So, with the heatwave well and truly entrenched I made my way to the arena for the first full Bloodstock day and my first main stage band of the weekend, Heart of a coward.
As I stood in the pit awaiting their arrival, I looked around and their seemed to be a lot of like-minded people as a fairly large crowd had amassed for these metalcore stalwarts and then, BAM, we were hit as if a grenade had just gone off as the band hit the stage running. Again, a fairly brief set which is understandable for a slot so early in the day, but it was well used and included material from across four Heart of a Coward albums, with more weight being given to ‘The Disconnect’ and ‘Deliverance’ than the other two albums being represented.
The energy from Tasan et al was impressive and the circle pits didn’t seem to get the memo re how early in the day it was. They were barbaric and energetic from the start of the set right through to the closing bars of ‘Deadweight’, each member of the band poured their heart and soul into the set which only added to the passion and power which was delivered to the crowd stood before the mammoth bloodstock stage, each member of the crowd lapping it up with hunger and desire a plenty. As the band turned and bowed out with success and victory, this had been one wake up call like no other, a resounding triumph and one the Milton Keynes heavyweights can definitely be proud of.
After a short intermission I was back at the main stage to catch the epic doom trade of Sorcerer and we were met with a huge flag being held aloft the mighty figure of Engberg and then they launched headfirst into the set. Opening with ‘Persecution’ and then throwing in big hitters, ‘Sirens’ and ‘Abandoned By The Gods,’ the set was a joy from start to finish. With a career spanning over 30 years it would always be a tough ask to fit the Sorcerer life into a mere 40 minutes but they ensured that we were treated to 40 minutes of energy and precision, the crunchy and behemothic doom ridden beats and chords overflowed from the stage, melody infused prog and classic metal riffs battered your senses, all of which felt as fresh and relevant as they did 30 years ago. Having been witness to this set it’s hard to believe how this is the first-time Sorcerer have ever played these English shores and if you missed them this time round, you definitely need to be sure to catch them next time they are in town.
Mid-afternoon on a Friday and what more could you ask for than some crushing metal, direct from Delhi, courtesy of Bloodywood and wow, did they mean business. From the moment they appeared in the blistering sun to the moment they bowed out and bid us a fond farewell they were enigmatic and powerful in equal measures. They showcased, and for many of us introduced us to our first meeting with, many an Indian folk instrument such as the dhol, the tumbl and the melancholic flute, each used with devastating effect and naturally sitting alongside more familiar guitars and drums with ease as if regular brothers in arms. The power these guys generated was mesmerising and impressive, each component being delivered with true dedication, authority and muscle and conjuring up a true party atmosphere, but one with true grit and determination. These are definitely one to add to the ‘discoveries’ for me and one I will be checking out next time they decide to tour our towns and cities.
Now, there has been vast amounts of speculation since the festival announced that there would be a much-respected international act treating us to a special secret set over on the Sophie stage on the Friday afternoon. Various names were thrown into the hat, but it was only really confirmed when about an hour before the slot time a specific shirt appeared on the mech stand announcing that the secret set was being delivered by none other than the thrash uber gods Machine Head. As the clock struck 14.45 and Robb et al appeared to a frenzied, overflowing rabid crowd, all hell simply broke out. Playing as a three-piece, missing guitarist Kieltyka, they absolutely battered the sardines that were crammed into the tent which only seemed to turn up the temperature even higher. was it worth it? god damn, you better believe it was worth it.
Opening with ‘Become The Firestorm’ which, along with ‘Choke On The Ashes Of Your Hate,’ was the first time they had been aired in the live setting and both were simply stunning. Another first for the band was a run through of the Roadrunner United track, ‘The Dagger,’ which again was the first-time Machine Head had delivered it to a live crowd and was absolutely flawless in its liberation. We then came onto the other big hitters, ‘Imperium,’ ‘Aesthetics Of Hate,’ ‘I Am Hell’ and ‘Halo,’ each getting an absolutely crazy response from the lucky few who were able to say that they were in the tent for this dream come true. My personal highlight though, and controversially for many I’m sure, the airing of ‘From This Day’, which Flynn et al absolutely battered into submission. One question, and possibly one on the lips of many a person on the day, where was the ‘Burn My Eyes’ representation? Could we have not got a cheeky ‘A Thousand Lies,’ ‘Old’ or the mighty ‘Davidian’? not that I’m moaning, I really felt so privileged to have been able to steal a spot in front of that stage for that infamous hour. Cheers
The only negative anyone could possibly have taken away from that mammoth Machine Head party was that Doyle, over on the main stage, was left with a relatively small crowd. Given how much of a legend he is, leaving just a small number of devoted enthusiasts to join the Misfits legend in the glorious august sunshine could have been seen as criminal, a bad clash indeed, and one that I’m gutted left me without the chance to catch the icon and his annihilator axe in full flowing action.
