Bloodstock 2021: Part II
|Event:||Bloodstock Open Air 2021|
|Written by:||musclassia, omne metallum|
For Part I of this festival review, please look here. As before, contributions from omne metallum are left-aligned, and those from musclassia are right-aligned.
Table Of Contents
With the news that Sylosis had pulled out, my (and many others') Saturday felt a lot less exciting; as a result, I spent the majority of the day socialising in the campsite and making up for a year of not partying with friends.
Anyone who knows me will know how I took the news that Sylosis were unable to play, after Josh Middleton got ‘pinged’ by the Covid tracker app in use in the UK. In general, I wasn’t as interested by the remaining 2 days’ line-up, but as Omne mentioned, it gave an opportunity to chill in the camp site, and there were still other bands worth checking out on the weekend.
Borstal 10:45-11:15, Ronnie James Dio Stage
A good slice of hardcore is not to be passed up and Borstal provided in spades, and for a first ever show the group sounded tight and on point throughout, running through a set of hardcore out of the punk school of the genre. With tracks like “We Stand As One” and “Vicious Circles”, the band were not short on material that could get the early crowd moving.
Borstal were introduced as something of a supergroup; I’d never heard of them, nor recognized anyone on stage, and looking them up now the only name I recognize is drummer Nick Barker (Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir). Ultimately, for a first main stage band, they were a decent enough hardcore act; it’s nothing I would look up further, but they did the job.
Conjurer 11:50-12:30, Ronnie James Dio Stage
As I like to mention whenever the band comes up, Conjurer are from my hometown (guitarist/vocalist Brady Deeprose was a few years below me at school), and considering that Lavondyss were the benchmark for heavy music from Rugby when I was growing up, Conjurer have really upped the ante with their ferocious post-tinged sludge metal. I was worried that Josh Middleton’s issue would impact upon Conjurer, as bassist Conor Marshall is also in Sylosis, but both him and Ali Richardson in Bleed From Within (playing on Sunday) were in the clear. Such a relief, as Marshall is such a presence on stage - during the final song, he simultaneously windmill-headbanged and span on the spot whilst also doing loops of the middle of the stage, a trifecta of spinning that was followed by a foray into the mosh pit before crowdsurfing back to the stage at the end of the song. Stage antics aside, Conjurer were a juggernaut, crushing allcomers with their sound that ranges from slow, dense dirges to explosive aggression. I was shocked and somewhat disappointed that “Hollow” didn’t make the setlist, but overall it was a great show and probably the peak of Saturday.
A lot of hype and excitement surrounded Conjurer’s appearance at the festival, regularly being touted as one of the strongest bands in the UK underground at the moment. While the band’s sound isn’t exactly to my taste, I enjoyed their set and can understand the buzz the band have around them at the moment. Well worth seeing live if you have enjoyed what you have heard on record or are a fan of this type of music for sure.
Ascaris 12:45-13:15, New Blood Stage
With something of a void in the billing for the next few hours following the withdrawal of Sylosis, I wandered over to see Ascaris, a blackened death metal band. An onslaught of hyper-speed blast beats and harsh vocals offered some entertainment, and after a brief foray to the main stage revealed that Wargasm (not the old thrash band) was not working for me, I decided to stay until the end of Ascaris. As far as full-on extreme metal goes, they were probably one of the most satisfying bands on display this weekend.
King Goat 13:30-14:00, Sophie Lancaster Stage
I’ll be honest, I went to see King Goat purely because the name suggested that they would be a stoner or doom band, and those were working very nicely this weekend. Lo and behold, King Goat are a doom band (and looking at their Metal Storm profile now, I’ve already listened to their 2016 debut Conduit, although I have zero memory of it). Frontman Anthony Trimming was robed and hooded to add some spectacle to proceedings, but their music did a good enough job of making their set worth experiencing; classic doom isn’t generally my favourite sound, but it came across well here, and the progressive tendencies of King Goat also worked nicely.
Paradise Lost 16:35-17:35, Ronnie James Dio Stage
I somehow managed to drag myself to the arena for this; I like Paradise Lost and was excited about the prospect of hearing Draconian Times in full, but I was flagging hard at this point. While I enjoyed what I heard and found the band to be playing near enough perfectly, the band’s melancholic metal rubbed me up the wrong way and I left after “Shades Of God” to sleep off a day of drinking, a decision I now regret as the chances of me coming across another solid performance like this of the album are slim.
