Masters of metal at weekend bash.
TEN thousand music fans with metal pumping through their veins will descend from all points of the compass on the usually tranquil surrounds of Catton Hall next week for Bloodstock 2011.
This open air festival, held just north of Lichfield, is now as big a summer staple for metalheads as Henley is to the Pimm's and straw boater brigade.
Over three days of non-stop music, well over 100 bands will perform on one of the three stages including a considerable number from overseas, for many of whom this is a rare sojourn onto British shores.
Among the headline acts performing at the metal mecca this year are outrageous 80s icons WASP fronted by the infamous Blackie Lawless, and marking their 35th anniversary, the legendary Motorhead - not so much a band as a mindset - fronted by the nation's coolest OAP, Lemmy.
Saturday's headliners are Immortal and the Norwegian black metal torchbearers have vowed to bring their full pyro stage show with them. These Scandinavian warriors are making their first UK appearance in ten years and it's sure to be an especially poignant one following the appalling recent events in their homeland.
While across Europe countries are flailing from one financial fiasco to the next, in the world of metal the European bond really does stand for something.
Bloodstock has always been a tremendous advocate for bringing over some great acts and among those not to miss this year are German thrash metal kings Kreator, with the teutonic titans making their only UK appearance of the year.
Those with a diet for thrash will have their guitar-coated appetite sated further by the mighty Exodus. Anyone seeking to name a Big 5, following on from the Big 4 of Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax who conquered Knebworth last month, will probably feel it's game over by the time this Californian crew have left the stage.
There will also be a first UK festival for the Finnish firebrands Poisonblack but the rhythm will slow to funereal pace with Swiss extreme black metal group Triptykon, fronted by Tom G Warrior of Celtic Frost fame.
Triptykon's trips to the darkside come with the full black metal imagery and the intensity is unlikely to be any less when Ireland's pagan protaganists Primordial take to a UK stage for the first time in more than two decades.
Anyone who thinks the only music to come out of Ireland is either Riverdance or the Pogues will have their mistaken belief firmly put in place as these crazed celts mark their 30th anniversary with a first ever outdoor UK performance.
Good things really do come to those who wait.
While the headline acts at Bloodstock are to be found on the main Ronnie James Dio stage it's definitely worth sampling some of the action in the two smaller tented venues where plenty of energetic young bands can be found thrashing away to their hearts' content.
Swedish power metal group Amaranthe, with female vocalist Elize, have quickly established themselves as a band worth watching with their acclaimed, recently released, self-titled debut album.
Amaranthe will be found on the Sophie Lancaster Stage, as will another female-fronted act, Cerebral Bore. These young Scots have a burgeoning reputation as one of the most brutal death metal bands on the circuit, and singer Som will prove that she can unleash a guttural growl every bit as earth-shattering as the men.
"We're really looking forward to sharing the bill with the likes of Lemmy, Morbid Angel, At The Gates and Napalm Death," said Som. "Expect a full-on annihilating performance."
Napalm Death are certainly one not to miss. Originally from Birmingham, one of the forefathers of Grindcore may have none of the original band members from the early 80s left, but the spirit and fire still burns brightly.
As with the much bigger Download and Sonisphere festivals, a sprawling array of market stalls and eateries are to be found but one of the great qualities of Bloodstock is that things operate on a far less corporate scale.
By the time Motorhead's amps are unplugged to bring the curtain down on the three days, your neck muscles will be pleading for mercy from constant vigorous headbanging and your ears will feel as though there's a frenzied fly buzzing around who refuses to come out.
That's Bloodstock for you.
TicketInfo Visit www.bloodstock.uk.com for the latest ticket and travel news to Bloodstock
Explosive: Napalm Death will be playing the three-day Bloodstock festival. Headliners: Motorhead