Postcard from Bloodstock 2018

Floor Jansen NIGHTWISH Melbourne Australia
Maria NayefLicence CC BY-ND 2.0

I know, I know – in two months you’ll be seeing another piece from me. ‘Postcard from Bloodstock 2019’. What can I say, this is one of those posts I had been meaning to finish for months but life got in the way. As it is I’d still like to share it with you as Bloodstock 2018 was such good fun for all of us.

‘What is Bloodstock?’ no doubt most of you are asking. Bloodstock is one of the UK’s major rock and metal festivals. Major, but by far from the largest. Download is the biggest.  Bloodstock by contrast usually attracts 15,000 – 20,000 people. As a result however, it is a much friendlier affair and if you’re ever tempted to dip your toes into moshpit season Bloodstock would be my first choice by a long stretch.

It isn’t just the relatively smaller numbers that make it. Bloodstock also seems to attract an older crowd. And if you can afford it, the VIP tickets are well worth paying for. They’re usually double the standard ticket price (£300 vs £150)  and its a bit more of a ‘glamping’ experience, though if you’re longer in the tooth those creature comforts are definitely worth paying for – more (and better quality) toilets, showers etc. No queues around the block just for a number 2 and I’ve never had to wait for a shower there.

The VIP area also has a lot of extras – it’s own dedicated food stall area, privileged access to the signing tent, a dedicated VIP entertainment tent, frequent access to the VIPs themselves (bandmembers are also put up in the VIP area) and of course a blessed curfew for us old grappers. Though if you want to join the kids in the adjoining fields for all-night bin jousting, no one will stop you.

The combination of paying a bit more for tickets and a generally older crowd mean you’re surrounded by lots of rockers & metal-heads who, like you, are in a generally comfortable position in their careers and lives generally. It makes for a very safe, friendly environment where you really don’t need to worry about your tent & possessions (though many might think being surrounded by 15,000-20,000 metalheads a very dangerous experience indeed, haha).

The main stage for Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2009
Belphegor138 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bloodstock for me is also an annual ritual for me. It is the one time each year I am guaranteed to see my best friends way back from my school days. We never bring partners with us and the only women invited are also old friends. It’s a great bonding and reminiscing experience every year. And of course last year was especially significant for me as it was the first opportunity I had to go on a proper bender since my Dad’s death. The first time I was able to let go a bit and have friends around me.

And boy was it a good one. It was the most fun I’d had in years and we ended up regressing to our younger days as naughty schoolboys. One of my friends brings his home-made alcohol with him each time. This year we dubbed his delicious cherry gin ‘the leg opener’. Anytime you’re in a queue for drinks etc at Bloodstock the people either side will happily engage with you. My friend always had a full hip flask of gin on him and would share it around whilst we chatted. The women seemed to especially take to the cherry gin for some reason and kept begging him for more. I think he’ll be bringing  a few extra kilos of the stuff for 2019!

Anyway, enough of the preamble. Bloodstock 2018 had a brilliant lineup and that’s what I’m going to share with you now. On with the show!

Love Bites

If there’s one nation single handedly saving Metal for future generations right now it has to be the Japanese. From almost out of nowhere in the last five years, numerous Japanese metal bands have appeared on the world stage with the most outstanding guitar-work backing solid vocals, many in true homage to the Western bands that have come before them.

Love Bites are one of the newest J-metal bands, following in the footsteps of Baby Metal (just have to be seen / heard to believed), Band Maid, Aldious and many others. Most of these bands are either fronted by women or are, in the case of Love Bites, all female. They’re easy to listen to and easy to look at. If you like your Iron Maiden or Helloween you’ll definitely enjoy Love Bites.  The music will remind you of Maiden and the singer of a female version of Michael Kiske.  Brilliant.


Absolutely nuts. Both the band and their fans. They sing about drinking and being pirates. Very fun to watch and – er – participate with in the audience. I had no idea until I saw them that fans are expected to bring inflatables along – the bigger the better – and throw them all over the place when Alestorm are on. We had everything from space-hoppers to giant strawberries to inflatable ducks that were so large people were sitting in them and crowdsurfing.

My friends and I had such a fun time in the crowd for Alestorm, it was like we were all at school again, being naughty. I’m pretty sure we looked the part too – giggling uncontrollably after we figured out the security to stage right would just hand us the inflatables that had gone over barriers, enabling us to put them back in circulation again.

Of course once other people saw us do this, scores of others joined in. There was at one point nearly a punch up over one of the inflatable ducks. One of my friends went on a complete rampage – and I mean rampage – through the crowd with a giant strawberry.  I found a space-hopper and took a good fifty metre run before I launched it into the crowd. It was the single best throw of my life. Ever. I aimed it so perfectly it took out the hats from three different people before someone else caught it.

The video below is my favourite Alestorm song – as they played it live. And if you see  giant beer can fly into the audience from the left….yep you guessed it, that was us.


