Iain’s Bloodstock Open Air top 5 of 2011

Bloodstock Open Air bills itself as the UK’s biggest Metal festival, and it is one of the highlights of the UK festival season. After covering the event in depth last year I decided to take it easier this year and enjoy the music. Work commitments meant that I missed the first day, but from Saturday and Sunday here are my top 5….

At every festival there is always one band that genuinely takes you aback, and at Bloodstock for me that band was Fantasist. Now I knew absolitely nothing about these guys but I was walking past the Jager truck just as they were starting and ended up staying for the whole set. The first thing I noticed about the band was guitarist Ollie who is, to be fair, not the sort of musician you expect to see at a Metal festival. Nice hat though….

Musically they cross a wide a swathe of styles as they do visually, quirky is a good word to describe them I guess, switching from up-tempo Rock’n’Roll to odd proggy rhythms and back again effortlessly.

Fantasist are a brilliantly fun band, the rapport between Ollie, vocalist/bassist Rob and vocalist/drummer Seb (yeah, that’s right, all three share the vocal duties) is brilliant to behold. Given their image and the notoriously fickle metal scene playing BOA was a brave move, but they won over the crowd right from the start. Fantasist must be just about the most fun band I saw all weekend, and if they were this good playing beside a truck in a field, they must be something special in a proper venue.

Next up in my top 5 were one of the highlights of the Sophie Stage, British power metal veterans Powerquest. OK, so the band may have gone through a few line up changes (only keyboard player Steve Williams remaining from the original personnel) but that’s not always a bad thing as it has enabled Steve to put together a stellar line up, including ex-Triaxis guitarist Gavin Owen and vocalist Chitral “Chity” Somapala.

Powerquest take their Power Metal very seriously and it’s clearly Steve’s band, with him emerging from behind his impressive keyboard array to talk to the audience between tracks. The setlist today was a neat mixture of classics and newer tracks, with the new stuff more than holding it’s own against the established fan favourites

Hopefuly this lineup will stick together for a while. because as the intense performance of Blood Alliance showed, they are a band who are capable of great things.

We stay with the Sophie stage for the next band in our top 5. I first came across Deadly Circus Fire when we interviewed them for CackBlabbath at Hammerfest, but this was the first time I had managed to see them live..

Wow, just wow.

The band had to contend with some fairly horrendous technical issues which delayed the start of their set, but once things were ready to roll diminutive frontman Adam promised that they would make up for it, and by god they did. Deadly Circus Fire are much more than their blood spattered, face painted image may have you believe. Their Tool flavoured progressive metal is done to near perfection and every member contributes to the show that they put on. I really can’t wait to see them again…

Ahh, Evil Scarecrow. How can anyone not love Evil Scarecrow ? They’re another band with a striking visual image, but like Deadly Circus Fire they back it up with bucketloads of talent and an awesome presence. They also have an impressive, loyal following and the tent was packed to capacity as they took the stage.

The setlist had all the tracks I hoped they would play. 66 minutes past 6 is about as “serious” as they get (I.E. not very) but they also threw in their Metal cover of the Thundercats theme and their, erm, unique interpretation of The Final Countdown.

And Robotatron, now if there’s a finer moment in music than the sight of an entire audience doing the robot dance in perfect time with the band then I’ve never seen it. And a definite doffing of the cap to the people who had made their own robot outfits, now that’s dedication.

Parody Metal, I think not. All metal should take itself this seriously šŸ™‚

Right, this was the big one. After the shitstorm that followed the release of their last album (and for the record, I like the last album) what sort of reception would Morbid Angel receive, and more interestingly what sort of set would they play ??

Well, in the end they played it safe. David Vincent started off by announcing “it’s good to be among friends”, and the band kept their friends happy. They opened with Immortal Rites, then followed that up with Fall From Grace and Rapture. This was a f’kin death metal masterclass, heavy on the classics. They did play some new stuff but steered clear of the “controversial” tracks on Illud Divinum Insanus, with Existo Vulgore and Nevermore slipped in the middle of the set. They did include I Am Morbid which attracted it’s share of flack when the album came out, and you know what?? It was just brilliant.

Although I was a teeny bit disappointed that the band played it safe in the setlist (I would have loved to have seen them do Radikult) Morbid Angel still managed to put on the set of the weekend*.

*Apart from Hell, obviously šŸ˜‰