Braingell Writer Reviews Bloodstock Open Air 2011 / Photo’s & Vids!

Braingell writer DanUK - "Camping chair..? Nah!"

All photos/videos were shot by DanUK.  You can see all his videos on his Youtube channel here.

Metal festivals are a wonderful thing. An event where thousands upon thousands of metal fans congregate to drink beer and watch their favourite, and not so favourite, bands perform is always going to be fun, especially if you throw in an open air arena and several nights camping. This is why I chose to go to Bloodstock Open Air (BOA) this year. Having done Wacken in 2006 and Hellfest from 2007 to 2011 I wanted to see what the UK could offer in the way of open air metalfests – and I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m not going to give a detailed description of my weekend, just a few lines about the bands I watched and filmed. There were a lot of bands playing and I didn’t want to see all of them. But the ones I did want to see were great (with a slight exception…)

Friday’s line-up was perfect – featuring four bands that I wanted to see, leaving ample time for setting up camp and exploring the festival arena and sinking as many beers as possible in the VIP tent. Those four bands were Triptykon, Coroner, Kreator and Friday headliners WASP.

Triptykon is effectively Celtic Frost by another name. To see Tom G. Warrior onstage is always a privilege and he and his new band really do make some of the most monstrously heavy music around today. It was nice to see them on a big stage as when I saw them at Hellfest in June they were shafted somewhat by being asked to play in the Terrorizer tent while Coroner, a band that hasn’t made a record for 18 years, and have only just reformed, got to play the main stage at exactly the same time (real irony, that). Anyway, I chose to see Triptykon then and I was glad to see them again. There aren’t too many of the real extreme metal greats active any more but Mr Warrior is and he demands to be worshipped!

After Triptykon I got to the front for Coroner. This is a band that achieved moderate success with five albums from 1987 to 1993. Four of those albums are now regarded as classics – RIP, Punishment For Decadence, No More Colour and Mental Vortex. At Hellfest I waited for these guys to start their set and when they did they started with a slow boring track from their last album Grin. I listened for a couple of minutes and then headed off to Triptykon in disgust. Here, though, they opened with a classic – ‘Masked Jackal’ – and I was pretty happy with that! The whole set was actually very good, with many great tracks. It will be interesting to see if they record some new material.

Next up was Kreator and with this band you always know you’re going to get a great show. To have Mille Petrozza onstage not long after Tom G. Warrior was very cool and from the word go he and his band kicked ass. Check out the footage.

By the time Kreator finished there was some time to head off to the beer festival in the VIP tent to down some seriously strong real ales and relax a bit ahead of the evening’s main event – WASP. Fronted by 54 year old Blackie Lawless (who looks no older than he did back in the 80s – but then he looked fucking old then…) the classic L.A. heavy metal band put on a great show and rounded out the evening very nicely indeed. While watching WASP I was lucky enough to meet Sami, guitarist from Kreator, who was watching the show with a big smile on his face.

With Sami Yli-Sirniö - guitarist from Kreator (with Blackie Lawless from W.A.SP. in background)

Bands I wanted to see were pretty thin on the ground on Saturday, there really being only three that I needed to check out. The first of these was Ohio’s Skeletonwitch. I love this band and they are much better than the 11am 45 minute slot they got. Regardless of this ungodly hour they put on a storming show featuring loads of tracks from their second and third albums. Their brand of melodic blackened thrash is like a mixture of Slayer, Judas Priest, Dismember and Iron Maiden and they killed, just a shame they didn’t get a better time slot.

Throughout the day bands such as Grave Digger, Finntroll and Therion played and with fine weather overhead it was just a great day to chill out and listen to the bands from afar. But mid-afternoon it was time to head to the Sophie Lancaster stage to see a band that really is doing the rounds at the moment and playing lots of high quality metal shows – Angel Witch. With guitarist and frontman Kevin Heybourne still looking like a proper metaller even though he’s in his 50s, and the legendary Bill Steer also on guitar this band kicks ass live. It was great to hear Heybourne telling us that later this year the band are to enter the studio to record a new album. This is awesome news and really adds validity to the band’s touring.

