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Bloodstock Festival

Rob Zombie and Within Temptation bring the star power to Derby

Bathed in late summer sunshine, a verdant-looking Bloodstock may have once more escaped the UK festival curse, but if that doesn’t fully raise the spirits of the punters who were partying into the early hours last night, groove metallers SILAS [6] prove to be a fine way of shaking those early morning hangovers and getting everyone back into the party mood as they open up the Sophie Lancaster stage.

The oafs in OAF [7] deliver a one-two punch [line] of stripped-down, grinding punk violence, gleefully managing to both amuse and offend the large crowd before them, before things get serious with BAST [8], who elevate the depths of their doom with ravening passages of quickening darkness, an all-consuming atmosphere to become easily lost in. The diminutive audience that greets Germany’s MESSIAH’S KISS [6] doesn’t do their tightly wrought, fantastical tales justice, but they finish on a note as high as their falsetto wails.

Thrash always goes down well at Bloodstock, and the Anthrax-gone-evil stomp of **RE-ANIMATOR [6] **is no exception, the Northerners playing to a busy tent that doesn’t seem to mind the long instrumental sections. With a lanky black-clad frontman who looks like he belongs to another band, i.e. one that doesn’t use a violin, **NE OBLIVISCARIS [7] **are a singular experience nonetheless, their elevating dynamics and cathartic crescendos taking them beyond the usual dual clean/growl vocals tech-metal fare as an enthusiastic crowd go along for the ride. FIRE RED EMPRESS [5] clearly spell the word ‘rock’ R-A-W-K, fitting in as much arena grandstanding and as many solos as possible, but it’s fundamentally lacking in personality. HANG THE BASTARD [7] bully their audience with pared-down, caustic doom. It’s effectively aggressive, traces of hardcore at the fringes upping the animosity, but it’s a tad one-dimensional at times. I AM I’s** [5]** power metal without the power or the metal sounds weak and lame… adjectives you couldn’t apply to CONAN [8]. No, bombers aren’t overhead, that’s the Liverpudlians droning on their steady ascent towards doom’s upper altitudes. It’s powerful, but perhaps too sluggishly intense for a field full of partying drunks. There’s no doubting the vocal dexterity or musical slickness of SL stage headliners DELAIN’s** [6]** symphonic metal, but there’s a lack of zest to their music that stops them capitalising on their obvious skill.

Belphegor bring a little darkness to a gloriously sunny day

Belphegor bring a little darkness to a gloriously sunny day (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Analogue men in a digital world, NUCLEAR ASSAULT [6] play under a Bloodstock sun so fierce it could grace one of their album sleeves. They sever more with cutting wit than the keen edge of their classic thrash, but nevertheless provide a fun start to proceedings on the Ronnie James Dio stage. Any time RAGING SPEEDHORN [7] play it’s guaranteed that pits are going to boil over amid a spray of flying beer – and this pummelling performance is absolutely no different. Today’s storming set from Californian classic thrash legends ARMORED SAINT [7] proves to be a very strong reminder of just what an incredible and often underrated vocalist John Bush is. BELPHEGOR [7] follow and show their audience the whites of their eyes with their spitefully powerful black metal, blood-soaked celebrants of death, defiant in the face of the midday sun. As ever, ENSLAVED [8] show true class with an effortless combination of self-effacing wit and highbrow cosmic composition, banging your head and healing your heart in equal measure.

Enslaved: always a class act

Enslaved: always a class act (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

He may be battling a backline that doesn’t want to play ball, but IHSAHN [8] is still excellent, mixing the different ends of his solo stuff gloriously, plus the medley of Emperor-songs-in-an-Ihsahn style is a unique experiment. It’s a total different kind of craziness, but OVERKILL [7] are still gleefully deranged, delivering their high-octane thrash exuberantly. SABATON [7] charge onto the stage to Ghost Division with a tank for a drum riser. It’s a shame they play so many new songs their headliner-sized audience obviously don’t know, or this could have been an unreserved triumph, rather than just very good. TRIVIUM [7] are out to prove the internet naysayers wrong with their first ever UK festival headline slot tonight, and for the most part the Florida metallers do just that. The headliner spark may be lacking somewhat, but the quality of the songs, including a couple from upcoming album Silence In The Snow, just about do enough to make this a success.

