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Review: Various Artists - Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2009
Various Artists
Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2009
Venue: Catton Hall
City: Derbyshire, U.K

Show date: August 14, 2009

Review online: August 27, 2009
Reviewed by: Lars Christiansen
Readers Rating
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Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2009

Rated 4.5/5 (90%) (10 Votes)
Review


Bloodstock Open Air

In 2008, a strange occurrence happened. A rumbling not heard since time immemorial rose from within the pits of the Christiansen household, as the great old one awoke from his dank, slime coated depths to attend a music festival in the UK.

Yes, up until last year, I'd become a bit of a lazy bastard when it came to gigging. I generally only attended gigs of bands that I knew I'd kick myself if I didn't turn up to (Emperor's appearance on their 2006 re-formation tour, for example). That all changed thanks to my experience at Bloodstock Open Air 2008 however, which re-invigorated my interest in live music. In fact, my tickets for this year's festival were already pretty much bought by the end of 2008. Thus, I have dug deep into the recesses of my cavernous memory once more to give you my entirely selfish and subjective account of this year's extravaganza... warts and all.

Day 1: Friday 14th August 2009

Having perused samples of the bands on the unsigned and Sophie Lancaster stages this year, I'd decided that I was probably best off sticking to the main stage for the duration of my Bloodstock experience in 2009. Nothing against any of the bands on other stages (some of whom I did catch brief glimpses of in between sets), but it's just the way it worked out. Consequently, my day started off unexpectedly with some good ol' fashion NWOBHM in the way of BLITZKRIEG. I say unexpectedly as they were billed as being on 2nd so far as my already tatty line up/time list was telling me (I later found out they'd swapped timeslots with the band who were originally due on first, Million Dollar Reload). Anyhow, they played a great set that really surprised me with its freshness and vigour. So far as I recall, half of their set was pulled from their latest album Theatre of the Damned, which reminded me greatly of King Diamond's theatrical solo work (without Kings falsetto vocals, mind you). The set was closed by their best known track "Blitzkrieg", getting a good crowd reaction, probably due to the fact that Metallica covered it way back when. Really impressive for a bunch of old fogies.

Next up were the virtual unknown (to me, at least) Irish rockers MILLION DOLLAR RELOAD, and I can't say I was overly impressed. I've never been a massive fan of hard rock, especially if it's hard rock that sounds anything like AC/DC. But, they draw a slightly bigger crowd than Blitzkrieg had and seemed to be a professional enough outfit to carry it off. However, more interesting for me was the fact that, by this time, I've already spotted the original ‘Cup Man' from last year. Disappointingly though, he doesn't seem to be interested in collecting paper cups this time around. With that said, there's plenty of other, more advanced Cup Man models wandering around in blissful unawareness of whichever band is playing, in order to spot that one extra cup to get them another few pennies. For those unaware what the fuck I'm talking about here – the festival have a scheme that pays individuals a small fee per returned cup as an incentive to recycle, which certain individuals take to a ridiculous extent - check out my review from Bloodstock 2008 for further info.

On next were Finnish melo-deathsters INSOMNIUM, who rather than lighting the festival ablaze, managed to bring the clouds out for large parts of their set. They put on a decent if pretty uneventful show all in all, bar the airing of "Where the Last Wave Broke" which had the more ardent of fans convulsing in glorious rapture. Pretty bog standard if you ask me.

I had no idea what to expect from DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER, in fact I'd got it into my head that they played dubious industrial ‘metal' for some reason. Upon them entering the stage, I soon realised that no matter what the music was like, I was to be entertained. Who'd have thought that all a metal band needs is a gimp keyboard player replete his own full-sized playground swing and whip whilst banging out a mixture of weird Death Metal with folk? Not me. Even the young lady pulled onstage to be groped by the barefooted waistcoat wearing vocalist seemed to love it, before she set sail across the sea of people in her gift of rubber dinghy – crazy shit. All in all, they put on a really great show, but I can't see myself forking out for one of their albums any time soon.

