CoC collectively covered the following bands from Bloodstock 2009, presented here alphabetically with some appended, sometimes appropriate words.
ANATHEMA: Covering ferrous virgins never fails
APOCALYPTICA: Fiddle about with frogs of Shatner
AMON AMARTH: Happy birthday dear Ann
ARCH ENEMY: Doomsday is here to stay
BATTLELORE: Plucky unremarkable shite, too many members
BEHOLDER: The eyes have it
BLIND GUARDIAN: Seven rings for the gnomes - vocal harmonies for others
CANDLEMASS: Why so serious, it's sunny?
CARCASS: A Steer that's hard to hear
CRADLE OF FILTH: Gob stopped
DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER: God, I wish there was more of a racket!
ENSLAVED: Aggressive hypnotic envelopment, weighty tempos: never fails
ENTOMBED: Finally rocking as a four-piece, -so- not Haunted.
EQUILIBRIUM: Feel the Fin-ish feel up folk with 'folk'
EUROPE: Tourist trap or underexplored country?
GIRLSCHOOL: Schooled to rock, not chat
INSOMNIUM: Doomed in the afternoon
KATATONIA: A great cold distance...
KREATOR: Spell it if you want me to scream it
MOONSPELL: More goth than black
MUNICIPAL WASTE: A waste of a time
SABATON: No time-wasters, only arse kickers
SATYRICON: Are you unionised?
SAXON: Crusaders crush / Planes please / Bike power rocks
SODOM: The bird is the word, the saw the law
THE HAUNTED: Stupid echoes / Swear-bullied audiences / Sweden shamed
TURISAS: Wickerman dancing / Last for the furs / Replayed on kazoo
WOLF: Enjoy wielding the power of AnvilsIntroduction
by: Paul Schwarz
"It's like a proper little European metal festival, isn't it?" So said a former Terrorizer colleague on Friday evening, and he really hit the nail on the head. Previous years, Bloodstock was a mixed bag -- worth enduring for some of the bands on offer, but still small time and way too power metal-orientated for these ears. Last year was a big step up. Some (myself included) thought that this year might see Bloodstock expanded towards the size of a Download -- especially since that commercial cash cow had stumbled pretty badly in '08. Instead, Bloodstock 2009 brought us something better: a small-scale festival (9500 total attendance, according to the organisers) which prized the important things. Sets were of good length, sounds were generally stellar and the line-up really went beyond the UK norm.
Sadly, compared to the trend of previous years, food and drink slipped more toward the UK norm -- a lot of crappy fast food (sometimes dressed up as gourmet by logos but not ingredients) invaded the site, prices climbed even in the face of the economic tides of the last twelve-ish months, and there was less healthy competition overall, punning or aside. Previously, this was perhaps the festival where one could most meaningfully make a quality-valuing choice to pay more. This year, the fairtrade-only shisha tent remained and was joined by a chai hut -- which also offered drumming lessons out front, adding a curious ambience to the area, just a stones throw from where the stage could be seen. But these were essentially oases in a sea of overpriced greasepits. The closer one was to the stage, the longer the walk was to find decent chow, and -nothing- was cheap. Personally, surviving on chips at a £2 a pop, eating big breakfasts at the B&B and buying overpriced crisps and fruit from the snack shops was the best way to recoup on other losses (taxis to the site). Bringing in food in your bag was a good way to go: it was easy, and seemed acceptable to the stewards. For others who stayed on the site campsite, slightly cheaper and fuller tubs of baked potato than were available in the main arena sufficed, in some cases at least.
Drinking was a different story. Though prices were Central London harsh at £3 backstage and £3.50 up elsewhere, in contrast to the UK festival norm -- where shitty watered lager, chemically corrosive cider and maybe something German, bottled and really expensive are generally one's only options -- Hobgoblin ale was offered at every bar, alongside Gaymers cider and half-decent lager, probably. Backstage it was Bounders cider. A fine contrast to the prevailing food situation, prices aside.
The icing on the cake was the weather. Three days without significant rain in this part of England, and one starts to worry the apocalypse is coming. Apparently, the metal gods saw the line-up, saw that it was good, and made some kind of deal with Thor. Either that or Amon Amarth and Enslaved got together and sacrificed an album download or two to appease him. But all this is mere speculation. To conclude: for two of us B&Bing it, this was a costly holiday mitigated by connections; for two more on the campsite it was cheap and relatively cheerful, but noisy and without much to recommend it over lame karaoke, I gathered. See the postscript for some ruminations on the conditions from Colleen, who also gets us started, since she actually turned up on Thursday instead of rolling up late afternoon to early evening Friday.
