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Bloodstock 2021: Part I


Event: Bloodstock Open Air 2021
Written by: musclassia, omne metallum
Published: 15.09.2021


Bloodstock Open Air: Catton Hall, England, 11-15 August 2021



Omne metallum: A festival? An actual festival happening in 2021?

Yes metalheads, pinch me it’s true: Bloodstock has somehow managed to go ahead and put on a festival in much the same mould as before, and one that will be not only my 8th time attending, but my first taste of live music in well over a year.

With the spikey boi doing more to promote British metal than any politician, Bloodstock has had to reach deep into the British metal scene (complemented by a scant few international acts) to put together a line-up that has had endless revisions (including several on the day) since it was first announced way back at the end of the 2019 edition, thanks to the virus (that has delayed my chance to see Mercyful Fate for another year). Ultimately, the line-up may stretch the boundaries of the “typical” (if diehards are to be believed) Bloodstock fare, but it is one that highlights the strength in depth of the UK scene and seems trivial when you consider all the obstacles that have had to be overcome.





Quite a big change-up, isn’t it? Note that the final poster on the right doesn’t account for some very late changes that occurred during the festival. Expanding the festival by an extra day in light of last year’s postponement, Bloodstock was a sold-out five-day event, and one hell of a way to return to live music by jumping in at the deep end and not emerging again until after nearly a week of sleep deprivation, beer, music and dodgy festival food; it was a welcome and return to something that had been missing from my life for far too long.

After walking over the crest that overlooked the festival grounds and seeing everything with my own eyes, I was awash in a euphoric haze that only receded when the banality of queueing returned. Once the tent had been put up, it was time to soak up the atmosphere… and several beers. Working on the hypothesis that, if alcohol kills bacteria externally then it must have the same effect internally, I proceeded to consume vast amounts of rum and cider for science.

musclassia: Omne was not the only Metal Stormer at Bloodstock this year. I had not intended to attend; the presence of Mercyful Fate on the poster had tempted me to finally make my debut appearance there, but ultimately I had hesitated until the event had sold out, whilst the legendary Danes dropped out. However, only a couple of weeks before the event, one of my bandmates had come into possession of a second ticket, one that was offered to me for free, an offer I could not decline after such a drought of live music, even if it wasn’t necessarily the most alluring line-up. I missed Day 1, arriving just in time on Thursday to set up my tent, share a drink with said bandmate and grab lunch before my first anticipated band of the festival came on, so you will hear more from me later on…


OM: Enough pretext, onto the music!

Table Of Contents

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday






With the schedule being shifted forward a day, Wednesday took the spot of the traditional easing into the festival, with only five bands on the second-largest stage, the Sophie Lancaster Stage, scheduled for the day.

Raised By Owls 19:30-20:05, Sophie Lancaster Stage

A fun way to ease myself into the weekend and into live music after the enforced absence. This band’s brand of comedic grind helped put a smile on those faces that weren’t headbanging as they ran through “Rob Halford Rob’s Halford’s” and “Chuckle Vision Is Just Drug Slang”. Going by in a blur, the set finished just after it felt like it had begun.

Onslaught 21:45-23:30, Sophie Lancaster Stage

Headlining the stage and being the first festival highlight were the new-look Onslaught; hitting the ground running, the band tore through a set that was the perfect mix of classics and songs off of Generation Antichrist, which slotted in next to the band’s best work with ease. Garnett showed little in the way of nerves behind the microphone, having the audience in the palm of his hand as he commanded them to circle pit while he nailed “A Perfect Day To Die”. The guest appearance of Sy Keeler for “Metal Forces” was another highlight and one that ensured that this set would be remembered even after several days of drinking.






Thursday was an extra day that got added to the festival after last year's edition got postponed, featuring a unique set-up where all bar the main stage, the Ronnie James Dio Stage, ran as usual (the Jagermeister Stage, which usually runs in between the gaps on the main stage, instead ran consistently). Given that it was a bonus added on for free, the size of the bands were small, but after a year that put music into deep freeze, it was a welcome chance to shine a spotlight on bands that would otherwise be overshadowed on a normal line-up.

