* October 18, 2014 *

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

P60, Amstelveen, The Netherlands

One of the events that we are always looking forward to see is the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival. Most of the time, they have bands on the bill that never come to Holland. For the second time we went to Amstelveen to the cozy P60. Outside the venue there was a big get together for Indian people, including music and Indian food. What a contrast with what is going to happen inside the venue tonight. Metal fans are travelling from every corner in Holland to see six bands rock the house. I had different thoughts about the line-up of this evening. It was not as spectacular as last year. This is not really a problem, because once you’re there and the atmosphere is good, the bands will do the rest and will turn this festival into another big success. On the other hand, the line-up consisted of one band, that has never set foot on stage in Holland and exclusivity has always been a strong point for the maniacs. No matter what happened, we were armed with an air guitar, a good mood and a gift for our good friend Phil Denton of MIDNIGHT MESSIAH. The Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival is a ‘must witness’ experience every year and this is what the Maniacs had in mind in Amstelveen in 2014...

VENATOR is the first band that has to go on stage tonight and this is always difficult. But the public is still fresh and they want to be rocked. Well, you’re at the right place with these guys. If you like loud riffs and music that will make you think of PRIMAL FEAR in their early days and the later days of JUDAS PRIEST. “Leave Port” kicks off, which is followed by “Red Earth”. VENATOR brings a lot of excitement and a lot of energy on stage and that’s what people want to see. “Dreamrider” and “Of Death….” continue the show and the positive reactions of the crowd show that VENATOR knows to please the headbangers in the front row. Guitar player Raymond brought his own tankard for his convenience. I’m sure, that he had to make up for some sweat that he lost over the gig. “Dogs Of War” and “Pulverizer” are on next and VENATOR proves, that they are able to win over the audience, even while being openers. Rotterdam and surroundings can be very proud of this band. At the end of the show, they also have a little surprise for us in store. Nima of GLORIA VICTIS plays a guest role on vocals during “Anthem Of Steel”. The title alone gives you the idea that you’re listening to the right band here. They bring you anthems of steel and that’s all the people want to hear tonight. Nima’s input is great and his enthusiastic performance is being rewarded with some loud screaming and yelling from the public. The band thanks their audience and with “Army Of Darkness”, we’ve come to the final song of this set. VENATOR still has a long way to go of course, but I think that after three demos, the time is right for a full-length release. The crowd is ready for it.

DIGGETH comes from the Eastern part of our country. I was highly surprised to find them on the bill of the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival, but I was also pleased they accepted the offer to play here. Down tuned guitars, long hair, wild beards and songs, that are suitable to bang your head to the rhythm of the music. It’s all there in the wild and exciting world of DIGGETH, who have just released their new LP called “Kings Of The Underworld”. Their music could be categorized as Southern rock with a stoner twist or stoner rock with a Southern shot of whiskey. I think, they won’t kill me for this description. To make a shortcut, you can say that ZAKK WYLDE and his BLACK LABEL SOCIETY comes close to their sound, because it also has a variety in styles, that is presented by this band as well. Two members come from WICKED MYSTIC and they bring along an awful lot of experience. They will need it, I’d expect, because the maniacs can be very picky about quality sometimes. After the first notes of “Cosmic Purgatory”, I know that these guys can’t do no wrong. The guitars swing, the rhythm section keeps the steam train rolling and the fifty minutes set flows very subtle down your hearing canal, like whiskey down a thirsty throat. “Downhill” and “Reminder” are continuing the flow. They’re new, but the crowd digs it already, which is a good sign. The wild rockers seem to go in trance sometimes, when they crank out the loud notes. “Motor” and “98288” are golden oldies for those of you who follow these Achterhoekers for a longer time already on their long, musical desert road to success. “Magnetic Highway” is the place where these guys belong and with “King Of The Underworld”, they bring us to the deepest vaults of their mindset. These guys rock the hell out of you and their heart is at the right place. “Heart Rocker” must be autobiographical. The gig slowly comes to an end with “See You”, which is followed by “21st Century Nomad” and closer “No Man’s Land”. You never know how people will react towards a band like DIGGETH, that walks on the thin line of different music styles, but the warm reactions of the public showed us that the people are open for the sound of these wild Achterhoekers. The Achterhoek has got more to offer than NORMAAL and VANDENBERG. Have a big bite to the new DIGGETH album and I bet you will like it.

The story of DEALER is a sad one, but with some kind of a happy ending. They had to cancel their gig last year. Everybody knows the story about the tragic death of Pete Gentil. Too young to die, but it all happened a couple of weeks before their maiden show in Holland would take place. The fact, that they were on the bill of this year’s edition, will give you an idea that these guys have a heart of gold. They practiced their asses off with a new bass player, just to be able to play this show. And they received a very warm welcome by the fans in front of the stage for this. DEALER plays NWOBHM with pride and sometimes they add a little METALLICA to their sound, if you listen very carefully. That won’t hurt anybody here. The band is ready, the crowd is ready, so let’s rock this joint. “Me And The Boyz” and “Leave Me Alone” will get you focused right away. Although their bass player is relatively new in the band, he still knows how to impress. “Lap Of The Godz” is on next and you can sense that the Dutch are very fond to have another NWOBHM band on their bill. Sometimes I tend to sing the lyrics of “Am I Evil”, the DIAMOND HEAD classic, covered by METALLICA. But this could be only my imagination. The next move of DEALER sounds very promising indeed. The machine is warm and the band is about to play their debut full-length album “First Strike” from the beginning until the end. The album was released almost thirty years ago and with the first track “When Midnight Comes” we hear the opener of this album, that put DEALER in the spotlight. The fans then knew that this was a band to keep in mind. Maybe it’s a shame, that we had to wait thirty years to have them at the Dutch stages. But hey, better late than never. “Victims Of The Night” and “Son Of A Bitch” get the party going and then we get to one of the highlights of their set. And maybe even one of the highlights of the whole evening for me, the song “Epitaph”. It contains a long instrumental part, that sounds like it was improvised on the spot. The band shows here, that they could write catchy songs but they were also capable of doing something that sounded so much deeper and further away from the paved paths. The band shows their skills here and the metal fan in general gets to see a band that is focused and knows to write outstanding metal material. “Choose Your Weapon” sounds a bit like “Master Of Puppets” (METALLICA) to me and with “Bring The Walls Down”, they simply raise the roof. Be glad the whole stage didn’t collapse. The final track of the album is called “Final Conflict”, which is another highlight in the set of DEALER. On the album the song was divided into three segments namely “Prologue”, “Conflict” and “Genocide”. What a way to end your show. But you know that the show isn’t over, until the fat lady sings. DEALER says goodbye with “Better Things To Do” and they receive a warm applause and both thumbs up by yours truly. This show was a respectful tribute to Pete Gentil, who is sadly missed. But at the same time it’s also a warm welcome to Tom ‘Bully’ Bull, the new bass player of the band. DEALER delivers the goods and I really hope to see them back one day.
In-between bands we had the time to visit the metal market last year. This year the space between the income and the hall on the second floor was rather empty and sphere less. What a shame. Where was everybody? Maybe a short explanation of what might be the cause of this all. The names of the bands on this festival were announced pretty late and there were all kinds of different bands playing in the area. Two festivals in England and Y&T and MR.BIG in Holland will attract a lot of metal heads and you can only spend your hard earned money one time. But in that rather empty mid-piece of the P60 we heard the first rumors about the Dutch Steel festival that will take place on February 22nd at the Hedon in Zwolle. The fans of Dutch heavy metal will have to mark this in their agenda, because the cream of the crop will be on stage there. I think you will never witness a show with so many Dutch heavy metal bands anymore. Needless to say, that I was superduperexcited with this news. First a double CD with the whole eighties metal scene compiled, then the release of this compilation on vinyl and as cherry on the cake a festival with all the Dutch metal bands from the eighties. Who needs a metal market, when you can talk about heavy metal in between two shows?!?

