Bloodstock Open Air 2010

author EW date 06/10/10

Bloodstock Open Air in the heartlands of England sure as hell does not ring with the same international appeal as it's mainland cousins but boy does it seem the English metalhead community had been looking forward to this year's edition with enormous anticipation. Rising from humble beginnings at the start of this century and going outdoor midway through the decade, there is more than a hint of the DIY feel about Bloodstock's gradual ascent to being the biggest and best (and only?) British metal festival on the calendar and the passion with which the partisan flocked to it's pastures indicated that however long metal continues to be laughable fodder for the mainstream press on this island there will always be a dedicated following for this 12,000 capacity festival.

Whatever Bloodstock naturally lacks against your Hellfests, Wackens or Metal Camps it doesn't half have a go of making it up. Ok there might be a typically 21st century health and safety feel to some of the rules posted by the powers that be, but with three campsites all located close to the main arena, which itself hosts the usual array of food stalls plus also Viking re-enactments, a funfair and a bar well stocked with the finest of all the fluids, Hobgoblin ale, a sterling line-up and campsites approaching full over 24 hours before the festivities really begun, you get the feeling BOA is attempting to punch well above it's weight.

In the name of investigative reporting/saving a large campsite for 20+ mates arriving hours later, I and crew of two others arrived at what was the earliest possible opportunity for a London-based pilgrimage. That moment happened to be in the rain and a full hour before the press pass booth had the damned press pass list, hence yours truly was wet before having even got his bags out the car. Once admittance was eventually gained the difficulty in finding a large camping space even at that time stood testament to people's desire to get set up and get drunk, as it turned out the remainder of the day was to be dominated by incessant rain and shivering cold. Find one we did however and between frequent world-destroying thunderstorms and the cracking of the weekend's first cans bands were opening up on the Sophie Lancaster stage, attracting people into the cavernous tent from the cold outside to the initial delights of Hospital of Death, a band whose performance on the unsigned stage in 2008 showed them to be perfect festival fodder. With a sound that combines 80s thrash and NWOBHM and a self-proclaimed mission “to serve as a warm up…for the weekend, making listeners want to drink heavily and have rough sex”, HOD had heads banging and fists pumping despite a less than perfect sound mix. With singer The Rev D sporting a t-shirt emblazoned with “Scream for me BLOODCOCK!” on the back (I’ve just ordered one for myself, teehee) it was clear even to newcomers that these guys like a laugh – but luckily they know how to put on a good show too. [GR]

A little later on it was time for the last dose of live metal for the day, in the shape of Desecration. For someone used to seeing the Welsh DM bastards in the scummiest and tiniest of venues supporting whatever reprobates were in town that particular week it is quite a shock to catch them pulling such a large crowd as they did. They may have benefited from the lack of alternatives at this point and people's desire to stay warm and dry but Desecration made the most of their stage space and opportunity to impress with a solid, if unspectacular show of brutal death metal. With sound gremlins appearing from a line-up of just the basic v/g/b/d line-up Desecration's set didn't ring with the clarity one would have hoped but the general crowd reaction was pleasingly good, suggesting things would eventually start turning for the better.

Day 2 - Friday 13th

For the first time in a long time for this writer the first morning emerging from the tent was not done with a debilitating hangover. True the mud present in the main walkways did remind me of images I’ve seen of the Battle of the Somme (minus the gunfire and rotting corpses thankfully) but it seemed on Friday the 13th things were on the up, a feeling only heightened when Ross the Boss stepped onstage. Though now a proper entity in their own right following 2008's legitimately good "New Metal Leader" LP, Ross the Boss' presence on the bill was essentially that of a budget-price Manowar, a band unvisited to Britain in nearly two decades now. Ross' old bandmates might well be in the Marks & Spencers price range but having witnessed a travesty of a performance from the so-called 'Kings of Metal' at Metal Camp earlier this summer I put faith in the guitarist of the aforementioned classic album and his merry man that their Lidl price bracket could out-perform the big guns, and 40 minutes later that theory was proven true. Those played from "New Metal Leader" were recreated live excellently ("God Of Dying", "Blood Of Knifes", "We Will Kill") but it was the 'covers' of "Hail And Kill", "Hail To England", "Fighting The World", "Kill With Power" and "Thor (The Powerhead)" that were the undoubted highlight and an opportunity for self-declared Manowar nuts like myself to cream themselves along to such songs without incurring massive travelling expenses. An example of a band resting on past glories most welcome for once.

