Words Adrian Young with added “Well actually…” from Adrian Hextall
Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
It is August, the weather is a bit dodgy for the weekend and it’s time for Bloodstock 2019 so let battle commence.
This is the 19th year for Bloodstock which started as an indoor festival in Derby and has grown to what it is today. The festival is a big draw on the metal festival scene and is in my option the best in the UK
It retains a small festival feel despite the big-name bands who descend. The site is well laid out with only a short walk between the 3 stages, plenty of places to eat and drink and excellent facilities.
It’s a credit to the team that runs the festival so cheers Vicky, Adam, and Rachael.
Bloodstock Open Air – Friday 9th August
Formed in Liverpool in 2015 “Midnight Prophecy” plays a style of classic metal very much in the vein of NWOBHM and it’s easy to spot their influences but that is no bad thing. [Steve Harris did ask them to send his bass lines back and Bruce Dickinson is now happy he has a stand in should he fall ill when Maiden are on tour: Ed]
Their 2018 self-titled album was well received and worth checking out, and they seeing them live I can see why. The band backs up superb musicianship with powerful vocals from Craig Cairns and I hope they get the success they deserve.
Being an old thrash fan, I was looking forward to seeing “Death Angel” and they did not disappoint.
The band has its origins in California and was at the birth of 80’s thrash. They were responsible for two of the era’s defining albums in “Kill as One” and “The Ultra-Violence” They have been through quite a few member changes but founding guitarist Rob Cavestany and long-time vocalist Mark Osegueda and the rest of the band continue to provide that timeless thrash sound and were very well received by the knowledgeable crowd.
The throwback continued with “Metal Church” another band born out of the explosion of metal from the west coast of America in the ’80s. I still have their first self-titled album on vinyl that was released in 1984 just to give you an idea of how long they have been going. The band played some classic tracks such as “Fake Healer” but nothing from XI which I think is an excellent album, perhaps it wasn’t that type of day.
AH: With Mike Howe being back in the fold for the last few years, Metal Church really feel like a band re-energised. Mike possesses more grit and fire than vocalists half his age and the band really benefited from his warm, endearing approach to the songs and his interaction with the crowd. Like AY says, the classics got a good look in but I believe the latest 2 albums did get a suitable mention. Opening with the title track from latest release ‘Damned If You Do’, it was immediately followed by ‘Needle and Suture’ from 2016’s ‘XI’. Fun fact, also on the bill over the weekend would be Queensrÿche. Lead singer Todd La Torre recorded a new version of ‘Fake Healer’ with Metal Church in 2017.
Next up on the Friday was “BongCauldron” who describe themselves as “Three idiots from Leeds playing heavy music and having the best time of our lives!” Their music is best described as doom/sludge and it certainly was. They played to a good size crowd and in front man Biscuit, they have someone who has a good rapport with the audience and he is definitely from Leeds.
AH: It has to be said I do like a good biscuit, with a cuppa of course, so a trip to Motley Brew was also in order. Well timed as as we grabbed our cups of Green Apple and Assam teas, the heavens opened, turning albeit briefly, the festival into Floodstock Open Air. Thankfully, several rich tea biscuits later and we were off again, slipping and sliding through the mud back over to the main stage.
AY: A band I had heard a lot about but never had the chance to see is Finnish melodic death metal band “Children of Bodom”. Judging by the size of the crowd I was one of the few. They had a simple stage set with a backdrop showing the new album “Hexed” which has been released to generally a good reception after a four-year break from recording following the release of “I Worship Chaos”
They started with “Follow the Reaper” from the 2001 album of the same name with its power/symphonic metal sound with the added death metal growl of Alexi Laiho who has led the band since its creation in 1993 and continued with a varied set from their 10 album career.
AH: One for me that I’d always had reservations about CoB thanks in no small part to a dislike of death metal vocals. However, the music, when played live, overrides the coarse vocal work from Alexi and as such, their set was pretty cool. I’m definitely in a minority at Bloodstock when it comes to heavier, growling vocals but when you’re surrounded by people really digging a band, the euphoria and enjoyment certainly washes over you and results in an enjoyable set.
Next on the main stage was “Tesseract” who are perhaps best described as a progressive metal band, formed in 2003 they have so far released four albums with “Sonder” the latest. I think that this type of band that plays complex music that just doesn’t work at outdoor festivals, I include bands like “Opeth” as well.
