Bloodstock – Walton-on-Trent, Catton Hall – 12 August 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby (with additional reporting by Rich Hobson)   
Saturday, 19 August 2017 04:30

It’s not supposed to be this way… the second morning of Bloodstock dawned brightly. Yes, there was a bright yellow orb in the sky. OK, there also were a few ominous looking grey clouds lurking just beyond the periphery of the Catton Hall site, but by and large they skirted its edge, only briefly threatening to visit themselves upon our burning faces and shoulders… So, once again, the wellies were left lying forlorn in the corner of our bedroom above Tamworth’s lovely Globe Inn as we and the rest of the Belfast hallion battalion once again headed into the arena for another day of metallic mayhem!


In fact, we were running slightly behind schedule, and arrived at the Hobgoblin tent just in time for the asylum to open its doors and for us to discover that the lunatics had taken it over. Ward XVI obviously have a very strong following for their brand of goth-noir tinged melodic metal, as most of those present are clapping along before the first song has reached its halfway point and are singing the opening section of the second one. Heck, we’re only minutes into Day Two and I’m already in need of psychiatric evaluation…


Fallujah 3


But there’s no time for any of that nonsense, as Fallujah are about to rip the entire festival a new one with a truly eye-opening performance – and one of the most impressive opening sets I have seen at this or any other festival. For it not even to be opening time at the pub we left half an hour earlier, the San Francisco crew are on absolute fire: you wouldn’t know that the band had recently lost their singer (Alex Hoffman) of ten years’ standing, and that guest replacement Monte Barnard had only been in the role a few weeks, as he is commanding and confident, getting the earlycomers jumping and moving. The result is as clinical and venomous a set of atmospheric progressive metal as you’ll see in this or any other arena. A stunning start.


Back on the New Blood stage, Hundred Year Old Man bring a definite gloom to otherwise sunburst morning, with hardcore vocals over dense, almost droning, walls of guitar noise, which in turn are complemented as much by the amount of smoke used as by the darkness of the thick sound with which they lambast the handsomely sized and appreciative crowd. They are a more than suitable curtain-raiser for Winterfylleth.




Now, I’m not a fan of the Yorkshire doomsters: never have been. I find their songs dull and their stage shows boring. So, we stroll on by en route to the Sophie Stage for our first visit of the day… ah, this is more like it! There’s certainly no chance of getting bored, even for a millisecond as Eradikator get a rapturous reception for their full-throttle thrash attack, delivered faster than Lewis Hamilton down the back straight at Silverstone. It may be only just gone noon, but the horns are being held high and the hair is flying as the Brummie ‘bangers rip through their allotted half hour of old school thrash with no excuses sought or given… it’s just four lads, great musicians all, on a stage, having a party and doing what they love. Which is also exactly what can be said back across the arena of Liverpool’s Reaper, who provide the second course in a triple whammy thrash attack with a performance which is tight and energetic, again with firm nods to the old school tradition, their youthful zest showing that the genre is in good hands as it enters its third generation.


Havok 2


With the site now bathed in glorious sunshine, Havok pick up the pace on the main stage, blowing the remnants of gloom away with an exhibition of well-oiled thrash. There is no let-up in the energy exuding from the stage as they rattle through their 40-minute set at neck-snapping speed, setting the tone for some of the mayhem that is to come later in the afternoon. It’s another ‘banging set from a band who really know how to get a moshpit swirling…


Back in the Hobgoblin tent, all hell is breaking loose, thanks to another of Über Rock’s “ones to watch” – the maniacal Raised By Owls. If Lawnmower Deth are the kings of comedic thrash, the RBO are their equivalent in the grindcore world, and they threaten to bring the rammed tent down around them with an insanely noisy and raucous exhibition of lunacy incarnate. Hysterical, and brilliant, stuff.


King 810 7

King 810 were definitely the most controversial band of the weekend, both in the fact that they were on the bill and by way of their reputation: indeed, the latter helped, in the week beforehand, to fuel speculation as to whether or not they would actually make it to the stage, following the arrest of guitarist Andrew Beal on weapons charges at the beginning of the month. With the band declaring that they would be appearing at Catton Hall “either as free men or as wanted men” and subsequently posting a photo of UK Border control checkpoint, they do indeed make their appointment.

