Bloodstock – Walton-on-Trent, Catton Hall – 13 August 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby (with additional reporting by Rich Hobson)   
Sunday, 20 August 2017 04:30

Following the announcement, the previous evening, of two of the three headliners for next year’s event (they’re Gojira and Nightwish, in case you’ve been asleep for the past eight days or so), excitement levels were understandably high when the Über Rock team arrived at Catton Hall for the third and final day of the 2017 iteration of Bloodstock… the mood was matched by the fact that, once again, the sun was high in the sky above and there was narry a sign of a cloud threatening to dampen our spirits.

 

The task of delivering the opening sermon of the BOA Sunday service falls to Kettering’s Switchblade City, who sound an early wake-up call with their punchy classic hard rock with sleazy, grungy undertones. And vocalist Sean Seabrook certainly wins the UR award for the most dapper frontman (sorry, there’s no trophy, just this virtual praise!).

 

Broken Teeth 6

 

But, there’s no time for Team UR to hang about, as a mere 15 minutes later the main stage is grabbed by the balls – well, at least those watching it are. Broken Teeth certainly live up to their name, as their impact is like being hit square in the gob with a concrete sledgehammer. Their fierce hardcore is delivered at battering ram speed and a ferocious intensity underpinned by pummelling rhythms. Wiry frontman Dale Graham certainly has both charisma and energy by the bucketloads, and succeeds in ensuring the pit action starts just as early as the music, while the taut band of musicians behind him are taut and clinical in their performances.

 

Sunday is traditionally the most diverse day at Bloodstock, and so it proves, most certainly in the Sophie tent, where the action kicks off with GraVil, who press the accelerator full to the floor, setting a blistering early pace with their technically precise death metal. Meanwhile, back across the arena, Battalions deliver dirty, grime-encrusted doom built on massive bass lines and monolithic riffs capable of shaking mountains (if there were any nearby): if there was any mud on the ground, their sound would be ten times thicker, and I would happily continue to bathe in it…

 

Venom Prision 7

 

A shout of “marry me” echoes through the arena as Venom Prison frontwoman Larissa Stupar takes to the main stage: she’s certainly a striking looking, as well as sounding woman, so the offer is understandable. The first thing that hits you sonically is the venomous (sic) double kick work; next it’s Stupar’s vitriolic vocals, which are unrelenting in their delivery – she sure knows how to wrench every last ounce of evil from her death growls. The guitars, meanwhile, remain very much in the background, both physically and in terms of the mix, creating the soundtrack against which the dual beatdown of percussion and vocal is delivered. A powerful performance from a band with a very bright future in the genre.

 

Back on the second stage, Blind Haze deliver classic British speed metal, very much in the vein of Motörhead and Vardis, to a decent crowd who nod and applaud their no-frills performance with due appreciation. New bloods Seething Akira meanwhile, are laying down the beats in the Hobgoblin tent, their twin rap/metalcore trade-off vocal approach very much drawn from the Raging Speedhorn school, but nevertheless vibrant and energetic, with plenty of bounce, a suitably heavy undertow and good use of breakdowns, both vocally and instrumentally. Another band I look forward to hearing more from.

 

Brujeria 1

 

Brujeria may be introduced as “South America’s greatest metal band” but it is hard to mistake the distinctive figure of Shane Embury stage left. Like King 810 the previous afternoon, Brujeria make great play of their gang-culture image – but, they do so with a little humour, and much more convincingly. And they also have the music to back it up, with hard-driving guitars, thumping rhythms and catchy-as-fuck choruses (even if they are sung in Spanish, they’re crazily infectious), and a genuinely charismatic frontman in John Lepe in particular. Yes, it may be a bit of an act, but when you’ve got the muscle to back it up, I for one sure as hell ain’t arguing.

 

It’s a horrible clash for Wretched Soul, who nevertheless are ramping up the adrenaline levels in the Sophie tent with their classic blackened DM of the British old school, with their taut rhythms, Andy Clifford’s highly effective double pedal work, Steve Clifford’s lush guitar harmonies and the massive vocal range of Chris Simmons, who moves from the guttural to the high pitched without losing any sense of sincerity at either end.

 

Hotly tipped, not least by us here at Über Rock, Courtesans offer a total change of mood and pace with their atmospheric, cascading interpretation of alt-goth punk, which mesmerizes the reasonably full tent. Like the band following on after them, they are one of the more unusual bookings of the weekend, but they are also one of the more exciting, and I am sure this passionate performance will have earned them many new fans: well, they got at least one!

