Review by Emily Castles, Photos by Rich Thompson
Are we in Hawaii? Are we in an over-priced sun-baked holiday resort? Or are we at a family function full of questionably dressed uncles? No. We are at one of the biggest metal festivals in the world. And as for the high proportion of punters wearing Hawaiian shirts… well, if you know, you know.
The middle day of Bloodstock 2018 was another rainy one. The watery elements held off for Power Trip who welcomed a sizable crowd early in the morning over at the Ronnie James Dio stage; probably the biggest morning crowd of the weekend. The boys from Texas put on a high-powered, full-energy display which really got the pit going, with baseball-cap-wearing front man Riley Gale at one point venturing down to join the moshers at the front. His vocals add a punkish spin to Power Trip’s arching old school thrash sound. Their 2017 album Nightmare Logic received great attention and praise, and much of their set was naturally enough drawn from it. They ended with ‘Manifest Decimation,’ the title track of their 2013 debut album.
Meanwhile, over at the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, Cadence Noir were making their presence felt. This was a ‘party’ band; a band which may initially catch your eye with their furiously-hardcore violinist Emma and quasi-goth get-up, but which slightly lack the complexity and depth of some of the other New Blood acts to venture forth this year.
A band which can boast musical complexity in abundance are the Greek titans Septicflesh. Alongside their esteemed compatriots Rotting Christ, this group are Grecian-metal royalty. The symphonic grandeur combined with inescapable melodic riffs and the brutal growls of Spiros Antoniou create an addictive concoction. Classically trained, Spiros is a phenomenal composer.
Their most recent album Codex Omega proved that the band can do no wrong. Around now for close to 20 years, with the caveat of a small hiatus in the 2000s, Septicflesh are still coming up with fresh ways to be creative and interesting. Performing fan-favourites such as ‘Anubis’ and ‘Communion’ (to which Spiros growled “Sing with me, the melody….”), this was a classical concert like no other and certainly one of the main highlights of the day, if not the whole hazy Catton Park shebang.
Meanwhile, over on the Sophie Lancaster stage we found Conjurer, a band who have gone from strength to strength since playing the New Blood stage back in 2016. Recently shortlisted in the Golden Gods’ ‘Best New Band’ category, the Midlanders have a sombre essence with an element of the macabre about them, taking us on a journey of destruction with their strong, sludge-lined sound. There are no jokes here. Not much in the way of conversation. This is all about the creation of a soundtrack to brutality.
Back at the Ronnie James Dio stage Venom Inc were showing that they’re not ready to be put out to pasture any time soon. Whilst the name Venom has been prominent in the metal scene since the late 70s, Venom Inc emerged from the debris just three years ago. It is the musical lovechild of original Venom members Mantras and Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan, and successful live shows were supplanted by the release of their excellent debut album last year, confirming that this trio aren’t content to bask in former glories. It was an energetic set which many welcomed. This new music combines distinctive inspiration from their original 80s sound, with much sharper and clean guitars. While the ‘Inc’ creates a little daylight from the original Venom line-up, there is no real escaping the fact that this is Venomous to its core.
And now to those multi-coloured Hawaiian shirts. It’s in appreciation of the mighty Cannibal Corpse of course! Still confused? Cannibal Corpse appeared in the 1994 film Ace Ventura, in which comic legend Jim Carrey gatecrashed their gig in a Hawaiian shirt and dived head first into the pit. And so, naturally, many metalheads turned up in their most flamboyant South Sea shirts to recreate the iconic moment. A circle pit of colour; now that’s something you don’t often see in the metal world. Cannibal Corpse put on a ferocious performance as always, including such timeless treasures from their expansive archives, ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ and ‘Devoured by Vermin’. Surprisingly, they played nothing from their latest album Red Before Black. But with 14 albums under their studded belts, this was one setlist which was spoiled for choice. The death metal demons show no signs of tiring. As frontman George ‘The Corpsegrinder’ Fisher growled in reference to his famous helicopter head spins, “Just try and keep up with me. But you won’t.” It’s been 30 years…. and we aren’t even close.
As we moved deeper into the evening, progressive-metal outfit Voyager set sail on the Sophie Lancaster stage. The Australian headbangers are an established group, recently releasing their sixth full-length studio album, Ghost Mile. Their sound combines many different genres, sometimes feeling confused and uncoordinated. But overwhelmingly this band encourages intrigue and approaches music without restrictions or boundaries.
Over on the New Blood, those escaping the equally progressive storm were greeted with the gruesomely-masked faces of Psychotype. Pennywise and friends took clear inspiration from 90s alternative metal, Pantera meets Korn. But inspiration is one thing, and at times this set felt like a Slipknot tribute act.
The wait for Saturday’s headliners was a soggy one; the biggest downpour of the weekend, in fact. We gratefully steeled ourselves under the tarpaulin protection offered at Lemmy’s Bar with everyone else, beer in hand, watching the main stage from afar with eager eyes – ready to venture back out into the Amazonian like deluge. French masterminds, Gojira, are no strangers to Bloodstock – here in 2016, when second to headliners Mastodon. But this year was their turn to top the bill. The French trio have a much wider appeal than most of those performing at Bloodstock. Their songs are clean and sharp, with memorable riffs and lyrics, expanding the bands likeability to the rock and alternative crowds as well as metal, even receiving a Grammy nomination for their 2016 album Magma. They put on a suitably elaborate stage show embellished with fire and confetti, and played various undeniably catchy numbers including ‘Silvera’ and ‘Stranded’. Although Gojira lack some of the raw brutality and ferocity of other bands that played across the weekend, their technical skill and complex musical compositions are mesmerising.