Bloodstock 2022: Friday Review
Words: Dan Barnes, Tim Finch, Sam Jones, Paul Hutchings, Julian Pepper, Neil Bolton
Photos: Tim Finch
Anyone who thought they’d get some respite from the sun on Friday is gravely mistaken and, as I walk into the festival grounds, it takes but a moment for my T-shirt to go from freshly-laundered to wetter than an otter’s pocket. So, I suppose that’s me for the day then, TFF Lynx Black!
Opening up the day on the main stage are Red Method. When I spoke to Jeremy and Stef a few weeks ago they promised a show to start the festival with a bang, and they did not disappoint. This group are angry, they are an in your face and they are full of attitude. Faces covered in blood, corpse paint or masks, they are a sight and sound to behold and the huge crowd for early on a Friday morning loved it! [TF]
Heart of a Coward were moved from the S.O.P.H.I.E. Stage to make a return to the Ronnie James Dio platform after their triumphant appearance back in 2016. The Milton Keynes five-piece have been regularly smashing stages in the intervening years and their Bloodstock 2022 show draws equally from the classic Deliverance record and the last release, The Disconnect. Hollow, Mouth of Madness and Turmoil: 1 sit as comfortable bedfellows with Collapse, Drown in Ruin and Ritual, giving Heart of a Coward an early shot at bringing to noise. [DB]
2020’s ‘Lamenting of the Innocent’ was an album that brought Swedes Sorcerer to the attention of many in the metal world for the first time. Having released three albums since their reformation in 2010, the band, whose brand of epic doom infused with traditional metal really works, finally made their UK debut with a performance of such quality that it could easily have taken the accolade of band of the day. Evidently pleased to be at the festival, Sorcerer spread their set list from across those albums, opening with ‘The Hammer of Witches’, which saw the crowd chanting “Burn, Witch,” somewhat ironic given the heat of the day and bringing their set to a close with the anthem ‘The Sorcerer.’ Frontman Anders Engberg would win at least a silver medal in the nicest man in metal competition, but he also possesses a voice which suits the band’s powerful sound perfectly. It was smiling all round as their 40-minute set was received to roars of approval from the already baking crowd. Hopefully Sorcerer will be back in the UK soon, for this was a set that I’d pay good money to hear again. [PH]
Props to Bloodywood for blending Heavy Metal with musical ideas from their native India. Although something of an anachronism, what this sextet do is no different from the latter Max-era Sepultura records or, for that matter, early Soulfly albums. Their sound is very much from the nineties, but the inclusion of Machi Bahasad, for which a promotional video exists on YouTube, and a cover of AC/DC’s If You Want Blood (You Got It) means the slowly-baking crowd is thoroughly entertained as it broils. [DB]
The blazing sun seems to suit Doyle’s stagewear, if not their lyrical obsessions. The Misfits man leads his fiends through a litany of dark tales and twisted romances. Show No Mercy and Beast Like Me come from the band’s second album and the latter is rolled out early, while vocalist, Alex Story is still bemasked. Cemeterysexxx is very much in the mould of Doyle’s other band and is a slice of slutty Punk N’ Roll. A broken high-E string cannot derail the show and Mr von Frankenstein has a replacement Abominator tuned and ready to go. Dreamingdeadgirl is a sleazy plodding stomper with a monstrous sound and a dirty groove, reminiscent of Rob Zombie’s more salacious numbers. Story, looking all Wolverine with the mutton-chops, introduces each track as “a love song; you can dance if you want to…” and repeats the Kiss joke he used in Blackpool last week. Rhythm section of bassist Brandon Strate and drummer Wade Murff hold it all together in a performance in which entertainment is paramount. [DB]
GWAR take to the stage fashionably late, delayed thanks to a swathe of roadies taping plastic coverings to everything with even a hint of electricity flowing through it. Yes they know, as we do, what is about to come...