[CoC's coverage of Bloodstock is brought to you by editor DR Jonas, with proofing assistance from members of Necromancy Wombat and the Sodomised Abortions -- main review is courtesy Colleen Burton, with Paul Schwarz providing his transcribed and slightly worked up notes and some additional scribblings, including worked up approximations of Mr. Lineker's reviews (he had to go on holiday and then back to work, and we wanted to get this year's review out a -little- quicker than the last one). Sections are attributed [Burton], [Lineker], [Schwarz] or [Schwarz-Lineker] for clarity.Alright, Thursday Night
Let's begin with the blow-by-blow. I didn't once step foot into either the unsigned stage, which I'm sure had some good new bands deserving of attention (and certainly had a decently-sized crowd packed within), or into the Sophie Lancaster stage, which appeared to be populated by about twenty nerds playing "Guitar Hero" until late in the evening. To be frank, no one seemed to know or care about the vast majority of the unsigned bands on offer. Metal karaoke was available, but there was no particularly stunning entertainment in the arena, just carnival rides that cost fifteen quid, lacklustre sword fights and some motocross in a steel cage -- ok, the motocross was kind of cool, but the announcer has burned "MALACHI WALKER" into my psyche for the rest of my days. [Burton]It's Friday, I'm in Love (With Metal)
Skipping a few bands and turning up for moody metallers INSOMNIUM in the early afternoon, we find the great stagemen trying to wake up the still dozing crowds. Smartly avoiding their more doomy offerings, they still have their work cut out -- their works don't work like caffeine. Next to take the stage are the bizarre DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER. Featuring a keyboardist in bondage gear who also had his own swing set for entertaining himself whilst bored, these Germans' little presentation would have been dwarfed by GWAR had they been able to attend. Still, DAR's folky metal is quite enjoyable live. [Burton]
MUNICIPAL WASTE arrived just after three to fuck us up, playing a wildly popular and fun show that was the first to successfully capitalize on the charged atmosphere of the outdoor gathering. With a mass turnout of British fans with punk sensibilities, MW alleged they were trying to set a world crowdsurfing record in order to get bodies in the air for "Beer Pressure". KATATONIA were next and suffered from a dreadful sound that was manifestly not their fault. Every element of the band, especially the singer's voice, sounded weak. This detracted from the moving atmosphere of the excellent _The Great Cold Distance_ material. With the short time allotted them, many fans felt they should have offered more of their older doom -- even _Brave Murder Day_ was only briefly touched upon. [Burton]
[RANDOM NOTE #1. It's weird how certain faces become familiar. Like ghostly archetypes appearing as visions clad in patched denim jackets and tanned tattooed torsos.] [Schwarz]
My disappointment with Katatonia was short-lived because SODOM
emerged next and definitely stole Friday's spotlight. Angelripper was an unstoppable force, and the three of them seemed to love the crowd and enjoy playing an old-school set. I laughed, I cried, I danced wildly to "Surfin' Bird". Mainly, the boys just got up there and played everything you'd want to hear: "The Saw is the Law", "Agent Orange", "Napalm in the Morning", "City of God". Hopefully it won't be twenty years before they grace these shores again. Admittedly, I am much less conversant with SAXON
, but my lack of familiarity did not deter my overall enjoyment. Their set was undeniably cool and the crowd, of which there was visibly a large NWOBHM contingent, were lapping it up. [Burton]
Saxon live up to their promise: "We're going to fill your heads with heavy metal THUNDAAAR!" Could just be that first cider feeling, but this trad assault totally works. Playing "Wheels of Steel", Biff mentions their 30th anniversary, and then we go straight into "a song about a plane". Mentions that Metal Hammer now outsells Kerrang! and hints that this means we're living in a better world. 'Marginally', says DR. You could march armies to "Crusader". All we needed was the stage to be on tank treads. [Schwarz-Lineker]
