Bloodstock Open Air Festival part 1. Read our review from the event

Bloodstock Open Air Festival was 11-13 of August in Catton Hall (Derbyshire). We have our big review for you. Please sit comfortably and read!

Bloodstock Festival was two weeks ago but we are still buzzing after this event. We have an English review for you written by Christian Gould.

Polish version available here.

Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2023. What happened on Friday?

As Bloodstock Open Air 2023 kicked off on Friday, the sun beat down on the thousands of metalheads who had descended upon Catton Hall, although unfortunately it wouldn’t last. As we made our way through the main gate we stumbled upon the inaugural „Battle for Bloodstock”, Viking re-enactors squaring off against each other in mock, brutal battle. The sound of axes clanging against shields to a backdrop of heavy metal set the tone for the rest of the day.

Bloodstock fot. Aleksandra Hogg

We started our Bloodstock journey at the Sophie Lancaster stage with Black Coast, nu-metal revivalists who incorporate grunge influence into their sound. The lads from Stoke have just released a self-titled EP and they had the crowd vibing to their groove-focused breakdowns. 

From Sophie we head to the Ronnie James Dio for the first Polish band of a packed weekend, Hate. The death metal stalwarts from Warsaw finally seem to be getting the attention they deserve following their 2021 release, Rugia, and they impressed during their 40 minute set. Adam’s guttural vocals only seem to be improving with time and as the band launch into Valley of Darkness, the tension in the crowd breaks and it’s a sea of movement with surfers being hurled over the barriers to crushing breakdowns. It’s a honed performance that also serves as an effective headline audition for one of the workhorses of Polish Death Metal.

Hate fot. Aleksandra Hogg
See full gallery from Hate at Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2023.

There’s a change in the running order and Gatecreeper appear on the main stage and unceremoniously launch into Sweltering Madness, an appropriate choice given the heat. You can hear the influence of bands like Obituary and Bloodbath but the band also has a background in hardcore and they’re most recent EP,  An Unexpected Reality, is closer to powerviolence than death metal. 

Sacred Reich kick off their delayed set with a crowd-pleasing duo of The American Way and Manifest Reality. Sacred Reich are another band approaching their 40th anniversary but they can still channel the fire and anger of their youth, the band’s fiercely political lyrics still resonating with a crowd happy to chant along.

Sacred Reich fot. Aleksandra Hogg

Taking a break from the main stage we join up-and-comers, Pest Control, at the second stage. Formed in 2019, their debut album, „Don’t Test the Pest” was released in 2023 and it’s an interesting look at the direction younger bands are taking metal. They take to the stage with the energy and aggression you’d expect from a band whose songs rarely last longer than two minutes. Vocalist, Leah, careens around the stage as the band seamlessly weaves thrash riffs into hardcore breakdowns.

Over on the main stage, the New Jersey deathcore outfit, Fit for an Autopsy launch into a crushingly heavy set that nearly sees security being overwhelmed by a tsunami of crowd surfers. Latest release, Oh What the Future Holds, sees the band incorporating more technical death metal elements but they can still be relied upon to deliver bludgeoning breakdowns.

Fit for an Autopsy fot. Aleksandra Hogg

Fury last appeared at Bloodstock in 2021 when they had to fill in at the last-moment. In 2023 they’ve earned first billing on the Sophie Lancaster stage. Bloodstock trends towards the extreme end of metal but there’s still room for heavy metal and hard rock. Formed in 2010, Fury are stalwarts of the UK hard rock scene and they aren’t missing an opportunity to bring their energetic, heavy metal album cover performance to a larger audience. Hell of a Night from latest release, Born to Sin, proving particularly catchy.

See gallery from Fury at Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2023

Flames light up the Ronnie James Dio stage as German melodic death metallers, Heaven Shall Burn, make their debut at Bloodstock. Slowing the pace down following Fit For an Autopsy, the band draw heavily from their most recent release, Of Truth and Sacrifice, during a technically impressive, assured performance.

Gaerea take to the Sophie Lancaster stage, the shrouded and mercurial quintet a rising force in contemporary black metal. Their masked appearance on the stage evokes their focus on self-destruction and Guilherme’s tortured vocals, particularly on Salve and Deluge, contribute to an atmospheric soundscape which leaves fans in the tent transfixed.

See our gallery from Gaerea at Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2023

Pioneers of the Gothenburg Sound, In Flames, make their appearance on the Ronnie James Dio as the sub-headliners for the day. Their current festival appearances are in support of the tour for their latest release, Foregone, and while the setlist does take in classics from their extensive back catalogue, including fan favourite „Only For the Weak”, the focus is on their newest material. The Great Deceiver draws in the crowd and Anders harsh, screamed vocal pierce via the wall of sound. Reviews for 'Foregone’ are mixed but seeing them live leaves no doubt that they’ll continue to remain heavyweights in the genre.

See In Flames photo gallery from Bloodstock Festival 2023

Bossk, sub-headliners for the Sophie Lancaster stage, are one of the more unique bands of the day. Playing a blend of stoner rock and sludge metal, this isn’t a band for intense, headbanging riffs but more a space for contemplation and reflection. It doesn’t sound like it should work in a live setting but you just need to look at the enthralled faces of the reverent crowd to know that Bossk have managed to tap into something deeper with their music. 

Wrapping up Friday, Massachusetts Metalcore heavyweights, Killswitch Engage headline the Ronnie James Dio. This was Killswitch’s first UK outdoor-festival headline slot and they seized the opportunity with both hands. A frenetic start saw the band burst onto stage with the anthemic, 'My Curse’, and the Catton Hall faithful know every word. The atmosphere is electric  and Killswitch boast a 20-year polished catalogue to draw upon. As they launch into „This Fire”, the crowd continues to meet them in voice, singing loud into the darkening sky. A 21-song setlist spans the bands history, taking in all of their 8 full-length album releases before they end on Holy Diver, a fitting tribute on the stage named after the legend himself. A stunning performance that suggests Killswitch should firmly be in the conversation for headliners at other, larger festivals.

Our gallery from Killswitch Engage at Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2023

Friday’s gallery of Bloodstockers. Can you spot yourself?

Of course, festivals aren’t just about the bands, it’s a time for the metal community to come together and express themselves in a place free from judgement. Friday was a particularly poignant day as Bloodstockers were asked to dress in pink in memory of Sylvia Lancaster. Sylvia was the mother of Sophie Lancaster, a young woman who was murdered in 2007 for being different. Bloodstock honours Sophie’s memory every year and named the 2nd stage after her. Sylvia was the founder of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and had worked tirelessly to raise awareness and money in the years following her daughter’s death, sadly, she passed away in 2022. Bloodstock is committed to being a safe space for people to be different and be themselves.

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