Bloodstock Open Air - Saturday
16 August 2008
Catton Hall, Derbyshire

Saturday’s 10am start was the earliest start of the festival, but due to the stage front barrier needing repairs, the crowd were kept waiting outside the arena past opening time. During this time, poor Nine Days Down had been forced to commence their set on the Scuzz Stage, playing to half a dozen people. Deservedly, they were given a slot on the Lava Stage later in the day to make up for this.

Evil Scarecrow were the overall winner of the Bloodstock website Unsigned competition and their prize was an opening slot on the main stage. Unfortunately, the delay meant there was only time for three songs, but the comedic nature of the band’s performance completely dispelled any grumpiness in the crowd from the hold-up.

There were curious looks from the bulk of the crowd as the band, looking like Cradle Of Filth fashioned in a charity shop, took to the stage. Hell Dog kicked things off, but it was Vampyre Trousers that saw the penny drop with those watching. Aside from the song’s name, Dr Rabid Hell’s four note solo, complete with drummer Frenzy G Spinesnap holding numbers up for each note, and the hilarious revealing that when “the forest whispers my name” it’s Brian, raised smiles all round. A little more attention could have been paid to getting the crowd to robot dance to Robototron, but overall Evil Scarecrow saw off any hangovers and brought back the party mood.

Evil Scarecrow set list:
Hell Dog / Vampyre Trousers / Robototron

Amazingly Cloudscape have only played three gigs since appearing at ProgPower UK 2007. At that show they were blighted with bad sound and it looked like a repeat today with Mike Andersson’s vocal missing through the opening verse of Mind Diary. When the vocal came in, so did a series of ear splitting crackles. The slower pace of And Then The Rain seemed to allow the soundman chance to tinker and things improved, however it was Cloudscape themselves that now failed to ignite.

Full marks to Andersson and bassist Haynes Pherson who were performing, but the band’s guitarists looked distant which hardly gave the audience much to feed on. Song choices too seemed obscure, up until penultimate song Breach In My Sanity which massively lifted a set that finished on a high with Under Fire. I do like Cloudscape, but whilst some of their difficulties could be put down to the sound, their lack of live experience appeared telling.

Cloudscape set list:
Mind Diary / And Then There Was Rain / We Will Remain / Darkest Legacy / Breach My Sanity / Under Fire

If one main stage band’s inclusion received more derision on the Bloodstock Forum’s than any other it was Rise To Remain. Aside from the obvious metalcore haters, the key reason cited was there seemed to be the connection between and unsigned band getting this higher slot and they’re singer being the son of Bruce Dickinson. The band, who have not shouted loudly about their Iron Maiden connection, defended their corner with honour and asked to be judged on performance and on that score they were a success.

Austin Dickinson sounds nothing like his Dad, opting for the shouting style, but he does seem to have inherited his enthusiasm and was hardly still for a second. Lead guitarist Ben Tovey applied melody to an aggressive set which by Fracture had inspired a small circle pit. With no familiar songs yet, it was probably a bit earlier for Rise To Remain to be playing third up on this bill but they certainly did not disgrace themselves.

Rise To Remain set list:
Illusive Existence / Becoming One / Tempest / Fracture / Salvation

The crowd grew significantly in anticipation of Eluveitie who had stolen the show at the Paganfest earlier in the year. At that show the focal point had been multi instru“mentalist” Sevan Kirder. However, with him and his bass playing brother Rafi departing the band, it was encouraging to see that not only do Eluveitie remain an exciting live proposition but in fact they appear more balanced. Päde Kistler slots neatly into the band on whistles and bagpipes without stealing frontman Chrigel Glanzmann’s thunder. As a whole the band appeared to love their forty minutes on stage with an obvious strong bond between the girls, Meri Tadic and Anna Murphy, who joked about together and encouraged each other into headbanging.

The Swiss band’s interesting mixture of the Swedish Melodic Death sound with folk was perfect festival fodder. The Somber Lay opened furiously before Meri Tadic’s fiddle led the way into a stomping riff that got head’s banging. Your Gaulish War remains one of Eluveitie’s strongest compositions, perhaps their signature song, and as Glanzmann’s mandola took the melody the girls commenced dancing which was replicated down the front. Before the closing Tergernako, Glanzmann teaches the crowd a Celtic sentence which translated to “Pretty girl, bring me a beer” and as Eluveitie take their bow, fans are heading off to the bar to try it out.

Eluveitie set list:
Inis Mona / ? / Bloodstained Ground / Of Fire Wind & Wisdom / The Somber Lay / Your Gaulish War / Tergernako

Swallow The Sun‘s melodic doom was never to incite a party atmosphere and as the pasty white Finns shuffled out to an intro tape of the Twin Peaks theme we’d just seen as much stage movement as we would throughout the set. This came as no surprise and whilst a song entitled No Light, No Hope perfect encapsulates the sorrowful nature of the Finns music, so does Out Of This Gloomy Light, as the mournful music creates a conversely uplifting feeling.

Clinging to his microphone stand, singer Mikko Kotamäki peered out from under his black military cap switching between guttural roars and clean despair filled vocals. A new song Plague Of Butterflies from the band’s forthcoming album of the same name, indicated it will be (funeral) business as usual for Swallow The Sun going forward. Overall the band presented a good set, but the dark confines of a venue would suit them better.

Swallow The Sun set list included:
Descending Waters / No Light No Hope / Out Of This Gloomy Light / Don’t Fall Asleep (Horror Part 2) / Plague Of Butterflies

Over on the second stage things are much more rocking with the Blood Island Raiders. Guitarist, The Reverend, was sporting his Danzig shirt in case anybody didn’t pick up on the influence. Singer Warren croons in a similar fashion to the former Misfits frontman with the Rev’s guitar squeals recalling John Christ’s work on those early Danzig classics. That’s not to pin Blood Island Raiders as a clone copy as there’s an added stoner doom grove to the band’s songs.

Warren appeared to be going for the Brokeback Mountain look in his straw cowboy hat, which he dispensed with prior to Rust with a cry of “Enough of the festival hat”. Hats needed to be shed for the following The Iron Furnace which inspired a mass of headbanging down the front. The London based band’s set steadily got more and more enthralling, drawing in ever more curious passer by and peaking with the excellent I Am The King. The unanimous opinion was that the Blood Island Raiders had more than delivered the goods.

Blood Island Raiders set list:
Shape Of The Locust / Blade Of Vengeance / Rust / The Iron Furnace / The Brutal Cry Of War / I Am The King

Communic impressed massively at Prog Power UK 2007, seemingly taking the crowd by surprise. Today, perhaps with the band’s fans coming from that high point, a lacklustre performance surprised for the opposite reason. There’s no denying the band sounded tight and that Oddleif Stensland’s continues to amaze, playing complicated guitar lines whilst belting out vocals on a par with Nevermore’s Warrel Dane. It’s just turning up with no merchandise, no backdrop and allocating four out of your five songs from your set to an only just released album doesn’t lend to pleasing the crowd.

Of course, Communic have every right to please themselves and their long complicated songs obviously do. With not enough guitar in the mix, their edge was blunted further and one of my most anticipated sets of the day turned into a disappointment. Hopefully the Norwegians will come back for their own headline show and put this right.

Communic set list:
On Ancient Ground / Payment of Existence / Waves Of Visual Decay / Unpredictables Of Life / Ravens Cry

If one band today certainly pulled off doing things their own way it was Moonsorrow. Their huge backdrop of a Viking ship and scenery coupled with the band’s blood soaked faces provided the perfect backdrop to Moonsorrow’s, bordering on black, pagan metal sound. This set was Epic with a capital E, bookending the whole thing with parts of the thirty minute Tulimyrsky from their latest EP. In between there was little respite as the band weld elements of their back catalogue into a singular organic whole, which evoked the spirit of Hammerheart era Bathory.

With a commanding stage presence, Moonsorrow looked in complete control as they moved through what felt like a lot less than forty minutes on stage. This was a breathless set to simply soak up and demanded your attention.

Moonsorrow set list included:
Tulimyrsky / Ukkosenjumalan / Pakanajuhla / Unohduksen Lapsi / Kylan Passa / Tulimyrsky

I’ve encountered Napalm Death a lot recently and I’m still not tiring. In fact after this performance I’m relishing the chance to see them at the Damnation Festival in November, hopefully with some new material from the album they are currently recording. Like a dose of salts, Napalm Death rip through your senses leaving you with a satisfying grin. The level of extremity they speed up to is often lost in the outdoor environment, but the power is in their ability to remain in control of what appears to be a runaway train and juxtapose that speed with killer mid pace riffs.

Napalm Death’s first couple of albums set a ragged blueprint for a whole genre, but having moved on to dabble and not excel in regular death metal, the band’s last three albums in particularly have taken that early sound and refined it perfectly. Mid set when Napalm hit a run of Silence Is Deafening, Fatalist, Continuing War On Stupidity and When All Is Said And Done they are at their peak. Of course the brief songs from Scum are piled up towards the end of the set, but Napalm Death celebrate rather than rely on their past.

