Archive for Catton Hall

Kataklysm unveil artwork for upcoming album, titled Waiting For The End To Come

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 6th August 2013 by Nico Davidson

Canandian death metal powerhouse Kataklysm have revealed the artwork for their upcoming release Waiting For The End To Come. The artwork, which was created by Peter Sallai (Sabaton), will be featured on the standard jewel case and limited edition cassette tape versions of the new album, which is set to be released 28th October. Frontman Maurizo Iacono explains:

The new album art depicts a child, which represents innocence in humanity, covered in dirt and blood from life’s experience. In front of him is death represented by a reaper, who comes to claim his soul for the afterlife or the abyss, whichever way you want interpret what happens next. We leave it open to the fans to decide with their own beliefs. This depiction of the transition between life and death was made by Hungarian artist Peter Sallai, and will be on the standard CD jewel case and limited edition cassette tape versions.

Waiting for the End to Come was recorded by guitarist Jean Francois Dagenais and mixed by Zeuss (Suffocation, Hatebreed, Arsis).

Kataklysm are performing this weekend at the UK’s biggest independent metal festival, Bloodstock Open Air, at Catton Hall, Derby. Kataklysm will be playing on Saturday on the Ronnie James Dio Stage.

Katakylsm online:

http://facebook.com/kataklysm

 

Dying Fetus resign to Relapse Records; European tour dates announced

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on 13th June 2013 by Nico Davidson

Death metal powerhouse Dying Fetus have announced their re-signing to Relapse Records. Following the release of their latest, critically acclaimed album Reign Supreme in last year on Relapse Records, Dying Fetus have re-signed to the label and commented:

We have an addiction and have relapsed with Relapse Records. Relapse Records will remain your one stop shop for all things Dying Fetus . Re-signing with Relapse Records seemed like the right thing to do for the band as both Dying Fetus and Relapse Records have grown over the years. So our fans can look forward to more brutality from both parties.

The band will return to tour Europe this summer, starting on July 24th and will be performing at Bloodstock Festival at Catton Hall, Derby on 11th August before heading to London to play an intimate show at The Barfly in London the following day. A complete list of European tour dates can be found below.

Tickets for the London show are available HERE and HERE. Reign Supreme is streaming in its entirety on the Dying Fetus Bandcamp page, which can be found here.

DYING FETUS European Tour

7/24: Slovenia Tolmin @ Metaldays Fest
7/25: Italy Point @ Neumarkt
7/27: Holland Steenwijk @ Stonehenge Fest
7/30: Russia Moscow @ Plan B
8/1: Ukraine Evpatoriya @ Metal Heads Mission Fest
8/3: France Albi Carmaux @ Xtreme Fest
8/5: Germany München @ Free & Easy Fest
8/6: Austria Dornbirn @ Schlachthof
8/7: Austria Wien @ Viper Room
8/8: Czech Rep Jaromer @ Brutal Assault Fest
8/9: Germany Schlotheim @ Party San Fest
8/10: Switzerland Hüttikon @ Meh Suff! Metal-Fest
8/11: UK Catton Hall @ Bloodstock
8/12: UK London @ Barfly
8/13: France Paris @ Nouveau Casino
8/14: Germany Trier @ Exhaus
8/15: Germany Dinkelsbühl @ Summer Breeze Fest
8/16: Germany Oberhausen @ Helvete
8/17: Belgium Méan @ Metal Méan Fest
8/18: France Saint Nolff @ Motocultor Fest

Dyign Fetus online:

http://www.dyingfetus.com/
http://www.facebook.com/dyingfetus
http://www.myspace.com/dyingfetus
http://www.twitter.com/DyingFetusBand

 

Hell on Earth… At Bloodstock

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 17th January 2013 by Nico Davidson

NWOBHM legends Hell have been confirmed for Bloodstock 2013. The announcement came only a couple of hours ago when they were announced alongside Belphegor for the Ronnie James Dio stage on Saturday 10th August.

Bloodstock is set to take place on 8th-11th August at Catton Hall in Derby. Other bands already confirmed for Bloodstock 2013 include Lamb of God, Firewind, King Diamond, Whitechapel, Ex Deo and Kataklysm, with many more to be announced. Tickets and further info can be found here.

 

Lamb Of God confirmed for Bloodstock as headliner

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 7th November 2012 by Nico Davidson

lamb-of-god-wallpaper-10

US metallers Lamb Of God have been announced for Bloodstock next year as the Saturday night headliner. This will be their only UK festival appearance and they will join the likes of previously announced headliner King Diamond plus thrash metal icons Anthrax, Greek power metallers Firewind and WWE superstar Chris Jericho’s band Fozzy! Lamb Of God will also be joined by new additions Dark Funeral and Amorphis.

Bloodstock Open Air will take place 8th-11th August 2013 at Catton Hall, Derbyshire. Tickets are available from the official Bloodstock site which can be found here.

 

King Diamond to play Bloodstock 2013

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on 12th October 2012 by Nico Davidson

Minutes ago, the Bloodstock announced over Facebook that King Diamond has been confirmed as the Friday night headliner for an exclusive UK show. The metal legend himself will be performing a number of Mercyful Fate classics as well as several numbers from his solo career.

King Diamond joins the likes of Anthrax, Accept, Firewind and Fozzy for next year’s festival, which takes place from August 8-11 2013 at Catton Hall, Derby. Tickets for Bloodstock can be purchased here.

 

Bloodstock Open Air 2012 Review

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , , on 21st August 2012 by Hannah

Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2012 [Behemoth, Machine Head, Alice Cooper & more]
Catton Hall, Derbyshire
9th-12th August, 2012

So, another year, another Bloodstock. This year was probably one of the most controversial for a good number of years; mainly based around line up. Not only was there a massive furore over the choice of Machine Head as Saturday’s headliners, there was also much discussion of the line up, in general, being poor. Swathes of apparent regulars made it clear that the line up meant they were not purchasing tickets. This didn’t affect Bloodstock in any way, mind. There were over 11,000 people in attendance- the biggest number to date- and the organisers were able to enjoy the fact that their VIP packages totally sold out, and there were not many regular passes left by the time the weekend came around. This year’s Bloodstock was also notable for another, more special reason. Over the course of the weekend, many of the live performances were streamed world wide for the first time ever, and this decision proved to be a resounding success; over 200,000 people across the globe tuned in to watch live footage of the festival throughout the duration of the weekend. In terms of ticket sales, bums on seats and world domination, Bloodstock outdid themselves this year. But what of the festival itself?

