Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2015 - Derbyshire, Catton Park - 8th and 9th August 2015 Print E-mail
Written by Nick Russell   
Friday, 28 August 2015 04:00





Feeling suitably refreshed after a decent night’s sleep, me and snapper Dave head back down to Catton Park for Day 2 of Bloodstock. We arrive relatively early, although never too early for the first pint of the day, quality ale.


Beer in hand, we head to the Sophie Lancaster tent to catch Brit thrashers Anihilated. Now I admit to knowing very little about this band, which is most surprising as they’ve been about for nigh on 30 years. I may well have seen them a long time ago but I can’t be sure. So in 2015 we have another old British thrash band treading the boards. Admittedly, time may not have been the kindest to them but armed with the requisite shark fin guitars and denim cut-offs, they kick into first song ‘Blood Of The Martyr’. A few songs in and I can sort of see why I may not have kept up with Annihilated, as tight and well played as the songs are, they don’t particularly jump out as thrash classics. Things do change for the better with ‘Chase The Dragon’ a slower chugging riff before it speeds off, much better. I find myself enjoying the thrash flashback, even with lots of familiar riffs. Then with the final song, ‘Scorched Earth Policy’, it becomes clearer who they sound like - prime time Slayer! The riffs, the very Araya-like singing and it’s like watching the thrash titans of 1988 vintage. After initial dis-interest, I came away quite enjoying the nostalgic trip.




This year even the gods of the weather are adding to the enjoyment of Bloodstock, as we enjoy lovely blue skies and its warm, although not roasting hot. So we head to set up a base camp at the main stage as there are a good few bands I want to see. We catch the tail end of Xerath’s set, with their sub-Messhugah djent riffs doing nothing for me. I didn’t miss out on anything there. Next it was time for some Norwegian black metal from 1349, a band I knew of but hadn’t really heard. I’m afraid corpse paint at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a warm British summers day just looks silly though, you really want to be watching this sort of thing in the dead of the night! Despite that, I quite enjoyed their black metal assault. Never the biggest fan of the genre but they blast away with some excellent heavy riffs and some pretty darn cool drumming. That’ll be because the drummer is Frost, well renowned in black metal circles and also from Satyricon, and a pretty damn good drummer he is too. You don’t see too many drummers wind milling while they play! A pleasant black surprise.


Another band I’d heard of but don’t really know anything about are Korpaklaani, a Finnish folk metal band. Now when it comes to the combination of metal and folk, it begins and ends for me with just one band, long gone but never forgotten Skyclad. Anything else just doesn’t sound right and Korpaklaani are no exception, it just sounds like Eurovision metal to me. Maybe you have to be considerably drunk to really enjoy them, and I’m not getting drunk as I have to drive, so sadly this is not really enjoyable for me.


The next four bands on the main stage were all faves I was looking forward to seeing. The first of them was Birmingham’s very own gods of all things grind, Napalm Death. From the off, they’re on it. With John Cooke from Corrupt Moral Altar filling in for Mitch Harris, the serious amount of touring done since the release of the excellent ‘Apex Predator:Easy Meat’ shines through in their performance. The riffs, the blast beats, Shane’s rumbling bass, the mega heavy sound from probably the smallest backline of the weekend (was that Russ Russell I saw sneak into the sound desk!?), it’s a brilliant set. And they also have singer Barney, you can’t help but have a chuckle at his off-time but strangely on-time mad bastard dancing around the stage, he only ever stops in-between songs! But he delivers the material with passion and intensity. Older songs like ‘Scum’, ‘Social Sterility’, ‘You Suffer’ and a real gem ‘Suffer The Children’ fit perfectly with newer tunes like ‘When All Is Said And Done’, ‘Cesspits’, ‘Dear Slum Landlord’ and the exceptional ‘How The Years Condemn’. A brilliant crowd sing-a-long of ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ is followed by the 1-2 finish of ‘Adversarial/Copulating Snakes’. Put simply, Napalm Death are one of the best metal bands this country has produced, as the packed out crowd here will testify to.


