Why So Late?
Some might say, why bother to review a festival a year after its passing? You choked on the deadline -- live with it. My simple answer is that the experience of Bloodstock Open Air 2008 is worth recording for posterity -- both for what it was to me as a punter, and for what it signified. Its significance is that it was the year of transition, when BOA went from being a mere minor supplement to the 'big time' event of Download to the country's most serious and dedicated, genuine metal festival. As you will find out below, it was far from perfect -- yet in the real essentials, it excelled. It was a true Experience -- and its follow-up in this year's fest promises to be the British metal event of the summer. I'm only sorry I didn't let you all know sooner.
A small festival first held less than five years ago, which last year cracked the 5000 mark for attendance, Bloodstock is a growing concern in the UK: the festival currently tipped to dethrone Download as -the- metal festival of this island nation. It seems a stretch, but stranger things have happened. So we figured we might as well give you a full-on rundown of what we (that's CoC in the personage of our correspondent, Paul Schwarz -- and his friends, whom we assume to be imaginary) got up to at Bloodstock 2008.PART ONEFriday, 04:00 - 23:59: A Promising First Day
Highlights of our first 8 hours at the Bloodstock site:
- Finding that no-one tried to move you off-site for sleeping in your car.
- Managing to sleep long enough in the car that when we woke, the 'ticket office' was open.
- Discovering that 'media camping' is next to 'disabled camping' and divided by only one symbolic section of railing a few meters long: anyone trying to torch journalists' tents will likely think twice.
- Discovering that no-one stops you bringing water into any part of the site.
- Discovering that there is some edible food being served in the arena, and there is also a 'snack bar'.
Downsides to those first 8 hours:
- Having to sleep in the car because no-one is in the accreditation office overnight.
- Being constantly presented with stewards who appear to have been given no information on where anything in the site is: it takes an hour of getting scrutinising looks while posing probing questions to find out where 'media camping' is.
- Discovering that even when the arena was opened up, near an hour later than intended, all things were not yet in order, either backstage or front of house.
Still, by the time SAINT DEAMON [sic] open the mainstage, it seems like business as usual. Despite its small size and at times shambolic organisation, Bloodstock has always given good sound. Sadly, this dumbly monickered combo are also typical Bloodstock filler fodder -- shite power metal from the twiddly Germanic school. There's a few attempts to be Queensryche, but within minutes we're cowering in the backstage area mouthing the final lines from "Heart of Darkness", and by the time Saint Deamon -- God, that name really is shit! -- finish up, we're scared to get to close to them for fear we might catch something: herpies or malaria or something else that bloodsuckers carry that can't be cured. To put it bluntly, the mainstage has nothing we need until AKERCOCKE take the stage in the early afternoon.
Finally free of Dig and company, the 'cocke are in fine form -- meaning they're about ten times better than the av-er-age death metal band on their best day ever -- and are received by a sizeable crowd. Opening with "Praise the Name of Satan" and a dodgy sound, they persevere with "A Man Without Faith or Trust", the sound starts to sort itself out and an intense circle pit erupts. This playground of pushing and near-pole-axeing has pertained for two songs when Akercocke take a brief break, and Jason says a few words. "Well, I don't know where that circle pit's come from, but keep that up. That's great." Broad smile, thumb in the air, and then it's back to The Blast. "Of Menstrual Blood and Semen" storms the arena like Slayer doing "Antichrist" on _Decade of Agression_, the song's intense apogee seeing Jason go pleasantly bat shit mental on the scream before the solo, which Wilcox peals off like his fingers are on fire [check out the solo-tastic take on "Chapel of Ghouls" added to the special edition of 2007's _Antichrist_ for proof of his astounding prowess -- PS] Simply put, this set is fucking magic. Forty minutes of tight, brutal metal delivered with a touch of class and a bucketfull of blastbeats: just what you need, late afternoon on the first day of a decidedly unbrutal festival, in the grand scheme of things. Sure, outdoors is not the ideal environment for 'the Ak' -- as former touring partners Ted Maul refer to these London veterans. Akercocke belong indoors -- in the dark, where their black flames can sneak from the shadows to envelop and consume.
