It’s a loud, thumping beat, perfect to remind us what the weekend’s got planned for the rest of the festival. FtR have a clean, crisp, crunch to their sound and people have turned up at the early hours of 11 am to kick the level up a notch.
Sadly, this band proved not to be a metal take on Portishead. Mortishead entered the stage after a very dramatic intro, a spoken appeal over cinematic music. The band, dressed in uniform with their logo displayed on their arms, immediately laid into the mud, wrestling with their inner voices.
The frontman, who was dressed in a suit, growls and shouts over the percussive elements of their music – for this dominated their outfit. Complicated, 8string guitar solos appeared seemingly out of nowhere and the synth layer was only clearly visible during the moments in-between. Mortishead’s stage presence is fierce, the synth player was moving and interacting with the frontman in a theatrical manner, sniffing and moving hunched as if seriously sick. The bass player for once was not shy or laid back, as he came around and touched noses with the front rows. Mortishead’s sound and strength seemed to improve gradually over the course of their set, the closing song being the strongest and played with clear intention.
Over on the main stage, with an intro from the classic WW2 Clint Eastwood movie ‘Where Eagles Dare‘ soundtrack, Onslaught are next on the RJDS, and it’s the first time in four years that they have been here. They make no bones about how happy they are to be pummeling the huge crowd in the main area.
The rain has returned, unfortunately, and adding an extra kick when we’re down, there is a sound tech ‘blip’ as they start to play, and we miss they initial “BLOODSTOOOOOOCK!!” battle cry. It’s quickly sorted out though, and they sound amazing. Lots of new material is played, and the pyro is doing its job nicely. Plenty of shredding and incredible drum and bass, the British thrash masters are not letting anything get in their way of giving their best, and the early bird circle-pits ars a testament to the unstoppable love of metal that each and every one of us have. So for the rest of the weekend, let us go on record and say “Fuck the rain! Let’s have some fucking fun!‘
The first heavy rain did not bother some Bloodstockers, for some of them were firmly planted on their camping chairs in front of the Ronnie James Dio stage, or clinging onto the barrier guarding their spaces for the headlining act later that night. Nevertheless, as soon as Memoriam took the stage in a very sudden manner, fans of old school death metal came running filling up empty spaces.
Karl Willetts long silver hair followed his prolonged movements while he leads the band with sovereignty. The band follows heavily steady, Memoriam are composed of members who know they don’t have to prove anything to anyone as they call upon freedom, justice and resistance. Intention rules over speed and virtuoso technicality. Standing in the crowd, only a couple of meters in front of the stage, the punching attack of the drums double bass hits the spine where it meets the head.
Memoriam show us how it’s done; from old school death metal, that makes you feel as if somebody is repeatedly smacking both of your ears with the palm of the hand, to unfreezing and fat grooves.
On the Sophie Stage, Godthrymm get ready to wow the audience! This three-piece didn’t bother leaving the stage after sound-checking the equipment, which felt refreshing and humble. Merely facing away from the crowd signalised the start of their doom and stoner metal laced set – Godthrymm’s stage presence came from a sincere place.
Noticeable was the equal strength divided by the two guitarists, as they both exchanged roles of singing. Even though the two voices are very different from another, it did not disturb the entity of Godthrymms sound. Halfway through the set, we are reminded of Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, as the bass players belched out a song which was unmistakenly reminiscent of the godfathers of heavy metal. The guitarist plays his guitar carefully and gently. When he sang, he sang with a similar cathartic approach, yet he cuts himself off at times not holding the notes to the last possible moment. Melancholia and exploring a range of dynamics was proficient in all the instrumentalists’ play.
Sticking with the Sophie Lancaster tent, Fahran are swinging wildly in the middle of the rainstorm and are knocking us cold. With a crystal clear sound in a melodic and impeccably timed series of hard rock right hooks, they give us a groovy and fast-paced foot-stomping setlist that deserves a lot more attention. Following Memoriam, their diverse range is a slight diversion of the balls-out metal insanity, as it’s a bit lighter than their forerunners.
A blood-drenched naked torso, smudging red stains on a white flying V, a long leather coat stained with white powder, a face dripping with black liquid or powdered hauntingly white – Bloodbath appearance suited the malevolent and obese sound of their music. The frontman Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) reduced his movements to a minimal, which did not stiffen his presence.
