Live Review: Bloodstock Festival – Catton Hall, Walton-On-Trent 14.08.2022

Phil Pountney

As the news broke overnight that due to the unfortunate illness of a member of Life Of Agony, the main stage had had a slight change in proceedings, Skarlett Riot had been plucked from the Sophie Stage lineup and were now opening the Main Stage, wow, kudos to Bloodstock for allowing one of the ‘smaller’ bands to ply their trade on the huge RJD stage and this was one that I was not going to miss. 

Ensuring that I had arrived with time to spare, I made my way to the main stage and was impressed with the size of the backdrop hanging freely in the centre of the stage, emblazoned with the Skarlett Riot logo for all to see. The clock then struck 10.45 and outburst British hard rockers, Skarlett Riot, to a fairly decent size crowd. As the band progressed through opener ‘Breaking The Habit’ it was obvious for all to see that they were grasping this opportunity with both hands and making sure everyone who had a glimpse of their efforts today were impressed to one degree or another. As the band progressed through the set, they grew more and more into it and by the time closer ‘Human’ rung out, they pretty much had the bloodstock crowd eating out of their hand and rocking just as much as the four-piece on stage was.

Next up on the main stage was Vended, all the way from the U.S and these boys are currently on a mission to deliver their wares to the whole of the goddamn universe. Taylor erupted onto the stage like a man possessed and that’s how he pretty much stayed for the whole set. Root, Pugh and Espeland pretty much backed up every single one of Taylor’s actions with the same maniacal efforts while seeming to beat their instruments into submission with some barbaric battering and pummelling whilst maintaining a level of intricacy and sophistication. Crahan on the drums was like a whirlwind from start to finish, thrashing and mauling his kit as if it had wronged him in some form or another although nothing could be further from the truth, the kit did him well and allowed him to deliver a hammering shift on the skins from start to finish. There was an obvious elephant in the room and I’m not going to bang on and on about the resemblances and the similarities with said elephant, although I do just want to say that while Vended are becoming their own monster in their own rights, there are some slight parallels (such as the mask on Pugh, the way Pugh cradles his bass, the unrelenting battering that Crahan gives his drumkit and probably most obvious is the way Taylor holds himself, directs the crowd and even his vocal sound), but then I guess if you have spent your formative years living alongside two of the greatest metalheads ever to have come out of Iowa then some of this will have surely rubbed off onto your subconscious. That being said, the set from Vended was immense and we could just be looking at the next uber metal band of the future.

I decided to stay with the main stage and the Butcher Babies, and I was not disappointed. Heidi and Carla appeared and grasped the set by the throat, not relinquishing their grasp until the closing bars rung out across Catton Hall. Flurry, Bonazza and Brickenden helped to steer the brutal ship on the right course, and this allowed Heidi and Carla to flourish at the helm, building with momentum and passion as the set progressed, both of them crisscrossing the stage and interacting with the crowd as if they were the main stage headliners. Truly remarkable and a clear success story on this Sunday lunchtime. 

Never played on UK Soil, Never !! Now that’s a reason to stick around and catch the thrash legends that are Vio-lence. As the set time drew ever nearer, the excitement and anticipation was palpable and then all hell broke loose. As the band hit the stage it was a true who’s who of the thrash world, Phil Demmel on Guitar shredded on the right wing as if his life depended on it, Christian Olde Wolbers anchored the whole party down on the chunkier strings and Killian was a rabid beast on the vocal duties. The majority of the set came from the band’s first full-length spawn, ‘Eternal Nightmare,’ and the remaining three songs were from their second opus, ‘Oppressing The Masses’ and their latest EP ‘Let The World Burn.’ As the set progressed it seemed to generate more and more energy with which the crowd used to become more maniacal and delirious, pit after pit and surfer after surfer, the security certainly earned their money during the bay area thrasher’s introduction to the UK soil. 

The last time I was carved open to the deranged world of Noctem was at the Incineration fest in London earlier in the year and I was blown away so these had the potential to create a set that would go down in history. Having been in filthy existence for just over two decades, Beleth et al have honed their arts to a dirty raw and mesmerising art and this was certainly the case on the Sophie Stage today. As the band appeared and launched into the set it was obvious that they were here to worship Lucifer and drag us all into the ritual with them. Moss and Tobal were enthralling and captivating on the guitars with Varu making a statement with the muscle and brawn on the Bass duties. Voor pounded the skins with compelling ferocity and aggression while Beleth was a man possessed, stalking, and hunting as if a soldier of Beelzebub, a warrior of the Satanic army. Each vocal spat out was vile and repulsive, but this was truly endearing and alluring, drawing us in with each song that was delivered to us with satanic and demonic intent. I simply can’t wait to catch the Spaniards next time they visit some dirty hovel somewhere and hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

