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Bloodstock Open Air 2018 – Saturday Highlights

Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

The Saturday at Bloodstock 2018 threatened and delivered the age old problem that affects numerous festivals in the U.K. namely rain. After some 3-4 months of heatwaves and glorious sunshine, someone in nature’s weather department clearly thought “that’s enough England, have a dose of this.” 

Preparation is everything though so the best way to approach the likelihood of a rainy day is to ignore the weather reports and stick to the Hawaiian shirt uniform as dictated by Cannibal Corpse who would later be playing as special guest to headliners Gojira.

First up though and with a mere drizzle in the air, Power Trip offer the opportunity to bask, if not in the sun then in some old school thrash metal mixed with an underground punk feel that feels as fresh now as it would have 25 years ago. Displaying the sort of drive and energy of a band just starting out, the years of relentless touring really have paid off for the band and they manage to whip the crowd up nicely. They’re followed by Orden Ogan who offered a slight change to the expected set thanks to Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann having broken his thumb so no guitar work for him. It gave us the opportunity to see Seeb as a pure front man without the guitar and he managed to pull it off brilliantly. 

Power metal in the style that Orden Ogan produce can go either way in front of a Bloodstock crowd, with the bulk potentially wanting heavier, harder metal rather than the anthemic tracks that the gunmen had to offer. Thankfully the crowd bought into the music, the look, the fist punching sing-along and the fire… ooh the fire. With flame bursts reaching the top of the stage, even taking Levermann by surprise occasionally, the band put on ‘a show’. Smiles all round, a rousing reception from the crowd singing ‘cold, dead and gone’ as Seeb helps close the set out with the epic ‘The Things We Believe In.’

Whilst Septic Flesh and Venom Inc continued to wow the crowds on the main stage, the New Blood stage offered up Th1rt3en who did what you always hope the stage will give you, namely presenting a new band worthy of investigation and follow ups after the festival is over. Metal 2 the Masses finalists in 2017 but missing out on the prize saw the band knuckle down and return as champions in 2018, with the right to perform hard fought and well won. A hard sound, a mix of clean and harsh vocal work, the band know how to put on a show and with a bit more exposure have hopefully guaranteed a solid future. 

For those that think Bloodstock is all about circle pits and epic walls of death… well it can be and if you don’t remember what went on due to being flattened in the maelstrom then check out the video in our Sunday review filmed at the end of Devil Driver‘s set. For those that realise a little bit of investigation can reap huge rewards, Vola on the Sophie Lancaster stage presented something totally different. Mixing dance, tech-metal, prog and more, the band are nothing if not unique. The sound they produce swirled around the tent, twisting and turning through the crowd filling the arena with a wall of sound that remains one of the most interesting moments of the weekend. There’s not a lot of acts out there like Vola and whilst that might initially make it difficult to find a large audience it does mean that those that have discovered them have latched onto something rather special. Citing influences from Opeth and Steven Wilson to Massive Attack it’s not surprising the band have made /will make quite an impact. 

Surprise set of the day – awarded to Combichrist for the visuals, the techno infused industrial metal sound that simply cries out to be heard on the biggest stage possible. Having seen videos on YouTube from the band before and being left rather nonplussed by the whole thing, I’m more than happy to eat my words and admit I was wrong about them. This was something else. Intense, energised and the performance that both drummers, Joe Letz and Nick Rossi, put in was nothing short of jaw dropping. To hear they’ve toured with Rammstein is not surprising as the band suit that industrial sound perfectly. Another act forcing me to re-evaluate previous choices and hunt down the back catalogue for further investigation. 

They capped off the set with some fantastic fire breathing that complimented the music perfectly. The stunning artists firing balls of flames out over the crowd did not affect my evaluation of Combichrist’s performance at all. Full credit to Frederike Koring, Kelly Sabrina and Hayley Leggs for bringing the heat. Just WOW! 

Whilst Combichrist laid waste to the main stage and the thousands stood in front of them, over on the New Blood stage, symphonic metal act Aonia played to a packed crowd and a massively full photo pit, thanks in no small part to the efforts the band had put in talking to the crowd and the press, handing out CDs, patches, stickers to ensure people knew where and when they would be performing. 

With dual vocalists Joanne Kay Robinson and Melissa Adams decked out in gothic outfits that fit the style and sound of the band, they ensure the performance is different enough to hold the attention of people in the tent. Another MTM winner, they made every second of their moment on stage count to drive up their exposure and with the debut album to be released shortly you can check them out at ‘Aoniafest’ in October at the Corporation in Sheffield. 

As if Combichrist hadn’t delivered enough of a show, the main stage was cleared and the after show party then commenced a few hours early. As they put it themselves, Alestorm make pop songs about pirates and play them in a heavy metal style. Everyone seems to have fallen for the band and the crowd is suitably heaving with many people dressed like poor imitations of Jack Sparrow and others simply there for the opportunity to surf the crowd, some in and some out of all manner of inflatable items. The best one of the day, a woman dressed in boudoir attire travelling across the top of the crowd in an inflatable dinghy in the shape of a yellow duck. Very apt. 

The songs and shanties came thick and fast and looking around the arena, the smiles on people’s faces would suggest everyone was having a blast.  They close their set (obviously) with ‘Fucked With An Anchor’ and the sense that that may become their ‘Final Countdown’ or ‘Bat Out of Hell’, the song that the audience will expect Alestorm to play as the closing shot at every show for the rest of their career. Ah well, it could have been worse, it could have been filled with profanities and lyrics about a cursed person suffering with tourettes thanks to a shady Witch Doctor….. oh wait!! 

With my MGM colleagues Al and Olga covering Cannibal Corpse and Gojira, the last band of the day that we went to see was Voyager. Having already had the chance to take in part of their set at Ramblin’ Man Fair earlier this summer, this was a must watch set, forcing me to to skip some of Alestorm’s antics. An unfortunate clash and one that lead singer Daniel Estrin is notably grateful that the full tent has come to see them rather than joining the pirate party fest outside. 

Voyager’s progressive \ aggressive rock, delivered with a serious slab of attitude and superior musicianship proved once again that the need to wander, take in other stages and other bands is a must. It can be all to easy to take in the easy option and drink a beer or twelve in front of the main stage but until you’ve seen Voyager perform Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ in the middle of their own song ‘Lost’ then you’ve not appreciated a metal \ dance \ techno fest at its’ best. 

Taking the ‘check out all stages’ approach further, we headed to the Jägermeister Tent in time to see Luke Appleton, the bassist with Iced Earth and guitarist with Absolva, perform tracks from bis debut acoustic album. Stood there looking every inch the formidable metal warrior that he is, the concept of Luke plus acoustic guitar initially seemed slightly odd but once he got going, it was clear that the tightly packed crowd were latching onto every single word and note played by the talented musician.

How Does It Feel To Be Alive?” cried Luke as he performed the title track from his CD. Judging by the response from the audience, it felt pretty good! 

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