Bloodstock Open Air - Sunday
17 August 2008
Catton Hall, Derbyshire

The Bloodstock Programme had suggested that Heaven’s Basement may want to play their songs at double speed to fit in this weekend. However, the energy put in to their early morning set left quite a few of the heavier bands in the shade. Whether known as Hurricane Party or Roadstar, this band have always put 100% into their performance and their latest tribulations, leading to their name change, seemed to have fired them up rather than dampened their spirits. When frontman Richie Hevanz asks the crowd to shout “F**k you” to let out rage at those that try to put you down, you can tell he means it.

Although they have ditched all their previous incarnation’s material, Heaven’s Basement plough a similar hard rocking vein and already have a few aces up their sleeve, such as the catchy Saint Routine and Rain On My Parade, which saw guitarist Jonny Rocker and bassist Rob Randell’s teased blonde hair bobbing in unison. Heaven’s Basement provided something refreshingly different to the bulk of the Bloodstock bill and held their own.

Heaven’s Basement set list:
Tear Your Heart Out / Saint Routine / Fear Of Getting Off / No Pity / Rain On My Parade / Executioner’s Day

Wooah! Have we just been through a time warp? As Crowning Glory take to the stage I could swear it was like being back in the 1980s. Playing a brand of metal which mixes up the likes of Judas Priest and Accept, the London band hardly hide their influences. Guitarist Tom Draper even looks like a young Dave Mustaine hidden behind his hair with bassist Nick Smith complete with tight jeans and white high tops.

Frontman Robert Alexander picked his moment to run on stage during opener Dead Man’s Paradise and barely stopped moving from then on. The livewire singer’s high pitch vocal fitted the blue print for Crowning Glory’s retro metal perfectly and he put everything in to getting the crowd going. It is however still early and with unfamiliar material the response is warm but not ecstatic. Crowning Glory do what they do well, but would have probably been suited better to the second stage at this point in their career.

Crowning Glory set list:
Dead Man’s Paradise / Sands Of Time / Crime / The Devourer / Winter In Our Blood / Sea Of Dead Dreams

The stars that aligned were Turisas’ rabble rising battle metal and Johnny Depp camping it up in Pirates Of The Caribbean. Up in Scotland a young band called Battleheart decided pirates was a good theme for a band and very quickly they score a record deal, change their name to Alestorm and are suddenly playing in front of hundreds of fans dressed in pirate attire. Their rise seems to have surprised the band as much as the curious onlookers today, who find the main stage besieged by pirate flags and a very large mead swigging contingent.

Christopher Bowes stage presence has grown massively since the Turisas tour and his stage raps amuse greatly. Bowes introduce the band as “Alestorm, …from Jamaica” with excellent comic timing and his hatred of ninja’s with a very young pirate friend had the crowd in stitches. It’s all very silly and as camp as a pantomime of course but it works fine at this time of day in starting the party. Musically the performance is rough around the edges, with guitar leads falling out on a couple of occasions. Alestorm’s pirate ship is riding the crest of a fad wave at the moment. It’s sailors are enjoying themselves and should continue to as long as it lasts. Now all shout together, “Roger the cabin boy!”.

Alestorm set list:
Over the Seas / The Huntmaster / Death Before the Mast / Nancy the Tavern Wench / Set Sail & Conquer / Drunken Sailor / Terror on the High Seas / Wenches and Mead / Captain Morgan’s Revenge

I’d been looking forward to seeing Ravenage on the second stage. Frontman Glyn the Heralder is not only a sound bloke, but an old supporter from the beginning of Bloodstock and today was his chance to actually grace one of it’s stages.

Great Dome kicked things off in rabble rousing fashion with the band decked out in a variety of war paint. “We are a War-band and this song is called War-Band!” proclaimed Glyn as the second number started, but soon without guitar. Eventually it was clear this was a major problem and the song ground to a halt. Heartbreakingly the bands minutes ticked away as a roadie had little success in rectifying the problem. “If I tell a joke, we will be banned for life” roared Glyn, managing to keep a sense of humour and followed this with some sword fighting. I had to make a move to the main stage, though I understand they eventually did summon life from the guitar amp. The Gods did not smile on Ravenage today, but they’ll live to fight another battle.

Ravenage planned set list:
Great Dome / War-band! / Raiders March / Ymir / Flaming Arrows Of The Northern Skies / For Hearth, For Hime / The Corpse Hall

“There’s JB from Grand Magus.” I don’t know how many times I said that during Sunday but he certainly seemed to be making the most of his time at Bloodstock and also with his bands forty minutes on stage. If you’ve not encountered them, Grand Magus are a three piece band from Sweden who play doomy metal which at times brings to mind the riffing of Tony Iommi during Sabbath’s Dio years. Whilst not sounding like Dio, JB possesses a strong traditional metal voice, but as he also handles the guitar duties, there’s not a lot of onstage movement, though to be honest that wouldn’t really befit the music.

