Bloodstock Open Air. For years it has been heralded as the Uk’s biggest and best metal festival. If you want all manner of metal, from death to electro, Bloodstock is the place to go. Boasting an impressive line-up of hard hitting new comers, backed up by classic heavyweights, 2017 was set up to be the best year yet.
Opening the main stage on Friday, Danish alt-metal act Forever Still got things off to a good start. Lead by the impressive Maja Shining her vocals elevated the songs creating what ended up sounding like a heavier version of Evenesance. Overall, it was a good way to start the weekend, Forever Still showcased that Bloodstock isn’t all old trash metal and old men.
Chelsea Grin followed, bringing their brand of American deathcore to the festival. Personally, I thought Chelsea grin put on a fantastic set. I remember a few years back when there was a lot of talk surrounding Chelsea Grin, yet in recent years i have not heard much from them. As their set went on,I feel they won over the previously cold crowd and by the end of their set, fans young and old were really getting in to it, setting the stage perfectly for more deathhore in the form of Whitechapel. Maybe the fans wanted something else, or maybe after seeing Chelsea win pull out a really strong set, they wanted more, but the response to Whitechapel was not what I was expecting. It was hardly a negative one, there were obvious signs of enjoyment throughout, however it seemed to fall a bit flat and by the end of the set it was clear that Chelsea Grin were the deathcore band of the day on the main stage.
If you look at all the different band shirts at the festival, you would not see any shortage of Cradle of Filth shirts. Truly an iconic metal act, frontman Dani Filth is held in the highest regards among fans. However today, he is not here with Cradle of Filth, but instead with his other band, Devilment. Although it may be very easy to dismiss Devilment as a side project and rest on the laurels of Cradle of Filth, today Devilment stood proud themselves! Hearing the piercing scream of Dani Filth echo from the stage was remarkable, he was definitely on top form. The music stands up strong, the imagery is what you would expect from anything involving Dani Filth and overall it was one of the strongest performances of the day.
Over on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, some of the hottest new bands around were tearing through the crowd. Raze the Void, a prog influenced melodic metal band were one of them. The band only managed to fit three of their long, winding songs into their set but they packed one hell of a punch. They take all the best elements of thrash and prog, mix it together and use it to kay waste to anyone who will listen. Following on from Raze the Voice were the extremely talented Devil’s Playground. Bringing their own dual male and female vocal to the table really gave them an edge. It was loud, it was angry and you couldn’t help but bang your head to it. If there was any band that day that left the stage proud, it should have been them.
Back on the main stage, Polish death metal heavyweights Decapitated were showing everyone at Bloodstock how it is done. Tearing through classing songs as well as reminding the fans that they are a force to be reckoned with, playing a few songs from their newest album Anticult. It was loud, it was dark and the songs sounded massive. It was Decapitated. To follow their set must have been something the next band dreaded and rightfully so because Testament did not impress. The overwhelming issue with thrash metal is that it is loud, fast and young blooded, so as the bands get older they either adapt or end up sounding weaker and weaker as the years go on. That appears to be Testament, a grave example of how not to age as a band. There were many Testament fans there, however I don’t think Testament left the stage having made any new fans after that performance.
Blind Guardian, the German power metal titans returned to Bloodstock ready to conquer. Technically speaking, Blind Guardian are some of the most talented musicians at the festival. Their songs leave the fans somewhat bewildered at how someone can create something like that. Where the set fell flat however was the crowd response. It seemed that as amazed as people were, they didn’t seem to care enough to act like they were having fun and by the end of the set, I myself was pretty bored. Blind Guardian are extremely talent musicians however they are not really showmen and sometimes, you need a little bit of that to get the audience involved.
Headlining were the mighty pioneers of viking metal, Amon Amarth. They rowed into Bloodstock and absolutely conquered the crowd. Everyone there seemed to love it! Viking helmets and drinking horns littered the crowd as Amon Amarth played through a set of classic viking insanity. The fans loved it. Personally, as someone who isn’t a fan of Amon Amarth, the gimmick didn’t do it for me. It seemed more of a joke and left me viewing Amon Amarth as a vastly more talented Alestorm because although it felt a bit too cheesy and gimmicky for my liking, the talent of the men in that band is undeniable. So really all I can do is tip my hat, to should I say helmet, to Amon Amarth. It wasn’t for me, but for the fans, it was everything they could have wanted!
