Ok, so we're a bit early. All trussed up in our various costumes (one Fairy, one Viking and one Count), we head into The Derby Assembly Rooms to be greeted by an army of security guards and a sea of black t-shirts queuing up...
Luckily being guest-listed, we skip the formalities and pop upstairs for a look around. In previous years the amount of knick-knack stalls was practically epic, selling everything from devil ducks and fishnet tights to rare vinyl and top-notch guitars, alas, this year is disappointingly tame. After talking to a few stall-holders we come to the conclusion that it?s the lineup of mainly ?unknowns? that?s had the tradesmen hedging their bets, and certainly, the prestige of the last few years is not mirrored this weekend in terms of bands. However, we have always maintained the view that the reason Bloodstock is such a good festival, is turning up not knowing half the bands on the bill and checking out some of the newest, most innovative bands in metal. Granted, that is not always the case. For example, today we have the misfortune to catch some of To-Mera?s set, a female fronted melodic metal band (usually my favourite genre) who appear to be rather arrogant (or was that just their roadie shouting at the technicians?) and not very good at all. The Nightwish-esque attempt is poor and the sound in the Darwin Suite is not doing them any favours either.
On the other hand, on the main stage, someone has definitely done their homework and picked Marshall Law, cocky and entertaining, they bound on stage proclaiming ?We?re the only British band on the bill, we rock!? and the crowd response: ?Marshall, Marshall, Marshall f**king Law!? which amuses us greatly. They put on a fantastic show and when we meet them later they take to calling me ?Anna the angel? which I obviously love. Another band who piques our interest are Majesty ? lots of leather lots of metal, and a quality set list. What more could you ask for? To top it all off, the last two bands on the bill are absolutely awesome, Axel Rudi Pell are completely bizarre ? energetic frontman Johnny Gioeli seems entirely mismatched with the band of hairy rockers but somehow a searingly powerful voice emanates from him which is frankly Dickinsonian (i.e. Bruce) and rather amazing. We get right into it, leaping about and pulling metal poses, a truly excellent set. Axel himself nearly makes us weep with joy when he plays a solo?fret-wankery lives! The last band on the bill Primal Fear, are definitely deserving of the top spot and blast out a selection of old and new that gets the entire room jumping and head-banging alternately. Frontman Ralf Scheepers sports his infamous white-fire trousers and leads the band into a rock-metal frenzy. When we met them earlier for a signing session, my favourite band members Randy Black and Mat Sinner also comment on my fairy wings, this pleases me and we get some photos taken! The best bit of all? A seething mass of sweaty metal-loving, leather-clad lunatics screaming ?Metal is Forever?, what a night!
To start the day we once again don our costumes and head in to see Illuminatus and Spellblast, who are certainly lower on the bill than they ought to be, but I?ll make no bones about it, as the best is yet to come! In the Darwin Suite Birmingham-based Hostile who we had seen a year previous at Birmingham Uni, play a set of astonishingly strong and complex set for such a ?young? band, though their titles might leave a little to be desired? I applaud them. After that we decide to sit upstairs in the main room balcony to check out Omnium Gatherum who are entertaining if nothing else and spurt the traditional ?We are from Gothenburg? which incites a roar from the crowd. Next up are Machine Men who are definitely worth seeing, but then again, I am an Iron Maiden fan to the core. They play a fun, bouncy set which is no-nonsense and easy going, but I feel they need to sell a lot more merchandise before they?re big enough to demand things from the crowd. Some previous creations that bands have taken on board are individual action figures, bathmats and car bobble-head dolls. It?s the corporate-way-forwards.
On come Brainstorm for a scorching set, although the vocals don?t really excite me. Much pumping of fists in the air fun to be had, and lots of thrashing your hair about.
Unfortunately Onslaught are next on, and they are, quite unashamedly? dire. Screaming and screeching is really not my thing. If I can?t tell whether you?re singing or expiring, you?re doing something wrong? BUT the circle-pit is quite hilarious, especially as the cool Scottish nutcase we met yesterday seems to be having the time of his life, shoving young men into other young men.
We take a break for dinner and head to Walkabout, its strangely full of half football-watching-larger-chugging-chavtastic-blokes, and half demon-loving-dragon-slaying-ale-bellied-metalheads. It was a little bizarre to say the least. When we return, Deathstars are on? and are? ridiculously rubbish. I?m afraid chalk-faced gothic moaning just doesn?t do it for me, especially when its clearly stolen from a number of current bands who do it right. It wouldn?t surprise me if they were all wearing 2 different coloured contact lenses?
Spent a bit of time wandering around the stalls in the afternoon, picking up a number of magical items, including a Gotthard DVD (bring them to Bloodstock next year!) and an event t-shirt. Having been accosted by a number of people for photographs (there were very few in costume compared to last year) and being called angel by more of the bands at signing sessions, we see Deadfall who are thrashy and a bit pants. This is rectified by the coming of Vanden Plas, who rock for all they?re worth and in my opinion should have headlined the main stage rather than the extremely boring and predictable My Dying Bride. Vanden Plas create a soulful, melodic Dream Theatre-like energy, which leaves the crowd open-mouthed and clearly stunned. They suffer from the limited space in the Darwin Suite, as I expect in a bigger area they appear epic rather than caged. Large arm movements were discouraged for fear of knocking the bassist off the stage. Oh well. The night ends with us skipping the last of My Dying Bride, in favour of escaping before the masses. What a fantastic weekend! Although the lineup wasn?t top-notch, and the metal-market was miniscule, we still had the great time we?ve had every other year too. Roll on next year!