BOA preview by Paul Castles
Bloodstock Open Air looms over the horizon like a colossus, and quite rightly so. For plenty of metalheads the four days spent entrenched at Catton Park in deepest Derbyshire is their Christmas, birthday and summer holiday all rolled into one. If there’s somewhere else you’d rather be during these four heady days in balmy August then arguably you don’t know your Death Angel from your Dimmu Borgir.
Although the outdoor extravaganza pulls in around 12,000 devout metal fans from all points of the compass, those arriving early enough to pitch their tent on the Thursday this year really have played their bonus card. The Sophie Lancaster tent opens up to provide an evening of entertainment and has really hit the jackpot this year in securing Rotting Christ to headline the opening night. The legendary Greek gods have blazed the trail of metal extremity across three decades and as evidenced through this year’s stunning album, The Heretics, has confirmed, their flame burns as fiercely as ever.
The early birds are joined by the rest of the black clad festival hordes on the Friday when the action on the main Ronnie James Dio Stage is triggered by Incite. Fronted by Richie Cavalera, the Arizona crushers have long since grown out from under the family’s illustrious reputation to become a serious force in their own right. As opening day blasts go, they don’t come much bigger than this.
Later in the day the Cavalera connection extends to the indomitable Max who will be kicking up a sonic samba of his own with the always enjoyable Soulfly. The Brazilian beat has been a fixture of the scene for two decades, with Max’s personal contribution stretching all the way back to the imperious Sepultura. Expect fireworks! Thrash-tastic sets on the main stage can be guaranteed thanks to the presence of the mighty Death Angel and Finnish firebrands Children of Bodom.
Bloodstock has hosted some incredible headliner stage sets in recent years, as anyone who recalls Amon Amarth’s fire-breathing dragon will concur. This year the stage crew will earn their money practically erecting a battlefield when Swedish warlords Sabaton return to Catton Park. Such is the military power of these fighting Swedes that when they’re at the most deadly you’re never quite sure whether to listen or take cover.
The Metal 2 The Masses network of regional qualifiers is Bloodstock’s Yellow Brick Road, except instead of ending up at the wizard’s castle the victors are given a ticket to play on the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage. Plenty of these young acts progress through the stages at Bloodstock as their career develops. The standard gets better and better with each passing year so a visit to check out the UK’s emerging talent really is a must for the discerning metal fan.
On the Friday, the New Blood Stage will host the likes of Welsh groove metal crushers Blind Divide, Mancunian alt metal mob Saurr and Leeds-based tech death crew Pravitas.
The Sophie Lancaster tent hosts the second biggest stage at BOA and serves up such quality acts that many prefer to spend their entire day there. On the Friday, the Sophie Stage welcomes Irish death metal quartet, Zealot Cult, melodic maestros Countless Skies and hardcore legends Raging Speedhorn. If that all sounds a bit intense, which of course it is, then check out the hazy sludge riffs of Leeds trio Bong Cauldron.
Saturday’s Ronnie James Dio highlight the diversity of the metal family with youthful headliners Parkway Drive following the thrash titans Anthrax onto the main stage. While the latter are no strangers to Bloodstock – and in Scott Ian feature a frontman almost worth the price of your ticket alone – Parkway Drive bring their metalcore mayhem to BOA for the first time.
Other Saturday main stage standouts include pulverising Pittsburgh quartet Code Orange and the glam goth antics of Cradle of Filth. Also expect the usual histrionics from the never serious Evil Scarecrow who will no doubt once again have the masses dancing just about in sync to ‘Robotron’.
On the Sophie Stage, Dust Bolt will deliver a consummate lesson in heavy groove with Californian trio Skeletal Remains following a bit later with their own brand of death metal savagery. Taake headlines Saturday’s Sophie Stage which is likely to be transformed into a frozen Norwegian landscape once its charismatic leader Hoest starts to work his black metal magic.
Saturday’s New Blood nuggets include Ireland’s Lock Horns, Corby thrash crew Reaper-X with stage closers Masters Call from Birmingham.
Save some energy for the final day… Your gonna need it! RJD Stage highlights include Dutch death metal destroyers Aborted and Norwegian black metal rulers, Dimmu Borgir. And look out for a performance from the inimitable Dee Snider three years on from when her performed at Catton Park with Twisted Sister. The 2019 BOA closers are Scorpions, the Teutonic titans boasting a phenomenal career in heavy music stretching back over four decades.
Those hanging out on Sunday in the Sophie tent are equally spoiled thanks to the likes of Wigan’s finest riff warriors, Boss Keloid. There’s no Pyramid Stage at Bloodstock but there will still be an Egyptian edge to proceedings thanks to Crescent while Swiss folklords Eluveitie can be relied on to party hard through their Sophie Stage closing set.
Aside from the sheer quality of the music to be heard across the four days at Catton Park, what makes Bloodstock so special is the friendly vibe that stretches across the whole sprawling arena. Everyone is there because of their love of music. With an incredible array of stall, eateries and bars everything is there for the time of your life. All you need to do is rock up and get those horns in the air.
- For all the latest on Bloodstock 2019, including ticket and travel latest click here.