Here we are for soggy Sunday! Sadly the last day of Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2019 where (most of) the bands delivered. First band up on the New Blood Stage at the eye rubbingly time of 10.30am were Leicester based tech metal crew Fractions. They created a swirling metal vortex in set opener ‘Beyond Infinity’ backed by an angelic lead vocal from Chris Hare, very apt for a Sunday morning. A sedate opening for ‘Radiant Wings’ shifted into gear to bombast a full tent. Ambient death metal is the only way I could describe ‘Soundness Of: Mind’ that both soothed and crushed. A spotlight stealing vocal flowed over claustrophobic grooves for the strangely titled ‘The Owls Are Not What They Seem’ and they ended heavily with ‘Soundness Of: Agenda’. Hats off to the soundman who channeled all their intricacies.
A dash to the Sophie Lancaster for the second Leicester based band of the day saw Resin with their usual six piece line up joined by a three piece string section which created a very intriguing set. I missed the first song due to the mud (and a big breakfast) and ‘Burn’ saw the string section add textures to the rich, soulful vocal of Dave Gandon, backed by a guest appearance of Krysthla vocalist Adrian Mayes. ‘Never Learn’ was a rumbling slow burner and in that vein, ‘Poison’ was so laid back it could have been horizontal. It picks you up and lets you go when it’s finished with your senses. ‘Clouds’ was an exhilarating croon backed by a wall of guitars and sweeping strings as things muscled up for set closer ‘Open Heart Trauma’ with a blazing lead guitar outro.
It seemed fitting that as Belgium based death metal band Aborted arrived on the Ronnie James Dio Stage, the skies blackened and it proceeded to chuck it down for the first half of their brutal set. Lead vocalist Sven De Caluwe ranted and raged throughout their forty minute aural battery backed by the inhuman drumming from Ken Bedene. It was time to get to the front barrier, the only place to be for one of my weekend highlights, a Manowar set from the Ross The Boss Band featuring a guest spot from KK Downing! Lead singer Marc Lopes made full use of the ego ramp (assembled that day for headliners Scorpions) for set opener ‘Blood Of The Kings’ and his amazing range does justice to Ross’ material. ‘Kill With Power’ did just that with virtuoso deliveries from Mike Le Pond on bass guitar and Steve Bolognese on drums with Ross looking on like a proud father.
‘Sign Of The Hammer’ flew out of the traps, blowing away any remaining storm clouds as a crowd fueled ‘Fighting The World’ shook the ground as my set highlight ‘Battle Hymn’ was truly emotional with the crowd almost drowning out Marc with the “Kill kill” parts. A double whammy of ‘Hail And Kill’ and ‘Hail To England’ lead to the legendary KK Downing arriving onstage and the four Judas Priest numbers that he played saw a smile on Ross’ face that stayed there throughout. ‘Green Manalishi’, Breaking The Law’ and ‘Heading Out To The Highway’ were lapped up by an ecstatic crowd but standout for me was a full on ‘Running Wild’! An uphill trot to the Sophie Lancaster Stage for UK thrashers Solitary saw them celebrating their 25th anniversary. Seven songs flew from the stage opening up pits and getting heads shaking. Highlights were ‘Keep Your Enemies Closer’ as raging riffs and molten guitar solos volleyed out. ‘The Edge Of Violence’ hit the ground running and never looked back as Architects Of Shame’ was introduced by Rich Solitary with “You like thrash metal? I’ll fucking give you thrash metal” as they tore through it at speeds the Millenium Falcon would have trouble keeping up with and they went into overdrive with set closer ‘Requiem’, an unrelenting assault.
Milton Keynes M2TM 2019 winners Take Refuge proved their worth on the New Blood Stage with a clinical display of metal. They opened with debut single ‘God’s Walk Among Us’, one of the most brutal songs I’ve heard all weekend, delivered by the ball of energy Richard Lloyd-Davies on lead vocals. ‘Assimilate’ was heavy, almost symphonic metal and if it was any louder, would have knocked me off my feet. ‘Reborn’ was chilling death metal, made even more eerie by spoken word lyrics in time with the riffs that lead into a crushing outro. ‘Fallout’ was an incendiary thrash and set closer was the drum driven battering ‘Deadlock’.
Since their announcement to play here, one of my most anticipated sets came from Swedish death metallers Hypocrisy. Now in their 29th year and still fronted by founding member Peter Tagtren, they left me breathless with their nine song performance. A hero’s return by a massive crowd at the Ronnie James Dio Stage, ‘Fractured Millennium’ was a slow, measured, almost hypnotic opener backed by full on double bass drums. ‘Valley Of The Damned’ was so evil it should of been exorcised as was the ethereal menace of ‘End Of Disclosure’ taken from their new album of the same name that shows they have no sign of mellowing out! ‘Adjusting The Sun’ was frantic thrash that switched to a thudding grind. ‘Raser’ was a deathly dirge as ‘War Path’ was introduced as “We don’t have much time so gonna go boom boom boom!” They certainly boomed as it was like an atom bomb going off and it’s fitting that their record label is Nuclear Blast! Final three songs saw the bass guitar heavy bludgeon of ‘Fire In The Sky’ followed by cathartic screams, growls and clean vocals in the epic ‘The Final Chapter’ as they shook the ground for the last time today with ‘Roswell 47″.