It’s immediately apparent, however, that something is wrong: there seems to be a spark missing, as, despite their reputation for incendiary live shows, it just fails to ignite. Yes, David Gunn storms back and forward across the stage like a caged bear in heat, spitting out his expletive-filled rants about politics, religion and anything he else he cares to target; but, there’s no real energy to the set, especially as Beal (if indeed it is he) remains motionless at one side of the stage throughout. The overall result is, that while there are a hardcore few down the front rapping along to every word, a large percentage of the crowd look on bemused, wondering just what the absolute fuck is going on! (MA)


Proving that you don’t need a million-pound marketing campaign to amass a following, Bangover advertise their set with a simple cardboard sign right next to the entrance to the arena: “Bangover: Dental Thrash, 14:30 Jägermeister Stage. Free toothpaste”. And, would ya believe it, it works. Dental thrash or no, the band set teeth a-rattling with their furious riffing assault, prompting massive grins and very sore necks in their short but sweet set. (RH)


Annihilator 4


Following the thick, meaty blackened death metal attack of Abhorrent Decimation in the Sophie tent, Annihilator bring a sense of reality back to proceedings on the main stage.  Jeff Waters is in terrific form, not just in terms of tearing up his fretboard as he opens the doors to shredfest central but also in his relationship with the crowd, even making jokes about Canada and inviting fans to shout out requests. Apart from one new song – ‘Twisted Lobotomy’, from the album due to drop in November – the set is exactly what you would expect at a festival, a rapid run-through of the band’s archive, from ‘King Of The Kill’ and ‘Testified And Crucified’ to ‘Alice In Hell’ (the reaction when those first few notes uncoiled from the speakers was almost otherworldly) and right back as far as ‘Phantasmagoria’. Another blinding set – but there was the smell of mayhem in the air, and it was getting closer!


Municipal Waste 2


Municipal Waste hold the Bloodstock record for the most bodies (465) over the pit wall during one song – and they quickly made it clear that they fully intended to smash it on this return visit (hence the reason the pit was cleared of all but the bravest photographers). Right from the intro tape, the circle pit is going at full speed, and the bodies are already piling over the wall, where in turn they are met by a triple layer of security teams, who deal with the wave after wave of surfers very professionally. On stage, it’s nearly as insane as in the constantly moving arena, as Tony Foresta encourages more and more madness: but, none of it would not mean a thing if the band weren’t in total control and tight as a nut – which, of course, they are! And, yes – they beat the record, with more than 700 people counted coming over the barriers in one go… and more than 2,000 across the duration of their set. Fucking insane! (MA)


Hailing from South Wales, Florence Black share a strong sonic similarity with US southern rockers Black Stone Cherry. Big in riffs and even bigger in powerful vocals, the band sound like BSC did in the glory days of their career; a band hungry for success and utterly determined to provide some good times rock n roll. Boy oh boy do they? Roaring riffs, solos and pure bombast turn the tent into a veritable party, the band proving themselves worthy torch-bearers for sunshine soaked brilliance. (RH)


Hatebreed 5


There was only one band who you could possibly think of the follow the mayhem inflicted by Municipal Waste - and that, of course, was Hatebreed, who delivered another beating on the still active and enthusiastic pit. Honestly, where the fuck they were getting the energy from is beyond me! The pit never stopped circling, the walls of death never stopped colliding and the bodies don’t stop flying over the wall as Jamie Jasta constantly encourages the crowd to give him more: greedily, they don’t need to be asked twice. Meanwhile, on stage, the band are tighter than a nun’s fanny and their set of big pops gives those actually listening exactly what they want to hear.


