After another night of rock ‘n’ roll excesses and a morning of BBQ’d pork products (and cups of tea and coffee), the final day of heavy metal mania at Bloodstock 2016 lay ahead.
The first band I caught was Ronnie James Dio stage openers Ghost Bath (7). I only saw the end of their set but the band’s epic sounding black metal was mesmerizing against the overcast backdrop. The sound was reminiscent of the raw first 2 albums by Dimmu Borgir and there was a fair crowd that seemed entranced by the band. They ended their set with a beautiful piano solo which could have been in the soundtrack to a film or video game. It seemed rather out of place at Bloodstock, and maybe black metal might not be an ideal soundtrack early in the morning, but I enjoyed it and wish I saw more.
Next on the New Blood stage was Pteroglyph (7). In contrast to the atmospheric black metal of their main stage predecessors, the band exhibited a much heavier sound incorporating a variety of styles from thrashing riffs to very technical solos. The frontman was particularly charismatic and the band looked like they were enjoying themselves which resonated with the audience, waking up any remaining fans still dozy from the night before.
Moving over to the Sophie Lancaster stage I caught a few songs from Sanguine (7). Continuing the trend from the previous band I saw, Sanguine put on a very energetic show and got across more good vibes over lunchtime. Their frontwoman was especially charismatic and got the large crowd jumping to their brand of metal.
Next up on the main stage was metalcore bruisers Heart of a Coward (7). Their high energy performance was tight and heavy and got a decent reaction from the crowd. Back in the Sophie tent was Divine Chaos (8). The brutally heavy thrashers attracted a massive crowd which they managed to invoke into a crazy mosh. The pit was raging and heads were failing to their high velocity performance. The frontman stole the show with his mad stage presence. He slam-danced like a maniac, screamed his lungs out and and demonically stared the audience down with his possessed serial killer eyes. I saw Divine Chaos support my favourite band Sodom in London last year, and I’ve watched their drummer James Stewart pummel the kit in Polish death metal legends Vader (of which he’s been a member for a few years now) and I’ve known that they are definitely a band to watch – their Bloodstock show cemented that fact and I’m sure Divine Chaos will reach higher heights in the near future.
Heading over to the New Blood stage in the middle of the afternoon I caught a few songs from Irish speed metallers Rabid Bitch of the North (6). I was eager to see them after missing them at a previous BOA and I really enjoyed their classic speed/thrash sound. The music was reminiscent of a hybrid of bands like Agent Steel and Nuclear Assault which the band performed well. However there seemed to be something missing from the performance. The audience attendance seemed pretty meagre and despite a few nodding heads, the reaction was pretty lukewarm and in turn made the gig experience feel pretty lacklustre. It’s a shame that the performance left a but to be desired, especially since I liked the music but given the opportunity, I’d see RBotN again and hopefully enjoy the gig more.
Moving back towards the main stage, I saw a bit of Satyricon (7). The band were performing their landmark album Nemesis Divina in full and the crowd were loving the show. There was plenty of good vibes felt by all as both the band and the audience were moshing like maniacs. However the sound somewhat spoiled the experience with the overly bassy kick drums masking the fuzzy black metal sound. On the other hand having always been aware of the band but never checking them out, I thoroughly enjoyed Satyricon’s set and will definitely look toward to experiencing them more in the future.
Following up on the main stage was power metallers DragonForce (7.5). Unfortunately the start of their set was marred by sound problems which made a shorter set. However the band handled this well and made whatever time they had left count. The performance was high energy and fun. Guitarist Herman Li and keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov were particularly energetic as they bounded across the stage to the band’s fast and epic songs. Vocalist Marc Hudson sounded particularly good too, especially in light of his recent health issues the band have been talking about on their Facebook page (here’s hoping he recovers soon!). The band and crowd had a great time to numbers like “Cry Thunder”, “My Spirit Will Go On” and signature tune “Through the Fire and Flames”. The show was rather nostalgic for me as Dragonforce were one of the first gigs I ever went to. BOA was the first time seeing them since that gig some 8 or 9 years ago and I wish I had seen them more often in that time. Next time I’ll definitely not miss out!
Moving back to the Sophie Lancaster I went and caught Vektor (8.5). The sci-fi prog thrashers were my most anticipated band of the weekend. I’ve been dying to see them for ages and at Bloodstock they didn’t disappoint. Evidently a lot of other fans shared my thoughts as the the tent was completely packed out. The set showcased mostly the band’s latest album Terminal Redux with “Charging the Void”, “Cygnus Terminal” and “LCD (Liquid Crystal Disease)” being highlights. The crowd went wild with a massive mental mosh pit raging in the middle of the tent and an uncountable number of course crowd surfers flying over the barrier to the photo pit. The band’s performance was mesmerising to watch with their technical style being exhibited expertly, and a good sound quality (from where I was standing) meant that none of that genius got lost in a mushy mix. Ending on “Hunger For Violence”, Vektor smashed their set at Bloodstock and left us hungry for more. If they ever make it to Glasgow in the future you can bet I’ll be there.