MUNICIPAL WASTE should really need no introduction nowadays, as they seem to be everywhere – be it on tour, or in print. Their live shows have become things of legend, and I'd never experienced anything like THIS in over 15 years of shows. Let's just say they certainly know how to work a crowd into a rabid fever. One of the biggest circle pits I've ever seen opens up (yes, even bigger than the ones at any of the Slayer shows I've ever been to), before Tony Forrester calls the crowd forward and asks for no moshing to take place for the next song, as they (supposedly) have an adjudicator present from The Guinness Book of Records in order to attempt to make history by breaking the "most crowd surfers during one song" record. What a sight. All the favourites such as "Headbanger Facerip", "The Thrashin' of the Christ" and "Terrorshark" are aired, before they vacate the stage, leaving the thousands of fans to simultaneously take a much needed sit down(!).

KATATONIA are certainly a different band nowadays to the band they were 10-15 years ago, but with the faint hope of seeing any songs from Brave Murder DayKatatonia aired, I watched intently. Their set was, as expected, made up almost entirely of their rockier, more... erm... ‘emotional' newer songs which were aired one after the other, sounding a lot heavier in the live environment. Just as I thought they were about to walk off stage and leave me wanting, imagine my joy as they decided to end with "Murder". Made up for all the rest of it.

Being one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing this year, I was more than happy to see Onkel Tom appear onto a UK stage for the first time in 20 years(!) with German titans SODOM. Airing classic after classic such as "Agent Orange", "Obsessed with Cruelty", "Outbreak of Evil", "The Saw is The Law" and "Blasphemer" I was wrecking my neck like a motherfucker. Not even an ill advised snippet of "Surfin' Bird" could sour the set – pure Teutonic thrashing carnage.

After all of that excitement, I managed to miss most of SAXON's set due to drunken debauchery. Never mind, eh? I did manage to catch them air "Denim and Leather" though. At least, I think I did, I'm not overly au fait with their material to be honest. I do remember them getting a great pop from the crowd however – they're hugely popular with the Bloodstock faithful.

Unfortunately, by this time I've managed to see more sweaty arse cracks than anyone would want to see in a lifetime thus far and it's still only day one. Generally they're hanging out of ill-fitting jeans and slacks in between sets, but there were also 3 gentlemen all dressed in luminous green mankini's (as made famous by Borat). No-one wants to see that... no-one. Think of the mental scars an image like that leaves. THE HORROR.

It never ceases to amaze me just how big ARCH ENEMY have grown over the past few years, especially when I think the quality of their albums have been getting more and more ropey as the years pass. Anyhow, it seems to me that just about everyone that bought a ticket have turned up to see "that woman with the bloke's vocal cords" and her merry men widdle and weedle their way through an hour of melody saturated Death Metal. Set closer "Nemesis" has the crowd going apeshit, whilst I stand (seemingly alone) bemoaning the fact they didn't play more off their first 3 albums (especially as they've re-recorded a lot of the tracks for their upcoming compilation).

Now here's where I start to get excited. I'd always wanted to see CARCASS live, but never thought I'd have the chance. After their re-formation, I missed all their appearances (including the one late last year at Damnation festival, which I ended up not going to at the last moment, much to my dismay). As they take to the stage, the buzz of excitement reaches a tangible level as the intro tape to their Necroticism album blasts from the PA – before smashing into the opening bars of ‘Corporal Jigsore Quandary'. Yes, I could've shat it was that great. The rest of the set flew past like some lucid dream, "No Love Lost" here and "Incarnated Solvent Abuse" there – I was in ecstasy. Yes, so it's obvious I'm a fan boy, but… damn, I can't think of a better way of ending off my Friday night. The obligatory appearance and drum solo by slowly recovering Ken Owen has the fans clapping along in encouragement, and after a few more songs we all go back to whence we came with large smiles plastered across our sweaty faces.

Day 2: Saturday 15th August 2009

Saturday started for me with a strangely subdued BATTLELORE, almost seeming as if they'd been ‘put out' by the early time slot they'd been lumbered with. Bumbling on stage like jolly extras that got cut from the final versions of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, their epic symphonies amble and stutter with a shitty sound wavering and flapping around in the morning windiness. Once the sound improved they started to come out of their shells a little, but by that time it was a bit too late thanks to their cruel 30 minute time slot. Have a nice trip back to Finland folks!

