Now firmly established in the heavy metal calendar, Bloodstock Open Air is one of the UK’s largest metal music festivals. With approximately 15,000 tickets sold for 2017 and four stages offering a diverse range of bands across three days, the scene was set for what would undoubtedly be a fantastic weekend of live music.
DAY 1 – THURSDAY
This year, Ramage Inc had the honour of opening the festival on Thursday, and their performance in the Sophie Lancaster tent set the tone for the rest of the weekend. This was followed by stellar performances from Gurt, The Infernal Sea, Wind Rose, Battle Beast and Pyrohex as Bloodstock 2017 got underway.
DAY 2 – FRIDAY
With the lasting taste of Thursday nights kick off performances still fresh in the memory, Friday brought the first full day of music with all four of stages; Ronnie James Dio, Sophie Lancaster, Jagermeister and Newblood open and offering a wealth of options for an expectant crowd. The first band to kick start Friday was Merithian, who performed on the Newblood Stage. Their sound was progressive and full of energy and was a fitting way to get things going. The Newblood Stage is a great place to discover up and coming acts with the likes of; Raze the Void, Embodiment, Enslavement and Ashen Crown all standing out on day one. Raze the Void, in particular, were a band that I will not forget, between their energy and the crowd reaction, they were a band that I could have watched all day. The Sophie Lancaster stage accommodated bands like Internal Conflict, Morass of Molasses, Black Moth, Lionize, and in a nice touch, some of the bands that played on the Sophie Lancaster stage had previously played on the Newblood Stage. The Jagermeister stage hosted five bands on Friday, ending with Hanowar, who donned the stage in caveman attire and gave a very classic metal performance, taking inspirations from Manowar. Friday on the Main stage saw the likes of metal heavyweights, Testament. Led by the ever enthusiastic Chuck Billy, the band gave a dominant performance and maintained an almost constant mosh pit in the crowd, particularly during the aptly titled Into the pit. After Testament was Blind Guardian, who delivered a well-received set of power metal tracks from across their ten album discography and set things up nicely for the night’s main headliner Amon Amarth. Playing for 90 minutes and opening with “The Pursuit of Vikings,” the band brought their brand of Viking metal to the stage, and the crowd ate it up with every passing song. Concluding with an encore of “Twilight of the Thunder God”, it was a great way to end what was an amazing first day.
DAY 3 – SATURDAY
Day two of the festival brought another great line up. On the New Blood stage, Raised by Owls made everyone laugh and head bang at the same time. Their clever song titles and lyrics to match meant that they were definitely one of the most entertaining bands of the weekend. Titan Breed, Solar Sons and Malum Sky all also had awesome sets. The Sophie Lancaster stage hosted the likes of; The One Hundred, Abhorrent Decimation, GODS and much more, ending the day with Macabre. The Jagermeister stage featured a personal favourite of mine, which is the upcoming band Twisted Illusion. Their set was amazing, the tent was filled, and people around the area stopped and turned to the stage. The energy from the whole band was amazing, and their cover of the Black Sabbath classic “Heaven & Hell” was very popular with those in attendance. The main stage line up for Saturday was a particularly strong one with a great selection of bands on offer. American death metal act Fallujah was first up and certainly gave a performance to reward those that came out early to see them. They were followed by Winterfylleth, Havok and then Annihilator brought a dose of thrash metal to the stage, and they bookended a strong set from King 810. Following the thrash theme for Saturday, next up were Municipal Waste who certainly got the crowd going and in the process managed to set a new Bloodstock record for the most crowd surfers in a set, coming in at 711! There was no let up after that though with Hatebreed taking the stage. While delivering an intense one hour set, the band were in great form and were undoubtedly one of the highlights of the day. Matching them stroke for stroke were German metal legends Kreator, who followed Hatebreed on the main stage. With a performance full of crunching riffs, their all-out assault on the ear drums showed that even 30 years after their first release they are still able to deliver the goods. Closing out the day as the main headliner for Saturday, were Ghost. Led by the imposing Papa Emeritus III, the band brought their trademark visual show to the Bloodstock stage. With plenty of pyrotechnics to supplement the music, the band played a selection of tracks from each of their three releases to date, including the 2016 Grammy award winning “Cirice” before closing their set with “Monstrance Clock”.
DAY 4 – SUNDAY
The final day of the festival brought another packed and varied line up of bands. One of the early highlights of the day was the all female band Courtesans. They delivered a powerhouse performance to a packed out tent on the Sophie stage and more than justified their first-time appearance at Bloodstock. Directly after them over on the main stage were death metal pioneers Possessed, who themselves were immediately followed by Obituary, ensuring the Bloodstock crowd more than got their fill of death metal. Offering a contrast to the death metal double header of the main stage were Sentience, who played in the new blood tent. Those in attendance well received their brand of progressive metal with clean vocals and heavy riffs. Back to the main stage and it was time for Hell. Already known for their theatrical performances, the band made use of some major pyro, with huge bursts of flame shooting towards the sky throughout their set. They certainly left a mark on both the eyes and the ears of the audience! Another band who left their mark on Sunday were Irish folk metal group, Na Cruithne who can certainly take the accolade of being the only band to feature a fiddler during the weekend. Skindred was certainly one of the highlights of both the day and the weekend and their reputation as a live act was definitely justified. With frontman Benji Webbe constantly working for the crowd, their unique brand of reggae infused metal created a real party atmosphere and seeing several thousand people simultaneously doing the Newport Helicopter was undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments of the festival. Offering a real contrast to Skindred but no less impressive were Arch Enemy, who were completing the final gig of their War Eternal tour at Bloodstock. With over 300 shows under their belts on the current tour, the band delivered a tight a well-rehearsed set that was in no way short of power and energy. The main headliner for Sunday night were thrash titans Megadeth. Led by Dave Mustaine, the band delivered a strong 90-minute set that featured both songs from 2016’s Dystopia as well as a selection of hits from across their extensive back catalogue. Kicking off with the classic “Hanger 18” and finishing with the double encore of “Peace Sells” and “Holy Wars”, it was a fitting way to end the weekend’s activities on the main stage. That was not the end of the festival though as there was still one more performance to come, with Finnish metal band Wintersun closing out things on the Sophie Lancaster stage. Their brand of sprawling metal epics offered a nice contrast to some of the earlier bands of the day and seemed a fitting way to end the festival.
Overall, Bloodstock 2017 was a successful weekend with a great variety of bands on offer and even almost no rain across the entire festival! With close to 15,000 fans in attendance and Gojira and Nightwish already announced as two of the three headliners for 2018, Bloodstock continues to go from strength to strength and already looks like a date to mark in the diary for next year.
Photography by Philip Goddard.