Bloodstock ’17 | The Review

Bloodstock Open Air is an event attended by certain members of the Fake Geeks team every year. It is sort of our annual heavy metal holiday, and something we look forward every summer. The last few years have had pretty stellar bills, and 2017 looked like it would continue that trend. 

Read on below to see how we thought it went (as is tradition, live bands are scored out of ten):

 

Thursday

Once a small gathering and sideshow for the early birds, the Thursday night welcoming party has become an unmissable annual event. There’s usually some decent variety in the bands that play, often culminating in some cheesier or more light-hearted act.

Ramage Inc

The set time Gods were against us last year, meaning we had to choose between watching these guys or the excellent Vodun. Whilst the latter won out last year, many huzzahs were shouted when Ramage Inc. were announced as the Thursday night opener. The Scottish progsters put on an accomplished and entertaining set that fans of Devin Townsend would have really dug. [7]

Gurt

These London party-doomsters have garnered a good live reputation over the last few years. Technically really solid, we just couldn’t get along with the vocals. We like our heavy vocals, but something here didn’t click for us. [6]

Wind Rose

Pisa’s premier battle metal quintet were the sub-headliners on the Thursday. We will be honest, we hadn’t heard of these guys before their booking, but they blew us away with their take on folk-tinged power/heavy metal! They have some cracking tunes, play a pretty tight set and a darn good frontman in Francesco Cavalieri. Imagine Turisas jamming with HammerFall and you would probably get an accurate picture of what to expect from these guys. One of the finds of the weekend. [9]

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Wind Rose

Battle Beast

As the saying goes, anything you can do…

Finland’s Battle Beast turned out to be the perfect Thursday night headliner. Boasting a powerful voice to rival the likes of Bonnie Tyler, singer Noora Louhimo is excellent at the front of the band. Musically, there are influences here ranging from Sabaton through to Motley Crue and Whitesnake. Some will say they are cheesy – they are – but that does them a bit of an injustice. Battle Beast are an excellent live band. Armed with a plethora of songs with sing-along chorus (King for a Day, Bastard Son of Odin) and just out right great heavy metal tunes (Black Ninja), these guys slay! We really hope it isn’t long before they return – maybe on the main stage? [9]

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Battle Beast

Friday

Forever Still

One of the last bands to be announced for the festival were these Danish rockers. We didn’t overly know what to expect, but they put on a pretty decent show. With a few more songs under their belt we could see these guys certainly making something of themselves. As it was, this was a perfectly fine main stage opener. [6.5]

Embodiment

We’ll be the first to admit we aren’t the biggest tech-death fans, but we enjoyed the set from this south west quartet well enough, and they were good at what they did. [7]

Thuum

Sticking with the New Blood stage, next up were Bournemouth’s Thuum. They rattled through their half hour set in seemingly no time at all, their sludge/groove metal hybrid very tasty on the ears. We’re looking forward to hearing more from these guys. [8]

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Thuum

Devilment

Prior to seeing their performance, these gothic metallers were certainly a marmite band amongst members of our campsite (due to a number of things, including Dani Filth’s unique vocals). Post-performance there were no such divisions, with near universal approval from the group. This was a good performance, and we would like to see them back (maybe headlining the Sophie stage; their music seems to suit darkness more than light). [7.5]

Morass of Molasses

All aspects of the stoner rock/metal spectrum have seen an uptick in bookings and popularity at BOA in recent year. Morass of Molasses are one of better bands that have benefitted from this. Combining stoner, blues and doom, they form a tasty sound that is both melodious yet undoubtedly heavy. Great stuff. [8]

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Morass of Molasses

Dendera

Probably put at a slight advantage after such a good showing from MoM, Portsmouth heavy metallers Dendera never quite reach the same heights. That said, they put on a damned solid show and, on another day/in another slot, would probably have done more for us. [7]

Seasons End

Back after an astonishing 11 year gap, goth-tinged melodic metallers Season’s End are welcome back with a modest-but-enthusiastic crowd. For those that did turn up, they witnessed a fine performance from a band that didn’t seem like they had only recently returned from a long hiatus. Becki Clark’s vocals were as beautiful as ever, and the band were on good form. [7.5]

Black Moth

Now here’s a band that many of us had been looking forward to seeing. West Yorkshire’s finest melodic doomsters guided through a gorgeously gloomy set, culminating in a cracking rendition of Blackbirds Fall. If you happen to have a ticket from Doom vs Stoner II in Sheffield later this year, then make sure you do not miss these guys – they are sure to be one of the highlights of the weekend. [8.5]

