Opening up the New Blood Stage are Manchester’s blasters – Visions Of Disfigurement. Currently in the process of unleashing their debut album on an unsuspecting world, the four piece bound onto the stage and prepare to destroy the tranquil Sunday morning surroundings of Catton Hall.
Most of today’s set comes from the brand new Abhorrent Extinction album, it’s not PC user friendly stuff, these guys are full on in your face blasting you with all sorts of magnificent brutality and it’s great. With tracks like “Spontaneous CUM-bustion” and “Necrotic Cranial Fornication”, the guys just crush everything around them, really powerful set and those in attendance are really starting to get into this band, sadly the bands momentum is cut short 30 minute set. Set highlight was dedicated to a friends mother, “Mis-creation” which is down and dirty, old school death metal. Looking forward to checking out their album when it’s finally released. Make a point of checking Visions of Disfigurement out as you will not be disappointed. 4/5
First to grace the main stage on this, the final day of Bloodstock 2016 are Ghost Bath. It’s a smaller crowd than previous mornings but there’s enough to make a serious amount of noise. Ghost Bath deliver their unique blend of doom, black-gaze and harsh back metal, all the way from North Dakota, making this the bands very first show outside of America! Not a bad way to pop your touring cherry. With each member referring to themselves simply as “Nameless”, it’s clearly front-man Dennis Mikula (shhhh – keep that quiet) who commands the show.
His helpless, banshee like whaling has the potential to wake the dead and is most likely doing so with the hordes of punters who are still in their beds. We are treated a set-list that includes ‘Ascension’, ‘Death and the Maiden’, and ‘Happyhouse’ to name but a few which at times; have a hard time translating to the audience. Their music is anything but happy, with it’s slow, provoking and torturous arrangements. Not my thing personally, but you gotta understand they ain’t playing on the main stage by accident. A good slow start to the day and a tepid warm-up for the trek ahead. 2.5/5
With a great assembly of early morning punters in the Sophie Lancaster tent, Desert Storm are primed and ready for their assault. Imagine an infusion of Black Sabbath, Clutch and Down; all wrapped up in a nice easy to digest package! They waste no time at all contaminating the ear-holes of the Sunday morning festival goers, as they plough straight through tracks such as ‘The Brawl’ and the crushing ‘Queen Reefer’, with a symphony of head banging, foot-stomping mayhem. Singer Matt Ryan sounds like an angry Neil Fallon, rounding up everyone he can to get closer to the stage. About ten feet from the stage there are already a few lunatics losing their shit. Throughout their 5-song set, they gotta keep moving as much as possible. Chris Wright and Ryan Cole share an epic partnership in blowing through the audience with relative ease, which is a pleasure to see. A final big thank you to the BOA staff and Simon Hall bellows out from the stage and Desert Storm say good-day to us. They deserve a much bigger audience for the show they put in today and hopefully they get it soon; when their new album comes out in 2017. 3.5/5
Milton Keynes may not be known as a hotbed of metal, but Heart Of A Coward hail from that neck of the woods and have managed to become one of the most popular metal bands over the last few years in the UK. Falling under the banner of “metalcore, Heart Of A Coward are not one-trick ponies by any stretch of the imagination. Vocalist Jamie Graham and Co. pull off a performance that is 110% adrenaline with ease. With a set-list concentrating mainly on the Deliverance and Hope And Hindrance albums, their presence is warmly received and goes down a storm with the Bloodstock punters. 4/5
Following the rousing performance from Desert Storm on the Sophie Stage are Sanguine, who open the metalcore doors for the rest of the day. Opening their set with ‘Heartbreaker’ (not the Zeppelin one), they already have a massive fan-base waiting on them when they arrive. There are a few sound issues from the stage but nothing serious. They dedicate a song to all the ladies in the house called ‘Crazy girl’ and also have a serious set of questionable lyrics to do with having sex with a Thai prostitute called ‘Bangkok Nights!
Vocalist Tarin Kerrey teams up with singer/guitarist/anger merchant – Nick Magee to form a partnership that could convince Kamelot to sling their hook! Throw in a House of Pain Cover (Jump Around) and you have something that tickles everyone’s fancy. It works superbly and is a flavour of metal that hasn’t been tasted yet at BOA 2016. 3 /5
As we drift into the balmy, sun-drenched afternoon, our focus is once again back on the Ronnie James Dio stage to catch Unearth. Having never had the opportunity to see them live the excitement levels were peaking as they bound onto the stage to a roar of approval.
