Bloodstock 2016 – Brian’s View (with a bit of help from Stephen P)

Seed Of Sorrow (c) Bukavac Photography
Seed Of Sorrow (c) Bukavac Photography

Joining us down at Bloodstock were Brian and his brother-in-law who managed to help fill in a few other gaps in our coverage! Take it away, chaps – first up from Brian…

Seed of Sorrow – Friday

Bloodstock really does get a lot of things right, like drawing on the talent unearthed through Metal to the Masses from all corners of these Isles. And so to Bloodstock came Inverness-based melodic death metal quintet Seed of Sorrow.

Being a lazy soul I just made it into the arena as Seed of Sorrow took to stage but I sure was in for hell of a wake up call! Rapid beats dished out with aggression and precision; a tight dual guitar assault; and a vocal delivery from front man Lewis Goodwin that held nothing back. This was stirring stuff from the Highlanders and the rapidly filling New Blood tent suggests that plenty of the Bloodstock faithful we’re drawn to it.

Kindly, Seed of Sorrow also provided my first sugar rush of the day by launching a sweet, and more importantly demo filled piñata into the crowd. We listened to the demo on the long drive home and I’ve since been checking out their tracks online. The power and dynamism of Seed of Sorrow’s live performance doesn’t quite translate as strongly on their recorded output, but with a performance like that witnessed at Bloodstock that’s entirely understandable. Please have no doubt, Seed of Sorrow have talent and energy in spades and are one to follow. Worth the price of a trip up to the Highlands alone in my opinion!

Ten Ton Slug (c) Bukavac Photography
Ten Ton Slug (c) Bukavac Photography

Ten Ton Slug – Saturday

So my first full day at my first BOA and my excitement was palpable.  As I made my way to the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, I must confess to not knowing a lot about Galway’s Ten Ton Slug other than that they were here courtesy of winning Metal 2 the Masses in Dublin.  I was intrigued by their awesome moniker and, as I approached the tent, even more intrigued by the heavy and groove laden sounds emanating from within it.  By the looks of it these guys are already building a decent following as the tent was reasonable full.

My first sight of the band was the lead singer strutting about enthusiastically on the stage with an Orange Goblin t-shirt on, this gave a clue as to the band’s style and their influences.  They mixed up slow crushing riffs with groovier interludes delivered with admirable tightness for a young band and soon had the crowd stomping about with some enthusiasm.  Their set-list was made up of tracks from their last release, Live at the Oaks and their upcoming EP, the glorious titled, Brutal Gluttonous Beast.

Throughout their set, I wouldn’t help but be reminded of early Cathedral which in my mind is a very good thing!  Heavy, sludgy/doomy metal at its’ groovy foot stomping best.  I was indeed crushed under the slug!

Ten Ton Slug plan to release their first EP, Brutal Gluttonous Beast in the next few weeks.  Check it out.

Memoriam (c) Bucavak Photography
Memoriam (c) Bukavac Photography

Memoriam – Sunday

When I found out these guys were playing the Sophie Lancaster Stage on Sunday evening, I quickly stuck this on my must see list.  After the tragic death of Martin Kearns (drummer in Bolt thrower), and Bolt Thrower subsequently deciding to pause for a while, Karl Willets (Bolt Thrower’s vocalist) decided to put together this project.  They are composed of current and ex-members of both Bolt Thrower and Benediction including Frank Healy of Benediction and formed Bolt Thrower drummer Andy Whale.  A celebration of life through old school death metal and grindcore, what’s not to like!

The bands set-list included a host of new material from their forthcoming debut album with several Bolt Thrower covers including the brilliant “Spearhead” and “The Captive”, a Sacrilege cover thrown in for good measure.  From what I heard here the new material more than holds its own against such a celebrated back catalogue, delivering crushing heaviness and brutality with trademark hooks and memorable riffs, great stuff!   Despite Karl highlighting several times that the crowd wouldn’t know the new stuff, it didn’t matter, the decent sized crowd lapped everything up.  Highlights included the catchy “War Rages On” and the brilliantly heavy “Resistance”.

The band were clearly enjoying playing together and being back in the live environment with Karl in particular enjoying some banter with the audience, thanking his now many Twitter followers, bear-hugging his new band mates and even laughing off his mid-set micro-phone problems when the lead fell out and couldn’t be found.

It’s a shame there was an overlap between the end of their set and the start of Anthrax, otherwise I think more folks may have gotten to see this band in full force.

A welcome return to these veterans and if the new songs played here are anything to go by the new album could be an absolute classic!

Gojira (c) Will Tudor
Gojira (c) Will Tudor

Gojira – Saturday

The most hotly anticipated band of the whole weekend for me, Gojira are a band that has grown into a firm favourite of mine and so it seemed for the hordes who made their way over to the main stage on a glorious sunny evening to see these titans.

The crowd were already in somewhat of a frenzy anyway before the frenetic opener “Toxic Garbage Island” blasted out sending them into raptures and the biggest pit of the weekend so far.  There was a nice mix of tracks from the brilliant Stranded (which sounded very much at home in the live environment) from their recently released album, Magma, to older classics such as “Terra Inc” from their first opus to crowd favourite Flying Whales.

