Review by Emily Castles
As the sun rises over the straw-ish grass of Catton Park this Saturday morning, Bloodstock campers have been treated to a relatively dry night, (hopefully) free of tent malfunctions and sinking coolboxes. Despite this, a few worse-for-wear festival-goers can still be spotted queuing at the coffee stall following a third night of hard partying. The extra day we’ve been treated to this year has been a hard hit for a wild few. ..
Taking the lunchtime slot over on the vast Ronnie James Dio stage are nu-metal, electronic hip-hoppers Wargasm. Added to the bill late in the day following several overseas dropouts, Wargasm is an unlikely choice for such a heavy festival. Frontwoman Milkie Way (also a model) frolics around the main stage in cropped leather and a spiky mullet, her high-pitched screeches awakening the late risers from their slumber. The electronic rapping won’t be to everyone’s taste, probably not those waiting for Kreator later tonight, but the energy level is certainly set for the rest of the day.
Following on the main stage this early afternoon are metalcore maestros, Malevolence. Having released their latest EP The Other Side during the height of lockdown last year – it’s clear that these Yorkshiremen have been waiting for this moment, especially after whetting their appetite with a set at the Download Pilot a few weeks ago. Frontman Alex Taylor, well-protected from the threatening drizzle in a black anorak, is an animated vocalist supported by sophisticated guitarwork that conjures an instant, unrelenting circle pit.
For those after something a little less hardcore, Nottingham hard rockers Cottonmouth can be found enchanting the New Blood Stage with soulful choruses and groovy riffs, reminiscent of 90s grunge gods Soundgarden.
Soon after, we are thrown back into the 90s yet again (1995 to be exact) with goth metal kings Paradise Lost. Over at the Ronnie James Dio stage, singer Nick Holmes nonchalantly takes centre-stage, pointing out that his black jeans are in fact from 1995 too. ‘Hands up if you’re bald with a beard’, he laughs, as they open with the glorious ‘Enchantment’.
In between sets we are treated to more dry humour from Mr Holmes, pointing in the distance and enquiring, ‘So who’s had one of those foot long cheese dogs?’ This humble, awkward audience banter beautifully contradicts the gravitas of this particular set. We are celebrating the 25th (or rather 26th, thanks to Covid-19) anniversary of the incredible Draconian Times, one of the most important and celebrated albums of its genre.
Playing the masterpiece in its wonderful entirety means we are treated to riffs that aren’t often part of Paradise Lost’s live sets, including ‘Once Solemn’ and the riff-tastic ‘Shadowkings’. The always formidable king of riffs, Gregor Mackintosh, bleeds (actual blood) down his abused strings. Aaron Aedy is more cheerful in demeanor but is similarly brutal in his guitar skills – later donating his own blood-stained strings to charity via ‘the guitarwrist’ – a Bloodstock trader. There are few guitarists that have crafted as many memorable riffs as these two. Despite this, unfortunately the Halifax boys don’t win a particularly animated or appreciative crowd – it’s unclear why. They end with a few extra songs from different eras, concluding with everyone’s favourite depressing sing-along session, ‘Just Say Words’.
As the evening begins to get a little darker, Winterfylleth can be found over in the Sophie Lancaster tent, brewing their personal concoction of tuned-down black metal. Back with a brand-new album, The Reckoning Dawn, which even hit the UK Albums Chart last year, they perform several new tracks this evening. In the past year they have also recruited a new member in the way of lead guitarist Russell Dobson (also of Necronautical) – making his live debut with the band today. He fits skillfully within the band’s cinematic, doom-filled, gut-wrenching sound.
Brum favourites Memoriam take to the Sophie Lancaster stage shortly after. Karl Willets, with his luscious silver locks that seem to get shinier and thicker with every passing day, is as lively and performative as ever. They have a new drummer, Spike T. Smith, and have also just released a brand-new album To The End. The official merch stall next to Lemmy’s Bar is selling t-shirts that sum them up, ‘Old School Death Metal Birmingham England.’ In the face of the global pandemic, Willets defiantly states… ‘We celebrate life with death metal.’
Closing the night with some serious pyro back on the main stage is the almighty Kreator. The German thrashers, one of just a handful of bands that have flown in from abroad (complete with isolation period), have a serious knack for catchy choruses. ‘Satan is Real’. ‘Hail to the Hordes’. ‘Phobia’. Hear the song just once, maybe not even the whole way through – and you’re screaming along with Millie Petrozza as though you wrote the thing yourself.
Their set is filled with hard riffs, a whole lot of flames, and powerful vocals from a frontman that only seems to get better with age. They even bring out Dani Filth, who’d played the set before with COF, for ‘Betrayer’ – the screeching vocals offer an unusual spin on Kreator’s thrash traditionalism. Concluding with crowd favourite ‘Pleasure to Kill’, Kreator disappears in a cloud of confetti and (literal) smoke. What a show!