The festival season kicks off early and the first festival of the year is by far the best and most interesting festival of the year (at least for us). Welcome to the twenty-first edition of Keep It True. It's the festival where dreams become reality and many underground bands finally get a chance to present themselves to the public. I have defined the Tauberfrankenhalle in Lauda as 'holy ground' before and I will state again that this is truly the place to be for every heavy metal worshipper on this planet. While New Orleans is the capitol city of jazz, Chicago and Memphis of the blues and Nashville of country, it's quite obvious that you may call Lauda-Konigshofen the capitol city of heavy metal in Germany, no matter how small the town really is. Perhaps they even stand alone in my metal world. Others may say that it is Dessel in Belgium (Graspop) or Wacken (Wacken Open Air) or Ballingen (Bang Your Head) for that matter. To me, there's only one place to be. Period. By looking at the line-up, there are no weak bands or fillers on the bill, except for maybe EXHORDER, who are really not my cup of tea, but a lot of people will think differently. It's just a matter of taste, I guess. The festival report below is my own personal view of Keep It True 2018. Your preferences might be different and that's fine by me. While I am typing this, I am already looking forward to the twenty-second edition in 2019. But first things first, let's start our trip to Keep It True 2018. The place, where magic happens and dreams will come true every time that you visit this amazing festival.
It's Thursday, April 26th and when the alarm bell goes off, we know that we will be heading towards Germany today. The annual Keep It True festival is something we're looking forward to a whole year and this year is no exception to the rule. We will have a busy weekend ahead of us, but when you see what we will get in return, you won't hear me complain. The road to the very south of our country went very smoothly and at the border with Germany, we will meet up with our good friend Gerrie, like always. The short chat, before we drive to the festival, always lasts about an hour and this good feeling won't go away this weekend. The reunion with our heavy metal family is a fact and this time we have relocated to another hotel as well. I will save you the details, but this time we will stay at the same hotel, that Gerrie is in. It also has a swimming pool, that we will check out, too. When we arrive, our Belgian friends Eddy and Christine are already there. After a long chat, it's time for a dive in the swimming pool. No pics allowed here (lol). The cozy atmosphere at the restaurant was just like old times. Memories have been shared and there's a lot of jokes going on. Tomorrow, there will be nine bands on stage and many new developments to deal with. In closing, Gerrie and I have a walk together in the small town of Markelsheim, while Rita is staying at our room. It's always good to hang out with my metal brother. After all, we know each other for over thirty years now.
Friday, April 27th, 2018
KEEP IT TRUE XXI: Day 1
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany
Like every time, I will not only write about the music here in this report, although this will take about ninety-five percent of the space. There has been much talk about the festival on many forums and facebook and I will shortly comment to that later on. The breakfast is very important now to survive the weekend, because with a line-up like that it's always difficult to find the suitable time for a break. You don't want to miss out on any of the nine bands here today. We left the hotel quite early, to be sure to get our tickets for next year. I think, that many people were thinking the same and the queue was quite long at some point. But after receiving your 'desired' ticket, the next queue was not that long and things went more smoothly than last year. At the door, there's the friendly face of Manuela who supplies the wristbands and passes and in no time we're in. I'd also like to compliment the very relaxed people of the security, who smiled, joked, laughed and talked, during the festival. Both thumbs up for these guys. Buying the DVD of last year's festival or other merchandise stuff wasn't too difficult either, because there are not many people inside the venue yet. Upstairs (on the first floor) there's Bart Gabriel's store, where I bought some CDs and got a lot of promo stuff for free. This will probably be our new walk for the upcoming years, I guess. Afterwards, we catch up with many friends that we haven't seen for over a year or something. Cheers Bart and see you next year. Well, the introduction for Keep It True 2018 is a fact, so let's pound some metal here.
The first band originates from New Zealand. It's always a difficult task to kick off the festival, but the hunger of the many fans is easily pleased. The band RAZORWYRE has been on the flyer once, but they had to cancel their show. STALKER is a continuation of RAZORWYRE, only with a different bass player. RAZORWYRE played some excellent speed metal on the album "Another Dimension" and STALKER has surprised us the same way. Their speed metal will surely please many metal heads out there, I guess. The cover art of their full-length album "Shadow Of The Sword" shows a hairy hand rising from the blood red water and holding up a sword. Need I say more? It's one of those albums that you'll probably buy for the cover art alone. Nick, Daif and Chris blast at full speed and start their show with "The Mutilator", which is followed by the title track of the album, "Shadow Of The Sword". The fans are treated to some old tracks first and it's coming to them like a bullet train, starting with the demo tracks "Shocked To Death" and "Path Of Destruction". I would describe the music of STALKER as venomous speed metal and the venom could easily get you addicted to their sound. I'd like to refer to bands such as EVIL INVADERS, ENFORCER and RAZOR, to name but a few. Their show continues with "Behold The Beast" and "Total Annihilation" and also a new and unknown song, called "Black Majik Terror" fills up the forty-five minutes of playing time. I didn't hear any RAZORWYRE songs though. There seems to be some kind of trouble with the cymbals, that dropped down on the floor. I guess, that the drummer hit them too hard. It's time for the final song now. On the album, they covered "Evil Dead" by DEATH, which is exactly what they cranked out live here this afternoon. Maybe not an obvious choice for this speed metal outfit, but the song fits them really well. Two more songs from their album have been fired at the hungry crowd, namely "Satanic Panic" and "Steel God". This marks the end of their whirlwind set of hard hitting speed metal songs. A very good festival opener, as far as I'm concerned.