Elsewhere, those jovial pirates Red Rum are whipping up a storm in the packed Sophie tent, their shanties provoking bouts of unco-ordinated dancing among complete strangers and general jolly yo-ho-hoing galore. On the New Blood Stage, Decrepit Monolith deliver the first disappointment of the week: yes, they certainly have a sense of the dramatic, with burning candles, themed costumes and singer Odious entering anointing the stage from a skull all very entertaining stuff, but by comparison the music is fairly standard black metal fare which doesn’t quite have the flair of its presentation. Twisted Illusion seem somewhat cramped on the tiny Jäger stage, but draw a solid and appreciative response for their expansive progressive-tinged metal, while zhOra fly the Irish flag high and proud with their hard-hitting and thoroughly enjoyable brand of progressive sludge.


Kreator 5


A huge explosion of blood red confetti heralds the entrance of Kreator, and what follows over the next hour is a complete and utter masterclass from the founding fathers, and still the chieftains, of the European thrash movement, proving that they still stand head and shoulders above all the competition that has tried to oust them over the past three decades – and also that they remain more than capable of taking on their American counterparts. The stunning stage production gives an appropriate backdrop for the equally stunning display of musical craftsmanship and Mille and co level the opposition in a bloodied heartbeat, then pick them up and do it again – and again, and again… They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Kreator obviously still have plenty up their sleeves, and they know how to use them, if the intensity of this sublime performance is anything to go by.


As the main stage is prepared for the evening’s epic finale, there’s time for another trip to the Sophie tent, where Xentrix are once again proving why they are one of the finest latter-day proponents of thrash, British style. They are taut and intense, concise in their delivery and expansive in their impact; and again, unlike many of their trans-Atlantic counterparts, they know how to have fun in the process. By way of complete and total contrast, Departed bring the action on the Jägermeister stage to a boisterous conclusion with their rambunctious rock ‘n’ roll which fits in perfectly with the slightly drunken state into which the evening is descending for many. (MA)


Ghost 8


Back in March, I posited that Ghost were a band more than ready to take their place as headliners in the metal world. Tonight, they more than live up to that claim. The slow build of the band’s intro tape sets the excitement to frenzied levels, so much so that the crowd positively erupts as the band launch into ‘Square Hammer’. From there it is a masterclass in how to run a world-class metal spectacle, the band fully equipped with some of the best tunes in the game and undoubtedly the most iconic visuals going. To top it all off, Papa Emeritus III is possessed of an otherworldly charm that’d put the antichrist to shame.


Menacing yet oddly endearing, Emeritus drips with Transylvanian charm (albeit Transylvania via Linkoping) as he conducts the satanic symphony for the night. Flanked by his Nameless Ghouls, who – as the name suggests – although nameless and faceless, prove to be incredibly charismatic in their own way. Completing this unholy trinity are the crowd participants – most notably the Sisters of Sin, adorned in nun’s habits and passing their own communion to the fortunate (and reverent) crowd members amassed against the barrier. For all of the bells and whistles that make a Ghost show so memorable, undoubtable the key figure (and image) to the whole package is Papa Emeritus himself. Cutting a distinctive figure as he leers and looms across the stage, Papa is often silhouetted by the gouts of flame and stage smoke which create an image worthy of a Hammer horror.


Ghost 4


And then, there’s the songs. From the gut-grinding bassline to ‘From The Pinnacle To The Pit’ through to the imperious riff of ‘Cirice’, it’s impossible to not get caught up in the band’s pace as they pull out some of the hottest songs in the metal world. Meliora has seen Ghost evolve into an entirely new beast from the band that came before, skyrocketing in prestige as they take pole position to become one of the biggest bands in our world. Feeling like the crescendo moment to a story which has been building for a little under a decade, Ghost take Bloodstock as conquerors, a fitting closing statement to the ‘Meliora’ era. (RH)


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Jeff Waters is in terrific form, not just in terms of tearing up his fretboard as he opens the doors to shredfest central but also in his relationship with the crowd, even making jokes about Canada and inviting fans to shout out requests.  Apart from one new song – ‘Twisted Lobotomy’, from the album due to drop in November – the set is exactly what you would expect at a festival, a rapid run-through of the band’s archive, from ‘King Of The Kill’ and ‘Testified And Crucified’ to ‘Alice In Hell’ (the reaction when those first few notes uncoiled from the speakers was almost otherworldly) and right back as far as ‘Phantasmagoria’.  Another blinding set – but there was the smell of mayhem in the air, and it was getting closer!