LIVE REVIEW by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy
UK’s heaviest metal festival, Bloodstock, returned to Catton Park during a heatwave, but that didn’t stop thousands of metal heads clad in primarily black clothing. The festival keeps getting bigger and better, initially starting as an indoor event, and now it’s an open-air event with a capacity of 20,000. 2022 was hot as hell, both in terms of the impressive line-up of big well-known acts to upcoming rising stars of metal and, of course, the scorching temperatures.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the opening day of the festival on Thursday 11th, which saw Swedish melodic death metallers Dark Tranquility headline the Sophie Lancaster stage.
Friday 12th August
The first band of the day for me was the Welsh modern metalcore act I Fight Bears on the New Blood Stage, who won the South Wales Grand Final of the Metal 2 The Masses competition, earning the prestigious slot. Anticipation for this rising act was high as they had an excellent turnout for a lunchtime slot and gave it their all with their melodic metalcore performing songs from their new hot EP, ‘Liberosis’. They certainly proved worthy of their winning slot, and the band and the crowd were left happy!
New Delhi-based Indian Folk Metal band BLOODYWOOD rocked the Ronnie James Dio stage and got everyone interacting, headbanging, dancing along and cheering whenever prompted by the band. A great fun set for all as they have such an interesting sound and great energy from the band and fans, and it was clear to see how humbled the band were to be there. From the get-go, with the opening song ‘Gaddaar’ you knew it would be a unique and lively set. They selected their best festival tracks to keep the momentum and enjoyment going with the popular ‘Ari Ari’ and ‘Machi Bhasad’. They were a highly anticipated band and didn’t disappoint, delivering on all fronts.
The rumours of the mystery band playing the Sophie Lancaster Stage pre-festival had been widely talked about, and excitement was tangible. It was apparent when arriving at a brimming tent that everyone attending the festival had heard of a big secret set from a renowned international band, so I was surprised when I managed to manoeuvre myself in to see the backdrop revealing it was Machine Head! (It was a genuine surprise to me, but I realise many knew due to their merch being on sale ahead of their set!), They started with a live debut of their new crushing song, ‘BECØME THE FIRESTØRM’ taken from the upcoming album ØF KINGDØM AND CRØWN, out on 26th August. This secret set was even more significant as it was the band’s first UK show since the pandemic, so the band and the fans were delighted to be back. However, the band were performing as a three-piece as guitarist Wacław ‘Vogg’ Kiełtyka was absent. The 10-song set managed to pack in a good mix of songs, including ‘Aesthetics Of Hate’, which was dedicated to Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell before closing on a triumphant note with ‘Halo’. They also pulled out further surprises with the song ‘The Dagger’ from the Roadrunner United album and another new offering ‘‘CHØKE ØN THE ASHES ØF YØUR HATE’ There was plenty of crowd surfing and madness throughout their set, and an insane amount of people were jammed into the tent, making it a very mental sweat fest with singer Rob Flynn also feeling the heat, stating, “I’m sweating like a prostitute in a church.” A definite festival highlight.
American Bay Area thrash metallers Exodus played a crushing one-hour set crammed with all their best tracks spanning their impressive four decades. With their genre-defining debut ‘Bonded By Blood’, released in the mid-eighties, which is pivotal and still considered to be one of the best classic thrash metal releases taking the forefront in their set playing tracks ‘”A Lesson in Violence”, “Piranha”, “Bonded by Blood” and closing with “Strike of the Beast”. Elsewhere in their set, they played the ever-popular tracks’ Blacklist’ and ‘The Toxic Waltz’.
Keeping the Bay area thrash metal mastery going, Testament played the main stage straight after Exodus, which was a real treat to have such high calibre thrash side by side. Testament is also a pioneer in the scene, especially with their 1987 debut, ‘The Legacy’. Although they didn’t play much from this iconic album, they did close with ‘Alone In The Dark’. There set was a nice mix of old and new, with a few from their latest album, 2020s’ Titans Of Creation’ such as ‘Children Of The Next Level’, ‘WWIII’ and ‘Night Of The Witch’ which all fit perfectly amongst their impressive back catalogue. The band’s current 2022 line-up also featured renowned Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo who rejoined the band earlier this year, having originally left back in 1999 so it was a great time to catch the band.
As darkness finally fell and with it a much welcome cooler temperature, Polish extreme metal headliners Behemoth fit the bill perfectly for the closing festivities on the main stage on Friday. Clad in their characteristic sinister attire and painted faces and armed with lots of fire throughout their impressive mesmerising set. Opening with ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ and they performed all their best tracks such as ‘Ov Fire and the Void , ‘The Deathless Sun’, ‘Conquer All’ and ‘Bartzabel’. Towards the end of their set, they graced us with a live debut of ‘Chant of the Eastern Lands’ and closed on the encore with the colossal ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’ by which point vocalist Adam “Nergal” Darski had a full-blown apocalyptic mask, and black confetti reigned down against a backdrop of red light which was very cool and atmospheric and to top it all off there was a bright full moon in the sky to see out their set.
Saturday 13th August
Danish death metal act Baest opened the main stage Saturday morning, and despite the early hour, they pulled in a decent crowd. I’m glad I made the early trip to see them as they were brilliant, and they made the most of their short but brutal set with offerings such as ‘Necro Sapiens’ and ‘Meathook Massacre’.
