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Bloodstock Open Air 2018 – Friday Highlights

Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

Running since 2001, Bloodstock has become the genuine article when it comes to metal festivals in the UK. Situated in just about the most central part of the UK in the middle of the Derbyshire countryside, the festival has become a Mecca for metalheads needing their annual fix. 

The 2018 lineup boasted some big and some rare names on the bill catering for all genres of music. Where else might one find a festival bill sporting both classic rock legends Mr Big and theistic Satanists Watain. In between those two extremes The first full day of the festival boasted a perfect lineup of hard ‘n heavy acts to keep music fans of all ages happy. It’s a far cry away from the early indoor days at the Assembly Rooms in Derby where fond memories of Battle Metal Night and acts like Conquest of Steel were first introduced to unwary metal lovers. It is however a festival happy to offer enough music to please everyone and more importantly not require you to miss half a set because you need to walk halfway across the county to get to the next stage before another ‘must see’ band comes on. This is festivalling done right! 

The day opened well, sunshine and Fahran in the Sophie Lancaster tent. Promoting a new album and with two previous releases under their belt, they’re one of the few bands that successfully straddle both hard rock and metal with ease. Good vocals as always from Matt Black, the upcoming ‘Vapours’ album is awaited with interest to see just where this talented young band might go next. 

With Memoriam offering a welcome roar and a growl over on the main stage, it was clear to see the party and the atmosphere were all in full swing. With the band members rooted in the extreme metal scene sporting former members of Benediction and Bolt Thrower, the band are a pure old school death metal act, something I never seem to want to listen to at home but always seem to fit perfectly in the sun at a festival. Maybe a bit of sun with the roars is just what’s needed for a set like this to work so well. 

Surprise set of the day came from shock rock supremo, Wednesday 13. Having never had the pleasure of watching him perform before, I didn;t know what to expect but seeing Dani Divine and Shelly D’Inferno dressed as freakish variants of the twins from The Shining and standing either side of a door with ‘redrum’ scrawled across it left us in no doubt that a show was coming. 

And what a show. It’s one that would have benefitted from a darker setting but with costume changes, outfits that headline acts would kill for and fire breathing from Dani and Shelly, it wasn’t just a surprise it was by far one of the best sets of the weekend. As I sit here, I’m smiling as a I type remembering everything from the umbrella flipping the bird to the crowd, the horned masks, the routine involving the girls and Wednesday 13 performing with masks on the back of their heads making the moves looks like something from a J-horror movie. 

I Walked With A Zombie got the best sing along from the crowd and with Dani Divine spelling out just what the audience needed to sing on the closing number, this will be remembered for some time to come. 

SETLIST:

What the Night Brings / Blood Sick / Scream Baby Scream / Serpent Society / Prey for Me / Blood Sucker / Gimmie Gimmie Bloodshed / Condolences / I Want You… Dead / I Walked With a Zombie / I Love to Say Fuck (Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 cover)

Wandering around the various stages saw an opportunity to catch Welsh death metal band Sodomized Cadaver. are a based in the valleys. Now as a rule, if I can’t read the name of the band in their logo, or if it simply looks like a tin of spilled paint I’m going to avoid them. This one was just about legible so the band from the Valleys got a look in for a few songs. It’s the weirdest mix, a Welsh accent is quite warming, almost jolly. The music however, less so. Tough, brutal and growls conjured from the pit of Ollie Jones stomach. A reasonable turn out in the tent though so they’ll be happy. 

The spilled paint logo continued with Bloodbath, whose death metal set on the Ronnie James Dio stage kept the hardcore happy with a brutal (as expected) show. The band, caked in corpse paint and smeared in blood (presumably fake but given Sunday’s act Watain, who knows!) delivered another reminder to newcomers just how it should be done. Again, not one I could listen to at home, but Bloodstock is simply the perfect setting for this type of music. 

Another surprise on the day was the moving of Lovebites from the Sophie Lancaster stage to the main stage, filling in the spot Suicidal Tendencies should have played. The Americans, delayed on their inbound flight would take Lovebites spot on the smaller stage but more on that later. 

The Japanese band were rumoured to be one of the must-see bands of the weekend, with many people claiming to be that friend that discovered them before everyone else. Far easier to appreciate than Babymetal who still, to this day, amaze me with the level of success they have, Lovebites contains musicians not just a set of vocalists fronting a nameless metal band. The quality of material on offer was never in doubt thanks to the time the band members have spent in other acts prior to this one and it was all received very very well by the crowd. If one act deserved to benefit from Suicidal’s misfortune, it was this one. Hopefully a great profile raiser for them. 

