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Bloodstock Open Air 2018: Day One

Photo of Judas Priest

Band Photo: Judas Priest (?)

Festival season is drawing to a close for another year, with the likes of Wacken, Graspop, Hellfest and others all over until 2019. This year, Metal Underground had the pleasure of attending Bloodstock Open Air, the fastest growing metal festival in the United Kingdom, held at Catton Park, Derbyshire and featuring bands from all across the globe, from legends to unsigned acts. So how did this year's edition of Bloodstock go? Read on, MacDuff.

The grounds open on Thursday, as the finishing touches are being put on the main stage, though fans are still treated to an evening of metal courtesy of the second stage, named after the SOPHIE charity (Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) which this year was headlined by Russian folk metal band, Arkona. I was only able to catch one set, which was from British death metal outfit Bloodshot Dawn, a solid performance which attracted a decent sized crowd and a positive response from those in attendance. One thing that will hit you immediately after entering the arena area is how expensive everything is, even by festival standards. We expect prices to be raised at festivals, but £7 for a standard burger is ridiculous, add fries and a soft drink and it comes to £14.80, way more than the mediocre refreshments should cost. This is why it's useful to bring food and drink of your own and eat in the campsite during some downtime.

On to the first full day then, which boasted a stellar lineup across the board. We decided the best way to begin would be to check out one of the young bands on the SOPHIE stage and caught the second area's openers, Deity's Muse, all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa. The group may not be the heaviest offering of the day and evoke more memories of bands such as Alice In Chains or Tool than say Mayhem or At The Gates, but nevertheless, those who decided to give them the time of day were paid off with an interesting brand of hard rock, accessible as it is different from the rest. A solid way to start the day and a fine performance from a band I hope will tour outside of their home country more in the future.

On to the Ronnie James Dio stage, which is appropriately the main stage, to catch a set from Britain's most highly regarded thrash metal band, Onslaught. The quintet started off with a string of songs from the more recent albums "Killing Peace," "Sound Of Violence" and "VI," the three they recorded since returning in 2005, including the title tracks from the first two of those albums and other songs such as "Burn." Old favourites were by no means abandoned either, as the likes of "Let There Be Death" and "Power From Hell" were brought out to the delight of fans who braved the harsh rain, who were rewarded for their patience with a brand new song, "A Perfect Day To Die." All in all, a very special set from a band which have already assured their place in thrash metal history.

Having been forced to miss out on the set from Memoriam, the British death metal supergroup featuring members of Benediction and Bolt Thrower, it was on to the surprise of the day, Wednesday 13. The former Murderdolls vocalist and his eponymous band present a sound much heavier than one might expect from what they've heard on Scuzz and also put on a show the likes of which Alice Cooper would be proud of, which featured a number of costumes and fire breathing burlesque dancers among other things. The group went down very well with the crowd, who were still doing their best to shrug off poor weather and seemed to feed off their energy, which was in full swing by the time they finished the set with the camp singalong, "I Walked With A Zombie" and Murderdolls anthem, "I Love To Say Fuck." A perfect example of why one should always see a band live before dismissing them.

Speaking of death metal supergroups, up next on the Ronnie James Dio stage was Swedish founded outfit, Bloodbath, now featuring Paradise Lost vocalist Nick Holmes in place of Opeth leader Mikael Åkerfeldt. Having seen Holmes only three days earlier with his main band, it was an interesting contrast witnessing the Yorkshireman in full death metal mode, unleashing a brutal growl from beginning to end, though his signature dry humour remained, another reason why he's an ideal replacement for Åkerfeldt, which included mocking people who are quick to criticise his renditions of older Bloodbath material on the internet.

Around this time, I headed to the media tent to conduct an interview with Lovebites, the all female power/thrash band from Japan which were scheduled to perform on the SOPHIE stage, though less than five minutes after my arrival, they were given the exciting news that they were to play the Ronnie James Dio stage instead because the next scheduled band, Suicidal Tendencies were running late due to flight problems. So with very little time to prepare for what may have been their biggest show yet, the Asian quintet sprinted off to get into stage clothes.

What followed may have been a monumental performance which saw a band make a name for themselves abroad, as Lovebites, clearly humbled but no less brave, took to the stage and unleashed their furious brand of metal. Make no mistake, these ladies can play and they can play superbly, demonstrating intricate guitar playing and an exciting brand of music which pairs the ferocity of thrash with the epic might of power metal. Though the set seemed to be over as soon as it began, songs like "Shadowmaker" went down a treat, audience members were chanting their name and shirts soon sold out. Lovebites have arrived in Britain and will surely thrive on the island which is so desperate for something different in modern metal.