Before even a note has been played we are treated to a speech from President Biden, shortly after which he is beheaded spewing blood forth into the crowd. As they progress through their set a multitude of characters appear, all over which cause some form of liquids to be sprayed into the crowd, and in this heat it is most welcome!
Aside from the theatrics, and great though they are, GWAR deliver a hard hitting message through their music and comedy, not only that, but their set is a blinder. We were all melting in t-shirts watching them, I can only imagine how hot the band were in this heat under their suits. Well played GWAR, well played! [TF]
Difficult to believe drummer Tom Hunting formed Exodus way back in 1979, with Gary Holt only coming on board in ’81. Yet, their line-up changes have not impeded the quality of either the recorded material or the storming live shows which, even with the passage of time, seem unstoppable. Last year’s Persona Non Grata was the first Exodus album in seven years and is so trusted by the band they stack three of that album’s songs into their allotted hour. Opening with The Beating Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) and weaving The Years of Death and Dying and Prescribing Horror into the set, Exodus are always at their best when they play with a reckless abandon. Blood In, Blood Out’s title track comes after A Lesson in Violence and sees the band building a massive wall of noise and coaxing fans over the barrier; Deathamphetamine rips it up quite unlike anything else and the meaty chug of Blacklist welcomes Gary Holt back into the fold after his detached duties with Slayer. There’s even a lick of Reigning Blood during the closing trio of Bonded by Blood, Toxic Waltz and Strike of the Beast. Of all those Bay Area bands from the first wave of Thrash, Exodus were always my go-to guys and this Bloodstock appearance further underlines that decision. [DB]
With a career spanning 40 years you’d think Testament would begin slowing things down just a touch, if anything their performance on the Ronnie James Dio stage demonstrates entirely the opposite. Performing to a packed crowd amidst clear blue skies as the temperature finally begins to ease, the riffs of Alex Skolnick and Dave Lombardo’s drumming come to merge with Chuck Billy’s iconic gruff vocals in a show that’s bristling with energy. It isn’t merely legacy alone that’s drawn the crowds to Testament, there’s so much life in them they put younger and more agile bands to shame. Crowd interactions abound, Testament feed off their audience and it works vice versa too. It’s never just the band, they’re forever including their audience within their performance and so everyone has a great time. Considering how Dave Lombardo was given a crowd-chanting arrival and worship too, it’s safe to say Testament are very far from done. [SJ]
Following Testament’s set, Bloodstock repeated their tradition of announcing bands for next years’ show. It works for Wacken, who have already sold out their 2023 festival, so why not generate a bit of anticipation while the target audience is white-hot. The first wave of announcements sees Gatecreeper, King 810, Knocked Loose, Fit for an Autopsy, Decapitated, Devil Driver, Zeal & Ardor, Unto Others and headliners Killswitch Engage and Megadeth being revealed to varying degrees of enthusiasm. Personally, it was King and Knocked Loose that brought the biggest smile to my face. [DB]
Poland’s most blasphemous sons, Behemoth return to headline Bloodstock a decade after their first bill-topping performance. Back in 2012 Nergal was not-long out of hospital following cancer treatment that threatened to end Behemoth and, more importantly, end his life. Luckily, Nergal made his recovery and was able to fulfil the Bloodstock commitment that had been hanging over him since 2010. The Satanist performing set of 2016 ahead of Twisted Sister’s final ever UK performance notwithstanding, Behemoth’s return to Catton Park sees them a more refined proposition than they were ten years ago. Opening with Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer and dropping straight into Wolves of Siberia demonstrate Behemoth’s cultural development from the corpse-painted horde of their youth.
The mainstage’s first headliner sees red light flooding the platform, giving the show the atmosphere of a Dantean journey into the netherworld. Flames leap high into the night before harsh, seering lights blaze from the roof space. Later, searchlights would scan the arena, giving Behemoth’s show as much a visual spectacle as it is a musical one.
