It’s been nearly a week, to the hour, since I saw my last band at Bloodstock, and I still haven’t fully recovered!
There are going to be short (some VERY SHORT) reviews for each of the bands I managed to catch over the weekend, as well as a general festival overview at the end (if that’s more what you’re here for).
So, let’s not fuck about (there’s been far too much of THAT over the past 18 months), let’s dive straight in at
We’re home. Old friends and fresh faces, alike. Our party managed to arrive quite early, and avoided ridiculously long queues, both for the car park and for entry, our whole crew managed to just about squeeze into a small plot in Midgard before the full extent of the hordes had arrived.
The drinking ensued, we still had an entire afternoon between us and gigs. What were we supposed to do?
A few people went off to see Anakim open the Sophie stage, while I held back for a while as the last 18 months sat on our asses have been terrible for stamina, and for some people’s drinking ability. One of our friends passed out very early on, and I stayed with him to make sure he didn’t do anything silly, like drown in his own sick.
Raised By Owls
Comedy Grindcore, incredibly heavy. Not really my thing, I find a lot of the jokes get lost on me, I think I’d rather stand and laugh at someone doing grindcore very seriously, I don’t know. Definitely check them out, they’re fantastic at what they do, and they’re incredibly tight together.
That was it for me for Wednesday, what with all the lugging shit about (my own and a few others), taking part in the building of several tents, and the great intensity of RBO, I needed a nap, and when I awoke, I was very annoyed to find myself unwilling to go and see Onslaught. “I’ll see them again” I thought, aloud. Dickhead.
Ok, Ok, yes, yesterday was a dire attempt on my part, I haven’t seen any gigs in nearly 2 years and I miss 4 bands, 50 yards from my tent? Terrible. But it’s ok, Wednesday was the cheating, extra day that we got for being patient little boys and girls (and gender progressives), So it doesn’t really count anyway, right? That’s what I’m going to keep telling myself, especially as I got not a single wink of restful sleep the whole week. Midgard, am I right? (For those of you who don’t know, I am in fact right.)
Ok so I’m going to start by saying that I love the rhythm section. You guys were really good the whole way through, the two guitarists, also really good, but the extended solos and ego-battles really didn’t do it for me. There’s obvious stage presence during whilst playing, but I think the crowd interaction fell a little flat between songs. I remember a song being introduced as “experimental” and then it just being a standard 4/4 modern heavy metal track, which didn’t sit right with me (Sorry, I’ll take off my prog-monocle one day).
Tortured Demon. Tortured. Fucking. Demon. Wow. A friend recommended I go see them, simply “They’re like 14, go, witness.” And I did. And holy hell those teenagers can fucking play. They were so incredibly heavy, and so incredibly tight, it was absolutely fucking brutal. The Jager stage was absolutely crammed trying to fit everyone in, which was being made gradually more impossible by the ever-swelling moshpit which, eventually, took up around half the tent. If you have never heard of them, check them out, if you’ve never seen them live catch them with Evile and Divine Chaos in 2022, a gig I will be front and centre for.
Having lived with the vocalist, I couldn’t get away without seeing Ashen Crown, I suppose. I kid, of course, they were excellent. Beautiful legato leads into thrashy, deathy chaos, bloody loves it. The pit was wide open and heavy, the classic tracks sounded brilliant through the Sophie speakers, and the new material is tantalisingly good. It was really good to see the Sophie stage so packed out for them, they deserve it with all the work I know the band have been putting in since they first won Metal 2 The Masses in 2017. Really looking forward to hearing more new music from these midlands five!
These guys are fucking brilliant, especially if you like early Opeth, awesome blast beats, and big atmospheres. Proper Prog-Death, yes please.
Midlands Doomy-Sludge, perfect to really break your neck to. The music has a much proggier feel to it than the last time I caught them, and I am not complaining at all! I think the addition of a second guitarist has really helped push the band into the outer stratosphere of ambience, and it works fucking beautifully. Also, I’ve never seen a band collapse a stage-tent with their soundcheck before, fair play bois.
(All my pictures from your set were awful, I’m so sorry)
Here to provide you with crushing headbanging riffs to glaze over and tune out to, there was some really hollow ambience on one of the tracks they played that absolutely touched my soul, and on top of that they had a bass tone fuzzier than a month-old satsuma. Me like-y. Mix all that in with some beautifully bleak dissonance and some stunning examples of discordance, and you have one happy festival-goer over here.
Another night in Midgard, another foiled attempt at any sort of sleep. Feeling much happier with myself for having seen bands on Thursday, but very ache-y from some very intense pits. On with the first REAL real day of festival.
I was really looking forward to Divine Chaos, and it’s not that I was disappointed by them, I just think that they had something of a sloppy start. It wasn’t until track 3 that I started noticing them tightening up a little, I’m not sure but I think they transitioned to some older material that perhaps they were more comfortable with. Other than that, the rest of their set was really good, perfect to wake oneself up to.
If you weren’t awake when they started, you were by the time they’d finished. My god, they sounded HUGE. Watching these guys feels very similar to being punched in the face, whilst being helpless to avoid the subtlety with which the blow was delivered. Genuinely incredible.
We had checked these guys out during our listening parties prior to arriving at bloodstock, and I think I was the only person in the group who said I didn’t think they’d be any good live. I came to give them a chance with the rest, and one bouncy, RATM-rip-off riff later I found myself leaving for the New Blood Stage in smug disappointment, only to witness…
(It turns out, without my knowledge, Loathe never actually played this year, and were in fact replaced by a band called Higher Power. Sorry for any confusion).
Holy Hell. This was a very intense show, and much more up my alley than the last band we’d skimmed through. Fucking mentally hectic pits the whole way through (including most members of Tortured Demon from Thursday). I thought the bassist could have done something a little more complex towards the atmosphere that the rest of the band were creating, it really felt like he wasn’t pulling weight, but that’s just me. I think there were some absolutely beautiful clean sections, and the frontman evidently has an excellent idea of crowd control. An extremely enjoyable performance, I will definitely be seeing them again.
I don’t really remember much of this set, but in my notes I’ve simply written “Meh” before moving on, so I suppose I wasn’t too into it, nor too sober.
As we sat down to wait for Venom Prison, having not been too enraptured by Sophie’s offerings, we heard some incredible groove coming from the Jager stage, eventually working out that it must have been Black Emerald, my regret is that we didn’t see them properly. The bass coming out of that little orange tent was phenomenally heavy. They’re officially on my “To See” list.
Pyro and Blast Beats!
A band taking the “Female-Fronted” out of FFDM, and rightly fucking so. A lot of their songs really grabbed my attention, often moments before grabbing me by the neck and forcing my head to bang, it was hypnotically good. Although there were a few moments that could have done with being a little tighter, the overall performance was incredible. Solid, and extremely groovy. My notes conclude thusly “Ok, so they’re playing their last song right now, I’m not sure it’s legal to have this many awesome grooves in one song!”. VP, you’ve made a new fan out of me.
Ale of Adam
Brilliant proggy 2-piece. Huge soundscapes, grooving out of a bass and a drumkit.
Why can’t more drum n’ bass sound like this? There’s really not a lot I can say here, but that they’re excellent and you need to see them.
GROOVE GROOVE GROOVE GROOVE GROOVE. Now that I have delicately explained why I like this band, we can move on.
After Raging Speedhorn, I went back to have a little break, as Friday was my intense day, and I really needed sit down before…
Time for a major clash within our group. Half of them wanted to go see Skindred, half of us wanted to go see Evile, and one guy was like “I’m off to see Broken Jaw, fuck the lot of ya!”. Now. I’ve heard that Broken Jaw were excellent. I’ve seen Skindred before and if I wanted, I could very easily see them again. Not that interested though.
Evile, on the other hand.
That was a religious experience. It was so intense, and so beautiful, and so perfect. I am a thrasher at heart, my first metal band was Metallica, and since then I’ve always been looking for bands faster, and heavier, and more technical, and my fucking GOD Evile have all of that in spades. The build-up of the song Gore genuinely brought tears to my eyes, it was so overwhelmingly and beautifully chaotic. This was my first time seeing Evile and it will NOT be the last. They took my brain to another level and I am so fucking ready for that to happen again.
