Live Review: Bloodstock Festival – Catton Hall, Walton-On-Trent 13.08.2022

Phil Pountney

What better way to start a Saturday than with a healthy slab of brutal Death Metal and today’s slab comes in the form of Danish batterers Baest. I was keen to catch these Danes again ever since I reviewed their last offering, ‘Necro Sapiens’, and today my wishes had been answered. Again, a healthy crowd had assembled considering the time of day it is, but they were duly rewarded as Simon Olsen and co launched onto the RJD stage. 

From the moment they served up ‘Genesis,’ the pit went absolutely mental, giving as much back to the band as they were giving to the dedicated crowd, swirling and pummelling beneath them. The set on this late morning slot was intense and bruising, Olsen’s vocals were technically on point and served with massive amounts of aggression and brutality, backed up with crunching bass lines and intricate and mesmerising six string work. The band managed to cover every inch of the mammoth Bloodstock stage and made it look relatively effortless, passion seeming to drive them to every inch of the territory and done with a massive sense of ‘loving every minute of their time’ with the Midlands crowd under the unrelenting blistering sun.

Next up was the Finnish Thrashers turned Metalcore crew, Lost Society, and one id been looking forward to as the festival progressed. As they burst onto the stage the charisma was overflowing, Elbanna the ever compelling and alluring frontman, darted all over the stage as if his life depended on it, interacting with the crowd at every possibility, spending much of his time at the front of the stage to try and get as close to his ‘friends’ as possible. Lesonens fretboard teamed with Elbannas perfectly in order to generate a harmonious punchy melodic assault whilst the thicker strings of Lehtinen anchored the whole set in order to stop it virtually lifting off into the clear blue sky. As we came to expect, the set was brief but the energy more than made up for it and with the band leaning more towards their latter Metalcore body rather than their Thrashier roots it perhaps took some of the assembled crowd by surprise, but from my vantage point, this wasn’t a bad thing, especially when you have tunes like ‘Blood On Your Hands’, ‘Riot’ and ‘Stitches’ to corroborate your new standing in society. 

My first trip to the Sophie Stage for today and I found myself hot footing it over to the tent for Cage Fight, a labelled hardcore and thrash crossover, right up my street. The tent had a healthy attendance in situ and as the band presented themselves in front of the sweaty congregation it was obvious for all to see why they had amassed such an impressive get together. The vocals were crisp and brutal from start to finish and the musical score sitting behind the lyrics was technical and pummelling in equal measures. A true success story and one that should leave people hungry for more of Cage Fight 

Now with the Saturday RJD lineup being very ‘Core’ heavy it was no surprise that my next main stage band were of a Deathcore nature, namely in the shape of American Deathcore maestros Lorna Shore and their brutal execution of the genre. Another Core band and another charismatic lead singer, this time in the guise of Will Ramos who can not be accused of lacking effort and commitment. From the moment Lorna Shore made the RJD stage their own they made sure that anyone remotely in the vicinity was aware that they were here, in these fields, with every intention to make you sit up and take note of the devastation being applied to the main stage and the surrounding areas. With the brief set being comprised of material from the latter end of the Lorna discography, they played very much to their current strengths and this made for a very successful set, one which left many battered and broken and truly in the best sense of the words. Sure, the genre may not be for everyone but I’m sure that those who stuck around to give it a go were very happy that they did. 

My next main stage band doesn’t need any introduction at all as they are simply becoming a household name in many a metal household across the globe, the completely brutal and captivating Jinjer. The crowd for the Ukrainians was absolutely monstrous and came complete with a sea of blue beach balls and Ukrainian flags, all held aloft to make for one truly impressive sight. Shmayluk owned the stage from the moment they hit the ground running and she orchestrated every moment with ease and splendour from the off. ‘On The Top’ was a personal highlight out of the set for me, the guitars were simply sublime throughout and only added to the alluring beauty of the brutality being served up by these Ukrainians. The set was fierce from the off and only seemed to encourage wave after wave of crowd surfers, each one coming over the top with gusto and fire, each with a grin on their face which only led to the conclusion that the crowd were loving the Jinjer set just as much as the band themselves seemed to be.

Unfortunately, due to a horrible clash, I had to leave the RJD stage before the end of Jinjer so that I could catch the mighty Industrial Black Metallers Samael. As I approached the tent it was obvious that the popularity of Jinjer had some effect as the crowd was significantly less than I had expected, oh well, their loss I suppose. The house lights dimmed, and the Swiss industrialists burst out and launched into the absolutely colossal ‘Black Trip’. The vocals from Vorph were absolutely ferocious and intense. The drums from Xy were maiming and completely on point, merciless and unrepenting, backed up with perfection from the accompanying fretboards. The set continued without mercy and treated us to absolutely crushing versions of ‘Samael’, ‘Son Of Earth’ and a titanic ‘Into The Pentagram’. Take a bow Samael, you may have just served up the set of the weekend thus far. Simply perfect

Last time I caught Bury Tomorrow it was in the fields of Donington Park in June and they were outstanding then, so I had grand expectations for the Winter-Bates brothers et al today. Fast forward 2 months and they did not disappoint. Bury Tomorrow have it all and have honed their stagecraft so that it is highly polished and fiercely decadent. Daniel prowled and stalked around the stage, throwing in rock poses with attitude and charm whilst not letting the energy and work rate falter one iota. The set was built around a good cross section of the band’s back catalogue and it was all delivered with venom and vigour. As the set built the band seemed to grow into their surroundings, becoming more brutal and passionate with each track that they served up to the huge crowd that they had drawn. The clean vocals from Winter-Bates were perfect and crystal in their composition and the structure which was built around his guttural efforts was complex and polished beyond comprehension. 

As we turned our backs on the Core side of the lineup and strode into the black arts, up next were the Norwegian masters of Symphonic Black Metal, Dimmu Borgir. The stage was adorned with a massive backdrop and each wing was also decorated with smaller drops. Boom, we were pulled into the Nordic Black Metal world with the absolutely grand and theatrical ‘Dimmu Borgir’, Shagrath positioned centre stage and flanked by Silenoz and Galder wielding their axes as if fending off wild wolverines and hounds of hell. ‘Dimmu Borgir’ was followed by ‘Gateways’ and an absolutely mesmerising ‘Puritania’. The set continued in the same perfect vain, heavy as hell, intricate and faultless, a true lesson in how sophisticated, complex black metal can be refined and powerful with visible ease. Signing off from their set with an absolutely fierce ‘Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse’ and then a truly anthemic, obliterating ‘Mourning Palace’, we had just been dealt a lesson in true Black Metal. Thank you, and until next time, Skal gentleman, Skal  

On to the headliners for the day, and a band that needs no introduction, King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. The stage was concealed from view while it was transformed into the satanic world with just a Mercyful Fate logo emblazoned on the huge white curtain, but as the curtain dropped and we were welcomed into the king’s world it was a stage show of awe and wonder. Steps led towards the back of the stage and up to a lit-up pentagram and huge inverted cross and the king then appeared complete with goat mask. The vocals from diamond were perfect, crisp, clear and carrying the impressive pitch level that has become the signature sound of Diamond which he has obviously perfected over the years. The set was packed with classics and fan favourites, ‘A Corpse Without A Soul’, ‘Curse Of The Pharaohs’, ‘Black Funeral’ and signing off with ‘Satans Fall’. Another accomplished set from Mercyful Fate’ to a loud and appreciative crowd and one which will have left many a bloodstocker leaving into the night an incredibly happy soul indeed.

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