At the shockingly early time of ten thirty, current Earache thrashers Bonded by blood explode onto the stage with a tight display of inspired riffs, comic book and horror inflected lyrics and the world’s yellowist guitar (seriously you can see that thing from space!). Frontman Jose is a blur of activity while the band pound out the kind of lock-tight rhythms that come from touring with thrash legends such as Exodus. The band’s punk roots also shine through with a close comparison being Slayer fronted by Jello Biafra, not least on the dense “stricken by another disease”. The band get a great response, especially considering the early set time, and their interaction with the crowd was spot on making a great start to the day. http://www.myspace.com/bondedbyblood
Meanwhile over on the New Blood stage a revelation awaits in the shape of Old Corpse Road who play old school deathly doom reminiscent of classic Cradle of filth and My dying bride. The band create a great atmosphere with a powerful sound boosted, but not over-powered, by the keyboards and they also make excellent use of their four vocalists who offer varying degrees of screaming, moaning and groaning (all in the best possible traditions of doom). While they’re a new band and we were unfortunately unable to find out what songs they included in the set, it’s fair to say that Old Corpse Road offer a convincing take on the doom genre and fans of bands such as Paradise Lost, Candlemass, My dying bride and Cathedral would do well to check out this excellent and talented band. http://www.oldcorpseroad.co.uk/
Also on the New Blood stage are Traces. Due to an unfortunate interview clash we missed most of their show, but what we heard offered up elements of old-school Dimmu Borgir (before the symphonic elements overpowered the metal) and Emperor – and the band put on a passionate and enthusiastic performance that seemed to go down well with the crowd. In short, while we only caught two songs, Traces certainly marked themselves in our memory and we hope to have the opportunity to check them out again soon. http://www.myspace.com/tracesmetal
On the main stage Doro graces us with her presence offering up a blistering set of Germanic trad-metal played with conviction and precision and fronted by a leather-clad vixen with a beautifully powerful voice. While trad metal is not exactly my favourite thing, it was obvious that the crowd were thrilled and there were plenty of voices raised along with the band on various favourites. Mind you, despite my scepticism, a rousing rendition of Judas priests ever-green ‘Breaking the law’ raised a smile and Doro’s enthusiasm for all things rock was hard to resist. http://doropesch.com/
Next up was the mighty Korpiklaani whom I last caught playing metal mania in Poland and whose hugely entertaining live show needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. The perfect band for a sunny festival afternoon, Korpiklaani waste no time in making friends with their opening track ‘vodka’ before ripping the crowd up a storm over the next forty minutes with highlights including the mighty ‘happy little boozer’ and crowd favourite ‘beer beer’. Korpiklaani are quite simply great showmen playing great music and they deserve to play higher up the bill the next time they return to our shores (and let’s hope it’s soon). Pretty much the whole crowd left with huge smiles after the band’s fantastic show and it proved to be a highlight of the weekend. http://www.korpiklaani.com/
One band who need no introduction is GWAR whose presence is signalled by members of the BOA crew frantically wrapping everything electric in sight in reams of plastic in an effort to stave off the bands copious amounts of splooge. A consistent festival delight, GWAR play the perfect length set, with enough un-pc antics to make Family Guy look like the Brady Bunch and never a dull moment as Hitler, the German pope, a pig (in a cop’s uniform of course) and various other characters all appear to be sliced and diced by Oderus’ mighty sword. Frankly I have no idea, at all, what the band played (apart from ‘gates of red’), but then that’s not really the point of a GWAR show; as fun as their heavy, strangely tuneless, metal is (and I own several GWAR albums!) the show is everything and these boys truly deliver leaving streams of happy punters pouring out of the pit dyed green or red (or both) and scores of equally unhappy security guards who quickly discovered that a plastic poncho is nowhere near enough protection from this group of depraved nutters. http://www.gwar.net/
Standing in complete contrast to GWAR’s disturbing theatrics is Gojira who turn in a hypnotic and tense performance that recalls elements of Fear Factory, Neurosis and Strapping young lad but essentially is entirely unique. While their stage presence seems a little bland after the multi-coloured chaos of Oderus and Co, yo can’t argue with the amazing music which pulses over the field and gets the crowd worked into a metal frenzy. An awesome band whose down-tuned vortex of prog-flavoured metal would probably be best suited to a headline show, preferably in the dark, Gojira take some beating in the live arena.
While Bloodbath may be making their live UK debut on the main stage, SonicAbuse are lucky enough to witness The Prophecy making history on the Sophie Lancaster Stage with their cold, darkly progressive take on the doom metal genre. The first track aired (‘into the light’) was an ice-cold, brutal and powerful blast of metal imbued with the progressive flourishes of Opeth and Katatonia. It takes the Paradise Lost formula and shakes it up completely and it sounds utterly amazing. Singer Matt has an amazing voice that soars when unleashed but which is also capable of the deathliest of growls and it’s a wonder this band aren’t more popular in their own country when one considers the following they’ve built up elsewhere. The second track, ‘delusion’ is a slow burner, filled with inventive percussion and an unusual minor-key vocal that gives way to a deathly chug somewhere in the middle getting heads banging appreciatively in the small, but eager crowd. ‘Don’t forget’ continues the vein of high quality metal with a slow opening lulling you into a false sense of security before the band hammer down for a crushingly heavy finish.
