Another year, another Bloodstock Festival. This year saw some particular hefty additions to the line up so read on and find out what we made of this years heavy metal party.
Hark (5) open the main stage with little gusto as their doomy stoner riffs fail to gain much traction. Sure there are some heads banging but the scarce crowd isn’t invested and the set quickly becomes cumbersome. Boss Keloid (8) however have no such issue over at the new and improved Sophie Lancaster Stage. The massive riffs paired with the wacky vocal delivery sees the entire tent quickly engulfed in a green haze as they kick into Cone and the massive crowd headbanging in unison. Being only the second band to grace the main stage, Gloryhammer (8) had to pull out all the stops. With tracks such as Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee and Angus McFife, taking up key moments within the bands set, they made sure they were guaranteed to create sing along moments with the crowd. Playing the main stage for a second time is certainly momentous for Evil Scarecrow (7) but for everyone who was there two years ago this is much the same schtick. The band aren’t nearly as tight as previous years but the crowd still love them and their set in undoubtedly brilliant fun.
Anti-Clone (8) probably feel somewhat out of place at this festival but they don’t show it. Their fresh and unapologetic nu metal sounds don’t pull a massive crowd to the Sophie Tent but the empty space doesn’t intimidate the Londoners at all as they simply utilise the crowd the best they can before the two guitarists take matters into their own hands and incite the mosh pit themselves. Vehement (6) played a set that came out with quite a decent sound of black and death metal. Lead frontman Xysor growled his way through the set perfectly and this combatted with the sound of guitarist Wrath and bassist Ohtar. Over on the main stage Pepper Keenan and his motley crew of noisemakers Corrosion of Conformity (8) give an absolute masterclass on performance and musicianship. Exclaiming that the band are playing on borrowed instruments with a drummer who had one day to learn the set makes it all the more impressive when the band begin jamming onstage without a hitch. Closing on Clean My Wounds with glorious sunshine beaming down was certainly a moment of the weekend. Foetal Juice (7) came and gave the best grindcore of any bands in their scene have for a long time. Their musicianship, however is nothing to sneered at, as the group gave some of the most punishing and extreme vocals/guitar work than many other bands within their scene.
Having to follow on from Corrosion and Foetal Juice is certainly no easy task and unfortunately XII Boar (5) are unable to capitalise on much momentum. The band look to be having tremendous fun but their country inspired party metal doesn’t really go anywhere and after witnessing better acts throughout the day, the set falls flat. Respect to Venom (6) has more than been earnt at this point, the band practically created black metal and without them the majority of the bands on this bill simply wouldn’t be making music. Unfortunately within this set Venom felt incredibly pedestrian and left the sense of intensity that fans would come to expect of a band in this nature. For a good sing along however, the band played hits such as Long Haired Punks, Welcome To Hell and Black Metal, which worked well within the bands set. Being the first band announced for the weekend and also one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, Behemoth (10) take absolutely no prisoners from the moment they walk on stage to the moment the colossal Chant for Ezkaton plays out the set. This set sees Behemoth playing their seminal album The Satanist in full, offering an unfiltered and pure representation of every emotion poured into the record. The opening 5 tracks are akin to the welcoming of the apocalypse whilst the title track sees Nergal very much possessed by the power of the music he wrote after staring death in the face. By the time the plague of locust is unleashed upon the crowd and O Father O Satan O Sun brings this remarkable display to a close it’s already pretty much confirmed that Behemoth are the best extreme metal band on the face of the planet.
One would be correct in wondering who on earth could follow that performance, and there is really only one band that could do such a thing, and that’s Twisted Sister (10). This headline set is soaked in emotion as it represents Twisted Sister saying farewell to the United Kingdom for the very last time. Throughout the set Dee Snider takes time to explain just how important our humble island was to the phenomenal career of Twisted Sister and to say the comments are poignant would be an understatement. Burn In Hell is played with immense gumption and all the classics are brought out for one final hurrah. The band play as though their very lives depend on it, refusing to show their age as the near two hour set simply flies by. This band are legendary for a reason, goodbye Twisted Sister, you will certainly be missed.
Cambion (7) make the step up from opening the second stage to opening the main stage this year and despite being dangerously inactive for the past few years the crowd they pull is respectable. Playing some new songs of the much anticipated debut shows how close this band are to breaking through, and the tight performance they give certainly shows that they’re ready for it. With tracks such as Lilly being dedicated to people that the band have lost (including Sophie Lancaster) and through to the rising celebration of Revelations 23:1, This Is Turin (8) successfully take fans through a range of emotions. Fingers crossed this is a band that make it to the Ronnie James Dio Stage as they more than deserve it.
Rotting Christ (6) also return this year but their ritualistic worship doesn’t hit home nearly as much as they would hope. Those who are unfamiliar with the material will be confused and more likely bored by the continual chants and repetitive nature of their music. Fear Factory (5) draw a respectable crowd but it’s hard to distinguish why. The vocals are the weakest of the weekend and the chugging riffs quickly become boring. The crowd continues to go mental for them but for those not involved then this set is far from life affirming.
