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Wednesday 17 August 2016

A View From A Sunny Field: Bloodstock Festival 2016 (Sunday)

Bloodstock Festival - Sunday

Third and final day of Bloodstock, the mind was willing but body was falling apart as is only natural on the third day of bands (fourth day overall), but after yet another bad nights sleep it was an early start. The third day was a bit more hit an miss only really taking off towards the evening. Due to work constraints on Monday, this was going to be an early finish meaning that Slayer was going to have to be sacrificed. That was then this was now and we made our way into the arena after the obligatory bacon (at Bloodstock every morning involves bacon).

As we hit the main stage for Ghost Bath (4). Now on record Ghost Bath an instrumental band that play heavy blackened atmospheric doom with subtle background vocals, however live the atmospheric and frankly great music, however the banshees like squeals are brought to the fore and sounded comical cutting through the instrumentation, with a bit more balance they would be listenable but unfortunately it wasn't a great start.

Still lots to see and it was over into the Sophie tent for Desert Storm (7) and Oxford heavy blues metal outfit with a similar riff based style of Clutch and Orange Goblin and the whiskey soaked vocals to match, they managed to get some very sore heads banging in the early morning and were warmly received once their set had ended, finally things were back on track after the previous travesty and we were off and rocking.

Sticking in the Sophie tent, following Desert Storm was another UK band, I was intrigued to see what the alt rock styling of Sanguine (6) sounded like live and to be honest the band are reasonably generic almost rap style metal with songs that blur into one and other. In the New Blood Tent we caught the whole set from instrumental stoner Kahtet (9) who play excellent music that just makes you want to bang your head and lose yourself in the sounds.

Over to the main stage for Unearth (7) who's stage banner left you in doubt of who you were watching repeating the name five times in very large letters. Unearth are perfectly watchable modern metalcore, they don't do anything particularly new but to see a band that came out of the New Wave Of American Metal still pull a larger crowd is always heartening.

Back to the Sophie Tent for British bruisers Krysthla (8) who took to the stage and proceeded to destroy it with the primordial brand of heavy metal that batters you into submission. The riffage was loud and brutal the two guitars (Neil Hudson & Noel Davies) and the bass (Carl Davis) working together to punish the strong crowd that increased throughout the set as Wayne Minny's rapid fire drum beats, the big riff breakdowns and Adi's blood curdling roar all got fists pumping an heads banging. Playing songs from their excellent debut album the band seemed to be loving every minute and showed those that had not seen them before that they mean serious business, more of this soon chaps please?

After Krysthla had demolished the stage it was up to Divine Chaos (8) to burn the wood so there was no coming back and my gosh did they do that, their laser guided thrash metal ripped the last remnants of life out of the crowd as the blitzed them with supreme speed and breakdowns inciting as many pits as possible.

As I came out deafened by the two proceeding bands I began moving to the Main Stage it was time for Metal Allegiance (2) the all-star tribute group orchestrated by bass player and music mogul Mark Menghi has had numerous members take part in the two full length records and one EP that they have released so there was speculation about who was going to be playing. We already knew it wouldn't be Mike Portnoy as he is locked in to Twisted Sister until their tour finishes but with so many of the contributors all available, on the same day even, there so much potential for this to be something special.

It wasn't special not even in the slightest, in fact it was dire, bilge for the entire set. Behind the drum stool was Charlie Benante (my pick for the role), on guitars was Testament's Alex Skolnick, bass was obviously Menghi, and on the vocals was Death Angel's Mark Osegueda. They played just two songs from their album of originals and the rest of the set was made up of covers including some curveball choices of Wrathchild, Into The Void and Fast As A Shark.

The band are all great players but this was nothing more than a karaoke set on the main stage of a major festival where another band could showcased their own songs rather than a slightly self-indulgent set from established rockstars, hell I'd have preferred Testament or Death Angel. As the tribute to Bowie (Suffragette City) Lemmy (Iron Fist - featuring Gary Holt) and RJD (Heaven And Hell - one from the Anthrax repertoire) were all included I found my attention wandering wishing I was somewhere else.

What was most annoying though was that Mark insisted upon adopting the vocal mannerisms of the singers during the songs, this reinforced that this was nothing more than famous musicians indulging in a tribute act similar to the Hollywood Vampires project. Had they stuck tot heir own songs and thrown in the Lemmy, Dio and Bowie covers I think it would have been much better.

As it stands I left the stage as Heaven And Hell was playing to catch some heavy occult doom with Witchsorrow (8) who are possibly the most miserable fuzz filled band this side of Electric Wizard (there's a Sophie Tent headliner if I've ever heard one), they managed to clear my head ready for my next jaunt to the main stage.

In between the main stage bands there are always a few bands on the small Jagermeister stage, this year every band was an underground British band, unfortunately we only managed to catch one of the bands playing, who happened to be one of the best bands we'd seen all day. The band were the politically, ethically, socially and zombie motivated Outright Resistance (8) whose modern take on metal field with sledgehammer riffs, blast beats and the uncompromising no bullshit approach of vocalist Paige who channels her own transitioning and personal internal struggles into the songs creating a defiant unifying fuck you to anyone that cares to oppose them.