The band is not stingy with its offering tonight either, playing nearly twenty songs from across their long history. Decade of Therion and Chant for Eschaton 2000 from Satanica; Christians to the Lions and Antichristian Phenomenon from Thelema.6 alongside the likes of Ov Fire and the Void, Conquer All and Slaves Shall Serve. They end their set by going back to very beginning and, for the first time in front of an audience, play Chant of the Eastern Lands from 1995’s Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic).
With a new album, Opvs Contra Natram, set for release on 16 September, Behemoth treated Bloodstock to three new songs: The Deathless Sun, Off to War! And Ov My Herculean Exile, which sees the band continue to forge the same path as the previous, post-Evangelion records.
Pandemonic Incantations’ Chwala mordercom Wojciecha (997 – 1997) and the imperious O Father O Satan O Son are the encores which bring Behemoth’s set and the main stage shenanigans to a close for the day. Those ravaged by the heat of the day are either off to find the after sun or more mischief – delete as applicable. [DB]
The big mystery of Bloodstock 2022 was: Who would the mystery band be? There were more suggestions than Bertie Bassett has all-sorts, but the smart money was on either Amon Amarth or Machine Head. As, on Friday morning Robb Flynn’s crew were selling ‘Secret Show’ shirts at the merchandise stall, you didn’t have to be Poirot to know you weren’t getting your fix of Viking Metal the next day. But I’ll let Sam fill you in on the details of Machine Head’s ‘secret show’.
The S.O.P.H.I.E. Lancaster Stage again has a packed and exciting itinerary this year and Bloodstock have neither been stingy nor conservative with the bands they have booked. It would have been unthinkable a few years back to have hosted bands like Discharge and Sleep Token, and to have the latter as Friday headliner demonstrates the ongoing progress of the scope of Bloodstock as an entity. [DB]
With some Bloodstock ambience served by Hellfected and Red Method, I was waiting excitedly for Crepitation: the first Sophie Lancaster stage band of the Friday. Crepitation may be Slamming Brutal Deathgrind but they’re here to provide us with a good time and it gets off the mark with smiles, on stage hijinks and good old fun. However that doesn’t mean they don’t play well, because Crepitation know how to handle their instruments. Whether it’s hypnotic bass work, thundering drumming even with just the one kick drum or absolutely bonkers vocal work using a comically childish way of pulling them off (imagine running your fingers across your lips, that’s what you’ll find. Crepitation understand what kind of music they play and therefore don’t take themselves seriously at all; they completely take advantage of this and for the best I believe. So much fun to be had. Still, Crepitation may have had the first crowd surfer of the Friday. Their half hour set was begun and ended so quickly. [SJ]
London’s Inhuman Nature were well into their stride when I arrived and had drawn a sizeable crowd. The band’s ferocious metal assault was going down well with the early risers and the band looked to be having a decent time too. With members of former Bloodstock Alumni Hang the Bastard in their ranks there was plenty of confidence about the quintet who brought their massive bank of thrash/crossover riffs to the party. [PH]
Los Angeles five-piece, Thrown into Exile, arrive at Bloodstock for their first ever UK show with a decade of angry modern metal experience under their belts. Having toured with the likes of In Flames, Arch Enemy, At the Gates and more across those ten years, they acquit themselves admirably. [DB]
Party Cannon have been making waves over the past few years, not least due to their colourful and bubble-fonted logo, hinting at a fun time to be had by all. And to a certain extent it is. If, of course, your idea of a fun time is brutal, slamming death metal. Setting the angry, gore-ridden genre of Slam against a party aesthetic is a new take in the music, but Party Cannon have been peddling their wares and making a splash wherever they find themselves playing. Bloodstock being no different. [DB]
Party Cannon may have finished their set but that didn’t mean the Sophie stage was quiet for a moment; already the crowd was milling and waiting for who could be coming on next. But already, hints of who it could be were slipping: merchandise and band members of one Machine Head had been sighted throughout the day. I got there a full 40 minutes before the set was due to start and just as well too; it was already busy. But soon the band came on, and then I did something I didn’t expect to do: I wept. Perhaps all the more so since Flynn announced this was, in fact, the first Machine Head gig since Lockdown. Young, old, crowd surfers,all were welcomed to the chaos, mosh pits, circle pits. It’s also the first time I’ve seen steam rise off a heated crowd; when you can create your own weather system within the Sophie Lancaster tent, you’re doing something right. Utterly incredible.
