* October 23 & 24, 2009 *

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Manifesto, Hoorn, The Netherlands

Itís the tenth time the heavy metal maniacs organise their annual festival and thatís why we are able to enjoy two evenings of true heavy metal entertainment this year. On Friday, there is only a program in the evening and this almost goes terribly wrong, when Tokyo Blade announces that they wonít be able to make it with guitarplayer Andy Boulton. Organiser Stefan van Zijl wonít present his audience a Tokyo Blade cover band without any original members and thatís the reason why he asks Praying Mantis to fill this gap. A good move, in my opinion. The bands on this jubilee edition are all real killers. Weeks before the festival takes place, we already started to countdown towards this loud, but demolishing festival. We arrive very early at the parking space in front of the Manifesto that evening. We had build in a little safety measure, in case of any traffic jams, but we didnít really need it. Thatís why we arrive far before the doors open up. A big disappointment is awaiting, when we read that Sad Iron wonít play at all and there wonít be a replacement for them too. Iíd been really looking forward to seeing them. Apparently, the drummer got sick, but during the weekend we also found out the Ďrealí reason for their absence.

To our big surprise we also have lots of time before Chainsaw will hit the stage with their bone hard metal riffs. The opening is surprising when their singer, armed with a real chainsaw, runs through the hall with a Jason (Halloween) mask. A perfect setting of things to come, but the vegetarians wonít be pleased with this, because Chainsaw wants to see meat flying around the stage, like we are used from them. Their horror metal, with here and there a funny undertone, is a real treat for the eyes. There are a lot of things happening on stage, which keeps you focussed on everything. In the beginning of the set there is already a cover of the three only 'Gatekeepers Of Hellí, namely "Bloodlust" by Venom. Besides that, weíre treated on songs like "The Meat Factory", "Liquid Love", "Demolition Hammer", "Heavy Sex Maniac" and "Route 666" (good title!!). In the meantime, these animals slaughter a whole pig on stage, which covers the Manifesto in blood. The last song for tonight is called "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock Ya Tonight", which is a real classic and originally recorded by Spinal Tap.

The band, that replaced Tokyo Blade are real pioneers in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene. Praying Mantis plays raw, melodic hard rock with lots of space for the guitarplayers to show their skills. When the band opens with "Cry For The New World", the hall is already starting to fill up nicely. The set of tonight contains a good mix of old and new stuff. To be honest with you, I would have liked to hear some more old material, but the newer songs are a real treat as well. Especially "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" is a true killer. After that, itís time for one of the first real highlights in "Turn The Tables". During "Rise Up Again", we hear a short, hidden piece of Queen's "We Will Rock You". The encores consist of "Lettin Go" and the song title, that was asked for very much "Captured City". I think, it is twenty-eight years ago (1981), that Praying Mantis was here for the last time. That was also with the Tygers Of Pan Tang (and Bodine) at Pluupop in Winsum, a town near Groningen. These facts are stored on your personal hard disc, once youíve been there, it will stay there forever and ever. Those were the days! So it was good for me to enjoy the band again in Holland after seeing them at the British Steel festival earlier this year in April. A good version of "Flirtin' With Suicide" was on my wants list as well for tonight, but unfortunately it was all over and done this time.

Now weíll have to wait for Picture to close the first night. When the "Oh Fortuna" part of Carl Orff's 'Carmina Burana' sounds through the amps, itís time for the founders of the Dutch heavy metal scene: Picture. Itís clear, that Picture has just released a new album, called "Old Dogs, New Tricks", because tonight we will hear eight new songs from that very album. Of course we will also enjoy old headbangers like "Eternal Dark", "Heavy Metal Ears", "The Blade", "Griffons Guard The Gold", "Lady Lightning" and "Battle For The Universe", which is dedicated to one of their former drummers Jacques van Oevelen. There is a short discussion whether they should play the ballad "Now Itís Too Late" or not. The acoustic guitar is on the corner of the stage already and it would be shame, if they would have brought it along and not to use it, so the ballad is played after all. And I must admit, that it sounds surprisingly harder than on the cd, but despite this all a lot of people keep asking themselves if this was a good choice to do after all. You can see the doubt on many faces. Guitarplayer Rob decides to have a view from the balcony and he disappears from the stage with his guitar to watch his band mates from there. The show reaches the end, when the ultimate Picture song is being played, which is of course "Bombers". Although this is not enough to please the crowd and weíre getting a little bonus with "Message From Hell", after which the first evening comes to an end with a flashing climax. Time didnít stand still inbetween and the only thing that we have to do now is to drive back home, because tomorrow weíll have to be ready for day two of this marvellous event.

