Bloodstock has become a regular fixture in my gig calendar since I first went there in 2011 given it was cheaper than most of the other English Festivals, It wasn’t in France and unlike Wacken, which turned ridiculous with the idea that they would release every ticket for sale right after the festival and make it harder to get them than in previous years. Sure, there is Metal Days, Obscene Extreme, Rock Am Ring, Summer Breeze and the likes, but sometimes it’s easier to stay in your own country for what can only be best described as an Endurance test. BOA 2015 was no different.
Before we get into the whole shebang about the festival and whatnots, I bought my ticket for this instalment when I was on site last year purely because whether the bill would be mind blowing or lacklustre, there is always something there which will satisfy my musical tastes and always some insanity going down which provides countless entertainment whilst drinking obscene amounts of booze. There won’t be any coverage of the traditional bin jousts, processions round Midgard chanting things at 3am or the campsite wrestling because 1 – this is purely about the music side of the festival and 2 – given how much I was drinking, I didn’t participate much in the insanity, opting instead to keep it to where I was camped.
Without further dragging this out… Let’s get to the event.
THURSDAY 6 Aug:
Bands on a Thursday has been a new addition to the festival over the past handful of instalments. Not to take anything away from those bands who play on the Thursday night, but with the exception of one or two, they generally seem to be of a more fun nature than serious nature. Of course, when the first band you catch is Desecration, you know it’s always serious. A regular fixture on the UK Death Metal circuit, a lengthy back catalogue, heavy involvement in other groups over the past few years (Amputated, ENT, Onslaught and Crepitation are some off the top of my head), the dirty death metal trio from Wales upped the intensity of the Thursday night. Ferocious sounding and heavy as hell, the highly concentrated dose of death metal certainly pleased those who wandered out to catch one band that night.
Arnocorps however were the main draw for me on the first night. For those unfamiliar with this band, they are a group of musicians who are “dedicated to telling the truth of Austrian folk tales and legends which have been bastardized by Hollywood”, which in normal speak translates to they perform songs about Arnold Schwarzenegger films. They are also not to be confused with Austrian Death Machine which was a death metal variant of the theme but fronted by the former As I Lay Dying vocalist prior to his incarceration. The six piece combine the fun factor of this niche approach with some solid sounding metalcore which as the band put it themselves, is rather “Ballsy”. Taking classic films like Commando, Predator and Total Recall and putting their own twist on them and crafting them into solid sounding metal songs, you can’t help but smile. The Sophie Lancaster Stage on Thursday night was a mixture of camouflage, war paint, bad Arnie impressions and a haze of cigar smoke with plenty of crowd participation and shenanigans for all.
FRIDAY 7 Aug:
Feeling a little rough from the day before and seeking the hair of the dog and something greasy and possibly unfit for human consumption to get me started for the day, I went straight to the main stage to catch Nuclear Assault. Getting the 11am slot at a festival can be a rather tricky one at times. Some bands who get this one go down a storm (Benediction, Evil Scarecrow) whilst some are less fortunate. Nuclear Assault were lucky though. Given that this appearance was part of their Final Assault Tour which comes from Dan Lilker’s gradual wrapping up of long standing projects and the talk of a new album slowly looming on the horizon, there was a real buzz for this set.
As expected, Nuclear Assault delivered that signature brand of crossover thrash which they are known for. No bullshit, no messing about, the guys were here for business and their business was delivering a classic slice of Old School aggression. With a great sound and damn good energy, the crowd down the front were really up for this one and when the “Handle With Care” album tracks came up, they were welcomed with open arms.
Following these guys up on the Main Stage were Raging Speedhorn who for me, always seem to deliver but due to them clashing with KryoCell over in the New Blood Stage, I had to focus my attentions there. For those who don’t know them, KryoCell are a four piece death metal band from Liverpool. They didn’t win the Metal To The Masses heat based in Merseyside, however they impressed the head honcho’s at Bloodstock enough to be given a special invitation to play the festival so it would have been rude not to give them my full attention.
The main thing of note about KryoCell was the crowd – for that early in the morning and having to compete with Raging Speedhorn over on the main stage, they had quite a sizable draw and the fact that it was straight up death metal, something which is getting more and more popular in the underground/unsigned scene at the moment, they were ticking the right boxes. The Scousers were out in force for this one with near enough the guard rail and a good few rows back being full of the Liverpool metal scene. Whilst this may have had a reassuring presence for the band, it did distract in some ways. One of the reviewers from here pointed out that they needed to do more to draw in the neutrals than the travelling support, and he does have a point there. Still, they sounded solid and dealt with this occasion well, and the closing track, “Raped In A Car Park” got quite a cheer from all who watched.”
Armored Saint were next up on the main stage and having reviewed the album and spoken with Joey Vera earlier this year about it, I was excited to see the Saint’s marching on through bloodstock… And because I am a huge fan of John Bush’s vocal talents. Literally storming out with the recent album’s title track, “Win Hands Down”, Armored Saint set off on what can only be described as a solid performance. Mixing the old with the new, Bush and Co. delivered a great slice of no nonsense heavy metal, guitar wizardry and big sounds which really pumped people up despite the heat and it was a shame they weren’t further up the bill because a longer set could have been brilliant from them.
