By Baz Jones
The date: Saturday, 31st August 2002
The guilty: Baz, Emma, Jimmer, Bonzo, Oli, Tish, Colette, Tim Medway, Mark Barrett & Tuija, Ian, Mary, Alex and Sally from Wacken.
(Also present: various Nottingham-based people including Damian, Old Man Ben, Phillippa, Helen, Al, Sally, Chris Virgil Wylde, plus a few others I've forgotten. - Jimmer)
The bands worth a damn: Elvenking, Primordial, Bal-Sagoth, Return To The Sabbat.
Other people have covered the rest of the bill better than I could, given that I avoided most of the power metal like the plague.
(Bonzo:) Baz predictably bought about 50 CDs.
Not quite. I got a few... Septic Flesh's 'Ophidian Wheel' and 'A Fallen Temple', In Battle's 'Return Of The Northmen', Tiamat's 'The Sleeping Beauty (Live In Israel)', a reissue of Primordial's 'A Journey's End' and a load of cheap stuff from Neat Records at the end of the night (Lord, Ha Lela, Zpoan Vtenz and a couple of Godreah compilations).
Elvenking's vocalist has unfortunately joined the ranks of the Sick and the Dead and has had to leave the band. Although they'd tried hard to find a replacement in time, it had proved impossible at such short notice... some communication with Martin Walkyier, ex-Skyclad and current Sabbat vocalist, and man behind the Bloodstock festival, and the decision was made to play six Skyclad covers with him singing. And to be perfectly honest, I'm astounded at how good they sounded, given that they'd had a week to learn the songs and a single half-hour rehearsal with Walkyier. I'm disappointed that they couldn't play any of their own stuff, but you just can't argue with tracks as strong as 'Penny Dreadful' (dedicated to the current incarnation of Skyclad), 'Spinning Jenny', 'Declaration Of Indifference', 'Civil War Dance' and 'Earth Mother, The Sun and the Furious Host'. Walkyier is on the best form he's been for years, and Elvenking are just amazing musicians - massive props go to the violinist in particular. The only drawback was that it was over so quickly - underrunning their allotted time, even with Walkyier five minute between-songs rants. Come back soon guys when you've got a new vocalist!
Primordial are on the best form of their lives at the moment. I've seen them a few times over the years, but their performance at Wacken a few weeks ago as just breath-taking. They werne't quite as good today, but not far off... I managed to miss the first track or so due to timetabling confusion and walked in during what sounded like the closing bars of 'Gods To The Godless', though I can't be entirely sure. Nevertheless, they proceeded to whip through a set of their patented atmospheric celtic black metal and managed to get a decent response from a largely power metal audience. Alan's voice was stunning as always, and is increasingly echoing Aaron from My Dying Bride on the moaned passages, and with a world-beating new album in the racks ('Storm Before Calm') Primordial are pretty much unstoppable at the moment. After briefly disappearing off stage, they returned to close with the devastating 'Autumn's Ablaze', and swiftly disappeared again with the hardcore down the front still yelling for 'To Enter Pagan'. They've clearly decided that the trick is to keep 'em wanting more :-)
I caught a couple of Diamond Head tracks, including 'It's Electric', but to be honest they were looking and sounding old, so I returned to the second stage to check out Bal-Sagoth. I'd never seen these guys, so was seriously hyped up about it. The initial shock was how the band looked - less Barbarian Metal, more bouncer with baseball cap. This is a bad idea. Contrary to what Jim may tell you, these guys are extremely serious about what they do, but have always been over-the-top enough at their keyboard-driven fantasy black metal that they've sucked in a few Manowar fans along the way. Given that they haven't exactly been playing a lot recently, they were ridiculously tight and played plenty of old stuff which kept me happy. They were also using a somewhat bizarre electric drum-kit, not that you could tell from the battery emanating from the speakers. The material comes across considerably heavier live, at least partially because Johnny Maudlin's keyboards are lower in the mix (now that he's back from moonlighting in COF), and Byron is a charismatic, if slightly unhinged frontman. They played stuff off all of their five albums, including 'A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria' from their debut and 'The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean Empire' from their sophomore effort 'Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule'. Bal-Sagoth epitomise the kind of band you either love or hate. I know which camp I'm in, but please - lose the baseball caps.
Bloodstock's real headliners were Sabbat, sorry RETURN TO THE Sabbat - not the piss-weak German widdling of Blind Guardian. True, Andy Sneap's no longer in the band, but the new boy is doing a fine job despite some rather unfortunate hair, and the rest of the band sound as if they've never been away. Walkyier is full of the righteous anger which seemed to have faded somewhat in his last few year with Skyclad. My set-list tallies with Jim's: 'A Cautionary Tale', 'Hosanna In Excelsis', 'I For An Eye', 'The Clerical Conspiracy', 'Advent Of Insanity', 'Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares', 'The Best Of Enemies', 'Behind The Crooked Cross', 'For Those Who Died', 'The Church Bizarre'. Good to know that some things never change, and that Walkyier is still ranting about injustice everywhere he sees it, having several rants throughout the set about racism, paganism, the state of British heavy metal, intolerance in general. We need people like him around - I'll never agree with everything the man says, but people with his commitment to what he believes are few and far between, and as such he is a model to us all. It was claimed that the show was being recorded for future release, but perhaps it's time Sabbat considered recording some new material - we all need some devastating thrash attack in our lives.
To those who weren't there: shame on you. Come along next year. Support British metal, and metal in Britain. This is the birthplace of heavy metal fer chrissakes!