Spartan Warrior  opened up the festivities on Saturday morning with a bravura showing of true NWOBHM muscle. Another resurrected band who are at the top of their game, their set included classics from the early 80’s – “Assassin” is as potent as ever – and newer material which proved that relying on nostalgia is not a concern. Outstanding. Crowsaw  may have been suffering from “Jäger rash” but their set showed no signs of hangover fatigue, an early afternoon treat from a band whose melodies are as insistent as their heavy, heavy riffs. Crowsaw more than just have “The Answer”, they’re the entire solution to your melodic hard rock needs!
Saturday saw a third stage open up at Wildfire, with the extreme metal bill of the Horrorfly Stage making it impossible to see all the bands as clashes were unavoidable. With a heavy heart we left the main arena – and the hard rock of A’Priori – to check out some of the UK’s most extreme proponents of heavy fuckin’ metal. Arriving in time to see the tail end of Triverse Massacre‘s  set, our all too brief interaction still reaped rewards. With a taste for the grooviest of death/thrash, wholesale slaughter was inevitable and we will make every effort to catch these brutalists again. Anyone heading to this years Bloodstock should certainly add them to their ‘must see’ list. The metalcore of Transcension  followed and while there’s nothing ‘new’ to report, their performance was polished and provided the de rigueur screams and clean melodies you’d expect from the genre. Also, kudos to that kid who, when handed the mic, unleashed a full throated scream belying his years, impressive mate, impressive! Adding some much needed spice to Saturday’s Horrorfly line-up, the up and coming Pelugion  slowed things down with their bluesy, Sabbathian riffing. A 3-piece whose love for the classics bleeds through every neck-wrecking tempo change and fevered dalliances with doom metal, we demand you keep an eye on these guys, they’re going places!
A quick sprint (well, an uphill breathless jog) back to the main arena, saw us catch Northen Ireland’s Baleful Creed . A heady mix of Danzig and Masters Of Reality, fuzzy riffs and moody malevolence erupt in a gruff and gravely feast for the ears. Anyone struggling with hangovers from the previous day were left in tatters after RSJ  destroyed Scotland with a whirlwind of insanity; brutal, belligerent and bloody brilliant. Music this aggressive and downright nasty will always have its naysayers but the sheer energy and mind-blowing proficiency of RSJ should have been enough to endear them to the sceptical. We asked frontman Dan Cook if there was any chance of a second set on the Sunday….it didn’t happen. Shame, RSJ’s hardcore/grindcore/mathcore metal was an undoubted highlight of the weekend. Sinocence  followed and unfortunately paled in comparison, a sightly confused sound left us perplexed and wishing for something to sink our teeth into. We made do with a haggis burger instead. This next one’s short and sweet. A simple equation sums up the impressive hard rock of Wales’ Fireroad . It goes something like this: Fireroad + Sunny Day = Smiles. These guys rock.
Back to the Horrorfly stage for more carnage and it was the turn of Lifer  to kick the attended throng in the privates. These “Bastard Sons Of Sabbath” are a Crowbar/Down collision with enough pendulous grooves to appease the most ardent metaller. In your face and dripping with sweaty malice, Lifer more than live up to their namesake. Metal ’til you die!
It was then back (again) to the main arena for Worship Metal favourites The Deep . They may be known only to the NWOBHM completist but The Deep deserve wider recognition – not only for last years exceptional album Premonition – but for their dynamite accessibility that mixes Spellbound era Tygers Of Pan Tang with Praying Mantis’ classic hard rock sound. Another band to add to your long list of must hear NWOBHM revivalists! With the day fast drawing to a close, it was time to up the ante and Screaming Eagles  did exactly that. “Ready For The Fall” and “Save Me” from 2015’s Stand Up And Be Counted are even harder-hitting in the live environment than on record and you’d have to have had your toes stapled to the floor to not jump around like a complete ass-hat to the endless parade of anthems peeled off by this incredible band. Like having 30 years of hard rock injected into your eyeballs, Screaming Eagles are indeed “still here and standing tall”. Massive Wagons  were (are) incredible. Their live show is an unstoppable force, a barrage of riffs and an onslaught of sleazy, stompy, hard rock stingers. Fancy a sing-along? These are your guys. “Tokyo” would have sold millions in the 80’s (born too late lads) and their high-energy performance is beyond crowd-pleasing, it’s spunk in your pants orgasmic! Filled to capacity, there’s no room to breathe, no room to move and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than in a tent with these bearded maniacs. Shifting genre and into the realms of nu-metal/early 00’s metalcore, the relatively recent return of Forever Never  continues to be embraced and their live show has reached new levels of impact. Huge riffs, the most accomplished vocals from frontman Renny Carroll to date (the growls/screams of old are almost entirely gone) and a rousing riffed-up rendition of the classic 80’s John Farnham track “The Voice” had the jubilant crowd in good voice throughout their well received co-headlining set. Sitting in silence was not an option!
On to the big finish.
Is there any UK band with more hype surrounding them than Inglorious  right now? They’re everywhere, Planet Rock love ’em, they’ve secured some seriously high profile support slots and their self-titled debut is receiving nuthin’ but love. Let’s get one thing clear from the outset, Inglorious are worthy of each and every one of the plaudits coming their way! Nathan James is the proud owner of the most expressive and most diverse set of pipes we’ve had the pleasure of hearing in a long time and they are frankly faultless. With the nerve to speed up(!) the Deep Purple classic “Lay Down, Stay Down”, confidence is in no short supply and their set is all too short (the problem with having just the one album in the can) with the punters baying for more. These guys won’t just be big, they’ll be world-conquering! Rock royalty in the making.
The greatest day in Wildfire’s 5 year history? Arguably so. It’ll take something particularly extraordinary to top what was practically the perfect showcase for the UK’s rock and metal scene in 2016.