And so the first full day of BOA 2015 dawned bright and golden, firing me up for the bands ahead.
I then descended towards the Ronnie James Dio stage as the clock struck the hour and was up front for first band, Thrash Metal veterans Nuclear Assault.
Having been around for over 30 years and breaching the gaps between hardcore, crossover and straight thrash, Nuclear Assault are one of those bands I’ve been meaning to see for a while. Although, I’ve never regarded them as a serious minded band, and I have to say this performance confirmed that.
What was good was how these aging metal heads kept their performance tight, but the guitars were so low I could barely hear them and the bass was pretty high – not the best opening gig for a festival. Plus, with how over the top the vocal delivery was, I did end up giggling a few times, so I’ll give them credit for a humorous performance, but the sound guys let this band down big time. [2.5/5]
Rise From the Ashes
Died in Your Arms
Analogue Man in a Digital World
F# (Wake Up)
When Freedom Dies
Trail of Tears
Following on from Nuclear Assault’s starter came the first dish of the day: Raging Speedhorn. Who, sadly, did not impress me in the slightest.
Their performance was dull, boring and I nearly walked away from the stage several times but stayed simply for press purposes.
The vocals were all over the place, the guitars were again almost inaudible and I couldn’t tell whether the songs had reached crescendo.
Raging Speedhorn is another band who are living off the cliché of breakdown after breakdown.
Granted they did deliver some pretty good sludge riffage here and there, but I’m pleased this band were on early in the day so I could save all my energy for the good stuff. [1/5]
Up next were American trad. metal veterans: Armored Saint.
Rejuvenated and full of piss and vinegar Armored Saint mounted the Dio stage with a mission to re-establish their relevance once again.
Latest release ‘Win Hands Down’ saw the Vera/Bush combination at its best and Bush revelled in delivering a tight and concise front man performance.
New material was greeted as loudly as older tunes such as ‘March of the Saint’. ‘Left Hook from Right Field’ and ‘Can U Deliver’ were set highlights in a show that saw thrash history melding with contemporary edges and themes. [4/5]
And that energy amassed during Raging Speedhorn and Armored Saint was well saved, for up next were, for my money, one of the best performances of the weekend. All the way from Austria came the blackened death outfit: Belphegor.
I’d seen them once already this year supporting Marduk at the Underworld, Camden, and this performance gave me hope for Black Metal performances in the open air.
I’ve long regarded black metal as being an exclusively indoor genre because of the emphasis on atmosphere – but Belphegor broke down that barrier and gave me the most memorable of their performances being tighter than a naval knot and the sound was crisp, clear and as vile and anguish laden as the Austrians could muster.
A fantastic performance all round giving the group a new place of appreciation in my heart. [5/5]
Feast Upon the Dead
In Blood – Devour This Sanctity
Belphegor – Hell’s Ambassador
Rex Tremendae Majestatis
Conjuring The Dead / Pactum in Aeternum
Bondage Goat Zombie
This first day of the fest was rising high with beautiful performances, for next up were Norwegian black metal outfit Enslaved.
A group notable for fusing the rawness of their genre with some truly wonderful progressive rock capable of pleasing any aging Rick Wakeman fan.
Enslaved catered to all their fans’ desires with tune after tune covering their eclectic history. Some songs were fast and brutally indecipherable, whilst others flowed forth like a fleet of Viking ships on an open fjord.
This band know how to pay true homage to their homeland and I was left with my fascination of Scandinavian history freshly rekindled. [4.5/5]
The Fusion Of Sense And Earth
Building With Fire
Feeling very pleased with the line up so far, I headed over the Sophie Lancaster stage to catch West London Sludge heads: Hang The Bastard.
Sludge Metal isn’t one of my favourite metal genres and I was banking on this band having an apt name for how I was expecting them to sound – but no, Hang The Bastard made me feel I was the bastard worth hanging for how they delivered such a hypnotic performance.
The music droned in the way only mixes of sludge, doom and good metalcore can fathom. This band knew their stuff and were having a very good time singing about hate and the inevitable destruction of life, the universe and everything.