Napalm Death set list:
Weltschmerz (Intro) / Sink Fast, Let Go / Instinct Of Survival / Unchallenged Hate / Suffer The Children / Silence Is Deafening / Fatalist / Continuing War On Stupidity / When All Is Said And Done / It’s a M.A.N.s World! / From Enslavement To Obliteration / Scum / You Suffer / Life? / The Kill / Deceiver / Dead / Nazi Punks Fuck Off / Siege Of Power

With the crowd warmed up Soilwork took things to another level with one of the most energetic sets of the weekend. With the lighting rig working to great effect even at 7pm, dry ice swirling across the stage and the band bouncing around, the enthusiasm on stage transfers to the audience with two circle pits opening up. Nobody is more active on that stage than bassist Ola Fink, who careers around like a giant size loony. Frontman Björn Strid has got more and more confident each time I have seen Soilwork and eventually decides he wants one single pit and like a conductor, orchestrated the two together.

Musically the set is wisely packed with Soilwork’s catchiest numbers. Bastard Chain from 2001’s A Predator’s Portrait represents the oldest tune and it’s delicious guitar run at the end of the chorus’ refrain is crystal clear. Perfectly suited to a festival environment, Stabbing The Drama has fans singing themselves hoarse. Meanwhile Overload and closer Nerve turn up the heat. Soilwork did everything right at Bloodstock and set a high water mark for the day.

Soilwork set list:
Sworn To A Great Divide / As We Speak / Exile / Bastard Chain / One With The Flies / 20 More Miles / Rejection Role / Stabbing The Drama / As The Sleeper Awakes / Overload / The Pittsburgh Syndrome / Nerve

Following Soilwork’s crowd pleasing set was always going to be difficult and Iced Earth approach things from a different angle. With nine albums and only one hour on stage, The American’s take the route of cramming as much into those sixty minutes as they can. Indeed it’s not until after fifth song Violate that they pause for breath. Unsurprisingly, since it’s only just come out, there’s nothing aired from The Crucible Of Man album and although a couple of songs are included from the Ripper era, the bulk of the set is from the classics Matt Barlow sang on, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dark Saga.

Barlow, no longer with his flowing red hair, acted like he’d never been away and his distinctive voice felt right for Iced Earth. Jon Schaffer looked content to have his chosen singer back on stage and his trademark guitar chops were clear, in fact almost too clear to the point of almost blunting their attack. The rest of the band did their bit, but to be honest, they remained a bit faceless in a band which has seen more squad rotation than a Premier League football team. At times it did feel like we were watching the production line festival set, but Iced Earth did just enough to satisfy.

Iced Earth set list:
Dark Saga / Vengeance is Mine / Burning Times / Declaration Day / Violate / Pure Evil / Ten Thousand Strong / The Coming Curse / Melancholy (Holy Martyr) / My Own Saviour / Iced Earth

I’ve known Dimmu Borgir to disappoint live more often than please, but tonight they certainly summoned all their devilish powers, playing the best set I’ve seen from them. Of course it helps when the flames on stage make it look like the band are playing beyond the very gates of hell. Opening with two classics from their breakthrough Enthrone Darkness Triumphant album, this was powerful stuff but seeped with the melody of Mustis’ keyboards.

Dimmu Borgir’s latest In Sorte Diaboli ranks as one of my favourites and hence, as we head into a run of five songs (all curiously beginning with “The”), with four of them from said disc, this middle section is one of the highlights of a very strong headline show. Despite Shagrath’s media star quality, when compared against the power of bassist Simen Hestæs, his vocal has sometimes felt like the weakest link in the live environment. Today however he feels in complete control and his otherworldly gargled croak works to great effect.

There seemed to be some doubters to Dimmu Borgir’s credentials as headliners but with Progenies of the Great Apocalypse and Mourning Palace crashing in at the end of their set, the momentum never dropped and Dimmu delivered.

Dimmu Borgir set list:
Intro / Spellbound (By the Devil) / In Death’s Embrace / The Serpentine Offering / The Chosen Legacy / The Sinister Awakening / The Maelstrom Mephisto / The Fundamental Alienation / A Succubus In Rapture / The Insight And The Catharsis / Progenies of the Great Apocalypse / Mourning Palace / Perfection or Vanity / Outro

Bloodstock Open Air
Dimmu Borgir
Iced Earth
Napalm Death
Swallow The Sun
Rise To Remain
Evil Scarecrow