When we saw the bill of the Blast From the Past Festival there was no doubt in our mind, that we would be in the first ranks to support all of these magnificent bands. The bill looked amazing with nine NWOBHM bands. We went to Belgium with mixed feelings though. The reason has got nothing at all to do with the festival. But on the day before we came to Belgium I heard that a colleague with whom I have been working for thirty years, had passed away at the age of 57. However, everything has been arranged for this weekend, so we decided to go to Kuurne anyway, but like I said before with mixed feelings.
The warm welcome of our friends Eddy and Christine was a good start of the weekend and also the visit to the best record shop in Belgium (Pop Center in Kortrijk) was, like always, a great way to spend our time before the festival would take place. We spoke to many people, who have metal blood running through their veins for many years and I always get the feeling that the love for heavy metal music is so much bigger in Belgium than it is in Holland. You don’t have to expect festivities like that in Holland, except for the annual Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival, Very ‘Eavy (which celebrated its final edition in April 2017) and the festivities of Mario at the Little Devil in Tilburg. Where else, besides in their own home country , can you find nine NWOBHM bands on one bill? Yes people, Kuurne is the place to be and besides all these amazing bands on stage, a very exclusive signing session will take place in the evening, but more about that later on. Let’s focus on the bands on stage now. The Union Jack is held high for the upcoming nine hours or so. Kuurne would be invaded by some of the finest British bands. No need for a bloody invasion right now, as all happened in friendship, simply because hard rock and heavy metal fans are very friendly people and there’s always a great atmosphere. NWOBHM devotees are gathering together for a party and this well-organized festival is about to start, so let’s get ready to rumble!!!
The Kubox in Kuurne is quite huge and when there’s no music on stage, you could spend your money on merchandise or at the small metal market, situated at the hall next to the one where the stage is. The opener of tonight is SPARTAN WARRIOR. Who doesn’t remember the artwork of their second album “Spartan Warrior”? Back in the days, when this album was released, I was buying the album for that cover alone. The skull with the two ravens or blackbirds, it meant so much more to me than a simple picture of a band tied up in leather and chains. The band played is a nice collection of songs, ranging from their debut album “Steel ‘N’ Chains”, released in 1983 to the comeback album “Behind Closed Eyes”, released in 2010. SPARTAN WARRIOR gives the crowd a good taste of NWOBHM with some awesome guitar licks and songs that contain many nice mood changes and some excellent vocal parts. A great opener of this festival, that saved the best for last with amazing versions of “Stormer” and “Cold Hearted” from their debut album “Steel ‘N’ Chains”. The warriors have recently signed a deal with Pure Steel Records, which is good for them, and a new album is in the making. I can’t wait to add it to my collection, especially after the powerful show that they played here this afternoon. It’s always difficult to be the first band on stage, but they did a great job and now they can watch the other bands and have a beer. Not a bad deal, I would say. And it was very nice to finally meet Neil and Dave Wilkinson in person.
SALEM is next on the bill and when you say SALEM, your mind will probably go out to Tommy Aldridge-lookalike Simon Saxby, the energetic frontman of the band. The man is a remarkable mix of Noddy Holder (SLADE) and Biff Byford (SAXON), and these two frontmen are well known for their amazing talent to warm up the audience, even when it’s minus ten degrees outside. And the temperatures are not far away from that in chilly Belgium. The good music will keep us warm tonight. Armed with nine songs and dose of humor, they climb the stage and from the first notes on the public got excited. The band knows to put on an energetic show and they open with the title track of their latest album “Dark Days”, from which they will play two songs tonight. Already from the start, they also take back to their very first demo, released in 1981 with “Fool’s Gold”. The band slowly evolved from NWOBHM to hard rock throughout the years, but their songs are easy on the ears and Simon knows to make something special of it with his moves and poses. He’s a real show man and with the Union Jack tied to his microphone, he’s proud to be loud. “Rock Fever” is one of my own personal favorites in this dynamic set of SALEM and in “Break The Chains” Simon also gets the crowd to clap along. The main focus tonight is their album “Forgotten Dreams”, a killer album with the horned skull on the front cover. Five songs out of nine are taken from this release and their energetic show closes with the title track “Forgotten Dreams”. I’m sure, that this show won’t be forgotten, not even in my wildest dreams. Well, that may be a little too much, but I think you will catch my drift here. Their new album “Attrition” will see the light early 2018, by the way.
