Now entering its 11th year as an open-air festival, Bloodstock has become the home for all things heavy - a celebration of the most brutal riffs known to mankind.
This year’s festivities will be no different, with Twisted Sister, Mastodon and Slayer roped in as headliners, and a smorgasbord of other wicked offerings spread across three stages over the August weekender held in the Midlands stronghold of Catton Hall.
And as we know, heavy metal often breeds the finest musicianship in the world today, so here’s a look at 10 of the best axemen making an appearance this year…
Bloodstock Festival takes place on 11-14 August 2016. Tickets are available from See Tickets.
10. Jason Mendonca (Akercocke)
One of the true gems of this year’s line-up, Akercocke will be welcomed like returning kings after four years of inactivity.
Catton Hall will host their first show back reunited with original axeman Paul Scanlan, whose fretwork alongside founding guitarist and fellow Parker Fly enthusiast Jason Mendonca made them a formidable team indeed.
In 2003’s Choronzon, the blackened death metallers produced one of the finest extreme metal albums in human history, all while being suited and booted in their Sunday best.
Expect bloodcurdling screams, mind-boggling arpeggios, odes to satan and some of the nastiest riffs ever to have been born on British soil.
9. Phil Campbell (All Starr Band, ex-Motörhead)
The loss of Lemmy in December last year shock the world of rock to its very core, leaving fans to bid farewell to the man that seemed immortal. His long-serving bandmate Phil Campbell has vowed to continue with his All Starr jam band, and the odds of hearing cranked Marshalls blaring out a Motörhead classic or two are naturally quite high.
With fellow surviving member Mikee Dee keeping busy behind the kit for Scorpions, their spirit of defiance, and indeed – Motörhead – is what will keep Lemmy alive in our hearts. It will be an emotional performance, for all concerned.
8. Pepper Keenan (Corrosion Of Conformity)
While Down take some much-needed time-off, guitarist Pepper Keenan has been keeping himself busy with the Southern rock outfit that launched his career and took him around the world as close friend and opener for Metallica.
Though the band performed at Catton Hall four years ago, this will be their first appearance with Pepper rejoining ranks as frontman and guitarist.
Fans of the pentatonic scale would be most wise to catch the set, as there probably won’t be too many other blues licks getting played over the course of this particular weekend…
7. Joe Duplantier (Gojira)
In their quest for heaviness, Gojira have practically reinvented the laws of physics and bent the periodic table to their will.
This year’s album, Magma, sees them on fine form indeed - hotrodding death-metal tenacity with progressive pilgrimages to blur the lines of existence and realign reality itself.
Armed with his own signature Charvel San Dimas, his long-favoured EVH III amps and the DigiTech Whammy heard on their recently unleashed sixth full-length, leader Joe Duplantier will be sure to command an intensity like no other. The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe, indeed.
6. Nergal (Behemoth)
When the Behemoth singer/guitarist announces, “It feels good to be alive!” from the stage every night, he really means it. Six years ago, just two days before their impending assault on the fields of Catton Hall, Nergal was rushed to hospital and eventually diagnosed with leukemia.
The next year of his life would be his toughest battle yet - but nothing, not even cancer, can keep this Polish metal legend down.
On his path to recovery, he wrote The Satanist, a career-defining masterpiece that served as his darkest offering so far, chronicling his very own dance with death. It will be performed on the main stage in its entirety - the tremolo picking, disorientating blastbeats and spine-chilling theatrics will undoubtedly make this yet another Bloodstock to remember.
5. Brent Hinds (Mastodon)
There is something innately abnormal about the Mastodon lead guitarist’s approach to his instrument.
Part-hillbilly and part-Celtic, his lines utilise a fair amount of odd timings and hybrid picking, which, along with a huge nod to his progressive roots, compile an array of influences that serve well in making him such an identifiable player.
Plugging his Flying V’s into Marshall and Diezel heads, then fed through Orange’s infamous Richter scale-charting 4X12s, it will almost certainly make for the most gargantuan guitar sounds this year.
4. Herman Li (Dragonforce)
Herman Li is no doubt one of the most flamboyant guitarists in modern metal. The Ibanez endorsee shares much in common with hero Steve Vai in his pursuit of catapulting the physics of his guitar into the unexplored, while never detracting from being one of the greatest showmen in his field.
With biggest hit and Guitar Hero anthem Through The Fire And Flames, Dragonforce did the impossible - making power metal feel cool and exciting a new generation of guitarists into abusing their whammy bars to the very extremes.
3. Michael Romeo (Symphony X)
If you’re looking for the best guitarist at this year’s festival on pure technicality, it would be safe to assume Michael Romeo is your man.
Stylistically, the Caparison Guitars endorsee sits somewhere in between Yngwie Malmsteen and John Petrucci, and somehow makes it all look effortless. Latest offering Underworld proved this is a guitarist, and a band, still capable of innovating and raising the bar.
Ferocious picking, terrifying sweeps, liquid legato… there really is no weak link with this master blaster.
2. Alex Skolnick (Metal Allegiance)
When you think of thrash guitarists, very very few have ever played with the flair and finesse of Alex Skolnick.
It’s no surprise, then, that the ESP-endorsed master shredder has played with Trans Siberian Orchestra, Ozzy Osbourne and his own jazz trio, as well as Bay Area metal masters Testament.
In Metal Allegiance, he continues to avoid the stock licks that plague every guitarist, instead embracing and implementing his love of theory to defy convention and cliché. It’s all in the power of the mind, and perhaps a lesson we could all learn.
1. Kerry King (Slayer)
Kerry King is more than a guitarist. He’s an institution - a cult figure that embodies heavy metal in its purest essence.
As one half of the guitar assault heard on the greatest heavy metal album ever committed to tape in 1986 masterstroke Reign In Blood, he could very well be the reason festivals like Bloodstock exist.
He’s refused to let Slayer die and for that we can only be grateful. With Gary Holt taking over permanently from the much-missed Jeff Hanneman, make no mistake: Slayer are still as deadly a force as their reputation was built on. Miss them at your peril.