Review by Emily Castles, Photos by Rich Thompson
There are no kick-back Sunday mornings this weekend. The troop of metal-devotees drag themselves out of their now slightly-moulding tents for the final day of Bloodstock 2018. And those early risers who make for the Sophie Lancaster Stage are met by New York City’s Uncured. Releasing their debut album Medusa last year, the Big Apple quartet are out to impress and put on a high-energy show, which helps obliterate any lingering fatigue in these Bloodstockers. The prog outfit combine 90s Fear Factory-esque riffs, hardcore death metal growls, with gentle melodic guitar and vocal interludes. An unlikely combination not married up too often and worth worth noting for the novelty value alone.
Shortly after, King Leviathan take to the same platform. This is a band who have also recently released their debut album, Paean Heretica, and have continued to develop a keen following since their 2015 appearance here at Catton Park on the New Blood Stage. They are a band who fervently push their role as a ‘Doomcult’, but slightly lack the vocals to quite pull it off. Adam Sedgwick, whilst providing suitably brutal black metal growls, struggles slightly with the more finely cut clean vocals, which often sound more pop-punk than doom.
Over at the New Blood, Drudge are making merry with their 70s groove gyrations encapsulating hard rock vocals and Sabbath-esque riffage. The Cumbrian quartet’s melodic, stoner sound is strongly reminiscent of Black Spiders and brings something different to the usual Bloodstock mix.
Early afternoon, and the Sophie Lancaster tent has a mass spilling out of metalheads. People simply can’t get in, watching (or rather just listening) from the outskirts. I managed to wriggle through to catch a glimpse of Alien Weaponry. The New Zealand teen thrash crew started by two brothers in 2010 have a strong cult (or not so cult – it was a very large crowd) following. Their lyrics often feature elements of the native Maori language and culture and sections of their set at times border a spiritual ritual, with mesmerising chanting-vocals.
Shortly after, Nepalese newcomers Underside explode onto the Sophie stage with a colourful show straight out of the Bride of Chuckie. Giant-headed demonic dolls roam the stage against a backdrop of bludgeoning brutality. If the Sophie stage was hoping to take a breather at this point it had little chance as Mumbai’s finest, Demonic Resurrection, then took over. An established band of nearing 20 years, Demonic Resurrection began life when metal scarcely brushed the surface of India’s underground music scene. Fronted by the charismatic Sahil ‘The Demonstealer’ Makhija, the blackened death metal outfit, embellished with a hint of symphonic flair, put on a scorching show before a packed-out tent. The Demonstealer was particularly pleased to have a crowd surfer or two, with a healthy quota of circle pits also responding to a stream of tracks from new album Dashavatar. Having conquered India, this bunch are now preparing for fully-blown world domination. The Demon is resurrected!
Over at the Ronnie James Dio stage, mesmerizing things were also happening; little short of live history in the making. Jasta – as in Jamey Jasta of hardcore royalty Hatebreed – took to the stage with the promise of being joined by some ‘friends’… We had no idea. We were not prepared. He was first joined by Killswitch Engage’s ex-frontman Howard Jones to perform their excellent recent collaboration ‘Chasing Demons’. Jones has one of the metal industry’s strongest voices, and created the perfect melody for Jasta’s growls to bounce off. A further highlight was the appearance of the guitar legend Dino Cazares, who joined Jasta to perform a few Fear Factory classics, including ‘Replica’ and ‘Edgecrusher’. To tie up this ridiculously star-studded metal mash-up, Jasta brought out Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein to join in with songs from Hatebreed, Crowbar and Down. It was a Bloodstock party like no other and everybody walked away feeling like they had just witnessed a little bit of metal history.
As the sky begins to darken and the wind begins to hasten, many head over to the Sophie tent for this weekend’s most significant installment of doom. Arkansas kings Pallbearer, now in their tenth year, have truly raised the bar as one of the most influential and instrumental doom bands of their generation. They combine melodic riffs and haunting clean vocals, to bring doom into the 21st century. Their new single, ‘Dropout’, is even bluesy in places. They are true pioneers who have reworked doom into a new art form, resulting in this utterly psychedelic performance. How slow can you headbang? What would the Corpsegrinder say!
The night and festival ended with the Finnish symphonic legends Nightwish. Formed in the late 90s, the female operatic vocals were part of a movement that grew alongside bands including Evanescence and Within Temptation. Nightwish have had a number of female vocalists, with Floor Jansen firmly entrenched in the role. This evening, Jansen’s vocals lacked some of the strength displayed by other singers to perform at Bloodstock, while her awkward swaying and quivering vibrato suggested the band have not really progressed much past their early 2000’s feel. Still, there is a complexity in the composition which remains undeniably impressive.
Another great Bloodstock, and the Catton Park festival reasserts its thoroughly merited reputation as one of Europe’s most eminent and friendly gatherings of the metal community.