[RANDOM NOTE #2. Beer tent with proper wooded benches shows someone in the organisation has clearly attended Wacken -- a memory floating in beer reminds us of clinking glasses with Sagir while trying to see his side of Iced Earth at Wacken 2007 (IMMORTAL!), and the penny drops.] [Schwarz]
From here, we move on to our co-headliners, Arch Enemy and Carcass -- made more interesting by the connection (Michael Amott) between the bands. Now, I haven't been much of an ARCH ENEMY fan since I was a teenager, but a lot seemed to be working in their favor. They had high-quality sound, apart from the guitars being a bit too quiet (and guitars are pretty much the core of AE) and big pits from the load of fans who came out to see them. However, their set was dominated by the appalling _Doomsday Machine_ album, made more surprising by the fact that they have much more listenable material on the newer _Rise of the Tyrant_. Also, since when did Arch Enemy start playing long, instrumental, rock opera-styled interludes featuring a billion guitar solos and a drum solo? Utterly pointless -- unless the rumours are true and Angela can't maintain those vocals for any extended period. [Burton]
Lineker is quite right: Chris is clearly the better player. A huge and impressive spectacle, but Schwarz feels he might have somehow outgrown the need to see Arch Enemy live. It's all somewhat bland to him -- a triumph to the man from Kaleb. [Schwarz-Lineker]
CARCASS took over in what was the -only- suitable choice for an end-of-the-night headliner at Bloodstock. While I prefer their incarnation a la _Heartwork_ [The line-up they have today with the now ill Owen replaced by Erlandson, though Ken occasionally guests for a song or two, at some gigs --Proofreader Paul] to the early stuff, they seemed to effectively walk the fine line between the two, not disappointing those fans with a taste for grind. The years have not been unkind -- these gentlemen remain tight as ever. Also, some newb decided to explode a bunch of pink fireworks in the middle of their set. Explosions are pretty metal, I guess, but confetti cannons are not and Walker definitely took the piss out of them. [Burton]
[RANDOM NOTE #3. Toilet is comfortable. Not probable next year. By now, smell should be medieval outhouse, but is only Norwegian forest cabin. Surprising] [Schwarz]
Walker = weak link. Start with "Corporeal Jigsore Quandary" (the first time Lineker and Schwarz look at each other and say, "'Inpropagation'? Denied!") follow on with "Buried Dreams" and then "Incarnated Solvent Abuse", and in fairness it's pretty awesome -- but not without its problems. Apart from use of the intro to "Necroticism" at the set's beginning being a blatant tease for a song they fail to play -- at last year's 'Gods of Metal', "Inpropagation" was hot on the heels of "Buried Dreams" -- it is also frustrating to find Amott's guitar, with its intentionally cutting tone, turned up MUCH higher than Steer's. If there's one guitarist you want to hear after an hour of Arch Enemy, it's Bill Steer. No Love Lost, it seems -- and they play it next. Sound curiously like Coroner when performing "Carnal Forge". "This Mortal Coil" comes out with a different intro and goes straight in "Death Certificate" -- tasty. They "Keep on Rotting" rather nicely, follow it up with a short blast of Genital Grinding [sic], a passabe "Still Rotten" (I believe) and nicely ripping "Reek" to follow, and make another from _Symphonies_ (whose identity eluded Schwarz and Lineker at the time) work rather nicely. Indeed, the ripping feel is surprisingly authentic in the reproduced early material -- the material which most feel the band stopped playing particularly well quite early into the '90s. Next is old (from _Symphonies_) and begins with 'famous' drums. But they only give us the beginning (as at 'Gods of Metal' last year, Schwarz recalls) before turning themseves to some "Heartwork". Fake end then beginning of nothing then... More? No. Just crappy (literal) dissection video and outro. They have finished early and played under an hour. "Inpropagation"? Denied! [Schwarz-Lineker]Saturday or 'Sweden's Day'?