WOLF were totally awesome however, as you would expect from a band that have released great album after great album of pure unadulterated Heavy Metal. With a set that pulled chiefly from their most recent album ‘Ravenous', they still threw in "The Bite" and "Evil Star" before they were done, leaving the crowd quite literally howling for more. Great, great show.

I really didn't know what to expect from THE HAUNTED. I mean, let's face it, the majority of their back catalogue sucks ape wang, doesn't it? I enjoyed their first album back when it came out in 1998, a year almost completely void of anything decent in the way of thrashy riffs and pounding rhythms. But, they decided to play it safe with their whiney, awful bullshit from their most recent albums for this festival appearance. I found myself merely praying that vocalist Peter Dolving's microphone would cut out to save my ears from his seemingly never-ending rambling about such utter, utter bollocks in between songs. Alas, it didn't. Even using my fingers as imaginary wire cutters and hoping a lot didn't work. NEXT!

At this point, I've spotted Wally from ‘Where's Wally' (or Waldo, from ‘Where's Waldo' to you Americans and Canadians), Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a dude dressed as a whoopee cushion and a guy dressed in a full suit and tie in the crowd. With that sense of humour, I'm really hoping they're Germans.

ENTOMBED have the honour of being the band that I have seen most times ever in a live environment, and they've never failed to entertain me yet. Replete with a stand in bassist whilst Nico Elgstrand's partner gives birth (yes, even Swedish death metallers get paternity leave), LG Petrov and co. proceed to crush the audience with a whirlwind of death (and roll when it suits too). I was disappointed that they never played any stuff from Left Hand Path or Clandestine, but they managed to crack out "Chief Rebel Angel", "Out of Hand", "Demon" and "Damn Deal Done" – all of which are favourites of mine. Come the final blastings of "Masters of Death", Entombed are done for the day… and it's time to slow things down a little…

Yes, CANDLEMASS jumped on the same ship Wolf, The Haunted and Entombed came on from Sweden to doom up our afternoon. Entering the stage with "Emperor of Candlemassthe Void", they proceed to mix classics like "Samaritan" and "Solitude" up with the better songs from the Lowe-era albums. A good set in all, but in my eyes at least, it was sorely missing "At the Gallows End". You can't have everything I guess. The nicest surprise of their set was the rich powerfulness of Robert Lowe's voice in the live environment. In the studio, I don't rate him particularly highly as a vocalist (sure he can unquestionably sing, but his voice doesn't ‘do it' for me) – live however it's a totally different story. He really took control of the crowd with his voice and left everyone captivated. Great stuff.

It's time for a rest from all these relentless Swedes. Time for some Norwegians, and I think I've finally decided on a new name for ENSLAVED. Due to their cutting down on the metal in favour of a sluice of proggy influences that overly dampened their most recent album; it was between ‘Pink Enslaved' or ‘Enslaved Floyd'. I decided on ‘Enslaved Floyd', as I felt ‘Pink Enslaved' sounded a bit too much like a women's liberation movement. Naturally, they do play a few songs from Vertabrae and I'm still not sold by said material. Thankfully the airings of "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth", "Ruun" and "Isa" soon bolstered them back into their regular Enslaved guise and turned my frown upside down.

KREATOR were undoubtedly one of the bands of the festival for me. Mille's enthusiastic likeability pulled the crowd in with a vicious friendliness that's hard to describe. He also gave one of the best comments I've heard in a live environment as an introduction to "Pleasure to Kill", which went, a little something like this: -

"A journalist asked me the other day, do you really mean to incite violence at your gigs through your lyrics? I answered "No, I'm not serious. It's all metaphorical. There is only peace, love and understanding at a Kreator show". But guess what? I LIED TO THE MOTHERFUCKER!!! ‘cause right now, I can feel a certain… PLEASURE… TO ….. KILLLLLLLLLLL!!!"

Needless to say, I think my beer ended up in a field about a mile away and my flailing arms ended up entangled around someone's head. An awesome set dotted with "Enemy of God", "Extreme Aggression" and "Flag of Hate" as highlights left me wanting much more and looking forward to their return to a venue near me.

