Live Coverage || Alcatraz festival 2021

Credit: ArteLikeThat photography

 It almost feels like a dream that, not only did a festival take place at full capacity in 2021, but I was able to attend it. Alcatraz festival took place in Kortrijk, Belgium on August 13-15, at full capacity (which I think reached 12K visitors), and with a lineup consisting of almost exclusively European bands. To a certain extent, the bands that played stuck to the initial 2021 poster so I'm definitely not complaining about that.

I will be the first to admit that it was weird to not wear masks and be that close to people again, and I CERTAINLY needed to readjust my settings after a year and a half in isolation. In order to ensure that everyone who got in was safe, the festival implemented a Covid-safe policy where all visitors would have to present at the Expo Hall in Kortrijk and upon showing their vaccination certificate or negative test, they received a wristband for Friday. The next morning, they would have to take a new wristband from the festival site; unvaccinated folks would be taking a new test on site, which they had booked and payed for in advance, while the rest would just get a new wristband, similar to what happened on Sunday minus the testing.

Enough with the technicalities, let's get to the part that y'all came here for; the live music!


The day of arrival. After a rather sleepless night and an uneventful travel, I made it to Lange Munte. The festival had already started by the time I made it to the infield and the first band I caught for the day was The Vintage Caravan. Even though I wasn't a big fan of theirs, they left me with a very good impression and eager for more. FireForce's heavy metal was quite impressive and the participation they got with people packing in the La Morgue tent only proved how much fans had missed these interactions. King Hiss felt more of a filler to me and I must admit I had a hard time appreciating their performance but stuck around regardless. 

I'm also the first to admit that more often than not I judge a book by its cover -or a band by its recorded music. While I've never been judgemental per se when it came to Brutus -or Canada's Unleash The Archers, I can't say I've followed their career consistently either. Boy, could I be more wrong. Both Brutus and UTA were great, but Brittany Slayes and co. did a terrific job at the Prison stage, totally in their element, while some uncoordinated pyros ignited from the towers. Suicidal Angels were a force to be reckoned with. Hands down one of their best performances I've seen over the years, even though some solos were muted. Kids were moshing, and that's where I saw the first crowdsurfers for the day. Not bad at all. I stuck around for Moonspell too even though I haven't listened to them since my teenage years, when I dabbled a little with their music before moving to heavier things. I will be going back though, as they left me with a very nice memory. Lunch break while Tarja was starting. She has undoubtedly proven to be a prolific singer after her departure from Nightwish but I'm still not loving her solo music. Her stage performance was good so I will definitely give her that.

Mayhem came in at the last minute to replace Cradle Of Filth and the choice was justified. Their performance was electric, exactly as one would expect. Vocalist Attila Csihar was as blasphemous as ever, his priest-inspired adding to the ritualistic atmosphere inside Swamp stage. Moving on back to Prison stage, Swedish melodeath pioneers At The Gates were about to rip the crowd a new one. Their set was a great mixture of old and new material, although if we're being honest, they always get more reactions when they perform "Slaughter Of The Soul" tracks. The sound was excellent and the veteran band moved confidently on stage. I remained at the stage for Epica's headlining show. Not gonna lie, they were the main reason I booked the festival in the first place. The experience was phenomenal, to say the least. Rejuvenated, they got a crystal clear sound and a ton, and I mean a ton, of pyros. The song choice wasn't far off from the livestream but very welcome nonetheless. The setlist ended with "Design Your Universe" and fireworks. I was definitely not complaining about that one either.


Kicked off the day with Necrotted's noisy death metal and was pleasantly surprised to see that the band got people moving despite the early slot. Next I caught Ryker's, whose vocalist found himself on the barrier, singing face-to-face with the fans, who were participating from early on. After a quick bee line for Burning Witches (great stage presence, absolutely not my cup of tea), I stuck around for Funeral Dress, whose street punk was a very good addition to the metal billing of the festival. The band members were restless while the anthemic "Party On" had people singing along even after the song was long over. I'm not gonna lie, I spent most of the day at the Swamp stage, where Omnium Gatherum, a collab booking between Alcatraz and Summer Breeze Open Air, who got a great feedback from the crowd. Despite playing under a scorching sun, thrash metal titans Destruction didn't seem to be phased. On the contrary, the band sounded more pissed off than ever, definitely blowing off pent up steam from the lockdown. Dark Tranquility were a revelation for me. Much like with Moonspell, I briefly dabbled a little with them in my teens and I'm really regretting not sticking with them, Their set was magnificent, and their energy and contagious smiles definitely made people more eager to participate. 

Moving on to the La Morgue stage, where Alkerdeel and their blackened madness had people invested in the show. The blood-covered vocalist was able to get people to mosh while throughout their stage time some even crowdsurfed. Back to Swamp stage, Hypocrisy was another band I wanted to check for the longest time. Their show was imposing and completely blew my mind. Having missed Emperor at Summer Breeze in 2019 being beyond tired, I wouldn't let this opportunity slip. They have been one of my favorite black metal bands for as long as I remember and their performance was definitely worth it. The setlist mainly consisted of fan-favorite tracks and the band looked effortlessly cool during their merciless pummeling. If I'm being honest, I didn't really watch Heilung. I wanted to have the experience but I'm not really a fan, so I called it a night.


Sunday was a slow day for me; while not as hot as the previous days, the bands I was more interested in seeing didn't start until the late afternoon. While roaming I run into the lovely Fabienne Erni from Eluveitie and got to meet two of her Patreons, who I stayed in touch with until showtime. I was able to catch Artillery for the first time, and it was a very interesting experience. In the afternoon, Jinjer rocked the Prison stage, bombastic as ever. I've said it before, I'll say it again, Tatiana is an incredible and very talented performer, always a sight for sore eyes. I was also able to see the metal queen herself, Doro, for the first time. The ageless iron lady was incredible although my favorite part of her show was none other than "All We Are", where she even got a small girl on stage to sing with her. 

For Eluveitie, I joined the lovely lads I met earlier at the front and don't regret a thing; the Swiss folk masters were incredible and I absolutely loved their chemistry (and Fabi's lungs of steel) once more. "Inis Mona" closed the set as expected, with everyone singing along to the chorus even if they didn't know all the lyrics. AMENRA was a transcending experience, definitely not how you'd wind down from Eluveitie's merry madness. Their performance was heavy as cement and very consistent. Last time I saw them I was coming down with a cold and didn't really enjoy them with the heavy smoke in the venue irritating. my throat, but this was jaw-dropping. The day ended with Kreator. Not a fan of theirs, I'll be honest, but I was so excited to be at a show that I actually had a good time. The pyros fit very much their ambience and they even had string confetti at some point. 

Overall, my first time at Alcatraz festival was incredible. I can't wait for festivals to return as we know them and to be back next year for the full scale party!

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