The music is aggressive, modern metal evoking bands such as Chimaira, Machine Head, Lamb Of God and Parkway Drive, as Paige jumped around the stage, bar and field barking her lyrics into the mic with her guttural vocals as the band battered the small but lively audience, they even made a wall of death which saw Paige actively participate in while singing. Outright Resistance are something of a eye opener I've seen very few bands with this much passion, sheer aggression and with such a revolutionary spirit for a long time. The MoM camp was right  next to their's too and despite their loud, late night discussions they were all very affable, lovely people. Check out Outright Resistance where you can as they have oodles of potential and better still they are a unifying force against hate.        
Mainstage time and band I've only ever seen once but can't remember at all so I was excited to see Satyricon (6) but as soon as the opening strains of The Dawn Of A New Dark Age kicked in myself and Mr Hewitt (who was probably more excited to watch the band than anyone) noticed something was dead wrong with the sound, the drums seemed to just swallow up everything else there were no keys at all, not the best thing for a 'symphonic' black metal band and the guitars were every low in the mix, in fact for most of the set all that was audible were the drums and Satyr's vocals.

The horrible sound made the set drag long as every song sounded the same even though we knew they weren't and the incessant and over loud drumming ruined the set that was drawn heavily from their Nemesis Divina album. I may have to see Satyricon again to make a proper judgement but here they suffered at the hands of the sound.

The gremlins continued into the next band meaning that British extreme power metal mentalists' Dragonforce (7) had to truncate what was supposed to be their triumphant return to just five songs, three newies including Cry Thunder and two classics ending with 'that' song (Through The Fire And The Flames) during the set the band did their normal ultra-speed riffing and metal posturing but once again the keys were inaudible and as the road crew frantically tried to fix it the consummate professionals Herman Li and Sam Totman not only solo'd their asses off but also handled the keyboard solos as well. Marc Hudson's voice gets better with every show (he recently had illness forcing him off stage) and the crowd did seem to really enjoy the shorter more focused set. I hope Dragonforce do a full UK tour soon as I love the band and this was nowhere near a full show.               
Running over to the Sophie tent I was just in time to catch a bit of Vektor (7) who were laying waste to the tent with their expertly technical progressive thrash coupled with black metal vocals and changing time signatures to make sure they kept everyone on their toes and more importantly moshing.

Then it was back to the mainstage for Americans Symphony X's (8) debut at BOA and they plowed through a set made up of the majority of the their latest album Underworld including one of the weekends few power ballads Without You. Symphony X were on winning form even with a couple of technical hitches they powered through their brand of muscular prog/power metal with particular kudos going to Michael Romeo and Russell Allen who are the focal points of the band on the live stage. Their set wound up with three classics leaving the audience very receptive and won over those in the group who had not seen Symphony X at all or indeed for a long time. During the set (the majority of which I had seen earlier in the year) I managed to catch a couple of numbers from Valous (7) on the New Blood tent and I was impressed with what I saw having missed them at Fire & Forge festival last year, ones to go on the list.   

Our final band of the day had the prospect to be very special, Memoriam (10) is a British death metal 'supergroup' made up of members of legendary Benediction and Bolt Thrower and serves as a fitting tribute to the latter after they have hung up their instruments for good. This was the first performance for Memoriam and the collected talent on stage was evident due to it's faultless nature. The stage dressing was affecting and horrific, depicting rotting soldiers in far flung battlefield, the intro music saw a piano piece played and the band took to the stage. The band are Benediction/Sacrilege bassist Frank Healy, Benediction guitarist Scott Fairfax, former Bolt Thrower drummer Andy Whale (who was replaced by the now tragically deceased Martin Kearns) and headed up by the thunderous definitive roar and white mane of Bolt Thrower's Karl Willets who received a heroes welcome as he strode onto the stage.

As with Bolt Thrower the songs are about war, death, sadness and grief, Willetts himself has said that the music is catharsis for dealing with the death of Martin Kearns. They drew the set from the as yet released debut record and what we heard was indeed new, to us and the band but was exactly as you'd expect, classic British death metal that chugs, roars and evokes evil with every concussive drum hit, crunching riff and scream. They played two tracks from their demo single War Rages On and Resistance which joined the excellent opening Memoriam, Dronestrike and Surrounded (By Death) as the new Memoriam material.

They also threw in some covers from their other bands in the shape of The Captive from Healy's influential act Sacrilege then in the middle of the set they plumped for Spearhead and Powder Burns from Bolt Thrower ending with another new song Flatline which had mine and Mr Hewitt's pulses stopping. The band were excellent but the show bittersweet, it was great to see the band on stage and especially Karl having an amazing time, but it reminded both of us that we may never see Bolt Thrower again, which brought a small tear to my colleagues eye, or that could have been the pain in his neck after head banging to this simply amazing new band full of old faces and a classic sound.

I wasn't going to go to Bloodstock this year due to life constraints and the fact that many of the bands playing I had seen on the touring cycle since BOA last year, however I'm glad I did as there were still so many "I was there moments" that I couldn't think of being anywhere else. The weather was perfect, the company was excellent (including some of my best and for the first time my oldest friend) the beer plentiful and the music, well it's the best in the world and all of this means that year upon year I will return to Catton Hall, putting up with the camping and the raucous, drunken noise at night to be in place where everything I could ever want is all together. For me personally this year had one notable exception but this won't happen again I'm sure. Bloodstock continues to cement itself as the UK's premier metal festival! (Tickets on sale now folks!!)      

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