Bloodstock Open Air 2006

15 July 2006

Catton Hall, Walton Upon Trent

It`s good to be proved wrong and that`s what Nineteenth Century did first thing on Saturday. I`d not liked the samples on their myspace site at all (side note: This is not the first time myspace low quality samples have been misleading as to how good a band is), however live, Nineteenth Century provided a truly rocking start to the day.

Bouncing along on the Zepplin-esque riffing of guitarist Paul, who surely must have sustained whiplash from his exuberant stage moves, the band woke up a bleary eyed crowd with a fine dose of classic rock`n`roll.

Nineteenth Century set list:

New Vibration / Shake / Star / From Hell To L.A. / Studio 54 / Ocean Of Kings / Rock ‘n` Roll`s Alive

Next up "all the way from Brazil" were Ashtar, once again a band I`d not heard of before and similarly with misleading samples on their site. Expecting a more folky/acoustic outfit, distorted guitar was welcome but blastbeats came as something of a surprise.

Led by the delectable Fernanda Gollo, watching Ashtar was a pleasant way to spend 45 minutes whilst sat out in the sun with friends enjoying a beer. However, there was nothing that truly stood out about the band`s tunes and it wasn`t long before my attention had wavered and finding Ashtar as background music.

By contrast Seasons End were of much greater interest. Their emotional music is much more suited to the darkness of the indoor environment and, lacking lights, they didn`t match the fantastic performance of last year`s indoor show, but it was still a quality performance.

Becki Clark`s choice of a white top for the occasion was wise in making her stand out with no spotlight to do that job. Both her vocals and presence were strong and, as is often the case in female fronted outfits, she formed the focal point of the band, with the rest of the guys occasionally joining in with a bit of synchronized headbanging. With lengthy numbers only five were squeezed into the set, with a couple of newer numbers hinting of good things to come.

Seasons End set list:

Angel Garden / Nothing After All / Celestia / Forevermore / Ghost In My Emotion

Are they? Aren`t they? Nobody seemed sure whether Gorilla Monsoon would be making an appearance today but the appearance of their merchandise answered the question in the manner I had hoped. The band`s latest album Declaration of Damnation is a primal slab of downtuned riffage falling somewhere between Crowbar and Kyuss.

Sticking out as something truly different over the weekend, the Monsoon plugged in and kicked back with chunky grooves topped off with Jack Sabbath`s gravely vocal. Certainly one to light up to, if you are that way inclined, and in my case it was time to crack open another can and soak up the rumbling sounds. Great stuff.

Gorilla Monsoon set list included:

Night Of The Wolverine / Death Revolution

Taking another quote from the same person I quoted yesterday, "We need a bit of grrrr". Well we got that when Callenish Circle hit the stage. If you didn`t know they were from Holland you`d probably take a wild guess that this mob were from Sweden. The band mix melodic Swedish death metal, a la At The Gates, with thrash and, on their more recent material, a dollop of electronics.

Having caught the band last at the Exodus Bonded By Metal show in London three years ago, I`d been impressed enough to pick up their last couple of albums and they didn`t disappoint today. The bulk of today`s set was lifted from latest album [Pitch.Black.Effects] with the catchy Sweet Cyanide and gothic Schwarzes Licht standing out. Equally standing out was vocalist Patrick Savelkoul, following Becki Clark`s move of dressing in white. Savelkoul still reminds me of The Offspring`s Dexter Holland to look at but is rasping vocals are a world away. Aside from the occasionally over loud backing samples, Callenish Circle benefit from an excellent sound and leave quite a few stiff necks.

Callenish Circle set list:

The Day You Regret / Obey Me / Ignorant / Witness Your Oblivion / Schwarzes Light / Sweet Cyanide / Forsaken / Soul messiah / Behind Lines

Having had the crowd warmed up Ensiferum took them by the horns and kept the pace up with Hero In A Dream. The guitar baring trio of Petri Lindroos, Markus Toivonen and Sami Hinkka, in leather trousers with bare chests and with the whole band wearing black stripes across their cheeks.

Ensiferum have dubbed their sound as heroic folk death metal, which pretty neatly sums up Little Dreamer with its twisting melodic guitar lines cast across double bass drumming and the rasping vocals of Lindroos. With no full length album yet released since former frontman Jari Mäenpää left to concentrate on Wintersun, there remains a question mark over whether the band can match their previous output. Dragonheads and Warrior`s Quest from their latest EP however, sit well in the set.

