Words: Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
and Nightwish Set © Adrian Hextall
And so the final day of Bloodstock 2018 is upon us. But with another full day of blistering metal ahead, we hold our heads high and make our way to the arena one last time, confident that we’ll be doing it all again this time next year.
To kick-start our day we’ve been promised a memorable performance from a teenage three-piece from New Zealand who have exploded onto the music scene in their homeland and are now making waves internationally before they’ve even finished their schooling. Alien Weaponry have been lauded for their tribal twist on thrash metal, tapping into their Maori heritage for vocals and inspirations. An incredible crowd has gathered in the Sophie Lancaster tent to see these youngsters play in the UK for the first time and their entrance, reminiscent of the All Blacks’ haka, teases that something special cometh. Opening track ‘PC Bro’ is a brutal “fuck you” to this social media era that the trio has spent their entire lives in. No strangers to performing live despite their age, the Kiwis instantly have the crowd under their control and have every head in the tent banging and chaotic moshpits erupting. With most of their tracks being sung in te reo M?ori, there is a certain mystery and uniqueness to their performance, and one can’t help but draw similarities with some of what Sepultura did on the hugely successful Roots album. Running short of time due to early technical issues, the lads are eager to finish out their set, encouraged by deafening chants for more from the clearly won-over audience, but alas, the lost time must be recouped and the crowd is left thirsty for more. Don’t worry though, you will most certainly see and hear more from Alien Weaponry. Just as soon as school finishes up.
We grab some lunch and catch a few minutes of Californian mixed metal maniacs Sangre before we make our way across the arena to the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage. There, the Irish winners of the Metal 2 the Masses competition This Place Hell are preparing to unleash hell upon the enthusiastic but modest crowd that has gathered. The five-piece aggressive metallers have been seen all weekend advertising their Sunday slot with promotional Lollipops (A reference to the imminent visit of Pope Francis to Dublin) and branded condoms. Unfortunately, their stage time clashes with Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta and his star-studded variety act on the main stage, so there’s no denying they would have to put on a great show to reward those who turned up. Luckily for those loyal and fortunate attendees, the Dublin-based band succeed in tearing the tent a new airhole. If aggressive and heavy are what you like then This Place Hell is most definitely for you. Opening with ‘Survival of the Fittest’ immediately followed by ‘Filth’ for which a brand new video has just been released, frontman Stephen Cannon makes sure to bring the audience closer for some sweaty moshpit action. Already familiar names in the Irish metal scene, and with an upcoming support slot for Devildriver, this is one band that will surely be appearing in the UK and Europe in the coming months and years. Indeed an aural ass-kicking for the uninitiated.
Speaking of Devildriver, the Californian groove metal quintet are next on our agenda, appearing for their second time at Bloodstock. Only frontman Dez Farara and guitarist Mike Spreitzer remain since their last visit in 2014 after a significant shake-up of their members, but with their 2016 album Trust No One picking up right where Winter Kills left off, there are no fears about the musical integrity of the new line-up. A surprise country outlaws cover album recently caught many fans off-guard, but today’s setlist has no room for anything other than classic Devildriver originals and fan-favorites like ‘End of the Line’, ‘Hold Back the Day’, ‘Grin Fucked’ and ‘Clouds over California’. Oh yeah, and their cover of Awolnation’s ‘Sail’, which always draws the loudest sing-along of their set. Their pummelling performance is exactly what we have come to expect from Devildriver and chaotic circle pits spiral throughout most of their songs. Fafara expresses his gratitude to the fans for their energy and looks truly impressed by the crowd’s reaction.
Overlapping with Devildriver over in the Sophie tent, are the highly anticipated German duo Mantar. Originally scheduled to perform at last year’s festival, their cancellation left many fans disappointed, but today provides the opportunity to make up for lost time. Facing each other onstage, both topless and quickly drenched in sweat, the pair create an incredible wall of sound that defies their number. Gaunt guitarist and lead vocalist Hanno Klänhardt writhes and grimaces as he growls the lyrics whilst churning out tremendous riffs. The other half of Mantar, drummer Erinç Sakarya also double-jobs, lending his vocals without missing a beat. With their third album, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze released this month, they have been called one of the hardest working bands in the extreme metal underground, and it’s evident their hard work is paying off. New to me before this festival, I will certainly be adding Mantar to my playlist. If you missed them at Bloodstock, make sure to catch them on an upcoming tour. You won’t be sorry.
Up next on our schedule are Swedish melodic death metallers At The Gates who return to the Bloodstock main stage to perform ahead of Sunday night headliners Nightwish, exactly as they did ten years ago in 2008. Back then, they were just reuniting after more than a decade-long break-up. Since that time, they have released two new albums and have now been reformed for longer than their initial successful early career which began in 1990. Any die-hard fans of the early material may be dissatisfied with today’s setlist drawn entirely from the last three of their six album catalog, but from where we stand we see nothing but enthusiastic responses from the crowd. The mature metallers deliver a dependable dose of death metal to the excitable audience, as good as any we have seen from musicians half their age. At The Gates show no signs of slowing down. Make sure to see them on tour with Behemoth next February.
As time marches on, we spare a few moments to check out Pallbearer on the Sophie stage before grabbing some much-needed soakage in the form of the surprisingly popular Yorkshire puddings with sausages and mash. The American doom quartet appears to be impressing the remarkably large audience, but unfortunately, we don’t really get the opportunity to fully appreciate their performance as we find ourselves drawn to the Ronnie James Dio stage for the 2018 Sunday headliner.
Nightwish has headlined Bloodstock main stages twice previously, in 2008 and way back in 2003. This year they bring with them possibly the biggest and highest definition backing screen I have ever seen at a concert, and high-resolution video and graphics accompany their performance from the start. After a sixty-second countdown timer on the afore-mentioned big screen, the Finnish symphonic metal sextet kicks off their spectacular show with ‘End of All Hope’ from their 2002 album Century Child. Their setlist is a crowd-pleasing spread of tracks from their entire back catalog, and the audience seems fully engaged with the elaborate experience. Watch out for more about tonight’s climatic mainstage finale from My Global Mind editor Adrian Hextall!
As the final notes ring out from the RJD stage, the announcers and festival crew say their thanks and take their bows, a lengthy ritual that maintains the attention and respect of a large proportion of the Bloodstock massive. In an unusual change from the norm, no acts were announced for 2019 from the stage at this year’s festival. If pushed to make a prediction, I would have Behemoth, Lamb of God, Corrosion of Conformity, and the return of Evil Scarecrow high on my (wish) list. We’ve been promised an announcement soon, so let’s wait and see.
Of course, even now, the weekend is not over yet. There is still one more band to play in the Sophie tent – Swedish black metal act Watain. Not for everyone, the band is infamous for spraying their audiences with real animal blood and body parts, as well as using ritualistic pyrotechnics and symbology. The dark and evil atmosphere actually turns out to be the perfect ending to the live music at Bloodstock 2018, leaving us with a vivid visualization to recall over the coming days, weeks and months until we get to do it all again. We finish off the night with some more Hobgoblin beverages, beef biltong, and bumper cars, the inclement weather a faded memory in the overwhelming success that was, and always is, Bloodstock Open Air Festival.