Bloodstock Open Air – Thursday & Friday
14 & 15 August 2008
Catton Hall, Derbyshire
Our fourth annual journey to Catton Hall for Bloodstock Open Air, revealed a much changed and expanded site from previous years and it was immediately apparent from the huge queue at the entrance that the attendance was going to be significantly larger than previous years.
With an early start on the first day proper, like many others we chose to arrive the day before and to entertain the many early birds, three bands had been drafted in to play the third stage, known as the Lava Stage. Situated in a long tent, as was the second “Scuzz” stage, the Lava stage also hosted a Guitar Hero III competition over the weekend and late night DJ’s and metal Karaoke
Whilst pitching tents and ferrying items from the car we heard the sounds of the very convincing Mr Bungle covers band Bungle Junior emanating from the Lava Stage. By the time we were all set up and had met with friends, Conquest Of Steel were wrapping up their set to a sea of raised horns.
Truth told, tonight was all about partying. We’d arrived with hangovers from celebrating Johan’s Birthday the previous night, but tonight was time to celebrate our good friend Rich’s 40th Birthday. Much partying ensued to the backdrop of a marvellous set by Marshall Law, who once again whetted the appetite for their forthcoming Razorhead album.
Friday dawned with the sun actually shining down as the festival kicked off proper with Saint Deamon on the main stage. Opening with the first four tracks of their only album to date In Shadows Lost From The Brave, the Swedes had the crowd clapping along by the anthemic My Heart. With the assembled metalhead’s obviously keen for the festival to start Saint Deamon had the benefit of playing to a large gathering and the smiles on stage showed they were enjoying themselves.
The band have a very European sound, which often reminded me of Masterplan due to Jan-Thore Grefstad strong soulful voice, which steered Saint Daemon clear of the usual high pitch vocal histrionics associated with power metal. Whilst hardly blowing those gathered away, Saint Deamon provided an excellent opening to Bloodstock 2008.
Saint Deamon set list:
My Judas / In Shadows Lost From The Brave / My Heart / The Burden / Deamons / Ride Forever / The Brave Never Bleeds
The crowd swelled further in anticipation of Huddersfield thrashers Evile and the number of Yorkshire flags flying showed they were among friends today. Sure enough, as Thrasher kicked off the set, a circle pit instantly opened up. Evile looked highly confident as they continued with Bathe In Blood. Matt Drake told us this was the most people the band had played to and it was “f**king scary”, but they hardly showed it. As Matt held centre ground singing, his brother Ol and bassist Mike Alexander constantly switched sides headbanging and picking people out in the crowd.
Matt Drake’s t-shirt emblazoned with the word “VAGINA” is clear for all to see but he wanted to make sure we’d all read it, comically getting us to shout the word out. It’s serious business next though as the monstrous We Who Are About To Die stomps forward before Evile wrapped things up in style with Enter The Grave.
Evile set list:
Thrasher / Bathe In Blood / Man Against Machine / We Who Are About To Die / Enter The Grave
Praying Mantis were due next on the main stage but I took this opportunity to get some food and acquaint myself with the new site layout. In general the organisation and layout was much improved on previous years and it was clear that in many areas fan comments had been taken on board. Obviously with the festival growing it remains a learning experience and it will be good to see Bloodstock continuing to “fine-tune” its organisation and arrangements each year.
Back to the music and it was the bare chests of Tyr that greeted us next on the main stage. I’d caught the tale end of the band’s set at Paganfest and hadn’t been that impressed, however they were much more entertaining today. I do still feel there’s an element of one trick pony to their sound which has changed little over the course of their four albums to date, however there really is nobody else that sounds like them.
Switching to English for Hail To The Hammer finally got the crowd singing along, but whilst Tyr’s own voices worked well together, when it was left to just Jeri Joensen to sing alone, his vocal was a bit lost in a sound that was not that great. Terji Skibenæs guitar then started malfunctioning during Wings Of Time and things look on a downward slope. However the Faroe Islanders pulled things back with closers Lokka Táttur and Ramund Hin Unge with Joensen’s vodka toast of “Skål” deservedly returned by the crowd.