Saturday had by far the most glorious afternoon and evening of metal I've known in a long time... [Burton]
[RANDOM NOTE #4. We stayed at the Unicorn in Newton Solby, direction of Drakelow if going to fest from B&B. It's a £20 cab ride (or just shy) on the meter. Room was £60 per night for double and good breakfast -- can stock up on cereal, and tea refill requests are happily fulfilled. Breakfast often lasted us 'til nearing teatime] [Schwarz]
It's early afternoon when we turn up. Lineker tells us BATTLELORE were "Plucky unremarkable shite... Too many members..." and DUB, DR and we hosteliers decided we're kinda glad we took it easy. We all gather to see what WOLF have to offer -- a lot, it turns out. Decked in matching black and white Anvil shirts, they have arrived to bring us rocking, no nonsense metal. [Schwarz-Lineker]
[RANDOM NOTE #5. According to organisers, last year the only complaints received were about noise in the VIP campsite, rumoured to be caused by Ted Maul. A gentleman from Sonisphere said their only complaint from this year's event was a woman asking for her money back because she had been caught in a mosh and "My boyfriend had to carry me back to the car and drive us home after that!"] [Schwarz]
"We are just like you: crazy about heavy metal and the devil", screams Wolf's most lupine-looking member a couple of cuts in. Though it's not quite up to the '80s Mercyful Fate it's largely predicated upon, Wolf's set rocks -- they have an honesty and unbridled enjoyment to what they do which is truly infectious. And "The Bite" really does have a pretty awesome hook, too. A fine, triumphant return for a band who, like total pros, kept the crowd with them through near twenty minutes of not being able to play when Derby's skies pissed all over them a few years back. [Schwarz-Lineker]
I put in an appearance for THE HAUNTED
. I knew better than to waste my time with Battlelore, who aren't a good power metal band and are a piss-poor live band. Like The Haunted, it would seem. Man, did they suck. Let's not mince words: they were absolute pish. The whole set was nothing but a slap in the face to people who have been following them since _One Kill Wonder_. At various intervals I caught "99" and "Bury Your Dead" surfacing from the wash of generic metal, but I preferred wandering the stalls to actually watching that travesty. They couldn't even be bothered playing "DOA". Thankfully, it was smooth sailing for hours after these Swedes departed. [Burton]
It's official: Dolving is definitely a weak frontman. Whatever those who saw The Haunted live in their first incarnation perceived, it is clearly gone. Since the unsuccessful radio rock bid that was _RevolveR_, this band's trajectory has been all downhill. Dolving swears and insults, getting less out of the crowd with his bully-boy, Anselmo's-not-here-so-dis-is-ma-house slop-swagger than Wolf got via their axe-chop of an opener alone. There is occasional relief from old faithfuls like "Dark Revelations / Bury Your Dead", but by set's end Schwarz is again droning on that it's criminal to waste a drummer of Per Moller Jensen's calibre on a live act so seemingly determined to underachieve. "Woeful. Lacking insight into the comparative qualities of their new material", comments Lineker. Note to self: must get The Crown to reform for BS 2010, show The Haunted how you kill it at a festival -- see Wacken 2003 performance [see MFSG #2, in the CoC archive, for a review of the filmed footage, and our Gigs archive for the review of that classic 30-minute belter of a set] [Schwarz-Lineker]
[RANDOM NOTE #6. A Sodomised Abortion calls. We check ticket prices, but though ZZ is presently leisurely touring the UK, he and his companion have not the funds to attend Bloodstock. He agrees to help us edit the feature nonetheless. Schwarz calls them two hours after Entombed finish, to give all the details.] [Schwarz]ENTOMBED
can be credited with offering a phenomenal start my to Saturday of enjoying bands -- notably with their odd intro tape, featuring hillbilly Satanists. Their crushingly heavy set is great, anyone could get into it. We were feeling that death 'n' roll down to our marrow bones. Tracks came from across the board with a definite inclination towards the newer albums. [Burton]
Riffs sound bad ass and grab balls (and fannies too, doubtless -- "Mine was shakin'", claims Jonas). Even when seeing the world through Sodom Eyes [sic] they are pretty damn damaging -- a fine contrast to the show at the London Academy that finished up at 21:30. Perfect set and setting for doing "Damn Deal Done". "Like This With the Devil" also totally rocks it. You could comfortably march armies to "Wolverine Blues", "Out of Hand" you could run a riot on. "Masters of Death" fit its title perfectly, but the omission of some of the best stuff (_Clandestine_, naturally) is not felt hard. A real eye-opener as to how good a four-piece Entombed can be, "but no-one will complain if Dave Suzuki joins and makes them stratospherically awesome", quips Schwarz before adding: "Fuck would that be awesome!" In summary: so much better than the Haunted. [Schwarz-Lineker]