This was the second time I’d seen Paradise Lost, and following their show at Roadburn in 2016, it was the second time I’d seen them do a full-album set (they played Gothic back in 2016, an album I’ll get to see again should Damnation Festival go ahead in November after Paradise Lost were recently added to the bill as a replacement). To be honest, I feel like these classic shows are a bit wasted on me, and I imagine Nik is gutted he couldn’t be there to enjoy it more, but I would prefer some of their more recent stuff, if anything. Still, I’ve always liked the song “Enchantment”, and the record overall came across well live, with my state of intoxication at the time probably helping (although it also helped me to forget that Winterfylleth were playing straight after, as I completely forgot about them in favour of getting food). An hour of Paradise Lost is a very long time for me, but I just about made it through the set and generally liked it.
Cradle Of Filth 18:30-19:45, Ronnie James Dio Stage
I’m not particularly familiar with the music of Cradle Of Filth, but I do remember liking Hammer Of The Witches quite a lot, so thought I might as well give this a shot. To be honest, if they played anything from that album, it didn’t translate well, because I was very bored through their set. I’d heard that Dani Filth’s vocals weren’t that great live these days, and those rumors of his demise were not exaggerated, as parts of the set felt almost farcical. I tapped out well before the halfway mark of their set to check out the band on the New Blood Stage, who were putting on a much better display of symphonic-tinged black metal (although I’ve no idea who they were).
Kreator 21:00-22:30, Ronnie James Dio Stage
Feeling somewhat more human, I made sure I was witness to the return of Kreator and their first Bloodstock headlining performance. The band ran through a set that sprawled near enough their entire discography, with each song sounding as vital and powerful as the last. The band benefitted from the best live mix of the weekend, with everything being clear and balanced throughout the show. The only negative of the whole performance was that I felt that Mille held back vocally, putting in the minimum amount of effort as if he was coming to the end of a gruesome tour rather than off the back of an enforced year-long hiatus. This, however, did little to diminish the set, and tracks like “Hordes Of Chaos” and “Terrible Certainty” deserve to be closing out a day of a festival on a regular occurrence.
I can’t say I had much enthusiasm for this set, but my bandmate had told me that Kreator was his favourite band, so I joined him towards the front to see if I could be converted. Ultimately, I could see some of the appeal of the band, but I was never drawn in by the set, and 90 minutes is a long time to be crushed whilst listening to a show that you aren’t connecting with, so I don’t have particularly positive memories of their set. Still, I’ve got a lot of respect for Kreator for making the sacrifices to play a festival abroad in these current circumstances, and everyone nearby (who presumably were Kreator fans) seemed to be having a grand old time, so sounds like their first headlining show at Bloodstock was a successful one.
Alas, the final day of the festival was upon us far too soon, casting a pall on many attendees that bands worked hard to overcome. Determined to make the most of the last bit of live music I might be able to enjoy for who knows how long, I bounded into the arena early and spent much of my time there.
Seidrblot 10:30-11:00, Ronnie James Dio Stage
Nordic neofolk has long found appreciation within the metal fandom, so it wasn’t too surprising to find that the Nordic-sounding Seidrblot was a neofolk act. For an opening slot on the final day of a long festival, it was easy-listening to gently work one’s way into the real action. There was nothing surprising about their set; any expectations you might have of their sound after hearing them described as ‘Nordic neofolk’ are almost definitely bang on the money. Still, they pulled off the sound well and served as a nice backdrop to breakfast.
Wired 10:30-11:00, New Blood Stage
Kicking a second day off with a hardcore adrenaline boost to the system that knocked any lingering hangover away, Wired’s crossover-laden hardcore was a solid way to start the day. Managing to attract a sizeable crowd for the first band of the day, Wired got the audience moving throughout the set and left their mark on anyone who happened to be wandering by the tent.
Internal Conflict 11:00-11:30, Sophie Lancaster Stage
A band whose path I keep on crossing, Internal Conflict are a band who just don’t click for me, no matter how many attempts I give them. Playing a set heavily focused on their new release, the band struggled to get out of first gear for much of their set and played to a dwindling crowd by the end. A spirited performance and one not lacking in effort, but the band need to improve their setlist if they’re to kick on.
