After a hearty breakfast it was time to slap on the sun cream after being fried alive on the first day of Bloodstock and head off once more for more metal. First call of the day was not the beer tent but to the New Blood stage at the ungodly time of 10.30am to catch Manchester based Amethyst. Their blend of thrash with death metal vocals was a welcome shot in the arm to start the day. Set opener ‘Acts Of Betrayal’ was an intense, multi time changing beast with an ‘Arise’ like breakdown midway. Differing styled vocals were shared between guitarist James and Dan who could easily pass for Rasputin and his 7 string bass guitar work held down a massive groove throughout the set with drummer Chris. Their 5 song set flew by too soon, ending with the no frills heavy metal of ‘A Curse Until The End’, finishing with a turbo charged Iron Maiden like gallop.
A quick dash to the Ronnie James Dio stage was in order for London based thrashers Savage Messiah, opening band of the day there. Every time I see them they go from strength to strength and today was no exception as they delivered a 40 minute tight set based heavily on their current The Fateful Dark album. Opener ‘Iconocaust’ from it was an abrasive thrash wake up call to the large crowd that had already gathered, showing a sea of arms from the front to the back. Frontman Dave Silver was an easy crowd pleaser, gaining respect from the off by acting like one of the lads and not having to put an act on to get a reaction unlike the headliners the previous night. The main riff of following track ‘Cross Of Babylon’ would test the strongest neck muscles with guitar solos that shot out of the P.A system. ‘Minority Of One’ brought their set to a full on metal assault finish but the pick of their 7 song set for me was the thudding Judas Priest like twin guitar attack of ‘Hellblazer’ with a killer chorus!
Anihilated, 1 of the UK’s pioneering thrash metal bands since their formation 1981 meant a quick jaunt to the Sophie Lancaster Stage to catch their set. I saw them at Wildfire Festival a few months ago so knew what to expect. Original vocalist/bassist Si Cobb got the chance to vent his rage at the world once again over a furious thrash backing from the lead guitar work of Todd Manning, lightning speed riffs from Danny B and over the top drums from Bod, another original member.The title track from new album Antisocial Engineering was aired early in the set and was a wave of merciless thrash that garnered huge cheers from a packed out tent. Temperature levels were raised with the furious ‘Somewhere Underneath’, ‘Chase The Dragon’, ‘Scorched Earth Policy’, ‘Seeds Of Rage’ and their was no time to draw breath until they played the hate filled chugging ‘They Lie, We Die’. The anthemic ‘We Are Legion’ was the end to a triumphant set from the old guard!
Next up on this stage were Ageless Oblivion, a 5 man wrecking ball of extreme metal that you felt as well as heard. At points during the set I kept looking at the P.A system to make sure it was not moving! Opening with ‘Temples’, the crowd had surely not witnessed anything like this so far. Vocalist Steve Jones has probably not got his voice back yet after roaring and screaming for their 30 minute set. The few notes I made during their overpowering performance said that they came across like a heavier combination of High On Fire and early Will Haven. The volume seemed to increase between songs as the ambient samples literally made the ground shake.
Stage time clashes meant missing the opening of 1349 on the Ronnie James Dio stage but the half hour I saw convinced me that this was Norwegian black metal at its purest. They were visually striking especially the full grim reaper garb of bassist Seidemann. How he stayed upright in the blazing sun is a miracle. The sun could not deter their hellish delivery with frontman Ravn delivering his vocals in an almost spoken word. The deceiving calm intro of ‘Postmortem’ gave way to the hellish battering for what was to follow for the rest of the song. Other highlights were the superhuman drum patterns running through ‘Exorcism’ and also during ‘Atomic Chapel’ which was a bass guitar heavy, neck breaking headbanger.
Napalm Death can always be relied on to deliver a brutal set and today was no exception as they strolled onstage with no backing introduction and hit hard immediately with opener ‘Multinational Corporations II’. Stand in guitarist (whose name I never wrote down) was introduced by frontman Mark “Barney” Greenway as “Munky from Korn”. His dry wit along with thought provoking statements and drunken uncle dancing are the staple of any Napalm Death gig and is always a surefire crowd pleaser. The pulverizing grind of ‘When All Is Said And Done’ preceded a brutal ‘Smash The Single Digit’, introduced as “from the newish album”. The pit went even more mental to ‘Scum’, the title track of their 1987 debut with Barney saying “we may have peaked too early, like most men do”. The set continued to crush with stand outs being the bottom heavy thump of ‘Cesspits’, the Ministry like industrial grooves of ‘How The Earths Condemned’, the overwhelming ‘Suffer The Children’ and the obligatory Dead Kennedys cover of ‘Nazi Punk Off’.