Friday started off with a ridiculous heat wave. The fields of Catton Hall overflowed with sweaty, melting metal heads, most of them sweltering in the commonly worn uniform of black band shirt and jeans or camouflage trousers. But this sudden appearance by the sun did not stop them from turning out in multitudes to check out all three stages (four, if we count the Jagermeister Truck acoustic stage). With a cold one in my hand (one of 60+ real cask ales and ciders on sale in the Serpent’s Lair; the extra £100 odd was worth it just for that selection) I trudged to the main stage to enjoy the first few bands. Reading’s Malefice started proceedings with a valiant performance, filled with power and energy and determined to make a name for themselves. These newcomers pulled in a respectable crowd for the first slot of the day, and in my opinion started the festival off well. Followers Freedom Call kept up the energy with forty minutes of pure, cheesy German power metal, and I’m not ashamed to report that it was glorious. Their set was certainly a ‘happy metal party’ and they got the crowd jumping along to most of their songs. With their upbeat melodies and cheerful yet clumsy, Olympics centred banter, almost everyone watching their set had a stupid grin on their faces by their closer. Grand Magus were predictably epic, and the freshness of their material and stage presence makes it easy to forgot how long they have been around for. The Swedish stalwarts showed how thumping heavy metal is meant to be done.

Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to see most of the second half of Moonsorrow’s set as I quickly fell ill with what I now recognise as heatstroke, but the first half I did see was fantastic. They played a good selection of their material, and managed to put on a great performance, despite the fact that much of the crowd was flagging in the somewhat unexpected heat by this point. Their set was also far too short, especially considering most of their songs hit the nine minute mark, and it can only be hoped that they don’t leave it too long til they tour the UK as headliners. I have it on good authority, thanks to my temporary co-correspondent Joe (my brother) that Iced Earth absolutely slayed it. In three words, they were pounding, soaring and epic. The screams of ‘Iced Fucking Earth’ that echoed around the arena barely needed any encouragement from the band themselves, and they left the crowds begging for more. In complete contrast, and in a somewhat controversial claim, Joe felt that Sepultura were a massive disappointment. Clumsy and clunky, they played a set that didn’t contain enough new stuff to be purely Derrick Green era-stuff, nor enough classics to be a ‘classic Sepultura’ show, even despite the inclusion of songs such as ‘Refuse/Resist’ and ‘Roots’. I was back to the arena in time for Dio’s Disciples, the special tribute set up in memory of the late, great Ronnie James Dio, metal legend and namesake of Bloodstock’s main stage. And what a tribute it was. Each and every member of the band put their heart and soul into the performance, and it showed. Nearly every member of the band was almost in tears during their set, and they gave rousing renditions of some of Dio’s best known songs, including ‘Holy Diver’, ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Rainbow in the Dark’. We still love you, Ronnie. Whilst Dio’s Disciples got all emotional on the main stage, mention must be made of Hull’s Infernal Creation, who tore up the New Blood stage in the same slot. Bastard, Neiphrobous and Sin were joined by Cryptic Age’s Tom Keeley for the performance, due to bassist Beleth’s recent ill health (swift recovery, dude!) and they laid down their black metal credentials for all to see. Neiphrobous had the disappointingly small crowd in the palm of his outstretched claw, and whilst they deserved to pull a far greater number of people, those that were in attendance were treated to a thirty minute long aural assault of the highest calibre. A fantastic performance by a brutal underground band, deserving of greater success.

The atmosphere in the main arena grew noticeably chillier during the set up for Watain, and it wasn’t just the onset of the evening. There was almost as much of a buzz for these guys as there was for Friday headliners Behemoth. When asked about who they were here to see, countless people answered ‘Fucking Watain!’. All inverted crosses, flaming sigils and fire, Watain were truly a spectacle. Frontman Erik Danielsson (E) soaked the crowd- and pre-prepared, poncho and cagoule wearing security- with blood from a silver chalice, as ominous red lights zoomed over the crowd. They delivered their special blend of hauntingly beautiful and brutal black metal to the masses assembled in the fields of Catton Hall. Their stage show was uncompromising, being the masters of the theatrical and experts in creating an atmosphere both electric and somewhat unsettling. I managed to grab E for a quick chat on Saturday evening, and he summed their performance up in a concise way:

            I think it was very beautiful, it was during the sunset, and the sun came down in a very fitting way I would say. As far as Bloodstock goes, it’s another one of those places where two-leggers gather in the same place. I have an extremely hard time dealing with that, and it’s getting to the point of nausea, but at the same time it’s a good place.

All hail the black priests of metal!

After being suitably roused into a black, unholy frenzy, headliners Behemoth materialised on the stage in a flash of blue light and fog like a furious quartet of Cenobites. It is so, SO good to be finally writing a review of a performance by Behemoth at Bloodstock, and just as good to see Nergal, victorious in his battle with leukaemia, absolutely ripping Bloodstock a new one. The truck full of pyro they commissioned to trek across Europe from Poland meant that they were fully able to flex their blackened muscles and deliver a full Behemoth show to the baying crowds. Ferocious and uncompromising, they delivered a spectacle that will stay in the minds of all those assembled for a long time to come. On the visual front, they did not disappoint. Burning crosses, hooded monks, and a brilliantly clever use of fog and lighting to create a massive, Ronnie James Dio stage sized Polish flag, they looked spectacular. They sounded spectacular, too. With a set list that included fearsome renditions of songs old and new, including my personal highlights ‘Christians to the Lions’ and ‘Slaves to Serve’, Nergal, Orion, Inferno and Seth were the masters of the hordes as Friday evening closed in an infernal frenzy of blackened death metal. Behemoth fucking ruled.

