This is Ross’s view of the Friday. Photos are by Will Tudor Photography and Bukavac Photography. For our overviews of the weekend, you’ll want to check any of the following: Mosh / Ross / Sean / James / Zach (aged 11).
As is obvious, we had a group of people down at Bloodstock this year (Brian will chuck his oar in for Saturday and Sunday) and as a result, we’ve got some crossover reviews with the major bands. This is a good thing as there are acts that some liked and some didn’t, some of us watched from the sidelines and some from the pit. Hopefully this means a more balanced review that just one person raving about everything!
We did our best to catch all the bands, but even with us spread out around the place there were acts we missed. Thursday, in particular, was a write-off due to traffic problems meaning that none of us made it into the arena until almost 9pm when we’d hoped to be at Bloodstock for mid-afternoon. Anyway… Friday…
So, the first band of Bloodstock 2016 were Witch Tripper and a fantastic way to set the bar for the weekend. Over the course of the weekend, the New Blood openers were a name still at the front of my mind. I think it was a good omen that the first band of the week were such high quality but it also showed the level of quality across the weekend across all the stages. Witch Tripper’s groove-laden metal had me nodding my head with a grin on my face. If this was the calibre for the entire weekend, it was going to be a good one.
First order of the day on the Sophie Lancaster stage is Fury and are the first of quite a few power metal bands over the weekend. This mob were some of the better ones. Power metal has its place when done right and this was. They even found time to do a cover of that well-known sea shanty “Drunken Sailor” and it was damn good fun.
Red Eye Revival throw down the thrash metal gauntlet and like every band appearing at the New Blood stage, are determined to make the most of their time here. For the first morning, they pull in a good, if lethargic, crowd. As much as I like my thrash metal, something feels off about it. Much like the early days of thrash, it’s rough around the edges and honestly, that was part of the appeal but there’s something else. A week later and I’ve just about managed to articulate it, I felt there was a lack of chemistry between the band members made it feel like they were playing individual parts rather than songs.
Evil Scarecrow were a band I was refusing to miss this weekend and it seems like most people at Catton Hall thought the same thing, drawing in one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. From the minute they arrived on stage on spacehoppers (yes, you read that correctly) to the final notes of “Crabulon”, their off-the-wall brand of metal allowed for some great audience participation such as the circle pits during new song “Hurricanado”, “Robototron” and the aforementioned “Crabulon”. During which lead singer Dr Hell struggled to finish his monologue due to the mirth and incredulity of the sightings of the day.
One of the bands I had been anticipating highly for the weekend were due to make their Bloodstock debut. Shoe-horned into the Jägermeister tent were Manchester duo The Hyena Kill, having been floored by their debut album and their Camden Rocks set, this was a band I wasn’t missing. With their unique and energetic brand of noise rock, they had people craning their necks in through any space possible to get a glimpse and I could see rows of people outside, willing to just listen. People were clearly appreciative of them as they welcomed eager applause. The only downside was vocalist Stephen Dobb’s voice being smothered by guitar and drums for the first couple of songs with Stephen trying to encourage the man on the mixing desk to sort it as he powered through his vocals. Eventually, drummer Lorna shouted for them to be put up and from then on, smooth sailing for a captivating set. Now for the October tour!
Misery Loves Co bring industrial metal to the fore with their recent resurrection. Musically, they’re pretty good and I found myself headbanging slowly (a common occurrence over the weekend). They pulled in a decent-sized crowd after having been out of the spotlight for many years. However, for me, I found Patrick Wiren’s vocals to be a bad fit for the expert blend of grittiness and melodic elements, it could have been an off day and will see them get better as the band return to the live scene but for me: rather flimsy.
More groove metal in the form of Stuck Mojo, they were a band I thought got off to a decent start and as I saw more of it I thought “Yeah, I could listen to this more”. Groove metal with a hint of rap and hip-hop made their set pass by in a flash. The four-piece also incorporate elements of Southern rock into their music to add that extra layer and were another band I was thoroughly impressed with.
Between songs, the accent is instantly recognisable. Hailing from Glasgow, Burning the Dream are living out their dream after having won their local Metal 2 the Masses competition. It’s not quite my thing but I stay for a handful of songs, impressed by the energy of frontman Paul Kelly. Later in the day, I’d end up having a chat with them as we waited in line for the Kraken rum van, trading laughs and jokes over what area of Glasgow we’re from – you know how the old saying goes: you can take the boy out of Glasgow…
The Charm The Fury are one of the many bands I’ve heard of here this weekend but I’ve never heard their material. As such, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I wandered over to the Sophie stage, already part-way through their set. Hearing the harsh vocals was no surprise; after all, I was at Bloodstock. Then I saw them coming from frontwoman Caroline Westendorp. Delivering some of the best of the weekend, it’s no surprise they drew a massive crowd into the tent.
Corrosion of Conformity get the late afternoon slot on the Ronnie James Dio stage and it seems a perfect opportunity for them. I can’t say I’d heard any of their material but I had heard of them. What followed was one of those sets where I figured I’d stay and watch a couple of songs and before I realised it, Pepper Keenan was announcing they were about to play their final one. Impressive from the start, I consider Corrosion of Conformity to be one of the best discoveries of the weekend with their eleventh hour issues. Jon Green covered drums whilst Hark loaned some Gibson SGs to replace the ones delayed on flights. And to get a sound like Keenan and Woodroe Weatherman managed was some new entirely.
A band I’d heard much talk of were Venom and given the performance they delivered, it was easy to see why. Often hailed as the founders of black metal, it’s not something you’d catch me listening to, at all. Yet I liked this. More likely on the thrashier end of the spectrum, the half of the set I caught before heading off to other stages was almost like a masterclass for anyone else interested in forming a black metal band. With only one guitar on show, it highlighted that you don’t always need that second one, in fact, it can sometimes hinder a band. At no point was I looking for extra rhythm or texture.
Beyond the Black are one of the few female-fronted bands appearing over the weekend attempting to tap into the symphonic/melodic metal scene. It’s one of those sub-genres which needs to be nailed perfectly. Comprised of Jennifer Haben and a set of session musicians whilst she looks for new members, they all play their parts with skill but it’s missing that vital spark and seems by the numbers sonically. It’s a sound so many bands are trying to emulate with Nightwish and Within Temptation acting as the genre’s leaders – and for good reason. However, by emulation, there’s a lack of identity, something which may come through a more permanent line-up.
Now, for one of the main reasons I bought my Bloodstock ticket: Twisted. Sister. They’re not a band I’ve got on heavy rotation but after being blown away with their Download 2014 set (right before Status Quo blew the doors off), I knew I wasn’t going to miss the only UK show of their farewell tour. A slightly shaky start in the acoustics department, the band didn’t let that deter them. The energy from Dee Snider from start to finish was exhausting me and I was just watching – and screaming/singing lyrics. Hitting the crowd with all the favourites like “I Am”, “S.M.F”, “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, they took time out to pay tribute to our fallen heroes such as Dio, Lemmy and their own departed AJ Pero. As I said that weekend, even on a bad night, Twisted Sister would be better than 95% of bands I’ve seen but they came out swinging, getting more than their allotted set time. A criminally underrated band, there’s going to be hole that no band will be able to fill. It’s a memory I’m going to hold dear for a long time and when time travel is invented, I’m going back to witness it, again and again.