Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review] Part One

Bands: WASP, Finntroll, Kreator and more
Location: Catton Hall, Walton-Upon-Trent
Date: 12-14th August, 2011

Bloodstock Open Air 2011. A whole weekend (and a bit) dedicated to metal, metal, mud, booze and a bit more metal. A weekend full of dodgy food, over-priced but somehow incredibly delicious beer, and bands at every corner. Bloodstock provides the metal connoisseur with three stages chock-full of music to tickle all fancies; from unsigned but ridiculously talented bands at the New Blood stage, the headliners of tomorrow at the Sophie Lancaster stage, and the big names that draw the crowds on the Ronnie James Dio stage. Plus, as an added bonus, Bloodstock provides a temporary home for the Jaeger-truck and its’ low key acoustic stage, with a limited number of bands performing pared down, unplugged sets for the passing crowds. As I spent most of the weekend ducking and diving between bands I wanted to see on each of the stages, as well as gleefully making my way through security at the VIP section to conduct interviews, my experience of the festival was unlike the experience I had the previous times I had been. In some ways, I regret not enjoying the weekend like that sooner! Rather than stand around all day, trying to get a great spot by the barrier, watching bands I don’t particularly like on the Dio stage, I flitted from stage to stage and discovered a number of bands that I would have been oblivious to before. There’s something to be said about taking the time to go and check out the smaller stages; one of the highlights of my weekend took place in the Sophie stage, but I shall come to that in due course!

It makes sense for one to start off at the New Blood Stage, and work my way up to Ronnie James Dio. The first band I saw on the New Blood Stage was Primital, and what a good find they were. Primital filled the stage with an awesome amount of energy, and they really played well to the crowds. For such a small band, they had managed to pull in quite a number of people, and I think this is testament to the accessible, catchy and melodic metal they were playing. I found myself drawing comparisons with both 36 Crazyfists and fellow Bloodstock artists Wolf; they had good, thrashy riffs and melodic hooks throughout their entire set. My next foray into the New Blood world was with Rannoch, the progressive death metallers from the West Midlands. They were impressively technical, as each of their songs was comprised of neatly harmonised guitar lines and several changes in pace, which helped to keep what can occasionally drag on interesting. Vocalist/guitarist Ian cut an impressive figure onstage, filling the tent with his strong, brutal vocals and fronting a band that were well put together and very successful in delivery; although their set was far too short to gauge the fullness of their range, beyond generic technical death metal. Another of my surprise finds was Haerken, the medieval band hailing from Birmingham. I had seen the members of Haerken, dressed in full Medieval gear, handing out flyers throughout the weekend, and I was glad to say that they were more than just their gimmick. Prithee, their music doth enchant the mightiest of the warriors of Bloodstock of Olde, for they hath procured a crowd most worthy of the noblest bands. Their sound was melodic death metal, and they coupled this with their neatly put together Olde English aesthetic. It must be noted; they managed to draw a significant number of people into the tent and away from mainstagers Therion. Their songs proved that they have the talent and the substance to go with their image, and their short but sweet set proved that they are most definitely in danger of becoming a tour-de-force of the metal world. One last point- any band that comes armed with a plethora of inflateable swords and throws said weaponry into the crowd, in order to spark a war between ‘The Normans’ and ‘The Saxons’ will always be a hit with a Bloodstock crowd! Next up were Sheffield’s Northern Oak; and I must say, with a little more experience under their belts, they will be a blackened folk force to be reckoned with. After their slightly shambolic- but nevertheless entertaining and enjoyable- set on the Jaeger stage the day before, I was looking forward to seeing them in their proper environment. I wasn’t disappointed. They have a great energy live, with each member bringing their own eccentricity into the mix- from bassist Richard bouncing around the stage like a whirling dervish of unending energy, to flautist Caitie ethereally standing in front of the crowds, flute in hand and adding that special edge that sets them apart. Their music was at once both moshable and jiggable, and with a little superficial polishing, they will be great. Last but not least was Sanguine, with a unique sound that is truly all their own. The word unique gets thrown around alot; indeed, it seems to be a bit of a buzzword sometimes, but it is definitely one way in which to describe this band. Frontwoman Tarin commands a voice that is both banshee-like and beautiful, switching effortlessly from clean vocals to a haunting scream throughout song after song. Their sound was at times reminiscent of Tool-ish prog, other times reminiscent of classic metal, and other times even punky and violent. They have a groove and an attitude coupled with a spleen shaking metal sensibility, and an incredibly polished live act to go with it. From the moment the sirens started blaring as Tarin waved a Union Jack upon the darkened stage, to the end of fantastically irreverent song ‘Bangkok Nights’, Sanguine delivered a fantastic set. Their short time on the New Blood stage was not enough.

I only really managed to catch one band on the Jaegermeister stage, apart from Northern Oak’s extra set. Obsessive Compulsive, a Manchester-based band that scream high-energy, managed to tone their set down enough to deliver an accomplished and impressive acoustic set. It takes a special kind of talent to fill such a small stage with so much energy and- as singer Kelii put it- to ‘balls it up’ with such gusto. They drew a significant number of people in, to crowd under the awning of the Jaeger truck and listen intently to their well put-together set. We were treated to songs that Obsessive Compulsive would not normally be able to play live, and to raw, toned-down versions of others. A personal highlight for me was the song The Decay of Hope. Kelii’s impressive voice held an incredible raw passion and emotion that made the song both brutal and moving. An excellent band, with an impressive stage presence.

My one experience of the Sophie Lancaster Stage has to be one of the highlights of the weekend, period. Evil Scarecrow. To try and put into words how brilliantly entertaining and- to be frank- fucking awesome their set was seems almost impossible. But try I shall. They were a rare entity- a comedy band with both the wit and the slick showmanship, not to mention pure, epic talent, to back up their intense metal sound. Perfectly put-together, their stage show was full of nuances and choreographed moves that showed they were taking not taking themselves seriously, very seriously indeed. From goose-stepping during their opener, to running through the crowd and launching onto the bar to deliver an epic solo (that nearly eclipsed the four-note solo from earlier in the set, but not quite), they knew what they were doing, and they did it well. When they called for claws to be raised during Vampire Trousers, even toddlers complied. From breaking a Guiness World Record during the genius Robotatron, to covering motherfucking Thunder Cats, there wasn’t a low point during their set. Finishing with an almighty cover of Europe’s The Final Countdown, complete with singalong from the crowd, Evil Scarecrow were amazing. Enough said.

Hannah ‘Hammi’ O’Flanagan

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