Fireworks

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BLOODSTOCK 2010 – Catton Hall, Derbyshire, UK – 13th to 15th August 2010

Musicians in all manner of gory, brutal and glam trappings roll up to salute Bloodstock’s momentous ten-year anniversary. Swamped by a 10,000-strong crowd, the UK’s premier metal meeting has expanded dramatically beyond its humble, indoor origins. But with this immense progress, the festival’s once-cosy ambience has been sacrificed to the inevitable evils of overpriced ale and militant security checks. Nevertheless, a wealth of electrifying entertainment awaits, with BOA favourites and new blood alike entertaining the metal-hungry hordes gathered here this weekend.

Friday 13th August


Having forged an impressive reputation with last year’s unsigned roster, homegrown metallers Snakebite return with renewed venom as an aggressive force to be reckoned with. The outfit’s old school angle and thrash-tinged energy makes for a perfect icebreaker, garnering an enthusiastic reception from the bleary-eyed early crowd. Tapping a similarly traditional vein, Black Spiders churn out predictable listening heavily influenced by the much-imitated AC/DC. Swapping rock ’n’ roll revivalism for the genuine article, Ross The Boss commands the crowd with precisely the standard of riffing that secured his legendary status with 80s metal gods Manowar. Joined by long-time friend and sticksman Scott Columbus, the four-piece revisit classic hits alongside a smattering of fresh cuts.

Hinged on complex riffs and catchy solos, prog titans Rage whip up a razor-sharp set. Despite a lengthy career, the ever-evolving trio maintain a fresh, inventive sound. Although cynics would argue that folk metal is currently suffering overkill, Ensiferum prove an explosive, string-laden standout. Bludgeoning guitars meet swashbuckling keys in a ferocious performance that leaves the audience drunk on a heady mix of ale and epic tales. Replacing black metal royalty Behemoth, the infamously quirky Cathedral are welcomed warmly to the main stage. While the band’s experimental merits are undeniable, their set is riddled with repetitive, stoner riffs and vocals that occasionally border on an ugly, Lily Allen-like monotone. ‘Cosmic Funeral’, however, is an intriguingly groovy dirge enhanced by Lee Dorrian’s fine baritone.
Upholding authentic black metal, Gorgoroth are a deliciously grim vision of corpse paint and lethal-looking spikes. Untouched by 21st century trends, their early 90s sound remains faithfully intact. Bar a few clean verses, their set is an unashamed exercise in aggression with rapid-fire guitars that buzz like a cloud of agitated insects.

Taking a gloriously operatic turn, power metal troupe Sonata Arctica serve up a sonic feast of neoclassical anthems and balladry finished with the flawless notes of a luminous purple keytar. Poised before a gigantic portrait of a howling wolf, the Finns are majestic in every sense of the word, reaching an extravagant climax with the adrenalin-packed ‘Juliet’. Plucked from the critically-acclaimed ‘Unia’, the multidirectional harmonies of ‘Paid In Full’ snag an excitable reception from even the beefiest audience members. Though overly manicured in places, Sonata Arctica’s studio-smooth sound is guaranteed to seduce listeners across the melodic rock spectrum.

Some thirty minutes later, the trance is broken by math metallers Meshuggah who deliver a blistering assault of complex rhythms and feral death grunts. As their aggressive stint concludes, the suddenly dying light provides a perfectly atmospheric backdrop to Opeth’s haunting stage presence. Scheduled in place of Heaven And Hell, the Swedes’ set is movingly dedicated to the legendary Ronnie James Dio. The band’s heartfelt cover of ‘Chase The Rainbow’ garners a great roar of approval, while ‘The Grand Conjuration’ features a perfect marriage of rage and gothic grandeur. A typically black-clad Mikael Akerfeldt spices up the proceedings still further with an equally razor-sharp repertoire of witty banter. Despite the crushing impact of each granite-heavy riff, his inimitable notes soar with the effortlessness of a mellow, autumnal breeze. Retracing their illustrious back catalogue, Opeth meander gracefully from primal to intricate standouts, maintaining a darkly hypnotic appeal throughout.


Saturday 14th August


Though best known for their progressive complexity, Andromeda unveil a selection of digestible tracks tailor-made for live performance. Backed by a bicep-flexing bass line, ‘Periscope’ exudes an old school flavour flecked with intelligent melodies and syrupy synths. As mid-morning beers begin to flow, the sumptuously gothic Leaves’ Eyes grace the stage with a folk-tinged set matched by suitably exquisite costumes and posturing. Showcasing a rare fusion of talent and charisma, a corset-clad Liv Kristine reels off a lofty soprano tinged with the pitch and clarity of fine crystal. With the added bonus of Alexander Krull’s death grunts, the interplay between the two vocalists is arresting and embellished with plenty of thrilling operatic motions.

The carnage that follows is, however, forged from uncomplicated brute force as thrash favourites Evile and Onslaught unleash aggressive, if slightly one-note entertainment. Resplendent in studded leather jackets, Germany’s Edguy present a shamelessly generic brand of hard rock that whips the crowd into a hyperactive frenzy. Joking about England’s long-time rivalry with Germany, frontman Tobias Sammet banters expertly with the crowd before thrilling fans with the incredibly anthemic ‘Superheroes.’

Death metal legends Obituary are on groove-laden form this afternoon, indulging extreme appetites with choice cuts from their influential discography. Refreshingly scanty on chatter, vocalist John Tardy lunges toward the crowd, belching forth an unholy guttural snarl. Compressing two decades of melodic metal, Amorphis display a diverse selection of aggressive and gothic offerings. Nods to psychedelia and Finnish folklore are expertly intermingled with modern metal, creating a genre-defying yet seamless end result. From the acoustic warmth of ‘From The Heaven Of My Heart,’ to the grandiose, spiralling riffs of ‘Black Winter Day’, their efforts are loaded with a plethora of emotions perfectly expressed by Tomi Joutsen’s alternately clean and snarling verses.

Following a few technical issues, Devin Townsend stuns the crowd with a varied sound that unites mainstream material with primal, pummelling aggression. Having exorcised his inner demons through 2009’s ‘Addicted’, the American solo artist is evidently enjoying a lease of creativity unhampered by the burden of drink and drugs. A dual assault of futuristic keys and crushing bass generates unmissable listening that smashes once inflexible sonic boundaries.

Still tinged with heated publicity, Fear Factory’s return to the UK is no doubt among the most anticipated of 2010. But despite the band’s exciting reunion with bassist Dino Cezares, their ultimate appeal remains firmly rooted in pioneering modern metal. Accompanied by Burton C. Bell’s dry-lung howl, the aggressive quartet demonstrate captivating onstage chemistry. However, Bell’s struggle to maintain clean vocal delivery is impossible to ignore alongside the deafening volume of the guitars, which leave the singer sometimes floundering in an impenetrable wall of noise. But the band’s positive spirits seem joyously unshakeable as Bell imitates Michael Jackson in his strained, almost prepubescent voice, while a portly Cezares demands pies from the surrounding food vendors.

Emerging from the darkness in a pool of blood red lighting, Children Of Bodom tantalise the crowd with a seasoned performance that features an intriguing combination of power metal and insane aggression. Though stacked with layer upon layer of keyboards, the raw intensity of the riffs remains satisfyingly pronounced throughout. Peppered with obscenities and electrifying keys, ‘In Your Face’ sees the crowd howling along with inexhaustible enthusiasm, while the band’s more innovative moments create mesmerising, neoclassical highlights.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Sunday 15th August


Delivering a monumental wake-up call, Brazilian thrashers Bonded By Blood make a high-volume BOA debut. However, it is Suffocation that generate a truly ferocious performance, storming through a lightning-fast set drawn from an expert balance of speed and sludgy bass. Soon enough, even those nursing acidic hangovers are cheering rabidly, horns raised and fists clenched.

Infused with death metal-style vocals, Holy Moses offer a unique update on the thrash genre. While the novelty value of a female growler grabs an initial wave of attention, it’s not long before the band’s hooky, pummelling set attracts a rapidly expanding audience. Head-banging relentlessly, gravel-throated frontwoman Sabina Classen showcases infectious enthusiasm and vocal talent. Supplying a further dose of old school entertainment, power metal queen Doro opens on a cinematic intro, thrilling listeners with her god-like delivery and sunny persona. Sing-along choruses and agile riffs remind listeners precisely why the solo artist’s career has endured over twenty-five years. An impromptu duet sees Sabina Classen return to the stage for a final round of raucous, nostalgic metal. Sharing almost identical taste in leatherwear and hairdos, the pair’s performance is as touching as it is contagious.

Luxuriant as a cocktail of intoxicating liquors, ale enthusiasts Korpiklaani are a rehabilitation centre’s worst nightmare, howling the words “beer” and “drink” at every conceivable opportunity. But despite a generous measure of fun-loving merriment, the technical expertise at the heart of these giddy anthems is immense, spanning an exotic range of whistles, fiddles and accordions. Such musicianship is sadly absent from Gwar, whose special effects-laden style is sonically threadbare. Still, there’s no small amount of comedy value and random carnage as internal organs are extracted and tossed into the audience. Relying on a simplistic fusion of thrash and pantomimic silliness, their repetitive antics soon wear thin.

Sophisticated, yet uncompromisingly aggressive, France’s Gojira prove a veritable powerhouse of technical expertise. Like pockets of tranquillity within the eye of a storm, ‘Vacuity’ toys cleverly with tension and aggression. Particularly breathtaking is the majestic ‘Flying Whales’, which unites theatrical motions with heavy, sonar-inspired riffing. Fresh from Opeth’s headlining slot, Mikael Akerfeldt unveils the altogether more aggressive Bloodbath. From sludgy grooves to hyper-fast solos, these varying shades of brutality merge flawlessly with Akerfeldt’s cavernous death grunts. Genre veterans Cannibal Corpse are next in line, boasting heavyweight axemanship and gratuitously violent delights.

Triumphant in the wake of today’s rock ’n’ roll revival, Twisted Sister storm the main stage with a crowd-pleasing slew of party anthems. Given the band’s rather generic sound, there’s no doubt that their appeal rides heavily on 80s nostalgia. Veiled in dry ice, Dee Snider peddles a suitably big-haired, cartoonish persona to rival his ball-clenching vocal acrobatics. The hugely popular ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ marks the much-talked-about climax of the show, leaving glam fanatics thirsting for more.

Faye Coulman

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