Near the end of April, we're counting the days before we will leave to the Keep It True Festival again. Actually, this already starts, when we drive back home on Sunday right after this amazing festival. We already know the first names for next years' edition and while driving the six hundred kilometers back to our hometown, we reminisce about the bands we've seen, the people who were there and the ones we we've missed this time and of course the bands, that we get to see next year. The first names are truly beyond belief and I think that a lot of people will be very happy about it and we will probably never ever see those bands anymore after this one time. That's the strength of this festival, year after year. No matter what names are on the bill, you will always get to see a band that you won't get to see anywhere else in the world, simply because this is a once in a lifetime experience. And only the elite of the heavy metal scene will gather again on Friday and Saturday in Lauda-Konigshofen. This year our hotel is in Bad Mergentheim. It's a resort hotel, not too far away from the festival. Once again, this review is just a personal view of the festival and all the bands that played there, what I read on the internet and may possibly need a comment from my side and perhaps some background information about the bands. You may not always agree with my opinion, but this is what my thoughts are and what I feel. And there is enough to talk about, because there was a lot of stuff happening on this edition. It's the twenty-second edition of Keep It True and we're ready for some serious heavy metal, so let's rock it out LOUD, folks \m/
When the alarm bells go off, an hour later than usual, I know that there is something special going on. I never get up that late. I don't have to go to work, but we have a long journey ahead of us, before we will reach our destination after six hundred kilometers. Our first stop is at the petrol station a few meters before the German border, where we will meet up with our good friend Gerrie from Vaals. We have a short chat and then we're on our way. As usual, we have the same preferences of 'must see' bands and 'must buy' CD's, etc. etc. and that is why our friendship is so special. Halfway through our trip, it's time for a quick lunch and much more coffee. The journey went very smoothly and we already agreed to meet up for dinner later at the hotel. Our Belgian friends Eddy and Christine will also join us there. After some searching for the hotel, we finally checked in and about thirty minutes later Eddy and Christine arrived there as well. More memories were being shared and plans have been created for the next couple days. As always, this is one of the most pleasant and relaxed evenings. Of course the upcoming festival days are great as well, but hanging out with some of our most valuable friends really means a lot to us. And there are not that many opportunities to get together and have so much fun. Tomorrow the real festival will take off and we'll be very busy. During the months of preparation for the festival, we already noticed some cool new names appearing on the bill, but unfortunately British outfit RITUAL didn't make it, which is such a shame! And also SAVAGE MASTER cancelled, because they have a tour coming up in the USA. If you have been invited to play at Keep It True, I'd say go for it, no matter what happens, but that's my opinion. And a couple of weeks before the festival, we heard about the cancellation of LEATHERWOLF. That was really a huge disappointment, but Oliver always knows how to bend this back to a positive thing with the announcement that VICIOUS RUMORS would take over their spot on the bill. Away with the dark clouds and let the sun shine again. And there was this story going on about a band called REVELATION 23, with John Cyriis of AGENT STEEL as front man. That sounds like a marvelous surprise. Later on, the band decided to call themself AGENT STEEL and the name on the bill changed. Things were getting better and better and the bill looks very cool. What can go wrong now?!? Do you have a moment and read on for all the information about what still is and will always be the best underground heavy metal festival in the whole freaking world, Keep It True??
Friday, April 26th, 2019
KEEP IT TRUE XXII: Day 1
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany
The metal market is always a great place to hang out. And this time it's the place to be before the doors will actually open. Usually, we are always in a hurry to get in quickly to buy the DVD of the previous festival and hurry up the stairs to meet with Bart Gabriel. But there is no DVD release anymore, which I think is a damn shame. And there you have it. If I have to mention one negative thing about Keep It True, it would be the decision to quit with the DVD releases. Why? I guess it was not cost-effective anymore. The first hour we're constantly bumping into a lot of familiar faces and when you think you have plenty of time before the first band climb the stage, you're ever so wrong. There's only ten minutes left to bring our purchases to the car and find a place in front of the stage. Once we have the wristbands and have checked in, things go pretty smoothly and there is also time left to shake hands and say hello to some of our friends and acquaintances....
SABIRE is the first name on the bill today, and they are already a very tasteful opener in my opinion. It's like they turned back time thirty-five years or someting and put WASP on stage. Front man Scarlett Monastyrski doesn't only look like Blackie in in his heydays, he also just sounds like him. The album is still on the huge pile of CD's that we have to listen to, but by judging this great show, it won't be long until we give it a few spins. The story behind the band is rather something, because they started out as a band in Canada. When frontman Scarlett moved from Canada to Australia, he had to start from scratch right there. Now it seems that they have found their place and being the opener here at Keep It True is a fantastic opportunity, in my opinion. They start off with "One For The Road" and there is a good interaction with the audience, which makes things even better. They definitely sound energetic and they give it the full hundred percent. SABIRE might be the openers but they act like as if they are headlining. Every metal fan they are able to reach in their fan base is another one and that's the true spirit. "Rip You To Shreds" does exactly what you expect from a song with a title like that. The moves of Scarlett are right in the middle between Paul Stanley and Blackie Lawless (1984 era) and it matches very well with the metal sound that the band plays. "Cut Me Down" and "Black Widow" follows next and obviously, the band also tries out some new material today, like "Rip You To Shreds" and "Cut Me Down" and later on "Don't Talk To Me" and "I'm A Rock". Before that, they also pay tribute to one of the most well-known bands from Down Under, besides AC/DC, I'm talking about ROSE TATTOO of course. The very suitable "Bad Boy For Love" keeps the public focused a lot for sure. Better be safe than sorry later, they must have thought. They don't have to worry though, because the first impression is just fine. "Daemons Calling" and 'Don't Talk To Me" are next on list. And the public is eating out of their hands. It must be ultra-cool to come over all the way from Australia and see the audience having a good time, even at such an early time of day. "Slaves" To The Whip” from the "Gates Ajar" CD is followed by a new track, called "I'm A Rock". The new songs definitely sound very promising. The band closes with "Make Me Shiver" and "Rise To The Top" and by then, they already earned a lot of respect from the KIT audience. The fans are focused right away and it's very crowded in front of the stage. I think, the organization has made an excellent choice to opt for this Australian band. SABIRE surprised us in a very pleasant way and they are real winners in my book!
TRAVELER is next on the list. I only know the band by name, but never had the pleasure of hearing their music until now. The band has an old familiar face in their line-up though. Jean-Pierre Abboud will play on the KIT-stage for the third time in his career and also for the third time with another band. After BORROWED TIME and GATEKEEPER, it's time for his new outfit, called TRAVELER to surprise the KIT audience and present their new self-titled debut album live. I must admit, that I liked the music of TRAVELER more than his other two bands. This is heavy metal in its purest form and they start in an impressive way with "Behind The Iron". The pretty much straight forward and no-nonsense approach of the band will tell you, that these guys have come to rock the crowd, no matter what it takes. They will go for the full hundred percent right away, which is exactly what these guys from Canada are doing. "Street Machine" and "Mindless Maze" follow quickly and the massive rock song "Speed Queen" proves that the crowd likes what they are hearing. Every time that Jean-Pierre approaches the audience, he knows to reach them quite easily. This has probably something to do with the fact that he's also a big fan of the music that he's performing here today. He also shows up at almost every other show played here today and tomorrow and sings along to nearly every song. This guy breaths heavy metal and this feeling reflects to his fans pretty easily. "Up To You" and "Fallen Heroes" are on next and TRAVELER seems to be having a good time on stage as well. They know that they have won the race and as a crowd-pleaser, they crank out the IRON MAIDEN classic "Be Quick Or Be Dead" and are being helped out by the fans, who are singing along to all the lyrics. There is only one song still missing here, called "Starbreaker", which is the final song of today. After seeing three shows with this charismatic front man, my conclusion is that this show was certainly the best out of three. I wonder, which band he will be fronting next year's? I'm sure, he will be back soon, maybe not next year but definately somewhere in the very near future. If you're into an honest and very true metal band, then TRAVELER has been a very nice surprise for you indeed.