Thunderous Jones 11:50-12:20, Sophie Lancaster Stage

Initially I had set out to see Tortured Demon on the Jager stage, but the tent was packed out, and so a spontaneous choice was made to see Thunderous Jones. A group that seems to have their fingers in all the metal subgenres, their sprawling variance meant the band never settled into any groove and played out with little sticking in the mind.

Ashen Crown 12:40-13:10, Sophie Lancaster Stage

Next up on the Sophie Stage were Brummie death metallers Ashen Crown; playing to a sizable crowd the band managed to get a large chunk to overcome their hangovers and mosh like maniacs. “Right To Rise” proved to be the highlight of the set and a high bar that bands would have to match for the rest of the day.

musclassia: And just like that, I return… (from this point onwards, assume left-aligned text is Omne and right-aligned is myself)


Luna's Call 13:30-14:00, Sophie Lancaster Stage

My first taste of Bloodstock music was under the Sophie Lancaster tent to see a band that I’d first encountered last year courtesy of their sophomore release Void. Void was a progressive death metal album that I’d remembered enjoying a lot even amidst the endless sea of quality prog-death that has been released during the pandemic, and their performance here reminded me why. Missing one of their guitarists due to the cursed ‘Rona, the now-three-piece kicked off sounding every bit like an Opeth tribute band, but as their set progressed, they grew out of the Swedes’ shadow and flexed their prog muscles, delivering both classic prog rock and more extreme metal equally adeptly.


Urne 14:20-15:00, Sophie Lancaster Stage

My first heavily anticipated band of the festival, I already mentioned in my review of Serpent & Spirit that I’d seen Urne live pre-pandemic at a far smaller festival than this and been impressed by them; they made an equally strong impression here with a far larger audience. The band hit hard, with “The Palace Of Devils & Wolves” opening the set with plenty of brawn. My most eagerly awaited song was the album’s title track, and whilst I agree with Omne’s comments that the mix slightly diminished the impact of the most melodic moments, it still came across excellently live, and I can only assume that it will be a live staple for them for a long time to come. Overall, this was one of the best sets of the whole festival for me and, along with Luna’s Call, made sure I was into festival mood right from the off.


Having been a recent convert to the band after hearing their amazing Serpent & Spirit album, I was eager to hear them live. Upping the intensity from their studio material, the band hit hard and managed to electrify their sizable audience. While the more melodic passages got somewhat lost in the mix, it is testament to the quality of songs such as the title track of their latest album that Urne overcame these pitfalls to deliver the goods in abundance.

Slave Steel 15:45-16:15, New Blood Stage

As Vulgaris opened a gig that featured these guys on the same billing in our last pre-Covid concert, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to see them on a festival stage, wondering how far we are off a similar opportunity. Slave Steel play a death-oriented groove metal style, and it was suitably entertaining for 30 minutes, with enough to easily headbang to whilst getting one more pint down.


Seeing these lads on a whim, their brand of groove metal was fun but not very fulfilling and didn’t leave much of an impression on me. While they had the odd riff that perked up my ears, for the most part it went over my head.

Forlorn World 16:25-17:05, Sophie Lancaster Stage

One of the highlights of the weekend, this was the debut performance from the band who were born out of Josh McMorran’s (Bloodshot Dawn desire to make music throughout lockdown. Nailing their performance perfectly and producing powerful renditions of “The Shadowmancer” and “Pillars Of Eternity”, Forlorn World were on fire and hopefully this is only the start of a project that could go places.

Without much else to do, I gave this band a listen on Omne’s recommendation; ultimately, as someone who hadn’t listened to Bloodshot Dawn in a long time prior to this festival, I got enough from Forlorn World to make the time I spent watching them worthwhile, but I won’t be following them up.