At 3:00 p.m., the ground shook and the gods of doom ascended from a fiery chasm to permit us to gaze on their majesty, if only for an embarrassingly brief set. After all, 90% of CANDLEMASS' material is solid gold, and in the world of traditional doom they are rivaled only by the progenitors, Black Sabbath. Their set was transcendent; I stretched my arms to the frontman as he worked from "Solitude" straight through to excellent _Death Magic Doom_ tracks like "Hammer of Doom" and "If I Ever Die" without tripping over a single vibrato-laden note. Absolute show-stoppers, these guys. My only criticism is that they closed with a cover of Rainbow's "Kill the King", a bit superfluous considering how much amazing material they have. [Burton]ENSLAVED
don't waste any time. Like the heaviest prog band ever, they mesmerise exclusively with material from their last three albums of the decade just about to end. The cut that comes after the scintillating "Fusion of Sense and Earth" is a monster that could make armies of fishermen and farmers march for mother earth. Ice Dale's guitar is literally blinding, its silver finish bouncing the blazing sun into our eyes. Lineker is right: what a lead player! Unleashing "The Watcher" with hardly even a pause after the beautiful, Pink Floyd-worthy guitar soar with which "Ground" caps off, Enslaved utilise the vicious / contemplative yin-yanging pulse of "Isa" to provide a rousing, familiar finish. Same effect as at Rock Hard '08: 45 minutes of awe-inspiring playing, and little chatter. Mesmerising and wonderful -- among the five best live metal bands alive and playing today. [Schwarz-Lineker]
The pace was then ramped up several notches as KREATOR took the stage, with Mille's raw voice sounding studio-quality. They stuck to the classics; the formulations of most of their live albums. In coming to more or less accept even their sub-par _Enemy of God_ material, I was quite contented with what Kreator had to offer Bloodstock, as they unsurprisingly bounced between their newest stuff and the _Pleasure to Kill_ era. [Burton]
Coming back from coffee to find them stuck into "Hordes of Chaos", Schwarz hopes it's the standard set -- Kreator opened with this when we saw them in London earlier in the year. Lineker confirms that it is -- he's been planted in the soon-to-be-pit since before Mille's mob got going, with DUB and others. Mille Petrozza comes across like some Conan villain or bloodthirsty lord of a metal-cultured alien race. With his punishingly tight crew, he rains down pummelling thrash metal in-between bouts of exhorting others to go as metal screaming mad as he comes across. Check out the awesome opening rant to their now classic "Flag of Hate / Tormentor" live combo at this location
. Says it all really. (Schwarz has been reciting passages from this litany almost daily since.) Later, it becomes funny how the notion of religion has become played both ways in metal. Not all are sure what answer Mille expects when he asks if we follow a religion. Some Kreator contemporaries -- say Grave Digger or Destruction -- might have followed up this question with the answer, "Yes you do! You all follow ze religion of heavy metal!" But Kreator are darker. More cynical or more realistic, perhaps. Less fluffy and not frivolous. They're a hardcore punk, thrash and kill band at heart. "Now if they'd just put "Some Pain Will Last" back into the set, they'd be totally sorted", quips Schwarz. [Schwarz-Lineker]
I cleared off for APOCALYPTICA, who are surprisingly entertaining live, but their novelty has long since been lost on me. [Burton]
"One hour? One HOUR?!" screams Lineker after he gets back from watching a few songs of 'Metallica covers, and other metal songs that could probably do with vocals'. It does seem ludicrous. Hands up who'd rather have heard more Kreator? So that's everyone then. [Schwarz-Lineker]
I was deep within the crowd, wrecking my throat to participate in the grand sing-along that is a BLIND GUARDIAN show. Given a set much too short to truly encompass their greatness, they only wound up featuring "Fly" from the newest album. Thankfully, _Imaginations From the Other Side_ was predominant, with only a handful of weaker moments ("The Quest for Tanelorn", anyone?). The eyes of listeners glazed over in joy to the tales of hobbits and bards and "Valhalla" seemed to reach out to the last remaining skeptics of Blind Guardian's larger-than-life stage presence and sweeping solos. To use Hansi's English, the set was "outraging". [Burton]
"It's about the discovery of barse", claims DR Jonas, heading for a seemingly occupied toilet and staying there for the entirety of the set. Schwarz is amused they did "Lord of the Rings" and didn't change their ludicrously erroneous lyric. "Seven rings to the Gnomes" always makes him think of Noddy, he says. Lineker found them, "Strangely unengaging, even if they performed well", and felt that "Tolkien deserves better". DUB was less charitable, putting some thoughts on the matter down in the following treatise, written while the German troupe were plying their trade. It's called 'Why Blind Guardian Anger Me'. "Widdly guitar bits with about as much force to them as a two year old's stream of piss. He sings like a girl. Stop sounding so fucking happy! Cunts!!! Did you just say sodomy girl vocalist? Twaddle. I AM -NOT- YOUR FRIEND. Oh God, those fucking synths! Tolkien spits on you. Thrash spits on you. You are Hell-o-Ween. Die now and curse in vain. Hah! I have superior Tolkien geek-fu than Bling Guardian. Most important: your attempts at harmonising may give me cancer. Must beat Adam for symphathising with Carcinogenic badness. He flees to see them! Traitor!" [Schwarz-Lineker]
