Another year another Bloodstock and 2015 was one of the best I have attended to say the least. All 4 stages threw up some incredible performances although 2 out of the 3 main stage headliners were below par for me. I headed off from my hotel in Tamworth early so as to avoid long queues there but lady luck was on my side as I more or less went straight into the arena with plenty of time to get to the front barrier for Nuclear Assault, first band on the Ronnie James Dio stage. I had not seen them here since 1988 when they toured with Slayer and they still deliver with original frontman John Connelly on lead vocals/guitar raging away through a blistering 12 song set backed up by other original members Dan Lilker on bass guitar, Glenn Evans on drums, along with newer member Erik Burke on guitar.
Their set was a crowd pleasing one mainly based around their 3 1980’s studio albums Survive, Handle With Care and Game Over plus 2 tracks (‘Died In Your Arms’ and ‘Analog Man In A Digital World’) from their recent E.P, Pounder. ‘Rise From The Ashes’ and ‘Brainwashed’ were played back to back to open up and highlights for me were the instrumental ‘Game Over’ and set closer ‘Trail Of Tears’. The band are on their 30th anniversary tour, reputed to be their last. Judging by their performance a lot of fans will wish this is not so.
Bloodstock was now going to get an early morning blast of rage from Raging Speedhorn reforming last year after a 6 year hiatus but still have the same intensity I last witnessed when they toured with Amen in 2001. Dual vocalists John Loughlin and Frank Regan (who looked a lot like Ray Winstone) must have ripped their lungs to shreds as they stomped around like Tasmanian devils. Set opener ‘Knives And Faces’, 1 of 5 played from their self titled 2000 debut album hit hard but the volume was way too low for the opening few numbers which was resolved when the P.A system kicked in and they sounded huge! Set highlight for me was an over the top crushing rendition of ‘Thumper’ which followed the earth moving ‘The Gush’, ‘Hate Song’ and ‘Fuck The Voodoo Man’.
Los Angeles based thrashers Armored Saint who formed in 1982, finally returned to the UK with a main stage appearance and the original line up are still together. They were influential to many bands and a huge crowd rapturously received their Bloodstock set. ‘March Of The Saint’, ‘Can U Deliver?’ and ‘Mad House’ from their classic debut album March Of The Saint were dispatched with aplomb by the iron lunged vocals of John Bush, last seen in the UK fronting Anthrax. New number ‘Mess’ showed that their song writing has lost none of its power. They were one of my highly anticipated bands of the weekend and they did not disappoint!
The blazing sun could not deter the sheer pummeling power of Austrian based Belphegor. Their jaw dropping black metal was defined by set opener ‘Feast Upon The Dead’ which was full of inhuman warp speed time changes. Their 45 minutes flew by in a flurry of riffs, blast beats and demonic vocals from Helmuth as they left us on a high with the fiendishly titled ‘Bondage Goat Zombie’. Next up were Norwegian progressive death metallers Enslaved who like to batter their audiences with lengthy numbers as they fitted just 5 in their allotted 45 minutes. Song of the set was the ear bruising ‘Alfa Blot’.
Veteran New Jersey thrashers Overkill showed the young guns that they are still a force to be reckoned with as they raged through an hour long set on the Ronnie James Dio stage. Formed in 1980 they also based their set on their 80’s albums with highlights being a fist pumping ‘In Union We Stand’, ‘End Of The Line’, ‘Hello From The Gutter’ and a drum dominated ‘Elimination’. After all these years, original vocalist Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth still has the vocal delivery to strip paint from walls.
The first visit of the day to the Sophie Lancaster stage for me was to see I Am I and saw me witness the vocal performance of the weekend from ZP Theart. His range during their 7 song set of melodic power metal was phenomenal and the packed out tent responded accordingly. Opener ‘This Is My Life’ set the standard high with the first of many high notes from him and the guitar solos scorched more than the weather. ‘Inside Of Me’ had a hook that got you pulled in from the off and other highlights were ‘Goodbye To Your Innocence’, 1 of 2 new songs aired (the other being ‘We Are One’), a drum driven guitar heavy number akin to the heavier side of Journey. Final number ‘Silent Genocide’ got the crowd in fine voice but set highlight was an emotional and heavy cover of the John Farnham classic ‘You’re The Voice’.
It was now time to return back to the Ronnie James Dio stage for Sabaton. A major line up change in 2012 resulted in lead vocalist Joakim Broden and bassist Par Sundstrom replacing departed band members and in my opinion have come back stronger than ever. Their panzer tank stage prop was immense, the hour long plus set was just as over the top and the front of stage pyro must have kept the front rows warm throughout. ‘Ghost Division’ was a dramatic opener and the war themed set saw a full arena with arms aloft. ‘Resist And Bite’ had an intense main riff backed by many bursts of pyro. ‘Panzerkampf’ was full of epic grooves, ‘Screaming Eagles’ hurtled along on the kick drums of Hannes Van Dahl but my set highlight was ‘Metal Crue’, power metal at its finest with Joakim pushing his voice to the max.
Jagermeister stage headliners Witch Tripper were the surprise package of the day for me and I checked them out in between sets by Sabaton and headliners Trivium and was glad that I did. The Mansfield trio have built a strong set after only forming in 2014. Opener ‘You Get What You Pay For’ sounded like if Black Sabbath were to cover ‘Jean Genie’ with a piercing guitar solo midway from Richie Barlow. The heavy blues of ‘Nuno’ with thundering bass work from Chris Daughton gave a Cream like vibe which preceded the heads down boogie of ‘Don’t Make Me Choose’. The almost telepathic interplay on ‘Attittude Adjustment’ between Richie, Chris and Jimmy Collins on drums was a contender for set highlight but that was won by the almost garage rock of ‘Turbowitch’ coming over like On Parole era Motorhead.
Ronnie James Dio stage headliners Trivium faced some fierce competition throughout the day and they never quite hit the mark for me but their set was lapped up by a rowdy audience. Surprisingly, they opened up with a brand new song that had never been played before called ‘Silence In The Snow’, title track of their forthcoming album. Another new number ‘Blind Leading The Blind’, also not played live before was a solid, heavy track. Front man Matt Heafy’s raps seemed too clinical at times, especially asking if we were having a good time after only the second and third songs. A rap about meeting Ronnie James Dio for the first time when Trivium played with Heaven And Hell ended with guitarist Corey Beaulieu playing the riff of said song.
I was expecting a cover of it but the song was strangely used as an outro as the band left the stage. Nevertheless, Trivium delivered a polished set of heavy metal and have made a well deserved path to festival headlining status, point proven by solid renditions of ‘Anthem (We Are The Fire), ‘A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation’, ‘In Waves’ and final number ‘Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr’.[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157656885501600″ size=”z” count=”100″]