bloodstock open air festival, catton hall. 13th august 2023

I woke up on Sunday with an overwhelming feeling of bittersweet, it was with a heavy heart that it was the final day of Bloodstock but on the other hand, I was exuberant that there were so much to look forward to at Catton Hall today.

As I entered the arena, I gained myself an excellent vantage point for something a little different, my first Main Stage band of the day were Uuhai, a unique blend of Mongolian Throat Singing, Long Song and Horse-Head Fiddle Music, this was going to be interesting to say the least. As the band emerged onto the stage and launched into their set it was well and truly a feast for the senses, visually it was captivating and audibly it was powerful, haunting and thought provoking. The drums gave it a solid backbone and the string work from different components across the whole stage gave it a chilling air of brutal and emotive power. The vocals were grandiose and eclectic, formidable and commanding, each word was propelled out into the midday air with passion and fortitude. This was a genre which was missing from my arsenal (apart from my one encounter with The Hu at Download earlier in the year) but this is now one that I need to go and research some more. One of my biggest finds of the festival for sure.

I stuck with the Main Stage for my next instalment and that fell to the American Metal Core bruisers, All Hail The Yeti, and boy did they come with some intentions. From the off they were pulverising and brutal, Garritty was authoritative and captivating, owning the stage as if he had been a resident for years and it was his own back yard. The strings from Vanderlinde were piercing and technical, melodic and delicate whilst still maintaining an air of violent callousness throughout. The set drew to an all too soon end and it was clear that they had poured every ounce of their souls onto the stage this afternoon and the recipients standing before them seemed appreciative beyond belief.

I marched my way over to the New Blood Stage next for Nameless, and they absolutely destroyed the tent. The crowd they drew was impressive given the early afternoon slot, and they absolutely pummelled the tent right through to its foundations. The crowd were boisterous in response to the show they were being given and the band seemed to soak it up and pay it back out ten fold. This is a band to keep an eye on for the future, surely they can only go from strength to strength on the back of that show?

Tribulation, and their fairly unique brand of goth-soaked death metal, emerged onto the Ronnie James Dio Stage to pretty much a ‘heroes’ welcome. ‘Harmatia’ and ‘Nightbound’ punctuated the set as personal favourites for me and the vocals from Andersson were haunting and chilling, mesmeric and anthemic of equal proportions. Even though the sun was out for the majority of the set the atmosphere the band managed to create with their riffs and melodies helped to polish the whole set with their trademark melancholic and evocative air. I’ve managed to catch this Swedish juggernaut on a few occasions in the live setting now and I may just have to chalk this one up as one of their best output to date.

Decapitated made it into my top five list of Death Metal bands when I first saw them in the 90’s at Bradford Rios and they haven’t slipped ever since. This being my 14th time seeing the Polish freight train and I was pumped, as was it seemed pretty much every other Bloodstock attendee as the field was absolutely rammed beyond words, and then boom, Rasta and the Decapitated machine hit the stage. Flailing his trademark dreads Rasta unleashed his savage vocals with ferocity and brutality, violence and out and out decadent hostility, Kieltyka traversed the fretboard and his six strings with obvious ease, culminating with the other Death Metal advocates so as to generate and unbridle hymns off mammoth proportions and magnitude. As the set progressed ‘Nine Steps’ was upon us, and was of blistering speed and gigantic heaviness, before the set closed out with an absolutely colossal ‘Iconoclast’, a true representation of the scale and enormity of the Decapitated anthems which have been scarred onto our very beings over the years. That was a true lesson in barbaric and ferocious Death Metal of the highest order, simply perfection personified.