See this band live if you can. The combination of the visuals, overwhelming sound  and outstanding emotionally charged songwriting is truly something to behold. They were the headline act for Bloodstock and I was in two minds about watching them. A friend insisted I should give them a go and hell am I glad I did.

The music is epic, sometimes operatic and always, always catchy. The range of topics their songs may put you in mind of bands such as Iron Maiden and Magnum who loved to tell stories and delve into the mysterious. Nightwish – unusually – add scientific topics to this litany. They perform a 20+ minute epic live telling the story of evolution (‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ – linked below). Sounds like a dry topic for rock n’ roll but they bring it to life spectacularly. Being there to witness it live grandly topped my Bloodstock 2018 experience off. Sharing a single video below simply cannot do them justice, so I’ll share three.


A moodier,  less operatic Queensryche, Evergray deliver a lot of catchy ballad-like songs. They’re not much to watch live – more of the stand and play type of band. However the enormous speakers at a festival like this serve them well, giving the melancholy hooks in their songs the kind of emotional power you just could not experience from listening to them at home.


An accidental find this band – every year Bloodstock tour the country looking for the best local talent. The winners end up in the ‘New Blood’ tent. Always fun to drop into this tent in between events if you’re at a loose end as you never know what treats and surprises you may find.

I was certainly blown away by Sellsword,  though I struggle to categorise them.  If there was such a thing as ‘hero metal’, this band would fit squarely in (think bands like Gloryhammer, Man O’ War etc). All of their material appeared to be about historic events and battles, mostly from British history.

Their fans were waving foam and rubber swords in the air whilst the singer, wielded his own sword-in-the-stone shaped mic-stand and bellowed out the most incredible voice. If you imagine the booming voices of actors Brian Cox (Churchill) or John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), but as singers, you’ll be on the right track.

Any further description is unnecessary though as you can hear them for yourselves below. Their sound was really good at Bloodstock so I’ve posted a live clip. Look out in particular for the miniature catapult they have on stage that the singer uses to launch things at the audience during the instrumentals:


What can I say about Fozzy – they are one half of my favourite band. And what I mean by that is that my favourite band has two different lineups, sharing at least two band members (Rich Ward and Frank Fontsere) at any one time. Fozzy are the happy party hard side of this band whilst Stuck Mojo are the angry gun-toting Trump supporting shitkickers.

I love both of them and Fozzy didn’t disappoint live, not least because of their frontman, ex-wrestler, Chris Jericho who just oozes charisma. They’re a fun band to watch and to listen to as both Jericho and guitarist Ward tearing around stage.

Jericho jumped into the audience at one point and formed a small circle of people, myself included, pogo-ing around with him. That certainly made my day!

Judas,one of their singles from their latest album of the same name, is an uncharacteristically dark song for Fozzy but it really shows them at their best:

Judas Priest

On the topic of Judas, Judas Priest are still going! I didn’t know this until I saw the lineup for last year. And the new album, Firepower, is surprisingly good. If you ever rocked out to Painkiller you’re in for a treat with the new album. I’d say Rob Halford is showing his age but other than the grey it just isn’t true.  He belted out new Priest songs and classics with such fervour you’d have no idea he is in his late sixties.

Honourable mentions:

Suicidal tendencies

I’ve seen good old reliable ST multiple times over the years. Very distinctive, upbeat metal often with a touch of funk (check out their side-project ‘Infectious Grooves’ if you fancy hearing some ‘funk metal’). Frontman Mike Muir tears around the stage like a madman still looking like he loves it every bit as he did 20 years ago. Suicidal Tendencies uplifting ‘fuck you’ attitude can best be summarised by their classic ‘You Can’t Bring Me Down’. And if you’re fortunate enough to see them live, if they open with this song you know its going to be an absolutely mental gig:


Another classic old-timer like Judas Priest. Doro, like Priest are also purveyors of classic metal. Lots of power ballads and simple yarns about sex, drink and rock ‘n roll. The band’s name derives from their lead singer, Doro who, like Priest’s Rob Halford still belts ‘em out. It was my first time ever seeing Doro live and also my first time ever hearing her actually speak between songs. One of my friends leaned over to me during the show and said “female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger”. And oh my god, that’s exactly what she sounds like. Once you hear it you can’t unhear it and I was laughing about that one for the rest of the festival.

Mr Big

Seemingly out of place in what is a metal dominated festival, Mr. Big were nonetheless a welcome sight and certainly made me nostalgic for my younger days as  a teen just discovering relationships, the opposite sex and of course really getting into my rock and metal. Soft, melodic and catchy tunes that were part of the soundtrack to my life a couple of decades ago. Immensely talented musicians and quite underrated. It was quite something to see ‘To Be With You’ live.


Difficult to categorise but fun to watch and listen to; if you imagine a metal version of Abba, that’s Amaranthe. Lots of very poppy tracks that are easy on the ear.  Give them a go:

I hope you enjoyed that selection. I’ll have another one for you (and this year this time, haha) after the next Bloodstock in a few weeks’ time!

© Katabasis 2019

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file