Just. Fucking listen to Evile.
I love Devin. I love his persona, I love his technical ability, and I mostly love his older albums. Deconstruction, for example, is a fucking masterpiece. A setlist littered with SYL tracks makes for a happy little me. My girlfriend and I both crowdsurfed to “Love?” which felt AMAZING to do after these years of being a Devin fan. Deadhead was fucking beautiful. The show was pretty amazing, with VTs of Ziltoid peppering the set for some sort of story-line. There were also the huge inflatable Poozers that rained upon us during their March, which my girlfriend and I were very sad not to have come away with one of. Spirits Will Collide, personal low point for me. I get it’s all happy and motivating and x, y, z, but it really doesn’t sound good. The lyrics are clanky and cringe-y, and the gospel-inspired music is just fine, it’s not interesting in the same way that most Devin music is, and that makes me sad.
(One of my proudest photos from BOA this year)
He came on wearing a back-brace and there was a moment, most of the way through, where he started solo-ing on his back, and having kept up with his Twitter feed leading up the festival, I was instantly worried. It took people far longer than I would have been comfortable with, personally, to realise that he actually needed help to get up, and the remainder of the set it was easy to see that he was in a lot of pain. Fair play to the man, the show must go on, I suppose.
And finally, considering the logistical shitstorm that people have been going through trying to get their bands to the festival, I’m incredibly impressed with the band he brought together for the first time less than a week prior to the Bloodstock set. Those guys did an incredible job, highest commendation to all of them (not that they need my commendation).
(Right: ‘Institutional Bassism’)
That was my energy spent for the day, I couldn’t face Napalm Death. As previously stated, my stamina is shot after the past 18 months of idleness. Usually by this point I’ve been in every moshpit going, not this year. It sucked. Let’s not dwell on the sadness, let’s move onto…
I went to see these guys off the recommendation of comedian Andrew O’Neill went I went to see them perform in Machynlleth a few months ago. That was an excellent recommendation, and one day I’ll hopefully be able to thank Andrew in person.
If there’s ever a band to blow the sleep right out of your head, it’s Conjurer. It was so bleak, and so brutal, and there was one song with a fucking CRAZY breakdown in a measure of 5. Genius.
(Left: Hey, that’s MY Gojira top)
We were very curious to see how Wargasm translated from YouTube videos to Bloodstock Mainstage, and after hearing one of them bragging about his new guitar to the sound tech during their sound check, they didn’t give off the best “vibes” as one might say. Half a song later and I was off to the New Blood stage. Lots of energy, I’ll commend that, I just wish that energy was put into something… I don’t know, better?
Ascaris’ set started at the same time as Wargasm’s, and I could hear something that piqued my interest pretty quickly.
We got into New Blood and I was fucking blown away. An instant atmosphere of black metal, filled with blast beats (and I mean, possibly the most incredible single stroke blast beats I have ever witnessed, that drummer’s left hand needs preserving and studying). Beautifully intense, and with incredible vocals, I fell half in love with them almost instantly. Some of the transitions they’ve written come out of nowhere, right around the corner, and drag you to a completely different part of the universe, it was awesome. I was even lucky enough to catch up with the vocalist very briefly, whom I questioned about the genre he would define Ascaris as, to which he answered “Extreme Metal” in a way that I can’t fault. I was right with the “Black Metal” element, or at least I wasn’t wrong, but there is certainly a lot more to Ascaris than that, and I’m very curious to see what they come out with in the long run.
No Sylosis on the bill, they had to cancel, which was very disappointing, I was looking forward to them a great deal.
No Jinjer on the bill, they had to cancel too, which wasn’t that disappointing. I’ve seen them before and, both live and studio, they don’t really do it for me. None of it fits together in a way that satisfies me.
I think at this point I headed back for most of the afternoon. With the thrash of the day cancelled, and my energy levels already burning through reserves, I went to save myself for Kreator
Cradle of Filth
It’s always difficult to avoid hearing Cradle at Bloodstock, mainly because Dani Filth’s absolutely fucking awful vocals carry to every corner of the arena grounds, and even out into Midgard, where I was trying to stay as far as possible away. I’m trying to roll something to smoke, I don’t need to hear some bastard that sounds like an old set of train-brakes every 20 seconds. Not a fan.