King Witch 18:35-19:15, Sophie Lancaster Stage

Yet another early highlight, with the band’s bluesy stoner/doom making easy listening before lulling you into a trance thanks to the combination of riffs and soaring vocals on standout songs “Of Rock And Stone”. The band were in complete control of the audience and put on a performance that should earn them greater recognition. Recommended listening and one to keep an eye on.

Yeah, after a brief break from music to eat/chill out, I also caught King Witch, just because from the name alone I knew there was likely some fuzzy stoner coming, and I wasn’t disappointed. They put on a great show, playing loud and hypnotically to easily win over the audience.


Battle Born 19:30-20:00, New Blood Stage

Omne and I actually went to the same university as the guys in Battle Born, who were part of the student rock society when we met all those years ago. I don’t know them myself, but I did cover them in last year’s Clandestine Cuts, and felt like I’d give them a glance, particularly as I was already buzzing for the band playing on the New Blood Stage right after them. Ultimately, they play power metal in a very power metal way, in a way that’s not really for me, but they put on the kind of show fans of the style would be hoping for. Still, the best band of the day, and perhaps the festival, was yet to come.


Went along with some friends (musc: this didn’t include me, I’d lost him by this point) to continue the party; while the band certainly played with conviction and with purpose (soaking in the “we want more power metal” chants aimed at the organisers) to overcome doubters, it wasn’t for me and I found myself sinking further into my cup of beer as the set went on. Well played power metal but not enough to convert me.

Kurokuma 20:25-21:00, New Blood Stage

What. A. Set. By this point, the day of partying had caught up with me but my god did it end on a high. Kurokuma’s mix of crushingly heavy riffs and light show had me hooked like a moth to flame. One of those moments when you get caught in a trance and only emerge once the house lights come up, certainly worth catching live when you can.

Unlike Omne, I was prepared for this set, but only because I’d been lucky enough to see them for the first time three months prior after, again, a free spare ticket was offered to me by a (different) bandmate on short notice. Their show in Camden in May had blown me away, so the moment I saw them on this billing I had them down as unmissable, and they more than lived up to that. These guys play a hypnotic, groovy, repetitive form of sludge doom; probably the best comparison I can think of is ‘if Sleep was a sludge band’. They sound awesome live, those endless heavy grooves and the accompanying vocal roars just pummelling away at you as you band your head for all it’s worth (intoxication certainly helps with this too). At the May show, they’d mentioned that the material in the setlist was all from their debut record, which had been recorded but they were still waiting to find a label to release it on; hopefully there was someone in the crowd at Bloodstock to take on that responsibility, because I really need to hear this fucking album already. When it does, rest assured that I will review it here to make sure everyone listens to it, but until then, if you ever have the opportunity to see Kurokuma live, do not miss it.







Blazing hot sun and hangovers don’t go too well, but given it was just as hot in the campsite as it was in the arena, it was yet more incentive to seek out more live music after a morning of hair of the dog.

Divine Chaos 11:45-12:25, Ronnie James Dio Stage

Any questions that the band might get lost on the main stage soon evaporated; the band took to the stage and were quick to get the crowd, who were eager to oblige, to start moving and moshing. The guitar tandem of Matt Gilmour and Chris O’Toole shattered any hangovers and ensured that Divine Chaos owned the audience for the duration.





Meanwhile…


Severenth 12:40-13:30, New Blood Stage

Another band with a member struck down by Covid, Severenth pressed on without their vocalist, placing a picture of the stricken member on a broom adorned with a t-shirt in tribute. Their djent sound came across well enough in spite of the absent vocalist, and was generally an enjoyable beginning to the day. A shout out to the two guys who came on to do the vocals on the last song; evidently prepared at the eleventh hour, this performance involved the duo reading lyrics off their phones, but they still managed to deliver a strong stage presence and give the set an energetic conclusion.


