Bloodstock Open Air 2016 Part 2: Live At Catton Hall- Walton-on-Trent UK

Bloodstock Open Air 2016 ghostcultmag

 

Part 2

After a wobbly Saturday morning start, Akercocke carried on from where they left off a few years ago, improving and gaining/regaining fans as they went along. Rotting Christ sounded fantastic, The King is Blind completely owned the second stage for forty brutal minutes, and Fear Factory treated the crowd to all of 1995’s Demanufacture album while singer Burton C Bell tried his best to keep his voice from cracking. Paradise Lost played a set filled with heavier material, and Gojira stunned the majority of the audience with a set that not even headliners Mastodon could come close to touching. A typically eclectic set, the Atlantan four-piece struggled to get any momentum going, and even with the aid of some fancy video screens, only occasionally showed signs of being genuine headliners. A new version of old UK thrashers Acid Reign also managed to steal Mastodon’s thunder all the way from the second stage, playing one of the fastest and most enjoyable thrash sets of the festival while singer, ‘H’, looked resplendent in his shocking pink suit and top hat.

Gojira, photo credit Bloodstock Open Air on Facebook

Gojira, photo credit Bloodstock Open Air on Facebook

And so to Sunday, and to the wonders of Ghost Bath. Only possessing the vaguest of knowledge about this band, I was simply unprepared for the next forty highly confusing (and occasionally eye-wateringly funny) minutes. Imagine a Black Metal band fronted by the shrieking goat from YouTube and you’d have a good idea of what I witnessed that morning.

Although the pedigree of the members of Metal Allegiance is not in question, I’m afraid the same cannot be said of their collective efforts. Cover version after horrible cover version was mauled and discarded, as people turned to each other in disbelief and disappointment. Playing all of 1996 album Nemesis Divina in full, Black Metallers Satyricon put in one of the performances of the weekend, even in the blazing sunshine. Finland’s Whispered took to the stage in their Japanese costumes and make-up and proceeded to win over an entire tent of confused onlookers. Technical Thrashers Vektor followed and even more people left with smiling faces. Symphony X gave everyone on the main stage plenty to sing along to, but Anthrax obliterated their memory in seconds. The last time the New York outfit played here in 2013, it was all fairly average, maybe even disappointing. But not this time. They were on fire from the second they launched into ‘You Gotta Believe’ until they left the stage to ‘Indians’. Nobody even cared that they dropped a couple of favourites in order to showcase newer material.

Anthrax, photo credit Gary Alcock

Anthrax, photo credit Gary Alcock

Even headliners Slayer struggled to keep up. Again, like Anthrax, it was a much improved performance from 2013, but things seemed to go a little awry in the latter stages of their set. For some reason, ‘Hell Awaits’ became an instrumental after the first chorus, and Tom’s demeanour changed from happy and smiling to fairly disinterested around the same time. Still, when they came back out for the encore of ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Raining Blood’, and ‘Angel of Death’ everything was quickly forgiven and forgotten. It was left up to New Orleans bandGoatwhore to close the weekend on the second stage, and they did so imperiously with one of the loudest, heaviest hours of the festival.

Slayer, photo credit Gary Alcock

Slayer, photo credit Gary Alcock

From the almost comical amount of crowd surfers (Acid Reign alone clocked 263 in one hour – an average of over four per minute) to the spontaneous chant of “MAN IN YELLOW”, directed to one of the security staff stood on the scaffolding before Slayer, to the glorious weather and generally contagious good feeling of everyone in attendance (even a lot of the campsite toilets were still usable by the Monday morning!), there was only one place to be last week.

There were a few odd little problems, of course. Since the festival ended, a story has emerged that a girl was sexually assaulted in her tent, and the amount of moshpit idiocy seems to be on the increase again. Not, this time, from the shirtless circle-pitters and kung-fu merchants, but this time from the people who stand on the barrier all day, doing their best to punch and deliberately tear clumps of hair from any crowd surfer (male and female) unlucky enough to invade their personal space as they get dragged over the front. Making sure at all times, of course, that security have a firm hold of their target first so that they can’t retaliate.

The worst thing this year though was the repeated loop of the same bloody music videos on the big screen all weekend. When I arrived in the main arena on the Friday, I said “hey, this new Wormrot song’s great. I’ll definitely be getting the album”. By the time Saturday evening came around, I never wanted to hear fucking thing again. And as for the constant exposure to the videos of Wakrat and Blackberry Smoke, let’s just say that if I ever meet either of those bands in person, then it won’t end pleasantly for either of them.

Overall though, and yet again, Bloodstock Open Air was a roaring success.

Roll on next year.