What can I say about THE DEEP? These guys invaded the Dynamo Club in Eindhoven in the eighties. Then they were called DEEP MACHINE and because there is another band going under the moniker DEEP MACHINE, they are now called THE DEEP. Finetasters though know who they are and from previous shows I know that this is a rock band, that simply plays the finest in NWOBHM music. A stunning rhythm section, two of the greatest guitar players, who always try to steal the show and fight each other with amazing axe attacks and on top of it all is the man with the golden lungs, Tony Coldham, who will do two shows this evening, because he also teamed up with the guys from TYTAN. THE DEEP is on stage now and I’ll find myself a place in the front rows, this time near guitarist Mick Feleppa on the right side of the stage. Their drummer is a very young, but well-talented guy. When the band starts their show with “Premonition” it’s time for forty-five minutes of high quality rock and roll. “The Rider” is on next and this is one of my personal favorites. It’s a cool rocker and the guitar solos simply can’t be stopped. That’s what I like so much about NWOBHM. These guys know to play music. They’re not afraid to stretch out a guitar solo a little bit longer and the musicians are really gifted in many cases. And this is a great example of gifted musicians. Most songs are taken from the album “Premonition” this afternoon. I can’t wait to hear material of the follow up album. “When The Rains Came” will give me goosebumps again and every time they’re playing this song it’s definitely one of the highlights for me. The band closes with “You Took My Breath Away”. Well, they certainly took my breath away with their intense set. Tony can go and prepare himself for a second show, a little bit later on. Both thumbs up for this killer band, that shook the Kubox on its foundations.
TYSONDOG is another killer band, that is getting better and better each time that I see them play. This time there’s no exception to this rule. Their set is filled with a lot of old stuff and they know that the fans on the continent want to hear these old songs. Without a warning they start with “The Inquisitor”, directly followed by “Don’t Let The Bastards (Grind Ya Down)”. That’s already good for a knock-out punch and there is nothing you can do about it. The band is armed to the teeth and I know for sure that ‘the dogs’ smell blood, because they give it the full hundred percent from the first notes on. “Dead Meat” is in the beginning of the set as well, just like “Hammerhead”. Need I say more? In between there’s almost no chance to hear a new song, but I must say that I’m fine with that. In “Painted Heroes” the three guitar players (two guitarists and a bass player) line up to perform some JUDAS PRIEST poses. It all looks and sounds very dynamic to me. This show is probably the best that I’ve seen from them. The only song that I maybe missed is “Eat The Rich”, but I bet they just had their lunch. In “Shadow Of The Beast”, Kevin Wynn takes the opportunity to have a short bass solo in the spotlight. They won’t take that away from me, he must have thought. Why does the guitar player always receive a place in the spotlight? “Taste The Hate” is the excellent set closer today. Wow, what a show. The last update is that John Carruthers, the amazing vocalist of the band, quits singing and he is also stepping out of the music business. What a shame and what a terrible news for TYSONDOG. I hope, that they’ll find a good replacement soon, because I really hope to see them some more in the near future.
Some bands haven’t played on the continent that often and that’s one of the reasons why I’m especially looking forward to seeing STAMPEDE here this evening. It was thirty-five years ago since their memorable gig at Reading Rock, which they referred to many times during this show. Lawrence Archer is no longer in the band and I think that he plays in LAUTREC now, but his brother Reuben still is. They have found a very good replacement in Chris Clowsley, who impressed me already during the sound check. Did I hear some LED ZEPPELIN songs there? I’m sure, that I did. STAMPEDE were actually called the new UFO in 1982. The band even dressed up the same, because there was always at least one band member wearing striped trousers or a black and white trouser with a chess board motive on it, just like Pete Way did. But also their music sounded very much alike. They were one of the big surprises on Reading Rock that year, next to MARILLION. It was the year that IRON MAIDEN headlined and bands like BOW WOW, BLACKFOOT, GARY MOORE, TWISTED SISTER, SPIDER, RANDY CALIFORNIA and the amazing CHINATOWN and BUDGIE were on the bill. Sigh, those were the days. Now STAMPEDE is back again with a bang and the band may sound a bit different, but they sure know how to rock. A lot of songs are taken from that fantastic album “The Official Bootleg” with live recordings from their show at Reading and Mildenhall in Suffolk, like opener “Shadows Of The Night”, “Days Of Wine And Roses” (the title track from their EP, that was released right after this live ‘bootleg’), “Movin’ On” and the amazing “Mean Gasoline” (which is actually pre STAMPEDE) sounds like a STAMPEDE make-over of SAXON’s “Wheels Of Steel”. It’s the purest rock and roll, that you’ll ever witness. What an awesome show and amazing throwback in time! The guitar solos today are really outstanding and Reuben Archer (vocals) and Colin Bond (bass) are still legendary team mates and prove that they have a lot of experience. Their last effort “A Sudden Impulse” is not forgotten as well and “Having Fun” and “Send Me Down An Angel” are relatively new songs. Even without the chess board motived pants, this show is definitely one to remember. Laurence Archer would have been the cherry on the cake, but hey you can’t have it all. This sure was a damn good show, so both horns up for STAMPEDE.