Dark Symphonic Deathcore act Draconian Reign from Nottingham UK played an impressive, energetic and chaotic set on the New Blood Stage, bringing epic levels of savagery so early in the day with their offerings from the new EP ‘Necromantic’.
Hardcore/thrash crossover band Cage Fight bought in a good crowd at the Sophie Lancaster stage, and it was clear they did a good job and had a following as the crowd chanted their name! They asserted they are a band to watch out for.
Modern melodic metallers Cyhra consisting of Jake E (ex-AMARANTHE), Jesper Strömblad (ex-IN FLAMES), Euge Valovirta (ex-SHINING) and Alex Landenburg (RHAPSODY) offered something a bit different to the Bloodstock crowds with their upbeat larger than life metal. Although it may not have been for everyone, it was highly enjoyable and kept things diverse.
Ukrainian progressive groove metallers Jinjer were one of the highlights for me. They delivered a stunning set with precision and didn’t waste any time with their short but impressive set, kicking off with the popular track ‘Teacher, Teacher’. Tatiana Shmailyuk showed off her amazing vocal capabilities throughout, especially in the track that went viral, which is responsible for their success, ‘Pisces’, which is serene and melodic with beautiful clean verses. Then the chorus crushes with the heavy roar and progression. It doesn’t matter how often you hear that track. It never fails to impress with its transitional prowess. It was emotional to see the Ukrainian support with flags and blue beach balls flying around during their set. Tatiana expressed her gratitude to the crowd for the UK’s humanitarian aid during the troubling times in their country, which was met with loud applause. Their Bloodstock debut was a resounding triumph, and after a set like that, I’m sure it won’t be their last.
Norwegian symphonic black metallers Dimmu Borgir ran a little behind schedule. Still, it was worth the wait as they performed a career-spanning set which included all their darkest and finest offerings such as ‘Gateways’, ‘Puritania’, ‘Progenies of the Great Apocalypse’ before closing on the glorious ‘Mourning Palace’.
English Celtic-folk-infused punk rockers Ferocious Dog were perfect for the Saturday festival vibes with their infectiously catchy folk tracks that had everyone jigging and bouncing along. It was incredible fun and a memorable change of pace, and I think it’s fair to say they earnt themselves lots of new fans.
Danish black/goth metallers Mercyful Fate hadn’t toured for twenty-three long years, and given Bloodstock was their only UK show, this was a very rare and memorable set. Formed by renowned vocalist King Diamond they have had a few hiatuses since their formation in 1981, so their performance wasn’t to be missed even if not for everyone as they aren’t a band you see every day, making them more than a worthy headliner. They came prepared to impress with glorious stage visuals and music to match with a huge glowing upside-down cross to set the scene. They, of course, pulled out all their blackest best offerings with songs such as ‘Curse Of The Pharoahs’, ‘A Dangerous Meeting’ and ‘Come To The Sabbath’. They also performed a new song, ‘The Jackal Of Salzburg’, making their set even more exclusive and a good sign of things to come for the band’s future.
Sunday 14th August
Unfortunately, there was a line-up change early Sunday as, sadly, Life Of Agony had to cancel their set due to their drummer suffering from heat exhaustion. So, British hard rockers Skarlett Riot were moved up the bill from the Sophie stage to opening the main stage instead. They did a brilliant job, and their enthusiasm and excitement shined through. Their catchy rock hits went down a storm and were a great way to kick off Sunday morning.
Vended was a hotly anticipated band to catch as their line-up features the sons of Slipknot, with Corey Taylor’s son Griffin on vocals and Shawn’ Clown’ Crahan’s son Simon on drums. This was also their first ever UK appearance, and what a debut! It was impressive to see such energy and circle pits from the crowds that early on a Sunday, and they carried themselves incredibly well, with lots of energy, precision and presence. They got everyone moving and had the crowd in the palm of their hands despite the blistering heat, and definitely will be seeing more of them in the UK after that impressive display.
Butcher Babies played a short but very lively set. Again for an early set, they got the crowds moving straight off with the entertaining track ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!’ and tracks such as ‘Monsters Ball’ with some circle pits and serious moshing breaking out.
Extreme metal pioneers Venom Inc, almost 40 years after their inception, are still going strong with the revitalised 1989-1992 Venom line-up of guitarist Jeff “Mantas” Dunn and vocalist/bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan and the new addition of drummer Jeramie’ Warmachine’ Kling. Venom Inc. will release their sophomore album, ‘There’s Only Black’, on September 23rd 2022. For Bloodstock, however, they looked to the past as they played a special ‘Black Metal’ 40th Anniversary set, so they played the entire Venom ‘Black Metal’ album in full running order for the first time in the UK, which made for a very nostalgic and epic set.
Sadly, I had to leave early, so I was gutted to miss bands such as Dark Funeral, Killing Joke, and of course, the closing day headliners, Lamb Of God. Although luckily, I have been fortunate enough to see Lamb Of God before, so I know what a crushing and brutal set they deliver, and from what I have heard, they proved worthy of their headline status and bought the carnage as expected.
Bloodstock was such an enjoyable experience despite the heat because it was run so well, had the best friendly vibes, and of course, the best and heaviest acts, and we were all there for the same thing, the music. I, for one, can’t wait to go back and do it all again, and with the first batch of bands already announced for 2023, including headliners Killswitch Engage and Megadeth, it is not to missed. Bring on 2023!
Get full festival information at bloodstock.uk.com.
BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 10th-13th August 2023. Check out the first batch of bands already announced for 2023 below!