Lovebites were followed by American power metal veterans Kamelot, though I was unable to catch most of their set, owing to having to rearrange and conduct the aforementioned interview. What I did see of Kamelot was strong and well received, though clearly not to the taste of all in attendance. I would have liked to have seen more so that I could speak with more authority on their performance, but for now I will paraphrase Django Unchained and say, "Gentlemen, you have my interest."

Over at the SOPHIE stage, it was time for crossover thrash icons Suicidal Tendencies to go on and make up for lost time. Travel issues are a nightmare for anyone but the packed out tent would never have known the group had been dealing with any kind of problems that day, as they exploded opening number, "You Can't Bring Me Down." The fitting first song set the crowd alight and frontman Mike Muir is still putting younger band leaders to shame with his never ending energy, intense delivery and inimitable stage moves.

Suicidal Tendencies may well have put on the best set of the weekend with a bunch of classics including, "Subliminal" and "War Inside My Head," as well as great moments such as bringing a young fan on stage to play drums with Dave Lombardo and lifting a wheelchair bound thrasher to join them on the next song. Even if you don't hear your favourite Suicidal song, this is a band that will never ever let you down in the live setting. Truly excellent stuff from a band which will remain one of the most beloved by thrash fans the world over forever.

Unfortunately, the scheduling conflicts meant I was only able to catch the final two songs from black metal legends Emperor, who had been performing their sophomore album, "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk," in full, leaving those who had been watching Suicidal Tendencies only enough time to hear, "I Am The Black Wizards" and "Inno a Satana," which were both performed perfectly. Time then, to wait until Britain's own metal gods, Judas Priest arrived.

Judas Priest are not just legends, a word which is thrown around too liberally in this day and age, they're an institution. They're innovators, icons, living titans and they're still producing stellar music after nearly fifty years. As expected, they opened with an explosive rendition of "Firepower," the title track from their excellent new album and from then on, treated fans to a number of songs from across their storied career. Fans are always in for a few surprises when it comes to the Judas Priest setlist and Bloodstock was no exception as they celebrated the forty year anniversaries of both "Stained Class" and "Killing Machine" ("Hell Bent For Leather" in North America) by performing songs from the record such as "Saints In Hell" from the former and of course "Hell Bent For Leather" from the latter, complete with Harley Davidson entrance from singer Rob Halford, who was in fine voice this evening.

Priest also unearthed other gems including, "Bloodstone" from the essential, "Screaming For Vengeance" album and "Grinder" from the classic, "British Steel," along with other songs from "Firepower" such as "Lightning Strikes" and "Rising From Ruin." Naturally, such anthems as "Painkiller" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming" were unleashed in the East Midlands, before an encore performance which saw guitarist Glen Tipton, now battling bravely against Parkinsons Disease, join the band for renditions of "No Surrender" from the latest opus and the "British Steel" staples "Metal Gods," "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight." As if it needed saying, Judas Priest were on great form tonight, delighting fans with another phenomenal performance and gargantuan power which closed the Ronnie James Dio stage on the first night in breath taking fashion. Long live the Priest!

It takes something special to follow a band like Judas Priest and perhaps the only act which can do so is another legend. Enter to the SOPHIE stage the metal queen herself, Doro Pesch. The former Warlock vocalist is still in excellent shape in all aspects and her voice carries with it the experience of a seasoned veteran and the youthful excitement of someone who's still excited about what they do. Like Priest, Doro treated fans and curious parties to a plethora of old favourites, as well as some new material, including "All For Metal" from her upcoming double album, "Forever Warriors/Forever United." A large number of Warlock favourites were brought out for the occasion, including, "I Rule The Ruins" and "East Meets West," which went down a treat.

Doro's passion for metal and love for live music is as infectious as music can be and the crowd were delighted to see the German singer belt out more Warlock anthems such as "Burning The Witches" and of course, "All We Are" throughout her set. It all makes for an intimate feeling, despite the bombastic choruses and thousands underneath the tarp watching one of heavy metal's greatest treasures show why she's outlasted so many others and continues to be on top of her game, concluding with a rendition of another Warlock track, "Metal Tango." On a day which could have easily been spoiled by the rain, travel issues and other problems, both the young guns and decorated veterans brought a lot to the table and made sure that the first day of Bloodstock 2018 was a roaring success.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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