APOCALYPTICA seemed mighty high up the bill to me, especially seeing as they're basically a glorified cover band at their core. "Oh but they write their Enslavedown material too, and sell millions of records". Hmm, I'm pretty certain they wouldn't have sold millions of records if it was on the back of their own material alone. Anyhow, whilst it's enjoyable enough watching a few svelte, elf-like Finns headbanging with distorted cellos, I kinda feel a bit bored once the novelty wears off 20 minutes into their 60 minute set. The highlight? The sing-along early Metallica covers naturally. Well, that and my involuntarily reaction to one of the band member's comments about there being "so many ugly men in the crowd" with my knee-jerk response of "SHUT THE FUCK UP AND PLAY SOME MORE METALLICA YOU EFFEMINATE BASTARDS" at the top of my lungs.

For a small time, I was unsure whether to catch the first of the joint headliners BLIND GUARDIAN, or to head off to one of the other stages to catch The Rotted. I soon figured the chances of seeing The Rotted again are far more likely than seeing Blind Guardian so came to my senses and stuck vehemently to the main stage as expected. As a live band, they're pretty much as perfect as you'd imagine them to be. I really mean perfect, not even so much as a note out of place. "Nightfall" is the highpoint for me, sounding every bit as euphoric and blissful as it did on plastic. "Valhalla" and "Lord of the Rings" bring frothing merriment from the ecstatic crowd, before "Mirror Mirror" sends me away happy once more.

The chances of me sitting through another CRADLE OF FILTH set were about as slim as it gets. I caught them locally a few years ago and they were pretty bad. Dani's vocals were just… ughhh. Accordingly, I headed back for sleepy time before their set even began, with Blind Guardian still ringing in my ears…

Day 3: Sunday 16th August 2009

…and as I wake up on the final day, I hear murmurings of Cradle being forced to end the show early, due to someone ‘catapulting' an ‘oversized gobstopper' into the guitarist's back, forcing him to be stretchered off and taken to hospital! At first a lot of non-Cradle fans are finding this news mildly amusing with gags of "Everlasting Gigstoppers" and the like floating around, but to be fair – the person that did it had to have been a selfish bastard. Seriously, even if the shittiest band in the history of the universe had been playing, I'd never dream of spoiling any of their twisted fan's enjoyment of watching them. Otherwise I'd be turning up at Michael Bolton gigs grating dried dog shit into his stupid, bouffant hair from above. Of course you'll always have people that chuck bottles and mud to show their distaste at certain bands at festivals, but a large hard object the size of a cricket ball that weighs around a kilo, via a fucking catapult? That's well off in my opinion, and it certainly doesn't fit in with bloodstocks overall vibe.

Anyhow, controversy aside, I wander into the arena late-ish where BEHOLDER are just finishing up (sounding somewhat thrashy and Onslaught-like). With my morning burger and coke digesting (whooo - breakfast of kings baby!), SABATON take to the stage, all dressed extremely similarly with their matching combats like a metal boy band. Now, I've never seen what the big deal was with these guys, with all their pompous, cheesy 80s keyboards and plodding generic Power Metal. But, I guess I'm just a big misanthropic extreme metal fan who knows no better, as a throng of a few thousand fans in the crowd lap it up, chanting the bands name over and over throughout the likes of "40 – 1" and "Cliffs of Galipoli".

By the time GIRLSCHOOL hit the stage, there's only a few hundred people left, everyone else buggering off to stuff their faces with expensive junk food or to hit another stage. But, I lazily stick with my original plan when I find I can actually watch their entire set from the comfort of my camping chair due to the vastly reduced crowd. The female Motorhead did do their best to win over the generally un-interested crowd with hearty tunes like "Everything's the Same" and "Emergency", but they end up being disregarded save for a hundred or so true fans shoved right up against the barrier desperate to get a whiff of their tight leather trousers.

Cup hoarders beware; people are tiring of your scavenger-like antics and are setting traps for you. I've just witnessed a goofy teenager with a stack of cups as Cup hoarderlong as his arm go to pick up another discarded one from the floor, only for it to swiftly fly off towards its true owners hands thanks to a cunningly disguised piece of string. A huge roar of approval greets the goofy kid as he's left looking a complete dick grasping thin air. Genius.

EquilibriumEQUILIBRIUM are up next, and I soon realise they don't have very good English (which is surprising for Germans). Although played with maximum gusto, I can't help but feel slightly underwhelmed by their performance. Perhaps their albums spoiled me too much, but none of the favourites like "Met", "Unbesigt" or set closer "Nordheim" had the same pizzazz live as they have on their studio counterparts. Bad day at the office? Nah, probably just bad sound in retrospect. A brave enough effort to battle through it though.

