Getting up to see the first band on the last morning is something of a tradition for Conor and me, and a charming sludge group from Guernsey by the name of Byzanthian Neckbeard fulfilled that role this year.
16-year-old blues guitarist Aaron Keylock was a strange inclusion in this year’s lineup, but personally a very welcome one. After a few days of listening to metal, to hear a performer that really explores the range of sounds available on their instrument – as Aaron does – was refreshing. This kind of blues guitar is a genre I find difficult to engage with but Aaron’s impressive chops and use of timbral variation kept me interested. His band seem to be as young as he is, and though his banter as a frontman is a little clichéd, that can probably be put down to his youth rather than a lack of ability or charm.
After some of Keylock’s set we got tea and sandwiches before rushing to catch the end of King Goat on the New Blood Stage, having heard about them from some friends of theirs the day before. Unfortunately, on the way to catch these doomy Brightonians, I got distracted by the sight of a sousaphone on the Jägermeister stage (sorry King Goat). Thinking this was a weird sight at a metal festival, we headed over to see a trio of trumpet, trombone and sousaphone, backed up by a drummer, perform covers of AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and Metallica, as well a stripped down version of Youngblood Brass Band’s Brookyln. Aces High was probably my favourite part of their set, and the twin guitar harmonies and driving bassline translated well to interplay between the trombone and trumpet and agile sousaphone runs.
Their set ended just as Aborted began. I saw this band at Hellfest 2007 and enjoyed them but never invested any more time into them. They proved to be one of the best bands we saw all weekend. Not many big death metal acts appeared at this festival, and Aborted’s music is tight and technically impressive, standing near the sound desk meant every instrument was clearly audible. The drum cam in particular was excellent to watch, showcasing drummer Ken Bedene’s great skill.
Morgue Orgy were competent death metal – and maybe a touch of deathcore, though I might just be thinking that because one of the guitarists had a fashionable haircut – with undoubtedly the best name of any band I saw at the entire festival.
We had a pint with a guy called Michael on the Thursday of the festival and he invited us to come along and see his band, Akb’al, on Sunday afternoon on the New Blood Stage. Akb’al play a sort of psychedelic progressive metal, clearly influenced by Cynic and Tool, with a lovely crisp bass tone. Their influences are mixed well into a cohesive whole.
A few weeks ago I met the singer from Leatherneck in the course of his day job. We got talking about music, and he told me the following night they were playing at a competition to win a place at Bloodstock. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go but was delighted to hear this local Yorkshire band won a place on the New Blood Stage. Leatherneck play excellent groove metal, worshiping at the altar of Pantera. They drew a dedicated crowd of fans from Yorkshire, and I luckily managed to get my hands on a free CD that was given out after the show.
Pskyosis I had seen around the arena over the course of Saturday and Sunday, thanks to their aggressive guerrilla marketing technique: a big handheld sign reading “FREE BEER! PSYKOSIS: 3PM SUNDAY NEW BLOOD STAGE.” We even happened to meet one of the members, who was literally canvassing fans in person on the Sunday morning, telling us they had brought 300 beers and were going to give them to the audience at their show. Naturally we kept our place at the front of the tent after Leatherneck, and got to witness the most manic and fun show of the day from the best spot in the house. A thrash metal band based in Dublin, they delivered on the promise of free beer with little bottles of a delicious spicy brew (that I later confirmed to be their own homebrew) in bottles labeled with the band logo.
Their crowd interaction is fun, earnest, and very charming. Their songs were the kind of silly fun that certain thrash bands do really well, singing about zombies, mutants, trips to the beach, and of course (for homebrewing thrashers) beer. There was a comforting Irishness to some of the themes (“This is a song about going to Mass!”), and they had such additional entertainment as throwing out inflatable beachballs during a song about going to the beach and teaching us a singalong for when they distributed the free beer.
A sailor went to sea (BEER!)
To see what she could see (BEER!)
But all that she could see (BEER!)
Was the bottom of the deep blue (BEER!)
My criticism of most modern thrash bands – that the vocals are usually terrible – didn’t even apply, and after meeting two of them in the campsite later on in the day, they seem like genuinely nice dudes. I can’t wait to move back to Ireland and catch more of these guys’ shows.
Scottish brutal death metallers Scordatura were the next band I caught. They’re alright at what they do but didn’t distinguish themselves, and the frontman made a weird comment to the effect of “Fuck the Main Stage, fuck the Sophie Lancaster, New Blood is what it’s all about.” I see the point he was making, and I enjoyed the New Blood more than any other stage on the Sunday, but surely saying something like that is not a way to endear yourself to the crowd of a festival that works so closely with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. I do quite like their name though.
Ded Orse are a band from Devon, that delivered a line of classic metal that dipped into blues and doom territory. Another great find on the Jägermeister stage.
Obituary are one of the veterans of death metal, but a band I could never really get into. I caught Slowly We Rot and that was enough for me.
Another veteran band, Saxon, couldn’t keep my interest, and I headed back to secure my tent from the ever-strengthening wind.
Viking metallers Amon Amarth deliver exactly what they promise. Far from being a novelty act, I think they’re actually musically pretty solid – even if they are the real-life band that sounds most like Dethklok in my opinion – and they augmented their show with two giant dragon heads (should that be linnorm heads?) on stage that bellowed smoke at dramatically appropriate moments. Terrific fun all round.
I’ll be honest that my main motivations in seeing Megadeth were a) to hear the solo from Tornado of Souls, and b) to hear what obnoxious hate speech front man, and all-round terrible person, Dave Mustaine would spout. On both these fronts, the set was a little disappointing. They did play Tornado of Souls and its excellent solo, but the overall sound from the main stage wasn’t great, even near the sound desk, and the current guitarist just didn’t have the flair of Marty Friedman’s delivery on the original recording. On the hate speech front, Mustaine only said something moderately misogynistic, but it was in a petty teenage boy way: “This song is about nasty women. But we don’t know any of them. Because they’re all so fucking perfect.”
Overall, Megadeth played an okay set. Admittedly impressive visuals projected on three screens accompanied the show, though I couldn’t shake the feeling these were intended to distract from the music rather than enhance it. This wasn’t helped by the aforementioned sound problems and the fact Mustaine’s vocals weren’t up to scratch. Between songs they projected some clips from films which mentioned Megadeth, but left out one of the greatest exhanges in cinema history, from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. The set list was well chosen, covering all the fan pleasers from over their long career. Naturally they ended with Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, a song I love for being both about the futility of religious war, and also about Marvel Comics character The Punisher.
After Megadeth, I was somehow convinced to go on the slingshot fairground ride (which was terrifying up until it actually launched, at which point it became great craic) and had another round on the dodgems where I antagonised every other driver with my smack-talk. The night ended with me, in the spirit of gonzo journalism, joining a drunken mob intent on smuggling away a wheeled skip for use in the sport of bin-jousting. I met a man wearing a tent, and the mob was briefly led by Thor, who wielding his hammer Mjolnir from atop a bin, shepherded us around Bloodstock’s many campsites in search of the perfect bin jousting grounds.
But that’s a story for another day.