One of the bands, that I was very much looking forward to seeing live, is next on the bill. I am talking about TAIST OF IRON. When they were being announced, I just couldn't believe my eyes, seeing their name on the bill. After a few months however, the news reached us that their fabulous guitar player Steve Gale had passed away. My wildest dreams exploded like a soap bubble and I asked myself how long it would take before the band announced that they had to cancel their show here. None of this happened fortunately and since we were in contact with the amazing front lady Lorraine Gill, we heard that she was very much looking forward meeting us and playing live in Germany. Have you ever seen a soap bubble come together again, after exploding? Miracles do happen here, as you can see. Well, the game was on and next on the bill is the incredible TAIST OF IRON. The band opened their set with "The Gates" and Lorraine showed that her voice is still in great shape. New guitar player Steve Stefanowicz had a real killer sound. He is fast and played some raw, shredding solos. "Victim Child" and "Evil" follow next and both songs are also taken from that magic debut album, called "Resurrection", released in 1984. It easily stood the test of time and reached the cult status in my personal book of heavy metal. By then, I realized that Steve wasn't moving around that much and his dark glasses were not a gimmick. The man is blind or at least he could see very badly,. Just like the drummer of WYTCH HAZEL, Jack Spence, my respect grew enormously. Wow, what a goddamn great performance. Many guitar players could learn a lot from him, that's for sure. "Sunrise" and "08" are next and they both sound new and fresh to me. Lorraine is a natural born front lady, who has got a very powerful voice, a good interaction with the crowd and together with the great songs, this turns out to be a good combination and a helluva performance, even when the day is still young. She's just being herself on stage and that's what's so cool about her. When she likes to dance, she dances and when she wants to scream, she screams her lungs out. It's the quality of this band that counts. You don't have to be a headliner to become one of the best bands of the festival and TAIST OF IRON gets very close to that status. After these newer tracks, it's time for "Cold Day In Hell" and "Cross Of Fire" from the "Resurrection" album . It's amazing to hear these songs live and I must admit that they sound very powerful and just like I expected them to be. "Love And Pain" and "Feeling You" are up next and I feel very happy that TAIST OF IRON decided to come over to Europe. After all, no one would have found it a shame, if they had cancelled their trip. Instead, long term friend of the band, Steve Stefanowicz, learned all the songs by heart, so that they could be here. I take my hat off for that! Anyway, the band saved best for last and closes their stunning performance with the song "Metal Beast". What a killer! But hey wait, they just have a couple of minutes left and therefore "Volatile" is the final song for today. Afterwards, we get the chance to meet Lorraine, guitar player Steve and Lorraine's son. It's been an awesome experience for the band and the fans to have TAIST OF IRON at Lauda. What an incredible performance and thank you for that!
The same actually goes for the next band. But before I get to that, I have to tell you about the picture that is standing on the stage. That is a photo of Mirko Marten. He is so sadly missed. It has been quite a shock to hear that this great rock fan passed away, much too soon. He was almost fifty years old and he has been one of the hosts for the bands performing here at the Keep It True. Next to that, he was a band promoter and we will miss him very, very much. The festival is dedicated to Mirko and I think he would be putting both thumbs up from up above. Look, he's sitting next to Michael Trengert. Life can be so hard at times..... Why?????
Anyway, the show must go on though and ALIEN FORCE from Denmark is on next. This is another reunion from the high hat with magic tricks of Oliver. I guess, not everybody is really familiar with this band, although their album "Hell And High Water" is really a classic, I tell you that much. The blue background and the no faced phantom in blue and black on the album sleeve will surely be a point of recognition in your record collection. The band will play nine songs today from that album and its successor, called "Pain And Pleasure". They take the stage by storm and guitarist Henrik Rasmussen is playing some great guitar solos. His playing is quite raw, but it's all in service of the songs. He's not on an ego trip and therefore it's highly enjoyable. Three band members previously played in BAD MEDICINE, ZEYKING, GALLERY and NO RAPE and two of them were in MEDIZINE as well, so the band has actually risen out of the ashes of these aforementioned bands. They start with "Night Of Glory" and "Through The Gates Of Hell". Rawness and melody are the main ingredients here. Every now and then the songs have a catchy vibe too, although I would definitely call this heavy metal. When you think of Denmark, your thoughts will probably go out to PRETTY MAIDS. Maybe you could compare them to this band, especially the early work of the MAIDS. "Get It Out" and "To You" are next and it shows that there are a lot of people, who want to see this band. They see a very convincing and hard-working band. It was quite a surprise to see that the band got back together again. After the death of rhythm guitarist Michael Wenzel, I gave up hope that they would continue their career, but Keep It True makes the impossible possible. The band continues with "Pain And Pleasure" and "Stranger". When listening to these songs live, it's quite obvious that these guys have some very good musical ideas. So what went wrong that they didn't get as big as PRETY MAIDS? Anyway, it's so good to have them here now. "Time Is Out" and "Nervous" are continuing the flow of Danish metal anthems and the band closes with the title track of that very album that caused their biggest moment of fame, "Hell And High Water". What a wonderful trip down memory lane, hosted by ALIEN FORCE.
BLASPHEME is a cult name in France and it's 2015, when the band was added to the bill of Keep It True. Unfortunately, they cancelled their show back then. Now three years later, many prayers have been heard and they are finally there. The first surprise is already at the beginning of the show, when they start with old school classic songs from the eighties, like "Desir De Vampyr" and "Carpe Diem". The band presents two different singers and one of them is Alexis of HURLEMENT. "Territoire Des Hommes" and "The Crow" are on next and I must admit that they have a great guitar player in Pierre Holzaeuser. The singers have double tasks. They either sing the main parts and when they don't do that, they perform the choir vocals. Considering the evil horror type of song topics, it would have been nice to do a bit more on the live presentation, on the other hand it's the music that counts. And the music still gives me a good feeling, although perhaps they do sound more extreme live than on their records. The fans however see a very decent show, that goes on with "Au Nom Des Morts" and "Vivre Libre". This is French heavy metal at its very best and maybe TRUST and/or SORTILEGE or H-BOMB can top this, who knows. Metal anthems, like "Sanctuaire" and "Seul" are some real crowd pleasers. I think, that the French metal heads came up with a good strategy to save the best songs for last. In the last ten minutes, they gave all they've got in "Jehovah" (from 1982) and show stopper "Vengeance Barbare". Obviously, they are one of the bands that laid down the foundation of the heavy metal scene in France. This last song appeared on the album "Metal Plated" of Ebony Records in 1983, together with two other French metal bands, VULCAIN and DEMON EYES, to name but a few. Drummer Aldrick will be very proud to be here, next to his father Philippe on bass. Philippe Guadagnino is the man with the red bandana and the red bass guitar and the biggest eye-catcher in BLASPHEME. Two generations of hard rocker on stage during a blasphemous performance. I think, the band will cherish this memory for a long time to come.
