So... Bloodstock! Ive been going on and off to Bloodstock since day one - yes, 700 of us rammed into the Derby Assembly rooms to see Saxon and the last ever Skyclad gig. Its a festival that in a day rammed with shouty nonsense introduced me to Edguy and has given my other love, Hammerfall, a platform in the UK.
So you could say I've a long connection. Sadly in recent years in its outdoor festival form, Ive been on holiday and missed the recent mushrooming. I was therefore keen on the opportunity to see how, from a power Metal fans point of view, the festival had matured.
Since last time I went it was muddy as hell with mile long shower queues, this year I opted for the VIP treatment. I have to say it was well worth it, with fully flushing toilets and hot showers with minor queing well beating the alternative of a 20 quid each way taxi ride to the nearest Holiday Inn or Travelodge.
Arriving Thursday lunchtime to get a prime spot seemed to be the way forward, and with some queing Camp Oakley was set up. Another bonus of VIP - camping is two minutes walk from your car!
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After some customary vats of Jack Daniels with the locals, and reacquainting of old friends from various venues around the UK in the smashing VIP bar, with hundreds of real ales on tap the introductory bands on Thursday - including the rather tragic Bee Gees Metal tribute band were not really appreciated, however Friday morning heads will account for a good time had by all.
After searching for a cup of tea and bacon bap to vaguely resemble breakfast, Death Angel bought energy and life to introduce the first day proper. Although watching from a bench, having a nice sit down did age them somewhat.
The SOPHIE tent had many a gem this weekend, and started to whet the appetite with Xentrix demolishing the audience. With a very old school Metallica sound, surely the millionaire Bay Area thrashers need to take a leaf out of these guys book for entertainment. Riffs thunder through the tent and it doesn't get much heavier at this stage. The 80s film anthem Ghostbusters entertained us 80s kids, although whether it struck home to the new Screamo kids, who knows?
Accept bought their Teutonic terror in full force today and as special guests on the main stage, bought many a new crusader in to worship at their alter. 'Balls To The Wall' and 'Princess Of The Dawn' were highlights and our Metal hearts were lost in overload.
Some might say they'd rather see Udo Dirkschneider on vocals but Mark Tornillo hits all the right notes, in fine style and its a shame they couldn't have headlined! With Udo doing very well on his own on the festival circuit this year you just can't have enough German axe attack.
King Diamond's epic performance divided opinion. There was a hardcore fan following from as far afield as Bahrain that had travelled to see the falsetto screamer. The king put on a mixture of Merciful Fate numbers and his own back catalogue bringing a pseudo granny out, with an amazing stage set shaped like some odd haunted house.
Many of the hardcore raved about how briliant it was to see his show on UK shores but for many neutrals however, his high pitched vocals from his bone shaped microphone made the show rather inaccessible.
For your Saturday breakfast entertainment, having now sourced a rather lovely bacon butty from a farm shop style vendor, the mighty Beholder strutted the stage. Now, its fair to say that lead singer Simon Hall is one of the driving forces behind the new blood and Metal To The Masses competitions that bring many bands here to the Stock.
Beholder's presence is well deserved, even if the band is just humbled to be here among many friends. Its a little too early for those still suffering real ale hangovers but with new material to promote from 'The Order Of Chaos' and older from the the now classic 'The Awakening' album, big Simon growls us into conciousness in fine style.
On stage banter and humour, riled with political rant at society's ills is second nature and received well. 'March Of The Damned' was sadly missing despite many reported recreations of 'The Battle Of Thermopolae' in the campsites the night before!
If ever Satan is going to return to walk the earth, he's certainly going to be a Shakespearian actor that is camper than the tents in VIP. Hell came to Bloodstock with all intents to upstage everyone. With Pyro and Satan on stilts probably the most unforgettable image of Bloodstock 2013, they certainly did that, and loveable they were, although I'm sure there were more than a few tongues in cheeks. More power to them!
Powerquest, a brilliant power Metal band that I have failed to take notice of are calling it a day and playing their last gig today. Its a smorgasbord of talent here, with anthemic rythym, and I really must check out their back catalogue! Today, a career is celebrated, with past members all coming back to finish the project off in glorious style. They ain't arf bad, I can tell you!