I’d genuinely be up for Bloodstock doing more of these secret sets because Machine Head effectively did a Headliner-hyped set in the middle of the day inside the Sophie tent. I was left shaken, invigorated and wishing for more. [SJ]
Punk legends Discharge haven’t had too far to travel getting to Catton Park from their home in Stoke, but their appearance (hopefully) signifies Bloodstock’s continued diversification into other, adjacent, genres, especially those having exerted such an influence on legacy bands. Free Speech for the Dumb was covered on Metallica’s Garage Days EP and, if memory serves me correctly, wasn’t
Phil Anselmo wearing a Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing shirt when Down headlined here in 2014? And, those who criticise Discharge as just a punk band, I would refer them to the band’s second, third and fourth albums, Grave New World, Shootin’ Up the World and Massacre Divine, all of which have more in common with Bloodstock than they do Rebellion festivals.
However, it is for the hardcore punk scene that Discharge is best known and before the band blast into The Nightmare Continues, frontman Jeff ‘JJ’ Janiak asks the gathering: Are we Metal enough for you? I don’t think there’s any worry on that score as the huge bass and thick riffs pouring out of the sound system would challenge – and probably pulverise – anything else on offer this weekend. JJ stalks the stage, eventually stripping to the waste, as Discharge run through Accessories by Molotov, Protest and Survive, A Hell on Earth, State Control and Ain’t No Feeble Bastard. Obviously biased on this one as I loves me some Discharge, but let’s have a bit more hardcore punk next year: Anti-Nowhere League, The Exploited, GBH – would all go down a storm, in my opinion. [DB]
Whoever decided it was a good thing to put two legends of the Bay Area thrash on at the same time needs to sort their life out. One of the few criticisms I have about the whole weekend was scheduling Heathen at the same time as Exodus. A choice was therefore needed and picking the lesser-known band won the day. It didn’t seem such a good idea when 20 minutes after the advertised start date the band were still clearly unhappy about their sound and the sparse crowd began to grow restless. Suddenly the world shifted slightly on its axis and Heathen switched into gear. What followed was a performance of such quality that the only complaint can be why this classy outfit hadn’t played the UK for over a decade and only 15 times since 1991 (Source: Setlist FM). Channelling those technical frustrations into a fireball of a show, Heathen were simply unstoppable. David White still possesses one of the finest voices in the whole of metal, whilst the dual guitar attack remains one of the sharpest in the thrash scene. Pulling some old classics from their catalogue alongside newer ones from 2020’s ‘Empire of the Blind’, Heathen raced through their 40 minutes bringing the fans to the boil with a stomping ‘Hypnotised’ to finish. It was enough to reward those loyal fans and leave any regrets about not watching their Bay Area peers at the entrance to the Sophie Tent. [PH]
Louisiana sludge merchants, Eyehategod make their Bloodstock debut with a set of filthy NOLA riffs and fuzzed-up guitar lines that ooze like molasses. Those heavily down-tuned, bluesy riffs and wall of noise feedback combine with Mike Williams’ tortured vocals to produce continually mesmerising performances. Citing influences as broad as Sabbath, Celtic Frost and Black Flag, Eyehategod’s show feels like a journey through the band’s damaged psyche and nihilistic world view. Sister Fucker lays down slabs of harsh rhythms as Williams calls for a circle pit and reveals you can buy the band’s shirt from the back of their van as he doesn’t see why someone else should take a cut of their merchandise. They finish their set with four minutes to spare, so slots in a random number, which is all in keeping with the unconventional stance taken by the band from the start. [DB]
