Review by Adrian Hextall
Photo Credit: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
Held annually at Catton Hall in Walton-on-Trent, England, Bloodstock Open Air is now in its eleventh year. Having been a regular fixture on the calendar previously at the Assembly Rooms in Derby, the indoor moved outdoor and has never looked back. Having expanded from one stage only, the festival has grown and now sports four stages offering world renowned headliners to rising talent or ‘New Blood’.
Bloodstock offers a true taste of metal to the masses and 2016 brought something special with Twisted Sister bowing out on their 40 and Fuck It world tour. Never one to mince words, front-man Dee Snider offered thanks to the founders and fans at Bloodstock for having them after Download had said no to having them, “the cheap bastards…” snarled Snider with a laugh.
Before the SMFs took to the main stage, the other stages offered a wealth of talent on the Friday.
If the crowd size is an indication of where a band should be on the bill, then both Gloryhammer and Evil Scarecrow who followed them should have been the main support acts to the headliners. Never ones to disappoint, Gloryhammer received a huge cheer as they arrived on stage with thousands making the effort to watch them early on the Friday morning.
Bringing their own blend of powermetal to the faithful, the intergalactic space warriors threw everything into the mix and delivered nothing short of pure entertainment. Audience interaction plays no small part in their show and the crowd were more than happy to join in with cheers and chants instigated by the ‘Voice-Modulated Star Nucleus’ that is part time Lawyer and full time warrior Thomas Winkler. The comedy moments add to the spectacle with The Hootsman’s girlfriend dressed as a fair maiden bringing on and presenting a can of Hobgoblin ale to Angus McFife, Crown Prince of Dundee, Heir to the Kingdom of Fife (Winkler) who then proceeds to try and pour it down the Hootsman’s throat whilst he’s playing. It was never going to work….
When they played Bloodstock in 2014, Evil Scarecrow set the bar for the largest opening act audience. Hardly surprising then that again the field was once more packed with a mass of people chanting the band’s name with grins on their faces as wide as the Ronnie James Dio stage.
With special effects and props forming a large part of their set, the band’s ambitions are huge yet their budgets are not. As such, during Hurricanado, we have clouds and sheep spinning around on fishing poles, with End Level Boss, two cosplay fans, dressed as Link from Zelda and Chun Li from Street Fighter arrive on stage with a strange look of bemusement as to why they are there before performing mock fights that the band get the crowd to join in with. The duck, punch, move routine is mirrored as one by the crowd and they repeated the exercise again during Crabulon with hands \ pincers raised in the air.
The music was excellent, the comedy gold. The day was warming up very very well.
Misery Loves Co.
As becomes the tradition with festivals these days, it seems to be about getting classic acts together to play again. With a string of festival shows lined up for the summer of 2016, it is [I believe] some 16 years since the band last played together.
Their brand of industrial metal was, given those that had come before, a slight downer in terms of energy and crowd interaction. Imagine an industrial version of The Smiths. Deep lyrical content, slightly mournful with a message to deliver. There’s no doubting that they’re tight, proficient and for the assembled crowd, which, given the other stages were also in full flow, had thinned considerably, it was always going to be a difficult slot to fill.
Stuck Mojo are another act on the return trail. With a new album out, produced by the comeback master Andy Sneap, Here Come The Infidels features in the set list today and sees a band once again hungry for a slice of the pie.
In contrast the previous act, the mix of rap, metal and a dash of southern rock ticked a few more boxes and drew a few more back to the main stage. Front man Robby J is a pure entertainer and had clearly read the ‘Book of front man moves’ from back to front as he delivers on a tight set comprising of Infidels, Rape, Pigwalk, Throw the Switch, Bronson, Legion, Open Season and Not Promised Tomorrow.
Never still, always moving and drawing people into the show, Stuck Mojo can count their set as one they can be proud of. Several were initially taken aback by the rap components of the set which, if you didn’t know the band, initially seemed slightly out of place. But, fair play to the band for bringing something unique and something that definitely resonated.
Corrosion of Conformity
With Reed Mullin off duty at the moment, thanks primarily to a recent seizure, it fell to Eric Hernandez to return to the stool to allow the band to continue touring. Hernandez has filled in before for Mullin so he knew the songs well and ensured a tight riff laden set could be delivered with Pepper, Mike and Woody.
Yet again, on a day where bands of yesteryear are making great come backs, CoC have endured, weathered, fallen apart and risen from their own ashes and look better than ever. Pepper Keenan looks fit, healthy and, not surprisingly, weathered. Mike Dean, whilst not being a drinker or drug taker, looks completely spaced out. More down to being able to get into his own place when being on stage, there were moments where it seemed that the band could leave the stage and Mike would just continue unaided.
Albatros was a definite highlight and with Woody and Pepper trading riffs, it wasn’t surprising at all to see so many energised people bouncing in the crowd.
Venom are legends. Pure and Simple. There’s no denying the impact that their Black Metal album had on the genre all those years ago and they paved the way for bands like Behemoth who would go on to follow them on the main stage.
