With the dawn on Saturday comes a grey and cloudy day, ideal festival weather really, no one’s going to be walking around like a lobster today. So with that I head to the arena inappropriately dressed in shorts and my shiny new GURT Bloodstock shirt; if it rains I’m a wet t-shirt competition winner for sure!
It’s straight into the Sophie tent this morning to kick off proceedings early with Londoners Blind River. An energetic bunch of guys playing balls to the wall rock and roll. Front man Harry (formally of The Earls of Mars) and his distinctive gravelly voice adds to the already gritty musicianship. Blue infused rock at its very best and a great way to start the day.
Staying on in the Sophie stage, next up are Birmingham’s thrash upstarts Eradikator. This is the third time in
as many weeks The Revival have caught these boys as they warmed up for the festival with support slots for Sacred Reich and Death Angel. But this is by far the best performance we’ve caught yet. Taking the huge leap up to the big time they seem to fit in very well taking it all in their stride. Thrash traditionalists with a similar sound to Megadeth, this is exactly the right bill for them. The crowd seem won over too as a sizeable pit forms early on the Saturday morning.
Continuing on are fellow Brummies Kroh, although the sound is now completely different. The brain child of Paul Kenny, he of Mistress and Fukpig fame, they produce very heavy doom with an almost operatic vocal from front woman Oliwia. It may seem like a strange combo, but it works very well as the vocals meld perfectly with the dark riffs to produce a masterful performance.
Now we head to the mainstage and the most controversial booking for the whole festival King 810. Not only are the band surrounded in controversy with various criminal charges causing guitarist Andrew Beal to miss the show but the traditional Bloodstock attendees didn’t seem enamoured with the booking when it was originally announced. All this lead to a rather strange performance, a guitar backing track accompanied the three remaining members of the band leaving the set feeling a little dis-jointed. However, those who did make the show put their all into it, front man David Gunn, crawling crab like front of stage delivering his intense vocals.
Annihilator breathe life back into the crowd at the Ronnie James Dio stage with their fresh thrash performance. Jeff Waters’ Canadian outfit taking us back to out and out thrash goodness. Despite numerous line-up changes over the years the wind has not been taken out of the bands sails and the momentum continues here with a sizeable crowd circling like crazy for their hero’s. Alison Hell the stand out part of the set as people back to front in the vast arena sang along.
To follow on, thrash/hardcore cross over outfit Municipal Waste take to the stage. The last time they were here they set a festival record for most number of crowd surfers during a set, and Ryan Waste is determined to beat the number this time. Off the back of the outstanding new album Slime and Punishment. The bands short, sharp, thrashy numbers get the pit the most frenetic we will see it all weekend. By the time they have closed the set off with The Thrashin’ of Christ and Born to Party the crowd surfer number stands at 711, more the 200 above than the previous festival record.
To break up the aggression of the main stage a trip to the Sophie Lancaster stage is in order where Welsh rockers Florence Black are stripping back the music to its roots. Not too dissimilar to Blind River earlier in the day, the Welsh bluesy rock three piece know how to put on a show of out and out rock and roll. All topped off nicely with a cover of the Budgie classic Breadfan that had the whole tent singing along.
Back down to earth with a jolt and the extreme hardcore outfit that is Hatebreed. Jamey Jasta ever the ultimate front man has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand; bounds around the stage for a full hour giant grin on his face. Delivering their trademark raw, hostile tunes from the mainstage this break from three days of all things heavy metal is very much welcome. Their set over all too soon as the battered bodies in the pit go to recover, bandage their wounds, have a pint and prepare to do it all over again.
In the Sophie tent Xentrix make a welcome return to the festival and the scene in general. Having made a few line up changes, Jay Walsh from Bull-Riff Stampede takes over on vocal and guitar duties. The new line up breaks for the first time at this festival and they put on one hell of a show. Jay brings an added dimensions to the live performance, an aggressive edge missing from the Xentrix repertoire for the last few years and certainly taking them up a level. The set, as ever in the festival setting, is all too short, but it showed just what the Xentrix 2.0 has to offer and I can’t wait for the full tour.
Closing out the Ronnie James Dio stage on day two is the enigmatic Ghost, the marmite of the heavy metal community (you either love them or you hate them; there is no middle ground). Fronted by the satanic priest caricature of Papa Emeritus III, the showmanship of the band is in league with King Diamond. Incredibly atmospheric in lighting, mood, and feel it is a marvel for not only the eyes but the ears too.
Opening with Square Hammer performed to perfection and Con Clavi Con Dio with the evil pope like character swinging his smoking thurible throughout. We are treated to a wondrous show of theatrics including a children’s choir joining the band on stage and a group of nuns helping serve the fans holy communion.
Theatrics aside, musically the bands performance is like no other. It may not be your traditional heavy metal, but the experimental progressive styling help the band stand out. Year Zero and Cirice being highlights of the set before the ending of Ritual.
Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that Ghost are one of the top heavy performers of the moment. Given time to appreciate what we have just witnessed people will change their minds and in years to come will be able to state “I was them when Ghost headlined Bloodstock”. Personally, for myself and many like me this was the highlight of the weekend, the grammy winners will outgrow this festival soon enough and I was lucky enough to thoroughly enjoy a fantastic show.
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