Saturday at Bloodstock is chock full of metal festival exclusives

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 review

published: Tue 23rd Aug 2011

Immortal

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th August 2011
Catton Hall, Walton-on-Trent, South Derbyshire, DE12 8LN, England MAP
£105 incl camping
last updated: Tue 2nd Aug 2011

A sprightly Grave Digger blast clear the hangovers with 'Paid in Blood', a number from their latest full-length 'The Clans Will Rise Again'. These Germans take on heavy metal is darker than the standard NWoBHM fare. A decent selection of old and new is presented to the audience with 'Twilight of the Gods' combined artfully with 'Circle of Witches' and 'The Grave Dancer' to conceive a time-saving medley. The glorious 'Excalibur' is a particular highlight of the show but it is closer 'Heavy Metal Breakdown' that incites the audience to croon along to the chorus.

Tarot
Finland's Tarot continue waving the banner for classic heavy metal for the day. Fronted by Nightwish bassist Marco Hietala, these Finns serve up a very modern take on heavy metal, commendable for a band that began life in 1985. Hietala certainly enjoys talking, his lengthy and slightly wacky stage banter occasionally attracting more attention than the music. A fist-pumping stage presence compliments the music seamlessly and the cover of Blue Oyster Cult's 'Veteran of Psychic Wars' is a much welcomed addition. More people should discuss Hietala's involvement with Tarot as well as Nightwish.

Although the progressive metal genre is somewhat under-represented at Bloodstock this year, Ihsahn's sheer creativity calls to mind the saying "quality over quantity". Although there are undoubtedly those watching the set simply hoping for a cover from Ihsahn's previous band Emperor, Ihsahn exclusively plays his own material. A good decision given how limited time is. 'After' tracks are prominent, namely 'Barren Lands', 'A Grave Inversed' and closer 'Frozen Lakes on Mars'. 'Unhealer' is aired and Mikael Akerfeldt's vocals are covered by keys player Einar Solberg, although his vocals feel too underdeveloped. The Norwegian's extreme prog metal goes down a storm with the Bloodstock crowd and the emotive diversity of the music cannot be ignored. Ihsahn should be proud of his post-Emperor work and not feel relegated to the music of his teenage years.

Wintersun
After cancelling their appearance at Bloodstock last year, Wintersun are back on UK shores. With the vast majority of their fans having not caught them live, they are one of the most anticipated acts of the festival. Opening with 'Beyond the Dark Sun', Jari Maenpaa and his fellow Finns whip the audience into a violent frenzy despite being afflicted with bad sound. 'Battle Against Time' and 'Winter Madness’ see the most hardened fans barking along. Maenpaa rewards the audience’s fervour with a preview of a track from the five year delayed and still unreleased 'Time' album entitled 'The Way of the Fire', which sounds like it could have been off the self titled release. Nonetheless, the fans love it and 'Starchild' ends the show on a high note by all accounts.

Therion
Always a pleasure to see in the live realm, Therion hold nothing back for their festival appearance. With nine elaborately dressed musicians on stage, there is always something going on, which is just as well when the new, less involving Therion songs such as 'Perennial Sophia' and 'Hellequin' are aired. All of the musicians are incredibly accomplished and hearing the older numbers, including 'ifelheim', 'Ljusalfheim' and 'Typhon', are reminders of Therion's outstanding efforts in the symphonic metal genre, perfectly marrying operatic vocals with metal without any sense of melodrama. The bold 'To Mega Therion' entices the audience to raise their collective voice in song and the closing 'Sodom and Gomorrah' is unspeakably majestic, almost too beautiful to be considered metal.

It is hard not to like English death metallers The Rotted and they will probably never get the credit they deserve as people cling tightly on to their former band Gorerotted. The Rotted’s death metal is peppered with plenty of punk elements and the music is far more sophisticated than the old Gorerotted style. Ben McCrow's energy is infectious as he rarely stands still, belting out visceral growls. Heads bang to 'The Howling', 'Angel of Meth', 'Fear and Loathing in Old London Town' and 'A Return to Insolence'. Even the unforgettable Gorerotted classic 'Only Tools and Corpses' receives a rapidly devoured airing. From last year's 'Anarchogram' EP, 'Drink Myself to Death' is served up, the band ensuring all bases are covered. May this band live long and continue to tour and release more solid modern death metal albums.

Rhapsody Of Fire
It seems surreal that power metal deities Rhapsody Of Fire, previously known as just Rhapsody, have never played in the UK at all. So what better place for the Italians to make their debut than Bloodstock? It is an unusual decision that bands decide to play nothing from their new album live but it is one that most fans probably appreciate, seeing as it leaves more time for recognised fan favourites. Fabio Leone's vocals are a formidable force and Luca Turilli's colourful guitar work is so much more captivating live than on record. 'Village of Dwarves', 'Dawn of Victory' and 'Unholy Warcry' create such fantastic atmospheres among the crowd with strangers singing together and having a dance, a reminder of power metal’s poignant optimism contradicting the often negative image of metal. 'The March of the Sword Master' closes the set but a large omission means the band is due an encore. 'Reign of Terror' is followed by Rhapsody of Fire's best song – 'Emerald Sword'. Their debut UK appearance can be marked as a success and it looks promising that they band will return again.

Immortal
Another UK exclusive at the festival is black metal originals Immortal, who have avoided the UK since they reunited, despite touring the festival circuit fairly thoroughly. The faces in corpsepaint seen throughout the day are an indicator of how many people want to see the Norwegians on this rare occasion. Opening with 'All Shall Fall', the title track of the underwhelming reunion album is a poor move, with the crowd reaction more to seeing the band than to their music and after thirty seconds, the ovation dies down. The setlist leans heavily towards the newer numbers, including 'Damned in Black', 'Tyrants', 'One By One' and 'In My Kingdom Cold'. Other staples include 'Call of the Wintermoon', 'Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms' and 'Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)' but these tracks, alongside the others, are tainted by poor sound issues, particularly the sludgy guitar sound. Mainman Abbath's posing grows tiresome quickly and the use of pyrotechnics is toned down compared to previous festival appearances. The encore of 'Beyond the North Waves' and 'The Sun No Longer Rises' does little to save the performance. Beyond seeing the corpsepaint and spikes of Abbath and friends, the novelty value wears thin quickly and the show feels very soulless. Perhaps those hardened fans who have not seen Immortal before will take more away from this performance but otherwise it is very lacklustre for a headliner.
review by: Elena Francis

photos by: Robert McGlade

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th August 2011
Catton Hall, Walton-on-Trent, South Derbyshire, DE12 8LN, England MAP
£105 incl camping
last updated: Tue 2nd Aug 2011


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