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Friday 9th - Sunday 11th August 2019

Catton Park, Derbyshire

We arrived in the arena quite early on Friday to see some solid sets from Xentrix, Death Angel and Metal Church, although I found Soulfly a little 'cheesy' to be honest. Powerwolf gained a new fan and were absolutely fantastic, with a superbly powerful vocalist, whilst with Sabaton came a set that you expected. A powerful eighteen song list with all the hits and a good blend of old and new, including 'Great War', 'Fields of Verdun' (which got everyone up and out of their seats), 'Bismarck', 'The Last Stand' and of course the anthemic 'Primo Victoria' amongst many others. I don't think too many were left disappointed with the opening day!

Saturday was a bit of a calamity with high winds causing havoc for the organisers and the fans alike. Fans favourite Evil Scarecrow appeared to suffer from a full setlist sound issue, not 100% sure if this was wind related or technical issues but the quality was poor, but they still managed what I thought was the biggest crowd for an early band and the usual 'Robotron', 'Crabulon' and aptly named 'Hurricanado' still had us all dancing stupidly in the wind. Just as the massively popular Wildhearts made their Bloodstock debut and struck their opening chords, my phone rang. It was my son and daughter who had gone back to the tents to find them flattened and damaged by the winds, so we had to go back to make emergency repairs including replacing a tent. After Wildhearts had finished their set, the news came that the main stage had to be closed. This turned out to be around ninety minutes or more due to fifty mile per hour winds hitting it face on and you could see the lighting rigs swinging, so safety had to come first.

Always one to find a positive, this meant that bands in Sophie's and the Hobgoblin tents suddenly had larger crowds to play to. With a hastily rearranged running order, Cradle of Filth were moved to Sunday but the main stage opened just in time to get Anthrax on in their slot and our American friends did not disappoint, with a blistering set that confirmed them as still up there with the great Metal bands of all time. Now to complete the day, came the band that had a lot of people moaning about: headliners Parkway Drive. Were they big enough? Could they pull it off as a headline act? Haters will always be haters and you can't please everyone and you never will. Parkway are not one of my personal favourites but I stayed around to see what they could do. In fairness it was an excellent set, Visually the best of the weekend and they literally set the stage alight, even with the wind issues they had a full ninety minute pyro set that must have removed their eyebrows, as the flames were blowing back towards the stage and they didn't skip a note. Although I personally don't know any Parkway songs, the 'show' was a treat for the eyes and maybe sent a message to those who doubted their inclusion and they certainly held their own.

A real mixed bag of emotions on Sunday, as I was really looking forward to seeing Dimmu Borgir, but on medical advice they had to pull out. In their place was Batushka band. I will go on to them later. The day for me got off with Ross the Boss, and the former Manowar founder delivered a Rock solid and mainly Manowar set that was made even better when he introduced former Judas Priest axeman KK Downing to the stage and they went on to play 'Breaking the Law' and 'The Green Manalishi (with the Two Pronged Crown)'. Around 4.30pm the field in front of the main stage was full to the brim for the arrival of the former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider - and what a set he gave. The consummate professional proved worthy of every penny he cost, old stuff, new stuff, a bit of comedy, justifiably plugging his solo album 'For the Love of Metal', blasting hits like 'Tomorrow's No Concern', 'Become the Storm', 'For the Love of Metal' and throwing in old TS favourites: 'You Can't Stop Rock and Roll', 'Were Not Gonna Take It' and 'I Wanna Rock'. His 40-45 minute set was over way to soon but he'd done enough to show the organisers that even without Twisted Sister, he could pull off a headline slot next time.

Crowd favourite 'Cradle of Filth' finally took their delayed spot opening with 'Once Upon Atrocity' and a setlist including 'Nymphetamine' with 'Her Ghost in the Fog' concluding Danny Filth's ear piercing high pitches. With the continuing theme of delayed bands, in to Sophie's tent came Batushka Band; a band I had never heard of at all. Well what can I say about this one? They were moved from the main stage in what turned out to be a masterful stroke of luck as their stage show was astoundingly good in the dim light with a full light show. It possibly would not have worked in the sunlight and the wind, but what a stunning performance. Imagine the dark tones and chants/drones of Church and Cathedral music with a real Metal theme - and that's what you got - but it is put together with a masterfully good effect.

Due to the reshuffle, Queensryche moved up to the 'guest slot' playing just ahead of the headline act and produced the usual crowd pleasers 'Operation - Mindchrime' and 'Eyes of a Stranger'. Finally the legendary Scorpions took the stage with a 40 year catalogue to choose from and it was going to be hard to pick about 18. Now I love the Scorpions ........ normally...... but this was very under par, lack lustre, almost lifeless performance. I assume Klaus Meine was not feeling very well or had been accepting too much of the hospitalities!!!! Maybe I am being too hard on them, expecting the same vibe and vigour when I saw in the 80's as young men of around 30, but it just was not there. Even the absolute classics 'Make it Real' and 'The Zoo', which were played at the beginning rather oddly, failed to get me going. Sadly I don't think I was alone. An awful lot of people left by song nine 'Send Me An Angel'. Rudy Schenker on the other hand rolled back the years and gave a blistering show on his Flying V still flying around the stage like a 20-30 year old!

With some safety related issues being addressed this year, no more nightly bin jousting subdued the partying somewhat. No awards for the 'best festival toilets' will be won this year, as by Friday they were appalling and were not getting regularly cleaned as they did in the past. On Monday's departure day the track back to the car park was lethal as it was wet, and with about 15,000+ feet to churn it up even more, it meant many of us including me opted to walk against the traffic and along the road as it was safer. Having to pull trolley and carts through a swamp isn't easy and that needs to be addressed as it would be much easier taking sections of fence out so you didn't have to walk all the way through Midgard and around Valhalla fields in the same tracks as everyone else. Also the track on the other side of the road was a mud slide and needs flattening out. We saw a lot of people go over on it. That said, it was still a good festival with some good surprises, although in my honest opinion (and others) it was probably the worst Bloodstock I have been to. Difficult to put my finger on it - although perhaps a combination of band selection, cancellations, weather and weak headliners.

Tony Burgum

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