A challenge of being a concert photographer is seldom experiencing a full set. Often, I dash between stages, trying to capture each band as if on a Pokémon quest – though “gotta shoot ’em all” has a different ring to it. Nonetheless, the silver lining is I often witness a good portion of every set over the weekend. Here are my top picks and suggestions from Bloodstock’s two smaller stages, showcasing their stellar support for the underground scene and nurturing emerging metal talent in the UK and beyond.
Oldham’s Wolfbastard delivers an irresistible blend of Blackened D-beat Crust and frontman Derek, also from Foetal Juice’ is renowned for his god-tier ultra-dry stage banter. Gracing the Sophie Stage with tracks like ‘Sick in the Bath’, ‘Drink Fucking Beer’, and ‘Graveyard Slag’—a cheeky dedication to your nan—they regale us with tales of their previous Bloodstock appearance, where they contracted piles for the first time. Raw and genuinely charismatic, Wolfbastard’s live performance is unapologetically raucous, and the audience invariably laps it up.
Over on the New Blood stage, Devon and Cornwall’s victors, Apathy, are met with a response entirely contrary to their name. The audience erupting into surprisingly vigorous circle pits for the time of day. While the band’s stage, adorned with logoed pillows, initially raised my eyebrows, all became clear with their fierce performance of ‘Devour’. We then witnessed one of the weekend’s most whimsical spectacles: Bloodstock’s inaugural pillow fight pit. A delightful sight sure to bring a grin to anyone’s face. I bloody love the inventiveness of the New Blood bands, the absolute beating heart of this festival.
Norwich’s Uridium bring their infectious Hard rock/Heavy metal blend to an overflowing New Blood stage. With a bandname reminiscent of the Commodore 64/Amiga era (yes I’m that old), it’s evident they champion old-school vibes. Uridium revives the spirit of classic NWOBHM, with echoes of Maiden, Metallica, Sabbath, Motorhead, and Priest resonating in their performance. With their catchy tracks and impressive vocals, they’ve secured a spot on my must-watch list.
Emerging as victors from the Essex M2tM finals, Arms to Oblivion stood out as a weekend highlight on the New Blood stage, delivering a contagious dose of ’90s-inspired aggressive Groove metal. The compelling riffs made head-banging mandatory and the tent pulsed with electric energy. But they weren’t just about riffs; their sound balanced melody with profound emotion, further elevating the tent’s atmosphere. Their captivating set left me eagerly anticipating them hopefully being booked in Manchester soon.
Leicester’s M2tM champions, Voidwalker, whom I had the privilege to watch clinch their place at this year’s Uprising festival, dominated the New Blood stage. Their powerful sound features complex heavy riffs contrasted with an ultra-dry vocal – as if the singer prepped with either gargling dry Weetabix or had been huffing on an industrial strength dehumidifier. Tracks like ‘Boiling Point’, ‘Tar Stained Lips’, and ‘Dreaming in Monochrome’ go down very well with the audience.
Over on the Jaeger stage for the first time of the weekend, and it’s noticeably bigger than previous years. It’s been a part of the gradual evolution of the festival that every year there’s something that just adds to the experience, if only we could get the fair ground to shut the fuck up that’d be brilliant. This Summit Fever took the spotlight. Having witnessed their prowess at Manchester’s iconic Grand Central venue, I was eager to see them command the expanded Jaeger stage – and they didn’t disappoint. The dynamic fuzz duo performed with a point to prove, and their groove was undeniable. Revelling in their resonant haze, they not only met my high expectations but also clearly wowed the gathered fans.
Returning to the New Blood stage, we were greeted by M2tM Merseyside victors, Devils Henchmen. They unleashed a formidable set of premium thrash metal. It was their finest performance I’ve witnessed, with the expanded stage amplifying their prowess. Their raw emotion was palpable, mirrored by an energised audience who responded with circle pits and walls of death.
Stepping onto the stage were Manchester’s M2tM champions, Square Wild. In full transparency, I was among the judges who selected them, fully anticipating some “that’s not Metal” reactions from the elitists. But their excellence was undeniable. While perhaps not traditionally ‘metal’, their music was sheer brilliance, and the crowd were clearly there to party along with them. They demonstrated precisely why they triumphed in what’s arguably M2tM’s most challenging region. The musical talent was exceptional, and the band’s cohesive charisma was magnetic. The tent was bustling, with everyone soaked in their creative fervour. I confess, there were moments when emotions clouded my eyes. For me, they were the pinnacle of the New Blood stage. Watch out for Square Wild – they’re destined for greatness.
