On Thursday 8th August, strange things started happening in Derbyshire.
Catton Park, usually full of dog walkers and families (I assume) suddenly became full of different creatures altogether. These creatures trudged in, adorned in black, laden with strangely-shaped packages. I’m talking, of course, about moshers - arriving at the 2013 Bloodstock Festival.
Soon, the idyllic park was strewn with litter and pop-up tents but thronged with happy, friendly people who were all united under one worthy cause: METAL.
The proceedings got to a good start for me with a trip tosee 4 DJs of the Apocalypse in the Sophie Lancaster tent. The beer was cold, and there was dancing women in their underwear and fire and everything. At some point, for a reason I can’t really explain, the aforementioned ‘DJs’ decided that the crowd didn’t REALLY want to see these beautiful ladies writhing around to metal tunes. No. What they REALLY wanted to see was some hairy men strutting around onstage and playing air guitar. They proceeded to stay there and block everyone’s very pleasant view pretty much for the rest of the night. Sigh.
The next day I pulled myself from my lair and made my groggy way to the arena, where Death Angel put on a good performance that I didn’t pay much attention to. It was impossible to dress for Bloodstock this year because the weather would alternate between boiling and then very windy and cold.
After running to the tent for my jumper (METALLL \m/) I managed to catch a bit of Ex Deo. I was pretty excited because I’d heard they dressed like Romans. Turned out they weren’t even wearing helmets. I was disappointed.
Oh, there were people having sword fights at random points throughout the festival:
As you do.
After this it was time for Municipal Waste who, in my opinion, put on the first ‘professional’ performance of the festival. They had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. Their songs are short, energetic and almost exclusively about drinking. They don’t take themselves too seriously but they were committed to putting on a good show. I saw a number of things during their set that I’ve never seen during a gig before, like:
- A dude crowdsurfing. In a wheelchair.
- A man walking through the crowd holding up a Lionel Richie LP.
- A ‘wave of death’. MW must be bored of the ‘wall of death’ so they proposed that as many people as possible should crowdsurf to the front instead.
Next up: to the Sophie Lancaster stage for Xerath:
Fuuucking hell. If you’ve never heard Xerath’s music before, it might help to imagine the following:
It’s an unspecified time in the future. Clouds hang low and swollen in a red sky. Darkness reigns. Everything is quiet. The trees are dead: burnt. Humanity is all in one big line, advancing one step at a time into the ground. As we descend into hell all we can do is nod obedience to the unrelenting force that’s pushing us down there.
This is seriously what was filling my head during Xerath. I’ve never felt a band with such power before - and I don’t just mean their music. They simply dominate. It’s like a boot pounding down on your soul until all you can do is submit (very 1984). The singer, for example, treated us like dogs seeking his approval. At one point he even turned his back on us after ordering us not to start a wall of death until HE. FUCKING. SAID. SO. Of course, we obeyed. I’ve never been so intimidated in my whole life. IT WAS FUCKING AWESOME. In short: they’re crushingly heavy and have awesome stage presence. Go see.
An unspecified amount of time spent chilling at the campsite, then: King Diamond. I’d been told by a few of my friends that I shouldn’t bother going because “they’re shit.” I’m glad I ignored them, though. For starters, here’s a poor picture of their set:
They’d really gone over the top with the decoration (I was joking that they must think Derbyshire is dead rough. I’m funny, me). The best way to describe King Diamond is a ‘rock opera’. Most of the music is standard - but enjoyable and played well. The vocals are what’s… different. The singer communicates in this high-pitched squeal/scream that can get very irritating very quickly. It’s all part of the illusion of weirdness, though, and I enjoyed it.
Now, this is where it gets very, very exciting. I’d traveled to Bloodstock that weekend to see my good friends BETRAEUS play the Sophie Lancaster stage (and the Jagermeister stage - but that’s for later).
Look at them go. Watching Betraeus is an experience that incites a range of emotions. There’s melodic breaks, jazzy interludes, RELENTLESS SHREDDING and poundingly heavy riffs - all mixed together. Once you think you know where the song is going, it changes direction. These four lads from Manchester turn into a force to be reckoned with onstage, and they keep the crowd mesmerised from start to finish. If Xerath pound you relentlessly into hell, Betraeus beat you down, pull you back up to tell you everything’s going to be alright, then laugh evilly as they push you right back down again.
Gojira on the main stage impressed, as always. Apparently they were missing some of their kit but I doubt most people would’ve noticed if they hadn’t mentioned it. I was a bit tired from Betraeus, though - and the sound where I was stood wasn’t great - so I didn’t get as into it as I should’ve. Poor form from me there, really.
Did I mention this mint dude that was cruising round in his wheelchair that was decked out as some kind of Nordic war ship? No? Here he is:
Did I also mention the guy whose lovely long hair got stuck on a fairground ride? The ride operator had to come and unscrew parts of the seat to get him free. It was funny, and the ride was absolutely incredible. I screamed like a bitch. Here it is:
Anyway, on to Lamb of God. They played a great set that was interrupted because the goddamn barrier was breaking apart. The crowd waited patiently for about 20 minutes while it was fixed: eager to continue moshing to LoG. The way I’d describe their music is “like somebody got the groove, then took a chainsaw to it.” They were pretty much exactly as I was expecting.
It is with a heavy heart that I embarked on the last day. I set off to watch Bossk. All I knew about them is that they were ‘rate good’. And that they were! Their sound is progressive: it builds and meanders, drops and then builds again. Eventually it all comes crashing down with crushing aggression, with agonised screaming vocals (which weren’t to everyone’s taste but I thought worked). It put me in mind of a mountain forest in Norway. We’re hunting a stag and it’s just started to snow. We keep spying the stag as it flits through the trees. Then a fucking bear comes when you least expect it and RIPS EVERYONE APART.
This was followed by Exodus and Devil Driver which didn’t really stand out to me.
Then Betraeus, again, on the Jagermeister stage.
They were originally meant to play an acoustic set, but decided to go FULL METAL instead. They drew quite a crowd during their short time onstage and everyone was cheering and headbanging along. They threw a few covers in, which entertained everyone but weren’t really needed: their own material was enough to get our attention. At the end of the set they gave out some free CDs, which disappeared in literally about 30 seconds. It was like Black Friday in America or some shit, with people scrapping over the last ones. If you didn’t manage to grab one, get yo’self over to www.Betraeus.com.
Anthrax put on a proficient but unmemorable set - although an upside down cross did appear in the sky at one point, so they must’ve been doing something right.
We decided to watch Dying Fetus instead of Slayer that evening. I saw a completely naked man wandering around without a care in the world - hugging uncomfortable people. I was quite amused that security didn’t really make an effort to stop him. Live and let live - and let your penis dangle free! There were also people headbanging so hard I was worried about them damaging their brains. It wasn’t exactly my type of music but it was certainly a good show: relentlessly heavy.
Random picture of the pretty sky that will not fit elsewhere in this review.
What really makes Bloodstock special is that the punters might not be the most attractive, but they look out for each other. They chirp “Hallo!” as you walk past. They just want to have a good time and ensure everyone else is having a good time too. They are different people but they all love one thing: metal. And that brings them together more powerfully than you might guess. Bloodstock is one of the only festivals that really feels like a community.
The nightlife wasn’t great this year, with the exact same thing on in the Sophie Lancaster tent every night. But the real buzz was in the campsite, with people laughing until the wee hours and getting merrier and merrier. I didn’t see a single fight. All I saw was bin jousting:
Oh, and I sneaked into the VIP area. It was pretty shit.