Behemoth And Judas Priest Are Planning Something "Absolutely Monumental" For Bloodstock

How do you celebrate your 20th anniversary as a festival? If you’re Bloodstock, you announce two legendary bands – Behemoth and Judas Priest – to headline, of course. Brace yourselves…

Behemoth And Judas Priest Are Planning Something "Absolutely Monumental" For Bloodstock
Kiran Acharya

Bloodstock has become an essential event in heavy music’s summertime calendar, welcoming up to 18,000 people to Derbyshire each August. The festival has grown from a single-day indoor assembly in 2001 into a three-day extravaganza, and next year’s 20th anniversary promises to be the biggest yet.

Behemoth and Judas Priest have just been confirmed as headliners, alongside Devin Townsend, joining recently announced acts Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals (doing A Vulgar Display Of Pantera set), Paradise Lost (performing Draconian Times in full), Diamond Head, and Life Of Agony on the line-up. As the festival has grown, so too have the bands that perform there, with both Behemoth and Priest returning to headline for the second time. The festival extended the honour following Priest’s unforgettable Friday night set in 2018, and Behemoth’s first appearance as headliners back in 2012.

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“Bloodstock was actually one of the very first well-established festivals that would give us credit and put us on as a headliner,” enthuses Behemoth’s Nergal. “We felt very honoured, and that night was amazing.” Next year marks a special milestone for Judas Priest, too, who will be celebrating a landmark 50th year as a band. With that in mind, then, Nergal and Priest’s Richie Faulkner prepare themselves for a big year…

How excited are you to headline Bloodstock next year, guys?
Nergal, Behemoth (vocals/guitar): “The UK has always been very generous to Behemoth, and now Bloodstock is in a different place from the Bloodstock I knew from a few years back. It’s a bigger festival, and Behemoth’s position is growing. It feels like we truly earned that. It feels amazing. Absolutely.”
Richie Faulkner, Judas Priest (guitar): “It’s the perfect event for Priest. For one of the premiere British heavy metal bands of all time, in my opinion, to be headlining the 20th anniversary of Bloodstock is quite something. It’s really come of age, and it’s Priest’s 50th anniversary as well – it’s a real homecoming. We’re really stoked.”

What does it say about Behemoth and Judas Priest that you’ve both been asked to return as headliners?
Nergal: “It shows that we’re still very hungry. We didn’t settle down. We didn’t get too comfortable, and we’re aiming for higher goals. I don’t want to announce the details, but you can expect the biggest Behemoth production ever. We’re coming with something extra that’s going to make this stand out from everything we’ve done in the past. Get ready for something absolutely monumental.”
Richie: “Judas Priest is like a British institution, along with Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden and Motörhead, Deep Purple and countless others. This is a real affirmation – for Priest, for heavy metal, and for British heavy metal. It links all that history together and sends a big message to the world. British heavy metal is alive and well, in the bands and the festivals and in the culture of music that put it on.”

What do you remember from performing at Bloodstock in the past?
Nergal: “The first time headlining in 2012, I had stage fright. It felt like a big responsibility. But I remember seeing [vocalist] Erik [Danielsson] from Watain after we’d just come out to the front of the stage. We made eye contact. That’s just a detail, but we’ve been buddies for some time, and it was cool. Second time, Venom’s dressing room was close and Cronos came by and we took a photo. Venom are still one of my all-time favourite bands, and one of the main reasons I’m doing what I’m doing. Every time I meet that gentleman, it’s a big day for me.”
Richie: “I remember it was very cold! Bloodstock was our only UK date last year, so it’s a place where all the family comes out to see the band. I mean, we’ve grown up in bands – in bands before Priest, in bars and cover bands and original bands and played in pubs and clubs. This part of our musical make-up, and playing for British fans can’t be anything less than spectacular.”

You’re headlining along with Devin Townsend. How well do you all know each other?
Nergal: “Well, Judas Priest: what can I say? Rob Halford is a legend. I’ve seen Priest with the original line-up, I’ve seen Priest with Ripper Owens, I’ve seen Priest in their recent incarnation. I’m a fanboy. It doesn’t really matter how big Behemoth is or whatever – I’m still a fan. And then again, it’s kind of surreal, being in text contact with Rob.”
Richie: “Rob’s a very good friend of Nergal’s. They’re always texting and sending each other messages. They’re good fun together. The last time we all crossed paths was in Australia earlier this year.”
Nergal: “Devin Townsend is awesome too, every time we meet. The last time was on a plane from Canada to Europe, or from Europe to Canada. We spent most of the flight standing in the doorway next to the stewardess’ booth, talking and chatting. I don’t want to spoil much, but I’m just gonna say there’s potentially some collaboration in the works. But that’s it. I’ll shut my mouth now.”

