Pick Your Rock and Metal

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

REVIEW: Hysteria 30 years on gets a re-issue. Is it worth it the outlay for the re-masters?

IT'S hard not to be cynical when a plethora of re-issues emerge to mark a significant anniversary with multiple formats. But then again those albums mark moments in our youth when music marked coming of age.

With 30 years gone since Def Leppard released 'Hysteria' the band have marked it by offering a clatter of formats all re-mastered.

Truth be told we have ruminated on this for some time. The feeling about this is much the same we have about Metallica issuing a re-mastered series of Master of Puppets.

Both Leppard and Metallica's iconic gigs in the 1980s at Belfast's Ulster Hall were something special - hence our hesitancy in approaching Hysteria. On that tour Leppard played Northern Ireland three times. Two consecutive nights in the Ulster Hall, with Tesla and an in-the-round show at the King's Hall.

Seared into memory of thousands those shows and songs like 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Love Bites' and 'Armageddon It' - not to mention 'Animal'.

The story of 'Hysteria' is a remarkable one in and of itself. The aborted sessions with Jim Steinman, the car accident that saw Rick Allen lose his left arm and drafting in Mutt Lange along with the tortuous time he took to mix every track and including a year's break.

With 'Pyromania' previously bothering the UK and US charts 'Hysteria' was eagerly awaited by cynical critics and slightly nervous fans.

But almost instantly all instinctively knew it was a special release. From their NWOBHM roots they now achieved the rock alchemists dream of songs that kept existing fans happy and attracted new mainstream fans.

Three decades on and we have Joe Elliott on the BBC Breakfast News, massive over-conflated features in magazines and whole hills of hyperbole.

With 30 million copies sold of 'Hysteria' worldwide sold do we really need another one on our musical collection?

As said we have ruminated about this question for some time, so let's get down to what's on offer.

There's a five CD, two DVD deluxe edition with four books - including a Ross Halfin photo book - and a tour poster. There's also a three CD edition, a single CD, a double vinyl album, and a double album of picture discs - all re-mastered.

All in sumptuous packaging...

Having consulted a range of friends either our original LPs have been lost or are worse for wear. True we may have the CD but this selection of formats does represent something for collectors, especially the coloured vinyl.

It may be time to do the Lotto to afford the full package of this and Master of Puppets...But if you have the cash it will be an investment...until the 40th anniversary re-issue.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

All formats are available now on Bludgeon Riffola/UMC/Mercury

ALBUM REVIEW: Portrait set the metal afire on fourth album Burn The World

FOR their fourth full-length album Portrait have pulled out all the stops on a set of tracks that reflect just how heavy metal can be delivered when done right.

'Burn The World' pummels you with only brief respite in a lesson for many who doubt that metal has a tendency to disappear up its own arse at times.

This is a release that showcases how to keep everything in balance. From the sharp blasts of 'The Sower's Cross' and 'To Die For' it also explores lengthier structures.

'Martyrs' opens with a riff reminiscent of Maiden or Helloween, but rapidly develops into a song that has the Portrait stamp. Like closer 'Pure of Heart' it has enough space to allow development of the song; its musical and lyrical themes given space to develop.

Christian and Robin trade licks and at times it is almost like they have tapped into the soul of Lizzy, UFO and early Maiden in an evolutionary step forward. Twin melody lines traded off against each other, solos that meld seamlessly...

True there are times when some of Per's vocals stray into King Diamond territory, but for fuck sake don't many modern vocalists. What is perhaps more relevant is the variety in his singing.

The use of a more contemporary structure for the title track is impressive, which is something that is perhaps revealing about 'Burn The World'.

The band have always promised much and been deservedly recognised for their progress since the series of releases that eventually saw them signed to Metal Blade in 2011, but this seems like the realisation of everything they have been working towards.

The lyrical lashing of the forces threatening the world, the tight structuring of each song (with the exception of the unnecessary instrumental 'Further She Rode') means 'Burn The World' is an album that shows Portrait are ready for the next step.