‘Black Metal’ in full you say, ‘Black Metal,’ yes, please. As you can probably tell, next on the RJD was the Venom Inc and they were treating us to a full run through from start to finish of the infamous album ‘Black Metal.’ Dolan and Dunne looked like two kids in a candy store yet pummelled our eardrums as if they were possessed by Satan himself. The sound was crystal and battering and the vocals from Dolan were impressive and sounded as fresh as the day they released their first offspring. Glance towards the back of the stage and you could see the unmistakable figure of none other than Nick Barker, ripping it up and lashing the drum kit as if he was eighteen again and eager to prove his worth. The legend obviously doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone as he is a true master of his class, it was just good to see him assaulting a kit in a way only he knows best. As the band signed off with ‘At War With Satan,’ it had been good to be reminded of where it had all started and how the black arts had been conceived, certainly true legends in their own rights.

Cattle Decapitation then hit the main stage with overflowing aggression and hostility, delivering an onslaught of death & Grindcore which was brutal and offensive with every beat being churned out from the main stage speaker stacks, Travis Ryan was front and central when it came to the ambush on your senses, spitting and growling every word with callous intent. The whole band helped steam role the Cattle vehicle through the set, taking no prisoners with each beat, chord and word that was so savagely delivered to the raucous crowd below them. To say Ryan stalked the stage would be a huge understatement and one that is unjust considering the energy with which he, and in fact, the whole band, poured into the set today. Brutality will prevail and it certainly did on the main stage at Bloodstock today. 

When it comes to Black metal royalty, front and centre has to be the Swedish master’s Dark Funeral. On the verge of celebrating their 30th anniversary, these black arts prodigies seem to go from strength to strength, growing with each show they conquer, and Bloodstock was no different. ‘Unchain My Soul’ saw the band tear open the Bloodstock soul and rip out the still beating heart. It was a true lesson in perfection and masterful complexity. Performing in front of a massive backdrop decorated with the Dark Funeral logo, Heljarmadr was a conductor to the black orchestra stood beside and behind him. Founding member Lord Ahriman was a beast on his axe, annihilating every guitar segment with ease and perfection, the intricacies were sublime and gripping, the only distraction being the perfection of Chaq Moi and Adra-Melek on the other fretboards, equally as hypnotising and absorbing. As the set progressed with the likes of ‘The Arrival Of Satans Empire,’ ‘The Secrets Of The Black Arts’ and the colossal ‘Nail Them To The Cross,’ we were being served up a lesson in power and dominance of the black world.

Over to the Sophie stage for the last band on the second stage for me for the weekend and that accolade fell to Austrian blackened masters of their craft, Belphegor. The stage was adorned with all manner of props and backdrops, skulls and a depraved air met the assembled whore and then Belphegor appeared and started the crusade to drag each and every soul within the confines of the tent down to hell with them. ‘Baphomet’ commenced the ritual and was closely followed by a truly sadistic and vile ‘The Devils Son.’ As the band worked through the set list, flames and pyros were ignited in order to create even more of a ritualistic appearance to this event. The band continued with the likes of ‘Conjuring The Dead’ and ‘Lucifer Incestus’ and the crowd were treated to a true lesson in diabolical and fiendish blackened death metal. A true Ritual with perfect work from these depraved blackened artists. 

It then fell to Lamb Of God to close proceedings on the main stage and the bloodstock party for yet another year. As has become obligatory for the RJD headliners this year, a huge curtain stood between the crowd and the stage set up until the moment came for the huge bloodstock crowd to take a walk in hell and then the curtain dropped. The stage was fairly minimalistic in its set-up, that is until all hell broke loose with the copious amounts of fire and flames which randy et al had brought with them. 

Randy was his true energetic self, jumping and leaping from anything he could get purchased on and while he wasn’t diving and leaping, he was stalking the stage with every ounce of energy he could muster. Campbell was his usual solid self, a true warrior with bass in hand, generating colossal backbones on which the meat of the tracks could build substance. Stage right saw a familiar face, yet not of a Lamb Of God guise, it was that of Phil Demmel who has joined the ranks for some of the live shows and he looked natural, if you didn’t know you wouldn’t have said he was a newcomer to the Lamb of God live ensemble. We were treated to an absolutely mammoth ‘Ruin’ and an impressive ‘Walk With Me In Hell.’ The set had all the makings of a classic signing off with the fan favourite and Lamb of God anthem ‘Redneck.’

A perfect way for a perfect headliner to sign off with a perfect set at a perfect festival.

Until next year, Thankyou so much Bloodstock, a sincerely massive thank you.

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