I’ll be honest, but when Sleep Token were announced as Friday headliner of the S.O.P.H.I.E. stage I imagined there would be push-back. Not that Sleep Token is in anyway incapable or unworthy of such a billing, rather that the slot would be unsuited to their musical milieu. Sleep Token’s combination of metals alternative, progressive, post, ambient djent and just plain experimental might not be what the Friday crowd are looking for. But, to their credit, both crowd and band come together in a communion and frontperson, Vessel, leads the band through a dozen or more invocations to the mysterious entity, Sleep. Taken for the most part from the band’s most recent album, This Place will Become Your Tomb, the performance is a mesmerising and esoteric exploration into the outer reaches of music and, after the excessive heat of the day, the perfect way to depressurise Bloodstock for the night. [DB]
And whilst the Main Stage and S.O.P.H.I.E. stages were in full swing, so too were the New Blood and Jagermeister stages, highlighting all the talent from the British underground.
The ungodly time of 10.30am isn’t one that many at Bloodstock see on the Friday morning, usually due to the intense partying the night before. But with the heat already hitting the high 20s, punters were driven from their tents early and what better way to start your day than with a morning mosh on the New Blood Stage! Step up Stoke’s finest, Hellfekted, who earned their invitation with an array of stellar shows in the past six months. Smiles were miles wide as the band completed their back line checks, for this was a fully deserved slot. 30 minutes later those smiles were stretched still further. Hellfekted’s brand of aggressive blackened thrash induced pits from start to finish, the ever-swelling throng stage front determined to take the opportunity. Punishing, unrefined and full of aggression, the band roared their way to the finish line and cemented their reputation as a leading light in the British thrash scene. [PH]
Playing against thrash legends Exodus on the main stage was never going to be an easy task, but Bucks blackened sludge band Verminthrone play as if they have a full baying crowd on the New Blood Stage.
The winners of the Milton Keynes M2TM heat have just released their debut EP 'Kingdom of Worms', which has garnered plenty of critical acclaim. The EP is played in full, with tracks such as “Intruder” and 'Ascend the Black Moon' demonstrating their full repertoire of sludge, hardcore and black metal elements. Vocalist Dan is a bundle of energy throughout, covering every inch of the stage as bandmates Alex and Matt on Guitar, Pal on bass and Adam on drums provide the superb cacophony of noise that is lapped up by all in attendance. Definitely ones to keep an eye on! [JP]
Even before the Yorkshire doom masters take to the stage the entertainment begins. A drunken Bloodstocker shouts out to someone that he is disappointed this band is not named Swamp Puffin, unbeknown to the drunken reveller he is addressing Jon Rhodes, the singer and guitarist from Swamp Coffin. Rhodes quickly replies “Well its too late now, I’ve got the T shirts printed” and takes his place on stage. Powerful distorted fuzz, punishes anybody near the Jägermeister stage. Slow distorted doom flows over the grinning crowd and is lapped up by the faithful. Martin White on bass seems to be having the time of his life while Dave Wistow on drums is soaking up the atmosphere all throughout the three song set. The final of these tracks is 'Last of the Summer Slime' from their 2019 E.P. 'Flatcap Bastard Features'. Rhodes calls for a rendition of the slowest wall of death in this song and the Jäger crowd duly obliges. It's very funny and enthusiastically carried out, topping off one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. [NB]
If you like your doom so heavy it will crush your very soul, then Tumanduumband headlining the New Blood stage stole the show. A stage draped in darkness with two corpses hung from with side of the stage greeted the expectant fans and the pummelling drone of band reverberated throughout the arena. What a way to close the stage on Friday! [TF]