Saturday, 27 August 2016

Bloodstock Open Air 2016

I had only been back home from my weekend at the Cambridge Rock Festival for a few days before I was off again to Bloodstock Open Air for another great weekend of music. Due to the Cambridge Rock Festival taking a break, I made my first trip to Catton Park for what is probably the UK's best metal festival last year and had a good time. It was my first big open air camping festival, and the line-up was pretty solid across the three days I was there (I missed the Thursday there last year). This time however I was there for the whole festival, as there was not another gig that was tempting me away this year! The journey up from Plymouth that involved two trains and a bus was not too bad, but it meant I was setting up my tent while the music had just started. The Thursday night at Bloodstock is more of a warm up, with music only happening on the Sophie Lancaster Stage (called the Second Stage from now on), with the main programme of music starting on Friday. I make a rookie mistake last year with my decision to pitch my tent right on the path in the Midgard campsite, which turned out to be the one where most of the late night partying happens. As a result I barely slept all weekend so vowed to find somewhere else to camp next time! This time I tried the Asgard campsite right by the main festival entrance which I thought would be far enough away from the festival site and Midgard to reduce noise as much as possible. My plan worked too, and where I chose to pitch my tent was pretty quiet throughout the whole weekend. I slept really well for the vast majority of the weekend (with the exception of the final night before going home, bu that was due to the cold rather than the noise!) so I will definitely camp in Asgard again if I return to Bloodstock in future. While I was sorting myself out, music had started playing but from what I could hear it was some fairly generic death metal so I was not upset about missing out. I had been told that the prog band Sümer were worth going to see so I had planned to make it down to the main festival site in time to see them. I was ready slightly before that however, so I decided to take a walk around the site before Sümer's set. The layout was exactly the same as last year, with enough room between the stages to reduce noise bleed as much as possible but close enough to walk between them all very easily. There were plenty of food outlets too, with lots of variety to choose from, but lots of it was really very expensive for what it was. I know festival crowds are captive audiences and prices are always above average at these things, but some of the stalls really did push the limit of what was acceptable. By now it was time for Sümer's set, so I headed over to the Second Stage to watch them...

Sümer:
On an evening filled with heavier bands, Sümer's brand of alternative/progressive metal was a breath of fresh air. The band are clearly influenced by modern prog bands like Riverside, but also by the post-rock movement with their discordant and sometimes droning instrumental sections. There were also sections of their music that reminded me somewhat of Halo Blind! Sümer impressed me though, and were one of the most interesting discoveries of my weekend. I shall do some research on them in the future, and keep an eye out for their tour dates.

I had a look in the second hand CD and vinyl stall afterwards. I made a couple of purchases here throughout the weekend, but a decent-looking vinyl copy of Foreigner's Double Vision for £3 that was hidden in amoungst a selection of heavier LPs was the pick of the bunch. I doubt Foreigner were on the forefront of many Bloodstock goer's minds but I was happy for the bargain! I took it back to my tent and decided to have a little rest. Due to spending two weekends in a row in tents, it did not take it long for me to start flagging. I was quiet tired throughout the weekend, so I took as many little rests as I could to try and stay as fresh as possible to enjoy the music. I headed back to the festival site in time to catch the day's headliners headliners...

Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons:
Recently re-branded, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons are now the sole musical outlet for Phil Campbell (guitars/vocals) since the dissolution of Motörhead since the sad death of Lemmy last year. Campbell, joined by some competent musicians (some of which are his sons), now tours playing hits from his days in Motörhead as well some of his favourite classic rock covers. They opened with a song called Big Mouth however, which was the only song in the set that was not a cover. I know Campbell is currently working on his first solo album, so maybe this song will appear on there. It was quite a good song, and I would like to hear a recorded version of it sometime in the future. Other highlights included a great version of Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf and ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man. The real highlight of the set however was a stunning version of the late Motörhead classic Born to Raise Hell which saw Twisted Sister's Dee Snider take to the stage to sing the song in tribute to Lemmy. It was one of the those great, unexpected concert moments, and the packed tent erupted and sung along with Snider in unison. Ace of Spades and Killed by Death both went down a storm too, and the set ended with a great version of Hawkwind's Silver Machine. Despite basically being a covers band (although the best covers band you will ever see), Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons really got the party at Bloodstock going and were a perfect closing act for the opening night. The setlist was:

Big Mouth
Deaf Forever [Motörhead cover]
Nothing Up my Sleeve [Motörhead cover]
Sweet Leaf [Black Sabbath cover]
R.A.M.O.N.E.S. [Motörhead cover]
Orgasmatron [Motörhead cover]
Sharp Dressed Man [ZZ Top cover]
Born to Raise Hell [Motörhead cover w/ Dee Snider]
"Heroes" [David Bowie cover]
Ace of Spades [Motörhead cover]
Killed by Death [Motörhead cover]
Silver Machine [Hawkwind cover]

After that triumphant set from Campbell and his band, it was time for bed. As I said earlier, sleep came very easily to me throughout the festival and I even managed to have something of a lie in the following morning! I was not cooking any breakfasts for myself this time either, so that extra time in bed was most welcome and stopped the mornings from becoming too boring. Friday promised to be a rather full on day of music, so I headed into the area early enough to catch the opening band on the Second Stage...

Fury:
Fury are an English traditional/power metal band from Worcester and they had the unenviable task of opening the music on the Second Stage. That being said, their set turned out to be a triumph, as metalheads had turned out in quite considerable numbers for the time of day to catch one of the few out-and-out melodic metal acts of the weekend. While I felt the vocals were a little weak compared to many other bands in the genre, the twin lead guitar playing was fantastic and the songwriting was generally very strong. They only had about half an hour on stage, but they made it count with a punchy set of well-crafted melodic metal. There seemed to be quite a few Fury fans in the crowd, as was evidenced by the cheer, and the crowd sing-a-long, for the power ballad Britannia which came towards the end of the set. The band impressed me, and I shall definitely be checking them out in the future.

As soon as Fury had finished it was time to head over to the Ronnie James Dio Stage (called the Main Stage from now on) to catch my first band of the weekend on the 'big' stage...

Gloryhammer:
Gloryhammer have become incredibly popular in a short space of time, and their Rhapsody of Fire-esque epic power metal both celebrates and lampoons the genre in equal measure. Despite suffering from poor sound throughout their set (the Main Stage was plagued with iffy sound throughout the weekend, not helped by some surprisingly high winds at times) the English band made the most of their time on stage with a set of well-crafted and melodic power metal. I saw the band supporting Blind Guardian in May, and the set seemed to be pretty much (if not exactly) the same as then, but this was no issue as the songs they have picked to play live are the most anthemic and enjoyable in the band's catalogue. The between song banter, which again was almost identical to the show in May, really does wear thin after a while however, and it just makes you wish they had played an extra song instead! That being said, songs like Legend of the Astral Hammer and The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee are guaranteed to get a metal party started, and the large crowd that was gathered to see them lapped it up. I am sure Gloryhammer will be back at the festival in the future.

After Gloryhammer's good set, I headed back over to the Second Stage to catch:

Brutai:
There was a distinct lack of progressive music at Bloodstock this year, so while Brutai are not the best example of the genre, I went to check them out anyway to hear something different. I have heard some of their songs online and thought they sounded quite good, but I did not think their performance at Bloodstock was that strong. For a start, there was a pitifully small crowd in the tent to watch them (they clashed with Evil Scarecrow, who are a Bloodstock favourite although I really do not get the hype surrounding them) which really killed any atmosphere the band were trying to create, and the subtitles of the band's music that is present in their studio recordings are just lost live. I like the mix of clean and harsh vocals, and some of the riffs are great, but for some reason their performance just came over as flat. I also felt that their keyboard player was hugely underused, and often was relegated to banging on a floor tom for extra percussion, and this meant the band missed out on the layers of sound and melody that keyboards can give when they are used at their best. While I have enjoyed the band on record in the past, I am not convinced by them as live act and came away from their set disappointed.

