It’s that time of year when hordes of metal fans proceed to the otherwise tranquil setting of Catton Hall in Derbyshire, for a weekend of metal mayhem. Welcome to Bloodstock Festival 2011.
The honour of opening the Ronnnie James Dio stage at this year’s extreme metal bonanza that is the Bloodstock Open Air Festival, falls to London metalcore newcomers The Defiled. Almost a full hour before noon they stride onto the main stage festooned in their post-apocalyptic khaki outfits and face paint, launching into ‘In The Land Of Fools’ with unbridled fervour. Next up is ‘Call To Arms’, which like the rest of their set is received well enough by the respectably sized gathering. But the disjointed rhythm section, along with the manic keyboard antics of The A.V.D and frontman Stitch D’s unconvincing stage leadership, suggest that they are still a little way off progressing to the next level. The Defiled have obviously put thought into their image and their music, but now they might want to put a lot more thought into how it all fits together.
It is left to Bay Area trad thrashers Forbidden to make the first real impact of the day. Formed in 1985 and having Robb Flynn and Paul Bostaph passing through their ranks in the early days, make them a must see for many. Opening with ‘March Into Fire’, the full on crunch of Locicero and Smyth’s guitars and Russ Anderson’s tight vocals power their way through this, and further blissfully uncomplicated thrash-outs such as ‘Step By Step’, ‘Forsaken At The Gates’ and ‘Chalice Of Blood’. Crowd pleasing is easy when you know how, Forbidden have definitely played this game before, and all with typical west coast ease.
A cool wind blows across the heads of a mass, expectant throng, as returning profit Tom G Warrior aka Thomas Gabriel Fischer and his latest incarnation Triptykon stride out into the p.m. gloom. The congregation raise their hands and voices skywards as the ceremony begins, with dirge laden guitars producing a sound that crawls around in the dirt before standing up and hurling it full in your face. The faithful are rewarded with Celtic Frost classics ‘Procreation (Of The Wicked)’ and ‘Circle Of The Tyrants’ as well as Triptykon’s own ‘Goetia’ and ‘The Prolonging’. It’s a melancholy, doom-laden set with the first rain of the day adding to the sense of eeriness. As Fischer lead his cohorts off stage to howls of adulation and it is clear that a real triumph has taken place.
Following on from Triptykon would never be easy, with the task being left to Swiss tech metallers Coroner – another one of those 80’s/90’s seminal metal band reformations, currently “just playing some festival dates”. With a large, underground fan base, and playing their only UK show of the year, a Coroner crowd is evident today. Their merch clearly appears to be selling, and during a set which includes ‘Masked Jackal’, ‘Metamorphosis’, ‘D.O.A.’ and ‘Grin (Nails Hurt)’ – there are plenty here familiar with each track. Clearly proficient in every department Coroner possess a more progressive edge than most, as today they play through an entertaining, although relatively unremarkable, forty minutes or so.
It would be too easy to use the most clichéd of clichés when describing the uber slick German thrash legends Kreator, because they are just so damn good at everything they do. However, in the interest of originality the word “efficient” will be barred from here. It’s like a headline act is about to hit the stage as Kreator are announced – maybe a consideration for a future Bloodstock? Opening up with ‘Hordes Of Chaos’, Mille Petrozza & co. up the ante at every juncture, through ‘Endless Pain’, ‘Destroy What Destroys You’, ‘Enemy Of God’ and ‘Violent Revolution’ – all are punched home, each with uncompromising, laser precision. This band are together in every sense of the word, nothing misses a beat, not the airtight playing or the choreographed stage moves. Looking into the enthralled crowd – even the revolving mosh pit appears to be a perfect geometric circle. As ‘Tormentor’ brings to a close a tutonic conquest, the watching minions salute their conquerors, happy to have been on the receiving end of such a blitzkrieg. As they walk from the stage, one can only try and regain all senses and marvel at just how ruthlessly eff … no I won’t say it, it’d be superfluous. Kreator are simply ruthless.
Devin Townsend, although universally heralded by many, confuses the bejabbers out of me. I’m led to believe the failing is entirely mine, so after struggling with set openers ‘By Your Command’ and ‘Supercrush’ I decide I’m in no frame of mind to work it out and I head for the Sophie Lancaster Stage where something a little more tangible is about to take place.
Lawnmower Deth have never been burdened by the need to take themselves seriously. This studied disassociation from the pretence of all things rock ‘n’ roll allows them to turn every gig they play into something resembling a drunken Friday night bop at the Rose & Crown with their mates. This evenings show is no exception, except this is a Rose & Crown packed with 3000 locals, all of whom are mates of the band, because as The Muppet Show theme blasts out over the P.A. Lawnmower Deth make friends with every single one of us, just by being one of us. “You get your bloody money’s worth with this band,” remarks bassist Mightymo Destructivo (Chris Parkes) and he’s not kidding! Surf racing, a pogoing rabbit (it might have been a giant mouse), fake feuds with other bands, real feuds with other bands, satanic trampolining, songs titles like ‘Drink To Be Sick,’ and a stand up row between band, security and audience – followed by a mutual kiss and make up session orchestrated by lead mower Qualcast ‘Koffee Perkulator’ Mutilator (Pete Lee). This is more than your money’s worth, this is the bargain of the century! So by the time this bouncy castle of a set draws to a close and Lawnmower Deth get the rapturous ovation they deserve, it is clear that a debt of gratitude is owed to the guys from Nottingham, just for making everyone feel that much better about themselves.
It’s true that Lawnmower Deth are nothing more than a parody, a micky-take on a grand scale, but that is, after all, one of the prime objectives of the band from the outset. So what’s W.A.S.P.’s excuse? As a somewhat rotund Blackie Lawless, wearing an outfit that he may have had hanging in his closet for at least twenty years waddled onto the stage, W.A.S.P. bypass any hint of the sublime and plunge headlong into the ridiculous. Opening with ‘On Your Knees’ they audaciously plough through their cover of The Who’s ‘The Real Me’, prior to a set of their own mess, including ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’, ‘Wild Child’, ‘Scream Until You Like It’ and ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’. The playing is shabby, the stage antics are bumbling and just when you think it couldn’t get any lower, Lawless takes it upon himself to deliver what he presumably thinks is an inspiring “Power To The People” speech, relating to the recent social unrest across the country. OK, the Waspies down the front lap it up, but the rest of us shuffle awkwardly, looking down at our feet, mumbling things about this particular American not knowing the difference between rat poop and rice crispies. By the time Lawless brings the sad proceedings to a halt with ‘Blind In Texas’ he has taken on the persona of that embarrassing Uncle who always gets drunk at weddings, leches over the bridesmaids and does rubbish dances before throwing up over the grooms mother. It is an added insult that Lawless refuses to play ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ – the tune that has paid his wages for all these years – due to his new found religious convictions. In the end, this poor spectacle serves to remind us of two things. a) W.A.S.P. were only ever popular because we were very young and didn’t know any better. b) Their success was largely down to the fact they wrote a song with a rude word in it. Not big or clever. Like tonight’s so called ‘headline show’ – not worth remembering for one second longer.
Review: Noel Fischer
Photography: Steve Johnston