SIREN is one of my 'must see' bands on this year's festival. Another band you can only hope they will come over for a show, but you know that this will probably never happen. Wrong answer, try again. To celebrate their reunion, they released this amazing three LP and one vinyl single package, called "Up From The Depths". Does this make your mouth water or what? Mine certainly did, when I received my copy. Their logo already did the trick with me. The S is in the form of a double scythe and the N ends in an electric finger, that touches the power from the top of the double scythe. Cool or what? The question remains if they are also able to fulfil this in a live situation. Let me be quite short here: YES! Actually, they were even better than I expected. Biggest eye-catcher in the band is singer Doug Lee, who isn't just a great singer, but also an excellent front man. When the band fell apart, he became the singer of MEKONG DELTA, one of the bands I would really L-O-V-E to see here. A legendary vocalist, so to speak, who managed to reproduce his vocal skills in a live situation as well. The focus is on the first full-length album "No Place Like Home", whereas the second full-length remains untouched for tonight. Anyway, they start off with "Metro-Mercenary", their first single from 1984. From there on, I'm in metal heaven for a full hour or something. "Black Death" continues and during "Terrible Swift Sword", Doug starts to wave with a giant sword. Some heads are going to roll here tonight, so you'd better be warned upfront. The crowd starts to sing along to this song, which brings the atmosphere to a higher level, not only in the audience, but also on stage despite some trouble with the amplifiers. Things like that can happen, even when you want to impress the crowd. SIREN doesn't have to worry though, because the crowd will follow them anywhere, at least I will. After three songs, the question rises why this band never got more famous and I really haven't got a clue here. "So Far To Go" is on next and the two guitar players get all the space to show their skills. They thankfully use that possibility by throwing in some of the finest and amazing guitar solos at times. "Iron Coffins" and "Dead Of Night" are next and the progressive influences that the band has in their music are still present, although they're a bit more hidden away. "Tornado Of Blood" is next and during "Over The Rainbow", Doug decides to make an imaginary flight in the audience on his witches broom. It looks funny, but on the other hand, there is something happening on stage besides a band playing their songs. This triumphant ride of SIREN closes with "Slice Of Hate", which is another killer track from the book of US metal. There was magic in the air tonight and I'm glad that SIREN did what I expected them to do (and more!). SIREN definitely belongs to the highlights of this edition, that's for sure.
We need to take you back to last year. I wrote about the huge respect that I have for Steve Grimmett. He did a signing session after he lost one leg and that alone was so outstanding for me, that he would do that for all his fans. This year he takes the stage again with STEVE GRIMMETT'S GRIM REAPER. I don't know, if he is allowed to use the name GRIM REAPER by himself, but at least he kept the legacy alive and continued touring by playing all of these classic songs live. Anyway, today we would get a flashback to the days of GRIM REAPER. In America, Steve did some shows with Nick Bowcott, but unfortunately we have to do it with Steve alone tonight, but that's no punishment to me. The opener of tonight's show is "Wings Of Angels". Steve sometimes sits in a wheelchair and at other times he stands on his prostheses. Maybe it's strange to start with a new song instead of a classic, but the audience is Steve's best friend tonight and the classic songs will follow shortly. Now it's time for the crowd to do something back and they will. Just listen to the massive choir in 'Rock You To Hell', a NWOBHM classic that almost can't be topped. The three title tracks of the first albums are all that and that's why this band receives so much respect from their fans. The three albums that the band created are the main part of the cake tonight, starting with "Night of The Vampire" and followed by "Lust For Freedom". Then it's time for another song of the most recent album "Walking In The Shadows", namely the title track. After that, it's time for two other classic songs, "Wrath Of The Ripper" and "Fear No Evil". Steve tells the people how thankful he is for their support and shows his appreciation for their warm welcome. But there's more. The fast song "Temptation" is taken from his most recent album. What a killer! Steve also talks about some very intimate youth memories with the baby sitter. The next song, "Suck It And See" is a reflection of these long term memories. "Rock Me Till I Die" is another real metal anthem and after that it's time for Steve to pay tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio with "Don't Talk To Strangers'. Needless to say, that he received a lot of help from the 'Keep It True choir' here. "Waysted Love" continues and the absolute winner of tonight is for....."See You In Hell", which has the 'Keep It True choir' steaming away at full power to this heavy metal classic of the first order. The energy didn't change a thing, the REAPER is still a vicious and blood thirsty monster and I know for sure now that we will see each other in hell..........someday.
