Rebecca Black once sang that we had gotta get down on Friday, and there was a lot to be excited about on the Friday. We had the first UK gig of Venom for a decade, the long awaited return to the UK for Stuck Mojo and Misery Loves Co, the biggest shows of their careers for some homegrown heroes as well as the final bow in the UK for Twisted Sister.
As is tradition at Bloodstock, the opening slot on the Friday went to a British band and that honour fell to Hark. Hark were a wonderful start to the day, heavy on the groovy riffs with buckets full of swagger. At times Hark came across as a young Mastodon, confident in their music but not afraid to break from trend. ‘Palendromeda’ closed a fantastic set which resulted in the band going down to the barrier to shake some hands from people at the front. A superb start to the day.
Bloodstock at times has been criticised for not booking enough power metal, so the announcement that Gloryhammer would be gracing the main stage was met with outbursts of joy. The hype was real as Gloryhammer went down as one of the highlights of the festival. Despite their set being a short one, Gloryhammer were nothing but fun. Joking around on stage, having a beer drinking competition with their crew and playing some amazing power metal, it was a delight. What I was surprised about was how loud the crowd were, the crowd were loud for the likes of ‘Universe on Fire,’ ‘Angus McFire’ and ‘Unicorn Invasion of Dundee.’ Gloryhammer were the biggest surprise of the day, a glorious sight to behold.
“We’ll probably see you again in two years,” commented Evil Scarecrow frontman Dr. Hell to the masses that had gathered to watch the band. After all, Evil Scarecrow are the Bloodstock house band. Evil Scarecrow are one of the success stories of Bloodstock, they found their feet and their ever growing fan base because of the festival. Every time they play the festival, the crowd is also one of the biggest of the weekend and 2016 was no different. The 10,000 strong crowd danced the ‘Robotoron’, spun to ‘Hurricanado’ and danced the ‘Crabulon.’ Seeing how willing the fans were to get involved made me realise how loved Evil Scarecrow are; it may not have been their best Bloodstock performance, but it was still a wonderful occasion. If they were to return in 2018, I’m sure people would be up for it again.
The nu metal revival continued on the Sophie Lancaster stage with an appearance by masked marauder’s Anti-Clone. After such a fun performance by the Scarecrow, Anti-Clone never stood a chance. But Anti-Clone for a short amount of time brought back the spirit of nu metal with a tech metal twist to the grounds of Catton Hall. Even though vocalist Mr. Clone’s attempt to rally the crowd borderlined on begging at parts. There’s real promise here with this band; give them twice to grow with a few good albums under their belt and they could grow to become a real force within the UK.
“We haven’t played the UK for sixteen years,” said Misery Loves Co. frontman Patrik Wirén. As one of the many ’90s bands that have been hitting the comeback trail, Misery Loves Co. had the chance to not only win over new fans, but win back fans from before the split. Playing a set of classics, Misery Loves Co. were really enjoyable. You could forgive them for being stale at parts after playing their first few shows on UK soil for over a decade, but when they played a song the audience knew there was no stopping them. “I want to ‘Kiss Your Boots’ Bloodstock!” yelled Wiren as he launched into the aforementioned song name, which recaptured the youth of a ground of older fans in the front. But Misery Loves Co. hit their stride with ‘Your Vision Was Never Mind to Share’ and the infectious ‘My Mind Still Speaks’. It was going to be tough following Scarecrow, but Misery Loves Co. won over a lot of fans and proved that they still had it.
Stuck Mojo stuck out like a sore thumb on the line up. The only rap metal band on the main stage that day and arguably one of the bands with the most mainstream appeal. But Stuck Mojo fit the bill well as at their core they’re a groove metal band that plays heavy riffs while singing devise lyrics. Stuck Mojo were a lot of fun; newer songs from Here Comes The Infidels were hit and miss, but the classics like ‘Pigwalk, ‘Rising’ and ‘Not Promised Tomorrow’ went down an absolute treat. The vocals were loud and the interactions between vocalist Robby J and guitarist Rich Ward were enjoyable and their banter with the crowd was fun. “You can’t be called Richard, that’s my name,” joked Rich at one point. Stuck Mojo may not have been everyone’s cup of overpriced festival tea, but they bought back nostalgia and their heavy riffs were a joy to hear.
