The weather is up and down like a yo-yo this weekend and today is no different.
Starting off with blue sky’s and a positive horizon, winds, rain and bouts of molten hot sunshine drop in and out of Catton Park with no warning, but we’re all past that now and not a single fuck is given when looking at the line up in store for the final day of performances.
Let’s get stuck in, shall we?
ALL HAIL THE YETI
A walkway has been built to extend the Dio stage into the audience for Sunday’s headliner and All Hail the Yeti is the first band of the day to break it in.
The L.A. Metallers seem bright and bushy-tailed in the morning of the last day of Bloodstock Open Air 2019. The boys are nailing the clean harmonics in their songs, just to be burst apart by lead vocalists Connor Garritty’s ripping shouts.
A decent enough crowd for the morning hours has gathered, some fans supporting this early set and trying to inspire the surrounding people. The down-tuned guitars have that warm fuzzy Orange sound, and All Hail The Yeti lay the wailing lead guitar executed by the newest member Dave Vanderlinde over machine gun gallops of the drum and bass front. Towards the end of the set, Connor Garritty announces with a tongue in mouth tone “This song is about a girl I once knew… ‘The Witch is Dead!‘“, following which chuckles rupture through the crowd. Good Morning, Bloodstock. 4/5
It has been a VERY hectic 30 hours for Aborted, with frontman Sven “Svencho” de Caluwe announcing that this is the bands third show in the last 30 hours. After a fun soundcheck with Svencho yelling “piss out my ass” instead of the classic “check – 1, 2”, their signature chaotic sound of technical death metal merged with brutal grind-core.
BOA wont forget the great rainstorm of 2019, and unfortunately the heavens opened with a vengeance just as the band had begun their set – yet determination and dedication kept the majority of the crowd sticking around for what the band had in store – including requesting a difficult wall of death in some very slippery mud.
Svencho conducted the crowd into a never-ending sea of nodding and banging heads, especially during “Coffin Upon Coffin”s breakdown.
Attention was silently shifted to drummer Ken Bedene throughout the set who laid down a phenomenal and incredibly tight performance with what looked like absolute ease on his face.
Tour fatigue was likely a strong contributing factor to a feeling of something ‘missing’ during the performance, or possibly dampened (excuse the pun) spirits due to the weather, but the five-some pulled off a fantastically barbaric show for old and new fans alike. (4.5/5)
Over at the Sophie Stage, Witch Tripper perform a solid deliverance of their 80’s groomed heavy metal, not wasting much time in between songs. Like many other bands who have won M2TM, Witch Tripper has moved up a stage just like they have moved up a notch after performing at this festival for the first time on the New Blood Stage three years ago.
This is a thing about Bloodstock that will remain special, because it fertilises the grounds of underground, new-comer metal bands, welcoming them back when the time is right. 3.5/5
ROSS THE BOSS
Sunday As the sun hides again for a short time, Ross the Boss don’t let it shop the show in the Ronnie James Dio arena. Consisting mainly of Manowar songs, the Ronnie James Dio stage is a hopping mass of bodies. The band keep a decent pace onstage and the covers are also being sung right back to the stage.
But the real draw today is when KK Downing from Judas Priest appears, and they launch into a trio of Priest covers. It’s glorious! They also fire in ‘The Green Manalisha’, from Fleetwood Mac, so there’s that. But overall Ross The Boss delivered a stunning setlist and make their between-songs gaps short and sweet. 4/5
Soilwork are next, and keep it lit directly after Ross the Boss. ‘The Phantom’, ‘Full Moon Shoals’, ‘Stabbing the Drama” and ‘Stålfågel’ hit us like bolts of lightning (we don’t really want more lightning thank you!).
The wind is picking up again however, but the Ronnie James Dio arena is ready for it this time. The sound is also pretty good, considering everything is waving over and back. Soilwork punch the air in defiance and break the heaviness barrier by delivering another solid performance. 4/5
On the Hobgoblin stage, Dublin metal force AeSect gear up and throw down. As winners of this year’s Metal 2 The Masses in Ireland, they have rehearsed, rehearsed again, and repeated the dedication that has been blatant in order to get them here.
Led by megalithic frontman Tony Carberry, he growls his way through their setlist, kicking songs from ‘Devour The Earth’ at our heads and into our ears. Guitarists Dave Kennedy and Aidan O’Halloran menace the stage ferociously, entwining their duelling axes with smiles you could land a plane on.
Their work ethic is monstrous, because they have been trying to get here for years. They take the opportunity with both hands and run wild. Drummer Luke Peters is maniacal, and bassist Aidan Williams bounces from one side of the stage to the next like it’s a ball-pit for adults. The Sect are an amazing band live, and deserve a bigger stage, larger time-slots, pyro, lighting, and the kitchen sink! 5/5
Something between thrash, death and a hint of prog, Elyrean is lashing out strongly with a grin on their faces, beating up the crowd of the New Blood Stage with their unified, fast as hell riffage. The banter in between songs has got a very dry, Monty Python-esque sense of humour, which is refreshing.