Each headliner is a very different type of band within metal. What does that say about the UK scene and the fans, that three distinct acts can top the festival?
Nergal: “It means you have a very diverse crowd, and I love it. It shows that even though heavy metal is conventional and conservative on one hand, it’s also super-varied and very diverse on the other. Bloodstock combines ‘alternative’ metal like Devin Townsend with the classic of classics, Judas Priest, and this extreme band from Poland called Behemoth. Three completely different elements. Three different planets. And somehow it works.”
Richie: “It confirms the diversity of the music culture in the UK, and the range of different types of metal that British fans relish. Judas Priest have been around for 50 years playing classic metal, and Behemoth is a more extreme band. Back in the day, Priest were the extreme band! But Priest are still up there 50 years later, and everyone gets on in the same musical culture. Long may that continue. The way that music branches out and creates new subgenres and new musical landscapes is an incredibly healthy thing to be a part of.”

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Do you feel any competitive spirit? When you play a show like Bloodstock, do you want to be the only band that people talk about afterwards?
Nergal: “Well, I mean, we’re artists, and an artist is an ego-driven creature (laughs). So, of course, I’m not going out onstage to be shy and reclusive. No – I’m there to fucking go out and outdo myself and grow as big as I can. It doesn’t matter if you give us 45 minutes or one hour or 75 minutes: we must outdo ourselves, and make our statement as artists. When I’m offstage I can be a lovable social creature. But onstage, we turn into the beast, and we want to make a statement with every show.”
Richie: “If you look back at some of the shows that Priest have done, they’ve always put a thousand per cent in. Looking to the Fuel For Life tour in 1986 or the Defenders Of The Faith tour when they had all the moving parts onstage, you look back and think, ‘How could they possibly top that?’ But they do. It comes from that mindset of ‘We’ve got to do something better. We’ve got to do something bigger.’ We always go in trying to top what was done before.”

Richie, Firepower has been Judas Priest’s highest-charting album in the States. What have you learned from touring the album?
Richie: “It’s always surprising – I’ve done two records with the band now, and you learn a bit more with every record you do. You never quite know how it’s going to be received. You put your heart and soul into something, and some of the worst-received albums in the world, ever, have been great ideas at the time. So you never know. But Firepower was really well-received all around the world.”

Similarly, it’s a little over a year since I Loved You At Your Darkest came out. Has this been Behemoth’s most successful album campaign so far?
Nergal: “Yeah, absolutely. The Satanist was a huge success, but it took a few years until it grew into what it was. With I Loved You At Your Darkest, it went way faster. This year has been very, very hectic for us and lots of work, but the size of the tours we’re doing are bigger, and it definitely makes an impact on people. I can’t complain on the sales, and touring with Slipknot is like the crowning achievement of our career as well.”

Has playing with Slipknot taught Behemoth anything? You’re also supporting them on their UK tour this coming January…
Nergal: “Always. Trust me, I’ll be paying attention. When we come back after opening for a band with really big production, you can see that I’m learning, by watching our sets. It feels awesome. So fresh, so diverse. And I’ve always defended Slipknot, because them being one of the biggest bands on the planet when it comes to extreme metal, they still don’t get enough recognition from extreme metalheads for who they are and what they bring to the table.”
Richie: “That’s a good point: 20 years ago you wouldn’t have thought something as extreme as that could have been that mainstream. As I said before, Priest was extreme back in 1981, maybe for some people. Maybe our tastes for extreme music have changed as well. Slipknot are pushing boundaries, like Priest always have. It’s a great thing.”

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In 2020, in addition to Bloodstock, are Behemoth and Priest writing or working on any new music?
Nergal: ”Yes. We’re actually jamming, and we’ve already started working on tour. We have our mobile studio and we set it up in hotel rooms. There’s nothing that’s finished, but there are ideas. I realised I don’t want to wait another two or three years and only then start thinking about it. I would guess that next year we’ll be in a studio recording the next album.”
Richie: “We’re always working on ideas and melodies. We carve out a niche of a month or so where Rob, Glenn and I get together and throw ideas at each other. It’s a constant kind of creation cycle, really – we put all those ideas into the metal melting pot, and hopefully pull out some gems. It’s exciting.”

Bloodstock festival takes place at Catton Park, Derbyshire, on August 6-9, 2020.

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