Given their rabid popularity folk/doom metallers Agalloch deserve more than the first slot of the main stage, particularly considering the smaller fanbases of some of the proceeding bands. Nonetheless in an unconventional way, the Americans' take on metal succeeds as fine Sunday morning music. Combining doom metal with black metal, folk, atmospheric music, prog rock and post-rock creates a detailed musical canvas with a multitude of textures occurring per song. The clean vocals are not so easy to hear in the mix but fortunately the dominating growls are very audible. The likes of 'Limbs', 'Falling Snow' (performed under the bright sun) and 'Dark Matter Gods' are fine examples of metal being beautiful but the witnesses nursing their hangovers are not the most responsive.
Brazil's most popular band Sepultura are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year and the number of spectators stretches far. Opening with 'Troops of Doom' from debut album 'Morbid Visions' is a nice touch with its incredibly dirty guitar tone that inspired a multitude of extreme metal acts worldwide. Adherents to the old material are certainly ecstatic to hear so much of these Brazilians' older choice cuts including 'Propaganda', 'Refuse/Resist' and 'Inner Self' with vocalist Derrick Green handling the shouts of original frontman Max Cavalera comfortably. A new song entitled 'Sepultura Under My Skin' is aired out, not treading any new ground and fairly straight-forward. Other tracks from the tail end of their career 'Kairos' and 'The Vatican' do not get as robust a response with their modern sound but of course, closer 'Roots Bloody Roots' has the festival moshing wildly and shouting along to the chorus. This was a set that was sure to appease old and new fans in some way.
The biggest death metal band in existence Cannibal Corpse always appear to be a welcomed addition at Bloodstock with the size of the audience reaching dramatic proportions. Oddly beginning with 'Scourge of Iron', the American behemoths waste no time detonating their ferocious metal and instantaneously coerce the brave into a mosh pit. Vocalist Corpsegrinder headbangs and windmills like a madman while the guitars and bass are more technically accomplished than most people realise. The setlist draws from a large variety of their albums and is sure to include staples 'Stripped, Raped and Strangled', 'I Cum Blood', 'Make Them Suffer' and 'A Skull Full of Maggots'. The most recent material is fairly represented too with songs including 'Icepick Lobotomy', 'Demented Aggression' and 'Sadistic Embodiment'. The most popular track 'Hammer Smashed Face' sees Corpsegrinder offering his usual challenge to people in the audience to keep up with his extraordinary rate of windmilling before unleashing its stripped-down brutality all over Bloodstock. The fans are awarded a final song in the shape of 'Devoured by Vermin' with squeezed out and ends the set on a punishing note.
It is time for guitar hero antics as hard rockers Black Label Society get on stage, appropriately opening with 'The Beginning…At Last'. Frontman Zakk Wylde looks particularly imposing - resembling a hybrid between a Viking and a biker – wielding his guitar, occasionally standing on a small platform to elevate him further while he fires out intricate solos.Hammering through the likes of 'Funeral Bell', and 'Suicide Messiah', the band relays hard rock with a groove influence accompanied by Wylde's gritty vocals. Last year's 'Catacombs of the Black Vatican' sees 'Damn the Flood', 'Heart of Darkness' and 'My Dying Time' collected from it while the rest of the set highlights the band's entire career.
Of course, a guitar solo from Wylde is in order during the set and seems to divide the audience's view as either redundant guitar masturbation or an impressive exhibition of talent. While a vast portion of the field is covered with people, the enthusiasm in the viewers is remarkably low although each song receives a fair applause. In spite of this, Black Label Society are certainly entertaining enough on stage and deserved a better response. Closing with 'Stillborn', the Americans leave the stage but the ambience in the audience is that the show was good but little more than a curiosity.
Playing the Sophie Lancaster Stage rather than the Ronnie James Dio Stage like when they were last at Bloodstock, are '80s thrash titans Onslaught. Opening with the classic 'Let There Be Death' is a superb start and the audience launch into an orgy of headbanging. Their thrashing violence is fuelled by Satan, favouring dark and quite raw guitar riffs rather than embracing the cleanliness found in usually found in their American counterparts. With a collection of old and reunion songs, there is plenty of meat for any Onslaught fan to gorge on. The likes of 'Metal Forces', '66'Fuckin'6' and'Killing Peace' storm the tent and resisting the urge to headbang is tricky. Vocalist Sy Keeler's shouts sound as if they are imbued with evil and his falsettos are even more impressive. The final song is the adored take-no-prisoners 'Onslaught (Power From Hell)' thundering out with overt vigour and allows these Brits to collect a deserved noisy response from the audience.
To sum up, Bloodstock has once again been a fun weekend for British metalheads with a successful dosage of variety. The weather was merciful for the whole event, which is rare for a festival in this country. Heavy metal blasphemers Venom and Polish death metallers Behemoth have already been announced for next year, which will certainly shift some tickets early. Folks living in Britain who have an open-minded taste in metal should definitely attend Bloodstock. Unlike many countries on the continent, this is the sole outdoor metal festival in the UK's possession.
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