It is interesting to hear how sinuously Martin Bonsoir -- now unexpectedly (and very happily) back with the Ak and once again assisting their efforts from behind the control desk -- weaves sound around "Verdelet" and other numbers that postdate his original exit from the band. Even headliners Opeth, whose music lends itself to such seemingly schizophrenic displays, do not create the kind of spectacle we see in the circle pit as the mighty opener of _Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone_ carves its way from the stage. The way the pit monkeys slow to a groove, bop and slap each others shoulders, like ravers coming up on a pill, as "Verdelet"'s first graceful interlude abruptly appears, and then go back to their violence as the tempo rises once again. The Woodstock-worthy display continues pretty much through the whole song. Clearly, someone has been munching on the awesome energy cheese of which the Great Madman's dreams are made! It's like Akercocke have these nutters on a yo-yo controlled by their music -- just as it should be. Without even a single 'motherfucker' or any of that mainstream Americano metal horseshit, these generally criminally underappreciated collective got the best crowd reaction we witnessed at Bloodstock '08. Feel free to bear that in mind as you read on.
Hooking up with a former colleague, codenamed Alka, we vacate the press area -- with its beanbags, London-priced beer, Tardis-like toilets (we say two members of Ted Maul emerge from a single stall, and we swear it weren't no mirage) and minimal shelter from the rain to watch DESTRUCTION. As much as their recent, so-called 'reunion' material does nothing to thrill on record, the choppy likes of "Nailed to the Cross" keep the energy up, while the versions of the usual suspects ("Curse of the Gods", "Mad Butcher", "Total Desaster") deliver. Honestly, the coolest thing about Destruction is that they're a stripped down three piece who keep it together. Backed up in such fine, unpretentious style, Schmier is given free reign to exercise his skills as a frontman. "He's pure German, bruv", as a local metalhead from 'round our way put it: a teutonic demi-Lemmy who at times almost sounds like he should be holding court in a tent later on, healing injuries from the moshpit with power bestowed by the metal gods.
Never is this more true than when he introduces "Eternal Ban".
It's all good fun and well worth seeing, though if we could have Kreator instead next year, that would be much appreciated -- the recently released _At the Pulse of Kapitulation_ DVD/CD set has really whetted our appetites here at CoC, and when it comes to consistency, there isn't a band in German thrash like Essen's finest. [And what do you know -- despite my tardiness in turning in this review, Kreator are indeed on the bill of Bloodstock 2009 -- PS] But we digress. Destruction certainly justify their existence with this fine set, and doubtless more than a few (rightly) grumble at their insulting billing and meagre allotment of time. But before we get into the sticky issue that is SOULFLY, in these days that are so ripe with rumours of a Sepultura reunion, we decide to check out the tent where ANGER MANAGEMENT have just begun their set. Featuring ex-Medulla Nocte skin-basher Jammer on drums, about whom Alka was speaking before we caught Destruction together, these lads deliver burly hardcore with a big injection of Slayer. It's fine, and indeed good, but honestly, it's going nowhere at present, by the sound of things. Jammer nails the beats down with industrial-strength battery, and an added extra feature is that watching this very large yet very energetic man play drums is as mesmerising as watching a rhino have a wank.
Once Anger Management are finished, it's off to the press area. We know we don't need to see Primal Fear -- that is the path of anger, and fear -- and even from a distance they offend. The beer has begun to flow in earnest by the time the mainstage ceases its incessant wailing and bad "Painkiller" impressions, but noticing that it's Soulfly up next we decide to head tentwards. The first volume of Will Eisner's "Spirit" awaits us: seven-page comic strips from the Forties seem like the perfect antidote to the man with shit in his hair doing shit nu metal impressions. As things turn out, however, Max Cavalera opts for impersonating someone other than the crusty Fred Durst. Clearly, he is trying to remind us about 'the good old days'. Perhaps the money is just getting that good. Whatever the case -- and in the wake of the Cavalera Conspiracy album coming out, there have been more than a few murmurs -- Soulfly now appear to have become a promo reel for the notion that Max Cavalera is needed 'back where he belongs'. It's hilarious: Sepultura song after Sepultura song is pulled out. "Roots Bloody Roots", "Refuse Resist" and "Inner Self" all get an airing, and we think there are others, but we fall asleep in the tent, pondering just how cheap it all is as a few much-needed hours of rest come our way.
