Bloodstock Festival
4&5th September 2004
Assembly Halls, Derby, UK

By Andy Read, Charlie Farrell and Tom DeVal
Photos courtesy of www.RockersDigest.com


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Friday

Sinergy
(Main Stage)

I came in when their set was already half-way through. The crowd loved them (slightly to my surprise). Alexi Laiho's guitar work was excellent. I'm not really a fan, or at least I wouldn't have classed myself as such, based on the songs I'd heard previously, but the spectacle of Alexi shredding away on stage really grabbed my attention. Vocalist Kim whipped up the crowd, who responding with lots of cheering and headbanging. Probably the success of the night. (CF)

Threshold
(Main Stage)

It seemed unfathomable to me that the hall, which was very full for the utterly bland power metal-by-numbers of Sinergy, had emptied out considerably for the far more appetising prospect of a rare UK show by Threshold. Another case of the crowd going ape for any old rubbish from the continent but ignoring real home-grown talent perhaps? Anyway, rant over, what we got from Threshold was another power-house performance to follow on from their barnstorming set in London the previous night. The new numbers aired (Mission Profile, Ground Control and Pressure) are as strong as anything they've penned, and all seem destined to be concert favourites for a while. The likes of the raging Ravages Of Time and Freaks and the grinding lurch of the final track Fragmentation all went down a storm with the (by now thankfully larger) crowd. Wisely sticking primarily to their heavier material, Threshold still throw in the anthemic power ballad Falling Away; this is not one of my favourites on record, but the song comes over much better live, and gets the singalong treatment from much of the crowd.

Sound-wise it wasn't that great, with Mac in particular seeming to have major technical problems with his mic (chatting to him later, it transpired that he had feedback going off in his ear almost the entire time on stage), but the quality of both the songs and the band's performance made up for it; Karl Groom looked to be really enjoying the gig, and had a Cheshire cat grin permanently stuck on his face; new(ish) bassist Steve Anderson now seems far more at home, and tonight was often at the front of the stage 'machine-gunning' down the audience with his bass, whilst Mac (once again (as per the previous night) resplendent in a kilt!) was his usual flamboyant self, constantly shaking hands with the crowd and jumping around the stage like a man possessed; inevitably it meant he missed a few vocal cues, but I can't believe that many people were really complaining. Overall, job well done, and one of the highlights of the weekend. (TDV)

Seasons End
(Darwin Suite)

I saw them play the week before in Brentford and was really impressed. Here again they played a good set, comprising 4 tracks from their debut CD The Failing Light and also featuring 2 new songs. The Darwin Suite room was pretty full and the majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy the set. Bekki's voice came over really well, but I think that they would sound even better if the male vocalist had a slightly deeper voice. The new songs are even better than those they've already recorded. (CF)

Gamma Ray
(Main Stage)

It was the fifth time I've seen them and every time is the same old mix of 80s cliches. The encore of Helloween's I Want Out was great, but didn't see too much else of their set. They arrived late from Germany and then pissed off their fans by pulling out of a signing session at the last minute. (CF)

Saturday

Intense
(Main Stage)

Sean Hetherington and the boys kicked off the day well with a great 35 min set of Power Metal. They warmed up the audience well and they must have been pleased with the receiption that they received from the enthusiastic crowd. (CF)

Panic Cell
(Main Stage)

Back to the main stage for another South of England based act, whose show was being filmed for an upcoming Bloodstock DVD. After barely a minute I decided that their music was really not my kind of thing, though having subsequently heard their CD, I wished that I'd given them more of a chance. The crowd seemed to love their aggressive style though. (CF)

Humanity
(Darwin Suite)

If the previous night had seen Britain's premier progressive metal band show their class with a storming Threshold set on the main stage, today provided a welcome opportunity for me to catch one of the most promising young ProgMetal acts to come out of the UK in the past few years.
When reviewing their debut album, I conjured up a complicated comparison of Savatage, Joy Division, Lacuna Coil, Black Sabbath and Metallica on a wife swapping evening, with Evergrey and Pink Floyd as party music!

And that comparison returned when I saw the Cambridge-based band in a live setting. ProgMetal Humanity-style is seriously heavy and dark yet all done with a joyful sense of energy and an innate ability to hum a good tune.
As with the album, This Endless Pain, is their most mature and memorable live song. But having not listened to the disc for a good few months, I was surprised just how many tunes I immediately recognised - always a good sign.
They've got an average age of just 19 and to be honest look even younger on stage. They need an urgent review of their image - scruffy schoolboy with dodgy mullet never works for me - and if they could put as much energy into their performances as their playing, then their ability to work up a crowd would go through the roof.
It's still early days but to be fair they didn't look out of place, clearly enjoyed the experience and gained a good response from a healthy crowd - most of whom had probably never heard of Humanity before. One's to watch. (AR)

Edenbridge
(Main Stage)

Back on the main stage, this band from Austria were making their UK debut. While I have several of their albums, I do find that their music is a bit 'pretty' and 'sugary', not to forget 'samey' after a while. They certainly pulled a decent crowd into the main hall and they received a good response, but after 3 or 4 songs I'd had enough and like many others I found myself leaving the hall. For a band who rely so heavilly on keyboards and orchestral accompaniment, I found it strange that they played without keyboards while using two guitarists, one of which, the main composer, Landvall, could have easily performed that role. 2 guitars seemed unnecessary as their sound is not very heavy anyway. Vocalist Sabine Edelbascher sounded pretty good, but like the rest of the band didn't move around very much on stage. Overall it was a bit disappointing, but apparently their performance the day before, in Nottingham, was much better. (CF)

Austrian act Edenbridge suffered (as unfortunately did many of the acts) with a poor sound, but I though they put on a pretty good performance. The fact that the band play a sort of gothic/ power metal mix and have a female vocalist will inevitably always lead to comparisons with Nightwish; whilst they aren't really in the same league, these comparisons aren't in fact too far off the mark. There was an overuse of samples and backing tracks (the band have no on-stage keyboardist) and Edenbridge aren't exactly the most dynamic band in terms of stage presence, but all in all this was reasonably enjoyable stuff. (I should point out however that my positive opinion of the bands performance was not shared by my fellow reviewers!) (TDV)

Evergrey
(Main Stage)

It was during an interview at the launch of the band's new album that I was asked whether I thought the band should take up an offer to play this festival. They were keen to come to England, but I got the impression it was going to cost them a bit to do it. 'Sure,' I said, 'you'll go down an absolute storm at Bloodstock.' I don't know if it made the slightest bit of difference but two weeks later, they were confirmed on the bill and having travelled to Europe twice and the USA once to see them play, finally Evergrey was about to make their debut in my own backyard.

My bold prediction however, could have all gone horribly wrong! They only arrived in Derby 20 minutes before they were due on stage and much of their set was plagued by an appalling sound. But while musically the band will have far better gigs, in terms of building a rapport with the crowd, in terms of stage presence and in terms of creating a manic buzz of energy around the hall, then they will rarely hit the bullseye like they did today.

'We're stunned. We only thought we had a few fans in England yet the whole place was with us from the start.' That was the conclusion from vocalist Tom S Englund as he chatted in the bar afterwards. Add to that, the fact you couldn't find one of the band's CDs in the hall within 30 minutes of their set and the fact that they left for Sweden with contact numbers from four different promoters. You could say Evergrey left a big impression.

The thing with these Swedes is that they have so many aces up their sleeves. They were one of the most technical bands of the weekend, yet also one of the most melodic. There were some quiet, almost acoustic moments and then there were times when Tom, Henrik and Michael combined to dish out some of the most intensively heavy slabs of metal riff-mongery it's possible to create.

In terms of songs, then Recreation Day and The Masterplan were just immense; throwing in Nosferatu was a great choice and from their current album, A Touch Of Blessing did everything I hoped it would when translated onto a live stage.
In terms of performance, the whole band was clearly fired up and desperate to put on a good show and from the smiles on their faces it was clear none of them could quite believe the response they were getting. They have a strong image, strong stage characters and without being too obvious, can really work up a crowd. As the final chords of The Masterplan faded away, the whole hall was on its feet and standing and yelling in appreciation.
Primal Fear and Children of Bodom may have had more fans and a bigger reception, but over the two days, this was the band that did the most to raise their profile in the UK. They really did go down an absolute storm. Here's hoping for a quick return. (AR)

Evergrey and their most charming fans

Sadly here is where the sound problems on the main stage appeared to become more significant. The sound was very muddy in the early part of their set and the guitars of Tom Englund and Henrik Danhage didn't have much 'oomph' later on. That being said, the band's performance was good, though not as good as I've seen before, for instance, last year at Progpower IV in Atlanta. Overall their setlist presented a good and very representative mix of their material from all but their very first album. I was very pleased that we got both Nosferatu and She Speaks To The Dead, though time restrictions meant that they were played at a slightly faster pace than on 'Solitutude, Dominace, Tragedy'. Since the sound overall was a bit better towards the end of the set, it was tunes like 'Recreation Day', 'A Touch of Blessing' and a rip-roaring set closer of 'The Masterplan' which really impressed. They must have won themselves some new fans as I understand that straight after the show, all of the stalls which were selling Evergrey disks, sold out of their Evergrey stocks. (CF)

