Day three offers an exotic buffet of genres, ranging from glass-shattering mathcore to vintage Converse-and-denim thrash to bourbon-marinated Southern rock at its most primal.
Sleep-deprived and running on the hand-trembling potency of coffee, energy drinks and the tooth-eroding confections of the catering table, we strike out for the main stage, where Hollywood Undead  serve up a half-hour of chest-puffing Bizkit worship that loosens an undeniably jubilant audience.
Over at the Jagermeister stage, Marmozets  introduce themselves to Ohio with a swagger and brutality that belies their youth. Guitarist Sam MacIntyre takes his axe into the crowd for some mid-song crowd surfing during a high-octane set that includes Captivate You and Why Do You Hate Me?
The day is still relatively early and over on the main stage, the Pretty Reckless  deliver a bluesy clutch of bullshit-free rock that ultimately fails to energise a fidgety crowd.
Within a matter of minutes, dark, foreboding skies give way to a blinding sun that casts a skin-peeling heat on the main stage, where Anthrax  proceed to administer a thrash metal beatdown as only the New York legends can. Unleashing a raft of fan favourites like Caught In A Mosh, Got The Time and Indians, the boys are agile, hostile and mobile in all the right ways, with Charlie Benante marking his much-anticipated return to the fold.
Due to a pulverising illness afflicting frontman Jay Buchanan, Rival Sons  are forced to pare their performance down to four songs, but you wouldn’t know it from Jay’s heroic performance, with the whole band tapping into an otherworldly energy that connects with the massive audience on a deep, nearly-spiritual level. During the set, Frank Bello, Scott Ian and Charlie Benante sit on the side of the stage, grinning and bobbing their heads like proper fanboys and when the band finish, they excitedly wait behind the stage for a chat.
It was only a few years ago that Halestorm  were playing the tiny Jagermeister stage at Rock On The Range and this afternoon they take the main stage as conquering heroes — a Grammy under their belt and a near-capacity crowd losing their collective shit at the very first notes of Love Bites. Self-appointed metal purists might scoff at their mainstream-friendly pop sensibilities, but today’s crowd roar with delight for Freak Like Me and the band’s latest single, Amen. Back in the TeamRock compound, we take a moment to hydrate and to broadcast an ad-hoc discussion on Periscope as to our respective favourite Iron Maiden songs.
We thought we had seen the biggest Ernie Ball stage crowd during the Babymetal set yesterday, but Motionless In White  have them beat. Their latest album might lack a sonic focus — spanning so many distinct genres — but today their set is united under taut industrial grooves, bouncy tempos and the charismatic gravity of Chris Motionless, who gushes, “I wanna fuck every single one of you right now!” Sorry mate, we’re not that easy.
“Let’s play a Johnny Cash song for B.B. King,” proclaims Volbeat  frontman Michael Poulsen, before launching into Ring Of Fire. Volbeat have spent the past five years relentlessly touring the United States as headliners, support acts and in massive package tours, and the utterly thunderous response that greets them suggests that it was time well spent, and tonight they run through the old favourites we’ve been hearing for the past couple of years, such as Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood, Sad Man’s Tongue and The Mirror And The Ripper.
To their massive credit, the Rock On The Range audience has loudly supported today’s genre potpourri with evenhanded enthusiasm, so while Rise Against  lie in sharp sonic contrast to most of today’s acts, the punters receive them wildly. While the first half of the set, including Ready To Fall and Help Is On The Way, strikes a chord with the crowd, an acoustic cover of Neil Young’s Ohio falls a bit limp, though they finish strong with Savior.
Rounding out an eclectic trio of headliners, Linkin Park  are nearing the end of the touring cycle for The Hunting Party, and tonight they equal first night headliner Slipknot’s draw in both size and volume, kicking the set off with the deafening version of Papercut. While the atmospheric texturing and poppy dynamics of Linkin Park’s earlier forays have obscured their metal roots, tonight the multiplatinum rap-metal pioneers sound exceedingly heavy behind a siege of concussive grooving on tracks like Rebellion, Runaway and From The Inside.
The utterly ecstatic crowd sing along, pogo and sneak in a few last sets of crowdsurfing straight through the final notes of a hits-rich, ninety-minute set. From the baffling weather to the genre-spanning lineup, day three has diverged sharply in both vibe and tempo from the first two days and yet it has felt like the easiest instalment yet. A horn-throwing celebration from start-to-finish, this year’s Rock On The Range has been one hell of a party, boasting world class headliners, a rich sampling of genres and top-notch facilities. Our muscles ache, our ears ring and we haven’t eaten properly all weekend, but we’re already looking to next year.
All photos by Stephanie Cabral.