Svalbard 11:45-12:25, Ronnie James Dio Stage

After catching glimpses of Divine Chaos and Deified that were insufficiently memorable for me to write about here, I made my way up to the front of the main stage for Svalbard, a band that I’d missed twice previously due to arriving late at gigs they had opened thanks to public transport. I was now seeing them for the first time having heard some of their studio music, with the release of When I Die, Will I Get Better? last year. The band’s gaze-y post-hardcore sound came across well live, with Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan trading lines throughout their entire set, and the uplifting guitar tones combining well with the fast punky drumming.


Insurgent 12:45-13:15, New Blood Stage

In need of shade, I headed to the New Blood Stage and decided to give Insurgent a listen. Given that I had zero idea what I was going in for, it would be unfair to judge the band too harshly as their… style isn’t something that interests me, but credit where credit is due, they sounded on point and those in attendance were in the palm of their hand.

Acid Reign 13:45-14:30, Ronnie James Dio Stage

Even with a set interrupted just as it got going one song in due to a faulty amp, Acid Reign put on a highly entertaining set. With vocalist H holding the crowd occupied with his on-stage antics, it was not long before the band were able to launch into their set proper and make up for lost time. With songs off of their latest album The Age Of Entitlement slotting in next the band’s hits, it was a set that showed the band still have plenty left in the tank.

Garganjua 14:20-15:00, Ronnie James Dio Stage

My first truly anticipated band of the day, I was very excited to see Garganjua in the wake of their excellent 2020 record Toward The Sun. This seems to have been their first live performance since that album was released if setlist.fm can be relied upon, and unsurprisingly it mainly featured music from that record. “Light Bearer”, my personal highlight from Toward The Sun, was a welcome inclusion in their set, its hypnotic aura coming across well live; the decision to end with the long and dainty “To Ascend (Awakening)” was a bold one, but the band’s lighter material sounded good too. Not my highlight of the day, but a solid set nonetheless.


Higher Power 14:55-15:40, Ronnie James Dio Stage

Unfortunately, the issue of poor communication reared its head here, and it was only as Higher Power walked onstage that many (including myself) found out that Loathe had cancelled their set. Unfortunately for Higher Power, this meant that the audience quickly melted away and were in the wrong mood for their hardcore offerings. With a muted crowd and a poor audio mix, the band struggled uphill and put in the effort but couldn’t overcome the stacked odds against them; a valiant effort, but my interest was only kept ticking over.

When I said Garganjua were my first anticipated band of the day, Loathe were my second, so Higher Power walking out on stage was already a disappointment, but then they started playing and I very quickly realized that they were not for me. Respect to the band for being able to perform on what was clearly very short notice, but I really couldn’t stand much of their nu metal sound and duly decided to try out the band playing on the New Blood Stage; I’m not entirely sure who it was (perhaps Beyond Salvation?), but without being particularly noteworthy, they made for far more enjoyable listening.


Shrapnel 16:25-17:05, Sophie Lancaster Stage

I was excited to finally get to hear the new line-up and new album of Shrapnel live for the first time, and it was a set that lived up to expectations. Aarran Tucker stepped into big shoes but showed that he is a great replacement for Jae Hadley, making easy work of classics like “Warhead” and “Riders Of Black”, while “Winds Of Slaughter” looks to be a live staple and highlight for years to come. Shrapnel were also beset by similar equipment issues as Acid Reign, but took the alternative route of playing sans bass for a few songs rather than take a break.

The Wildhearts 17:15-18:15, Ronnie James Dio Stage

The Wildhearts are a perfect ‘sunny afternoon with pint in hand’ band; their upbeat riff-driven rock goes down well and is built for singing along to. With Ginger on form, he led the group through a strong setlist that broke through the late afternoon strong gusts that muffled the band’s sound, with the early tandem of “I Wanna Go Where The People Go” and “Vanilla Radio” setting a high bar that the band stuck to throughout their set. The only downside to the band’s performance was the choice to end their set with new track “Love U ‘Til I Don’t”; ending a high-energy set with a slow song meant that the band walked off on a low note.

