Good humored banter fills the air, while tents are being pitched and the sweet smell of cut grass and maple bacon wafts through the summer breeze. The early morning rumblings of the main arena literally get the hairs on the back of the neck standing to attention and as we make our way through the gateway into this heavy metal wonderland, we all just know that this year is gonna be a special one!
Kicking off a sun drenched Friday in on the New Blood Stage are Witchtripper. An old-school metal power-trio, that really hammer things out as they attack their 30 minute slot. Bare-chested front-man/vocalist Richie Barlow, does not stay still for long and as with the other guys seems to be loving playing to a growing crowd in the tent. It’s got to be said that this band have a great groove about them and kind of remind me (in places) of very early Iron Maiden but with much more groove and bass. A very, very solid slab of rock indeed.
For me, Christof D’s bass drives the band, yes the riffs are very important, the solos fly and drums are kicking in behind everything, but when you play this style of rock bass, it is so important to bring everything to life. These guys have just self-released their debut album, packed with a plethora of bangers that will have you shaking your bones in no tome. Set opener “You Get What You Pay For” and the excellent “Under My Skin” kick up the dust into a frantic storm with soaring solos, it’s something I’ll be checking out at a later stage. What a nice start to the day. 3.5/5
Over on the main stage Hark have the pleasure of bringing the main arena to life with their sink-hole riffs. Sounding heavy-as-fuck and gloriously sharp. Hark don’t waste a single moment on the Ronnie James Dio stage this morning. With their sophomore album due for an October release, we urge you to get your priorities right and get on board! With a slow increase of arena capacity, the Swansea four piece cut a striking image on the large stage, as they command all sorts of crushing riffs among the Marshall and Ampeg cabs, that litter the stage. Fantastic stuff! 3.5/4
Over on the Sophie Stage are another English band with an excellent recently released album, this time it’s Fury from Worcester, who just blast out of the gate launching into the title track of new album Lost In Space. With a sound that borders on power metal, the guitars are fast and punchy, the twin attack and harmonies are excellent and the vocals sound super-clean which fits perfectly with what they are doing.
As the guys work through their set, the reaction gets louder and louder, which in turn just inspires Fury to give it everything they have and then then some! It’s almost impossible to resist that epic feeling the music offers, with an onslaught of raging guitars at the forefront. The hero of Fury’s set is most definitely vocalist Julian Jenkins, who really brings everything together. Set highlights are “Lost In Space” and “Warrior’s Prayer” both working really well with the crowd, also great to see Mart Trail (bass), who is one of the more expressive players out there. Fury on the back of an excellent new album and have put in a really enjoyable performance again at Bloodstock, ending with a very fun rendition of “Drunken Sailor” which reminding me of the likes of Red Rum or Alestorm. 3.5/5
Back on the main stage, the ‘Space Knights’, Angus McFife, the ‘Hootsman’, and their rabble-rousing counterparts in Gloryhammer, explode onto the stage in the blazing heat; on this already epic Friday morning. Opening with ‘Infernus ad Astra’, ‘Legend of the Astral Hammer’ and ‘Hail to Crail’, Gloryhammer get the ball rolling nicely. These new guys on the block were a late addition to the bill, advertised on the Bloodstock Open Air only a month or so before the festival and are doing a fine job of whipping the main arena into shape. They more than gulp down the opportunity to wake people up after Phil Campbell’s awesome set the night before. The band are completely pumped for this gig and you can tell by the look on their faces that they enjoy every second of their Friday morning at Bloodstock 2016. 3.5/5
Something is rumbling over on the Sophie Lancaster stage and as flocks of punters take refuge from the blistering sun, the nether-worldly sounds of the mighty Boss Keloid come lurking form the giant PA. If you have never seen nor heard of Boss Keloid, then I truly feel sorry for you. With the tent now rammed from front to back and side to side, the lads from Wigan UK, simply destroyed! With the menacing brilliance of such tracks as ‘Lung Mountain’ taken from the brilliantly titled Herb Your Enthusiasm, coupled with their unassuming – yet undeniable live ability to smash the ears clean of your skull, you then have to consider the spectacular vocals from Alex Hurst, which could easily remove the moss from your neighbors roof in a heartbeat! Boss Keloid are destined for all kinds of good things and god-damn it!, they deserve it all! Hail to the Keloid! 5/5