Having always thought that Unearth were closer to more of a melodic death metal band; rather than their frequently strict “metalcore” categorisation, they rip through tracks such as “Watch It Burn” and “Never Cease”, which have elements of various different influences that just work so well. Demanding movement see’s a lively pit from the get-go and throughout their performance. Unearth are a confident band that know exactly what they want and how to get it. Buzz McGrath (Guitar) and Ken Susi (Guitar/Voxals) really do shred the place apart, with Chris and Jordan Mancino (sitting in on this Euro run while Nick Pierce recovers from back surgery) is pounding out a smashing rhythm, that drives the bands performance far and wide across the Bloodstock horizon.
Bloodstock is getting the full on aggressive set today as they run themselves into the ground, each member (with the exception of Jordan) utilising pretty much, every inch of the stage. They round their performance off with plenty of action in the pit for “Black Hearts Now Reign” from The Oncoming Storm and a blinding version of “My Will Be Done” from 2008’s The March, It’s a cracking song cranked up live, fret-board gymnastics are definitely at play here. Unearth have a very thrashy sound and a little bit of a crossover vibe in the vocals but it blends perfectly and everyone seems to be loving it. Cracking set! 4/5.
Over on the Sophie stage Krysthla are, quite simply, awesomeness personified. Their off-beat drum crashes from Wayne Minney, twinned with the brutally down-tuned string arrangements, courtesy of guitarists Noel Davy and Neil Hudson, clear the pathway for a truly rousing performance. There are no punches pulled here, as Krysthla go for the throat. Their riffage is surprisingly simplistic, but it’s the delivery that makes your hair stand up, like on ’Praise Thee in Flesh’, ‘Caged Earth’ and their final opus ‘Luminosity’. It’s still early so the lads have a short enough set-list, but it’s an all-out assault on the ears. Its tight stuff, and yet another band I can see coming back to BOA, with a bigger set-list and a bigger audience. 3.5/5
On paper Metal Allegiance sounds beyond amazing and with this being the super-group’s first dip of the toe into the UK, there was a considerable amount of interest from the packed-out arena. With a who’s who line-up, consisting of founding member Mark Menghi on bass, Anthrax’s Charlie Benante on drums, Testament’s Alex Skolnick doing what he does best and the excellent Mark Osegueda of Death Angel, standing in on vocal duties; what could possibly go wrong? We got a selection of hits from their debut album and the recently released EP Fallen Heros, with a mix of classic covers from Sabbath to Motorhead. Although enjoyable, there was something vital missing from the performance. The magic ingredient just seemed to prove elusive with today’s Metal Allegiance show and struggled to connect with the audience. 3/5
As the New Blood stage continues to do great trade with the punters over the weekend, we make our way into shaded confines; to catch I Saw The World Burn. Is it a bad thing that vocalist Katie scared me a little? Well, it’s definitely not a bad thing in my eyes! The New Blood Stage was getting shaken to its foundations as I walked through the entrance just as the band kicked off. She’s a total whirlwind, not staying still for more than a minute or two during the whole set.
There’s a decent sized crowd in the tent and anyone that didn’t already know anything about I Saw The World Burn, is soon getting acquainted with them. This is so far from the fluffy or symphonic metal, most people seem to associate any band with a front-woman, but it’s terrific and brutal as hell.
Katie’s guttural screams fit perfectly to the music, with Don (Bass) and Ian (Guitar) providing a textural background to it all (they could move a little more but hey that’s just an observation). Graeme (Drums) gives the kit a battering in an attempt to obliterate everything in his way. Had you walked into this mid-set you may have thought there was some sort of demonic possession taking place, but you really can feel a lot of passion from these guys and that translates to power. With tonnes of aggression on offer, these guys need to get an album out there quick!! The tracks this afternoon coming from their self released EPs with the highlight being “Species Obselete” from the just released Barren EP. If you don’t know I Saw The World Burn, get out and see them and check them out over on their Bandcamp page. 3.5/5
Adorning the main stage with the best backdrop of the weekend, Satyricon take Bloodstock by storm with a performance that is pure class. They have always been a monster of a band and playing in full the album Nemesis Divina today, which is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, they mix things up a little with the track order which works so well.