Tyr set list included:
Sinklars Visa / Regin Smidur / Gátu Ríma / Hail To the Hammer / Wings of Time / Lokka Táttur / Ramund Hin Unge
Akercocke‘s aggressive death metal seemed to be having no impact whatsoever on a quiet looking crowd and indeed it was difficult to pick anything out from the wall of noise. It was therefore off to the second stage to check out Son Of Science. The band was formed by bassist Adrian Lambert, formerly of Dragonforce, who has assembled a group of very talented musicians. On initial impressions, Lee Muria looks an unlikely frontman, that is until he starts to sing. With complete control Muria head’s up to pitch levels so high they recalled former Agent Steel frontman John Cyriis.
Musically the band plough the progressive metal territory, whilst not losing focus on the song. That is until instrumental EMP arrives which sees the band dispense with Muria for an opportunity to show off and indeed greatly impress. Jonno Lodge of Biomechanical had been in the band for one week, not that you would know it with some jaw dropping drumming. Praise should also be given to Lee Cassidy on guitar and Phil Wickens on keyboards who were more reserved in their stage presence but not in their playing. Lambert looked rightly pleased with the band’s response and rightly so.
Son Of Science setlist:
Sound Of Me / Broken Circle / EMP / Forever In A Day / Jericho
Destruction seemed to have mentioned their wish to play Bloodstock every time they’ve toured the UK since the festivals inception. Hence it was great to see them finally grace the main stage at BOA. It wasn’t great however that Mike Sifringer’s guitar amp hadn’t been mic’d up and was inaudible for much of Curse The Gods. Getting little response from the road crew, an annoyed looking Schmier took matters in his own hands and positioned the microphone against the speaker stack himself mid-song.
Things did quickly improve and after a storming Mad Butcher the crowd were chanting the band’s name. A few other three piece bands could take tips from Destruction in terms of presence. As usual, Schmier had three microphone stands set up so that he could roam the stage along with the wiry Sifringer whose face was constantly hidden under his mop of bobbing hair. Prior to the closing Bestial Invasion, Schmier took note of the many flags flying in the crowd and questioned was this the new Wacken of the UK? Destruction are back in the country later this year when Schmier will be able to reflect on a successful Bloodstock appearance.
Destruction set list:
Curse The Gods / Nailed To The Cross / Mad Butcher / Eternal Ban / Thrash Til Death / Soul Collector / Total Desaster / Bestial Invasion / The Butcher Strikes Back
There was now chance to quickly check out Anger Management on the second stage. This was brutal to the point of painful to the senses. The band has been put together by ex-Murder One / Medula Nocte powerhouse drummer Jammer, hence its no surprise subtleties are unlikely. With the guitar of former Fourwaykill and current Blaze guitarist Jay Walsh teaming up with Dave Garnett’s for primal riffery, Anger Management take a very lean approach to battering the crowd, topped off with the ear splitting shouts of frontman Matt Cox. Quite frankly after the three songs I managed to catch I felt like someone had put a tin bucket on my head and battered it with a hammer! Top stuff!
Anger Management setlist:
For Your Anger / The Consumption / Eyes Of The Lifeless / Fear & Loathing / Strength & Honour / Ignorance Is Bliss
Back to the more traditional and whilst I’ve been uninspired by Primal Fear of late, today their 40 minute set came just at the right time and was delivered with professional style. Primal Fear have been rightly compared to one particular band throughout their career and on today’s performance versus the two times I’ve seen Judas Priest this year, it’s with no qualms I can say that Primal Fear in 2008 are by far the better live band.
The pumped up Ralf Scheepers paced the stage in commanding fashion, not backing out of any of the high pitch sections, as the band cherry picked their way through their back catalogue. It’s the most Priest like debut album that was visited most with the crowd lapping up Running In The Dust and Chainbreaker. The majestic Fighting The Darkness added a change of pace, but it was of course closer Metal Is Forever that warranted the biggest sing along.
Primal Fear set list:
Sign of Fear / Battalions of Hate / Running in the Dust / Nuclear Fire / Chainbreaker / Fighting the Darkness / Final Embrace / Metal is Forever
Amusingly, on announcing he was from Kerrang Radio, the stage announcer received a chorus of boos from the Bloodstock crowd. He then went on to reference nearly the whole Sepultura back catalogue without mention of a Soulfly album before Max Cavalera led his band out. A lot of people, myself included, do prefer to over look the nu-metal sounding early work of Soulfly, however, the band’s last three albums have become increasingly thrashy and it was an all out crunch attack as Blood Fire War Hate lead off.
