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.

Rammstein – Download 2016 Review

Despite a day of heavy downpours over a now very boggy Donington Park (yes yes, we’ve heard the monikers… Drownload… Downpour Festival…), thousands of expectant faces are turned towards the main stage for tonight’s headliner – German heavy metal powerhouse, Rammstein. There’s nothing quite like a side of S&M or pyrotechnics alongside learning how to count to vier whilst headbanging, and Rammstein promise a whole lot more than just their stage show.

As a cinematic countdown begins, video screens send a message “Enjoy the show, please do not be preoccupied with recording it” and instantly Go-Pro’s are thrust into the air on ridiculous, view-ruining monopods. I mean come on, what the hell are you actually going to do with that footage man?

Regardless of the moronathon, Rammstein smash their way onstage as only they can – with giant showoff billowing clouds of pink smoke, which when combined with the ongoing drizzle turns quickly into a spatter of blood on anyone wearing lighter than black outfits. First up new song Ramm 4 sees giant firework laden platforms lowering guitarists Kruspe and Landers onto the stage and the always enigmatic frontman Till Lindemann emerges in a childcatcher-esque outfit and his patent white painted face.

The stage look for Rammstein has always been industrial but this time steps over into the cyborg realm with giant stage-high light bars which respond to the band’s instruments. Reise, Reise is absolutely gut churningly heavy, and Till sports a very fetching duffel coat over his flash-bang adorned waistcoat which explodes, quite obviously right in his face. How this band have not sustained more serious pyrotechnic related injuries I’ll never know.

The electronic intro bleeps for Feuer Frei raise an enormouse guttural roar from the crowd, and there is no shortage of actual fire alongside the music, their signature flamethrowing face cages are everything Batman’s Bane wishes he was. Keyboardist/freak on a leash Lorenz is hastily shoved into a box after being dragged around the floor, emerging later in an extremely spangly sequined suit to walk off his horrors on a treadmill whilst Till wields a giant flaming arc that sort of looks like a crossbow. You really couldn’t make it up. A crackly speaker on the right side of the stage threatens to dull Mein Hertz Brennt but as Till’s heart (flare) lights up, every single person in the arena is singing their lungs raw. Following up with Links 2, 3, 4 this is shaping up to be a stellar performance from Rammstein.

Guitar flamethrowers, fireballs erupting from the sound tent in the middle of the crowd and zip-wire fireworks streaking back and forth – every time you think you’ve seen it all, Rammstein amp it up a little more. Ich Will has everyone yelling back the required replies ‘Wir hören dich’ and so on, Du Hast is heavier than a heavy thing and Depeche Mode cover Stripped just couldn’t sound more seedy than in a German accent.

For the Encore, we are treated to the completely epic Sonne followed by an acoustic Ohne Dich but it’s Till’s ascension into angel-dom that is the real icing on this weird and wonderful cake. Giant metal wings loaded with white sparking fireworks lift Till into the air above the stage floor for Engel and it is motherlovin’ glorious. Leaving us with a brief “Thank you. Danke schoen, you’re amazing” the stage erupts in a backdrop of massive rocket fireworks and the arena is engulfed in smoke. There’s nothing more to say except that Rammstein are arguably one of the best metal acts of our time and here’s hoping they don’t leave it too long before returning with even more incredible shows.