Oh, and having Set Teitan (Watain) and Hell's Kevin Bower making guest appearances is an added bonus!

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Burn The World is available now on Metal Blade

ALBUM REVIEW: Scimitar produce a curate's egg on début release Where Darkness Dwells

AS a young thrash band it can be a hard path to carve in a crowded marketplace, but so far Scimitar have earned their stripes and come out strong. However, on their début release 'Where Darkness Dwells' they have may missed an opportunity.

Don't get us wrong - there are (leaving aside the brief intro 'Sands of Sorrow) six very strong original tracks that reflect their ethos and talent.

But, an unnecessary cover of 'Ace of Spades' and a live version of the titular 'Scimitar' means that what could have been a more complete album. Two more originals could have avoided the album fading out on a whimper compared to the blast of the rest of the 'Where Darkness Dwells'

But, enough of the negative. There are some outstanding tracks on it. 'Behead The Beast' is as much a stormer on here as it is on stage.

Keeping true to their mélange of US, Teutonic and good old UK and Irish thrash there is pace and power on 'Behead The Beast', as there is on 'Unholy Forger'.

At times the mix doesn't come out strong, but it is a minor niggle, with the likes of 'Cursed City' and 'Back to War' rollicking along at a good tempo.

As an experienced live act Scimitar have managed to capture the energy of their performances, and as always their musicianship is exemplary. Jonny tears up the rule-book with his passionate singing, while John riffs as if his life depends on it, added to solos that are not only impressive, but match the sentiment of each track.

The rhythm section of Chriz and Ryan are probably one of the best on the scene, not only keeping songs rolling along, but using their instruments to punctuate and lift the sensibility of the album.

The cover of 'Ace of Spades' is unnecessary and would have best been reserved for live outings...

Closer, a liver version of 'Scimitar' from the Thrashersaurus show in Norwich is well executed, but whether it adds to a début album is open to debate.

What the band have achieved on 'Where Darkness Dwells' is some excellent tracks, let down by not adding more material.

That said, this bodes well for Scimitar's progress up the thrash ranks.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

Where Darkness Dwells is out now on CD and as a digital download.

NEWS: Pat McManus to headline Belfast City Blues fundraiser at Belfast's Empire

WITH the success of the Belfast City Blues Festival 2017 still ringing in fans’ ears next year’s thrust begins next month with a star-studded fundraiser headlined by six-string slinging Pat McManus.

The fundraising show is at Belfast’s Empire on September 16, with proceeds going to support next year’s city wide festival.

The full line-up sees Blackwood deliver their ‘Taste of Rory’ tribute to the late, great Rory Gallagher, the usual stunning set from The Willie Byrne Band and the always mesmerizing guitar histrionics of The Pat McManus Band.

Festival Director Seamus O’Neill said: “This is a special show, not just because of these three great acts, but because this is about making sure the Belfast Blues Festival in 2018 will be bigger and better than ever.

“Anyone who saw Pat, Willie and Blackwood at this year’s festival knows they deliver songs that will knock you over!”

The Belfast City Blues Festival is an annual event held in multiple venues across the city. 2018 will mark the 10th anniversary of the festival and Seamus says blues fans can be sure it’s going to make a big impression.

He added: “After a decade of festivals we’re really excited about putting our 2018 10th Anniversary programme together.

“We’re looking forward to working with all our festival partners and artists once again as well as developing new relationships as we see the festival grow bigger and better than ever before.”

At the 2018 Belfast City Blues Festival homegrown Northern Ireland acts will be joined by national and international bands and musicians exploring the rich heritage of the blues across the country and further afield.cleardot.gif

Tickets for the fundraising show are on sale now, priced £12.50 (+ booking fee) from all Ticketmaster outlets.