I was well into my rum and barbequed meats by the time CRADLE OF FILTH were given their moment in the spotlight, but their act was short-lived. The band refused to return to the stage after guitarist Allender took a Gobstopper to the spine. This is not exactly a band unused to being harassed, but I would still like to think that in the same place, I could endure a well-aimed sweet. [Burton]
No grand spectacle but more agreeable than a Dim Burger -- unless the Norwegians be Hellhammer- or Laureano-powered, perhaps. The new stripped down line-up is fine for playing, but the past's grand spectacles are sorely missed, especially with all the sub-par new and newish numbers aired. Seriously, even DUB stopped counting after _Thornography_: the smile that spreads as an excellent 'Dusk' unfolds itself is wonderful to see. And there was much neck-raping rejoicing. But not at the coming on late (by twenty or so minutes) and leaving early (by five to ten, depending who you ask). Dani delivers the final speech from offstage, talking of missiles hitting members of the band and security concerns which had not been taken seriously enough. At the time, most we speak to think it's cups they were concerned about, and thinks Cradle weak and feeble for bugging out before their time. Dani makes no explanation to the audience of what specifically happened, and people long into the night are heard to tell of how Cradle ran away from cups. But backstage the story is different. Apparently someone was let through to the site with a slingshot, and obtained ammo in the form of gobstoppers the size of a human fist, one of which hit a member of band in the back and allegedly left a bruise. "The punchy "Principle" was the only one apart from the obvious ("Dusk") that really rocked me -- and the lack of that single was a gaping hold", says Jonas. "You mean hole", DUB corrects. "Yeah, hole. What was that song called again? It had the Infestation drummer on the original", chips in Schwarz. "Severe lack of balls in the face of gobstoppers", is Lineker's final word.Sunday, the Day of the Rest
Crawling on towards Sunday morning, I wound up missing Sabaton (who only received half an hour, after all). [Burton]
"Beautiful story you told me: about Sabaton's singer literally sprinting onstage to hurriedly explain they had little time, and the band coming crashing in straight after he said, 'We need to get on with playing metal!'" [Schwarz]
Schwarz missed both the "ballsy power metal" of Sabaton and the power thrash of Beholder, who preceded them, but Lineker was there from the off. Getting the day off to a great start with a spot-on performance, BEHOLDER were armed with Chuck Billy-esque vocals and generally came across like a less thrashy Testament. They were tight, had catchy riffs with big hooks, got a great sound and really enjoyed themselves -- their smiles of joy only being replaced by stern faces for the final song, dedicated to Sophie Lancaster (the teenager beaten to death while walking home with her boyfriend -- allegedly, only because the two were dressed metal-style) with the words "They will never take us down". [Schwarz-Lineker]
"Fun", "cheerful", "lighthearted" and "immediate" were the first words Lineker scribbled down when Schwarz initially asked him how SABATON were. True to their word, the Swedes waste none of their precious time messing about, instead doing it while playing -- the singer and guitarist seemed to have a game going where they sneak up and deliver playful kicks to each other's arses. All was in good fun, as you'd expect from a band with lyrics like, "Panzer Elite, born to compete, never retreat!" and Sabaton apparently did well on merch. [Schwarz-Lineker]
The whole crew was assembled to watch GIRLSCHOOL
-- curiosity and Motorhead connections supplied the reasons, and Schwarz and DUB certainly had no regrets. Doing a fine job of rocking and rolling -- a particularly satisfying rendition of the mid-'80s cut which originally featured Dio on vocals is delivered mid-set -- the 'School mainly lose out when they have dead air to fill. Dealing with "technical difficulties" between a number of songs, they admirably resist making gender a significant issue, and Kim McAuliffe makes us all smile when she relates her conversation with a boy whose dad brought his wee one to see Girlschool today, because that had been his first gig way back in the day. It's sad that almost all the time they're not playing, Kim and her compadres come across as a nail-bitingly irksome blend of 'Birds of a Feather' and 'A Mighty Wind', because when the music is doing the talking, Girlschool are a good crack. "Good clean fun, but also the longest 40 minutes of the day", is Jonas's contribution. [Schwarz-Lineker]
EQUILIBRIUM wound up being a perfect start to the folk / Viking metal that took up much of the rest of the afternoon and early evening. Not at all run-of-the-mill in their approach to folk, they utilize Stang's savage voice with Berthiaume's synthesized folk melodies and scathing German lyrics; an overall frenzied approach with a good deal of crossover appeal. Many seemed to be disappointed with their sound, but I had little trouble discerning each element of their music. [Burton]
