We’ve a lot of Bloodstock stuff to go up over the next few days. With a big group of us there as crew and punters, we managed to cover a fair whack. Here’s Sean’s take on the opening evening and the first full day.
After a few weeks of our annual #RoadToBOA pre-festival interviews, the time finally came to make the pilgrimage to the UK’s hallowed metal ground. Arriving at Bloodstock around teatime, Team Moshville Times got ourselves quickly set up and into the arena in good time to catch Thursday night’s festival opening bands. I made it to the Sophie Lancaster stage in time for a few songs by rockers Blind River, who drew in a sizeable crowd considering the festival was barely under way. Their good old-fashioned rock n’ roll went down well leading nicely to the mad bastards that are Footprints in the Custard.
The ever-increasing crowd began to include plenty of their fans as flashes of green and purple tutus began to invade. Daftness and heavy riffage clearly go hand-in-hand with various inflatable phalluses and a rather unsightly mankini reveal made for a fun time for all in the Sophie tent. The penultimate band of the night, Ten Ton Slug, brought their crushing brand of heavy grooves and stoner vibes in contrast to their predecessors. As more rabid metalheads piled into the tent, there were plenty of nodding heads to the likes of the killer new song “Hunting Ground”.
Closing the first night of Bloodstock 2019 were black metal legends Rotting Christ. By the time they hit the stage the Sophie tent was packed with an enthusiastic crowd. However after a few rather same-y sounding tunes, Team Moshville Times collectively decided to hit the hay in preparation for a busy weekend of headbanging, screaming and squeezing a few interviews into the schedule too.
Getting to the press tent early at 10, it was cool to start bumping into familiar faces from Bloodstocks past. Friday being my main day for reviewing given most of the bands I wanted to see were playing that day, I left soon after our plans were set.
Heading straight to the Sophie Lancaster stage to catch Zealot Cult, the crowd at the start of the gig was pretty small. After discovering their awesome old-skool death metal during the #RoadToBOA period, I was keen to see them. Their no-nonsense approach and crushing sound in tunes like “Sea of Suffering” and album title track “Spiritual Sickness” left me impressed. Evidently I’m not the only one as more death-heads flocked to the tent through the set. I’m sure the band have definitely earned some new fans at Bloodstock!
Next up on the Ronnie James Dio stage was one of my main draws to the festival, UK thrash legends Xentrix! Considering the lunchtime crowd in my experience can sometimes be a bit thin, there was a great turnout for an afternoon mosh. The set was a good mix of classic cuts and catchy new songs from recent comeback LP Bury the Pain. A 4-man mosh broke out in the middle of the crowd from the title track through “There Will Be Consequences” with more thrashers joining in throughout the set – resulting in the first crowd surfer of the weekend in “For Whose Advantage?”. Closing the set with a raging “No Compromise”, I never thought I’d see Viking rowing, usually reserved for a certain other band at Bloodstock, but it goes to show Xentrix killed it.
Back on the Sophie stage, I made sure to catch another killer death metal band I discovered via the #RoadtoBOAs, Blasphemer. With plenty of earworm riffs, a tight performance and a good crunchy sound, the crowd ate up tracks like latest album title Lust of the Goat and “Sutcliffe” – making for more moshing heads and crowdsurfing. I made it back to the RJD stage in time to catch a few tunes from Bay Area thrash heroes Death Angel. There was a huge audience in attendance and the band put on an energetic show. Frontman Mark Osegueda performed with plenty of expression through modern hits like “The Moth” and “The Dream Calls for Blood”, though the vocals seemed a little low in the mix making his screams sound flimsy in comparison to the rest of the band. It’s a shame I missed thrash anthems I grew up with from the first three albums – here’s hoping a tour is on the cards! [There is, they’re opening for Testament and Exodus in March next year! – Mosh]
Despite the clouds bursting and the inevitable rainstorm hitting Bloodstock at the start of their set, Soulfly easily turned the party. Ever-effervescent frontman Max Cavalera got plenty of heads banging with modern thrashers like “Ritual”. As soon as Cavalera brought out the berimbau for a tribal jam, the sun came back out with him. The whole band brought an intense energy that got the crowd bouncing to the slamming grooves of “Jumpdafuckup” and “Eye For An Eye”. Drummer Zyon Cavalera in particular smashed the kit to Hell – 26 years after his in-utero heartbeat opened Cavalera Senior’s classic album Chaos AD, it’s a joy to see father and son slay the Ronnie James Dio stage together. Ending with an en-masse singalong to “Get Up Stand Up”, the Bob Marley of metal and crew were a definite highlight of the festival.
