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BLOODSTOCK UK Review: Mud, Blood, and GWAR Juice

BLOODSTOCK UK Review: Mud, Blood, and GWAR Juice
Click here for a slew of photos from the festival

On August 13, 2010, a vicious storm, of three days duration, descended upon, and ripped the proverbial roof off of the little town of Derbyshire, England. Hurricane? Tornado? Tsunami?

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No, a “Maelstrom of Metal”, so brutal and diverse that it was well worth the price of airfare for this rabid American metalhead to fly across the pond to experience it herself.

Rain, mud, excessive humidity, and the necessity of arriving at Catton Park at the unholy hour of 10:00 AM to start the fun, (when you’re “night breed” like most metal heads, 10:00 AM is indeed unholy) could not even begin to put a damper on the epicness of three days straight of serious, sick, filthy metal.

Day one started off with a resounding bang as Snakebite, Black Spiders, Ross the Boss, and Rage brought the first doses of early morning madness to the main stage. Even at this hour, the crowd was pumped, enthusiastic, and ready to bring the pain. Initially, it was a bit disorienting to see thousands of metal heads awake and alert in the mid-morning daylight, but when the motivation is there, anything is possible. Even more alarming was the phenomenon of some real die-hards guzzling beer and braving topsy-turvy carnival rides at such an hour. The reverse bungee, coupled with a pitcher of Guinness first thing in the morning could never turn out anything less than awesome, right? Perhaps if you don’t start your day with vertigo and projectile emesis, maybe you aren’t doing it right.

By lunchtime, the crowd was ready to feast its eyes and ears on some Finnish metal by way of Ensiferum who never fail to put on a spectacular, heavy, yet melodic show. Following the men in kilts was a hot, steamy mug of “chicken soup for the black metal lover’s soul” – Norwegian Black metallers, Gorgoroth. I’ve always been a fan of these guys, but had never before had the opportunity to see them live. I was pleasantly surprised to see that corpse paint, gauntlets festooned with six inch carpentry nails, and theatrical blood spewing DO appear just as brutal and visually impressive in the midday sun as they do under a cloak of darkness. The “hissing cat” vocal stylings of singer “Pest” sound no less earsplitting at such an hour, either – perhaps even more so.

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Day one was rounded out by Sonata Arctica, Cathedral (who filled Behemoth’s spot on the bill, since they unfortunately had to cancel due to illness), Meshuggah and Opeth. A great end to a great day of mud, metal and good, dirty mayhem.

By roughly midnight, day one of the festival screeched to a close, and the gamey, musky, muddy masses prepared to grab a hint of sleep, and return for more carnage the next morning.

Day two proved to be no less heavy, in fact, the bill only got heavier. The early birds were treated to Andromeda, Leaves Eyes, and Evile, then later joined by local veteran thrash metallers, Onslaught, hailing from Bristol, England. Germany’s Edguy provided a traditional rock/metal sound with stage moves reminiscent of the Scorpions.

At approximately 3:25 PM, things got very weighty indeed when legendary Florida death metallers Obituary brought their special brand of bludgeoning, aural assault to the stage. Always a personal favorite of mine, this was an epic, face-melting moment for me, and the audience appeared to be more than ready to tear shit up as well. There was a break in the persistent cloud cover at this time, and the sun shone brightly upon these metal madmen, as if they’d brought a little bit of Florida with them to the U.K..

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Hailing from Finland, Amorphis took the stage next, and the momentum didn’t slow one iota – they shredded as they always do, and with great gusto.

The “Hero of the Day” award goes to Devin Townsend of former “Strapping Young Lad” fame. Technical difficulties ensued briefly at the start of his set, but he was an absolute champ about it. No sulking, pouting, swearing at his techs, or ripping out cables and whining like a child from this guy. He took the stage regardless, guitar in hand, hammed it up for the photographers, told jokes, apologized for the delay, and insisted with an enormous smile that the show WOULD go on – and it did. He put on a stellar performance, but the real icing on the cake was his unflappable, positive attitude. A special thanks to Mr. Townsend for his top-notch disposition, even in the face of a set-back.

The evening ended on a blissfully crunchy note with heavy hitters Fear Factory and Children of Bodom. Amazing performances were put on by both bands, and Fear Factory’s limber vocalist Burton Bell did not disappoint with his impressive gymnastics accompanying his full bodied vocals. Photographers were treated to plenty of jump-shots, leaps, and some exceedingly gritty music.