We awake to find our dreams fulfilled: HELLOWEEN have finished. Half an hour of waking up with beer and fags, and OPETH are onstage. Perfect. Opening with "Demon of the Fall", the Swedes all-but-announce that they will be playing a 'greatest hits' set -- something to which no-one in the well-padded crowd seems to have any objection. The journos were looking for more cuts from _Watershed_. After "Heir Apparent" drops like a pressure wave of seething malevolence, we almost begin to drool with frustration. Yet even we couldn't really criticise Opeth's performance tonight. Mikael Akerfeldt keeps the nattering between songs to a minimum; the majority of Opeth's precious 90 minutes are taken up with playing smashing renditions of some of their best tracks. We would have been content if _Ghost Reveries_ had been left entirely out of account and didn't find the rarely played "Serenity Painted Death" ("We don't play this song very often 'cause I hate it", says Akerfeldt, by way of introduction) much of a treat, but it is nice that Opeth are still able to jump around their backcatalogue when performing 'greatest hits' sets, despite their most recent line-up changes.
What we're really concerned about is this new album. _Watershed_ more than deserves its own little _Operation: Mindcrime_-style tour. The band that comprise Opeth right now are just that awesome -- you long to see them really get their teeth into their first album together. Fredrik Akerst'ro'm's scintillating leadwork, stocky solidity and rock-out-hungry stage persona is the perfect frontline complement, while Martin Axenrot pounds out the rougher rhythms and glides through the smooth with a command that is Lombardo-like -- and he's a similar joy to watch play. We could go on, but there are still antics to tell of, and you're probably getting text-reading fatigue already. Have a cup of tea and join us again at the Witching Hour -- your time, if you like.PART TWOSaturday, 00:00 - 13:50: A Promising First Night
Midnight. The clock strikes twelve. Masturbate to kill yourself. Well, we were gonna, but we lost track of time. Anyway, we've still got some drinking to do. No, seriously. For once. We're good backstage 'til two. It's London prices for badly kept Becks, but it could be worse. We could still be using tokens. Somebody got an actual license, as the Maul's Casino Ritz (The Mad Thinker, as some nutbar in furs called him after a long, protracted conversation about long, protracted protractors and where one might conceal them) pointed out to us. Anyway, it's fun -- better than a metal club despite the lack of a real sound system. It somehow seems wrong to have a microchip jukebox, such as you'd see in the house of a dumb yuppy, providing the soundtrack in a metal festival's backstage area. Maybe it's just us and our 'old country' values, but we'd also prefer it if they actually played some metal. So the music is meaningless: the entertainment all stemming from conversation, alcohol and what certain Londoners like to refer to as 'antics'. Like breaking tables by accident by walking in the dark. Like collection beanbags from inside the hospitality bar and chucking them in a big pile outside, in order that one of your party might comfortably convalesce, since his legs seem to have departed from him. "I'm helping the Keta-victims of Ted Maul, man. What more do you want from me?" is the final word of one conversation.