Swiftly following Gloryhammer on the main stage are theatrical oddballs, Evil Scarecrow. Firing inflatables into the audience, they jump right into the set-list of crowd-pleaser’s like ‘Frankingstein’s Monster’, ‘Robotron’, ‘Hurricanado’, ‘End Level Boss’, ‘Space Dementia’, and ‘Crabulon’, creating one bizarre – yet gloriously entertaining set; as the hot sun beats down on Bloodstock. Evil Scarecrow wipe the floor with the BOA audience generating a horizon of robot squares in the sea of faces. The lunacy continues as act our a selection of ridicules shenanigans on stage during ‘Robo-tron’, including link from The Legend of Zelda and Chun-Li from Street Fighter, helping out with the choreography. But things take an even more mental turn when their anti-gravity machine is put to good use. Interesting usage of props give a belly-full of laughs and a fist full of metal, but the giant crab claws are a crowning moment of this spectacle throughout ‘Crabulon’. Lots of scuttling later, they bid us adieu and retreat backstage. 4/5
Next up on the Sophie Stage are Brutai, another band based out of Catford, London and play something a little different to the norm. There’s no denying the extreme element in there, but also there’s clean vocals, keyboards and a large chunk of melody to their music. They kick off this set with one of their heaviest tracks “Relapse” and considering they are competing with the mighty Evil Scarecrow over on the main stage for punters, there’s a fairly sparse crowd in the tent to begin with, but the guys are giving absolutely 100% and the numbers around the tent do increase as the set progresses, sometimes a slot at a festival time-wise does you no favors, but all you can do is put all you have into it and they do.
For me the set highlight is probably “Deep” it’s a track that showcases the blending of styles this band uses. The sound is cystal clear and there’s a tonne of power from Mathieu’s drums not forgetting front-man Felix, who has a really good presence about him, as he works hard to get the crowd warmed up as much as possible. They have pulled a lot of 2013’s EP into this set; along with the brand new single “Of Ashes” from the soon to be released full length album. Today Brutai are giving the Bloodstock crowd almost the full range of what they do, from heavy to hybrid. Brutai are certainly an interesting band and should be kept an eye on. 3.5/5
Over on the New Blood stage Husk lap up the benefits of the post Evil Scarecrow throng and have a large crowd enjoying their brand of groove influenced tech-thrash. Packed full of energy, the four piece unleash all manor of hell, with slabs of dark riffs; that are laced with the odd catchy melody and plenty of heart. A performance that will no doubt see Husk be on many a radar in the coming months. 3/5
At festivals you should always take a chance on one or two bands that you don’t know, and for me one of those times was Isarnos who are a 6 piece folk metal band with violin, tin whistle, mandolin, flute, pipes, guitar, bass, drums, dual vocals and hurdy-gurdy. It’s a lot to factor into the equation, however it sounds bloody great! Packing our the Jager stage, these guys have a different sound to most bands even in the folk metal genre and people are loving it. The music is something that envelops and has you picking out the various instrument elements, as they effortlessly swap between instruments. The first challenge for these guys I’m sure was fitting onto the small stage.
To watch the guys move and dance and see the amps vibrate alongside them was great, a terrific attitude, some joviality in the set, far too many folk metal bands are far too serious and sometimes don’t portray the fact they enjoy what they do. There is a really good mix between Oli’s growling vocals and Christine’s clean ones and the backing vocals all the way through sound great. There’s a certain groove to what these guys do; that isn’t present in most folk metal either. If you get the chance to see these guys live at a venue near you – do it! Consider my eyes well and truly opened. 4.5/5
Back to the New Blood stage we wait patiently for Garganjua; who waste no time in leveling the place with a selection of spine-tingling riffage and low-end brilliance! Like sticky jam, or leaking honey, Garganjua are rich, slow and full of flavor. Their 2015 release A Voyage in Solitude, boasts a solid collection of material and I have to admit, I was intrigued to see how good they would be able to pull it off live. Well, not only was I pleasantly surprised but actually quite blown away by their hypnotic excellence. For 30 minutes I was in a bubble, drifting across imaginary landscapes of sonic goodness. Capturing the perfect equilibrium between light and dark, melody and doom, Garganjua bring a very elusive element of emotion and beauty to their music, which simply has to be witnessed live to be understood. 5/5
Back to the main stage and Misery Love Company do their best to fight the beaming sunshine that is beating down on the Bloodstock punters. Frontman Patrik Wiren seems in fine form and gives an impressive performance that draws a sizeable crowd. With a selection of tasty numbers, such as ‘Kiss Your Boots’, ‘A Million Lies’ and the rather excellent ‘Your Vision Was Never Mine To Share’ title track from their 2000 release. All in all a good performance, but the choice of closing song ‘Damage Driven’ was somewhat of a dampener, when you think of tunes like ‘No Exit’ or ‘My Mind Still Speaks’ which appeared second to last. 3/5
