Sunday is always a sad day when it’s the last day of Bloodstock so it was the final journey from our hotel in Tamworth (getting too old to sleep on the ground now) to just catch the start of the rain and opening Ronnie James Dio Stage band Monument.
Fronted by the ball of energy that is Peter Ellis they did their best to take our minds off the weather with forty minutes of no frills heavy metal. Set opener ‘Hellbound’ summed up in one word was monumental as it tore out with some kick drumming that could have knocked the front rows back a few yards. ‘Carry On’ saw us belting a few “Whoa oh ohs” back at the band and other highlights were the epic majesty of ‘A Bridge Too Far’ featuring some stunning midsection instrumentation but the onstage pyro was not powerful to dry us off,haha. ‘Wheels Of Steel’ (not a cover) was headbanger heaven especially from bassist Daniel Bate whose hair windmilling was on a par with the Bermuda Triangle. ‘Attila’ took no prisoners and they finished furiously with the aptly titled ‘Lionheart’.
Swedish band Evergrey brought their brand of power metal to Bloodstock. It’s part power metal and part progressive metal, and it’s damn good. They don’t play the UK that often so their appearance here is a real treat for fans. Their 40 minute set sadly flies past and before we know it they’re on to the final song.
From the very depths of Hell, via New York came Uncured who came to play on the Sophie Lancaster Stage and play some tight as fuck technical death metal point proven by opener ‘Dilate’ that veered off midway into a twin guitar jazzy piece courtesy of brothers Rex and Zak Cox. ‘Petrified’ was just as brutal interspersed with early Faith No More passages which sounded very cool to these ears. The technical grind of ‘Myopic’ preceded a wave of evil grooves that sent ‘Persia’ over the front rows punctuated by piercing lead work. Deliverance era Opeth influences arose with the multi tempos that careered throughout ‘Opium Den’ and they went for the kill with the unsurpassed anger and dexterous guitar work in ‘Terminal’.
King Leviathan were definitely rulers and not court clowns as set opener ‘Primitive Baptism’ saw the thrash metal riffing try to keep up with the Duracell bunny x10 drum work from Danny Yates. ‘Sanctification’ sped along in the same vein as a pummeling mid song breakdown featured wrist snapping snare work. Moody verses and hardcore blasts of rage drove ‘Agony’ into a huge pit that opened for ‘Coffin Swallower’, so powerful you could feel the air move and not none of this ring o’ roses shit. ‘Like Wolves To The Throat Of The Lion’ raged hard and they ended with another furious pit opener ‘The Grand Congregation’ with some intense buzzsaw riffing.
Amaranthe‘s set started badly – barely starting the first song before technical problems brought things to a halt, so we were treated to some jokes as their bassist entertained the crowd while the crew worked on fixing the problems. Problem fixed and the show resumed. They’re an unusual band having three vocalists – clean female, clean male and male screams. They’re also unusual for Bloodstock in being a blend of pop and metal, but while a few purists head off to the bar or another stage, there’s a large crowd watching and enjoying Amaranthe. It’s a great set, but sadly the earlier technical problems mean the set is shorter than planned.
As if this wasn’t heavy enough ‘Crawlblind’ proceeded to batter a vociferous crowd at the New Blood Stage. Dressed all in black the tar thick sludgy grooves of set opener ‘Never Over’ followed by the early Quicksand vibes throughout ‘Hollow’. ‘Parasite’ had plenty of bite as did the sting in ‘Venom’ as they devastatingly went up a gear, especially the drum barrages. Strangely enough the five piece created a mini circle pit amongst themselves onstage during the musical mayhem of ‘Break It Down’ and they had one last shot at moving the ground under our feet which they did with the undulating pound of ‘The Abyss’.
Fozzy, the band founded by wrestling superstar Chris Jericho were next on the main stage and it was clear quite quickly that as well as being a singer, he’s a born entertainer and really knows how to use all the space possible to entertain the crowd. Rather than just staying on the main part of the stage he also heads out on the wings to sing under the big screens as well as standing on speaker stacks that wobbled rather precariously. The set kicked off with “Judas” and ran through another 7 songs with none of the covers that he tends to include in his gigs. It’s a good entertaining set that goes down well with the crowd.
I must admit my eyebrows were raised by the youthful looking trio Ethyrfield as they came on, even more so when their combined ages are seven years away from my fifty five! Mentored by none other than Tony Iommi their impressive stagecraft shone during the early Diamond Head vibe of set opener ‘Ignitor’ with lead vocalist Zach Cornish sounding eerily like Sean Harris. Layne Staley era Alice In Chains sprang to mind a few times, none more so than in ‘Loud Pollution’ with a melodic shredded solo from Ben Cornish. A chilling twin lead vocal throughout heavy prog passages in ‘Taurus’ saw them grab the bull by the horns for a full on outro backed by some fast footwork from drummer Dan Aston, barely visible behind his kit. ‘Never Odd Or Even’ was a tasty slice of heavy rock as was the funky grooves flowing through ‘Show Me God’ and their set flew by far too soon as they closed with their heaviest and most straightforward number ‘Bag Of Bones’ jammed out with a booming outro. Definitely a band to watch out for!
Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta was here with his other band, Jasta. As well as some Jasta songs, he brought along a few friends to do some cover versions. It’s an impressively talented group of friends – Howard Jones (Killswitch engage), Dino Cazares (Fear factory) and Kirk Windstein (Crowbar/Down/Kingdom of sorrow), so it’s no surprise that we get covers f songs by Down, hatebreed, Crowbar, Kingdom of sorrow, and Fear factory.
