WORDS: David Creamer & Alison Pitcairn
Bloodstock Open Air has become one of the biggest metal festivals in Europe in recent years. 2015’s edition of the festival boasted a strong lineup covering all genres in metal. We sent two of our writers to the festival to experience the three days of metal mayhem! Check out what they made of the festival!
A childhood dream come true! A classic and legendary thrash metal act storm the stage, fighting through the fact that they had in fact lost some of their gear. But nonetheless, they came, they saw, they thrashed! John Connelly’s voice sounded great, almost as it sounded on some of their records, a shame this could not be said for the quality of the sound. Once again, this seemingly never ending drove of sound and technical problems plagues the finest acts of the festival once again, as the woofy and over distorted sounds of the guitars made the chance to hear just one bit of any of the guitar solos almost impossible. The setlist was pretty varied too, ranging from Pounder to Handle With Care, just a shame they somehow did not find the time to squeeze in Hang The Pope.
The blackened death metal giants BELPHEGOR returned to Bloodstock once again, this time on the RJD stage up from the Sophie stage, and boy could they not put on a bigger show than this. It would be almost blasphemous to say that their stage presence was anything but massive, the entire band luring over you drenched in blood whilst bombarding you with a well- produced barrage of evil. The crowd showed no hesitation in moshing violently nor did they hold back when they rhythmically headbanged in unison to songs like Conjuring The Dead. Their set was so good, it was actually such a sad moment when they walked off stage. And by the looks of it, they were just as sad to walk off stage too.
Continuing on with the abundance of old school thrash this year, who better to bust out some of the old school than OVERKILL!? Frontmen from other bands could take a lesson or two from Bobby “Blitz” as he was one of the more entertaining factors of seeing this band live as he actively engaged the crowd in between songs with some light hearted humour, although at times it did grow tedious, leaving some of us thinking “JUST PLAY THE DAMN SONG!” Aside from this, Bobby’s vocal performance was astounding to say the least, as well as the presence of the whole band being very enthusiastic and full of energy during their performance. A delight to watch and a delight to listen to.
A very exciting opportunity for the people of Bloodstock. A chance to see stoner doom titans CONAN in all their destructively heavy glory shake the Sophie stage, and possibly cause an earthquake or two, to its’ very foundations. Brandishing their mighty detuned battle axes and their pounding war drums, they waged a war on people’s ear drums by playing a set that contained something from each release from Blood Eagle back to Horseback Battle Hammer. It is very rare do you get moshpits to doom bands, but when it comes to songs like Foehammer or Battle in the Swamp, you can’t help but feel conflicted as to whether you want to stand in a trance-like state and ruin your neck or beat the living crap out of everyone around you. However the audience chose to watch them, CONAN were certainly one of the best acts to see this year!
Although plagued by technical issues, including a silent guitar and a mic stand that decided to electrocute poor guitarist Corey Beaulieu, TRIVIUM‘s performance was easily one of the greater of the weekend. Taking the issues in stride, Vocalist Matt Heafy joked that the band were cursed, and that Beaulieu was experiencing a rockstar moment. Bravely beginning the set with new song Silence in the Snow, which is featured on their upcoming album of the same name, they immediately grabbed the crowd’s attention, even the metalest of metalheads were headbanging and throwing the horns. Taking time out to pay tribute to Ronnie James Dio before unleashing Blind Leading the Blind, another new song, Matt Heafy spoke to the crowd as if a lecturer in a course, asking that the chanting of DIO! DIO! cease until he had finished speaking, which made for a chucklesome 5 minutes. Playing In Waves before closing the set, the crowd exploded and sang the entire song. Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr was the final track and again the crowd was enthused. Some of the audience may have gone into the arena feeling cynical, but by the end of the set would have found themselves wrapped tightly around TRIVIUM‘s finger.
Early Saturday morning is a tough time to play, but fresh faced thrashers SAVAGE MESSIAH quickly turned our hungover frowns upside down with their undeniable enthusiasm and apparent excitement over opening the Ronnie James Dio stage. Security were probably hoping for a quiet morning but unfortunately for them, the crowdsurfing began shortly after the band ripped into Cross of Babylon. Noticeably absent from the lineup was guitarist Joff Bailey, although not mentioned throughout the set. Perhaps an announcement is in the works? In any case, his replacement for the day, Sam S Junior, owned the axing duties. 11am on a Saturday morning, after 2 full days of drinking and partying, and the crowd is surfing, moshing, circle pitting, chanting and throwing the horns like it’s Thursday night. Seeing a band like SAVAGE MESSIAH who started off playing small venues and then began touring with bands like AMON AMARTH and HUNTRESS now play the opening slot on Saturday at Bloodstock is inspiring, as was the energy and playfulness projected throughout the set. They had even the hungoverest of hungover smiling, and needless to say, a nap was most probably had by many upon return to their campsites after this display of high powered heavy metal!
Another very popular British band graces the main stage. XERATH brought to the festival their brand of progressive and symphonic metal and the weather was certainly perfect for it. Wasting no time, they quickly began their groovey sonic assault and got the entire crowd jamming along whether they were fans of this type of music or whether they weren’t massively into it. But when XERATH did their thing, everyone was certainly into it. Once again though, the mysterious curse of sound problems hitting good bands at the wrong time, with massive technical difficulties dramatically cutting the time that they had on stage, which is such a shame considering how well into they got playing their set.
Brummy grindcore legends that are NAPALM DEATH set the standard high for the most energetic performance of the weekend, with Barney going absolutely mental onstage, thrashing about like a kid in his bedroom listening to SLAYER for the first time. Truly a sight to behold was the amount of craziness on stage, as they tore through songs from their new album Apex Predator Easy Meat as well as playing classics such as Scum and Suffer The Children. There was just one discrepancy with their playing, and that was that the drumming felt somewhat out of time with the guitars, and vice versa. Nevertheless, it was certainly a very crushing performance.
As if we thought we couldn’t get any more thrash, we were foolish to think so, with another classic thrash act that are DARK ANGEL. With an unending crowd of hungry thrash maniacs and the mighty Gene Hoglan behind the drum kit, this would certainly be a belter of a heavy performance. Everybody was on top form, with the high vocals on songs like Merciless Death being reached, the drums sounding tighter than ever, and all the guitars ripping into our ears with a sharpened thrash edge. The bass guitar was a tad flat sounding but that is the only real problem found with this performance. And it was forgivable at the time because you could hardly stand still at the time. The audience just simply refused to stand still!
DEATH TO ALL
The tribute band to end all tribute bands, sporting members of DEATH eager to carry on the legendary music of Chuck Schuldiner. Now, given that anyone with a good ear for metal will undoubtedly know who he is and will have listened to his music, it was quite a treat for those who never saw DEATH before. And it certainly was an amazing set that did it all justice, featuring Gene Hoglan behind the kit once again alongside the mighty Steve D’igiorgio and Bobby Koelble, they performed classics such as Spiritual Healing, Overactive Imagination and The Philosopher. Everything about the sound crisp and clear, with everyone sitting well in the mix and playing through each song like nobody’s business. This was truly an exquisite performance to behold.
It was about time that Bloodstock finally featured some brutal slamming death metal, and why not bring in the gruesome JASAD all the way from Indonesia to get the Sophie Tent down for some slamming brutality. The frontman spent a little bit too much time talking between each song. While it can be accepted that English won’t be his first language, it was pretty hard to decipher what he was talking about over his muffled ramblings in between songs. But when they finally decided that the time was right to play a song, they would tear your face off with tastefully technical yet insanely groovy riffs that truly warrant some good old fashioned Frank Mullen style hand chopping in air. It was great to see these guys tear it up.
Aside from the fact that the Sophie stage was literally packed to the high heavens with big, hairy sweaty metalheads making the tent turn into an oven and despite that there are very big and clear signs disallowing people from smoking, causing you to literally choke from the abundance of some uncourteous peoples smoke, FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE put on a magnificent show that made them seem larger than life! Accompanied with an operatic singer, they stormed the stage and begin the blisteringly fast riffage only to be halted with, you guessed it, MORE TECHNICAL PROBLEMS! WOO! This really killed the rhythm of the performance by taking it to a grinding halt, but eventually they kicked it back into high gear, the double bass thundering faster than the speed of light, and the overdriven guitars shredding away. Once you get past how uncomfortable it is sitting through a headline set in the Sophie tent, you could begin jam out to the brutal riffage.
A gruesome favourite of metalheads old and young, the Floridian death metal legends that are CANNIBAL CORPSE came to teach people a lesson in old school brutality. And also a legend in how to be a mediocre frontman. The stage banter that George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher engages the audience with is horribly predictable, overused and simply not funny anymore. He really needs to consider coming up with new ways to engage the audience instead of sticking with the usual. But nonetheless, they came to brutalise Bloodstock, and brutalise it they did, wasting no time at all in between songs, they beasted through their set like no one’s business. Except, this only made us stand still and let out a solid aww when they finished, as it felt like it went by so quickly. Well, unless you were in the very intense moshpits of course.
Another classic band, the industrial metal two piece GODFLESH stormed the stage and took everyone for a ride into a very dreary and bleak, dystopian world full of menacing imagery and crushing riffs. A backdrop provided some pretty horrifying visuals which accompanied the music, creating a very dark atmosphere that plunged the sophie tent into a dark place. Although they played to a drum machine, from the way the sound was engineered, it felt as if they did have a live drummer alongside them as everything sat together so perfectly. This made you transfix upon how heavy this act is. A very fitting band to close the sophie stage on the final night of the festival.
A headliner that when announced left many scratching their heads, ROB ZOMBIE paraded onto the stage and by the second song, Superbeast, had the crowd swaying and screaming. Noticeably absent from the stage was the abundance of props that Zombie usually brings with him. No Dragula chair, no giant heads..just some classic horror backdrops and a whole lot of dancing from the man himself. Pleasing the hardcore fans by whipping out 2 WHITE ZOMBIE songs from the depths of the 90s, ROB ZOMBIE also opted for a funky break from metal with his rendition of JAMES BROWN’s Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine and although seemingly out of place at a heavy metal fest, the crowd loved it and not a body was left still. Saving everyone’s favourite song Dragula to the bitter end, all in attendance screamed,danced and sang along to the rest of the set.Drummer Ginger Fish, guitarist John 5 and bassist Piggy D are a stunningly energetic and tight trio, so coupled with the charisma of their ghoulish frontman the set was the perfect way to end the sunny,booze fueled weekend at Bloodstock 2015.