The third and final day of Bloodstock was a metalhead’s soggy dream come true. Whatever your metal preference, chances are, it could be seen and heard on this day. Melodic metal, thrash metal, folk metal, death metal, 80’s rock/metal – a dose of each could be ingested as Bloodstock approached the home stretch. It was a veritable buffet of brutality!

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Bonded by Blood were first on the bill, followed by New York metal legends, Suffocation. There is nothing in the world quite like a massive dose of crushing death metal falling on your tympanic membranes like a ton of bricks at 11:00 AM, but that’s what Suffo brought regardless, and it was well worth the auditory assault, and any hearing loss accrued from the violent musical payload they delivered.

Holy Moses followed heavily on their heels as well as a killer performance from German metal goddess Doro, who still looks every bit the stunner she did 20 years ago, and still delivers the goods with completely on-point vocals, and a spectacularly commanding stage presence.

Finnish folk metal gurus Korpiklaani pounded out a melodic, yet raucous set, and were later followed by messy, irreverent, and undeniably fun shock metallers, GWAR. I was surprised to learn that GWAR do not perform too often in England and many of the audience members were initially baffled as to why security personnel and photographers were donning ponchos and shrink wrapping the electrical equipment in cellophane. They quickly learned the danger of showing face at a GWAR show without a full body condom as they were blasted at high power by red and green goo from a vast assortment of ghoulish stage props. Within the first three songs, the severed head of a thrashing monster, the penis of a grotesque, two-faced hybrid of Jesus and Hitler, and the infamous “Cuttlefish of Chtulu”, (the massive prosthetic phallus of GWAR’s lead vocalist Dave Brockie, AKA “Oderus Urungus”) had splatter painted everything within a fifty foot radius in a manner which put Jackson Pollock to shame. The sheer force of the penile propellant Brockie was gushing could have blasted the skin off your face from twenty rows away.

A tough act to beat for sure, but French technical/death metal act Gojira followed on GWAR’s heels and were nothing short of brilliant. This was my first time to see Gojira live, and I walked away with a high opinion of this extraordinarily talented group from Bayonne.

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Bloodbath from Stockholm, Sweden kept up the blistering metal momentum, and were followed by another veteran death metal act from Florida, Cannibal Corpse.

As immediate support for the festival’s headliner, Twisted Sister, Cannibal had quite a slot to fill. These heavy-hitting pros showed yet again that they haven’t slowed one beat since the band’s inception in the late 1980’s. The crowd went ballistic from the first opening note of the set, with crowd surfers sailing over the guardrail faster than security could catch them for the entire duration. I felt like a hyperactive child doped up on Pixie Sticks and Red Dye #5 by the time Corpsegrinder and Co. appeared, as this was the ultimate metal moment I had been waiting for. You KNOW a band is going to kick some serious ass when the security guards put on hard hats before the band takes the stage. One intrepid fan had his front tooth knocked out in the pit, but eagerly went back for more, repeatedly, until medics removed him from the crowd, and insisted he have his injuries examined. Bleeding profusely from the face, he reluctantly consented. If that’s not metal, I don’t know what is. Pulling material from their impressive catalog of eleven studio albums, they mixed the old with the new in an earsplitting cacophony of awesomeness that did not let up from beginning to end. Thank you, Cannibal Corpse, for delivering that hour long ear-gasm to the metal masses.

When Twisted Sister finally graced the stage, the crowd was more than ready for some fist-pumping, anthemic, vintage metal from these very colorful guys from New York City. Still energetic, and every bit as able to “bring the rock” as they were in the 80’s, (though sporting considerably less make-up these days) they closed out this amazing festival on a hell of a note. It was refreshing to see a band that I listened to as a small child still able to bring their special brand of “feel good metal” to the masses and get the same eager, excited crowd participation that they did decades ago. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Twisted Sister, by all accounts are still bringing down the house, the same as they always did.

This review would not be complete without sending out kudos and a “typewritten round of applause” to the support staff, promotors, road crews, medics, and everyone actually working the festival behind the scenes. An event of this size always has the potential to turn into a disaster of sorts, but I tip my hat to all those responsible for making Bloodstock a well run, well-oiled machine with very few detectable snags. Well done, and worth every penny.

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Review by Aline Miladinovich

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