With the crowd baying for more, I witnessed my first encore of the weekend in the form of “Vacuity” from The Way of all Flesh and it was well worth waiting for, a pounding finish to an epic and mesmerising set.

This was only the second time I had seen Gojira, the first being at a 250 capacity venue 9 years ago (why so long ago I ask myself!), and it was great to see them having matured into such an accomplished and confident band well at home in front of such a large crowd.  A performance I will remember for a long time not least from the knackered knee I sustained from crowd surfing over the barrier… great stuff!

Slayer (c) Will Tudor
Slayer (c) Will Tudor

Slayer – Sunday

As the sun began to set on the stage and the chants of “Slayer, Slayer” rang out from the huge crowd to welcome the return ofthrash metal royalty, three years after they last laid waste to these fields, my goosebumps came out to play and we knew this was going to be special.

As the curtain dropped to reveal two huge Marshall stacks shaped as inverted crosses against the eerie backdrop on their latest album cover Repentless, the band emerged and immediately kicked off with the title track from their latest opus against a backdrop of some insane pyrotechnics.  Most of which emanating from the Marshall crosses –how they didn’t melt I do not know!  Any that feared the set would represent a new album promo-outing would be relieved as the opening of “Anti-Christ” crept out third on the bill with Tom Araya quipping that they hadn’t played this for a while!

And so the tone was set with ground breaking classics from their first album Show No Mercy, like “Die by the Sword”, and “Fight till Death” getting outings alongside classic stalwarts like “South of Heaven“, “Postmortem”, and “Mandatory Suicide”Tom Araya’s menacing vocals were on top form balanced with his good natured banter with the crowd at “Bloodfest” the highlight being when introducing “Dead Skin Mask” (as requested by many of the baying masses) he asked “You guys are here because you love music right? So we’re gonna do a love song…” – you can imagine what happened next, great stuff!  A brilliantly eerie rendition of “Hell Awaits” then followed before the band paused before a crushing encore comprising “South of Heaven”, “Raining Blood” and of course “Angel of Death” and the unfurling of the now familiar giant Heineken Logo backdrop with the words “Hanneman Still Reigning” as a worthy tribute to their late great guitarist.

Slayer once again show us how it’s done and proved worthy headliners and curtain closers on what was an immense weekend leaving this reviewer very tired and rather emotional especially when Tom signed off after saying thanks and goodbye with “I hope you guys can forgive me.” What can he have meant? Am I reading too much into it given recent press reports of his impending retirement? I hope not!

My only complaint was the guitar mix, those of us on the right hand side of the stage could only really hear Kerry King’s solos and after speaking to those on the opposite side it seemed only Gary Holt’s could be heard.  A shame but then you can’t have everything.

To round things off, Stephen P covered these last two…

Garganjua – Friday

The abundance of talent on the Hobgoblin New Blood stage at this year’s Bloodstock was staggering, but an undoubted standout was Garganjua. A strong crowd was on hand to witness the Leicester based four piece who made their way to Bloodstock via the Metal to the Masses route, and brought with them a sound huge enough to fill any space.

Garganjua summon up the lead weight riffs that are the foundation of the doom metal tradition. Orange amps and earth trembling base all present and accounted for. But they also have a lightness of touch with melodic lines sitting above the crushing low ends and a vocal delivery that draws you in rather than kick you back. The result is skilfully crafted songs that you want to listen to…really listen. The European and in particular British doom / stoner metal scene is in rude health and with bands like Garganjua coming through the ranks, that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.

Corrosion of Conformity (c) Will Tudor Photography
Corrosion of Conformity (c) Will Tudor Photography

Corrosion of Conformity – Saturday

Corrosion of Conformity’s very appearance at Bloodstock exemplifies triumph in the face of adversity. With their instruments languishing somewhere on the continent, and drummer Reed Mullin on the other side of the Atlantic (laid up at the last moment with a knee injury), the cards seemed stacked them.  A lesser band might have sat this one out, but COC are made of sterner stuff and know that where there’s a will, there’s a way! Que drum tech John Green who stepped up to the kit without rehearsal and evidently without fear. The community spirit which permeated Bloodstock came to the fore as bands donated all the gear COC required to take the stage.

COC have had plenty of iterations. Shifting line-ups have been the doom of many of their peers but COC always seem to thrive and find comfort in the creative freedom this allows. Recent years have seen founding members Mike Deen, Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin re-engaging with their earliest hard core / thrash roots; whilst Pepper Keenan’s energies have focused on Down. 2016 has seen the band reassemble the line-up which produced 1994’s classic Deliverance and it’s from that album that the majority of their Bloodstock set was drawn.

For me, there could be few better soundtracks to a sun and beer drenched festival afternoon. “Broken Man”, “Seven Days” then “Senior Limpo” blasted out in quick succession. The tempo really kicked up a gear with “Vote with a Bullet” (complete with obligatory reference to Donald J Trump) before proceedings were rounded off with anthems “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds”. A special mention must go to stand in drummer Green who handled the set with phenomenal skill and confidence drawing on nothing but memory and instinct. Well played indeed!

It might have been a close run thing but COC came, borrowed and conquered. On a personal note, they also provided my favourite sight of the whole weekend as they gathered at the side of the stage to watch Venom with the exact same enthusiasm and delight as the rest of us. Kinda sums the whole Bloodstock experience up!

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