Oh my goodness, Kreator. They played ALL of my favourite songs, most of which in the first half, opening with my all time favourite, Violent Revolution. The pit was mental, the crowd was mental, the stageshow was mental, the infamous streamers from their 2017 sub-headline slot ACTUALLY worked this time and filled the moshpit in such a way that the streamers were like spaghetti and each individual metalhead was their own prong of a very fast moving, sweaty fork. Pretty much all of us were turned into Egyptian-style mummies within a minute, it was awesome, and very strange. My bandmates and I even went to try and purchase some water towards the end of the set, narrowly avoiding Dani Filth joining Kreator on stage, and saving our ears from such an onslaught. I wasn’t even aware he’d been on stage with them until the next day. Good timing, as far as I’m concerned, we got back just as they started Pleasure to Kill!
(Would have loved to have got some photos of Kreator, but I knew the pit would be deadly so I left my phone behind)
Night time came around, we headed back to camp and drank and smoked the night away, eventually resulting in our resident goth, Becky, going to beat the shit out of a bunch of people during the wrestling tournaments that were being held throughout Midgard. I would have loved to get involved but by the time the Mad Spanner frontman and I got around to going to do it, the waiting list for fights was huge, and I was exhausted, it must have been 3 or 4 in the morning by that point!
A bunch of dudes having a lot of fun. Their hardcore/thrash crossover is a little on the hardcore side for me, but it’s fucking GOOOOOOOD, and great fun for a 10.30 on a Sunday morning. Think Suicidal Tendencies fucking Municipal Waste.
I woke up late thanks to said antics, and by the time I was ready to go out into the arena, Diamond Head had already got to the solo during Am I Evil?, arguably the main song that I had gone to see, and the best bit of it, but I’m sad that I missed It’s Electric which, on checking, was the song they played directly before AIE. That was a fuckup, but we move on.
Bleed From Within
Deathcore? I guess? Bunch of macho dudes from Glasgow. Not really my thing, but a very good example of what it is, and they sounded absolutely huge through the Ronnie James Dio stage speakers, but there were lots of very same-y chug-chug breakdowns, and a few scattered clean vocal sections with tap-over-trem melodic guitar lines. Deathcore really does all blend into one, doesn’t it?
Everyone knows what to expect from Orange Goblin at this point, and my did they deliver. Huge fuzzy grooves, for ages. Love it.
(Left: POV; You’re playing Bananagrams to Orange Goblin)
Frozen in Shadows
Frozen in Shadows’ brand of melo-death is a welcome afternoon blast of brutality, although the one thing that let them down was the keyboardist. I don’t know if it’s not the keyboard he was used to, I don’t know if it was issues to do with the New Blood stage, I don’t know if he was just using a cheap keyboard, but it sounded bad. Overpoweringly bad. Every other bit of the music sounded great, but over the top I just kept getting flash backs to Year 8 music classes and the loud kids fucking around with the school keyboards. Not the one, quite upsettingly.
I went to check out Necronautical very briefly, and I loved what I saw. Furious black metal! I would have stayed for the rest of the set but I was absolutely zonked by this point, and I think my body needed a rest for Priest. Hopefully will have another chance to catch them properly in the future!
They had a very interesting set, Rob Halford vocals still stand up ridiculously well consider he’s just turned 70, and the death metal growls he unleashed on us were as unexpected as they were brilliantly done! That man is potentially one of the most skilled vocalists I’ve ever witnessed, regardless of genre. I saw a vocal quartet performing Handel’s Messiah a few years ago and that didn’t come close to the awe I feel for this man.
I tell you what though, that set dragged a little bit. I love Priest through and through, but I started leaving through Invader (the first time they’d ever played it live), because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could stand there waiting for the hits to come on. 5 days of Bloodstock is a LOT. If I hadn’t been distracted by the nearby patch store, I wouldn’t have heard Painkiller starting, and dived back into the crowd to find my friends. Thank fuck for my patch addiction! The remainder of the set was shiny and studded with all the classic Priest songs you wanted to hear, and they brough Glenn Tipton (Right) out for the last three songs, big respect, awesome show.