Right from the start Satyr (Vocals) informs the crowd it’s been a difficult fight to get to Bloodstock over the last year and needs to know are we with him on this glorious Sunday afternoon and the answer is a resounding yes! With Satyr and Frost (drums) still at the fold for Satyricon, it’s always going to work no matter what. They have never brought in a sub-standard musician to fill out the lineup; be it live or in studio. Playing the tracks from Nemesis Divina and powering out “The Dawn Of A New Age”, “Forhekset” and “Immortality Passion”, there’s certainly nothing to complain about from a fan perspective and judging by the reaction out front Satyricon can do no wrong.
The second half of this set is just magical! Absolutely top-class performance from a band that has always been one of the best live black metal bands on the scene. Satyr is so in his element, commanding the center of the stage and with Frost who is still one of the very best drummers out there. How can you not be blown away by such spine tingling moments such as “Nemesis Divina”, “Mother North”, “Black Crow On A Tombstone” and “Fuel For Hatred”? “Black Crow On A Toimbstone” stands out as it always does but on this day “K.I.N.G.” closes one of the best sets of the weekend in absolute style. Awesome stuff. 5/5
Back over on the New Blood Stage, the last band of the Irish invasion to shake the buttocks of Bloodstock Open Air on Sunday are gearing up to destroy all they lay in their path. Rabid Bitch of the North have been making waves with their thrashy take on NWOBHM. The vocals probably were a peak in their performance – “In case you were wondering… I am a man under this beard” said vocalist Joe, as he jokes about his high pitched delivery. Sadly the sound in the tent was not balanced enough in the beginning, but it improved towards the end of their dynamic set. Rabid Bitch Of The North’s stage presence is very much focused on their playing and with little between song banter and that’s just fine, when you’re playing a series of galloping riff-bombs, loaded with swagger and balls. This is not their first time to Bloodstock and as they invite a guy on stage to throw free merchandise and CDs like frisbees out to the “common people” as they put it, I’m sure it won’t be long before we are graced with their presence once again; in the not too distant future. 3.5/5
Watching Witchsorrow play their doomy, sludgy, groove-laden riffs, is seriously entertaining. There is a defining Sabbath vibe lying underneath their song orchestrations and it’s groovy headbanging rock that’s perfect to get the neck muscles warmed up for the goliath closing performance, that we’re all looking forward to tonight. The Hampshire trio (Necroskull on vocals/guitar, Emily Witch on bass, and Wilbrahammer on drums), push the Sophie tent to the brink, in the warming Sunday afternoon. The heat in the tent is shocking, as sweat drips from all onlookers. ‘Martyr’ is a gloomy tune, slug-like but brutal, and at the same time, crushingly fresh. 3/5
Insence is burning and luring more and more people in front of the cozy Jaegermeister stage on Sunday midday, until it was very well populated. Athmospherical, determined and sincere black metal is what Aklash has to offer. Their stage presence was overtaken by blood-flushed faces and the eyes of the front-man rolls his eyes back in the head to reveal the whites, you just know you’re in for a treat. As the band summoned the demons of their darkest memories to let them out in a channeled and controlled way. The now large crowd responded well to every demonic pluck of the strings and really stood to attention when Aklash frontman whipped out his violin. Refreshingly, the chatter in between the songs was not based on empty, stereotypical “Horns in the air” bullshit, but encouraged contemplation. Standing in this intimate performance was not claustrophical but accompanied by a lightness. 5/5
Due to ‘technical issues’, DragonForce start 20 minutes late and can only get 5 songs in, but rip Bloodstock a new one. Axemen/warp-speed shredders Herman Li and Sam Totman, in their short stage time, give us a speed metal masterclass. The only thing I can’t see is the smoke coming from their hands. There are tired bodies’ surrounding me as the pace gets faster and faster in their insane delivery of “faster-than light” music.