Saturday at Bloodstock was looking to be a brilliant day. Headlining their first UK festival was the mighty Ghost, with all manner talent coming underneath. I was expecting to have a fantastic day. What I wasn’t expecting was to see a disembowelling, a chainsaw attack and a bassist have his throat slit, all before 11AM, however that is exactly what I received from Ward XVI. The horror themed rockers tore apart the New Blood Stage shaking off everyones hangovers. The songs are fast paced, catchy and all the more entertaining drenched in horror. Also, to see an entire tent form what Ward XVI call a “circus pit” added even more entertainment to the already brilliant set. Without a doubt, one of the most surprising and talented acts to play Bloodstock this year. I can’t recommend them enough.
Back over at the Main Stage I was able to see Winterfylleth, a highly talked about black metal band from the UK. The set started plagued by sound issues, however from there it didn’t got much better. As their singer pointed out, their set was short and their songs long, which rung true to me as I felt the songs were far too long. The whole set felt boring and drawn out, losing the interest of a lot of people there. It was not Winterfylleth’s strongest moment, lets just say that. Luckily, the day got the boost it needed from America’s newest trash export, Havok. Havok were everything that Testament were not the day before. Loud, fast, aggressive and full of passion. Havok captivated the Bloodstock crowd in a way very few other bands managed to do over the weekend. Also, seeing the newer songs off of Conformicide played live was a real treat. Havok have a bright future in this industry and i for one cannot wait to see more.
Following the fans plea for one more song from Havok, taking the stage were the ever controversial King 810. Fronted by the almost demonic David Gunn, King stormed the main stage against any and all negativity to deliver a blistering set. The band performed without guitarist Andrew Beal, who had been arrested back home in Flint, Michigan, leaving the band without their guitarist. This didn’t halt King in the slightest, they showed Bloodstock that they belonged on that stage as much as any other band with a haunting performance of new and old songs. Seeing King 810 is less seeing a band play live and more an audible experience. You can feel every second of their performance as they bleed the songs out to you. It is as haunting as it is mesmerising.
Annihilator, a band that show it is possible to age well as a thrash band, took to the stage to lift the spirits and appease the die hard, Mr Metalhead, types of fans. The band fired through their classic songs, absolutely annihilating the crowd and making it very clear that Annihilator are far from past it and here to stay. They even treated us to a song off of their upcoming album and all I will say is if the rest of the album follows the course of that song, you are in for a real treat.
When a bands catchphrase is as violently destructive as “Municipal Waste are gonna fuck you up” you know you are in for a treat. All that can be said about Municipal Waste’s live set is that it was chaotic. Security at the front of the stage tripled as the wave of crowd surfers flung themselves, with great force, at the stage. Municipal Waste showed up at Bloodstock with the intention of causing unmatched amounts of chaos and have a good time. They managed both with great success. To put it into perspective, they managed to make the set that followed from Hatebreed look almost tame. Hatebreed play that sort of music that is big and aggressive, music to puff you chest out to and loose your mind. It was a set to remember for Hatebreed and they definitely showed why people should be paying attention to them. With sets as strong as that, I could see the rising the bill in the coming years and maybe even one day headlining.
As the slot one from the top, Kreator made a case for themselves to be headlining. There were many people already who believed that Kreator and Ghost should have been the other way round and whilst watching them, it was easy to see why. An overwhelming pyrotechnic display and stage show, backed up by the menacing metal sounds of one of Germany’s greatest exports was a sight to see. The quality, the fan reaction and the overall feel of the set was that of a headlining act, it was undeniably one of the biggest sets of the weekend. S0 how were Ghost supposed to follow that?
Having never before headlined a festival in the UK and fighting the negativity thrown at them from die hard metal purists, Ghost must have known that they had to put on one of the best performances of their career. In all honesty, I have to say that i think they did. From the first note of Square Hammer to the final note of Monstrance Clock, Ghost stood up and made it very clear why they were headlining. There was not a single fault with any part of the set, it was perfectly choreographed, performed and the fans loved every single second of it. I’d find it very hard to believe that there was a single person who left that set not completely blown away by the world conjuring force that is Ghost. This is what metal breaking the modern day mainstream looks like and I for one could not be happier. Ghost will be headlining Download within the next 5 years. Mark my words.
