Review by Lucy Gliddon and photos by Sean Larkin
I’ve been going to Bloodstock yearly since 2009, but until this year I’d always been a punter, so I was eager to see a different side to the festival in my role as reviewer. The festival has taken place annually since 2001, when it was located at Derby Assembly Rooms, before re-locating to Catton Hall and becoming Bloodstock Open Air in 2005.
As the sun beat down on Catton Hall, German power metallers Freedom Call (Ronnie James Dio Stage) helped kick off Bloodstock Festival, livening up the crowd with a hard-hitting combination of sky-high vocals and galloping riffs. Audience interaction key, frontman Chris Bay encouraged fans to join ‘a Heavy Metal Party’, jumping along to tracks including ‘Power and Glory’. The dose of brilliantly cheesy power metal seemed to cure thousands of hangovers caused by Thursday night, and a full metal weekend was well and truly underway.
Female-fronted Skarlett Riot took to the Jagermeister stage, showcasing an alternative rock set to a reasonable sized crowd. Although the band are perhaps an atypical booking for the festival, the audience reacts well as front woman Skarlett holds attention with her impressive stage presence, oozing confidence and delivering a good vocal performance. The future looks bright for the Lincolnshire group, who only formed in 2011 and already has a performance at Download Festival under its belt.
Moonsorrow offered a refreshing change in pace back on the main stage, treating a big crowd to their brand of Pagan/folk metal. During the set it becomes abundantly clear that the Bloodstock team had truly nailed the sound levels on the main stage this year, with frontman Ville Sorvali’s vocals growling clear above a balanced mix of the bands’ instruments. Moonsorrow don’t frequently perform in the UK, and fans certainly made the most of the rare appearance.
Next up was Iced Earth, playing their first UK festival with new singer Stu Block, and the masses gathered to witness a slick and solid performance from the American heavy metal outfit. Block, who joined the band in 2011, and had big boots to fill following vocalists Matt Barlow and Tim “Ripper” Owens, appeared incredibly confident within the band, competently covering material from the breadth of Iced Earth’s discography. Set highlights included “Dystopia”, “Burning Times”, “Watching Over Me” and of course self-titled closing track “Iced Earth”.
Bloodstock re-named their main stage the ‘Ronnie James Dio Stage’, following the passing of legendary vocalist Dio in 2010, and Friday saw the Dio Disciples perform on the stage that Ronnie sadly never reached due to his illness. The band, fronted by vocalists Tim “Ripper” Owens and Toby Jepson delivered a blinding set of Dio, Black Sabbath and Rainbow favourites, leaving some of the band’s members close to tears, and the crowd united in respect and celebration for the great man’s life and music. As the set drew to a close, it seemed a strong contender for performance of the day – or even weekend.
Originally booked in an earlier slot, Swedish black metal favourites Watain delivered a set coinciding with the sunset. The band has been active since 1998, but seems to have made an increased impact in recent years, and I doubted whether they were suitable so high up on the bill. Complete with pyro, blood, an attractive stage set, and mandatory grim and mysterious stage presence from frontman Erik Danielsson, they proved me wrong, as he commanded the crowd from beginning to end. A personal highlight was “Reaping Death.”
As Watain left the stage, the crowd eagerly awaited the highly anticipated set from Polish heavyweights Behemoth. Check out what fellow Bloodstock reviewer Chop thought here.
See more photos from Friday below: