So this was my first Bloodstock. With an eclectic line up it was going to be (and always is) less mainstream than Donnington. This is why I have always fancied it despite not attending.
The Friday was very warm and sunny (perfect festival weather) and the beer was flowing (as usual) so we took the short walk to the arena and made our way to the main stage for the first band.
British metallers Malefice were ready to smash the faces of all that watched them and that they did bringing their metalcore assault with tracks like Architect Of Your Demise and getting the crowd moving at 11 in the morning. They were far better here than they were supporting Devildriver and it shows that in short bursts this kind of angry powerful metal is just the ticket for clearing away the cobwebs on a warm morning. 7/10
This seven-string guitar slinging Scandinavian was featured in Metal Hammer magazine amongst others and is tipped to be a huge draw. However on this evidence this will not happen. If anything she is just a slight novelty of a girl with great guitar prowess. However what lets her down are her ear-piercing screechy vocals that sound like bad King Diamond impression and don't merge with her musical palate which comes from an 80's standpoint, with a decent singer she would have a real chance, disappointing. 4/10
Following this disappointment I moved to the main stage and caught some of German power metallers and my mood was improved instantly. The band play European power metal and sound distinctly like fellow countrymen Helloween. This was very, cheesy, bouncy metal with a frontman who's banter made no sense but overall the band were very entertaining. If there is ever a call for metal in Eurovision Germany have their entry. 7/10
Swedish retro-metal came next from JB and his band of merry Vikings bringing the heavy, chugging metal to Bloodstock with Hammer Of The North and Like The Oar That Strikes The Water the band charged their way throughout the set keeping the crowd on a high that they were still on from Freedom Call. Classic metal always goes down on a sunny day and Grand Magus' enjoyment of what they were doing was infectious. 8/10
Jon Schaffer is now the physical embodiment of Iced Earth now and this was incredibly obvious from their performance. Not that it wasn't entertaining as the the band played a set that included a few songs from their new album as well as some classics (although no I Died For You). The band are very well drilled but this was Stu Block's first festival and his nervousness was very evident. His voice is great but live he is more Ripper than Matt Barlow and some of the Barlow songs lose something because of it. Overall Iced Earth did seem a little boring (I think ending the set with the 9 minute Damien was a bad idea but one that would be repeated). There was no faulting them for effort but they seem to have lost a little lustre, maybe because of the outside setting. 6/10
Death Valley Knights/ Pythia
I managed to catch parts of both bands sets in the Sophie Tent, Death Valley Knights are a biker rock band that have loads of enthusiasm and some great songs that will stand them in good stead, they are not doing anything new but they are doing it well. 7/10
Pythia haven't improved since I saw them supporting Serenity and their mix of metal with Kate Bush vocals really doesn't do it for me. 5/10
A tribute band formed by former band members and featuring Tim 'Ripper' Owens and Toby Jepson on vocals is a great idea but this band are a great festival entertainment but I can never see them as a touring concern. Ripper handles the vocals brilliantly his voice at times mirror that of the great man himself and the way he sings Stand Up And Shout, We Rock and the perennial Holy Diver is brilliant. The weak link however is Jepson who despite having a good voice it is a bit lightweight for these songs. The set was filled with Dio, Rainbow and Sabbath classics and was a great karaoke shout along filled with classic tracks. This show is all about being a tribute to a metal great and with the just Ripper it would be an authentic homage but Jepson taking the majority of the songs just seemed misguided. 7/10
One of Sweden's premier Black metal bands was next and Watain who are famed for their live act did not disappoint featuring ritualistic candles, flames, explosions and lashings of corpse paint and animal blood (some of which thrown onto the crowd) Watain proved to be a very well-oiled Satanic metal machine that were even impressive in the late afternoon sun. This is a band that really bring everything to a stage show and were the perfect appetiser to the headliner. The songs were muscular and powerful and the band went through their set quite quickly but it seemed like final song Waters Of Ain went on for eternity and it meant that their momentum stalled a bit at the end of the set but overall the band were very good and in closed room this would have fantastic power but a little was lost in the outside environment. 8/10
After the crowd were now suitably warmed up (literally) it was time for Behemoth to chill the bones with their esoteric, metallic Polish BM attack. After an intro the immortal Nergal led out his band ready to pummel the audience. The set was a greatest hits set with classics such as Demigod, At The Left Hand Ov God, Slaves Shall Serve and the biblical Christians To The Lions. The set was heavy, loud and Nergal himself shouted his lyrics with vigour and poured everything into his guitar playing and performance. He was playing like a man enjoying his life and after his brush with Leukaemia you can appreciate that. Behemoth have always been one of the leading lights in the BM scene but tonight they seemed like they had something to prove after missing their 2010 performance. By the time the encore of 23 (The Youth Manifesto) and Lucifer had passed the awestruck crowd had been beaten by riffage, burning inverted crosses and explosions galore and were giving the band a rapturous applause. The kings have returned ready to Conquer All. 9/10