All in all a strong set, if at times a bit samey.

Ensiferum set list:

Intro / Hero In A Dream / Tale Of Revenge / Dragonheads / Little Dreamer / Windrider / Warrior's Quest / Iron / Token Of Time / Battle Song

Having seen a video of their Wacken set, I had a suspicion Bal-Sagoth could fall flat on their face sandwiched between Ensiferum & Turisas and that`s exactly what happened. The band amble on looking like they`d rather be in front of their PC`s playing computer role playing games, apart from vocalist Byron Roberts who`s due a swift visit from the fashion police. Reversed baseball caps and gaudy spider t-shirts don`t portray the fantasy image the band spend so much time weaving on their albums. It`s as if playing live is a disturbance to Bal-Sagoth and frankly with performances like this they`d be best off knocking on the head and remaining in the studio.

Lack of gigs means lack of practice and it took a while to recognise songs that hadn`t been announced by Roberts, who himself spent each song pacing back and forth like a caged tiger. Roberts promised lots more UK gigs in the future, I doubt I`ll bother.

Bal-Sagoth set list:

The Sixth Adulation Of His Chthonic Majesty / Invocations Beyond The Outer World Night / A Tale From The Deep Woods / The Empyreal Lexicon / Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule / Atlantis Ascendant / The Obsidian Crown Unbound / The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords... Pt. II

Time for Turisas to steal the show then. Given the strength of their two London performances, short of the soundman letting them down, this was a foregone conclusion and the band delivered. Actually surveying the crowd during the first couple of songs, there was a lot of wide eyes staring at the band confronting them. Draped with animal fur and caked in war paint, they resembled warriors poised to charge as they lined the front of the stage.

Following a rousing Messenger it's time for a sauna. Yes you read that right and the photos evidence this. The concept of sauna was explained to us in hysterical fashion, before one takes place on stage complete with band members wrapped in towels with birch in hand. Certainly one of the most surreal and comical moments at a gig I've witnessed.

From here on in Turisas have us in the palm of their hands. Boney M's Rasputin causes mayhem and One More has drinks raised high in honour of guitarist Georg Laakso who had just officially left the band due to injuries sustained in a car accident. Battle Metal led the charge to the finish with a bonkers medley including the Theme From The Eurovision Song Contest, The Lambada, William Tell Overture and the Theme From Dallas closing the show.

Turisas set list:

Victoriae and Triumphi Dominus / As Torches Rise / The Land of Hope and Glory / The Messenger / Sahti Waari / Rasputin / Violin solo / Rex Regi Rebellis / One More / Battle Metal / Medley (including Eurovision Theme Song / Lambada / William Tell Overture / Dallas Theme Tune)

So it`s left to Stratovarius to close Bloodstock Open Air 2006 and whilst they didn`t match the highs of Turisas, their slick performance was a classy finish to the weekend. At times that slickness did seem to indicate a band running on auto pilot. Timo Kotipelto ran through his standard book of spread legs, wide arms, hand clapping, but when Timo Tolkki sets off across the stage, almost pulling out his guitar lead, you can tell he`s enjoying himself.

The opening salvo of Hunting High And Low, Speed Of Light and Fight set a great pace, but when the band themselves can`t remember which album Abyss Of Your Eyes featured on you have to wonder whether this environment is better suited to the "hits" than going a bit obscure. Phoenix, however, gets things back on track and The Kiss Of Judas was majestic.

Again, it depends how much of a fan of the band you are but it was time to grab a beer during Visions and Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace. Fast forward to the climax however and A Million Light Years Away and Black Diamond hit the spot. At times great, at others frustrating, Stratovarius` set overall gets the thumbs up, as does BOA 2006 and here`s looking forward to 2007.

Stratovarius set list:

Hunting High And Low / Speed Of Light / Fight / Abyss Of Your Eyes / Pheonix / Paradise / The Kiss Of Judas / Visions / Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace / Eagleheart / Forever / A Million Light Years Away / Black Diamond

Following Stratovarius, things got suitably drunken in the Karaoke. It all started with one photo, but we decided my mate Stoy looked like a serial killer stalking his next victim. Check out the many 'marked' people at the following link, it could be you next! You're Next!







Callenish Circle

Gorilla Monsoon

Seasons End


Nineteenth Century