Elyrean is pulling their weight altogether, playing very tight and finding a good balance between thrash riffs and nicely filed oriental spiced melodies. .This is probably the reason why they have gotten a support slot for Annihilator this October. A band to keep an ear on. 4/5
Take Refuge take stage with a cosy audience in the New Blood tent with their blend of metal-core and groove. It’s easy to tell that the young band are passionate about what they do, but unfortunately not many catchy riffs or anything new has been brought to the table with the metal-core five-piece.
However, being only conceived a year ago, the band has much opportunity to evolve – and with winning M2TM in such a small space of time, it could be promising. (1.5/5)
The legendary Twisted Sister frontman is back with a different band this year, and he still has that same zest for crowd pleasing.
He still has the moves as well, and energetically sprints across the sage repeatedly in a child-like excitement. They throw a few Sister songs at us, but it’s mostly their own material. The crowd goes wild for ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, ‘I Wanna Rock’, and ‘Burn in Hell’, and Snider still loves to play up the antics that go with them. 4/5
“Who’s fucking idea was it to play so early?!” Peter Tägtgren (vocals, guitar) yells from the stage – and rightfully so. Hypocrisy have been steadily holding their spot within the death metal world in terms of respect, with even Tägtgren being unofficially hailed as the Rick Reuben of the Scandinavian metal scene outside of performing.
An enthusiastic crowd encourages the merchants of melodic death metal as they go through a setlist which offered songs spanning their 28-year career, and Tägtgren eyes up the head-banging and nodding crowd with piercingly intense eyes throughout.
The skill of Mikael Hedlund must be pointed out, especially during the phenomenal performance of “Warpath”, with the festivals videographer giving the bass player some extended time to be displayed on the main stage screens for all to witness. The band wrap up with the extraterrestrial inspired hit “Roswell 47”, a song that will be forever immortalised on the bands’ setlist due to demand. (5/5)
“Hey, let’s check out Wheel”, “Oh? What do they play?”, “basically, Tool” was probably heard a gazillion times on the last day of Bloodstock Open Air. And it is true.
Basically, Wheel is playing Tool that didn’t originate from Tool. The names themselves are very alike. It is very revitalising to hear a bit more subtle and nuanced musicianship after having your head and body bashed by loud and distorted as fuck metal the entire weekend.
But Wheel also lay it on down on the Sophie Stage and inspire the people to bang their heads like our necks are made out of gummy. Wheel rolls through their set not wasting much time between songs.
The band is dressed in rain jackets with their hoods up, maybe it’s from a constant fear of being pissed on because they’re daring to make music in the likes Tool – but a lot of great bands have started being heavily influenced by a singular band and progressed to develop their brand of music.
Let’s take early Meshuggah for an example, the bang of Metallica of those days. And then they evolved to become Meshuggah. Wheel show that they have high ambition and maybe Wheel will become more than a spinoff of Tool one day. This is also a band to keep an ear on. 4/5
The Seattle legends Queensryche return to Catton Hall to play a show of epic proportions. Vocalist Todd La Torre holds the crowd in the palm of his hand, and never stops smiling as he paces up and down the catwalk on the extended stage. ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ goes down a storm, in the chorus of old-school heavy metal sing-alongs, as do ‘Queen of the Reich’ and ‘Take Hold of the Flame’. But ‘Eyes of a Stranger’ is what I came to see them play.
For a while I wasn’t sure if they would, but I was proven wrong. The air guitars are surrounding me and I feel like I’m back in a disco pre-internet. It’s a little nostalgic and serious fun. 4/5
Boss Keloid play to a very full tent and the people are very enthusiastic for the performance that is drenched in herbal smells. Between thick, sludgy grooves, trickling guitar details shine through intricate layers of vocals, bass, drums, guitars, and keyboard. The flow of their songs is smooth, you don’t even know what’s happening but you roll with it. Boss Keloid keep it progressive enough to keep it very interesting without disturbing the direction of the song. The five members humbly groove while playing, seemingly totally submerged in their otherworldly music. Hot damn. 4/5
On the Jager Stage, Irish/Australian rock troop Jailbirds get down and dirty with some foot stomping rock and roll. Drizzled in AC/DC, and Airbourne, they certainly know how to get the crowd moving. Frontman Axel McDonald has the pipes to front any band with this attitude of gutsy, confidant showmanship.
