For a country that has probably contributed more towards heavy music than any other country in the world, the UK is severely lacking in a major, pure metal festival that can rival Wacken, Hellfest, Graspop or Tuska, ever since the discontinuation of the legendary Monsters of Rock in Castle Donington. Download Festival, Monsters of Rock’s successor, manages to draw some of the biggest metal names, but dilutes it with other non-metal and rock acts. The annual Damnation Festival in Leeds is commendably stalwart, but a one-day festival really does not sate the English metalhead’s appetite. The solution therefore is to look towards Bloodstock.
Bloodstock started out as an indoor festival for metal back in 2001 in the English Midlands of Derbyshire. The first installation saw some big names of metal like Saxon, Blaze and Primal Fear, and it was up and running. 2002 saw Diamond Head, Blind Guardian and Gamma Ray appear, as well as Primordial and Bal-Sagoth. In 2003, Nightwish, Edguy, Paradise Lost made their debuts, while Blaze and Saxon returned. In 2004, Gamma Ray and Primal Fear returned, with the appearance of Children of Bodom, Sonata Arctica and Evergrey.
The names were getting bigger, but Bloodstock have always tried to give smaller bands the chance to make their name, especially English bands. Dragonforce made an appearance in 2003, right about the time they were entering the metal consciousness on mp3.com. Evile got spotted in 2006 and later got signed by Earache on the strength of their performance. The Unsigned Stage is only marginally secondary to the Main Stage, with English fans coming to support their mates’ bands.
In 2005, the founders took the brave step of bringing Bloodstock to the Open Air. On the website, they cite Wacken as giving them support and publicity via their “European marketing muscle”, as well as giving them sound practical advice. With Sebastian Bach and Children of Bodom headlining BOA 2005, the outdoor festival was also up and running. Since its humble beginnings, the outdoor festival has gone from strength to strength, with Lacuna Coil, Nevermore, Testament, Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames headlining last year, in what is undoubtedly the biggest (maybe the only) festival dedicated purely to metal in the UK.