Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2015 words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
After an amazing start to Bloodstock, the sun is out again on Saturday morning, and another day of incredible international metal bands and festivities lies ahead. On the Dio mainstage, with painted faces and a caped and hooded bassist, black metallers 1349 are tearing it up in front of a crowd full of energy and excitement. Hailing from Norway, and named after the year the Black Death came to their country, 1349 usually prefer to perform under the cover of darkness. Regardless of the glorious sunshine, their setlist today is dark and brutally heavy, unsurprisingly biased in favour of their last album Massive Cauldron of Chaos, released last September.
Finnish folk metal band Korpiklaani perform next on the mainstage, before making way for local hardcore punk and death metal legends Napalm Death. They are welcomed onto the stage by the crowd chanting their name loudly, before vocalist Mark Greenway takes over the platform. He charges around, wildly shaking his head and generally going berserk, while belting out a massive repertoire of tracks from their sizeable back catalogue. Greenway announces that guitarist Mitch Harris can’t be with them today, so instead they are joined by Munky of Korn. Confessing that he’s only joking, he properly introduces touring guitarist John Cooke before launching into ‘When All is Said and Done’ from their 2006 album SmearCampaign. With socio-political statements preceding other tracks like advising people that “they don’t really need to buy everything they try to sell you every waking moment” and “the importance of treating people as people”, it appears that Napalm Death want their fans to take a message away with them from their performance.
After Napalm Death, Californian thrashers Dark Angel take to the stage under their familiar red batwing logo backdrop to shred out some blistering guitar riffs beneath the equally blistering sun. Despite it being more than twenty years since they last released a studio album and having taken lengthy breaks since then, Dark Angel still manage to sound fresh and maintain a strong fanbase as enthusiastic as ever. A loud sing-along to ‘Never to Rise Again’ and circle pits throughout their set are testament to their enduring popularity. Singer Ron Rinehart tells the crowd that “we have come here to do two things: to chew bubble gum and to kick ass. And we’re all out of gum!” before dedicating ‘The Burning of Sodom’ to recently deceased performer Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Yet another re-formed old school thrash metal band are up next on the Sophie stage. With a little more funk and a lot more record-scratching than Dark Angel, Mordred open their set in front of a surprisingly thin crowd. Flamboyant frontman Scott Holderby announces “We are Mordred, the bastard sons of heavy metal!” before strutting and dancing around the stage energetically, almost falling over a monitor at one point. The tent fills to a much more respectable level during their set and fans seem to enjoy the show.
One of the most anticipated bands of the day, if not the festival, are the penultimate mainstage act, Opeth. A massive crowd have gathered to see the Swedish progressive metal quintet. An extended, gentle intro sets a relaxed mood as the sun begins to set, and ‘Eternal Rains Will Come’ from their 2014 album Pale Communion is the (thankfully) ironic opening track. Indulging his sense of humour, singer and guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt makes regular quips between tracks (of which there are only half a dozen, as fans of Opeth will be unsurprised to hear). In one interlude, he jokes that the song they are currently playing is called ‘Tuning’, and then apologetically announces that they are about to play a track from one of their most hated albums, ‘The Devil’s Orchard’ from their 2011 release Heritage. Indeed, the music of Opeth is not to every metal fan’s taste, and there is some minor drunken heckling from the audience; however the selection of tracks in today’s show is well suited to the diverse crowd and seem to be equally appreciated by fans as well as those unfamiliar with their material. Reminiscent of yesterday’s interaction at Sabaton, the crowd take Åkerfeldt by surprise with chants of “IKEA”, prompting him to admit his pride in owning plenty of Ikea furniture and reminding the crowd that Volvo is also a Swedish brand. Chants of “Volvo” did not ensue. He announces that the sixth track is to be their last, but not to worry, because it is three days long, and the epic track ‘Deliverance’ is the perfect set closer, with people heard singing the catchy closing rhythm on the way to the bar afterwards.
Closing the mainstage tonight are Within Temptation, the Dutch symphonic metal ensemble, fronted by Sharon den Adel. Their show is a spectacular presentation of pyrotechnics, lights and big screen video backdrops, and much effort and expense has apparently been spent to create the perfect audio-visual experience. This goes so far as to use pre-recorded audio during the performance, at least for some of Sharon’s backing vocal lines, but possibly elsewhere. And all does not go smoothly; technical issues cause the band to make three attempts at playing ‘Ice Queen’ from their 2000 album Mother Earth before giving up after curious power failures at the same point during the intro each time. This gives drummer Mike Coolen an opportunity to deliver an impromptu drum solo, and for the crowd to have a giggle as the big screen cameras pan around the patient crowd. An unfortunate hiccup in an otherwise entertaining set which looked and sounded great.
Meanwhile in the Sophie Lancaster tent, Italian symphonic death metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse are preparing to wrap up the second stage for the night. More technical problems, possibly coinciding with those affecting Within Temptation out on the main stage, delay the start of their set. This results in the Sophie tent filling to capacity as people leave the Dio stage, and the show starts fifteen minutes later than scheduled. The six members of the band enter the stage in a theatrical procession, dressed in tuxedos, before opening with the thundering drums of ‘The Hypocrisy’. Another power cut during the second track ‘Minotaur’ now comes as little surprise, but Tommaso Riccardi politely asks the crowd to “please make some noise and be patient. Obviously shit happens in beautiful places like this”. Luckily, this seems to be the end of the trouble, and the set continues uninterrupted with some heavy tracks including ‘Requiem in C Minor’, ‘The Violation’ and the first track from their debut album ‘In Honour of Reason’. An infectious sea of synchronised banging heads is visible as far as the eye can see inside the darkened tent. A confetti cannon during the climax of ‘The Forsaking’ dramatically ends their set, and the live music for the day, leaving just one last day of Bloodstock 2015 to come.