In the searing heat of English summer approximately 15,000 people flooded a tiny patch of field to wreak chaos, drink too much beer and be part of the UK’s biggest independent music festival. The usual mix of mankini wearing drunkards, corpse painted serious people and average joe metal fans partied from Thursday to Sunday in a celebration of the best music has to offer from the most obscure of bands to the most iconic names in music.
Only three bands played the Thursday after a last minute pull out by Marionette. Saturnian and Viking Skull did well to warm up the fans for a hot weekend but Bloodshot Dawn stole the show with a live performance that raised the first circle pit of the festival. Bloodshot are gathering an underground force with a dedicated legion of fans helping them find their feet as they shape their own brand of thrash infused melodic death metal.
Friday dawned with the sound of retching and people falling over as they dragged their failing livers towards the main stage to see Malefice attempt to shout the hangovers away. Iced Earth soon followed with a performance that sounded so bad even die hard fans were heard groaning sorrowfully into their pints. Nonetheless the band and the fans persevered to survive a set plagued with horrific treble and too much bass.
Primitai did not disappoint however and filled the Sophie Stage with big riffs and bigger promise as a band who are ripe with potential. Back on the main stage Sepultura made a triumphant return and revealed that they are already thinking of a new album and filming a live DVD with Les Tambours du Bronx.
By the time Alcest walked on to the completely full Sophie Lancaster Stage evening had fallen heavier than a hammer on the beer filled heads of Bloodstock. Alcest took that hammer to pound, pluck and croon one of their best festival performances this season. This band are taking Europe by storm with bipolar atmospheric shoegaze fringed with black metal that will transport you to another world.
Whilst Alcest produced atmospheric beauty, Watain produced a dirty, disgusting and hideously smelly live show on the main stage. Watain are more of a small venue or tent band but they still made good use of the big outdoor stage, filling it with red velvet banners, giant silver inverted crosses and big gas fuelled flame burners. Their customary blood drenching of the crowd only consisted of a disappointing single cup but their set satisfied a good portion of the crowd and climaxed with a huge pyro show that engulfed the entire stage.
Behemoth finished off the evening with effortless theatrical flare and pristine sound. Nergal continues to prove that his cancer has done nothing but make him stronger as a performer and musician.
Saturday came in a flash of tinnitus and even more heat. The first wave of food poisoning hit those who had braved the Noodles and vegan chili and the indelicate scent of toilet pipes filled the air with explosive promise. Taiwanese symphonic death metal outfit Cthonic exploded onto the main stage and played a set tighter than Steel Panther’s spandex. The band also raised some interesting political issues about the representation of Taiwan in the Olympics as a result of the country’s occupation by China. Cthonic have proved themselves politically and musically strong in the face of adversities that western band’s will simply never know as China tighten their totalitarian stranglehold on countries like Tibet and Taiwan.
American sludge titans Crowbar followed Cthonic with a set oozing energy and dirty riffs. Mayhem emerged into the bright sunlight soon after and did not fare so well despite their iconic status as a pivotal black metal band steeped in history and controversy. They are far from an outdoor, daylight festival band and were simply not as atmospherically effective as their 2011 midnight performance under the full moon at Hellfest. Regardless of this the crowd were coverted by the end of the set and chants of ‘Mayhem’ echoed around the arena as Winterfylleth were preparing to play the Sophie Lancaster Stage.
Winterfylleth are a band who have no problem with revealing their extreme right wing nationalist views in their music. The ambiguous relationship between their music and politics is certainly an uncomfortable one, yet their musical talents are undeniable and they proved to be excellent live.
Orange Goblin kicked off the evening with one of the best performances of the festival. Teasing the crowd by playing the theme from Suspiria before tearing onstage and smashing out their shouty bass-driven groovy doom with a hint of southern rock was highly effective and many heads were banged.
Machine Head crowned the Saturday with the 20th anniversary of their first ever show. The band were experienced some minor sound issues but still delivered one of the most memorable shows of the weekend. The fan made setlist simply could not disappoint the huge crowd that had gathered to scream the words of Aesthetics of Hate, Davidian and A Thousand Lies. The words ‘bomb tank’ kept being repeated by security guards fending off cheeky photographers trying to sneak backstage, the meaning of those words soon revealed themselves as giant bursts of flame intermittently whooshed ten meters into the air during the performance.
After several more of the crowd fell victim to contaminated burgers and sunburn, Sunday reared its head to the sound of people screaming at the contents of battered portaloos.
Flayed Disciple set the musical standard of the day with thrashy death metal that blew the uninitiated away. Nile then took that standard and stamped all over it like an army of undead Pharaohs screaming ancient melodies at a crowd damp with rain and sweat. The English weather did nothing to stop the band and fans enjoying a set by one of the most technically talented melodic death metal bands out there. Songs from Ithyphallic, Those Whom the Gods Detest as well as their latest album At the Gate of Sethu were played in a well rounded setlist that covered a good chunk of their discography.
Ancient Ascendant continued the trend of smashing death metal with a razor sharp set on the Sophie Stage and were a worthy prelude to Paradise Lost on the main stage. After a set that consisted of a lot of conditioned hair, mesmerised girls and horn throwing Paradise Lost exited the arena and the stage was prepared for Dimmu Borgir.
Dimmu Borgir strode onto a smoke filled stage as the sun set to the shaking sound of sub-bass. Their breathtaking stage gear glinted with studs and distressed leather, all hand made by Toxic Vision who is slowly conquering the world of metal fashion and making it look awesome. A selection of the band's most popular songs ranging from Progenies of the Great Apocalypse, Puritania and Mourning Palace were played and met rapturously by the audience. By the time Shagrath grinned evilly and stalked off stage, everyone was hotly anticipating arguably the biggest headliner Bloodstock has had to date.
Night fell completely and the Nereid meteor shower revealed its last remaining slivers of light before Alice Cooper walked onto the Ronnie James Dio stage to a crazed reception of happy fans. Rumour had spread that Cooper had been walking through the crowds and nearby town of Lichfield all weekend with no make up on, enjoying blissful anonymity. Alice played a set that surpassed even his famous Sonisphere performance two years ago, boasting crystal clear sound and by far the best theatrics of any band that weekend.
School's out for Summer had the entire audience shouting lyrics to Another Brick in the Wall as Alice popped giant inflatable balls with a silver rapier.Guitarist Orianthi effortlessly played solos as stunning as her bone white hair and bright red lips while giant puppet Frankensteins strutted around the stage. The infamous guillotining of Alice is still a show stopper to this day and Bloodstock screamed as the executioner thrust a bloody latex Alice-head to the sky.
Alice was the perfect end to a festival that is made by fans, for the fans. Bloodstock have already announced that Anthrax will be one of their headliners. Don't miss out on an unmissable weekend, Bloodstock is a summer festival staple.
All photographs taken and copyrighted by Nina Saeidi.