JUGGERNAUT is next and this band is a special treat for every Texas metal fan out there. Count me in, because this is one of those bands for which you simply must come to Keep It True. You don't see that many on the bill of other metal festivals. They have just released a boxset with their two albums compiled in here, which is a must have for all fans of the band. They closed their set with a cover song today. A lot of cool things actually happened on stage, which may raise some eye-brows, so stick with me if you want to know. "The Impaler" starts off and from there on, the magic happened. JUGGERNAUT's sound is very technical and easily stands above the average metal band, as far as I'm concerned. Most of these Texas metal bands have something special, which make them rise high above the rest and there's more. Whether it's the singer with a high-pitched voice or the double leads of a gifted guitar player but most of the time it's even a combination of both. "Slow Death" is the second song for today and with former SA SLAYER member Bob Catlin in their ranks, the band has reached a high cult level, in my eyes. "Vengeance" and "Wake Island" are next and then something strange will happen during the set of JUGGERNAUT. Singer Harlan Glenn tells us that his father loved Germany and he would have loved to be here today. He gets a big stone beer tankard and tells the audience that this is the ash of his father, when he pours it over the stage. A rather morbid deed, but by judging from the ashes or dust that I've seen, the story could very well be true. "Rains Of Death" follows next and we are a weird experience richer. I'm going to state it again, there are things happening at KIT that you will only experience here. A moment like this is another fine example. "In The Blood Of Virgins" continues, which is especially for those, who dig the Metal Massacre compilation albums. This song was on the "Metal Massacre 7" edition. "No Prisoners" is next and especially Bob Catlin and singer Harlan impress a lot with their stage appearance this afternoon. The music of JUGGERNAUT is of an outstanding high quality and the thrashy song structures are being put back to a minimum and the progressive parts are a bit more upfront in the mix now. After "Cast The First Stones" and "Blizzards", Harlan pulls a knife, because it's time to "Cut Throat". It's just that little bit of extra, that turns their show into something really special for me. "All Hallow's Eve" is next up and clearly, the band closes their set with a surprising cover of the SEX PISTOLS classic "Holidays In the Sun". This is absolutely not metal and in the late seventies they were one of those bands, that either you loved or hated very much. And because of their controversial behavior, I belonged to the first category. Their lyrics had that rebellious touch and I liked that very much. I bought the album and now forty years or so later, we see a Texas metal band cover one of their songs. And the audience liked it as well. What a nice surprise at the end of this amazing gig. I do hope, that it doesn't take long before we will see these guys back in Europe again. Don't forget to check out their recent CD box, because only then you will know how great they really sound.
The band CITIES has a story with a short history. Me and my friend Gerrie are always exchanging band names, that we really would like to see here. At one time, I mentioned the name of CITIES and Gerrie showed me his goosebumps, because he had just been thinking about them that very moment. It's 2014, when Sal Italiano (Sal Mayn) and ANVIL parted ways. The road was clear for a CITIES reunion now. One year later, original drummer A.J. Pero (TWISTED SISTER fame) died far too young. But we both kept hoping for that reunion here at KIT. It's 2019, when the band was finally added to the bill. That one album "Annihilation Absolute" from 1986 made a lot of fans longing for this very moment. It's a shame that A.J. Pero couldn't be here anymore, as he would have loved this ambiance and all the fans singing along side by side to these songs. After the intro, the show starts with 'In The Still Of The Night", the first song of the full-length edition of "Annihilation Absolute", which also got on the "New York Metal 1984" compilation. The entire album will be played here today as a matter of fact, including a nice surprise somewhere in the middle of the show. These songs alone will probably do the trick too, I guess. The band continues with "Stop The Race" and "Fight For Your Life". Sal is surely the winner here with this reunion show. When playing with ANVIL he always came in second place, but he sure has got a good reputation and a very glorious past with this band and today he is the master of the game and he plays that role pretty well. "Not Alone In The Dark" and "Cruel Sea" are next and once again that feeling comes over me and I ask myself why they never got the recognition they deserved so much, except for a few die-hard fans of course. Their music contains melody and variation and they provide a very solid show. You could tell that the band members were experienced. Sal is the man on bass and the controller of the flow. He sets out the lines and keeps things going, a role that he manages to do very well without becoming a true control freak. "Innocent Victim" is next and then it's time for a cover song. If I had to take a guess of what the band would be playing tonight, I'd go for a TWISTED SISTER song in honor to A.J. Pero. Obviously, tonight's show is one big tribute to this great man and therefore the band will pay tribute to another heavy metal hero. And in honor to Ronnie James Dio, the band plays "Heaven And Hell" of BLACK SABBATH, which is not a such bad choice either. It may not be the longest version of this anthem, but it sure sounded killer. Songs like that are very recognizable and a good opportunity to test your vocal skills. The drummer introduces the crowd to "Shades Of Black" after that, which is another great track from that aforementioned album. It might be a shame that a band of this caliber only comes over to Europe for one gig of forty-five minutes, but it has been very much worth the wait. CITIES will close their set with "Deceiver" and the amazing "Burn Forever". I really hope they will get back soon. In closing, I would like to quote the lyrics of a legendary heavy metal band: 'CITIES were on fire with rock and roll'. And another nice surprise is coming next.....
