It’s day one of BOA 2017 and we’ve got our obligatory black band tees on, grabbed our wristbands and are headed into the arena for a weekend of pure metal fun.
Friday sees Swedish metallers Soilwork take to the main stage with classics ‘Nerve’ and ‘Stabbing the Drama’ but the sound doesn’t seem quite settled yet and most of what you can hear is distortion and cymbals. Luckily the Kraken tiki bar is on hand with cocktails and you can get your mitts on a Black Kraken ice-cream again, but be warned, it stains your teeth like you have scurvy. Maybe pirate emulation is the point? There’s also a pretty extensive merch stand this year at BOA, taking a leaf out of the Wacken book perhaps, you can now dry your bits with a Bloodstock towel… drink from a Bloodstock flask… don some fabulous branded leggings… the list goes on! This of course is in addition to BOA’s Exploding Ape collab which includes gym wear and an onsite Strongman/Strongwoman competition.
Over at said competition, a whole host of incredibly hench and serious looking women are taking turns lifting incredible amounts of weight to see who can complete the most clockwise rotations on the turnstile. It looks insanely tough and there’s a decent crowd cheering them on. Just to the side we spot The Motley Brew – which is possibly the most British thing ever. A tea tent, serving almost every tea under the sun (and free biscuits, bonus) out of proper mugs, with puns everywhere. We drank ours out of “Sweet Chai of Mine” and “Love in a Percolator” mugs… narf.
Nearby on the Sophie (Lancaster) stage, Denderq are busting out melodic but heavy harmonies and shout out to the BOA crew for “such a well run festival”. Following them, another UK band (and veteran Bloodstockers) Season’s End take the stage after an extremely long hiatus. It doesn’t seem to have done them any harm however, and lead vocalist Becki Clark is absolutely belting it, their symphonic style is fairly rare in UK bands so it’s nice to see them back on the scene.
Over on the main stage a guy dressed as a bloody Patrick Bateman is staring blankly into space and starting to creep the security guards out, but it’s time for Cali thrashers Testament to take control of the arena. Now, I always take it as a good sign if a metal band decides to rep their own tshirts and Testament have no problem doing just that, tick one for Metal-bingo. They’re also playing what can only be described as just good solid chuggy metal, to a pretty huge crowd, who are more than happy to jump around a bit as it is absolutely bloody freezing outside now. Goth girls in jorts are freezing their goosepimpled pale legs right off, and I bet come nighttime they actually have a faint eerie glow being almost translucent. In contrast there seem to be a lot of men rocking a leggings/fur coat combo, looking extremely pleased with their fashion choices this weekend. Bloodstock welcomes all. Testament are a testament (geddit) to old school metal, there’s loads of hair-windmilling and epic guitar solos, and one extremely tiny child with bunches and a mini battle-vest is bopping around to them as if it was tots tv.
On the Sophie stage, Shrapnel are getting all screamy with a crowd ready for some rioting, and the penultimate main stage band Blind Guardian come to the fore with an electric blue-lit entrance. They’ve always been a band with a lot of presence, but I will never not giggle that lead vocalist Hansi Kürsch is so unassuming that he looks like he could be doing your taxes or offering you legal advice. Nevertheless their uniquely symphonic sound is well received here at Bloodstock and the crowd joins in when asked “you will be our backing vocals… we have full trust in your skills… this one’s called Nightfall”. Kürsch is also keen to add “We are going to dedicate this one to Amon Amarth because it’s thanks to them we are here, we lost all our stuff” as the band is playing on entirely borrowed equipment.
Last up, Swedish Viking metal in the form of the mighty Amon Amarth, with an absolutely amazing headline show. They have fire, they have drinking horns, they have ever so much hair… they have a giant headbanging serpent on stage and dance moves (yes, I am claiming the rowing as a dance move) but above all else they are just furiously brilliant at what they do. Click HERE to read our complete headline review.
Saturday sees the tiny but loud Jager stage fired up with UK scamps Bangover who have gathered a frankly massive crowd then incited them to create a circle-pit around the entire stage, only to then crowd surf (well you know… be ceremoniously carried) from there to the main stage at the end of their set.
Annihilator are rowdy good fun on the main stage, yelling “We are from that racist terrible country called… Canada… I know I’m sorry, I’m sorry eh” and joking “Our money has the Queen on it, so thanks for that guys”. With an album due in November it’s nice to hear some new stuff too “…finally back to early thrash roots… it’s called Twisted Lobotomy” which is absolute shredsville and the crowd is clearly loving it.
A little punky, a little rocky, a little classic metal… Spyder Byte on the Jager stage are just downright decent and judging by the crowd they’ve gathered, they could really play a bigger stage next year with no problems. Municipal Waste are determined to smash shit up with a giant circle-pit from the outset, even before they’d dropped a note, screaming “We’re Municipal Waste and we’re fucking back!”. Calling out “I’m all fucked up on buckfast right now… we play buckfast thrash” and the topical slew of hatred “Fuck Donald Trump! This song’s called ‘I wanna kill the president” only serves to amp up the already rowdy crowd even more, and a record 711 crowd surfers were recorded going over the barrier during this set alone.
Florence Black have pulled a decent crowd over on the Sophie stage, but we’re off in search of sustenance. Yet again Bloodstock have upped the ante when it comes to food, for a small festival there really is a more than decent offering. After looking into stalls selling Paella, Ostrich burgers, Vegan wraps, smoked meats Texas-style and some heart-stoppingly sugary doughnuts, we settle on a gigantic chicken offering from Burrito Boys which was fantastic.
Back at the main stage, Hatebreed enter to the laid back Bad Boys theme to emphasise the juxtaposition of their immediately screamy harsh metalcore flow. Lead vocalist Jamey Jasta stops for a breath and to say “You guys never disappoint man… this is why people come from all over the world to Bloodstock! Thanks for the positivity guys” as a pack of fluffy unicorn people march through the crowd throwing horns.
As the sun goes down you could be forgiven for thinking that the stage was being set for a headliner, but no – the insane amount of props and settings belong to penultimate act – Kreator. Heralded onto the stage by two demonic people brandishing red flares and a giant explosion of red tickertape, it’s clear Kreator mean business. There is a bit of unfortunate-ness with the curtain snagging on the giant devil horns at the back (a man dutifully tramped out with a ladder about halfway through the first song to unhook it… so rock n roll) but the band are absolutely killing it. There’s tonnes of pyro during ‘Satan Is Real’ and the massive church windows are actually screens providing more visuals to light up the stage, it really is a huge undertaking for a non-headline set. ‘Violent Revolution’ and ‘Pleasure to Kill’ go down a storm and it seems like the arena is shoulder-to-shoulder packed, as a huge silver and white streamer explosion rains down over the crowd.
Kids wrapped like tiny Egyptian mummies are streaking around the place as Bloodstock gives their two headline announcements for 2018, Gojira elicits an enormous roar of approval but the reaction to Nightwish is mixed at best.
Onto the actual mainstage headliner for Saturday – Ghost. Despite a technically good set, and a hardcore set of fans down the front they just don’t have the wow-factor we just experienced with Kreator, it’s maybe a shame for them that they followed such a great show. Read our full review of Ghost’s headline show HERE.
Sunday finally brings the sun and we’re on the hunt for the best tattoos of BOA 2017 – check out our gallery on Facebook to see if we snapped yours! Possessed and Obituary are both shouty good times on the main stage, and Prognosis are absolutely ripping up the New Blood Stage, to a packed tent.
Local Derby lads HELL are predictably mad, with their stained glass window backdrops, crown of thorns and underlings lighting burning sconces. After a little technical difficulty with his headset, vocalist David Bower, armed with a handheld mic is now creeping around the stage amongst the eye-watering amount of pyrotechnics criss-crossing the pit area, calling out “How’s it going bloodstock? It’s been awhile…”. After a brief exit he returns to the stage dressed as a demonic Mr. Tumnus (read: Narnia meets the ninth circle) clicking his hooves as he sermonizes the crowd with a flaming trident. It’s all very surreal, particularly when he makes the ultimate metal Dad-joke “You should have told me bloodstock you were wearing black… we would have changed”. Groan.
Welsh ragga-metal band Skindred are much beloved by the UK metal scene and they absolutely do not disappoint, heaps of banners and backdrops do nothing to distract from the fact that they are completely unique and amazing at what they do. With a tribute photo of Roger Moore on the drumkit, mash-ups of the Imperial March and Benji’s signature spiked sunglasses you could be forgiven for thinking Skindred are all about the gimmick, until you hear them bust out the likes of… er… “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”… oh.
No worries though, Benji soon yells “we stand together as people who love fucking rock music right now… this song is about people coming together and living as one… Doom Riff” which is exactly the kind of wild, raucous metal we came here for. With a barrage of strobe lighting for ‘Sound The Siren’ he asks “…you like the new songs? Yes or no don’t fuck about!” before launching into ‘Pressure’ which gets everyone up and bouncing. Benji jokes about “Anyone want a tshirt? On this side? Twenty five fucking quid go and buy one you cunts” before getting serious mentioning the death of a friend, and noting “…none of us are promised tomorrow, just like Sophie (Lancaster)” and urging everyone “if you love someone go and fucking tell them”.
‘Kill The Power’ is huge, but it’s the firm favourite ‘Warning’ featuring a mass twirling of tshirts… bras… one giant inflatable t-rex… for the Newport Helicopter, which is really impressive. Skindred walk that fine line between being cheesy Butlins comedy and just really fucking awesome. Obviously as Brits we love everything about that.
Up next, Arch Enemy destroy the stage with vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, who is a force to be reckoned with. Her Frozen-esque locks, shredded leather and fringed jacket make her look like some kind of ethereal warrior, and that raw bloodcurdling roar earns her a mark of respect amongst the death-metal crowd. As three people on microlights soar above the arena, Alissa addresses the crowd “This is a very special show… about 3 years ago ae released an album called War Eternal… since then we’ve been touring, we’ve done about 300 shows…and this, Bloodstock, is the last one of this War Eternal cycle!”.
Next up on the Jager stage, Voodoo Blood are giving a belting classic metal show to an increasingly large crowd, but as they finish up the arena is filling for finale headliners Megadeth. What a way to close Bloodstock 2017 – Megadeth are true masters of their genre and the crowd is loving them, out with a raft of Marshall amps and some serious shredding they are the perfect sound to end what has been an exceptional weekend. Check out our full Megadeth review HERE. The Bloodstock blues will hit hard next week but for now we are riding out on a serious high, this festival really is family, and it seems pretty strange to be going back to our normal lives for another year. With two announcements already down, we can’t wait to see what else BOA has in store for 2018.
All photographs © A. Hyams – Do not use without permission