On to Saturday, then, and after catching the end of what proved to be an energetic set by Benediction, on came ZP Theart of ex-Dragonforce fame, and his new band IamI. Theart had a lot to prove today, and even though his distinctive vocals strained a little at times, their raw sort of power metal worked quite well. He obviously loved being on the stage, and whilst it has to be said that their material bordered on repetitive, they gave a commendable performance. Following the power metal was Taiwan’s ChthoniC, who were, in a word, brilliant. They brought their folk-inspired, mythologically-powered black metal to the assembled crowds and performed beautifully. Freddy Lim, erhu in hand, made firm friends with the crowd and inspired an anti-Chinese roar of ‘Taiwan! Taiwan!’ to erupt among the arena. Even though many of them may not have understood the significance of Lim’s impassioned tirade against the Chinese occupation of Taiwan, they sympathised with ‘Chinese Taipei’ and were intensely receptive to the band’s atmospheric sound. The less said about Mayhem, the better. I was intensely disappointed with their lack of performance and the overall sloppy state of their set. Even Attila was boring. They came onto the stage and seemed to leave again soon after, without much fuss. So very anti-climactic. In contrast, the newly reformed Sanctuary were a surprising success. Even though their reformation will probably be at the expense of the fantastic Nevermore, it’s good to see Sanctuary back together. They really entertained the crowd with an energetic and upbeat set, satisfying both old and new fans. One band that personally surprised me were Hatebreed. I did not expect to enjoy the Connecticut hardcore maniacs, but I really did. They gave a performance full of energy and proved themselves to be very proficient at what they do. With Hatebreed, circle pits were always guaranteed but what was good to see was that the pits, orchestrated by frontman Jamey Jasta with safety on his mind, were instructed to help anyone that fell back up to their feet. Hatebreed are a brotherhood, and no one gets left behind or forgotten, as was evident with their touching dedication to the recently fallen, including the Rev, Dimebag, Dio and Paul Gray. Due to other commitments, I wasn’t able to catch much of Testament’s set, but the view from Joe was that they were sick. They played a good selection of old and new and more than satisfied the crowds.

Saturday’s controversial headliners Machine Head came onstage will everything bared and a mentality of proving to everyone present that they deserved to be there. They were there for their fans, but also for every single person who would have rather seen someone else take their place. In my opinion, they more than deserved that headline slot, and proved so with a visceral, rib shaking performance. Clearly humbled and in awe of Bloodstock as a whole, Machine Head plunged into their set with no holds barred. They spattered their set with a good selection of tunes, including fan favourites ‘Imperium’ and ‘Darkness Within’. As had been advertised since their announcement, they also played the 5 ‘Burn My Eyes’ tracks that had been voted for by the fans, in honour of the 20th anniversary of the first live show they ever played, in Mike Scum’s house, for a ‘destroy the house’ kegger party. Fantastic. The tracks chosen- ‘Death Church’, ‘A Thousand Lies’, ‘Blood for Blood’, ‘Block’ and ‘Davidian’– were received with an almost rabid response; a personal highlight was definitely ‘Block’, a track that absolutely slayed the crowd with its chugging intensity. Robb Flynn also proved that his reputation as one of the ‘nice guys’ of metal is more than apt, with a touchingly heartfelt speech about the true, accepting spirit of metal and how stoked he was to be playing on the stage with so many of his metal brothers in attendance. He also showed how much of an expert he is at creating a rapport with the crowd, and even instigated some sort of epic battle between Wolverine and Banana-man. Machine Head’s headliner slot will go down in history as one of the most divisive but brutal sets in Bloodstock history.

There were a number of fantastic performances on both the S.O.P.H.I.E. and New Blood stages on Saturday as well. Witch Sorrow and Winterfylleth both put on fantastic performances; Witch Sorrow’s sludgey, droney doom metal shaking the bowels of all those cooped up in the sweaty, beer soaked S.O.P.H.I.E. tent, and Winterfylleth delivered a set full of competent, slick black metal. But the day has to be given to the mighty Orange Goblin. The fact that the crowd literally spilled out of the tent and created lines at least seven men deep as a huge number of people struggled to watch them can probably attest to the Goblin’s strength on Saturday night. Sludgey, sleazy and soaked in booze and weed, the Goblin were on form and should have been on the main stage. However, the underdog status of the second stage suited them well. Their performance was painfully effortless, and they delivered a strong, sublime set, filling the S.O.P.H.I.E. tent to the rafters with stoner madness. There were also strong performances over at the New Blood stage. Newcastle’s Reflection in Exile were brilliant, and better than many of the bands on the main and S.O.P.H.I.E. stages. Dare I say that they were better than Mayhem? Regardless, they gave their all in the performance and were rewarded with the total attention of a sizeable crowd, pulled into the New Blood stage and away from main stagers Hatebreed. Reflection in Exile are worth watching out for. Saturday’s New Blood headliners, Manchester’s Gone Til Winter, served up a slice of brilliant, dark power metal. Stealing a good size crowd in from Testament– though they deserved many, many more- they performed with their hearts on their sleeves. Vocalist  Talena is a fantastic front woman, with an easy and likeable demeanour and a good amount of stage presence. Their set list included a number of tasters from their upcoming debut LP, Hiding From The Sun. I wish them every success in the future; and good luck to Talena on the forthcoming birth of her baby!

The final day of Bloodstock 2012 dawned with a brilliant performance from epic Canadian metallers Kobra And The Lotus. I think it’s safe to say that Kobra Paige and her troupe of heavy metal warriors won over a new legion of fans on Sunday. And holy hell, can Kobra Paige sing! KATL were a fantastic way to start the final day of BOA, and served up a delightful portion of soaring, traditional heavy metal. Corrosion of Conformity were much better than I thought they would be. I didn’t expect their groovy, sludge metal to be as good as it was, but I was pleasantly surprised. Good set, despite the need for a bass amp half way through! All that can really be said about Nile is that they were fucking brutal. They played a good mix of their stuff, from older material to brand new tracks. My personal highlights were the brutal Sacrifice Unto Sobek, Execration Text and Lashed To The Slave Stick. Their mystical, Egyptological, brutal death metal crushed the arena, and their show was so intensely amazing that it didn’t even matter that the heavens opened part way through. It would be hard for any band to follow such a flawless set, but it could have proven disastrous for Black Dahlia Murder. So many people didn’t want them to be here, and so BDM had an awful lot to prove. But prove it they did. By the end, the crowd had grown into a respectable size and enjoyed their unapologetic brand of death metal mayhem. There were two people in the crowd who certainly enjoyed their set, as their doggy style adventures proved. I think BDM proved many of the haters wrong, and showed that they deserve their place on the line up as much as anyone else. I also dearly hope that Brian Eschbach got his cheesy chips with gravy. As was expected, Bloodstock favourites Evile played to an incredibly enthusiastic crowd and did not disappoint. Even though they seemed endearingly puzzled at the fact that this year saw their fourth year on the line up, they clearly loved being back on the main stage, as did the crowd. The Huddersfield troupe performed a really strong set, including the rabidly received ‘Cult’. Metal underdogs Anvil gave a roaringly successful, and somewhat poignant, performance. They were clearly enthused to just still be performing, and were well received. The success of their story was evident by the number of Anvil patches that could be seen on denim and leather jackets throughout the arena, standing side by side with big names such as Judas Priest, Megadeth and Iron Maiden. Well done, Anvil!

Goth/doom veterans Paradise Lost seemed to delight the crowds with a competent set that entertained whilst being slightly sloppy. Their set list spanned their whole career fairly well, so there was guaranteed to be something there for everyone. From a selection that included game changing album Draconian Times, Nick Holmes and his gloomy troupe played reasonably well, and finished with crowd pleaser Say Just Words. Paradise Lost could have been so much better, but with all said and done they were more than satisfactory. A band that did not disappoint was 2008 headliners and ‘special guests’ Dimmu Borgir. I’m not ashamed to say that Dimmu were probably one of the bands I was looking forward to the most all weekend, and they were astounding. They returned to the main stage with a triumphant performance, full of characteristic bombast and malignantly beautiful orchestrations, and oozing with dark charisma. They had the crowd lapping up every single note and ravenously devouring each morsel proffered, from ‘Gateways’ and ‘Dimmu Borgir’ to ‘Puritania’ and ‘Progenies of the Great Apocalypse’, with surprise appearances from ‘Vredesbyrd’ and closer ‘Mourning Palace’. It’s good to see that they have not lost any of the atmosphere brought by ICS Vortex’s clean vocals; in fact, the majestic choral recording created sweeping, epic atmosphere that melted with the brutal nature of the rest of the performance perfectly. A darkly beautiful, flawless set from one of the most professional and well-oiled bands in the industry.

What can I say about Sunday night headliner Alice Cooper? It’s been just over a week since I returned from BOA and I’m still getting over the spectacle of it all. Alice is 64 years old, and he wiped the floor with most of the other people who had been up on that stage before him. He has still got exactly what it is that made everyone fall in love with him back in the seventies, and I hope he never loses it, because he is fantastic. The anticipation started to build from the moment the vast, opaque banner was pulled up in front of the stage, obscuring the set up and preparations underway behind it, and the time it took to get the stage ready to be Coop’d seemed to fly by. The atmosphere in the arena, as Vincent Price boomed out from the speakers, was electrifying with excitement. Everyone was shoulder to shoulder as people squeezed in, trying to get the best view possible of what was to come. And what did come? A performance that showed everyone exactly how it is done. Starting with ‘Black Widow’, the man himself appeared atop a vast, cobwebbed lectern, resplendent in his spider suit, every single audience member dancing on his hands like puppets. A showman to the very end, Alice proceeded to entertain and beguile for an hour and a half that was stuffed with hits, favourites and rare titbits. I can honestly say that Cooper’s set was the best thing I have ever seen. Unlike the normal, pared down festival performances many bands deliver, Alice Cooper put on a full show, complete with guillotine, skewered paparazzo, pyrotechnics, dead dolls and a giant, guitarist chasing Frankenstein’s monster. I don’t think it would be possible for me to choose a favourite track, but the moment Alice donned a white lab coat and red, elbow length gloves during the opening chords of ‘Feed My Frankenstein’, I knew that Bloodstock 2012 had turned into an ‘I was there’ event. I was there to see Alice Cooper conquer, and prove that he is at the absolute pinnacle of rock showmanship. Almost every single band on the line up, from Watain and Dimmu Borgir to Machine Head and Black Dahlia Murder owe something to Cooper. Without Cooper, the rock concert as we know it would not exist. Theatricality and performance in concert would not exist. Without Cooper, the metal world would be a much less colourful place. Catton Hall turned into a cacophony of noise as every person present hoarsely shouted along with ‘Poison’, ‘Hey Stoopid’ and ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, and whooped with delight as the unmistakable opening riff for ‘School’s Out’ rang out through the arena. Alice finished his set by striding onto the stage, Union Jack in hand, for a fittingly ferocious ‘(I wanna be) Elected’. Alice Cooper was absolutely phenomenal, and I will remember the feeling I got when I was watching him, a man I have looked up to and admired since I was seven years old and first heard ‘Poison’, for the rest of my life.

Bloodstock 2012 was an incredible achievement, crushing records and paying homage to some of the greatest names in modern metal. I’ll see you in 2013.

Hannah O’Flanagan, 2012

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review] Part Two

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , , on 26th August 2011 by Hannah

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

Onto the Ronnie James Dio Stage, then, and the line up for Friday. The first band I saw was Wolf, and just as they were the first time I saw them, they were awesome. They delivered their specific brand of classic, thrash-tinged heavy metal to the assembled crowds with gusto. A special mention must go out to their roadie, who- having hit his head during set up- was the recipient of a special dedication during the track Skull Crushed. They filled their set with both old favourites and new tidbits, hearing Full Moon Possession from their new album Legion of Bastards, as well as premiering a live version of their new track, K141 Cursed. Coroner were as expected; brutal and loud death-tinged thrash metal. I must admit, I am not such a fan of their music, and it seemed a little bland and generic to me. But they put on a good live show, showed a good level of energy, and were excellent for fans of thrash metal. Speaking of thrash, German thrash legends Kreator did not disappoint. They were definitely on form, and gave the Bay Area elite a run for their money. The German giants had the crowds eating out of their hands and absolutely baying for more, and managed to generate the biggest pit of the day so far. Playing a huge range of tunes, Kreator showed that sometimes, the oldest bands know best. What can I say about The Devin Townsend Project, plus a special appearance from Ziltoid the Omniscient? Devin was as bonkers as ever, and shared words of wisdom such as ‘if you aren’t into MMA and you say you are, then my friend, you’re just a poser’ with the enthralled crowd. A trippy guru of progressive craziness, Devin is a proper entertainer who impressed with his cosmic wall of cinematic sound. The man could easily go into business as a stand-up comedian if he ever decides to give up music. He also helped many members of the audience to discover a hidden desire to be a fire engine! Who knew? Friday headliners W.A.S.P. proved they still have it with a set that spanned decades, and provided fuel for every fan of classic metal in the arena. Young and old, male and female; I don’t think there was anyone who didn’t enjoy their set. So what if Blackie Lawless is looking a little bit fatter round the gills these days- his voice and stage presence still exudes that dangerous sex appeal that had parents quaking in their boots in the 80’s. Playing crowd pleasers like Wild Child, and even pulling up an incredibly excited fan to join them in a chorus of I Wanna Be Somebody, W.A.S.P. were the perfect way to round of the first day of the weekend.

