Bloodstock in August is an annual pilgrimage that few devout metalheads would miss without good reason – and that doesn’t include your granny’s funeral. And for those of us residing in the Midlands the three-day festival is almost within touching distance so there’s really no excuse not to get your ass over to Walton-on-Trent for at least one of the three full days’ entertainment. This year the Bloodstock line-up is again of stellar quality. How could it not be with Slayer closing the event on the Sunday. In this Midlands Rocks preview Paul Castles highlights just some of bands appearing at this year’s festival.
Friday 12 August
Watching Behemoth perform their epic 2014 album The Satanist in its entirety practically merits the cost of your Bloodstock ticket on its own. Luckily for us we also get a lot more than that for our hard earned. Nevertheless, the Polish black metal giants threaten to set Catton Park alight on the festival’s first full day as most Behemoth shows turn into events of gladiatorial proportions and this one certainly promises to live up to that.
Pulling a curtain of darkness across the sprawling Catton Park site in readiness for the Poles will be Newcastle’s black metal veterans Venom who in many ways created the template for the black metal hordes that followed. The titanic Tynesiders picking up Lucifer’s flaming baton from Sabbath and then proceeded to turn and twist it towards even greater depths of insanity.
But it’s not all black on the main Ronnie James Dio Stage on the opening day though, as its top and tailed by Evil Scarecrow and glam legends Twisted Sister, neither of whom can ever be accused of lacking in colour and flamboyancy. While choreographed dance routines are generally in short supply at Bloodstock, the faithful readily make an exception for Evil Scarecrow as anyone who witnessed the thousands of delirious fans performing the machine-like ‘Robototron’ dance in near seamless synchronicity a couple of years ago will testify.
Twisted Sister need no introduction and if you’ve never seen them play live, well now it really is now or never. They have declared Bloodstock as their last ever UK show and it’s the one UK stop-off on the band’s ‘Farewell 1976 – 2016’ tour. Sadly their appearance will also be tinged with a sense of loss following the untimely passing of their drummer AJ Pero earlier this year. Hopefully he’ll be throwing his sticks around while looking down on events.
Guitarist Jay Jay French comments: “Our journey in the UK that began in Wrexham in 1982, ends with Bloodstock 2016! Without the recognition that we received from our UK fans, the world would never have known nor would we ever have reached our 40 year milestone!”
Away from the main stage, Mancunian maniacs Foetal Juice will be serving up buckets of their impressively sick grind and hardcore attacks on the Sophie Lancaster stage.
The EU vote certainly won’t inhibit Bloodstock from ferrying over some of Europe’s brightest talents. Hitching a lift this year will be German newcomers Beyond The Black. This will be a first UK festival slot for the symphonic crew who fans of Within Temptation are likely to take to their hearts. Vocalist Jennifer Haben said: “Bloodstock will be our very first festival appearance in UK ever and we are super stoked that it is such an important and renowned one for the metal scene right away. We are on fire and thrilled about returning to our fans in the UK finally!”
Another Euro vote winner on the Sophie stage are female-fronted Dutch metallers The Charm The Fury whose forthcoming album will strike a chord with fans of Pantera and Slipknot.
Friday Sophie Stage headliners are NWOBHM icons, Diamond Head. Metallica are just one of heaps of thrash acts who cottoned on to the Stourbridge band’s influence a generation ago. With a new album under their bullet belt this year, expect fireworks and a pulsating rendition of their fans’ favourite ‘Am I Evil’.
Be sure to catch a few of the bright young things over on the New Blood Stage. That’s probably not the best way to describe Midlanders Garganjua, but either way, check them out on Day 1.
Saturday 13 August
The quality flows like the Nile on Day 2 with Paradise Lost among a steady stream of superlative acts performing on the Ronnie James Dio Stage. The northern greats have been a force of unbridled darkness for a quarter of a century and with last year’s stunning album The Plague Within fostering a whole new generation of fans, their hymn book of gothic-encased material will need some serious filtering to satisfy their legions of fans.
