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Bloodstock Open Air 2018: Day Two

Photo of Cannibal Corpse

Band Photo: Cannibal Corpse (?)

Following a highly entertaining opening day which featured standout performances from Judas Priest, Suicidal Tendencies and Doro, Bloodstock Open Air had much to offer for the middle of the weekend, from death metal legends to up and comers to elaborate stage shows.

Having missed out on main stage openers, Nailed To Obscurity, my Saturday began at the Ronnie James Dio stage with one of the most talked about young bands going today, Texan thrashers, Power Trip. Thrash metal, being comprised in part by hardcore punk, can often be a gamble when translated to a large, outdoor stage during the day, with some bands not always able to make it work. It's safe to say however, that Power Trip don't have this problem.

Promoting their latest album, "Nightmare Logic," which was released last year, the group tore apart the main stage and attacked the waking audience with a tenacity that couldn't have been more confrontational unless they continuously shouted, "WAKE UP DICKHEADS, IT'S TIME FOR POWER TRIP!" It may have been morning but the energy that the band transferred to the crowd already resulted in mosh pits and crowd surfing, as vocalist Riley Gale spurred on the madness with his performance alone. A great way to start the day thanks to a band who will only get bigger and badder with time.

Unfortunately, commitments forced me to miss out on the main stage's next act, Orden Ogan, as well as half of the next band, Greek death metal titans, Septicflesh. What I did see of the latter however was a typically intense performance, which enraptured fans who had made their way down to the front to see the Hellenic heavyweights. The band are still carrying on the practice of only performing material they've recorded since their return ("Communion" on to last year's, "Codex Omega," but nonetheless, these albums are strong enough to carry a set and win over new fans. Songs such as "Anubis" and "Pyramid God" went down brilliantly, while songs from "Codex Omega" such as "Martyr" and set closer, "Dark Art" fit in perfectly with the rest of the catalogue. A welcome and typically tight set from one of Greece's most revered metal bands.

Up next we had one of the most intriguing bands on the bill, as they're both a new band and returning legends; Venom Inc. The band comprising of the late eighties incarnation of extreme metal pioneers Venom possess an intense presence, spearheaded by frontman Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan and new material such as "War" and opening number, "Metal We Bleed" sounds just as powerful in a large venue as it does in a small one. The rest of the set was comprised of older Venom songs, including, "Die Hard," "Live Like An Angel (Die Like A Devil)" and of course, "Black Metal" and all are performed with a love and pride that these favourites should be. Time was taken to address the recent heart attack suffered by guitarist Mantas, who actually died briefly in the back of an ambulance, which was met with a warm response from the crowd, delighted to see the influential musician back on stage so soon, before closing out an intense set with "Witching Hour."

With some time to spare, I went over to the New Blood stage to check out one of the unsigned bands and was treated to a performance by Liverpool based band, Equinox. The quintet perform a more classic style of heavy metal with progressive tendencies and have all the makings of a band which can play the bigger stage, displaying strong musicianship and having something special in a vocalist who possesses a classic rock star excitement and traditional Scouse wit, something of a cross between Sebastian Bach and Carcass's, Jeff Walker. Those who were in the small tent got to see a young, exciting band with a love for both what they do and the music they play, which can and should carry them for a while to come.

Back over at the Ronnie James Dio stage, it was the turn of today's leftfield addition, Combichrist. Being as much of an EDM combo as an industrial metal band, it was interesting to see how they would go down at the festival, sandwiched between Venom Inc. and Alestorm. Fans didn't have feared how the neutral would react to them however, as they were received well and built up momentum the longer the set continued. The majority of those near the front of the stage had seemingly come together as one to create a large, bouncing mob, while scattered around the ground itself were numerous people throwing out their own dance moves. By the time, "Get Your Body Beat" was unleashed, both the band and the crowd were in full swing and it's safe to assume many in the crowd would have been happy had Combichrist stayed for another hour, with the closing song, "What The Fuck Is Wrong With You?" going down a treat, particularly as frontman Andy LaPlegua and guitarist Eric13 making their way into the audience to add to the excitement.