Nu/groove metallers Anti-clone are one of those bands that are on a rocket to the top. They are also a relatively new addition to the BOA lineup and in some ways have a lot to prove. Looking like something from the ‘sell-by date’ basket in Slipknot’s mask shop, their bellowing sound pulverizes the Sophie Lancaster tent. The pace of their sound is also furiously macabre. There are no prisoners taken, with song like ‘Take This Pill’, ‘Feed the Machine’ and ‘Mechanical Heart’. Guitarists Con and Liam bop and bang their heads as Mr. Clone (vocals) delivers a chillingly authentic metal performance. 3/5
Back on the Ronnie James Dio stage, Stuck Mojo get their rocks off with their rap metal crossover groove. Singer Robby J. has the moxie and confidence to get the heads banging and the feet stomping with ‘Pigwalk’, ‘Infidels’ and ‘Legion’. The drums from Frank Fontsere pound through the mammoth amps on the RJD stage and you can feel the vibrations from the ground up, as he does his thing. But the riffage is incredible. The heat is getting more intense as the British summer is in full swing and the sweat is starting to flow on the foreheads of the audience. I can only imagine what it’s like onstage in this heat. Fist-pumping for all he’s worth, Robby J. gives a hell-yeah to the BOA road crew and the backing stage promoters for getting them involved. 3/5
Back on the New Blood stage we are confronted with Reading Metal 2 the Masses winners End of Salvation, who open with a crushing contemporary sound that shifts with tempo and pulses with aggression. With a touch of corpse paint and all donned in black, End of Salvation, waste no time in doing what they came here to do. Elements of death style grunt / guttural vocals and brutal breakdowns are served at any given moment and manage to hold the attention of the tent. 2.5/5
We go old-school with veteran rockers Corrosion of Conformity, who greet us with grins that you could land a plane on. Pepper Keenan is no stranger to the UK music scene and the toe-tapping maestro glides through the set-list of ‘Bottom Feeder’, ‘Broken Man’, ‘Albatross’ and a crowd anthem ‘Clean My Wounds’ with ease. Keenan seems so relaxed onstage; he shows no signs of excitement or stress… he’s just buzzing and doing what he loves best.
I take a look over to drummer Reed Mullin and he has his eyes closed jamming his heart out in the sun, as shredder Woody Weatherson rips the life out of ‘Voting With A Bullet’. Their history has done them proud, and Keenan seems as solid as ever, despite only re-joining CoC last year after a break since 2010. This is my first time seeing CoC and it wont be my last. 3.5/5
Back to the Sophie stage for Meta-Stasis, containing members of Ted Maul and Sikth, how the hell do you describe this band? Perhaps ‘rabid’ is a good way to start, pushing the envelope, definitely, with a six piece amalgamation of death metal, sampling/jungle beats, high energy, a set of guys that really get involved in their own set. It’s not every day you see a member of a death-core band in drag, standing at a mixer and even less do you see them going over the barrier and straight into the pit. Vocalist Solomon spits the vocals with the correct level of venom and the band are most certainly aggressive in their riffs and power.
The guys are dipping into tracks from last years The Paradox Of Metanoia release and the set closer was the one that blew the roof off and dragged the remains from the pit, “Kill Her”, absolutely nails the coffin shut on what these guys can do. With a new album on the horizon and a return trip to India as main support to Behemoth, good times are coming for Meta-Stasis. Make sure you jump on board for this crazy ride through the asylum. 4/5
Almost time to grab a bite to eat, but first a quick jump over to the Jager Stage to catch another band that had only briefly buzzed around my ears prior to the event, Leeds based Chasing Dragons are a four piece with not only a female vocalist but also a drummer. The guys play a modern style of rock, high energy but with definite elements of hard rock in the slower parts of the songs and then it kicks up a notch, front-woman Tank can certainly sing, and works hard during their set to bring the assembled crowd into the show, making a trip in there herself during the standout track “Spawn Of The Succubus”, engaging the crowd on the smaller stages is massively important for bands to attract new interest, and they certainly do that. 3.5/5
The Charm The Fury hail from Amsterdam and it has to be said they hit the Sophie stage looking and sounding like a top level band, very polished, very professional and fronted by the enigmatic Caroline Westendorp, who for me is definitely one of the better sounding female extreme vocalists. The tent is pretty busy for this set, with the band working really hard to get everyone involved and lift the energy levels as the late afternoon lull seems to have hit a lot of people, usually a time people tend to make a stop off for food or a break. But this band are flying high right now!
