10 reasons why you should go to Alcatraz 2023

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As one of Belgium's biggest metal and rock festivals, Alcatraz has become one of the events people go to from far beyond the country's borders. And for many metal fans, it has become a constant present in every year's planning. Now, if you're not really familiar with this festival yet, or if you need some convincing still to go and snatch up some of the last tickets they have available still, here are some reasons we think you should consider going to Alcatraz 2023:

1. Be part of history

The 2023 edition of Alcatraz is not only a true celebration of metal and rock in the widest of senses, it’s also the 15th anniversary of the festival. While they’ve always strived to improve every year and listen to the wants and needs of their visitors, we can’t help but feel that this year could be a turning point where the festival will grow to become even bigger than it is already. With 108 bands on the line-up, expanded and/or improved parts of the fest like a bigger El Presidio bar tent, more food options, more animation, fireworks and so on. A whole lot to discover besides absolutely great bands! We’re pretty sure that Alcatraz will continue to be known as one of Europe’s nicest metal festivals, far outside its country’s borders. So come and celebrate with us the 15th anniversary of this great fest, and of course its bright future!

2. Headliners

While Alcatraz is one of Belgium’s biggest metal and rock festivals, the headliners are not always the most predictable ones. The organization is one of those who dare to take a gamble on a band that hasn’t been headlining these kinds of major events yet, and while that often causes metalheads to complain, the past has proven that this formula has been paying off more than once. And this time around, they really took this attitude to heart, bringing 3 bands to headline the main stage (or Prison Stage) that fall under that umbrella.

On the Friday, we get a band that has been around for a moment, consistently growing and delivering live performances that went up in theatrics over the 2 decades long existence. We’re curious to see what a Powerwolf show will be like on a huge stage closing a major metal festival. And hey, they’re celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, maybe we’ll get to see something special! One thing is sure, we’ll get a proper metal celebration with loads of fire and catchy songs.

On the Saturday, with KK’s Priest we’ll see a band that has been only among us for a handful of years, but with a huge amount of musical pedigree with former Judas Priest members guitarist K.K. Downing and vocalist Tim Owens, fleshed out with A.J. Mills (guitars), Tony Newton (bass) and Sean Elg (drums). They’ve played their first live show only a couple of weeks ago, and their headline spot at Alcatraz will be one of the first ones at a bigger festival, but with all the experience they have collectively, we can be rest assured of a heavy metal feast with some banger tracks from their debut album, upcoming album and of course some Judas Priest classics!

And lastly, to close down this year’s edition of Alcatraz with a bang and one last huge party, the organization has chosen to bring Electric Callboy back after last year’s show that blew everyone away. The fact that these guys have exploded, growing into a band that sells out arena show after arena show, and now being propelled into the headline position at a major metal festival, over the span of only a couple of years just proves how good their performances are. Now that they get the space and time that a headliner gets, we’re hoping to see their full stage production being set out on the Prison Stage, and maybe a couple of additional surprises to make this a truly exceptional show and one for the history books for everyone involved!

3. Exclusive and special shows

Every edition, the organization manages to attract some bands that you don’t see all that often in the neighborhood or at festivals to begin with. Or like we were mentioning in the earlier point, to rope them in for a more elaborate headlining show. And through that, we’ve seen some really cool things happening and experiences some great moments.

And we bet a lot of great memories will be made with this year’s headliners, but also the reunion show of NY hardcore legends Biohazard, one of the last shows of thrash metal legends Holy Moses, late night shows of bands like Amorphis, Heaven Shall Burn, Agnostic Front, Hypocrisy or Cult of Luna,… or seeing bands that don’t really tour all that much like Forbidden or Dismember. If you look at where the bands are coming from, you can also see this festival is a pretty good opportunity to catch many US bands that don’t come by Europe all that often anymore. We’re pretty sure you’ll find some epic shows to make this edition as memorable as it possibly could get.

