A great day for heavy metal (er, maybe that’s going a bit far but it’s a great way to start a review…). Indoor Bloodstock 02 started with massive queues that necessitated sitting in a pub over the road from the venue waiting for them to dwindle (which took 80 minutes and the first two bands). On arrival in the Assembly Rooms (quite a nice little venue as it goes) we find Twelvepointhead going about their undistinguished business so head off for a quick look at the Metal Market and the opportunity to join another queue, this time for beer.
And then it’s time for a delayed Freedom Call, and everything’s cool again. Abso-motherfucking-lutely cool again. ONE OF THEIR SONGS (the astoundingly magnificent Land of Light) SOUNDS LIKE EUROPE! 45 Minutes of ludicrously pompous power/speed metal that only the Europeans can pull off effectively. For sure.
It’s a quick look at the birds on the merch stall again (that cerise top!) before seeing some disappointing stuff from Enemymaker888. Guys – only cover songs if your vocalist knows the words…a criminal dismemberment of Emerald had me shaking my head in disbelief.
Back in the main hall things weren’t much better, as Balance Of Power trotted out their Dokken meets TNT chops for the (it has to be said) appreciative few who’ve dragged themselves away from the queue to get things signed by bands in the other room. Sadly delays have meant that the two stages are now hopelessly out of kilter so it’s time to leave this mainstage hairfest to go and see Italy’s Elvenking over the way.
Except when we get there, after just pausing again to make sure everything is running smoothly at the merch stand, we find that the singer with the ‘King has been diagnosed with Crohne’s disease and been advised by quacks to stop singing. Consequently they rip through a half dozen hastily learnt Skyclad songs with original Skyclad throatsmith Martin Walkyier to a fantastic response from the Darwin Suite throng. It’s always good to hear Skyclad, and the Elvenking juvenes made a great fist of things.
Back to the main ‘arena’ and still no one has had as big a crowd or as good a response as Freedom Call. I’d heard a lot of good things about Threshold but sadly they didn’t live up to the whispers. A bassist who seems to have learned all his moves from Saxon‘s Steve Dawson, two charisma free guitarists and a vocalist who spent the first half of the set serenading his girlfriend before turning, somewhat alarmingly, into Meat Loaf. It ha to be said, however, that Johanne James is a bloody brilliant drummer..
Which brings us to the much vaunted return of an “it’s electric” Diamond Head. For the first half of the set they sucked, but then they pulled out those songs they do that sound like Metallica and ended with a suitably titanic Am I Evil? and the thirtysomethings in the crowd managed their first full blooded throaty roar of the day. A small victory.
A Quick pint (Stella if you’re offering, cheers) and then it’s back to the Darwin for Bal Sagoth. Now, my metal heart is as hard to tear apart as the next man’s but Bal Sagoth represent everything that Guardian readers snigger at about the genre – THEY’VE GOT THEIR OWN FRIGGING LANGUAGE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! Nowhere near as good as when they blew Emperor away a few years back, Bal Sagoth today were atrocious. But the room was packed and they went down well, so it must be me I guess. I have apparently been wrong before.
Certain members of the crowd look metalled out by now (8.00), and after slipping out of the Assembly Rooms in search of a Kebab – a mistake this, of almost Captain Oates proportions as the trek involved would have had Chairman Mao deciding to head back home for a nice lie down- so the reception given to Gamma Ray is nothing short of astounding- 1700 pissed-up headbangers of all ages hailing Kai Hansen‘s men like conquering heroes. Two words sum up this fantastic performance- synchronised headbanging. Something we don’t see enough of on British stages.
After that Premier League performance Blind Guardian were always going to be strictly Nationwide Division 1 but turned in the solid sort of performance you’d expect from an act with ten albums under their belt. Basically, they don’t have as many decent songs as Gamma Ray so halfway through their set we headed out to the highway and home…
So, farewell then, Bloodstock 02- a great day out for all the family (especially if your family are fans of beer and heavy metal). Here’s to next year!