I'll admit straight away that I thought Bloodstock 2006 didn't contain the strongest of line ups, and if I wasn't doing the journalism thing, then I perhaps would have stayed home on the weekend. 'Spellblast', 'Majesty' and 'Machine Men' didn't exactly fill me with excitement, and the rather strange addition of 'Deathstars' as 'special guests' felt like the bottom of the barrel was being well and truly scraped. But festivals have a habit of being greater than the individual bands booked to play, however I was a little worried about the amount of acts scheduled for the Saturday, and in hindsight I like to think I was correct in my concerns.

The thing I love about Bloodstock is the fans. They are true metal fanatics, as are the organisers. A true metal festival for true metal fans with no trendy, of the moment, bandwagon bands in sight. It really is a treat to see the organisers book those largely un-renowned bands, un-renowned in the UK at least, such as Marshall Law, Savage Circus and Brainstorm. Many bands who played announced it was their first time in the UK, and perhaps without the Bloodstock festival the bands would never get to grace these shores such is the state of metal scene in this country. Bloodstock provides a wonderful opportunity to see bands you would only dream of witnessing as well as purchasing the band's merchandising and back catalogue. The festival provides a great service to metal, yet perhaps the most important thing the festival does is listening to its fans. Bands that the fans want to see are booked for the line up. Any concerns regarding the venue are taken on board and acted upon, most notably at the Open Air Festival earlier in the year. Having perused the forums after the festival, I know the amount of strobe lighting used this year has been a concern and I have faith that the organisers will have this issue resolved in 2007.

The Friday was arguably the better of the two days, perhaps it's just myself getting too long in the tooth, but ten bands spanning eight hours was just the right amount. Saturday's twelve hour slogathon was just a little too much metal to take in one day, especially when the quality of the bands varied. The metal market was spread around the assembly room corridors and foyer, and provides an excellent distraction. It's a great place to buy those CDs you can't normally get hold of in your local HMV. The stalls were buzzing all day as rock fans kept going back to sift through the CDs just in case they'd missed something.

As expected the food was expensive but the roast pork hot sandwich went down well, and I sat stuffing my face on the balcony as Axel widdled his way around those arpeggios. Alcohol was banned from the balcony yet chips and burgers weren't which was a shame, as a drink is the first thing you need after some hot food.

Friday started late, although after only fifteen minutes it seemed to create confusion between the two stages. Often was the time the main stage ended when yours truly, in an effort to cover every band possible for the delight of you readers, had to dash across the building to the 2nd stage where the band were already into the start of their set. The worst consequence of having overlapping stages is the lack of attentive punters. Captive Audio, Eden, Isaiah, Beyond Afterlife and Enemy Unknown all suffered from this overlap, and I find it a shame that fledgling bands such as these don't get to play in front of as many people as possible. Can you imagine the members of Captive Audio getting excited about the chance to play at the Bloodstock Festival to end up playing in front of a crowd of twenty? Without knowing the full running of the festival, I ask if it would be a good idea after a band had finished, for someone to run from the Main Hall to the Darwin Suite to advise the guy on the mixing desk that the second stage would be ready to go without fear of overlapping.

For myself, the festival peaked with Onslaught. The veteran British thrashers really put on a great show and proved that the band have that certain something, that X Factor. On the whole it was great to see so many British bands on the main stage bill, they gave the plethora of Germans bands a run for their money. Marshall Law showed they were a force to be reckoned with (England 1 : 0 Germany). Majesty cheesed their way through an enjoyable set list, (England 1 : 1 Germany). Savage Circus somewhat missed the mark for Germany, but Axel Rudi Pell got the festival back on track (England 1 : 2 Germany), and Primal Fear reigned supreme with their bullish traditional metal (England 1 : 3 Germany). Saturday started excellently with the expansive and sombre Illuminatus (England 2 : 3 Germany), but Brainstorm really stormed the festival with their gritty power metal (England 2 : 4 Germany). Onslaught kicked everyone in the proverbial pants (England 3 : 4 Germany) and My Dying Bride showed their class to round off the proceedings for 2006 (England 4 : 4 Germany).

I doubt Deathstars and My Dying Bride were everyone's choice for special guests and headliners, and after the brilliant Onslaught the bands that followed were unlikely to set the festival alight. My Dying Bride, although giving a good performance, I would argue weren't the best band to finish off the weekend. Their slow plodding music drove many from the hall hoping to catch the early train home, and I couldn't help thinking that My Dying Bridge would've been excellent special guests supporting Saxon or maybe Helloween. Deathstars suffered at the hands of some hecklers and missile throwing. Although I can't condone such behaviour, I think it speaks volumes about the passions of true metal fans, their tolerances and the care in which the organisers must choose future line-ups. An up and down festival with a great atmosphere, but from this writer's point of view, a quality not quantity attitude on bookings would be the single thing I'd like to see in 2007.