With the Sophie Lancaster tent being the only stage open tonight, all attention is focused on the five opening bands, Hundred Year Old Man, Arkona, Fire Red Empress, Skiltron and Bloodshot Dawn.
Thick and lush singular notes oiled the gears of the Sophie Lancaster Stage. Hundred Year Old Man had hailed a hoard of ready Bloodstockers into the tent with a pallet of elongated and oriental sounds. A synthesizer, which was in a way reminiscent of throat singing, conjured an atmospherical background and never stopped summoning sentiments of anger – as if blowing into glowing embers of frustration.
HYMO was navigating their set through oozing, psychedelic doom. It is an intrinsic feeling of anger HYOM are projecting; anger that is not exploding, but imploding. Fog machines dipped the stage into a smokey haze, the light below it was breathing, illuminating and fading the milky air like the rise and fall of a beast’s chest. The trance HYMO exhale is never interrupted, there is no need to address the crowd in between songs with words. The sound of the six-piece is down-tuned, the octavated effects of the guitar help the long songs to glide.
Most often, the pulse was slow-dancing with a gnarling and chewing bass, yet it still carried impact causing feet to stomp and the eyes of the vocalist to pop. The band’s stance is almost insisting, the clean singing of the phrase “Follow Me!” translated an invitation of HYMO.
Sometimes the band snapped and surfed the wave of their sudden outbursts, which caused the frontman to squat or roll on the floor, or getting nose-touchingly close with the crowd. The surprising stroke of an e-bow on an SG created sounds of aching metal, weaving beautifully into the muddy texture of the music. HYOM were easing the crowd into the celebration of Heavy Metal at Bloodstock 2018, like a toad that sits in a pot of water which is slowly being brought to a simmer, unnoticed by the toad.
The stage was left completely silent, moments before the headlining act of the opening night. The people in the crowd were illuminated by massive overhead lights, a few of them were calling Arkona. Blood red light and ambient sounds filled the tent and the distorted voice of a human began to ramble in a foreign language, at times yapping as if suffocating. A druid figure appeared on stage.
Like a priestess about to begin her ceremony, Maria “Masha Scream” Arkhipova was crying out and beating the drums. Her powerful voice was whaling like a predator in distress, yet it had no shed of weakness. The members of Arkona enter the stage one by one, all dressed in mucky coloured and floating rags.
The frontwoman led the band strongly, gesturing with clawed fingers, pushing and moving through the air as if she was trying to move the stars. Their music was racing and merciless, creating violent waves of sound, yet the flute’s leading melody of Vladimir “Volk” was cutting through the stringy flesh effortlessly.
Arkona produced an atmosphere of extreme focus, a rite binding the people into a spell. It seems as if every detail and move had been choreographed carefully. The performance was never broken and the crowd was gawking, moving their bodies ever so slightly – yet, the energy of the band almost faded when it reached the back of the tent. Then, people were suddenly overthrown by a drastic turn of course; lighthearted and very folkish beats and melodies were telling mystical tales and had broken the body-binding spell of the people.
The crowd began to dance and prance, bopping up and down whilst being encouraged by Arkona, who were telling tales of Slavic folklore – a relief of the tension, which let the people off into the night.
The sound from Fire Red Empress, on the second slot on the opening hours of Bloodstock 2018 is just incredible. The singer’s voice is crystal clear and the range that she possesses is sick. It has a real punchy thickness to it, with plenty of space to experiment in lower and higher tones in the middle of awesome delivery.
They were a wise choice to help light the fuse for the weekend’s entertainment and the Sophie Lancaster tent is starting to get very full. It’s only 7.30pm and FRE already have people losing their shit. Their throwback-to-90’s radio-friendly rebellious rock moment is well and truly destroyed when they play an absolute MONSTER of a cover of Beastie Boys “Sabotage“. To say that things got messy is a destabilising statement. Plain and simple, the place got wrecked. The night is alive and we have long way to go!
Skiltron are next and follow with a bagpipe melody (as is their thing) and start to get the feet moving (FRE got the heads moving, so we’re slowly working each part of the body). If you could imagine Iron Maiden in kilts, and moved in a similar (but unsimilar fashion), but sang of fantasy and glory, that’s a halfway decent attempt to describe how they sound. Noted, they have many, many monumentally excellent moments where they totally own the stage, and rightfully so because the heavens have opened and the audience is growing.
Bloodshot Dawn enters with an intro sample from “Rick and Morty“, and immediately begin to chomp on the neck of the ever-growing audience. Good God, the sound techs have done an amazing job of the bands here tonight because it has an incredible reverberation among the audience!
The Dawn released a new album this year and are shamelessly destroying the audience with every song they play. The rain has eased but the pressure has not, because although this is their 4th time playing BOA, they came through the M2TM route, and they clearly know what side their bread is buttered on. The work ethic is humongous, as is their work ethic. Each man remembers where they came from and the enthusiasm (as it should be), is as present as a rock in the face. A truly heavy and groove-riddled band, Bloodshot Dawn have the world at their feet, and the supportive prospects for bigger bands at this stage of their professional infancy deserve a serious announcement.
Stay tuned for more Bloodstock Festival updates throughout the weekend.
Photo – Kerri Clarke