With opportunities to see them on these fair isles being fairly limited, I’m sure there were many looking forward to their first chance of catching German heavy-hitters Rage live on UK soil. My previous experiences of the band have generally been very positive (with the exception of a boring performance whilst accompanied by an orchestra at Wacken 2007) and this set happily continued that trend. A career spanning 26 years and 20 studio albums must make choosing a setlist somewhat agonising but we were treated to cuts from this year’s “Strings to a Web” as well as older festival-friendly material. The sound problems that can all too often mar outdoor events were nowhere to be heard as the guitar wizardry of Victor Smolski and distinctive voice of frontman Peavy Wagner rang clear across the Derbyshire countryside. Working the stage to great effect despite being just a trio, sing-along favourite “Higher than the Sky” and closer “Down” were definite highlights as the day’s drinking began in earnest. [GR]

Having been delighted by Ross the Boss' performance it was abundantly clear how some styles of metal are simply designed for airing on a festival stage, with Ensiferum's folk metal leanings a perfect example. Their Metal Camp performance earlier this summer was consummate in its easy going nature, and with what I believe was an identical setlist at BOA, the same can be said here too. As if they had personally asked me how I would like their set to begin, "From Afar" and "Twilight Tavern" is as perfect as could be, presenting ample opportunity for singalongs, drinking and delight in the unavoidably catchy nature of both these songs. Thereafter the Finns need not have broken a sweat such was the greeting given to "Stone Cold Metal", "One More Magic Potion" and "Iron"; Ensiferum, as one of the leaders of all that is folk metal showed just why the style has become the entrance to metal for so many in recent years. Long may that continue.

Someone living under a rock in the run-up to the festival may have turned up at the Ronnie James Dio (main) stage expecting to see and hear the unholy black/death metal of Polish overlords Behemoth, but due to the awful news that frontman Nergal is suffering from leukaemia (may we wish him a speedy recovery) the organisers had to search for a last minute replacement. They found it in the form of British doom legends Cathedral, a band I’ve seen on many an occasion both indoor and out. The last proper gig of theirs I caught (London back in April) led me to worry that after 20 years, Lee Dorrian and his (not so) merry men had lost it in the live environment, putting in a performance that could at best be described as ‘ok’ and at worst, ‘boring’. Every band has an off-day, though, and my faith was thankfully restored by their set at High Voltage festival earlier in the summer – and although there was always the chance of being disappointed again, I needn’t have worried. With the setlist in ‘festival mode’ and me in, ahem, ‘somewhat merry’ mode, the 45 minutes flew by in a blur of monumental grooves and flailing hair. Apart from new song “Funeral of Dreams”, which highlighted the band’s experimental nature, it was wall-to-wall Cathedral classics, from opener “Vampire Sun” to traditional closing duo “Ride” and “Hopkins (Witchfinder General)” via the likes of the awesome “Cosmic Funeral”. They might not be the most energetic of bands – this is doom for the most part, after all – but the laid back confidence of Dorrian and sturdy workmanship of his band mates made for excellent English afternoon entertainment. [GR]

Bloodstock just wouldn’t be the same without its admirable commitment to the underground scene, so it was time to take a wander into the unsigned tent in order to catch some of Norwich based thrashers Shrapnel. I’ve seen these guys a couple of times before so knew what to expect: aggressive old-school thrash metal designed to get heads banging and pits moshing. Shrapnel have gained a fair amount of exposure, certainly within the UK thrash scene, of late and it’s easy to see why. What they lack in originality is more than made up for in intensity and it didn’t take long for a circle pit to break out to the likes of “Toxic Slaughter” and “Warhead”, showcasing their relentless riffing and ear for a decent song. Look out for them supporting Exodus in November. [GR]

Gorgoroth may no longer these days have in their ranks God's arch nemesis, Gaahl, but according to most 'in the know' they are more a force to be reckoned with in the absence of his melodrama and frequent flirtations with the headlines. Quite where this belief comes from is beyond me: not only were Gorgoroth the worst band I saw at Bloodstock 2010, they were the worst band I have seen for a long time before. A daytime slot certainly didn't help their performance, but as a listener with no prior knowledge of anything but the Gaahl-exiled "Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam", their set blazed by devoid of personality from frontman Pest or musical hooks. Looking and feeling like a band past their best and with an eye over their shoulder at the likes of Watain stealing their mantle, Gorgoroth's debatable reputation plunged, in these eyes, from merely offstage troubles to serious onstage ones too. More than likely a band better enjoyed in a dark room, Gorgoroth positioning on the bill looked to have been based all on name and nothing on quality.