I am something of an ANATHEMA fan, but they absolutely blew me away in presenting their most compelling music with a glorious sound quality that was denied Katatonia. Opening with "Fragile Dreams", I was continuously swept up in a stream of evanescent music; "Deep", "Empty", "A Dying Wish", "Sleepless". The dreamiest songs, like "A Natural Disaster", surprisingly received the most accolades in spite of their 'not so metal' nature. Closing with absolutely the best cover I've heard in a long time, Iron Maiden's "Phantom of the Opera", was a strategy worthy of geniuses. [Burton]
"Like them again now", says a middle-aged pirate, getting up after just finding a seat. "But it's not 'Maiden, is it?" His friend quips as the first returns but a minute later. We thought the "Phantom of the Opera" cover should have been enough to stir a man who probably saw the DiAnno line-up way back when, but then a seat is a seat. Schwarz thinks it's a cool cover, but he also needs good coffee, and heads to the Shisha tent. On the way a punter screams: "Play some doom you twats!" [Schwarz-Lineker]
Anathema were relieved by TURISAS
, a band crafted for the express purpose of live shows. Literally colorful, and reliant on a load of backtrack for that epic sound, they proceeded to deliver a satisfying set, ranging from crowd-pleasers like "Rasputin" and "One More" to "Battle Metal" and "Miklagard Overture", all set against an insane reaction: people crowdsurfed on everything from inflatable castles to their own tents. Warlord seemed to think he had to leave the stage a full ten minutes before their set was due to end, but the crowd didn't seem to mind him blagging on about the importance of Bloodstock as the last festival of the year, etc. etc. [Burton]
For all that they are a million miles from the musicians Enslaved are, Turisas are prepared for festivals. Where Enslaved's banner was so small it looked almost silly, the finely printed monochromatic battle scene now draping the stage dominates one's view, prompting shouts of "Turisas" and "Battle Metal" before the protagonists even appear. "This is our final gig for this record, our final festival of the season. We will not play the UK again until 2010", says Warlord in his closing speech. "We will take this stuff off, finally", he gestures to the fur and greasepaint. "Then we're gonna spend the rest of this year making an album, and then we'll be back next year!" Whether he meant -without- said make-up was not clear. Proceeding to negotiate a shoe exchange between two punters, Warlord then leaves the hall. [Schwarz-Lineker]
Discontent followed MOONSPELL. Highly anticipated for their seeming return to black metal, they fail to deliver. Lacking familiarity with the content, I assume they're pumping out a bunch of mid-career goth metal, and zone out until the fleeting appearance of tracks like "Alma Mater". Never mind them, though, because they were followed up by the first band to give me a Viking metal experience (cut me some slack, I made my way to Bathory eventually): AMON AMARTH! Contributing a set most succinctly described as "fun", these four beastly Swedes who windmill in unison pumped out a lot of new material to keep it fresh, and fans responded in every imaginable way -- down to a large group of guys who sat on the grass in a simulated longship and made rowing motions towards the stage. [Burton]
Also aware that big banners are good for festivals, Amon Amarth come out gunning with the opening cut to their latest -- and though the stage banter seems stodgy at first, mid-set the moment comes when Johan Hegg illustrates just how possible it is that he will be the James Hetfield of the decade about to begin. Backstage, he explains, he was introduced to a little girl called Ann. It was her birthday, and as a gift she asked that he sing 'Happy Birthday' to her. Regretfully explaining that, at the time, he couldn't oblige, Johan asks that we join him in singing "Happy Birthday - Happy Birthday to Ann." A wide, loud chorus is joined by all ages and dress styles, and after a sustained round of apple sauce [sic] leaves Amon Amarth with nothing to do for a minute or two but smile, nod and mouth 'thank you'. DUB says they were the hardest band to shoot because of all the arms. There is no dead air. "As concerns the setlist, I feel they feel that because they did those shows with all the old songs earlier in the year, that's their like Iron Maiden bit -- so they can be excused for focusing almost totally on the new stuff now", offers DR Jonas. The end of the set is a satisfying salvo, combining recent closing favourites "Victorious March" and "Pursuit of Vikings" with _...Oden on Our Side_'s 'hit', "Cry of the Blackbirds", and finishing with an old favourite. "Feel free to sing along. Don't worry if you don't know the lyrics. It's death metal", Johan encourages, before the field ignites to "Death in Fire". [Schwarz-Lineker]
And so we come to SATYRICON
, who break my heart. It's not that their new black 'n' roll material is bad. It would be fine from a bunch of randoms, but these are not some kids in a new band, they are the masters behind _The Shadowthrone_. They are not an anomaly in the black metal world; after all, Darkthrone are putting out crust punk, nowadays. [They insist it's 'metalpunk' and we tend to agree, but anyway... --Proofreader Paul]. But as Satyricon have done nothing praiseworthy since _Nemesis Divina_, you can imagine how I felt about their set. Closing on "Mother North" cannot redeem the rest of it. EUROPE rounded off the night, but I can only attest to the collective scream I heard from the campsite as they finally got around to "The Final Countdown" after an hour and a half. [Burton]