Bloodshot Dawn 11:30-12:00, Ronnie James Dio Stage
After the standout performance of Forlorn World on Thursday, I was even more hyped to see Bloodshot Dawn. Unfortunately, they were victim of an iffy mix that did dilute the impact of their more intricate parts, but the band were able to power through and still produce a strong set, one that should serve as evidence that Bloodshot Dawn should be higher up on festival bills in future.
Looks like Omne and I had very different starts to this day - neofolk versus hardcore! Our schedules first merged for Bloodshot Dawn; as someone who wouldn’t consider Forlorn World’s performance to be a standout, I wasn’t that hyped for Bloodshot Dawn, but they were the best option available. I agree that the sound mix left something to be desired, but otherwise it was a perfectly good set, if not one I ever got truly into.
Diamond Head 12:15-12:55, Ronnie James Dio Stage
A relaxing cold beer in the warm sun to some of the best NWOBHM is what I wanted, but Diamond Head were perhaps the biggest victims of sound issues throughout the entire weekend. The band were robbed of their guitars, which would fade in and out of audibility, such that much of the set was a drum and bass performance; this clearly unsettled the vocalist, who could not get into a groove, which only compounded the problems. I left early as it was leaving a bad taste in my mouth, but I don’t hold it against the band at all, given the hand that they were dealt.
Yeah, I didn’t enjoy this at all, the mix was pretty rubbish. Also, the positive reception to their new albums means that I can’t just rely on Lightning To The Nations material in their setlist. I never got into the experience and similarly left early to see the next band.
Son Of Boar 12:45-13:15, New Blood Stage
The sound issues with Diamond Head actually worked out in my favour somewhat. as it meant I could see Son Of Boar, who got the short end of a bad clash for me. I’m glad I managed to catch this performance because the band’s brand of stoner was just what I needed, a solid and captivating run through some strong tracks.
I also gave Son Of Boar a go rather than sticking with the Diamond disappointment. I’ve already mentioned how well stoner bands were working this weekend, and again the gruff stoner rock of these guys sounded good underneath the New Blood tent. Very much in the ‘hairy chest, dirty-sounding’ mould, it was easy head-nodding material for a half-hour.
Bleed From Within 13:15-14:00, Ronnie James Dio Stage
With one of the strongest albums of last year at their disposal, Bleed From Within had it all going for them. Thankfully, the main stage sound had been fixed and the band were able to make the most of it; with Provan’s bass being pushed high into the mix, the band had a booming sound that struck your chest like a cannon going off during the anthemic “Into Nothing”, with “Fracture” getting a solid reaction from the crowd before Bleed From Within finished with the song of the set, “The End Of All We Know”.
With one of the more okay albums of last year at their disposal, Bleed From Within had a bit going for them. I mainly checked out the band to see Ali Richardson get a chance to play despite the withdrawal of Sylosis, but ultimately enjoyed Bleed From Within’s set enough to stick around. Their position somewhere between metalcore and deathcore, bringing melodic hooks whilst still hitting hard with deathcore breakdowns, does give them a decent degree of crossover appeal, but I’m not sure they do either aspect to an especially high level.
This Is Endless 14:15-14:45, New Blood Stage
I had high hopes going into this set off the back of last year’s Formations Of A World Below and with the calibre of musicians at their disposal (this being a supergroup) I was expecting more than what I got. Much of the set melded into one and the band’s brutal death metal fell flat once the initial few blasts had hit and desensitized you. With the band taking the route of letting the music do the talking, it was a set that passed by with few highlights and little to remember when it was all over.
Orange Goblin 14:20-15:10, Ronnie James Dio Stage
If I was enjoying stoner and doom bands so much this weekend, surely Orange Goblin would be a highlight? Well, I’ve never really clicked with Orange Goblin as much as I would have liked, particularly with them being such an enduring band (25 years, as Ben Ward liked to point out), but whilst they’re not a stoner band I would put on at home, they were solid enough entertainment on this final Sunday afternoon, their boisterous desert rock not hampered by the sound issues that beset some other acts on the main stage on Sunday.
Green Lung 17:30-18:10, Sophie Lancaster Stage
A potent brew of doom, folk and stoner, Green Lung hit the late afternoon spot perfectly and got the tired crowd’s attention without demanding much in the way of a response beyond nodding along and soaking up the atmosphere. Featuring choice cuts like “The Ritual Tree” and “The Reaper’s Scythe”, the band kept the hits rolling and the audience hooked from start to end. Whereas I had only mild interest in the band before, I’m now eagerly awaiting their new album later in the year.