Balance of Power
(Main Stage)

Two years ago, I had the pleasure to be in a small but perfectly formed crowd in Burton-on-Trent to see the band's warm up gig for their previous appearance in Derby. Then, featuring vocalist Lance King, their unique blend of progressive metal and hard rock melodies was truly sublime. It remains one of the best gigs I've ever been to. Sadly their Bloodstock set the following night was plagued by technical problems and today they had the double whammy of a slot on the bill that seemed to co-incide with many people's teatime and of having to follow the metal whirlwind of Evergrey.
I will admit that their current album Heathen Machine with Biomechanical singer Jon K at the helm, hasn't worked for me as well as their previous material. Yet having heard the three tracks they played live, I really must revisit it. Chemical Imbalance was the pick of the set. Visually the band is a little uninspiring (too static) but with five tracks taken from their back catalogue, including a brilliant pairing of Wake Up Call and Ten More Tales, I was more than happy to let the music do the talking. Speaking to people afterwards - most of which had never even heard of BoP before - the only complaint I heard was that the set was too short. (AR)

Primal Fear
(Main Stage)

In terms of really getting the audience going, German metallers Primal Fear undoubtedly triumphed this weekend. Bald headed and muscular front-man Ralph Scheepers impressed with both his powerful delivery and his ability to have the crowd eating out of his hand from the very first note. Musically, Primal Fear don't stray from the original blueprint established when they first appeared nearly a decade ago; effectively continuing from where Judas Priest's masterly Painkiller left off. The problem being that, five albums down the line, their musical progression has been, well, minimal, to put it kindly. Therefore, whilst the likes of Nuclear Fire and Chainbreaker certainly get the head nodding and the fists pumping, there's still the nagging feeling that, with Halford and co now reformed, there's no real need for Primal Fear anymore. Still, as it stands this was an enjoyable set that, as I said previously, went down a storm with the majority of the crowd. (TDV)

Sonata Arctica
(Main Stage)

My big worry beforehand was that Tony Kakko's voice was not going to be on form and as fate would have it, it wasn't. To be fair to the band, they were handicapped with some serious sound problems which threw their concentration, but on this evidence I really think that until they find a decent singer, the band are in neutral and going no-where fast. By the time I got back to the hall (after some great fish and chips) the sound was better, but as a consequence the guitars seem to have been mixed down, so that they were barely audible (at least at the back of the hall). The keyboards however benefitted from the mix but the songs, particularly the faster ones, still missed a bit of 'zip'. Yes they did play the classics from their debut Ecliptica like Replica, My Land and Full Moon, but sadly Tony's voice and the mix slightly ruined the result. (CF)

Children of Bodom
(Main Stage)

As I do have a problem with Alexi Laiho's voice (Its just awful), I didn't see the whole set, but that was more to do with general fatigue than because I didn't enjoy their music. I saw about 3 or 4 songs of which 'Warheart' made a pleasant impression on me, but the lengthy day does make it difficult for the headline band and us old farts. After last years audience full of fans carrying plastic swords and cheering along to Dragonforce, this year it was the turn of the Bodom fans and their plastic Scythes. It was really amusing to see them gradually make their way to the front of the stage waving their scythes.
Overall I had a great time meeting and talking with old and new friends, but the quality of music this year didn't seem to be quite up at the level of last year. I did miss a few bands that I had been hoping to see, like Crauchan, but as a social event it was still a great success and with both nights having been sold out, it will hopefully also have been a financial success too. (CF)

Special thanks to www.RockersDigest.com for lending us some photos!  

Setlists:

Threshold:

Mission Profile
Ground Control
The Ravages Of Time
Freaks
Light and Space
Falling Away
Pressure
Fragmentation

Gamma Ray:

Welcome
Gardens Of The Sinner
New World Order
Rebellion In Dreamland
Land Of The Free
Armageddon
Heavy Metal Universe
One With The World
Heart Of The Unicorn
Valley Of The Kings
Last Before The Storm
Victim Of Fate
Somewhere Out In Space
I Want Out
Send Me A Sign

Evergrey:

Blinded
End Of Your Days
More Than Ever
Speaks To The Dead
Rulers Of The Mind
Nosferatu
Recreation Day
Touch Of Blessing
The Masterplan

 

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2004 DPRP