’t kill you; but most of all, you get four days of sheer relaxed enjoyment where you can catch as many or as few bands as you want and meet new and old friends. This year, with an increased capacity and a new campsite, things may be a little more congested but there will still be room to navigate comfortably between the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, the Ronnie James Dio Main Stage and the Sophie Lancaster Stage. Throw in extra entertainment during the day and after the bands finish, and a range of food and merch to satisfy the most demanding punter and it all sounds perfect. If they would just get rid of the fun fair next to the Sophie Tent, then I’d be happier than a pig in the proverbial brown stuff.
But the main reason we go is for the music, so here’s my view on who I’ll be hunting out over the weekend. Everyone will have their own highlights but feel free to use this as a guide. I take no responsibility for any disappointment though. There’s no accounting for taste!
Predominantly dominated by arriving early, getting sorted and then getting on it, Thursday can be brilliant or an absolute disaster. Getting totalled is the norm, having more than you usually drink on a Friday night by 3pm is routine and collapsing in a heap by 9pm expected. If you can drag yourself to the Sophie Tent, then there is a range of great bands. Don’t miss the ballsy rock of Fire Red Empress, whose hard-hitting hard rock is ferocious live. If you like your technical death metal, Bloodshot Dawn, a band who opened the main stage a few years ago will be looking to impress following their stunning third album Reanimation which was released early this year. The opportunity to catch the Russian/Polish pagan black metal of headliners Arkona, a band of some repute and who rarely tour the UK will also be one not to miss.
Always a brilliant day, as the RJD stage opens with the big guns, this year is no exception with the headliners that we’ve wanted for years, Judas Priest, sure to pull out all the stops. Hopefully we will get to see the legend Glenn Tipton get on stage for a couple of numbers. Stand-in Andy Sneap is no stranger to the RJD stage, having played there a few times with Hell. It’ll be all eyes on the Metal God Rob Halford as he prowls the stage. If you’ve never seen Priest before, then make sure you don’t miss them. With an arsenal of thunderous classic tunes complementing this year’s blistering Firepower, the legends will take some beating as band of the weekend. Directly before them are another legendary band, making their return to the RJD stage as special guests, black metal overlords Emperor who will, if I am right, be playing their magnificent Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk in full. Earlier in the day, I’ll be doing my utmost to catch the death metal of Memoriam, whose Bolt Thrower legacy remains a huge pull. Karl Willerts and co will let the music do the talking and with two albums in just under a year, they have a decent amount of material to crush skulls with. I’ll also hope to catch some of Bristolians Onslaught, whose thrash should go down a treat in the pit, alongside the brutality of Bloodbath, who I may or may not catch, having seen at Damnation last year. I’m likely to sacrifice Suicidal Tendencies, the shock rock of Wednesday 13 and the power metal of American’s Kamelot in favour of other stages.
On the Sophie Stage it’s a real smorgasbord of delights; choosing highlights here is hard. In fact, you could spend all day in the tent and not be short changed. Headliner Doro is a legend whose hard-hitting classic heavy metal should be a superb end to day 1. In contrast, the Oriental power metal of Love Bites should be interesting. There’s plenty of face melting opportunity as well, with De Profundis, Ingested and Reprisal all geared up to smash you over the head. Highlight of the day will of course be the joyous ditty Raped By Ebola, from our death metal South Walian brothers Sodomised Cadaver, who have been kicking Europe’s arse during the summer. If it is too sunny for you, then take the opportunity enjoy a little doomy gloom from Godthyrmm, who with former members of Vallenfyre, My Dying Bride and Anathema will ensure that it is raining in your heart by the end of their set.
As if that isn’t enough, the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage is bursting at the seams with talent. Scots Turbyne, with their progressive metal will be the polar opposite of Birmingham’s Trivax, whose bludgeoning death metal and Iranian influences should get a decent crowd. More brutality awaits from the Bristol death merchants Body Harvest, who will flatten the place. If the posters are to be believed that the day will be topped off by Southern Fried heavy metal from King Bison who are finger licking good. Of course, for the large Welsh contingent, watching Democratus will be quite an experience. Fingers crossed Spoon doesn’t clout Steve in the head with his bass.
With the festival in full swing, pacing yourself for day 2 is a challenge. There is plenty on the main stage to keep the interest. The hardcore thrash of Power Trip is a must for me, especially after missing them on their support to Trivium in April. These guys will certainly shift the hangovers. Following Power Trip, some Germanic power metal, and superior power metal at that with the much-anticipated arrival of Orden Ogan, who will make me very happy if they play Gunman. I will remain in front of the main stage for the might of Greek’s seminal Hellenic death metal outfit Septicflesh, who are intense. This should be an occasion with the shouts of “destroy” and “my friends” from frontman Spiros Antoniou inevitable. If you haven’t heard Codex Omega, the band’s last album, then get your ears around it as soon as you can. Venom Inc are likely to be shorn of Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn after his recent heart issues, but with Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan up front and Antony ‘Abaddon’ Bray back behind the kit, you can be sure that the old school Venom classics will rip through the Derbyshire air for the second time in two years. I’m nonplussed by Alestorm but the special guests, the mighty Cannibal Corpse will once again pump up the Hawaiian shirt clad mosh pits, “alrighty then”, before headliners Gojira move your internal organs. Rumour has it that Global Warming may be on the set list, which will make many fans extremely happy.
Another blistering line-up in the Sophie Tent, with Orphaned Land a must see for me. This is a band that get better with every album, and live their humility comprised with some heavy tunes makes for something special. Everything else in the tent is totally watchable, from the gut splitting of Exhorder, the antipodean progressive rock of Voyager and the extreme progressive metal of miserable bastards Conjurer, whose latest release Mire is a masterpiece. A Forest Of Stars were brilliant in Fuel recently whilst Lee Dorrian’s return in With The Dead should draw a crowd. Top picks in the New Blood Stage? Well, Valafar have been drawing big backing, the symphonic metal of Sheffield’s Aonia should win friends and the weirdness of Cadence Noir should be interesting.
As the beers continue to flow, suddenly it is the last day but fear not, there is still plenty to see. Not so much on the main stage for me, although the traditional metal of Monument is a decent opener and followed by Swedes Evergrey may keep me in my spot. Jasta promises something special with a plethora of guests including Howard Jones, Kirk Windstein and Dino Cazares. However, it’s the wild card of Mr Big that will be one of the moments of the weekend as the melodic rockers will smooth out all the wrinkles in the field before Devildriver’s insanity (not that I’ll be watching Dez and co. Boring as hell live). The final combination of At The Gates and Nightwish allows for last minute moshing and some quality symphonic metal. Not my cup of tea but I shall probably watch from afar
At least that will give me time to get a safe spot for the closing band of the weekend and what a battering to finish as Watain hit their headline spot in the tent. It should be intense and with blood, guts and fire, a classic finish. However, Sunday in the tent could be the wild card, with the might of King Leviathan, the arrival of New Zealand youngsters Alien Weaponry and the Indian death metal veterans Demonic Resurrection all must see bands. Act Of Defiance contain ex-Megadeth members and play solid thrash metal whilst Pallbearer are a decent option for those not fussed by ATG. The New Blood Stage meanwhile has plenty to offer. Expect a huge crowd for Staffordshire groove merchants Obzidian, who should be in the bigger Sophie Tent, youngsters Ethyrfield are expected to deliver good things, whilst Dead Before Mourning and Sellsword are other bands well worth checking out.
Of course, we all have our bands to watch, which is what makes BOA so brilliant. Watch out for our reviews of the weekend on the blog, although it might take us a few days to come back to earth first.