The world has gone mad. Chaos reigns. But one thing is always certain: Bloodstock Open Air will rule harder than a bloodthirsty Egyptian pharaoh. The bars are open. Let there be metal! Playing the Sophie Lancaster Stage, THE INFERNAL SEA  become more potent with every passing performance. This is one of their best: an impassioned display of distorted, oddball treachery, before BATTLE BEAST  turn Thursday night into a celebration of metal’s singalong power with wall-to-wall anthems and Noora Louhimo’s extraordinary voice threatening to bring the tent crashing down. FOREVER STILL  are Main Stage openers on the Friday, but really shouldn’t be. Their overwrought and flavourless post-grunge is no one’s idea of a party-starter. CHELSEA GRIN  don’t fare much better. The shudder of the deathcore also-rans’ neverendingbreakdowns please a rabid few, but fail to wake a sleepy majority. WHITECHAPEL  step things up, their grooves punctuated with an extremity and charisma that sets them apart and sets heads banging. Dani Filth’s DEVILMENT  do away with the deathcore, replacing it with lacklustreoperatics that horrify for all the wrong reasons, but SOILWORK  reignite the party with their melodramatic melodeath. They might not quite hit former glories, but they do enough to keep everyone happy, even with some shoddy sound.
At the Sophie Lancaster Stage, CORPSING  provide old-school filth for the malevolent faithful. Their warped death metal is a toxic tonic and one of the most twisted noises at Bloodstock this year. DECAPITATED  are on staggering form on the Main Stage. To dominate your setlist with Anticult tracks that are barely a few weeks old and still bludgeon the crowd into a dumbfounded mess boasts of the band’s confidence and vicious craft. Armed with ageless thrash classics like Into The Pit and new ragers like Centuries Of Suffering, TESTAMENT  can do no wrong and are cheerfully imperious. BLACK MOTH  exude all the hallmarks of a classic band on the SL Stage, with Blackbirds Fall all doomy reverberations and swagger. This weekend’s thrash veterans would welcome a 10th of SHRAPNEL’s  vigour, and with Eternal War they have songs to back it up. It’s not just the gold pyjamas and funky keys that make LIONIZE  stand out, but also the indisputable vibes that engulf the crowd.
BLIND GUARDIAN’s  long-awaited return to Bloodstock on the Main Stage is a preposterous, bombastic triumph, even if Hansi Kursch looks increasingly like a well-dressed solicitor. Day headliners AMON AMARTH  deliver the balls-out Viking spectacle that their rise to headline status demands. Fire? Battling Vikings? Thor’s Hammer? All check. Oh, and a remorseless succession of razor-sharp heavy metal anthems that reduces Bloodstock to a pile of thoroughly delighted smoking rubble. More than a coda, The everlasting permanence of black metal duo INQUISITION’s  blasting, pared-down savagery proves an entrancing spectacle on the SL Stage to close day one.
Recently losing their singer does nothing to slow FALLUJAH’s  exhilarating tech-death, their futuristic, whirlwind detonations providing a rude early awakening on day two. WINTERFYLLETH’s  black metal odes to olde England are delivered with rousing ferocity, inspiring fist pumping chant-alongs in the morning sunshine before HAVOK  attack their Main Stage slot like maniacs and leave the entire festival breathless with pummelling pit-fodder like Hang ’Em High. Though missing guitarist Andrew Beale, the remaining members of KING 810  step up to deliver one of the most visceral and vital sets of the weekend. ANNIHILATOR  seem initially pedestrian by comparison but have the songs and energy to charm both youngsters and old farts alike. MUNICIPAL WASTE  and HATEBREED  are perfect festival bands, the former’s excessive zest and mischievous fire-starting chaos teeing up Jamey Jasta and co for a bulldozing set of evergreen anthems.
The grime/metal of THE ONE HUNDRED  brings a different vibe to the SL Stage, winning over apprehensive punters with punchy swagger. Few young UK bands have the presence of ABHORRENT DECIMATION . Today they’re a brutal, commanding revelation and must surely be Main Stage candidates next time out. The ground shakes when ((OHHMS))  unleash their first monumental, mind-wobbling riff and the tectonic rumble continues until everyone is deaf and shell-shocked. Newly fronted by Bull Riff Stampede’s Jay Walsh, XENTRIX  sound like a work in progress, but the old classics still rule. Veterans of underground metal at its most hideous, MACABRE  slither and churn majestically as they close out the second stage. We will all have nightmares. On the Main Stage, KREATOR  consolidate their legacy as godfathers of the nastier end of thrash as a sea of heads bangs in the sunset. Anticipation has been brewing all weekend for GHOST , and they prove worthy of closing Saturday’s ceremonies. Already-great songs like He Is, Zombie Queen and Elizabeth are elevated to anthems amid reverent worship and mass singalongs. Ghosthave arrived.
Mancunian upstarts BROKEN TEETH  stamp Sunday morning hangovers into submission with muscular hardcore fuelled by youthful exuberance and venomous indignation, while GRAVIL  make the most of their SL Stage opening slot with a potent concoction of metallic precision and rousing anthem Fractured, Divided. VENOM PRISON  continue to impress. Their hardcore-infused death punishes with an intense delivery and visceral time changes. BRUJERIA  are daft but hugely entertaining. If nothing else, Matando Gueros still slams and we’ve all learned a bit of Español. Visibly revitalised, Jeff Becerra is having the time of his life as POSSESSED  rip the Main Stage crowd several new bumholes. Each. Heaviest band of the weekend, though? OBITUARY , by a mile. From Internal Bleeding to Slowly We Rot, it’s a monstrous display of riff-wielding destruction. HELL  are as musically vicious and theatrically wonky as ever, with mile-high pyro and Dave Bower tottering around on stilts, as camp as Xmas but way more evil.
PUPPY  have an undeniable bite with their brawny arsenal of Smashing Pumpkins-esque grunge and hulking riffs thrilling the SL Stage. Harnessing insatiable energy and searing emotion, SKINDRED  are on raucous form in the open air and that arena-wide Newport helicopter is truly a sight to behold. Live, ARCH ENEMY’s  precision borders on clinical, but necks are snapped gleefully during a visceral Nemesis. From Hangar 18 to Holy Wars, MEGADETH’s  set is an immaculate musical demonstration of how to deliver some of metal’s greatest ever songs, with guitarist Kiko Loureiro on exceptional form. It just about makes up for Dave Mustaine’s vocals, which veer between passable and at times almost incoherent. So it’s up to WINTERSUN  to offer an adventurous climax to a fantastic weekend, and the epic folk metal Finns unleash a starry-eyed blitzkrieg that lingers long into the small hours.