All good things must come to end. And that includes sensational music festivals.
The final day dawned hot and humid, waking us nice and early for a final day of partying and testing the mettle of this quaint little field that has seen hundreds of thousands of metal fans walk over it in the last decade.
Up first were one of the strangest bands plenty of the crowd seen at Bloodstock: Ghost Bath. An American Depressive Black Metal group who made up some rumour they had Chinese connections when they first appeared.
I don’t know anything about that and their output was certainly not something the Chinese government would like to hear.
They came on stage wearing white clothes that reminded me of the Droogs in A Clockwork Orange so that was quite an original step for such a band.
Their depressive screams about death and suffering were delivered with aplomb and the outdoor sound system seemed up to scratch for a kind of music that always seems more suited to an indoor performance.
Nevertheless the band were the best start to the day.
The Silver Flower, Part 2/Happyhouse/Death and the Maiden/Golden Number
(GH) Sanguine have been around for quite a few years now and they always impress me live with bags of energy. Today is no different.
They’ve never really fitted into a mainstream metal category, preferring to do things slightly differently.
While setting them apart this also means they don’t nicely fit into some pre-conceived genre and I think this works against them at a festival like Bloodstock which is so genre focussed. Still an enjoyable set.
(GH) Unearth are Unearth. What can you say, they rip the mainstage apart with a very impressive performance that balances aggression and musicianship nicely.
There’s no posturing or drama, what you see is what you get and I quite like it!
Things got a little more energetic next as we welcomed on stage the next supergroup of the festival: Metal Allegiance.
Formed of members of Testament, Dream Theatre and Megadeth, this was a band who packed a lot of a punch.
And punchy sure was the right term for the energetic grooves that rolled forth from the PA as the veterans belted through number after number about all the anger, pain and frustrations of modern life.
Most of the setlist consisted of covers from classic bands who had left their mark on the world of music, including the almighty David Bowie.
It was very fitting of them to dedicate a cover of Iron Fist to Lemmy for which they welcomed on stage guitarist Gary Holt (Exodus, Slayer) who gave all he had to make it one good performance to which the crowd moshed, fell and sang happily to.
A nice tribute to the fallen angels of music in the best way possible. The day was now in the highest of spirits.
Can’t Kill the Devil/Wrathchild/Into the Void/Suffragette City/Iron Fist/Fast as a Shark/Heaven and Hell/Pledge of Allegiance
And the spirits of things far beyond the comprehension of man arose into the afternoon air with the band who followed on.
All the way from the land that bore the greatest music genre of all time: Black Metal, came veterans of said genre: Satyricon.
The Norwegian veterans were in town to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their third album: Nemesis Divina. The symphony that gave the Black Metal world anthems like Mother North and the title track.
As well as this classic, the guys delivered many a good classic like Black Crow on a Tombstone.
Some have regarded Satyricon as being the band who brought the arena rock style to the Black Metal genre. Their catchiness anthemic pieces seem to echo so well throughout the crowds at festivals all over the world and Bloodstock was no exception.
This performance was definitely the best they’d recently given and the crowd was once again blown away by the breathtaking precision of drummer Frost.
Vocalist Satyr also had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he had us bellowing the catchy lyrics to all the classic numbers.
Well done Satyricon, you gave Bloodstock another excellent Black Metal performance of the weekend.
The Dawn of a New Age/Forhekset/Du Som Hater Gud/Transcendental Requiem of Slaves/Immortality Passion/Nemesis Divina/Mother North/Black Crow on a Tombstone/Fuel For Hatred/K.I.N.G.
And the onslaught of excellent Black Metal didn’t stop there. Over on the Jager stage were the fairly new band from the Reading area: Aklash.
A band with lots of atmospherics and uses of classical instruments in their take on the genre.
For a band usually deemed best for the New Blood or Sophie stage, Aklash still gave a worthwhile performance on the semi-open air stage. A fine set of tremolo picking and atmospheric progressions spilled forth.
Here was a band who don’t pull any punches and did what they liked when it came to giving Black Metal what the thought it needed. A very good job there.
(GH) If the music was getting a little overwhelming and you fancied a little bit of culture, there was always The Gallery. This was an exhibition of art by Paul Raymond Gregory.
To any seasoned Bloodstocker, this man should need no introduction, he has been responsible for record sleeves for such notables as Saxon, Uriah Heap, Blind Guardian, Dio to name but a few. He also co-founded Bloodstock and does all the artwork for the posters. Much respect Sir.
The exhibition consists of an impressive body of work covering his career along with some photographs and art by other associated artists. All of the BOA poster images are on display, very, very impressive.
It’s also really interesting to see who played each year and how the festival has grown to be the amazing weekend it now is.
There is also a nod to Lemmy with a special area set aside for his basses and a tribute. A very nice touch and just one of the things that raises Bloodstock above being “just another festival”.
