Finally, after posting my behind-the-scenes viewpoint over a week ago, I get the time to rattle off a few words about the bands I saw. This post pretty much wraps up our reviews (there may be one more, but that’s it) and I hope we’ve managed to mention most of the bands. It’s really difficult to try to see all of them, especially with a bunch of people down there!
As I mentioned in that earlier post, my time was limited and I only caught full sets from maybe half a dozen bands. However, here’s what I did see and what I thought:
Disappointing. Not them, but the fact that I only had the time to catch a couple of songs. I ambled into the SOPHIE tent around halfway through their set and had a chance to listen to maybe three songs before I had to leave again. What I saw, I really liked. A band with a heavy sound who still had heads nodding, there were smiles on the stage and in the crowd from what I could see. XII Boar (call the “Zee Boar” if you ever meet them, for giggles) are definitely a band I want to see live again.
I interviewed frontman Jørgen Munkeby over three years ago, and we’ve covered the band a fair bit in that time… but I’ve never managed to catch them live until this weekend. Being honest, the blackjazz sound is a little harsh and disjointed for me to listen to on a regular basis, with only a couple of songs being ones I’d choose to listen to… at least the recorded version. Seeing the band live has changed my perception greatly. Again, I only saw about half a set from this bunch, but what I saw I enjoyed. I did manage to catch a bit of Jørgen’s saxophone playing amongst all the more mainstream metal sounds, and it just… worked. Maybe it was the balance of the sound in the tent, maybe it was the atmosphere, but Shining live are far better than Shining on record (or mp3 or whatever you kids call it these days). Another band I want to catch on stage again sometime in the future.
The band opening the Jager stage on the Friday was a multi-instrumental folk metal band based in London. They started a little late, having been told that their time slot had pretty much arrived, but the main stage band was still playing so it was perhaps better to wait a couple of minutes. They were well worth the wait and the comparatively small speakers around the tiny stage were soon blasting with guitars, drums and penny whistles. They warmed up in next to no time and had the crowd jigging along with them throughout their short set. As the first band on the stage, they set the standard for the weekend – more people watching them than could fit into the tiny venue and appreciative roars between songs, Isarnos were the first to demonstrate that even the more low key acts at Bloodstock could hold their own.
Another Jager band, later on in the weekend, were the superb SodCav. The barriers were crowded by people waving dragon-emblazoned flags chanting “Wales! Wales!” between songs and there were easily 100 people outside the tent enjoying some good old fashioned death / grind. As the band said in their interview, they don’t take themselves too seriously and it was apparent that they were having a ton of fun up there, as was the audience. So many great bands over the three-and-a-bit days and SodCav ranked as one of my favourites.
I’ve now seen Gloryhammer twice. The first time at Glasgow’s Classic Grand and now on a much larger stage in a field. They owned it both times. Great sound, great sense of humour and ridiculously catchy singalong songs make Gloryhammer a superb act to have as part of the festivities. I liked the way that songs were picked to highlight each of the “characters” onstage, and the overarching story across the band’s current two albums. Roll on album three and another tour, with luck.
I’d heard a lot about this band, but never managed to be in the right place at the right time to enjoy their live show. Which is a shame as they turned out to be every bit as good as I’d been told they were. Ross already mentioned them in his review so I’ll be brief, but the main thing is that they were genuinely funny and I’m staggered at how they roped such a large audience into making tits of themselves for half an hour or so. Their attitude and performance reminded me of Lawnmower Deth back in the day, only with daft costumes. Utterly mad and wonderful to behold.
The only band of the entire weekend (except for about 30 seconds of Pteroglyph) that I caught in the Hobgoblin New Blood tent were Manchester’s somewhat mental Footprints in the Custard. Often you build yourself up, wanting to see a band so much that when you finally see them they just don’t manage to hit those heights. Fortunately for Footprints, they prefer to plumb depths and they did it magnificently. Taking to the stage as a huge home-made cock filled with a load of balloons was unleashed on the crowd, they focussed on current release The Descent of Decency and barraged the crowd with some hackneyed thrash for a couple of minutes before scaring the hell out of the security staff by whipping off most of their clothes. There was already one nutter in a mankini in the crowd and one of the funniest moments of the weekend was watching him crowdsurf before being grappled and caught by a very professional gentleman in a yellow shirt, who looked – momentarily – utterly freaked out.
Footprints are not all about the music. If Evil Scarecrow do “Blue Peter” metal with their boxy robots, then Footprints hit the “I saw it on Blue Peter and tried to make it myself and it turned out a bit shit, but my mum still says it’s good” in terms of props. The crowd was littered with foam rubber swords that had been carved into penises and painted purple and green. I’ve not seen so many useless cocks in one place since I caught highlights of the Republican Party conference on the news. They are also the first band I can ever recall hearing using the word “flaccid” on stage. Or indeed needing to.
They are just so much fun. In an era where bands struggle to make money from their music, they have to rely on a good live show to catch the attention. FitC have this in spades. And are obviously doing it on a budget of… well, enough to get drunk on so they don’t feel embarrassed. A brilliant half an hour and I really hope they get the money together to do a decent tour soon.
A highlight for me as I bloody love them – probably my favourite of the Big Four and on stage a couple of hours after I’d finally, after years, not only met but interviewed Joey Belladonna. As ever, Anthrax were playing bridesmaids, this time to recent tourmates Slayer, but an hour of New York thrash is an hour of New York thrash and I’m going to take it. The set was full of tracks from recent release For All Kings but many of the old classics were also present. Similarly to the Slayer tour, though was a track most noticeable for its absence… “I Am the Law”. I just can’t believe this song is one that’s been cut from their regular support-length slot, though they did perform it at their headline slot at Glasgow’s Cathouse last year.
Anthrax had the crowd in the palm of their hand as they made the most of the last of the sunlight to warm us up for the headliners. They stirred up pits and had the crowd screaming “Wardance” before time was called on a set that was, as ever, too short. However, Scott Ian announced that they would be back early next year for a headlining tour – the band’s first in almost twenty years if my memory serves me well. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time they topped the bill on the road in the UK was during the Sound of White Noise tour cycle. Roll on 2017…
Already reviewed by a couple of my compatriots, but it sounds like I was the only one in the pit for the duration of the set. I had no issues with sound being overly bassy or the guitars being balanced too much to one side… but I was in the middle so that’s to be expected. What I experienced was Slayer at the top of their game and putting on a show as good as I have ever seen from them. I appreciate they’re getting older and that there are rumours surrounding the longevity of the band, but on the strength of their performance closing the festival (barring that little lyrical fluff from Tom), I sincerely hope they can manage a few more years at least.
Obviously I’m going out of step with the festival schedule by mentioning them right at the end, but I wanted to save the best for last even if it’s just to give them a quick mention. Many other reviews have put the grandeur of this final UK performance into words superbly well and I’m not going to compete. I simply want to say… one of the best live shows I have ever seen. Ever. I’m glad I was there and it was a performance I will never forget. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you end a musical career.
And that is how you end a festival review. With luck I’ll have caught up on the lost sleep by August 2017 so we can do it all over again!