From here on in, Soulfly commenced a blistering turnover of songs which was difficult to keep track off and indeed it took at least four songs before the band ground to a halt. If the crowd thought it was time for a rest, Cavalera’s announcement that the next song was called Beneath The Remains suggested otherwise. Soulfly were tearing things up as the bouncing Prophecy followed with Cavalera’s dread’s flying and Marc Rizzo’s guitar squealing in Tom Morello like fashion. Whilst Cavalera may only utilise four strings, Rizzo makes full use of all six and his lead work was excellent. Cavalera’s admission that Soulfly had never had a wall of death was instantly rectified during Babylon, before Eye For An Eye wrapped things up, closing with the outro of Creeping Death.
Soulfly set list included:
Blood Fire War Hate / Frontlines / The Song Remains Insane / Porrada / Beneath The Remains / Prophecy / Bring It / Refuse Resist / Fire / Warmageddon / Back To The Primitive / Babylon / Eye For An Eye
A quick trip back for some warmer clothing for the evening gave me chance to very quickly check in on OutCryFire on the Lava Stage. With a good sound the band’s mixture of metalcore and thrash was once again impressive. My encounter was timed with a guest appearance from guitarist Brother Pain of Evil Scarecrow. Dressed in his monk robes with no guitar in hand, his cameo consisted of a strange dance before carrying one of OutCryFire’s guitarists round piggy-back.
OutCryFire setlist included:
The Charge / Slaves
Since the inception of the first indoor Bloodstock, Helloween had surely been destined to grace one of its stages. I had my concerns about this set though, as I have found that the German’s often switch on auto pilot when doing the festival circuit. As it turned out, having seen the band on the Hellish Rock Tour, the setlist proved to be as predictable as expected. The opening section of the set was quality and crowd pleasing with four out of five song’s Keeper 1 or 2 classics.
However, after enjoying the crowd trying to match Deris’ vocals during A Tale That Wasn’t Right, Daniel Loeble’s drum solo signalled a slide. If I Could Fly is far from the strongest Deris era track and was met with disinterest and whilst the comedic Dr Stein pulled things back a little, the dreaded and expected medley was next. Any single song contained would have been fine, but to play snippets was just unsatisfying. Future World and I Want Out dragged things back before Helloween departed. What was telling was that seven of the nine full songs played were taken from the two classic Keeper albums. Whilst these are rightly revered, it was a shame some of the more up-tempo crowd pleasing songs from Deris time fronting the band were not aired rather than the interchangeably dull As Long As I Fall and If I Could Fly.
Helloween set list:
Halloween / March of Time / As Long As I Fall / Eagle Fly Free / A Tale That Wasn’t Right / Drum Solo / If I Could Fly / Dr Stein / Medley (I Can / Where the Rain Grows / Perfect Gentleman / Power / Keeper of the Seven Keys) / Future World / I Want Out
A number of people had questioned Opeth‘s credentials as festival headliners. True, it’s hardly sing along stuff but Opeth’s musicianship and ability to shift through moods proved the perfect finish to the first full day. This being an outdoor show, it was to be expected that the sound would not be on a par with one of Opeth’s own headline shows. On the whole it did however fair well, with the exception of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s vocal which remained too quiet for the bulk of the set.
Åkerfeldt was his usual deadpan self, with a bunch of choice one liners. Before Baying Of The Hounds he informing us Sweden had produced many things, “Volvo, Malmsteen, Opeth and sex. Yes we invented the sex!”. He confides last time he was at a festival he got lucky, “…with my wife”, before introducing Serenity Painted Death as a song he hated. Oh, and Heir Apparent is apparently “About nipples and licking them until they are erect.”
Aside from the hilarity there was a lot of good music with the large stage’s lighting rig creating a perfect backdrop. Although the band’s Watershed album has been out a while, this remained the summer festival set containing just one new song. This did however whet the appetite for the band’s return in November, though whoever scheduled the London show the same night as Soilwork and Zimmer’s Hole needs shooting!
Opeth set list:
Demon of the Fall / The Baying of the Hounds / Master’s Apprentice / Serenity Painted Death / To Rid the Disease / Wreath / Heir Apparent / The Drapery Falls
Bloodstock Open Air
Son Of Science
Conquest Of Steel