Sadly, Bloodstock only allows us so much fun on their profit-at-the-bar-making back: kick out is two, as we mentioned before, and though Rope thinks the Lava Tent is still going, a quick check finds it limply going nowhere -- already done and dusted. Punters are going back to their tents -- whether to fornicate, fart, raise hell or just crack one off or open (or just go to sleep, perhaps) we don't endeavour to find out first hand. We go to the Shisha tent: a travelling hippy cottage industry that must make a tidy packet doing its shrewd business, but isn't a rip off like so much else and, much more crucially, has a warmth to it -- one that doesn't come only from the people crowding its floor, all seated and smoking. At first, though, the Maul and extended company shun it. For starters, it is full. Second, we are looking for action: Solomon is not cutting people up yet, but he is on the tequilla, and we just joined in with that. It's surprisingly cold. The warmth is good. Sagir's away: too much play and he'll be fucked the next day. We're only in night number one and there's still much to do. The feeling is the same outside that Shisha tent, but there's no plan, so with time all drift toward the van. It's a good hang out, good chats, no tunes. Suddenly dawn is coming soon. Someone discovers that the closed ticket office is not a toilet: the plan becomes 'off to bed'. Sadly, organisation is as whack as ever. The toilets I am directed to are all locked: I get over it.
At the gate, perfectly professional stewards ask us to show ID -- finding two without wrist bands, they yank the rope and wait for the big bossman (perhaps from Palumbank) to give the word. It takes time -- ten minutes which seem longer for the cold. When he comes, he gives us the perfectly sensible law enforcement-style speech. The people above him somewhere made a mistake. Either they didn't make enough wristbands or they forgot to give them to the people who needed them. People going on-site after dark -- campers. It's the speech you listen to, thank the deliverer for making, and blame the people higher up the chain for having to hear. The shisha place is rediscovered thereafter. Wherein we find Geoff, an interesting man whose name is doubtless spelled Jeff since he's over from Orlando, Florida on Sagir's word. Some people always have their finger on that pulsing vein. He's a kindred spirit to his 'British colleague', flashing his research into where the money in music is actually going. It's great to talk to him, but better to listen at this point. Mental note: pick his brains on licensing deals. He manages Blessed by a Brokenheart (hence their appearance in the play list you'll find at the end of this article: its musical accompaniment, if you will). Well, it's business and we forgive him 'an all, but hey, maybe he has mistepped here. We're not sure if the Towers of London plus Motley Crue plus Bon Jovi plus third-rate Soilwork (it's late Soilwork, where they live up to their name) mix will draw in the punters. We're no bigger fans personally of Devil's Gift, but they we can at least see doing more than just giving it a go on Century Media 'cause, you know, it worked for Children of Bodom on Spinefarm / Nuclear Blast. Christian rockers aren't always astute, it seems. Point is, Geoff's a dude, it's great to hang out with him and after the excitement of that 'festival first day' finally begins to wear off, we all depart our separate ways and make it to sleep just before the sun should begin to warm things up.PART THREESaturday, 14:00 - 23:59: It's All Downhill, After the Napalm Rains
The alarm is set for 13:50, and we make it up. A respectable seven hours -- much better than the four in the car yesterday night. Damn is it easy to feel for the crew -- the people who do the real work at a festival, whatever media professionals might tell you. Some of them don't sleep at all, while some of the higher-ups allegedly sleep in. Incidentally, it still hasn't got hot. Today is a typically English day. Overcast and uncertain. Perfect setting for a bit of Finnish doom/death from SWALLOW THE SUN, you might say.
The stages are so far running on time, but sadly despite the quality of Swallow the Sun's recorded works -- hardly an original note to be heard, but some serious tunes, and riffs that drag up bile right from your bowels -- in the blowing wind of a middling mid-afternoon, they're so-so: a rare bit of doom/death in a still-all-too-power and trad festival, but not the best example of why we need more. Get Indesinence here, then we'll talk. Drifting off into the crowd, we meet a very talented photographer friend, codenamed The Red Reaver. She's snapping shots of the crazies. Bloodstock has quite a few. But no-one has donated us pictures for this rambling write-up, so let's on to the next worthwhile band. Actually, forget that. The cynical gland might use it as an excuse and just skip straight to Napalm Death right now, but we did see other bands. The "Guitar Hero III" competition tent was enough to make a grown (up) man cry with anger -- the least said about fifteen people watching another man wiggle his bum while tapping a fake guitar on infront of a dodgy projector screen, the better. Communic are marginally preferable, but then contrast is a powerful thing indeed, as any computer user will know. Best not talk about them either. That anger is turning from water to wine-lust. A good mood in which to examine MOONSORROW.
