The annual heavy metal extravaganza that is the Bloodstock Festival has hit the countryside of Derbyshire and suitably destroyed it. The four days of the very best heavy metal festival in the UK was a roaring success, seeing record crowds of 18,000 rockers head to the fields of Catton Hall.
Thursday, the opening day of the festival, is always a laid-back affair. Gates opened at midday, but cars were queuing to get onto the car parks from 6am. By 3pm the queue to get through the gates and into the campsite stretched as far as the eye can see. Everyone in high spirits drinking and waiting for the fun to begin.
As the arena doors opened early evening the fans flooded onto the hallowed turf for the first time in a year, a new ferris wheel towering over the site amongst the usual food and merch stalls.
Thursday evening see’s just the second stage open for business and five bands playing us into the early hours of the morning. Opening the festival for the year were critically acclaimed Hundred Year Old Man. The doom/drone/sludge outfit giving a glimpse of things to come over the next four days. Brutal sounds to start off the brutal festival and a stellar performance.
Fire Red Empress provide a completely different perspective. Riding high on the back of their critically acclaimed album release last year. Snarling riffs drive this act but the vocal performance of Jennifer Diehl gives the band its edge. Hauntingly powerful in delivery, her voice fills the tent with a fiery temperament that is insatiable.
Skiltron give us another twist. Folk metal, often the main stay of a Thursday night at Bloodstock, hits the
stage from Argentina, via Newcastle. Bagpipes worked well with the traditional folk sound and melding with the heavier guitars perfectly. An interesting inclusion, but one that goes down well with the fans.
The fans are absolutely frothing at the mouth when Bloodshot Dawn arrive on stage. Their brand of melo-death soon whips up a storm, pits open in the crowd and things get very hot and sweaty. Raucous, thrashy guitars lead the way through 40 minutes of pure aggression and the stand out performance of the evening.
The final band of the first evening are Slavic pagan metal outfit Arkona, shrouded in mysticism there is an eerie atmosphere filling the tent as they take to the stage. Masha’s vocals are haunting as she beats her drum front and centre stage. Elements of black metal are mixed in with traditional pagan-folk to produce a sound and performance that draws you in. Wonderful stuff.
As the fans file out and back to their tents some linger around for the after-hours disco whilst many head to the bars open late into the night. The festival is just beginning, and what a start we’ve had.
The sun rises early on Friday, the first full day of proceedings at Bloodstock 2018. All three stages are open today as the festival gets into full flow, and what weather we have for it, glorious.
Feed The Rhino open the main stage as the area quickly fills up, but its British thrash stalwarts Onslaught who are just what the doctor ordered to rid the fans of their hangovers. As angry guitar riffs cut through the Derbyshire air the fans are treated to some of the best in fast, ferocious metal.
Following on are another British outfit, Memoriam. From the ashes of the mighty Bolt Thrower, Karl Willets has grown this new breed death metal ensemble. They grind and growl their way through over an hour of the most extreme music we’ll hear all weekend. The old-school death metal sound forged in the foundries of the Black Country comes bounding through, Frank Healy’s crushing baseline vibrating you to the core. Dark lyrical content backed by Willets gritty vocals is a sublime mix producing that classic death metal sound he members of his band are famous for.
Wednesday 13 puts on a stage show theatrically worthy of Alice Copper. Demonic twin girls roam the stage as the main man wonders the stage wielding an axe dripping in blood. The surprise of the day for me, an assault on all the senses – visually and musically – leaves us all wanting more.
Another dose of death metal is dealt to us on our first visit to the Sophie Lancaster stage for the day. Welsh quartet Sodomized Cadaver return to the festival two years after their previous outing to bring us tales of morbid mutilation. They bring an element of macabre entertainment to their forty-minute show. Intensity and aggression in great portions.
Swedish death metal super group Bloodbath step up on the main stage next. The ensemble, fronted by
Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost, take to the stage with each and every member covered in blood. Nicks growl of a vocal, differing from those he delivers in his other band, help drive a unique sound, but it’s the dual guitars of Nystrom and Eriksson that define their direction. Aggressive riffs and throbbing bass, the band power through for a solid 45-minute set.
With Suicidal Tendencies delayed arriving on site Japanese youngsters Lovebites take their slot on the main stage at very short notice. As four young girls stroll out in front of the crowd you’d be forgiven for thinking these are just another Baby Metal type band. But you’d be completely wrong! Inspired by the New Wave of British Heavy metal these girls rock hard, with a heavy flavour of Iron Maiden in their tunes. They put on one hell of a show and prove any doubters wrong.
An hour later, having finally arrived on site, Suicidal Tendencies take to the Sophie Lancaster stage in their new slot on the bill. Whilst it may not have been intended this switch of stages was inspired! As we approach the tent ten minutes prior to their new stage time the fans are gathered ten deep outside trying to get in, the biggest crowd this stage has seen in festival history. The forty five minute show is pure heaven, and quite easily the best we have ever seen the band live. Tearing through classics including War Inside My Head, Subliminal and Pledge Your Allegiance the show is superb. Mike Muir, as ever, the Tasmanian devil on stage a whirlwind of limbs and lyrics. The show is topped off with fan interaction, a young boy being crushed on the barrier is rescued from the crown and joins Dave Lombardo on his drum riser for the set. Similarly, when a wheel chair bound fan goes crowd surfing, Muir invites him up on stage and wheels him round whilst singing. By far and away the highlight of the whole weekend.
That sets the bar very high to follow. Emperor try their best in the main arena, but any black metal band will struggle to follow what we have just witnessed over on the other stage. A set highlighted by The Wanderer, I am the Black Wizards and Inno a Satana has the outright fans moist with excitement. For many a casual fan though Suicidal Tendencies proved just too hard an act to follow.
Closing out the mainstage for day one are a band the festival has tried for so long to book and finally achieved it this year, Judas Priest. The stage itself looks stunning lit in red as the leather clad men walk on stage under the intro tape of War Pigs by Black Sabbath.
No one can claim this band are over the hill and the performance Rob Halford and his friends put on prove that, the energy, the enthusiasm is all amazing and that shines through. Turbo Lover sounding stunning with the help of Andy Sneap now playing a full part in the band on guitar.
Hell Bent for Leather and Painkiller are stand out tracks in the NWOBHM legends set as for nearly two hours they entertain the 18,000 fans. After a brief break the band return with exactly what the fans are calling out for. Breaking the Law and Living After Midnight. The perfect day to end Friday.