Bloodstock 2016 – Friday
Early this year I took the decision to give BOA a miss, partly due to the lazy bookings of Slayer, Anthrax, and with several of the on the bill still resonating in my ears following their recent UK tours. However, with my oldest buddy Brett reaching a milestone birthday, a day ticket for Friday was purchased for his birthday and we found ourselves off to Catton Hall again.
Accommodation was a hotel rather than camping and with a short taxi ride affordable we were on site not long after 9am. Once again the event staff were professional, friendly and welcoming, in stark contrast to the rent a mob at Download and we were allowed into the site an hour early to catch up with the crew.
As the sun blazed down, the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage filled nicely for opening band Witch Tripper (9). Coming out of Mansfield meant that the guys were almost local and their infectious hard driven stoner rock went down a storm. Energetic, enthusiastic and humble, the band’s short set contained some new material mixed with older tunes. The band are fun to watch and can play a good song, earning appreciative nods all around. My only complaint was that their freebies thrown into the crowd didn't get near me! C’mon guys! A seriously good start.
Heading across the field and ignoring the battering that Hark were giving the main stage we hit the Sophie Lancaster Tent in time to catch the fantasy core lyrics of Worcester’s Fury (8) who put in a strong shift for their 30 minutes. With two full releases now behind them including their recent album Lost In Space, they had no trouble filing their set. Julian Jenkins’ voice is excellent and the band delivered musically with their thrash tinged metal memorable. A superb Britannia and the concluding round of sea shanty Drunken Sailor surely earned this hard working band some new fans. Excellent stuff.
Back into the sunlight and the main stage for the arrival of Gloryhammer (7). Led by Alestorm’s Christopher Bowes, Gloryhammer’s science fiction themed tales of hammers fuelled by their frantic power metal was well known to many in the field, with the tales of Angus McFife and set closer The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee getting huge reactions. Much merriment and dancing throughout although my attention did wander as the set progressed.
The silliness was cranked up to 11 as Nottingham’s Evil Scarecrow (8) returned to the scene of their epic 2014 early morning set which has now gone down in BOA legend. Since that glorious day the band has released their third album, the crowd funded Galactic Hunt which provided new material and thankfully enabled them to drop The Final Countdown. Despite a 40 minute slot the band managed to get through a mere six numbers, but don't take that as a bad thing as it was riddled with ridiculous amounts of audience participation. From the early robot action as Robototron kicked in at song number two, the hilarious double pronged circle pit action in newbie Hurricandao and set closer Crabulon which saw the entire field scuttling left and right once again, it was all brilliantly good humoured fun. I was skeptical about the longevity of this band but once again they proved that when you've had a few beers and the sun is shining Evil Scarecrow is just the ideal festival band. (They didn't play Sheep though even though we here at MoM requested it)
With the idea of watching both Misery Loves Company and Stuck Mojo unpalatable, an hour or so of rest in the shade of the crew’s tent was very inviting. Next up was Pepper Keenan and Corrosion Of Conformity (5) on the RJD stage. I've never warmed to the sludge rock that CoC churn out and ten minutes of their baleful dirge was sufficient to convince me that nothing much had changed. As we wandered around the site to the well appointed Lemmy’s Bar, CoC ground out just under an hour which largely bypassed my senses. Boring and bloated, with little to really focus on? Maybe a little harsh but not much else dulls the senses in that way.
As we awaited Black Metal I (Matt) went over to the Sophie Tent for party rock heaviness XII Boar (7) kicking off to a raucous die hard crowd as hundreds poured to the main arena for Cronos & Co.
The originators of Black Metal, Venom (8) have long been touted for BOA. With only original vocalist and bassist Cronos in the ranks these days, some would argue that Venom Inc currently have more claim to the crown. Whoever is right I don’t know, but to me it’s the voice that always signifies the band and Cronos’s Geordie roar is Venom and no mistake. Disappointingly for the old schoolers amongst us, putting Venom on at tea time in the blazing sun is akin to having red sauce with your bacon sandwich; heresy! (Stief!) When they were first announced we assumed it would be as headliners, complete with the full pyrotechnic show. Unfortunately not to be and it was slightly surreal seeing the originators of the thrash and black metal movements stripped back to the basics in the early evening sun.
A rip roaring set which started five minutes early and overran slightly saw the band open with two from 2015’s excellent From the Very Depths, Long Haired Punks and The Death Of Rock ‘n’ Roll before the Venom Legions roared their approval as Bloodlust erupted into the arena. Oozing the confidence that has always given him the balls to lead the band in his focused way, Cronos stalked the stage, guttural vocals and demonic bass lines flowing. At the back of the stage behind his double bass drums and extended cymbal set up drummer Dante holds all the power that original drummer Abbaddon had whilst guitarist La Rage (Stuart Dixon to his mum) strode about slicing and shredding at will.