ANTHEM is already a winner in my book, even without playing one single note. You may or may not know that I'm a huge fan of Japanese metal bands from the eighties. Back in those days, Japanese metal was very hard to find in Holland and when you did get hold on an import album, it was rather expensive. However, they surprised me every time with their high sound quality, let alone, the bonus tracks and all the other extras. Everything was so very well taken care of. ANTHEM was of course being considered as one of the bigger names in the scene, but also the more unknown gods sounded like heaven to me. I've always looked much further than the average bands like for example LOUDNESS and BOW WOW, however the limited availability prevented me many times of finding all the items that I would like to have in my collection. ANTHEM even got connected with Graham Bonnet in the year 2000 for a short cooperation. Graham also knows that high quality doesn't have any borders and if you are able to work with him, you must be quite good, I think. The band even toured in the US, where they played as headliners, supported by RACER X and COMMANDER. Somehow, they never got to play in Europe, until today. Nowadays, the Japanese metal scene is still very active and of a very high quality, but the borders of hard rock and heavy metal have been pushed back. Like in Europe and the USA, there are a lot of death and thrash metal bands in Japan these days as well and you have to listen very carefully to find the 'real' gems. ANTHEM is a very good choice to play at Keep It True and of course we already witnessed METALUCIFER here on stage in 2011. Next year will be like heaven on earth for all Japanese metal adepts with METALUCIFER (yes, they are back!), SABBAT and GENOCIDE, but I think that many fans will already see a memorable gig today with this live show. The set contains a nice overview of the long-spanning career of the band. I guess, everybody was very pleased and the old and newer stuff mixes up nicely in this full hour. Clearly, right from the opener "Bound To Break", this is going to be a very special show, where many people will talk about for a long time to come. The band sounds very tight and guitar wizard Akio Shimizu knows to impress from the first notes on. The preciseness, the band plays their high class material, could only be from a Japanese band. Their latest release "Nucleus" is well represented here today too, which is good move. The band signed a deal with Nuclear Blast and they released this (re-recorded with English lyrics) album in Europe long before the festival took place. The people know these songs by heart and there was even a second bonus live CD included, recorded live at the famous Club Citta in 2018, performing the old classics. The album was dedicated to Chris Tsangarides and I think that a lot of fans have this item in their collection right now. A very good marketing strategy, but to be honest with you, they actually don't really need that because no matter what they would have played, their high quality music will make them a big winner anyway. "Empty Eyes" follows next and then there is a longer part in which the band takes back to the "Nucleus" album with "Immortal Bind", "Overload" and "Black Empire", the first three songs from the album but in a slightly different order. If they would have played these songs with the lyrics pronounced backwards, it would have sounded brilliant as well. ANTHEM looks and plays like a well-oiled machine. No long intervals or talks between the songs, but just an impressive set of eleven songs. The next song "Gypsy Ways (Win, Lose Or Draw)" is taken from the 1988 album with the same title, which is thirty plus years ago, but the song still stands tall. "Awake" on the other hand is from the "Nucleus" release again and "Hunting Time" brings you back to 1989, when they released an album with the same title. "Venom Strike" is another newbie and then we have arrived at the last two songs of today. My conclusion is that ANTHEM positively surprised many metal fans here today. When you are that high on the bill of Keep It True, the crowd may have certain expectations, but this show has gone much further than that. "Headstrong" catapults you back in time to the "Bound To Break" album from 1987. I count myself lucky to be able to see the band here and there are still a lot of albums, that I need to add to my collection, but prove is given that ANTHEM really steals the show here today. Please comeback soon. Oh, I almost forgot: they put the proverbial 'cherry on this very tasty cake' with the final song "Wild Anthem", taken from their debut album "Anthem" in 1985. A full hour of Japanese high class metal is definitely not enough as far as I'm concerned, but for now it will have to do. Just think, that the band only came to Germany to play a sixty minutes show on a Friday night and on Sunday they were back again in Japan... These weird things can only happen at KIT, don't you forget it!