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Black Moth

Biggus Riffus

Our first jaunt over to the Jägermeister stage this year was for this quintet from Warrington. Combining members of Conan, Groan, Ocean Collective and others, these guys – expectedly – brought RIFFS! They certainly have a big future ahead of them if they can replicate tunes as good as Huzzah Huzzah and Olympus Mons. [7.5]

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Biggus Riffus

Blind Guardian

Apparently their backdrop et al was lost in transit, but it mattered not as they smashed their way through their brilliant nine song sub-headlining slot. Much discussion before the festival centred on whether the German power metal legends would playing Imaginations from the Others Side in full or not. In the end, they elected not to. Whilst this may disappoint some, this meant that not only did they not have to cut any of their classic set closers (Mirror Mirror, The Bard’s Song – In the Forest, Valhalla), but we got cracking tunes like Welcome to Dying and Nightfall too (the 60 minute slot they got meant that – at a squeeze – we could have got three of them). [9]

Hanowar

Sadly, we missed Hanowar back in 2015. After getting lashing of praise for their Manowar covers set, we made it a mission to catch them this time around. We were floored with just how damned good these guys are. We may never get Manowar at BOA, but we’re not sure they are needed. Of particular note was the excellent rendition of Battle Hymn. [8.5]

Amon Amarth

After seeing their support swell near exponentially in recent years, it was both inevitable and deserved that Amon Amarth would one day headline Bloodstock. After all, this was the birthplace of ‘epic viking rowing’! On this performance, they will top the bill again before long. Sailing their way through a sixteen song set encompassing their six most recent albums, the melodic death metallers slayed all in their path. Everyone was on top form. To top it all off there was their usual, impressive pyro show, now with an added sea monster for the closing numbers. [9.5]

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Amon Amarth

Saturday

Ward XVI

We fought against the (well earned) hangovers to get to the New Blood stage for 1030, so that we could check ourselves into ward sixteen. Self-described as theatrical avant-garde rock, these Prestonians are talented bunch, if a slightly acquired taste. We really dug them and their Alice Cooper/Lordi-esque stage antics. The tunes are pretty darn good too. Hopefully they will continue to embrace the wackiness – the rock world has a dearth of quality shock rock, and Ward XVI could well be the band that fill the void. [7.5]

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Ward XVI

Hundred Year Old Man

How do you follow a band that ends with a heavy metal can-can? You turn the tuning down and make things HEAVY. HYOM have been quietly building a nice live rep, and they showed it off here. Any cobwebs from the night before were steadily swept away in a sea of sludgy post-metal. [8]

Winterfylleth

Winterfylleth are one of those bands we feel we should like more, but each time we see them it doesn’t quite click. Whilst Bloodstock has had some success in recent years with early morning post-black / blackened-post metal acts (Agalloch, Ghost Bath) this set didn’t really pan out that way. [6.5]

Kroh

Juxtaposing Oliwia Sobieszek’s siren-like vocals with some down and dirty fuzzy doom, Kroh make for an intriguing experience. They showcased a mixture of old and new material, with the heavy as hell Living Water the standout of the bunch. Whilst not quite attaining the heady heights that their doom metal brethren Black Moth did on the Friday, with was still really good stuff. [7.5]

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Kroh

Raised By Owls

Having gained a cult following from the viral spread of the video for their single Ross Kemp on Gang Bangs, a large crowd was expected for the comedy grindsters. And boy, did a crowd turn up. With probably the largest New Blood crowd in a long while (there were queues six deep just to get in), expectation was high. Thankfully, Raised by Owls delivered. Their high octane silliness went down an absolute storm, and we’re sure they will be booked to play again soon. [8]

Annihilator

We jokingly referred to Saturday as Thrashaday in our built up articles, and with good reason – on the main stage alone there were no less than four thrash bands on this day alone. The one set we managed to catch  was that of prog-tinged Canadians, Annihilator. This long-underrated quartet are now into their fourth decade, and are sounding as good as ever. With a closing trio of Alison Hell, Phantasmagoria and Human Insecticide, it’s a wonder these guys aren’t mentioned in the same breath as your Slayers and Anthraxs. Brilliant stuff. [9]

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Annihilator

 