Noting British triumphs at the Olympics, Like The Oar Strikes the Water is played in honour of our gold medal winning rowers. A couple of songs are introduced in a similar “what’s he on about?” fashion before the penny drops. Such as, “We share a common problem: royalty”, prior to closer Kingslayer. Before that there’s a plethora of fist pumping metal, with quite a few from Grand Magus excellent new album Iron Will. The Shadow Knows in particular hits the spot. Perfect in this afternoon slot, Grand Magus powerful classic metal saw them home without need for on-stage theatrics.

Grand Magus set list:
Blood Oath / Like The Oar Strikes The Water / The Shadow Knows / Ulvaskall (Vargr) / I Am The North / Hövding / Iron Will / Kingslayer

I don’t get on with Mob Rules‘ albums and as the parping keyboards signalled Unholy War, I headed off to sort out things back at the tent. When I returned at the tale end of the set I actually thought they were playing the same song! Not to my taste but Johan took some photos.

Mob Rules set list:
Intro: Prologue / Unholy War / Ashes To Ashes / Fuel To The Fire / Veil Of Death / The Last Farewell / ? / Black Rain / Hollowed Be Thy Name

Esoterica got caught in what for me was the largest pile up of bands all weekend, with themselves, Kataklysm and Ted Maul all overlapping. I’d already made the decision to catch the Canadians, since they tour here less often, but Esoterica frontman Tobias Keast searching out our flag to personally ask we check them out, swung my decision to catch as much as I had time for. Keast marketing continued in the Lava Stage, imploring the crowd to pop out and drag one extra person in each before they started.

I was cursing the clashes straight away as Samples opened the set in fine style. The bare foot Keast seemed absorbed in the song in a world of his own. Flailing his arms around the singer then received a telling off from the roadcrew for hanging off the lighting supports. Life Is Lonely contains a massive hooky chorus and the band combined to produce a heavy haunting sound. Keast’s vocal means comparisons to Tool and A Perfect Circle are inevitable and they possibly fall somewhere between the two. I will certainly make an effort to catch a full show by Esoterica.

Esoterica set list:
Samples / Life is Lonely / Salvation / Valium / Pushing Providence / Exposed / The Fool / Watch this Drive / Don’t Rely on Anyone

Quickly making our way to the main stage, Kataklysm were already halfway into opener Prevail and the first thing that struck me was the massive guitar sound afforded to Jean-François Dagenais. With only one guitar player, this was a major bonus and Kataklysm sounded as monstrous as their enormous backdrop depicted. Having only seen them in the confines of the Camden Underworld, I was shocked to see how at ease they appeared on a massive stage. Frontman Maurizio Iacono never let up coaching the crowd and when he demanded “Bring on violence, bring on chaos” for As I Slither, he got it. It was a wonder that some of the pit didn’t emerge Crippled & Broken for the song of that name.

Kataklysm paced their set well, including material ranging from break neck speed fests to heavy as hell grinding riffs. Latest video, Taking The World By Storm, may have eased the pit action, but not the headbanging. The Road To Devastation aptly closed a majorly heavy set from Kataklysm.

Kataklysm set list:
Prevail / Chronicles Of The Damned / Like Angels Weeping (The Dark) / The Chains Of Power / As I Slither / Taking The World By Storm / Crippled And Broken / Shadows And Dust / The Road To Devastation

There had been rumours circulating that As I Lay Dying were stuck in France, but eventually they made it to the Bloodstock stage, albeit rather late. By then, the crowd had thinned considerably, which was a shame as if people put their prejudices aside, they may have been surprised by the San Diego band. Bizarrely, As I Lay Dying are musically not really that far from At The Gates and Kataklysm, but were written off by many prior to playing a note.

With the skull which adorns their An Ocean Between Us album cover looming behind them, As I Lay Dying were undoubtedly metal for the duration of their set. Dressed in regimented black, the band quickly try to fit as much as they can into their curtailed set, with frontman Tim Lambesis roaring over the heavy thrashing riffing. Bassist Josh Gilbert added the occasional clean vocal with The Sound Of Truth and Confined stand out tunes within the set. The delay and thin crowd took away some atmosphere but As I Lay Dying were certainly not out of place on today’s bill.

As I Lay Dying set list:
Through Struggle / Nothing Left / Forever / Within Destruction / The Sound Of Truth / 94 Hours / Confined

Green and black drapes with the triangular bat winged logo were positioned on stage in preparation for Overkill who are introduced as legends. I can’t believe it’s over 20 years since I first saw them, but it’s been six years too long since they last graced a UK stage. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth looked genuinely surprised by the reaction following Thanx For Nothing noting, “Look at all the UK metalheads”. As Bastard Nation wound up, a chant of Overkill was raised with bassist D.D.Verni, nodding his approval while looking out at the large crowd.