Cover up, don those ponchos, and get ready to dodge for your life, up next on the main stage was the Scum Dogs Of The Universe, the absolute legends GWAR and their infamous stage show. From start to finish, a sense of fun was instilled in the set, delivered with merriment and amusement, oversized characters entered the fray at poignant moments, each inevitably coming to an unfortunate ending but not before being mutilated in one way or another and then spraying the crowd with vast amounts of ‘blood’ and ‘bodily fluids.’ The theatrics shouldn’t detract from the competent abilities of the actual band. The vocals were powerful and dominant, weighty, and formidable. The strings, both bass and six strings, were potent and crushing only giving way to allow the drums to stamp their supremacy on the proceedings. ‘El Presidente’ probably got the biggest cheer of the set, partly down to the appearance of a controversial character appearing on stage and being the deliverer of yet another ‘shower’ for the willing crowd stood before it. Whether you managed to stay dry or lapped up the opportunity for a refreshing ‘shower’ in the blistering heat, either way I’m pretty sure that everyone who was witness to the GWAR chaos today loved every minute of the smile inducing party which they had just been witness to.
As we were approaching the business end of the Friday line up, next up on the main stage were the thrash legends Exodus. Now 43 years into their life cycle, these prodigies are a significant force of the current thrash movement, and their reign doesn’t seem to be faltering or wavering in any way at all, if anything they are only growing stronger and stronger as each tour passes. Holt et al brought out the classics and pummelled us with them from start to finish, ‘A Lesson In Violence,’ ‘Blood In, Blood Out,’ ‘Bonded By Blood,’ ‘The Toxic Waltz’ and ‘Strike Of The Beast’ were all monstrous and colossal in their deliverance. Holt was an absolute beast on the stage left wing and the whole package was sewn together by Steve Souza who was a masterful conductor of both band and pit. Hunting was a monster on the kit at the back of the stage, pummelling and striking with so much passion and pride, generating a backbone of seismic proportions, while Altus worked in unison with Holt to generate a hypnotising and magnetic show on the six strings. The amount of circle pits and general mosh pits for the entirety of the exodus set was crazy and impressive in equal proportions, the whole crowd (and a huge one at that) seemed to lap up everything thrown down from the stage with a hunger and desire reminiscent of that of a pack of hyenas who haven’t had a kill for weeks.
What better way to follow up a resounding successful thrash attack on the main stage than to follow it with another huge thrash band and this time it fell to Testament to keep the momentum and pits going and do it they certainly did. With a huge backdrop in place and the house music fading away, the thrash gods appeared. The Chief, Chuck Billy was his usual commanding self, stalking the stage as if hunting out his next victim, barking out the vocals with authority and venom, being suitably backed up by Peterson and Skolnick on the fretboards, generating sublime and intricate riffs and solos which flood the Catton Hall atmosphere with pride and sophistication. The muscle came in the form of Di Giorgio on the bass, an absolute monster of the crunching bass line and true powerhouse, creating stability and solidity on which the speed anthems were hung from. The master of any kit he pounds and decimates is Lombardo, a true mastermind of the percussion fraction and hypnotising force behind his kit. The set was laced with classics amidst the newer tracks, but it was a thrashers delight when they treated us to the likes of ‘The New Order’, ‘Practice What You Preach’, ‘First Strike Is Deadly’, ‘Over The Wall’, ‘Into The Pit’ and the absolutely crushing, feel good, ‘Alone In The Dark’. A sincere thank you from one and all.
So, with the temperature dipping slightly to a more manageable level and dusk on the horizon, the curtain which had adorned the front of the main stage suddenly dropped to unveil an elaborate stage construction and the black metal demigods, Behemoth. Complete with intricate Mike stands and the infamous Behemoth inverted crosses, and then all hell broke loose. Nergal looked as menacing as ever, spitting out the vocals with true hatred and spite. The stage got lit up with copious amounts of flame and fire, enough to make even guy Fawkes envious, each flame danced to the satanic and malevolent beat being conjured up by the Polish black metal warlords. ‘Wolves Ov Siberia’ was truly dark and intimidating, ‘Christians To The Lions’ was perfection personified, dark and sinister beyond belief and ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ was a modern-day black metal hymn, executed with precision and flair. What a way to close the day on the main stage, simply sublime.
After a short walk over to the Sophie Stage in time to catch the headliners Sleep Token, the lights dimmed and a solitary figure entered the stage and made their way to the strategically placed keyboard before they launched into a chilling ‘Atlantic’, showcasing just they keys and the hypnotic voice from the mysterious masked figure and gaining the attention of everyone stood before them, a beautiful rendition, truly note perfect. The rest of the band then joined the figure and they launched into the rest of their set. The vocals were powerful and energetic, backed up by 3 shrouded figures in the background, adding atmosphere and mystery to an already cryptic and enigmatic spectacle. A healthy crowd had gathered for this set, and it was a triumph, even gaining a few new fans from those who were not already familiar with the anonymous collective.
A fantastic day, and to think we still have two full days of metal to come, will we ever survive it? I wasn’t sure but I was going to give it a bloody good go ……….