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...)