Watching the Prophecy is like crowds must have felt witnessing the formation of Paradise lost or My Dying bride – there’s a real sense that something special is happening here, and while the majority of BOA goers are over at the main-stage that is very much their loss because The Prophecy are simply stunning on this night, playing breathtakingly majestic doom with a skill and flair that sets them head and shoulders above their nearest contenders. ‘Adrift’ is a great track, housing a stop-start riff that rocks hard and then, unfortunately, we have to go to cover the end of Bloodbath lest we miss it completely, but there’s no doubt we were sorry to leave and the prophecy were easily my band of the day and we have it on good authority that the final two songs of the set were ‘belief means nothing’ and ‘rivers’ for those of you who’d like to know more while you can find the band easily enough at http://www.the-prophecy.net/
Bloodbath are a great band, especially on record, but you can’t help the feeling that the primary reason that they don’t play more shows live is that they come across as the side-project that they ultimately are, with the musicians giving it their all but the nonchalant stage banter of Michael Akerfelt standing somewhat at odds with the intensity of the performance. Nonetheless, with brutal and unrestrainedly aggressive anthems such as ‘mocking the cross’ and ‘like fire’ their cult reputation is deserved and it has to be said that Michael, in leather jacket and shades, looks every inch the rock god that he is. The best is saved for last with what Michael terms “a song about food” – referring to the vicious ‘eaten’ which is all about the joys of cannibalism and ‘member’ eating and which sees an awesome solo and heavy riff unleashed by a band who play top class death metal to a massive crowd. You can check Bloodbath out at http://bloodbath.biz/
Cannibal Corpse are legends, and they arrive on stage with a flurry of brutality and light speed riffs, while George ‘corpsegrinder’ Fisher windmills like a madman through songs such as ‘the wretched spawn’ but ultimately it all merges into one great quagmire of sound and as undeniably brutal as they are on record, seeing the band in full daylight on the main stage just doesn’t do them justice and we head off to the Sophie Stage in search of some more evil death metal. http://cannibalcorpse.net/
Over on the Sophie Lancaster Stage we have the mighty Winterfylleth who play the most evil, treble-soaked black metal and it’s a pleasure to see an English band producing music of this calibre. With a large crowd, the band are obviously attracting a fair bit of attention, not least because of their recent release ‘The Mercian Sphere’ (which was released in July this year) attracting strong reviews. With an awesome punchy sound, furious guitars and some of the most diabolical vocals heard all weekend courtesy of the guitarist and bassist, winterfylleth are clearly a band to pay attention to and they provided a surprise highlight of the festival. With an epic death metal sound complete with tempo changes and churning guitars (which occasional shift into a post-rock shimmer) there are hints of Darkthrone, Isis, Mayhem and Bathory all swirling in the band’s powerfully unique brew. Well worth checking out. http://www.myspace.com/winterfylleth
Final band of the day, and indeed the festival, Twisted Sister need to pull something special out of the bag after the weekend’s amazing bands and yet they succeed in epic style simply trouncing the other headliners with a display of showmanship that has to be seen to be believed and a setlist of classic tunes that showcases the best of old school rock and heavy metal. Dee Snider has lost neither attitude nor voice, doing justice not only to the band’s mighty tunes but also to a faithful and poignant cover of Rainbow’s ‘long live rock and roll’ and throughout the band’s lengthy performance he effortlessly proves himself to be one of rock’s best frontman and in almost eighteen years of gig going I have never seen a crowd worked so well with his passionate performance and amusing stage banter having the massive throng eating out of his hand.
To put it simply Twisted sister put on the type of headline show that made the groups of the seventies and eighties (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, Iron Maiden etc…) so huge, throwing out hits with casual abandon and giving the crowd a show to remember. Highlights included the band reclaiming ‘burn in hell’ from Dimmu Borgir (“this ain’t no dimmu Borgir song!”), having a crack at the grunge scene (“some guy in flannel and a Nirvana T-shirt wasn’t shouting out”) during an astonishing ‘I wanna rock’ before getting the entire crowd to jump and yell “rock!” at the same time, the mass sing-along caused by a riotous ‘we’re not gonna take it’ and a drum solo complete with glowing sticks – hell the whole set was one glorious highlight and proved to be the most hugely satisfyingly festival closer I’ve seen in years. “we don’t get over to England enough” said the band at one point – that’s damned true, Twisted sister rocked BOA in a way that no one could have foreseen and SonicAbuse went off for a beer surrounded by thousands of metal fans sporting the biggest smiles of the weekend. An awesome end to an awesome festival. http://www.twistedsister.com/
All photos – Jolka Dabek
Words – Phil Stiles