But there is more going on with a certain band at KIT and I don't consider myself a gossip journalist or whatever, because otherwise I could write a book about it. The next band has first been announced as REVELATION 23, featuring mister John Cyriis. That already gained my interest. Later on, we found out that name was changed into AGENT STEEL. There are a lot of people, who still want to relive the old days with John Cyriis and there's nothing wrong with that. This band would feature a bunch of young Dutch musicians, which makes it very cool for us as Dutchies. Once, the actual show is getting closer and closer, the rumor became stronger that John was in a huge traffic jam. That may sound like bad luck and shit happens even at KIT, believe it or not. But things got worse and the stories became weirder and stranger by the minute. The stage set is build up and there are a few band members on stage taking care of the sound check. They even chat a bit with the public, but obviously they are a bit nervous. What is happening here? The band is ready, but John is not there. The delay is very long now and I decide to let my beard grow until further notice. Musicians come and go and after half an hour, the public is getting restless. Slowly, the musicians disappear from the stage as well. Then the announcement comes in, that John is in a traffic jam and it will take a little more time, before he will get on stage. The public starts to whistle. They shout for ARIA, who is next on the bill. Rumor has it, that John was already at the hall, but he wasn't ready and still had doubts whether he would do the show or not. All rumors put aside, I have huge respect for the band members, who were willing to do the show, while the man was not eager to do the honors. These guys weren't paid one single penny and they worked their asses off to learn all the songs for the show. In some cases, they only had two or three days to make it happen. Anyway, after one hour and a half, when everybody thought that the AGENT STEEL show would not take place anymore, the news came in, that John has arrived and the band was ready to play. Like a raging storm the band takes the stage and starts to play "Unstoppable Force". John is wearing a woolen hat and dark sun glasses. The band plays very tight and then "Taken By Force" is on next. The screams are high, but my conclusion is that John is not sounding like in his heydays anymore. "Rager" is up next and the band tries to save the day with a very powerful set. The people have come to see Mr. Cyriis shine, although this is not going to happen tonight, no matter how hard he tried. "Bleed For The Godz" gets the full support from the KIT choir, who still dig the music of AGENT STEEL very much. However, a lot of fans don't know if they have to be glad to see the band finally play after this huge delay and as far as I'm concerned it's a bit disappointing. I know, this won't be like for example in Eindhoven at het Karregat in 1986. John has never been of this earth, but it was definitely great to hear all these old classics again. "Guilty As Charged" continues now. Clearly, John is on stage tonight, but I think he would rather be in his hotel room. His high and very powerful vocals, for which he was well-known for in the early days, don't deliver the goods anymore, but his backing band gives the full two hundred percent. One more time the flame hits the ceiling, when the band starts "Agents Of Steel". I hear high screams in the crowd and for a moment there is a smile on John's face and on the faces of the people in the crowd. Right after that though, the band leaves the stage and the adventure is over, before it even started. Six songs, worthy of about half an hour of AGENT STEEL fame is all that we get. It makes a lot of fans very upset. What a bummer. After the show, John comes into the hall and starts a signing session all by himself. He signs all the stuff that the fans brought along for a full hour and then he disappears in the dark night, too. What happened here tonight, doesn't mean the end of AGENT STEEL, but I wonder if he will ever step one foot on stage again. It's a few months later, when I check the internet and apparently the band will be playing at the Up The Hammers festival in 2020. Good luck! I think, I will watch the internet pretty closely, when the time is there. Both thumbs up for the band members of AGENT STEEL!! I do believe, that it's not their fault that this show became one big mess. To John Cyriis, I would like to say one thing: 'Get Your Shit Together', man!
