"Corned Beef Balls, Corned Beef Box" Adam D of Killswitch Engage
By: Steven Ormston (War Inside My Head Pod)
Bloodstock Festival, 4 days of beers, bands, and banter; no worrying about the worries that cloud normal life. Bloodstock has built a reputation beyond the biggest UK festival dedicated to Metal in all its forms. At a capacity of 20,000ish, there is more of a friendly vibe compared to larger Download or Sonisphere (remember them?), the former of which has expanded to house a large town’s worth of people. 2023 saw the addition of a Midgard wedding and the Megadeth Unicorn to the folklore of Catton Park, alongside bin jousting, the hypno-toad, and the shuttle bus driver’s wife (checkout Spotted Bloodstock on Facebook for legends past).
As is the case for most attendees, the festival begins with the 1km+ trek to the front gate and eventual camping spot. This involves dragging trollies loaded with camping gear and enough alcohol that would lead to an intervention if you were caught with it outside of a festival.
Camp of choice is Valhalla and has been since a rather unpleasant experience of pitching next to a group of Ketamine-fuelled wombles in Midgard who enjoyed creating a large pile of rubbish so much, that they felt the need to steal our bin bag and empty it out as part of their art.
The lack of the Paella stand this year is still raw but I’m comforted by the fact prices don’t seem to have drastically risen since 2022. £6 for a beer is decent for a festival (£7.80 at Slam Dunk) and the food ranges from £4 for chips up to the high teens for pizza or a filled yorkie pud. Don’t get me wrong, Festival prices are still shite, it’s just less shite than I’ve experienced at other events
Below is a selection of band highlights from the weekend
Less bleary eyed than previous Friday mornings endured at Bloodstock, I head over to the Ronnie James Dio (main) Stage for Wytch Hazel. Their crunchy 70’s rock inspired tone and medieval style is a contrast to the heavier fare that is the usual Bloodstock lineup. This doesn’t seem to faze the band and they put on a great performance; the guitarist is one smiley boi through the whole set. Being a fan of twin guitar harmonies (Thin Lizzy, Uriah Heap, Iron Maiden, etc), these guys are right up my street. Special mention for the guts to wear them white tights, no hiding in them.
Next it’s over to the New Blood Stage for Arms to Oblivion. Sound issues aside (vocals never seemed to be dialled in on New Blood, at least for the bands I checked out), the band tear it up with some relentless riffs and energy. Shout out to the guy in the Nike cap who kept trying to start pits, perseverance pays off.
Worth mentioning here is a topic that has arisen on (SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT) the War Inside My Head Podcast on multiple occasions. There is so much amazing stuff coming from new metal bands that it’s hard to keep up. The New Blood Stage and the Metal to the Masses events are the embodiment of this and showcase the best of new and rising heavy talent. Check out both if you haven’t already and support your local metal bands!
Over to the Sophie Lancaster Stage for Pest Control, more thrash shenanigans but fused with hardcore this time . Pest Control have cemented themselves as one of the best up and coming crossover bands, second time I’ve seen them this year and both performances have been stellar.
Hidden Intent are closing the Jägermeister stage, which seems to have had a glow up with more space under the tent this year. Hidden Intent are an Australian thrash 3 piece (no prizes for my favourite metal flavour). You can tell they’re Australian as the cover for ‘Dead End Destiny’ consists of a Mick Dundee type riding a crocodile and a man being maimed by a Koala.. Guitarist Phil Bennet is the picture of 80’s thrash; ripped blue jeans, long hair and Hi Tops. This influence extends into their music, hints of Megadeth, Annihilator and Mortal Sin can be heard in their furious riffing. A highlight for myself, hopefully we will see these guys back in the UK soon.
First band of the day for myself is Tortured Demon on the Sophie Stage. This UK thrashcore 4-piece has an average age of 19, however they are well seasoned at playing their brand of thrash riffs, hardcore breakdowns, and technical drums. The high-octane energy matches that of their infamous Jägermeister stage set, where the size and antics of the crowd almost saw the tent collapse. No doubt these guys will continue to put on great shows and go from strength to strength.
