Bloodstock Open Air 2009 - Sunday
16 August 2009
Catton Hall, Derbyshire, UK

Beholder kicked off the final day at the ungodly hour of 11am, but they’d certainly had their Weetabix! Beholder had actually played the second stage back in 2007 when they were primarily a covers band. There were no covers this morning and none were required as the band ungraciously delivered a thumping dose of metal to wake up the Bloodstock crowd. Frontman Simon Hall certainly didn’t lack presence and with crunching guitars behind him he delivered aggressive yet tuneful vocals. The final song, Never Take Us Down, was dedicated to Sophie Lancaster’s family who are in attendance and rightful raises a cheer of defiance from the crowd.

Beholder set list:
Snake Eyes / Edge Of Insanity / No Mercy / Born Into Pain / Never Take Us Down

There had been some consternation about Sabaton’s lowly billing. The Swedes have worked hard recently to increase their presence in the UK and it was a bit of a surprise that they were positioned lower than say Equilibrium who hadn’t yet played the UK. To chants of their name, Sabaton marched on to the stage, declaring “There’s no f**king intro tape today, our set list is short enough already!” before ploughing into Ghost Division. It’s impossible not to be drawn in by this band, they’re that good live. Every time I have seen them their effort has been at least 100% and today is no different. They were second band on today and one of the few to bring smoke pots; which fired off during 40:1. Frontman Joakim Brodén barely stands still, but perhaps had cut back on his between song banter to fit as much material in as possible. This is however probably the fastest 30 minutes of the weekend, but the silver lining was confirmation that Sabaton would be back in the UK again soon as support to Dragonforce. On this, and every other Sabaton performance I’ve seen, that’s a brave move by Dragonforce.

Sabaton set list:
Ghost Division / The Art Of War / 40:1 / Cliffs Of Gallipoli / Primo Victoria / Metal Machine-Metal Crue

Following that was always going to be difficult for Girlschool but they fare very well. The crowd had thinned with the departure of the Sabaton faithful, but the respectfully sized throng remaining was very appreciative of Girlschool. As ever, there’s a very relaxed feeling about proceedings, with Kim McAuliffe’s banter breaking down the barrier between band and fans. Technical problems after Hit & Run led her to noting, “It wouldn’t be a Girlschool gig without something falling to bits …and it’s not us today!” The set mixed old favourites from their first three albums, which date back to the early 80s, with a couple from their latest album, Legacy.

Girlschool set list:
C’Mon Let’s Go / Not For Sale / Hit And Run / I Spy / Screaming Blue Murder / Future Flash / Everything’s The Same / Race With The Devil / Demolition Boys / Emergency

As noted, this was Equilibrium’s first visit to the UK and prior to their confirmation they were not a band I was aware of. On record I’d marked them as a bit of a latter day Finntroll clone; however this live presentation was anything but substandard. They might not be Scandinavian, but the Germans constructed a powerful cacophony invoking thoughts of Vikings. Given everything’s in German they could have been singing about anything, though the gruff vocals of Helge Stang would have probably negated my understanding had they been in English anyway. That style is however fitting to the sound and recollections of Moonsorrow’s strong showing last year came to mind. Again, not a band I’ll be rushing to cue up on my ipod, but certainly one worth catching live.

Equilibrium set list:
Prolog Auf Erden / Wurzelbert / Snuffel / Blut im Auge / Met / Unter der Eiche / Unbesiegt / Nordheim

Heading down to the front for Anathema we immediately notice John Douglas is absent from the drum kit and in his place was none other than Nick Barker, adding another band to his ever expanding C.V. Les Smith was also missing behind the keyboards, though someone very familiar with the role, Martin Powell took his place. Fragile Dreams provided a very strong opening to the set with Empty from the same album keeping the pace up. Mid set there was a change in pace as Lee Douglas took to the stage to add her feminine vocal to A Natural Disaster. Barker was also given a brief break with Michael Reed taking the drum stool. The personnel changes certainly gave the show a different feel to recent Anathema shows and this was amplified with a very heavy tail end of the set. Perhaps gearing the song selection for a heavier crowd, Sleepless from the band’s first full length led us to an excellent run through of A Dying Wish. The biggest surprise was to follow with Vincent Cavanagh telling us they were going to take advantage of Barker’s abilities before playing Iron Maiden’s Phantom Of The Opera in full and note perfect. Certainly this wasn’t the set I expected but I still loved every minute of it.