I had a bit of a break for food and a chill out after Brutai's set, but it was not long before I was back at the Second Stage for...

Meta-Stasis:
I cannot say that I went to see Meta-Stasis with any expectation to genuinely enjoy them (and I did not really) but I went to be entertained and I was! This band seem to have filled the void left by The Defiled's break-up, with their heavy, industrial-laced sound, and grimy look. They are much heavier than The Defiled ever were however, and bring to mind early Slipknot at times with their groovy riffing and barked vocals. Their stage antics and crowd interaction was top-notch, and there was quite a good-sized crowd in the tent for their set, which was a stark contrast to Brutai's set earlier in the day. I cannot say that I will ever be a fan of this band, as there is next to no real melody in their music, but they were tight and heavy and created a great atmosphere during their short set. Entertaining if nothing else!

There was a bit of lull for me after their set, so it was back to the tent for a short nap to catch up on energy for long evening ahead. Feeling more refreshed, it was back to the Main Stage for the first act announced for this year's Bloodstock...

Venom:
I have never been a massive Venom fan, but I was not going to pass up on a chance to see the British extreme metal pioneers playing a rare UK show. It had been 10 years since Cronos (vocals/bass guitar) and his band had played a gig in the UK, so they were one of the biggest draws of the festival for a lot of metal fans. Rather unsurprisingly there was a large crowd gathered for their hour long set which seemed to be pretty well received. I am pretty unfamiliar with the band's work, but the thrashy, heavier take on the NWOBHM that they play came across well live, despite a fairly rough live sound. I did find guitarist La Rage's (what is up with these awful stage names?) tone pretty harsh on the ears however, especially during his fairly tuneless solos. When the band were rocking however, they stirred up some real energy which was great, backed up by drummer Dante who has some serious chops. Cronos' between-song banter and crowd interaction was extremely annoying however. He moaning about playing in the day, he moaned about not being able to get enough UK shows (if bands no-one has heard of can play to 10 people in a bar, I am sure Venom can get booked somewhere - probably just in smaller venues than Cronos thinks they deserve), and he moaning about not playing at Download. He just came across as bitter the whole way through, despite his dry Northern sense of humour, and it rather put a cloud over what was a largely decent set. I cannot say that I have come away a Venom fan, but I am glad that I have has the chance to see them.

Behemoth:
Up next on the Main Stage were Behemoth. While the Polish black metal band will never be a favourite of mine, I own a few of their albums and do enjoy listening to them from time to time. Like Venom, their performance was announced at last year's festival to build some hype for this one. It was also announced at the time that they were going to be performing their latest album The Satanist in full. The album is one of their best-received pieces of work, and an album I genuinely enjoy quite a lot so I was looking forward to this set. Unfortunately, the sound throughout Behemoth's whole set was really poor, and that hampered my enjoyment of it. Music like this needs to be extremely tight with powerful, clear live sound to work. You could tell the band were tight and were putting on a good show, but the sound was so muddy that it lost all of it's power. This was a shame, as Behemoth have an excellent reputation as a live band and it seemed that this performance will not go down as one of their best. That being said, the show was great. Nergal (vocals/guitars) prowled the stage with his various capes, masks, and props as he brought the visceral album to life, and he proved himself to be one of the best frontmen in the genre. I enjoyed the set, despite the poor sound, but it just makes me wish to see them again in a proper venue where the sound will no doubt do the band justice.

