“Saturday, Saturday, Saturday nights alright” as Elton John wisely put it and describes today’s bands perfectly! Hotel fry up and straight off I go to Bloodstock Open Air Festival again with the first trip of the day to the New Blood Stage to witness Preston based lunatics Ward XVI. Shuttle bus late arrival meant I only caught the last three songs of their five song set as they launched into ‘Cry Of The Siren’ to a full to the brim tent. Eye popping costumes, especially that of frontwoman Psychoberrie whose stage presence brought to mind the effortlessly cool Dave Vanian from the Damned. The heavy goth vibe of the song, backed up by a haunting vocal heavied up midway as the guitars dominated. The accordion intro to ‘Toybox’ morphed into heavy folk metal with tongues firmly in cheeks for a hilarious delivery. Psychoberrie came into the crowd to start a circus pit which lead into a fast circle pit. Final song ‘Ward XVI’ was a funeral like dirge sung in a straitjacket that lead into a full on metal finish lapped up by a delirious crowd.
Today’s second mad dash was to catch Guildford based hard rockers Blind River lay a Thunder like feel good vibe on the Sophie Lancaster Stage from their charismatic lead singer Harry Armstrong. Once again, stage clashes meant a late arrival but the final four songs whetted the appetite. ‘Bonehouse’ was heavy blues in the vein of Free, followed by the instantly memorable main riff of ‘Freedom Dealer’ that brought melody and muscle. A gritty lead vocal was the icing on the cake. ‘Home’ was a sumptuous hard hitting power ballad with powerful vocals and high energy final song ‘Can’t Sleep Sober’ was foot tapping barroom boogie with a full on guitar solo ending.
Birmingham based Eradikator followed and heavied up proceedings with a balls out five song set of blistering thrash metal. The Kreator like viciousness of opener ‘Hands Of The Path’ tore along to the first raging guitar solo that tore through a near full tent. ‘Season’s Of Rage’ was a heavy chugger that got fists in the air from front to back and the front row headbanging but stand out song was ‘Revolve’, dedicated to the memory of Sophie, it was a dynamically heavy slow burner with some intense, hypnotic riffing.
First visit of the day to the Ronnie James Dio Stage saw Denver, Colorado based Havok clear the cobwebs from a large crowd. Opener ‘Prepare For Attack’ certainly did once the sound guy got their levels right as razor sharp thrash shot out from the p.a system. ‘Ingsoc’ was catchy, melodic thrash from latest album Conformicide as a frenzied riff heavy mid section opened up a huge pit but my highlight was the brutal riffing and drum assaults that dominated ‘Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death’. Annoyingly, they had their final song halted which maybe could have been avoided if they had not used so many intro tapes previously.
‘Raised By Owls’, probably the most insane band of the weekend defied description on the New Blood Stage but my first impressions were of US maniacs Spazztic Blur. What few song titles I managed to decipher amongst their demented but highly entertaining set were the adrenaline rush of ‘Practicing Black Magic With Bruce Forstyth’, ‘The Almighty Sunday Roast’ where vocalist Sam Fowler’s pitch got to banshee level, the total death assault of ‘David Cameron’s Favourite Band Is Pig Destroyer’ and the blast beat fury of ‘Rot Stewart’.
Friends of mine at Bloodstock who know I review told me not to miss ‘Bangover’, so from one lunatic band I headed to the Jagermeister Stage to be confronted by another! Master of ceremonies Fionn Moore lead the London based five piece with a no holds barred, PC unfriendly set. A huge, rabid crowd went bat shit crazy for the furious riffs in ‘Beer Death Experience’, immediately causing pits and walls of death. A Viking horn blown intro to ‘DCT’ lead into drum driven speed metal that saw a wall of death empty the whole of the front of stage area. ‘Over The Top’ lived up to it’s title and the Maiden like twin guitar raging through ‘Floss Or You Die’ explained why guitarist Jack Taylor was in a toothpaste costume! Set closer ‘Shovel Butcher’, dedicated to Jeff Hanneman saw a huge circle pit open up that went around the whole of the stage as the song ended with four band members crowd surfing over the crowd, completely out of sight. Utterly bonkers!
Annihilator, another contender for a place in the Big Four of thrash metal stepped up to the Ronnie James Dio Stage as Jeff Waters who founded the band in 1984 in Ottawa, Canada, proved how underrated an artist he is. Now on lead vocals as well as guitar he lead through a crowd pleasing eight song set of technical thrash metal, opening up strongly with a pit opening ‘King Of The Kill’. It was all killer, no filler as ‘No Way Out’, and ‘Set The World On Fire’ were tasters for a pounding ‘Welcome To Your Death’ from the classic debut album Alice In Hell. ‘Twisted Lobotomy’, introduced as a brand new track and “Getting back to our thrash roots” from a planned new album raged hard, showing he has lost none of his fire. ‘Alison Hell’ picked up the crowd and incited even faster pits as it chugged to a potent ‘Phantasmagoria’, but I was blown away by a hyper speed run through of set closer ‘Human Insecticide’.