DragonForce are old acquaintances of Overdrive and I’m very happy so see that nothing much has changed with their approach, delivery, and execution of their own breed of metal. Even keyboardist /synth player Vadim Pruzhanov gets in on the action by taking a seat right on the edge of the stage; for all to see. Marc Hudson on vocals has quite obviously become very comfy in his role as the front-man, after taking over from ZP Theart two years ago. The old greats ‘Cry Thunder, My Spirit Will Go on’, and of course “Through the Fire and the Flames’ never fail to impress at every show. The fists are in the air and the fires are well and truly burning red-hot for the rest of the night. It’s a shame that their ‘technical difficulties’ shortened their set-list, as I know that they are capable of so much better. But you can’t always have what you want. 3.5/5
A huge crowd has gathered at the Jeager stage for Outright Resistance who very nearly break the ground in which we stood; from the get-go! With a name that has been on peoples lips here and there across the weekend, the UK based five piece did not disappoint. Singer Paige Lee dumps every ounce of energy and visceral power she has upon the unsuspecting crowd; that now swell the circumference of the tent. Outright Resistance are aggressive and ready to fucking destroy today and continue to annihilate with each slab of metalcore brutality. A little rough around the edges here and there but without a doubt, a band that you simply need to check out.
Not every band can command a circle pit from the Jegarmister Stage and when Lee ventures out among the masses of punters with her wireless mic, Outright Resistance threaten to steal the performance of the day. Keep a watch out for these guys, because from what I saw, they don’t take any shit and are prepared to get where they not only want to be, but NEED to be! 4/5
At pretty much every festival, there’s going to be a band that defies all the odds. I have to admit I was sceptical as to just how Symphony X would fit on the main stage on this particular day. I needn’t have worried though, as they were nothing short of epic. With a couple of lineup changes over the years, the commanding force in the band is undoubtedly Russell Allen, who shows us just how much of a tremendous front-man and vocalist he really is.
It’s blatantly obvious from the off, that Symphony X don’t just play the songs, they tell stories, weave memories and give the audience a dizzy feeling, to the point where you don’t know where to look on the stage at times. Michael Romeo (guitar) has the best guitar tone of the weekend and my lord, that man can play a guitar, but when your attention isn’t being drawn to him it’s on Michael Lepond (bass), who is making crazy bass runs and fills all over the place (“Seal Of Lies” being a perfect example), perhaps the bass is a little too strong in the mix for the first part of the set, but damn it’s infectious. Just checking out the drumming of Jason Rullo (Drums) or Michael Pinnella (Keyboards) gives you the realisation that these guys are as tight as you get. I could have watched and listened to them all night and have been completely content. Utterly fantastic performance from start to finish. 5/5
Over on the Jagermiester stage we run into Glasgow’s Attica Rage, who have been around for almost 13 years now and don’t show any signs of slowing down. The guys are already on the stage when I get there playing to a steadily increasing crowd. With new album Warheads Ltd, under their belts and a new UK tour on the way in October, it’s great for the band to be able to showcase the new songs at a festival this size, even if it is on on of the smaller stages. 3.5/5
So we reach the final hurdle before the finishing line of BOA 2016. The beautiful English country sun has come back to us for an hour to warm us up again (not that we’re cold, but it brightens the place up a bit) and the masses are snaking their way to the Ronnie James Dio stage for the penultimate in Bloodstock entertainment for Sunday night.
Anthrax are no strangers to the festival circuit in the UK and know exactly the right buttons to push. Kicking it into high-gear with ‘You Gotta Believe’, ‘Caught in a Mosh’, and ‘Got The Time’, Joey Belladonna squeezes every drop out of the Bloodstockers, as they scream along with the lyrics. With For All Kings tour now in full swing, the band are relaxed and oozing with confidence. Scott Ian is his usual animated self, and Jonathan Donais is doing his thing, shredding out solos that surge across the main arena. Frank Bello and Charlie Benante have this symbiotic thing; where one must play harder than the other. Anthrax sound fucking amazing today, there’s no question about that!
Overall, the set-list is a serious crowd-pleasers (what else can you expect from a Big Four band?). They’re happily mixing up set-list sticking to cuts from Spreading the Disease, Among the Living, Worship Music and For All Kings. Belladonna relieves a cameraman of duty right before the “Waaaaaar-Daaaaance” in the ‘Indians’ finalé; as everyone looses their shit in the pit, only encouraging them to take it even further! It’s metal-infused insanity at its finest, however the noticeable absence of ‘I am The Law’ is a shame. A more unpredictable set of tracks from Euphoria and Persistence not to mention the gems that are part of the Bush era, need to be considered for the live shows, regardless of how much time they have on stage. 4/5
We finally have reached the point of our weekend when the closing main stage band signal the end of four glorious days of metal!
The stage lights go out… a large cover drops from the roof of the Ronnie James Dio Stage… even from where we are at the sound desk platform, we can see the silhouetted roadcrew scurrying around like frightened animals in a forest; when a predator approaches. An eerie red glow emanates from behind the cover and the tension is rising.