I stayed rooted to my spot in order to be ready for some good old hard rock from the USA, it was time to put on your dancing boots, Ugly Kid Joe were in town. From the moment they opened their set with ‘That Aint Livin’ it was clear that they were bringing the fun factor, the stage was drenched with colour from their everchanging backdrops and their shirts which were bright as you like. The set progressed with sing along inducing anthems such as ‘Panhandlin’ Prince’ and the massive ‘Cats In The Cradle’. Andreas Kisser then joined them on stage for a huge ‘Ace Of Spades’ which sparked one of the biggest sing alongs and mosh pits of the weekend, before the set closed out with the absolutely colossal ‘Everything About You’. A fantastic set, and one which left everyone in high spirits and grins pretty much permanently planted across their faces.

Under a pale grey sky …. that’s right, up next was the mighty, legendary Brazilian Thrashers, none other than the iconic Sepultura. As the full force of ‘Isolation’ hit us like a sledgehammer we were awoken to the fact that we were going to need to strap ourselves in, brace ourselves, we were about to be hit full on and wrecked with a Thrash set with the unique Sepultura branding firmly scorched into the surface of it. As the set continued to grow with ‘Territory’, ‘Propaganda’ and ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ it was a pure masterclass, Derrick stalked the stage like a rabid T-Rex, barking and spitting out his vocals with absolute passion and pride. Andreas and Paulo Jr took up residence on each wing and thrashed their respective parted with unfaltering ease and the drums were battered into submission with an unassuming stint from the rear of the frontline. We then got the battering of ‘Refuse/Resist’, ‘Arise’ and ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ which all entwined around ‘Ratamahatta’, absolutely storming, top of their game and long overdue on the Bloodstock stage. Sepultura simply have to return, just don’t make it so long next time.

After the eleventh and the unfortunate cancellation of Helloween, Bloodstock somehow managed to draft in KK’s Priest  who helped reignite the anticipation for the Special guest slot and KK’s priest did not disappoint. KK downing was an absolute magician on the six strings and his charisma and flamboyancy was delightful and invigorating in equal measure, Ripper orchestrated the huge crowd with ease and soon had them singing the classics back at the stage. The set was crammed full of Priest classics, the likes of ‘The Ripper’, ‘Burn In Hell’ and of course the monumental anthem ‘Breaking The Law’. Classic Metal done without compromise, just a shame all good things have to come to an end.

After a slide from the Saturday night, Sophie Stage Headliner, Zeal & Ardor were upon us and with them they brought 75 minutes and their full stage production. Now, I have to admit to checking these out on the back of a solid reputation and I was not disappointed at all. From the off they were muscular, emotive, powerful and technically complex. The tent was absolutely rammed for them and with good reason, they were simply immense. The emotion flowing from the stage was inspired and the whole event just captivated from start to finish. To put it simply, I’m ashamed to say that I have overlooked these for far too long so I will definitely be in attendance when they grace our shores next time.

So, onto the headliner and onto Megadeth. The anticipation for these Thrash Uber Gods really was palpable and as the stage paraphanalia entered sight, the anticipation went up notch by notch until, as the witching hour struck, the atmosphere was electric. We were then graced with all manner of Vic Rattleheads across the huge video screens, charting every poignant moment in his life, and then we were hit with the classic, ‘Hangar 18’ and Mustaine et al then greeted Bloodstock. The noise generated from the crowd was impressive and loud, really loud. The set then went onto the deliver and deliver in style. ‘Sweating Bullets’, ‘Wake Up Dead’, ‘In My Darkest Hour’ were all colossal and majestic, ‘A Tout Le Monde’ induced a mass sing along from the crowd, who were in fine voice, and then ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ and ‘Peace Sells’ closed out the main set. We were then treated to two further anthems, ‘Mechanix’ and a massive ‘Holy Wars’ finished the proceedings. Megadeth never disappoint and this was another success that can be added to the tally, although if I had to have just one slight gripe, it would have to be that Daves vocals needed to have had a serious input of volume to be able to give the full thrash assault experience.

Bloodstock you have absolutely smashed it once again, and that is why my annual jaunt to Catton Hall makes it my favourite festival worldwide, hands down, period. Cheers.

Hope to see you again next year.

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