4. Showcasing Belgian talent - "Under One Flag"

Alcatraz wouldn’t be Alcatraz if they didn’t pay some good amount of attention to the Belgian scene and all the talent that can be found there. This year, 20 of the over 100 bands are from the own soil and some of these you might want to go see if you’re not from Belgium, they’re more than worth it. And it’s not like they are putting these bands all on the smallest stage in a far away corner. No, a bit under half of these Belgians will be found on the Prison Stage, Swamp Stage or Helldorado Stage. The rest will summon up some riots at La Morgue stage, which is a tent stage with more of a club feel.

Go see death metallers Serial Butcher open up the Swamp Stage on the Friday, and hardcore legend Do Or Die ripping up the Helldorado Stage, a day that also features a lot of Belgians at La Morgue with Alcatraz Bash winners A Goat As Our Shepherd opening up the stage, the stoners of Gnome, black metal misfits Kludde, and underground rock/metal legends La Muerte.

On the Saturday, heavy/power metal icons Iron Mask open up the day by playing the Prison Stage, while the all star collective Predatory Void will take over the Swamp Stage at some point. La Morgue will be the place again for an explosive set, with many killer thrash metal and old school heavy metal bands gracing the stage, being opened by the promising young dudes of Schizophrenia.

But the biggest day for the Belgian metal scene, will be the Sunday with over half of the Belgian bands set to play on that day. The Swamp Stage will be opened by one of the most promising bands of the Flemish black metal scene in recent years with Serpents Oath, and the Heldorado Stage will be the place to be to catch some of the best of Belgium’s rich stoner/sludge/psychedelic/post scene with My Diligence, Psychonaut, Stake, and Brutus. And on top of that, you can go set up shop at La Morgue for some great alternative metal and metalcore with Aeveris and Mantah, some melodeath goodies with Slaughter The Giant, Hexa Mera, and Reject The Sickness, and of course goregrind fun with Brutal Sphincter.

5. Finger on the pulse of the scene

While Alcatraz features many classic and legendary metal and rock bands, it feels like more than a lot of other festivals around Europe, the people behind this event are really keeping the finger on the pulse and future of the heavy music scene. Besides a bunch of promising and up-and-coming bands from the own Belgian scene, we were all too happy to see bands like Archspire, Brand Of Sacrifice, Celeste, Wind Rose, Gaerea, Eleine, Gaupa, Svalbard, Frozen Soul, Gatecreeper, and Shadow Of Intent get much deserved attention on a festival like Alcatraz, and you can be sure that we’ll be doing our best to catch every single one of them on their stages!

6. Themes

Something that we haven’t seen many festivals do, but Alcatraz does, is really sort of catering to their visitors by bringing “themes” into play. They have shared new bands for the line-up with themed days in the past, and try to make some sort of musical theme posters to appeal to those metalfans that lean towards a specific genre more than others. With this year proudly showing off the themes “Hard Rock, Heavy Metal & Power Metal”, “Speed & Thrash”, “Post, Stoner, Sludge and Doom”, “Hardcore, Metalcore, Electronicore & Punk” and “Black & Death”.

But even beyond that, if you look at the time schedule of Alcatraz 2023, you’ll find that especially the Swamp, Helldorado, and La Morgue stage has somewhat of a different musical theme every festival day. At a lot of festivals, you’ll see the organization spread bands of similar genres over the different festival days, we assume to entice fans of a certain genre to buy a weekend ticket. Not as much at Alcatraz, which feels like a tremendous fan service to us. In a lot of cases, you can simply set up shop at one of the stages for one day and get to enjoy your favorite genre without having to buy a weekend ticket or move much at all.

You’re into death and black metal? The Swamp stage on Friday and Sunday, and part of Saturday is the place to be for you.
You’re looking for a healthy dose of hardcore? Get your ticket for the Friday and set up shop at the Helldorado stage.
Got a need for psychedelic, stoner, doom, sludge and post-metal? Especially Helldorado stage on the Sunday will be heaven for you, but a good chunk of Friday’s La Morgue will satisfy those needs as well.
More of an old school thrash and heavy metal fan? You simply have to be at La Morgue on the Saturday!