Old school thrash metal fans (including myself) were now to have their dreams come true with the return of Californian legends Dark Angel. Formed in 1981 as Shellshock, with a name change to Dark Angel in 1983, they opened with the pit friendly ‘Time Does Not Heal’ from the album of the same name once advertized as “9 songs, 67 minutes long, 246 riffs”. This sums up Dark Angel’s complex thrash metal compositions. The band are no spring chickens but vocalist Ron Rinehart, guitarists Eric Meyer/Jim Durkin, bassist Michael Gonzalez and legendary drummer Gene Hoglan faultlessly thrashed out their 8 songs culminating with the final 4 taken from the 1985 classic Darkness Descends with ‘The Burning Of Sodom’ dedicated to recently deceased American wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
The Jagermeister stage then threw up the heavy sleaze rock of Midlands based Knock Out Kaine, at odds with any band I had seen so far today but thoroughly entertaining who drew a fanatical crowd drawn in by the larger than life antics of frontman Dean Foxx who strangely enough spent a few times crawling around on the tiny stage looking for a bottle of water. Their over the top set was based on their 2 studio albums House Of Sins and Rise Of The Electric Jester and my set highlights were the high energy of opener ‘House Of Sins’, the attention grabbing 4 way vocals of ‘Set The Night On Fire’, the intense ’16 Grammes Heart Attack’ but pick of the bunch was the Bulletboys like suss of last number ‘Little Crystal’.
My second visit of the day to the New Blood stage was again a very rewarding one as the triple guitar dominated axe attack by London based Sumer filled the tent with some thunderous riffs. Opening with the first instrumental of their 7 song set, ‘Progenesis’ was built on a hard blues backing groove with a wailing solo midway. I made notes of the whole set as every song caught my attention but stand outs were the Kyuss like stomp with a haunting vocal in ‘Chisel’. ‘The Animal’ was a trippy slow burner that built into Helmet like angular riffing. ‘Lure’ featured intense vocals over a wall of riffs from Ian Hill, Tim Bonney and Jim Hall with some off kilter drumming by Toby Bonney and intricate bass guitar lines from Taria Dawson. Song of the set though was ‘9’, the second instrumental which lurched along like the heavier side of Monster Magnet.
Today was to be my third time seeing Opeth at Bloodstock and to be honest it was their most diverse but easily my favourite performance of theirs. Their hour long set seemed to go as fast as the blink of an eye such was its captivation. ‘Eternal Rains Will Come’ and Cusp Of Eternity’, the first 2 tracks from latest album Pale Communion eased the crowd in slowly before a monstrous ‘Drapery Falls’ sent them delirious on hearing the opening riff as the haunting passages interspersed with death metal segments took over. The dry wit of Mikael Akerfeldt soon appeared when addressing the crowd as “hello Derby!”. There then followed a speech saying that the last time that Opeth went there for a night out, they ended up with “a glass of milk and fish and chips”.
‘Devil’s Orchard’ and ‘Heir Apparent’, both from the Heritage album were next, introduced as being from “our most hated album”. The former track was the lighter of the 2 with its “God is dead” refrain sounding as chilling as ever and the crushing intro to the latter song threatening to send the setting sun over the horizon quicker than it should do as it shifted between death metal passages to jazzy prog. Stage clashes meant I had to leave Opeth before their set ended and as bad luck would have it, they closed with ‘Deliverance’ which I heard from the side of the Jagermeister stage.
It would have to be something special to drag me away from an Opeth set but the prospect of a Manowar covers band called HanOwaR was too good an opportunity to be missed who headlined the Jagermeister stage. Interviewing the band the next day they admitted to being completely blown away by the amount of people who enveloped the area and by the reception they received. They were later told they had drawn the largest crowd there. With tongues firmly in cheeks they took to the stage and belted out ‘Manowar’, ‘Hail And Kill, ‘Metal Warriors’, ‘Kill With Power’, Kings Of Metal’ and ‘Battle Hymn’. At times HanOwaR were drowned out by the crowd singing along. Plastic swords were thrown out, party poppers were given out to be fired when a signal was given during ‘Battle Hymn’ by vocalist Kieran McCarthy. The set ended with a parody of how the real band end theirs and there were smiles everywhere. Of course lyrics were fluffed and cues missed but that was all a part of the experience and dedicated Manowar fans I spoke to afterwards agreed with my opinions of what had just taken place.
Ronnie James Dio stage headliners Within Temptation were my surprise package of the day. I’ve seen them at Download Festival a few years ago and came away unimpressed and only watched them at Bloodstock so as to review them but I was made a fan as soon as set opener ‘Paradise (What About Us?)’ kicked in. The band sounded much heavier since the last time I saw them and with eye popping pyro and production they followed with ‘Faster’. The lead vocals of Sharon Den Adel were nothing short of spine tingling. Every note was nailed and considering this was their third show of 4 in 3 different countries made it even more impressive. The ballads and heavier numbers were arranged so as the set flowed and her interaction with the crowd was much more down to earth than the frontmen of Fridays and Sundays headliners.
Other highlights were a huge ‘Stand My Ground’, made even more powerful with the images portrayed on the huge video screen. Said screen was used to good effect with the numbers featuring guest appearances so Xzibit was shown during ‘And We Run’ and my song of the set ‘What Have You Done?” featuring Life Of Agony vocalist when he was known as Keith Caputo. When ‘Ice Queen’ was attempted the power failed numerous times leaving the band in silence. They came back each time it seemed to be resolved but the power still kept cutting out so an impromptu drum solo was made after Sharon made jokes about the situation instead of storming off like other egotistical singers may have done. When the power was restored they returned for 2 well deserved encores of ‘Covered By Roses’ and ‘Mother Earth’.
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