Caroline is consistently looking for action or interaction with the movement and positivity begin to have an effect on the audience. Latest addition to the ranks is guitarist Marty, who appears to have slotted in perfectly. With plenty of movement from the guys on stage and a great sound that accentuates the excellent, heavy riffage and strong rhythm section, the vocals come through clean and clear enhancing the guttural moments which add a noticeable punch.This is definitely a band to check out live, it’s been a couple of years since they hit UK shores, but would be very surprised if they weren’t back very soon. The guys of the set are taken from 2013’s A Shade Of My Former Self, but the stand out track was a newer track “Songs Of Obscenity” which encapsulates all of their energy alongside showing different vocal styles and a band in full flow. 4/5
When the lineup started to get announced many moons ago, last year in fact, Venom were a big deal for me certainly, having never managed to see the back in the day and they really are legends and this Friday night slot seems to be just about perfect for them. They hadn’t played the UK in ten years and were eager to get the fans to put pressure on promoters to book them for UK shows.
With a three piece band, any change to personnel is a big deal, but the the iconic front-man and bassist Cronos is still leading the rampage, while being ably assisted by La Rage (Guitar) and Dante (Drums) and they do exactly what Venom do. The music may not be intricate or hugely technical, but make no doubt when you are on a large stage pumping out classics like ‘Welcome To Hell’, “Countess Bathory” and the ageless ‘Black Metal’, it’s at the very least a part of history. Maybe what’s missing today, and apparently even Venom can’t turn off the sun, is their full on stage set which works best in the dark, adding to the theatrics. As Cronos said himself “I never remembered playing a show in the UK with that thing in the Sky blinding me”. But they forge onward, Dante is a powerful drummer and although not the strongest set of the weekend, it’s great to see Venom back and looking for a quick return to UK stages. 3/5
Back in the New Blood stage we set ourselves up for The Crawling, who having won the Northern Irish chapter of Metal 2 The Masses, are doing a fine job in representing their local scene. The Belfast three piece bring their version of slow death metal to the punters with enough bollocks, sending tremors to the foundations of Catton Hall’s core! The bands latest offering In Light of Dark Days is out now and we suggest you miss out on their compelling live show! 4/5
I take a quick stroll through the main arena and the funfair is in full swing, with bumper-cars, a crane swing, tea cups, and of course a sweet shop where you can get your sugar buzz as much as you want. Amidst the madness, there are is a serious selection of really good food (including a certain chilli stall that only a few could handle). A quick bite to eat, and its back to business at the Sophie Stage.
XII Boar are a groovy, blues-laced metal trio from Hampshire. It feels dirty, down and boot-legged, but it’s fun. Frontman and guitarist Tommy Hardrocks, doesn’t take himself too seriously and gallops around the Sophie Lancaster tent just having way too much fun. Pumping out new tracks from their albums ‘Pitworthy’ and ‘Beyond the Valley of the Triclops’, the atmosphere is certainly taking shape as “The Schaeffer Boogie’ gets the asses shaking. Admittedly, I find Hardrocks a little too theatrical but bass player Adam “Bad-Dog” Thomas, steals the show with a solid, headbanging groove bass rhythm persona that soaks up the limelight. 3/5
With a mammoth crowd swelling at the Sophie Lancaster stage, the lads from Beholder appear to a deafening roar and begin their crushing campaign of blistering metal. A huge sound emanates from the stage, as they launch their attack on the senses. With most of the set focusing on the bands critically acclaimed Reflections album, it would seem that they can do no wrong here today. Hall’s vocals sound as powerful as ever, offering a much needed breath of fresh air from the recent primitive grunting; during Venom’s main stage performance. Delivering a dominant performance, it’s impossible not to notice the ability of sticks-man Chris Bentley, who punishes his kit with the efficiency of a Swiss clock. Beholder have the unique ability to translate a tremendous amount of positive emotion when experienced live and today was no exception; as they bring their triumphant set to a close. Whoever said that UK metal is not up to scratch, needs their head checked! 4.5/5
Over the years Behemoth have truly become a monster of a band, they set a dark atmosphere for every set they play, theatrical, visual, but nothing detracts from the power they generate through the music. Nergal is in top form, from the moment he hits the stage it’s on, there is no easing into things, these guys don’t just play songs, don’t just hammer out heavy music, they create a performance, they set a scene for the thousands of fist pumping fans in front of the stage.