Then it was time to go a little more upbeat and happy with one of Britain’s most popular Power Metal acts: Dragonforce.
But to begin with their was a technical fault and the band were late on stage. This wasn’t their fault and it was quite good to be perfectly honest as I got some time to rest before they finally arrived.
And the guys simply got on with all the time left. They ploughed through memorable numbers from across their 17 year career. Through the Fire and Flames and My Spirit Will Go On made appearances as I was expecting.
Even though there was still some problems with the sound system, Dragonforce still gave it all they had and I’m now pleased I’ve seen them live.
Holding On/My Spirt Will Go On/Symphony of the Night/Cry Thunder/Through the Fire and Flames
The power left burning by the dragons remained bright and became something progressive with the next act. All the way from New Jersey came a five piece who’ve spent over 20 years making decent tunes about mythologies and fantasy fiction.
Symphony X, a proper symphony at that too. This band appeared as being very kind natured and upbeat to have one heck of a time blasting out tunes that make Power Metal sound more intelligent than imagined.
I found Symphony X to be another band who take on the classical music influence that makes metal unique in its own right.
They’re the kind of band you could see collaborating with the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen and other classically trained metal composers.
Fine composition gave rise to the highest of fidelity that makes Power Metal one truly over the top genre, and Symphony X were just marvellous at this.
Nevermore/Underworld/Kiss of Fire/Without You/Run With the Devil/To Hell and Back/Sea of Lies/Serpent’s Kiss/Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)
(GH) Another one of the bands from the weekend I was really looking forward to catching was Memoriam.
Featuring members of such fine bands as Bolt Thrower, Cerebral Fix and Benediction I knew what to expect and they didn’t disappoint.
Heavy as heavy gets and as honest as the day is long.
For me, one of the highlights of the weekend, Memoriam really did hit the spot. Did I say how heavy this was???
It was now evening, the final twilight of both the day and the festival. Only now was it time to give the ecstatic crowds the moments they had all been waiting for.
Bloodstock had decided to call it a day this year with two healthy doses of Thrash Metal.
The first of the big four to descend upon the crowd were Bay Area veterans Anthrax. This is the band who made Thrash Metal something humourous as well as serious – writing songs about comic book heroes and weird tales that synced well with typical themes of suffering and anger.
Once again we had a band made for the depth and wonderment of an arena performance.
I was impressed immediately by vocalist Joey Belladonna’s maximum projection that made the day shine once again despite the impending sunset.
Anthrax have the ability to put happiness and humour into moments that would appear violent to onlookers, so having songs like Caught in a Mosh blaring out was just what the crowd needed. Happy moshing.
And it all came to an end with a very lively rendition of Indians, the band’s signature number.
The chords and drums had all the energy you’ expect from a Thrash veteran so these guys have in no way waned in their ownership of the genre. Magnificent.
You Gotta Believe/Caught in a Mosh/Got the Time/Madhouse/Fight em til You Can’s/Evil Twin/Antisocial/Breathing Lightning/Indians
And then it was sadly time for the finale of the show.
But one truly awesome finale had been picked for this year.
Another Thrash Metal veteran, one of the few bands that immediately spring to mind when one mentions the phrase: Heavy Metal, because of their international ingraining into the metal canon: Slayer.
This was the band who made Thrash Metal what it’s best known for: fast anger laden shouts about the suffering and anger and violence that plagues the human world every day.
Opening up with songs from their most recent album Repentless, it was clear the recent loss of guitar player Jeff Hannemann hadn’t badly affected Tom Araya and Kerry King as they paid affectionate tribute to him with references to Hannemann’s favourite beer.
Pyrotechnics fired out shapes of inverted crosses giving off an evil impression of the band and reminded the veteran fans of the group’s earliest works.
And all the classic numbers that made the band the behemoth of Thrash they are today blurted out into the field and across the starry myriad of the evening.
Slayer are renowned internationally for their incredible stage shows, and this was no exception. You sometimes wonder if being around for so long will have a bad affect on the performances, but in this case the guys were just having one whale of a time.
Seeing the crowd go mental to Raining Blood and Angel of Death brought Bloodstock to one very angry and heroic ending.
Repentless/Disciple/The Antichrist/Hate Worldwide/War Ensemble/When the Stillness Comes/You Against YouMandatory Suicide/Fight Till Death/Die By The Sword/Necrophiliac/Postmortem/Born of Fire/Season in the Abyss/Dead Skin Mask/Hell Awaits/South of Heaven/Raining Blood/Angel of Death
Energy and happiness and a true sense of partying reigned highly over the festival this year. It was the biggest crowd I’d seen in all the years attending, and that didn’t seem to have made any bad changes for the experience.
Bloodstock is worth checking out if you love metal music and want somewhere to go in August. Check it out next year if you want an experience like this.