Stepping in to a world which seems foreign to most, the kind of place you think of WoW and fourteen sided dice, Bloodstock Open Air takes what should seem rather bizarre and crafts something rather wonderful when it comes to music of the metal variety. This niche festival set in the grounds of Catton Hall opened our eyes to all things black, doom and heavy and provided us a rather jolly weekend.
In a compact arena incorporating four stages, market place, fairground and a variety of food and ale type places it’s only a girly stone’s throw from one area to the other. BOA isn’t a mass market festival; it’s incomparable with the likes of Download or Sonisphere which aides its charm.
Music wise, knowing your doom from your black to your death may help, but if you’re simply a metal lover after something slightly broad, then this could be the festival for you. For the first time this year at a music festival, the sun was shining and temperatures were rising, a pretty mean feat to those uniformed in black. Still we were all metal and this is BOA.
From the Ronnie James Dio Main Stage, Sophie Lancaster Stage and New Blood Stage as well as a fourth stage, courtesy of Jagermiester, there were choices-a-plenty to listen, see and do and maybe even attempt a circle pit or air guitar to.
Our headliners for the weekend came in the shape of Behemoth, Machine Head and the legend that is Alice Cooper. Though from the start of the festival there was plenty to see from the international line up, be it unsigned, up and coming, the plain obscure but all had the knack to the bring about a heaviness that had the potential to make your ears bleed.
As Friday opened with Malefice on the Ronnie James Dio Stage followed by the likes of Moonsorrow and the mighty Sepultura, we headed to the Sophie Lancaster stage. Dark and cave like in the tent, we set about getting to know the Gonoreas and yes we used protection. Known for their ‘melodic metal’, the Swiss five piece with vocalist Gilberto Melèndez draping a Union Flag over his shoulders shook up the stage and welcomed in the festival. Also worth a mention were Croatia’s Rising Dream, who piled in their mates to try and scream along at the front and Steel Savage who brought about a granddad metal vibe. French boys Alcest headlined the Sophie Lancaster and appeared to lull the rage seen in the previous bands with their melodic fantasies. Back over on the Ronnie James Dio, Swedish black metallers, Watain set alight the main stage. Fit with pyros and a lack of pig’s blood fountains, it was still a satanic fancy dress lover’s dream, which paved the way for Dio Disciples and Behemoth.
Saturday found slight timetable clashes, not a bad thing as there’s always plenty going on. Highlights of the day included London hardcore band Dripback bounced their way on the second stage. Taiwanese Chthonic inspired by mythology, folk stories and pretty much everything you could think of breathed their way through an enticing fused set combining different metal stances. Though given the hotness of Doris Yeh, (we ain’t talking about the weather here) most of the crowd would have been happy if she just stood alone on the main stage in silence. Orange Goblin proved their status as one of the best underground bands in Britain with their stoner flair and hair swirls. Machine Head brought about crowd surfing and multiple mosh pits, to some people they are considered a bit too mainstream to be headliners of BOA, but may be after watching the four piece they may just have changed their minds.
With a pain in the neck from far too much head banging Sunday came about too quickly. Immense excitement was building for Alice Cooper but, there were still heaps to get through. Karl Sanders from Nile appeared to be the happiest man in the universe. Inspired by ancient Egyptology, Nile kept the Pharaohs curses at bay and carried on with their unique form of death metal. Evile brought the party back to the Ronnie James Dio Stage with plenty of thrash and a few smiles from the Huddersfield boys. Extreme metal Anaal Nathrakh fuse black metal, grindcore, death metal and industrial, known as being a two-piece they brought their live show with added members and seemed genuinely satisfied at the reception they received to their ear bleeding pumped up set.
Penultimate band Dimmu Borgir produced another theatrical performance not quite rivalling that of Watain but definitely coming a close second. The festival closed with Mr Theatrical himself, Alice Cooper. Ploughing the way through a 22 song set, starting with The Black Widow and ending on School’s Out before a brief encore he brought the weekend to a magnificent close.
Having only heard good reports about BOA, it was an experience in itself. Self-contained with a small capacity brought about a friendly atmosphere and almost perfection as to what a festival should be. May be this is simply because of the niche market it appeals to and has that ‘we’re all in it together’ feeling. One thing is clear though, Bloodstock Open Air we’ll be seeing you in 2013.