Bloodstock Open Air 2007
Thursday 16 August 2007
Catton Hall, Derbyshire

Chris Slade obviously possesses an illustrious past, but the hype about his appearance at Bloodstock was bordering on the ridiculous. Having initially been promised a drum solo to open the festival (yikes!), the plan was expanded to a short set of AC/DC covers with Exploder. Slade spent five years behind AC/DC`s kit, appearing on just one studio album, The Razor`s Edge. Strange then to choose three songs that pre-dated his tenure, though aside from Thunderstruck I guess the pickings would be slim from that album.

Opening with Highway To Hell, Slade was joined on a second kit by his son Jack, who was also appearing at BOA with his own band Kobrakai. Unfortunately, Exploder frontman Dirty Von Donovan just didn`t have the range to pull of Bon Scott or Brian Johnson style vocals and was visibly checking out a lyric sheet during You Shook Me All Night Long. Obviously under rehearsed, there were nervous grins and band members looking at each other to work out the changes. I`m sure it was a lot of fun on stage, but not to watch. Oh, and yes we did still get a drum solo!

Chris Slade set list:
Highway To Hell / You Shook Me All Night Long / Drum Solo / Whole Lotta Rosie

Following Chris Slade, the stage announcer advised they`d be back in 1 hour with Sight Of Emptiness. Checking my schedule this didn`t seem right, but assumed things must be running behind and decided that gave me time to head across the campsite to pick up our new Rockers Digest flag. Of course the announcement was a load of bollocks and by the time I returned I`d very annoyingly managed to miss the Costa Ricans who I hear were very good.

Bad AC/DC covers and an inept announcer weren`t going to spoil my day and things were soon back on track with the arrival of Finland`s Kiuas. Opening with the title track of their 1995 debut, The Spirit Of Ukko, the band`s sound is a hard one to categorise. The mixture of speedy keyboard and guitar runs recalled Children Of Bodom musically at times, but with dread-head frontman Ilja Jalkanen delivering clean power metal vocals.

Jalkanen is flanked by a pair of bald-headed, bearded look-alikes in bassist Teemu Tuominen and guitarist Mikko Salovaara. The latter pulled off some amazing guitar work and Jalkanen was not wrong when he described him as "impossible to forget, but impossible to pronounce!" The band`s name puzzled a few too and we were led through a shout back of "Kee-Was" by Jalkanen, to ensure we get it right. A strong finish of Race With The Falcons and Warrior Soul ensured Kiuas went home with a lot of new friends.

Kiuas set list:
The Spirit of Ukko / Of Ancient Wounds / The New Chapter / Across The Snows / Bleeding Strings / On Winds Of Death We Ride / Race With The Falcons / Warrior Soul

It seems a long time since I`d last seen Head-On and I was delighted that they`d been awarded a mainstage slot at this years BOA. Effon bashed out the XXL intro, as Mark Logan strolled onto the stage with his huge mallet over his shoulder and the band crunched into Break Down The Walls. Oz`s big guitar groove ensured that heads were banging and the favourites from the band`s album made their presence felt. Knowing these tunes inside out meant it was a pleasure to have some new blood injected into the set. Logan explained that Meat Wagon was "about meat, …erm, on a wagon", but less succinct was Stronger which were told to "stick this one up your vagina" - nice! Both possess the qualities to be Head-On faves.

There`s japes during The Stomp when Oz peeled off his solo, with Logan behind him holding up a sign reading, "Wow!", followed by another less complimentary sign of "C**t!" As ever an electrical item felt the full force of Logan`s hammer during Here Comes The Hammer, following which he triumphantly held up a wrestling belt and certainly Head-On were deserved champions today.

Head-On set list:
XXL / Break Down The Walls / Wrecking Ball / Sunrise / Meat Wagon / Stronger / The Stomp / Here Comes The Hammer

It`s not unusual (unintentional Chris Slade reference) for Firewind to switch singers, but today`s replacement of Apollo Papathansio is temporary due to problems at home in Greece. By the end of the band`s set, nobody could surely have been disappointed by stand-in Henning Basse of Metalium and in fact many may have been wishing for a full time change given the strength of the German`s performance. Basse appeared to know the songs inside out and looked nothing like substitute.

Firewind has always been Gus G`s baby, but even considering the vocalist switch, Firewind came over a very solid unit. The interplay between Gus G and Bob Katsionis was particularly impressive as was Katsionis ability to play guitar and keyboard solos simultaneously. Confined to fifty minutes, Firewind did well in cherry picking their finer moments from their back catalogue and deservedly received a strong response from the Bloodstock crowd.

Firewind set list:
Allegiance / Insanity / I Am The Anger / Destination Forever / Ready To Strike / The Fire & The Fury / Till The End Of Time / Falling To Pieces / Tyranny

The seemingly endless wait for Testament to appear was quickly forgotten when Chuck Billy roared "The Preacher". By Sins Of Omission it appeared that Testament were going to recreate their Live in London DVD setlist, when we were suddenly brought forward to the post Alex Skolnick years, with a crushing Low and two from the classic Gathering album. It`s a real plus that the band, and I suspect mainly Skolnick, have decided to start including material from these albums. In fact it`s only the more aggressive Demonic album that does not have a representative tonight.

Before Greg Christian leads us into Souls Of Black, Billy tries to put him on the spot by passing him the mic. Apparently this is a usual prank but Christian turns the tables by deciding to have a chat with the audience. Visually the band appeared like the shadowy figures on the cover of that album, due to the lighting being behind the band and the dry ice machine appearing to be stuck in the on position. Some lighting in front of the bands or spots from the sound tower would be a good addition next year. However, this could not detract from what was an excellent show.

Testament set list:
The Preacher / The New Order / The Haunting / Electric Crown / Sins Of Omission / Low / DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) / Three Days In Darkness / Practice What You Preach / Souls Of Black / The Legacy / Into The Pit / Over The Wall / Eerie Inhabitants / Alone In The Dark / Disciples Of The Watch

Thoroughly enjoying the Testament set I forced myself to leave for the second stage during the encore in order to catch the video shoot for the new Clan Destined video in the second stage tent. Martin Walkyier had gathered a new clan, including guitarist Simon Jones of Sabbat, bassist Tristessa of Astarte and his own son on second guitar. Running through A Beautiful Start To The End Of The World twice to a backing track, the footage will be used in a concept video including Nazi`s in Lincoln. Sounds intriguing!

Sight Of Emptiness
Chris Slade
The Clan Destined