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Manifesto, Hoorn, The Netherlands

With one band less on the bill, the sets of openers Hysterica and Enforcer are stretched out a bit. Weíre starting with a true Swedish invasion, so to speak. But not before we meet up with our good friend Ian Toomey of Bitches Sin at the station in Hoorn. He came to Holland especially for this festival. When this happened, weíre ready for some action again. In the afternoon there is a meet and greet with Exciter in the centre of Hoorn, but because we have to be at the station, we have to leave this for what it is.

Hysterica starts their set with a stand in guitarplayer called Jessica Fox, who obviously does this tour with a lot of joy. The magic of Hysterica, when we saw them for the very first time in Almere, is not there this time. But itís still a pleasure seeing these five Swedish vixens of heavy metal play their true metal songs tonight. Especially a song like "Undertaker" is a real treat. When there are some problems with the guitar of Jessica, the band doesnít panic and instead they sing some a capella parts from "Metal Warriors" of Manowar. Which is very well received by the crowd. Bass player Satanica gets slightly emotional, when the crowd sings ĎHappy Birthdayí for her and she confesses that she doesnít want to go home anymore. "Halloween" is actually played one week too early, but no one gives a damn and they close the set with the ultimate sing along song "Louder". Somewhere in the middle of the set, we also hear a brand new song called "Message From The Dark", which has some great guitarwork. Listening to this song, I am very much looking forward to the new Hysterica album, because this could be another real masterpiece!

The Swedish metal bands keep attacking us with metalriffs and Enforcer is next on the bill with a very energetic show. Their openingstune is "Diamonds And Rust" by Judas Priest (originally recorded by Joan Baez though!). Obviously, we can name this band as one of the main influences of Enforcer, but I would also like to refer to the very early material by Iron Maiden and speed metal bands like Agent Steel and Exciter are big examples to this band as well. When Enforcer opens their set with "Black Angel" and "Speed Queen", it becomes quite obvious that these guys have both feet in the eighties. Not only musically, but also their clothes and stout poses remind me of those days. With "Roll The Dice", they surprise us with a new song, that could very well have been on their debut CD "Into The Night". The 'Metal Godsí of Judas Priest are paid tribute to with a cover of "Tyrant" and besides that, we mainly hear songs from their debut album. When the hour of raw madness is over and the band plays their last song "Evil Attacker", I close my eyes for a short while and in my mind I can imagine what Iron Maiden must have looked and sounded like, when the played at the Ruskin Arms in 1978. Enforcer are the real deal for me, thatís a fact and they are true winners this afternoon! I hope, that we will hear a lot more of them in the near future. After this, itís time to freshen up your memory a bit.

Raise your hands, if you still remember Vortex from Groningen. True metal fans certainly will, because Vortex are as true as you can get. Can you name more bands, that are still part of the metal scene after so many years and have so much fun playing in front of a hysterical mass of people such as tonight? Can you name more people in their fifties in Holland, who paint their face to look vicious and mean and old school enough? The thought of it alone makes me having deep respect for these guys. The wheelchairs are lined up in the back of the stage, because when they play their music they feel like theyíre in their twenties again. And that energy is reflected to the metal hungry audience as well. Tonight they will play a show with an almost perfect setlist. Songs like "Riptor", "Welcome To Metalland", "Hammer Of The North", "Gotta Get Away" and especially my own personal favorite, "With Witches Help", where guitarplayer Martjo is dressed up as a witch and loads of pyro technics is used, are the best you can possibly get and which belongs to everyones favorites. A small detail, that I witnessed from the right side of the stage and something that I do want to mention here. During "Beauty And The Teeth", Vortex roadie and band announcer and my favorite Ed Gein impersonator Eggo Bosklopper showed drummer Henk 'The Tank' Bosman very clearly, that he also has a set of false teeth. Which seemed to please Bosklopper the most, but also put a big smile on my face indeed. During "Open The Gate", there is a true invasion of metalheads on stage, who jump up and down and sing along to this Dutch metal anthem. The announcements by singer Jurjen are humorous masterpieces, like always. The climax of tonight though is a big surprise to everyone. With "Shout", Vortex pays tribute to the Dutch metal band Bodine, which takes care of a very mad public just one more time.