Let’s leave behind the bands for a while, because I already mentioned that there was something special going on tonight. At seven in the evening there was an exclusive signing session at the merchandise stand with four out of five members of the heavy metal band ACID. I’m not going to explain anything about the Belgian metal scene, because I know that there are people who can do that much better than me. However, in my perception bands like CROSSFIRE, KILLER, OSTROGOTH and especially ACID are still at the top in Belgium. I don’t know how many times I have fantasized about an ACID reunion. And when we met three out of five band members at Keep It True in 2010, things were very close at a point where I believed that a reunion would happen in a short matter of time. And my heart skipped a beat (or two, I can’t recall), when I read that there would be a signing session here at the festival. Only one guitarist is missing, but we welcome T-Bone, Dizzy Lizzy, Anvil and the beautiful Kate. Entering the beehive of ACID fans that had come for a short chat, a photo or a signature of the band members was almost impossible, but the band seemed to have a great time. If there will be a follow up to this meeting and if we will be able to see the band live on stage again is still unclear, but to me it was an awesome experience to see four members of this cult outfit together again. ACID 4-ever \m/.
Things like that made this festival very special and unforgettable to me. Because of the signing session with ACID, the interval after STAMPEDE was rather short and TYTAN was already dying to go on stage and do their thing. This is Tony Coldham’s second performance tonight. I was really flabbergasted, when I saw the band perform at Very ‘Eavy, but with Tony on vocals it would even be more special to me. With a brand new album in the pocket called “Justice Served” they had some extra munition to enter the battlefield. Their show was divided into two parts and each album would be getting a fair play. The opener is a new song, called “Love You To Death”. Tony and Kevin are like two leaders, forming one team that can’t be beaten. Tony handles all the vocals, but Kevin pulls the strings and does most of the interaction with the public. It’s a perfect combination that works very well. Tony is very much capable of performing the old songs as well, as he proves in “Money For Love” and “The Watcher”. If Tony can’t do it, nobody can. On such short notice, Tony really knows to perform the songs like he wrote them himself. After this flashing start it’s time to promote the new album. Another killer release, if you’d ask my opinion. The three tracks don’t differ too much from the old stuff, when they continue with “One Last Detail”, “Spitfire” and “Billy Who?”. That last one is an instrumental and contains a drum solo by their very young drummer. I was standing right in front of Kevin Riddles, who I will always remember from his cult t-shirt from the early eighties with the print ‘ I Want Oral Sex With Alligators’. No comment, but I do prefer something else instead. Where was I? Oh yes, from the place where I was standing I can see that GIRLSCHOOL has arrived in the backstage area and they’re not only watching the show, but they’re also filming parts of it and taking pictures. In the meantime, the band continues with “Women On The Frontline” (that song must be dedicated to GIRLSCHOOL!!) and “Fight The Fight”. The last two songs prove how good this band really is. A flashback to the eighties followed in a row by two of my favorite songs. First up, there’s the magnificent “Blind Men And Fools”. What an awesome song that is!! And last but not least a great version of that song with a remarkable mid-piece and the final song on the album, namely “The Ballad Of Edward Case”. The first time when I heard it, I just didn’t know what to think. Was this a joke? Who thought of this brilliant idea to make it funny as hell, like this must be or a genius or a complete nitwit or maybe both. Anyway, it worked and became a cult song, that was being played many times on the Dutch radio program “Stampij” by Hanneke Kappen. (a deep sigh again - such great memories!!) Every time when they play it live, I remember those days and it makes me feel so good. So thank you very much Kevin for giving me that wonderful feeling again tonight. I really needed it. The song also marked the end of their show and TYTAN has to clear the stage for DEMON.
