It’s early August, which can only mean one thing - it’s time for a ton of metal and plenty of booze at the mighty Bloodstock Festival! It’s day one and the faithful have descended in their hordes to Catton Park… and is that the sun we see poking out behind the clouds? Let’s do this!
Kicking off proceedings in fine style, London groove metallers Silas  prove to be a fine way of shaking off those hangovers. That and more beer of course. Talking of alcohol, Raging Speedhorn  are just one of those bands that just scream out for you to down a few and get down the front. If the beer-soaked pits that whip up as the Corby bruisers rip through a stormer of a set are anything to go by, Bloodstock thoroughly agrees.
Word is obviously spreading about Worthing’s favourite punk noise duo Oaf  because it’s a packed out crowd that greets Metal Hammer’s very own Dom Lawson along with the extremely dapper James Rayment as they hit the stage for half an hour of brilliantly puerile humour and songs about menacing oceanic birds.
It’s classic thrash ahoy as John Bush leads the charge with Armoured Saint  It’s easy to forget sometimes just what a superb vocalist Bush is, but this powerhouse performance certainly proves to be a huge reminder.
Belphegor. Pic: Kevin Nixon
It’s odd that the sun should choose to blaze out from behind the clouds at the exact moment the bloodied black metallers Belphegor  hit the stage. Bright blue skies and wilting heat may not be the most necro of settings for the Austrians’ particular brand of icy metal, but that’s certainly not stopping the corpsepainted throng up front from throwing two claws to the sky!
Enslaved. Pic: Kevin Nixon
Word has broken that Nordic legends Enslaved  have had their gear go missing on the journey over to Bloodstock. Thankfully though the Norwegians make it onstage with some borrowed instruments and go about putting on a masterclass of progressive blackened metal that is a joy, despite the searing heat. Thank the gods!
Ihsahn. Pic: Kevin Nixon
After his frankly amazing headline set with Emperor last year, Ihsahn  returns once again to the hallowed grounds of Bloodstock in his solo guise. Any show featuring the blackened prog metal wizard always promises to be something special, and so it proves again as (despite some technical issues making things a bit of a stop/start affair) tracks such as Frozen Lakes On Mars, a reworking of the Emperor’s Thus Spake The Nightspirit and new track My Heart Is Of The North both amaze and lift the spirit.
London sludgy doom bruisers Hang The Bastard  are not exactly known for being the most chipper of bands, and this is certainly not the most dynamic of sets you’re ever going to see, but more of steady, consistent bludgeoning that ends with you wandering out into the sunlight somewhat dazed by what you’ve just witnessed.
One of the many great things about Bloodstock is the way that it showcases some of best unsigned talent around, and Piss Viper 6 seem to be relishing the chance play the festival and impress with their wares on the New Blood stage - and for the most part at least, they do just that.
Sabaton. Pic: Kevin Nixon
Whatever side of the fence you stand on with full-on power metal, there is no denying the huge popularity of Sweden’s Sabaton  has in the UK. Bringing their full stage production, including a full on frenzy of pyro and nothing less than a full size battle tank to a British festival for the first time, tracks such as No Bullets Fly, Panzercampf and Swedish Pagans has the biggest crowd the mainstage has seen all day eating out of their hands. Joakim Brodén beams ear to ear as Primo Victoria has everyone jumping, and by the time Metal Crue sees things to a close in a shower of confetti, it’s a job well and truly done. If they could just try and refrain from the cringe-worthy attempts at comedy next time.
Trivium. Pic: Kevin Nixon
A few eyebrows were raised when Florida metallers Trivium  were announced as one of this year’s headline acts, and as is the way these days, the internet has been abuzz with people decrying their inclusion at the top table. The proof is always in the performance though, so would they prove themselves worthy?
It’s not exactly the most auspicious of starts as Corey Beaulieu is forced to sit out the first couple of songs due to severe tech difficulties with his guitar - including a live airing of new track (and new direction) Silence In The Snow, but by the time they storm through Becoming The Dragon, the four piece have hit their stride and are away. Built To Fall, Anthem, and a live premiere of new track Blind Leading The Blind are equally blasted out with gusto, and you just can’t help but to be impressed by both the fret wizardry on display and just how damn tight Matt Heafy and co are. Yet, with all of that, there’s just something missing here - that spark that makes a top headlining act so memorable is teetering on absent, but Pull Harder On The Strings of Your Martyr brings things to an monumental close. Solid and slick from the band’s first ever UK festival headline slot. Bravo boys.