Sunday at Bloodstock Open Air Festival, a bitter sweet one as it’s the final day but this year it turned out to be the strongest day! A great start came from Kettering based hard rockers Switch Blade City featuring Sean Seabrook on lead vocals, the best dressed frontman of the weekend in a very sharp waistcoat. They play classic rock which was fine to my ears and their five song set flew by far too quickly. Opener ‘Call The Doctor’ had a ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ like main riff and was hook laden throughout with a full on drum workout ending from Tiarnan ‘Hoff’ Nelis. ‘Diggin It Out’ had an air of rock radio airplay written all over it but rocked enough to keep the headbangers happy. My highpoint was their heaviest track ‘Dead Behind The Eyes’. The jabbing riffs and furious double bass drumming woke up the near full New Blood Stage with a wah wah guitar solo finish.
Things got much heavier as Hull based Battalions managed to bang out seven songs in their half hour onstage. Fronted by the utterly bonkers Phil Wilkinson, opener ‘Skinjob’ crashed out like a pissed off Kyuss. It got even heavier as tempos quickened for ‘Lotion Basket’ with the bass tone rattling through my ears like an angry wasp. ‘Moonburn’, title track from their latest album saw Phil fix us with a Charles Manson stare as seismic grooves shook the ground. ‘God’s Cuntry’ (yes, that’s the correct spelling), was a catchy slice of heavy blues offset by a deranged vocal. Set highlight was the stoner heavy ‘Amazonion Woman’, with the spacey grooves drawing you towards the stage.
First dash to the Sophie Lancaster Stage saw Leeds based Blind Haze entertain highly. I had to blink as they walked on as lead vocalist/bassist Robert ‘Conan’ Threapleton was a dead ringer for Ted Nugent! Opener ‘Mine All Mine’ shot along on a foot tapping boogie beat, followed quickly by the Blue Cheer fuzz of ‘Take A Look Around You’ with a full on freak out ending. After Rob apologising for his early morning hangover, ‘You Can’t Have It’ blasted out strangely like 70’s Ted Nugent hard rock. ‘Quick Or The Damned’ sped along on the heavier side of NWOBHM. ‘Never Get Out Alive’ was driven by snapping snare work from Jason Hope. ‘Crawling Through Hellfire’ rumbled along like a heavy ‘Orgasmatron’ as ‘Ain’t Gonna Last’, a foot to the floor headbanger was introduced as “This is about me right now” with a closing line of “Why did we write that so fast?”. Set closer ‘Don’t Get Left Behind’ was more good time boogie in the vein of early Foghat.
Brujeria, one of the most brutal bands of the weekend hit the Ronnie James Dio Stage early in the morning with all members half masked to avoid being identified but I did spot Shane Embury on bass guitar. The Mexican based band who sing in Spanish hammered out a set mixed with hate fulled grind and blast beat driven thrash with set closer ‘Marijuana’ was sung the same as ‘Macarena’, with some midday moves being busted out down the front.
Just as evil were ‘Heathen Deity’ who aptly describe themselves as “True English black metal”. In existence for almost twenty years, the spirit of early eighties black metal lives in their blackened hearts with an imposing stage presence that brought to mind the ghosts emerging from the sea in the film The Fog. They heaved out a mind blowing set beginning with ‘The Devil Himself’, they were that tight it was hard to pick out any stand out numbers but those that did rage hard were the storming ‘For The Glory Of Satan’ and set closer ‘Gut The Church’, a lengthy opus of doom and balls out riffing.
Next up were UK power trio Torqued who began strongly with precision drilled Prong like riffing and the industrial pound of ‘Overlord’ kept the momentum going with the buzzing, heavy grooves of ‘Inside Me’ .The epic, slow burning intro of ‘Hollow Core’ shifted into gear with a piercing guitar solo as the song pounded to a close. Unfortunately I had to leave the packed out tent due to stage clashes but Torqued are definitely a band to look out for again.
San Francisco based Possessed, one of the originators of death metal proceeded to show on the Ronnie James Dio Stage that they are relevant since their formation in 1983. Still fronted after all these years by Jeff Becerra, they were the tightest band of the day as they tore through opener ‘Confessions’. There was no pause for breath as ‘My Belief’ and ‘Storm In My Mind’ whizzed by on a blur of riffs and fast footed drumming. New song ‘Shadowcult’ proved that age is not slowing them down and the blazing sunshine did not faze them as they ended with the cataclysmic ‘Death Metal’.
Everest Queen, first Jagermeister Stage band of the day made the most of their time with four impressive tunes. Lengthy opener ‘Catacombs’ raised the bar high with abrasive, grinding hypnotic riffs that drew you in as ‘Blood That Blinds The Ilian’ was just as extreme with hammer blow drums. The souped up Sabbath grooves of ‘Grave Dweller’ got the headbangers in full flight and the Stevenage based trio battered us for a final time with the angular, early Deftones like riffing of ‘Neptune’s Gates’.