The set contained a wide mix of tracks, with Venom focusing more on the present than the past. A decent selection from From The Very Depths was spliced with a trio from Fallen Angels alongside the real old school classics. Whilst the pyro was missing, the energy wasn’t and the band increased in intensity as the set developed. Countess Bathory was greeted with a huge pit and appreciative nods from Pepper Keenan and CoC at the side of the stage. Cronos kept the chatter to a minimum although he took the opportunity to have a dig at the promoters who hadn’t put the band at the top of the bill along with the incredulity that they were performing in bright sunlight. Finishing the main set with a massive Warhead and the fast paced Rise it was inevitable that the band would return to speed through Black Metal. Venom’s shows were always reliant on the stage show and if they can get the headline slot in a year or two the result could be very rewarding for all.
Hitting the Sophie tent after Venom, we found Beholder (7) in full force, ripping through the new more progressive and melodic tracks from their recent 3rd album, Reflections. Playing to a fairly sparse crowd didn’t bother one of BOA’s house bands and they had made the decision to stick mainly with material from the new release. Unfortunately that meant that the songs merged into each other a bit and a mix of older material might have enhanced the set. Frontman and BOA honcho Simon Hall's voice was in fine form though and the band looked and sounded tight and solid
Back to the main stage we arrived as Behemoth (8) arrived with their impressive stage set up. Playing the whole of The Satanist Nergal and co just ripped the stage apart. Their intimidating corpse paint and stage gear is totally supported by the blasting black metal they play. If you were at BOA in 2012 when the band put in one of the most impressive headline shows ever seen you’ll know what we saw. Although the show would have been better in the darkness, the flames still burned as the band hammered the crowd, Inferno battering the skins whilst Seth and Orion prowled the front. Highlights of the set? Well with such a massive album, you could say from start to finish but Ora Prob Nobis Lucifer, Ben Sahar and the title track stood out. I doubt that any black metal band can match the might of the Poles at the moment. Impressive stuff indeed.
Forgoing the final moments of Behemoth’s set, a thinly populated Sophie Tent was the next destination for the first UK festival appearance of German symphonic metal outfit Beyond The Black (9). Not unknown to us (they opened for Saxon in Bristol 2014 - Ed) we watched the band play a stunning set, with Jennifer Haben’s fantastic voice one of the highlights of the day, the band is in the process of being totally overhauled with Jennifer looking for an entirely new band. Now I’m not sure whether the band that played were those musicians who are leaving or just hired guns, but you wouldn’t have guessed anything was different as they powered through some quality European symphonic metal. (They did feel like a totally new prospect to the band we saw open for Saxon - Ed) The band play a single UK show in February with Powerwolf and Epica in London. I would bet a full Welsh pound that members of the Musipedia will be in the audience for that one.
In 2010 Dee Snider and Co. performed a greatest hits sets that rounded off the festival on exactly the right note. Six years later and the band are bringing things to an end. The death of drummer AJ Pero has given the band a reality check and other irons in the fire along with the creep of a band entering their 60s makes a final fling a sensible option. But if you are going out, go out with all guns blazing and make no mistake about it, Twisted Fuckin’ Sister (10) went out in style.
Sister have always been a mighty juggernaut in the live arena, far heavier than on record and their final UK show was an absolute stormer. Playing well beyond the scheduled 90 minutes, every classic was greeted with joy by the crowd and for those of us old enough to remember the days in 1982 when the band hit the UK with such force, choice cuts from the first album were extra special. The skins were thumped in expert style by Mike Portnoy, who must have been very comfortable with the simpler patterns than some his more intricate Dream Theater work. Nevertheless, he did his job superbly and laid down the beat with Mark ‘The Animal’ Mendoza effortlessly. This allowed the riffage from Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda to cut across the night, with stunning fretwork all evening. Of course, the mouth of TFS is Dee Snider, and the man himself, looking incredibly fit and as energetic as those days at the Marquee in 1982, bounded across the stage all evening.
Throughout the emotionally charged set the band referred to the support from the UK which allowed them to continue their career back in the 1980s. French took the opportunity to have a pop at manufactured bands and Simon Cowell’s ‘industry’, whilst Snider made a couple of references to Download and other festivals that were not true to the ethos of Twisted Sister.The set was incredibly well balanced with enough of the real retro stuff to keep the old guard happy. Destroyer, Under The Blade and Shoot ‘Em Down sat comfortably alongside the more recognisable I Wanna Rock and We’re Not Going To Take It. Snider was at pains to confirm that this tour really is there last, barbs thrown at Scorpions, Priest and Kiss at this point.
Closing with a cover of The Stones’ It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, you suddenly realised that this was the last time the make-up wearing shock rockers would be seen on UK shores. At least I hope it is as after all the statements a return would be greeted with shouts of ‘money grabbers’. And then we were into the final song. A brutal and raucous S.M.F. brought the curtain down on the UK live performances of Twisted Sister. Forty and Fuck It read the backdrop. Forty and still amazing would be my statement. Long live Twisted Sister. You will be missed.