Monday, August 28, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Inflammatory, nostalgic and still relevant - Stiff Little Fingers blast the past with superb supporting cast

WHEN the term 'heyday' is thrown around willy nilly, usually by those who choose not to stay up-to-date with a groups current status. But fans know that strong bands are always in their heyday; and when it comes to Stiff Little Fingers today they are more relevant than ever.

When SLF and a mighty clatter of supporting acts blasted a balmy night at Custom House Square, Belfast (Saturday, 26th August) the mix of nostalgia and inflammatory music proved that the counter-culture labelled punk still packs a punch.

Young and old packed a sold out square, and those lucky to have apartments over-looking the stage, rocked, sang and partied.

True - the bands have noticeably aged, but the music still sounds fresh.

Opening where local snarlsters The Outcasts, who delivered wit with a wry grin as they pounded out 'classics' with verve. There were few who could claim they were 'Just Another Teenage Rebel' but that mattered not.

Closing with 'The Cops Are Comin' and 'You're A Disease' this was a set that had the entire place singing, and smiling.

Relaxed, but still packing a punch, Ruts DC rallied the counter-culture refugees showcasing tracks that have been stuck in the collective consciousness. Yes, 'Music Must Destroy' and it did on Saturday night.

The evocative 'In A Rut' and singalong 'Babylon's Burning' may have been the best known, but Ruts DC had no fillers in their set.

The Stranglers have also a catalogue of songs that are guaranteed to be greeted by people greedy for the melody, and they didn't disappoint.

Sure, 'Always The Sun' and 'Golden Brown' were the tracks best known, along with 'Nice 'n' Sleazy', but the likes of 'Bear Cage'  and 'Relentless were beasts live.

If the line-up of The Outcasts, Ruts DC and The Stranglers were to play Belfast it would be enough to attract a healthy crowd. To have them opening for Stiff Little Fingers was an added bonus for what is a special occasion in its own right.

40 years ago a legend was born, a legend that has resonated for decades, spoken to the hearts of people, rallied against injustice, and fought for what is right both in music and in words.

Still proving the doubters wrong at every turn Stiff Little Fingers electrify every time they take to the stage, but this homecoming gig exceeded all.

As the strains of 'Go For It' had the venue humming and yelling before a fast and furious 'Wasted Life' struck Belfast like a hurricane.

Jake was in fine form between tracks, but he could have remained mute between each song and it would have been no less impressive. There is such a wealth of material that the range of emotions are taken for a roller coaster.

Tackling the issue of depression on 'My Dark Places', the futility of violence on 'Johnny Was' and stifling domesticity on 'Safe As Houses', the messages have not been weakened by the familiarity of the songs.

The angst of youth as expressed by' At The Edge' and 'Gotta Getaway' may be messages penned yonks ago, but for every teenager still feeling that way there were thousands of middle-aged people in Custom House Square who still reflect on that period and reflect on their lives right now.

And, to a certain extent that was displayed on 'When We Were Young', a cry to keep pushing, never stop striving for our dreams, and never mind those who doubt us.

This wasn't just a Belfast audience - the momentousness of a 40th Anniversary show in the birthplace of SLF drew fans from across the UK, all dedicated to raise their rigid digits aloft.

To hear songs like 'Breakout' and 'Straw Dogs' on stage was a treat for all, but every SLF knows that the trio of 'Nobody's Hero', Tin Soldiers' and 'Suspect Device' close the main set at such a pace that the break for the encore is needed for a few minutes by band and audience.

Exhausted, but delighted...And, then the closing songs. 'Johnny Was', Gotta Getaway', and the national anthem of the disaffected populace of Northern Ireland, 'Alternative Ulster'.

While mainstream media largely looks on punk, hard rock and metal with a patronising wee pat on the head, indulgence before turned to auto-tuned shite and praising people playing their lap tops the cadre who gathered at Custom House Square still scream their disaffection to the skies.

Yes, punk is still relevant. A little older and a lot more cynical, but the ethos still holds true.

Stiff Little Fingers may be 40, but they still speak for many, and their songs are as relevant as ever; and may be more relevant than ever in this post-reality life. SLF is the antidote to complacency, the antibiotic for the bacteria of bastards in power.

Fuck the 'Fake News' narrative and join the legions of the angry - and "Question everything you're told".

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

Friday, August 25, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Overoth rise to new heights on The Forgotten Tome

FOR some time now Overoth have been one of the leading exponents of the extreme end of metal's spectrum, but have largely been plying their wares on stage since their début album 'Kingdom of Shadows' was released.

The atmospheric, intense live performances have all had a hallmarks of a band confident of their abilities, but c'mon we need new product! And, thus after an extended period of thinking about how to take their sound to the next level the band will release 'The Forgotten Tome' on September 22nd.

And, when you wrap your warped lugholes around this album you will agree that the wait has been more than worthwhile.

It is nine tracks (plus the orchestral opener) that have a purity of malice amidst the astonishing arrangements. The addition of more and more elements can sometimes overwhelm a band's sound Overoth have manage to incorporate them all in a consolidated vision.

From the insistent riffing of 'Winter of Iniquity' and Andy's primal roars throughout you'll find subtleties aplenty on multiple listens. Whether it be the piano outro of 'Sigil of the Empty Throne' or a sudden discovery of a violin this is an album demanding your attention.

Some of the passages on the title track are astonishingly good, 'Harbinger Of The End Times' will snap necks and 'Leviathan Swallowed The Sun' is so achingly good, from the Gregorian chanting intro to the menace of the tracks multi-instrumental passage.

To segue into 'Mar The Gates' is a shock to the senses, something well considered on the album's overall scheme.

It was a risky manoeuvre to try to add so many elements - including obscure instruments such as the ney flute - but the result is that 'The Forgotten Tome' is a well rounded release.

It is not disparate in its deathly approach, and Joe Thompson's production and Mike Hourihan's mix manage that delicate balance between a wall of sound and sufficient separation.

Fantastical, allegorical references abound in the lyrics; and like all good fantasy works they are the vehicle to ponder the frailty and failings of humanity and the evil and good that can emerge.

Complimented by Will Simpson's impressive artwork this is a release that will live long in the memory and is deserved of repeated plays.

That it only clocks in at 40 minutes is the only disappointment - a few more tracks would have been welcome, but after the wait for this we can forgive Overoth.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

The Forgotten Tome is released on Hostile Media on September 22nd

Thursday, August 24, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Spectacle and power from Muse and Biffy Clyro at Vital 2017

IT'S been an annual fixture for several years - the 'rock' night of Vital. With so many other burgeoning festival style events around Belfast in the summer months Vital still has an even feel, especially at the Boucher Playing Fields venue.

However, in contrast to many other festivals on the mainland there appears to be many who attend because it is an event, rather than a music festival. To give one example, where we were ensconced three young men in their late teens or early 20s chatted throughout every single band, their gaze never once upon the stage...

And, to a certain extent there is a Radio One Roadshow element about the first two bands. Fanglcub and Nothing But Thieves are competent 'alt' rock acts.

Apart from a devoted few hundred down the front who were familiar with the songs. While the Southend 'Thieves brought the first mass singalong of the evening with their closer 'Amsterdam'.

However, the night belonged to the headline acts, both of whom showed that you can be 'alternative' and still have true rock running through your veins.

Biffy Clyro have proved themselves loyal to Belfast, trying to include the city as much as possible on tours, schedules and logistics allowing - perhaps it is the early reception they received, or perhaps it is just a natural affinity between the Scots and us lot over here.

What is sure is that Simon, James and Ben lay all on the line every time they mount a stage in the city. True they may have had much bigger stages and audiences (headlining Download), but they approach each show with the same vim and vigour.

There is a compulsive energy about everything the band undertakes, as was evident from the moment 'Wolves of Winter' opening chords it was obvious that most were reciprocating that energy.

What sometimes is beguiling about Biffy Clyro is that beneath the seemingly radio friendly tunes there are arrangements that strike an almost prog element and lyrics that touch a nerve.

'Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies', 'Bubbles' and 'Mountain' have that rare mix of pomp and poignancy that is an elixir for the soul.

The easy banter of Simon - remarking about the strange site of blue skies in Belfast and saying it felt like he was in Westeros maintained the flow of the show, with 'Biblical' and 'Animal Style' the real stand-outs.

Arriving slightly late on stage Muse delivered both musical prowess and a light show that dazzled. Songs dripping with fx they still have something of power in everything they do.

Yes, the lights, the codology of Matt's Sparx-style glasses, and the samples may showcase the extravagance of the band's vision - spaced out rock that is perhaps where Hawkwind would be had they been formed in the 90s.

Like Biffy the fact that Matt, Chris and Dominic have been together since their inception adds a confidence that translates on to the stage; a confidence that delivers the right amount of magisterial arrogance; a confidence that they will engage the crowd.

As darkness fell the SFX opener merged into 'Dig Down', that ended with the intro of 'Psycho's 'Drill Sergeant' sample.

For all the stage show lights, pyro, ticker tape, confetti, massive white beach balls and trickery it was the core of the familiar songs that kept the majority in rapt attention.

And, there was a sense of mischief in parts - was that a few chords of AC/DC dropped in at the conclusion of one track?

With a glint in his eye Matt announced that he'd used Ancestry.com and discovered he was 53% Irish - and said that this was no wonder as his mother was born in Belfast - sure most already knew his roots are somewhere about here, but it still drew a cheer.

'Assassin' was an awesome rendition, and 'Hysteria' was sublime, but it was the cohesion of the set that struck the right note. For all the flamboyance this had the feel of an intimate show rather than a massive festival machine.

Vital 2017's rock night will be remembered by many for the powerful sets of Muse and Biffy, but the reality is that for all the might on show the undercard needs strengthening for future years - and with it being on a 'school night' it can never compete with the weekend 'dance' night in terms of attendance.

However, that being said next year's rock night at Vital will have a lot to live up to after Biffy Clyro  and Muse's sets.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

LIVE REVIEW: The SoapGirls revive theat Punk Spirit of defiance

DECADES after its inception, punk still has the power to shock, inspire and be thought provoking; Saturday night's gig in Voodoo certainly proved that. French-born, South African-raised The SoapGirls swung into Belfast as part of their UK and Irish tour and put on the type of show rarely seen in punk: as equally arresting visually as they are sonically, with serious attitude and proper, feminist sass.

How often does one get to say that after a punk gig?

Setting the pace was first local support act, the eye catchingly-named A.R.S.E, for whom punk will always be set in the Seventies and the likes of Bad Manners and Stiff Little Fingers will always be kings.

Not that there's anything wrong with that; their bolshy brand of oi punk is infectiously catchy and actually rather fun, with front man Petesy Burns in fine form, at one point jokingly admonishing the crowd for some rather unenthusiastic applause: “at our age, if we do four songs in a row we deserve more than that!” he quips.

Their half hour set fairly rips along, including some original tracks ('In Your Face', 'Religious Wars') and covers (The Jam's 'Down In the Tube Station at Midnight' and Dead Boys' 'Sonic Reducer').

Clearly more a labour of love than vast money spinner, A.R.S.E are nonetheless a dynamic and entertaining band who take to the job of warming up the crowd with glee, and do it well.

Second support Madhouse are in equally fine fettle: with a hefty dollop of rockabilly thrown into the mix, they are boisterously engaging right from the word 'go' – there's even a mammoth double bass up there on the tiny stage. With buzzsaw riffs aplenty and a lively Stray Cats vibe, their set is gloriously over the top.