More Finns. Aren't we lucky? No really -- despite Nightwish and Children of Bodom, Finland is generally still a haven for interesting bands. When Demilich reform (again) they'll be twice as strong, but that's neither here nor there. Still, where with StS we knew from the records what we were in for, with Moonsorrow we're running on reputation alone -- we missed our last few chances to check 'em out live. And to begin with, we don't feel like we really missed out. Moonsorrow seem to be all pomp and no punch. But then we come back with a beer, the four seem to have tightened up and are blasting like Immortal, so we give them a few songs to convince us. We're not totally sold, but fans say later that it was not Moonsorrow's best day, so we'll give them another chance sometime. More importantly, we'll check out that last album they did. Right now, there's serious business afoot: NAPALM DEATH are up next.
Everyone we talk to afterwards concurred on one thing: Napalm Death are an awesome live band. Of course, this was already a well-known fact -- this decade, few bands as old as Napalm (even when you look at their more pertinent last eighteen years, rather than the twenty-six Barney harps on about mid-set) have been as reliably worth heading out for multiple times a year. _Enemy of the Music Business_ truly was an album that marked the revitalisation of their career. But still, though ND are generally good, this performance was not as magical as the one at Germany's Rock Hard festival, back in May [of 2008 -- PS]. The unsurprisingly largely German contingent at that event went into instant-mosh mode when the Brummies blasted them with their first wave. The circle pit erupted like a great, swirling whirlwound [sic] -- a particularly impressive sight when viewed from half-way up the side of the Gelsenkirchen auditorium.
Here the crowd are crap, to put it bluntly. Surely they can't be too tired yet -- and 'too drunk' or 'too stoned' is not an excuse that washes at a music festival. They cheer and some of them headbang, but Napalm demand more. Not from the stage, of course -- Barney rarely loses his rag with a crowd, unless there's something suspect going on as far as people getting hurt and the like. As always, he is appreciative and thankful for the most part, informative in almost equal measure, and this early evening Barney even allows himself some leeway for entertaining the crowd with his in-between song banter. Mentioning that he cared not at all for the roll-up roll-up treatment, Barney makes a gag of how mercilessly he draws out the ramble which ends in those immortal words, "We are Napalm Death". A little cheer from the crowd, a sort of release of tension in general, and we get right back into it. By this point the four-piece -- no disrespect to the dearly departed Pintado, but the stripped down Napalm line-up functions faultlessly, to our ears -- have already given us "Suffer the Children", and now we get "Unchallenged Hate". As was the case at Rock Hard, the set jumps between very recent and largely '87-'90 material -- no bad thing, since Napalm's according enthusiasm for grinding the old-school way makes the closing "Siege of Power" a joy like no other this Saturday.
Slick has been a word to associate with Helsingborg metal crew SOILWORK since their sophomore offering, _The Chainheart Machine_. Since then it's been a slow decline, punctuated by a Devin Townsend produced offering that was all style, no substance. Ever more US-friendly and chorus-led, Soilwork are obviously fun for the kids and perhaps some kind of education, but it should come as no surprise that we'd rather have seen Warrell Dane up there with the band's poached guitarist -- even though that pretentiously titled solo album of his is far from perfect. On to something better then? Well, not til tomorrow, really.
Never a favourite for us -- go look up the review we printed of _Something Wicked This Way Comes_ a decade back -- Jon Schaeffer and the boys (Mat Barlow is back, but aside from the fact that his presence seems to stop "When the Eagles Cries" from rearing its ugly, propaganda-guzzling head, it really makes no difference to us) of ICED EARTH churn out an impressively tight set of thoroughly boring thrash metal propelled by trad reverence. People lap it up. We think they've just got severe reverse-gallop addiction.