No festival is complete without a visit to some of the stands and stalls around the arena and a quick trip to Motley Brew ensured a steaming hot cuppa was in order as was a sit down, a chill and chat whilst flicking through copies Chuck Norris related literature. Some will argue a festival is all about the beer and whilst that plays a (major) part, with multiple ales, lagers and of course a few ciders, there comes a time when a sit down and a cuppa is an absolute necessity. A quick review of some of the day’s photos and highlights and we were off again, this time back to the main stage to catch Kamelot. Now this is a band I’ve followed for years. They never put on a bad show, perfect sound, perfect vocals in Tommy Karevik, the band’s permanent replacement for Roy Khan when Khan fell ill and was unable to perform. There will always be some who argue it’s not Kamelot without Khan but for me Karevik brings a vibrant energy to the band and they benefit from his style immensely as proven on Silverthorn, Haven and latest release The Shadow Theory. Joined again by a guest female vocalist the set for me was great, a grin inducing triumph. For my friend stood next to me, his take on it was ‘meh!, it’s ok but nothing special’. I guess it would be boring if we all liked the same music. 

Suicidal Tendencies when they did finally arrive decamped to the tent and the atmosphere inside suggested something special was about to kick off. Nervous photographers wary of a boot in the back of the head from the anticipated crowd surfers had nothing to worry about as the crowd stayed in place preferring to dance and chant along with the band. That was of course until one fearless chap decided to surf his was to the front of the crowd in his wheelchair. Fair play and respect! 

ST put on a SHOW! The energy in the band was that they exuded 20 years ago. They may be older but they show no signs of slowing down and the crowd lapped up every minute. If you see one band from the festival on their own headlining show, see this one. What must have been a logistical headache for the staff was worth it ten times over to see the band perform. To be honest the intensity on the smaller stage with a rammed crowd was probably better than if everything had gone to plan and they’d been on the main one.  

Emperor provided a little of the black metal majesty we expected but as special guests to Judas Priest, they could’ve provided a little more on the visuals side of things. Looking back to 2016 and Behemoth, we were expecting similar dark, twisted visuals and outfits to go with the music but instead the band focussed on delivering a powerful show that was all about the music. Not bad at all but the visuals I was hoping for would have made it more memorable. 

With Bleed From Within offering a bit of metalcore as a distraction before we went to watch Judas Priest, 30 minutes of aggression and intensity left us needing another moment at Motley Brew before we were able to find a suitable spot to watch the headliners on the Ronnie James Dio stage. 

What can we say about Judas Priest that hasn’t been said before? Imperious, majestic and the perfect headliner at a festival like Bloodstock. They are a band you need to see before they call it a day. Already close to their 40th anniversary, the band have seen K.K. Downing retire and more recently Glenn Tipton step down due to an ongoing fight with Parkinson’s disease. Thankfully we got to see Tipton return to the stage for the four song encore but for the most part, his place is now filled with the admirable skills of Andy Sneap. Having co-produced latest album ‘Firepower’, it’s difficult to think of anyone other than Sneap that might have stepped into the boots of Tipton. Thankfully the interplay between him and Richie Faulkner make it a phenomenal visual show, the two of them taking the performance to the crowd stage left and stage right. With Ian Hill preferring to hang back close to band mate Scott Travis, it was left to the two young guitarists and vocalist Rob Halford, prowling the stage in his typically imposing style. If ever an artist could walk into a room and silence it just with his presence, then Rob Halford must fit that category. There are few vocalists as well respected as Halford and the full crowd in front of them would suggest that regardless of your tastes in metal, everyone has place for Priest. 

The newer tracks from Firepower blend seamlessly with the older classics and it feels like Priest have finally found their studio mojo again after a few false starts with Nostradamus and Redeemer of Souls, neither of which do anything for me at all. 

Lights, screens, visuals, smoke and Tipton for the encore of Metal Gods, Breaking the Law, No Surrender and Living After Midnight, it doesn’t get much better than that. 

As Priest draw to a close, a final treat is in store for us over on the Sophie Lancaster stage. Ever the consummate performer Doro returned to the UK for a special show that drew a packed crowd back to the tent. Like Priest Doro Pesch knows exactly what works with a metal crowd and she, like Halford is respected by all and sundry with her place in metal history set in stone. 

All the hits were played and many heads were banged. New material All For Metal stands shoulder to shoulder with classics like All We Are. It’s impossible (not that you would want to) to dislike a Doro set. Energised, full on, sing along and uplifting. If you were starting to flag, after a day on the motley brew teas, then Doro is the perfect caffeine injection to see you back to your tent or, in my case, back to my mate’s house for a soft bed and a hot shower. 

Only one day in and already Bloodstock 2018 was shaping up to be a winner.  

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