Whenever we go and see DEMON live, I always hope that they will bring their full horror show along on stage, where vocalist Dave Hill will be changing outfits, including his ‘Old Father Time’ suit and the stage will be changed into a churchyard. I know upfront that this won’t be the case in Kuurne, but when I hear the icy high horror screams during the intro tape, it certainly creates a very creepy feeling in the venue. This kind of feeling relived somehow in all the songs that they played here tonight. Of course DEMON evolved during the years from an occult inspired band to a much broader range of subjects, but tonight they strictly focus on all their old school songs. Dave seems to have some kind of trouble with the monitor and after each song he reminds the soundman, that the problem is still not solved. The opener of tonight is the amazing “Night Of The Demon”, which received a very warm reaction of the crowd. And after that, the band is jumping “Into The Nightmare”, which is the flipside of that amazing picture disc of “One Helluva Night”, remember?!? The focus of today is on the old stuff and especially songs from that amazing album “The Unexpected Guest”. “Victim Of Fortune” comes from that album and is on next. Then we are treated to another great surprise, when DEMON plays their first single, called “Liar”, recorded in 1980. I just watched the expressions on Dave Hill’s face. With a short eye movement he can tell more stories than some bands do with a full two hour concert. It’s like there are two people on stage. Dave Hill and some kind of an alter ego that is getting hold of his moves for a few seconds to disappear completely thereafter. And I think, that the next song might be dealing about that, which is called “Sign Of A Madman”. While “Standing On The Edge” is some relatively new material of DEMON. By the time songs like “Beyond The Gates Of Hell”, “Live On The Wire” and “The Spell” have been played, the sound on stage is top-notch again, after some wires have been changed. You can tell by the presentation of Dave, who seems to be less stressed at the end of this great gig. The crowd has to choose, if they want to hear “Don’t Break The Circle” or “The Plague”, which is a difficult choice, but many opted for the first song. Due to the fact, that there’s a bit of time left, the band plays both, so we are the lucky ones. I couldn’t choose, could you? Dave was in a good mood, the two guitar players equally shared the solos, a great list with old school songs, so obviously DEMON simply can’t go wrong on an evening like that. Last but not least, the band announced a new tour in 2018, where they will play the complete “The Unexpected Guest” album on that tour. All the more reason to go and see these guys again!
I’ve heard a lot of good comments about DIAMOND HEAD’s show in Sheffield. And to go short, they definitely lived up to my high expectations. This was a best of set, performed the best way possible. Their new singer is called Rasmus Bom Andersen and he is not just a great vocalist, he’s also a great entertainer. Put Brian Tattler next to him and you’ll be successful, especially with the songs that they performed here tonight. “Bones” is a new track, that’s taken from their most recent album “Diamond Head”. After that, nothing is holding them back anymore. Like a spitfire, they keep on firing these timeless classics at the crowd and I can tell you that everybody is ready for it, more than ever. “Lightning To The Nations” and “The Prince” are next. You must admit that METALLICA had a nose for great music back in those days. They covered “The Prince”, “Helpless”, “It’s Electric” and “Am I Evil” of DIAMOND HEAD. Maybe it goes too far to call METALLICA a DIAMOND HEAD cover band, but long term true metal fans know what I mean (I hope). “In The Heat Of The Night”, “Shoot Out The Lights” and “Sweet & Innocent” are all single releases from the early eighties and as you can see, just like DEMON, DIAMOND HEAD wants to please their long term fans with a lot of old stuff. There’s another METALLICA segment in the last part of this great show with three more songs that they covered. “It’s Electric”, “Helpless” and a lengthy version of “Am I Evil” marks the end of this amazing performance. “Am I Evil” is of course the perfect way to show the fans what the music of DIAMOND HEAD is all about. It must have been written by a genius, because there is so much happening in this song. The intro, the speed and mood changes, the solo spot on guitar and that first sentence “My Mother Was A Witch”, that everybody sings along are the main ingredients for a real classic tune. Those, who have seen the show before, haven’t said too much, as this was freaking brilliant. Brian Tattler remains the master of ‘The Head’. And for those of you who’ve got the whole collection of the band in their CD collection, I can also recommend his biography, which is a good read for everybody who wants to know more about this NWOBHM band that was mentioned as the follow up of LED ZEPPELIN. They may not have reached that status, but I think that they still belong to one of the most influential NWOBHM bands next to IRON MAIDEN and SAXON (if you would consider both as NWOBHM bands). One final detail that I would like to mention before we go on to the headliners of tonight is the remarkable microphone stand, that DIAMOND HEAD used. The foot of the standard was in the shape of the words ‘DIAMOND HEAD’.
Well, the end of the festival is getting near. The atmosphere has been perfect and the bands were very diverse and I definitely did have a great time, mainly because many bands had a good old school set to offer tonight. Sometimes I thought that the old school level was even higher than average. And if I take a look at the GIRLSCHOOL show, I must admit that most songs are also from the good old days. However, a band like GIRLSCHOOL always knows to please me and not only because the ladies are still good looking. Do they ever grow old? And most of the time, they play to kill as well. The MOTÖRHEAD sisters open their energetic show with “Demolition Boys” and “C’Mon Let’s Go”, two direct punches on the nose and an amazing powerful start. The ladies continue at full speed with “The Hunter”, a song from their “Hit & Run” album, that they don’t play that often. It’s followed by “Hit & Run” itself. The ladies have got a lot to offer to the people, who like their newer stuff as well. They start with a song they recorded with RONNIE JAMES DIO on vocals, called “I Spy”. It’s Enid, who does the vocal parts of Ronnie and she does it with a lot of devotion. “Come The Revolution” is dedicated to Johnny Hallyday and Jacques Brell. It’s a song from their “Guilty As Sin” album. With “Take It Like A Man” and “Never Say Never” we’ve arrived to the last of the newer songs and from there on, the GIRLSCHOOL jukebox will drive at full force, stuffed with all old rockers. The ladies are having a great time and with the songs they are playing, they are giving the audience a good time as well. Many people have come to hear the oldies and that’s exactly what they’re going to get with “Screaming Blue Murder” and “Future Flash”. Denise plunders her drum kit (again) and she knows to destroy it every time we get to see GIRLSCHOOL play. Her nickname ‘Duffy the drum slayer’ is very well deserved. But man, she is still a very fast and dynamic drummer. “Kick It Down” must have been written just for her. To me, it’s certainly one of the highlights, next to “Watch Your Step”, that’s on next. The bloke, who has been recording the whole gig, I don’t know if it was audio or video or both, is being removed halfway the set. I think, he must’ve been pulling out all his hairs, when seeing the ladies kick ass in “Yeah Right” and the GUN classic “Race With The Devil”. Wow, what a terrific trip down memory lane. The band is really at full steam now. And it ain’t over yet, the knock-out punch is about to come next with “Emergency”. Wow, what a show!! Of course the burning audience is asking for more and after such a great gig an encore is at its place, I guess. The band is getting back for one more song and that’s the first song they released as a single “Take It All Away” in 1979. Almost forty years of heavy metal and still going strong. I raise my hat for that. I want more!!!!! But I guess, that this must be all for today…..
After the show we still have the opportunity to say goodbye to the members of ACID and then suddenly Jackie Chambers appears to promote her band SYTERIA. When she sees us, she even takes the time for a picture. That’s what makes these bands so special to us. When they’re on stage, they are in charge for an hour or so. Once they are off stage, they like to join their fans most of the time and hang out with them until the late, late hours. It’s all about the music for these bands. No big egos or whatsoever, just high quality hard rock and heavy metal is what you’re going get, when you attend a festival like that. A very well organized festival with nine fantastic bands on the bill. What more can you ask for? Our thanks go out to the organization of Blast From The Past and of course to Mike de Coene, who took care of our photo pass. We had a blast…….a blast from the past, that is. Thanks for such a superb day. Hail to all our Belgian metal brothers and sisters. We hope to be back soon. \m/