The fireworks don't go up high and go boom. But for this, DIMMU BORGIR might just have managed to pull this off. Musically, they get by -- Tony Laureano and Vortex help, even though the latter's strap breaks at the beginning of the first song. Honestly, we can't say their records do anything for us -- DUB is the fan, and she ain't here. But it's always like this with Dimmu: they have a passable or better line-up of players, but unless they really get the presentation right, they're never much of a band to watch. They need spectacle, the Alice Cooper effect, the KISS trick, and instead they have a badly toyed with computer projector, flame jets that nearly incinerate photographers in the wind, and nothing that streaks into the sky and goes boom, like we said. Plastic armour, corpsepaint, some sparkle blasts: you could make a decent Green Goblin out of these things perhaps, but who needs them in a metal performance, especially one that doesn't include Behemoth?Sunday 00:00 - 12:00
Midnight. The clock strikes twelve. Master Burt Tergillier smells. Well, we heard he does, but who trusts rumour these days? The mill churns out many this evening, but all we're at liberty to divulge is that SPV's agent of evolution is very good at getting Satanic Sluts (or "cut-price Suicide Girls", as Geoff called Jeff refers to them) delivered to their tent on time. And apparently webzines got a free ride in the early '90s because people at the record companies didn't understand exactly what they were. Also late-night chips are good but lacking in sauce. So on to the real Sunday.Sunday 13:00 - 23:59
Earlier to bed means earlier to rise, so while we were up in time to catch whatever band was on before ALESTORM, we didn't bother. Why did we bother with Alestorm? We're wondering that ourselves right now, but at the time it was because they had a sense of humour, and because DUB speaks well of them. A product of the current popularity enjoyed by keyboard-backed Finns from Nightwish to Turisas, Alestorm's humour relies on listeners' knowledge to give it its laughs. And considering that "Pintmaster" isn't hugely amusing even when you know it's a pun on "Wishmaster", it's easy to see why their appeal is limited. Seems like if they focussed more on their chops and less on cheap jokes and half-assed pirate references (no costumes = bad move, in this instance), Alestorm could be something more than a bad joke, but that's all they are this afternoon. We mill around and await GRAND MAGUS: the first band of the day about whose set we are really excited.
You feel like The Picky Critic taking a shot a band like Grand Magus, for like Amon Amarth, though their most recent offerings may not be as quality as their predecessors, said albums aren't In Through the Out Doors [sic] and, more importantly, the bands behind them are just the kind of bands that metal needs right now. And we're not talking about the fact that they're Swedish. Yet perhaps it's the job of the critic to call it as they see it and feel it -- and we weren't feeling Grand Magus. That their set peaks with "Ulvaskall (Vargr)" is no surprise -- the wolf is something of a totem animal for this Swedish three-piece, and guitarist, vocalist and mainman JB explains as much just before Fox begins plucking tantalisingly on his bass, getting us wet for the coming onslaught of battle-hungy doom riffage. It comes halfway through the set, a peak which makes the track which follows seem dull by comparison -- and since NECROSADISTIC GOAT TORTURE are now due on the second stage, we depart.
A fair few punters crammed into the tent to catch what is strongly rumoured to be their final performance with Goatthroat, their well-loved female fronthowler, NGT have a distinct intensity tonight. Drained by booze in other recent performances, it reminds us of when we first saw them a while back at Camden's Purple Turtle. A pleasantly shambling concoction of buzzsaw guitars, clattering drums and OTT vocalisations, NGT walk the line between early black metal eruptions and retroish Teuton thrash admirably. The set is a fine send-off, and perhaps the accomplished growl-and-shrieker who fronted this motley crew so well will go on to greater things. As for NGT themselves, it now seems unlikely that they will make the transition to greater things. Where they will be without such a good frontperson doesn't bear thinking about. It was fun while it lasted -- a fifty-something hippy traveller type with a Reading '77 pin and a Wacken sticker attached to his outlandish hat showed his appreciation by hoeing down throughout the whole set.
