Review by Emily Castles & Tony Gaskin
Photos by Sean Larkin, Rob Stanley & Tony Gaskin
Billed as the biggest Bloodstock yet, 2016 saw record-destroying numbers of metal-heads reaffirming BOA’s reputation as one of Europe’s premiere metal festivals. With the unveiling of ‘Lemmy’s Bar’ adjacent to the New Blood Stage, dedicated to the late great Motorhead legend, Bloodstock 2016 had an air of remembrance coupled with the usual celebration.
Several bands latched onto the theme by dedicating songs and indeed entire sets to various metal giants the world has recently lost.
Friday was an absolute scorcher, metalheads from across the globe downing drinks from the new ‘slushie’ stall and chomping down on Kraken’s spiced rum ice cream; a refreshing snack for those who like everything black.
One of the first bands to take to the expanded Sophie Lancaster Stage was Boss Keloid, recently hailed by Metal Hammer as the ‘new big thing’. Although seen as a sludge band, Alex Hursts’ use of vocal effects took the band into a unique genre which also combined the progressive and psychedelic. Hursts’ performance was, if anything, theatrical. Jumping between roles as an orchestral conductor and a champion pianist, this was pure metallic theatre.
It may have been a bit early in the day for a Wall of Death but there appeared to be no shortage of volunteers when the masked men of Anti-Clone lit the touchpaper midway through their hardcore set.
One of the most anticipated bands of the day were metal rapscallion’s Evil Scarecrow. Always a laugh, always fun, and always with a crazy dance off to be had. With stage visits from assorted guests such as Legend of Zelda, a zombie horse and a decapitated sheep, this set was even more of a headspin than usual.
Not only did ‘the robot’ get the crowds moving, but a few new moves were introduced, including ‘how long can you spin on the spot?’ and ‘JUMP! HIT! DODGE! HIT!” Offering ‘Cosplay for the Metal Masses’, Evil Scarecrow’s charisma was astonishing to behold, if not utterly bonkers.
Following Dr Rabid Hell and Princess Luxury onto the headline Ronnie James Dio Stage were Misery Loves Co. who offered something of a bizarre performance consisting of frontman Patrik Wiren repeatedly throwing down his microphone, only to have to pick it up moments later to continue the set. The Swedes, although offering an interesting take on industrial metal, failed to connect with the crowds in quite the same way as Evil Scarecrow.
However, during the early part of the opening day, there were various other bands to check out, including East Midland favourites Garganjua. Performing on the New Blood Stage, their sludge/doom mix was breathtaking as they served up a selection of haunting songs from debut album A Voyage in Solitude.
Vehement, also on the New Blood were no less compelling, as they unleashed a barrage of ferocious black metal while back on the Sophie Stage Dutch visitors The Charm, The Fury raged through a set throbbing Euro hardcore.
One of the most interesting bands of the day were American rap metal duo Stuck Mojo. The boys from Atlanta have been on the scene since 1989 and have toured with some stellar names. Their performance was completely bizarre and completely brilliant at the same time, lying somewhere between early Chili Peppers and Pantera. Having recently announced plans for a new album and tour, their Bloodstock performance was much anticipated and would have gained them many new fans who weren’t even around in the 90s.
As time began to tick by, the sun still blazing unbearably, sizzling skin like bacon, one of the most anticipated bands of this year’s festival took to the stage. With the sun lotion being applied by the bucketload conditions were a little too cheery for one of the grandees of UK black metal, Venom, who were nevertheless rapturously received by the heaving throng gathered in front of the Ronnie James Dio Stage.
With a back catalogue stretching back across three decades, Venom are keen not to simply live off past glories and frontman Cronos was quick to remind us that latest album From The Very Depths has already picked up an award or two recently won an award. Venom were full of old school energy and for those who missed them back in the day, this was a treat and nothing less than a black metal education with songs such as ‘Hammerhead’ and old favourite ‘Warhead’.
Picking up the blasphemous baton were Behemoth, the Polish giants adding a few more theatrical touches as they set about playing their acclaimed 2014 masterpiece The Satanist in its entirety.
With frontman Nergal leading the fire and damnation anthems like a man possessed – which he probably is – almost the only moment of light relief came via an explosion of black tissue paper that cascaded across Catton Park before descending gently on the crowd who reached out in a desperate clamour to claim a piece of the most metal confetti known to man.
With Behemoth a force of pure evil, and now playing with more lust than ever following Nergal’s well documented health battles, this was a supreme and utterly memorable performance, in which ‘O Father, O Satan, O Sun’ stood out from the album before they closed with the razorlike ‘Chant for Eschaton 2000’.
