Review by Chop and photos by Sean Larkin
Another hangover-free start and another rain-free, if overcast, welcome to the day had to be a bonus as BOA 2012 entered the finishing straight. With an impressive array of bands to whet the appetite, surely this was to be the icing on the cake of a thoroughly entertaining festival?
Early morning reviewing honours went to Seprevation in the half full New Blood tent. A dozen or so energetic – and one would suspect loyal – fans got the first circle pit of the day going early on, clearly appreciating their take on thrash meets death metal. Birmingham’s Frantic Empire would be a reasonable comparison, otherwise think of Slayer or Possessed and you wouldn’t be far off. Tight as they were as a band, they were somewhat unremarkable, although the thin and disturbingly quiet sound they received didn’t help.
While Kobra And The Lotus were opening on the main stage, From Ruin, also female-fronted purveyors of classic rock, were directly up against them on the New Blood stage. Regrettably the tent was pretty much empty, which was a pity, as to my ears they were at least on a par with them, apart from one blip during the first song when the rhythm section, to put it bluntly, lost the plot. Otherwise they were solid enough, just unfortunate to clash with KATL.
If I had my reservations about Flayed Disciple‘s début album ‘Death Hammer’, then this set stamped them out mercilessly within seconds. The Sophie tent was remarkably full, and the pit erupted ferociously almost immediately, with the intensity increasing progressively throughout. They’ve always been a potent live band, but with a settled lineup, more material at their disposal, and a large crowd urging them on, they played an absolute blinder. Combining chuggy thrash sections, with old school death metal aggression, this was an exercise in in your face attitude, delivered clinically. If you weren’t fortunate enough to witness them here, make sure you check them out soon. Looking at their gig schedule I suspect you won’t have to wait too long…
Disappointed as I was to leave before the end of Flayed Disciple’s battery, at least there was the obvious consolation of going to see Nile. Made even better by this line – “well then Chop, how would you like to go backstage for Nile then?” Rhetorical question obviously… Witnessing a band this technical, whilst looking out at the reaction of the Bloodstock crowd, was truly humbling and an immense honour. To make matters even better they opened with ‘Sacrifice Unto Sebek’, followed immediately with ‘Lashed To the Slave Stick’. By the time guest vocalists from Dimmu Borgir and Black Dahlia joined them for closer ‘Black Seeds Of Vengeance’ all hell was breaking loose in the pit. I’m going to be grinning thinking about this set for months to come…
Completing the final interviews of the weekend resulted in Evile’s ever reliable set being the lone viewing experience, of any length, before returning to the Sophie stage to see Demonic Resurrection. What a revelation! Indian blackened death metal with symphonic and power metal leanings sound like your thing? Possibly not, but it worked. And then some. Especially impressive when you consider that this was their first UK appearance. Promoters note – get them back over here soon!! A sizeable circle pit opened up for them during their finale, a sight they’ll be seeing a lot more of on their return without a doubt.
Paradise Lost played the best set I’ve seen from them for many a moon, mainly down to the vocal performance being a vast improvement on the last few times I’ve seen them. That said, songs from their ‘Draconian Times’ opus were again the clear stand outs. Still, they were incredibly tight as a unit and provided a welcome change of style and tempo.
Returning to BOA after headlining Saturday night back in 2008, Dimmu Borgir delivered their symphonic black metal in a slick and grandiose manner. Intriguingly the setlists for these two performances had much common ground, although even attempting to omit ‘The Serpentine Offering’ or ‘Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse’, to name but two, would have been deemed by many as heresy. At Wacken an orchestra and choir were utilised to accompany their most recent material; here loops sufficed, not that this detracted from their considerable artistry. Aided by an immaculate sound, they were as reliable and entertaining as ever.
Although Anaal Nathrakh‘s set overlapped with Dimmu Borgir’s you’d never have guessed judging by the crowd packed – for the final time of the festival – into the Sophie tent. Aside from Dave’s mic stand collapsing early on (needed for support as his gout was still playing up) they delivered a flawless set of staggering velocity and ferocity. The vocals, which were once more a master-class in extreme metal techniques, fitted perfectly with the barrage the band were unleashing. During an interview with Mick Kenney earlier in the day, there was a suggestion that a three bassist/three guitarist configuration might be employed. Well at least the latter was observed, with Dan being added to the ranks as a third axeman. Otherwise it was business as usual as Anaal Nathrakh ploughed through their hour stint relentlessly. ‘Drug Fucking Abomination’ set the tone, whilst ‘Pandemic Hyperblast’ concluded a devastating display; in between ‘Submission Is For The Weak’, and ‘The Final Absolution’ were especially worthy of mention. All in all a stunning finale on this stage.
Which left master showman Alice Cooper to anchor the event, which no doubt Lucy will tell you about in vivid detail, but I’ll sum it up very briefly as a crowd uniting display at least on a par with Twisted Sister’s excellent showing a couple of years ago. Time to wander around the main arena, with a mixture of sadness and fond memories and ponder if 2013 can live up to this year’s glories…
Final summary time then. If BOA 2012 wasn’t the best I’ve attended so far, it was certainly mighty close (has to be said here that 2009 was an absolute cracker). First and foremost, in yet another miserable British Summer at least the weather held, something that many festival goers this year must be hugely envious of. The organisers should be applauded for all their efforts, but specifically in creating an event that ran (apparently) ridiculously smoothly, had a fantastic atmosphere, with the strongest array of bands yet assembled…..
…but playing devil’s advocate for a moment, you could also argue that this strength was also a weakness. The solidity of the line up on the RJD stage, coupled with the supporting cast on the Sophie stage made stage hopping practically redundant. Surely Mayhem’s appearance this year, following on from 1349 and Gorgoroth in recent times, must strongly hint that black metal in broad daylight is very tricky to make convincing? If egos would allow perhaps a switch to the Sophie stage would make more sense and create more atmosphere?
All things considered Bloodstock 2012 was a triumph. The forums are already in full flow debating who should appear next year. Whatever shape that lineup may take, keep a few days holiday up your sleeve and a space clear in your diary in early August. Bloodstock is a very special event and very dear to my heart, but if you haven’t been yet I urge you to check it out while it retains its unique charm.
View more photos from Sunday below: