Bloodstock is renowned for it’s no-nonsense approach to the scene, entwining bands from all areas of rock and metal into a bill like no other. There’s no pop-punk to be found here, no wet-eared emo kids and definitely no over-sized sunglasses wearing, prissy ‘my-hunters-will-get-dirty’ Moss-alikes. Bloodstock is a haven for real lovers of metal.
Friday’s starter for ten The Defiled playing to their biggest BOA crowd yet, exploded onto the stage with a distinctly arrogant air about them, growling and grimacing into the microphones for catchy new track ‘Call To Arms’ and earning the respect of the morning main stage crowd with an energetic show, while the distinctly more rock n roll style of Bloodstock veterans Wolf, brought out the animal in us with ‘Skullcrusher’ dedicated to a techie who’d earlier sustained a head injury in an accident. Notable but not entirely special performances from Triptykon and Kreator seemed to gather fair sized but not huge crowds, whilst Lawnmower Deth’s brand of ear-bleeding thrash on the Sophie stage sticks it to the man in style. Props to Primitai on the New Blood stage for a great set, they deserved a bigger crowd.
Despite retro rockers W.A.S.P’s steely eyed stare and (albeit tamed) list of hits, they weren’t the epic performance we wanted them to be, particularly with the culling of ‘Animal’ and Blackie Lawless’ pvc under-suit is frankly a
little bit creepy at his age. The shout out of “If you want your country back, you’ve got to take it” referring to the recent rioting, was also met with apathy around site – most obviously from the man next to us who shouted back “Shut up you American arse!”. Stand out performance of the day goes to the Devin Townsend Project, returning to BOA after 2010’s comedy of technical errors, Devin and the gang absolutely smash it up with a whimsical tour through his deranged mind and facial expressions often reserved for Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura.
Saturday’s offering of Finntroll saw a topless Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns belting out the folksy vocals with hair windmilling, and former Emperor frontman Ihsahn gave a relatively demure performance, preferring to head-down shred rather than move about the stage.
Despite another batch of technical difficulties, metal dream-team Wintersun were seen to regain their honour after pulling out of BOA 2009 with their harmonic vocals, and the vast member-count of Therion provided much mirth as they swirled about the vortex of the stage each taking a turn to grace the front with their symphonic metal and odd collection of fancy dress. Aside the amusement, even the toughest members of the crowd were seen to be staring open mouthed in the direction of the fine ladies of Therion, and singing along with more than a few songs. Straight from the jaws of Wacken, Italy’s power metal powerhouse Rhapsody of Fire put on a musically flawless set with huge crowd pleasers ‘Holy Thunderforce’ and ‘Emerald Sword’ to a dedicated audience (hundreds of Rhapsody tshirts on show) brandishing blow up swords.
Badger-faced black metal headliners Immortal spent most of their set looking disparagingly at the crowd in an effort to seem cool, which is hard to do when you’re wearing black leather pants covered in what looks like talcum-powder, but hey-ho.
Though they’re not every metalhead’s keg of ale, they did put on a good show and end BOA Saturday with a flaming bang.
With a glimmer of sunshine, Brummie grindcore gods Napalm Death began their audio assault on Bloodstock Sunday, with all the fire and fury they could muster, stopping only to breathe and calmly say “We’re Napalm Death from Birmingham, and this song is about Peace…” before launching into another incomprehensible scream. Hammerfall provided light relief with a good old sing along (it’s easy, apart from Craig David, they probably weave their own name into more songs than any other band) with the likes of ‘Let The Hammer Fall’, ‘Hammerfall’ and the incredibly funny ‘Hearts On Fire’ which sounds quite a lot like ‘Arse On Fire’ from across the arena.
At The Gates’ brutal death metal reunion was welcomed onto the main stage with a huge crowd as they rolled through a selection of their vast catalogue for a good old headbang, and venerated death metallers Morbid Angel threw down with everything they had. Hailing from sunny Florida, you’ve got to wonder how they fit in with the Disney crowd there…
Home grown rockers Motörhead are certainly deserving of a headline slot at BOA, especially as they closed Wacken only a week ago, but something was definitely amiss. Gritty voiced Lemmy looked bored as sin and apart from the obvious hype for ‘Ace of Spades’ the people of BOA were largely unresponsive. After a day of hard, fast and heavy thrash – were Motörhead the musical equivalent of a 50mph zone on the motörway?
Anyway, the epic performance of the day, nay the weekend goes to the raw talent of San Francisco’s Exodus with an absolutely scorching set of drum-pounding, ear-drum-busting old-school thrash. So many people came out blinking into the sunlight saying “I never really liked them before, but… wow.” and we were utterly converted by the sheer power rolling off them into the crowd. Tattooed frontman Rob Dukes grimaced and swore his way through a stunningly heavy set, inciting the scariest circle pit you can imagine, all fist-meets-face. If you get a chance to see them – take it, you won’t be disappointed.
All in all, Bloodstock Open Air 2011, with its eclectic mix of new and old metal from many different genres and backgrounds has claimed another victory. In a lineup which is arguably weaker than previous years it would be easy to say that it just didn’t work, but the spirit was there, the community was there and everyone was having a great time experiencing bands that you might see once in a blue moon otherwise, thanks to the Cowell’s of the world. Roll on BOA 2012…
See Anna's photos from Bloodstock 2011 here: