Bloodstock Open Air 2013: The Year of Thrash

Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2013 [King Diamond, Lamb of God, Slayer & more]
Catton Hall, Derbyshire
9th-11th August, 2012

Bloodstock 2013. What a weekend. From the 9th to the 11th of August, hordes of fans of some of the best music on the planet once again descended on Catton Hall in Derby in order to pray at the altar of metal, beer, metal, partying, and more metal. As always, I was there, this year having forked out for a VIP pitch, tent and pocket money in hand, ready to drink my way through the extensive bar and watch some awesome bands tear it up. This year was dubbed ‘The Year of Thrash’ by many, and I think I’d agree- how unfortunate for me that I’m not thrash metal’s biggest fan, then! Before I dive into the music, let me just say one thing: for the extra £100, i.e. more or less the same overall price as a ticket to Download or Reading, a VIP ticket is worth it. If you are able to save or can afford it outright, I would recommend it to anyone, just for the actual proper toilets. I know it’s a bit weird for me to be praising some bogs, but you would understand if you had the ability to use them. They had proper wooden doors, proper toilet rolls, proper sinks, proper soap, proper TOILETS. Amazing.

Right then. Let’s talk Bloodstock proper, shall we?

The Thursday night offerings had always been a bit of a mystery to me; I’d always seen Thursday as an opportunity to get in some drinking, have fun, and eventually wander over to the SOPHIE tent for the late night DJ. However, with an incredible pre-festival line up, I thought I’d better get over. Unfortunately (well, it was also pretty cool), we got chatting to the awesomely friendly guys that were camped around us and before we knew it, we had missed the first three bands! Luckily, we were able to make it over to watch Yorkshire’s finest warriors Ravenage absolutely lay waste to those assembled, with their unmistakably Medieval folk- and death- flavoured metal. Their set had everyone jigging, headbanging, horn-throwing: basically, everyone was enjoying themselves. I particularly enjoyed the tent-wide Drunken Sailor singalong. Magical!

Following Ravenage was the world’s premier metal BeeGees tribute act- yes, you read correctly- Tragedy. Never have I seen or heard a bigger crowd of bearded metalheads singing and dancing along to disco classics such as ‘You Should Be Dancing’, ‘Jive Talking’ and, of course, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Staying Alive.’ Tragedy filled Thursday evening with glitter, sequins, lipstick, hairspray, disco-balls, glamour- it was glorious. Such a perfect way to begin the weekend with a beautifully camp bang.

Friday’s main stage offerings began with Earthtone 9. These guys gave a lot of energy during the early slot, and put on a good show, but they weren’t really my cup of tea. Not what I expected, and they weren’t bad at all, but I wouldn’t choose to see them again. Followers Death Angel were everything you’d expect- brutal, straight up thrash metal- and again, they weren’t my cup of tea. However, Ex Deo were fantastic. The ex-Kataklysm troupe brought Rome to Derbyshire and they made me feel like an absolute traitor by the amount I enjoyed them- Rome are the enemy! They were immense and one of the highlights of the day for me. Even though I was really looking forward to them, Dark Funeral unfortunately suffered greatly from issues with their sound, and their frosty, evil atmosphere was completely lost in the mix. Many bands would actually suffer from this over the course of the weekend: followers Firewind, from example, were plagued with sound issues throughout their set. I’m not technically minded at all, but my brother informed me that the vocals were turned up too high. It’s a shame because Firewind were putting on a great performance.

One thrash band that I have to put up my hands and admit to loving is Municipal Waste. I can take their brand of thrash- fun and silly and all about the partying. Last time they played Bloodstock they broke the record for the greatest number of crowd-surfers during one song, so what would they do this time? A crowd-wave, of course, complete with absolutely epic wheelchair-surfer. Whoeever you are, I salute you! Next up were Voivod– another band that I have to be honest and say I didn’t really enjoy. The Canadian metallers did put on a good show if you were a fan, though. Veteran German heavy-metallers Accept thoroughly enjoyed their time on the main stage, something that was obvious and spilled out into the crowd. Their slot was a fantastic display of nostalgia and horn-throwing sing-alongs. Get your balls to the wall, indeed!

Headliner King Diamond has been requested constantly by Bloodstock fans over the past few years (myself included), and so his appearance felt like something of a coup. I will admit that his performance was probably quite confusing if you were not a fan or familiar with his material, but I have to be selfish and say that he was blinding. One of the best performances of the whole weekend! He gave us full theatrics- with Grandma, Miriam Natias and all his chums making an appearance, turning the stage into a Gothic, demonic crypt complete with wrought-iron fencing and a glowing, menacing sigil of Baphomet. King himself was absolutely on form, showing himself to be completely recovered from his near-fatal illness of a couple of years ago, and managing to reach notes with clarity he hasn’t shown in years. Completely outstanding.

I must admit that I missed Saturday’s opening act, Stormbringer. What I could hear from my tent, however, was pretty impressive. Bloodstock favourites Beholder gave it all of their energy and passion, as usual. I love watching this band- they clearly appreciate every opportunity Bloodstock is giving them, and it shows. Long may their success continue! 3 Inches of Blood were everything I expected. I only knew two of their songs, and unfortunately both of these songs were played really early within their set- something I didn’t expect at all, because if you know only one 3 Inches of Blood track, it would be ‘Deadly Sinners’, am I right? Regardless, they were very good and the crowd loved them.

Hell… what can I say about Hell? The best performance of the weekend? An utter revelation? Neither of these seems strong enough. I was absolutely blown away by Hell’s set- I had never managed to get to see them play live before, and I am kicking myself for it. Frontman David Bower clearly still possesses his Equity card, but the professionalism and sheer slick nature of his performance was still incredibly impressive. He had every single member of their enormous crowd right in the palm of his outstretched hand, and worked the stage like an infernal evangelical preacher. The moment he stepped out dressed like a giant faun, complete with pyrotechnic pitchfork, I knew that Hell were now one of my favourite bands. They deserved the huge crowd they managed to attract, and between you and me? Their crowd was bigger than Lamb of God’s. Church was in session on Saturday, my burning soul loved every second of it, and I guarantee you that Hell will be headliners within the next five years.

Kataklysm were brilliant, although struggled to follow Hell a little bit. French’s best Gojira were crushing, as usual and expected. I have to admit to being in a little bit of a daze for these two bands, but luckily this daze was lifted for Sabaton. The power metal veterans had suffered a few problems with their luggage, losing a trunk full of costumes on the journey over to the UK, and seeing Joakim Brodén step out wearing simply a plain black vest and their signature urban camo trousers was a little jarring. Thankfully, a helpful member of the crowd stepped in and lent him their own metal-panelled cyber-goth vest, and the show could go on! Sabaton have to be one of the nicest bands currently on the scene, and Joakim proved his own merits when he gifted two young fans (aged around 9 and 11, if I remember correctly) who were by the barrier with his own wristband and sunglasses.

Saturday ended on a bit of a juxtaposition. Tobias Sammet’s guest-studded Avantasia set was breathtakingly beautiful, a rock opera in the middle of a dirty field. I think everyone expected it to be a spectacle, but I was able to sit back and let the music wash over me, engrossing me totally. It was just gorgeous, and they were another highlight. ‘Controversial’ headliners (controversial for the same tired reasons that Machine Head generated controversy last year) Lamb of God, however, left me wanting, a little bit. Even the ridiculously amazing announcement that Emperor will be headlining next year’s festival couldn’t keep up the energy throughout their set. They were marred by safety issues with the barrier, with frontman Randy Blythe pleading with the crowd to watch out for each other, but there just seemed to be a little bit of a flat atmosphere. I was expecting them to be victoriously received by the crowd, given Blythe’s recent acquittal, but I think the sight of countless fans leaving before their set had finished speaks volumes.

