My annual deja vu quote of “Another year, another Bloodstock Open Air Festival” returns and 2018 saw a wealth of talent spread along four stages in the beautiful location of Catton Hall.
First band up at the eye rubbingly time of 10.30am on the New Blood Stage were Dumfries based noise mongers Turbyne featuring the twin vocal attack of Keith Fleming and Gary Gillespie. Normally this sort of delivery is not to my taste but they complemented each other impressively as they both took on the clean/growled mantle for set opener ‘Enter The Labyrinth’, a full on metal meets prog in a dark alley to a near full tent! Their five song set shone with the pounding Opeth like instrumental passages in ‘Tower Of Rivals’, the seven string guitar licks and solos that cut through the heat in ‘Dark Of The Void’ and the band got the chance to shine with some more prog dexterity in ‘The Infinite Black’.
Even a mad dash to the Sophie Lancaster Stage could not beat the running order clash for Deity’s Muse who had flown all the way from Alberton, South Africa. I only caught the second half of their set but they blew me away with the early Helmet like melodic hardcore riffing in ‘Ten Years’, and ‘Ascended’ certainly did as it swooped around the huge tent on trippy early Pink Floyd like soundscapes backed by a morose vocal and ‘Keys To Babylon’ was a drum dominated surging groover to end on.
Veteran British thrash metallers Onslaught made the most of their Ronnie James Dio Stage slot with eight slices of fury. The ever looming rain clouds were kept away by the razor sharp riffing of opener ‘Killing Peace’ backed by the mighty roars from lead vocalist Sy Keeler. Eyebrow singeing pyro and a foot on the accelerator midsection prompted a healthy circle pit opening up. The hypnotic pound of ‘Godhead’ and the senses shattering ‘Sound Of Violence’ cleared my early morning cobwebs. A mighty crowd participated during ‘Burn’ and follower ‘Let There Be Dead’ put the needle in the red. New song ‘A Perfect Way To Die’ was dedicated to Sy’s “Fellow silver haired metalheads” and was heavy enough to create a huge wall of death. Their set flew by and they left us with a double salvo of ‘Metal Forces’ and a ground shaking ‘Six Six Fucking Six’.
This was the strongest set I’ve seen by Fahran over the years and they looked like kids in a sweet shop as they covered every inch of the Sophie Lancaster Stage and pushed the PA system to its limit with opener and brand new song ‘Stand Alone’, their heaviest song to date and with no pause for breath hurtled into ‘Take This City Alive’. Two older songs ‘Cased In Steel’ and ‘Long Gone’ preceded two newies ‘Pyre’ and ‘State Of Mind’ highlighting their heavier direction and pushed the vocals of Matt Black to a new level.
Wednesday 13 is one of the best theatrical frontmen around (apart from Alice Cooper who is clearly a big influence). His shows are always good and usually involve costume changes and theatrics, and today’s set starts with a white door in the middle of the stage with Redrum (murder backwards with some of the letters mirrored) – as seen in The Shining. To add to The Shining feel, he has two ladies from Pyrohex onstage in outfits that resemble the twin girls in The Shining. He then comes out through the door waving an axe around, and we’re off to a great start. Musically it’s like a much heavier version of Alice Cooper with a bit of punk thrown into the mix. It’s damn good stuff and since first seeing him live a few years ago I’ve seen him several times and he never disappoints. It just amazes me that he’s not more popular than he is. Later in the set we get some fire courtesy of the Pyrohex ladies (the pyro in the name should have given you a clue they love to play with fire), and that just adds to the show. It’s one of my highlights of the day.
Kinasis, featuring the demented Tom Harris on lead vocals hit Hulk hard with the SOAD like lunacy of ‘Incipient’ and pulled no punches with the Earth moving barrage of downtuned riffing in ‘Kindred’. ‘Red Earth’ and ‘Black Dog’ were so heavy they could of given the front row cauliflower ears and one last sonic assault saw ‘Ersatz’ fly by with schizophrenic time changes pinned down by some thunderous drumming from Noah Plant.
Leicester Metal To The Masses finals winner Seven Hells proved their worth from the off as the hardcore ‘Resist’ showed touches of Quicksand in the melodics. Bulldozing riffs that gave way to almost catchy choruses saw a huge crowd in fine voice for ‘We Will Rise’. ‘Broken Bones’ was aptly titled as it was delivered with 100% conviction, opening up a zippy circle pit. ‘Reactor’ was more of an experience than a song as it crushed anything they had previously played and ‘Fallout’ closed their set with a race to the finish line gallop.