Twisted Sister:
Headling the Main Stage on the Friday night were American metal legends Twisted Sister. The band are currently on their farewell tour, and this performance at Bloodstock was their last ever live show in the UK, which make this an event rather than just a normal rock show! I had never seen the band before, so this was one of the reasons I bought my ticket for the festival this year in the first place. I have been a big fan of the band for a few years, and I was not about to pass up the opportunity to see them live for the first (and only) time. Rather unsurprisingly, a huge crowd was gathered throughout the set, and the noise created from the fans was easily the loudest of the whole weekend. The set was packed full of classic songs, and the opening double salvo of What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You) and The Kids are Back really got the party started as frontman Dee Snider strutted his stuff screaming the lyrics at the huge crowd and Eddie Ojeda (guitar/vocals) peeled off the energetic guitar solos with ease. Despite coming of age in the time of hair metal, Twisted Sister were always heavier and rawer than that, but still manage to create a feel-good party atmosphere with their snarling, anarchic music. Early highlights were the theatrical Like a Knife in the Back and, after a heartfelt thank you speed from founding member Jay Jay French (guitar/vocals), the anthemic The Fire Still Burns which saw a massive roar from the crowd. Snider then explained that I Am (I'm Me) was their first hit single over here in the UK, and even got them on Top of the Pops, so they proceeded to play it and the whole place was jumping. I do not think it can be understated how good Snider is as a frontman, and he has to be one of the best (if not the best) that I have ever seen live. He really knows what to say (being rude about Download as they would not book Twisted Sister saw huge cheers) and always has the crowd eating out of his hands. I Wanna Rock unsurprisingly was one of the best-received songs of the night, but it was the power ballad The Price that was my personal highlight. It was lovingly dedicated to those legends of rock who have died recently, including Lemmy and the band's own A.J. Pero, and Ojeda's soaring leads and the heartfelt chorus really summed that tribute up. The set came to an end with the epic We're not Gonna Take It, which was extended with lots of crowd interaction, and a punky take on The Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It) which they used to play a lot in their early club days. There was of course to be an encore, and the band were given permission to play for longer than they were originally allotted. That meant three more songs an some extended thank you speeches came next, including a great version of Shoot 'em Down from their first album, and their ode to the fans S.M.F. which closed out one of the best festival headline sets I have ever seen. The setlist was:

What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)
The Kids are Back
Burn in Hell
Destroyer
Like a Knife in the Back
You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll
The Fire Still Burns
I Am (I'm Me)
I Wanna Rock
The Price
I Believe in Rock 'n' Roll
Under the Blade
We're Not Gonna Take It
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It) [The Rolling Stones cover]
-
Come Out and Play
Shoot 'em Down
S.M.F.

Due to the fact that Twisted Sister started late and went over their allotted time, I decided to give Diamond Head a miss on the Second Stage. I had wanted to see them, but they were already a good way through their set by the time I was walking past. I was feeling very tired by this point, and was in the mindset that nothing I could see could beat the set I had just seen. I headed off to bed, and managed an excellent night's sleep with a pretty long lie-in - I must have needed it. Saturday was easily the weakest full day of a festival, with few must-see acts for me. Due to my lie-in, I was getting ready while Cambion were playing on the Main Stage (I could hear them from the campsite), and by the time I headed down to the festival site, Kill II This were playing. Their 1990s style nu-metal did nothing for me whatsoever, and judging by the fairly small crowd gathered I cannot have been alone in this. I had some paella for lunch, which was really delicious, and hung around until...

Vallenfyre:
Despite not being a huge fan of death metal I do own both of Vallenfyre's albums. The band were formed in 2010 by Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh to play heavier music than his day job. Instead of playing guitar in Vallenfyre however, Mackintosh sings and it turns out he possesses some serious harsh vocal power. Vallenfyre are extremely heavy, with a very raw, dirty sound that suits Mackintosh's rough voice. There was a decent-sized crowd gathered for their set, and there was probably the slowest circle pit of the weekend during one of their songs. Mackintosh instigated this as part of his dry Northern sense of humour, but it worked as their music has a big doom influence in it. This was easily the heaviest set that I saw all weekend, and it was a stand-out set in a day that did not hold much in store for me personally.

