WORDS WILL MAXWELL / IMAGES JOE JONES
Some of the heaviest bands from around the world descend on Catton Park, Derbyshire for BOA 2023 and we are lucky enough to be here on the final day of the festival to see an epic performance from thrash metal legends Megadeth as they close the main stage.
With a stacked lineup over 4 stages, we did our best to get around and see as much as we could. We expected the unexpected and even found ourselves watching a Viking battle!
Uuhai draw a big crowd on the Ronnie James Dio stage. Mongolian throat singing fused with Heavy Metal?! A curious crowd were won over almost instantly, and the band’s first UK appearance goes down a treat with the early risers.
The New Blood Stage featured performances from some of the best up-and-coming bands on the scene. Competitions were held all over the country to win a spot at Bloodstock and we caught London winners Sanguinem. The Melodic Death metallers performed a brutal set showcasing their debut album Solitude.
All Hail The Yeti were scheduled to perform at last year’s festival but had to pull out due to unforeseen circumstances. Thankfully they can join us this year. The Los Angeles collectives mix sludge and stoner metal laced with catchy choruses to deliver a set that’s well worthy of their main stage spot.
We make our first trip to the Sophie Lancaster Stage to watch sludge-metal duo Tuskar. An intense display from vocalist/drummer Tyler Hodges, who combines his raw vocals and pounding drums to great effect.
Current Megadeth drummer Dirk Verbeuren is on guitar duties with his side project Cobra the Impaler. It’s easy to see why they are often compared with Mastodon, but hey, that’s not a bad thing right?
Back on the Main Stage, Polish death metal veterans Decapitated inspire an absolute tidal wave of crowd surfers. Promoting their latest album “Cancer Culture”, they are unashamedly in your face and the pure aggression coming from the stage is matched in the pits in the crowd.
York metalcore outfit Invisions shake the Sophie Lancaster tent to its very core. Vocalist Ben Ville effortlessly switches between guttural, harsh vocals to clean melodic ones for some soaring choruses.
Ugly Kid Joe provide a welcome change of pace, with the gorgeous weather a perfect setting for their fun-loving hard rock style. Whitfield Crane interacts with the crowd throughout and jokes that they brought the sunshine over from California. Thank you if you did! Cats In The Cradle and a storming cover of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades are the highlights of this crowd-pleasing set.
Your average Bloodstock goer strives to find clothes that are darker than black so The Church of the Cosmic Skull almost blind us with their arrival in the whitest outfits I have ever seen! This inspired booking offered something totally different to the rest of the day. I don’t think many people expected to see any psychedelic prog-pop-rock today but they managed to convert any non-believers by the end of their set.
When Helloween were forced to drop out days before the festival started, festival bookers were left scrambling around for a replacement. And what a replacement they found in KK’s Priest. Judas Priest alum K.K Downing and Tim “Ripper” Owens give us a mix of original material from their debut album Sermons of the Sinner and the upcoming release The Sinner Rides Again, mixed with some Priest classics such as Victim of Changes and Breaking the Law. They are absolutely on fire – quite literally, as the opening song pyrotechnics set fire to part of the stage!
And finally, it’s time for Megadeth! Huge cheers greet their arrival on stage. I think over the course of the day, I saw every Megadeth album cover adorned on the t-shirts of their legion of fans in the crowd. Obviously, they are a huge factor in today being sold out and I believe setting a new Bloodstock attendance record of over 20,000.
Kicking off with Hangar 18 and Dread and the Fugitive Mind, the band are in fine form from the get-go.
A huge inflatable unicorn in the crowd catches lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine’s attention. “I’m sorry that you spent all day blowing that thing up, and that you probably enjoyed it” Ouch! I don’t think he was a fan and the unicorn met its maker a few songs later!
The performance is just so musically tight. Kiko Loureiro (guitar), James LoMenzo (bass) and Dirk Verbeuren (drums) are all literally perfect. The only slight letdown is the sound mix of Mustaine’s vocals, they are so low that they are often drowned out and it’s even a struggle to hear him speak in-between songs. It’s particularly noticeable in the speaking parts in songs like Sweating Bullets.
It matters little to this audience though. Preaching to the converted would be an understatement, as they are happy enough singing at the top of their voices to either not notice any problems or they just don’t care.
This is the very definition of a career-spanning set which features tracks from 11 different albums. We’ll Be Back is the only song from last year’s release The Sick, The Dying..and the Dead! and Mustaine thanks the fans for making last year’s release the band’s highest-ever UK chart entry. That’s some achievement when you’re 16 albums into your career!
But it’s the classics that go hardest. A Tout Le Monde, Tornado of Souls, Symphony of Destruction have us banging our heads so hard they almost fall off and yet we still need to save some energy for Peace Sells, Mechanix and Holy Wars…what an incredible run of songs that very few can match.
A dream setlist for any Megadeth fan sends everyone home happy. It might take us a year to recover, but roll on Bloodstock 2024!
1/ HANGAR 18
2/ DREAD AND THE FUGITIVE MIND
3/ ANGRY AGAIN
4/ SWEATING BULLETS
5/ WAKE UP DEAD
6/ IN MY DARKEST HOUR
7/ WE’LL BE BACK
8/ CONQUER OR DIE
11/ A TOUT LE MONDE
12/ TORNADO OF SOULS
13/ SYMPHONY OF DESTRUCTION
14/ PEACE SELLS
16/ HOLY WARS
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My life is a soundtrack, i track my life through music, photography is my passion, my escape, my expression. Without both i have pieces missing, thankfully i’m blessed and get to combine both.
Born in Manchester, lived in Australia for 22 years where i was heavily involved in the Australian Music Industry, firstly in bands (Singer) and then managing bands (all original), I moved back to the UK, Wales specifically 10 years ago and married my childhood sweetheart and life is good.