Bringing metal to the masses for the thirteenth year running is Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2018 held annually in Catton Hall Park, Derbyshire, UK. This friendly and intimate metal weekender offers all genres of metal to those who are ready to get wild in the pit. Eager festival goers arrive on Thursday to set up camp and with warm up bands playing already and with headliners Judas Priest thrown in the mix it’s bound be a blinder of a weekend.
Before we get down to what really matters let’s take a look at the site. Three stages, live DJs, movies at night, fairground rides and vendors serving delicious cuisine. Not forgetting the bars dotted around and the VIP area offering all the ciders you can wish for, you won’t have time to get bored or sleep.
Kicking things off for this weekend of metal were English thrashers Onslaught to what seemed like a dramatic entrance with the sound of sirens the band took to stage in an orderly fashion. The battering of the blast beats, thunderous double kick drumming was relentless. The guitar work by Nige Rockett and Wayne Dorman tastefully played out well with crashing solos packed with energy. Vocalist Sy Keeler quickly overcame technical issues with the mic and ploughed straight through the set even as the crowd retreated to sheltered areas due to heavy rain.
Heavy downpours kept festival goers away from the main stage, but that didn’t stop Memoriam in their tracks as they served up old school death metal to the crowd. They played favourites like “War Rages On” and “Flatline.” However, I didn’t hang around until the end because after discovering British rockers Fahran years ago I was looking forward to catching them perform live on the Sophie Lancaster stage. It was packed out with the tent bursting at the seams. Maybe that was the rain or the fact that these guys totally smashed it! They finished their set with what’s probably their biggest hit so far “State of Mind.” Mesmerising solos and riffs by guitarist Jake Graham provided the hard rock hit that was well suited for the day. Singer Matt Black’s powerful voice and ability to connect led the set to end to a chorus of cheers. I heard happy punters going away exclaiming “that was f***ing amazing!”
Halloween arrived early at Bloodstock this year as we welcomed the Duke of Spook Wednesday 13 and his band of talented musicians to the stage. W13 had an axe to grind for set opener “What The Night Brings” and put on a ghoulish performance donning a butcher’s apron with a bloodied face mask attached to the back of his head for “Gimme Gimme Bloodshed.” Red smoke engulfed the stage and the smell of gunpowder filled the eerie air, and the band broke into the unforgettable performance of “Condolences” with W13 hidden under a devil mask clutching a Bible. Lead guitarist Roman Surman created a unique and distinguished sound similar to a Theremin throughout, which gave us the creeps. Their stage presence was exciting with costume changes and fire dancers. The short and fierce set ended in excitement with the mass sing-a-long of the predictable “I Love to Say Fuck” (Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 cover).
With so much going on I ran over to the Sophie stage and caught the end of Sodomized Cavader spreading the sodomy to a headbanging crowd. They certainly felt the relentless battering of this bone crushing death metal set with circle pits in the dark and doomy tent.
Swedish supergroup Bloodbath drenched in blood entered the stage an impatient crowd. I didn’t know what to expect from this band, but they played to a big crowd. The anger and aggression could be felt throughout the tunes of morbidity with pulverizing riffs. They looked brutal and the loathsome guttural death grunts from Nick Holmes paralysed the crowd.
Well, I wasn’t expecting that! The Japanese all-female heavy metal band Lovebites were promoted to the main stage after Suicidal Tendencies were held up at customs. These ladies stunned the crowd with their destructive stage performance. Singer Asami reached the highest notes possible drowning out De Profundis on another stage as I was on my way to check them out. Coupled with crazy guitars and intense double drumming the dolls of heavy metal kitted out in white frilly dresses destroyed the stage and the crowd loved every minute of their explosive set.
With medics at the ready and extra security present for the surge of crowd surfers, this performance was bound to be a killer! After a cancelled flight and other complications, thrash legends Suicidal Tendencies’ slot moved to the Sophie stage. The crowd couldn’t be contained and I can only predict sever pit brutality! The tent was at full capacity with spectators watching from the outside, even photographers were refused entry. As the crowd chanted “ST,ST” this caused a surge of people to bulldoze their way into the tent and the guys launched straight into “You Can’t Bring Me Down.” They all put on an adrenaline fuelled show bouncing around on stage and vocalist Mike Muir was on top form. Dave Lombardo is worth a mention as his aggressive heavy drumming was demonstrated throughout the set, especially in “Possessed to Skate.”
If you needed to recover after having your forces depleted during Suicidal Tendencies, then head over to see intense power symphonic metallers Kamelot who opened their set with “Phantom Divine” to a pumped crowd. Tommy Karevik’s mountain of energy boosted their performance and crowd interaction was second to none, however for me, he spoke for prolonged periods between songs which spurred the crowd on and bored me. His triumphant vocal delivery in “Liar Liar” proved why they are one of the most important bands in the genre today.
If, like me you tried to get in to Kamelot then you’ll probably find yourself watching Ingested. The British extreme metal lads played to a chanting crowd and hurled out songs old and new. Vocalist Jay Evans called for the wall of death and the response was pure hysteria, which led him to go full force into growling vocals and spewed uncensored lyrics. My ears were bludgeoned and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Die hard fans lined up along the safety barrier headbanging for Emperor, but for me the Norwegian black metal band’s performance was nothing more than bland. Ihsahn’slack of energy and enthusiasm flattened the atmosphere that was once rampant – making their performance exhausting to watch.
The time had finally arrived for some proper heavy metal with tonight’s headlining act Judas Priest. The atmosphere intensified and excitement raged within us that even I found myself chanting “Priest, Priest” with the crowd. A leather and stud clad Rob Halford made his entrance to the backing track “War Pigs” (Black Sabbath) in a low-key fashion to a crazed crowd going full throttle into “Firepower.” Keeping the Priest faith alive, fans sang their hearts out for my favourite track “Turbo Lover.” Boasting an extensive back catalogue no fan was left disappointed as they lit up Catton Hall with old and new songs and took us back to 1990 for “Pain Killer” where guitarist Richie Faulkner’s performance was sensational. Actually, he played superbly throughout the set and pleased the eyes dressed in leather. He also had an unrivalled ability to connect with fans and had them belting out lyrics as he pointed to them.
Still living dangerously metal god Halford rode onto stage in true biker style on a motorbike for “Hell Bent For Leather”. Halford was on top form vocally, but lacked a little energy which is forgivable given that he is a LEGEND and music of this calibre simply speaks for itself. The faithful crowd gave Glen Tipton a warm reception as he joined the band for the encore. The blistering set finished with “Living After Midnight” to an explosion of fireworks which signalled the end of day one to which Rob Halford shouted “Priest will be back!”
With all genres of metal catered for today, the highlights for Friday was undoubtedly headliners Judas Priest who filled the airwaves with unconstrained guitar riffs and palpitating drums making it unforgettable. Horror punk rockers Wednesday 13 thrilled the crowd with a spooky show and the biggest surprise of the day for me was Love Bites– I have no words. Just check them out!
Also check out our photo gallery of the event here!