Hair, Wasps & Black T-Shirts... 3 Things In Excess At Bloodstock Festival
I've been to many smaller, metropolitan festivals (Hit The Deck, Slam Dunk, Camden Rocks) and a few huge ones in fields too (Download, Reading), but Bloodstock is located perfectly in the centre of the line between the two - it's definitely in a field, but it doesn't take 40 minutes to walk from your tent to the main stage!
Located in the adorable countryside location of Catton Park, Bloodstock features all the positive aspects of a major festival (size, volume), whilst maintaining the intimacy of a little festival like Hit The Deck - a perfect balance. The most important thing about Bloodstock Festival is that it's unapologetically metal. Unlike many other festivals, which branch out across genres, with Bloodstock, you're either metal or you're not gonna perform there, and that gives it a very special vibe.
Whether you're watching a new band perform on the 50-capacity Jagerimeister Stage, or one of the 10,000+ people watching Trivium, the overall vibe is incredibly friendly, and everyone is so positive, that before you know it, you've made a bunch of new friends.
The festival's Jagermeister stage may very well be the smallest stage I've ever seen in my entire life (not restricted to festival stages!). The Mighty Wraith are one such band who waste no time taking advantage, getting in the faces of the 50-or-so people crammed in the little tent. Fronted by a big, bearded man wielding a battle axe, it's moments like this that remind me why I'll always love festivals - the pounding drums and guitars paint a picture of a band who can do very well, given the chance.
One of the notable highlights of the weekend were a friendly little war-inspired band called Sabaton. Sub-headlining the Friday night for Trivium, Sabaton's stage set-up is fucking glorious. The main feature of their stage is a giant tank, in which the drummer sat, pounding his drums throughout the band's hour-long set. Beside the tank were sandbad walls, army helmets and other war memorabilia. If that wasn't enough, the firewords, shrapnel and pyro went alongside tracks such as "To Hell and Back", "Screaming Eagles" and "Metal Crue", supplementing what was already an incredible set.
Other standout acts include Finland's Korpiklaani, one of the best examples of why you should never judge a book by its cover. A band with 6 guys who look, sound and dress completely differently come together to bust out one of the most enjoyable sets of the weekend. Like a metal version of Flogging Molly, Korpiklaani's folk-metal sound pulsates through the crowd, and just like that, you have thousands of metalheads engaging in Barnyard dances. Magical.
One of the dark horses of the event were Dark Angel - a 1980s thrash metal band who've definitely still got it, despite their age. A grand total of 50 people could be seen singing the songs, but hundreds more joined in with the moshing, happy to be seen running in a circle with all the people they can consider their new friends.
If you want to know what Wolf sound like, go have a listen to some early Iron Maiden, and imagine what they would've sounded like if they'd formed 25 years later. Wolf are that exact band - a bit of classic metal with a modern, harder twist. Highlight of the set, and possibly the day, was "Shark Attack" - an excellent showcase of metal indeed.
Delain were one of the Second Stage headliners at Bloodstock this year. Fronted by the ever-graceful Charlotte Wessels, they prove they belong exactly where they are. We had a chat with Charlotte before the set and she said she was 'nervous', but her body language and sheer stage presence say otherwise. Floating and skipping side to side, with a little headbanging here and there, Charlotte is very much in her element, and her band are equally as awesome.
Opening track "Mother Machine" kicks things off with a bang, showcasing the incredible energy of the band as a whole, whilst "We Are The Others" gave Charlotte a chance to show exactly what she's made of, her enchanting voice pulsating through the entire festival. Other standout tracks include "Milk and Honey" and "Not Enough", all of which show why Delain belong here, headlining the second stage at the UK's biggest metal festival.
Keeping with the theme of Symphonic Metal, we'll move on to how WIthin Temptation took complete control of their Main Stage headline spot on the Saturday Night. Clearly eager to be back here after 10 years, the band display an incredible energy which infects everyone present, making for one of the most dazzling sets of the weekend.
Within Temptation are a band who are hungry as they are humble. While they're one of the most sensible bands in that they realise they should take it day-by-day because anything can happen, they're still incredibly determined to show everyone present that, at least today, Within Temptation are very much alive. Incredible.
Sharon [vocals] looks and sounds incredible. Regardless of where you are at the festival, listening to Within Temptation's set was not optional, if Sharon had anything to say about it, her soaring, overpowering vocals quickly spreading throughout Catton Park.
For those who did choose to watch the set from in front of the stage, the huge screens of the main stage displayed certain well-known featured artists, such as Howard Jones and Tarja, as songs featuring those artists were played, creating a one-of-a-kind vibe indeed. A slight power failure meant that "Ice Queen" was interrupted, but the band wasted no time and improvised with an unplanned, but very welcome drum solo.
The highlight of the set was "In The Middle Of The Night" - a great song for all the band members to show off individually, all the parts come together to create a 5-minute song that sends shivers down your spine.
Trivium have been off the radar for a long time. Their slot at Bloodstock not only marks their premier festival headline spot, but it also marks their first show of 2015. Unfortunately, the start of their set was plagued with 'technical difficulties'. More specifically, Corey's guitar was not working for the first two songs, leading to a string of jokes by Matt (Heafy, lead vocals), including "We're gonna play another song now - you wanna join in with this one Corey?"
Despite the troubles, Trivium step up and play some obvious tracks, such as "Down From The Sky" and "A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation", but also a few curveballs. Of particular surprise was "Becoming The Dragon" from 2006's 'The Crusade'. A track which they hardly ever play off the album which most people regard as their weakest, "Becoming The Dragon" was a welcome surprise to the 10,000+ people watching this eagerly-anticipated headline set.
In addition to the rare tracks, Trivium used this time to preview a pair of songs from their upcoming 7th album, 'Silence In The Snow'. The eponymous track of the album shows a darker and deeper side of the band, whilst "Blind Leading The Blind" is there to reassure everyone that the band haven't gone soft.
As the set goes on, it becomes clearer and cleared that Trivium are back to a very strong place. This 8-month break has done them a lot of good, and a crazy mosh pit and thousands of singing voices are testament to this. Of particular note was the couple who entered the mosh pit together, with the girl on the boy's shoudlers, much to everyone's amusement. If nothing else, Trivium shows will always be as entertaining.
As the festival draws to a close, it's clear that there's something truly wonderful about Bloodstock. The size is pretty much ideal for a festival; big enough that the main stage is massive, but small enough that the walk back to your tent doesn't make your legs fall off. Most importantly, however, is just how positive everyone is. I would be surprised if there was anyone who attended the festival and left without a new friend.
Wasps. Hair. Black T-shirts. New Friends. These are the most prominent themes to a truly memorable festival experience.
To find out more about Bloodstock festival click here.
Words & interview by Blaine Marshall
Pictures courtesy of Cosanostra PR