Oops, I think I may have wetted my pants, so itís about time to clean up the mess before the Tygers Of Pan Tang enter the stage. Both thumbs up for Vortex tonight. Robb Weir is the only original member of the Tygers. They really belong to my most favorite New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands and Iíve been looking forward to seeing them play live again for a very long time. And I can tell you, that it was worth the wait, because tonightís setlist mainly consists of their old stuff. "Euthanasia" is the opener for tonight, followed by the terrific "Raised On Rock". Inbetween they also play a few more recent tracks, like "Hot Blooded", but the main part of the set is for the songs, that you have been listening to for ages like "Suzie Smiled", which received a make over and one of the highlights for me of tonight "Slave To Freedom". "Never Satisfied" sounds like a very nice surprise too. The final round are classics like "Hellbound" and "Gangland". The enthusiasm of the band is huge and you can almost feel the temperature rising in front of the stage. What power, what an overwhelming live show! Itís not strange, that the band has to return for an encore. They choose to play "Don't Touch Me There", which is another surprise coming out of Robb Weirís top hat. And it isnít even Santa Claus yet. The absolute last song of tonight is "Love Potion No. 9", but if the band just listened to my vote I definitely would have chosen "Wild Catz" or maybe even better the fast "Donít Take Nothing". The new singer of the Tygers is officially approved by the Dutch Headbangers Society. I wonder, what happened to John Deverill?? But who else would give a damn anyway? This show was brilliant anyway and after this vicious attack, I ran outside to cool down a little.

The headliners of tonight are Exciter from Canada. It will be the first introduction to new singer Kenny 'Metal Mouth' Winter to me. I can make a shortcut by saying that this show was absolutely mindblowing, but that would be ridiculous. These speed devils donít deserve to be treated like that. I can remember very well, that I bought Exciterís debut album "Heavy Metal Maniac" for a whole lot of money at Bullit, a recordstore in Breda. Mainly because the album had to be imported from Canada. It made many turns on my stereo and I kept listening to it over and over again for many weeks. It sounded just absolutely f*cking fabulous. From that moment on, Exciter became super heroes to me and tonight they proved that they are still worthy of this super hero treatment. From opener "I Am The Beast" on, the hall changes into a giant mosh pit. The band is willing to give all theyíve got and the new singer reaches the high notes without any problems. With a blistering speed, they run through songs like "Metal Crusaders", "Victims Of Sacrifice", "Rule With An Iron Fist", "Evil Omen" and "Pounding Metal". John Ricci is like a real superman to me. Although he is not dressed in blue tights and ditto top with a red capitol S on it, he still deserves this title, as far as Iím concerned. This guy is really fast and the riffs and solos keep coming and coming. "Violator", "Rising Of The Dead", the ultraloud "Aggressor" and "Long Live The Loud", there is just no ending on the list of classics. When they are about to play "Violence And Force", the ending of this raging storm is near. But the highlight of this evening is still about to happen. The fanclub, that organises this annual festival, derives its name from the title of the very first Exciter album: "Heavy Metal Maniac". When the band closes their set with this song, it feels like the apocalypse is near. I guess, Iíve never seen so many maniacs on stage before. What a madhouse! And what a lot of space in front of the stage of the Manifesto. To make this classic sound a little bit better, everyone is asked to leave the stage after this spontaneous invasion, so they can play the song one more time, but this time on a much emptier stage. Exciter is just not able to leave the stage, because after each song the crowd keeps yelling for more. And it gets even better, when bass player Clammy becomes an official new member of the Heavy Metal Maniacs. What an honour! The audience may choose the very, very last song of this tenth edition of the festival. Will it be "Pounding Metal" or "Violence And Force"? Obviously, "Violence And Force" is the winner and with this song, they close the festival. Although they donít play personal faves like "Under Attack", "Iron Dogs", "Cry Of The Banshee" or "World War III", Exciter still becomes the crowdís favorite pretty easily.

The festival perfectly reached its climax today. You donít have to spoil more words to this, I think. You will feel like youíre twenty again, because in two days time youíll relive your whole youth here. And a lot of good memories come back to mind. I am already looking forward to what they have in store for us in 2010. It has to be something really special to become any better than this, but with the heavy metal maniacs, youíll never know. Iíd like to thank Stefan and all the other maniacs for making this a perfect weekend. Long live the loud!!

*Written by: Toine van Poorten/December 2009
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten/www.metalmaidens.com

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