BLOODSTOCK 2016 REVIEW PART I

WORDS BY GARY ALCOCK

Bloodstock Open Air 2016: Live At Catton Hall- Walton-on-Trent UK

Bloodstock Open Air 2016 ghostcultmag

 

Part I

For those of you who may be unaware, Bloodstock Open Air is a UK festival which began at the Derby Assembly Rooms in 2001. After four successful years, the decision was made to turn one festival into two. One would remain at the same venue, while a bold, open air venture would take place at Catton Hall in nearby Walton-on-Trent. The outdoor festival proved to be a hit, the indoor show was subsequently dropped, and the annually held event has gone on to expand in both size and stature ever since.

Bloodstock 2016 Thursday crowd, photo credit BOA on Facebook

Bloodstock 2016 Thursday crowd, photo credit BOA on Facebook

Thursday’s festivities were kept fairly low-key as usual, with short, enjoyable sets from Karybdis and Sumer, with Ireland’s Psykosis left toreally get the party started. The evening was rounded off by the newly renamed Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons (formerly Phil Campbell’s All Starr Band), the former Motorhead guitarist ploughing through a selection of Motorhead covers plus ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie, ‘Sweet Leaf’ by Black Sabbath, and ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ by ZZ Top. Joined on stage by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider and Pepper Keenan of COC for a truly memorable version of ‘Born To Raise Hell’, the band eventually brought things to a rousing climax with a cover of ‘Silver Machine’ by Hawkwind.

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons with Dee Snider photo credit BOA on Facebook

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons with Dee Snider, photo credit BOA on Facebook

Friday is where the entertainment really begins at Bloodstock though, and you don’t get much more entertaining than songs about unicorns and space wizards followed by a battle cry of “We are Gloryhammer and we sing songs about hammers!” Evil Scarecrow followed, and you simply haven’t lived until you’ve held your pincers in the air and scuttled from side to side for the mighty ‘Crabulon’. Corrosion of Conformity played a typically crowd-pleasing set of which my only criticism would be ‘Clean My Wounds’ being used as the backbone for a rambling, ten minute long jam session. Venom‘s Legendary bassist/vocalist, Cronos, snarled and joked his way through their set, but the band let themselves down with a poor choice of songs. No such problems from Behemoth though, who played latest album ‘The Satanist’ in its entirety before finishing with a blistering encore of ‘Ov Fire and the Void’ and ‘Chant For Ezkaton’.

Britain has always held a special place in Twisted Sister‘s heart and it really showed in their last ever performance here. Drawing the biggest ever crowd for a Bloodstock headline act, it was the perfect send off for one of the finest American Heavy Metal bands to ever grace a UK stage. Diamond Head finished off the evening on the second stage in competent, if unspectacular style. At least they didn’t sound like a tribute act to themselves like they did the last time I saw them.

Twisted Sister, photo credit Gary Alcock

Twisted Sister, photo credit Gary Alcock

WORDS BY GARY ALCOCK

Bloodstock Festival: Day One – Catton Hall, UK

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With humble origins as a smaller, indoor festival in 2001, and being headlined then by metal legends Saxon due to connections to organiser Paul Gregory, Bloodstocksteadily grew and grew until eventually in 2005 it saw an additional (not solitary) open air version. It is now the UK’s biggest open air metal (not rock) festival. Now, in the open air’s 10th year, a cursory glance at the line-ups throughout the years show its size and stature growing with bigger names from the likes of Slayer, Megadeth and this year’s closer Rob Zombie alongside the underground, the extreme and even the silly (hello Korpiklaani).

Crowd at Bloodstock Open Air 2015, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Crowd at Bloodstock Open Air 2015, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Much smaller than the likes of Download Festival, Bloodstock benefits from its close proximity to the campsite meaning if you do fancy a nap to fight off that expected hangover then you are only five minutes away. As you do enter the main arena you are firstly greeted by a cordoned off circle which later in the weekend will see infamous Knight fighting, as illustrated by the many in full knight’s armour throughout the weekend because, you know… metal!

A few paces beyond is the Sophie Lancaster Stage which proudly supports the S.O.P.H.I.E Campaign, and just beyond is the smaller Jagermeister Stage which sits just next to the grounds of the main stage, and even past that is the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, all within a few minutes walking distance, easy and convenient. Coupled with one of the most consistently pleasant, easy going, and friendly festival goers you will hope to meet (with plenty of families about) and you can’t help but have a fantastic weekend. Welcome to Bloodstock!

As per usual, the festivities really kick off on the Thursday with several bands on the Sophie tent; and a glance at the shirts about show that openers Reign Of Fury have a tonne of fans about. Later on in the day if Welsh death metal hoodlums Desecration don’t get you in the mood for debauchery then nothing will as they deliver a sterling set.