Onto Saturday, and Gravedigger were the first band I saw that day. They were awesome, and for such a short set, they played an absolutely packed set list. They really got the crowd going, which is not easy to do at that time of the day, and whilst nursing hangovers to boot. Tarot were excellent. Nightwish veteran and frontman Marco Hietala had the attention of absolutely everyone in the arena, and it wasn’t just because of their music. Keeping the crowd utterly bewildered with comments about BBQs and tractors, as well as encouraging a chant of ‘More Cock’ in honour of sci fi writer Michael Moorcock, Tarot impressed with their particular brand of power metal. Next up was the band that I was personally most excited about of the whole line up. Finntroll were, in a word, incredible. They played a whole range of songs from their entire back catalogue, including from the days without current frontman Vreth, and absolutely treated the crowd with renditions of favourites such as Trollhammaren and Nedgang. The crowd was chanting their name before, during, and after their set, and could not stop screaming for more when their 45 minutes were up. Even though their appearance was fairly toned down, only daubing the snaking, branch-like body paint on themselves, Finntroll were all I had expected and hoped them to be. Plus, Vreth is a very attractive young Scandinavian, and his appearance is only improved by a beard. Enough about that!

Finally, we come to Sunday, and Celtic metallers Primordial delivered a set that pleased the crowd from start to finish. Playing that special brand of Celtic inspired folk metal, Primordial delivered a fantastically put together set that was altogether too short. A shame, as they were definitely on form. Hammerfall delighted the crowd with their ever-so-slightly-cheesy power metal- but to be honest, that’s all part of their charm. Frontman Joachim’s voice filled the arena with it’s powerful tones, and charmed the crowd through a selection from their entire history. From early track Hammerfall, to recent hits such as Blood Bound and Hearts on Fire, they did not disappoint, and managed to get almost everyone singing or dancing along to their fist-pumping metal. Legends of death metal Morbid Angel, surely amongst the names that drew the record number of people to Catton Hall, delivered a rattlingly brutal set of ‘extreme music for extreme people’, generating wave after wave of crazed crowd surfers, and sparking mosh pits that were actually quite shocking in their brutality, rivalling the record set by Kreator on Friday. The crowd that filled the arena was buzzing and feeding off the energy that the veterans gave out, and they definitely satiated the appetites of all those who had come seeking their brand of spine-shattering music. Sunday headliners, festival closers, and living legends, the behemoths of rock and roll that are Motorhead, were the perfect way to end the weekend. Lemmy, nearly unintelligable in his slurring Stoke drawl, delivered classic songs from all over his career in his trademark gravelly snarl, planting himself in front of his microphone with his bass guitar in hand and his cowboy hat firmly jammed onto his head. Fans from seven years old to seventy rocked out to timeless classics, including the obvious Killed By Death and Ace of Spades, and there wasn’t a head that hadn’t banged, or horns that hadn’t been raised, throughout the entire crowd. Pure adrenaline fuelling hard rock and roll, that only Motorhead can deliver. Raise your bottles of Jack and salute the Sex Legend himself, Lemmy Kilmister.

Bloodstock 2011. Three days. Four stages. Over 10,900 metal fans. An incredible weekend full of incredible performances. Same time next year?

Hannah ‘Hammi’ O’Flanagan

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review] Part One

Posted in Live with tags , , , , , , on 26th August 2011 by Hannah

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

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 [Live Review]

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , on 21st August 2011 by Nico Davidson

Bands: Wasp, Therion, Motorhead and more
Location: Catton Hall, Walton-Upon-Trent
Date: 12-14th August, 2011

It’s August again – and time for the Metal Militia to mobilise, monster-like, and materialise in the munificent meadows of Catton Hall, Derby for another magnificent Bloodstock Festival.

Bloodstock is a festival ‘by the fans, for the fans’ and the organisers genuinely cater for this by running active online forums and IRC chatrooms (in which they participate), taking into account the festival-goers’ suggestions each year to improve the event. Having attended four previous Bloodstocks (2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010), Bloodstock 2011 was, by 12 parsecs, the best Bloodstock I have attended.

Disclaimer – I attended this festival as a fan and a punter rather than as official press. I was not able to see every band due to conflicting stage times, hangovers and basic human needs such as food, water and ale.  Additionally, while this review does cover bands in the black / death / grindcore genres, due to my personal preferences in music, I saw many more power / melodic metal acts, so the review will tend toward these bands.

Overall organisation

Having queued in the past for – literally – hours to enter, I was pleasantly surprised at the efficiency and organisation of the door staff. Arriving approximately half an hour after the gates opened, we were through the entrance and pitching our tents within 15 minutes.

The layout of Bloodstock was well thought-out, with the camping areas clustered around the main arena and festively named ‘Valhalla’, ‘Asgard’, ‘Midgard’ and ‘Hel’. ‘Hel’ was the quiet camp and provided a positive environment for families and others who did not wish to be disturbed by revellers late into the night.  A small fairground was set far enough back that the noise from the rides did not disturb the enjoyment of bands on the Ronnie James Dio (main) stage and a market brimming with music stalls and alternative clothing and jewellery offered a variety of products that can be difficult to find out in the mundane real world.

The only negative aspect of the layout is that, for the past two festivals, the New Blood stage is at the side, beyond the Ronnie James Dio stage and near the Bloodstock Arms bar. In 2008, the stage was placed between the arena entrance and the main stage, which meant that many bands drew in a crowd due to simply overhearing something they were interested in listening to. Its current placement meant that crowd members had to make a conscious effort to go and check out unsigned talent and this meant that some acts which could have had bigger crowds simply didn’t.