In a striking departure from Square Wild’s set, we were confronted by the powerful Blackened Doom sounds of Moon Reaper. The transition between the two bands was described by some as the New Blood’s answer to Barbenheimer. Their performance was intensely commanding. With slow, calculated yet forceful riffs, intermittent blast beats, and an adept dual harsh vocal approach, they delivered an unforgettable set. The juxtaposition between these two bands, each excelling in their unique ways, underscores the New Blood stage’s pivotal role in Bloodstock. Kudos to Simon Hall for his exceptional work in curating this.
Dunes graced the Jaeger stage with brilliance, infusing a touch of ’90s stoner rock that hit just the right note. Immense riffs engulfed the audience, underscored by a compelling beat. Coupled with striking vocals, they truly captivated those present. Their performance was potent yet refreshingly different, adding diversity to the day’s line-up. It underscored Bloodstock’s evolving strength: introducing more musical variety across stages. A mere 7-8 years ago, by Sunday, the consistent heaviness could be overwhelming. Now, come Sunday, I’m still full of anticipation and energy.
Yorkshire’s own Street Soldier rounded off Friday on the New Blood stage, delivering an exhilarating set. The inherent positivity of hardcore permeated the atmosphere. As for the mosh pit, it was pure mayhem. As a photographer, I have ambivalent feelings towards the two-step dance, but witnessing the vast number of enthusiasts giving it everything they had, from a comfortable vantage point, was truly a sight to behold.
Emerging from my tent groggily and wearily, thanks in no small part to my tent neighbour’s hours-long, ill-fated drunken attempt at inflating his air mattress in the early hours, I hastened to see Tortured Demon. This was a performance I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
Despite their years this is their second show at Bloodstock, and this time on the Sophie Lancaster stage. Their performance saw them ascend to the top of many festivalgoers’ top 5 and 10 lists of best sets of the weekend. Their first appearance 2 years ago on the Jaeger stage has become the stuff of legends, as it was damn near destroyed and required plenty of fixing afterwards, including a new reinforced barrier, and probably one of the reasons it’s a much bigger tent this year. Those who remembered knew what to expect and were ready and waiting at the front of the tent with anticipation.
From the get-go, Tortured Demon unleashed a blistering showcase from their latest album, “Rise of the Lifeless.” The palpable zeal of their act was contagious, with the crowd energetically diving into mosh pits and crowd surfing. Their entire set was mesmerizing, spearheaded by the charismatic frontman, Jacob Parkinson, whose presence reminded me of rock legends past. Joe Parkinson, hammering away at the drums, evoked memories of a young Dave Lombardo. Their trajectory suggests a future main stage appearance.
County Durham’s Swarms emerged from the abandoned coal mines with fervour in the New Blood tent, blasting a fierce set of hard-hitting chugging hardcore tracks. Their deep, bass-driven sound, coupled with numerous breakdowns, was a delight.
Having seen the Manchester 3-piece, Vice, multiple times before, their progression to a larger stage was heartening. I regretfully missed guitarist Tom Atkinson’s other band, Fury, but Vice’s set, infused with heavy metal and thrash influences, was well-received by the Bloodstock faithful. they’re almost tailor-made for a bloodstock crowd, and all members of the band are extremely competent performers and musicians.
The Dead XIII are another band local to me and as I’m rather partial to a bit of horror punk they are a band that have been on my radar for some considerable time, even before they won the Burnley M2tM. Due to a series of poor timing, I’ve somehow managed to miss them. So it was with no small amount of anticipation I entered the New Blood tent to finally see what all the fuss was about. Damn, they have some serious stage presence, it’s easy to see why they won. Their charismatic stage presence, combined with exceptional guitar work, was a sight to behold.
Extort from Scotland are a striking image adorned with war paint and stage wear. The packed tent was going crazy with pits galore. A really commanding performance, heavy as balls with plenty of groove underpinning it all. This was a very confident performance too, it’s clear they’ve put a lot of effort into not just their music but the visuals too. With my natural focus being on the photography side, I always appreciate the bands that aren’t content to just turn up in jeans and t-shirt, and give me something to photograph just that little bit more.
Having just supported main stage openers Seething Akira for a couple of dates, Daybreaker found themselves in a similar position of doing opening duties on the Jaegermeister stage, which they’d previously done in 2019. This seems to be the start of a new era for the band, as they’ve just welcomed a new drummer and are bidding farewell to their Bassist Lynden. In grand Bloodstock tradition of inventing strange things to be doing whilst bands are playing, this particular set saw the birth of the ‘Macarena pit’.
On a stage that is often the highlight of the festival, a seemingly endless parade of bands stepping up and giving it everything for their big shot. We can all kind of feel the sentiment behind Bloodmores singer stating that this was a band he’d formed a few years ago, never even knowing if they’d perform live, and now they were played the hallowed turf of Bloodstock. We know, it’s that plastered across the face of every band that plays it and goes through the M2tM experience, is why this stage is just so special to many and why I love Bloodstock just as much as I do.