Another band I had to see on the Sophie stage was Damnation’s Hammer. After being blown away by them in Glasgow a while ago, I wanted to catch them again. Unfortunately I only caught the tail end of the set with the crushing “Hammers of War”. The crowd was smaller than I hoped but those present seemed to be enjoying the heavy riffage and entrancing atmospheres. I’m gutted I missed the majority of the set, especially the awesome “Temple of the Descending Gods” – hopefully the band make it back up to Scotland soon! Catching the end of sets seemed to be a problem for me this year! The next band I really wanted to see in full was Finnish legends Children of Bodom. I last saw them 10 years ago and have been desperate for an update, especially with songs from their killer latest album Hexed. However I caught a few classics in closing trio “Hate Me!”, “Downfall” and “Hate Crew Deathroll” – celebrating 15 years since the band’s first Bloodstock where they headlined during the Hate Crew Deathroll period. Frontman Alexi Laiho worked the huge crowd well getting plenty of cheers, especially with the guitar/keyboard solo battles between himself and Janne Wirman – which is always fun to watch.
Penultimate main-stagers Powerwolf marked the start of more camp theatrics at Bloodstock with their self-proclaimed “Holy Heavy Metal Mass”. It’s awesome to see bands and fans embrace the cheesy side of metal, and at Bloodstock the fans love it! There was a massive crowd for the pomp and pyrotechnics in the ruined church setting as the backdrop for power metal anthems like “Demons Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Blessed and Possessed”. The band put on an epic show that truly had the crowd going by the end of closing number “We Drink Your Blood”. Having been warmed up, it’s fair to say the denim and leather warriors of Bloodstock were more than pumped for Friday headliners Sabaton. Having seen them a few times it’s hard to fault the power metal war historians. From the opening stabs of “Ghost Division” the party had begun, with the majority of the festival headbanging and singing along with beer in hand. The band know how to put on a show with a killer set list comprising of new bangers from latest album The Great War and hits from throughout their career like “To Hell and Back”, “Carolus Rex” and “Primo Victoria”. The crowd must be well versed in etiquette at a Sabaton show with mass chants of the “Swedish Pagans” melody throughout the set before the song finally dropped near the end. The band, led by the addictive personality of frontman Joakim Broden, brought a feel-good energy that resonated with the crowd making for an awesome end to the mainstage metal on Friday. Roll on their next tour!
For those in the Serpents Lair VIP area, the entertainment wasn’t quite over yet. I was heading back to my tent when the killer covers of Heavy Duty pulled me into the VIP tent. Tunes included the likes of “Bark at the Moon”, “War Ensemble” and “Creeping Death” and they were done well, sounding just as good as the originals. It’s never a bad thing to hear some classic metal tracks live for a post-headliner headbang and pint of Beast of Bloodstock (the festival’s own craft ale). Going into the small hours in VIP some different entertainment to end the night came in the form of Extreme Stunts and Gorelesque. The stunts were pretty cool with one of the guys involved snorting a tube and pulling it through his mouth, and his stunt partner pouring a beer through the nose-end and drinking it through the mouth-end. The final stunt was killer, with one of the performers lying on a bed of nails and taking a sledgehammer to the stomach while getting back up completely unharmed. I was really keen to see the Gorelesque performers given I’ve been going to drag and burlesque shows in Glasgow and the show was decent. The performance was unsettling (in a good way) and sexually-charged with a psychotic clown cutting off the other performer’s outfit with scissors before stabbing them. I would have like to have seen more, especially on the gory side but overall it was cool to see what they could do.
The first two days at Bloodstock 2019 were pretty eventful for me and I had a great time. It was awesome to experience more of the range of what the festival had to offer. Two more days of interviews and even more metal lay ahead. Though a hangover/bangover combination were on the horizon, Saturday and Sunday were certain to be a lot of fun.