Bloodstock and the Perils of Mainstream Metal

In two months, thousands of hairy, bearded, black- and camo-clad metalheads will make their way across the country, by train, coach, motorbike or car, and descend upon a picturesque part of Derbyshire for the eleventh Bloodstock Festival. After a soggy Download this weekend past, they’ll be hoping for dry weather and clear skies under which to enjoy gallons of beer and three days of non-stop metal. Taking place this year from the 9th-12th of August, Bloodstock promises to be four nights of memorable performances, spanning (as usual) three stages and including acts from unsigned upstarts Infernal Creation right through to legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper. I’ll be going, and I’m personally looking forward to most of the bands on offer, but there are a few I’m not particularly keen on. One act is dividing the fans, however, and in my opinion have been one of the most controversial bookings in Bloodstock’s 11 year history.

Announced only a week ago, Machine Head’s booking as the Saturday night headliner has caused a lot of controversy. Shrouded in ‘secrecy’, but leaked in an interview with Terrorizer magazine, Bloodstock’s organisers have been calling Machine Head one of the most ‘prestigous’ acts they’ve ever managed to acquire, and even though many people have been complaining about this and questioning Machine Head’s Bloodstock pedigree, it’s actually quite accurate to call Machine Head prestigous. For their particular, Bay-Area thrash influenced brand of heavy metal, and out of the number of bands that formed in the early 90’s, they are definitely one of the most successful and long-standing. Machine Head have been producing music for over 20 years. It’s no fluke that they have sold almost two and a half million albums since their debut, Burn My Eyes, in 1994. They have even been given a nod by those over at the Grammy awards. This, I guess, is why many people are complaining. Machine Head are mainstream, you know? They’re the kind of band that 13 year-old wannabes listen to when they’re just getting into metal. They’re heavy enough to feel exciting and dangerous to a young kid, but nowhere near as extreme as a number of the bands on this year’s line up. I mean, Watain, Mayhem, Deicide and Behemoth sharing a stage with Machine Fucking Head?

What I think is important to remember is this: Bloodstock is the main metal festival in the UK. The way that it stays alive, in what is still in many ways a niche market, is by attracting a large and diverse number of people. This means catering to a mass market, and booking some more well known and widely popular bands is one of the ways they will do this. Machine Head are incredibly commercially successful, and with the cancellation of this year’s Sonisphere still looming over festival organisers everywhere, the Bloodstock people will have been feeling quite pressured to deliver the goods. Not only that, but they have the chance to nick a few of the people who would only have been going to Sonisphere- which, by the way, is a rock festival, not a purely metal fest. If that means they have to book someone a bit more radio friendly, then so be it. I’d rather Bloodstock book Machine Head and keep going, than make every single booking elite and super kvlt and run out of money in two years time.

I’m not going to lie; even I will get bored if every single band at Bloodstock is an extreme, super-evil death/black metal band, or a cheesy-yet-epic Euro power metal band. I need variety. And by the time Saturday evening rolls around, I will be incredibly drunk, and definitely in the mood for a little nostalgia. I’ll dance with the best of them and hope against hope that Robb Flynn and his merry men blast out Davidian and Imperium into the hazy summer night sky. If nothing else, Robb isn’t going to take a gobstopper to the head lightly. Whilst Cradle of Filth rightly stopped their set for fear of Paul Allender’s welfare, I’m pretty sure the gobstopper would come off worse in that fight.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to get my fork throwing arm in shape for the extreme sport that is Forky Forky. Where did I put that courgette?

Hannah O’Flanagan, 2012

One Response to “Bloodstock and the Perils of Mainstream Metal”

  1. […] Bloodstock and the Perils of Mainstream Metal (valkyrianmusic.com) […]

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