As always, the problem with bands flying in to perform in a country often means that they may fall foul of delays or luggage mishaps. Unfortunately this year, Enslaved were those to suffer this. Having a luggage mix up in Paris, the band arrived but their gear didn’t. This didn’t stop them from delivering a thunderously heavy and pounding set. Using donated gear from Gibson who were present for the VIP side of the festival, the Norwegians went about their business as expected. Great interactions with the crowd combined with some of their classics got the crowd quickly into their set and you have to wonder if they could have been even better than they were if they had their own gear to use?
Ihsahn followed this time and made this three appearances since his first in 2012 (given how last year was his headlining set with Emperor) and the first thing which stood out was the fact he had changed his backing band – Leprous (granted this had already happened prior to the festival but was news to me!) so it was rather intriguing to see what the new look like line up could do. Sadly, not much was the case. Suffering the first of many technical problems which would plague some of the bands all weekend, the set was disrupted several times and the lack of a bassist on stage, instead favouring the synth as the primary source of bass really made it sound weak to me. Frozen Lakes On Mars, normally a real powerful live track was rather tame and the Emperor medley and new song My Heart Is Of The North seemed like a way to save the set somewhat but it didn’t seem to work, at least for me anyway. It was a good change of pace and slowed things down a little but it was a disappointment and musically, a low point of the weekend for me.
Thankfully, Overkill didn’t have the problems Ihsahn did. These were one of the bands I was really looking forwards to since their announcement on the bill and when they opened up with Armorist, you knew right away how the rest of the set was going to go down. Fast, intense, electrifying, the New Jersey Thrashers delivered just what we needed – a healthy dose of thrash to lift everyone back up and get the first real pit going. From Armorist to Fuck You, the band delivered a flawless performance, even taking time to include the rarely performed End Of The Line which went down well, but the final run of Ironbound, Elimination and Fuck You really sealed the deal for everyone.
Special guests and Wacken headliners Sabaton were up next as the first special guests of the weekend. A great deal of hype and buzz was going round the main stage as the crew were setting up for them, and after the usual playing of The Final Countdown over the PA before their ‘war march’ sample, the main stage area was pretty packed out. From the opening introduction and the dropping of the curtain to reveal a tank as part of the backdrop for the stage, complete with actual pyrotechnic shooting cannon, the Swedish power metal outfit went full out. As always, the band were full of energy and very interactive with the crowd but sometimes there were maybe too many shenanigans afoot and maybe less playing around and more playing might have resulted in another track… But it was all part of the package, Sabaton are known for this along with their tremendous live sound. Some people may not agree with their more ‘jovial’ sound and the subject of war as the basis for their songs, but when it came down to it, the Swedes proved why they were chosen to headline Wacken and surely their next visit would mean them actually headlining.
The only downside of catching the whole Sabaton set was missing a good chunk of Conan. This was a disappointment but at the same time, with such a huge wall of noise emanating from the Sophie Stage, the Liverpool three piece were hell bent on crushing anything and everything which came their way with their tremendously heavy doom. Whilst it was a bit of a mood killer in some ways, being hit with some hopeless doom after a lively Sabaton set Conan did help mentally prepare me for the headliner.
Side note of sorts – it was somewhere between Sabaton finishing and Trivium starting that we were given the news that the first band announced for BOA 2016 was Venom. Make of this what you will folks.
Trivium are a very mixed bag these days. I was a huge fan of them back when Ascendancy was released and I always thought that the group were destined to be huge. Part of me wanted to watch purely for the nostalgia trip and to see just how much the band had changed whilst the rest of me was going along the lines of “I can’t cover a festival without the headliner can I?”
Taking one for the team, I endured it.
A big symphonic opening track which was composed by Ihsahn aired first and then the band came in. Plagued with technical problems early on, I didn’t recognise many of the tracks due to rarely listening to Trivium since 2007 so I had no idea if they were supposed to sound that bland and lifeless. Forgoing his original metalcore screamed vocals for a more clean approach (yet still miming the screams on the mic) and passing raw vocal duties to guitarist Corey, Matt Heafy may have improved some aspects of his overall game in terms of performance, but he has lost the spark which he once had as a very promising frontman.
There were plenty in attendance who were into the band but for a headliner, it wasn’t exactly what you would call a big crowd which could be a disappointment for the band and the bookers. As the set went on, I lost interest rather quickly and when they actually touched on the older material which I was familiar with, it lacked that kick and spark to it which once made Trivium an exciting band to listen to back in the early 2000’s. It was a nostalgia kick gone wrong and if Mötley Crüe, a band who I believe are terrible were playing the other stage at the same time, I would have willingly went to watch them instead.
On the whole, Friday was a good opening day with only two major letdowns and a handful of technical issues. Highlights of the day were Overkill and Sabaton whilst Ihsahn and Trivium made me wish I had opted to do something else more constructive, like getting hammered.
Review by Fraggle
Photos by Zinger