Opening to a generous crowd given the early morning start and some sore heads, Guildford’s Xero (3.5/5) (not to be mixed up with Limerick’s Xero) opened the arena for the morning on the New Blood Stage.
Blending sounds from the likes of Soundgarden, Kings X and Karnivool, vocalist Steff enthrals the crowd with clean vocals and seductive dancing. A rather good start to the day indeed. 3.5/5
“Go see them – they’re pure Florida death metal, but in fucking’ Limerick shtyle” is overheard among the punters, as a good description for Ireland’s Zealot Cult (4/5).
Opening the Sophie Lancaster stage for the day the four piece gradually gathered more and more attention into the dark stage tent with their brutal blend of early-era Death and Morbid Angel. Some minor bass issues didn’t alter interest from a gradually gathering crowd into a darkened tent – even with the sun shining strongly outside.
After a six year break from the festival, Death Angel are back to crack skulls. It’s early in the day, but it hasn’t dampened anyone’s ability to move in the pit.
The US thrashers hold us at knifepoint with a kick-ass assault sweeping all cobwebs out of our ears. Mark Osegueda also blows us all away with powerful soaring vocals as the shred is led by Rob Cavestany.
Death Angel are gracious in their spot here today and have a blast doing it. Fun loving and ferocious, the band capitalise on their ability to entertain with an apparently obvious feel god vibe in their setlist selection. 4/5
CONTROL THE STORM
Control The Storm (4/5) are next on the bill in the Sophie stage. After a quick pyrotechnic test, the Bristol six-symphonic battle and power metal chords with soaring female vocals from Firouzah Razavi and guttural growls from backing guitarist Rich Shillitoe, the band brought in a hospitable crowd with keyboardist Raedon Mac requesting a circle pit, as he had never seen one before in their 10 years as a band.
An enthusiastic crowd obliged and watched on at Razavi’s seductive dancing amidst plumes of flames and sparks.
Fast-paced brutal death metallers introduce a tongue-in-cheek set to BOA with dark song titles such as “Sutcliffe” (presumably after British serial killer Peter Sutcliffe) and “Child Catcher”, Blasphemer (4/5) pay homage to US east-coast sounding death metal with super catchy, incredibly tight, and fun extreme death metal riffs – with some large beach balls in the crowd for that extra measure.
Taking over vocal duties on top of guitar, Cristiniano Cagna delivers brutal and low vocals, while bass player Dale Brown makes the most of the stage space with crowd interaction and head banging, and lead guitarist Matthew ‘Mass’ Firth offering some slick Slayer-esque riffs.
Whether it was their desired sound or some technical issues, some low bass volume seemed to take away from a perfect performance.
“We like drinking coffee and being angry” Nottingham’s Widow’s (3/5) frontman Ad exclaims. A blend of stoner metal, hardcore, groove and at times grind-core vocals gets the crowd at times dancing in the New Blood Stage. The band have definitely developed a humorous posse at this years BOA, with a great community vibe between Ad and crowd alike.
Metal Church follow suit, in a violent right hook that raises the pulse even further. Frontman Mike Howe paces back and forth like a wild animal in the guise of a maniac onstage. It’s amazingly solid, putting boot to throat for the 40 minutes they are onstage. The riffs are as catchy live as they are in the studio, because the encouragement to move with the music is overwhelming.
Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zant buzz off each other on guitar, screaming with solos all over the shop. This was another top class performance and it’s only Friday afternoon.
Everyone was enjoying the festival, but then the rain came and soaked the entire arena. I mean Noah’s Ark flood-style rain… Hundreds scurry for cover but it lasts for about ten minutes and it seems like an eternity.
But within minutes Soulfly appear and jump from the start to the end. Max Cavalera just has this magnetic aura about him that commands thousands of people with relative ease. He even gets to throw in a Bob Marley ditty before ‘Eye for an Eye‘.
However, getting everyone to sit down before ‘Jumpdafuckup‘ was just awe-inspiring. Seeing that many people leap simultaneously is something I’ve only seen at a Slipknot gig, and is ever bit as energetic. Max hasn’t lost any showmanship and are absolutely slaying the festival. 4.5/5
CHILDREN OF BODOM
Finnish metallers, Children of Bodom deliver another gut punch, opening with ‘Are You Dead Yet’, followed up with ‘Your Days Are Numbered‘ and ‘I Don’t Give a Fuck‘.
Alex Laiho still has that grizzled and gnarled voice that snarls over the tricky guitar parts, and fair play for him being able to do it. Shredding and singing is tough, and this talent is few and far between. But Bodom are all about the noise and Laiho and co. make short work of the set time, bulling through it and kicking a few heads in in the process. 3.5/5
Notorious for his quirky and punchy onstage moves, Tesseract’s (4/5) Daniel Thompkins serenades his way through the bands set with soothing clear vocals and aggressive screams. Tesseract definitely deserve a spot on BOA’s main stage with an incredibly tight set of chugging riffs and atmospheric melodies.
Having only been on tour in winter 2018 to promote the release of their latest “Sonder” album, not much time has been given for the band to release any new material, permitting the band to touch-back on older tunes which Tompkins dedicating their song ‘Deception‘ particularly to old-school fans.
