A decade of metal mania. Bangalore Open Air 2023 was that oasis sighting, after Covid confined metalheads to wrecking their spines at home. The festival has opened its gates to misfits and fans of misfits since 2012, and they weren’t going to go easy this time, either. Giving us stellar line-ups since the beginning, the promise was delivered yet again. Some of the most brutal acts from across the country and world came together to envision thousands of fists and Dio horns aiming for the heavens. Satan could have been summoned on 1st April 2023, and no one would be afraid.
Openers-Kerala’s own, Amorphia
The line-up had seven acts, 4 from India and 3 from overseas. Amorphia inaugurated the first mosh pits, with an explosive set that included some of their best. In the sweltering heat (for Bangaloreans that seems to be 26 degrees Celsius), they brought in the freezing third circle of hell. Thrash from Alappuzha’s finest got the crowd riled up immediately, Vivek, Vasu and Faizan drilled the crowd with tracks from all their albums, better than some of their liver performances at Southern Slaughter. With the onus on them to really build up traction for the event-they held their ground and had everyone cheering for some spine-tingling thrash.
Genre defying death by Godless
Godless came in next, one of the pioneers for death metal in the country. Their setlist fanned through their entire collection, Centuries of Decadence as well as their ever popular, Swarm. Announcing songs from their latest LP States of Chaos, their playing remained deadly and technical-a combo they never let slip as musicians. The energy was at an all-time high, and the set was a dive into the discography worth revisiting.
End of an era-Dying Embrace
Dying Embrace pulled out their greatest hits for their closing tour. A band that has been credited for the origins of extreme/doom metal in India-they didn’t hold back for their final stop. Though after the relentless speed of Godless this was a lull, Vikram Bhat absolutely nailed the vocals. Shredding through songs, they related anecdotes through their long reign in conquering metal hearts all across India. With a shout-out to Keralites for their undying support, the band showed why they held the throne for the longest time. It was a blood soaked farewell.
Mega sized thrash-Kryptos kill Bangalore Open Air
Kryptos chose to tear up the stage next. Crediting Judas Priest, Candlemass and other thrash pioneers as their inspirations, this band has been a Bangalore Open Air regular for quite some time. Full Throttle, Mach Speed Running and Afterburner were some of their hottest-Rohit, Vijit and Nolan bringing thrash to school the kids. As the crowd had really started pouring in and warmed up, the stage was set for the next axe wielders.
In terms of event management, Bangalore Open Air 2023 had some corners cut in production. Having visited two other BOA’s through the years, the Ronnie James Dio stage was as impressive in size, but not sound. The bass seemed too heavy during Pestilence’s set, which was rife with their most blood curdling tracks. Food seemed to run out in stalls, which had items named after bands or their members. Cute, but they couldn’t keep up with metal appetite. Also, if a festival is using cashless transactions, it is a good idea to have more merchant devices. The one guy near Eddie’s bar had his pants to his ankles, 15 black, sweaty shirts at a time pummelling him for beer, whiskey or water. Pretty sure I saw tears in his eyes.
Pride of Netherlands-Pestilence
Pestilence were begged for, and they delivered. They had promised a bombs away in India, and they fulfilled. Patrick Mameli held the torch, with his screams, gutturals and even solos annihilating entire mosh pits. From Consuming Impulse to Exitivm, they used a wide spread for the hardcore fans. You could hear entire sectors of the audience screaming along the lyrics. The Dutch are heavily relied on. They make sure they put on a show.
Melodic metal stories-Born of Osiris
If you wanted to go dance heavy, ape shit or melodic-Born of Osiris were your answer. The metalcore mastodons made sure they had one of the tightest sets-both the vocalists bringing their best. Nick and Lee traded chops and solos, Cameron ensured the sickest drum sound for the event, and Joe masterminded the whole show. From mosh pits to waves of people bouncing, it was evident that their long wait to India was something people would treasure. Consider this the casket at the bottom of the ocean.
Without further ado-Mayhem grace Bangalore Open Air
As the headliners hit the stage, the sense of doom and spine-chilling awe was visible. Mayhem have an enchanting, terrifying history, and their stage dramatics held up their end of the bargain. Genesis of Norwegian black metal could be heard. As promised, they peppered De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas across their set, with Esoteric Warfare also having cameos. Hellhammer eradicated the drums on stage, Attila held on to his own legacy with some of the best vocals the death metal scene has ever heard. In their close to 90 minute set, there was fear, awe, surprise and wonder, at these true metal forgers still inspiring musicians decades to come.
All in all, Salman and the crew at Bangalore Open Air put on a hell of an event, like every year. Metal was missed, and loved again. None of the performers half-assed it, and as it is said in metal, had their fists up for love and war. From the mosh pits to the falls, the blood and drunkenness and joy-it was every metalhead’s dream. We will forever be indebted to metal, and it to us. As Lemmy quoted, which was printed on a banner at BOA, if you think you are too old to rock n roll, then you are. A thanks to everyone who made this another memorable, brutal and guttural Bangalore Open Air possible.
Self professed metalhead, moderately well read. If the music has soul, it's whole to me. The fact that my bio could have ended on a rhyme and doesn't should tell you a lot about my personality.