Ireland Metal To The Masses winners This Place Hell completed our third band in a row on this stage with a toys thrown out of the pram delivery. ‘Survival’ raged against everything and not just against the machine as lead vocalist Stephen Cannon looked as though his head was going to explode as he hollered out the lyrics to ‘Filth’. ‘Chapter For A Chosen Few’ proved that the devil still has all the best tunes with some hellishly churning riffing. ‘Pummel’ certainly did and the slammer ‘Pox’ saw the band and front rows headbanging. ‘End Game’ showed their knack of writing intense riffs as they battered us into submission to end a set that had GBH written all over it.
From Clark Kent to Superman summed up Sahil Makhija perfectly as the soft spoken bespectacled man we spoke to onsite earlier on the day transformed into Demonstealer fronting Demonic Resurrection to a rammed Sophie Lancaster Stage. He bellowed out the lyrics to set opener Matsya The Fish along to some of the most brutal death metal I’d heard all weekend. ‘Krishna The Cowherd’ was slightly more melodic if you can describe it as being chased by a pack of wolves. A requested pit opened up with Sahil hilariously thanking us as apparently no one ever does what he says! ‘A Tragedy Befalling’ was kick drum mayhem and a quip calling crowd surfers “Top notch” preceded another huge pit for ‘Narasimha The Man Lion’. The tongue twister of The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance’ was more of a weather formed twister that swirled around us and a mid song chug gave the pit a chance to catch its breath. One final power surge saw the fierce ‘The Demon King’ create a pit so fast it looked like Sahil had pressed a fast forward button onstage. Surely a main stage spot will be next for them.
It’s fair to say Mr Big were the most controversial booking that Bloodstock have made for quite a few years (probably since Europe played), but what is equally clear is that they proved to be a big success. Ok, most people in the audience probably only knew the one song (To be with you), but plenty stayed to see what they’d be like. Kicking off with “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)”, they were immediately a lot heavier than most people were expecting. During the song, Bass player Billy Sheehan uses an electric drill with a plectrum attached to play his bass – not something you’ll see every day. It’s a great set that proves the doubters wrong as they go down well with the large crowd, and yes they did play *that* song.
If ever a crowd need firing up then look no further than DevilDriver to do the job. Fronted by the manic Dez Fafara his thrash metal heart still beats fast as ‘End Of The Line’ produced a glut of surfers. Known for their pit opening prowess, ‘Hold Back The Day’ did just that and although the set was a bit one dimensional you can’t really argue with the sheer tour de force of ‘These Fighting Words’, ‘I Could Care Less’ and my stone cold set highlight ‘Clouds Over California’.
Srd, closing act on the New Blood Stage made their first UK appearance and what a place to start. Rear stage lighting made them appear as four shadows shrouded by dry ice, the perfect setting. Opener ‘Ognja Prerok’ sent haunting waves of doom towards us as they switched effortlessly into the crashing riffs and guttural vocals from Goran Slekovec in ‘Sreca Na Vrvici’. Their claustrophobic side rose again in the mesmerising ‘Smrti Sel’ and that feeling you get when a song takes over from everything you are doing at that point came to be for ‘Kupa’ and they topped that with an almost nine minute mind bender called ‘Soci’. A chilling spoken word delivery was backed by a Rammstein like precision musical delivery.
Nightwish, closing act on the Ronnie James Dio Stage drew a huge crowd, my first time seeing them fronted by Floor Jansen. Stunning backdrops and pyro augmented their high energy set and their heaviness surprised me compared to the gig I saw them about ten years ago with Anette Olzen on vocals. Set opener ‘End Of All Hope’ set the standard immediately and an over the top ‘Wish I Had An Angel’ was aired early showing that their best songs are not always saved for the encores. Introduced as “A trip down memory lane”, ‘Gethsemane” saw Floor windmilling furiously, giving George Fisher from Cannibal Corpse some serious competition! ‘Sacrament Of Wilderness’ was full on power metal and they stayed in that vein with ‘I Want My Tears Back’. Drum dominated passages during ‘Devil And The Deep Dark Ocean were Manowar heavy and my personal highlight was the foot to the floor ‘Slaying The Dreamer’.
The setlist tonight (and on the whole tour) is a complete history of Nightwish, with songs from the latest album and going all the way back to the beginning of the band. Those songs span three different singers but Floor does a superb job on both old and new songs. With her stage presence, her ability to growl as well as do operatic vocals and clean vocals, and her windmilling and headbanging, Floor has made Nightwish more of a metal band and their popularity has soared in recent years with them selling out Wembley arena on their last tour. Tonight they demonstrate to the doubters that they’re more than suited to headlining Bloodstock.
The final band of the weekend was Watain. They’d apparently been banned from throwing blood over the audience (not to protect the crowd, but because it’s agricultural land and covering it in blood of an unknown origin breaches all sorts of regulations). Instead they just poured it over themselves before coming on stage, and long before the start of their set the stench was obvious. With the most elaborate stage setup of any Sophie stage band, the show started with someone coming out and setting light to various burners and before long things were getting warm with flames everywhere. The band came out and lit more flames, and just in case you thought they were all image and didn’t take the Satanic theme seriously, the singer held his hand in the flames for a while. They’re a very dark and intense band, but they really know how to impress. The music and imagery work perfectly together. Having played the main stage last time they were at Bloodstock it’s clear that they are far better suited to the dark of the tent, and headlining the Sophie stage gives them a much longer set. A great end to another fantastic weekend at Bloodstock.
See you all again in 2019!
Review by Dennis Jarman with additional reviewing and photos by Ant May[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157697307867002″ size=”z” count=”100″]