Since the festivals inception back at the turn of the millennium, Bloodstock has become arguably the UK’s biggest showcase for extreme music. The lineup for this year looks set to continue that legacy too, boasting performances by Sabaton, Parkway Drive, The Scorpions, Cradle of Filth, Anthrax and many more!
Unfortunately, before we can raise our Viking drinking horns to the sky and praise Valhalla for such a bounty of heavy metal. The heavens open, soaking both campsite and arena overnight, making for a slightly soggy start to proceedings on Friday morning.
Thankfully though Rocksins first band of the day, Tomorrow Is Lost (7) manage to light the touch paper on a weekend of amazing music, despite everything still being slightly damp from the night before. Boasting massive riffs from the dual Les Paul attack of guitarists Joe Mac and Ryan O’Hara and a commanding performance from vocalist Cass King. The five piece from Newcastle could be a name to look out for in future!
Over on the Sophie Lancaster Stage, Brits Countless Skies (7) packed quite the punch in what can only be described as a blistering seven-song Melodic Death Metal assault. No strangers to the hallowed Bloodstock lands, they last brought their refined Scandinavian fused licks to Bloodstock on the New Blood Stage back in 2015 and have been making waves ever since. Now graduating to the second stage and showcasing an abundance of material from their most recent album New Dawn (2016) it’s clear just how far they have come.
Musically they delivered one of the standout sets on Sophie Stage all weekend. Guitarist James Pratt’s mastery of finger-tapping was off-the-charts as metalheads watched on in awe. But Bass player, Phil Romeo was the big surprise of the set bringing unexpected soaring Power Metal vocals to the equation. Everything was so tight. So much so that even with the allure of Powerwolf on the main stage to contend with they still managed to hold the crowd with a fair amount of conviction. A new dawn most certainly is on the horizon for this Hertfordshire quartet and this is only a small inkling of things to come. Fans of Omnium Gatherum, Wintersun and the rest – get on this!
Next up though it’s time to go back to our roots with Max Cavalera and Soulfly (8). Always a safe bet for a strong festival performance, the Brazillian tribal metal heavyweights bang out old favourite after old favourite with accomplished ease. Even throwing in an unlikely Bob Marley singalong moment as Max leads the crowd in a chorus of Get Up Stand Up that brings the sun back out from behind the clouds.
The sun might be shining now but Children of Bodom (6) have a few sound issues during the first few songs of their set which clearly saps some enthusiasm out of the rest of their performance. The ever growing crowd raises their fists enthusiastically to the air for Hate Crew Death Roll but it feels like too little too late for the Bloodstock mainstays.
Progessive metallers Tesseract (8) don’t pull as big a crowd initially as earlier main stage acts like Soulfly or Children of Bodom, but musically they’re the best sounding band of the festival so far. Older tracks like Dystopia blend in seamlessly among newer songs such as Smile, creating an hour long djent filled math metal soundscape that’s very impressive indeed. It’s just a shame more people aren’t there to hear it!
Getting a good turnout definitely isn’t a problem for Powerwolf (9) however, who absolutely pack out the main stage with their own unique brand of horror themed comedy. Master of ceremonies Attila Dorn leads the crowd skillfully through a “holy heavy metal communion” consisting of tongue in cheek hits like Demons Are A Girls Best Friend and Resurection my Erection. It’s genuinely hard not to smile and sing along, making their set one of the most surprisingly enjoyable and lighthearted of the day!
The sun is setting on the first day of music at Catton Hall and as barbed wire, tank traps and a full size panzer find their way onto the main stage it can only mean one thing – Sabaton (9) are on the way! The Swedish power metal band have definitely grown since their last outing here and are set to play Wembley Stadium early next year.
They’re ready to take that step up too judging by their performance tonight. Lead singer Joakim sounds a little tired after their lengthy run of European festival appearances, but together the band still hammer out a set packed with old favourites like Carolus Rex and Swedish Pagans with military precision. Leaving the crowd gagging for more even after a lengthy encore.
Stay tuned for full coverage of the second and third days of Bloodstock Open Air 2019 right here at Rock Sins!
All words by Hank Leyland except Countless Skies review, by Claire Frays. All photos by Matt Higgs.