Some more media commitments forced me to miss out on Alestorm's set, though given the number of people dressed as pirates, it's safe to assume it went down well and after seeing a little of a stand up comedian on the SOPHIE stage, it was back over to the main area to see death metal stalwarts Cannibal Corpse. Having watched them twice at 70000 Tons Of Metal this year, as well as catching them at their show in Bristol, this was my fourth time seeing the Buffalo founded five piece in 2018 and I was therefore somewhat disappointed that the setlist seemingly hadn't changed at any point over the past six months. Material from the latest offering, "Red Before Black," including the title track was performed of course, as was older tunes such as "The Wretched Spawn." There was an idea that caught on at Bloodstock this year which saw hundreds of people wearing Hawaiian shirts during the Cannibal Corpse set as a nod to the band's appearance in the movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, though the band either didn't notice this or simply didn't seem to acknowledge it, which was a shame. Add to this poor sound quality in some areas of the arena, a recurring theme throughout the festival which from the front right of the stage made the quintet sound like mud and sadly, Cannibal Corpse didn't leave much of an impression.

Over at the SOPHIE stage, it was time for something special. Having last released an album in 1992, groove metal pioneers Exhorder were finally about to make their live debut in the United Kingdom. Several people I spoke to beforehand had been waiting for decades to see the New Orleans veterans and they did not disappoint. Performing songs from their albums, "Slaughter At The Vatican" and "The Law," Exhorder unleashed an energy reminiscent of Suicidal Tendencies the previous day and made sure that the old favourites sounded crisp and heavy as ever before, in addition to a stellar cover of the Black Sabbath classic, "Into The Void." Old favourites like, "Unforgiven" and the sodomy anthem, "Anal Lust" sounded perfect and it's simply a fact that Exhorder's first show in Britain was a roaring success and that they'll be welcomed back with open arms in the future.

Time now for the main stage to wrap up for the night and capping off the Ronnie James Dio stage tonight was French death metal outfit, Gojira. Gojira's set has already been the subject of discussion by some metal outlets for its outlandish stage effects and atmosphere and in many ways, it was a success and certainly a memorable performance. The use of videos on the large screen behind the band was certainly interesting and at times, very artfully done, while the pyro was something of a mixed bag. The fire effects were very well put together and lent themselves to the music perfectly, while the smoke spurts were a little hit and miss, shocking crowd members at times and making them laugh at others, at least where I was standing.

Stage effects aside though, how was the band? Well, they were OK. For Gojira fans, this must have been a spectacular show, seeing the group headline a festival in a grand manner with their own brand of progressive death metal, but for the neutral or those who aren't too keen on them, it may have been a case of style over substance. Indeed, at the end of the set, one remark that stood out was, "Well, that was a long song. It started over an hour ago!" Gojira has a sound that has made them stand out from their contemporaries, but is it enough to warrant a headlining spot at an ever growing festival? Some would say no. As much as their music, the group is also known for their environmental activism and support for the Sea Shepherd organisation, which while very admirable, can come across as a gimmick if not handled with care, resulting in a few giggles when one song was preceded by, "This is for the whales!" All in all, Gojira put on a show to remember but as a festival headliner, they may be a little too niche to pull it off.

Finally we come to the last band of the evening, the SOPHIE stage headliners, Orphaned Land. The Israeli veterans who themselves have long been activists for peace in the Middle East, promoting a message of peace between Christians, Jews and Muslims are promoting their new album, "Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs" which was released at the beginning of this year and brought out a good number of songs from the record, such as, "The Cave," "In Propaganda" and the single, "Like Orpheus." The band has always had a strong stage presence and tonight was no exception, led by charismatic vocalist Kobi Farhi, they reached out to the crowd and were embraced warmly.

Of course, it wasn't just songs from, "Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs" which were aired on the evening, with plenty from the superb, "All Is One" album being played too, including the title track and "Let The Truce Be Known," while other albums such as "The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR" being represented by "In Thy Never Ending Way" and fan favourite, "Sapari" and "Mabool: The Story Of The Three Sons Of Seven" also being promoted with performances of "Ocean Land," "The Kiss Of Babylon" and finale, "Norra el Norra (Entering the Ark.)" Ultimately, Orphaned Land proved to be an excellent way to finish the second day of the festival and treated the fans, the event and themselves with a passion and drive which all bands, especially veterans should.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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