Festival review: Bloodstock Open Air 2016
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Between the 10th and 14th August, the usually tranquil and unexciting locale of Derbyshire’s Catton Park was transformed into the heaviest and most brutal metal festival in the UK. Bloodstock Open Air has built a legacy over the past fifteen years as being a “true” metal event, sticking to the heaviest end of the rock n’ roll spectrum while fellow festivals like Download have been forced to pander to the "commercial" concerns. You’re not getting bands like Muse, Fall Out Boy and Chase & Status at Bloodstock folks! This is where the real hard-hitters play. The 2016 addition to the Bloodstock lineage was a truly unforgettable one, a true rollercoaster of a weekend! Thursday Thursday is the warm-up day, with the main stage out of commission until the Friday. The smaller Sophie Lancaster Stage provided the first night's metal fix. Highlights revolved around legendary Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell who officially opened the festival's very own Lemmy Bar and saying a few heartfelt words to the fallen rock god. “Our music is timeless when you play it loud,” Phil said of the band he dedicated 32 years of his life to, “play it quiet and it sounds crap.” It was a truly bittersweet opening. Later in the evening, Campbell and his new band, the Bastard Sons (★★★★☆), headlined the Sophie Stage. After giving audiences a taste of their upcoming EP by starting with the original track ‘Big Mouth’, they spent the rest of the night performing a series of covers and loving tributes, featuring songs by the likes of Motörhead, ZZ Top and Black Sabbath. After being joined for their closing song by Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider and Corrosion of Conformity front-man Pepper Keenan, it was clear that Bloodstock really was underway. Its first night was truly a non-stop, rock n’ roll party that would have made Lemmy proud. Friday The first full day of Bloodstock 2016 was ushered in by Hark’s (★★★☆☆) performance on the main stage. Nobody envied the group’s task of kicking off an entire weekend and given the circumstances, they pulled off a decent set, even if the crowd was still either waking up or arriving. Hark’s show was blown out of the water by the interactive, hilarious, visual and intense Evil Scarecrow (★★★★★), whose mastery over their crowd is second-to-none. The band are heroes of Bloodstock, having opened the main stage in 2014 and in the process, drew the biggest 11am crowd in the history of the festival. How they were on this early in the day astounds me. However, the sheer success of Evil Scarecrow made me pity Brutai (★★★★☆), who clashed with the band on the second stage and in the process, drew an insultingly small crowd given their ability. Nonetheless, the British five-piece still delivered a performance that showcased great promise on their part; heavy as hell riffs combined perfectly with soaring, melodic choruses to showcase what fans can expect when they drop their debut album later this year. Moving on to later in the day, the old-school British thrashers Venom (★★★★☆) delivered a set that was consistently strong throughout, delving into ‘80s classics like ‘Countess Bathory’ while also displaying newer cuts like ‘From the Very Depths’. Things don’t truly hit the stratosphere, however, until their closing song: the signature anthem ‘Black Metal’. The song truly energised the crowd as well as the band, as front-man Cronos left the mic several times to let the rabid hordes of Bloodstock scream the chorus right back at him.
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