Closing the main stage on Saturday is a triple threat collection of three fantastic bands. Beginning the trio are Britain’s own Paradise Lost (7) who certainly seem up for it, with their set spanning their entire 25-year career. Opening with No Hope In Sight and choosing numbers from albums as old as Shades of God makes this set enjoyable if a little slow, with the band purposefully choosing the heaviest and most depressing songs to play in the sun simply for the banter. Gojira (9) have no such issue, kicking off their set with an impassioned Toxic Garbage Island sends the massive main stage crowd in an utter frenzy. Having been on a meteoric rise over the years and dropping an album of the year contender in Magma simply means that the momentum this band currently possess is second to none. The set is unforgivingly heavy and every song is chosen carefully, with the set steering clear of the divisive L’Enfant Sauvage save only for the title track. Only Pain is a welcome addition to the set and ending on Vacuity means Gojira have cemented themselves as the modern metal giants we all assumed they were. Mastodon (8) play their first festival headline slot but you wouldn’t recognise it, as the massive screens behind the band play hectic patterns that fit perfectly with the proggressive chaos the band bring with them. The opening two songs of Tread Lightly and Feast Your Eyes don’t gain the band immediate traction, instead waiting until the incredible Oblivion to really start giving it all they’ve got. What follows is a 20-song set with little more than 3 breaks throughout. Say what you will about the band, but there really isn’t another band on the planet quite like Mastodon and tonight’s set is a firm reminder of that.
It is often a shame why some bands don’t stand to be one of the “legends within their scene” and Acid Reign (8) are one such example, with their classic material coming across perfectly, thoughts are that their first new album in 25 years will make them feel fresh within the eyes of the casual thrash metal. Give Acid Reign their dues they more than equalled Mastodon in the live department and even went into the political vein of calling out Donald Trump. Acid Reign are officially back, and thankfully the metal world at large has benefitted a lot from this groups return.
Ghost Bath (5) are certainly soaked in mystery before they take to the main stage to begin Sundays festivities. As the band begins playing it all seems to be going so well until the nameless vocalists opens his mouth and the distracting shrieks fill the air. With the vocals so high in the mix it makes it hard to take the band seriously, as the musicality is a joy to listen to but it is simply drowned out by the unlistenable yells from the microphone. Visions Of Disfigurement (7) are a band that are more than worth a checkout and new album Abhorrent Extinction, is also looking extremely promising. Give them a stage and they will rip it to shreds, this is just a band that is in need of an initial chance and they got it on the Newblood Stage.
Heart Of A Coward (8) are so mercilessly heavy that the bass makes the entire stage shake. Their drop tuned hardcore sound is met with an energetic crowd and it all goes down rather well. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Unearth (6) whose performance is rather tame in comparison. The crowd are visibly less active for the American metallers and the set simply ticks along. It’s difficult to follow a band whose very sound made the entire surroundings wobble though. Footprints In The Custard (10) can be found breaking records over on the Newblood stage as they draw a massive crowd to the small stage. With a sick breakdown from lead singer Russ Gregory, through to the best cover of The Weather Girls (It’s Raining Men) little more can be said about the cathartic comedy nature of this band. Hopefully this is a group that can rise onwards and upwards within the metal scene, and hopefully one day they can be the size of a group such as Steel Panther or even Evil Scarecrow.
Dragonforce (6) are also plagued with technical issues as their set it cut in half by the problems. When they eventually hit the stage they play as though they all have rockets firmly strapped to their asses and it does beg the question as to what would’ve happened had they been allowed their full time slot. Anthrax (8) have no such issues and their set is a constantly set at 110 miles per hour. The thrash riffs go down an absolute treat as tracks like Caught in a Mosh and Evil Twin all kick up massive mosh pits. The set closer of Indians see a genuinely planet sized circle pit erupt and swallow most of the crowd present.
Slayer (9) didn’t go down nearly as well as everyone hoped they would last time they played. Coming off the devastating death of Jeff Hannemen in 2013 the bands headline set was soaked in mediocrity and the band left the festival on less than good terms. It would appear that the band wish to bury the hatchet because this time round they are fully baying for blood. Repentless opens the set with a snarl and the follow 19-song setlist is as unrelenting as they come. Disciple is aggressive as ever, Hell Awaits and Seasons in The Abyss both sound evil and Raining Blood and Angel Of Death are the best thrash metal songs ever written. Combine this with incredible stage production and a genuine goodbye at the end of the set and what you’re left with is a band who are not even close to calling it quits yet. Unfortunately After all of that, Goatwhore (6) are left to close the weekend off and they do a reasonable job. Their muddy sound means the riffs quickly become a mess and don’t ring out nearly as powerfully as they should. The vocals are beastly and the pit is a wash with smiles as the weekend comes to a mighty close. Fucked By Satan incites an absolute riot and the weekend is brought to a fitting end.
Before we go, we have to give a special shout out to the final band on the Jagermeister Stage. Probably the best band on this line up, you’ve never heard about, Outright Resistance (10) was that band whose singer might have got in your face when you were sat down eating your burger. That’s because from about the third song onwards the singer left the stage (that is really just a bar) and interacted with many passers by around the festival. Causing carnage inside the tiny gap where the band was a small yet violent pit. With lyrics about acceptance and community, this is the most positive band on the entire festival, but after drawing upon real life experiences of prejudice it’s quite easy to understand why this might be the case. What the possess however is the ability to make you feel what they feel, understand how they feel and feel a sense of energy as they play their insane style of groove metal. Ending the set with their amazing cover of Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff and probably playing it with more energy than the bandthemselves, Outright Resistance are more than worth your time, and make for most bands on the bill look tame by comparison.
Thats pretty much it for Bloodstock 2016. It was an incredibly stellar year as you can tell, so time will only tell what next year will bring for the festival. Be sure to like Bloodstock on Facebook here and keep an eye on the line up, because who knows, maybe next year is the year you take the plunge into the brilliantly murky waters of Bloodstock Open Air.
Words: Eddie Sims/Bradley Cassidy