Stuck Mojo then joined us in the crowd to watch one of their all time favourites, Corrosion of Conformity. When they took to the stage it was clear that something was amiss as Reed Mullin was not behind the kit. In his place was the band’s drum tech who had to learn the set from scratch a few hours before the show. If you would have never seen the band, you would have never known. “This one goes out to that dickhead Donald Trump,” said Pepper Keenan, dedicating ‘Vote with a Bullet,’ to the Presidential candidate. The energy C.O.C got from their reunion is still flowing as they delivered a reliable, entertaining and downright brilliant set full of classics and gems.
I felt sorry for the bands on the line up that clashed with Venom. With their backdrop flowing in the background, Venom took to the stage for their first UK show in ten years. Venom were a sight to behold, opening with newer material ‘Long Haired Punks’ and ‘The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ but when ‘Bloodlust,’ launched into ‘Welcome to Hell’ and followed it with ‘Countless Bathory,’ the band hit their stride. Venom proved why they were so revered and influential. Cronos, who was on fine form, was laughing, smiling and living up to his crazy persona. “We haven’t played the UK for ten years, what’s that all about?” asked Cronos, adding a few comments about how great heavy metal was. I never thought I’d see Venom so getting to hear classic material live was great. The band left the stage, but quickly nipped back for one more song. “We couldn’t leave without playing this could we!?” said Cronos, as the intro to ‘Black Metal’ rang out over the PA. The pit ignited with the whole crowd singing “Lay down your soul to the gods rock and roll!” Venom came, they saw, they conquered and promised they would return. While the Venom vs Venom Inc damage rages on, I think we can all agree that no matter who sings them, the tunes are killer.
Playing a recent album in full at a festival sub-headline slot may have been an odd choice for any other band, but for Behemoth playing The Satanist in full, it just felt right. The album has had a huge impact, launching the band to a whole new level and bringing many more into the blackened death metal family. Behemoth live were a power house, unrelenting, scarily in sync and at parts, downright terrifying. Behemoth were a sight to behold and put on one of the best sets of the weekend. From the ‘Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel’ opening the show in a grandiose fashion to the confetti canon filled theatrics of ‘O Father, O Sun, O Satan,’ The Satanist was faithfully recreated. But there was still time for more, with the band fitting in ‘Ov Fire and the Void’ and ‘Chant for Eschaton 2000’ to close the set. At the end of the set Nergal announced “It was a great fucking privilege to be here with you tonight Bloodstock, Behemoth fucking loves you and we shall return. Until then stay strong, never give in and hail Satan!” With that the wall of pyro returned and Behemoth departed as conquerors.
It was an emotional end to the Friday as it marked the final appearance of Twisted Sister on UK soil. Everyone was there for them and the show drew the biggest crowd in festival history. Before they started, a video of the band’s history played on the screens showing clips and pictures to the tune of AC/DCs ‘It’s a Long Way To The Top’. With that the band came on one by one and opened with ‘What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You),’ ‘The Kids Are Back,’ ‘Burn in Hell,’ and ‘Destroyer’. The hits came thick and fast but there were emotional moments and moments of comedy. Dee Snider ranted about Download Festival (much to the amusement of the crowd) and the music industry with jokes and stories that were actually funny. He really is one of the best frontmen of all time. But there was also sadness as the band dedicated ‘The Price’ to many of the deceased rock and metal legends we lost recently, included Lemmy and Twisted Sister’s own AJ Pero. What was also nice was that each member of the band got to thank the crowd and the fans, including stand in drummer Mike Portnoy. But what was the best thing about the set was the hits, ‘I Wanna Rock,’ ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and finale ‘S.M.F’ were amazing. With seventeen anthems, Twisted Sister gave an emotional farewell and put on what was arguably the best performance in Bloodstock history.
But it wasn’t over yet as Diamond Head carried on the party in the Sophie Lancaster Tent. The band played a lot of new material, alongside the classics. I was too tired for Diamond Head, but getting to sing the hits such as ‘The Prince,’ ‘Shoot Out The Lights,’ and ‘It’s Electric’ was pretty great. “We have to play this don’t we?” added Brian Tatler before launching into ‘Am I Evil?’ The iconic riffs and chorus was a great end to the day, but it wasn’t a patch on Twisted Sister.