Review by Emily Castles
There’s a waft of rain this morning – the skies prepare to leak tears as the most deliciously devilish festival reaches its concluding day. This year’s festival is one that none of us have taken for granted. Even after two full days, it’s still surreal walking on this sacred ground once again, and yet it also feels like we never left. And so, as Bloodstockers get those last few beers, buy that t-shirt they’ve had their eye on and unwisely bite the bullet and hop on a bumper car – we vow to enjoy this final day like a Holy celebration. Because to us, it is.
Early on the Sophie Lancaster stage is doomy Londoners Grave Lines. Jake Harding’s vocals are instantly captivating, bouncing between gut-wrenching cries and unfathomably deep melody reminiscent of Ian Curtis or Nick Cave. Currently working on their third album, the band already have a wonderful backlog of material which lights (or darkens) the tent. Caroline Cawley from Dystopian Future Movies makes a swift appearance for ‘False Flame’ – the harrowing addition adding a touch of the psychedelic to the set.
Shortly after, Bury boys Pist burst onto the stage. The stage is a chaotic, energy-fuelled display, complete with a bright yellow Muppet-esque jacket, mid-song guitar changes and a whole bunch of free t-shirts. These guys are clearly completely buzzed to be here, and their infectious energy draws in the crowds.
More chaos ensues over on the main stage with power metal comic-nerds Gloryhammer. Dressed in their trademark armour, each member representing a ‘character’, they enter stage to the Star Wars theme-tune – this is a cinematic, mind-warping journey into a Dungeons and Dragons session. There’s a Jon Snow, a Green Lantern and an Assassin’s Creed character. Or so it seems to me. Swords at the ready, metalheads.
Interrupting the fun and games are Deitus, blowing up the New Blood Stage with their own brand of black metal. With big riffs, haunting interludes and ferocious vocals, we can surely expect big things from this band.
Meanwhile, over on the main stage and without warning, Brian Blessed appears on the stage dressed in pyjamas bottoms and a woolly fleece, screaming ‘show us your horns!’. He encourages a few chants of ‘Gordon’s alive’ (not sure how many got the reference, however), before delving into a soliloquy from Henry V. It was unclear why Blessed has this bumbling moment in the limelight. But if anything, it reveals the mass-appeal of Saxon.
Even if you’re not a fan of Barnsley’s finest export, it’s hard not to be moved by this build up. Snapshots in time flash before our eyes. There’s lots of fun. There are many milestones. There’s a whole lot of denim. And even more hair. It’s slightly mind-boggling to think that Saxon have been going for almost 45 years. They smash onto the stage with Motorcycle Man, Biff pointing into the crowd supporting his trademark military jacket. The rain begins to pour, but we don’t care. This is a mass singalong with the likes of Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm of the Law, and Princess in the Night. We pause momentarily as Biff fumbles with an iphone. He takes a video and then struggles to upload it for a few minutes. Hey, he’s 70 after all. He tells us that he was ‘so excited’ for today that he ‘couldn’t sleep a wink.’ We feel you Biff, we feel you.
As the night begins to reach its star-studded conclusion, recently re-formed Sheffield-based rockers, Black Spiders, take to the Sophie Lancaster stage. They are back with a vengeance in the form of a brand new self-titled album. But this is a band that’s been around for a while, and this evening the tent is filled with dedicated hard rockers.
The night ends with the almighty Judas Priest. It begins with a haunting voiceover, telling us the story of a monster called ‘Heavy f*cking metal’. A glowing pitchfork shines from the back of the stage. Mr Halford enters in a black leather jacket, embellished with gold studs and gold fringing. Combined with the sunglasses and trademark beard, he is a force to be reckoned with.
As the world’s most famous Brummies plough through hit after hit, it is only right that this festival concludes with a band that’s been going for over 50 years. Music will survive anything and everything. Metal will triumph, as long as we all stick together and remember that with every headbang, every string strung and with every horn thrust into the air, a weight is lifted, and a heart is filled.