His stance was upright and almost all the more terrifying. Bloodbath’s set explores different tempos and rhythms, even when the music turned polka it never lost its vicious edge. Holmes addressed the crowd in between in his normal speaking voice, reminding them that they “can go online to whine about his voice” and that “he doesn’t care“. His vocals are not as dense as Åkerfeldt, yet they match it’s gnawing morbidness. Naturally, their final song was ‘Eaten‘ – tilting bodies in the crowd grooved steadily to the moist and meaty body of this song.
Wednesday 13 brings the Hollywood dead to the RJDS and the stage show can only be described as jaw-dropping. Frequent theme-based costume changes for both the singer and his scantily-clad burlesque support dancers (some of whom sport leather lingerie at times), are the mainstay of his act and since the sun has now come out, the main arena is filling quickly. Fire-breathing, burning crucifixes, and grotesquely-mesmerising facemasks amplify the sick, catchy licks from the shock-metal act.
The man certainly likes to say ‘fuck‘ a lot, and I can see worried parents covering their young children’s ears as the audience is told to say it again and again. It’s hilarious to see the reaction of the kids as they don’t know what to do.
Ingested’s energy on stage showed no mercy on the buttocks of the crowd on the Sophie Stage. Infectious and sticky, the Bloodstockers don’t take long to latch onto their version of modern Deathcore.
The singer commands the viewers to “get moving” and a hoard of angry young men and women erupt and create a pit, running and jumping into another. Sweaty and purging bodies, eyes and veins are bulging as a response to Ingested’s temper. The gurgling and screeching vocals of the singer cut through the down-tuned and percussive riffage, though the bass slides were a slightly overused tool. Jazz hands are shaking to crazy fast blast beats, yet at times Ingested seemed to rush a bit, although that did not stumble the impact of the freight train this band proved to be. It’s a band that quenches the rage and hunger for destruction.
Due to complications with their flight, Suicidal Tendencies show got moved to the Sophie Lancaster stage, and Lovebites womaned up to embrace a sudden change of plan, as they took Suicidal Tendencies‘ slot at the main stage.
Winners of this year’s Metal Hammer Awards in the category ‘Best New Band‘ a large crowd had gathered and Lovebites the stage. The unusual costume of these ladies stands in stark contrast to a young metalheads projection of women in metal – unlike slutty outfits in leather, latex, studs and corsets, these ladies were dressed in white cocktail dresses, which did not hinder them to play their instruments like beasts.
Elements NWOBHM and power metal were owned by Lovebites, their technical abilities impeccable. Faces in the crowd had their lips turned down, as the Bloodstockers nodded to each other with raised eyebrows mimicking “Not Bad!“. Lovebites truly made the most out of this opportunity and not many newcomers could have levelled up with such integrity.
On the Sophie Lancaster stage, Reprisal are knocking heads together. Heavy traits of Lamb of God lace their song structure, and coupled with the astonishing sound provided here by the techs, I can’t think of a better way to see them. The audience are genuinely invested in their setlist and show it physically, by unleashing wave after wave of pit action. It never seems to end, because when one stops, another starts.
Kamelot takes over the RJDS after an unfortunate airline crisis delays Suicidal Tendencies appearance. The audience are in full throttle mode now, as the melodic fantasy metal group set the scene. Fists are continuously pumped into the air in the generous English sunshine and plenty of smiles are slapped across the faces from the throngs of Bloodstocker’s who soak up the good vibes. The setlist is comprised of old classics and new alike, such as ‘Centre of the Universe‘. The singalong is enthralling, and judging by the smiles on the band members’ faces, they’re having as much fun as the audience. It’s a clean streak for the band because every song is lapped up
The aforementioned Suicidal Tendencies are next on the SLS, due to swapping with Love Bites who made their RJDS debut. Their plane was delayed, which caused ST to miss their slot, but rather than quit, they find a way around it and deliver an electric show. It’s as if the entire festival packs info the tent to see the band, and the temperature is high.
The crowd erupts into a weapons-grade bombsite as ST go for the throat. A few lucky punters are brought up onstage mid-set to bust a few moves with the band and are gifted a set of drumsticks each by non-other than the legend that is Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer).
