This ‘Bloodstock’ article was written by Matthew Hughes, a GIGsoup contributor

‘The weather was hot, the beer was cold and the music was blistering – Bloodstock was once again upon us. From Thursday until Sunday the fields of Derbyshire were filled with the unholy racket of rock and metal acts from all over the world, and of revellers losing their inhibitions to their favourite bands.

This particular instalment of the festival had attracted a fair amount of controversy due to its choice of headliners; Trivium, Within Temptation and Rob Zombie were all considered to be comparatively commercial choices by many metalheads when compared to alumni such as Emperor and King Diamond. Despite this, metal fans flocked there in their droves and the atmosphere was one of fun and revelry from beginning to end; those who found the main stage headliners to be lacklustre had excellent alternatives on the other stages such as Fleshgod Apocalypse and Delain.

Thursday’s highlights included Desecration, a three piece death metal band who won over the crowd with a crushing and dark performance that kicked off the weekend in fine fashion. Up next were Red Rum, a pirate metal band who recently toured with Alestorm. With a plethora of folk instruments being used as well as the usual metal band setup, their songs about drinking, questing and a brilliantly ridiculous cover of ‘They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard’ had the crowd jigging and moshing throughout. A great choice for Thursday night. To round the night off , the mighty Arnocorps took to the stage to deliver a set that was in equal parts heavy, fun and hilarious. Dressed in military gear, they delivered songs about ‘Austrian folk tales bastardised by Hollywood’, which (totally coincidentally of course), have the same subject matter as Arnold Schwarzenegger films. Covering the Predator and Terminator franchises amongst others, there were mosh pits throughout and the crowd were ecstatic. A ‘ballsy and heroic’ way to begin the weekend!

Opening main stage on Friday was thrash metal band Nuclear Assault- with high pitched and melodic screamed vocals and fast, aggressive riffing, their finely honed thrash was just what was needed to blow away the cobwebs. Bast, who followed on the Sophie Lancaster stage, were a total contrast- their crushingly slow, nasty and at times mournful doom metal was exquisitely atmospheric. NWOBHM band Armored Saint were next up on the main stage, featuring John Bush who had performed in Anthrax in the past. The twin guitar harmonies and theatrical vocals that are staples of the genre abounded, and they were an enjoyable addition to the lineup.

One man death metal band Foul Body Autopsy were next on the Jagermeister stage. Despite having a backing track and performing only guitar and vocals live, his brutally heavy yet melodic set received a rapturous response from the crowd. Highlights included the black metal influenced ‘Born Into a Man Made Hell’ and the groove-laden ‘Left to Rot’. Next up on the main stage was blackened death metal band Belphegor, with black-cloaked monks adorning the stage for their satanic rite. Unfortunately, the performance was lacklustre compared to their performance on the Sophie Lancaster stage two years ago, although hits ‘Lucifer Incestus’ and ‘Bondage Goat Zombie’ went down well with the crowd. Later, Overkill delivered a slice of pounding 80s thrash metal, the high pitched screams of vocalist Bobby Blitz proving particularly memorable.

Following on was heavy/power metal band Sabaton, whose epic tales of warfare brought a huge crowd to the main stage; this is a band that will likely be headlining the festival in the near future. Highlights such as ‘Ghost Division’ and ‘Screaming Eagles’ were punctuated by breathtaking pyrotechnics and shots from the gun of a tank that the band had brought on stage with them. Truly one of the highlights of the weekend. Female fronted symphonic rockers Delain closed the day on the Sophie Lancaster stage, with their catchy hit ‘We Are the Others’, inspired by the tragic death of Sophie Lancaster herself, proving a rallying call for those attending. A powerful ending to the day.

Saturday’s highlights included 1349, whose blistering black metal assault proved why they are such a prolific name in the scene at the moment. In previous years there have been complaints about the sound on main stage for black metal bands, but for 1349 everything could be heard clearly. Korpiklaani also provided an enjoyable performance, with songs such as ‘Vodka’ garnering a fantastic crowd response, as well as a huge conga line that made its way through the crowd and was joined by a multitude of people. Grindcore pioneers Napalm Death also provided a crushingly heavy set, with frontman Barney Greenway running around the stage like a man possessed during songs, and explaining the political message of the material in between them. The hilariously short ‘You Suffer’ and ‘Dead’ were also thrown into the set for good measure.

Dark Angel, who had reunited after a hiatus, provided a decent set of fast paced thrash, and Death to All provided a fantastic tribute to Chuck Schuldiner, with members of the iconic Death coming together to play material from their extensive catalogue. ‘Crystal Mountain’ in particular received a fantastic crowd response. Later on came Opeth, whose cold, progressive death metal songs with beautiful acoustic sections was at odds with the heatwave that had hit the festival. Vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt seemed slightly disinterested, but the performance itself was strong.

As night fell, Within Temptation took to the stage. A controversial choice for a main stage headliner, Sharon den Adel and co delivered a fun and heartfelt set of expertly crafted symphonic metal; definitely one of the highlights of the weekend despite extensive technical difficulties. Following them on the Sophie Lancaster Stage was the theatrical symphonic death metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse. Another highlight of the weekend, the band must have broken a world record for the number of walls of death during a single set, with highlights including ‘Epilogue’ and ‘The Forsaking’.

As the final day of Bloodstock dawned, progressive metal band Agalloch took to the main stage. This slot unfortunately didn’t work in their favour, as due to the fact that most of their songs are 10 minutes long or more, the band only managed to fit 4 tracks into their set, and the crowd was thin and suffering from hangovers. Despite this, openers ‘Limbs’ and ‘Falling Snow’ provided an icy blast of beautifully atmospheric metal that provided an excellent start to the day. Next up were Wolf, a NWOBHM band from Sweden who delivered a powerful and melodic set, with highlights such as ‘The Bite’. Unfortunately, the crowd seemed disinterested, possibly due to hangovers and tiredness, and the band didn’t seem to get the response that they deserved.

Later in the day came Sepultura, who seemed to receive the biggest crowd of any band playing Bloodstock over the weekend. Circle pits erupted left, right and centre as the band played a varied set, including their more thrash metal oriented earlier material and the groove metal of their later years. Hits such as ‘Roots, Bloody Roots’ received a rapturous response. Up next were Ensiferum, who unfortunately suffered from an atrocious mix; little aside from the bass drum was audible. Despite this, the band put on an enjoyable and energetic performance, with ‘Twilight Tavern’ and ‘From Afar’ causing mosh pits and jigging. Still, this was probably the biggest letdown of the festival as many of the band’s intricate keyboard and twin guitar melodies were rendered inaudible by a poor mix.

Up next was Cannibal Corpse, another highlight of the weekend, with their vitriolic death metal unleashing a tide of unadulterated fury that drove the crowd into a frenzy. Classics of the genre such as ‘Hammer Smashed Face’, ‘I Cum Blood’ and ‘Stripped, Raped and Strangled’ were highlights of their punishing set. Later on the Sophie Stage was Onslaught, a thrash metal band with satanic themes. Their set was uncompromisingly heavy, and the crowd adored it, pitting to their hearts’ content and thoroughly enjoying the final thrash metal band of the weekend.

Overall, a fantastic Bloodstock with a great atmosphere and high level of satisfaction from the punters. Here’s to next year!’

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LIVE MUSIC : Bloodstock Open Air – Walton on Trent (6th - 9th August 2015)

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