Words by James Halstead and Nicholas Holmes, photos by Tess Donohoe.
Following on from the two previous days of metal mayhem, capped off on Saturday night by black metal icons Emperor, the Bloodstock Open Air devotees roused their weary bones for one final very worthwhile assault on their senses. If you’d like to catch up with our coverage from the first two days of the festival then you can do so below:
First up, Arthemis (8) despite the early hour and horrendous weather meaning there’s relatively few punters present still put on an impassioned performance not letting the negative circumstances affect them too much. Their fairly by-the-books power metal providing a good kickstart to the last day of festivities.
Before S.O.P.H.I.E. Stage headliners Satan would close the event later on, devilish Londoners The Heretic Order (7) stirred up some devilry on a Sunday. Evil thrashy rock vibes were served up by the frightful foursome to an enthusiastic Jagermeister-fuelled crowd with fantastically named Lord Ragnar Wagner leading the Mercyful Fate and Sabbath-influenced hymns. Wicked fun.
Aborted (6) on the other hand just fall a bit flat today. It might be that their brutal brand of death metal is much better suited for the confines of the Sophie tent but todays performance is distinctly uninteresting.
Avatar (8) put in an impressive half hour of straight up riffs. True, they might have an enigmatic frontman who does an excellent job, remaining a constant figurehead but at their core Avatar are just a great metal band with a lot of very good guitar work and, that’s right, more riffs.
The ground had become rather boggy after heavy downpours earlier in the day but that didn’t phase Obituary (8). The band come from a US state with many swamps and often struck by hurricanes. But still it was bizarre and rather cool to see vocalist John Tardy’s immaculately white trainers. Well done, sir! It’s always a bit odd watching a brutal death metal band in bright daylight and there was a lack of atmosphere compared to a stinking sweat-drenched club. A stinking sweat-drenched field isn’t the same. However it’s always great to hear genre pioneers do their stuff and they previewed forthcoming album “Inked In Blood”. Inevitably the biggest moshes were saved for “Chopped In Half” from seminal 1990 LP “Cause of Death” and the title song from debut album “Slowly We Rot”, which closed the set. Sludgy.
Obituary’s John Tardy: Sludgetastic
Saxon (9) may have never hit the commercial heights of contemporaries Iron Maiden and Judas Priest but they were welcomed like returning heroes as Bloodstock veterans. The festival’s founder, Paul Gregory, designed album sleeves for Biff Byford and co. back in the day and he invited them to headline the first ever indoor event at Derby Assembly Rooms in 2001. Despite Biff saying they had hardly slept travelling from the continent overnight and the hangovers were still biting, the band played a storming set in the sunshine. More recent tunes including “Sacrifice” and “Battalions of Steel” were as enthusiastically received as classics “747 (Strangers In The Night)”, “Denim and Leather” and… “Wheels of Steel”, which are still packed with vitality more than thirty years after their release! There was a special treat at the end when Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine joined in for “Denim & Leather”. Utterly Glorious.
Saxon’s Biff Byford: Genuine living legend
Amon Amarth (9) put on a headline worthy performance with two huge, smoke breathing dragons dominating the stage. The arena is absolutely packed too with what seems like one of the biggest crowds of the festival drinking in the entire spectacle; something that Amarth provide plenty of – indeed how could you not with a bloody great smoking dragon or two alongside you. Then there’s the songs: ‘Cry of the Blackbirds’ and ‘Twilight of the Thunder Gods’ two particularly noteworthy highlights of a set that will surely see them return as headliners in the not too distant future.
Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg certainly trained his dragons well.
Every year when the big Sunday headliner is announced there are whines and belly-aches on forums and social media. Generally it turns out to be great and this year was no exception. Megadeth’s (9) main man has always been a controversial figure and is prone to opinion outbursts that piss some people off. This time Dave Mustaine was in a good mood, only speaking to repeatedly thank the audience and other pleasantries. The set opened with a magnificent seven of some of their best tracks including opener “Hangar 18”, “Wake Up Dead” and “In My Darkest Hour”, delivered with excellent musicianship. Rather appropriately with the storm warnings “Tornado of Souls” from 1990’s classic LP “Rust In Peace” also featured. With striking visuals behind the band on a large projection screen they then played a mix of songs from across their 30-year career including “Kingmaker” from most recent album “Super Collider” and “Public Enemy No.1” from its predecessor. Then it was back to the vintage with stomping “Symphony of Destruction” and “Peace Sells” closing the main set. They returned for a run through of Thin Lizzy tune “Cold Sweat” and “Holy Wars (The Punishment Due)”. Thankfully MegaDave managed not to say anything dubious before the latter. Maybe choosing Sid Vicious’ version of “My Way” to play as they left the stage was a cheeky two-fingered gesture to any doubters as Megadeth proved they have still got it in them to provide world beating performances of this caliber. A marvelous close to a mighty weekend.
MegaDave: could we finish this review any other way?