Reviewed: Slayer’s firey finale at Bloodstock Open Air

A packed arena tentatively awaits the dropping of the giant white screen across the front of the BOA stage, as we prepare to close out Bloodstock Open Air 2016 with one of the biggest metal bands of all time, the almighty Slayer.

As the curtain drops the thrash legends throw down hard, opening with titular track of their most recent album ‘Repentless’ amidst a stage almost sagging with the weight of the insane pyrotechnics they’ve rigged. Flanked by two humongous inverted crosses made from amps, which are actually there to shoot massive bursts of flame out onto the stage, it’s frankly amazing that drummer Paul Bostaph still has eyebrows.

When the flame cannons aren’t firing the back of the stage is alight with flame runners behind the band and the backdrop depicting an artistically creepy Christ image is reminder that Slayer one hundred percent do not give a fuck about offending anyone. Hell, the multiple law suits brought against the band have merely become a woven part of their society-defying history, so it’s pretty much par for course.

Kerry King, wielding his fork-headed axe and a belt of swinging chains shreds through the likes of ‘Disciple’, ‘When The Stillness Comes’ and ‘Mandatory Suicide’. Yelling out “You guys having fun today? Another year at this bloodfest!” it’s clear the guys are enjoying this one, and the thousands of windmilling heads in the crowd seem to agree.

King calls out “Thank you very much for coming today, cause we’re all here to have some fucking fun right?” before introducing ‘Die By The Sword’ with a quick quip on recent terror events around the world “The words are kinda fitting with all this crazy shit going on. I believe in karma, what comes around, goes around”. This is a band with such presence and power, you could bottle and sell it. As the Christ curtain drops to reveal the band’s famous eagle logo, an almighty roar goes up in the crowd before the band smash through ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ and they joke “You guys are here because you love music right? So we’re gonna do a love song…” for ‘Dead Skin Mask’.

After a short cut of the lights, Slayer pull out the big guns for the encore. ‘South of Heaven’ has one of the most memorable refrains of all time but it’s ‘Raining Blood’ that gets every single one of our little black hearts beating, and you just don’t know whiplash unless you’ve headbanged to Slayer.

A final banner drop shows a giant Heineken style logo with the words ‘Hanneman, still reigning’ to commemorate Slayer’s late founding member and guitarist, Jeff Hanneman who passed away in 2013. Going out with enough pyro to feel the warmth from the sound desk Slayer hit hard with ‘Angel of Death’ and it’s all over too soon. There is often much dispute over which bands could or should headline Bloodstock and to some extent it all comes down to preference, but Slayer are and have always been one of those bands you just can’t argue with. Tonight, they proved once again why they are metal royalty.

All photos © A. Hyams 2016. Do not use without permission.

Reviewed: Mastodon headline Bloodstock Open Air 2016

With a UK legacy of great shows already behind them and a fanbase that can be measured in the sheer number of their tshirts on display in the crowd today, Mastodon have stake their claim on Bloodstock’s Ronnie James Dio Stage as headliners.

Throwing down with moody opener ‘Tread Lightly’ Mastodon come out strong, unfortunately the sound does not. Luckily it’s quickly remedied and the melodic guitars of ‘Feast Your Eyes’, ‘Blasteroid’ and ‘Oblivion’ shine through. The crowd density of last night isn’t quite replicated tonight, you can pretty much wriggle to the front with relative ease, but Mastodon’s lighter sections seem to conjure a sort of sombre reverence where everyone is just appreciating the music.

Amusingly (albeit for those who are old enough to remember…. Sigh…) the five giant light panel installations behind the band, appear to be playing the entire Windows 98 screensaver catalogue. You know, the one with neon electricity or trippy tie-dye patterns that everyone thought they were super edgy and cool for having instead of the standard windows one your Dad used.

In a rare moment of crowd-interaction in Mastodon’s twenty-song onslaught, bassist Troy Sanders yells out “You guys are music hungry lovers, thank you” before the band swing into the harmonic vocals of ‘High Road’. However on a few of the others the words seem to be coming out so distorted you could almost swear the band are fluent in whale.

As the stage lights up in yellows and reds for ‘Ember City’ and the band call out “Are you fucking alive?” to the headbanging crowd, Mastodon seem to relax slightly into the show. Speaking of their first UK gig sixteen years ago at Camden Underworld, the band want us to know that they love us… “We knew we were going to have a special relationship with this country, you metalheads. When we’re home or on vacation… we talk about you guys! You nice British people”. Aww, isn’t that adorable?

Finishing up with ‘Megalodon’, ‘Colony of Birchmen’ and to an almighty roar of appreciation from the BOA arena, the huge ‘Blood and Thunder’ – Mastodon close the RJD stage for Saturday night with style. “Thank you for an unforgettable experience, we’re Mastodon, we love you”.

With their own unique brand of slowed down psychedelic sounds vs. hyper and heavy eardrum challenging metal, you could be forgiven for being on the fence about Mastodon, but tonight’s extremely tightly rehearsed set does everything to prove that above all else this band cares about music.

With a set that sounds almost identical to their album tracks (bar some vocal blurring from a production point of view) you almost with they’d break character a bit, interact in a less forced way. There’s a grittiness missing for sure, but Mastodon make up for it by being, well, precisely beautiful.

All photos © A. Hyams 2016. Do not use without permission.

All photos © A. Hyams 2016. Do not use without permission.