Words by James Halstead and Nick Holmes, photos by Tess Donohoe.
Another year, another Bloodstock and Team Rock Sins were there as usual to document all the action with possibly their biggest and most in-depth coverage yet! Here’s the first part of our review, covering the Thursday night headliners; Arnocorps and all of the Friday action!
First up are Arnocorps (8) who delight a Thursday night with an engaging display. Don’t be fooled by the more gimmicky aspects of their performance such as (literally) surfing over the crowd on a guitar case or taking audience members up for a bodybuilding competition. There’s remarkable musical depth to Arnocorps rumbling blend of punk and metal. JH
The opening slot on Bloodstock’s main stage is often taken by up and coming bands but this year’s Friday morning early birds were genuine legends: Nuclear Assault, (8) playing a rare UK show. “Wake up, motherfuckers!!!” screeched John Connelly before ploughing through an impressive 12 songs in just 40 minutes. “Six hours ago we were asleep in Cologne!” said Connelly. Well worth getting up for! NH
Travelling a considerably shorter distance were Corby’s finest, Raging Speedhorn (7), continuing their comeback. Having played two blistering sets at last year’s Sonisphere this time the band helped shake off any remaining hangovers in Derbyshire with a brisk set, cheered on by a loyal and loud bunch of nutters in the crowd. Good stuff! NH Over on the Sophie Lancaster stage Oaf (8) put on a delightfully weird performance, with Dom Lawson’s trademark sarcasm stopping the set from developing into the realms of “chinstroke.” JH
Opening with the title track from most recent album ‘Win Hands Down’ it was easy to see why Armored Saint (8) were critically acclaimed back in the day. Their sound is basically hard rock with a metal edge, all bouncy rhythms and attitude to match. John Bush’s voice is strongly melodic and his chat to the audience was enthusiastic and likeable. Closer “Madhouse” (nothing to do with the Anthrax song) was very reminiscent of fast Judas Priest with a cool solo in the middle. Great fun!
Over on the New Blood stage Chesterfield’s Forgotten Remains (7) made a good racket with their mix of thrash and death metal, topped by angry roars from vocalist Sam Marshall. We Are The Catalyst (7) represented Sweden on the New Blood stage before their army-obsessed countrymen stormed the main stage. Singer Cat was maybe having an off day as her strong vocals faltered at times. Their style is a fun mix of traditional hard rock with ’80s-style keyboards and it went down well. NH
Belphegor (8) put on a crushing forty minute avalanche of evil riffs and blastbeats which caters perfectly for the Bloodstock crowd. They may look the part but part of Belphegor’s appeal, much like Slayer, comes from just how over the top they are. Charmingly titled cuts such as ‘Feast Upon the Dead’ and ‘Bondage Goat Zombie’ evoke the appeal of B-Movie horror films while never quite descending into the realms of farce.
Next up on the Ronnie James Dio stage, Enslaved (9) might have suffered from losing most of their equipment but this doesn’t hold them back, weaving a beautiful atmosphere with their progressive black metal. It’s a beautiful display and one of the highlights of the weekend that is very swiftly nearly topped by Ihsahn (8). Despite “not being able to hear each other” according to the man himself, Ihsahn and backing band still sound incredibly tight; a testament to what incredible musicians they are. Breaking out ‘Frozen Lakes on Mars,’ a stunning Emperor medley and a never-before heard song to close ensures that Ihsahn is able to triumph against the quite significant sound issues.
Its then over to the Sophie stage again to see Hang the Bastard (7) power through a no nonsense, no frills set of pure riff. Some bands suffer from a lack of crowd interaction but Hang the Bastard’s “head down and riff” mentality never feels like an unwillingness to address the crowd. They’re simply focussing on what they do best. JH
Sabaton’s (9) reputation as a live act is well-known and they totally delivered the goods complete with giant toy tank and comedy repartee. The knowing intro of “The Final Countdown” by fellow Swedes (and former Bloodstock headliners) Europe gave way to the Maiden-esque sprint of “Ghost Division” and folk-inflected “To Hell & Back”. Explosive pyrotechnics cooked the first few rows as the band, decked out in battle fatigues, led the 12,000-plus crowd in truly insane war-dances. The party paused briefly for some to and fro silliness with chants of “IKEA,” following up a theme from their previous appearance at the festival. There was also some amusing piss-taking about frontman Joakim’s limited guitar skills. “Panzerkampf” and “Swedish Pagans” continued the madness with further flashes and bangs, rounded off by a 3-song encore closing on “Metal Crue”. Future headliners, no mistake. NH
Trivium (6) never quite match up to the gauntlet thrown down by ‘Sabaton.’ For one, the momentum of the set is immediately stalled by opening with new song, ‘Silence in the Snow’ and a series of technical problems that affect lead guitarist, Corey Beaulieu. Although not their fault Trivium never recover from this loss of momentum and are not helped by the setlist which is, at best, bewildering. An early showing of ‘Becoming the Dragon’ is very welcome, but really, on their first time headlining a festival you’d think Trivium would break out ‘the hits’ rather than a setlist heavily focussed on The Crusade and Shogun. There are still moments of triumph like the absolutely unbeatable ‘In Waves’ and ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of your Martyr’ but a poor setlist coupled with a performance that, while not lacklustre, certainly could have done with a bit more fire means this is one Trivium slot that will be confined to the record books. JH
And so concludes the first part of Rock Sins Bloodstock Open Air 2015 report! Stay tuned for loads more including full write-ups of Saturday and Sunday as well as interviews with the likes of Trivium, Within Temptation and more!