I walked away satisfied at a band who were enjoying themselves as much as the crowd and that’s what makes a good performance both outdoors and indoors alike. [4/5]
Beyond The Pale
Sex In The Seventh Circle
The Gathering Of Goetia
Leaving the Sophie tent, I caught up with New Jersey thrashers Overkill, whose energy was at just the right level following on from the succulent moroseness of Hang the Bastard.
Watching Overkill was like riding a motorbike on a speedway, they were so fast.
They’re one of the more underrated veterans of the thrash world, probably because they aren’t from the Bay Area, but Overkill really have put New Jersey on the thrash map.
The crowd were going insane and vocalist Bobby Ellsworth kept asking if we were having a good time as the band ploughed through anthem after anthem from their 35 year career.
An excellent band put at the right spot on the bill as we’d reached our most energetic by then. Guitars were jagged and crisp to the ear so a very good job there. [3.5/5]
In Union We Stand
Rotten to the Core
Bring Me the Night
End of the Line
Hello From the Gutter
Meanwhile on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage, I managed to catch some of the performance of Hertfordshire Melodic Death outfit: Countless Skies. These guys, representing my home county, gave off a very ambient and hypnotic performance and had the crowd fist pumping, so I was very happy to see the usually quiet county being represented in a way only melodic death can offer. [3/5]
Then the day reached its climax as I returned to the Dio stage for Sabaton, the first ‘stage show’ band of the weekend.
I’d heard the Swedish band play bloodstock a few years back but hadn’t witnessed them, so this was a truly marvellous introduction.
I was already wowed by the sight of a tank on stage and once the group arrived they delivered a healthy barrage of war themed power metal.
The pyrotechnics and the confetti fired from cannons near the barrier made it an evening to remember if you’re a modern warfare buff like me.
Sabaton didn’t just amaze with their belting tunes of past conflicts and heroism, but also provided much comic relief for anyone thinking the day’s blasts had been too serious.
With characters coming on stage to ‘fix’ the tank and the bass player, guitarist and vocalist arguing over which song to play next in a tongue in cheek manner reminiscent of Wednesday 13, Sabaton had the crowd laughing as much as bellowing requests and memorable lines.
Stage show acts are some of the most memorable in my bloodstock history so Sabaton have earned themselves a place alongside King Diamond and Alice Cooper – excellent job certainly worthy of a good round of tea and medals. [4.5/5]
To Hell and Back
No Bullets Fly
Resist and Bite
Far from the Fame
The Art of War
But the day sadly ended on an anti climax with the very poor choice of headliner: Trivium.
Now I know Trivium hold a place in many a young blooded metal head’s heart for being that band who got them into the music they love now, but they were not one of those bands for me.
In fact, Trivium have never appealed to me in the slightest and have fallen, in my opinion, from their metallic grace to being nothing more than a crowd pleasing arena band.
And such an opinion was solidified, for during their set it felt as if frontman Matt Heafy wouldn’t shut up about guitarist Corey Beaulieu’s talents and get on with the music.
This was a band really up themselves. In fact Beaulieu looked quite irritated at Heafy’s comments at several points and this wasn’t in a comedic way.
But apart from that, the band came across as the type you’d get if you crossed the flamboyancy of Iron Maiden with the riffs and signatures of Lamb of God with lashings of Slayer here and there.
I could see why this band have appealed to many a young’un throughout the ages but they have just gotten worse and worse for my ear drums. Not the best ending to what had been a wonderful day up until then. [1.5/5]
Silence in the Snow
Down from the Sky
Becoming the Dragon
Like Light to the Flies
Built to Fall
Into the Mouth of Hell We March
Throes of Perdition
Anthem (We Are the Fire)
Black A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation
Blind Leading the Blind
Dying in Your Arms
Capsizing the Sea
Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr
Heaven and Hell
Bloodstock had given me a good day and I was ready to face the next adventure into the world of metal as I lay down to sleep that evening whilst everyone else was wrestling in the mud and partaking in the traditional sport of bin jousting.
**CLICK ON PAGE 3 FOR BOA SATURDAY**