Sheffield’s Dead Blonde Stars were another grunge band on the bill this year, and being reminiscent of Soundgarden, they were an absolute revelation. I try to deliberately not check out bands beforehand because I love the surprise of being hit by brilliance out of the blue, this was definitely one of those moments. Not easy to describe just how amazing the vocals were without mentioning the G.O.A.T that is Chris Cornell, but those high notes had me tripping over my Jaw.
What can be said about Repulsive Vision on the Jaeger stage, just one of the absolute finest purveyors of Old School Death Metal on the circuit. I cannot rate them highly enough and every time I’ve seen them live they’ve absolutely smashed it. Vocalist Daryl also of Scordatura, and occasionally Party Cannon is just a force of nature on stage. Absolute brutal perfection which the crowd are eager to match as their pits galore. Brilliant stuff as always.
Prymå were a band that I’d heard plenty of, although I hadn’t realised. Their single ‘Freaky Fright Night’ having been used on the Bloodstock trailer. Once I’d made the connection, I was eager to check them out. Playing a nice blend of classic heavy metal with a hint of groove, to a packed tent, they went over very well.
This is the third time recently I’ve seen Muddibrooke, Uprising Festival, SOS festival and now the Jaeger stage at Bloodstock, that I made time with such a busy schedule over the weekend is testament to just how much I knew I was going to enjoy their set. Playing grungy alt-rock and drawing a nice big crowd on the Jaeger stage they do once again deliver. Singer and guitarist Harriet has a wonderful voice and engages well with the crowd. Songs like ‘Devil’ going over well with the crowd, raising a hefty cheer from the crowd, when they were asked if anyone knew any arseholes in their life. \
Playing after Megadeth had commandeered the New Blood tent for a few hours for their acoustic and signing event. Irish doom band Soothsayer were spellbinding, despite some technical issues causing them to start ten minutes late, but wow! it was more than worth the wait. A mesmerising highlight as vocalist Liam Hughes painted head to toe in blue paint, contorting and writhing around the stage in an display of cathartic ritualism. An intense musical experience, and one which I won’t forget in a long time.
Waterlines hoping to replicate Tortured Demons Jaeger devastation of previous years, and despite the massive reinforcements since then they almost manage it. A band who are a relatively new name, but formed as a re-brand of Sertraline but now with Ben Mars (ex-Solarshift) on vocals, so there’s plenty of pedigree. So, the feeling that they’ve kind of come out of nowhere for some is understandable.
Theirs was a phenomenal set, an explosive mixture of metal and electronic melodies, just an incredible performance, the crowd just bouncing around as they were whipped up into a frenzy. One of the best sets of the weekend, and indeed a set that is likely to be talked about for years to come.
Sadly, some technical issues cut short my visits to other stages as a failed camera (RIP) meant some significant adjustments needing to be made to get ready to photograph Meshuggah on the main stage. Once again though Bloodstock showing us a masterclass in the very best that underground music has to offer and being a massive part in helping to foster that talent. It must be said I was extremely pleased by the number of bands that were coming through the Manchester scene too, especially today.
Dragging my increasingly dishevelled carcass from its sweaty pit I head to the arena for the last time to see what there is on offer. Now reduced to 1 camera today was going to prove to be a bit more of a challenge than the previous days of shooting. So, an extra special shout-out goes to Rob in the PR tent who helped immensely so that I was able to still be able to shoot almost every band that day. I couldn’t have done it without you.
The Bloodstock Festival on Sunday proved to be an eclectic mix of electrifying performances, showcasing a myriad of sub-genres within the metal universe. On Sunday, the festival served a variety of flavours, and here are some of the highlights from across the smaller stages
Elimination from Norwich made their second appearance at Bloodstock but it marked their first with a fresh lineup. The band delivered a thrash masterclass with roaring and snarling vocals from their newly promoted guitarist Dave Hill, who looked entirely at home in his new role on the mic. The anticipation is already high for their appearance at Thrashchester 2023 in Manchester.
The London winners, Sanguinem, showed exactly why they dominated such a competitive region. Offering a balanced diet of brutality and melody, their set can best be described as melodic death metal. The bass was a particularly strong suit, delivering a plethora of low-end brutality.
Hailing from Nottingham, Beyond Your Design, who are on the Unearthed label, proved they are a quality act. Their metalcore set was not just musically sound but also a strong, confident performance that showed they knew how to work the crowd. The band’s powerful vocals and catchy choruses were particularly compelling.
