Bloodstock Open Air 2013 review

'Three days of brutal musical mayhem'

Bloodstock Open Air 2013 review

Photographer:Virtual Festivals

Anna Hyams - 13 August 2013

Derbyshire - home to Mr. Darcy, dales, and for those in the know, the UK’s biggest metal festival, Bloodstock Open Air. Thousands of metalheads, in an extraordinary array of black clothing descend on Catton Hall for 3 days of brutal musical mayhem, camping and cavorting.

Friday sees Canadian symphonic metal band Ex Deo (7/10) and black metal warriors Dark Funeral (6/10) to the main stage for interesting sets, but it’s Firewind (8/10) who pick up the pace despite dodgy sound throughout. Municipal Waste (7/10) make us giggle but Voivod (6/10) fall a bit flat amongst the other thrash bands, and Xentrix (8/10) light up the Sophie stage with face-melting riffs.

Penultimate Friday act Accept (9/10) from Germany, wow the crowd with harmonic shredding and an extremely join-in-able ‘Balls to the Wall’, both in terms of karaoke and dance motions. Headliner King Diamond (7/10) brings an incredible stage set up including church-gates, opulent gothic staircases and a giant glowing pentagram, but misses the mark when it comes to the performance, with a decidedly sparse crowd.

Saturday’s morning offerings include Beholder (7/10) who make a valiant effort at hyping up the sleepy crowd, 3 Inches of Blood (8/10) who manage to infect BOA with some decent headbanging, and the ever interesting Hell (8/10) who decorate the stage with flaming gargoyles and a silt-walking David Bower in a faun/devil outfit replete with giant sparking trident.

Kataklysm (9/10) are the first to make a barrier-safety announcement, but are on top form for a storming set featuring extremely bouncy crowd surfing opportunities, and Gojira (8/10) have the crowd chanting their name for more heavy, thrashy goodness.

Highlights of the day are Sabaton (9/10) who are light hearted and fun in between stunning riffs and soaring vocals, and Avantasia (10/10) who predictably put on a guest-heavy operatic symphony of metal featuring the guest vocal talents of local hero Bob Catley (Magnum), Michael Kiske (Helloween) and Eric Martin (Mr. Big).

The announcement of next year’s first band is shown on the big screen to be Emperor, to the excited whooping of black metal lovers all round, before headliners Lamb of God (8/10) hit the main stage and frontman Randy Blythe goes mental. Unfortunately the front barrier stops play twice as a safety hazard (once, 30 seconds into fan favourite ‘Ruin’ which is just poetically amusing as it really did…) and each time Lamb of God seem to lose some momentum, but they manage to play out without incident.

Sunday’s Whitechapel (6/10) aren’t hitting the participation button, but the crowd do seem to appreciate them, and Sacred Mother Tongue (7/10) play to an extremely sparse crowd. Fozzy (8/10) with legendary wrestler Chris Jericho in front, wake up lethargic Sunday hangovers for a rousing rock rampage, together with a guest appearance from Phil Campbell of Motörhead. Amorphis (8/10) whip up a sunny afternoon storm, but it’s the extraordinarily fierce and brutal Exodus (10/10) who take the prize for band of the weekend. If you haven’t been afraid of an Exodus wall-of-death, you haven’t lived. Massive circle pits, crowd surfers and pure heavy thrash metal chaos is their brand, and they do it so well.

Devildriver (7/10) aren’t the stand-out set we expected, but another wall of death keeps the rowdy ones amused and makes for interesting viewing, whilst golden gods Anthrax (8/10) pay tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell and Ronnie James Dio in a fantastic show.

Final headliner, the legendary Slayer (9/10) come down hard and heavy with a hit parade of fan favourites and viciously fast riffs. Kerry King shreds for all he’s worth but there is definitely an air of sadness in the show, it being only a few months since the passing of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Highlights of ‘Raining Blood’ and ‘South of Heaven’ have the crowd erupting into hair-swirling headbanging and a sea of horned-hands paying their respects to one of the most influential metal bands in the world.

With that, BOA is over for another year, and the general consensus says it’s been a brilliant one – but questions hover over the lack of diversity in this thrash-heavy bill, and the strangely thin main stage crowds. Back to the forums for 2014 discussion…

Click here for all the Bloodstock coverage from the weekend, plus remember to follow Virtual Festivals on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest festival news.

Photo by Paul Lucas


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