What should I write about RAVEN, that isn't said before? When I read that they would come over and play an old school set, it really made my day. The first three albums of this three headed killer bird are timeless and they contain only classic songs - no fillers, just killers - from the beginning until the very end. The fantastic gigs that they played in Holland are numerous and they never let their public down. I guess, we'll be in for a real treat from the guys of RAVEN, that are going to be here without 'The Baron', Joe Hasselvander. He has been replaced by Mike Heller, that you might know from his former band FEAR FACTORY or MALIGNANCY. Joe is suffering from health problems, but I think that in his heart he's here with his mates on stage. So in a slightly different line-up, the three musketeers of the 'athletic rock' jump on stage and start their energetic show with "Take Control". These first three albums contain so many good songs that it must be hard to choose from, but this is already a nice surprise, to start with. John and Mark always have a lot of fun on stage, which reflects back to the audience. After that, the "Hell Patrol" appears and John easily reaches the high screams in this one. Which other singer can do that and play bass at the same time? Not many, I guess. The 'three musketeers' feeling is getting stronger during "All For One". One of my personal faves from the album "All For One" is on next, namely "Hung, Drawn & Quartered". It's been a long time, since they played that one live. "Rock Until You Drop" is the title track of the debut album and a perfect chance to sing along, before Mark starts his guitar solo. Mark is the man, who always reminded me of an American football player. You'd better get out of his way, when he's invading the stage. No need to worry, as it's just an act. He's like a raging bull and he's definitely the master of pulling strange and funny faces. The man is still very fast and after his solo spot, the band gets to play some songs from the "Wiped Out" album with "Fire Power" and "Faster Than The Speed Of Light". The brothers only need a wink of an eye to understand each other and that's what makes RAVEN a winning team for a very long time now. Add to that, the catchy songs that you can still sing along to after thirty-something years and you’ll understand that I am having the time of my life here. "Hard Ride" is also from their debut album. Just take a look at the album cover, which shows the mess the band is leaving on stage. Their first single "Don't Need Your Money" is another chance to sing along for sure. At the end of this classic tune, it's time for John Gallagher and his undestroyable bass solo. The most elementary bass guitar he has got is waiting for the very last moment of the gig. It's the well-known red bass guitar that every fan will recognize, when he sees it. Four strings on a piece of wood with a knob to turn the sound up to louder or ultra-loud, what more do you need?? And if this bass guitar could talk... (lol). "Break The Chain" is on next and most of the time you can play a game of who recognizes the most snippets from classics that they play in the long stretched out version of this song. This time, there is no time for games, as the band is at full steam and they want to cut the crap, but there are still some 'hidden' classic rock songs, like for example "Iron Man" by BLACK SABBATH and the STEPPENWOLF song "Born To Be Wild". Udo Dirkschneider of ACCEPT joined them on the original single and this time Steve Grimmett joins the band for a duet. Afterwards, there is time for more classics, like "Rock Bottom" (U.F.O) and "It's A Long Way To The Top, If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll" (AC/DC). All of these songs received the athletic RAVEN treatment. That leaves the band some time for one more song. In an underhand way, I hoped for "Tyrant Of The Airways", which is one of my favorites, but I was very glad to hear the fast "Crash, Bang, Wallop" instead. This has been another truly amazing RAVEN gig. All for one, RAVEN for all.
FLOTSAM & JETSAM are regular visitors of the festival and they promised to play an old school set this time, including the complete "Doomsday For The Deceiver" album. They couldn't make me happier. But they have more surprises on their sleeve. Something that I just didn't realize before is the fact that they have the one and only Ken Mary (HOUSE OF LORDS, ALICE COOPER, FIFTH ANGEL) on drums tonight. How's that for a change?? I thought he only played at the American tour, but he was on these holy grounds as well. What a shame that we missed him twice, when FIFTH ANGEL was here. Anyway, now the man is back with FLOTSAM & JETSAM. Well, let's start with opener "No Place For Disgrace". What a great start, and this is really just the beginning, because the main focus would be the "Doomsday For The Deceiver" album. After this great opener, we get to hear the whole album back to back. I must admit, that this is headliner-worthy material and when they continue with "Hammerhead", you can feel the shivers running down your spine, because you know all these other classic songs will follow afterwards. Two of my all-time favorites are next. "Iron Tears" sounds brutal as ever, but maybe even better is "Desecrator", which has some amazing drum beats by maestro Ken Mary. In the meantime, a little mosh pit is growing in the middle of the venue and when the band plays "Fade To Black", they add some fuel to the great atmosphere. "Doomsday For The Deceiver" is a killer track, that brings the venue in total ecstasy. With songs like that, you can't do nothing wrong, I guess. After "Metalshock" and "She Took An Axe", we are treated to another surprise with "U.L.S.W.", which stands for 'Ugly, Lying, Stinking, Wench', a song that is being performed live for the first time ever. "Der Führer" is another story. Sure, everybody knows it's an anti-nazi song, but the title alone could bring outsiders to wrong ideas. Not here, dear friends. Here they are able to play the song without any philosophy and I'm glad that they did it. "Flotzilla" is another favorite of yours truly. It's the official set closer, however after such a great show, you won't be surprised that the crowd also needs some encores to satisfy their hunger. "Dreams Of Death" and the amazing "I Live You Die" surely do the trick. I think, that a lot of metal fans, who like the harder stuff will see this show as the ultimate headliner. However, the mosh pit has been much larger in previous years, when FLOTSAM played here. Still, I think that they did an amazing show. Eight down and only one more band to go, DEMON, the headliner.
In December 2017, we saw DEMON play an excellent show at the Back To The Past festival in Belgium. In my review, I also wrote that it's one of my biggest wishes to see DEMON with a full old school show, including masks and cemetery props. Well, this wish has come true this very weekend, a couple of months later. Not every metal head will get the same feeling, that I experienced seeing this happening. But since we never had the chance to see this old school show in Holland, it felt like a dream come true for me. I remember seeing the show on DVD and I the pictures in the early issues of Kerrang magazine (UK) very well. From that time on, I wished that this show would come over to Holland, which was wishful thinking. The songs for tonight are also based upon the old school show of DEMON. The maestro of this great outfit is singer Dave Hill, who appears with the well-known horned helmet singing "Night Of The Demon", after the band is being introduced on stage. The helmet disappears quickly, because it's not easy to sing properly with a few kilograms of metal on your head. The cemetery is a set of two white crosses, which gives the songs just that little special and creepy horror atmosphere that they ask for. The expression on Dave's face is incredible. With a wink of an eye, he can tell you a whole story. And that's why this man and nobody else is the perfect maestro to perform these songs. "Into The Nightmare" takes you deeper into the dark sick thoughts of Dave and in "Total Possession" you will arrive at his ultimate goal. The crowd must have the feeling that they become one with the evil mind of the DEMON. In "Sign Of A Madman", there are a few other eye movements of Mr. Hill, who's having a good time in his old cloth. The whole concept that GHOST uses is about thirty-five years old. As far as I'm concerned, it was invented by Dave and DEMON. No further questions, your honor. "The Spell' is on next and I guess the crowd is already under the spell of the band. Some people argue whether this is NWOBHM or not. People, who have any doubts about this, will not be around in the area, I think. Although the music of DEMON became more melodic later on in their career, this is definitely NWOBHM to me. "Have We Been Here Before?" is on next, which is followed by "Strange Institution' (well, they're here at the right spot, I guess) and "The Grand Illusion". The helmet remains in the front of the stage. Sometimes, Dave picks it up and even more it will remember you of the good old days of DEMON. After "Victim Of Fortune", there is again a little make over, after which Dave returns with a big white beard and a white robe. It's time for "Father Time" and I remember very well seeing this outfit from those pictures in Kerrang. It's like time stood still and thirty-five years later, I still get goosebumps all over of moments like that. Rock and roll dreams come true here. "Liar" continues and the band let the history of DEMON repeat itself in an impressive show, that is awaiting its blistering seclusion here. "Beyond The Gates" and "Life On The Wire" are classic songs from the old days and in the grand finale, there is still some air to sing along to the last couple of songs here. "Deliver Us From Evil" and especially "Don't Break The Circle" give the audience that holy fire one more time. Then the show is really over and Dave and his DEMONs must leave the arena with the horned helmet. The night of the DEMON is over, but there is room for one more encore in "One Helluva Night". I couldn't agree more.