Rotting Christ craft epic songs that at times make breathing difficult such are their fevered compositions. The Greek giants’ incendiary blackened death dialogue flattens anything that steps in its path. Having headlined the Sophie Stage two years ago their return sees them elevated to the RJD.
Saturday headliners Mastodon require little introduction but it comes as a surprise to discover that this will be the Atlanta sludge outfits first ever Bloodstock appearance. They are firmly established themselves within the upper echelons of the metal family with a series of commanding albums under their belt since their breakthrough Leviathan in 2004. Enigmatic frontman Troy Sanders said: “Since day one, nobody has embraced Mastodon better than the UK has. Thank you for inviting us to our first festival headlining slot at Bloodstock 2016! We will not disappoint.”
There will be a taste of the exotic over on the Sophie Stage when Tunisian outfit Myrath present a polished portfolio of ‘Oriental Metal’. Having already won admirers when supporting the likes of Dream Theater and Sabaton, their harmonious prog portraits will definitely bring something a little different to this year’s festival.
Also on the Sophie Stage, Norwegian black metal/jazz ensemble Shining also offer a more eclectic sound and their live shows have a tendency to develop into a full-on aural assault.
On the New Blood Stage give it up for Midlands crew Conjurer, who booked their Catton Park pass when winning the Leicester heat of the Metal 2 The Masses. With an impressive debut EP just out (reviewed here) prepare for a sludge sandwich so thick you’ll need something to wash it down with.
Sunday 14 August
Slayer headline Day 3 on the Ronnie James Dio Stage and if you don’t know what to expect by now then you’re probably reading the wrong feature. Obviously this time around the thrash veterans will be without the much missed Jeff Hanneman. His spirit will inevitably loom large although expect to hear some material from Slayer’s latest album Repentless – the first without the late guitarist – alongside some of their classic thrash anthems.
And while we’re just passing briefly in sombre celebration of fallen heroes, what better place to raise a glass at this year’s Bloodstock than the renamed ‘Lemmy’s Bar’.
There will be just as much focus on black metal greats Satyricon who will be playing Nemesis Divina (reviewed here) in its entirety as a celebration of its 20th anniversary. Norwegian duo Satyr and drummer Frost are nothing short of iconic figures in the barrenlands of Norwegian black metal and their Bloodstock set is the only chance you’ll have to catch Satyricon in the UK this year. “There’s a nemesis walking through life, for all to face. And there’s a Divine Nemesis, for all to face that come to see Satyricon at Bloodstock. Let us celebrate the 20th anniversary of a milestone album like only Norsemen and Brits can!”
There has been a lot of interest in the mysterious black metal band Ghostbath who open the main stage on the final day. There was some suggestion they were from China, although everyone now seems to have settled on North Dakota. Get their early to find out whether all the fuss has been worth the wait!
While veteran acts are an annual fixture at Bloodstock, over in the Sophie Lancaster tent Memoriam will be churning out some old school death metal less than 12 months since they came together. They’re no novices though as the band – featuring former members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction – formed in tribute to Martin ‘Kiddie’ Kearns, the Bolt Thrower drummer who tragically died last September. Although initially perceived as a DM covers band, Memoriam have very quickly developed into much more than that and their set will include new material from their forthcoming debut album.
For those seeking refuge from the blastbeat bombardment don’t miss Witchsorrow whose humongous doom sound will test the very foundations of the Sophie tent. The Hampshire trio have been one of the UK’s finest exponents of doom for the past decade or so, and while the genre is not a staple at Bloodstock the presence of Witchsorrow is certainly welcome.
There are numerous side attractions if you need to give your ears some respite. The medieval fighting crews are back with their shields and swords while the addition of a strongman competition adds even more muscle to the menu.
By the end of the three days most of your body parts and internal organs will be creaking, but it’s a price well worth paying to be a part of the UK’s finest extreme metal outdoor festival, staged by the fans for the fans.
- For all ticket, travel and tent info for Bloodstock click here