You know that old 'band as a gang' line that professional music critics feed you when they want to evoke Sixties-spawned household names while still appearing hip and young by evoking 'the spirit of seventy seven' -- you know, punk and all that? Well, despite the fact that that old chestnut has arguably been worn down to a distant memory of real meaning by its over- and mis- use over the last two decades, it seems pertinent to point out that only one band spotted backstage and among the general population of Bloodstock in 2008 seemed anything like a gang. Bet you can't guess who it was? TED MAUL take the stage to baying and shouts. People are excited. The fact that the band are playing this poky tent seems to have worked in their favour. Like caged animals, people get worked up when you cram them together. The action doesn't begin on the first song though, a totally messy mix making mush out of what the Maul are playing. Seeing that they obviously can't hear each other onstage, we chalk it up to fortune, and by song two both band and sound are in much better nick. The groove has begun to take shape, and by song three our position in the third row is vacated as circle-pit-hungry punters get their own party started. It's awesome to watch from eight rows back. But what's even better is what happens after the fourth number is revealed as "Forest", the neck-snapping marriage of The Aphex Twin's rhythmic ribaldry and the leaden riff-grooves of prime Cryptopsy. First the moshpit gets more nuts, and then it seems to calm. Momentarily, there is space where gyrating torsos were before, and the circle is widening. Then we see it. Two guys, shirtless, standing at the band's side of the circle, about three rows from the front. Their eyes are wide with chemically-aided excitement, and with their pasty yet solid arms they beckon toward anyone who meets those wild eyes, for they have now appointed themselves head people-chuckers of this mosh pit. The circle becomes a corridor. Others will deputise themselves and aid this effort, which launches near two-dozen people onto the first two rows and beyond. But the lads who started it are there 'til the end. That such marvellously entertaining madness erupted and was sustained for an entire set only in this tent and with Ted Maul providing the soundtrack is, in reality, no mere accident. It is a reflection of just how exciting this band are: a unit, a gang, a pack of hungry wolves on the trail of transcendence through sound. What we need now is for the world to hear the news, so thousands upon thousands can stand in front and behold 'What Is Coming Next!' Right now, however, we're about to get an earful of one of the bands still pumping out what happened and had its day twenty years ago. Yup, time to thrash with OVERKILL!
Among thrash's survivors -- like Testament, Slayer and just a handful of others -- New Jersey's Overkill did not split when the going was tough and reform when the world's ear finally turned their way again. The UK hasn't seen them for five years, and the years before that weren't always rosy, but Overkill don't let that bug them. They've been elsewhere, in Germany probably more than anywhere else, and with their continuous schedule of recording and touring, they have become a well-oiled machine. Even opening with a comparatively dull number, their sonic slam causes an air of madness to descend as a punter strapped to the the seat of a broken plastic chair with reams of electrical tape goes over the front barrier. He is given a knife to cut himself free, and returns to the fray. Powered by a crunchy, spankingly in-sync instrumental assault ringmastered by primary songwriter 'DD' Verni (bass), the man called 'Blitz', Bobby Ellesworth, lives up to his name. He's still got that screech and wail, and even more crucially, he's never lost his gift for 'the gab'. To introduce the Overkill song which most of my generation know (because of Beavis and Butthead, por supuesto: "Flying skull!") Blitz spits out the following, immediately after "Skull and Bones" from last year's _Immortalis_ halts its perfectly fine thrashing. "I believe the year was 1963, the Kennedy Administration and an album called _Under the Influence_." There is no reaction to the counterfactual in the brief pause. "And I've been introducing these songs like this for years. Bloodstock, this is "Welcome to the Motherfuckin' Gutter"." It's the only time in the whole weekend that sweary-speak is anything but an irritation -- the least said about how At the Gates are introduced with the words "Are you ready for At the Motherfuckin' Gates?", the better.
Afterwards, we wreck our necks as 'Wrecking Crew' is whipped out, while Luca from Ted Maul bounces by soon after, the hallowed tones of "Horrorscope" drawing him pitward even as it causes us to go off and get a coffee. Ending with the attitude-driven "Fuck You", Blitz proves that his years away from the UK haven't caused him to forget how the British (and particularly English) mindset works. As the band pause before a final round of the chorus to get a shout from the crowd, Blitz calls a halt and pours scorn upon the volume of our voices. "What, is it only French people out there today?" The crowd give him the noise he was looking for, all is well and -- without the aid of any pyros or gimmicks or what have you, we might add -- Overkill close with the energy levels turned right up to full. Perfect timing, really, because AT THE GATES are up next.
