The build-up to Bloodstock 2019 was unfortunately plagued with some issues, bands pulling out last minute, and many hazardous weather warnings. However, as always, the spirit of the Metal community stayed high ready for a jam-packed weekend.
The Friday started fast with the triple threat of killer old school Thrashers, Xentrix, Death Angel and Metal Church. Soulfly picked the crowd back up after a very brief storm. They surprisingly relied heavily on material from their new album Ritual, which is an uncommon move at festivals, as most fans just want to hear 45 minutes of old-time classics (Max didn’t even pull out a single Sepultura song!) However, they still managed to keep the audience thoroughly engaged. They even did a fun little jam of Bob Marley’s ‘Get Up, Stand up’.
Then came sets from Finnish Melodic Death Metallers Children of Bodom and beloved Prog Metal/Djent band from Milton Keynes, Tesseract, the latter of which impressed fans with their punishing rhythmic guitars, mind-boggling time signatures, and soaring vocals. A definite highlight.
The night ended with Power Metallers Powerwolf and headliners, Sabaton. I see Power Metal bands like these very much like marmite, you either love their music and know every word to every song, or it comes off as overly cheesy and somewhat tacky. I, unfortunately, fall under the latter. What’s undeniable about them, especially Sabaton, is their stage show, as even if you dislike them, you will find something to enjoy by their mere stage presence, with Kiss-levels of over-the-top stage gizmos and pyro. The drummer literally sits on top of a real tank.
In the midst of all this, the small and intimate Jägermeister stage (literally just a garden gazebo with a bar and stage in it) was showing off lesser-known, but by no means less talented bands. A highlight for me was discovering Northern Irish band Skypilot, who packed countless monumentally groovy riffs inspired by the likes of Tool, Clutch and Black Sabbath into an absolutely fantastic performance. Some of the best bands I saw all weekend were on this stage
The Saturday started off with bands like Hardcore band Cancer Bats, epic Death-Doomers Swallow the Sun, Deathcore pioneers Thy Art is Murder and “The finest heavy metal band ever to write a song about a robot”, Evil Scarecrow, putting in killer sets.
Then came Hard Rockers The Wildhearts, who was a late replacement for Code Orange who unfortunately had to cancel their entire August tour, including an appearance at Bloodstock. Frontman Ginger Wildheart seemed to be very aware that nobody specifically came to see them, but made them glad that they did as their punk-infused set was one of the highlights of the day.
It was at this point in the day that the weather started to become a serious problem. After The Wildhearts’ set, fans were forced to wait 2 hours for another band to play the mainstage. UK Black Metal legends Cradle of Filth were supposed to play during this time but due to the high winds making it unsafe for both the artists and audience as the stage could have fallen apart if not suspended. Whilst the three smaller stages remained open, this really slowed the day down and left many fans annoyed. For example, there were many complaints from Cradle of Filth fans, who’s set was rescheduled to play on Sunday night, as many bought a Saturday ticket primarily to see the band play. Bloodstock did their best to remedy this by making Saturday day tickets were permitted access on Sunday also for free.
When the stage reopened, New York Metal titans Anthrax were next. Their balls-to-the-wall Thrash-athon was the perfect cure to raise sunken spirits, creating big moshpits, and more crowd surfers than I’ve possibly ever seen in my life – I even saw someone in a fully authentic Darth Vader costume fly by.
Saturday headliners, Aussie Metalcore band Parkway Drive were not met with the best response from the audience at first, with many older fans being disgruntled that a newer band were headlining above a legendary band like Anthrax. However, they proved all sceptics, including myself, wrong by putting in an undeniable performance.
Sunday was definitely the most stacked line-up and most consistently good day of the three, starting with bands such as Belgian Death-Grind stars Aborted and ex-Manowar guitarist Ross Friedman’s band Ross the Boss, which featured a special guest appearance from former Judas Priest axeman K.K. Downing, in which they played some classic priest tracks such as Green Manalishi, Breaking the Law and Running Wild. This was actually Downing’s first onstage appearance in over ten years.
Then came killer performances from Swedish Melodeath greats Soilwork and renowned Death Metallers Hypocrisy, led by respected metal producer Peter Tägtgren. Next came the legendary Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, who brought a great balance of new solo material and classic Twisted Sister tracks like “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. Snider was also an absolute showman as expected, the weekend’s king of stage banter, warning everyone that he’ll know if you take a piss break when he’s playing his new stuff, telling everyone to wait for the drum solo. Then came Cradle of Filth’s rescheduled set and 80s Prog-Metallers, Queensrÿche, who I feel didn’t really gel with the crowd all too well, unfortunately. Maybe this was because most of them were off seeing controversial Polish Black Metal sensation Batushka on the Sophie stage, who put on an impressive performance for both looks at and listen to. The band were yet another last-minute addition with Dimmu Borgir originally set to play the mainstage, with Batushka stepping in and then being moved to the Sophie stage due to the whole Cradle of Filth incident.
Finally, the weekend ended with iconic German rockers the Scorpions taking the stage, blasting through classic tracks from the 70s and 80s. Whilst the band are somewhat showing their age now, former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee keeps them on their toes, adding energy and a killer drum solo. However, the songs still remain great, as does their musicianship, and they still pull it out the bag.
This year’s Bloodstock further proves the festival is a pivotal part of the UK Metal scene, offering an alternative to Download, whilst still bringing in big bands and exposing newer ones all across the Metal spectrum, and it’s only getting bigger.
Get tickets for next year here.
Images from Press.