So, the last band to see on Saturday was cult Norwegian black metal band Immortal. Whether they deserve to headline a big open air festival is debatable, but as with Hellfest last year the trio put on a fine show, looking like a cross between Venom and KISS and sounding completely brutal.

While the music may have ended there for me, the booze didn’t and it was a long session at the beer festival afterwards, including getting to meet Tim Yeung, currently playing drums in Morbid Angel.

With Tim Yeung - drummer Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal, Divine Heresy

So onto Sunday – and what a day of music. Napalm Death brutalised an unsuspecting mid-afternoon audience, with Barney Greenway’s old-school punk stage antics and proclamations of peace and love bemusing some members of the crowd, but those of us who know and love this band were treated to a lesson in grindcore that very few other bands can pull off nowadays.

An hour or so after Napalm Death came San Francisco’s finest – Exodus. While frontman Rob Dukes still splits opinion (90:10 in favour of him being a dick) there is no denying that the band have a huge energy onstage right now – far more than when I saw some shows a few years back with Zetro still on vocal duties. Unbelievably, however, the band only played for 38 minutes – 7 minutes cut from an already short set. Subsequently, Gary Holt has claimed that this was due to preceding band, Hammerfall’s, sound technician fucking with the equipment onstage before Exodus came on. If this is true then a big thumbs down to Hammerfall…

Straight after Exodus was At The Gates. As a huge fan of the early Scandinavian death metal movement it has been awesome to see this band a two or three times in the last couple of years and they always put on a top notch show, however, as with Carcass, Coroner and numerous other recently reformed bands, it’s fine to play a few festivals but there comes a time when you need to record some new tracks or call it a day…

Incredibly, next on the bill was Morbid Angel. The Florida death metal legends’ new album has had a very poor reception and it was telling that they only played a couple of tracks from it, instead relying on classics such as Chapel Of Ghouls, Maze Of Torment and numerous others from their first three records. The new tracks they did play are really good – Existo Vulgore and Nevermore, especially, are fine tracks. David Vincent is certainly a charismatic frontman and looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself, connecting with the crowd and getting us going nicely. In actual fact, on the strength of this, Morbid Angel could have headlined a night here. While their new album may be a bit odd you’ve got to hand it to them for being great live.

Morbid Angel

Scott Hedrick and Will Palmer from Skeletonwitch

And with Sunday evening drawing in it was time to welcome Motorhead to the stage. This is a band that I first saw live in 1988 when they destroyed the University of East Anglia’s Forum venue with English thrashers Deathwish in support. Ah, great days, and sadly it seems those great days are long, long, gone. I will say that I’m not a huge fan of Motorhead but I do like some of their tracks, so was happy to be at the bar watching from 150 yards back. However, it was clear from the outset that something was wrong. Lemmy was slurring his words so badly that he seemed incoherent. The big screen camera was focusing solely on Phil Campbell. After a few tracks Mikkee Dee played a drum solo, then Campbell did a guitar solo. Then Campbell and Lemmy started ‘doodling’ together for a minute or two. I thought this was some sort of a jam they were doing, but when they noticed that Mikkee wasn’t playing along with them Lemmy mumbled “Just a moment” into the mic and they both walked off. For several minutes. Eventually, all three came back on and plodded through a few more songs before trudging off after playing for less than an hour – they were meant to play for 90 minutes. Immediately, everyone was talking about it and questioning why we’d been short-changed. This talk is still going on in forums. Motorhead eventually released a statement saying they were all suffering from a virus but instead of cancelling decided to play though it. Sorry, I don’t buy that at all. Lemmy was off his face on alcohol and/or drugs and it seemed to me that Mikkee Dee may have left the stage as he felt he just couldn’t play with Lemmy in the state he was in. Who knows?

Overall, though, this was a superb festival. Easily the best open air metal festival in the UK. In fact, it’s probably the only one, as Sonisphere and Download are really only rock/pop festivals at best, while Bloodstock is a full-on metalfest – and long may it continue.

Highlights: Skeletonwitch, Morbid Angel
Lowlights: Motorhead

danUK \m/ \m/

Dan representin' Braingell with his hoodie!

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