LIVE: Bloodstock Open Air 2019 – Sunday

By Gem Rogers

It’s Sunday. It’s a metal festival. It’s very muddy. You’d better believe tiredness is in the air by this point, but thankfully, there’s one more day of music to keep us going at Bloodstock 2019. Sunday is the day we typically see more of the legendary names appearing on the bill – past Sunday headliners have included Alice Cooper, Slayer, Megadeth, and Twisted Sister, with the latter’s front man making a reappearance on the bill this year.

The weather is questionable once more, but with yesterday’s winds fortunately banished and even a bit of sun coming out to warm our damp feet, we’re thankfully left with a final day that’s able to run as smoothly as possible and let us focus on the task at hand: banging our goddamn heads until our necks break.

Words: Gem Rogers / Photos: Matt Higgs

There’s no Sunday wake up call quite like a Harbinger wake up call, and boy are we glad we aren’t nursing any hefty hangovers when we arrive at the Sophie Lancaster stage this morning. Occupying the heaviest end of tech metal, this five from London are unrelenting, building their tracks in huge layers before dropping like a dead weight. It’s heart-stopping and exciting stuff only made better by gorgeous guitar tones, riffs for days, and superb vocals from Tom Gardner – we could listen to this for forever, so half an hour doesn’t seem nearly enough. Harbinger are flying the flag for young British tech metal, and – especially on the strength of this set – we can’t wait to see where they go next.

When it comes to legends of the metal scene we don’t see nearly enough of in the UK, Soilwork are surely near the top of that list. Their handful of appearances over the last five years have been mainly confined to support slots and London shows, and as a result the Swedish melodeath group’s set at Bloodstock feels both overdue and eagerly awaited. Bjorn Strid is still one of the most astounding vocalists in the – or, indeed, any – genre, with a spectacular ease and strength in every note, and their newer, more power metal influenced tracks suit the currently sunny skies perfectly. There is, however, something lacking in the performance and songs that is unexpected from a band who have always been mesmerising live; whether it’s the change in style, the departure of legendary drummer Dirk Verbeuren, or something else, this isn’t quite the Soilwork we remember. That said, coming down from such a high point still leaves you with one of the strongest sets of the weekend – it’s just a shame it doesn’t reach former heights, and we hope to see a return to form (and a headline tour or two) sooner rather than later.

Following up on the main stage are another renowned Swedish band – it’s not really any surprise that a metal festival line-up is dominated by our Nordic cousins – and Hypocrisy haven’t come to play. Heavy, dark, and atmospheric, they are impressive to behold, though the set feels a little rushed as they sprint through as many tracks as possible. On the plus side, this means a bit of everything for everyone as they pick at their huge back catalogue, with Peter Tägtgren’s vocals on formidable and snarling form. Their style might be more suited to a tent, especially with the sun still (just about) hanging around, and it’s not the most exciting set of the weekend, but it is an otherwise faultless 45 minutes on the main stage from these Swedes, and one that seems to go down well with the Bloodstock masses.

Although it takes a minute for everyone to realise things are underway for the next main stage set, thanks to the continuation of generic background music, there can be no mistaking that Dee Snider has arrived once he makes his way on stage. The former Twisted Sister front man has drawn a huge crowd, and as he breaks into the opening track from last year’s ‘For The Love Of Metal’, it feels instantly like being transported back to a mythical past, an altogether shinier and more colourful place. There are, of course, plenty of Twisted Sister songs included in the set, which is also littered with good humour – “you may not go to the bathroom during the new songs!”, comes a regular threat that may or may not be entirely joking – and entertaining banter from this most experienced of performers. If you needed to leave early on this final day, this is the perfect finale – packed to the brim with delightfully enjoyable glam metal and huge singalongs in the form of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’, it’s headline material through and through. There’s not a single face in the crowd without a smile, and we wish we could have Snider at every festival.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone, metalhead or otherwise, who isn’t familiar with at least one Scorpions song, and few have had such phenomenally long careers – that they’re still releasing music today is, without question, incredibly impressive. Perhaps it results in higher expectations than normal for a band occupying the ‘legendary’ Sunday slot, and the crowd gathered around the main stage is certainly sizeable as the five current members appear and instantly look like they’re having the time of their lives. Unfortunately, that’s about all that can be said of the German legends’ hour and a half on stage. They’re in the sticky situation of following two of metal’s greatest current headliners in Sabaton and Parkway Drive, and in comparison, this performance simply falls flat.

The band work their way enthusiastically through fifty years worth of music, and their experience on stage is evident, but whether it’s an off day or simply a sign of a band who are no longer able to achieve the form they once had, it’s a slog to make it through this tired and uninspiring set, with Klaus Meine’s monotone and off key vocals frequently almost painful to listen to. Their influence and former glory will never be up for dispute – but, with the sting in the tail clearly dulled, perhaps it’s time for Scorps to call it a day.

Fortunately, our weekend isn’t quite over, as Swiss folk metallers pack out the Sophie tent for one last metal party. In stark contrast to the deflating main stage set we’ve just witnessed, this is a livewire performance with a serious spark. The sheer number of musicians and instruments on stage lends an air of perfect chaos, though there’s nothing chaotic about their delivery of enchanting folk melodies with just enough heaviness to get heads banging. The band have seen a fairly regular churn of members over the years, with founder and front man Chrigel Glanzmann the only constant presence, but each song is delivered with precision and filled with just as much atmosphere as their recorded counterparts. From the soaring ‘The Call Of The Mountains’ to epic closer ‘Inis Mona’, with the stunning ‘A Rose For Epona’ forming a major highlight in the middle of the set, this is absolutely everything we could hope for from a final headliner. Despite the tiredness of a long weekend beginning to set in as the clock ticks close to midnight, there is a vibe of overwhelming joy in the tent – and plenty of dancing to go along with it. It’s the perfect way to round off a weekend of metal, and there’s only one thought on everyone’s minds as we leave the arena for the last time (apart from “where’s the beer?”, obviously). Can we come back for Bloodstock 2020 yet?