7. Other activities, food and booze

Besides checking out your favorite bands, and discovering the next big thing or new addition to your playlists, there are tons of other activities to keep you occupied whenever you don’t feel like spending your time and energy on a show for a moment. You’ll find dressed up crew members walking around to entertain you with their act (going from freak show to prison guards), we’ve seen some car wrecks you can go beat up some more to get some frustration out of your system, signing sessions with your favorite artists, and of course there’s a sizeable metal market where you can find CD’s, vinyl, merch, accessories,… anything your alternative heart might desire, and so on. Last year there was even a championship belly sliding…

And with all that activity, you of course need some sustenance… Also on this they didn’t skimp with a wide range of different foods going from the classic Belgian fries to pizza and burgers, but also more special stuff like gourmet hot dogs, and meatballs, tex mex, bubble waffles, noodles and pasta, and an extended offering of many vegan snacks. And for the liquid side of things, not only can you find a nice range of your standard (Belgian) drinks going from Coca Cola and Red Bull to beer, if you want something more special, go spend some time in the El Presidio bar for some typical Belgian special/strong beers or the Koffie Queen and Latitude 51 for your high quality caffeine fix.

Don’t forget to get your food & drink tokens in pre-sale to get a discount: https://www.alcatraz.be/en/tickets

8. Atmosphere

Alcatraz is probably one of the nicest festivals around, where the atmosphere is always stellar. And while most festivals (at least in Belgium) just have a simple setup with not all that much flair, the whole prison theme really permeates the whole event. There are the prison guards that walk around the terrain, always ready to take a picture with you, the mascot is a zombified prison guard, and the main stage looks like a huge prison complete with fire spitting towers. You can add to that the freak show acts roaming around, the other stages (Swamp, Helldorado, La Morgue) going with their respective themes, and plenty of other cool things to discover. And both the organization and visitors are committed to giving everyone the best possible time over those few days of festival, regularly giving tips/rules on partaking in the mosphits that will be aplenty, spreading love and positivity and more like that.

9. Become part of a family

Once you’ve gone to Alcatraz, you become part of a family, the “prisoners”. You’ll make friends and memories that will last forever, and it wouldn’t be the first time we hear of people planning the festival in as a yearly destination, or in other words, a family reunion. With those thousands of people showing up for the same music, and even though it’s a larger scale event, the rather cozy and intimate setting, there is a certain vibe of unity and familiarity that is pretty rare at events like this. Even the Alcatraz crew is a tight group of people who come back year after year to volunteer and contribute to the greatness that is this fest. So come on get yourself a ticket, get your ass over to the festival and automatically get an extended family of weirdos and music lovers!

10. Support a great organization

The team behind this festival is really worth your support and love. Every edition goes as smooth as it gets, and besides having their fingers on the pulse of the scene, they really have an open ear to the feedback of their visitors. This year they somewhat reorganized the terrain to make sure everything is convenient to get to, including getting a better connection between the campings and the festival terrain, extended the range of vegan options, and after noticing the wild parties that went on in the El Presidio bar tent, they’re expanding it both in size and DJ offer to give the good vibes there even more of a boost.

Besides that, they are a strong supporter of anything that is local (besides the local music scene) and of higher quality, working with local businesses for food and other services. And they do anything they can to keep everyone safe, just go look at their series in teaching (the unwritten) rules on taking part in a moshpit, keeping it relatively safe for everyone. But they are also very committed to become one of the best “low impact” festivals around by working on the overall ecological footprint, waste, consumption, power and so on. Truly an organization that tries to take care of everyone and everything to give us the best time ever for that one weekend in August.

Though they do organize other shows throughout the year within Kortrijk and have a smaller winter fest planned in November with “Hell’s Balls Belgium”. Check it out here to get tickets: https://www.hellsballs.be/

We hope to see you there for one of the best weekends of the year! Whenever you come across one of us, don’t hesitate to come and say hi!

In the meantime, check out our Alcatraz playlists here and here!

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