As the popularity and heritage of Bloodstock continues to grow year by year, 2013 promised to provide a show that will leave few disappointed. With headliners including heavy metal veterans King Diamond, Lamb of God, and the almighty Slayer, it’s a line up that should keep metalheads of all tastes happy. Now it’s August and the biggest metal party weekend has arrived. 15,000 dedicated metalheads at the ready, horns in the air and beer in hand, the weather is good. Let the spectacle commence!
Thursday evening kicked off with rockers Motherload in the Sophie Lancaster tent, closely followed by Bull Riff Stampede – The Italian/English four piece Juggernauts blasting through their barrage of cripplingly fast guitar orientated metal. Oaf, Ravenage and Tragedy – the Bee Gees metal tribute band, close the evening in style and good spirits.
Earthtone9 started the day, receiving a mixed but willing reaction from the crowd – the first band on the main stage at Bloodstock is somewhat of a challenge to step up to. They play well and are animated enough to produce a decent finale to their set, but it’s the start of the day and energy levels are a little low for anyone to get too excited. Next up – Californian thrash Metallers Death Angel, who pulled off an excellent set to what is now a surprisingly willing and full crowd, frontman Mark Osegueda seemed genuinely over the moon to be playing the festival, and his cheery likableness made their performance a great start to the weekend. Next, Kataklysm frontman Maurizio Lacono brought his Roman influenced Black Metal project Ex Deo to the stage, and performed a powerful set complete in Roman military attire. Dark Funeral – our first taste of corpse-paint fuelled Black Metal to hit the Ronnie James Dio stage, the four piece blasted through their set, with their opening tracks ‘The Arrival of Satan’s Empire’ and ‘Open the Gates’ going down well, although hindered by initial sound problems.
Municipal waste make an spirited and welcome return to Bloodstock, thrashing out a mostly drink inspired set list, including ‘Drunk As Shit’ and ‘The Inebriator’, their sound is good and the sun is out. ‘Born to Party’ finished the show, complete with their traditional huge circle pit – encouraged by a smiling frontman Tony Foresta. After a chuggy riff driven performance by Voivoid, Accept take to the stage.
Accept trace back to the late 1960’s and some say they played an important role development of speed and thrash metal. They have played countless stadium tours with AC/DC and their obvious link to the band is evident straight away this evening. They look and sound great, but unfortunately aside from the genuine fans at the front, the atmosphere is relatively muted throughout the performance. Founding guitarist Wolf Hoffman and the band doing a great rendition of Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’ mixed with ‘Metal Heart’, and thanks to the best efforts of Vocalist Mark Tornillo their crowd pleasing favourites ‘Teutonic Terror’ and ‘Balls to the Wall’ really starts to get things moving.
Last on to the stage are headliners ‘King Diamond’ – a somewhat surprising choice given their relatively small fanbase these days, but the Bloodstock organisers are always keen to inject a slice of good old school cheese into their main acts – think Wasp/Alice Cooper/Europe of previous years. King Diamond’s moderately specific following is evident immediately, mainly due to the slightly lacking crowd that has gathered for a headline act, but there are a definite number of die-hard fans that are quite clearly over the moon to see a band that rarely visits these shores – especially on the main stage of Bloodstock 2013.
One thing that you can undeniably give King Diamond credit for is a good sense of drama and theatrical production. As the curtain drops, the stage is covered by a huge set of church like gates, with more smoke and lights than a disco in an Amsterdam coffee shop.
As King Diamond prowls down a gothic staircase to the tune of ‘The Candle’, his shrill vocals immediately fill the arena. His voice is without doubt a case of marmite, leaving some of the audience in a state of bewildered amusement. It is clear that a large proportion of those in attendance don’t know the majority of the songs and are principally there for the entertainment value. It doesn’t matter though, as this is undeniably good entertainment.
Some nice harmony guitar work from Andy LaRocque and Mike Wead sounds great, flitting from one guitar lick to the next with effortlessness skill, and the multitude of scantily clad female dancers on stage is enough to keep the majority amused. Crowd favourites ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Come to the Sabbath’ get the biggest cheers of the night, and after finishing up with ‘Black Horsemen’ King Diamond vows to return to the UK sooner rather than later. A good performance from King Diamond – or Kim Peterson. (Even if it may not have been quite as good as Alice Cooper from last year!)
Saturday highlights included Canadian four piece 3 Inches of Blood, who despite starting their set with sound issues, manage to pull it all together for ‘Deadly Sinners’ and produce a great set – complete with a cover of ‘Tom Sawyer’ by fellow legendary Canadian rockers Rush.