Four stages offered a variety of acts, with the Jaegermeister stage and Ronnie James Dio stage alternating showtimes, which meant that, without moving from a vantage point just behind and to the right of the sound desk, patrons could enjoy eight hours of almost interrupted music – without even venturing to the Sophie Lancaster tent (second stage) or the New Blood stage (which housed unsigned acts).  In general, as well, acts on Sophie and New Blood stages were of a different genre to the Ronnie James Dio stage, which meant that there was always something of interest to watch, catering for the wide variety of tastes that rockers have cultivated.

Security at the arena entrance was tight as they searched bags / pockets for weapons and alcohol (got to protect the beer sales in the arena!). Showsec staff, mostly, were pleasant, friendly and joked with the crowd as they filtered through. The proximity of the campsite and the efficiency of the Showsec staff meant that it was easy to move quickly between the camping areas and the main arenas. The festival cloakroom also provided a secure place to store bags, phones, coats and purchases from the market stalls – my husband and I purchased a weekend ticket at £16 and found the service invaluable for keeping our goods protected while he went to play in the circle pits for…pretty much the entire weekend.

Toilets, while offensive to the olfactory sense, were generally clean and well-stocked, especially in comparison to Download, Sonisphere and previous years.  Showers were available in the Midgard camp for £3.00, though a ‘no time limit’ policy meant that queues were longer than the M1. (I did not partake. I don’t have to smell myself.)

Jaegermeister stage

The Jaegermeister stage provided an acoustic venue and offered the opportunity to see bands in a different light and in what felt like an intimate environment.

Alternative Carpark – Mark (vocals) started the gig with a good crowd rapport, offering good-natured abuse to festival-goers as they walked past the stage following Coroner’s set. His clear baritone voice and easy nature drew in an audience, who appreciated friendly banter and the band’s distinctive, eclectic style. The mixture of metal and blues with a funk-style slapping bass got the audience grooving and created a feel-good atmosphere.

Rannoch – Unfortunately, I was not able to see this band ‘plugged in’ but their acoustic set showed their strength as musicians, with interplay and harmonies between the guitars and bass. The vocals oscillated between an accomplished death metal growl and occasional, contrasting clean vocals. The band seemed at ease on stage and the addition of an Irish drum (and drummer) borrowed from Middle Age-inspired death metal band ‘Haerken’ added a folk element that gave the music a unique dimension.

Obsessive Compulsive – Energetic and driving, Obsessive Compulsive’s set comprised dark, anthemic tunes complimented by Kelli’s powerful, gravelly, alto vocals. A confident frontwoman, she genuinely appreciated the audience’s enthusiastic response and expressed her gratitude to the festival for their work with unsigned musicians. As the bass pulsated, driving riffs and intricate guitar work got the crowd’s heads banging

Guardians of Andromeda – This band is one of my favourite finds of the weekend. An easy nature and sense of humour go a long way in a cosy environment like the Jaegermeister stage – and frontman Mikael has both in spades, along with a tenor voice that is reminiscent of Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian fame. Confident guitar work and haunting melodies with a tribal undertone further sustain the fantasy-world feeling of being transported to realm of mystery, honour and valour.  Layers of vocals gave a more orchestral feeling to the acoustic set. Joined by Sarah, of Zocolo fame for the last songs, intertwining tenor and alto vocals wrote a story which was supported by inter-band interactions reminiscent of powerful, classic musical theatre duets. Guardians of Andromeda’s music is a gourmet recipe, drawing ingredients from the whole world of music, rather than simply metal and the final product is nothing short of extraordinary.

New Blood Stage

The New Blood stage showcased some of the best unsigned metal acts that the UK – and Europe – have to offer. Venues across the nation and in Norway hosted ‘Metal 2 the Masses’ heats and the winners of these competitions were handpicked by Bloodstock organisers and the founder, Simon Hall.

Entro-P – Jake’s dark, driving bass pushes Entro-P’s songs forward and several tempo changes into Meshuggah-like non-standard time signatures are ably managed by Sean, giving Entro-P’s music a sensation that takes them out of the realm of normal run-of-the-mill death metal bands. Expert tremolo picking by the guitarists, along with several complex articulations combined to create a bed of nails upon which the growling vocals can rest. All elements merged to create a gritty, doom-laden sound that is heavy as a two-tonne weight in a black hole.

Training Icarus – Vacillating between dark, heavy songs and lighter, happier tracks, Training Icarus showed a breadth and depth to their repertoire and musical talent. Frontwoman Leigh displayed a strong passion throughout the entire set. Enchanting mezzo/alto/belter vocals rested comfortably on top of Maidenesque guitars and metronone-like, driving drums. Infectious, anthemic choruses became brainworms that refused to leave. (I found myself humming ‘Nightmares’ days after the performance.)  Orchestral accompaniments provided atmosphere between the songs. The backing track also sat low enough in the mix to add a subconscious feeling of fullness while sampled harmonised vocals emphasised key phrases and gave Leigh the opportunity to provide soaring descant ad-libs over repeated choruses. In a day when metal bands often never find their way out of minor keys, the bouncy, quick-tempo, major-key tracks provided a welcome contrast that left a happy, lively feeling.

Brezno – ‘Innovative, exciting and stunning’ are the three best adjectives to describe this band. Hailing from Slovenia, the seven-piece band’s half hour set on the New Blood stage took the crowd by surprise and by storm. Keyboards, violins, wind instruments and four vocalists, ably led by Sara wove a tribal blanket of sound that was comfortably worn by everyone in the New Blood tent. A traditional Irish folk feeling haunts Brezno’s music and the lilting melodies call forth images of warriors fighting for honour, justice and truth.

Soulsphere – Despite their vocalist being unable to attend, atmospheric doom metallers Soulsphere pulled off an energetic performance with ably ad-libbed lyrics provided by stand-in Gary from the band Fallen Few. Brutal, heart-pounding riffs overdriven by a thumping bassline and jackhammer-like drums offered a suitably aggressive base for Gary’s throaty growls. Soulsphere’s brand of in-your-face metal is like a left hook to the jugular – swift, brutal and leaves you gasping for breath.

