There’s something utterly brilliant about waking up around 9am, climbing out your tent into the sun, sitting in your chair and having a drinking horn full of ale in a campsite called Valhalla. There’s something even more brilliant about a drunken circle pit at 11am to Ireland’s Gama Bomb. Despite an early start there’s still a large crowd out to see the zombie loving thrash fiends and they get a warm response, plenty of pits and crowd surfing show the crowd aren’t all completely hungover. Lead singer Philly’s voice is still showing the effects of his vocal surgery to remove some nodes, but he makes up for a lack of high range with a powerful full speed delivery and entertaining stage banter (I’m still going “eviiiiilllllllllllllll” a solid week later).
After successfully surviving the pits it’s breakfast time and what can be more breakfasty that cheese covered garlic bread (try to imagine the smell, unwashed for several days with garlic breath). The food stands are great this year, I spent all together too much time and money ordering garlic bread and sweet and sour chicken from two of the stands, worth it though.
After more drinks and food it’s time for Fozzy. I’ll be honest, I don’t know any of their songs, my primary goal was to see good old Jericho. I’ll give them their due though, they put on an entertaining show with Jericho himself climbing the side of the stage (sadly he didn’t moonsault an unsuspecting person below into a pin, but that would probably get him sued so it’s for the best).
My biggest disappointment of the weekend came next, I could not physically get into the tent to see Evil Scarecrow despite being excited for them all weekend. There’s something special afoot here and with plenty of people in Robot Costumes floating about after, it seems we’ve missed something great.
Under Avantasia (review to come soon), Exodus were my band of the weekend. They were brutal from the first chord to the last. Rob Dukes, the singer, had clearly missed the memo about not swearing while talking to the crowd between songs; if you were to play a drinking game where you took a shot for every “motherfucker” you would be dead by half way through the set. There was a question of whether Gary Holt would be playing for Exodus today as Slayer are still using him as a stand in guitarist, happily he did show for the set. One of the coolest points of the weekend happened during Exodus, the crowd was in a constant circle pit and leading the charge was a man in a wheelchair. It was pretty awesome to see everyone getting the chance to join in and have fun instead of being forced back to sit on the disabled platform, and was awesome to see everyone helping him have a good time (side note, this is the same guy who went crowd surfing during Municipal Waste, what a guy!). The band came to a close with the mighty Strike of the Beast where the wall of death nearly decapitated half the crowd. After being instructed to kill each other, that command clearly was taken seriously, but again, the crowd was pretty damn awesome and any fallers were back on their feet before they could register the fact they’d went down.
Anthrax may have got one of the warmest welcomes of the weekend, opening on Caught in a Mosh the crowd were off immediately. There was an added danger to this set though, when facing the stage all was well, but when facing backwards the setting sun (which painted a lovely setting for a thrash gig) blinded everyone in the pit leading to a much greater number of falls. Not that this put anyone off of course. The band played a solid set of classics and new material, with In The End off of the latest album paying moving tribute to Dio and Dimebag with banners displaying their pictures lowered on the stage. One of the highlights of the set for me was Efilnikufesin (N.F.L) though I discovered that I cannot say that word after any amount of drinks, or even sober.
Judge Dredd put in an appearance for I Am The Law with Joey hopping on his shoulders for the end, that’s just asking to be shot in the face.
Soon enough it was time for the final band of the weekend, the legends that are Slayer. Sadly this wasn’t a legendary show. The knowledge of the Lombardo/Bostaph shenanigans were still fresh, and the obvious wounds left behind by Jeff’s passing were evident. The set was what you would expect from Slayer, performed how you would expect it. Though I have to say it was pretty special hearing Alter of Sacrifice, I’ve never seen Slayer play that live in person. They were tight though, despite a lack of energy they were very tight and it was excellent to hear Tom doing the Angel of Death scream again despite having dropped it years ago. Though nothing was really said about Jeff (other than the pre-Postmortem speech about living life which was eerie, Tom has a special way of holding the crowd when speaking, and the lengthy pauses between sentences had everyone hanging on), a huge backdrop appeared behind the kit which was pretty fitting causing lengthy Jeff chants to go on and on. Overall it’s not the best I’ve seen Slayer, but given the events that preceded the show over the last year I can’t really blame them.
While people recover from the final pits of the weekend, the organisers come on to say thanks and goodbye and with that it’s over. Or would be over if there wasn’t a shed ton more drinks to drink and fairground rides to play on (I recommend the bungee sling thing for your next festival adventure). As I fell asleep that night to the sound of war horns, and fuck knows where that guy got a war horn, I was pretty content but realised for the first time after a festival I wasn’t looking forward to going home for a shower, I would have gladly stayed another few days. Such is Bloodstock, definitely one of the greatest festivals I’ve witnessed.