SAD IRON is a band, that would become a winner for me, no matter what would happen. A couple of years ago we saw them in Hoorn and life has never been the same after this reunion show. This time Bernard had polished his skull to look aerodynamic and mean. What would be on the set list and will we be able to see former singer Herke van der Poel again? Let me be short about that last issue. Herke couldn’t make it tonight, so Bernard told me before the show. But SAD IRON is a must for the fine tasters and the connoisseurs in the hall. If you like speed metal played with power and passion, then you can’t go wrong with SAD IRON. “Demons Night” and “Prisoners” also are the openers of the cult album of the band “Total Damnation”. I feel sweat already and the air guitars are working overtime. Of course you can never top Bernard and his flashing axe work. “We Play To Kill” is on next and it’s overkill to say, that this song is autobiographical. SAD IRON plays to kill and the first victims are simply slayed down to the ground by the intense speed metal that they spread around. This is inhuman and I already see some people of Unicef stand at both sides of the hall to see if this isn’t a crime against humanity. No, all is safe and this brutal attack is quite normal for Bernard and his guys. “Where Warwinds Blow” is next and after this eargasm of musical outburst, it’s now time for some sexual extravaganza in “S.M.”. SAD IRON is not afraid of anybody and after a SM demonstration, the band is committing another crime by declaring that “We All Praise The Devil”. Unicef people are leaving the hall and make room for Pope Franciscus, who thinks that this is a blasphemous performance. The fans are excited, because this is how heavy metal should sound. Just listen to highlight of their set “Powerhtrash”, and you’ll know that it won’t get any better than this tonight. “You’re Obsessed” is dedicated to our good friend Marcel Veldman. Then it’s time for the title track of that one album, that is a must have in every Dutch heavy metal record collection “Total Damnation”. When will they finally release the second album, that goes by the name of “The Antichrist”? The last song of this smashing performance is a track that would be on that album and that was once used for one of the three Heavy Metal Maniacs compilation albums. I’m talking about the magnificent “Living Like A Rat”. Another speed killer, that makes you aware that you’re listening to one of the best heavy metal bands of our country. Of course they can’t go back to their hometown Hoorn without an encore and so they return with “Hellfighter” for the knock-out punch. You had to be there to believe it. Two years ago, they could have gone to the festival by bike, but I’m glad that they made the trip to Amstelveen because this was a master class in heavy metal music. Robert Bakker on drums, Charles Heijnen on bass, Marc van den Bos on guitar and vocals and the master blaster, our favorite uncle Fester impersonator Bernard Rive on killer guitars. Man, what a performance! SAD IRON can do what viagra can’t accomplish anymore. Will the headliners of tonight top this? We’ll see in a moment. SAD IRON is what the Heavy Metal Maniacs are all about in the first place. The club came together to support the Dutch heavy metal scene. Well, they did an excellent job here, that’s for sure.

MIDNIGHT MESSIAH stands for high quality heavy metal. Two members of the band are from the cult NWOBHM band ELIXIR and these guys are the pillars on which this band will stand tonight for me. The other members have showed their skills already on their debut album “The Root Of All Evil”. If you already liked this marvelous album, then you’re in for a real treat. Almost without any breaks between the three songs, they open tonight with “Thirty Pieces Of Silver”, “Damned For All Time” and “Evil One”. And believe it or not, MIDNIGHT MESSIAH are making magic. This was an awesome start. The opener is easy on the ears and contains that well-known catchy ELIXIR sound, that makes it go down pretty easily. I think it’s one of the killer songs on the album and a perfect way to start your show. Goosebumps appear with the first ELIXIR cover “The Star Of Beshaan”. What a killer track!! You can hardly call this a cover of course, because almost half the band consists of ELIXIR members and with a jaw dropping performance of this ELIXIR classic, they prove that MIDNIGHT MESSIAH has got the same energy, the same drive and the same attitude as ELIXIR. With “Holy Angel” they have another surprise coming up. Phil takes the opportunity to go off the stage to join his fellow metal heads in front of the stage. Like I said already, this band makes magic happen, off and on stage. “Wise Man Of Roklar” and “Destiny” are on next and the band grabs a handful of songs from their new album. Dave Strange, the tandem mate of Phil, on guitar is from a different caliber than ‘Storming Norms’. He looks like a young version of Zakk Wylde and sounds a bit like Randy Rhoads here and there. But most of all, he is a capable guitar player that helps out Phil pretty well in the great guitar sound, that the band wants to create. Darren Lee proves to be a steady drummer, who forms a winning team with bass player Alex Machell. “Pandora’s Box” from the “Son Of Odin” album is on next. Talking about classics here?! It was written almost thirty years ago and still going strong. For two songs we return to “Root Of All Evil” with “You’re No Friend Of Mine” and “The Rock”. If you still don’t like the band by now, the MESSIAH will change this soon with two more covers from the ELIXIR era, namely “Treachery” and “Son Of Odin”. Especially this last track calls for some nice cooperation with the crowd, because the words ‘Son Of Odin’ are shouted out real loud. Fists are thrown in the air. Paul leads the way. He’s one of the finest frontmen of the NWOBHM scene in my eyes. What a voice! “King Of The Night” and “Midnight Messiah” are the last tracks of tonight’s show. You could hardly tell the difference between ELIXIR and MIDNIGHT MESSIAH. They have the same joy in playing live, the same high quality music and they are the same down to earth people, that are enjoying the great atmosphere at the P60. A real top act in my opinion and we were glad to meet up with singer Paul and guitar player Phil again. Both thumbs up, lads! It was good to have you back again after ten years and please come back again soon.