Over to the New Blood stage for Swarms UK, a band that ‘crawled out of the abandoned coal mines of County Durham’. Order of the day is chunky riffs and intense breakdowns delivered at a break-neck pace. The effort is appreciated by the crowd and by the end, it’s clear that these guys would fit right in on the Sophie stage that has seen bands such as Guilt Trip and Malevolence tear it up in recent years.
Next is Vice, a ferocious 3-piece hailing from Manchester. Vice may draw the ‘why are they on New Blood?, they’ve been around for years’ statement. Although the stage name may be taken on face value, it is home to not just new bands but those that may have been around a while but are given the chance for exposure outside their local area. Anyway, I digress. The pace never lets up during Vice’s 30-minute set, shades of Machine Head, Lamb of God and a touch of Dream Theatre can be heard amongst their anthemic hooks and tempo changes. A brilliant performance that sees me leave with a smile on my face, another band added to the ‘need to see at their own gig’ list.
Catch a bit of Skin Failure on the way back to the tent for beer and a BBQ. Labelled as ‘progressive thrash’, a bit like Municipal Waste mixed with Dillinger Escape Plan. I don’t hang around for too long as the lure of alcohol and a sit down are too strong.
Much of the rest of the day is a hangout at the camp, which includes plenty of merriment, food, and a marriage proposal (congratulations to Jordan and Tasmin). I carryout my duties as designated grill master on a disposable BBQ, all goes well considering the amount and variety of alcohol consumed (still can’t get away with mead). Peanut butter whisky exists by the way, and it’s delicious.
I stagger over to Sophie stage for Brothers of Metal. A Swedish power metal band whose epic metal hymns are inspired by Norse mythology. A great way to end the day, their anthems are easy to sing along to and hype-man Mats does a great job of keeping the crowd engaged. The performance Yggdrasil gives me goosebumps and has been my most played track since returning home.
Tent, nightcap, and bed.
Rain and dismantling the tent and returning to the car means we don’t get into the arena until All Hail the Yeti on RJD. They have a sludgy, southern USA metal feel with groovy riffs and lyrics that seen to be a bit mystical or based on folklore.
Remain at RJD for Tribulation, a gothic metal band who I end up enjoying a lot more than expected and then Decapitated, a well-oiled metal machine that churns out tunes in a death metal/core flavour.
Over to New Blood for Godeth, a Leeds based outfit that blends death, groove and metalcore to great effect. Not only are these guys great at belting out some heavy bangers, Godeth know how to work the crowd. The set features chants of ‘Yorkshire’, circle pits and a wall of death (the latter of which I noticed less of this year). The standard of performance at New Blood has been high from what I saw this year and Godeth are up there with some of the best of the weekend.
Last band I catch on New Blood is Acid Age, a power trio from Northern Ireland. The basis of their sound is thrash but fused with elements of blues, prog and even jazz. Yes, jazz. The level of musicianship is staggeringly high with Acid Age, virtuoso guitar blended with technical and creative bass and drums that results in a heavy but sophisticated sound. One of the most wholesome moments I saw all weekend comes when Jude Mcllwaine asks if the crowd will take a selfie with him for his ‘ma.
Scottish outfit Iron Altar close out the Jägermeister stage for the weekend. A unique blend of sludge, prog and death metal make up the band’s sound. The band have an intense presence on stage, honing a serious persona that compliments there chugging, methodical sound. A great way to close the stage.
Last up for us is Megadave Megadeth on the RJD. A set made up of mainly classics keeps the crowd happy. Big Dave’s vocals are strained, noticeably most on ‘My Darkest Hour’. It’s not surprising as he’s (checks internet) 61! That’s’ 60 years and 364 days older than the Megadeth Unicorn, RIP.
All in all, a tremendous Bloodstock. Thanks to all the great people who put this event together and to all the amazing random metal people we inevitably exchange a few pleasantries through the weekend.
Special shout out to Stephen, Taryn, Andy, Jordan, Tasmin and the guys from Kilonova and Cast in Tephra for trying to teach me the two step and the Pumpkin Twerking.
See you all next year!
Steven aka Ormy hosts War Inside My Head Podcast alongside Beardbo, you can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
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