Waking up the following day after Ghost had performed the previous night, I was not really expecting much from Sunday. The line-up was probably the weakest of the weekend in my opinion but luckily, I did get to see Venom Prison. Female fronted death metal from Russia is something that should spark the interest of any metal fan. If Venom Prison are a good indicator of what our scene is going to look like over the next few years, then we need to strap ourselves in for the ride because it is going to be insane. Without a doubt, the strongest band of the day, they laid waste to Bloodstock without even a second thought. They seemed at home on the main stage and that said it all. Venom Prison, the band that are going to revolutionise death metal.
Brujeria did not keep this trend of amazing music up. The mexican extreme metal act, seemed to be what would happen if Hollywood Undead got really heavy. It seemed a bit too tacky and a little bit too try hard to be too enjoyable. Heavy, yes. Good, well that is definitely debatable. Although, I do praise any band that gets up there and performs in there native tongue. It doesn’t always pay off, in a scene where an overwhelming majority of bands sing in English, it is nothing if not courageous. Sadly, that alone does not make Brujeria something special.
Over on the Sophie Lancaster stage, Puppy were turning heads. Soft spoken vocals mixed together with crushing riffs, this alt act may have appeared a bit out of place but they definitely managed to destroy any sense of doubt with crushing songs such as Entombed to please the headbangers and singalong track The Great Beyond to please the alternative crowd. Puppy truly are a band for everyone and their set proved that now more than ever.
Heading back to the New Blood Stage one which has not disappointed the weekend, four piece progressive metal act Prognosis were set to tear the place apart. As you can expect from a progressive metal act, the songs were long, winding and soaked in technical ability. The response was great and hopefully we get to see this band progress up the stages in the coming years. It really was great to see a band play progressive metal that remained interesting throughout, I couldn’t recommend the highly enough for any prog fans out there.
Back to the main stage, it was time for a party. Skindred, the Welsh party machine, mashing up brilliant beats, crushing riffs and one of the most charismatic frontmen around, Benji Webbe, Skindred always impress and today was no exception. The fans more drawn to the heavy stuff were loving the very nu-metal classic Nobody whilst others wanted to bounce around to the dancelike nature if Kill The Power. One thing everyone got behind though, was the trademark Newport Helicopter, as a sea of people spin their shirts above their head in unparalleled joy. Skindred are the party act and it was great to see some of the more metal purists getting in on the fun as well. Once again proving that the diversities in the genre are not only accepted, but celebrated. It was a great moment for metal music.
Having seen Venom Prison earlier in the day, Arch Enemy were a good reminder of how far a female fronted death metal act can go. Arch Enemy are arch enemy, there isn’t much else that can be said. Comprised of some of metals brightest shining stars, they showed exactly what you need to do to go far in this genre. They showed up, smashed through their set of classic death metal and left again, leaving the crowd screaming for more. The number of Arch Enemy shirts seen all weekend, it was clear that they were one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend and for good reason. They nailed it.
On to Megadeth. One of the big 4 in thrash metal. Legends in the genre. In recent years, Megadeth has had a bit of a reputation of being a bit weak live. They are quite a hit and miss band with consistency not being something that they can be heralded with. To put it simply, they were considerably better than when they played Download Festival in 2016 but it was a far cry from what Megadeth once were. It was relatively standard, a big stage set up of screens, the classic songs, an appearance from the bands illustrious mascot, the discount Eddie, Vic Rattlehead and Dave Mustaine looking as though he was in great pain for a good portion of the set. It was nothing special, but Megadeth have played much worse and the fans were excited to see real icons of the genre still going at it. It wasn’t quite the ending that one may have wished for the insanity and high quality that we are over the weekend, but maybe it was better than we had expected, so really, no one can complain.
All that is left to say is roll on 2018!
Be sure to check out even more pictures from Bloodstock 2017 here!
Reviewed by Alex Rawstorne