Pictures : Olga Kuzmenko
Words: Alan Daly
The early Saturday morning sunshine compounds the heinous hobgoblin hangovers at Catton Park, but few would swap the sunny Bloodstock weather for the torrential downpours experienced at Download festival in recent years. We make our way to the main stage to check out controversial and opinion-splitting alternative “gangster” metal four-piece King 810. At least, it would have been a four-piece, had guitarist Andrew Beal not been arrested on gun charges and prohibited from traveling. Today is their first UK festival appearance, having previously canceled a Download appearance in 2014 following similar arrests. Aside from the controversy, and politically motivated big screen projections of police brutality and the likes, the performance is not one we would rank highly on our list of Bloodstock acts this year.
Over on the Sophie stage, another high energy delivery is in progress from English death metal miscreants Abhorrent Decimation. A considerable crowd had gathered in the welcome shade from the sun to enjoy the brutal vocals and punishing riffs, although it’s soon as hot inside the tent as outside thanks to the mosh-fuelled body heat. Performing crowd-pleasing tracks such as ‘Conspire’ and ‘The Scythe in the Dark’ from their hot-off-the press album The Pardoner, the Londoners have surely gained themselves countless new fans this weekend. Expect to hear more about them as their burgeoning career takes off.
Back on the main stage, crossover thrashers, Municipal Waste have drawn a massive audience, and rumor has it that they are planning to attempt to break their own world record for the number of crowd-surfers to cross the rail during a set at Bloodstock. Even the photographers have been restricted in their access to the photo pit in anticipation of the carnage and the MC warns us that these guys “are going to fuck you up”. Thrashy tracks like ‘Beer Pressure’ and ‘I want to kill the president’ get the fans suitably hyped up before vocalist Tony Foresta announces that it’s time to claim back the world record that Gojira stole from them last year. The target is 462 bodies over the rail, and ranks of security staff are soon working full time to help them onto their feet unscathed. It is later revealed that the total number reached was 711 with no reported serious injuries. It’s not clear whether Guinness was there to verify the record. If not, Municipal Waste will just need to return once more.
The hardcore vibe continues as Connecticut-based Hatebreed return to the Bloodstock main stage with the COPS theme tune ‘Bad Boys’ blaring, before kicking into ‘A.D.’ followed by ‘Looking Down the Barrel of Today’, the two opening tracks from their last album The Concrete Confessional. The rest of their set is a mix of fan favorites from their back catalog including sing-a-long tracks like ‘Live for This’ and ‘I will be heard’. Vocalist Jamey Jasta asks in a skeptical tone “Are you looking forward to Ghost?”, suspecting that tonight’s headliner is not one that might appeal to all fans of heavy music. But he makes the valid point that “it doesn’t matter what type of metal you play. If it’s live and loud and not just pressing play on a laptop, you have my respect”. Hatebreed sound as good ever and the performance is clearly popular with the massive crowd.
Next on our agenda is a visit to the New Blood stage to support Irish Metal 2 The Masses victors zhOra popping their Bloodstock cherries. It’s a long way to Tipperary, and that’s exactly where the band was formed, and having already played at the Wacken festival, they’re certainly not intimidated by the gravity of the occasion. The tent may not be overflowing, but nonetheless, the lads proceed to throw themselves into their progressive Irish sludge, descending into a hypnotic trance of filthy riffs and roars. The crowd builds steadily, in time for bare-footed frontman Colin Bolger to pick out some free t-shirts with his trusty hurl. (That’s a stick for hitting a sliotar for those not familiar with the traditional Irish sport of hurling. Oh yeah, and a sliotar is a ball about the size of a baseball, and just as hard.) Playing tracks from their forthcoming album Ethos, Pathos, Logos, the lads win over some new fans, but could have made so much more had people given them the chance. Sometimes a shower of rain is required to get Bloodstockers into the tents.
A band not short of fans are German Teutonic thrash legends Kreator who burst onto the main stage amid an explosion of red confetti. Not the most metal opening ever, but paired with ‘Hordes of Chaos’ from their 2009 album of the same name, it gets the massive crowd thrashing around in circle pits from the get-go. Other than four tracks taken from their hugely successful Gods of Violence album released earlier this year, their powerful set list is a well-rounded sampling from their extensive repertoire. And while there is plenty of real fire and pyro throughout the set, they resort to more confetti streamers for the finale, which get carried downwind and wrapped around revelers everywhere. Overall, a headline-worthy performance that is certainly one of the festivals highlights so far.
Any act would struggle to top the previous, and a polarising one such as tonight’s headliner is no exception. Dividing opinion among Bloodstock regulars when the announcement was made, Ghost rocketed to stardom since their formation in 2006 as an anonymous quintet of musicians lead by vocalist “Papa Emeritus” (now known to be Tobias Forge), and his nameless ghouls who wear identical masks, and forbidden to reveal their true identities. Much of the hype around the band seems to centre around the air of mystery and eccentricity rather than on the music itself, which, judging by my own first experience tonight falls short of impressing. However, it’s hard to deny that Ghost put on an impressive stage show, including, among other religious-themed spectacles, inviting about 20 fans dressed as nuns on stage before they assist Papa Emeritus in administering the sacraments to the front row of fans (albeit with strict instructions to the audience not to grope the nuns, something some may have had inclinations to do, apparently). Emeritus thanks the girls, suggesting that they all deserve an orgasm, in one of his lewd soliloquies. On the other hand, thousands of fans, many proudly wearing face paints mimicking Papa Emeritus throughout the day, love the show from the familiar opening track ‘Square Hammer’ to the set closer ‘Monstrance Clock’ featuring a choir of nuns and youths. Honestly, not a highlight for this reviewer, but each to their own.
Thankfully, there are other things to help end the night on a high note, including more #titsandfire from the Pyrohex crew in the Sophie Lancaster tent, and plenty of fine ales and ciders to enjoy before the final day of Bloodstock 2017. And already we have the announcement that Gojira and Nightwish are set to headline next year’s festival. Happy days!