Next up, Hell – with front man David Bower donning a set of stilts, furry leg warmers, and beast-like horns, gambolling round the stage like something out of a certain Tenacious D video. ‘Welcome to Hell’ receives raucous cheers from the crowd, building up energy which will prove to be a great warm up for the ‘Northern Hyperblast’ death metallers Katakysm. Frontman Maurizio Lacono and the band putting on a great show, starting with some awesome synchronised hair spinning. A setlist including ‘Crippled and Broken’ and ‘As I Slither’ inspires a huge pit which carries on throughout the show. Next Gojira head to the main stage, the slick French metronome-like four-piece playing a flawless set, including favourites ‘L’Efaunt Savage’, ‘The Way of all Flesh’ and a dramatic performance of ‘Expolsia’ – with the band wildly jumping around the stage like a trio of parkour enthusiasts under the influence!
The ensuing band on the Ronnie James Dio stage – Sabaton, head out after playing the whole of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ as their Intro music. Vocalist Joakim Brodén immediately spreading his infectious good spirits throughout the arena. Although plagued throughout their set by sound problems, they coped far better than nearly any other band in the circumstances. Jokes about Ikea and the price of a pint in Sweden are rife, and the crowd are only too happy to be entertained by the repartee of the smiling and buoyant frontman.
Meanwhile, on the Sophie Lancaster stage, Power Quest put on an excellent, hair flowing performance – sadly they announced that this would be the final performance of their career within the band, ten years after their first appearance at BOA in 2003. Their solid fan base are going to be sorry to see them go judging by the epic amounts of crowd sing-alongs this evening.
Aside from the above, this years Bloodstock contains less Power/Symphonic metal than previous years, but German keyboard fanatics Avantasia are more than happy to do their utmost to fill this genre gap. With guest appearance from Eric Martin (Mr BIG), Bob Catley (Magnum) and Micheal Kiske of Helloween, the show really contains all the energy and passion that you would expect from a band that can produce such a vast portfolio of uplifting and quality music.
Once the crowd has finally settled after the fantastic set by Avantasia, the promised 2014 Headline announcement has arrived. Appearing from the back of the stage and gesturing toward the screens, the traditional promotional video begins to play…. Norwegian Black-metal Gods Emperor are to headline next year! An almighty roar erupts from the crowd – this has clearly gone down well and the crowd are undoubtedly impressed by the early announcement of next year’s headliners. It looks like Bloodstock is staying true to form with such a renowned yet ‘Heavy’ metal act.
A short while later and highly anticipated headliners Lamb of God storm on to the set. The resonating scream of ‘Get your hands in the air motherfuckers!’ from vocalist Randy Blythe sends the arena into uproar, ‘Desolation’ is the first song played, and goes down like a house on fire – there really is a rowdy energetic atmosphere tonight, and the front of the crowd is surging back and forth like a wave machine.
This unfortunately caused almost immediate problems with the front barrier collapsing, however Randy does his best to entertain the crowd while the problems are rectified and does his best impression of an English accent – which goes down well with the waiting audience.
After ‘Walk with me in Hell’ and ‘Set to Fail’ – which both go down a storm, unfortunately they are again forced to stop during the first ten seconds of ‘Ruin’ due to the front barrier collapsing. While these issues are sorted it throws off the atmosphere a little, and is unfortunate – this is the first tour that Lamb of God have played since Randy’s “legal problems”. Consequently he went on to acknowledge his fans and remind everyone to ‘pick up their fellow man when down’. He also then made the sensible step of making everyone take three steps back to give some space and prevent further barrier collapses – being at the front, this was an excellent suggestion which enabled everyone to breathe again.
The American boys went on to play a great set including ‘Laid to Rest’, ‘Omerta’ and ‘11th Hour’, with Randy sharing stories and interacting well with the crowd between songs. Although the extended delay between songs killed some of the atmosphere, ‘Contractor’ still sounded great and enlarges the already huge pit. Finishing with ‘Redneck’ and ‘Black Label’, they left the stage to huge cheers from the crowd and an overall contented audience.
Sunday morning kicked off with an energetic performance from thrash metallers Gama Bomb, despite an enthusiastic performance from the Northern Irish quintet, it’s a little early in the morning for the crowd to get too excited about these guys – especially when most people seem to be waiting for Whitechapel to take to the stage. When they do, it’s a furore of head banging from the masses, the American deathcore band blasting out their brutal onslaught of growls and extreme riffs – this is something to keep even the most hardcore death metal fans happy. After a solid performance from North American Sacred Mother Tongue to a seemingly dazed and lacklustre crowd, Fozzy bring some much needed energy to the Bloodstock mob. Chris Irvine – (better known as the Pro Wrestler ‘Chris Jericho’) jumps around, climbs the stage scaffold, and runs around the set like a man who has clearly avoided any Marlboro’s or Tuborg’s this weekend. With a guest performance from Phil Cambell of Motorhead, and flame spitting, blood soaked, scantily clad young ladies to boot, this show is enough to entice even the least enthusiastic bar props from the rear of the arena.
