Words: Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
The first full day of Bloodstock 2018 starts out overcast but dry, as hungover heads come to life around the campsite. We make our way back to the arena to the sound of klaxons summoning the pre-noon risers to the Ronnie James Dio stage where British thrash metal legends Onslaught are making their fourth appearance at the festival. With the audience singing along to the memorable line “Spitting blood in the face of God”, the opening track ‘Killing Peace’ from the 2007 album of the same name sets the tone for the subsequent forty minutes. Some technical hiccups with the sound detract slightly from their return appearance, but the crowd is easily appeased and moshing mayhem ensues. Longtime frontman Sy Keeler acknowledges their loyal fanbase and dedicates a track to his fellow silver-haired metalheads. As promised in advance, a brand new track ‘A Perfect Day to Die’ is debuted, and Onslaught proves they still sound as good as any eighties thrash band. A sudden torrential downpour threatens to detract from the performance during ’66 Fucking 6′ but fails to dampen the spirits of the defiant audience.
After a late breakfast (or is it early dinner?), we make our way back to the main stage where Wednesday 13 is preparing to bring his horror rock show to Bloodstock for the first time. Having just seen him playing in Dublin a few days prior, we have a good idea what to expect from the setlist, but he promised something special by way of theatrics. Sure enough, his entrance is a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” as he bursts forth from a door splattered “Red Rum” wielding an axe and flanked by two girls dressed as the twins from the movie, for the first track ‘What the Night Brings’. Despite focussing mostly on songs from his most recent release Condolences, the loudest crowd reactions are reserved for older tracks like ‘Scream Baby Scream’ and ‘I Want you Dead’. With fire dancers, contortionism and more costume changes than were probably necessary, Wednesday 13 injected some fun and frolics into the oft-too-serious genres of metal on offer.
Up next are the Swedish “supergroup” Bloodbath. Although the band was formed twenty years ago, it’s our first time seeing the amalgamation, comprised of members of Opeth, Katatonia and fronted by Paradise Lost vocalist Nick Holmes (who replaced former founding frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt, also of Opeth fame). True to their name, the Swedes arrive onstage looking as though they have just stepped out of a bath of, well, blood. Some apparent technical difficulties delay their start time, but that doesn’t quell the appetite for destruction, and before long the quartet is inciting chaos in the pit with their gory death metal mastery. Introducing ‘Breeding Death’ Holmes humorously admits “it’s not going to sound how it did on the EP, so don’t bitch about it online”. Åkerfeldt may have lent his distinctive vocals on the studio version, but Nick makes the song his own here at Bloodstock. They wrap up their set with the gruesome ode to cannibalism ‘Eaten’ that makes us feel strangely guilty for enjoying our earlier Ostrich burgers so.
It’s always worrying when the MC comes onstage between bands and starts with the words “Those of you that were expecting to see <insert-anticipated-band-name-here>…”. The bad news is that Suicidal Tendencies, who were scheduled next on the RJD stage, have been delayed at the airport and won’t make it here on time. The good news is two-fold; (1) Mike Muir & co will perform later than scheduled in the Sophie tent, and (2) Lovebites are getting bumped to the main stage to take their place. Well, it’s good news for the Japanese five-piece anyway. Much to our surprise and admiration, this announcement is not met with any particularly nasty reaction, and the band that surely draw comparisons with kawaii-metal (or cute-metal) sensations Babymetal, are given a fair chance to make the best of their fortunate opportunity to widen their audience. And to give them their dues, the ladies, kitted out in white dresses, put on an admirable show, and unlike their afore-mentioned fellow country-women, play their own instruments. And a bloody good job they do of it too, with blistering guitar solos and duels, reminiscent of early Iron Maiden at times. I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting that if it weren’t for ST getting delayed, I may not have even bothered with Lovebites, but I’m glad I did, and think these ladies deserved the bump.
By now, the sunshine has returned, and blue skies are a fitting backdrop for the popular power metal posse Kamelot who is up next on the main stage. Always attracting a larger than expected fanbase, it’s not long before frontman Tommy Karevik has the Bloodstock audience eating out of his hand. Deafening sing-alongs and fist-pumping aplenty accompany the wide selection of tracks from their hefty back-catalogue. After her guest appearance on their most recent album The Shadow Theory, Lauren Hart from Once Human joins Tommy front of stage for the female vocal parts of new songs ‘Amnesiac’ and ‘Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’, as well as for older tracks ‘ March of Mephisto’ and ‘Centre of the Universe’ much to the approval of the loyal legion of followers looking on. Professing his love for Bloodstock and the UK, Karevik announces plans to return to London in October and to record a new DVD in September, for which he apparently needs footage of the fans going nuts; a request which is willingly granted. Their feel-good set finishes up with ‘Liar Liar’ from 2015 album Haven, and we quickly make our way across the arena to the Sophie Stage.
Thinking we’re in plenty of time to get a good spot for Suicidal Tendencies, we quickly realise we are not the first to come up with this cunning plan. In fact, the tent is already packed to the perimeter when we arrive, and the excitement in the bustling big top for their Bloodstock debut is palpable. Massive cheers welcome Mike Muir and his current bandmates onstage and they immediately tear into ‘You Can’t Bring Me Down’, an appropriate message to the airline that cancelled their flight. From the very start, Muir is plagued with microphone issues, and at times he looks fit to kill, but he seems to let it slide, and as usual, makes good use of the mics to preach about the secret to happy life and the treatment of others. Of course, the most famous of Mike’s new recruits is none other than ex-Slayer sticksman Dave Lombardo, and he gets a huge reaction from the audience when introduced. The show progresses with a selection of ST classics driving the insatiable fans crazy. At one point, a guy in a wheelchair is being crowd-surfed over the pit when Mike calls for him to be lifted on stage, where he spends a couple of songs mingling with the band and being pushed around at speed by Muir. Between this, and a bringing some kid named Josh (who’s about ten years old) on stage to play drums with Dave during ‘War Inside My Head’, the show really sums up the whole family-friendly vibe of Bloodstock festival. The shortened Suicidal set finishes with fan favourite ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’ which has the audience chanting “S. T.” as Mike climbs down to the rail for some vocal assistance from the front row fans. I don’t know who was counting heads, but apparently, the record for the number of people in the Sophie stage was broken, and I for one rate this set as a highlight of Bloodstock 2018.
Meanwhile, back at the main stage, a massive crowd had gathered and are enjoying the much-anticipated return of Emperor. Last seen here as one of the headliners in 2014, the influential Norwegian band has been high on many lists of must-see bands this year. Today, the faithful fans are treated to a performance of their 1997 album Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk in its entirety and the old-school black metal massive mosh belligerently in the tempestuous pits. It’s yet another hugely popular performance that will undoubtedly be spoken of highly when looking back in the weeks and months to come. Closing out the first full day of Bloodstock 2018 are long-awaited local legends Judas Priest who has been in the business for almost half a century. Few other bands have stood the test of time as well as they, and a capacity crowd here at the UK’s biggest metal festival give them the respectful and resounding reception they deserve. Watch out for more about tonight’s finale from My Global Mind’s other reviewer Adrian Hextall.
And so, once again, we see out the night with a selection of Hobgoblin ales and ciders, enjoying the nostalgic sounds of the eighties metal disco. Things are only warming up….