Singer Billy Riot begins the show dressed as gangster on a yacht circa 1984 and ends it in trousers and shoes only (even the sunglasses come off) but keeps his tongue firmly in his cheek the whole time, cheekily introducing songs such as 'Bend Over, I'll Drive' (“this is a song about getting sucked off in a car”) and final number 'Too Drunk To Fuck' (which needs little introduction, to be fair) with a glint in his eye. By the time that final track rolls around they have thoroughly entertained the crowd and surely gained a good many new fans.

All of which means that by the time the diminutive Soapgirls take to the stage, the room is full of wide smiles and a buzz of anticipation.

Arriving in their usual handmade tiny costumes, the most kick-ass red vinyl thigh high boots, and granny masks (as they've heard Belfast is the capital of 'granny porn'), they chat for a minute in character before launching into 'Society's Rejects', the song that encapsulates them perfectly.

Theirs is a sort of Riot Grrrl, riffy go-go punk sound, all angelic voices with a heavy dose of snarl and attitude - but when vocalist/bassist Millie cranks it up she unleashes a scream that would comfortably fit onto any metal album.

Their seventy minute set runs the gamut of emotions, from 'fuck you' number 'Rather Be Dead', to the slinky 'Original Sin' and even the melancholy, heavy 'Bury Me', a song about losing a loved one to cancer.

In between, the girls' banter and total ease onstage warm the room and create a real bond with the audience, who respond with loud applause and passionate singalongs. Highlights include proper Riot Grrrl punk rock tune 'Sam's On Crack', vitriolic final number 'Bad Bitch', during which they invite all the 'bad bitches' in the audience onstage, and a towering, rage fuelled 'Drag You Down to Hell', with its ska punk-infused chorus.

A long and effusive 'thank you' from the two of them follows 'Bad Bitch', and the show is over.

Afterwards, they then hang around for several minutes, seemingly keen to thank every single audience member. Brilliant show, smashing young women.

Quite literally 'sisters doing it for themselves', their own way, on their own terms – and fuck the haters – The SoapGirls prove yet again that punk is NOT dead, and that women can kick as much ass, and be as fearless and individual as any male musician you care to compare them to. Long may it continue, too.

Review by Melanie Brehaut
Pictures by Darren McVeigh

BLOODSTOCK: The madness, the mayhem and the glorious music

WHEN it comes to festivals Bloodstock towers head and shoulders above most - and not just because they had the man mountain Johann from Amon Amarth present...

Genuinely friendly, a selection of bands to warm the cockles of every metalheads' hearts and a carnival atmosphere across the site.

Deep in South Derbyshire the very earth trembles every year and Bloodstock 2017 was no different...

With all weekend tickets sold out and day tickets at a premium it was perhaps one of the biggest adventures for BOA, but the scale was not too big to intimidate - apart from the enormous waits for entry. People who arrived clean shaven had a beard by the time they got in.

The queues were phenomenal on that first day, due to additional security steps, but that just meant some delay in erecting tents and heading back for beer stocks...well it is Bloodstock and you wouldn't expect anything else but ample beers.
By Mark Lloyd

The opening night always has a party atmosphere on the Sophie Lancaster Stage and rounding things off BattleBeast hit the right note of fun and heaviness. However, come Friday the heft of metal was to the fore.

A wealth of brutality bore down on the crowd as the usual races between stages to catch acts began in earnest. Decapitated drew heavily from their recent 'Anticult' release, and surprisingly for some many of those down the front knew each word and inflection.

When it comes to thrash Testament are among the godfathers. Chuck Billy was his usual larger than life self and the might of the tracks were evident - Bloodstock gathered as the 'Brotherhood of the Snake', headbanging happily.

With Blind Guardian delivering their symphonic majesty as the skies began to darken there was a real sense of anticipation. As many hurried from catching the excellent Lionize on the Sophie Stage Amon Amarth came on as if primed for a raid, ready to pillage.

Flames, massive Viking helmet, dragons, hammers - a proper stage show. All would be for nowt without the immensity of the songs. 'Runes to my Memory', 'Guardians of Asgard', and of course 'Twilight of the Thunder God' had the site bathed in glory.