The time schedule is completely ruined now and slowly everybody has come to their senses, before ARIA will hit the stage. This Russian band has got a lot of fans in the underground scene. I must admit, that I was not familiar with the band at all and did not know what to expect. ARIA was a blank page in my book. I noticed many fans walking around with shirts with the band logo on it, which made me even more curious to see their show. And I must admit that the band sounded quite good. In their home country, they play at very big venues and perhaps even stadiums, so this festival must be something special for them. On the other hand, they've probably experienced crowds like this before. When I look at the long list of official releases they must be rather huge in Russia, which explains their tight sound. The songs are catchy yet still quite heavy and I hear a lot of influences of the early IRON MAIDEN sound. Both thumbs go up for their rather solid show. Obviously, music unites and I think that these guys made a lot of new friends this weekend. The set list of ARIA is "Gonka Za Slavoy", 'Raskachayem Etot Mir", "Era Lucifera", "Obman", "Kolizey', "Antichrist", "Na Sluzhbe Sili Zla", "Torero", "Kreschenye Ognyom", "Shtil" and "Noch Koroche Dnya". The band also does two encores tonight. They are "Geroy Asfalta" and "Ulitsa Roz", followed by the outro of "Mania Velichia". The audience gives the band a standing ovation and that’s exactly what they deserve. Huge in Russia and I know that they deserve a big audience in Europe, too. Hopefully, we didn't let them down.
Finally, it's time for a long tribute to Mark Shelton, the Godfather of epic metal and MANILLA ROAD in particular. The two hour plus set of twenty-four songs is divided into different parts and several guest musicians will appear throughout the show. Mind you, this is definitely not a cover band, this is MANILLA ROAD on stage but without Mark 'The Shark' Shelton. Brian 'Hellroadie' Patrick is the master of ceremony today and when he invites Mark's mother on stage, you could hear a pin drop. This lady came over especially to thank the KIT audience for all their support towards Mark over the years. This makes you very humble and lost for words. Anyway, then it's time for some music. The band starts off with one of my faves "Necropolis" and from there on, you're witnessing a 'best of' set compiled with songs that you've always wanted to hear, played in different settings by various musicans. This is like a wet dream for every die-hard MANILLA ROAD fan. "The Riddle Master" is next up and the chorus is excellent stuff for the crowd to sing along to. I bet, that Mark would be proud of them, when listening from high up above. I'd say, mission accomplished. From there on, the MANILLA ROAD jukebox goes on with excellent versions of "The Veils Of Negative Existence", "Queen Of The Black Coast" and one of the songs that will keep every fan united, which is called "Metal". You just don't know to be happy or feel sad, because the maestro himself isn't on stage anymore. I guess, these mixed feelings are part of the mindset of many people, who are here tonight. Unfortunately, we won't be staying until the very end. We could get a lift back to our hotel, which made us decide to leave a bit earlier. In the meantime, we also enjoyed a great version of "Mystification", "Dragon Star" and "The Ninth Wave". Then I'd like to inform you about a few things. First of all, at the same time, people from all over the world are able to stream this spectacular MANILLA ROAD tribute show live on the internet. Many fans asked for it and their wishes have been granted. And the fans have been treated to something special here tonight. Besides the members of MANILLA ROAD, the band also gets help from some very exclusive guest appearances, which brings me to the second thing. Here's a short introduction to these special guests: Jarvis Leatherby (NIGHT DEMON), Jake Rogers (VISIGOTH), Alexx Stahl (BONFIRE, ROXXCALIBUR), Kalli Coldsmith (ROXXCALIBUR), Deathmaster (DOOMSWORD), Gianluca Silvi (BATTLE RAM), Marta Gabriël (CRYSTAL VIPER) and Leif Edling (CANDLEMASS, KRUX, DOOMSDAY KINGDOM, AVATARIUM). And the last one will probably cause mixed feelings tonight, because halfway through, Leif has to announce that his CANDLEMASS colleagues are not able to make it to the festival tomorrow, because of a strike. The organization has got another huge problem to deal with. How would they solve that without a proper headlining band on the second day? First, the problems with John Cyriis and AGENT STEEL and now CANDLEMASS will let Oliver and Tarek down for a second time. In the meantime, the show goes on with "Into The Court Of Chaos" and "The Prophecy". Sometimes, Randy Fox plays drums and keyboards at the same time. It's amazing to see the passion of all those musicians. I think, they know that they will probably never play these songs again, which is a really odd feeling. Somewhere in between the set, the drums are changed, because grandmaster Neudi will also play a part on this tribute evening. I still remember though, that we watched a small part of that with "Flaming Metal Systems", "Masque Of Red Death", "Death By The Hammer", "Hammer Of The Witches" and "Witches Brew", which is the last song that we heard, before leaving to our hotel. The final part of the set (that we missed) is "Road Of Kings", "Divine Victim", "The Fires Of Mars", "Open The Gates", "Astronomica", "The Ram", "Crystal Logic", 'Dreams Of Eschaton" and the main message of tonight "Heavy Metal To The World", to round it all off. Mark has been an inspiration for many people and he was far ahead of his time. He was one of a kind and a true master in telling epic tales and transforming them to amazing songs. Thanks for all those magical moments, Mark. This tribute show was very honest and worthy and a moment that the fans of MANILLA ROAD will never forget. Hopefully, someone will decide that this show will also see the light of day on CD and DVD. Maybe not now, but maybe after five or ten years maybe. A new day of heavy metal will be waiting after this and this was only just the beginning. On our way to the hotel, there was one thing spinning through our head the whole time. How the h**l will Oliver and Tarek solve the problem, now CANDLEMASS has cancelled as headliners? Will they have a replacement on such short notice? Or are we getting one band short on the bill? We will see it tomorrow.
