Live Review: Bloodstock Festival 2023 - Thursday
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Tim Finch
And so, it’s Bloodstock time again! It barely feels like five-minutes since we were all getting dangerously dehydrated in the sweltering heat of 2022; using our last reserves of energy to show our appreciation to Lamb of God and heading for the nearest bottle of after-sun.
The weather forecast for 2023 is a little more in keeping with the English summertime – generally okay, but changeable – as the first folk arrive for the now traditional Thursday pre-party. Fifteen years ago and the Bloodstock pre-show was just a gathering of festival goers in the tent when, at the last minute, someone thought it a good idea to put on a couple of bands. No disrespect to either Marshal Law or Conquest of Steel, but the Thursday entertainment is now a world away from those ad hoc performances of 2008.
It is as anticipated as any other part of the bill announcements and has seen acts like Phil Campbell - with a guest appearance from Dee Snider – Rotting Christ and Dark Tranquillity entertain the troops before the festivities-proper begin. It’s fair to say for 2023, the Bloodstock booking team have assembled the strongest Thursday line-up yet, demonstrating a willingness to take a chance while catering for the bread-and-butter expected by the early revellers.
What better way to get things started than with the World’s First Post Nu-Metal Supergroup – their words, not mine – who are introduced by Arnold flippin’ Schwarzenegger. The Violent Inzident take to the S.O.P.H.I.E. stage like it’s 1999 all over again, full of bling and bass-heavy down-tuning. Reflecting the lighter of Nu metal’s moods, the band begin with the confrontational Triggered (A Snowflake Anthem) and largely keep this level of irreverence throughout with the likes of D.a.R.E. to Keep Kids on Drugs, which comes over like Linkin Park meets Freak on a Leash-era Korn and the Roots-vibes of Brazil is Great.
Sounding the part is one thing, but looking the part was more important back in the day: Adidas tracksuits and redcaps were (and still are) de rigueur for the Nineties scene, though I don’t recall too many people at gigs in full-deep sea diver suits back then. Plenty of fireworks and thankfully no repeat of Woodstock’99 and Bloodstock 2023 is up and running.
It appears clear that Nu Metal is ready to make a comeback, but one genre of extreme music enjoying its own renaissance is Death Metal and, more particularly, the filthy, oozing kind that would infest you with all manner of contagion if you touched it. There are a few such bands waiting to play this stage this weekend and the first one up is Texas’ Frozen Soul, whose two full-length albums, Crypt of Ice and this year’s Glacial Domination have been getting some rave reviews from the critics in the know.
Rather than kill with speed, Frozen Soul go for a more subtle attack, keeping it mid-tempo for the most part, letting pestilent riffs escape from the guitars as a fierce double-bass creates an unholy foundation. For a band just five years into their careers and from the other side of the pond, there are a healthy amount of Frozen Soul shirts being worn today.
A bit of rescheduling sees Flint’s finest moved from Sunday to Thursday and King 810 are promising something a bit special. They are a band who still divide audiences but the line at the signing tent and the turnout before the show starts suggests those most vocal are the ones in the minority tonight.
In all my years of attending Bloodstock I don’t think I’ve seen the S.O.P.H.I.E. transformed into two tiers before, but King’s promise of something special appears to have included an upper platform, containing the drum kit and a lectern. On the ground level are two large frames intertwined with barbed wire and there is a palpable sense of anticipation in the tent as the PA springs to life with the repeated mantra of the WEF’s insistence that we’ll own nothing and be happy. A Politician figure appears at the lectern high in the air as the stage floods with redlight and Eugene and David occupy the floor space. Opening with AK Concerto No. 47, this performance has more theatre than King’s usual stage act.
Alpha & Omega finds Bloodstock in fine early voice, Brains of the Asphalt from the Follow My Tears EP is already becoming a firm favourite and sits comfortably with Fat Around the Heart from the debut. More of a performance than a gig, I don’t recall Thursday night ever seeing anything like this; bikini clad ladies fire bills from handheld cannon during an unexpected A Million Dollars as the percussion hits like miniature explosions. The unifying theme across this show seems to be that of the corrupting influence of post-modernity, where sex sells and Politicians peddle untruths without regard; all the while, communities, like Flint, MA, suffer and die.
Kill ‘Em All ends the show and as the band and performers take their bows, a second brainwashing mantra is heard, this time it’s the Party line that “Two plus two equals five” from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
After such a set I think we all needed a moment to process what we’d just seen. The evening air allowed us to make some sense of it and, speaking as a massive King 810 fan, it was more than I could have hoped for and got my Bloodstock off to a rousing start.
The crew had dismantled King’s stage in time for Visions of Atlantis‘ show and a more different band you could hardly find. Where King has a realistic sound of the streets, the Austrian symphonic metallers go for a more fantasy-themed approach. There windswept epics are the sort of tunes the Bloodstock brand was built upon and the traditionalists were having a whale of a time to the bombastic and over-wrought songs.
Focusing entirely on their last two albums, they intersperse Wanders material like A Journey to Remember and Heroes of the Dawn, with the songs from Pirates near-seamlessly. Clementine and Michele duel their dual vocals throughout as Christian Douscha’s guitar lays on the grandiosity with a shamelessness only a Power Metal troupe would attempt.
The faithful lapped it up, raising fists and drinking horns into the air as though the Dark Ages had never ended, or we were all back at the Assembly Rooms in the early years of the millennium.
Headlining this night and one of Bloodstock’s more eclectic choices is Skynd, an Industrial duo who were frankly terrific on the Ice Nine Kills shows back in June. Rather than the raw visceral performance of the usual Thursday topper, Skynd is much more of a theatrical show, featuring just Skynd herself and multi-instrumentalist, Father, in the background.
Like on those Ice Nine Kills shows, Skynd opens with the pseudo-operatic Richard Ramirez on which she demonstrates her not-inconsiderable vocal range. Father’s industrial dabbling merge with the weaving words as the appalling crimes of the Night Stalker are put to song.
For those unaware, Skynd’s lyrical preoccupation is with the darker side of humanity, whether that be the horrendous high-profile crimes of John Wayne Gacy and Edmund Kemper, or the teenage action of Michelle Carter and the Columbine shooters, or the inexplicable events surrounding Elisa Lam and Jim Jones.
None of these subjects are condemned or celebrated, rather are laid out against a musical tapestry for the listener to consider and judge. Such is the theatrical element of the performance that Skynd herself takes on the role of both perpetrator and victim; one moment adopting the unassuming persona of Katherine Knight while, at another, she reflects the bullet-riddled victims of a school shooting.
It's reasonable to suggest the previous years’ party atmospheres through bands like Tragedy and ArnoCorps was well and truly subverted by both King 810 and Skynd, who lent a more subversive opening to Bloodstock 2023.
Check out our other Bloodstock coverage!
Triptykon does Celtic Frost - Special Feature [HERE]
Band Interviews [HERE]