Anathema set list:
Fragile Dreams / Empty / Deep / A Natural Disaster / Sleepless / A Dying Wish / Phantom of the Opera

Turisas frontman “Warlord” Nygård noted that the band started their tour in support of The Varangian Way in London in 2007 and that this was to be the final show. Judging by the massively swelled crowd, many of whom had painted themselves for the occasion, it has been a very successful campaign for the Finns and in fact they could probably have easily have sat in one of the co-headline slots on the basis of today’s response. Bloodstock was an open goal for Turisas and they didn’t miss. Whilst not as ridiculous as three years ago, which Nygård recalled included an on-stage Sauna, with anthems such as One More, Battle Metal and, erm Boney M’s Rasputin in the set, the crowd was easily won. Nygård hinted that when the band return with a new album it could be without the costumes and given it’s the last show of the tour Tuomas Lehtonen’s shoes were thrown to the crowd leaving him to play closing song Miklagaard Overture barefoot.

Turisas set list:
To Holmgard And Beyond / A Portage To The Unknown / One More / Rasputin / Battle Metal / Miklagard Overture

Sandwiched between Turisas and Amon Amarth was an impossible slot for Moonspell and, despite best efforts, their set passes by with a reduced crowd not fully paying attention. Compared to the band’s either side of them, there felt to be a dip in impact of the sound, despite Moonspell opening with some of their more aggressive recent material. It is in fact the more melodic material from the Portuguese band’s earlier releases that come across best, with high points being Opium and Alma Matter. Regardless, Moonspell’s set seems to pass by with little excitement and it’s only towards the end that the crowd begins to build, but that was for the next band.

Moonspell set list:
At Tragic Heights / Night Eternal / Finisterra / The Southern Deathstyle / Opium / Blood Tells / Vampiria / Alma Matter / Full Moon Madness

Like Turisas, Amon Amarth were playing to a very friendly crowd and undoubtedly it will be a victorious march around the UK when they return later this year. Given their esteemed status, it felt more of a relaxed performance from the Swedes today, with lots of smiles from the band and less aggression than recent shows. This doesn’t take anything away from the level of performance and that good natured feel transfers to the crowd, a section of whom form a conga style long-boat row on the floor during Varyags Of Miklagaard. The set weighs heavily on the bands latest album Twilight Of The Thunder God and the catchier material was probably a wise move for a festival crowd.

Amon Amarth set list:
Twilight Of The Thunder God / Free Will Sacrifice / Asator / Varyags Of Miklagaard / Runes To My Memory / Guardians Of Asgaard / Live For The Kill / Victorious March / The Pursuit Of Vikings / Cry Of The Blackbirds / Death In Fire

Satyricon played an absolute blinder today. The realisation that the older, faster material can get a bit lost in the open air leads them to concentrate on more recent material, up until they finally depart with Mother North. The first eight songs of the Norwegian’s set alternated between songs from latest album The Age Of Nero and it’s predecessor Now, Diabolical. The regimented nature of these songs give them an industrial feel with a hard rock edge that is perfect for headbanging, as evidenced by my aching neck the next morning. Satyr seemed to be enjoying himself today as he strode around the stage with his greased jet black hair. Frost’s precision drumming kept a cold clinical check on proceedings and whilst there is a tendency for some of the recent songs to sound a bit samey, that disciplined approach actually turns out to be a strength. K.I.N.G. into Fuel For Hatred was a one two punch to ensure victory before the aforementioned Mother North reminds us of the bands history.

Satyricon set list:
Commando / A New Enemy / The Wolfpack / Now, Diabolical / Black Crow On A Tombstone / The Pentagram Burns / Den Siste / K.I.N.G. / Fuel For Hatred / Mother North

So finally to the controversial headliners Europe. Yes, they may stand out on paper from the other bands on the bill, but if anyone had doubts that they could hold their own, they were quickly proved otherwise. The Final Countdown is actually a bit of a millstone on what is a quality back catalogue of catchy rock songs. Where Europe really come into their own is live however and songs from the band’s past and their post millennium reformation sit well together. Whilst Joey Tempest is the obvious familiar face of the band, it’s guitarist John Norum who’s the ace in the pack. Norum’s solos were sublime and as one friend pointed out, his playing was leagues above many of the other guitarists this weekend. The instrumental Optimus gave him a moment to really highlight his virtuoso skills. Europe don’t focus on guitar trickery however and it’s the song’s that make the difference. Seven Doors Hotel from their 1983 debut still works fantastically and newer material such as Getaway Plan contain a darker modern rock edge. Near the conclusion Rock The Night reminds those who think they only know one Europe song that they actually know two, with the crowd bouncing around. Then following Getaway Plan from 2006’s Secret Society, the famous keyboard refrain kicks in and Bloodstock erupts, with crowd surfers heading stage wards and beers flung in the end. A fitting finale to Bloodstock Open Air 2009 and vindication of tonight’s chosen headliner.

Europe set list:
Last Look At Eden / Love Is Not The Enemy / Superstitious / Scream Of Anger / Sign Of The Times / Always The Pretenders / Girls From Lebanon / Seven Doors Hotel / Let The Good Times Rock / Optimus (instrumental) / Seventh Sign / Start From The Dark / Ready Or Not / Rock The Night / The Getaway Plan / The Final Countdown

Bloodstock Open Air