Overkill’s hour on stage ranged from Rotten To The Core from their debut album Feel The Fire, right up to their latest release, Immortalis, from which Skull & Bones was played. The New Jersey band have worked hard through their career, without taking a break like many of the other returning thrashers. Their hard touring showed in a very tight live show. Ellsworth’s toned body belies the fact he turns 50 next year and his work rate on stage has not diminished with the years.

Overkill set list:

Necroshine / Thanx For Nothin / Rotten To The Core / Bastard Nation / Skull and Bones / Hello From The Gutter / Wrecking Crew / Horrorscope / Long Time Dyin’ / Old School / Elimination / Fuck You

My notes page for At The Gates was decimated thanks to the worse rain during a band of the weekend. Persistently from opener Slaughter Of The Soul to “the last song At The Gates will ever play in the UK”, Kingdom Gone, the skies rained down on us. This, coupled with end of festival lethargy, meant that At The Gates did not get the pit expected, but they still went down a storm. The setlist was very similar to the slightly longer show I had seen at Sweden Rock back in June, but the number of performances clocked up in the meantime meant that the Swedes were tighter at Bloodstock.

As expected the band get down to playing the songs leaving frontman Tomas Lindberg to roam the stage and converse with the crowd. It seems the UK does hold a warm place in At The Gates hearts and Lindberg announced he was genuinely sad to announce the last song. They actually already departed two songs prior to this sign off, but returned for rabble rousing renditions of Blinded By Fear and Suicide Nation. Elsewhere, each of the band’s releases is visited, with the focus very much on Slaughter Of The Soul, from which only Into The Dead Sky is omitted. At The Gates set felt vital and not just some revisit of the past and they well be sadly missed once again.

At The Gates set list:
Slaughter of the Soul / Cold / Terminal Spirit Disease / Raped By the Light of Christ / Under a Serpent Sun / World of Lies / The Burning Darkness / The Swarm / Nausea / The Beautiful Wound / Unto Others / All Life Ends / Need / Blinded By Fear / Suicide Nation / Kingdom Gone / Outro – The Flames Of The End

Despite the rain easing off, things were over running considerably and people were drifting off before Nightwish. Those that did missed a treat as aside from the impressive pyro display, this was definitely the best I’d seen them, with either singer. Anette Olzon’s first UK shows fronting the band back in March were early in her tenure and since then she appears to have grown into her role in Nightwish. Her vocal was stronger generally, but it was especially noticeable on the Tarja era material that she is now comfortable with her own take on those songs. Early on Dark Chest Of Wonders now feels less stiff and to have more groove. Perhaps this is due to the band themselves who I had noted back in March seemed happier as a unit. That chemistry can only have got better with little touches such as the banter on stage between Olzon and Marco Hietala and the joking about during songs.

The Poet & The Pendulum sprawled regally in the middle of the set, with all manner of explosions and Catherine wheels rotating behind drummer Jukka Nevalainen. The cheeky fans with the “Fishmaster” signs (youtube it) for Wishmaster are jokingly told off by Olzon for once again trying to put the band off. Unfortunately, after a rousing Seven Days To The Wolves, its announced that due to “other bands taking extra minutes” the curfew was open us and Wish I Had An Angel was the last song of the night after just seventy minutes. Having seen a copy of the setlist I can reveal that While You Lips Are Still Red and Sahara were omitted. Nightwish closed a fine Bloodstock in style, leaving us wishing for more.

Nightwish set list:
Bye Bye Beautiful / Dark Chest Of Wonders / The Siren / Dead To The World / Amaranth / Whoever Brings The Night / The Poet and the Pendulum / Wishmaster / Nemo / Seven Days To the Wolves / Wish I Had An Angel


Bloodstock was much bigger this year and in many ways it came of age. I’ve heard one or two grumblings that it had lost the atmosphere of the first three years, but the bottom line is that it couldn’t have survived at its previous size and if British metal fans truly want a festival similar to what the Europeans enjoy, changes need to be embraced and expected.

Undoubtedly there are things to improve on. Initial entry to the site could have had more staff speeding things up, there still seemed to be a lack of toilets and arriving with a gas stove and food to be told you couldn’t take it in was an annoyance. These things didn’t spoil the weekend however and having watched Sweden Rock take heed and improve each year though a learning experience, I hope and expect Bloodstock to follow a similar route.

All in all I had a fantastic weekend at Bloodstock 2008 and I look forward to returning next year.

Bloodstock Open Air
At The Gates
As I Lay Dying
Mob Rules
Grand Magus
Crowning Glory
Heaven’s Basement