Despite doing our utmost to get onto the Catton Hall site in time for the start, our ever reliable motorway system in the UK meant that we ended up arriving on site to find that UK noisemongers Feed The Rhino had been and gone. Still, it was still early on the Friday and when festival organisers set standards like they do by having bands like Feed The Rhino open proceedings, you know you're going to be in for an amazing weekend. Thankfully, skipping over the rubbish weather, Bloodstock Open Air 2018, you did not disappoint.
So, our Friday kicked off properly with UK thrash veterans Onslaught who delivered a blast of eyebrow singing pyro to accompany their '80s thrash sonic assault. Like me, if you remember "the scene" first time around, you'll remember how the UK thrash scene sat firmly in the shadows of it's bigger Stateside brother. However, today, Onslaught owned the Main Stage at Bloodstock and made sure the growing crowd was loosened up ready for a busy day. Fronted by Karl Willets of Bolthrower fame, Memoriam ramped up the heaviness as they followed Onslaught. Delivering a wall-shaking, rumbling death metal experience, what the Brummie outfit lacked in variety, they more than made up for in brute force heaviness.
Our first trip out into the corpse-painted adorned masses and over to the Sophie Lancaster Stage, came to check out the magnificently named Godthrymm who lived up to their gloriously Bloodstockesque name with a sound that was punishingly heavy - just the kind this Bloodstock audience laps up. Heavy, dense, rumbling doom-tinged riffery is the order of the day for this three-piece and a mental note is made to check these lot out again. Sodomized Cadaver from Wales feature Ollie Jones of Welsh Gore mob Desecration and, as such, dish up a filthy buffet of unrelenting grindcore that really isn't for those with a weak disposition.
Back on the main stage Bloobath live up to their supergroup billing and, fronted by Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes, the extreme metal group certainly tick all the boxes of the masses who have been waiting for the band to make their Bloodstock appearance with their gruesome look matching the feral, raw death metal they toss out to the baying crowds.
Now, who doesn't love a bit of Wednesday 13? Clearly the shock rock singer has a big following at Bloodstock as his strides out on to the stage and smashes through an expletive-laden set. With a stage set that looked like it was lifted from low budget horror movie, the Wednesday 13 show has it all, gorgeously gruesome dancers and a frontman strutting around swinging an axe all wrapped up in a forty minutes of his cheese and blood soaked shock rock anthems.
Now, here at PureGrainAudio we've got plenty of time for Manchester slammers Ingested who didn't disappoint with a frankly disgusting set of their slamming metal. With little in the way of frills, the Manchester quartet incite a bone-crunching wall of death and for their half hour slot deliver everything you'd expect from the band. Due up next up on the Main Stage were hardcore heavyweights Suicidal Tendencies however, travel problems meant they were in danger of missing their scheduled slot so a quick schedule shuffle bumped Japanese heavy metal ladies Lovebites onto the main stage with ST taking their place on the Sophie Stage but more of that carnage later. To say Lovebites acquitted themselves well given the circumstances would be an understatement. Given a short set and the chance to perform in front of a 15,000 strong crowd, you'd have expected a few nerves however the four Japanese girls rocked the fuck out of the main stage and went away having won themselves an army of new fans.
There is mild panic amongst security as fans pile into the Sophie Stage tent for the appearance of Suicidal Tendencies and you can understand why as an "ST" chant rings around the tent as the band stride out slamming into opener "You Can't Bring Me Down". Bodies pour over the barrier as the band incite the kind of mayhem you'd expect from a band. Frontman Mike Muir raced around the stage spitting out his lyrics as those who have managed to shoehorn themselves into the tent quickly realise they're experiencing what will be one of the highlights of the weekend. It must be hard to go on after that but Scottish metalcore chaps Bleed From Within are more than up to the task as they demonstrate again that they are one of the most underated bands in the British metal scene with a brutal, punishing set that befits their high positioning on the bill.
Our first day at Bloodstock is coming to a close but what a way to finish it. First up are black metal legends Emperor who, musically at least, are utterly epic. Their dramatic swathes of relentless black metal fills the early evening calm of Catton Hall as the band to continue to celebrate their Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk classic album. Sadly, some of the dramatic atomsphere you associate with the band is lost given that the sun is still peeking out through the clouds and, while there is no doubting their iconic status as they storm through "Inno A Satana", there are times when you look around the stage during their set and you wondering if the Norwegian heavweights are simply playing on autopilot?
If you want to talk about heavy metal icons then there is no better place to start than Judas Priest who closed off the main stage on the Friday night. One of the most requested bands in Bloodstock history, there hasn't been a year where fans have wondered if "it will be Priest next year?". Well, Bloodstock's faithful finally got their wish and as Rob Halford and his heavy metal henchmen hit the stage, they made sure it was well worth the wait for those fans. Setting the Friday night sky alight with opener "Firepower", Judas Priest showed that, even after forty odd years, they're still very much a force to be reckoned with.
Led from the front by Halford, the band stormed through a career-spanning set as heavy metal classics including "You've Got Another Thing Coming" and "Painkiller" whipped this Bloodstock crowd into a headbanging frenzy. However it was the emotional return of Glen Tipton to the stage that brought a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat of the crowd and, helping the band on the likes of "Living After Midnight", Tipton and Priest showed exactly why Bloodstock has been begging for the Priest year after year. This stunning display of heavy metal was the perfect way to end the first day of Bloodstock and set expectations high for the rest of the weekend.