This year’s lineup may have been the most brutal yet but let’s not forget that Bloodstock first built its reputation as a haven for the more melodically-inclined side of heavy metal. As though to remind us of this fact and offset the extremity and evil that had come before, the next main-stage slot was filled by power metal heroes/fairies (delete according to your kvltness) Sonata Arctica. With latest album “The Days of Grays” being poorly received by many long-time fans, surely Sonata would be out to prove they’re still a force to be reckoned with? Well, if they were, the performance fell some way short of that conclusion. That’s not to say it was a bad set from the Finnish fivesome, far from it, but it lacked the spark to make it anything more than ‘alright’. Of course, with a frontman as consummate as Tony Kakko at the helm, there’ll always be some entertainment to be had and it was his energy and interaction that saved Sonata from being boring. The set was weighed down by the inclusion of quite a number of new (forgettable) songs, which were politely received, but it was the classics like “FullMoon” and “Don’t Say a Word” that unsurprisingly garnered the largest crowd reaction. Whilst it’s not every day that you see someone wielding a purple ‘keytar’ – the most visually arresting sight on stage, with Kakko’s attire unusually subdued – it was the audience in front of me that provided the most watchable spectacle. Presumably buoyed by the joyous nature of the music, a large group decided to form a hand-holding circle and sway along together, to the amusement of those around them. When one member broke rank to dance in the middle of the ring, everyone else rushed towards him and a mass group hug ensued. Who says there’s no love in metal, eh? [GR]

Generating vibes like few others these days are Enforcer, a band on the up with the recent release of "Diamonds" and finally my first chance to catch them live. Truly looking the part with hair and clothes that suggested nu-metal never existed Enforcer carried themselves with great poise and energy, mixing up their performance with tracks off "Diamonds" and "Into The Night" and reminding all present why they are unanimously becoming the poster boys for the retro heavy metal revival currently in full swing. I've promised myself not to skip their next free gig in Londontown as might have happened just a few months ago. Shit.

To some Powerwolf may be no more than a giant cheese-smelling comedy band but for me, they were THE most anticipated act of Bloodstock 2010. "Bible Of The Beast" turned out to be a slow grower as it's current status as my trusted 'driving metal' album merely hints at the bombastic, operatic and glorious heavy metal within. Positioned as the Sophie Lancaster's overall headliner the Transylvanian-obsessed Germans played to their strengths, with a heavy organ sound and regal, energetic stage presence helping convey the vastness (and silliness, of course) of songs like "Resurrection By Erection", "Panic In The Pentagram" and "Raise Your Fist, Evangelist" to a surprisingly large audience for the band's debut UK show. Frontman Attila Dorn is the obvious focal point, large in size and voice and with a Kingly demeanour, his exhortations for further metal glory proved themselves hard to decline as Powerwolf's songs ring with all the pomp and theatrics that has forged metal in the hearts of the genre's followers through years of thick and thin. While appreciation of Manowar's bravado and lyrical edam can often be a veritable challenge, Powerwolf's knack of writing engaging and dramatic songs is what sets them apart from all other true/power metal bands of today and such a performance as theirs at BOA went some way to show why.

Opeth should need no introduction to anyone viewing this site, so I won't insult your intelligence by providing one. Filling the vacant headline slot created after the sad death of one Ronnie James Dio, and thus Heaven & Hell, earlier this year, Mikael Akerfeldt in his band's announcement was the epitome of graciousness, humbly noting that Opeth could never hope to fill the void left by Dio all the while fronting a band at the very forefront of what makes metal so great today, as one RJD did in years gone by. This magic and added poignancy can now be attributed to marking Bloodstock 2010 Opeth's best festival performance, and second only to this year's Royal Albert Hall show, in all the times I have seen them. Their classics too numerous to count and Akerfeldt's frontmanship a unique mixture of comedy and heartfelt warmth certify Opeth as a unique band for the ages, capable of transcending even the most introspective songs effortlessly to a tired and wet festival crowd as if they were snuggled up warm at home. Without doubt a show highlighted by the delightful tribute cover of "Catch the Rainbow" that would have made the great man himself proud, it didn't so much secure Opeth's greatness (we all knew that anyway) but confirm their suitability for all occasions. As ever, wonderful.