Napalm Death


Next up on the main stage were probably the one band I wanted to see above all others, Dark Angel. When it comes to thrash, everyone knows that ‘Reign In Blood’ is the classic album amongst all others. I venture that Dark Angel are responsible for an album every bit as influential, ‘Time Does Not Heal’. ‘RIB’ is a 28 minute short sharp shock of what thrash is all about, whilst ‘TDNH’ is the other end of the spectrum, 67 minutes of as many riffs and total heaviness as you can imagine and how far you could push the thrash boundaries. My only previous live experience of Dark Angel was disappointing, as I couldn’t get into the gig at Milton Keynes as it had sold out and all I caught were a few fleeting glimpses as the fire exit door kept being opened by some young scamps! So as the opening bars of ‘Time Does Not Heal’ roar out of the PA, my excitement rises. Follow that with ‘We Have Arrived’, ‘Never To Rise Again’ and ‘No One Answers’, the band are on fire with the main man, the Atomic Clock himself, Gene Hoglan powering them along. It can’t be overstated that as much as they are a band, he is the driving force behind it all, his awesome effortless playing the real highlight. We then get three classic tracks, ‘The Burning Of Sodom’, ‘Merciless Death’ and ‘Darkness Descends’ all with some killer thrash riffs. Unfortunately I have to move to the Sophie Lancaster stage to catch Mordred during ‘Darkness Descends’ and miss the last track ‘Perish In Flames’ but I’m happy with what I’ve seen, they are as good, no, better than I expected.


It’s back in the tent for a change of pace with funk thrashers Mordred. They were brilliant on their comeback tour last year, today is no different. It’s great when you see a band come back like they have and witness just how much they’re enjoying it. The thrasher ‘State Of Mind’ kicks things off and we get a set of great tunes. The guitars are nice and chunky, the superb funky ass bass lines drive the songs with singer Scott using every inch of the stage. DJ Pause comes into full effect with ‘The Strain’ and its back to heavy speedy stuff with ‘Killing Time’. An excellent singalong ‘Everyday’s A Holiday’ before Pause steps from behind the decks and takes centre stage with ‘Close Minded’. The scratching infused ‘Falling Away’ leads to the final song, the brilliant ‘In This Life’. Mordred are back and going nowhere, the crowd response suggests there are a good few people happy about that.




A quick walk back to the main stage and Death DTA are already on. Never lucky enough to see Chuck (Schuldiner) back in the day, I was intrigued to see how the band would be playing their tribute to those great songs. Any fears that we might just get a glorified tribute act are clearly dispelled when they break into ‘Suicide Machine’, pretty darned good. Things then go to pretty awesome with a killer version of ‘Overactive Imagination’ followed by ‘Spiritual Healing/Within The Mind’. You’d think that the Atomic Clock would be pretty knackered after playing the Dark Angel set, not a chance, his drumming is equally immense, especially considering he looks like he’s hardly using much effort! Snapper Dave observes that bassist Steve DiGiorgio’s playing without hardly any effort either, switching from a 6(!) string to a 3(!!) string bass with ease. The guitars of Bobby Koelble and Max Phelps peel out the killer technical riffs to perfection. In fact, a special mention to Max for his singing, it could almost be Chuck up there, even visually. ‘Symbolic’, ‘Bite The Pain’, ‘Zombie Ritual/Baptized In Blood’, classic songs given due reverence by a band on top form. A stunning ‘Crystal Mountain’ is followed by set closer ‘Pull The Plug’. A truly memorable gig, the legacy of the great man is more than kept intact. A triumph.


As the sun descends across the Bloodstock site, it seems an almost perfect setting for Opeth to take the stage. Their expansive prog rocking from the latest album with the first two songs, ‘Eternal Rains Will Come’ and ‘Cusp Of Eternity’ fit in perfectly with the natural lightshow of a cracking sunset. Mikael Akerfeldt is his usual dry humoured self, introducing the next song “This one’s called tuning”! He introduces ‘The Drapery Falls’ from “one of our most hated albums”! which was ‘Blackwater Park’. The truth is that they’ve evolved from a very good group to an amazing band and with every album they’ve just got better. Only the truly narrow minded would say otherwise.