Sacred Illusion – If Iron Maiden ever decide to retire and create a reality TV programme where the younger generation audition to replace them, these guys are it. The frontman – Bruce – beyond being the namesake of one of the best voices in metal, shares with Dickinson a stunning tenor voice with an operatic tone found in the very best power metal bands. A driving rhythm section created a strong foundation, which face-melting lead work uses as a launch pad into the heavens with spiralling riffs and anthemic melodies. Tighter than many signed bands, if Sacred Illusion carry on delivering blistering performances as they did on Sunday, they will skyrocket to the top of the metal mountain in no time.

Twilight’s Embrace – Dark doom metal with some floating melodies over the top comprised Twilight’s Embrace’s set. Frontman Dee effortlessly switches between clean vocals and a powerful, death metal-inspired growl. Clean guitar behind chugging power chords creates an ethereal sensation and lonely distorted lead creates echoes of emptiness reminiscent of some Opeth tracks.

Sophie Lancaster Stage

A new addition last year, the Sophie stage this year was much more effectively used to showcase a range of bands, giving crowdgoers an alternative to the music on the Ronnie James Dio stage.

Evil Scarecrow – Parody black metal is a risky style of music. Black metal in itself is quite obscure and oftentimes black metal fans can be somewhat elitist about the genre, rejecting what could be seen as an attempt at poking fun. However, Evil Scarecrow have persevered through being ignored by metal record labels and have, grass roots style, cultivated a massive fan base who packed out the Sophie tent (capacity approximately 3,000) on Sunday. Post-gig Facebook updates have also hinted that the band members themselves handle all merchandise sales – they are the very definition of a DIY metal band. Tight as a watch spring, the five-headed, ten-legged monster appeared overwhelmed and humbled by the response of the crowd, including several crowd members who came decked out in full robot regalia for the band’s signature tune ‘Robototron’. Tracks with interweaving melodies such as ‘Blacken the Everything’ and challenging changes between time signatures such as ‘Vampyre Trousers’ affirmed that the best way to parody any sort of music is to be accomplished musicians who write good music – then add in satirical lyrics and a ‘bloody’ good stage show! Doctor Hell’s sung introduction to the most metal cover of all – ‘The Final Countdown’ –  in a clean, strong baritone voice also proved what black / death / thrash metal fans have known for years: to be a good growler, you must first be a good vocalist! True fans of metal, the band members could be seen throughout the festival not just on the Sunday but throughout the weekend – and despite the overwhelming response to their music they were still humble, down to earth and genuinely thankful to the crowd.

Powerquest – With soaring, screaming guitar riffs that flew fast as lighting from the fingers of Andy Midgley and Gav Owen, melodic and atmospheric keys from Steve Williams and some frenetically fast drumming from Rich Smith, melodic metallers Powerquest unleashed a tsunami of sound that reverberated throughout the Sophie tent. Elevated over the top of this frenzied orchestration were supreme vocals from Chitral Somapala that cut through the music like a hot knife through butter. Reminiscent of Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire) and ZP Theart (ex-Dragonforce), Chitral’s operatic tenor voice and passionate performance provided the icing on the cake (an extremely powerful cake) of a musically accomplished band.

Amaranthe – An unusual blend of three vocals – a male growler, a clean tenor and a mezzo / belter female – Amaranthe has a very unique sound. With thundering bass and melodic guitars providing a scaffolding for these three to climb to the stars, the mixture of vocals was novel. I was disappointed to say that the sound during this set was of less quality than previous performances (at one point the left speaker stack cut out completely) so at times it was difficult to differentiate between Elize (female vocals) and Jake’s (clean male) vocals. Animated interactions between the vocalists onstage made the band fun to watch as well as listen to – a strong performance from all involved.

Ronnie James Dio Stage

Named after the fallen legend, the RJD stage was the main stage in the arena, housing the very best of metal talent from all over the world.

Wolf – Classic metallers Wolf, hailing from Sweden, put in a solid performance that was full of fun and life. Niklas and Simon’s lead and backing vocals intertwined like ivy and the guitars and bass provided a thrumming support that was like a magnetic draw to headbang. The band draws clear influences from 70s and 80s metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest which could be heard in their galloping riffs and seen in their enthusiastic stage show.

Forbidden – Circle pits erupted almost instantly during Forbidden’s set as Matt Camacho’s gritty bass thundered. Craig Locicero and Steve Smyth provided sweeping, face-melting accompaniment on the guitars with brutal, in-your-face riffs. Forbidden is a band grounded firmly in American early 90s thrash –reminiscent of very early Metallica – and these guys have stuck to this overall feeling in their music. Russ Anderson’s vocals – almost a scream, almost a shout and almost sung – add to the aggressive and brutal tone, building a 45 minute wall of anger that swept over the cloud like a thunderstorm.

Triptykon – Arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Celtic Frost, Triptykon’s heavy, doom-laden sound slowed down the pace of the day and provided a welcome rest from the circle pits and frenzied pace from earlier. Tom Gabriel Warrior’s part whispered, part growled, part sung vocals created a sense of intimacy in an open field designed for 10,000 people – not an easy task! Slow, heavy guitars painted a backdrop of darkness for the anger-fuelled lyrics and created a sense of trepidation in the crowd. Solos drifted over the top like a murder of crows, hanging heavy in the air.

Coroner – With a slow, melodic, acoustic introduction, Coroner misled audience members unfamiliar with their work to believe that their set would be a laid back one – this was definitely not the case! Self described as ‘technical thrash metal’, Ron Broder (bass) and Tommy Vetterli (guitars) illustrated this expertly, alternately juxtaposing intricate melodies and layering complex, galloping riffs that ploughed forward like a steam train. Marky Edelmann’s drums drove the music forward while never drawing emphasis from the melody at hand. Ron’s vocals were strong, a gravelly tone – almost a scream – and they rested comfortably on top of the guitars.

Wasp – Enthusiastic crowd interactions from front man Blackie Lawless created a feeling of togetherness in the crowd. The band seemed genuinely pleased to play the festival and they involved the crowd by running competitions and even pulling a fan from the crowd to sing ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’. Catchy songs and natural showmanship left the audience calling for more. Their choice of a ballad encore was unusual but finished off the day quite nicely, in a peaceful and happy ambience.

