With the sun beating down on Catton Hall, hordes of British metal fans have donned their patch jackets and gathered at the altar of Bloodstock. Living up to its reputation as the UK’s premier metal festival, this year’s line-up is their strongest yet with some of the biggest names in our world charging into rural Derbyshire. This is what happened on the first day.
Hark  kick the main stage off with enormous riffs, splendid beards and enough presence to wake the dead. Those here for Mastodon on Saturday will doubtless have discovered a new favourite band via this monstrous display. Bloodstock is officially awake. (DL)
Evil Scarecrow  could dick about for 40 minutes and no one would care… and that’s more or less what they do, but it’s glorious entertainment and a huge crowd laps up every second. Against the odds, Robototron, Crabulon and blazing new tune Hurricanado are beginning to sound like proper metal anthems, albeit really silly ones. For the visual miracle of floating sheep alone, this was another triumph. (DL)
Nu metal called for Anti-Clone , and it wants its shtick back, their aggression unmatched by lumpen musical accompaniment as they tick off the nu-metal checklist. Grooves? Eerie guitars? Gimp masks? A bassist who stands stock still making quirky head movements? Check. It’s like the last 15 years never happened. (TO)
Meta-stasis  get things going properly, stirring up a ferocious circle pit in the afternoon sunshine. Actual songs seem less important than creating an unending assault of primal rage and torrents of double bass; not to mention a keyboard player far too muscular to fit properly in his dress. (TO)
Even though Bloodstock’s parameters have broadened considerably, Stuck Mojo’s  rap metal seems a little out of place. However, the confused faces that meet the opening numbers from new album Here Come The Infidels soon fade once the band settle into a familiar groove of Southern riffs, daft but enjoyable singalongs, and affable bounce. (AR)
There’s inevitably something special when Pepper Keenan leads riff lords Corrosion Of Conformity  into town. Despite playing on borrowed instruments and with a stand-in drummer, they make it look easy with the irresistible Broken Man and colossal stomp of Who’s Got The Fire?. (AR)
It’s been a while since Venom  appeared on home soil, but Cronos is not a man inclined to waste an opportunity. Whether blazing through newer songs like Long Haired Punks and Hammerhead or revered classics like Countess Bathory and a final, balls-out Black Metal, his band’s current lineup have the power and the collective charisma to honour their own legacy and still sound like a bomb going off in Satan’s pantry. War Head is particularly terrifying, and yet stupidly entertaining too. (DL)
Behemoth  in full flight is fearsome, Nergal a diminutive yet commanding presence. He brings star power to black metal, an effortless charisma as he stalks the stage, flanked as ever by his man-mountain lieutenants Orion and Seth. They stand stoic, churning out their blast-pummelled, hellish maelstrom as fire vomits from the stage, playing recent epic The Satanist in full as the sun sets. Slaves Shall Serve is missed, but an explosive Ov Fire And The Void more than compensates. (TO)
The final main stage set of the day turns out to also be the final UK show of Twisted Sister’s  forty year career, and they intend to go out with a bang. Age hasn’t dulled their riffs, or the wit of legendary frontman Dee Snider, who has the crowd in the palms of his hands. The band tear through ubiquitous favourites We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock, treating long term diehards with rarely-aired classics like Under The Blade. A fitting farewell for a band who embody the gleeful defiance that we all love so much about metal. (TO)
Despite still occasionally tinkering with the classic sound that so inspired Metallica back in the day, the Diamond Head  of 2016 feels like a shrewd but subtle upgrade, as the band’s classic songs and tunes from the new eponymous record strike a fine balance between nostalgia and vitality. Filling the after-hours slot with aplomb, Brian Tatler’s crew have always deserved more credit for their contribution to metal’s development: tonight, the roar of a fairly drunk crowd says it all about what these riffs really mean. (DL)
Words by Dom Lawson, Tom O’Boyle and Adam Rees. Photos by: Will Ireland.