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Creative Review Music Festivals
Bloodstock is a place of extremes and this year was no exception. Normally the extremes are found in the music with bands across the site covering everything from thrash, doom, stoner, classic rock right through to death and symphonic metal, which means there is something for everyone across the weekend. But this year the weather also decided it wanted to get in on the act and we got everything from scorching heat to torrential rain. Only the glorious summer we’ve had and the fact that the rain held off for the most part on Sunday stopped Bloodstock 2018 turning into Mudstock.
It may have dampened our socks but it never came anywhere near dampening our spirits. Did the weather gods really think they could take on the metal gods?
This year saw headliners Judas Priest, Gojira and Nightwish joined by one of the strongest undercards you’d ever imagine.
Friday got off to an impressive start with a heavy set from Feed The Rhino as frontman Lee Tobin got up close and personal with the front row from the very start. They got a strong crowd for the first act of the weekend and stormed their set, leaving with a few new fans for certain.
We made our first trip of the weekend to the S.O.P.H.I.E. stage for Godthrymm who played an apocalyptic set. The doom 3-piece crushed it and are most certainly ones to look out for.
Wednesday 13 brought his schlock horror show to the main stage emerging from a door with Redrum painted on the front holding an axe. Their horror punk got everyone going and the theatrical show and many costume changes were exactly what was needed. They did make us hope that next year would be an Alice Cooper headline year.
The only scheduling difficulty of the weekend actually provided us with two of the highlights of the whole weekend. Suicidal Tendencies were running late and unable to make their main stage time so Japanese metal band Love Bites were moved over to the main stage. With only 20 minutes notice to get set up.
As nervous as they may have been with last minute changes they absolutely took their opportunity and it was a pleasure to see a band truly enjoying themselves playing to a bigger crowd and showing they had what it takes.
That meant that Suicidal Tendencies were now to appear in the S.O.P.H.I.E. tent – which as anyone who knows about ST – signalled something incredible was about to happen. With Mike Muir storming around the stage and Dave Lombardo pummelling the drum kit they were the band of the weekend. With the crowd 15 deep outside the tent the buzz around the show was incredible. The sheer number of Suicidal Tendencies t-shirts around the site showed they were the band most people were looking forward to today and not one of them left disappointed. Energy, passion and a connection with your fans always make for a great show and ST had all of them in bucketfuls.
Unfortunately in our opinon, the same could not be said about Judas Priest.
They are a band custom built for this festival but it felt like a going through the motions headline show with Rob Halford appearing to be disinterested and barely looking up from the ground all night. Props to Richie Faulkner who gave it everything though – but it just felt to us like a bit of an anti-climax after the excitement of them being announced as headliners. It should have been a crowning glory for them but never came close to it.
Saturday began for us with Dallas thrash metal band Power Trip showing everyone else exactly how it should be done. No pomp, no ego and no bullshit, just pure unadulterated energy and fun. Frontman Riley Gale was one of the most relatable people that took the stage across the whole weekend and connected with everybody watching the band and their riffs simply crushed. It’s good times for Power Trip at the moment and they walked away with many new fans talking excitable about them. We are looking forward to them hitting these shores again soon. One of the most exciting bands we have seen in a long time.
Combichrist were truly phenomenal. Their concoction of musical styles and energy meant the crowd were bouncing throughout. They not only brought the bangers but they brought the weird too and it was impossible to take your eyes off them. The only problem was you’d need 8 eyes to see everything that was going off on stage such was their energy.
Now metalheads are in general not known for their fashion sense or choice of any colour other than black, but Bloodstock 2018 was the most colourful one yet with a combination of every single inflatable on the planet seemingly making an appearance for Alestorm’s Pirate metal party on the main stage and the celebration of Cannibal Corpse’s appearance in Ace Ventura which saw pretty much everyone, festival photographers included, don a Hawaiian shirt for the occasion. Both those sets made for a colourful waterfall of crowd surfers joining in the fun. Catton Park had never looked so resplendent.
Saturday headliners Gojira simply sounded immense and having proved themselves as fan favourites in 2016 returned to claim their rightful place at the top of the heap. Devastatingly heavy and visually massive it was never in doubt that they would destroy everything in their way – and they did.
Sunday had a choice. It could have destroyed the whole weekend had it decided to rain constantly, as it had throughout the night, and turned the site into a complete mudbath or it could chill out an let everyone carry on with their fun. Thankfully it decided to hold off on the wet stuff and let everyone get on with it. The site had become a little muddy but it was manageable and never got so it was hard work to get around the site.
Unfortunately there were a few technical difficulties throughout the day, the worst one meaning that Amaranthe, who were all set to go, had to stop their set for what felt like a good 15 minutes until they were fixed. Bassist Johan Andreassen turned his hand to stand up to fill the time and by the time the problems had been fixed the crowd were on their side. Their 3 vocalists felt like a bit of overkill and didn’t really hit the spot for us but with all their technical difficulties it was hard not to be pulling for them to have a great, if short, set.
Fozzy had no such problems and played with showmanship and flair. They got a warm reception and as Chris Jericho climbed over the barrier to party up close and personal with the crowd he raised the energy several notches, however it was clear they were relying on backing tapes as he did this, and for us that took the shine off the performance as it felt less genuine than anything else we’d seen all weekend. Still, all good fun but a bit of realness goes a long way.
Jasta and friends have that in spades and clearly enjoyed their set. Only a year after he had stolen the show with Hatebreed, Jamey Jasta returned with a who’s who of special guests to play a variety of material that included Hatebreed, Down and Fear Factory.
It was incredible to see Howard Jones enjoying himself and hearing Dino Cazares and Kirk Windstein on guitars is never ever going to get old. There’s something infectious about Jamey Jasta’s pure joy at playing music and as he jumped on the drum kit to close out the show the smile on his face is as wide as you’d ever seen.
The four bands that close out the weekend were, in their own unique way, a fittingly superb way to end this year’s celebration of music.
The pure technical musicianship of Mr Big was spectacular to watch, from Billy Sheehan’s incredible skills on bass to Paul Gilbert’s guitar solo played with a drill. When they were announced it felt like an odd fit for the festival but they were jaw-droppingly good to watch and even if the Wild World singalong fell a little flat they went down extremely well.
Devildriver pummelled the stage for an hour with Dez Fafara smiling for very single minute of it. The circle pits were non-stop and probably altered the axis earth spins on whilst At The Gates and Nightwish finished Bloodstock 2018 with a 1-2 combination of legendary death metal and powerful symphonic metal.
With At The Gates reputation they were always going to draw a feverish crowd and they made sure every single one of the drooling fans got what they wanted but it was the theatrics and power of Nightwish, combined with the pyro and stage set that stole the show and ensured Bloodstock ended on a high yet again. Floor Jansens voice sounded incredible and the band were relentless. A great booking and a wonderful way to end the day.
Bloodstock 2018 was one the best (and most colourful) yet and you should make sure you are there for the next instalment of this wonderful festival. It gets better every single year and not even the weather can stop that.
For a full set of photos from the weekend click here