Saturday, April 27th, 2019
KEEP IT TRUE XXII: Day 2
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Konigshofen, Germany
Breakfast is always a good start of the day and with a fresh mind we are heading to Lauda for the second day of the festival. Yesterday has been pretty hectic at several occasions. We waited far too long for AGENT STEEL, who only played half an hour and while watching the MANILLA ROAD tribute show, the announcement came that the headliners on Saturday, CANDLEMASS, pulled out because of a strike. Anyway, we have restarted our batteries and we are ready for a new day with some unknown bands (at least for me!) and a few that easily make up for that. We also have more time to visit the metal market and the first band on the bill today is IDLE HANDS. During breakfast we already discussed two bands on the bill today and they are one of them. Together with WITHERFALL, we wondered if these bands are Keep It True proof? The final verdict is quite difficult, it's like in so many cases, just a matter of taste.
IDLE HANDS gets a lot of support, when they start off with "Nightfall", "Blade And The Will", "Time Crushes All" and "I Feel Nothing". The young musicians work hard, but I'm afraid that last title says it all. Despite all good intentions, I feel nothing. They mix too many different styles and their sound is too far away from heavy metal. I don't say that they are bad, but it simply didn't get me. "Jackie" is in next, followed by "Give Me To The Night" and "Can You Hear The Rain'. The fans in the front rows are having a good time, but I decide to take a few steps back. I know, that it is difficult to have a good opinion after only forty-five minutes and the first impression is always the best, but I don't really believe that under different circumstances I will become a devoted fan of the band. "Cosmic Overdrive" and "A Single Solemn Rose" follow next and I think that the band is at the right track by judging from the good reactions in the audience. They close their show with "By Way Of Kingdom', "Don't Waste Your Time" and "Dragon, Why Do You Cry". I rest my case for now. It was nice to see them, but I have nothing more to say.
SACRED RITE is high on my 'must see' list and I was pretty amazed to see their name appear on the bill. I could write a book about the Hawaiian metal scene from the eighties. There was a lot happening over there. Think about VIXEN, ALOHA and HAWAII, but also SACRED RITE definitely belongs to the highlights of the Hawaiian metal scene in my book. It's the rough diamond from this scene, so to speak and the band that everybody forgot to mention. Today that would change forever, because all of the other bands never showed their faces in Europe, except for VIXEN and Kim LaChance who showed up at Headbangers Open Air in Germany in 2012. This is the real deal, including all the original members, except for drummer Kevin Lum, who passed away in 2002. When the band starts off with "Wings of Pegasus", I'm already in the front rows enjoying their great sound. The band will mainly focus on their debut album "Sacred Rite" tonight and they play four out of seven songs from this album, which is about half their set. "I've Seen The Wizard" is taken from the band's earliest days from their third album "Is Nothing Sacred", which was released only two years after their debut album. The great guitar solos, songs, excellent vibe and the contact with the audience, everything seems to be alright. "Eleanor Rigby" is the SACRED RITE make-over of the classic BEATLES song and certainly a point of recognition for those who don't know SACRED RITE that well. Well, they make a first class impression on me for sure and I still don't understand why they didn't visit Europe already thirty years ago? I guess, the fact that they were quite isolated and the high costs of flying over to Europe might have got something to do with that. Today, I see a band that is in top-notch shape and they are surely one of the big surprises at this festival. "1812: The Battle" is next, which is followed by "The Blade" and "Resurrection". In this last song, they also introduce the band on stage. In my opinion, the band have been programmed on the bill much too low, but who am I? I really hope, that they will return one day for some longer shows and also visit Holland. They carry on with "Teaser" and finally they close their magnificent show with two oldies from their first album, namely "Executioner" and "Revelation". We really couldn't wish for a better closure. If it was up to me, they could have played a couple of more songs after that, but the schedule is tight and WITHERFALL is about to enter the stage. It will be difficult to forget this amazing gig of SACRED RITE, but I'm glad I was part of this wonderful experience.
