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Castle Party 2023Bolkow Castle, Bolkow, Poland
13th to 16th July 2023
Castle Party 2023 Days 1 and 2 with Psychoformalina, Frank the Baptist, The House of Usher, Girls Under Glass, Grendel

Another edition of one of Europe’s most enchanting summer festivals has drawn to a close - Castle Party 2023, a four-day event graced with a truly tropical climate, was set against the backdrop of a magnificent castle and attended by an even more splendid gathering of people, all coming together for the love of music - and good company. The line-up, as always, catered to diverse tastes, ensuring a magnetic appeal for fans of both dynamic and heavy music, as well as niche audiences and followers of prominent industry names.

Day 1

For me, the concerts began on Friday, but the entire event kicked off on Thursday with captivating performances on the small stage. Among the notable acts was PSYCHOFORMALINA - a band with roots dating back to the mid-1990s, when its founders sought to channel their depressive states through music. Initially focused on composition, they seldom ventured into live performances and abstained from participating in reviews, competitions, or festivals. However, the 21st century brought a change in their approach, leading to the realization that their rich body of work deserved preservation in the form of a record. In the spring of 2008, PSYCHOFORMALINA’s soul-stirring creations finally graced the world’s ears. The allure of PSYCHOFORMALINA lies in its ability to captivate independent art enthusiasts, weaving together elements of cold wave, raw garage rock, noise, neo-psychedelia, and mystic, enigmatic, and decadent Polish poetry.

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The legendary FRANK THE BAPTIST, a genre-crossing Rock band, emerged from the dark alternative scene of southern California in the late nineties. They brought forth an unpredictable and refreshing voice, initially finding their roots in the Indie scene but soon garnering recognition in the goth and deathrock community. Founder Frank Vollmann, originally from New Jersey, infused his music with vitality and immediacy, reflecting the energetic punk and early alternative influences that shaped his youth. In 2003, the band released their first full-length album, ‘Different Degrees of Empty’, solidifying their belief that the dark music realm should embrace not only poet shirts and ethereal echoes but also kicker boots, cranked amps, and skewed top hats. As they settled in Berlin, Germany by 2006, international concerts became a regular part of their journey.

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Through several albums and numerous European tours, FRANK THE BAPTIST has become a pillar of support for the counterculture. They stand apart from passing fads, having never ridden a single wave of fashion or been swayed by the shifting tides of the future. Their confidence stems from creating something timeless - a beat that endures, vocals that resonate eternally - rising above the sea of bands that come and go within the tumultuous music industry. On the other side, THE HOUSE OF USHER, a German band, is considered to be pioneers of the gothic underground. For two decades, they have continually developed their style, paying no heed to fleeting trends and passing fashions. Their unwavering dedication to their craft has allowed them to carve a unique path in the gothic music landscape.

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Day 2

On Friday afternoon, I arrived at the venue and had the delightful opportunity to witness two bands well-known in the realm of dark music. The mere walk to the castle felt like returning home - a beautiful, sunny late afternoon, with the city adorned with a crowd of black-clad enthusiasts, creating an enchanting atmosphere. The sight of the Castle Party banner adorning the castle from afar signalled that the Gothic brethren had taken hold, establishing their dominion over the city.

Girls under Glass

The first band I had the pleasure of experiencing during the festival was the legendary GIRLS UNDER GLASS. Hailing from Germany, GIRLS UNDER GLASS, a gothic group founded in 1986, made their debut in 1987 with the album ‘Humus’. At that time, bassist Dr. Fluch joined the ensemble, complementing the existing line-up of vocalist Thomas Lücke, Hauke Harms on keyboards / computers, and Volker “Zaphor” Zacharias on guitars. In 1989, GIRLS UNDER GLASS had the honour of supporting renowned groups like FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM and RED LORRY YELLOW LORRY, who were prominent stars in the German gothic wave scene. During this period, two guest musicians, Marcel Zürcher (drummer for bands such as ABWÄRTS, SCHWANSEE, and SHANGHAID GUTS) and bassist Olaf O, enriched the band’s performances. Later, with the addition of new bass player Axel Ermes, they went on to create their second album, ‘Flowers’.

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The band’s performance at Castle Party showcased their vocal and guitar mastery in an incredibly energetic and captivating manner, despite performing under the scorching sun. The show was truly stimulating and electrifying. Particular highlights for me were their renditions of ‘Frozen’ and the first-ever live performance of ‘Tanz im Neonlicht’. The concert masterfully combined energetic and melancholic elements, providing a diverse and rich musical experience.

01. Intro
02. We Feel Alright
03. Endless Nights
04. Frozen (Madonna cover)
05. Reach For the Stars
06. When I Think About… You
07. Tainted
08. Tanz im Neonlicht ( live Premiere)
09. Ohne Dich
10. Humus
11. Du Tier

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GRENDEL, a Dutch band specializing in industrial music since 1997, took the stage by storm. Their reputation for delivering a powerful kick has remained unaltered throughout the years, and their recent performance was no exception. The stage pulsated with total musical chaos, aggression, and an incredibly energetic melody that had the audience dancing with enthusiasm. JD Tucker’s fantastic stage presence added to the electrifying atmosphere, ensuring a captivating experience. Their music was irresistibly catchy, and the dynamics of their performance were absolutely astounding, resulting in a first-class show. The artists gave it their all, and their sensational interaction with the audience was commendable - bravo! It was a truly remarkable concert, leaving the audience thoroughly impressed.

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01. Flux
02. Timewave Zero
03. Fall Like Rome
04. Severed Nations
05. Dead Inside
06. Conflict Instigation
07. Chemicals + Circuitry
08. Judged Ones
09. Harsh Generation
10. Hate This
11. Soilbleed

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The concerts on the big stage concluded with performances by THE 69 EYES, a Finnish music band known for their diverse take on hard rock music. Formed in Helsinki in 1989, the band initially delved into a fusion of glam metal and hard rock, later transitioning their style to incorporate elements of gothic rock, dark wave, and alternative rock. Their show at the festival was undoubtedly one of the highlights, delivering incredible energy and a vibrant display. Following The 69 Eyes was the legendary LAIBACH, who took the stage with their distinctive presence.

All Pictures by Karo Kratochwil

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