On Friday night, just before Killswitch Engage put on a blistering headline set, Bloodstock Open Air revealed that, alongside the likes of Amon Amarth, Clutch, Septicflesh, Rotting Christ and other beloved metal mainstays, Brighton metalcore heavyweights Architects would not only be playing the festival for the first time in 2024, but would be headlining the Saturday night. It'll come five years after Architects' Aussie peers Parkway Drive occupied the very same slot - an announcement that was initially greeted with plenty of surprise, some heated debate and, from certain vocal corners of the metal world, a dash of cynicism. Bloodstock was, after all, supposed to be the premier destination for true, iron-clad heavy metal. What did these clean-cut, surfer-bro breakdown lovers think they were doing here?
Of course, Parkway absolutely smashed it - to the surprise of no one who had actually witnessed their increasingly fiery, bombastic stage shows in recent years. Undoubtedly, Architects will smash it in a year's time, too. What's most interesting about their addition to Bloodstock's bill, however, is that it received almost no backlash whatsoever. Sure, there were a handful of moaners shuffling around on social media ("Architects? Surely a band for the Download crowd!" cried one follower on Bloodstock's Instagram page). But, by and large, the reaction to their booking has been overwhelmingly positive. For a festival that once received flak for putting Hatebreed on their bill (yes, really), that's some serious progress.
Meanwhile, earlier this summer, Bring Me The Horizon finally chalked off a bucketlister that they - and their fanbase - have been waiting for for almost a decade: they headlined Download Festival. It felt long overdue and received a rapturous reception, bolstered by a Friday main stage lineup that was dominated by young, exciting British bands (including a sub-headlining Architects, as it happens). It was the first time Download had tested a new headline band for six years, since Biffy Clyro topped the bill on Saturday night in 2017 (not counting the acclaimed Download Pilot event in 2021, which included three fresh headliners in Frank Carter, Enter Shikari and Bullet For My Valentine, but at the expense of a vastly reduced capacity).
To be fair to both events, both Download and Bloodstock have booked fresh headliners numerous times over the years. Since its inception over two decades ago, Bloodstock has continued to evolve, the likes of Gojira, Mastodon, Amon Amarth and Sabaton getting their first chances at topping the bill in recent years, while fellow headliners Machine Head, Lamb Of God and Parkway have been key in expanding the festival's musical remit beyond its trad, power and extreme metal roots. Download, with a far bigger capacity and heavy reliance on arena and stadium bands, has taken a few particularly bold swings in its time. My Chemical Romance were famously given a hostile reception in 2007, while Biffy and Muse were afforded largely indifferent reactions upon their unveiling in 2017 and 2015. Arguably, only Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold have successfully graduated to headliner status under Download's watch.
What ultimately links these two festivals' situations is that there is now surely no turning back. While Metallica and Slipknot undoubtedly sold a shit-ton of tickets for this year's Download, Bring Me The Horizon's set was clearly the weekend's biggest talking point, and proved that rock and metal fans are, by and large, hungry to see fresh blood take bigger festival slots. The positive reaction to Architects' booking at Bloodstock, meanwhile, shows that the festival has successfully created a dynamic where they can book a wider remit of bands than ever without losing touch with their core support base. The fact that Malevolence - another modern, up-and-coming British metalcore band - also appear to be commanding a high slot on the main stage next year shows that Architects won't be left stranded on that line-up, either.
The best thing about all of this? The metal scene itself is in its rudest health for decades, with a dizzying amount of exciting, diverse and vibrant bands crashing through and attempting to clamber their own way up festival bills around the world. Ghost, Architects, Parkway Drive, Within Temptation, While She Sleeps, Five Finger Death Punch, Sabaton and Gojira are just some of the bands to graduate to arenas in recent years. Sleep Token just sold out Wembley in ten minutes. Meanwhile, Spiritbox, Bad Omens, Loathe, Zeal & Ardor, Heriot, Ithaca, Wargasm, Employed To Serve, Conjurer, Zulu, Urne and Svalbard are a handful of the dozens of young acts moulding metal into tantalising new shapes and pushing the scene's discourse into new directions. If ever there was a time for festivals to take a real punt on the next generation, it's now.
2023 may well be looked back on as a banner year for metal festivals pushing themselves into a bold new era. Bring Me The Horizon and Architects is a hell of a start. But it has to just be the start.