With showers over the course of the weekend so far, mud has made an appearance despite not being listed on the line-up. Another repeat of figuring our plan of action between Mosh, Sean and I sees me back out amongst the bands before a retreat later to interview them.
Krysthla have the honour of opening the Ronnie James Dio stage and after having witnessed them in 2016, they are more than up to the job. Their extreme brand of metal is perfect to blow those cobwebs away before noon hits and even better – they had a massive crowd for it. Upping their game in every respect, powered by a new album, they make the most of the opportunity, making full use of the bigger stage and enrapture the audience. The Parallax Method take us on a more technical and proggy journey, bringing an atmospheric flavour to the day and as a trio, they’re as tight as can be, forgoing vocals and performing only as an instrumental outfit. Very rarely, such a concept can work live but here it does.
Describing themselves as melodic/atmospheric death metal, Stormcast have a firm grasp of the New Blood stage. Due to their slant on the death variety, hints of thrash bleed through and keep things interesting, driving their momentum. Meanwhile, back at the Sophie stage, Lotus Eater spend as much time playing their “gloom” as they do saying “fuck”. It’s basically hardcore with a bunch of groove thrown in and frontman Jamie McLees doing his best Liam Gallagher impression. They’re a tight unit, bringing out a lot of action from the front of the crowd but it’s nothing compared to what comes next. To no surprise at all, Evil Scarecrow draw one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and even bigger compared to their last appearance here. Because it’s Evil fucking Scarecrow. Despite the wind stopping their plans to use pyro, they have, as always, an entertaining set full of crowd participation, excellent costumes and props with a healthy dose of humour. But one of the highlights comes at the start of their set as they bring out special guest Alfie Wood for “Robototron”. As Dr Hell drops his guitar to let the twelve-year-old take his place, Wood only goes and nails it, unnerved by the sea of people, crossing the stage and making all the best rock star moves for the cameras.
Thy Art is Murder follow on from that, keeping up the momentum on the main stage, the Aussies are full of energy and making the most of their large area, making for an entertaining and involving show. The deathcore mob are more than up to the challenge of following Evil Scarecrow and provide a varied alternative to the other stages. Both the Sophie stage and New Blood are offering different takes on thrash metal with Dust Bolt and Voluntas, respectively. Where the former opts for a more crossover approach with hints of a more traditional metal sound, the latter brings a prog flavour so both stages are doing something similar yet different and a place to take refuge if Thy Art is Murder isn’t your cup of tea.
At the time, what seemed like a last minute change is far from it by the time the weekend is over. Perhaps the least heavy band to grace the main stage all weekend but as their iconic frontman declares: “I think we’re going to make a lot of friends this weekend”. It’s only the bloody Wildhearts. Taking to the stage earlier than anticipated, they rattle through a set largely comprised of the songs you’d expect and a few of the belters from May’s Renaissance Men. The crowd are bouncing, the band are loving every minute and much like their Steelhouse performance last year – put them on a festival bill and they’ll bring the sunshine. Never mind that some of my anticipated acts are still to play, I could have packed up then and gone home happy: the definition of owning it.
With the screens in the main stage having been dropped earlier in the day due to the winds, it completely stops play with Cradle of Filth’s slot pushed to Sunday and a few other bands juggled around. And it’s here which speaks to how well this festival is organised, it’s done seemingly in the blink of an eye and word spreads through literal word-of-mouth and no-one even slightly grumbles, reflecting how relaxed everyone is and the friendliness of its attendees. As such, Master’s Call bring their black metal wares to the New Blood stage to a packed tent whilst everyone gathers at the Ronnie James Dio stage for Anthrax. People are antsy as their delayed set explodes onto the stage and they waste no time in showing people why they’re the legends that they are. It’s very much what you expect of an Anthrax set, hitting all the usual marks, but that’s no bad thing because at the end of the day, it’s Anthrax.
Now for one of the most controversial bookings of the weekend, if not in the entire history of the festival: Parkway Drive. Boasting one of the best albums of 2018 and an impressive stage show, this was one headline slot not to be missed. Clearly, several others thought so since they played to the biggest crowd the arena has ever hosted. And when you think in recent years it’s hosted Twisted Sister on their final UK show and Ghost, you know you’re doing something right as a band. Drawing from Reverence and their extensive back catalogue, they made sure their first appearance at Catton Hall and for that matter, their first UK festival headline performance silence the doubters. Frontman Winston McCall doesn’t let the occasion pass without mention and it’s obvious the moment means a lot to them.
What’s even better is the stage show – despite promising the full works, the wind put paid to that and while some pyro was used, it was very obviously not the entirety of it. But as a band, they showed that if you’re that good, you don’t need a flashy show to win over a crowd. Whilst it would have been great to see the full production that’s been going all over social media for the last year, if anything, this worked in their favour. They went out and played, letting the music and their performances as individuals and a unit do the talking for them. By the time they took their final bows, there was a buzz like no other and time for the last day of what was turning into a very memorable weekend.