Second last on the main stage was New York thrash legends Anthrax (9). After seeing the band a few times now I’ve came to the conclusion that you just can’t get a bad Anthrax show. The performance was bursting with energy and good fun and the crowd reacted accordingly. There was mosh pits and banging heads aplenty to the mixed setlist which showcased a variety of tunes from the new album For All Kings and some greatest hits. The was good vibes and heavy metal mania going on to songs like “Caught in a Mosh”, “Evil Twin”, “Fight Em til You Can’t”, “Madhouse” and the mandatory War Dance to “Indians”. Anthrax also expertly knew how to get the crowd participating with singalong numbers like “Anti-Social”. If I had one complaint it’d be that I’d rather they played more classics as opposed to the newer songs but given Anthrax’s awesome performance it doesn’t matter, and I’d happily see them time and time again.
Sandwiched perfectly between the top two main stage bands on the Jagermeister stage was Glasgow’s heavy rock heroes Attica Rage (8.5). The band beyond filled the Jager tent with the crowd spilling out around the outside of the tent. They’re great stage presence and good vibes had the crowd going and, clearly feeding off the fun energy in the tent, the band were having a good time too. Opting to stick with more upbeat songs in their set, such as “36 Insane” and “Back to the Old School” as well as songs from their new album Warheads LTD like “El Chupacabra”. Ending their set with a tribute to Lemmy, Attica Rage performed an amazing cover of Motorhead’s “Overkill”. It’s hard to describe but the true-to-the-original cover couldn’t have much more true. If you closed your eyes it was as if the real Motorhead were playing. Simply magical. Attica Rage knock it out of the park every single time live and their BOA debut was no exception.
Closing Bloodstock Open Air 2016 was a band that needs no introduction – Slayer (7). I last saw the band with their classic lineup around 2010 so I was eager to see them in their current incarnation. As expected Slayer, played a great set and the crowd went wild for their furious thrash. The setlist was a mix of classic Slayer and more modern tunes ranging from rarely aired early numbers like “Die By the Sword”, “Fight ‘Til Death” and “Necrophiliac” to newer tracks like “Repentless” and “Hate Worldwide” and usual fan favourites like “Dead Skin Mask”, “South of Heaven”, “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”. The stage setting was outstanding with stacks of Marshall amp casings arranged into giant inverted crossed at either side of the stage which housed awesome pyrotechnics which exploded in timely fashion throughout each song. There was also a selection of backdrops which changed from the Repentless album art to one resembling the Heineken beer logo emblazoned with the words Hanneman: Still Reigning (a touching tribute to late great Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman).
However a few things marred Slayer’s performance for me. First, the sound to my ears was dreadful. The mix had the bass (particularly the sub on the kick drum) ramped up which overpowered the guitars and both guitars were panned hard left and right respectively. This usually works well on a recording to create Slayer’s signature solo-trade-off effect. However it doesn’t work live at an open air festival unless you’re down the front of the crowd standing somewhere central. If you were standing anywhere else, one of the guitar sounds was completely lost. In addition to this, the guitar sound was rather horrible. It wasn’t heavy or crunchy and crushing – it sounded as though the guitars were ran through a cheap and nasty distortion on a cheap poor quality amp which would come in a package with one’s first guitar. In addition the that, the performance seemed rather lacklustre.
Slayer usually have an awesome and magical vibe about them when they step onto the stage but at Bloodstock I wasn’t feeling it. They seemed tired and as if the magic experience of performing onstage was gone. It didn’t help that frontman Tom Araya messed up the words to the first verse of “Hell Awaits” and then sheepishly retreating away from the front of the stage to continue the song instrumentally. There was a gap between “Hell Awaits” and the following song as the sense of immense embarrassment could be felt in the air. The mistake was forgiven (everyone makes mistakes so you couldn’t hold it against Araya) but it seemed as though from that point on the band didn’t recover from the incident. At the end of the performance Araya simply apologised and the band left quickly and quietly. The apology was ambiguous and left everyone asking questions – the primary thought being “is this the end of Slayer?”. Who knows? Slayer’s awesome and timeless thrash is undeniable however their performance at Bloodstock this year didn’t quite hit the mark in my opinion and if the opportunity to see them again arose, I think they could do better.
So the time came again that Bloodstock was reaching its end for this year. There was a plethora of amazing bands and good times were had by all rocking out to lots of awesome metal. Moshville’s presence at the festival was bigger than ever before and I think I can say on behalf of the team, it was an immense privilege to be there working in a media capacity again. We’ve got all of our reviews online and the rest of the interviews are now all incoming – we’ve been able to get more festival coverage than before and we hope you’ve been enjoying our material. Here’s hoping we’ll return next year to do it all over again.
Until BOA 2017!
Header image by Will Tudor.