When the grim reaper comes, it’s time to die. When STEVE GRIMMETT’S GRIM REAPER comes, it’s time to rock the place down and to shake on its foundations. GRIM REAPER did some shows in America with Nick Bowcott and for a nano-second, I hoped that he would play with Nick here as well. Not that this band isn’t good enough for me, but the combination of Steve Grimmett’s voice and Nick’s guitar work made GRIM REAPER to something special. Steve has played for the maniacs a few times, but I guess that he is welcome here every year. When you see, that the original name for the band is STEVE GRIMMETT’S GRIM REAPER, you know that Nick Bowcott will not be around this time. So the ultimate metal sound comes from THE REAPER and when the first notes of “Rock You To Hell” are being played, the P60 seems to explode. Steve’s voice is in good shape and his band is hungry to rock. Steve looks slimmer than ever and with his blonde hair waving in the wind, he still looks like a young metal God. What more can you ask for? After “Night Of The Vampire” (HOWL!), “Lust For Freedom” and “Wrath Of The Ripper”, it’s clear that we’re dealing with the ultimate headliner here. The sound is good, the atmosphere is perfect and the band plays their rough NWOBHM the way you want it. After “Now Or Never”, it’s time for the second title track of the three albums, that the band released. This time we have to “Fear No Evil”. This is a bit of a strange song, while the man with the scythe is standing on stage in front of you. It’s time to sing along to the chorus again. “Liar” is on next and after that we’re treated on the title track of the new album, that will appear next year, so Steve told us in the announcement. “From Hell” sounds quite catchy and if this is the sound of the new album, then I can order my copy blindfolded. “Never Coming Back” is not autobiographical I guess and the whirlwind of REAPER classics continues with “Lay It On The Line”, “Rock Me Till I Die”, “Matter Of Time” and “Blue Murder”. At the end of the show however, you can tell that a lot of the audience has already left the venue. You don’t really notice, when you’re in front of the stage, like me, but once you do a little step back it’s clear that some big empty spaces are appearing. It won’t be because of the band, because they have a little surprise for their fans at the end of the show. It’s time to pay tribute to RONNIE JAMES DIO with “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. For long term fans of the band, this might not be a real surprise, but the crowd goes wild one more time. “Wasted Love” is on next and then it’s time for one of my personal favorites “Final Scream”. On the album there is a short play between father and son, before the song starts. It’s not suitable for the faint hearted, for little children and people of a high age, but I always loved that spooky play before Steve outs his “Final Scream”. One more time I plug in my air guitar and when the band closes this marvelous set with “See You In Hell”, I find myself in a musical heaven. I’m afraid, that I screamed my lungs out one more time, leaving some lung tissue on the floor of the P60. STEVE GRIMMETT’S GRIM REAPER consists of Steve Grimmett on heavy metal vocals, Ian Nash on guitar, Paul White on drums and Chaz Grimaldi on bass. They were an excellent headliner tonight.

When we leave the P60, a lot of maniacs and metal fans have gone already. And all the Indian people have gone to bed, too. Obviously, you can have a good time even without putting exclusive names on your bill, but I also noticed a slight change of atmosphere, if I’m not mistaken. It felt, that a little bit of the magic had gone, that has been there every year. It must have something to do with the many changes, that took place. Long term members left, while new members came. With the help of all the volunteers and with Paul van Rijswijk and Eggo Bosklopper on stage to announce the bands, there will always be a Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival though, with nice and friendly people, that have a good taste in music and their heart at the right spot. What else do you need? I am already counting the days to next year’s edition. Any suggestions? I don’t really care, as long as the music is loud and the atmosphere is good, I will be in the first ranks again. Join me, you’ll be happily surprised, otherwise we’ll see you in hell, my friend.

*Written by: Toine van Poorten/December 2014
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten/www.metalmaidens.com

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