Ba’al

Ba’al were the deserved winners of a brutally hard fought final in this year’s Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses competition. Their reward was a pretty sweet slot, only minimally clashing with the main stage. Their brand of sludgy blackened-post-metal-come-doom lends itself to an indoor venue and, thankfully, the sound on the New Blood stage is excellent. Frontman Steffan commands the stage as they breeze through their three song, thirty minute set. By the conclusion of the monumental One Under the Sun, the tent is packed and the crowd are baying for more. It surely won’t be long before they will be asked back – we can certainly see these guys rocking the upper echelons of the Sophie stage sooner rather than later. [9]

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Ba’al

Malum Sky

Malum Sky had a tough act to follow, and drew a pretty tough timeslot. However, those who decided to eschew the crowd surfing madness of Municipal Waste, or the riffery of Florence Black were treated to a very entertaining slab of prog metal. Hopefully these Welshmen will get a similar deal to Ramage Inc. last year and be invited back to open up the Thursday. They definitely deserve to be seen by a larger crowd. [7.5]

Red Rum

If you didn’t know, you would probably be surprised to find that Red Rum were a late addition to the bill (along with Xentrix). These pirate metallers have played before and, as before, put on a wonderfully cheesy and uplifting show. Rollickingly good fun and always welcome back. [7.5]

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Red Rum

Twisted Illusion

This year seemed to be a good year for progressive music. Between the post metal and prog metal bands on the bill, there must have been going on for a dozen that fit the description. Twisted Illusion were one of the better of these bands on the bill. Frontman/shredder Matt Jones is an energetic, likeable lead, with a cracking voice (as displayed on a tasty cover of Heaven & Hell). Fans of Rush should check these guys out – they have the potential to be something quite special. [8]

Dakesis

We great haste we staggered from the Jager stage to the New Blood stage for our next proggy adventure. Dakesis play a sort of progressive/power metal hybrid that has been helping them to build a solid reputation for a few years now. This hard work saw them rewarded with the headline slot on this stage, and – once a few audio blips were ironed out – they took their opportunity. This was really good stuff and we look forward to seeing them on tour with Fury later this year. [7.5]

Ghost

Starting later than the other (and, even then, coming on late), Ghost played the shortest headlining set of the weekend. That being said, they still performed a tasty fourteen song set that drew from all three of their albums to date. Opening up with the catchy-as-hell Square Hammer, the band played some of the FG team’s personal favourites (Cirice, He Is, Ghuleh/Zombie Queen) before triumphantly closing with Monstrance Clock. Yes, these guys are ‘softer’ than a lot of bands on the bill, and they certainly aren’t to everyone’s taste, but there was no doubting the quality of musicianship on show. We have a feeling the next time they play a UK festival, they’ll be quite high up on Download’s bill. [8]

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Ghost

Sunday

Battalions

Hull’s sludgy heavy metallers were our first port of call on Sunday, and boy did they clear any cobwebs away. Tasty bluesy rock riffs (with a lovely bass tone) juxtaposed with the hard vocals made for an interesting (and pleasant!) experience. [7.5]

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Battalions

Courtesans

Self-described on their facebook page as a mix of doom, pop, triphop, rock and metal, we knew we were in for an interesting experience with this London quartet. What followed was a very memorable, thought-provoking half an hour. Courtesans are not the most bombastic of bands, but that’s clearly not the point. Unlike some bands, their songs are more than just singles; a lot of heart, passion and craft going into each tune. Mesmerise was a highlight of our weekend, and we hope to see them back soon. [8]

Puppy

What would you get if a melodic doom band jammed with the Smashing Pumpkins? Well, wonder no longer! Puppy were another of the more unique bands at the festival. Their mixing of alternative/grungy 90s verses/choruses with riffy doom rock works a treat. It’s both catchy and unique, and something we want to hear more of. The FG team is looking forward to seeing these guys open for Kvelertak later this year.[8]

Hell

Hell are always worth watching for the stage show, let alone the cool tunes. Unfortunately, both were a little hampered. They had to pull the plug on a lot of their fire setup for safety concerns, and there were audio issues early on. That being said, they played a solid set and On Earth As It Is In Hell is a great heavy metal anthem. [7]

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Hell

Na Cruithne

Bloodstock has come in for some criticism in recent years for the perceived lack of bands in certain subgenres. One of those subgenres is folk metal, of which there’s only really two on the bill this year (Red Rum the other). Being one of our favourite kind of music, we made a point of checking out this Irish troupe over on the New Blood stage – and are we glad we did! Combining the traditional folk instruments (fiddle, whistle etc) with a sort of heavy/melodic death metal hybrid works really well for these guys. There was good variety in the songs on offer, and their rendition of traditional song The Parting Glass was something to behold. If there was only one criticism we have, it was that fiddle player Ana Cardon’s beautiful vocals were only to be heard on the finale. Hopefully she will be utilised more in this way down the line. [8.5]