Everything you'd expect, especially if you've been talking to people who went to Wacken, the now-legendary Swedes deliver a punishing, tight set which focusses squarely on _Slaughter of the Soul_ -- to the surprise of none but the mentally ill and eternally hopeful. The way that songs occasionally segue into each other puts some icing on the cake, while the sheeting rain (when combined with impressive lights) adds a cherry. It is magical. It is a wonderful piece of symbolic justice -- one of the great, once virtually unsung Swedish bands who helped lay the foundations for a new generation of music listeners getting all the adoration they always deserved. But it's also a reflection of how useful it can be for a band to split after making their masterpiece. And as awesome and eternal as _Slaughter of the Soul_, the album, is, hearing its songs played live ultimately only amounts to an experience you can now tick off your to-do list. This very much feels like At the Gates' last hurrah, so when it comes down to it, if you -think- that you'll never be able to live with yourself if you don't get to see At the Gates live, get a move on. But if, perhaps, you don't succeed, fret not: it will never live up to what your mind has conceived.
And with that cheap 'end on a rhyme' close, we conclude this review of Bloodstock Open Air 2008. We didn't forget NIGHTWISH, but since we had work to attend to on Monday morning we had to head before they played. Thems the breaks. Thanks go to the movers and shakers who made the fest happen and made it possible for CoC to attend. 2008 saw Bloodstock seriously move up in the stakes as a British festival. It still comes across as something of a shambling, rain-soaked nightmare for those who enjoyed German and other continental events during what seemed like this year's warmest months, back in May. You can't fix the weather (especially in Derby) and you can't really hope to beat the Germans when it comes to organising a festival. But taste aside, Bloodstock's line-up this year indicated that they really do mean business -- and when bands got up to play, they generally sounded great. If you go to one British metal festival next year, you're strongly advised to make it this one: fuck Download.WRITING PLAYLIST
(Some were loved, some came to be loved, some sucked -- add 'em up and you'll get an idea of just how much far too much time I spent putting this together, all back in August and September of last year...)
Sayyadina - _Fear Gave Us Wings_ CD
Sayyadina - _Mourning the Unknown_ CD
Akercocke - _Goat of Mendes_ CD
Torche - _In Return_ CD
Sonic Youth - _Daydream Nation_ CD
Blessed by a Brokenheart - _Pedal to the Metal_ CD
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - _Born to Run_ CD
Dinosaur Jnr. - _Where You Been_ CD
Demilich - _Live at Jonesuu 1991_ CD
Amon Amarth - _Twilight of the Thunder God_ CD
All Out War - _For Those Who Were Crucified_ CD
Alice in Chains - _Facelift_ CD
Demilich - _Nespithe_ CD
Civil Defiance - _The Fishers for Souls_ CD
Demilich - _Rehearsals 1991_ CD
Demilich - _The Covers_ CD
Nasum - _Doombringer_ CD
Demilich - _...Endllessness_ demo CD
Demilich - _...Decomposition_ demo CD
Anaal Nathrakh - _When Fire Rains..._ CD
Demilich - _The Echo demo_ CD
Origin - _Antithesis_ CD
Thin Lizzy - _Live and Dangerous_ CD
Impiety - _Kaos Kommand 696_ CD
Impiety - _Dominator_ CD
Abysmal Dawn - _Programmed to Consume_ CD
Toxic Holocaust - _An Overdose of Death_ CD
Gentle Giant - _GG at the GG_ CD
Burst - _Prey on Life_ CD
Burst - _Lazarus Bird_ CD
Akercocke - _Antichrist_ CD
Unearthly Trance - _Electrocution_ CD
Behemoth - _Demigod_ CD
Kreator - _At the Pulse of Kapitulation_ DVD
Deez Nuts CD
Venture Brothers - _Season 2_ DVD