Longevity can play a part in music and Venom, with on Cronos, still in place have at least managed to continue to tour and release new music over the years. From The Very Depths, released in 2015 proved that the band still have something to say and their music definitely befitted their place on the main stage. One thing that has been missing however is a stage for the British crowds. It’s ten years since we last saw the band in the UK, yet they’ve managed to continue touring elsewhere around the world in that time.
Krusher Joule was then not surprisingly quite emotional about the quality of their set and the desire to not have to wait another decade before getting them back on home soil.
Of course, it’s not all about the main stage and with Jay Hawkins out and about catching bands across the other three, there will be his words and pictures to follow in due course. Not wanting to be outdone or miss something special, a brief reprise from Venom’s set allowed an opportunity to take in The Crawling. On the New Blood stage, The Crawling play a mix of Doom and Death metal and in Andy Clarke have a great front man and vocalist. His roars and guitar work were second to none and it was pleasing to see the quality of musicianship between the three members. Stuart Rainey played in 90’s death metal legends Severance, Andy fronted Honey For Christ for 14 years, and Gary Beattie is still drumming for Zombified. As such tight and experienced sums up their set perfectly.
Visually stunning, crushing sound, scary as fuck. It would be easy to leave the Behemoth review with those three phrases and have everyone agree that it was an accurate explanation of what went on. Behemoth are the people your parents warned you about as a child. They are the people you don’t want to meet in a dark alleyway. They also will steal your soul and present it to Satan given half a chance.
They entered the stage without speaking, eerie music setting the mood. They then began the lengthy process of destroying the crowd with their unique brand of Black Metal, inspired in no small part by the band that had played the stage only 30 minutes earlier. With Nergal carrying flaming skewers, there was an initial concern that sacrifices would need to be made and there was no shortage of willing volunteers as the number of crowd surfers rapidly rose during the set. Cries of ‘take me lord’ were heard from willing victims as they threw themselves over bodies to get to the barrier at the front.
Flames, incense, outfits and props all added to the overall effect of this set which, to be honest, would have benefited from taking place at a darker time of day, say midnight.
There was no faulting them though and although their musical style is a million years away from the headliners, they summed up perfectly the brutal metal intensity that Bloodstock is so well known for.
Headliners Twisted Sister last played at Bloodstock in 2010. Always a firm fan favourite, this was to be the last time they would play on British soil and the desire to bow out in style also ensured the largest crowd in attendance for a band at the festival.
The crowd were bouncing before the band had even walked on stage thanks to the inspired use of AC\DC’s ‘It’s a Long Way..’ as the intro tape. Then, as the familiar “Good Evening…Welcome To Our Show” boomed out from Dee Snider, it confirmed the ‘greatest live band on the planet’ (Copyright Twisted Sister) had arrived. They then proceeded to spend the next 90 minutes showing everyone why they were and remain an amazing headline act.
With Download not willing to give the band the slot they deserved this year, “those cheap bastards” screams Dee, it fell to Bloodstock to ensure that the British public got one last hurrah and what a hurrah it was.
The Kids are back saw everyone moving with the same uniform intent and energy only previously seen that day when Evil Scarecrow had played Crabulon. Burn in Hell, triggering the flames and other pyro effects actually caused the front few rows to take a step back such was the intensity of the heat. Anyone would think Behemoth were still playing and the gateway to hell had just been opened.
All of the firm fan favourites are aired, You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll seemingly meaning more on the warm August night than ever before was soon followed by I Am I’m Me, the song that Snider will confirm broke here in the UK long before they made an impact in their home country.
There is much love for the UK from Twisted Sister. If not for this tiny island, they’d never have managed to get the big break and become the global headlining act that has seen them achieve a solid forty year career. The UK impact was helped in no part of course by one Lemmy Kilmister. With a pause, Dee took a moment to remember those that had died in recent times and as you looked around the festival site, there was a Lemmy’s Bar, the main stage named after Ronnie James Dio, Mike Portnoy filling in for AJ Pero on drums and Dee even finds time to remember Jimmy Bain as well. Whilst AJ is the main reason for the tribute, Dee looked skyward and with an apology, reminds AJ that if not for Lemmy the band would be nothing. With that they then launched into The Price. There was not a dry eye in the place.
We’re not Gonna Take It and It’s Only Rock n Roll (But I Like It) closed out the main set before the band return for more with thank you’s and individual speeches from all concerned. Not surprisingly they finish with S.M.F.
It’s hard to believe they are done (the team at Download apparently don’t believe it at all…) but if they are, then what a way to finish.
It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) – (AC/DC song)
What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)
The Kids Are Back
Burn in Hell
Like a Knife in the Back
You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Fire Still Burns
I Am (I’m Me)
I Wanna Rock
The Price – (Dedicated to A.J. Pero, Ronnie James Dio, Jimmy Bain and Lemmy Kilmister)
I Believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll
Under the Blade
We’re Not Gonna Take It
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) – (The Rolling Stones cover)
Come Out and Play
Shoot ‘Em Down