Possessed 2

 

Over on the main stage, Possessed should be delivering a masterclass in death metal. Certainly, Emilio Marquez is putting on one of the most proficient drum performances of the weekend, and the twin guitar attack of Daniel Gonzalez and Claudeous Creamer is tight as fuck as the band blast their way through their back catalogue with mechanical efficiency… but, there is something missing: that vital edge seems to be blunted. Jeff Becerra seems distracted, upset almost: his interactions with the crowd are curt, almost caustic, and he struggles to guide his wheelchair around the stage, constantly snagging the wheels in his microphone cable, which doesn’t add to his humour. A disappointing performance from one of the bands I had been most eager to be brutalized by. (Apparently it was a different story over the following two nights at headline shows in Dublin and Belfast – ah well!). (MA)

 

Another day, another killer newcomer smashing the Sophie stage. Puppy are one of the strangest – and most exciting – bookings of the festival. Boasting a sound which exists in between the sonic realms of Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins and Metallica, Puppy offer up massive riffs with a healthy dose of alt. rock catchiness, creating the perfect atmosphere for a roaring festival set. Even without a debut album (as yet, at least) Puppy have proved themselves as a band with the world at their feet.

 

obituary 1

 

As one of the most prolific and respected names in death metal, it stands to reason that Obituary know all the tricks of the trade. And with Obituary, there are no tricks – just pure, thundering death metal groove. With a career that began over three decades ago and ten albums worth of material to mine, the band’s setlist was always going to feel all-too-brief, but goddamn if they don’t make it count. Guts are rumbled from the get-go, with the clattering drum intro to ‘Internal Bleeding’ setting off a chain reaction of thrashing heads and mass growl-alongs proving that ska isn’t the only genre that can enjoy its moment in the sun. (RH)

 

It's another of those horrible clashes, this time for Belfast Metal 2 The Masses winners Shrouded, who take to the New Blood stage mere minutes after Obituary open their assault in the main arena. Nevertheless, the youngsters look supremely confident as they make their grand entrance and immediately enrapture the small audience with their strident and taut performance. Over the way, Wolfheart deliver solid classic metal with a thrashy edge and enough chilling atmospherics to defy the bright sunshine outside, getting plenty of heads nodding (and more than a few female mouths salivating) right from the off.

 

Hell 5

 

For the second successive day, and for exactly the same slot, the pit in front of the main stage is cleared: well, Hell are rumoured to have more than 60 tonnes of pyrotechnics in it – and they’re fully intent on using them, as is demonstrated by the fiery start to their set: I was standing about 100 yards from the stage and I swore my eyebrows were going to ignite in the heat! Hell, and especially frontman Dave Bower, have always possessed a sense of the theatrical, and Bloodstock’s cavernous stage allows them full rein: not even the potentially disastrous start of Bower’s head mic not working stops the singer drawing the audience to his breast and cradling them there for the rest of this dramatic performance, in which the frontman brings out every weapon in his arsenal in the name of high entertainment. The emphasis may be on creating a spectacle, but they have the musicianship and the catalogue of songs to back up the sense of OTT showmanship that their shows evoke. They pulled it off in every regard, to provide one of the highlights of the weekend.

 

Skindred 2

 

Another band who definitely know how to put on a show – as well as divide opinion when it comes to their inclusion on bills such as this – are south Wales ragga metal masters Skindred. They demonstrate this even before they take the stage, with a photo of the late Roger Moore, in 007 guise of course, on their bass drum and a special appearance by Darth Vader (to the theme of the ‘Imperial March’, naturally), before Benji proves that he most definitely is one of the coolest mofos in the businesses. He knows how to have fun with the audience (“just do what the blackie does” he shouts self-deprecatingly during one of the mass participation sessions) while delivering songs with some very serious political and sociological message, which also demonstrate his knowledge of the need to make the method of delivery entertaining.