Nameless, the M2tM winners from Birmingham, presented a high-intensity set to a chaotic audience. With songs like ‘Circus of Freaks,’ the nu-metal band delivered a brilliant and intense set with vocals shifting effortlessly through a range of styles.
I also caught a portion of Skypilot’s set, making a welcome return to the festival. Though my time was split due to scheduling conflicts, and also wanting to catch some of Cobra the Impaler and Those Once Loyal. Those Once Loyal playing an exciting set of melodic hardcore on the Jaeger stage.
Dystopian Sun once again reaffirmed why I’ve enjoyed their previous gigs. They offer deathcore but with a diversity that keeps things fresh, featuring a variety of vocal styles and riffs that you can really sink your teeth into. They are definitely a band I’m eager to see once again.
Dead Air, a power trio from South London, showcased an intense performance. Their set was a veritable breath of fresh air and included heavy riffs you could dance to and a low-end bass that converted many a passerby into instant fans. Impressive as hell they really got the crowd going, a band high up on my recommendations from the weekend.
Church of the Cosmic Skull have been ‘putting the ABBA in Sabbath since 2016’ I read that in their profile and it’s really stuck, they remain an absolute must-see band. Simply put there’s no one quite like them, their unique act, featuring five vocalists, was a mesmerising performance and euphoric singalongs. Their southern rock influences blend perfectly with the harmonies they produce. simply a wonderful and unique live act that everyone must see live at some point.
Outergods surprised me pleasantly. Comprising members of Bloodstock alumni like Raised by Owls and Evil Scarecrow, their set was brutal as hell, and with a stage presence that made their pedigree playing such stages shine. Their set was built around debut album ‘A Kingdom Built on the Wreckage of Heaven’ and it really made a strong impression.
Emerging as the winners from Belfast’s M2tM competition, the self-proclaimed “state-of-the-art War-Jazz trio,” Acid Age, unfortunately, clashed with the mighty Sepultura for the first half of their set. Yet, they refused to let the timetable dim their brilliance. Specializing in progressive thrash, they offered a performance laden with intensity and intricately crafted guitar work. Their sound, reminiscent of metal legends like Gorguts and Pestilence, captivated those present, despite the initially sparse crowd. And just when I thought I’d exit to catch Embodiment, a sea of bodies started to flood into the tent, having left the Sepultura set, adding to the electric atmosphere.
Speaking of Embodiment, they delivered an awe-inspiring set of death metal hailing from Bristol, after having seen them play the final at Manchester M2tM at Rebellion, I knew I had to see them again. The band’s twin shredding was the epitome of heaviness—so intense that one could describe it as “heavy as balls.” As a live act, they were nothing short of sensational, proving to be one of the tightest death metal ensembles you could hope to witness.
LaVein didn’t just continue the Irish onslaught on the New Blood stage; they dominated it. As if abiding by an unwritten law of Bloodstock, the Irish M2tM bands consistently deliver grand slam performances, and LaVein being the last of the weekend proved to be no exception. Their captivating set had the audience in a frenzy, validating once again that the Irish know how to crush it on stage.
Initially scheduled to headline the Sophie stage on Saturday, Zeal and Ardor found themselves in a Sunday guest slot, but that hardly mattered. They returned with their pioneering Blackened Gospel style, a provocative take on their initial premise of music might sound like ‘if enslaved Americans had turned to Satanism’. Having recently seen them with a stand-in lineup due to illnesses, it was refreshing to see them back in full force. They filled the tent to the brim, and the resulting set was nothing short of carnage. Complemented by an ambient light show, their performance stood as a live tour de force.
Iron Altar closed out the Jaeger stage with their bludgeoning sludge metal offering. Their set, featuring songs like ‘Megalith’ and ‘Mortality,’ was loud enough to almost make the earth shake. The kind of densely heavy volume and tone that is just like a snug blanket of sound, admittedly one that is trying to shake you to death, but what a way to go that would be.
It’s been a few years now that there’s been a notable variety in the Bloodstock offering, and each year that balance seems just right to the point that despite having photographed 102 bands this weekend, by the end of it I could happily have done another few days. All in all Bloodstock 2023 was another fantastic weekend, one which just keeps getting better.
The only downside was the reported number of thefts this year was noticeably increasing, and for the first time ever despite being in the much more secure media tent camping I arrived back after the life-affirming Biohazard set, to find that my tent had been gone through by someone during the day. Fortunately, nothing had been taken, although I’m sure they could probably have made a fortune selling my smelly underwear on Ebay, but it ended a fantastic weekend of live music, and the very best that humanity has to offer on a slightly sour note.
Read Part 1 here:
Read Part 2 here:
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY RICH PRICE