There can be little doubt that Bloodstock is the best Metal festival in the UK. Its openness to, and championing of, a wide spectrum of Metal genres is completely cutting edge; and the positive and welcoming metal vibe that is at the festivals core, hits you as soon as you arrive at the festival site.

Expectations for the festival are always high, and rightly so; and as will be apparent from the very high Room Thirteen scoring across the festival’s four days, those expectations in 2015 have been completely exceeded!

And of course as ever a note needs to go to the fact that The Sophie Lancaster stage was named in tribute to the young woman who was horribly attacked and lost her life defending her boyfriend. They were both attacked by a gang solely because they looked and dressed differently. It is to Bloodstocks great credit that it has maintained its steadfast support for the work of the Foundation, to defeat prejudice against people from alternative subcultures.


At Bloodstock Thursday evening is the gentle easing into the madness to follow. The place is awash with smiling faces and hugs, as friends meet up and acquaintances are renewed. It's a fabulous evening with sunny skies and gentle breezes, and it seems almost a shame to enter into the darkness of the Sophie Lancaster tent and stage. It was worth it though, to hear the classic death metal sounds of Wales's very own Desecration (10/13). The Sophie tent is absolutely packed and witnesses some intense circle pits and crowd surfing, as the band hit their stride with some ferocious blast beats and infectious riffs. Guitarist Ollie Jones touchingly tells the audience 'The last time we played here it was pissing down and you came into the tents to see us, so thank you for coming to see us this time when it wasn't pissing down'.

...and then we experience the Terminators of metal ArnoCorps (10/13), a hardcore metal/punk outfit with an Arnold Schwarzenegger obsession, including a metalhead body building competition on stage! They are incredibly entertaining and with some great punk type anthems to get everyone dancing. At one point one of the two bass players even crowd surfs across the audience on his guitar case! Not forgetting the immortal line emanating from vocalist Holzfeuer 'Hero's and Shero's create themselves!’.


It's the start of the Festival proper, with BAST (11/13) providing an early full on highlight on the Sophie stage. Across their songs, a punishingly heavy musical attack is contrasted with beautiful lilting guitar segments. Their immense enveloping sound is astonishing for just three musicians. In one instrumental introduction, they even end up sounding like Hawkwind at their space-rock best.

Over on the Ronnie James Dio main stage Belphegor (10/13) from Austria take to the stage, surrounded by ram's horns and skulls, and with faces smeared with corpse paint. They slam full on into their intense melding of death and black metal. Eerily atmospheric flourishes with the guitars and voices, conjure up the heart of darkness at the core of this band, even in the baking sunshine.

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Belphegor - Photo Credit: Gareth Allen

Ihsahn (13/13) headlined last year on the Dio stage with black metal legends Emperor. This year he is playing in his own right with a truly inspired group of young musicians who play, with amazing passion and precision, his fabulous solo material - a heady mix of metal, progressive and jazz. A great dynamic beginning is soon paused with some technical issues. He turns the technical issues into an amazing rapport with the audience, smiling as he shares that 'We will try our best, if it's fucked up, it's fucked up ... we will see' , and has the audience clapping along, as he launches into a gorgeous clean vocal on the next song. Frozen Lakes on Mars with its striking twin guitar beginning, and encouragement from Ihsahn ‘Come on Bloodstock!', gets the audience head banging. After playing an Emperor melody, Ihsahn takes the risk of finishing with a new song the audience have never heard. This gets the most applause of the set, and it's clear the audience are completely with Ihsahn and his band. And what a great new song it is, with powerful fantastic soloing and some great complex jazz rhythms. A staggering set.

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Ihsahn - Photo Credit: Gareth Allen

Part of the excitement at Bloodstock is their championing of new and up and coming bands, and experiencing and discovering these new sounds at the festival. In this vein, The Parallax Method (10/13) over on the Jagermeister Stage, start up just as Ihsahn finishes his triumphant battle with adversity. A three piece, they play some very tight and expressive instrumentals with some surprising twists, and lots of smiles shared with the audience. You might find it referred to as math rock, or alternatively it could be seen within a jazz rock context. Regardless, a band definitely worth checking out. Conan (12/13) then delivered one of the heaviest performances Room Thirteen has ever seen. The Sophie stage and tent seemed to lend to their sound an expansiveness you always sensed they were capable of producing. Crown of Talons with its monstrous riff and massively screamed vocal is just astonishing, and a real highlight. Pure doom metal at its best.

Trivium (11/13) prove to be very worthy headliners on the Dio stage, pulling out one of their completely going for it festival performances, that reminds you of all the things you originally liked Trivium for. Like Light to the Flies early on in the set combines all that is best about the band, with great groove metal rhythms, and an irresistible combination of anthemic and death growl vocals. Matt Heafy is in buoyant mood, teasing guitarist Corey Beaulieu about some initial technical problems, that means he is less evident on the first couple of numbers, and touchingly talking about what it means to the band to be playing their first festival headline spot, and being on the same bill as friend and mentor Ihsahn. Then dedicating a great version of Anthem to everyone at Bloodstock. There can be no doubt that they deserve their headlining spot.

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Corey Beaulieu (Trivium) - Photo Credit: Gareth Allen

Delain (12/13) headlining the Sophie stage are simply a revelation. Their combination of boundless energy and commitment on stage, and great symphonic metal songs, is completely mesmerising. They play a breathtaking version of Army of Dolls, a wonderful song, that gets to the heart of the damaging impact of society's obsession with perfect looks. Delain could have played the bigger Dio stage but chose to play, as Martin from the band told us in interview, the Sophie stage, because of their support for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. A commitment passionately embodied in their song inspired by Sophie, We Are The Others.


Xerath (9/13) have graduated from the Sophie stage to the Dio stage, but unfortunately are very late starting due to technical problems, which means they only get to play one song. They really make it count though, with a completely insurgent take no prisoners performance. The heady mix of death, technical and progressive metal, is just breathtaking, and almost machine like in its precision. A bravura performance in the circumstances.

1349 (11/13) with Satyricon's legendary Frost on drums provide the black metal highlight of the festival. Their second number No Slaves cuts a scythe through the audience with the most ferocious of blast beats, complemented by some great guitar flourishes and technical elements. The following number has a riff so intense, that the vibration feels to be coming up directly through the ground underneath our feet. The band are named after the year the plague came to Norway, and there is something of that in the utter sense of desperation that seems to propel their music.

Jasad (12/13) from Indonesia are one of the great discoveries of the festival for many metal heads. Their Death Metal/slam rhythms have the whole Sophie audience, almost without exception, moving to their music. As people hear the music they come into the Sophie tent with that 'what the hell is that' look on their faces. One number was beautifully introduced by a traditional bamboo instrument, and another dedicated to Sophie Lancaster with the moving words 'We are against all intolerance in peace my sister'. The applause at the end of their set was tumultuous!

Napalm Death's (12/13) Barney bounded onto the stage with the words 'we are a band from down the road in Birmingham', as Napalm Death proceeded to give the most incendiary performance of the festival. It was like getting hit with a musical sledgehammer, angry and edgy, and completely on fire. Barney was not only in great voice musically but also articulate and completely in tune with the audience. He raised the roof when telling the audience, it's important to treat people as people, not as numbers or products’. A highlight was undoubtedly their fabulous cover of the Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off capturing the anti-intolerance mood of the festival perfectly.

Death DTA (12/13) provide the most touching and respectful of tributes to the legacy of the sadly departed leader and visionary of the band Death, the great Chuck Schuldiner. A complete original in metal and one of the originators of death metal. The playing was completely sublime, with wonderfully paced and atmospheric guitar work from Bobby Koelble, and the fretless bass playing of Steve DiGiorgio astonishingly becoming a lead instrument on Crystal Mountain. Just wonderful.

Opeth (13/13), what can one say! Sophie of Alunah summed it up best in our interview with her, when describing the Opeth set as one of her highlights, she said '....they blew my mind... their sound was so huge it sounded like there were 20 people on stage'.The set list was a great mix of their heavier and softer sounds. No more so than in a towering version of Heir Apparent from Watershed, beginning gently with simple piano notes drifting out across the festival arena, before heading into dynamic heavy guitars and death growl vocals, which generated spontaneous applause and devil horn hands in the air. This heavy section morphed into beautiful acoustic styled guitar and keyboards, just at that moment the sun started to go down behind the audience, creating the most exquisite of Bloodstock moments. Mikael Akerfeldt's slide guitar solo that follows is so effortless and atmospheric. A performance of wonderment. Mikael Akerfeldt's dry sense of humour is as always strongly in evidence. Announcing their final song Deliverance, he says 'We have one song left to play, but don't worry it's three days long'. And for the first time we witnessed waves of crowd surfing at an Opeth performance. Unbelievably good, and the words on a number of people's lips...'sensational!'.

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Opeth - Photo Credit: Gareth Allen

Within Temptation (10/13) the Saturday Dio stage headliners, triumph with their joyful symphonic metal, over a major power failure while trying to play Ice Queen. Opener Paradise (What about us) with Sharon den Adel sharing vocals with Tarja via the video screen, is a great example of their big sound, and Sharon's passionate and driven vocals. They also pull out a great version of Dangerous with the great Howard Jones sharing vocals (again via the video screen, but oddly it worked).