Day 3 - Saturday 14th

With the good ol’ British weather still sticking two fingers up at us, it was time to don the rain jackets and nurse the hangovers for the start of a new day of heavy metal. A slightly ridiculous queue through the mud to gain entrance to the arena (the layout needs reconsidering once again) and the mandatory trip to the bar meant missing most of Evile’s opener “Infected Nation” but with these northern thrashers being one of my most-seen bands it wasn’t cause for too much concern. It’s been a tumultuous time for Evile since they last graced the Bloodstock stage in 2008, with the highs of increasing success and lows of the tragic passing of original bassist Mike Alexander. When I covered their London gig back in January, new bassist Joel Graham was fresh from the rehearsal room and the band still finding their feet once again. Their performance at Wacken the week before BOA had proven the choice of Graham to be a successful one and this half hour only reinforced that sentiment, as Evile blasted out their new-old-school anthems to a damp but enthusiastic crowd. The area in front of the stage may have become a bit of a quagmire but that didn’t stop those hungry for a thrash fix from circle-pitting to their heart’s content, with Mexican wrestling masks and banana costumes making appearances in the melee. The band have grown into one of the most consistent live acts in UK metal and their affable but no-nonsense stage presence suits a festival situation such as this as well as small, dark, sweaty venues. [GR]

What’s the perfect follow-on from some thrash metal? More thrash, of course! So it was that the afternoon continued with British legends Onslaught stepping onto the RJD stage for some lunchtime raging. Kicking things off with “Killing Peace” from the album of the same name (which I’ve just realised came out three years ago; time really does fly), Onslaught wasted no time in thrusting their aggressive metal in our faces. Thankfully the rain had ceased at this point so the coats could come off and with a spot near the front, I was in a prime position and mood to enjoy a great set from the thrash veterans. The last album was a strong effort and this fact was highlighted by 50% of the set being taken from it; the likes of “Burn” and “Destroyer of Worlds” sounding huge in the festival setting. I seem to remember a circle pit opening up behind me throughout, although I must admit to spending the majority of the set in my own little world of headbanging and air guitaring. A few bands across the weekend were able to break out material from the 80s and Onslaught were one of them; classics “Metal Forces” and “Power from Hell” played with a vigour demonstrating why the band built up such a reputation in the first place. With a new album in the works, it looks like there’ll be many more neck-snapping performances to come. [GR]

Unfortunately, even with such (ahem) dedicated professionals as us, some things can slip through the net, so to speak. Normally this is a result of too many trips to the bar, but in the case of German melodic metal stalwarts Edguy, it was only 2pm and yet my memory is somewhat patchy. Whether this means they were boring or I’m simply losing my mind is unclear, but amongst the blur of upbeat tunes I can pick out some well-placed football jokes from always-active frontman Tobias Sammet, as well as constant reference to playing a “breakfast set” - which smacked of a bruised ego and left me with a slightly sour feeling towards the otherwise likable singer. [GR]

There were no such quibbles roaring from the mouth of John Tardy, of course, as even a band as legendary as Obituary are used to playing underdogs. Past experiences of the Floridian fivesome have varied from outstanding to dull, so fingers were crossed for the former…but a song or so in, my body decided to perform its festival party trick of shutting down, meaning I spent about half hour effectively asleep on my feet. Stirring myself enough to concentrate on a vicious rendition of “Chopped in Half”, it was time to refuel…[GR]

If it wasn't for Finns Amorphis and their 1994 classic "Tales From The Thousand Lakes" the world of deathly doom would have developed in a very different way. Granted, most who were at Bloodstock to catch these guys couldn't give two shits about the world of doom/death for it is one inhabited by just a few of us, but it was with knowledge of this era more so than the following 7 albums of increasingly melodic metal that led me to finally scrubbing Amorphis off the 'Bands still to see' list. With an open mind as to their sound circa 21st century and a desire to be impressed, it was with disappointment that Amorphis' set ended in not the uplifting experience I had always hoped it would be. Reasons for the band's popularity are clear to see in the warm, user-friendly metal they espouse in recent albums "Skyforger" and "Eclipse" but in contrast the cold, uninterested performance from all but vocalist Tomi Joutsen was nothing short of poor for a band numbering 20 years in existence. Maybe had any of Joutsen's 5 musical backers shown a degree of dynamism things would not have ended this way, or perhaps I just caught them on an off day, but Amorphis' was more a performance of deathly darkness than melodic brightness; strange given the airing of just two old songs...