I headed back to the tent afterwards as I was not interested in Akercocke's set, but ventured back in time to catch the last few songs of Rotting Christ's set. I did not see enough of them to really judge properly, but what I heard I liked. Their symphonic death metal was really interesting, and I shall definitely have to give them a proper listen at some point! Despite not really being a Fear Factory fan, I wanted to check them out as they are one of the most legendary metal bands from the 1990s, but a couple of numbers into their Main Stage set I was reminded as to why I have never got on with them. There is little melody in their music, and Burton C. Bell's live vocals border on terrible. As you can imagine, I did not stick around for long. After them on the Main Stage however were...

Paradise Lost:
The English doom/goth band were easily my most anticipated band of the day having seen them put on good shows twice before. Despite this showing not being as strong as the other time seeing them, they seemed to be going through the motions somewhat, you cannot doubt the quality of the material on show. Playing a good mix from their melodic middle career albums, and their heavier bookend works, the set was varied and had something to please everyone. Three from their heavy latest album The Plague Within were featured, including the crushingly slow Beneath Broken Earth and the gothic opener No Hope in Sight. Greg Mackintosh (guitar), appearing on the Main Stage for his second show of the day, has always been a very underrated guitarist and showed why with tortured lead after tortured lead that really adds plenty of emotion to the band's sound. Frontman Nick Holmes was in fine voice, and humour, but for some reason their set lacked a certain spark. That being said, older single The Enemy is still a great live song, and the synthy closing number Say Just Words is always a fun song to sing along to. Paradise Lost can, and will, do better; but this was still an enjoyable set from a veteran band who are well liked in the scene. The setlist was:

No Hope in Sight
Pity the Sadness
Hallowed Land
Rapture
Flesh from Bone
Eternal
Beneath Broken Earth
The Enemy
The Last Time
Embers Fire
Say Just Words

I saw bits of both Gojira and Mastodon, but neither really did much for me. I saw Gojira supporting Trivium nearly ten years ago (and will see them later this year with Alter Bridge), but their techy metal does nothing for me despite them being technically excellent. Mastodon are a band I have never been able to get into either, despite numerous attempts to and liking the odd song. I spend most of their set with a friend which seemed like a much better use of my time. As I have said before, I was quite disappointed with Saturday's line-up, and it did not help that it was sandwiched in between two pretty full days of music. Still, I went to bed that night fairly happy as I knew there was a lot for me to see on the festival's final day. Sunday was pretty full on, so another good night's sleep was extremely welcome. The day got off to a pretty bad start however with the dreary black metal of Ghost Bath who, despite a genuinely excellent piano number to end the set, managed to sound utterly horrible throughout with wordless vocal screams thrown in at random during every song and very few actual lyrics to speak of. I cannot think of much else to say about them, apart from they are one of the worst bands I have ever seen live. Luckily after them things picked up with...

Heart of a Coward:
This metalcore quintet from Milton Keynes managed to blow away the cobwebs from Ghost Bath's horror show, and produced the first good set in a line of many seen from Bloodstock's Sunday bill. I had seen the band as a support a couple of times in the past, and have enjoyed them, but I feel this performance was the best I have seen from them. I was quite surprised at the size of the crowd gathered to watch them, as I would have thought their sound was a bit too polished and mainstream (for want for a better word) for many of those at Bloodstock, but it seemed that quite a lot of the large crowd enjoyed their set. There were plenty of circle pits opening up as their played and their techy, downtuned riffs went down a storm. Jamie Graham (vocals) is a great frontman too, and really managed to work the crowd up into a frenzy at times, which was impressive for a band on so early in the day. I expect they went home with a few new fans, and it reminded me that I really need to give their albums a proper listen!

