With energy levels and festival excitement still high, quality acts such as Welsh black metallers Agrona, Norfolk thrashers Shrapnel, Liverpool doom/sludge merchants Conan, and a reinvigorated and retooled Evile invade the Sophie Lancaster Stage, decimating all before them. Birmingham grindcore legends Napalm Death complete the day’s entertainment with a reliably devastating set, the crowd gathered outside the tent almost as huge as the one inside.
Highlights on the New Blood and Jagermeister stages include Welsh hard rockers Häxan, Manchester thrashers Beyond Salvation, Essex death metal act Beyond Extinction, Northern Ireland Metal to the Masses winners Elder Druid and Liverpudlian headliners Colpocleisis who entertain the crowd with their own particular brand of angry-pig-being-sucked-down-a-drain death metal.
Being Friday means it’s time for the Ronnie James Dio Stage to come wading in with elbows flying and what better way to start than with Manchester death metal bastards Foetal Juice who kick off in the noisiest, dribbliest way possible. Despite a few technical issues, Berkshire’s finest, Divine Chaos keep heads banging with their Slayer-infused riffs while northern thrashers Acid Reign are also beset by gremlins, frontman/stand-up comedian Howard Smith taking control and keeping the crowd laughing with ease. Problems aside, the band storm through the likes of ‘Goddess’, ‘Humanoia’, ‘Creative Restraint’, ‘The New Low’ and ode to Norman Bates, ‘Motherly Love’.
Venom Prison don’t really do humour and after an exceptionally ferocious set, singer Larissa Stupar looks unsurprisingly exhausted. One of these days, The Wildhearts might actually play a bad show. But not today. Featuring 1995’s P.H.U.Q. line-up of Ginger, CJ, Danny McCormack and Ritch Battersby, the band rip through classics like ‘I Wanna go Where the People Go’, ‘Caffeine Bomb’, ‘Everlone’, ‘Sick of Drugs’ and ‘Suckerpunch’, the slightly older than usual crowd singing along to every line throughout the first genuine feel-good show of the day.
Even if you’re not a fan of their music, Skindred simply have to be experienced live. A full-blown force of nature, Benji Webbe is one of the best frontmen in the business and in what feels like only a few minutes has played an hour of hits including ‘Kill the Power’, ‘Nobody’ and ‘Stand For Something’ as well as getting the entire crowd involved in ‘That’s My Jam’, pausing for a moment of reflection with ‘Saying it Now’ and of course finishing by getting everyone to wave their shirts in the air for another jaw-dropping “Newport Helicopter” during ‘Warning’.
With everyone already feeling happy, who better to keep the mood alive then Devin Townsend? Having self-isolated for ten days, the affable Canadian is ready and raring to go with a setlist hand-picked by fans. Not so shockingly, Strapping Young Lad material features quite prominently, ‘Aftermath’, ‘Detox’, ‘Love?’ and ‘Almost Again’ all making welcome appearances. From his Devin Townsend Project records we get ‘Supercrush’, (most of) ‘Stormbending’, Deadhead’ and encore ‘Vampira’, with the likes of ‘Bad Devil’, ‘Spirits Will Collide’, ‘By Your Command’, ‘March of the Poozers’ (complete with onstage Poozers and giant inflatable Poozer balls), ‘Regulator’ and of course, ‘Kingdom’. For one of the strangest sights of the weekend, Devin is joined onstage by a life size Ziltoid the Omniscient, an elephant and a gorilla. Canadians, eh.
SATURDAY finds impressive up-and-coming Birmingham proggy types Netherhall opening the Sophie Lancaster Stage while Liverpool-based Video Nasties sing about murders and golden showers. Hardcore act Bailer throw themselves around the stage with little to no grace before Memoriam bring angry war-themed death metal to the masses. The night ends on a high with Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons playing a mix of original material and Lemmy-related covers such as ‘Silver Machine’, ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Killed By Death’.
With so many good things happening on the Ronnie James Dio Stage today, there’s only so much time to check out quality acts such as Gloucester blackened death metallers Ascaris, multinational alt-metal quartet Hawxx, Nottingham hard rockers Cottonmouth and Manowar tribute nutters, Hanowar.
Hardcore mob Borstal kick off the RJD stage with feet and fists flying while Conjurer deliver several shades of doom. Made up of model/photographer Milkie Way and guitarist Sam Matlock, Wargasm resemble a UK version of Die Antwoord but as the energetic pit in front of them proves, they do seem to appeal to a healthy section of the crowd.
Sheffield’s Malevolence deliver a combination of doom, sludge and hardcore before Halifax legends Paradise Lost battle to overcome an uneven mix as they perform 1995’s Draconian Times album in full. Despite a few sound issues, vocalist Nick Holmes remains in a good mood and the crowd join in enthusiastically on songs like ‘Hallowed Land’, ‘Shades of God’ and ‘The Last Time’. Despite the song not being on that particular album, the band end the show with a knowing joke and ‘Say Just Words’.
Cradle of Filth may remain as divisive as ever but rise imperiously above their naysayers, tearing through their main support slot with tracks such as ‘Nymphetamine (Fix)’, ‘Lilith Immaculate’, ‘Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids’, ‘Heartbreak and Seance’ and ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ before climaxing with a vicious ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’. New song ‘Crawling King Chaos’ sounds nothing short of immense, there’s so much fire during opener ‘Cthulhu Dawn’ that photographers are instructed to stay away from the pit, and new member Anabelle Iratni, fresh from vocalist Dani Filth‘s other band Devilment performs impressively on keys and backing vocals.
When Kreator played Bloodstock in 2009, frontman Mille Petrozza confidently proclaimed the next time they returned it would be to headline. That didn’t quite turn out to be the case (the band took a Special Guest slot in 2017) but it hasn’t taken too long for the German thrashers to finally get the nod as one of the festival’s three headline acts.
A blistering set full of old standards and new favourites, Mille teases and commands the crowd to engage in walls of death, circle pits, and at regular points to basically outright kill each other. ‘Violent Revolution’, ‘Phobia’, the strikingly apt ‘Terrible Certainty’, ‘People of the Lie’, ‘Pleasure to Kill’, ‘Extreme Aggression’ and ‘Endless Pain’ sit more than comfortably next to the likes of newer cuts like ‘Satan is Real’, ‘Phantom Antichrist’, ‘666 – World Divided’, ‘Hordes of Chaos’, ‘Hail to the Hordes’ and ‘Enemy of God’. It wouldn’t be a Kreator show without Mille raising the ‘Flag of Hate’ and after a year away from live music, it’s great to see him doing it again. Opinion is divided on the choice to have Dani Filth join the band onstage for ‘Betrayer’ but everyone stands united when bassist Frédéric Leclercq dedicates ‘Fallen Brother’ to his recently departed friend and Sinsaenum bandmate Joey Jordison (along with Neil Peart, Riley Gale, Alexi Laiho, and LG Petrov). A poignant and sombre moment in a ninety minute masterclass in thrashing brutality.
WORDS BY GARY ALCOCK
PHOTOS BY RICH PRICE