Dem feels

Dem feels (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

SATURDAY

It’s only 11am, but PIST [6] are living up to their name, a good-natured rabble swigging liquor and aggravating hangovers, in an already uncomfortably hot SL tent, with derivative groove metal. ANNIHILATED [7]
do almost as good a job as Slayer seem to do these days, having been around almost as long, delivering a punchy set to a stage packed full of banging heads. AGELESS OBLIVION [6] jump straight into the blastbeats, a welcome immediacy missing from too many sets thus far, but after starting well their tech-death never reaches promised heights. There are flashes of distinctiveness in ETHEREAL’s** [6]** black metal, but the stock corpsepaint and weak atmosphere stop it flourishing. Indonesian death/grinders JASAD [9], however, compete for band of the festival, the thrilling intensity of their unpretentious and ever-shifting blast patterns satisfying the darker parts of the soul in ways most bands simply cannot.

The ever underrated GODSIZED [7] are all ballsy riffs and powerful rock vocals, and their catchy, muscular fare understandably fits the middle of the day mood perfectly. They are followed in the tent by the West Coast-sounding, chugging Swiss thrash of BATTALION [6], which predictably draws a sizeable audience – even if there is plenty of coming and going. They’re certainly less divisive than the crossover-thrash-meets-funk-meets-Faith No More of MORDRED [6], who make up for in incomprehensibility what they lack in vocal strength.

Burgerkill: Indonesian metallers taking on the world

Burgerkill: Indonesian metallers taking on the world (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

BURGERKILL [8] are unsurprisingly vastly better, their grooving aggression getting necks snapping, while the band seem deliriously happy to be here. The easygoing grooves of Greek hard rockers PLANET OF ZEUS [6] match the vibe of a lazy summer evening, their crowd on the comedown from another scorching day. The slick and shirtless JETTBLACK [5] satisfy the hair metal contingent, but bring absolutely nothing new to a style of music perfected decades ago. Gremlins delay FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE [8] but the Italians charge on regardless in their necro’d-up white tie, the symphonic brutality of songs like a vast The Violation closing the SL stage in style.

Opening the main stage on the Saturday is no easy task, but SAVAGE MESSIAH [7] wake people up nicely with thrashy melody, before last-minute lineup changes and a five-minute break for a broken guitar string mean XERATH [7] aren’t quite at their pounding best. Still, their progressive symphonics get heads banging aplenty. 1349’s [7] agitated cacophony is the biggest shadow on the horizon, their stage a cavernous hellmouth vomiting a mist of black metal malevolence upon a field full of appreciative acolytes.

Korpiklaani break out the Vodka

Korpiklaani break out the Vodka (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

They may start with too many new and slow songs, but KORPIKLAANI [7] eventually use Vodka to turn the show around, a massive conga line following a man in floral pants (and nothing else) by the end.** NAPALM DEATH [9]** never seem to age, their aggro-grind continuing to burn with the fires of righteous indignation, fuelled by a never-ending shitstorm of social injustice and offset with self-deprecating humour. Thrash legends DARK ANGEL’s** [6]** overcast take on the genre sounds a little staid. However, they still manage to raise plenty of fists and spill plenty of pints in the pit. DEATH DTA [7] stay humble, providing the opportunity to pay tribute to and experience the power of the late/great Chuck Schuldiner’s legend, but their overly technical take on classic songs loses something in translation.

Napalm Death: timeless aggro-grind

Napalm Death: timeless aggro-grind (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

With Mikael Åkerfeldt’s witty banter at a minimum (Ikea and Derby jokes aside), OPETH [9] let their music do the exquisite talking, emotions and groove at the forefront with the occasional splash of thunderous brutality (Heir Apparent is ferocious) for emphasis. Glorious. It’s a very different feel when the headliners come out, poptastic choruses and showmanship forming the core of WITHIN TEMPTATION’s** [8]** set more than texture. With the giant video back projections and pyro, subtle it is not. It’s a shame the end of the set is marred by technical problems bringing proceedings to a close.

Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel: poptastic

Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel: poptastic (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

SUNDAY

With the powerful melody of TRIAXIS [7] kicking off the day, it’s no wonder everyone in the Sophie Lancaster stage seems in such a good mood despite the early start. The IZUNA DROP [4] up the cringe factor of their soft/hard djent by forcing an unresponsive crowd into star jumps, early morning calisthenics that fail to inject any sense of vigour. DEAD LABEL [4] commit the cardinal sin of berating their crowd for not reacting violently enough to their sub-par groove riffs, without realising that they aren’t proving requisite inspiration, and VILLAINY’s** [5]** funereal start initially leads to surprisingly potent black metal; it’s a shame that there aren’t more here to see it. Sadly, a strong start becomes uninspired and out of tune. It may not be varied, but the doom of ALUNAH [7] has an almost mesmeric quality that carries it a fair distance – even if not quite holding your attention throughout. The instrumental madness of OLD RAKE [6] is then totally bizarre. The two green morph-suited men accompanying Ol on air guitar/rake could work in principle but its humour factor doesn’t last, and detracts from the fine playing.

Why have a wheelchair when you can have a fucking chariot?

Why have a wheelchair when you can have a fucking chariot? (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Symphonic black metal is easy to fuck up, but Belgium’s SAILLE [7] manage to hold back the pomp, using keyboards more as an undertow to songs that reach towards the epic via visceral riffing and musty, mightily effective atmospheres. The deliberately insane **DESTRAGE [9] **don’t get the biggest crowd for their DEP-meets-BTBAM-meets-SOAD mindfuckery, but those who do turn up lose seven shades of shit. It makes no sense, but it’s catchy and brilliant. It almost makes LAWNMOWER DETH [8] look sensible as they gunge Agalloch and thrash the place up in irreverent humour. With exercise balls being thrown everywhere. The grooving death metallers of TREPALIUM [7] have the unenviable task of following it, but the sheer weight of the riffage stirs up the crowd nicely. Despite more sound gremlins, this time affecting the drums, and a cavernous sound that smooths out some of the classic thrash barbs, ONSLAUGHT [7] power through their set, as Sy Keeler’s versatile vocals roughen up and rise up a crowd with insurrectionary zeal.** GODFLESH [8]** are the latest band to play too many new songs, and a brief failure of the projection graphic breaks the atmosphere, but the sheer industrial weight of the duo signs the stage off in crushing style.

AGALLOCH’s** [8] **Sunday service proves spiritually uplifting for the early morning congregation on the main stage, their atmospheric USBM speaking to both body and soul, at its most poignant during passages of flourishing instrumentals. They may be veterans of Bloodstock, but the heavy metal of WOLF [5] falls very flat, their failed attempt at rousing a singalong to Voodoo a microcosm of an uninspiring display. The riffs and power of ORANGE GOBLIN [9] have no such problem, heads nodding everywhere from the first chord and not stopping, killer tunes like Cities Of Frost only elevated by the band’s energy and commitment. PRO-PAIN [7] pour yet more fuel on the fire of another hot day, their bare-knuckled, bouncily metallic hardcore giving an enthusiastic pit the hairdryer treatment in workmanlike fashion, while SEPULTURA [9] provide an indomitable middle finger to naysayers with the most tightly executed set of the weekend, playing through a list of classics so quickly that they manage to fit more in, much to the glee of their tribe.

Beer monsters are real, people. Be very afraid

Beer monsters are real, people. Be very afraid (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The epic party-friendly folk metal of **ENSIFERUM [8] **is perfect for a sunny field with your mates and a beer or three, and when the band are as fun as this, it explains why there are so many fists pounding the air. Ever death metal legends, CANNIBAL CORPSE [7] almost make it look easy today as gore-drenched classics such as Make Them Suffer sends bodies hurling over the barrier, and a wry Corpsegrinder taunts the crowd. BLACK LABEL SOCIETY [6] have plenty of tunes to fill an hour-long festival slot, so it’s frustrating that Zakk Wylde feels the need waste time with 15-minute guitar solos.

No more solos, Zakk! We want chooooooons!

No more solos, Zakk! We want chooooooons! (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

The production of ROB ZOMBIE [7] these days isn’t as spectacular as it was a few years back, but with his hillbilly-on-hot-plates moves, combined with an impressive light show, the array of hits on display (opening with Superbeast and closing on Dragula) and the horror backdrop, it’s a fun closer to three more days of exhilarating if exhausting revelry.