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  • Words by Editor-in-Grief


At the very likely, perhaps even inevitable, risk of being branded a bunch of insufferable metal elitists, dare we venture to suggest that a weekend of high-grossing American deathcore or misty-eyed, noughties nostalgia isn’t quite our idea of a good time here at Dark Matter HQ? Certainly, the process of sifting through a seemingly endless list of largely unknown bands in the vain hope of finding something to scratch that ever-persistent extreme metal itch can prove something of a trial of a festival weekend (even leaving aside the additional, compounding factors of crippling acidic hangovers, portaloo trauma and the eye-wateringly expensive pints of pissy lager you’ll be forced to resort to drinking when your own stock inevitably runs dry barely 48 hours into the festival weekend). So, by way of streamlining the process and hopefully eliminating at least a few problematic unknowns, here’s our rundown of our top five extreme metal bands poised and primed to decimate stages across the immense, four-day rock and metal bonanza that is Bloodstock Open Air…


Like all the rarest and most viciously arresting forms of ink-black sonic artistry, there’s no mistaking the compositional mastery underpinning Gaerea’s turbulent yet elegantly transcendental craft. And as a record that melds together trappings as varied as searing, dizzyingly frenetic guitar leads, insanely paced hyperblasts and gossamer-fine wisps of ambient fretwork, it’s clear this uber-talented Portuguese collective has forged something quite remarkable with entrancing second opus ‘Mirage’.

Having been born in an era notoriously burdened down with unprecedented suffering, isolation and despair, every conceivable second of this pandemic-era opus abounds with existential anguish manifested vividly within the band’s minimalistic yet intensely engrossing live performances. With faces shrouded in black atop a darkened stage adorned with diabolical sigils, these impassioned players channel their uniquely crafted hymns of existential anguish in the most intense and darkly evocative manner imaginable. While, thus far here in the UK, we’ve seen Gaerea perform only in the understated context of intimate clubs and local venues, we can barely begin to speculate how their sound might translate on a scale as epic and momentous as Bloodstock Open Air. Thankfully, the band are on hand to give us a gist of what to expect ahead of the main event…

“There’s nothing like a packed small club show where the atmosphere is thick and sweaty. Those were some of the most mind-bending shows we ever did,” comments the band of their mesmerising live experiences in the UK to date. “But we have learned how to perform in bigger stages for thousands of people, which can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s all about power, control and how are you going to feed your emotions to an audience that has seen it all already in that certain festival. You have to build a set that has it all. The aggressiveness, the melody, the minimalistic sections and the cathartic explosions. We are bringing our biggest game and a lot of surprises. History will be written for GAEREA on that stage.”


Having amassed a staggeringly expansive body of brutal, boundary-smashing death metal over the course of their illustrious, 27-year career, Decapitated have long proven themselves to be one of the most iconic and viciously compelling fixtures of the global extreme scene. And from the primal, raggedly energised throes of 2000 breakthrough ‘Winds of Creation’ to the bone-shattering, staccato-laden fury and insanely agile groove of 2022’s critically lauded ‘Cancer Culture’, the band’s unrelenting hunger to carve out fresh, increasingly savage and compositionally innovative sonic territories is matched with an equally monstrous and razor-sharp stage presence. From the hateful and mindlessly regressive horrors of organised religion to mass hysteria and political corruption, suffice to say the modern world is serving this inimitable collective with no small amount of cathartic fuel with which to stoke the fires of their notoriously ferocious creative output. And in these oftentimes bleak and frighteningly uncertain times, we’re reminded of the infinite catharsis to be sourced from such primal and unflinchingly savage forms of dark art. With a prestigious stage show that’s flawlessly engineered and purpose-built to shatter and obliterate the senses into submission, Decapitated are sure to do precisely all that and more on their tremendously anticipated return to the UK’s most monumental metal gathering.


Hailing from the sweeping, primordial shorelines and vertigo-inducing peaks of South Wales, Ofnus’s electrifying blend of visceral, second wave aggression and hauntingly grandiose classical orchestration is guaranteed to comprise one of the most unmissable highlights of BOA 2023. And despite being their first and only full-length since coalescing together as a musical unit back in 2018, poetically-titled debut ‘Time Held Me Grey and Dying’ abounds with a level of technical prowess and darkly absorbing compositional vision that belies their newly-forged status. Anchored in sound barrier-shattering extremes of frantic, hyperblasting aggression and lacerating strains of scalpel-keen tremolo, this is a record richly steeped in decidedly blackened sonic tradition. Yet, with an additional wealth of flourishing, exquisitely ornate strings, spine-chilling choirs and delicately cascading piano sections, every conceivable second of studio time is equally awash with unique character and intricately layered complexity. Melding together its respective primary reference points of black metal and epic film scores into a monumental melange of nightmarish hellscapes, ink-black melancholia and wistful introspection, prepare, on Saturday 12th August, to be transported somewhere far removed from this weary mortal realm.

“It is perhaps not a surprise that we're not a band that we expect people will be hurling themselves into one another for, we aim to crush the audience with the sheer emotive gravity of the soundscapes,” notes insightful founder and guitarist Alyn Hunter of Ofnus’s uniquely captivating stage presence. “Expect an intense and weighted performance that will give a full-bodied taste of our repertoire. We want you to feel lost in the music, overcome by reflection and revelling in the full experience of an all-encompassing sound-track. We do firmly believe that we will be offering something quite different within the festival line-up this year. More than anything else though, we will leave you wanting more.”

“So, on the basis that we are likely going to be a ‘breakfast’ or ‘hangover’ performance at the festival, we do urge you - if you're reading and on the fence, drag yourself out of your tent, grab a drink, and indulge in some misery.”


With their intoxicating mix of weightily pulverising groove, sleekly muscled riffery and eerie, all-enveloping atmospherics that audibly rumble and reverberate with unearthly majesty, these genre-splicing Polish aggressors were unsurprisingly quick to catch our attention on the unleashing of epic slab ‘Crusade:Zero’ back in 2015. Having started out in 1991 with a sound anchored firmly in the classic death metal traditions that typify this now-iconic era of the genre, more recent years have seen this talented collective forge a fiercely distinctive sonic identity that freely traverses the many and varied stylistic territories of both death and black metal. And from ‘Triskhelion’s’ frantically whirling strains of knife-edged tremolo to the herculean, bone-shattering blasts and elegantly twisted guitar leads of ‘Valley of Darkness’, theirs is a raw and instinctive presence that lends itself all too perfectly to the high-octane medium of live performance.

Within a brutal yet darkly absorbing stage show that’s generously laden with fiery atmospherics and strikingly ornate pagan iconography, these seasoned players summon forth a staggering and intensely ritualistic live presence. Having left jaws agape following stellar sets alongside such prestigious heavyweights as I Am Morbid and fellow countrymen Batushka in recent years, the band’s debut slot at Bloodstock 2023 is set to comprise their most monumental performance here in the UK yet. Steel yourselves for a truly epic, civilisation-levelling assault on the senses.


In between the departure of various band members, together with the ruinous arrival of COVID-19 in 2020, London wrecking crew Sanguinem already have faced more than their share of problematic trials and tribulations since forming back in 2019. Seemingly quite unfazed by these unexpected setbacks and assorted complications, founder and bass player Geos Letona wasted little time in bringing his vision of a hard-hitting yet intelligently layered and melodic new sound to fruition, culminating in the release of genre-splicing debut album ‘Solitude’ in 2022. Delving into this diverse and viciously energised new offering, this genre-transcending smash draws liberally from an array of musical trappings and traditions, from richly nostalgic lashings of weightily pulverising doom to synapse-scorching smatterings of tremolo-stricken death metal. Opening on a menacingly unhurried slew of darkly reverberating, tombstone-heavy groove before imploding in a blistering crescendo of stratospheric riffing and ragged, peripheral strains of tremolo, ‘Hate Transfusion’ comprises one such crushing yet sharply calculating onslaught.

With their recent, runaway victory as reigning champions of the London Metal To The Masses comprising their greatest accomplishment to date, Letona and co. are unsurprisingly elated at the prospect of making their Bloodstock debut in just a couple of weeks’ time. “We are very excited and proud about playing Bloodstock,” the industrious founder notes of this fast-approaching performance. “Our fans and new audience can expect a raw, full power performance of melodic groove death metal, riffs that’ll make you jump and headbang, memorable and soulful melodies that will get well engraved. We can’t wait to smash it!”


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