Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2016 – Friday

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Bloodstock is always a fantastic weekend with some of the UK, and beyond’s best extreme metal acts coming together into a consistently great lineup. This year was no exception with Behemoth performing landmark album ‘The Satanist’ in full – a logical move considering its importance to extreme music in the past few years and Twisted Sister’s last EVER UK show.

With no further ado though, its over to Hark (7) who are a solid opener for this years Bloodstock mainstage but fail to expand on the initial promise of their riff-heavy stoner. It’s a strong start nonetheless and sets the groundwork for Gloryhammer. (8) Glorious silly, and knowingly over the top, even by the standards of power metal Gloryhammer are still far more than just a gimmick band, being able to fill a forty minute set with plenty of huge choruses and, of course, the obligatory key changes. There might be a bit too much prevarication between songs with the almost obligatory comedy band drinking contest but it’s a strong showing nonetheless.

Evil Scarecrow, (6) in contrast, might be a Bloodstock institution by now but the joke is beginning to wear dangerously thin. The stage show is still impressive but there are just no strong songs to back it up, five years down the road from their Bloodstock debut. The novelty has long worn off and new ideas just aren’t good enough. It doesn’t help that they have to follow Gloryhammer who, although they might have just as many gimmicks, still have plenty of excellent songs.

Over on the Sophie stage Anticlone (5) are equally as unimpressive with their performance consiting mainly of tired takes on nu-metal tropes. Band members in masks, repetitive down-tuned riffs and ‘spooky’ Jonathon Davis-esque hand gestures mid-song leads to a set that drags severely.(JH)

Sweden’s Misery Loves Co (8) had been dormant for almost two decades until this summer. Dapper-dressed frontman Patrik Wiren looked genuinely delighted to be back, especially as a growing crowd was drawn to their BDSM-infused industrial sound.

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Next up on the Ronnie James Dio Stage was American rap rock outfit Stuck Mojo (8). As the afternoon sun beat down the Georgians turned up the heat with a heady mix of southern groove, crunchy riffs and confrontational lyrics. A definite highlight was a vicious “Open Season” – a direct challenge to the Islamist extremists.

Burning the Dream (7) represented Scotland on the New Blood Stage and created an impressive racket mixing prog, thrash and death metal. Paul Kelly can scream with the best and their screaming, roaring bass-heavy drama means they are well worth checking out.) Meanwhile Leeds hard rockers Chasing Dragons (7) impressed a big crowd at the Jagermeister stage. Indelicately-named singer Tank has a great set off pipes on her.

Corrosion of Conformity (9) very appropriately hit the main stage at 4.20pm in glorious sunshine. Last time they played Bloodstock it was without Pepper Keenan, so it was great to see him back at the helm for the heavy, dirty Sabbath-y grooves of “Broken Man” and “Seven Days”. The band’s instruments were lost in Paris so they played on borrowed gear also revealing that drummer Reed Mullin was recovering from knee surgery so “John from Manchester”, a friend of the band, was standing in. “He’s a hooligan! And he learned the set in one day! A triumphant set in spite of the bothers. (NH)

Foetal Juice (9) are gloriously brutal. Razor sharp riffs delivered with venomous force it’s an impressive performance. Singer, Sam , tops up this impressive performance by diving headfirst into his own circle pit at the end of their set.

XII Boar (7) put in a strong showing, with their blasts of down-tuned Southern rock. It’s certainly not particularly original but the trio from Aldershot are obviously accomplished performers by now and have the songs to back it up. (JH)

Home Counties heavyweights End of Salvation (7) attracted a great response on New Blood. The winners of Reading’s Metal 2 The Masses final mixed savage hardcore with death metal. Great stuff.ven

More than three decades after their historic Hammersmith show Venom (8) are still playing by their own stubborn rules. There was keen anticipation to see this Cronos-fronted trio perform in the UK after a ten-year absence. Enormous upside pentagrams swayed in the wind as the band arrived in black outfits and matching red-trimmed guitars. Cronos is an entertaining character and there was a definite air of pantomime while their music is actually rather simple compared to some of the death and black metal bands they inspired. The lyrics are also basic – the line “show no mercy!” appears in at least two. Despite these foibles – and Cronos’ leather trousers – it was great to hear iconic classic “Welcome To Hell” and the obligatory closer that named a genre, “Black Metal”. The crowd reaction was interesting. A few fists flew at the front and horns were raised in salute but it had the vibe of viewing an exhibit. That said Venom’s place in the museum of metal music is forever assured. (NH)

One of several bands performing albums in full this weekend Behemoth (8) probably have the best reason to with their 2014 album ‘The Satanist’ being a hugely important album for modern extreme music. Unfortunately the performance initially loses a lot of impact from a combination of poor sound and bright daylight; black metal completely losing much of the evil permeating the genre in bright sunlight. Fortunately, a utterly ferocious ‘Oro Pro Nubis’ sets the mood properly as the sun sets while an utterly peerless trio of ‘O Father, O Satan, O Sun,’ ‘Ov Fire and the Void’ and ‘Chant for Ezkaton’ closes out their set. (JH)

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The biggest attendance to the festival in Bloodstock’s history gathered to witness the final UK show by hard rock legends Twisted Sister (10) closing out the Friday night. It was always going to be powerful but the band most certainly went out with a bang. Vocalist Dee Snider is without doubt one of the greatest frontman of all time; always entertaining and compelling to watch. Age has not slowed the 61-year-old at all and he displayed an incredibly lithe figure as well an astounding voice. There were more cheers than tears as the band ripped through their impressive back catalogue, with special tribute paid to the UK as the first country that really took notice of them in the early 1980s. They credited Lemmy with pushing them up the ladder, going on to have hits with “I Am I’m Me”, “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. All those and more classics roared across the Derbyshire countryside with occasional explosions of pyro. Snider, who performed a Motorhead tribute with Phil Campbell’s band the previous night, paused to dedicate “The Price” to fallen rock n’ roll heroes including Dio, Lemmy, David Bowie and Twisted Sister’s own AJ Pero, who passed away last year. The late drummer apparently handpicked Mike Portnoy to stand in for him and the ex-Dream Theater man did a great job behind the kit. The final song of the final set in the UK, “S.M.F”, brought an energetic and emotional send off to a close. The band claim, unlike others, there will be no comebacks. It will be interesting to see what the guys do next, because “you can’t stop rock n’ roll!” (NH)

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If the Friday alone sounds good; and that’s without mentioning the fantastic, friendly atmosphere and how well the festival itself is organised then early bird tickets are onsale on the Bloodstock website: https://www.bloodstock.uk.com/

Stay tuned for the Saturday and Sunday coverage coming to you from Rock Sins.

Words by: James Halstead (JH) and Nick Holmes (NH)

Photos by: Tess Donohoe

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