Pictures : Olga Kuzmenko
Words: Alan Daly
The last day of the Bloodstock festival is always a bittersweet affair. On one hand, people can be seen packing up their tents and the disappointing truth that the fun is almost over for another year is on everyone’s mind. But on the other hand, everyone knows that there’s another full day of amazing bands, a legendary headliner and a night of final frivolity yet to be had.
It’s another sunny day, but stirring up a storm on the main stage is the controversial Mexican extreme death grind group Brujeria. Wearing bandanas as masks covering their mouths during their high energy performance, their anti-establishment and anti-American stance is abundantly clear, despite communicating with the crowd almost exclusively through Spanish. On one rare occasion, frontman Juan Brujo explains “In the United States we have a new president. We don’t know how the fuck it happened. Since he took office the world’s going to shit”. He then encourages the audience to chant “Fuck Donald Trump”, which surprisingly doesn’t catch on as much as one might have anticipated. Certainly nowhere near as much as the sing-a-long of their closing song ‘Marijuana’ (sung to the tune of the Macarena). It’s a real eye-opener to see the number of Bloodstockers who know, and are willing to do, the Macarena dance!
Another old-school band to take to the Ronnie James Dio stage are Obituary, one of the pioneering bands of the death metal genre. They’ve drawn a massive crowd, and are eager to please with a set list crammed with classic tracks from their first two albums, both released more than a quarter of a century ago. Opening with a trio of gruesome songs ‘Internal Bleeding’, ‘Chopped in Half’ and ‘Turned Inside Out’, the Floridian five-piece give fans an explicable excuse to let loose in the pit. Aside from the old reliables, Obituary also delivers a dose of new material taken from their brand new eponymous album, appeasing the new generation of fans as much as the old. However, it’s all-time favorite ‘Slowly We Rot’ that wraps up their set and brings a tear to the eye of the most seasoned of metallers.
Up next are another band I had been looking forward to since I first saw their theatrical performance at Bloodstock in 2013. Hell originally formed here in Derbyshire in 1982, but only released their first full-length album Human Remains in 2011 after an 11-year hiatus and reformation in 2008. Like Ghost last night, their stage show is central to their act, however, for me, Hell is far more enjoyable in terms of music and personality. Of course, the fact that they have the most impressive pyrotechnical display of the entire festival, with flame throwers shooting tens of meters into the air in all directions, might have influenced my opinion. Once again, photographers have their pit access restricted to avoid expensive camera gear getting melted, and reportedly the pyro was switched off early because of the number of crowd surfers risking their lives to go over the rail. I imagine it would be like one of those hotel toasters where the bread slowly passes over the heat to get browned. Aside from the fireworks, we witness Christ impersonations, self-flagellation, stilt-walking on giant goat legs and a crowd pleasing set of tracks taken from their two albums, only slightly hindered by some technical issues with their guitars. Give me Hell over Ghost any day of the week.
It’s time for us to catch up with another Irish band, and this time, they are “proper” Irish. Na Cruithne hail from Galway in the west of Ireland, a region where the native language is still regularly spoken, and this band of merry men (and ladies) are proud to sing “as Gaeilge” (in Irish). A dense fog of green smoke engulfs the stage as barefoot, and dressed in kilts, the six-piece proceed to mix metal and trade with their guitars, violins and tin whistles. Having already wowed an audience on the main stage at Metal Days in Slovenia earlier this Summer, they have quickly built a reputation and have again drawn an impressive crowd to the New Blood tent to join in the manic medieval mosh pits. We are treated to an exclusive performance of ‘Beal na stoirme’ (Mouth of the Storm), which apparently is the first time they have played this song at Bloodstock(!). The sound in the tent may not be ideal, but the audience seems to really enjoy the folk metal mayhem, and we’re sure that Na Cruithne has a bright future ahead.
The penultimate band on the main stage are melodic death metal supergroup Arch Enemy, making their third such headline-supporting appearance at Bloodstock festival. A massive crowd has gathered for this final one-two of bands, and the performance doesn’t disappoint. They open with a brand new track ‘The World is Yours’ from their forthcoming album Will to Power, as relative newcomer Alissa White-Gluz jumps energetically around the stage while still managing to sound powerful and precise. The rest of the band too put on a stellar performance throughout. Considering that tonight is the final show of their 300+ date tour on the back of their hugely successful 2014 War Eternal album, it’s not surprising that they have it down to a fine art. Classic Arch Enemy tracks like ‘My Apocalypse’ and set closer ‘Nemesis’ are the ones that really get the crowd over-excited, and we wonder how much energy could possibly be left over for the Bay Area headliners.
Plenty, apparently. A welcome return just three years after their last headline appearance here, Megadeth are back, and Dave Mustaine has teased something special for Bloodstock in an interview at Wacken festival this year. Right on schedule, the epic intro video showing the construction of the band’s iconic logo plays on the giant screen as ‘Prince of Darkness’ bellows, before Dave and the boys hit the stage with that instantly recognizable ‘Hangar 18’ riff. They look and sound as great as ever, and soon the audience is singing and moshing along. ‘The Threat is Real’ is the second track and the first of four from their highly acclaimed 2016 album Dystopia. But other than the new album, the remainder of the setlist is taken from albums that are over 20 years old. And there are no complaints when the master’s fire out classic after classic: ‘Wake Up Dead’, ‘Sweating Bullets’, ‘Tornado of Souls’ and ‘Symphony of Destruction’ to name but a few. Dave admits himself that he doesn’t want to waste our time by talking between songs, but he does comment on the success of Bloodstock and his wish to see it grow even bigger. They wrap up with ‘Peace Sells’ (complete with the obligatory cameo from Vic Rattlehead) and ‘Holy Wars’, and leave a sea of elated (and exhausted) fans in their wake. We’re not sure exactly what the “something special” was that Dave had promised, however. Granted, it was an amazing show, but that’s not special when it’s what we’re used to and expect. Maybe he was referring to his 1990’s James Hetfield-esque facial hair!
There’s a sense of finality as the crowd dispersed from the main stage for the final time, the ground was strewn with the lost belongings of carefree crowd-surfers and plastic beer cups, but of course, it’s only the end if you want it to be. Wintersun is still playing in the Sophie stage in front of a mix of loyal fans and passersby. To be honest, I was one of the latter, and don’t recall much of what I saw, but I do recall enjoying the rest of the last night at Bloodstock 2017. With Gojira and Nightwish already on the bill for 2018, it’s a safe bet that it’ll be another winner. Early bird tickets are already on sale, so what are you waiting for? See you there. Same time, same place.