Elder Druid 18:00-18:30, New Blood Stage

After Beyond Salvation, I watched portions of Venom Prison and Raging Speedhorn’s sets, and may well have seen some of Shrapnel (but I have no memory of this if I did); the next main set I saw, however, was that of Elder Druid, whose Golgotha was my first review of 2020. Although a 5-piece, the Belfast stoner/sludge/doom outfit featured 6 people on the New Blood Stage, and those three guitars made plenty of noise. However, the star of Golgotha for me was Gregg McDowell, and his thunderous roars sounded equally emphatic live. There’s nothing particularly innovative about Elder Druid’s sound, but I found throughout this weekend that the stoner, sludge and doom bands were the most reliably enjoyable, and thirty minutes of music lying at the middle of that intersection played with conviction did the job very nicely.


Evile 18:40-19:25, Sophie Lancaster Stage

Returning to a hero’s welcome were one of the UK’s biggest hopefuls of the 2000’s and a leading light in the UK thrash revival; Evile had the audience in the palm of their hand before even hitting a note. Their first live performance since becoming an active band once more, Ol Drake took up singing duties with aplomb (sounding much better live than he did on Hell Unleashed). The set took in at least one song off of every record, which was a great touch, but mostly focused on Enter The Grave and the band’s latest work. One of the strongest sets of the weekend for sure.

Yep, as someone who was a thrash fan above all else when first getting into metal, I briefly delved deep into the revival thrash scene, and Evile were the one I paid most attention to back in those days. Omne and I had seen the band a decade earlier, back when Matt and Ol Drake were still both in the band; come 2021, and Matt is gone, with Ol taking on vocal duties. He did the job ably live, with a set that, as Omne mentioned, covered all of their records. As someone who only really cares about the first two albums, however, I was happy at the inclusion of three songs from Enter The Grave, particularly “We Who Are About To Die”. Overall, this was a really fun set and a nice blast of nostalgia from one of the few thrash bands I would still be excited to see in 2021.


Conan 20:00-21:00, Sophie Lancaster Stage

I did have a look at Skindred on the main stage, a staple of UK metal festivals who I’ve had fun seeing in the past, but I really wasn’t feeling it, so I decided instead to make sure I had booze and a good spot for Conan. Conan are evidently a band I need to revisit the discography of, because I really didn’t care for Revengeance, their only full-length that I’ve heard, when it first came out, but I’ve now seen them both supporting Electric Wizard and playing at this festival, and they have sounded absolutely mega both times, particularly here. A full hour of bare-chest, huge-sounding stoner doom was an absolute treat, with barely a hint of let-up throughout their entire set, which was my personal highlight of Friday.


Devin Townsend 21:10-22:40, Ronnie James Dio Stage

First off, full credit to Devin Townsend for his commitment to his fans, assembling a UK crew and band (as well as quarantining) in order to play this (and his Manchester warm-up) show. One of the main reasons I had kept hold of my ticket since 2019, Devin Townsend put on a show that paid back that decision many times over and proved to be the highlight of the weekend. Given the band had only 3 days to prepare, their talent shone through, with a few missed notes and an aborted “Stormbending” the only issues. With his voice fresh, Devin was on top form and showed little signs of rust, his personality shining through and making each song a spectacle of its own. The Strapping Young Lad material sat in well against Devin’s other work, but the true peak was “Spirits Will Collide”, with the band being joined on stage by a choir, an elephant and a gorilla on bass (I kid you not) for a song that pulled no punches and got the whole crowd singing along to a song that never felt so poignant.

Before anything else, I also want to extend my gratitude to Devin for taking such extreme efforts to be able to play this festival; it would have been entirely understandable had he pulled out, but it speaks a lot about his character that he committed to quarantining and putting together a UK crew for the show. As other bands pulled out due to Covid, I prayed internally that no issues would befall Devin, more for him than my own interest in this show, but thankfully a Ziltoid clip (one of several during the set) made it clear that Devin would be playing. Personally, I enjoyed the show, although not as much as some I've seen from Devin in the past, and after making an enforced pit stop to the loos, I was happy to enjoy it from a distance. Still, Devin was fully committed to this performance and hopefully earned himself more regular headline slots in the future for his passion and showmanship.