You don’t just hear Obituary, you feel them to as they are so heavy today on the Ronnie James Dio Stage. Formed in 1984 in Tampa Bay, their set almost lifts you off the ground. Vocalist John Tardy has lost none of his lung busting growl and he lurches around the stage fixing the crowd with an icy stare. ‘Chopped In Half’ still sounds evil in broad daylight as did a seismic ‘Turned Inside Out’. Their latest self titled album was represented by ‘Dying’, ‘Find The Arise’ and a colossal ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ with rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres smiling throughout. Set closer ‘Slowly We Rot’ saw the pits open even wider.
On the same stage, Hell were the most theatrical band of the weekend with their no frills heavy metal given an extra edge by the over the top stage presence from lead vocalist David Bower. His passionate delivery which included self flagellation and striding onstage with fur covered stilts that ended him precariously twirling a spark shooting giant trident whilst other spark showers shot beside him from either side of the drums during the epic ‘Darkhangel’. Formed in 1982, they still boast three original members. Tony Speakman on bass guitar, Tim Bowler on drums and Kev Bower on guitar. Fifth member is Andy Sneap, famed producer and second guitarist. Their all too soon ending set finished with a rapturously received ‘On Earth As It Is In Hell’.
After all this bombast it was time to kick back a bit and catch Stoke On Trent hard rockers Silverchild tear up the Jagermeister Stage. Their five song set heavily taken from The Red Desert E.P kicked off with the riff heavy ‘Black Cat’ with guitarist Vic Jepson on guitar and Max Ryles on bass throwing some shapes as lead vocalist Alex Hiley belted it out to an ever increasing crowd. ‘Jukebox Junkie’ took on a new lease of life from the studio version as everything was cranked right up, especially the footwork from Tom Bevan on drums. The bluesy soul of ‘Dictator’ brought the pace down with Alex belting it out like a latter day Janis Joplin. The early Aerosmith like raunch of ‘Red Desert’ with some serious guitar heroics lead to final number ‘Pluto Pass’, introduced as “It’s time to bring the blues to Bloodstock” which it did and was my highlight!
My last visit to the New Blood Stage saw a very exciting four piece Norwegian based young thrash metal band called Vorbid, one of my highlights of the weekend. It was like watching the Cliff Burton era Metallica for the first time as they threw themselves into set opener ‘Zombie’, full of frenzied, tight thrash and double bass drumming from Marcus Gullovsen. ‘Invention Intervention’, once again was full of a dizzying array of riffing flying off the stage and fluid lead guitar work from Daniel Emanuelsen and Michael Eriksen. ‘Crimson Crown’ took Michael’s vocals to the next level as they took the speed down for some catchy, mid paced thrash. They carried on in this vein for set closer ‘Garden Of Departure’.
It just goes to show how much a line up change in a band can give them a good kick. Alissa White-Gluz had big shoes to fill replacing Angela Gossow in Arch Enemy, this was the first time I had seen her sing with the band and it’s easily the best I’ve seen them play. She has more of a death metal style than Angela’s screaming and engages with the crowd a lot more. ‘The World Is Yours’ and ‘Ravenous’ were two knockout punch openers . Prior to ‘You Will Know My Name’ Alissa stated that this was their last gig on a three year World tour and Bloodstock was the best way to finish it, followed by ‘As The Pages Burn’. Headbang to this and your head may fall off. ‘Avalanche’ was totally unrelenting and a pounding ‘We Will Rise’ came a close second to an over the top ‘Nemesis’ for my song of the set.
So, to the headliners Megadeth who also featured a new member and delivered a performance I’ll never forget! Since I last saw them, founder member Dave Mustaine has added Kiko Loureiro on guitar and to say how amazingly well they play together is an understatement! Three numbers were played from latest studio album Dystopia but the rest of the set was a greatest hits collection. Must be tough for Dave to choose from such a long back catalogue. ‘Hangar 18’ was a high energy opener full of melody and dexterous guitar solos backed by a stunning light show. Far too many highlights to choose from but definites included a very emotional ‘In My Darkest Hour’ followed by a dark ‘Sweating Bullets’. A surprising inclusion of ‘Mechanix’ (which I’ve not seen them play since 1987) still sounds better than ‘The Four Horsemen’! ‘A Tout Le Monde’ was utterly stunning and the final three of the set, a crunching ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ which had us in full voice preceded a war song to end all war songs, ‘Peace Sells But Whose Buying?‘. Final blowout had to be ‘Holy Wars’, it has everything you want from possibly the benchmark for thrash metal. At one point in the set, a jovial Dave even thanked us for being part of the biggest attended Bloodstock ever.