Opening any set with “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” may seem like you are front loading it, but with the rest of The Satanist to follow, we are onto a winner all night, “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” is particularly awesome with Nergal baying for the crowd to chant and sing with them. Inferno simply destroys the drums, as he pounds out the backdrop to a fiery descent into darkness, with Orion (Bass) and Seth (Guitars), prowling and growling around between the fire and as always providing the most solid of rhythm sections.
As the the album portion of the set closes with the epic “O Father O Satan O Sun!”, we get a brief break to catch our breath, before our horned protagonists are back on stage for a two track encore and it’s not a bad selection either. “Ov Fire And The Void” and to finish up with “Chant For Ezkaton”! It’s not every band that has the ability to transfer an excellent club show to an arena or outdoor show, but Behemoth do it with ease, arguably one of the highlights of the weekend. 5/5
We find ourselves back at the Jägermeister stage for the mighty Two Tales of Woe, who bring their very own brand of low-end crushing groove. As additional winners of the Irish Metal 2 The Masses, TTOW are just infectious from the get go! Opening with their latest single ‘Burning Lands’ drummer Kelvin Doran has all the flair of one Brann Dailor about him, as he rolls his sticks so effortlessly around the kit. Vocalist Carl King, wastes no time in commanding the increasing crowd and plunging them into the deep end of Woe’s awesomeness! Punters come from all directions like moths to a flame, as the perfect blend of heavy and melody carry across the warm summer evening! TTOW are on course for big things and this is simply the beginning! Watch this space…. 4.5/5
This is Twisted F*ckinng Sister and there are no substitutes. The Friday headliners take to the stage with the most deafening of roars from the packed main arena. Physically Dee Snider is a whirlwind, he’s in terrific shape and the energy and constant movement he displays puts much younger men to shame. There are headliners and there is Twisted Sister, this is how it’s supposed to be done folks! The entire performance is a thing of beauty. This can’t be stated enough and anyone in attendance can confirm that this is indeed; a special night.
For this final setlist we get a great cross section of their 40 year career, but we are also reminded by Dee that tonight is more like an Irish Funeral, a party, not something to be sad about. Bearing that in mind we are treated to a plethora of hits with “The Kids Are Back”, “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll”, an absolutely blinding version of “I Am I’m Me” and “I Wanna Rock”.
With every passing track, it’s impossible not to be in awe of how these guys can still do it, as they always have. Scanning the massive crowd during the set and seeing the rabid excitement among the punters, is testimony to the power of TS. A poignant moment in the set see’s Dee dedicate ‘The Price’ to lost comrades and hero’s AJ, Dio, Jimmy Bain and Lemmy (who played a significant part in helping the band break the UK). This is a tremendously fitting moment and one that will stay with me for ever. It’s a beautiful moment and an absolutely inspired choice for a dedication.
As with pretty much every other song tonight the crowd sings and rejoices along to ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ which lifts our hearts making you feel proud to be a part of this special moment. A rousing cover of Rolling Stones “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)” sees plenty of dancing from all in attendance, before we are treated to an encore of “Come Out And Play”, “Shoot Em’ Down” and a sad but epic finale in “S.M.F.”
Only one word needs to be used about Twisted Sister tonight – Magical. 5/5
After the astronomically-awesome set from Twisted Sister, we haul ass over to the Sophie Lancaster Stage pronto, to catch another dawning NWOBHM band from waaay back – the mighty Diamond Head. We unfortunately miss the start of their set as Twisted Sister ran over their time, we sure as hell don’t complain as we head-bang our way through Diamond Head hits, proceeding to chuck us all into oblivion. Vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen has a set of lungs on him that can flip a party into a massacre, with metal anthems like “Helpless’, ‘Borrowed Time’ and we see the air guitars make an appearance all over the tent.
In the lights of the stage, it is a pulsating mass of bodies furiously punching the air as guitar legend Brian Tatler riffs his way through the fiercest of DH greats. Although Metallica have covered a lot of these songs, the originals surpass the covers on a live setting. ‘The Prince’, ‘Shoot Out the Lights’, and “It’s Electric’ has us screaming at the top of our lungs until ‘Am I Evil?’, with fists in the air, guitars at the max, and the heads banging relentlessly. Diamond Head closes the first full day of BOA 2016 as our ears ring from the music. Are we evil? … We are, man. Yes we are. 4.5/5
Part 3 of our Bloodstock Open Air review will be with you very soon. Stay tuned….
Missed Part 1? Then click this link and get the full lowdown of what went down on the first night (Thursday August 11th) at Bloodstock Open Air.
All photography: Down The Barrel Photography © 2016
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