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Na Cruithne

Skindred

Every year there are a handful of bands that are booked that get accused of being out of place, or ‘not a Bloodstock band’ – the point is almost entirely silly. Skindred, with their chimera-like DNA made up of elements of nu metal, alt metal, reggae rock, punk rock and a host of other bits and bobs, were always going to fall foul of this vocal minority. Well, if anyone doubts them after that performance and that crowd reaction, then we will kindly suggest that these people are not being objective. In short, Skindred tore Bloodstock a new one. Dropping tuns from across six previous albums (plus a new song to boot), the Welshmen gave the festival a whistle stop tour of Skindred history. All of this was rounded off with a blistering rendition of Warning, and the obligatory Newport Helicopter (that even the stewards took part in)!

We will make a (potentially) bold statement right now – Skindred will headline Bloodstock down the line. [9.5]

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Skindred

Vorbid

After such an exhausting set, you would think we would head for some respite -but not us! We immediately head into the New Blood stage to check out Norwegian thrashers Vorbid. With the only the odd track to go on, we weren’t totally sure of what to expect. After their set we would probably summarise it as follows: Take some early Metallica, add a hint of Anthrax, a handful of Annhilator, add Iron Maiden’s twin guitar attack and aspects of their solos. Now, get a flipping tight unit to thrash their way through it at a relentless pace (with many tasty timing changes) and you have an idea of what Vorbid are like. Bloody brilliant. [9]

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Vorbid

 

Blaakyum

Because we hadn’t had enough thrash! Blaakyum were the headliners of the New Blood stage on the Sunday, and the Lebanese group acquitted themselves admirably. The addition of the tribal drum may be such a simple thing, but it certainly adds a unique layer to their sound. As for their style/performance, we think Slayer fans would get a particular kick out these guys, and we hope to see them back over here soon. [8]

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Blaakyum

Comedy: Bethany Black, The Raymond and Mr. Timpkins Revue

We just wanted to throw a quick shout out to both acts that followed Blaakyum on the New Blood stage. Bethany Black was brilliant, and The Raymond and Mr. Timpkins Revue nailed some great visual comedy. Though their sets were relatively short, there was enough there to tell us that they are worth seeing at their own shows.

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The Raymond and Mr. Timpkins Revue

Megadeth

Between the comedy running slightly into their set and us ducking out to get a good spot for Wintersun, we probably saw three quarters of Megadeth’s set. As with the last time they played, they rattled through a really good show, comprised mostly of old tunes (it’s always nice to hear Mechanix live) with a smattering of tracks from 2016’s Dystopia to keep things fresh. Megadeth are now at the point where, you’re not likely to get a less-than-good performance, nor are they likely to surprise you. As always, a solid booking. We guess they will likely be back in 3-4 years, and we will watch and enjoy) them again. [8]

Wintersun

Closing out the festival were one of our favourite bands. Technically they are progressive extreme metal, but that would give the wrong impression. This is ‘epic’ or ‘soundtrack’ metal that occasionally has a hardened edge. The progressive Finns manage to squeeze eight songs into their allotted 75 minutes and, beyond Awaken the Dark Forest (Spring) having sound issues, the set goes off a dream. Though they finish with a rousing rendition of Time, the set reaches its true zenith with a jaw-dropping Sons of Winter and Stars. This was flat out brilliant. [9]

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Wintersun


Bands of the festival:

Amon Amarth, Skindred, Ba’al, Vorbid, Blind Guardian, Wintersun, Annihilator, Wind Rose, Battle Beast, Na Cruithne

Honourable mentions:

Twisted Illusion, Blaakyum, Courtesans, Puppy, Hanowar, Morass of Molasses, Raised by Owls, Ward XVI, Hundred Year Old Man

 

One final shout out…  to DeliKate and her staff – Kate is retiring at the end of the year. She and her stall will be greatly missed at Bloodstock (and other festivals). We believe she has just one more to go (Damnation festival), so definitely check them out if you are there.  Thank you for all the great food and drink over the years!

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And that’s about it. Thank you for reading, and I’m sure we will see you down in the pit next year. As for Bloodstock content, keep an eye out over the next month for our articles where we suggest bands BOA could book for 2018!

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