Afterwards, I did briefly visit the Sophie Lancaster Stage for Napalm Death, but for the second time (after Hellfest 2018), I found myself completely disengaged watching them, and gave up after a couple of songs in favour of some much-needed sleep.





Click here for Part II!






Written on 15.09.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 8   Visited by: 71 users
15.09.2021 - 22:51
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
I'm glad to hear such glowing reviews of Devin's performance. I never caught him on tour for Empath and now the album is 2.5 years old already, but "Spirits Will Collide" was one of the highlights for me and it seems like a great live song. And not that I blame anybody who had to pull out of the festival for one reason or another, but it does ring very true to Devin to go to that much effort to keep his appointment.

It was crazy to see just how much plans changed from one month to the next as all this was being planned; I do hope you (and I) get to see Mercyful Fate eventually, Matt, but it's also very cool to take the opportunity to showcase some lesser-known domestic bands for the sake of allowing the show to go on.

I respect the dedication and wherewithal it takes to weather five days of festival. Five hours on a Friday night is usually enough for me, even if I get to drive home and sleep in my own bed afterwards.
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I'm the Agent of Steel.
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16.09.2021 - 14:05
musclassia

Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 15.09.2021 at 22:51

It was crazy to see just how much plans changed from one month to the next as all this was being planned; I do hope you (and I) get to see Mercyful Fate eventually, Matt, but it's also very cool to take the opportunity to showcase some lesser-known domestic bands for the sake of allowing the show to go on.

I respect the dedication and wherewithal it takes to weather five days of festival. Five hours on a Friday night is usually enough for me, even if I get to drive home and sleep in my own bed afterwards.


Yeah it changed month by month, and even hour by hour in the end, quite the epic feat from the organizers putting it all in place! And yes, hopefully we will both get to see Mercyful Fate in the next year or two, but the best takeaway from this was how solid a standard they could have for a festival with 4 full days of music across multiple stages, assembled almost entirely from UK acts. There's a lot of depth in our scenes, that's for sure.

And I was feeling festival fatigue quite hard on the final day (Which will come across in part 2), but it's definitely a challenge managing so many days, mainly just with aching feet from being stood up all day again and again; once a year is usually good for me, gives me enough time to forget all that discomfort by the time the next one comes!
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17.09.2021 - 10:20
nikarg
Mod
I think it is amazing that the Bloodstock people managed to pull it off in the end and for the festival to happen. 5 days is kind of overkill but after so long without shows, I suppose it was worth the exhaustion.

It was a fun read guys, thanks. Going to listen to Kurokuma now, I am not aware of this band.
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17.09.2021 - 10:36
musclassia

Written by nikarg on 17.09.2021 at 10:20

Going to listen to Kurokuma now, I am not aware of this band.


Hope you enjoy - unfortunately, the music I've heard them play in both shows this year hasn't actually been released yet, I'm very impatient for that album to drop
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17.09.2021 - 19:36
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
So did you guys now are real life friends? Cool to read, short article about each band, best things written, only what is missing. A bit intro, arive, food, booze, weather, people and so on
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Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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18.09.2021 - 10:30
musclassia

Written by Bad English on 17.09.2021 at 19:36

So did you guys now are real life friends?


We knew each other before this site, I introduced OM to metal storm
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18.09.2021 - 10:42
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Written by musclassia on 18.09.2021 at 10:30

Written by Bad English on 17.09.2021 at 19:36

So did you guys now are real life friends?


We knew each other before this site, I introduced OM to metal storm

Good job man, he gave ms new touch whit old albums reviews. I enjoy it.
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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19.09.2021 - 21:38
dammage11

Devin's US tour got cancelled one week before it made its way to Denver. I hope he does another US tour like that one day, I feel like I missed out on an amazing experience
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