Never failing to keep the energy high, the band absolutely slays the venue. Bodies are filling the airspace above us as multiple surfers line up to be carried to the front. Security has a busy time carrying them, but it is relentless. A particular highlight was Mike Muir carrying up a dedicated punter in a wheelchair and proceeds to run from each side of the stage while singing. This was one of those moments where you are glad an unfortunate moment occurred because it led to a momentous occasion that will go down in BOA history as one of the most mental performances on this stage.
Scottish death metal upstarts Bleeding Through have a hard time beating Suicidal Tendencies performance, but they put the head down and get stuck in. Here is a hard-working band that has a steady fanbase here and abroad, and their stage ferocity is simply remarkable. Once again, the sound maestros behind the scenes work their magic and the band sound perfect. As always, the audience makes sure the Richter scale goes off the charts with their antics, with walls, pits, and everything in between.
It is always a little bit odd seeing black metal bands playing in daylight. The sun was setting over the holy ground and some members of Emperor looked oddly cool or laid back with their sunglasses and plain black clothing – but all these opposing factors to the appearance of Norwegian black metal did not blunt the icy blades of Emperor’s take on this genre.
The endurance of the drummer Trym is alien, the bestiality and attack never fading throughout their set. The wind took a hold of their three backdrops, letting them float and dance to the slow and drifting outros of their songs. The mind shuts off when watching and hearing Emperor as if your head was being held upside down in a vicious stream of freezing water. The endless throbbing of the racing double bass sounded like the hooves of a million bulls and the synth laid a dense and vast atmospherical layer to their set.
The people in the crowd were taking all of it in with open arms, trying to hold their feet to the ground whilst withstanding these waves of pagan inspired, atmospheric black metal. Very little crowd interaction kept the steady and forceful stream going, we were given little breathers in between before our heads were stuck back into a washing machine together with a fistful of sharp pebbles. Frontman, Ihsahn called an homage to “gods of metal” Judas Priest, as Emperor were the last band to support Friday night’s headliners, dedicating their closing song ‘Inno A Satana‘ to Rob Halford.
Tonight’s headliners Judas Priest are finally here to deliver a masterclass metal sermon to us all and with record numbers in the main area, there a lot of punters in class today. Halford and co. are still masters of the art of stagemanship and play up to each cliche that has made them famous over their career spanning several decades.
A fantastic lighting show (complete with discoball and a lightsaber), ramps up the experience for first timers and Priest deliver in buckets.
For a man that has spent his life singing at the top of his voice, Halford still hits those high notes and can sustain it just like he does in the studio. The setlist is mixed, with old tracks (and some really old tracks, like ‘Saints in Hell‘), and new ones, as they open with the title track of their latest record ‘Firepower‘. ‘Jack the Ripper‘, ‘Turbo Lover’, ‘You Got Another Thing Coming‘ and Lightning Strike are all heartily devoured, and Halford disappears backstage and comes out riding a Harley Davidson yo deliver ‘Hell Bent For Leather’. It’s the stuff of a metal heads dream come true!
The crowning moment of the night is when Glenn Tipton (who has had to stop touring due to his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease late last year), returns and helps out on ‘Living After Midnight‘, ‘Metal Man‘, and the immortal ”Breaking the Law‘. Heads are banging left and right and proud parents and grandparents hold their younger offspring close and show them the music they themselves grew up on. It’s a heartwarming sight, but let’s not forget that without the fans, there would be no heavy metal, no bands and no Bloodstock. Long may this tradition continue.
Closing the SLS is German rock queen Doro. Starting on the stroke of the Judas Priest finale, we hurry over to catch the last act of the night. A firm festival favourite at wacken open air, she holds the crowd in the palm of her hand with her non-stop and no bullshit rock show.
After Judas Priest, it’s a nightcap before we call it a night. She is very accommodating to the audience and singles out a few people to ask what they want to hear. Genuinely appreciative of the gestures from the crowd whole band are on fire with marksmanship timing and flair. All hail the Queen of Metal.
Photography – Exposing Shadows Photography, exclusively for www.overdrive.ie © 2018. All Rights Reserved.