Bloodstock favourites Evil Scarecrow put on a brilliant show in the Sophie Lancaster Tent, this is the third time they have played the festival since 2008, and their popularity and fan base grows year by year. They contain all the key ingredients: catchy songs, an engaging and hilarious frontman, and a song called ‘Robototron’ which involves getting the whole audience to dance in unison to their trademark robot-dance – this is always good fun. ‘Crabulon’ and ‘The Final Countdown’ go down like a storm and the audience is left smiling and contented after another successful performance from the boys (and girl!) from Nottingham.
A superb performance from American thrash metal veterans Exodus tears apart the place. With the biggest circle pit of the weekend, happily encouraged by frontman Rob Dukes, the band shows that after over 30 years of thrashing around on stage, they clearly still know how to rock like true legends. A memorable performance that included ‘Black List’ and ‘Bonded by Blood’ goes down a treat with Rob exclaiming that the crowd are ‘The craziest motherfuckers we’ve had on tour yet’.
Devil Driver produced an excellent set, ‘End of the Line’ goes down well, along with ‘Dead to Rights’, even though it feels like it kind of lacks a little originality over the other bands we have seen this weekend. The crowd still laps it up though, with frontman Bradley ‘Dez’ Fafara encouraging yet another wall of death to the happily abiding crowd.
Anthrax, the eagerly anticipated band announced during Bloodstock 2012 are next to dominate the Ronnie James stage. Opening with the fitting ‘Caught in a Mosh’ followed by ‘N.F.L’ they still look and sound just as good as they did all those years back when thrash had just begun. Over 30 years of performing mean that Anthrax are now true pro’s in their field, making their performance a well rounded masterpiece. Another tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrel brings a plethora of Devils horns to Catton hall. A cover of ‘Got the Time’ by Joe Jackson and ‘T.N.T’ by ACDC go down especially well, and a huge groan erupts when a 10 second tease of ‘Back in Black’ doesn’t continue for the rest of the song. Still, A guest appearance from the local Judge Dredd for ‘I am the Law’ brings a spot of extra entertainment for the already willing crowd. ‘Antisocial’ by Trust closes their set, and the crowd finally settle down under a deep red sky to prepare for what is next in store …
The final headliners of the weekend Slayer storm on to the stage to the tune of ‘World Painted Blood’. By now the arena is packed, however you can almost feel the disquiet in the crowd as though something is missing. It’s a tribute to the resilience of Slayer that they are even here since the sad passing away of Jeff Hanneman only a few months ago. The band still sounds great, but initially it just doesn’t feel quite how you would imagine for such a powerhouse like Slayer. A lot of it may lie in the lack of interaction with the crowd – a bit like when Motorhead headlined a few years ago.
Still, the band sound really tight, Kerry King is as always looking the part, and to the tune of ‘War Ensemble’, things really started to kick off, with strobe lights flashing to the double bass during ‘Postmortem’, the pit goes wild – providing a spine-tingling view of flailing hair and banging heads that adds a sense of drama to the set.
After ‘Mandatory Suicide’, ‘Spirit in Black’ and a whole host of other Slayer favourites, ‘Raining Blood’ is played and gets even the non-slayer enthusiasts head banging. An encore of “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death” finishes the show, and the Slayer members left the stage. The lights turn on, and sadly the biggest metal party of the year has ended.
The festival once again has been impeccably organised, with sensible security, plenty of facilities that were well maintained, a good selection of food outlets and reasonably cheap and plentiful alcohol -especially in the VIP serpents lair, with over 100 real ales on tap and an awesome hog roast and BBQ to boot.
The Four DJ’s of the Apocalypse – which ran until 2am every evening (in the Sophie Lancaster tent) made for a great evening. They play a great selection of Rock and Metal, and have flame throwing dancing girls and air guitar dudes on stage thrashing it out throughout the evening!
Other highlights during the weekend (as well as the perfect weather!) included watching a dude in his wheelchair crowd surfing – see the gallery where you will find photos of this, and a lot of the other bands mentioned in the review. The Medieval war re-enactments were pretty amusing, and we saw some really good bands in the Jagermeister and New Blood Stage which I sadly couldn’t fit into this review!
My only (and minimal) gripe for the whole five days was the fairly high number of sound issues this year, and the barrier issue during LOG which almost ruined an otherwise good set.
Keep it up Bloodstock Team and bring on Emperor and BOA 2014!