Tarot – Marco Hietala, of Nightwish fame, fronts this classic style metal band that were widely requested on the Bloodstock forums. Marco’s voice is incredibly unique – a gravelly baritone that often spirals into a higher, distorted tenor. Contrasted with Tommi Salmela’s classic rock style falsetto, the two men’s voices criss-crossed into a tapestry of pure energy. Zachary Hietala’s melodic guitar and Janne Tolsa’s keys similarly supported each other, alternating lead that floated above Marco’s metronome-like bass. Despite tripping over Tommi and one point and falling down backward onto the stage, Marco’s playing was solid and his frontmanship is second to none with humorous stories between songs and enthusiastic interaction with the crowd. The members are all clearly at ease and comfortable with each other, laughing their way through the set and genuinely enjoying each other’s company onstage, interacting effortlessly and occasionally poking fun at each other in a light-hearted way. Tarot appeared to really enjoy playing Bloodstock and the overwhelming sensation of happiness swept over the crowd, who eagerly chanted for them to return.

Finntroll – Black folk metallers Finntroll are repeatedly one of the most requested bands on the Bloodstock forum. With two keyboardists and three guitarists (‘Trollhorn’ doubles), intricately intertwining melodies rolled forth at the speed of light, evoking images of Middle Earth or of days long gone by. Catchy melodies flowed easily over heavy guitars and several pits erupted at once when they played their signature tune ‘Trollhammaren’ with several crowd members dancing Irish jig-style. Windmilling instrumentalists added to the spectacle and Vreth’s growling vocals fit easily into the mix, loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to distract from the melodies cascading from the keys and guitars. While it would have been nice to see the band in full regalia (fake troll ears and all), they put in an exciting and energetic show.

Ihsahn – Black / progressive metal, Ihsahn (from Emperor stock) provided – at times – screaming, blistering riffs that exploded off the stage, with aggressive, growling vocals and melodic keyboards. The machine gun-like staccato of the drums carried the melody forward in these tracks. Contrasting, slower songs carried a sense of trepidation, supported by the rasping black metal inspired vocals.

Wintersun – Hotly anticipated by fans who feared that the band would pull out of the festival, as they have in the past, Finnish folk metallers Wintersun did not disappoint. Switching between lightning-fast, syncopated, tremolo-picked, euphoric riffs that burst from the stage and slower, sweeter melodies that evoked a sense of peace and sorrow, Wintersun truly showed their range as musicians. Enthusiastic frontmanship accompanied a tight set. Jari Mäenpää’s vocals provided a rougher contrast to the smoothness of the music; his clear enunciation meant that his lyrics could be easily understood. Solid double kick drumming from Kai Hahto added to the frenetic feeling of the faster songs, while providing articulation and accompaniment to the slower tunes. The melody lines are infectious and memorable, providing a testimonial to the fans that their pleas for Wintersun’s appearance have not been in vain.

Therion – If Wagner had Marshalls, he would have written this. Combining the very best elements from classic opera and heavy metal, Therion is the most innovative band I saw throughout the weekend. Each song told a story, ably pantomimed and staged by four talented vocalists. Samples added to the orchestral, operatic feeling of the music, in addition to a melodic flute solo. The set started off slowly with ballads, and the band’s new mezzo soprano vocalist (Linnéa Vikström – Thomas Vikström’s daughter) was introduced. Lori Lewis’ coloratura soprano easily soared over the top of the other three vocalists, providing descants that spiralled into the stratosphere in a clear, piercing tone that would make Sarah Brightman jealous. As the band moved to heavier songs, the instrumentalists struck traditional metal poses, headbanging and interacting with each other, which juxtaposed effectively with the vocalists’ theatrical performances. The pent-up energy of the crowd exploded. The best way to describe this performance would be as a Gothic rainbow of energy and sound – eclectic, powerful and amazing.

Rhapsody of Fire – Possibly the most technically accomplished guitarist in the metal scene (if not the world), Luca Turilli’s fingers of flame did not disappoint the thronging crowd. With such an accomplished musician in a band, it can happen that other musicians become overshadowed – however, this was distinctly not the case! Patrice Guers’ jackhammer-like bass seemed glued with industrial strength adhesive to Alex Holzwarth’s drums, over which the guitars could leapfrog. Fabio Lione’s vocals were strong and clear, like golden laser beam shooting over the crowd. Christopher Lee’s voice provided a suitably epic introduction. The inclusion of the Italian language ballad ‘Lamento Erocio’, while a strange choice, was a fantastic performance, delivered with sentiment and intensity that brought a tear to the eye. Finishing strong with the frenetic, harmonised ‘Emerald Sword’, Rhapsody of Fire’s performance lifted the mood in the audience to euphoric levels and left them begging for more.

Hammerfall – With a slightly odd set list that left out a number of old classics (‘Renegade’ for one), Hammerfall, nevertheless, gave an enthusiastic performance with a number of songs that got the audience singing along, including the Quiet Riot cover ‘Bang Your Head’. Joacim Cans’ voice was on top form and his easy nature with the audience created a lively, fun atmosphere of celebration. Changing between slower, heavier songs (‘Last Man Standing) and technical, intricate songs that sped faster than a speeding bullet, Hammerfall clearly demonstrated their range as musicians. As they ended with the anthemic ‘Let the Hammer Fall’, the 45 minute set seemed far too short.

Motorhead – A statement released after Bloodstock explained that the three-piece hard rock band had been suffering from a virus which explains why their performance was not up to the standard expected by their fans. Firebreathing girls added some spectacle and guitarist Phil Campbell did his best to take over frontman duties, offering an extended guitar solo. Drummer Mikkey Dee had to leave the stage at one point but returned to perform a phenomenal drum solo from his perch high above the stage. Disappointingly, the band finished 20 minutes early after a somewhat lacklustre performance – while this was explained in retrospect on the Bloodstock forums, it would have been preferable to have that explanation on the night because, after the quality of music heard all weekend, the disappointing act of the final headliner left the festival on a bit of a down note. If there had been an official explanation before or just after Motorhead’s performance, the crowd would have been grateful to the band for making the effort to come on and play, despite less than ideal circumstances, rather than disappointed and annoyed.

Overall, Bloodstock this year was the best Bloodstock I have attended in terms of organisation, variety of bands and atmosphere. Well done to the organisers and roll on BOA 2012!

Melissa Adams