FESTIVAL REVIEW: BLOODSTOCK OPEN AIR 2017 – Day 1 (Friday)
Metal fans waited one whole year for this weekend to finally arrive, for what was going to be chaos at Bloodstock Open Air 2017 held at Catton Hall, Derbyshire. This crazy, extended weekend offered thrash, death, power metal and all sorts to the masses rearing to get wild, especially the eager party animals who arrived on Thursday to enjoy the warm-up bands. Compared to other European festivals like Hellfest, Bloodstock might be considered ‘intimate’, but had three stages hosting incredible bands, from unknowns to the gods of thrash metal, Megadeth!
As typical British weather was expected, grey clouds filled the sky. But this did not stop fans from descending to the open green field for opener’s Forever Still gracing the Ronnie James Dio stage. The band’s energy was perfect for the fresh-faced metal heads that were immediately moving to the vocalist’s screams. Over on the Hobgoblin New Blood stage, early starters Merithian were also playing at the same time, which at times drowned Forever Still. Chelsea Grin offered a slow entrance onto the stage, and seemed to have a hard time engaging the reserved audience with their deathcore rhythm and vocals.
Tennessee’s Whitechapel swiftly set the scene and whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a metal injection that created the first surge of crowd-surfers. Their diverse set ended on a high, and the guys left the stage to a chanting crowd who were clearly begging for more.
After a quick changeover, UK’s Devilment hit the stage with a dose of metal that was unbelievable to my ears. It was vocalist Dani Filth who was a head-turner, pouncing on to the safety barrier and sending shockwaves through the crowd. His versatile voice ranged from long, high-pitched screams that resembled screeching tyres echoing throughout the arena to low guttural growls and clean singing that almost matched keyboardist Lauren Francis’ backing vocals. However, this ball of energy was short-lived, as it seemed Dani had worn himself out quickly. Although this did not fault his performance in my opinion.
Next up was Soilwork, who played a series of mosh-worthy songs which ranged from the classics to the latest track “Death in General” from their most recent album ‘The Ride Majestic’. Their set appealed to old and new fans alike and was received well when headbangers turned into slow sawyers, which quickly turned into a mini circle pit. Bastian Thusgaard’s thundering drumming stood out for me as he blasted those beats and hammered the double kicks. It’s probably safe to say that some of came away with a slight hearing impairment, all in the name of metal.
The energy was intense and the crowd was buzzing for Decapitated, as Frisbees flew over the widest circle pit in motion. Furthermore, the incredible guitar solos and memorable riffs coupled with vocalist Rasta’s drawn-out screams captivated the crowd in “Never.” Known for their serial shredding techniques coupled with hard drumming, it was difficult for to find a comparison to their fresh, unique and atmospheric sound. As the crowd cheered on after their short set ended, Rasta thanked the fans for their support over the last 21 years. And Californian thrash band Testament were on fire, ready to feed the beasts in the pit.
Testament was the first band in my opinion to annihilate the Dio stage when they went old school and took it back “Into the Pit.” This sent a steady stream of crowd surfers across the barrier. Clearly, Testament appeal to all generations as the die-hard older fans gathered at the front and remained on the sidelines to appreciate the musical talent they oozed, while younger fans were simply there to have a good time. Their stage production was stripped back, leaving just the huge backdrop of the ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ album cover, which was great for the photographers. Vocalist Chuck Billy dedicated “Stronghold” to the Native Americans, and the crowd was ready to pump their fists in the air as a sign of respect.
At this point, the crowd was fuelled with adrenaline, so when penultimate band Blind Guardian made their entrance, singer Hansi Kursch’s lack of energy and enthusiasm flattened the atmosphere that was once rampant – making their performance exhausting to watch. This was a real shame as I looked forward to seeing them live for the first time. Nevertheless, after losing their gear in transit and almost not making the show, Kursch thanked Amon Amarth for lending them their gear and dedicated the hit “Vahalla” to them. And finally, albeit late, the crowd woke up.
The time arrived for Vikings of metal Amon Amarth to hit the stage, with an hour and a half of what many call “viking metal.” They offered a fantastic stage production that stimulated your senses. The drummer was perched on a Viking mask platform, there was a moving serpent that vocalist Johan Hegg slayed with a Thor hammer, along with extraordinary pyrotechnics that radiated heat all the way back to the sound booth. This probably left the first ten rows of people with frazzled eyebrows! The crowd was on fire as they sang along in unison to most of the songs, and got down and dirty on the wet grass to row like Vikings to “Varyags of Miklagaard.” The crowd interaction was 100%, and moved Hegg’s command without encouragement. They concluded their set with the smash “Guardians of Asgaard” and told the crowd to “row hard, England!” One by one, bodies dropped in the huge pit that turned into one big boat of rowers!
Finally, those who had fuel left in the tank ran over to the Sophie stage to catch extreme metal band Inquisition blast the life out of the head bangers with their radical sound. Catton Hall also offered late-night entertainment like metal karaoke and a DJ for those prepared to party the night away. Additionally, the highlights of Friday night were undoubtedly headliners Amon Amarth and Testament as well as a couple of surprises like Devilment and Decapitated who provided an assortment of metal for our viewing and listening pleasure. We expected chaos and carnage, and that is exactly what we got!
Check out our photo gallery of the day here!