Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2019 - Day 2

Ending a whole lot quicker than I would have liked, Day 1 of Bloodstock Open Air came and went. And after witnessing an offering of long-established legends, including the likes of Sabaton and Metal Church, I aimed to catch wind of acts making waves in the underground on the second day of this great festival, before rounding it all off with one of the riskiest and arguably most mainstream headliners the festival has ever booked.
Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2019 poster
Feeling rather rough and exhausted from the previous’ days offering of righteous power metal and blistering thrash (among other things), I fell headfirst out of my tent in Valhalla camp so that I could catch Krysthla on the main stage, which is potentially the smallest act to play BOA since the festival’s early years. While it can seem like a gamble putting a relatively unknown act on the main stage of a festival juggernaut like Bloodstock, this jewel of the British underground, hailed by Metal Hammer themselves as one of the best live acts of 2016, pulled no punches during their short set and proved themselves worthy of their title among the greats. Having previously toured all over with the likes of Decapitated and Goatwhore, this hard to define extreme metal act impressed with their combination of slow, heavy grooves and explosive high-energy riffs, never quite tipping into death metal, but maintaining the intensity of the genre. An awesome early morning surprise that wired me up for the day.
 
Krysthla setlist:
Minority of One
Yawm Al Qiyamah
Reawaken
An Ancient Hope
Zero Sum Game
Depths
Make Disciples of the Nations
Luminosity
 
As Bloodstock is well known for being the largest UK festival to feature and promote up and coming bands, it felt like a duty of mine to check out some of the underground European acts performing on the second stage. So, after a decently performed, albeit slightly quiet set from doom aficionados Swallow The Sun, a visit to the Sophie tent introduced me to the live experience of youthful German thrashers Dust Bolt. While with few exceptions I find the whole wave of retro-thrash to be oversaturated, stuck in the past and annoyingly ironic in presentation, this foursome based out of Bavaria devastated the crowd with a combination of speedy riffs and pounding drums, performing with all the confidence of a Bay Area act from the 80s and injected adrenaline to all who stood in the Sophie tent.
 
Over on the Jagermeister stage, I then caught West Yorkshire’s own Bill Bailey approved Black Falcon, a distortion driven yet harmonic band that could rival the likes of Monster Truck and Clutch when it comes to rocking live energy but have more in common with a more melodic, high energy Black Sabbath. While I usually find the Jager stage’s sound to be a subpar and at times, overwhelmed by the neighbouring main stage, the energy of ever charismatic frontman Dave Ayres and co. saw the band through and displayed with full force the standard for great heavy rock music. A band that I could certainly see supporting a Rival Sons style act at some point, it is a shame that they were placed on this particular stage, as the atmosphere of the Sophie tent seemed much more in line with their style.
 
Black Falcon setlist:
Wipe Out Gods
Living in Me
Two Face
Release The Hounds
Great To Be You
One False Move
 
Due to the increasingly harsh winds which forced Cradle Of Filth to cancel until the following day, I decided to scan the various market stalls which are a must-visit for any Bloodstock attendee. Uniquely, unlike the monolith of Download, BOA has a metal market with shops selling everything from drinking horns (Descended to Odin) to rare band t-shirts (Eyesore Merch) to bullet belts. Another reason to go aside from the usually decent line-ups is one of my favourite stalls; Electric Amphetamine, who sell rare t-shirts, hard to find CDs and everything in between. So, if merch is your thing, this festival has you pretty much covered.
 
After the turnover, the next band I caught were East Coast thrash legends Anthrax, and while I had originally planned to see Rob Duke’s post-Exodus project Generation Kill until they cancelled for an undisclosed reason, the infectiously fun and airtight performance of Scott Ian and friends more than made up for their absence. Having to offer us a slightly shorter set due to the wind, Anthrax nevertheless gave the metalheads of Catton Park a godly performance over an hour after they were scheduled to start, firmly cementing themselves yet again as the quintessential Big 4 band when it comes to the live environment. Joey Belladonna’s vocals are as strong and resilient as ever, while Charlie Benante’s manic drumming continues to impress the longer he is part of the band’s arsenal. As always, they naturally got the Bloodstock crowd headbanging, moshing and crying for the Indians following a similarly stellar performance at the festival back in 2016. If only the guys would change the setlist up more and perhaps throw “Lone Justice” or “I’m the Man” into the mix, I would have no issue seeing them desolate Bloodstock regularly.
 
Anthrax setlist:
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Madhouse
I Am the Law
Now It’s Dark
A.I.R
Antisocial
Indians
 
While many of my friends figured Anthrax could easily have headlined the festival, the elephant in the room, the source of all true metal fans’ tears; Parkway Drive were due to succeed them in rounding off Saturday night. Now, I am neither a metalcore guy nor a Parkway Drive fan. I like early Trivium and some other acts of the genre, but the Aussie figureheads have never really been my cup of tea. So, as I approached their performance with both an open mind and trepidation, I will say that despite my prejudices, Parkway deserves to headline, and from the reception of those around me smashed it. While wind certainly had an effect on the overall quality of the live sound, their lack of an elaborate stage show (save for a small orchestra at one point, which felt unnecessary in the grand scheme of things) allowed me to focus entirely on the music, and quite honestly, a lot of it sounded pretty good. “Vice Grip”, “Wild Eyes” and “Prey” were catchy, hooky tracks that got much of the crowd singing along, and their encore performance of “Crushed” and “Bottom Feeder” sounded heavy as anything. Not my favourite performance of the festival or anything in terms of headliners (that spot is reserved for Ghost), but a risk that paid off explosively (Literally, as their pyrotechnics went wild at some points).
 
Parkway Drive setlist:
Wishing Wells
Prey
Vice Grip
Karma
Cemetery Bloom
The Void
Idols and Anchors
Dedicated
Absolute Power
Writings on the Wall
Shadow Boxing
Wild Eyes
 
Encore:
Crushed
Bottom Feeder

Concluding the Saturday of Bloodstock on the Sophie stage were none other than Bergen, Norway’s one-man black metal project Taake, performed by singular songwriter/vocalist Hoest among a band of several other live musicians. Deliciously sacrilegious and controversial as they are, I was largely unfamiliar with this particular black metal project’s work previously, but can tell you that their live performance is a powerful onslaught of blasphemous blast beating and enraged screaming that strikes the perfect balance between sounding unpolished and raw yet not totally obscuring of any instrument. A suitably blackened end to another great day in the sun, and rain.

PS: Words by Michael Miller and photos by Ross Goatman (Satyr Media) - Taake photos by Tim Finch Photography.