What already started out as an excellent day with later on GRIM REAPER and RAVEN, was brutally continued by FLOTSAM & JETSAM and I thought that this would be very difficult to top. However, it's the nostalgic feeling that I got from the band DEMON, which made this one a helluva night. One of the many great nights that we've had here in Lauda and another great evening would follow tomorrow. The trip to our hotel would last a little longer, since we weren't staying in Lauda anymore, but they couldn't take this away from us. And I think that we won't be the one to break the circle.
Saturday, April 28th, 2018
KEEP IT TRUE XXI: Day 2
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany
After a good breakfast at the same hotel as Steve Grimmett and his family are in, we prepare ourselves for another long day at the Tauberfrankenhalle in Lauda. We will leave on time, so we can spend a little more time on the metal market.
I'd also like to comment on some recent changes and new rules regarding the festival, that have been discussed on the internet in the weeks before and after the festival. First up, I am very positive about the card system that has been introduced regarding the food. It works quickly and very well and the amount of money, that's still left on the card after the festival, can be used the year after. The prices of the festival tickets (2019) have increased a lot. This doesn't mean that the bands will be bigger and more popular, at least I hope not. The festivals that have DIRKSCHNEIDER, ACCEPT, ARCH ENEMY or TANKARD on the bill are quite massive and therefore not underground anymore and I think that is what Keep It True is all about. I believe, that the ticket price is going up so fast has got a lot to do with the increasing costs for the bands. There are expenses for travelling, hotel accommodation, food and many other things, which are getting higher each time. You'll have to compensate for that one way or the other. If you are willing to spend this amount of money for your ticket in 2019, it tells me that you are here to support the bands and you are not just buying a ticket, because you want to be trendy. So please stay underground and small and don't try to evolve into a bigger and more cheerless festival/venue. I realize, that there are people among us, who think differently, but this is my opinion. Be honest, do you want to be at a festival with TANKARD and ARCH ENEMY on the bill or enjoy the underground ambience of bands like CIRITH UNGOL, HEAVY LOAD, DEMON, RAVEN and WINTERHAWK? I guess, you know what my answer will be.
IRONFLAME from Ohio has got the difficult task to open on the second day. Andrew D'Cagna is the big man behind this band. They present some songs from their album "Lightning Strikes The Crown", but also four songs from the upcoming album. This is always tricky, because no one knows these songs yet. The band however is in good shape and this is by far the best audience to try out your new material. The opener is "Firestorm" and directly hereafter comes "The Contract", which is a new song. The one thing I noticed at once is that guitarist Jesse Scott is wearing a LADY BEAST shirt. The album, they have out now, is represented by "Marching On", "The Gorgon" and "Eternal Night". The new songs are up next, three in a row and I must admit that they mix very well together. This is typical US metal stuff and you can tell by titles like "Sword And Shield", "Kingdom Come" and "Fighting Onward" that these songs will surely please the fans of the band. Andrew does some promotion work too by throwing a copy of the album in the crowd. The lucky catcher will really have a good day and that early already. "Shadow Queen" is the set closer of today and although Andrew is the man behind IRONFLAME, he proved to have formed a band that can deliver the goods very well, so hopefully we will hear more of IRONFLAME in the future.
GATEKEEPER from Canada is next. They sound a lot more epic than IRONFLAME and they just have got a new record out. It's called "East Of Sun" and this is the perfect moment to promote the new stuff, next to the older material. What strikes me most is that they do not only promote the new album, but the greater part of their show consists of the new material. As a matter of fact, there is only one old song and two cover songs, the rest of the material is brand new. It's a well-thought through strategy, which only works if you perform the songs well enough and that's certainly the case with GATEKEEPER. Singer Jean-Pierre 'JP' Abboud is no stranger to the Keep It True audience, because he played here before with BORROWED TIME. "Warrior Without Fear", "Bell Of Tarantia", "Blade Of Cimmeria" and title track "East Of Sun" are all new songs and they are received very well by the enthusiastic crowd. The public is flabbergasted and the epic feeling of these new songs feels very good. Actually, "Bell Of Tarantia" has been released as a single in 2015, so maybe we should call this an oldie instead. The song even appeared on the "Metal Massacre XIV" compilation, which would make it the key song of the band. "Tale Of Twins" is from the band's early days. It was on their first EP "Prophecy And Judgement" in 2013. The band also plays two covers here today, of which the first one is a real big surprise. "Richard III" is dedicated to the US metal fetishist, Alex Panz. Not many people know the band TREDEGAR, but it's utterly cool, that they dedicate this song to him. Anyway, the band plays more of their own material and "Swan Road Saga", which actually got on the new album, is a song from their early days. Another surprise is waiting around the corner. I wouldn't call this epic, but more a classic song instead. The KISS anthem "Detroit Rock City" receives the treatment of the 'Keep It True choir' and they don't hold anything back. A good CD release party by this great sounding band from Canada.
CEREBUS is a cult name in my book and specially their debut album "Too Late To Pray" is a 'must have' for every die-hard metal head. And it's exactly that album the band focused on this afternoon. Good thinking, because these metal fans want to be rocked and impressed. And impressed I was from the first song "Running Out Of Time" on. Their blond haired, original singer Scott Board has got an amazing voice and he used it very well. The band continued their show with "Taking Your Chances" and "Catch Me If You Can". The first track, that I mentioned here, is also on their demo from 1985, by the way. The album would see the light of day about a year later, after another demo was released before that. "Distant Eyes" is on next, followed by "She Burns". It feels like the band only released one album. I guess, because it's their best and most successful album, it will please the fans the most. When the band plays "Rock The House Down", clearly my conclusion is that CEREBUS really nailed it. Their show was very energetic and full of passion. Of course there is also room for one more song, which will be the title track "Too Late To Pray". The band played with a stand in bass player today, but he stood there as solid as a rock and gave the full two hundred percent. After the last notes fade away, I see some guitars thrown high up in the air. Once again, the question comes up why we didn't see this band at the European stages before? Just like SIREN, TAIST OF IRON and HITTMAN? Of course I'm very thankful for all the terrific bands I've seen in the past forty-two years, but some of these bands never showed their faces on the continent. We sure have a lot of catching up to do in Europe, but for now I can erase the name of CEREBUS from my huge ‘still to see’ list. They lived up to my expectations very much. Please get back soon will be my advice at the end of this energetic show.
I didn't have a clue what to expect from a BLIND ILLUSION show. This is a blank space in my metal history. Don't ask me why, because I can't explain. Anyway, I was very excited to seeing the band live, especially after reading so many positive reviews of their show at Headbangers Open Air. So, as a matter of fact, my expectations were quite high. Guitarist Doug Piercy is well known for his work with ANGEL WITCH, HEATHEN and ANVIL CHORUS, but Mark Biedermann is actually the main man here. Seeing Doug Piercy live definitely adds something to this show, as far as I'm concerned. The band already exists since 1979, which is almost forty freaking years, and they paved the way for many bands. "The Sane Asylum" is the perfect opener and it's quite obvious that this band is very eager to surprise the audience. The set list of tonight is quite simple, because the band will play the whole "The Sane Asylum" album tonight. They only shuffled around with the songs, so there is still a bit of a surprise, which song is going to be next. "Blood Shower" and "Vengeance Is Mine" are played in the right order. Among the many ex-members of the band there is also the name of Les Claypool, the man behind PRIMUS, but I must admit that nothing of his eccentric sound can be found back in the songs that they crank out tonight. Of course, the man was still young, when he started to play in BLIND ILLUSION. The guitar solos are amazing and I must admit that this band really is an eye opener to me. "Kamakazi" and "Smash The Crystal" are next and Biedermann shows that he's also a great guitar player and composer, because all songs are enjoyed a lot by the hungry crowd. For sure, they play a mind-blowing set, whereas the flow is sometimes not completely there, but I guess the band is having so much fun on stage that it takes them a bit longer to continue with the next song. "Vicious Visions" and "Metamorphosis Of A Monster" are next and sometimes the guitar players nearly destroy their strings by gliding with the neck of the guitar against the cymbals or the mike standard. They sure want to kill it all and they've got the strength to do just that. They don't only look vicious and mean, they also play to kill. They make some "Death Noise" and that's the last song of the "The Sane Asylum" album for tonight. There is still a bit of time left to spend on "Race With The Wizard". I experienced a very enthusiastic band and actually now I realize what I've missed all these years. You're never too old to learn new stuff, as you can see. Both thumbs up for BLIND ILLUSION!
SARACEN can't do wrong in my book and of course they lived up to my expectations once again and delivered a great show. They already played a killer show here in 2011 and today wasn't any different. When I say "Heroes, Saints & Fools", you’ll be talking about one of the all-time favorite songs from the NWOBHM scene. It's prog, it's rock, it's metal and it's music with emotion without overdoing it. Of course there is a certain curiosity what they're going to play tonight, but I know for sure that they won't disappoint their fans. And from the first notes on of "We Have Arrived", I'm having goosebumps all over. This is the perfect opener, don't you think so?!? "Rock Of Ages" and the amazing "Horsemen Of The Apocalypse" are next. It's quite obvious that vocalist Steve Bettney is ready to have a party tonight and the fans go along with that. This results in a magical version of "Meet Me At Midnight". The 'Keep It True choir' is also ready and willing to sing along to the classic "Heroes, Saints & Fools". This makes my skin crawl for the second time already. I guess, that says enough. What a fantastic song, performed in an even more fantastic way. It's one of those moments, that I don't want to miss out on at Keep It True. More surprises are coming up, because tonight they will also present the premiere of "No More Lonely Nights", which they perform for the very first time. These are the cherries on the cake. "Crusader" continues and then another highlight is next, when keyboard player Paul Bradder will start the engine of the imaginary airplane, on which they'll fly away soon. They are "Ready To Fly", and the crowd is invited to sing along to it. All in all, the band has delivered an amazing performance tonight and they know to convince pretty easily. Not only because of the craftsmanship of the band, but also because of the great atmosphere, that they've created here. Both thumbs up for SARACEN!
In my eyes, WINTERHAWK is definitely one of the big surprises at this festival. The more I think about it, the more everything falls into place. After all, the sound of the band has got a lot in common with ASBURY, one of Oliver's favorite bands. They're certainly no copycats, but I do see a lot of similarity. I would also like to categorize both bands under vintage hard rock. They both play lengthy instrumental songs and know to keep the audience focused pretty easily. "Revival" is the band's most important album, released in 1982 and most of the material played here tonight is taken from that killer album. The band starts off with "There And Back Again" and the most eye-catching band member is Jordan David Macarus. He has that typical look, that native Americans have. He started the band back in 1977, so obviously there's some comparison to a band like WISHBONE ASH. After "Dark Daze", the band introduced a second vocalist to the audience, who pops up every now and then. It turns out to be nobody else but Seb Overton of the British stoner rock and doom metal band EARTHEN RITUAL. He gives Jordan some time and space to focus on his guitar playing, which contains some influences of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Marino and Uli Jon Roth, although it's not that heavy musically. With Seb, the other vocalist, they continue the show with "Sanctuary", while "Ace In The Hole" is also from that magic album "Revival". Clearly, not many people are familiar with the band WINTERHAWK, which is a real shame. Maybe it wasn't such a wise decision to put them right after SARACEN. Two hard rock bands after one another is probably a bit too much for a crowd that likes their music hard and heavy. I have been following the band for quite some time now and just love their eccentric kind of hard rock, which has a lot of variation. I also really like that jazzy part that they put in this particular song. Not many bands dare to do it. WINTERHAWK are the masters of improvisation and there's never a dull moment. I like that attitude, when nothing is predictable and according to the book. I'm also really delighted that my personal favorite song "Hammer And The Axe" from the "There And Back" album received such a good response at Keep It true. Jordan is a very laid back guy, who takes the time for the instrumental parts, that are his best weapons tonight. "Larkin Morgan" is on next and title track "Revival" continues, which is a special moment for the musicians to show what they're capable of. They may not be the heaviest band around, but they sure do have a lot of class and they are some damn fine musicians. "Free To Live" follows next, which starts with a short drum solo, while the instrumental song "Intro" completes the set. What a very relaxed show, this has been, where the virtuosity of the band members has been spread out in the lengthy instrumental parts. As a matter of fact, almost ninety percent is about Jordan David Macarus and his Hendrix, Marino and Uli Jon Roth type of guitar playing and I'm glad that I finally got the opportunity to seeing this band live.
HITTMAN was on the bill before, but unfortunately they had to cancel their gig. Now they are here with a reunion show to make up for it. The band hasn't played together for twenty-eight years and after a warm-up show in New York, the holy ground of Keep It True is next on the list. Their debut album has been re-released by No Remorse records, including the original demo from 1985, so reason enough to celebrate their 30th anniversary and promote the album live on stage. The only song they left out is "The Test Of Time", but you won't hear me complain, because instead they play two brand new songs. The "Hittman Theme" is of course the opener for tonight, followed by "Metal Sport", "Dead On Arrival" and "Behind The Lines" from that aforementioned debut album "Hittman", originally released in 1988, which put the band on the map for me. They were kind of different and not following the easy and paved road. Their sound also has a touch of progressive metal and the artwork of the album showed that 'buy me' tag on it. Although singer Dirk Kennedy is wearing a DIO t-shirt tonight, his voice was often compared to Geoff Tate in the late eighties. The band shows in "No Time To Die" that the new material matches very well to the older stuff. After their self-titled album, the band released an album, called "Vivas Machina" in 1993, but they totally left out this brilliant album tonight, which is a bit of a shame. Hopefully, we don't have to wait for the new album too long. Especially after seeing the band here tonight, I'm having high hopes for that one. Anyway, they moved on with "Breakout" and "Will You Be There", before cranking out another new song, called "The Ledge". It definitely proves that HITTMAN's flame is still burning on. "Backstreet Rebels" is supposed to be the final song for tonight, in which the audience is getting a chance to sing along one more time. But the crowd screams for more and HITTMAN gets back on stage for a couple of encores. We had to wait such a long time to seeing this band in Europe and of course they want to finish this reunion show in a proper way. "Caught In The Crossfire" is the first encore and finally, there's the JOHNNY RIVERS cover "Secret Agent Man", taken from their debut album. HITTMAN has always been a very underrated band in my opinion and I really don't know why. Surely, they are able to get their energetic sound across on stage very well and prove is given here tonight at Keep It True. I am really looking forward to checking out their new material.
After the very cool reunion show of HITTMAN, it's time to take a little rest, before the headliners of Saturday would start their show. I guess, that the people who know me, will realize that brutal thrash metal is just not my cup of tea and EXHORDER is really no exception here. Their groovy riffs will probably remind you of PANTERA and their album "Slaughter In The Vatican" can be seen as a real classic in this particular style of music. When the band starts off with "Death In Vain", it's obvious that every headbanger wants to spit out their last bit of energy. And you're on the right spot with EXHORDER. It may not be a big surprise that the "Slaughter In The Vatican" album is the main focus here tonight. Still, the band also played four songs from its successor, called "The Law" from 1992. It won't take long until a massive mosh pit is being created in front of the stage. The band continues with "Homicide" and "Soul Search Me". The crowd goes nuts, but they also throw plastic cups to the stage, in their enthusiasm. Somehow, they must get rid of their anger, I guess. One of these cups hits the head of a photographer, who must be taken to the first aid. Was this the intention of the audience? Of course not and this accident just happened. Anyway, this was just bad luck, so let's continue and focus on the loud heavy thrash of EXHORDER, because they just keep rolling on like a steam train and they don't have a clue what just happened in front of them. "Unforgiven", "Legions Of Death", "The Law" and of course title track "Exhorder" are next and make the crowd go mad a little bit more. There is a lot of moving going on in front of the stage now. I still think it's strange to see that a thrash metal band like EXHORDER ends up so high on the bill and attracts so many true metal fans. But I guess, that's also the strength of this festival. WINTERHAWK and SARACEN fans are on one side and FLOTSAM AND JETSAM and EXHORDER fans are on the other side. There is something for everybody. And that's what makes it such a perfect festival for me. "Anal Lust" is on next. Do I still have your attention with a title like that? The amount of stage divers in the audience is quite huge. However, I think that a lot of the people in the front row of EXHORDER moved out afterwards and possibly didn't show up again after that. "(Cadence Of) The Dirge" continues and after one final energy boost, the band closes with "Slaughter In The Vatican". These musicians have surely proved that they are able to play some great brutal thrash metal songs and deliver a high energy show. And the people in the front will totally agree with me. This was the very first time that EXHORDER has showed their face in Germany and by judging from the excitement of the audience, they will be back soon. The final song for tonight is called "Desecrator". Their groovy thrash metal gets the party going real easy and before you know it, the stage is being prepared for the headliner of the 2018 edition of Keep It True edition twenty-one.