Other highlights of Saturday were the mighty sonic power Metal tapestry that was Tobias Sammet's Avantasia. A musical sense of decorum and majesty, punctuated with guest slots from the Midlands own Bob Catley and others from Pretty Maids. The story of Avantasia calmed the beast.
The stars of the day were no doubt Last In Line with Viv Cambell, Jimmy Bain, Vinnie Appice and Andy Freeman filling in for the mighty Ronnie James. The SOPHIE stage throughout the weekend had proved to have a better sound than the main stage, perhaps down to the sound restrictions enforced by the locals. Every Dio hit you would want from 'Holy Diver', to 'Last In Line' and more was rolled out and played superbly by the band that surely were DIO. Freeman's vocals are well up for the task, indeed he later guests the next day on the Jagermeister stage with another Cambell from Motorhead in a very select, crowded set!
On Sunday, my day started with admiring the true Heavy Metal antics of the Battle of Nations Medieval knights tournament. In a field outside the Sophie stage, these Metal warriors in plate mail seemed to recreate a Medieval battle which owed more to rugby and British Bulldogs than fantasy, with England winning of course! As entertainment at least, that was popular and game for a laugh, as some joined DJs on stage for Manowar's 'Warriors Of The World' singalongs in the depths of the evening.
On to Metal of the musical variety; heading over to the New Blood stage, Reading's Metal to The Masses winners are hungry to rock. Black Emerald, who despite a really early start, held their own bringing teen aggressiveness and adding in thrash and traditional styles to keep the crowd happy. Certainly, they were ecstatic to have this opportunity!
As were London based new old Metal band Amulet, going for a stereotypical NWOBHM look with some passion and talent on show with a fusion of all those early styles. Lose the 70s stage clothes and silly moustaches though lads!
Checking out States Of Panic proved an unexpected pleasure. These pseudo punk pop glamsters rocked the Sophie tent with true sleaze and rock and roll. In the middle of their Live Free Or Die tour they are certainly picking up attention and show way too much energy for this time of the morning! A band to follow for the future as they make their way down the rock and roll highway.
On to the meatier entertainment and on the main stage Anthrax play a great mix of a set, paying tribute to Dio and Dimebag and giving joey Belladonna a chance to show off his vocal range that the thrashier set doesn't allow! We even got the Judge from the VIP bar on stage during 'Judge' and a massive war dance mosh pit for Injuns.
The band that will go down in history as saving this year's Bloodstock is however Wolfsbane, back in the Sophie tent. Blaze is in his element, being the cheeky chappy ludicrous frontman, putting on all the loveable Wolfsbane schtick that they were renowned for before a certain Mr Harris came calling.
From 'Cathy Wilsons Place' all hell has broken loose! 'I Like It Hot' gets those in from Anthrax in the mood and the tent finally erupts for 'Manhunt' ("manhunt, manhunt". Spotty 'erbert teenagers wonder aloud whether he'll do a Maiden number, but there is really no need.
Wolfsbane should have been huge; remember the campaigns for them to play Donington in the early 90s? Ol' Blaze seems far more at home and certainly more respected with his OTT save the world pantomime and it's hilariously brilliant. Stick to the howling mad shitheads mate, your true home! No one wants to see you playing Maiden numbers to two geeks and a dog!
So finally Slayer... who I'm afraid suffered from a poor quality sound. Had they turned up and were riff mighty and loud SLAYER in ten foot high bold capitals then it could have been more attention grabbing. However tonight Araya and the boys are soo quiet and it takes away from the whole enjoyment of it all. Maybe its down to the local major not wanting his evening Pimms in the garden ruined by loud riffage.
A festival of this stature really needs to be rounded off by fireworks, and for me Blaze and the 'Baney boys saved the day, the planet and indeed the whole festival for sure. Overall, a cracking weekend.
VIP camping very much worth the investment for that added comfort and a fully stocked real ale bar. I'd recommend to all! Not even the mighty Wacken could compete on this level.
I think though Bloodstock has perhaps reached its capacity in terms of growth. Not that you'd want it as busy as Download; the quality was there with something for everyone if you knew where to look.