Next up were a rather surprising addition to a metal festival - ANATHEMA. It's been a hell of a long time since they've played any music that's sounded anything even remotely like metal, so I'm not expecting much in the way of steel. However, hope is gained when I see the infamous Nick Barker walking to their drum stool sticks in hand, acting as session drummer(!) Although it wasn't exactly a metal storm, their professionalism instantly shone through when opting for one of the heaviest sets they could do whilst still missing their very earliest primitive material. I must admit, my interest does begin to wane towards the end of their allotted time, until they totally unexpectedly crank out a (frankly incredible) cover of Iron Maiden's "Phantom of the Opera" in its entirety, which quickly has my full attention. Pretty good all in all, colour me surprised.

TurisasWhat is it that everyone finds so great about TURISAS? Well, I'm guessing that it has to be the stage show, as their albums are pretty damn mediocre to these ears. Sure enough, the arena is packed again as everyone clambers over each other, covered in red and black oil paints and donning animal pelts in hope of witnessing another energetic show from their heroes head on. Yes, they were certainly enjoyable to watch whilst gallivanting around the stage with fiddles, accordions and guitars, but musically, they just don't cut it for me. Surely the fact they covered a bloody Boney M song should point to their own dubious taste in music too? A definite case of style over substance.

But again, the crowd disappear after Turisas exit left to make way for the criminally under watched MOONSPELL. Where has everyone gone for fucks sake? Why isn't everyone watching Moonspell tear into a crowd pleasing set of the likes of "Alma Mater" and "Vampiria"?! Gah! Even the fans that are watching look lethargic and disinterested. It's not bloody Girlschool you're watching you know! Conclusive proof that there's no justice in this world methinks, as I lap it up with fervour. Oh, I also loved the way vocalist Langsuyar kept pronouncing their Wolf Heart album "Wool fart". You rock dude!

Some people have formed rudimentary insect traps in response to the wasp army that have decided to descend upon us like locusts, buzzing around and generally getting in your face when you're trying to watch bands. A few even flew into my beer, head first. BUGS THAT INTERFERE WITH BEER AND METAL = BAD. Stupid stinging twats.

AMON AMARTH as expected, draw another huge crowd and I'm really looking forward to them too. They definitely didn't disappoint, with a set crammed with chugging Death Metal greatness that simply oozes from the stage in thick, skull splitting waves. "Guardians of Asgaard", "Twilight of the Thundergod" and a massive "Runes To My Memory" lays everyone to waste where they stand, as the swarm of feverish fans seem to grow ever bigger, pulsating and crawling over each other like maggots. Johan Hegg also get's silver medal for 2nd best quote of the weekend, his being something along the lines of "If you don't know the lyrics, sing along anyway – it is Death Metal, no-one will notice" ?

As EUROPE were picked as Sunday's solo headliners (a totally bewildering choice for if you ask me), I'd decided long before Sunday came that SATYRICON would be the last band I laid eyes on at Bloodstock 2009. As it turns out, they were a hell of a lot tighter and angry than they were when I last saw them in broad daylight 3 years ago. As the last of the daylight faded from the skies, Satyr and Frost grouped together a good selection of songs that sent the crowd into a paroxysm of pleasure. More recent songs such as "K.I.N.G", "Commando" and "Now, Diabolical" took on new life sounding fifty times better than they do in album form. But it is set closer "Mother North" that sends everyone over the edge when that riff first begins. Beats the fucking "Final Countdown" for me pal!

Now my weekend of metal has come to a close for another year, leaving me with as much elation and exhilaration as it did aches and fatigue. The atmosphere is friendly (owing to the fact it's still a relatively small festival when compared to the likes of Wacken), the weather was excellent this year and the sound on the main stage was (in the main) great for an outdoor festival - especially if you got placed centrally. My wallet took a pounding not only from the eye bulging array of clothing and CD stalls throughout the arena, but from the ridiculously overpriced food stalls too – but you know what? It was fuckin' worth it for the memories alone. Cheers Bloodstock!


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