His brother Jay also commands the respect of his spectators, as does guitarist Ed Orr and bassist Jamie Trimble. It’s just a pity that the stage isn’t bigger so more can see them. I have a hard time seeing them but they sound great. I’m a massive acca-dacca fan, so this is a welcome boost as the weekend starts to take its toll on the energy levels. 4/5
Lighting some incense as a ritualistic start to their show (and also kindly disguising the smell of three days worth of booze and action within the Sophie tent), Egypt’s Crescent reveal their blend of technical black and death metal sounds to this years crowd.
A heavy use of attractive iconography on their black and white stage-drops depicts the Egyptian god Anubis, the Eye of Horus and snakes wrapped around a pyramid – drummer Amr Moktar also plays a generous amount of splash cymbals throughout the set, leading the band to being greatly reminiscent of American technical death metal band Nile, but also some elements of Akercocke and Behemoth – with even vocalist/guitarist Ismaeel Attallah even looking slightly like a younger Nergal. Duties of guitar and vocals are shared between Attallah and Youssef Saleh, contrasting between deep growls and high pitched shrieks. (4/5)
LOST IN LAVENDER TOWN
The sound of this instrumental quintet is possible already too big for the New Blood Stage. The stance of the four guitarists and one bassist looks a bit nerdy, yet is very sympathetic with their guitars hanging high like proper music students, allowing for most efficient use of their hands.
They deliver a technical and tight set of musical narration fit for the end battle of an epic video game crusade. The force of guitars on stage is so rich, that it’s hard at times to distinguish between the six progressive layers, which is a pity as there is a lot is going on and a lot of lovely saturated detail in Lost in Lavender Town’s ambitiously woven music. 3:5/5
This Norwegian duo offer a unique input to Bloodstock 2019 – for starters, they are both incredibly young, and not only is Johannes Thor Sandal the vocalist, but he is also the drummer. Guitarist, Simen Jakobsen Harstad dons a Sunn O))) hoodie on stage, offering insight immediately to what his tastes are and, more to the point, what the band may sound like.. and it’s not far off.
The duo mash together a number of genres; between doom, prog, noise rock and atmospheric metal. Sandal salutes the crowd with his drumsticks as Harstad opens a new song with a backing track and a melancholy and sinister sounding introductory lick, before they both blast in with their interesting style. A brave feat to take on an international festival with only two members, Golden Core don’t seem to be afraid of the curious looks. These are one to watch. (4/5)
CRADLE OF FILTH
“I guess it’s better fucking late than never” a humorously twitchy Dani Filth announces to a relieved crowd after yesterdays cancellation due to extreme wind concerns that affected the stage.
Cradle of Filth have come equipped with a full pyrotechnic set-up to compliment their blackened extreme metal sound, and some minor theatricals such as flaming torches, a H.R Giger-style microphone stand and a completely new style of corpse paint than what other Cradle eras have seen. Guitarist Marek “Ashok” Smerda brings a sense of humorous yet sinister theatrical performance to the public – including spitting in his hand and smearing it on his face, giving much of the crowd the evil eye, sticking plectrums to his forehead and, eventually, spitting plectrums into the crowd.
Going off the presumption of Dani’s vocal strategy after viewing previous performances over the years, his voice seemed in great condition for his performance on the main stage – jumping between his signature high-pitched screeches and guttural murmurs.
Touching base with their Cruelty and the Beast album which turned 20 years old last year, the band treated the crowd to ‘Cruelty Brought the Orchids’, and took a journey contrasting through their back catalogue between ‘Heartbreak And Seance’ from their 2017 release ‘Cryptoriana‘ to closing their set with the ‘Midian‘ (2000) hit ‘Her Ghost In The Fog‘. (5/5)
One word: Dad-pit. 4/5
Setheist’s show is a little bit underwhelming when one has familiarised themselves with their very visual description, drawing from BDSM and Italian Giallo movies. The band plays their music well, and their take on metal is good and the singer projects her voice powerfully – but other than a bit of gasping and moaning and a sultry, seductive stage presence, Setheist show does not really live up to the image they were conjuring; yet the potential that they will create a show that matches their music is there. Definitly one to watch. 3.5/5
Atmospherical sound, hold tension on stage before ripping into their intoxication of blackened death metal. A band that is more capturing live. Blast-beats galore, merciless, restless, overwhelming brutal force is pushing and filling the tent in a very tangible matter, numbing the crowd. At times there are progressive extensions of Damim’s riffage here and there, which teases the audience. 4/5
Joining the festival line up in the last minute to make up for Dimmu Borgir’s cancellation is Batushka. Yesterday’s wind of change (yes, I so much intended that pun and I stand by it) also lead to moving Batushka from the Dio Stage to the tent of the Sophie Stage, which is very fortunate as their show is delivered much better in a closed space.
The tent is packed, even though over at the Dio Stage people are saving their sweet spots for the last headliner of B:O:A, the legendary Scorpions, and for the second time today, incense is burned and masks the pungent smell of mud and sweat.
