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70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise


Bloodstock Open Air 2018: Day Three

Photo of Nightwish

Band Photo: Nightwish (?)

All good things must come to an end, as they say. And so it was that after two days full of metal, the Bloodstock Open Air festival drew to a close with one last blast of high octane music. It's strange to say about a metal festival, but given the amount of children and seasoned rockers in the audience over the course of the weekend, it can honestly be said that Bloodstock is fun for all ages, not just in terms of the festival and its fairground attractions, but for some of the bands who performed over the weekend too.

As had unfortunately been becoming a tradition, I missed out on the opening band on the Ronnie James Dio stage and instead got to the main area to see progressive metal outfit, Evergrey. Having witnessed some of their set at 70000 Tons Of Metal this year, it was interesting to see the band in a different light, quite literally as the atmospheric lighting of the ship's ampitheatre had been replaced with the cold, grey skies of the East Midlands morning. Attending the festival with a group of prog metal fans, I can safely say that the Swedes delight their fan base and target audience. Their long, intricate pieces are a must see for fans of the style but for those who aren't so keen or consider themselves more of a casual fan, this brand of music might do a lot to excite and certainly doesn't help wake you from the night before.

After poking my head into the SOPHIE stage to check out King Leviathan, then quickly removing myself from the area, it was back over to the main stage to see Amaranthe. Unfortunately for the group, technical issues had stopped them dead in their tracks and bassist Johan Andreassen to entertain the crowd with a barrage of jokes, swearing and hype man tactics, which was honestly much funnier than the comedian I had stumbled upon the previous day. Eventually however, the problems were solved and the Scandinavian sextet, featuring no less than three vocalists, most notably Elize Ryd, who was both in fine voice and retained the audience's affection with her pleasant demeanour throughout. The music itself may not be too everyone's liking but on what was arguably the most mainstream days of the weekend, fit in well alongside other bands on the stage. While Amaranthe have seen success so far, the quality of their live shows and accessible sound mean that there is plenty of room for them to reach a deservedly bigger role in the metal scene in the near future.

I had wanted to return to the SOPHIE stage next to check out Alien Weaponry, who were being touted as one of the bands to watch at the festival by many campers and designated the successors to old school Sepultura. This wasn't too be though as they had the misfortune of clashing with one of my school favourites, Fozzy. As everyone knows by now, Fozzy is fronted by wrestling legend Chris Jericho, who formed the band in 1999 with Stuck Mojo leader Rich Ward. Fans of both their previous endeavours made their voices heard before the show, but after finishing opening number, "Judas," the title track from their latest release, there was no doubt that was before us was the thing to concentrate on.

Chris Jericho is a born entertainer and he relishes in his role as the David Lee Roth styled frontman, standing on top of speakers, urging the crowd to sing and shout along and even joining them for one song. Long time fans of the band will be disappointed that they did not perform any material from their first four albums (though the bulk of the first two were covers) but nonetheless, songs like, "Drinkin' With Jesus," "Do You Wanna Start A War?" and "Painless" were received excellently by the crowd, who went crazy for the closing number, "Sandpaper." A fun filled performance from a band who formerly ironically, but now proudly can claim, "We are huge rock stars!"

Part of the problem of attending a festival on media duties is that one may often be forced to miss out on some performances and as much as it would have interested me, I wasn't able to catch the next main stage show, this time from Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta, who was joined by a host of friends and musicians such as Crowbar frontman Kirk Windstein, Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares and Light The Torch/former Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones. Instead, it was today's eyebrow raising addition, Mr. Big who I would next see. The rock supergroup don't pretend to be anything they're not and make no bones about being a rock and roll band that have been booked to play a metal festival. They needn't have worried how they would go down though, as the audience took to them immediately, thanks in part to the awesome guitar work of Paul Gilbert, along with the astonishing bass playing of Billy Sheehan, which came together to create an old school, big time rock show. It was certainly interesting to see a metal crowd singing along to their rendition of the Cat Stevens classic, "Wild World," as well as the housewives' favourite, "To Be With You," but Mr. Big made it work. In a weekend full of highlights, the quartet stood out, with some audience members even claiming them to be the band to beat.

And now for something completely different. Over at the SOPHIE stage was one of underground metal's most talked about bands, and certainly the most talked about duo, Mantar. The two musicians from Bremen, Germany are able to create a huge sound by themselves which had one not been looking straight at them, would convince any listener that a four or five piece were on stage. Performing material from their independent releases as well as their forthcoming Nuclear Blast debut, "The Modern Art Of Setting Ablaze," Mantar proceeded to blow away all those under the tarp with their blend of doom, punk and black metal, which comes together to create a vicious and unforgiving sound that's still enjoyable somehow. This is not the last we'll be hearing of the nihilistic twosome, who will surely be performing longer and more high profile sets on the festival circuit very soon.

Staying with the SOPHIE stage, it's somewhat ironic that after praising Mantar so much for their combination of styles and genres, the next band Act Of Defiance were a little more confusing with their approach. Featuring former Megadeth members Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover, as well as former Scar The Martyr vocalist Henry Derek and Shadows Fall guitarist Matt Bachand handling bass duties, the quartet have all the talent to create some great music. However, based on the offering, their music is less of a partnership of idea and more of a jumble sale. Elements of thrash, death and power metal are on display and there's a number of groups who can combine the three to create an interesting hybrid, but Act Of Defiance don't seem aware of how to do this. Their music is erratic at times and brutal at points, but never interesting. A disappointment who I hope find their sound soon and make me eat my words in the future.

Up next at the Ronnie James Dio stage, we had a band who know full well how to blend melody with brutality, At The Gates. The Swedish death metal legends are credited as one of the pioneers of the "Gothenburg sound" and are perhaps the most revered of those they share the tag with today. Promoting their new album, "To Drink From The Night Itself" by performing such songs as, "A Stare Bound In Stone" and "The Chasm," as well as the title track, the set otherwise relied heavily on the two albums before it; the classic, "Slaughter of the Soul" and the comeback album, "At War With Reality," performing no less than six songs from each record.

At The Gates perhaps still has the most popularity among their contemporaries for coming across as the most relatable. There are no special effects, no costumes and no speeches, just the harsh and driving sound of vintage Swedish death metal, which comes from the minds of musicians who look just like everyone else in the audience, but delivered in a way mere mortals can only dream of. Tomas Lindberg remains one of the best voices in the genre and his hoarse, d-beat influenced barks and howls resonate across the field. While some fans no doubt would have loved to have heard some older material during the hour long performance, they all will have gone away satisfied with a typically intense performance from one of death metal's true greats.

After seeing bands from all across the globe performing a variety of different genres, it was time for my final port of call for the weekend, the final headliners of the Ronnie James Dio stage, Nightwish. When I last saw Nightwish at Graspop last year, I was unimpressed and apathetic, however much like Gojira the night before, the Finland founded symphonic metallers saw their opportunity to make an impression and stake their claim as festival headliners and took it. The group made full use of the large stage and backgrounds, creating scenes of winter wonderlands during the August night and introducing wolves to an area where the badger is still the fiercest creature with the help of breath taking visuals on the screen behind them.

Music must always come first from a band however and Nightwish were on top of their game, as they needed to be, particularly vocalist Floor Jansen, whose operatic notes were strewn across the night sky like the stars themselves. Where other bands failed to make neutrals take note, Nightwish grabbed them by the ears and made them listen with pleasure, while fans of the band had the time of their lives, particularly two young girls who I don't think stopped dancing once. We often slap the role model tag on singers and musicians, but to see these children not only enjoying metal music so much but looking up at Jansen with magic in their eyes was a truly touching sight. Though many headbangers finished up the evening's music with a trip to the SOPHIE stage to see black metal stalwarts Watain, those of us who decided to finish with Nightwish were left with a warm feeling in our hearts, which was much needed for the cold and damp campsites. A surprisingly pleasant end to a festival of madness, mud and of course, metal.

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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