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Killswitch Engage Deliver Monumental Headline Set at Bloodstock

Headlining Friday night at Bloodstock Festival 2023 gave Killswitch Engage their first-ever UK headlining set, and they certainly seemed to relish it. It was always going to be interesting to see what Killswitch 2023 would be like as a headliner. Jesse Leach’s second stint with the band stands at over ten years. Talking to fans before and after the show, it was interesting to hear their take on both this and the Howard Jones era.

Bloodstock – Killswitch Engage

The set was exactly what was called for. Here was a band that were clearly intent on making a point, and in their twenty-one-song set, they had plenty of opportunities to smash it home. After all, it had taken them over twenty years to get to this point, and they were clearly intent on making up for lost time and not taking any prisoners along the way.

Killswitch Engage - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Killswitch Engage – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

The Americans came out firing on all cylinders bringing their intense form of Heavy Metal, or Metalcore, with them. Interestingly Killswitch, in recent years, have tried to separate themselves from the Metalcore sub-genre title and in reality, to someone who has not seen the band in a live environment before, they came over quite simply as a bloody good Heavy Metal band.

Over the years, they have developed and honed their abilities to such a point that they are now an impressive Metal outfit. Forget the labels and just embrace them for what they are, an incredibly tight, organised and exciting act.

Hitting the stage with a quite literal explosive start, as a display of intensive pyro lit up the arena, probably singeing the first few rows. The band powered out of the blocks, proving that they were the perfect Friday night headliner.

My Curse was the perfect opener, and both band and audience made intentions clear with the Bloodstock masses bellowing back the lyrics in an intense singalong on par with the band’s delivery.

Killswitch Engage - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Killswitch Engage – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

The early part of the set was based on more recent material and some less well-known pieces. Yet this gave the band a chance to bond with the Bloodstock masses. Vocalist Jesse Leach prowled the stage, standing straight against a backdrop of intense white light like a modern-day Metal messiah coercing the crowd into bigger pits and circles.

With songs like This Fire, Beyond The Flames and The Signal Fire, Jesse pointed out quite obviously, “We have a few songs about fire.” However, for all their intensity, Killswitch do not take themselves entirely seriously, particularly guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz who engendered a singalong with the crowd celebrating the likely unsanitariness of genitalia after four days without washing. The crowd yelled back, “Corn beef balls, corn beef box.” You go work it out.

Killswitch Engage - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Killswitch Engage – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

In a statement before the show, the band were quoted as saying, “A few things might blow up during our Bloodstock set. “Well, it’s fair to say that summed up the extent of pyro in use throughout the set, let alone the sensational delivery that the band provided as song after song was delivered with savagery and intensity.

The Arms Of Sorrow saw the multitudinous hordes as one, arms in the air, hands clapping, fists punching whilst numbers such as The Signal Fire was introduced as a song about unity and love, with lead vocalist Jesse Leach dedicating the song to all Bloodstocker’s as a recognition of the inclusive family ideal that the festival engenders.

Killswitch Engage - Bloodstock Festival 2023.
Killswitch Engage – Bloodstock Festival 2023. Photo: John Inglis/MetalTalk

Unsurprisingly they left the more popular fan favourites towards the end of the set so ensuring that by closure the audience would be eating out from their hands.

Yet with the quality of pieces such as This Is Absolution, The End Of Heartache and My Last Serenade all following each other in a line, there was no surprise that Bloodstock rolled over for them.

Quite simply, this was an incendiary performance from an incendiary band, yet when we thought they were finished, they pulled one more surprise out of the bag closing the set with a cover of Metal God Ronnie James Dio’s Holy Diver.

Things don’t get any better than that. Shock and Awe? Absolutely.


Bloodstock Festival 2023 is held over the weekend of 10-13 August 2023. MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings and Adrian Stonley report from Catton Park.

All Photography: John Inglis and Paul Hutchings

All MetalTalk Bloodstock Festival 2023 coverage can be found at  MetalTalk.net/tag/bloodstock-2023.

Weekend early bird tickets for Bloodstock 2024 will be available to purchase at the box office on-site for £165. This is the cheapest way to buy a 2024 ticket, minus any online booking or admin fees.

Bloodstock 2022 can be relived at MetalTalk.net/tag/bloodstock-2022.

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