Fleshgod Apocalypse (11/13) from Italy headline the Sophie stage, and if you have never seen them before, nothing can quite prepare you for their stage appearance and the crowd reaction. They enter the stage as shadowy figures, silhouetted in purple light, against an eerie orchestral buildup. The guitars and blast beats then crash in, to be followed by a marching beat and growled vocals that scream evil. The crowd goes mad and the crowd surfing starts immediately, fully testing the extra security in place in the photo pit. Their sound is full of symphonic and death metal elements that work really well together, with added into the mix operatic backing vocals and some great orchestral samples.


Agalloch (12/13) hit the main stage at the unearthly hour (in terms of Festival time) of 11 am and in blinding sunshine, perhaps not the best of settings for their wonderfully eclectic, ethereal and emotionally moving music. Think black metal, post rock, and neo-folk, and you are not even halfway to imagining their sound. Their set is a wonderful mixture of musical counterpoints, sometimes ferocious and heavy and then beautifully melodic. The material from the new album sounds great and they effortlessly win over the audience. Another great set, at a Bloodstock festival which everyone is recognising by the Sunday, feels like one of the best ever. Killer Hurts (10/13) on the Jagermeister stage, are a delight for all thrash fans, drawing a large appreciative crowd. Their infectious take on thrash culminates in a great track Beware the Fog which is everything and more great thrash should be.

Alunah (13/13) with their intoxicating and creative mixture of doom and blues are making their debut at Bloodstock on the Sophie stage, and immediately demonstrate how well suited their powerful musicality and sound is to a bigger stage. It sounds fantastic from out in the audience, and guitarist Dave Day's first solo is full of the most incredible melody and atmospheric sustain. Bricket Wood Coven is another highlight with its great jazz like drum fills and the beautifully executed bass coda to the song, that is greeted with spontaneous cheers from the audience, and closes with another jaw dropping melodic guitar solo from Dave. Highlight of this great set is undoubtedly Sophie Day's mesmerising vocals on Scourge and the Kiss,, where during a gentle section in the song, with her head tilted slightly towards the microphone, she is communicating every word with pure and very moving emotion. When we interviewed Sophie prior to their set, she disarmingly said ‘I hope we get a crowd after all of this… I’m hoping it rains so everyone comes to shelter …’. It is no surprise to Room Thirteen that Bloodstock took Alunah to their hearts, and the audience loved their stunning set. A triumphant debut!

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Cannibal Corpse (12/13) begin their death metal assault on the Dio stage, with Scourge of Iron,, and its an utterly crushing experience, as objects start flying into the air from the mosh pit, and the sky blackens as the sun disappears momentarily. It’s sometimes too easy to forget what a talented and tight musical unit Cannibal Corpse are. To play death metal in the dynamic and intense way the band do, nothing less will do. At one point vocalist Corpsegrinder accuses the Bloodstock audience of not keeping up with him, and its true. The band are on fire and end with a frighteningly intense version of Hammer Smashed Face at which point the audience completely let go. Scary and oddly life affirming, a great set!

Rod Zombie (9/13) bounded on to the Dio stage to give a polished and energetic performance against a striking stage backdrop of blown up pictures of Hollywood horror greats Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney. The songs he performs often have a big thumping beat with singalong choruses, as epitomised on a song like Demon Speeding, and this goes down extraordinarily well with the crowd. There is also an inspired cover of James Brown’s Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine, that has everyone joining in…funk and metal, and why not! The inclusion of two other covers does though mean that in comparison with some of the other performances over the festival, it seems to lack a little of the creative urgency and cutting edge that has made this year’s festival so special.

One of the great things about the stage timings at Bloodstock is that you can catch a major part of both the Dio main stage and Sophie stage headliners. So its Sunday after 11 pm, and there can be no doubt that the coolest Metal place to be is in the Sophie tent, dancing to the Industrial Metal grooves of headliners Godflesh (13/13); an inspired choice by Bloodstock to close out the festival. They play a stupendous set that blends electronica, dance rhythms, heavy riffs and incredible shouted metal vocals. Its impossible not to dance along and head bang at the same time, and thats exactly what the packed audience does!. There is genius at work in their sound. Check out their last album A World Lit Only By Fire, and be prepared to be converted. A fitting finish to a fantastic Bloodstock.

During the festival two announcements were made for Bloodstock 2016, and they don’t get better than this.Behemoth will play their classic The Satanist album in its entirety as special guests on the Friday. Also announced were classic extreme metal icons Venom, and we for one can’t wait to hear Countess Bathory slaying the Bloodstock hordes in 2016. BLOODSTOCK 2016 ANNOUNCEMENT

Festival photographs by Gareth Allen and Lewis Allen