In its 11 years of open-air metal mastery, Bloodstock has become home to the kings of heavy, as well as a breeding ground for the next generation of warlords. And next year’s returning headliners Slayer have sights set on making it yet another night to remember.
While their performance in 2013 marked a sombre moment in their career of defiance – just months after the death of founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman – this time they'll have new material from this year's 12th offering, Repentless, to shake the very ground beneath them.
Slayer join a line-up that so far includes Mastodon, Twisted Sister, Gojira, Behemoth and Dragonforce – it’s shaping up very nicely indeed.
“If it’s anything like the last time we played Bloodstock, I think we’re gonna wreck the place,” laughs guitarist Kerry King, who shares duties with fellow thrash veteran and Exodus axeman Gary Holt, serving as Hanneman's replacement.
“I remember getting [Coal Chamber/Devildriver frontman] Dez Fafara completely obliterated and he didn’t remember much the next day. You gotta be ready to party with the big boys and he really shouldn’t have, ha ha!
“It’s always cool to part of a metal gathering. The plan for next year is five or six weeks in the US with Testament and Carcass, and then I think that’s it until festival season and, of course, Bloodstock.”
It might have taken six years to arrive, but Repentless proves Slayer are not done with us yet. Not by a long shot. The band that dragged thrash-metal kicking and screaming to its outer limits, paving the path for much of today's extreme music, have plenty left to say…
“We took a long time but we also had to relearn how to be Slayer,” says King. “We'd never done a record in remotely close to these circumstances. We had to become Slayer 2.0, the next version, whatever you wanna call it, before attempting to do a record and get behind it.
“I hope I never have to say I'm not in Slayer! From my point of view, I feel good on stage and we still put out relevant music that people dig. I don't see any reason to slow down.”
We asked the metal icon to pick the 10 albums that changed his life and, as expected, the man did not disappoint…
1. Judas Priest - British Steel (1980)
“Judas Priest are always a good place to start! And although it’s not my favourite album of theirs, British Steel is the one that got me into their music. Songs like Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight were always on the rock radio in Los Angeles. I dug those tunes, got the record and realised that was just the tip of the iceberg! And actually, they were far more metal than those songs lead on.
“Then I got into all the stuff before that – Hell Bent For Leather [renamed in the US due to controversy surrounding original title Killing Machine], Stained Class, all that stuff – but British Steel was the record that made me notice them.”
2. Iron Maiden - Killers (1981)
“This one kinda goes hand-in-hand with British Steel for me. It was a very similar time in my life, because for the next Judas Priest album, Point Of Entry, when they toured the new songs, they had Maiden opening. And back then, they totally blew me away.
“To tell you the truth, I like the first three Maiden records more than the others put together! It was incredibly formative for heavy metal. And I like both versions of Maiden – with Paul Di’Anno singing and Bruce Dickinson, too – but this one’s my favourite.”
3. AC/DC - Highway To Hell (1979)
“It’s weird; here’s another that links to the last one as it’s a band that got in a new singer. There were probably earlier AC/DC records that were more rock ’n’ roll, but Highway To Hell is so important. I had an outlet for AC/DC back then – their music was actually quite hard to get hold of, but you could find them if you knew where to look.
“Highway To Hell is the greatest album with Bon Scott, and the next one, Back In Black, is the greatest one Brian Johnson ever did. I lean more to the Bon Scott era, but I’m gutted I never got to see him live.”
4. Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)
“I remember listening to the rock channels in LA and Van Halen got played the shit out of on the radio because they were a hometown band. I saw them probably six times on the first three records!
“It was such a groundbreaking first album; it sounded so rad. Then on the second record they would open up with Light Up The Sky. I have that memory like it happened last week.
“I used to watch bands from the first two rows just so I could see what guys like him were doing. We didn’t have the internet; that’s how you learned things. And for all of us guitar players, that was like the introduction to how the guitar is supposed to be played!”
5. Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard Of Ozz (1980)
“I think I might like Diary Of A Madman more, but this was our introduction to Ozzy’s solo career and the first one with Randy Rhoads playing on it. It was more metal than what Ozzy had done before.
“It kinda felt like Randy was the metal version of Eddie Van Halen at the time, you know? He had more of that pedalling style, which you can hear on Over The Mountain from Diary Of A Madman. I couldn’t do this list without picking an Ozzy album!”
6. Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'N' Roll (1978)
“Though my introduction to them was Man On The Silver Mountain from the debut, when I got this album I instantly knew it was from top to bottom the shit. Kill The King is one of my favourite songs ever written and Gates Of Babylon… holy shit! I just found a version on YouTube from 1978 at Rock For Legends on one of the TV shows over in the US. It’s awesome.
“Ronnie James Dio is one of the greatest singers of all time. I got to know him for a few years… One of my later picks is Sabbath, so I had Dio on my list for Rainbow because it’s gotta be Ozzy for Sabbath!”
7. Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970)
“This is actually quite a hard one for me because I really like Sabotage. But to me, Paranoid is kinda the same as Long Live Rock ’N’ Roll… it’s a slam dunk of a record. And to be honest, we’re all still rehashing Tony Iommi’s riffs to this day.
“I’m hoping to catch them on the Farewell tour next year. Just like with AC/DC, it’ll probably be the last time we get to see them.”
8. Venom - Black Metal (1982)
“Now, here’s a weird 18 year-old Kerry King choice for you! We didn’t have the internet then; we just found magazines from the UK – not America – like Kerrang! and we’d buy them.
“We’d check out the pictures of bands like Venom, who went way overboard on the imagery, but it worked for them. More importantly, this album has great fucking songs on it!”
9. Pantera - Vulgar Display Of Power (1992)
“Dimebag was the guy that would win all the guitar playing contests when he was like 17 years old. That’s just where he came from. Sure, there’s Cowboys From Hell before it, but Vulgar Display is much more of a complete record.
“And it’s probably the most aggressive album of theirs. It’s like Pantera’s equivalent to what Reign In Blood is to us! It’s the album where they really honed in on what they were gonna sound like.”
10. Mercyful Fate - Melissa (1983)
“Here’s another absolute slam dunk of an album. Melissa is a total band-defining record. We actually just came off the Mayhem tour with King Diamond… can you believe I got up on stage eight times and played Evil with him!
“If you told 18 year-old Kerry King that would happen, he would have told you to go fuck yourself. I’m not kidding!”