Bloodstock delivers punch on Sunday until Motorhead's lacklustre headlining show

Bloodstock Open Air 2011 review

published: Tue 23rd Aug 2011


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

Having been around since 1982, Hell have only managed to release their debut full-length this year. Exploding on stage with 'On Earth as It Is in Hell', the audience are blown away by David Bower's stage presence. Adorning a crown of thorns, his microphone is attached to a headset leaving both hands free for him to be infinitely expressive. The sinister and modern heavy metal take is formulated live with songs such as 'Plague and Fyre', 'The Quest' and 'Blasphemy and the Master'. Closing with 'Save Us From Those Who would Save Us', Hell undeniably deliver one hell of a performance and go down as one of the bands of the weekend. Definitely converted a few fans.

Norway's 1349 look awkward in the daylight but this has not prevented them from amassing a decent sized crowd. Traditionally known for their blastbeat driven black metal fury, 1349's set is punctuated by three newer, more ambitious selections, 'Serpentine Sibilance', 'Atomic Chapel' and 'When I Was Flesh'. 'Riders of the Apocalypse', 'I Am Abomination', and 'Sculptor of Flesh' showcase the signature 1349 sound. Unfortunately, towards the beginning of the set, the sound is messy with guitars resembling a blurred wall of noise. The stage presence feels limited and it is easy to lose your attention by something happening in the crowd. 1349 work better on CD.

After being dealt a raw deal in order to play Bloodstock, Primordial declined the offer. However, as prog thrashers Nevermore pulled out, Primordial were offered a better deal as a replacement and here they are. Opening with new track 'No Grave Deep Enough', Primordial appear top of their game, especially the emotive performance given by vocalist Nemtheanga. 'As Rome Burns' sees fans singing along merrily and after this track something unusual happens.

Nemtheanga loses his voice, only able to communicate in whispers. An instrumental rendition of 'Bloodied Yet Unbowed' is sent out while Nemtheanga tries to restore his vocal talents but to no avail. However, the Irish folk metallers refuse to stop and have the audience sing along to instrumental versions of fan favourites 'Empire Falls' and 'Coffin Ships', both performed superbly. The crowd are supportive of the Primordial and give them a respectful ovation as they vacate the stage.

Always up for a dirty festival, Napalm Death's brutal grindcore summons mass violence and dust flies abundantly into the air. Frontman Barney Greenway is extremely hyper, reminiscent of a child in ways. Squeezing in as many of their brief songs as possible, the Brits squeeze in such songs as 'Next on the List', 'When All Is Said and Done' and 'Lucid Fairytale'. Fan favourites 'Scum', 'Suffer the Children', the world's shortest song 'You Suffer' and the Dead Kennedys' cover 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' secure strong reactions and something unseen is the cover of Cryptic Slaughter's 'Lowlife', a cover that works particularly well live. 'Instinct of Survival' is the final anthem and just as well because Napalm Death's set was brutally exhausting in the best possible way.

The mood lightens as Sweden's HammerFall take the stage for some straight-forward yet excitable modern heavy metal. A barrage of tracks from new effort 'Infected' are launched to the audience: 'Patient Zero', 'Bang Your Head' and 'One More Time', very much in line with the typical Hammerfall sound. But the ecstasy of the fans comes through with the highly lauded classics, including 'Blood Bound', 'Hammerfall' and 'Hearts on Fire', with sing-along choruses and a party atmosphere in the audience. Vocalist Joacim Cains brims with enthusiasm as his voices effortlessly delivers fantastic vocal performances. It feels too soon when the closing number 'Let the Hammer Fall' blares over Catton Hall and it feels like some staples are missing but even with a setlist that does not boast their strongest material, Hammerfall proved themselves worthy of this festival appearance.

Thrash masters Exodus should be a promising delight for Bloodstock but from the onset, opening with 'The Ballad of Leonard and Charles', expectations fall. The guitar sound is blunt and considerably less aggressive in tone compared to the CD counterparts. The questionable opener is tailed by 'Beyond the Pale', also from newest album 'Exhibit B: The Human Condition'. The fans appear disinterested in this material and with both songs clocking in over seven minutes, perhaps better, punchier tracks would have been preferable. Nonetheless, the remainder of the set is older material, and the crowd explodes as 'Lesson in Violence' and 'Bonded by Blood' receive an airing. But all energy is expounded for closer 'Toxic Waltz'. Vocalist Rob Dukes does not deliver justice to these thrash hits and his stage banter is obnoxious but it is always a pleasure to hear Exodus' best numbers, even if the sound is poor.

At The Gates
At The Gates are back at Bloodstock after a brief three years, a UK festival exclusive. Seeing as last time was supposed to be their farewell tour, only time will tell whether this is indeed At the Gates' final round of performances. Opening with the familiar 'Slaughter of the Soul', the Swedes proceed to work their way through a show that is essentially identical to their 2008 performance. But the fans do not care. The setlist is near impossible to fault with melodic death metal excellence including 'Terminal Spirit Disease', 'Suicide Nation', 'Under a Serpent Sun' and 'The Burning Darkness', representing a fantastic compilation. Frontman Tomas Lindberg is as wildly emotive as a vocalist who growls can be and his eagerness emanates into the audience. After 'Need' the band vacates the stage only to return to their predictable yet delectable encore of 'Blinded by Fear' and final song 'Kingdom Gone'.

Despite currently speeding towards the title for worst metal album of the year, Morbid Angel have still accumulated an enormous gathering hungry for some classic death metal. The new album is forced out of detractors' minds as the US death metal veterans launch into the stormy 'Immortal Rites'.

Morbid Angel
Naturally, the set does focus on the first four albums, featuring the usual suspects: 'Where the Slime Live', 'Rapture' and 'Maze of Torment' among others. The presence of 'Angel of Disease' is unusual but very much appreciated. Unappreciated, understandably, are the three new tracks: 'Existo Vulgore', 'Nevermore' and 'I Am Morbid', entirely unremarkable death metal that flies over the heads of the audience. Frontman David Vincent retains a cool stage presence through this period of mediocrity but continues hammering on with improved gusto through the much loved 'Chapel of Ghouls' and the slow 'Where the Slime Live'. Closing with 'World of Shit (The Promised Land)', as is traditional in a Morbid Angel set, the performance is a stark reminder of the band's influence and why they are rightfully so respected. Top performance ignoring the obvious.

The curtain call for the entire festival is placed in the hands of Motorhead, a seemingly worthy addition to the festival and a well selected headliner.

However, looks can be deceiving. This is Motorhead at their worst. Bumbling through a shambolic set, unexplained absences from the stage and finishing twenty minutes early irritate the fans, particularly those who forked out £50 for a day ticket just to see the headliners. The setlist contains numerous classics: 'Stay Clean', 'Iron Fist', 'Metropolis' and of course 'Ace of Spades' but 'Bomber' and 'Overkill' are entirely absent. 'The Thousand Names of God' is played while drummer Mikkey Dee disappears backstage somewhere, truly castrating the song. Rock god Lemmy Kilminster appears less than godly as he slurs the words to the songs far more than usual. Despite the terrible performance, the band appear remorseless and no apology or explanation is offered until after the show in which all of the band members claim to be suffering from an illness. Why this was not actually said at the time so the audience could be more understanding is unknown. Those expecting a set of the usual gristly, classic, extreme hard rock that Motorhead have delivered year after year for over three decades are bitterly short-changed and provided with a festival anticlimax. Such a shame.

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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