For many in attendance, the inclusion of musical madman Devin Townsend was a major selling point of this year’s line-up. For this writer it was an interesting but not overly exciting addition, as my knowledge of his back catalogue only extends as far as recognising a few album titles. This, combined with other factors such as a camera in need of a battery change, led to only a brief period soaking up the vibes of ‘Hevy Devy’ and his progressive metal. The long and layered songs weren’t really ideal for a complete newcomer to properly appreciate given the setting, but an intrinsic intensity and knack for comedic asides suggested a performer worth checking out in full given another chance. [GR]

Given the steady growth of BOA over the past few years, it made perfect sense for the second (“Sophie Lancaster”) stage to finally be realised as a ‘proper’ stage in 2010, with a large marquee replacing the beer tent of old. Unfortunately, the decision to place the stage itself at one of the narrow ends meant a whacking great pillar stood slap-bang in the middle, blocking the view and effectively dividing the performance area in two. The bands played around the obstacle of course, but it took Benediction frontman Dave Hunt to say what we were thinking…”what pillock put this pillar here?!” This was said with a hint of frustration; their set not getting off to the best of starts with delays, equipment problems and what was possibly the worst sound mix I’ve ever heard plaguing the first few songs of the death metal veterans. They haven’t survived over twenty years in the business by lettings such things bother them, though, and 40 minutes later had demonstrated why they deserve recognition as wide as some of their better-known peers. Mid-life might be the traditional time for a crisis but clearly no-one has informed these Brummies of such a fact, as they paced the stage, dealing out slabs of old school brutality with the same enthusiasm they must have had at the very start of their career. I’ve yet to see Benediction put in a less than excellent performance and that trend certainly continued. [GR]

Another act that had many frothing at the mouth before the festival, yet raised only mild interest in me were ‘cyber’ metallers and co-headliners of the dayFear Factory. To be honest I was more familiar with the well documented kerfuffle surrounding the current line-up’s formation, legal issues, cancelled shows (including BOA 2009) etc. than their actual music. This, combined with the day’s drinking, led to a set that was only half concentrated on whilst mucking about at the side of the crowd. The clinical, industrial nature of what was blasting from the stage didn’t resonate with me personally, but much of the audience were clearly loving the chance to see the Americans live – and I suspect they weren’t disappointed with the slick yet intense performance on offer. [GR]

There was once a spell, a few years ago now, where I could have called myself a Children Of Bodom fanatic for all the brilliance of the first few records. However in recent times I have kinda lost my way with them, my knowledge of their music ending with "Hate Crew Deathroll" and thus catching up with them at BOA marked a first reacquaintance in many moons, with a personal request to fill the set with early material pretty well heeded by Alexi Laiho and crew in their Saturday night headline performance. That by this point I was on the train marked 'Fucked' hurtling unstoppably towards a station named 'Nakedcongaline' did not detract from the great performance put on by the Finns, with Laiho's not-so-courteous stage presence the true demander of attention it always has been, both in battle with Janne Warman's keyboards and in his multiple solos spread across "Needled 24/7", "Silent Night, Bodom Night" and many more that go to water plentifully the man's ego. They may have arguably passed their peak on record by popular opinion but to this day Bodom still sound resolutely Bodom, in a style too that is not ill-fitting to headlining great nights like these.