Security in the pit suddenly increased which means it must be time for Municipal Waste who hands down increased the numbers of crowd surfers from the off. To some they may be seen as a joke band but their thrash punk was water tight, point proven by the blink and you miss it ‘Beer Pressure’. Fronted by Tony Foresta from their beginnings in 2001 in Richmond, Virginia, the classics of ‘Terror Shark’, ‘I Wanna Kill The President’, ‘The Art Of Partying’ and ‘Born To Party‘ came thick and fast and towards the end of the set there was a successful attempt to beat the Guinness Book Of World Records record for how many surfers can pass over the front barrier in five minutes which they did from four hundred and sixty two to five hundred and thirty two!
Back to the smaller stages meant a visit to the New Blood Stage for hoofKnuckle, a five piece from Yorkshire who threatened to tear the tent apart. Their sound can only be described as giving the middle finger to an approaching avalanche as the monstrously heavy grind of ‘Burn You Away’ backed the mighty roar from frontman Nic Johnson. The guitar tones were set to kill mode for ‘Final Prayer (The Reckoning)’ and as if the band could not get any heavier, ‘Feet Of Clay’ hit even harder with Nic delivering some Derrick Green like roars. A crushing ‘Tomb Of Daedalus’ was followed by ‘Great White’, as a claustrophobic doom intro was taken over by Monster Magnet on steroids grooves as they finished us off with the Raging Speedhorn like intensity of ‘Hunter Be Hunted’.
On the same stage,Newcastle Upon Tyne based Decrepit Monolith, the blackest metal band of the weekend launched into their seven evil numbers with candle lit stage props and enough dry ice to raise the undead with their self titled ‘Decrepit Monolith’. Frontman Odious had a Catweazle like look as he vented his inner demons over swathes of intense riffing. ‘The Wretched Bones’ was early Satyricon like intensity, technically thrashed out and the wall of sound created by ‘Defiling The Pure’ must have pushed the needle up on the Richter scale. The mesmerizing pound of ‘Servant’ shifted into a gear that accelerated over the horizon. ‘The Bastard Messiah’ defied description due to its extremity and their triumphant set watched by a full tent closed with the funeral like dirge grind of ‘The Inglorious Dead’ that ended up with blast beat speeds and a fittingly over the top delivery of ‘Angel In White’.
Prog comes to Bloodstock? From Manchester? Yep, you betcha as Twisted Illusion drew a huge crowd around the Jagermeister Stage. Lead by the ball of energy that is Matt Jones who possesses one of the most powerful voices I heard all weekend, their four original songs aired from the Temple Of Artifice album are a thing of beauty and a faithful cover of a Black Sabbath classic pushed us over the edge. ‘Imitate Me Part One’ rises and falls on breathtaking musicianship from the four onstage. The main lead guitar solo was truly manic. Insane drum patterns from Matt McDade propel ‘Hatred Is A Virtue’ along to a huge chorus which immediately gets into your head. Next up was the previously mentioned Black Sabbath cover as Matt wailed with aplomb over a mighty run through of ‘Heaven And Hell’ with thudding bass lines from Mark Wagstaff and Matt trading guitar solos with guest guitarist Tom Atkinson from Vice. The deft intro of ‘Apocalypse Lol‘ segued into Moving Pictures like commercial era Rush, as uplifting as the sun that was beating down. All too soon set closer ‘Online And Inline’ began with a Market Square Heroes like jaunt as the song bounced along towards more huge choruses and a lengthy outro.
Kreator firmly and rightly belong in the Big Four of German thrash metal, point proven by their breathtaking spot on the Ronnie James Dio Stage. Frontman Mille Petrozza who formed the band in Essen in 1986 still has plenty of anger to vent as they launch into set opener ‘Hordes Of Chaos’ and followed up by a visceral ‘Phobia’. There was an annoying amount of pyro used during their set which I think they do not need, leave that sort of gimmick to Steel Panther. Other highlights for me were rabid renditions of ‘People Of The Lie’, ‘Total Death’, ‘Betrayal’, but pick of the bunch was a heads down ‘Pleasure To Kill’.
So, onto headliners Ghost, formed in Linkoping, Sweden in 2006,who surprisingly blew me away. I must admit to previously judging them on their image before I heard the music but as the lengthy intro tape gave way to the band stepping up and launching into ‘Square Hammer’ , I was hooked immediately by how heavy they were.
Frontman Papa Emeritus III seemed effortlessly cool and was so laid back he could have been horizontal. He strode around the stage inbetween songs, delivering dead pan stories instantly connecting with the crowd. The set progressed with an almost clinical, Rammstein like delivery. ‘Body And Blood’ saw Papa bring on a line of nuns to walk along the front row of the crowd, highlighting the song title and sung it in the style of Marlene Dietrich! Just as we thought the set was over, Papa came back saying “We don’t do shitty endings” and the band launched into a stunning Monstrance Clock’ as he walked along the front row throughout the song, leaning over the barrier to a sea of smiling faces singing the mantra of “Come together, together as one”. They were worthy headliners today. Would I go and see them again? A definite yes!