There was a bit of drifting about for a couple of hours until the real full-on home run of bands at the end of the day. I saw bits of Unearth, Metal Allegiance, and Satyricon on the Main Stage during this time, and Divine Chaos on the Second Stage. Neither of these bands really stood out for me, but none of them were awful, and I was entertained flitting between different things. The last four bands on the Main Stage were the ones I was looking forward to the most however, and it was easily the best run of bands of the whole weekend for me. This golden patched started strongly with...

DragonForce:
In a line-up that was fairly devoid of good quality power metal (with the exception of Gloryhammer) DragonForce stood out as one of the best representations the genre has to offer. While derided in the past for poor live performances, the band have upped their game over the past few years with a tighter live show and some genuinely excellent albums. Despite illness that had effected him before the show (and, sadly, since) frontman Marc Hudson performed and did not display any signs of weakness. Technical difficulties at the start of their set reduced the time they were on stage, but they made their five songs count with a powerful and tight performance. Five DragonForce songs still take up quite a bit of time however, so there was no feeling of being short changed, despite being left wanting more at the end. Holding On was a fantastic opening number, and the newer epic Symphony of the Night, which contains one of Hudson's best vocal performances, was really well received and driven by Vadim Pruzhanov (keyboards) horror-influenced harpsichord. Cry Thunder was one of the anthems of the weekend, and saw the large crowd fist-pumping along with the band and singing the chorus with all their might. It is good to see that more metal fans are embracing DragonForce now, as they are a great fun live band. The set came to an end, unsurprisingly, with Through the Fire and Flames that saw plenty of air guitaring mimicking the on-stage antics of guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman. Overall, despite the technical issues and dodgy sound for the first number or so, this was a fantastic set. The setlist was:

Holding On
My Spirit Will Go On
Symphony of the Night
Cry Thunder
Through the Fire and Flames

Symphony X:
Following on from DragonForce's high-energy set were American progressive metal giants Symphony X. I finally saw the band for the first time back in February at the Islington Assembly Hall, and it stands out as one of the best performances I have seen this year so far. The sheer energy the band manage to create on stage despite playing technically challenging and complex material is astounding, and as a result this was one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. The band did not disappoint, and this was easily my second favourite set of the weekend after Twisted Sister. Despite a smaller crowd than is average for a slot this late in the day, Symphony X were a triumph at their first Bloodstock, and I am sure they won many sceptical metalheads over with their performance. Their set was a condensed version of what they played earlier in the year, with material from their latest album Underworld dominating the show. The first six songs played (seven if you include the intro) were from this album, with the thrashy Kiss of Fire being an early highlight and showed why Russell Allen (vocals) is probably the best out and out metal singer in the world right now. His diversity is incredible, and he has the stage presence to match. Michael Romeo (guitar/vocals) was probably the best technical player on display all weekend, and his stunning riffs and neo-classical soloing was on point throughout the set. The Underworld portion of the set came to a close with the epic To Hell and Back with Allen wearing various masks throughout the performance of the song for theatrical affect. The only negative aspect of the set was that Michael Pinnella's keyboards were often buried in the mix, meaning the atmospheric and symphonic elements of the band's sound were often drowned out. Three older songs followed, including the Malmsteen-esque Sea of Lies, the groovy Serpent's Kiss which was the only song played that did not feature in their London set, and the triumphant set closer Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies). This final song had even the most casual fans singing along loudly, and brought their majestic set to a powerful end. Bloodstock needs more bands like this in the future, and they are a good change from all the thrash and extreme metal. The setlist was:

Overture
Nevermore
Underworld
Kiss of Fire
Without You
Run with the Devil
To Hell and Back
Sea of Lies
Serpent's Kiss
Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)