Somewhat akin to Orange Goblin, Green Lung are a band that I’ve not quite clicked with, even as I’ve enjoyed similarly-named bands such as Green Druid, Elder Druid, and probably Elder Lung if they exist. I also agree that this live show warmed me to them; vocalist Tom Templar was clearly hyped for the show, and the band’s enthusiasm made a positive impression just as much as their stoner doom sound did.
Saxon 18:30-19:45, Ronnie James Dio Stage
After being introduced to the stage by Brian Blessed, who appeared to be drunk, a montage video played outlining the history of the band about to grace the stage to celebrate 40 years of high-quality metal music. Kicking off with a high-octane version of “Motorcycle Man”, Saxon kicked into high gear and didn’t let up for the duration of their set, which ran through a mix of the standard hits (which still sound as powerful today as they did when I first heard them years ago) alongside a welcome mix of deeper cuts like “Dogs Of War” and “Solid Ball Of Rock”. Byford’s vocals appeared to have defied aging as he still sounds powerful and clear, while the rest of the band were tight and had a crystal-clear sound. While I have seen Saxon play the hits more times than I care to count, it is testament to the band’s quality that I was just as excited to hear the likes of “Denim And Leather” and “Wheels Of Steel” again as I was to hear the rarer cuts. Bonus points also given to the poor crew member who had to fast forward the lyric video on the big screen during “And They Played Rock And Roll” to keep up with the band on stage.
Judas Priest 20:45-22:45, Ronnie James Dio Stage
Celebrating fifty years as a band is an achievement only a few artists ever get to reach; to be able to reach that milestone and put on a great show is an even greater achievement and one that Judas Priest surpassed on Sunday night. The band tore through a setlist that was a fan’s dream; featuring tracks that had never been played before or had not been played in several years alongside the classics, Judas Priest made full use of their two-hour set. Being able to hear two classics from my favourite Priest album in “Exciter” and “Invader” spliced between the likes of “One Shot At Glory” and the first dusting off of “Rocka Rolla” since 1976 made this an event to behold. For a man of 72 years, Halford puts in more effort than people half his age; yes, he requires a teleprompter and some audio assistance here and there, but the strength of the songs and the energy he puts into his performance more than makes up for these small niggles. The appearance of Glenn Tipton for the final three songs was the icing on the cake, with the crowd nigh-on deafening each other roaring their appreciation for the man just turning up, let alone playing.
I have enjoyed both Saxon and Judas Priest quite a bit in the past; however, the more memorable performances of theirs that I’ve seen are now nearly a decade in the past, and whilst both bands were old then, they’re even older now, and it came across in the energy levels of Biff Byford in particular. Also, I’ve reached a point where, in addition to new NWOBHM-aping bands boring me to tears, even the older classics have lost some of their appeal. Add in a drizzly evening, stomach discomfort and general festival fatigue, and I barely made it halfway through either set before surrendering to boredom and returning to my tent, so I’ll let omne’s reviews give more favourable insight into their performances.
And with that, my weekend came to a close. To finally have live music back is something I’m still in disbelief at while writing this. Rolling with the blows both before and during the festival itself, all credit must go to the organisers, crew and bands who made this weekend happen. It may not have been the best festival anyone will ever have attended but it is probably the one that means the most to a lot of people.
My first experience of Bloodstock was a very positive one; I’ve always been tempted to go, but have usually been put off by a line-up slightly lacking in enough depth to convince me to make the journey. Ironically, the year where they struggled the most to build a line-up was the one that I went to, but you learn to be a lot more forgiving in these circumstances, and there were more than enough quality shows throughout the weekend to make it well worth it on the musical side; I particularly want to shout out Urne, Kurokuma, Conan and Conjurer for their excellent sets. Full kudos to everyone involved in making this festival happening, with flexibility required throughout the weekend in the face of last-minute line-up changes, and hopefully the ability of the festival to pull off a sold-out event will leave them in a healthy position for upcoming years. As for me, I was extremely fortunate to get to attend this event for free, and I feel like I made the most of it. If circumstances make it possible to attend next year, I will likely pay my own way to Bloodstock 2022, particularly following the rescheduled announcement of Mercyful Fate. Until then, cheers to Bloodstock!
||Written on 22.09.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not|
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