If upturned flaming crosses isn’t your thing then Coventry crew Beholder provided a more than satisfying alternative in the Sophie tent, fronted of course by Bloodstock leading light and Metal 2 The Masses king Simon Hall.
Day one ended with an invigorating, multi-coloured set from Twisted Sister, celebrating 40 years in what was billed as quite possibly their final ever UK show. With the untimely passing of drummer AJ Pero last year, Dream Theatre’s Mike Portnoy was recruited to pound the skins a fact acknowledged more than once by irascible frontman Dee Snider. A part rock–part panto part-storytelling set ended with mass sing-a-longs of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and a cover of the Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock n Roll’ , followed by an encore featuring “Come Out and Play”, “Shoot ‘Em Down” and “S.M.F.” – Not a bad way to end the opening night of Bloodstock 2016.
A View From The Pit by Tony Gaskin
Whilst Emily was casting her discerning eye over the RJD and Sophie stages I was busy photographing many of the bands on the New Blood Stage, and here’s some of my highlights of the Friday
Now bear with me, it may seem strange rounding up Fridays events by talking about a band that’s going to open up main stage on the Saturday, but there is a point to it.
Five years ago a young band won their regions M2TM competition and got to play the New Blood Stage at BOA, just two years ago that same band were treading the boards over on the Sophie stage and this year heavy technical prog mob Cambion were given the task of opening up the Ronnie James Dio stage on the Saturday. My point? Well my point is that dismiss the New Blood Stage bands at your peril. To many, this is the future of British Metal playing on this stage over this weekend, and I was planning on spending a good deal of time here and on the Sophie stage.
So an early 10.30am start on the Friday with the highly rated Witch Tripper having the honour of being the first band of the weekend on the New Blood Stage. And what a way to open, huge riffs and thumping bass lines greeted the early risers, and what was to be the pattern for most of the weekend, a pretty good crowd banged their heads away to Witch Tripper’s heavy southern rock which had some nice grungy undertones. The trio from just up the road create a pulsating rhythm that is a welcome antidote to the previous nights libations.
Hot on the heels of such a blistering start were Yorkshire’s latest Thrash export, Redeye Revival. The tricky part of playing the NBS is to drag people in. Some bands do this with a concerted effort to promote their appearence, others just tend to rely on the metalheads camped outside in the glorious sunshine, being drawn in and away from Lemmys Bar by pure musical magnetism. Not sure which method Redeye Revival used but a steady flow of punters piled into the tent to see a lightning set of top notch British thrash that seemed to go faster than Usain Bolt chasing his latest golden paycheck.
Next up for me on the NBS were Wolverhampton M2TM winners Husk. This was a band I’d seen on many occasions before and always showed promise. To say they owned that stage today is an understatement. They played as if they were veterans of the big occasion, and raised the bar that day for all the bands following. They have great technical ability and it shows that there has been many hours in the practice room. Probably the best I’ve seen them play, and to top it all, vocalist/bass player Bob Taylor was awarded a Deans Guitars endorsement as part of their commitment to M2TM and the unsigned scene.
After witnessing such a powerful performance I was buzzing with anticipation for the next band up, Gargnjua. Having impressed M2TM judges enough, they were handed a special guest slot and they grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. Easily one of the heaviest bands of the weekend, Garganjua come at you like a rampaging T-Rex on heat. The ground vibrates to the seismic bass and heavily distorted guitars. I’m sure some geoligist geek somewhere must have got all excited when his instruments peaked at 2.15pm that Friday afternoon. In fact Mr Richter had he still been around would have added another level to his scale. Pure heavenly heaviness. There are no “Headline” bands on the NBS. everyone is there on equal merit, but this was worthy of a headline slot. Garganjua = Massive
Next band to stand out for me on the NBS were Reading’s End of Salvation. A young band who are the new breed of British Death Metal, a six piece that skillfully mesh layers of filthy noise to produce a wall of sound that is sure to have people sit up and take notice of them. It’s not easy playing such a technical genre with so many aspects to consider but these guys do it very well.
Final pick of the days NBS for me were Liverpools Exhumation. Another young Death Metal outfit but this was a more traditional in your face take on the genre. Fast, grimy riffs, with even faster blast beats. It’s good to see new bands coming through who are willing to take up the baton of old school DM and run with it, we have a great tradition in this country, and particularly here in the Midlands, of producing some great DM so hopefully long may it continue.
Check out all our band photos from Friday below, or CLICK HERE to view all our photos from across the weekend