I headed back to camp with bittersweetness in my heart, knowing that I wouldn’t be back on these hallowed grounds, listening to my favourite music, with my favourite people, for another whole year. I could have gone to see Evil Scarecrow (which I encouraged Bloodstock virgins like the passout friend and my girlfriend to go and see), but after seeing them 3 or 4 times, what’s the point? The jokes get old, and the music doesn’t hold up the jokes well enough. I’ll keep Evil Scarecrow as occasional driving music for now. Walking past, they did seem to have updated their stage show a lot, with a hell of a lot of RGB LEDs and some screens and stuff, but it wasn’t enough to entice me. My girlfriend came back halfway through, having been bored by it, “it doesn’t get much better”, I told her.
Fair play to the whole Bloodstock crew. I have dealt with some organisational nightmares in the past, but I can’t even begin to fathom how difficult setting this festival up must have been, given the pandemic, and the constant back-tracking and u-turns made by the UK Government. I’m sure there were hiccups here and there, and the occasional band that cancelled last minute, but the festival experience, as a punter, was essentially seamless.
I do have a few points to make, however, towards the potential improvement of the festival.
1) Food stalls. Not once did I see a rubber glove, or adequately tied up hair, a hair net, or even anyone on the food stalls washing their hands. My girlfriend also found several hairs in her food over the festival. Having both worked in the service industry, and my girlfriend at various festivals over the years, we were pretty shocked, especially given the current situation.
2) Sniffer dogs on the entrance. Fine, that’s a nice idea but a) it’s a festival, b) it obviously had no real effect because I saw a fuck tonne of high people at the festival, and remember point a. It’s a god damn festival. The police officers (or whatever subdivision of class traitors they were) that were on the door were incredibly rude, including to the couple we arrived with who didn’t have ANY illegal substances on their person, yet the first sniffer dog to approach them signalled to it’s handler none the less, who then took our friends to the side, continuing to be incredibly rude to them until another sniffer dog came to check it out (and cleared our friends) because apparently that dog was young or still in training or something to that effect. Not good. Disgusting behaviour from the “authorities” as well. No thank you. People with nothing but ego in their mind and sticks up their asses and they have NO PLACE at a friendly place like Bloodstock.
3) The GOD DAMN fairground rides. Also a nice idea. But when you put them directly next to the Sophie stage and put no restriction on the volume that they can play their music at, they completely drown out whatever’s playing on Sophie. Especially if it’s anything even mildly atmospheric. I didn’t pay to come into a field and pay to go on fairground rides. I came to watch the music. Can that be the priority? Can we PLEASE tell the fairground rides to STOP playing the Black Album and 2 or 3 Guns n’ Roses songs on repeat? Or at the very least, and most importantly, JUST TURN THEIR MUSIC DOWN. It’s not fair to the bands on Sophie, and it’s not fair to the punters who want to listen to said bands.
4) Going Greener is a fantastic idea (MASSIVE Gojira fan over here), but the bins around the festival were a) tiny and b) badly labelled (It’s easy: Metals, Papers and Cardboard, Plastics, Food). I also think there should be incentive to use re-usable cups (or drinking horns or whatever), such as small discounts, OR returning x-amount of single-use cups gets you discount on your next drink, or something like that. If you’re going to go green, go as green as you can. I saw THOUSANDS of plastic cups discarded onto the ground this year, and it made me very sad.
Other than that, a fucking fantastic year at Bloodstock. One of my favourite lineups of the 4 I’ve been present at, the queues were way better this year than any I’ve seen before, the staff/security were friendlier than ever, and all-in-all it was just beautiful to be home; Metalhead Christmas. Seeing all the friends you’ve made all around the country over the years at gigs, all in one place, all with massive grins on their face… It’s fucking priceless. (Or rather just under £150 for the whole weekend).
Peace, Love, and Death Metal to all, and I’ll see you in the pit next year!
The Phantom Lord
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