Faced with the prospect of Europe, drunken "Final Countdown" butchery infested the campsite from day one of Bloodstock. Come Sunday, the epidemic has spread to what seems like the whole of Derbyshire. All of which begs the question: does this aging novelty act have any other worthy songs? Their headline performance settles the debate: they haven't. Not by a long fucking way. An hour and a half of unengaging crap closes Bloodstock 2009, as the temperature drops and the night becomes increasingly more depressing. They keep us all waiting to hear that one song, right to the end; a sign that they know their limitations too well and are relying on everyone's desire to say, "I've seen Europe play "Final Countdown" live, dude!". Well, now I can say "I've seen Europe play "Final Countdown" live, dude -- and the singer fucked it up!" Unbelievably, the big song is botched by knackered vocal cords -- all the big notes are dropped and the lasting impression is of inept, pretentious karaoke. With the exception of the opening minute of -that- song, truly the worst festival headline act I've ever sat through. And I went to Download 2008! [Lineker]Postscript: Contemplating Campsite Life at Bloodstock
by: Colleen Burton
I was honestly looking forward to a cozy and intimate metalfest of 10,000 people. But as a veteran of festivals as large as Wacken, this weekend I was particularly aggravated by innumerable administrative problems which those who organise Wacken manage to counter. Dealing with 80,000 German lunatics running around with torches and setting fire to everything is still preferable to Bloodstock rules, which force you to leave your campsite and barbecue in a designated area. I'll try to man up about the horror that was the Portaloos [It's a brand name --Proofreader Turpentine], but our campsite did not receive its own working shower facilities until very late on Saturday, which led to two-hour queues as campers struggled to share the seven-to-nine stalls on offer.
Yet it was really the feeble security that did us in. The extremely poor lighting in the campsites and security's inability to patrol them led to all of my money being jacked out of my trouser pocket, from my tent, in the dead of night -- and I wasn't the only one among my group to experience this. At the security office the next morning, I met guys with other horror stories; one had his wallet taken from under his head and another was reduced to wrapping a sleeping bag around his waist because his whole supply of trousers had been taken. The worst part is, with the amount of Brits hopping the reasonably-easy-to-hop fences around the sites, the Thursday night raids were almost certainly not even perpetrated by Bloodstockers themselves, but by organised gangs.
Now, many of the security people were perfectly helpful and polite (not as though that will restore my cash to me), but I really do need to take a moment to malign the attitudes of some of them. Many seemed really eager to target us as horrible people, and instead of patrolling or taking literally any sort of preventative measure to make sure that people weren't stealing into our tents in the dead of the night, they decided to be dicks to us and do everything short of cavity searches to confiscate cans of booze from those of us who were unable or unwilling to spend £3.40 on a pint of lager in the arena. At some point on Saturday, because the bar was apparently not pulling in what they deemed an appropriate profit, some asshole decided that the best solution was to refuse to let campers bring in any more alcohol from offsite. Trips into town to buy more cans were therefore forbidden; if you had left some booze in your car then that was just too bad for you.
Bloodstock, at many times, had an overall negative atmosphere in general. A friend of mine, who has had a great experience with Bloodstocks past, refers to the turnout as "an abundance of wee fannies". While many of those assembled were good fun and wonderful to meet, we often found those around us to be less than neighbourly, culminating with the random smashing of my friend's guitar on Monday morning by some drunks who decided to insult him instead of apologizing when he went to confront them.
Then again, I suppose there are some Bloodstockers who deserve a bit of text in their honour. How about the guys that went 'round the arena in Borat-styled mankinis to the horror of every male there assembled? [Not me, I thought it was awesome! --Proofreader Paul] Who could forget Sir Carlsberg, or Chris from Alestorm serving as court jester to nearly every metalhead there gathered? Or Camp Manowar, with an enormous flag with the band name and "Kingdom of Steel" flapping in the breeze all weekend. I encountered one of their representatives, an older guy who sported the typical denim jacket with band patches, except that -every patch- was of Manowar, which is pretty sweet.
I have never had a negative experience at a festival previously, and I'm someone who has passed out in random people's tents with no negative repercussions. Yet I left Bloodstock with a distinct feeling of being let down and missing other European festivals. Unless a lot of organisational factors of this festival change, I'll be returning to the continent next summer, where they know how to do it right. And before then, I'll be checking out Damnation Festival in Leeds, which will undoubtedly be the smaller gathering with the integrity that Bloodstock apparently once had.