‘Delusions of Saviour’ resounds from backstage, and without warning, the cover drops, and from the flames of Hell itself, the immortal metal beast that is Slayer emerge with the full force of a thousand demons released from the pit of damnation. Fire-breathing inverted crucifixes (made from guitar amps no less), lie either side of the drum-kit, where Paul Bostaph is poised, overlooking the sea of bodies that are on their last legs after a furious weekend.
Frontman Tom Araya cracks that sly grin that he always wears when he’s having a good time, whilst Kerry King and Gary Holt just shred their way through Sunday night. This is another ‘I-was-there’ moment, because every time there is a breakdown in any song (i.e. ‘Disciple’, ‘War Ensemble’, ‘When the Stillness Comes’), the fire burns towards the sky; engulfing anything that is near it. It’s a spectacular showpiece and adds volumes to the stage presence that Slayer have always held live. Araya takes a time-out to ask how everyone is doing and if we want to continue. There is no need to even ask, because the atmosphere is electric. The pit action is also quite frenzied, as Slayer has been flying the flag for metal since the early 1980’s and are still flying high, as one of the most popular metal bands of all time. A few golden oldies like ‘Die by the Sword’ and ‘The Antichrist’ whet the appetites of even the most die-hard Slayer fans, both young and old alike.
The pyro and stage effects are those things that make you want to be in a heavy metal band – inspiring for the up-and-comers of today. Slayer don’t let the pace drop for a second and continue to pummel the audience en-masse, through pit-fuel like, ‘Seasons in the Abyss’, ‘Hell Awaits’, Dead Skin Mask’ and the staple killers ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘Angel of Death’. Everyone is here for the love of music and metal and I heard through a recent interview with the band that there were supposedly people here with their friend’s ashes, to fulfill the deceased’s wishes to have their ashes to be scattered at Slayer at BOA 2016. Now that’s commitment and proof that not even death can stop fans from attending a Slayer concert!
Over all the bands at this festival, the best was truly saved for last. Without Slayer and their ilk, the metal scene would be nowhere near the caliber of what we have seen for the last four days. A very fitting end to the finest metal festival in the UK, and the tanks are well and truly empty. 5/5
Although the tired head had kicked in, we managed to catch a significant amount of the excellent Goatwhore set over on the Sophie Stage. Determined to finish the festival off in style, which is exactly what they did! Goatwhore commanded an almost constant stream of crowd surfers right through their set, giving 100% from the moment they took to the stage until they bid us farewell. The Louisiana four-piece ran through tracks from their awesome 18 year career; to which the crowd lapped up every second of with glee. The tent is buzzing and the frantic movement is a sight to behold. Perhaps Goatwhore were an inspired choice to keep things going and to close off the 2016 edition of Bloodstock, as it couldn’t have been a better band closing this years festivities!
Yet another of those special moments of Bloodstock happened at the end of the final song of the last night, as Louis announced we would have an extra crowd surfer, Andrew Robinson (head of security at Bloodstock for many years) decided that the only way to go out as he headed towards retirement, was to do some crowd surfing. Where else better to do that, than during a Goatwhore set on the Sophie Stage at Bloodstock. The band wailed into “Baring Teeth For Revolt” from 2014’s excellent Constricting Rage Of The Merciless and the crowd looked after Andrew, as he was passed back to the center of the tent and back up again, the applause and cheering when he made his way back to the other side of the barrier, shows the close bond between the fans and those that work at the festival, which is just another reason why Bloodstock Festival is truly one of a kind. 5/5
So there we have it. The end of yet another blistering year of metal, friends and good times. From all of us at Overdrive to Down The Barrel Photography and the Bloodstock Open Air Team, thanks for having us and we look forward to 2017!
Check out our reviews of the whole festival on the links below;
This festival would be nothing without you, the fans! So please make sure you support your local metal / rock / alternative scene and actually GO to the shows in the venues! Keep metal alive and strong!
Tickets for Bloodstock Open Air 2017 are on sale NOW! Get your early-bird tickets while you still can! Click on the link below to purchase your tickets.
All images – Down The Barrel Photography © 2016 / Editorial – © Overdrive 2016
** Use of any images or editorial must be authorized by Overdrive & Down The Barrel Photography – © 2016 **