Anthrax:
Anthrax are one of the best live thrash bands around, so a special guest slot from them as the penultimate band of the weekend was always going to be something special. Since I last saw the band, supporting Slayer in Plymouth last November, they have released the album For all Kings which was heavily featured in their hour-long set at the festival. Despite having seen the band twice previously, this was the first time I saw them play with Charlie Benante (drums), who seems to sit out more live dates than the plays these days. This set was a total whirl of energy, and the new number You Gotta Believe really set the tone for the rest of the show and worked well as an set opener. As expected, there was a very large crowd gathered for Anthrax's set, and there was plenty of movement and circle pit action going on throughout. Caught in a Mosh and Madhouse really got the old-school fans rocking as these bona fide thrash classics filled the festival site with noise backed up by Scott Ian's (guitar/vocals) powerful riffs. Frontman Joey Belladonna was in fine voice throughout, although he shone the most during the newer numbers. Fight 'em 'til You Can't has become a true live classic now, and was greeted by almost as bigger a cheer as the older numbers. One of the real highlights of the set for me was Breathing Lightning from the new album, as it features a killer chorus that really came across well live. The set ended with an extended version of Indians, and one of the biggest circle pits opened during the wardance section and ensured the set ended on a high. Anthrax always deliver live, and this was no exception, and was one of the best sets of the weekend. The setlist was:

Impaled
You Gotta Believe
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time [Joe Jackson cover]
Madhouse
Fight 'em 'til You Can't
Evil Twin
Antisocial
 [Trust cover]
Breathing Lightning
Indians

Slayer:
While Slayer will never be one of my favourite bands, they are indisputable legends and have a reputation and legacy perfect for headlining Bloodstock. I saw the band for the first time in Plymouth last November and enjoyed the show, so was looking forward to seeing them again. Slayer are definitely past their prime when it comes to playing live, and are surprisingly static for a band who has created some of the fasted and most vicious thrash metal music ever. There is sometimes a feel of a band going through the motions when watching Slayer live these days, but the songs are still there, and a surprisingly decent live sound mix at Bloodstock made their set enjoyable and a perfect closing to a good weekend. Songs from throughout their career were played, with the title track of their latest album Repentless opening things up. There were plenty of oldies for the long-time fans, including The Antichrist from their debut album and Hell Awaits late on from their second. It took the crowd a while to get going, but by War Ensemble they were really into it with plenty of moshing and movement happening. Tom Araya (vocals/bass guitar) was in fine voice, but his strange between-song chats made it seem like he was not all that interested in being there at times, which was a shame. That being said, guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt were rocking out, churning out those caustic riffs and peeling of shredded solos in every song. The last portion of the set was easily the best, with the doomy Seasons in the Abyss really standing out, as did the mid-paced chug of South of Heaven. Raining Blood and Angel of Death are two of the best thrash songs ever written, so it was fitting that they ended the set (and by extension, the festival) with these pit anthems. There had been better sets at the festival, but Slayer's set was still enjoyable and they had the stage show to go with it (inverted crosses shooting fire are always going to go down well at a metal festival!). The setlist was:

Delusions of Savior
Repentless
Disciple
The Antichrist
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
When the Stillness Comes
You Against You
Mandatory Suicide
Fight Till Death
Die by the Sword
Necrophiliac
Postmortem
Born of Fire
Seasons of the Abyss
Dead Skin Mask
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Angel of Death

Overall, this was another great weekend of live music, my second is as many weeks. Despite a fairly poor line-up on the Saturday, and a lack of really good melodic metal at times, I had a great time and saw lots of fantastic bands. Twisted Sister were easily the main highlight, followed closely by Symphony X and Anthrax. There are a few bands I could not see due to clashes, and I am gutted that I could not see Whispered, Pythia, and One Machine due to this. Myrath pulling out for unknown (and seemingly covered up - there was not an official announcement for days and the band never seemed to acknowledge it) reasons was a huge disappointment. Whether I return to Bloodstock next year will depend on the band's playing, but this year was pretty good, and I hope to see the festival return again stronger next year.

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