Due to the glory of the British transport system, we arrived at Catton Hall nice and late. Missing an apparently excellent set from Onslaught, one of my favourite death metal bands (Bloodbath) and the gothic stylings of Wednesday 13was not the best way to kick of the Bloodstock weekend. But alas, through the rain we continued, with the impending Priest keeping us moving into the camping area. We needed to set up in the media area, but the right-wing was firmly dominated by the Daily Mail and the S*n- even the BBC were there, but of course, pretending not to be. After some excellent satirical observations and the realisation we actually had no idea which media outlets we were slotted between, we pitched our Spinal Tap sized tent. We were home.
Eventually, fresh-faced as we essentially skipped past the musty metalheads who had been moshing since yesterday, we made our way towards the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage to see our first band of the weekend- Sertraline. They provided enough grooving riffs and stage presence to satisfy before we headed over to the Sophie Lancaster stage, where we were met with quite the surprise. The classic thrash of Suicidal Tendencies had overflowed the tent like the mud under our feet with each step, despite their set having supposed to have finished before we arrived. We found out later that the band had arrived late and swapped slots with Japanese, all-female band Lovebites, who’s year, after winning the ‘Best New Band’ Golden God award a few months ago, was still getting better.
After catching a few full sets, we decided to trot around a little bit. We took in Kamikaze Test Pilots on the miniscule Jägermeister stage, who’s funky metal prompted the (possible slightly dramatic) comment from the guy next to me that it was ‘the best set [he’d] ever seen at Bloodstock’. Controversial. Emperor’s brutality and almost total disregard of conventional melodies both delighted and confused the audience in equal measure, while it nearly deafened me as I stood in the photo pit, desperately longing for some earplugs, while the pulsing double-bass drum permanently changed the rhythm of my heart. Today’s New Blood stage headliners, King Bison, had a Kvelertak vibe while Bleed From Within took their fresh sound to a committed audience on the Sophie stage.
No matter how many bands we saw on our first day of Bloodstock, it was always going to be about one band. Judas Priest opened their set with the title track of their excellent new ‘Firepower’ and it only went up from there. Despite having not seen the Metal Gods since 2011, their stage show had stayed roughly the same, with Rob Halford occupying the middle of the stage, regularly changing outfits and eventually reappearing on a huge, snarling Harley Davidson. The only real difference is that Halfords once jet-black beard has now faded to grey. Another major difference is the presence of metal producer Andy Sneap, who is standing in for Glenn Tipton, who’s tragic Parkinson’s diagnosis has left him unable to play the more challenging Priest material. However, after a stunningly powerful rendition of ‘Painkiller’, Tipton makes his way on stage for the encore. His shaking hands are visible on the big screen, and his once dominating and energetic stage personality has been replaced by one of appreciation, mixed with slight disorientation. Either way, ‘Breaking The Law’ is screamed word for word by every member of the audience, and the ability for
Priest to produce a sound that is genuinely almost as good as it was nearly 50 years ago is overwhelming. Fireworks erupt from the stage, and a long applause fades out the Friday at Bloodstock 2018.