A change of stages and stage times saw all female power metallers Lovebites play the Ronnie James Dio Stage instead of Suicidal Tendencies who were held up at their airport. This was no Baby Metal choreography with a backing band just an adrenaline rush of insane metal thrashed out over the helium fueled vocals of Asami, point proven by her statement of “We are Lovebites and we play heavy metal”.
Another female fronted band was next up as Sertraline, fronted by the powerhouse vocals of Lizzie with a performance that brought to mind of Aimee Echo from the defunct Human Waste Project. Opener ‘Guilty’ was chock full of teeth rattling grooves with a melodic vocal. ‘Dead Set’ had enough girl power to generate Bloodstock the whole weekend and ‘Nyeevise’ was all about the bass guitar prowess of Hendo. A new untitled track was a sheer vocal tour de force of banshee wails and lung stripping growls backed by concrete heavy grooves. ‘I Admit The Blame’ went down a few gears but was still heavy enough to melt heads. Lizzie was a non stop ball of energy for final song ‘Mean To Me’, conducting crowd vocals onstage and off.
Kamelot are one of those bands that are bigger in Europe than they are here, but are steadily building their UK fanbase and will be playing Koko in London in October. The core band has just one singer, Tommy Karevik but use guest singers to supply female vocals for some of the songs. On previous tours they’ve used the likes of Alize Ryd (Amaranthe) and Alissa White Gluz (Arch Enemy), but on this tour it’s Lauren Hart from Once Human providing guest vocals. We hear early on that she’s got a great voice which works well with Tomym Karevik’s vocals. It’s a great performance from Kamelot and they go down very well with the crowd.
At last it was time for Suicidal Tendencies to step up to the Sophie Lancaster Stage, still fronted by man mountain Mike Muir who provided my highlight of the weekend during their set when he got a young fan onstage (Josh) and let him stay by drummer Dave Lombardo till the end of the set. If that was not cool enough along with the usual array of crowd surfers, a guy in a wheelchair who was a few feet away from me was passed over the barrier. On seeing this, Mike got him up onstage, pushed him around the stage and let him stay there till the end too. The smiles on his and Mikes faces were there for all to see! The songs? Oh yeah, the songs. An elongated ‘You Can’t Bring Me Down’ battered us from the off with Mike still racing around like a madman after all these years, only stopping to do his boxing moves, delivering his lines and raps as fast as an auctioneer. I stopped writing then but just scribbled down a few titles including ‘War Inside My Head’, ‘Possessed To Skate’, ‘Cyco Vision’ and set closer ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’ with the crowd bellowing out “ST”.
Some welcome fresh air and a mad dash to a packed New Blood Stage resulted in catching the last four songs from King Bison as stage clashes are a reviewers nightmare. ‘Too Much Of Nothing’ was ball busting heavy metal delivered by vocalist Karl Glover as if he had been gargling with broken glass. ‘The Kentucky Cannibal’ was as insane as its title suggested as was the sleaze created by the tongue in cheek lyrics of ‘Demon Tongues And Leather’ and things speeded up with the mid paced thrash set closer ‘Filthy Son Of A Bitch’.
And so to my most eagerly expected set of the day as Ronnie James Dio Stage headliners Judas Priest floored Bloodstock! I’ve never heard Rob Halford pitch this high for quite some time as the ‘War Pigs’ intro music saw them tear into ‘Firepower’ with vigour, one of four played from that album that fitted into the set amongst the older material with ease. A crushing ‘Grinder’ preceded two mind blowing oldies of ‘Sinner’ and ‘Ripper’. Other highlights after I stopped taking notes were the high notes Rob was hitting in ‘Saints In Hell’, a muscle bound ‘Turbo Lover’ a chugging ‘Tyrant’, an inhuman ‘Painkiller’ and I must admit to shedding a tear or two when Glenn Tipton came out for a fantastic four encore of ‘Metal Gods’, ‘Breaking The Law’, ‘No Surrender’ and ‘Living After Midnight’. Job done!
One more band to go and that was the metal queen Doro headlining the Sophie Lancaster Stage with a majestic eight song Warlock set and new one ‘All for metal’ lapped up by a ready to rock crowd. Still bounding around the stage as if metal was running through her veins, Dorothee Pesch used every heavy metal cliche in the book to entertain us as ‘I rule the ruins’ blasted out crystal clear. ‘Burning The Witches’ was another highlight as was the full on, snare driven ‘Metal Racer’. We were given the chance to holler our lungs out which we did for the anthemic ‘All We Are’ and set closer ‘Metal Tango’ came all too soon.
Review by Dennis Jarman, additional bits by Ant May[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157698815094311″ size=”z” count=”100″]