A sudden downpour from England’s notoriously unpredictable weather half-way through the set, does not appear to cause any disruption to the crowds dedication during “King”, and also doesn’t effect the rest of the members’ physical positive outputs to the crowd.
Closing the New Blood stage after a successful day, Weymouths’s Anakim (3/5) blast through their set with their blend of extreme death metal topped with growls and shrieks. Frontman Matt Small demands a circle pit before throwing free t-shirts into the more than willing crowd – which even consisted of a small group doing the Macarena along to the bands brutal sounds.
Over on the Ronnie James Dio stage, Powerwolf start the theatrical element of tonight’s entertainment. One of the most memorable songs is Resurrection by Erection, along with Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend.
Their theatrical old school rock and roll metal infusion definitely kickstarts any metal naysayer connoisseurs that are familiar with the like of Alice Cooper and Ghost. I’m looking at people who have dressed up just like the band and the enthusiasm is electric. Powerwolf do an amazing job, and only stoke the fire for the next act. 3.5/5
A flow of buzzing riffs, Countless Skies delivers a tactile interlude in Fridays evening hours. The setting of the stage is tainted in monochrome, pure colours. Red and blue are the supporting voices of the two very distinctive vocalists, of Ross King and Phil Romeo – King sending out guttural growls and Romeo countering this with operatic bursts in the likes of Devin Townsend.
The flow of their songs is not exactly predictable, neither a rude awakening – as if their music is narrating a quest, a logical consequence of action. The tone of James Pratt’s guitar is at times very close to the sound of fiddles, which emphasises the nature of adventure in their melodies.
Countless Skies are motivating the crowd with yelling chants, the tent is filled with people who are happily joining in. The stage lighting of Countless Skies’ performance is mirroring the shimmering, glowing halo of their songs.- sometimes it is as if the growling vocals of King are like darkened clouds that are being pierced through and opened by the powerful vocals of Romeo. A journey one volunteers to join in. 4/5
Sludge and doom metal heavyweights Raging Speedhorn decimate the Sophie tent. Feeding the floor with the Hate Song, Fuck the Voodoo Man and Thumper, the damage is obvious. I see about 5 people carried out to the first aid tent as bloody Kev and company wreak havoc, because the pure aggressive nature of the band is malevolent. Encompassing pure metal haters and rhythm gifts, Speedhorn do a fine job of helping is assault ourselves. 5/5
Even though the Hobgoblin sponsored tent is fairly empty, one is reminded of the community a young metal band can conjure – barely a third of the capacity is filled, yet the people who are here are not here by chance.
Saurr is greeting people they recognise in the audience and it is immediately evident that this young band has already gathered a strong fan base. The crowd is growing quite feverish with the passing and coming of sultry grooves.
The melodic figures of the vocalist, Rob Derbyshire seem to have a similar shape from song to song, so they lie easily on top of the modifying down falling moods of the band’s instrumental backdrop. A clear statement of a young band’s entrance to the metal community. 3/5
A band which seems quite inconspicuous at the first glance filled the tiny Jäger tent easily, while next door, the crew were pushing a couple of tanks onto the Dio stage, getting it ready for the headlining act. But the Jäger Stage at Bloodstock Open Air is not a stage to be underestimated for its size, since its closeness is a refreshing contrast to the busy masses huddling in front of the other stages.
Skypilot’s set travels from laments to stoner and progressive vibes to being sometimes reminiscent of metal clanging on metal like industrial machines. The three-piece from Northern Ireland evoke the feeling of being held back, over and over again, banging your head, over and over again against a wall, hoping for a different outcome. Skypilot makes their presence very clear, humble, yet clutching the small audience. 4/5
Sabaton are only in their infancy in their time in Bloodstock. Starting here ten years ago on a Saturday afternoon for about 20 minutes, they have returned triumphant as headliners.
Sabaton also command are very impressive pyrotechnic and explosive firework show. Joakim Broden leads the band into uncharted territory on the back of the last of their last album The Great War. Between pyrotechnics and general comedic quips, Sabaton entertain us for a solid ninety minutes.
THEIR DRUMMER PLAYS THE DRUMS WHILST SITTING ON A FUCKING TANK! Ghost Division, Shiroyama, Carolus Rex and Swedish Pagans make a very welcome addition. The rain seems to be threatening us but it stays away thankfully.
The lighting show and pyro works wonders, and additionally, the lyrics to some tunes are on the back screen enabling everyone to sing along. Eventually Sabaton must say goodbye but we’re not done yet.
Ashamedly, I’ve never seen Grand Magus live before. Thankfully, that has now been rectified. Powerful and brazen, Grand Magus top up the depleted batteries after Sabaton’s unbelievable setlist.
Fox Skinner and JB Christoffersson lead the vocals, commanding everybody’s attention. This is pure old-school heavy metal at its finest, and crescendo after crescendo towers above all the other noise in the Sophie tent. Grand Magus‘ ability to gear the audience into a chorus of melodies is impressive, and what better way to end a Friday night of the festival than with a singalong. 3.5/5
Shaun Martine, Norrie Kivlehan, Oran O’Beirne, Bláthín Eckhardt
Photos – Exposing Shadows Photography, for www.overdrive.ie © 2019