It’s that time of the year when the sun finally comes out again, just long enough to prevent us all killing ourselves after having been lumbered with the grim doom of winter for what felt like three years. Mix this with a long weekend getaway of camping and metal, and you’re left with a lovely cocktail of booze, greasy food and ear damaging music. What’s not to like?
It’s fair to say that, by and large, British festivals are pretty average, stuffed to the gills with American bands and a top billing of ‘golden oldies’. It all seems rather stale, with the much smaller-scale Desertfest and Damnation being the obvious exceptions.
Download just doesn’t appeal to me for precisely these reasons. Year after year, the same handful of increasingly-aged bands hold a double elimination spitting contest to determine who gets to headline again. The rest get the consolation prize of an obnoxious Jägermeister and Monster photocall. No wonder Sonisphere’s gone tits up.
The one large-scale British metal festival that has always offered surprises is Bloodstock. They’ve consistently championed the unfashionable, from their power metal beginnings to bringing in Behemoth for a headliner last year. They have grown up so fast—and that is kind of a problem. On the bill for 2013 we see some… let’s call them ‘Download bands’. This concerns me.
Friday begins with a minor catastrophe on my part, as I miss one of the bands that I really wanted to see this weekend. Sorry Earthtone 9, I was busy erecting (a tent) and drinking beer. We saunter up instead to break our Bloodstock duck with Death Angel, who put on a good show and even have the courtesy to play the songs I know. With this, we formally declare our arrival at the pop song jamboree. It’s all beer and metal from now on. Go!
To follow this we stick around for Ex Deo. For the historical enthusiasts out there, they like Rome. A LOT. They all sport some lovely Roman skirts that could have been lifted from the set of Spartacus: Arena of Blood and Boobs. Musically, it’s all a bit slow, samey and safe. Plenty of meh to go round. So, with the stench of disappointment surrounding us we get more beer and the year’s first tentative foray into festival food. I don’t immediately die. So, bonus.
Catch a little Dark Funeral and walk away pretty quickly. Underwhelmed is probably the nicest assessment I could give. We venture back into the arena as someone has pleaded with us to see Skiltron, who hail from Argentina yet love Scotland. Well, why wouldn’t they? Scots are all so lovably helpless.
As you can probably surmise, they have bagpipes. Now, here’s a Bloodstock band! This band is made to be consumed with copious alcohol. BAGPIPES! We left for a little while in the middle of their set to catch Firewind. That was foolish, we now realise. We come back to the final song, a cover of AC/DC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll). It contains a ripping bagpipe solo and obviously, the crowd laps it up.
Next up are Municipal Waste on the main stage. Not such a big fan of the ol’ thrash revival, myself; this band typify this movement for me, and the terrible sound perhaps could labour some of the blame. They are truly poor. If I wanted to watch a bunch of drunken guys fumble with each other, pretending to make music, I would invite my most uncoordinated friends round, ply them with booze and whack on Guitar Hero. However, the set formed the backdrop to one of the highlights of the weekend when some guy decided to go crowdsurfing in his wheelchair and why the fuck not.
By this point on Friday I am slipping into a miserable mood. Here’s a catalogue of my doom spiral:
- 1. It’s not like the old days.
- 2. You’ve changed.
- 3. I think we need some time apart.
- 4. This is a restraining order. You’re not meant to be within 50ft of me.
- 5. I’m calling the police.
- 6. I’m calling Brock Lesnar.
So it’s back to the tent to regroup with the first of many Pot Noodles (which have also changed, incidentally), a side of Pringles and a soupçon of booze. The sun is out and all is suddenly good in the world. Phew, that was close. We have a little chat about how we’re definitely not going to Voivod because, well, they’re just awful aren’t they?
We also seriously consider giving Accept a miss, but then we realise that would just be rude. Say what you want about DemonPigeon.com, we’re never rude. You have to acknowledge Accept’s massive influence on modern day European metal and both Witchery and Altar have covered Fast As A Shark. So instead of being a rude man, I go over and watch and they are really good. Such a tight unit, delivering a prime cut of traditional heavy metal. That’s better, Bloodstock. More like that please!
This is where the day takes the biggest nose dive of all.
King Diamond is up next on the main stage. Metallica like them (him?) so of course there is a big turnout. Metallica run heavy metal, after all. I don’t like to be mean, but you make me do it. Seriously, is this guy for real? What the fuck is that? Singing? Is that even music or just some dude howling? One-and-a-half songs in, my eyes are watering and I am laughing uncontrollably. I look around and I am not alone.
But because I am such a lovely gentleman and don’t like to belittle the elderly and those with appalling taste, I retreat, hastily, to put my rude and uncomplimentary thoughts into the form of a review instead.
On our way back to our tent we wander into the Sophie Lancaster tent to see a Welsh man hit another Welsh man in the face with a stick. NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL METAL!
Potted Noodles once more invade my oesophagus (wink) and hang out with the frankly silly amount of beer that has now accumulated in my digestion box. Really need to work this calorific apocalypse off, so we head back out into the moil for the late night ‘entertainment’.
The Sophie stage hosts the delightful Four DJs of the Apocalypse. A rag tag bunch of gentlemen with a homemade banner and purveyors of the same old stuff you’ve heard in just about every metal club anywhere. Ever. Yet they seem to think they are in a band or something. I’m still now attempting to figure out why it takes four of them to playlist a bunch of MP3s. Anyway even they are not the worst thing about this situation.
~SERIOUS BUSINESS KLAXON~
So, the crap DJs aside there is another new addition to this evening’s entertainment. Podium dancers! Yeah! Naturally, a sizeable crowd of pitiful virgins gathers, their disgusting, never-kissed mouths agape, whilst young ladies grind their crotches against purpose-built rails to either side of the stage. This is not burlesque—of which, to some extent, you could argue the artistic merit. Though it’s only plausible to do this if you possess a vagina.
What the fuck Bloodstock?! Feeling patronised, we stage a mini-protest and turn our backs. What else can we do? We don’t have much of a choice of drinking venue. So thanks for that.
Now I get that metal is a massive transgressive sausagefest, delightfully reveling in its own fraternal adolescence, but does that mean this is appropriate? Hi, you tiny handful of ladies that came to the festival! Hope you like bands. Now, check out this girl’s barely-concealed crotch while surrounded by a bunch of drunken closet cases in shit t-shirts, leering jealously at her like a distant, unattainable prize. Feeling comfortable yet?
Not cool. Perhaps next year Bloodstock can make the full transition to Download’s level and start bullying all the ladies into getting their tits out on the jumbotron? Might as well, eh. Everyone likes tits.
The troupe of titillating dancers appear every night, as far as I can tell, so at least the most terrifying shut-ins of the heavy metal meathead population are as well catered-to as ever.
Night night. We’ll be back as soon as we’ve washed the foul taste out of our mouths.