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Bloodstock 2012 Preview
Tom O'Boyle , June 22nd, 2012 09:50

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Bloodstock Festival have announced groove metal stalwarts Machine Head as their third and final headlining act, and headline Saturday night - a fact which was announced at a very suitable 6pm on 06/06. How apt for the United Kingdom's biggest extreme metal festival. Fans can vote for 5 songs from their seminal 1994 début album Burn My Eyes to be included in the set. A band with such a high profile is certainly a coup for the festival, now in its twelfth year and going from strength to strength. It is nevertheless an announcement that will polarise opinion amongst the metal underground's devout as to whether Machine Head are worthy of such a coveted spot on the bill, headlining the main (Ronnie James Dio) stage on Saturday August 11 above fellow Bay Area thrash legends Testament, and other respected acts such as New Orleans' very own sludge monkeys Crowbar and Norwegian black metal overlords Mayhem.

Those left faint at memories of lead guitarist/vocalist Robb Flynn's neon tracksuits and nu-metal raps from a decade ago may have a point, but Machine Head have more than enough well loved classics in their catalogue and a solid reputation as an accomplished live act to deserve such a spot, and for an independent festival seeking to increase its popularity, it is through the appearance of successful bands with wide appeal that they will achieve it. If there has ever been a musical movement where business clashes head to head with art, it is extreme metal; where bands work hard to maintain an aura of underground authenticity, whilst simultaneously aspiring to sell enough records to make a living.

As Download festival increasingly dilutes its metal extremities in favour of bands with wider commercial appeal, and with this year's unfortunate demise of the UK leg of Sonisphere, Bloodstock stands as the UK's last bastion of brutality this festival season; an event easily comparable to the likes of Germany's legendary Wacken Open Air and France's Hellfest. It is an event that every UK metal fan should be proud of.

It was founded by Paul Gregory and Vince Brotheridge, born out of a joint desire to have an event in the vein of the glory days of Donington's Monsters of Rock. The first Bloodstock was a one day event in 2001, with Saxon headlining; something which the band were only too happy to do, as artist Paul has created ten sleeves to date for them, including the classic art for Crusader. Since then the festival has increased in size, moving in 2005 to the great outdoors, from Derby's Assembly rooms to Catton Hall.

If you have a penchant for extreme metal and the sight of hirsute men quenching their thirst with drinking horns, the festival runs from August 9 - 12, boasting its strongest roster yet; of which here is brief run down of five bands that we're looking forward to:

Watain
Brandishing Black metal fire and brimstone at its most potent, Watain celebrated their 13th year with the recent documentary Opus Diaboli chronicling a band utterly devoted to their infernal cause. Sounding like the bastard love child of Bathory and Dissection, their music conjures the liminal aura that so many of their peers have sought to create but rarely succeed. Preferring to perform 'rituals' instead of 'gigs' upon a stage practically aflame and decorated with skulls, this will not be a set to miss when the sun goes down on Bloodstock's Friday night.

Behemoth
Two years have passed since frontman Nergal's diagnosis with Leukaemia forced these Polish Black Metal titans to pull out of an appearance at Bloodstock 2010 at the last minute, a tragic set of circumstances that disappointed many a fan all too aware of Behemoth's reputation as a fearsome live band. Since then Nergal has not only beaten his illness, but also potential imprisonment in a legal battle against an incensed Roman Catholic church in Poland, the result of an incident in 2007 when Nergal tore up a bible on stage and accused the church of being 'a murderous cult'. Since then he has become quite the celebrity in his homeland, appearing as a judge on the Polish version of vocal talent show The Voice Having recently completed a successful US tour with support from Watain and The Devil's Blood, Behemoth are back at full strength with everything to prove.

Orange Goblin
These purveyors of crushing, doom tinged riffs in the finest of Iommi worshipping tradition are stalwarts of the UK scene, renowned for their reliably formidable performances; a fact only bolstered by the recent release of their excellent seventh album A Eulogy for the Damned Beer soaked, thunderous, life affirming riffs - what more could you ask for during festival season?

Alcest
A French two piece masterminded by guitarist and vocalist Neige, who writes music in an effort to recall a certain sense of feeling experienced in vivid dreams he had as a child. Memories of a dreamlike reality of a 'world beyond our own', whose echoes are imprinted upon every intimate second of recent breathtaking album Les Voyages de L'Ame (The voyages of the soul). Alcest's music stands somewhere in the hinterland between Shoegaze and Black metal, mixing rapid fire drumming and rasping vocals with soundscapes of wistful etherea. Their set may well prove to be Bloodstock's most beautiful moment.

The Black Dahlia Murder
Far too often are Detroit's Black Dahlia Murder dismissed as yet another example of modern death metal's favouring of style over substance. Far from it. Fuelled by frontman Trevor Strnad's encyclopaedic knowledge of Death metal and a penchant for bad horror movies, this is a band who know how to have fun. Their set on Sunday may well drop a few jaws, as their melodically complex and rhythmically hypnotising brand of visceral brutality does all the talking for them.

More information at Bloodstock.uk.com