It’s not all fun: Benji gets very emotional as he introduces ‘Saying It Now’, wiping tears from his eyes as he deidicates it to his friend Sean and speaks of the need to reach out to the people you love while you still can do so: and you can hear the breaths being held in the arena, and see couples unconsciously holding hands as Mikey Demus strums out the stripped-back melody… But, soon it’s back to the full-on party mode, with Benji cajoling us to “do this thing right or fuck off” if he feels we are not fully reciprocating his energy and commitment. ‘Nobody’ has virtually the whole field bouncing and singing – and then, it’s time to get those T-shirts (and baby blankets and even underpants) in the air for a huge Newport helicopter (hell, even security get in on the act!). If there were ever any doubts that Skindred can’t hold their own in any circumstance, they sure as hell proved otherwise with this showstopper of a set. However, things are just about to get awesome…

 

Arch Enemy 9

 

Arch Enemy take to the stage with such a commanding presence that it immediately beggars the question as to why they weren’t headlining the final night: indeed, to many people, and I definitely include myself in this, they were the true headliners, with the band following them merely the warm down (although our man Rich will beg differ, as you’ll read below). What is immediately apparent is how quickly Alissa White-Gluz has made the role of fronting the band very much her own: yes, she’s been in the band for three years now, but it always was going to be a huge task to fill the New Rocks left empty by the departure of Angela Gossow. White-Gluz has more than risen to the challenge. Not only is she more than Gossow’s equal, if not better, especially in terms of her dynamics, in the vocal department, she certainly is much better in terms of presenting a dramatic persona at the front of the band: whereas her predecessor relied on her physical presence and dominance, White-Gluz interacts more with the audience, portraying herself as much more personable and approachable.

 

Arch Enemy 5

 

However, despite all White-Gluz’s assets, Michael Amott is still very much the commander-in-chief in the Arch Enemy ranks, controlling everything with subtle hand gestures and nods of the head as he ducks in and out of solos, as well as exuding that aura of confident satisfaction at what is going on around him, smiling approval as the audience roar their appreciation for the heavy metal masterclass being delivered before them.

 

As White-Gluz points out, this is the last show of the ‘War Ensemble’ touring cycle – and what a way to end it – but for the band it also marks the start of that for their next album, ‘Will To Power’ (due for release on 8 September), and so it’s only right that they unveil a couple of new songs, such as the opener ‘The World Is Yours’ and the magnificent ‘No Gods No Masters’. And as if she feels she needs to blow away any lingering traces of doubt about her right to front this iconic band, she wields her mic stand like a battleaxe as she totally makes ‘We Will Rise’ her own personal statement of intent.

 

As I said, a masterclass. For me, it was game over. Over, out and done. (MA)

 

Megadeath 9

 

Bloodstock is the biggest metal festival in the UK with good reason; not only does it manage to pack its line-ups with the cream of the metal world (both domestically and internationally), but its headliner choices are the boldest in the game. With 2017 seeing two metallic behemoths offered the opportunity to bring a true spectacle to UK metal audiences, the closing spot goes to thrash legends Megadeth.

 

With only a dazzling lightshow and video display to back them up, Megadeth’s show relies on letting the music do the talking. And musically speaking, the band are on fire, this incarnation of Megadeth sounding as tight as any thrash band ever has. Less incendiary however, is frontman Dave Mustaine, whose usual wry onstage patter is cut to a bare minimum tonight. Don’t take this to mean that the firebrand has cooled with age however; a hoarseness that creeps into his voice suggests that Mustaine is playing through illness.

 

Though this cuts the crowd interaction down to bare minimum, Mustaine and co. make up for it by burning through a setlist culled of thrash’s biggest hits. Opening with ‘Hanger 18’, Megadeth unroll a setlist which draws from material from across their career, right up to 2016s Dystopia. Cuts from this album sit pretty alongside classic material, with ‘The Threat Is Real’ and ‘Dystopia’ feeling like they could have been staples of the band’s set for years. New album or no, Megadeth know exactly how to please the crowd – hits aplenty in the guise of ‘In My Darkest Hour’, ‘She Wolf’ and ‘Sweating Bullets’ all getting the crowd roaring.

 

Megadeath 4

 

For a thrash metal band, Megadeth certainly have a way with power crooners, ‘A Tout Le Monde’ and ‘Trust’ acting as sincere highlights in the set, whilst fans of the heavier material are served well with the closing salvo of ‘Symphony of Destruction’, ‘Peace Sells’ and ‘Holy Wars’ – a demonstration of one of the best thrash discographies out there. Without the crowd interaction (or at least, Mustaine interaction – there’s no denying he’s one of the most intriguing frontmen in the business) aspects that usually fuel the energy of a Megadeth show, this set likely won’t go down as one of the band’s most historic. In terms of closing the biggest metal festival in the UK during one of the most exciting times in metal for decades? Megadeth are a solid example of a legacy metal band still firing on all cylinders. (RH)

 

PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/ Über Rock. View our full gallery of photographs HERE.

 

Tickets for the Bloodstock 2018, for which Gojira and Nightwish have been confirmed as headliners, are now on sale.

 

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