Day 4 - Sunday 15th

Ahh, the festival breakfast slot; don’t you just love knowing a band you like are playing at 10.30am on the final day? Well, no, neither do I. So it turned out that with a queue for the toilet to endure and a hangover-busting (sort of, anyway) ice cream to buy, most of new-school thrashers Bonded By Blood’s set was missed. Still, the sun was shining (and would continue to do so all day!!) and the last couple of songs from the Vio-lence/Exodus-esque Californians, with their neon guitars and youthful enthusiasm, got the day off to a decent start. [GR]

There’s only so much ice cream can do in the hangover-shaking stakes, so a trip to the bar was needed before getting ready to witness the brutality of Suffocation at just gone 11am. On a Sunday morning. In a field. It was a situation that the band were presumably a bit pessimistic about, as henched frontman Frank Mullen seemed genuinely stoked (as the Americans would say) to have a large and enthusiastic crowd in front of him. Thanks to various circumstances in the past, this was my first experience of Suffocation in a live environment and I was left suitably impressed. The sound was bang-on, with the guitars thick and crushing and the vocals clearly audible over the top, providing one of the heaviest mixes of the weekend. Most of the band may have been fairly static throughout, bar the usual headbanging, but such was the energy and charisma of Mullen that this didn’t matter. From his speech about being a brotherhood (“even If you listen to glam, it’s a bit wrong, but you’re still a metalhead!”) to his surely patented ‘blast-hands’ (a bit like jazz-hands but more brutal), he proved to be an entertaining and highly likable band leader – with some impressive death metal pipes to boot. If anyone watching had been feeling sleepy, this was one hell of a wake up! [GR]

Where 'Metal Queen' Doro rates in the annals of historical importance is hard to say but I'd hazard at a guess at certainly one of the most important Germans in our great genre's legacy. No doubt utterly anonymous outside heavy metal circles she however never ceases to provide an uplifting spirit and die-hard conviction that would scare any modern day chart dwellers to death and, oh, she's smoking hot. Doro's presence on festival bills is almost as ubiquitous as Saxon's (come to think of it, has someone checked their pulse lately?) but it's one guaranteeing a jolly good time with ample beer drinking opportunities and quality tunes. What more do you want?! Matching that résumé to the tee it was hard to feel let down by Doro and her trustworthy backing troops. All We Are indeed!

Asides from perhaps at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting there are few occasions where Korpiklaani would not be welcome guests, as anyone who has caught them before can well attest. These Finns were born for the festival mid-afternoon, at a carefully selected time post- and pre-drunkenness/hangovers, somewhat feeling like the ice that makes your JD & coke go down that much sweeter to the sound of any number of alcohol worshipping classics of theirs. Unlike certain other Finns reviewed further above Korpiklaani played to the joys of the festival crowd, ably showing how despite an ever-increasing crowd of folk-tinged metal bands there is none quite like the "Happy Little Boozer". Their recorded output may have become rather static as of late but on the basis of the Bloodstock reception we've no fear of the same from the live show of a band with as joyously ecstatic music as Korpiklaani.

Such a strong main and second stage line-up meant the unsigned tent was once again left a bit neglected by team over the weekend. One band that I did highlight as a must, however, was London’s favourite thrashers Mutant. I’ve seen these guys on many an occasion over the past few years but hadn’t caught them for some time prior to Bloodstock, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a catch up. Feeling like being at a local gig with the amount of people I recognised in the tent, I was pleased to find the band in rude health, blasting out their brand of thrash with aplomb. Mutant’s sound has progressed from more straight-ahead early days to songs with eccentric twists, turns and plenty of traditional metal melody. This performance reminded me just how good they are and that bigger things surely await. [GR]

Fear Factory weren’t the only band forced to pull out of BOA last year but booked again this year – also joining them were Scumdogs of the Universe GWAR. Much like FF, GWAR had many people looking forward to their set, although for completely different reasons…fake blood and bright green jizz for starters! That’s right, a GWAR live review can only ever be a list of the crazy/obscene/offensive/hilarious gimmicks carried out on stage. Decapitation? Check. Zombie Hitler spunking over the crowd? Check. A policeman’s chest being sawn open? Check. The Nazi Pope? Check. Frequent buggery? Double check. All this and more made for a stupidly entertaining spectacle perfect for a festival afternoon, with those near the front coming away gleefully covered in various brightly coloured liquids. What about the music I hear you ask? As I’ve said before: who cares?! [GR]

In the current pantheon of metal bands releasing music that is truly pushing the genre forwards in unique, retro-free methods I defy anyone to argue the band at the forefront of this charge is Gojira. Given that "From Mars To Sirius" is a strong candidate for the best metal album of the past decade, a Gojira live performance has always assumed, for me at least, an opportunity to witness true masters at work. Like all in their position they are misunderstood by many, a loss which is all theirs as a set comprising of "Backbone", "The Heaviest Matter of the Universe" and "Flying Whales" and five others is nothing short of pulverisation of the neck and orgasm of the ears. Gojira have married the heaviness of death metal with the technicalities and feeling of prog, with the results being songs intensely malleable for the live occasion and at Bloodstock they did not falter. If they don’t end up near the top of festival line-ups in a few years time I will attend BOA 2015 in a mankini.