Dee Snider was hands down the best frontman of the weekend! Last seen here three years ago for the farewell gig by Twisted Sister, he returned today with a damn fine backing band and a solo album For The Love Of Metal to support. His ten song set was split between the album and some stone cold classic Twisted Sister songs as well as his hilarious between song ranting and raving. Two new ones opened up strongly with the potent metal of ‘Lies Are A Business’ with Dee striding up the ego ramp, followed by the catchy ‘Tomorrow’s No Concern’. It was time to lose our minds as we sang along to a full on ‘You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll’, ending with Dee shouting “And you can’t stop Dee Snider!”. ‘American Made’ was a patriotic crowd pleaser and a super charged ‘Under The Blade’ was my highlight. The huge choruses for ‘Become The Storm’ preceded a crowd fueled “Fuck yeah” in ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ when Dee said that all the country bands say “Hell yeah”. ‘For The Love Of Metal’ was dedicated “For all the true metalheads out there” and the personal lyrics reflected his sentiment. A lengthy band instrumental intro to a simmering ‘Burn In Hell’ saw the set end on a never ending ‘I Wanna Rock’ as Dee got us singing until we were hoarse.
Rescheduled from yesterday to today because of the weather, Cradle Of Filth were absolutely superb with Dani Filth still shrieking away for all his worth as the rest of the band hammered out some of the best death metal around and add to that the operatic vocals and keys from Lindsay Schoolcraft, the Ronnie James Dio Stage was the place to be. I watched the set from the back to take it all in. An early highlight was a blast beat driven ‘Thirteen Autumns And A Widow’ and a dynamic devilish double of ‘Heartbreak And Seance’, featuring facemelting pyro and a vicious ‘Nymphetamine Fix’ but my standout was a spooky ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’. My weekend ended with the last two bands on the Jagermeister Stage and the last two on the Ronnie James Dio Stage.
The Jagermeister Stage saw one of the most over the top, in your face, rip roaring sets I’ve ever seen/heard there as the four man riffing machine Jailbirds laid waste to a massive crowd that lapped up their seven songs and roared back in approval. Two brothers Alex McDonald and Jay McDonald moved from Sydney, Australia to Dublin, Ireland and hooked up with two local musicians Jamie Trimble and Ed Orr to form the band and debut album The Great Escape seems a very apt title. Imagine the potency of AC/DC, Airbourne and Rose Tattoo hammered out taking no prisoners and you’re halfway there. Album title track opened their set and straight away I knew this was going to be an “I was there” gig. Other highlights were the tubthumping ‘Thrill Of The Chase’ (a brand new track), the greasily heavy blues of ‘Shadow Of Love’ and the mindblowing ‘One Hell Of A Fight.
A few years ago on this very stage saw Hanowar perform, a Manowar tribute band who hilariously but faithfully got us to raise our hammers high so it seems fitting that a (mainly female) tribute band Womenowar should chip in to and they were so over the top it was hard to comprehend especially for the vocal prowess of Erica Had ‘Ems’ and her between song stand up comedy. Her range was astonishing as they opened with ‘Manowar’ and a very vocal crowd backed her. ‘Kings Of Metal’ and ‘Metal Warriors’ were one hundred percent bombast as we were brought down to Earth by a very emotional ‘Heart Of Steel’. ‘Hand Of Doom’ and a crowd fueled ‘Hail And Kill’ unfortunately saw set closer ‘Battle Hymns’ come far too sign as we belted out “Kill kill” for the second time today.
Final two bands on the Ronnie James Dio Stage saw Queensryche step up to the plate. I’ve not seen them before and was looking forward to their set. Todd La Torre is an amiable and very proficient lead vocalist, a more than capable replacement for Geoff Tate. Three remaining members from the original line up Michael Wilton on guitar, Eddie Jackson on bass and Scott Rockenfield on drums joined also by Parker Lundgren on guitar. Their slick set flew by to a packed out arena. An early highlight was a powerful ‘I Am I’. Other gems were a guitar heavy ‘Queen Of The Reich’, a huge ‘Jet City Woman, a thrilling ‘Empire’ and finally, a lung busting ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’.
The Lazys set was a bit delayed (and was relocated to the New Blood stage) which meant I only managed to catch a couple of songs before I had to head over to the main stage for the start of The Scorpions. I’d seen these Aussies just a few weeks earlier at Ramblin Man Fair where they put in one hell of a good set, and obviously word had spread as they had a good crowd for their show here. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from these guys in the next few years.
Still on a seemingly endless world tour, the Scorpions are still top of the bill and a twenty song set proved my point. Aptly titled opener ‘Going Out With A Bang’ preceded a heavy ‘Make It Real’ and a nice surprise of one of my favourites,’Is There Anybody There’. From my raised vantage point the crowd went mad when the opening riff for ‘The Zoo’ blasted out and the band relocated to the ego ramp for a guitar heavy ‘Coast To Coast’ and a 70’s medley of ‘Top Of The Bill/Steamrock Fever/Speedys Coming/Catch Your Train’. Klaus Meine still has a fine vocal considering he’s been in the band since 1969 and Rudolf Schenker who formed them in 1965 is no slouch either. A mid set cluster of ballads and solos lost my attention midway until the big opening riff to ‘Blackout’ rocked us out once more. ‘Big City Nights’ saw a huge crowd vocal and they left us with two encores, a poignant ‘Still Loving You’ and a headbanging ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’!
See you all again in 2020!