It is 2017, when the first Vikings of HEAVY LOAD invade Lauda for a signing session outside the venue. Now they are the headliner of the 2018 edition. The band has been high on the list of the Keep It True audience, next to CIRITH UNGOL. Now both bands have been on the bill, so what more is there to ask for? The reactions afterwards have been totally different however. CIRITH UNGOL received some raving reviews, while HEAVY LOAD have not been getting the best reviews. No bad reviews were written though, but nobody was very excited about HEAVY LOAD. The only negative remark I would like to make here is that there wasn't a natural flow in their show. Everything was a bit messy and slow, however musically their show worked out really well and actually I just loved seeing this band live at last. Was I the only one? I guess not, but I also read that their later shows (Sweden Rock, for example) worked out really great and I think that we just had the bad luck that this was their first concert in thirty-three years. Maybe it would have been much better and more structured, when they would have been playing at the 2019 edition. Well, actually, there is another Swedish band filling their shoes then, but more about that later on. Their stage show looked exactly like in the amazing videos on You Tube. When the band walks on stage, we see that the lights are working well now. Nothing can stop the invasion from these Swedish Vikings. The opener is a fast rocker, called "Heavy Metal Angels (In Metal And Leather)". Their sound is clear and the stage setting looks perfect. Of course the most important band members are the two Wahlquist brothers. There is Ragne on guitar and vocals and Styrbjorn on drums and vocals. Tonight they will play a good overview of what HEAVY LOAD has been all about throughout these years. All albums have been highlighted here tonight and I think that there's no discussion about the song choices, that this band has in mind for us. "Run With The Devil" and "Heavy Metal Heaven" really belong to the classics in my book. Ragne wears some kind of sailor hat with the text "The Guitar Is My Sword" on it. The virtuosity of these musicians can't be discussed either. Clearly, there are some very gifted players here on stage tonight. It has been forty years since their debut album "Full Speed At High Level" was released and the prices of an original pressing of this item are extremely high, if you can find yourself a copy. This album was quite an outstanding album, next to the EP and the other two albums that the band has released, just because the sound of the band is a bit different. I think, it's a nice surprise that they also played some stuff from it, next to "Caroline / Son Of The Northern Light". Another surprise occurs, when long term guitar player and singer Eddy Malm turns up to play some songs with the band. What a great addition. Like I mentioned before, the intervals between the songs are sometimes a bit too long. The technical problems that they also have, don't help much either and the natural flow is gone, because of that. I must state though, that I really liked what I heard so far. Once the problems are over and the band has started a new song, everything seems to be fine again. "Might For Right" and "Dark Nights" are on next. "Dark Nights" is also on the 'live' video that the band released in 1983. Don't look too close at the details, but I must say that what we are witnessing here tonight is getting very close to the stage setting on that video. Surely, the band members are thirty-five years older, but age doesn't matter here, in my point of view. Afterwards, the stage is being cleared for Ragne and his "Guitar Solo". For many people, this solo outing was perhaps a bit too long, but I didn't mind at all. I love these solo spots. It's old fashioned and they just belong to a live show, as far as I'm concerned. "The King" continues and the band is really giving all they've got. There is one more moment, which gave me the chills and that’s when they dedicated one of their songs to the long term and deceased HEAVY LOAD fan, Peter Hendrikx, from Belgium. It comes when you don't expect it. It happened in the heat of the moment and still it gives me a big lump in my throat. What a beautiful moment. Peter would have loved it and I'm sure that he had a big smile on his face from up above. We will miss you, dear Peter, but you'll always be in our hearts forever. After that, there is a guitar change and they go on with "Roar Of The North" and "Lionheart". To me, the magic remains and I realize that this is going to be a once in a lifetime experience, no matter what other people may think about this performance tonight. I will keep in mind their beautiful album artwork and how great their music sounded on their records. "Walhalla Warriors" and "Saturday Night" are next and again the question rises why we never saw this band in the eighties and why do we have to wait for 2018 to finally see their show? "Daybreak Ecstasy" is another classic in my book and after "I'm Alive", it's time for drummer Styrbjorn to go nutz during his drum solo. Then we have arrived to the closure of this great gig with "Heathens From The North" and "Singing Swords" (remember the Greek fanzine with the same name??!!). Personally, I think this gig really felt like magic. And once again, I must state that the flow between the songs could have been much better. However, the songs were bloody brilliant and I am very happy to finally have seen this band live after all these years. HEAVY LOAD returns for a well-deserved encore and "Stronger Than Evil", which is the title track of their 1983 released album, that was re-released on CD with lots of bonus material, is a great choice for a glorious comeback on stage. The B-side of the single "Take Me Away" is their final song, which is "Trespasser". Such a nice surprise! I feel very satisfied after this show and HEAVY LOAD did a great job. Next time, the band will be a well-oiled machine. Everything was a bit rusty and slow at times, but I don't give a damn. I've had a great time listening and seeing these very gifted musicians. The audience also seemed to have loved it all, because the band has got to return for one more song. The songs, they have studied for tonight, have all been played, so we hear opener "Heavy Metal Angels (In Metal And Leather)" one more time. Then the lights go on and the counter jumped back to a countdown of twelve months.
These two days have gone by very fast. I must admit, that the bill was really excellent and like always the atmosphere was superb. It's always great to hook up with my metal family. I heard some negative critics about the high ticket prices for next year, but I guess this is inevitable. The bill for next year looks very exciting and more than excellent. Let's go through the names for the twenty-second edition of Keep It true 2019: IDLE HANDS, WITHERFALL, JUGGERNAUT, SOLSTICE, TRAVELER, SABIRE, SORTILEGE, SACRED RITE, CITIES, CULPRIT, ANTHEM, MIDNIGHT, TEXAS METAL LEGION. SATAN, LEATHERWOLF, ARIA, AGENT STEEL, A TRIBUTE TO MARK SHELTON and CANDLEMASS. Some of these aforementioned bands have never been in Europe or set foot on the continent, so I'd like to call this a very successful bill. In closing, we would like to thank Oliver and Tarek and their crew, all volunteers who helped and worked their asses of for us. The record dealers at the metal market and of course my dear metal family, especially from Holland and Belgium, and above all Gerrie and Eddy and Christine for making this weekend one helluva edition of Keep It True 2018. See you all next time in 2019 . Be there or be square! Metal Forever. \m/ \m
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/January 2019
*Photos copyright by: Rita van Poorten [www.metalmaidens.com]