They have appeared before at Bloodstock, but now are worthy headliners.

Saturday - more sunshine and the dash between stages in earnest as bleary eyed campers stumble forth to the familial camaraderie.

One of the more controversial choices was Flint, Michigan crew King 810, missing an axeman due to alleged firearms offence. Their abrasive off-stage attitude translated into one of the most challenging sets. Rather than have the big screens showing the band a series of disturbing images that forced those paying attention to consider their own attitudes. And as the crowd sang 'Fat Around The Heart' they may have redeemed themselves.

After another exemplary set from Annihilator - including some inter-song Canuck humour from Jeff Waters preceded mayhem.
By Darren McVeigh

No not the band Mayhem, but the mayhem that was Municipal Waste. Never in the field of human surfing has so many crowd surfed. As the punk thrash lasted a mere 45 minutes of intensity a total of 711 mad metallers crowd surfed - smashing any previous records by almost 300...Oh the music was good too.

Hatebreed teeter continually on the border between hardcore and metal, a dangerous place for some bands, but the fact that the Bloodstock community is more open-minded than most they were among the hits of the day.

Having consulted widely around Camp Midgard (well six people) we could not find anyone who has seen a bad Kreator set. The Teutonic thrashers are always good. They weren't at BOA 2017. No, they were fucking great. On another level that left many open-mouthed, agog at the tight, precise battering they were producing.

There was no way Ghost could top that. Sure their dark pantomime works for many, but the rotating membership, the choir et al sometimes grates as contrived. Macabre closing the Sophie stage are more intimidating - and better.

As if the preceding three days weren't enough Sunday was an absolute barnstormer.

But before that a word about the New Blood Stage. After months and months of battling bands won the right to perform at Bloodstock. It is a tribute to the quality of the acts that fought through dozens of heats on Metal2TheMasses that they attracted so many away from the main stages to see the emerging talent.

And, while we were impressed by many we saw, we are biased and thus a special mention for Shrouded. The Northern Ireland melodic death metal foursome could have easily been over-awed by the occasion, given their tender years, but stayed focussed, no faffing about - they came on stage and nailed it.

Over on the Ronnie James Dio stage masked Mexican metal banditos Brujeria tempered their assault with a cover of 'Oh Macharina' - yep it was that sort of day.
By Katja Ogrin

Segue from that into Possessed's power, Obituary's threat and Hell's theatricality it could be excused if the Bloodstock audience was feeling shell-shocked. But from somewhere they summoned up the energy for Skindred.

Exuding positivity in every word and every lick large proportions of the Catton Park site couldn't stop moving; dancing and grinning. Their reggae metal may not suit everyone's tastes, but it enlivened the day, and when 'Warning' played as a closer there was no doubt that the Newport Helicopter of thousands of t-shirts swirling made for an epic spectacle. Even the security staff lifted their hi-viz's aloft.

Arch Enemy offered a break from that communal silliness, but Skindred had given everyone a second wind and the 'Enemy seeped into everyone's bones.

Closing the main stage was Big Four members Megadeth. Well safe to say Dave did what Dave does, nothing more and nothing less.

As the dying strains of yet more widdly widdly guitar solos from Megadeth faded the job of closing the Sophie stage fell to Wintersun. Sure, it may have all the hallmarks of a vanity project, but somehow there is more of a life to the intricate self-absorbed tracks that works better on stage.

And, thus another Bloodstock drew to a close.

Another celebration of the outer reaches of metal that earns devotion; another celebration of a metal community that walks together, drinks together and yells each word with fervour and passion.

As the camp sites slowly emptied on a dank Monday there was the usual "see you next year" - and that's what makes Bloodstock special. For those with hearts steeled for metal it is one festival not to miss.

Review by Jonathan Traynor
(And...all that and we didn't get to even mention the Jägermeister Stage...)