The stage is transformed into a place of worship, reminiscent of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The amps Batuska are using are pushed to the side, even the drum-kit is stage right and behind an occlusion to perfect the illusion of a church setting. Across from the drummer is another occlusion to hide a choir of four.
Thin candlesticks, shrines, a big altar, religious looking symbols and of course a few homely-looking skulls decorate the stage. From the moment Batushka enters the stage, a thought-through performance commences, with loving detail from the golden tips of their costumes down to the ritualistic movement choreography that happens between the songs, unveiling shrines, or turning pages in their sacred books. All members are fully cloaked and have their faces hidden behind a layer of gray cloth.
The singer extends his arms to the side, palms open and delivers his regal vocals or high pitched screams without disturbing this posture at all. The presence the cloaked musicians are omitting is ominous, sublime, intimidating, even just by standing there and playing. The stage is being sucked into a cult through the rushing waves of black metal, seasoned with psalmody like choral songs. The only movement that the members do is to lift their gloved hands into the air, index and middle finger extended while the other fingers are curling in softly, making the sign of the cross.
The bewitched mass standing in the tent is mirroring this gesture without questioning, this is how quickly we are being convicted to a cult. The minimum any band can do when performing live is to play the songs at least as good as they sound recorded.
Great live performances happen when a band puts so much thought into how the message, idea or nature of their music can be amplified and delivered to the audience through the help of costumes, coordinating special effects with what is happening on stage and in the music, and what bridges the songs.
Fantastic live performances of music are when on top of this a kind of narration occurs from start to finish. This was a fantastic performance, down to the trickling finish as each layer of the music leaves exits the stage until just the drummer and guitarist are left and after the drummer falls silent, the guitarist raises his hand slowly to make the sign of the cross while the lights also fade to black. 5+/5
A dedicated and generous crowd of Manowar fans joined the tribute band, duly named – “Womenorwar”, at the Jager stage for some covers of the notorious American heavy metal band.
Funny, because Womenowar actually have three members who don’t fit the specified gender as listed in the name – instead opting for drag costumes to blend in. Vocalist Erica Madams offers her high octave/vibrato and suitably classic-rock voice for the sing-along crowd; finishing the night at that stage on a humorous, fun and positive note. (4/5)
Scorpions are the final band of the weekend, and when I say ‘holy shit – what a light show!’, I mean HOLY SHIT! WHAT A LIGHTSHOW!! Klaus Meine conducts himself as he has always done, and allows the superstars that are Rudolf Schenker and Mikkey Dee to deliver the powerhouse performance of a lifetime.
Matthias Jabs sports a custom Scorpion guitar, a bespoke build just for him. There have been videos of how it was built shown over the weekend. The sound is also amazing, and what better way to hear ‘Winds of Change’. People whistle and sway in the dark English countryside and hold hands, put their arms around each other – whatever. Bloodstock is a family and the love is the force that binds everyone together here.
The light show is (as I may have hinted), absolutely stunning. However, when Mikky Dee’s drum riser is lifted off the stage by suspension cables, the light bouncing from his cymbals illuminate the arena. There’s a sea of fists in the air and a swarm of happy faces. The drum solo itself is impressive as always. The hits keep coming: “Is There Anybody There?”, “We Built This House”, ‘Blackout’ and ‘Big City Nights’ sort us all out for the cheese and the voices are starting to strain from all of our note-holding.
Schenker does his standout best in his role as the shred master supreme, as we gaze in awe of the towering giant (he’s pretty fuckin’ big). His Pete Townshend-style windmill guitar techniques remind us that they are legends for a reason. There’s no encore but we don’t need one – the work is done. 5/5
Closing off Bloodstock 2019 is none other than Eluveitie who smash through a stacked setlist which includes neck-bruisers such as ‘King‘ ‘The Call of the Mountains’, “Death Walker“, ‘Havoc‘ and ‘Rebirth’ to name just a few.
The tired and festival battered crowd are soaking up the last of the weekend’s entertainment dished out from vocalist Chrigel Glanzmann’s commanding presence from the lip of the stage.
A celebratory folk metal masterclass unfold before our eyes causing outbreaks of old medieval style nonsense dancing from the ale polluted punters who loiter at the back of the stuffed tent, causing an equally entertaining spectacle. What a way to close off the weekend! Now did someone say “half price ale?” 4/5
So, that ends Bloodstock for another year. We have already been informed that Sacred Reich, Vio-lence, Dark Tranquility, Butcher Babies and a host of other bands are already booked, with the headliners still to be announced (they’re booked too but we can’t say who it is). Bloodstock is over again and now the dodgy travelling has to start again Ill be back again next year and we’ll do this again folks. The 20th anniversary is right around the corner – this is gonna be big.
Shaun Martine, Norrie Kivlehan, Oran O’Beirne, Bláthín Eckhardt
Photos – Exposing Shadows Photography, for www.overdrive.ie © 2019