Special mention must go to two bands on the SOPHIE stage on Saturday- Mael Mordha and PowerQuest. Irish doom metallers Mael Mordha served up a folky slice of ‘Gaelic’ doom metal and reminded me why it’s one of my favourite genres of metal. PowerQuest’s set, my brother informed me, was a bittersweet triumph, being their last ever performance as a band, featuring members of their old line up and filled with nostalgic tracks from the career of one of the most criminally underrated bands in the UK. They will be sorely missed.

I have a confession to make. At some point between Saturday night and Sunday morning, I caught a bug. I don’t know what it was, but I spent most of Sunday unable to keep any food or drink down. Subsequently, I missed the first three bands, dragging my sore self away from my tent and into the arena in time to see Fozzy. I didn’t know what to expect from these guys, being eager to keep an open mind, but I was pleasantly surprised. They were brilliant, straight-up metal, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Chris Jericho was clearly over the moon to be on that stage, loving every second and I have to say- he is an absolute nutter. At one point, he climbed right up the lighting rig and sang one song from the top of the stage. Brilliant, and I might have to watch out for Fozzy in the future. Finish metallers Amorphis were excellent, delivering their strange blend of prog, folk and death metal to an incredibly receptive crowd- I have to listen to some more of their material, because I really enjoyed what I heard! I must admit to missing Exodus, but I have it on good authority that they were as brutal as one would have expected them to be. Devildriver were nicely nostalgic for me- I’m not too familiar with much of their stuff, but I was a huge Coal Chamber fan back in the day so I loved watching Dez Fafara and his cohorts do their thing. ‘Hold Back The Day’ was a highlight of a set full of metal camaraderie and a focus on enjoying yourself.

Here’s the confession that may get me lynched- I missed most of both Anthrax and Slayer, and I’m not that sorry. I spent most of Anthrax unconscious in my tent, from dehydration, pain and exhaustion: but I have to admit, the one song I managed to catch at the end was very good. Anthrax had an awful lot of energy, clearly enjoying every second of being there and grateful for every fan. The same could not be said for legendary thrash metal tyrants Slayer. I am truly sorry to say this, but Slayer were boring to me. They just got on stage and played their songs: there was no performance there at all. I also personally find their music very repetitive. However, I will concede that I am sure it was the best part of the weekend for the countless baying Slayer-heads in attendance, and I only managed to catch a couple of tracks from their set, ‘War Ensemble’ included.

I also have to mention Gibraltan metal quintet Breed 77, who tore apart the SOPHIE set earlier on Sunday. I am a huge fan of Breed 77 anyway, and they delivered song after song of underrated brilliance, peppered with insights from people living inside the Gibraltarian/Spanish political conflict. Dedicating the bruising ‘Insects’ to both an unelected UK-government and a group of Spanish fascists was a particularly genius move on Paul Isola’s part.

Other highlights of my weekend included meeting Alien Loves Predator and Judge Dredd (the latter of which was pulled up on stage during ‘I Am The Law’ in Anthrax’s set), and sampling some delicious beverages over in the VIP bar. I think the best drink I had all weekend was Bruce Dickinson’s Trooper, which is like the Iron Maiden warbler himself- mellow, laid back and easy going. You can actually buy bottles of Trooper in certain supermarkets, so I would implore you to Google and find out!

Bloodstock 2013 was a mixed barrel for me as far as the music was concerned. However, I actually go to Bloodstock for the experience and the people just as much as I do the bands. It’s always better when you like a significant portion of the line-up, of course, but I enjoyed more than I thought I would and managed to have a whale of a weekend, even with a final day marred by illness.

Emperor next year? I’ll see you there.

 

 

 

Hannah O’Flanagan, 2013

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One Response to “Bloodstock Open Air 2013: The Year of Thrash”

  1. […] Bloodstock Open Air 2013: The Year of Thrash (valkyrianmusic.com) […]

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