It’s the beginning of August so it can only mean it’s time for the UK’s premier metal festival Bloodstock Open Air. After Thursday saw the festival pay tribute to the late Lemmy by naming a bar after the great man and having Phil Campbell’s All Starr Band (8) kick off the now traditional Thursday night party, it’s great to see so many people in the Sophie Tent early Friday morning to check out Boss Keloid (8) whose psychedelic infused Sludge gives everyone the wakeup call that is so badly needed.
Back over on the main stage the self-appointed Bloodstock house band, Evil Scarecrow (4) once again have the huge crowd partaking in an impressive display of some organised dancing. But as impressive as the dancing is and looks, the music itself isn’t great and the gimmick is wearing thin as well. Maybe I’m the one that’s wrong but it just doesn’t work for me. After nearly 16 years away it was great when a reformed Misery Loves Co. (5) were announced to play this year and while it was good to see them back together on stage there is obviously some ring rust here that needs to be ironed out. Stuck Mojo (6) are another band that have a few issues to be resolved, because while musically they sound great, new singer Robby J. doesn’t. His vocals take the groove out from the songs and as such they don’t the same impact.
A band that has little problem making an impact is Corrosion Of Conformity (8). Even with a replacement drummer (who learned the set in day) and having to borrow another bands guitars, Pepper Keenan and co do not disappoint. The only reason they didn’t rate higher was because they wasted nearly 10 minutes dragging out "Clean My Wounds". Back over in the Sophie Tent XII Boar (7) are another fine example of the fantastic sludge/stoner scene the UK has at the moment, it’s just a shame more people didn’t come to see them. Playing an album is full is something that’s usually reserved for an 10/20 year anniversary so it was somewhat of a risk for Behemoth (9) to play The Satanist in its entirety only two years after its release. But it was a risk fully worth taking as they completely nail it. Never have these songs sounded so imposing and serves as a reminder of just how great the album is.
Closing the day and playing their last ever UK show are Twisted Sister (9) and what a performance it is. Dee Snider is a man possessed running around the stage and gives the band as a whole so much energy. Working their way through a back catalogue is no easy task but all the hits are there and it’s of little surprise that the biggest cheer of the night goes to "We’re Not Going To Take It". When "S.M.F." closes there is a real sense of disappointment that it’s over for not only tonight but forever more as well. Thank you Twisted Sister you truly did rock!
Saturday always looked to be one hell of a day and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Kill II This (5) however did. Much like Misery Loves Co. yesterday they looked and sounded a little short of practice and were definitely not as tight as could and should be, which was a real shame. Vallenfyre (7) suffered from no such problems as they blast their way through 40 minutes of the bleakest death metal they have to offer. The only trip of the day to the Sophie Tent was to catch the up and coming The King Is Blind (7) and it was certainly worth that trip. The boys deliver a brutal set that, with their outstanding debut album, only confirms that they are a band to look out for in the coming years.
Back on the main stage and the second band of the weekend to play an entire album were Fear Factory (7) celebrating 20 years of Demanufacture, and as fantastic as it was to hear some of the lesser played tracks in the live environment again the recurring problem with Fear Factory was evident again. While the band are as tight as ever, Burton’s voice was once again too inconsistent when singing the clean vocals and it really did spoil the what would have otherwise been a great performance. Continuing the run of great bands were Paradise Lost (8) who put on the performance of the day so far. The band are on top form, showcasing a vast range of material from their back catalogue that is a reminder, as if you needed one, of what a fantastic and influential band they are.
The performance of the day title didn’t stick with Paradise Lost for long though as Gojira (10) came out and blew them and every other band this weekend out of the water. The intensity and brutality of their set was phenomenal and this only helped to fuel the crowd into even more of a frenzy. This was an hour of both band and fans feeding off each other to create something special. The only downside of the whole set was that it was over all too quickly at just an hour long. But that didn’t stop it from feeling like a headline set and in fact they could and probably should have been headlining, but I guess we’ll have to wait for next time for that.
The actual headliners Mastodon (7) had a lot to live up to and in reality they didn’t have much chance of succeeding. It’s not that they were bad, in fact it was technically one of the best performances that I’ve seen from them, but their usual lack of crowd interaction and movement on stage didn’t really engage the larger audience and as such the whole set felt rather flat.
Desert Storm (7) opened up the Sophie stage on Sunday and despite having a front man who looks visibly uncomfortable on the stage their brand of stoner/sludge is a great way to ease into the day. There is no such thing as easing into a Heart Of A Coward (7) gig as they whip up a whirlwind in the form of circle pits from the word go, 40 minutes later and everyone leaves with a lot less energy but with a smile wide across their faces. Unearth (8) should have been the perfect band to follow them but not everyone seemed to think so as the crowd was a lot smaller which was a shame as they missed a great band on top of their game.
The third and final band to play an entire album over the weekend were Satyricon (6), who were also celebrating a twenty year anniversary, for the album Nemesis Divina. Unfortunately they did not do such a career defining album justice with a rather lacklustre performance. Even the few tracks from other albums they tacked onto the end of the set didn’t sound great, a band having an off day.
A band certainly not on a bad day were Anthrax (9). With the band still producing worthwhile material it is always refreshing to see them effortlessly slide the new stuff in with the old classics and today is no different with ‘Evil Twin’, ‘You Gotta Believe’ and ‘Breathing Lightning’ sounding right at home. The only downside to Anthrax at the moment is their complete disregard to the John Bush era but it’s a small gripe when you only have an hour set.
Closing Bloodstock this year was left to Slayer (6) sadly though they were not up to the job. This is not a complaint about how they played, as you might expect from a band with so much experience they as tight as you could possibly imagine, but their set is now so predictable that they are becoming boring to watch. So much so that I’m finding it more and more difficult to care about them anymore and judging by the often subdued reaction to them I’m not the only one that feels like this. A disappointing way to end what was otherwise a fantastic weekend.