That shouldn’t detract from the performance the band put on which was full of energy and drive and have the band possess a powerful front-man in Daniel Tompkins.
To give you a flavour of the music the band play and the high concepts they are working with the first three tracks were from the 2010 EP which deals was described as by vocalist Danie Tompkins as “This is a concept album based on life and its obstacles”. This type of music is best enjoyed on a good Hi-Fi or headphones and not in a muddy and windy field.
AH: “Well…..actually” This is where Mr Young and I differ. I didn’t know what to expect from Tesseract but to say they and the performance blew me away would be an understatement. The clever stage setup with the black and white lines that you can see above somehow added to the mesmerising effect of the music and the end result at times seemed to cast a spell over the crowd who, broadly, were really into the music as well.
As AY has noted, Danie Tompkins stage presence and voice helped, for me, to make the show. The prefect front-man, a great voice, a technically proficient band supporting him, Hugh Grant on bass [well it did look unnervingly like him!] and songs that, yes technically complex, seemed to warm the soul on what was a damp windy afternoon. I fully agree with Ade about Opeth, we saw them recently in Spain on a hot sunny afternoon by the beach and it just didn’t work, with their lead singer admitting as much. Tesseract however overcame that and were for me a huge highlight of the weekend.
In the special guest slot were German power metallers “Powerwolf”, I was looking forward to this and I and the whole Bloodstock crowd was not disappointed. They put a lot of effort into the look of the band with the dark face paint and pseudo-religious imagery not to forget werewolves and vampires. When the band started the founding members decided to take on pseudonyms and build back stores, according to legend the band was formed by brother Charles and Matthew Greywolf.
The music though is classic power metal with the added attraction of fire. Lots of fire. I was particularly impressed with the handheld flame throwers used by vocalist Karsten “Attila Dorn” Brill.
The disappointing aspect of the performance was what I call “messing about”. When you have an hour slot do you want to spend ages doing the old “follow the lead singer” stuff? They should have power[wolf]ed through the set which is what a festival crowd wants to see.
AH: If you’ve seen Powerwolf before you know what to expect. Attila Dorn and Falk Maria will come out, separate the crowd and get the audience cheering for one or the other. It’s a staple feature of their live show and almost expected, having seen it every time I’ve gone to a concert. I’d agree that an extra song or two could have been added at the expense of trying to work the crowd into a frenzy but work them they did and everyone (bar Ade) seemed to be having fun. The songs themselves, the look of the band and the set presented a full show and other than timing it felt as much like a headlining set as one could ask for. And of course there was fire, so much fire…
Friday night headliners were Swedish metal titans Sabaton who in ten years have gone from playing to 20 people at The Purple Turtle in Camden, London to headlining Bloodstock and indeed next year playing a headline show the SSE Arena Wembley [February 8 2020]. London.
As usual with Sabaton there was a military theme to the stage set, reminiscent of a WW1 bunker with sandbags, fence posts, and tanks. The sandbags caused problems for the photographers much to their annoyance, you know who you are! [Ed: At 6′ 4″ our photographer struggled to get shots thanks to the sandbag wall. Like a boxing match, only ‘above the belt’ was acceptable.]
Sabaton knows how to play a headline slot at a festival. No messing about, see earlier comments, just classic power metal song one after the other.
As befits what I think is their best [and latest] album there were four tracks from the “The Great War” plus a set full of what are and will become power metal’s most iconic songs.
They were a perfect way to end what was a fantastic Friday.
AH: Couldn’t agree more with AY. A stunning show. A huge stage set, a band on fire and speaking of fire, if you thought Powerwolf turned up the heat, Sabaton delivered shock and awe tactics with a visual and aural bombardment that went on for 90 minutes. We left the main stage, shocked and suitably awed, with as always, ‘Night Witches’ proving a huge highlight from the ‘Heroes‘ album.
A quick trip via the Sophie Lancaster Stage and we took in a short amount of Grand Magus set, the three piece providing enough energy to keep those who still wanted to play going for another hour or so. We bailed to get some rest in anticipation of another full day of metal.
Resist and Bite
Fields of Verdun
82nd All the Way
The Price of a Mile
The Red Baron
Dominium Maris Baltici
The Lion From the North
Diary of an Unknown Soldier
The Lost Battalion
The Last Stand
To Hell and Back
Dead Soldier’s Waltz
Masters of the World