After a long hot day, once again we’re not too fussed about tonight’s headliners (Within Temptation), so we head off to our beds for a nice night cap. I think today was a better day than the first, with some cracking bands although Snapper Dave commented (rather unfairly) “same shit, different band!” To be fair, he’s from the new generation where you can listen to anyone you want instantly and decide whether you like them or not. He is young, he will learn! And it will be more of the same tomorrow, with only the threat of the weather bringing down the high spirits.




After initial reports of showers, day three at Bloodstock festival starts out nice again, although not quite as hot as the day before. First things first, head to the bar and get a pint in hand, although the choice of ales is considerably less than the first day, Bloodstock clearly likes its beer! As the majority of bands I want to see are on the main stage, that’s where we head for and the first entertainment of the day is a bit of pure heavy metal.


If you knew nothing about Sweden’s Wolf, you could take a pretty educated guess as to what musical style they play by just looking at them. Lots of hair, flying V guitars, yes it’s straight up heavy metal! Shredding riffs, galloping basslines and shared vocals with the drummer, it’s metal to the max. Tracks like ‘The Bite’, ‘My Demon’, the slower chugging riff of ‘Voodoo’ makes it sound heavier, with frontman Niklas Stalvind asking the crowd to “sing from your balls!!” There were certainly a few confused female faces around me, I can tell you. You do have to wonder about someone who in the middle of a British summer day addresses the crowd using the word “tonight!” Really?? Anyway, a couple more tunes, one that has a ring of Metal Church’s ‘The Dark’. No real surprises then, just solid metal.




After the metal attack, it’s time to get a groove on and rock it up in the sun, and who better than London’s finest stoners Orange Goblin to do just that. Opening with ‘Scorpionica’, by the time second song ‘The Devils Whip’ kicks in, they are on it. Whilst he may not have the greatest voice in the world, the imposing Ben Ward is the perfect frontman. Showing genuine appreciation to the crowd’s reaction to them, his voice suits the dirty rockin’ riffs of the ‘The Filthy & The Few’ and ‘They Come Back’. Leading the crowd in the singalong refrain of ‘Sabbath Hex’, the band are killing it. ‘Quincy The Pigboy’ and ‘Red Tide Rising’ finish the set off and they get one of the best receptions of the weekend. A band who clearly should be bigger than they are, it was with some surprise that they were below the next band……


Ornage Goblin


There appears to be a visible thinning of the crowd by the time Pro-Pain hit the stage. A bit of a shame really, because they missed a set of blistering hardcore metal. Opener ‘‘Deathwish’ sets the tone, tracks such as ‘Stand Tall’, ‘Sucks To Be You’, ‘No Way Out’ continue the brutal assault. Main man Gary Meskill doesn’t bother with too much with between song banter, he and rest of the band just get on with the pummelling. The title track of the recently released new album ‘Voice Of Rebellion’ sounds excellent and ‘The Shape Of Things’ is just fast and heavy. By the end of their set they’ve managed to get a good portion of the crowd back. All due to some impressive playing and some great songs, well worth watching.


It’s quite amazing the “M” word is still brought up on a regular basis as Sepultura celebrate an amazing 30 year anniversary. And that’s the only mention I’ll make. The band still obviously mean a hell of a lot to a lot of people just as they are as the packed crowd are welcomed with ‘Troops Of Doom’, ‘Kairos’ followed by ‘Propaganda’. Some old school thrashing with ‘Inner Self’ is followed by ‘Sepultura Under My Skin’. The band are in fine form and the songs sound heavy and tight. We go right back to the beginning with the aptly titled ‘From The Past Comes The Storm’ followed by more excellent thrash in the form of ‘Arise’, with not a biscuit tin sounding drum in sight! A killer version of ‘Refuse/Resist’ is followed by ‘The Vatican’. There is only one song they’d finish with, their now all-time classic ‘Roots Bloody Roots’, with the crowd singing every word. Sepultura are as vital today as they once were and are given a suitable heroic reception.




So after the high that the boys from Brazil brought, for me at least, it comes crashing down a bit. Another band I haven’t really got a clue about are Ensiferum, a thrashy pirate/viking inspired folk band. Things don’t look good with the backing vocals on the first song sounding a tad out of tune but they do improve. Cue more songs that would seem to be best enjoyed whilst drunk, especially with one called ‘Twilight Tavern’. Unfortunately they just don’t float my (long) boat. And I seem to be in a minority if the number of people in the queue for the signing tent are anything to go by. Not impressed.


So from a bit of silly folk thrash, it’s time for a full-on death metal assault with Cannibal Corpse. I’ve only become a fan more recently as their records have become more technical. Starting off with a the slow and grinding ‘Scourge Of Iron’, things speed up up to the more expected blasting of ‘Demented Aggression’ and ‘Evisceration Plague’. With a sound that is brutally heavy but crystal clear, you can hear every technical riff. In fact, any un-initiated idiot who always say bands like Cannibal Corpse are just noise; they should be made to sit down and watch either of the guitarists and listen to exactly what they’re playing, because it’s very far from just noise! Just before the brilliant ‘Kill or Become’, George “Corpsegrinder” Fischer challenges all of Bloodstock to a headbanging competition, simply because he knows he will win, those massive neck muscles enable him to seemingly windmill forever! ‘Icepick Lobotomy’, ‘I Cum Blood’, ‘Make Them Suffer’, there’s no let up in the battering they’re giving Bloodstock. And the crowd are responding, it looks pretty wild down the front with a steady stream of bodies heading stagewards. ‘Skull Full Of Maggots’ and ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ are excellent before they finish things off in fine style with ‘Devoured By Vermin’. An absolute killer performance from a band at the height of their powers, Cannibal Corpse conquered.


Cannibal Corpse


You would expect any band to find it tough after the kicking that Cannibal Corpse just gave the crowd. Just as well Black Label Society isn’t any band. The mash-up intro ‘Whole Lotta Sabbath’ leads aptly into the first song, ‘The Beginning…At Last’ and Bloodstock is rocking. ‘Funeral Bell’ and ‘Bleed For Me’ follow in quick fashion, no chatting, just get on with the metal. The first of three songs from the last album ‘Catacombs Of The Black Vatican’ comes in the form of ‘Heart Of Darkness’. A superbly heavy ‘Suicide Messiah’ is then followed by a brilliant ‘My Dying Time’. Whilst everyone knows the big man is the main focus here, the rest of the band aren’t just bit parts, they’re an integral part of the Black Label sound, guitarist Dario Lorina even gets a shot at a solo. The newer ‘Damn The Flood’ leads into the inevitable solo spot. Mr Wylde shows his undoubted chops to the max, demonstrating why he’s one of the best guitarists in the world. The beauty of Black Label is that as good as Wylde is, it’s not just all guitar wankery, and he can write a mean tune too, as shown by the last three songs; ‘Godspeed Hell Bound’, ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘Stillborn’. Amongst many an extreme this weekend, Black Label Society show they still have more than enough for many a metal fan.




As per the other two days, the headliner (Rob Zombie) isn’t really a must see for me, so it’s time to head back up the A38. That’s my first Bloodstock done and dusted, an excellent weekend. The fact that it’s limited to 15,000 enthusiastic metalheads is what makes it, not so super big where you feel you have to start training six months in advance! The staff and security are all friendly, no jobsworths with attitude in sight. The general atmosphere is a more friendly one, whilst everyone is there for a good time, it isn’t just an excuse for a piss up, the music is a very important part of it and there are a lot of people there specifically for that. Like any festival, Bloodstock isn’t just there for the sake of it, it is about making some money, they just don’t feel the need to go all corporate, like so many other festivals. Most importantly though, there were some great bands (the odd one I missed too…sadly), the band of the weekend for me (and a good proportion if the crowd reaction is anything to go by) would have to be Cannibal Corpse, a killer live band. There was so much action going on down the front, security registered 422 crowd surfers during their set!!


This will definitely not be my only trip to Bloodstock, I’m hooked.


Bloodstock 2016 will take place over the weekend of 11th – 14th August and organisers have already announced Behemoth and the mighty Venom for the event. You can buy £127 early bird tickets for this must attend event on the heavy metal calendar via the following link. Buy Earlybird Tickets To Bloodstock 2016 - RIGHT HERE


Photography by David Graham