Nuclear Assault, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Nuclear Assault, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Friday arrives and the rescheduled Nuclear Assault start off the main stage as it would continue throughout the weekend; with troubles, as they play with borrowed gear due to airport confusion. Still they play with intensity and ferocity, if you can get past John Connelly’s cartoon like voice which verges between cringe worthy and suiting.

Despite the glorious sunshine its back to the Sophie tent for the loveable Pronk duo Oaf as they deliver the first truly great moment of the festival with a set chock full of obscenities, humour and incredible songs. Very little will top the image of a packed out sea of Cheshire Cat grins bellowing out the chorus to brand new song ‘Disgusted By Your Genitalia’ this weekend.

The New Blood Stage over the weekend will play host to numerous winners of Bloodstock’sMetal To The Masses winners as well as other great new talents, proving a very worthy place to go if there is a gap in your schedule. Early on in the day is Brighton’s winner, thrashers King Leviathan who combine the pace and energy of thrash/death metal with black metal’s fascination and imagery of the occult. With impressive numbers and a formidable display, it seems the future of metal is in good hands.

Arnocorps vs Alien vs Predator, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Arnocorps vs Alien vs Predator, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Shortly after, the sunshine doesn’t appear to be helping the black metal bands of the weekend as they vividly corpse painted Belphegor seem to be greeted by not only it brightening but butterflies flying around the stage, which proves too hilarious.

 

There is even plenty of Prog over the weekend, with a wide range of progressive minded metal bands across the stages, which brings up your scribes’ first major clash of the weekend. It wouldn’t be Bloodstock if a stage or two wasn’t plagued with sound issues, and it’s a testament to the loyal masses that Enslaved’s inaudible vocals did not detract from the raucous response from a crowd who adore this darkened, Nordic prog. Outings from newie ‘Building With Fire’ and old favourites like 1997’s ‘Alfablot’ amalgamate perfectly to create one of the sets of the weekend, proving that the spirit and character of a band can cast away sonic snags. An entirely different beast, Australian tech metallers Ne Obliviscaris pack out a rapturous Sophie tent with a rare visit to these shores, and a mind bogglingly complex but stunning set which has everyone in attendance hooked.

Ihsahn, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Ihsahn, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

The main stage gremlins make yet another appearance as they wreak havoc on Ihsahn, causing a long pause during the set to sort out monitor difficulties. Not that you would have noted the band’s distraction at all as aside from this delay they/he perform an absolute masterclass. Plus it’s a testament to his deity like reputation and the open minded crowd that he can close with a brand new song in ‘My Heart Is Of The North’. The Prog continues with relative newcomers Diatessaron on the New Blood Stage with, sadly, some signs of nerves kicking in and a sound that feels too out of place for the festival, the band seeming too thin and reward with a somewhat disinterested crowd.

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Making good use of the close proximity to the campsite means it’s time for a rest to recover from the heat. A few drinks in and it turns out we have accidentally missed the mammoth heaviness of Conan (dammit), but its back in time to see Swedish power metallers Sabaton continue their ascent to one of the UK’s favourite metal acts. Kicking off, as ever, with ‘Ghost Division’ they charge in with the subtlety of a Panzer battalion as the likes of ‘Carolus Rex’ and a rare UK airing of ‘No Bullets Fly’ cause sing-alongs a plenty. The band themselves are certainly having the time of their lives up there, but the set derails somewhat by their insistence on rehearsed comedy routines which are completely unnecessary, especially with the songs they could have played in their arsenal. Still even this cannot take away from one of the most fun sets of the day; plus they have a huge fucking tank on stage.

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Sabaton, photo credit by Sabrina Ramdoyal

Since they have been huge favourites in the UK since their inception, and the history they have with UK festivals (that infamous main stage opening slot at Download), it seems about time that Trivium are given the challenge of headlining a major UK festival, in what seemed like it could have been another historic and defining moment for both the band and festival. Sadly they hit problems immediately as they choose to open with the live premiere of brand new song ‘Silence In The Snow’ which has not only been out for only a few weeks but also does not prove captivating enough a song. Things are unaided by the absence of guitarist/growler Cory Beaulieu due to microphone difficulties which result in him getting electric shocks (those gremlins again).

Trivium, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

Trivium, photo credit Sabrina Ramdoyal

 

When issues settle however and they hit their stride they show strong a band they are with quite the arsenal of anthems, from stirring renditions of the likes of ‘Like Light To Flies’ and ‘Into The Mouth Of Hell We March’. However the set does prove very inconsistent as for each great moment, there are those that fall flat, like ‘Strife’ and ‘Black’, plus another new airing in the trudging ‘Blind Leading The Blind’ towards the end of the main set. It’s a real shame as at times they are almost exquisite, but at others they seem tired and daunted by the event. The crowd is firmly behind them, but what could have been a monumental occasion sadly proves frustrating.

 

WORDS BY CHRIS TIPPELL & SARAH WORSLEY