This year’s line-up was the heaviest yet, a fact nicely highlighted by “the biggest death metal band of all time” Cannibal Corpse filling the penultimate slot and making it three death metal bands in a row on the main stage. With a legacy stretching back over 20 years and their legendary status ensured, CC know what they’re doing and do it well. Given that each show involves frontman Corpsegrinder placing one foot on his monitor and windmilling ridiculously whilst the other band members stayed rooted to the spot, headbanging, it really depends on the atmosphere and how you’re feeling as to how good you judge a CC set to have been. Spending most of the time knocking back drinks in preparation for the night’s headliners and despite not enjoying it as much as previous CC performances, the sonic pummelling dished out on tracks like personal favourite “Make Them Suffer” showed why Cannibal Corpse are still alive and kicking. [GR]

I s'pose by now most know the rough answer to the question "Would Bloodbath be half as big as they are without their famous line-up?" but on such occasions as these the best way to find out for sure is it to turn up, beer in hand, and be ready for a set of relentlessly non-progressive death metal played the way Entombed, Dismember and Morbid Angel did around the turn of the 90s. ‘Cos for all the marvels released by the constituent members 'other' bands (that being Opeth and Katatonia for starters) Bloodbath do a bloody good turn in bowing to their teenage passions as with numerous solid riff-heavy songs in their arsenal ("Mock The Cross", "Breeding Death" and "Eaten") and Mikael Akerfeldt's nice-man-being-evil onstage rhetoric there is something particularly enjoyable at witnessing what is essentially a tribute act to the glory days of death metal. Yes this band consisting of non-entities would not be bestowed such a healthy position but in old-school tribute there aren't many standing equal to Bloodbath.

Having been thrust into my 'Current Favourite Band' position in the weeks leading up to BOA Winterfylleth's last minute addition to the bill, just after I'd see them in London the week before the festival, was good news for me and all those in attendance wishing for a set of English-forged, ambient/pagan black metal. Witnessing soundcheck and set-up you could be forgiven for thinking the band you were about to see would sound like Coldplay but thankfully the thought of accidently catching some namby-pamby indie boys is obliterated from the first reverberating riff to the last. That Winterfylleth take the best from 'earthy' BM bands such as Drudkh and Wolves In The Throne Room before giving them a rousing atmosphere and dash of local pride makes their 'non-image' all the more pleasant to behold, and while many of their wares may have been lost in the noise to those not knowledged in new album "The Mercian Sphere" it was at least further assurances that these guys are another British band on the ascendency to great underground things.

As the years tick by and the festivals continue to hark back to the glory days of the 80s for their headliners it might seem bands like Twisted Sister should one day be superseded and replaced by those more relevant to the last 10 or even 20 years. A sound theory but in practice performances like these by the New York legends continue to teach bands young enough to be their offspring exactly what it means to put on a great heavy metal show; at Bloodstock 2010 Twisted Sister brought their hard-rocking 80's anthems to a willing audience to end up unquestionably the band of the festival. Yes they are probably best known for "We're Not Going To Take It" and "I Wanna Rock", two songs we'll all be still be headbanging to in our graves, but in the quality of the remainder of their set it quickly becomes apparent how well suited not just Twisted Sister, but the ilk from which they were born, are to the live stage in a way I bet few other genres of music can hold a candle to. In the quality of "Captain Howdy", "You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll" and "Burn In Hell", Dee Snider's untouchable leadership faces a worthy contender for the highlight of a Sister performance as all the key elements of passion, humour, gratitude and involvement rolled from stage to audience to plaster smiles across the tired faces of all in attendance and remind us, that after 3 days of pure heavy metal glory, you simply can’t beat rock 'n' roll.

Bloodstock 2011 – already booked Immortal and Rhapsody of Fire. SEE YOU THERE!

All text by Ellis Woolley except bands marked Greg Readings. All photos taken by GR.

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