WITHERFALL is quite unknown to me and like IDLE HANDS, I witnessed this gig totally blank. The band consists of former WHITE WIZZARD members and people, who also play in renewed bands like ICED EARTH (guitar player Jake Dreyer) and SANCTUARY (vocalist Joseph Michael), which is a good start. To start with the conclusion is perhaps a bit odd in a way, but I liked what I heard, although the SANCTUARY influences are not far away, except that it has a lot more heavy riffs and vocal screams. I liked their sound better than IDLE HANDS in a way. The bands kicks off with "Portrait", followed by a song, called "Moment Of Silence". The chemistry between the members is there, which reflects to the public. The band plays like a well-oiled machine and "End Of Time" is the very first song this band ever released. "Ode To Despair" and "Shadows" follow thereafter and the high screams of Joseph will remind you of SANCTUARY in a way, so it's not strange at all that Joseph also sings in this band. "Vintage" is dedicated to Mark Shelton (MANILLA ROAD), Warrel Dane (SANCTUARY, NEVERMORE) and their drummer (2013 - 2016), Adam Sagan. This worthy tribute song is followed by their last one, which is a true statement and called "Nobody Sleeps Here...". I definitely don't want to go to sleep, because their music easily keeps me awake and the band really impressed me today. I think, that WITHERFALL will have a very fruitful career ahead of them, because this is high quality metal with some interesting sidesteps that makes their music exciting to listen to.
The epic doom metal band SOLSTICE is next on the bill and their sound is being considered as 'real' cult for many metal heads. When they start off their show, it's already very crowded in front of the stage. Their set consists of five lengthy tracks, which have some extended instrumental parts. Some people really love their doomy soundscapes, while others don't. It's just a matter of taste. Their epic tales are definitely high class material and their comeback album "White Horse Hill" is a good example of what the band is capable of. They took the liberty of playing two songs from this brand new album, which could be a risk but in this case it's a safe choice. With "The Sleeping Tyrant" the band goes more back in time, twenty-one years, to be exactly. It's taken from the "New Dark Age" album and according to the positive reactions, it is a very good choice. "Death's Crown Is Victory" is another lengthy epic tale, which is dedicated to their fallen brothers Mark 'The Shark' Shelton (MANILA ROAD) and Mike Scaccia (RIGOR MORTIS). This is a very worthy tribute for two heroes, who have been on these stages, too. They close their set with another lengthy doomy rendition, called "Cimerian Codex", which is also from the "New Dark Age" album. Jake Rogers (VISIGOTH) joins the band for some guest vocals. He was here yesterday for the MANILA ROAD tribute show. He's dressed up in a UNIVERSE t-shirt now and welcomed by a very hungry crowd. What a stunning show by those Brits, who could easily fill double the time that they received today. Unfortunately, the game is over and we're heading towards something that I've been looking forward to for such a long time....
Many times, I have hoped for a US Metal tribute show at Keep It True, the way they put down a NWOBHM tribute show in the past. This never happened though. But now something in my wildest imagination is about to happen and will finally become reality. The band is presented as the TEXAS METAL LEGION, a band with three singers, providing a collection of true Texas metal anthems. The third singer will join later in the set. We already saw Harlan Glenn perform with his own outfit JUGGERNAUT on the first day of this festival. The missing link here tonight is James Rivera (HELLSTAR), who did perform with the TEXAS METAL LEGION during their gig in homeland Texas. People, who know me a bit better by now, know that I'm a huge fan of the Texas metal scene, so this will be the holy grail in my book. The band consists of members of KARION, WATCHTOWER, MILITIA, JUGGERNAUT and S.A. SLAYER. These names will make every devoted Texas metal head's flesh crawl. They surprised everyone by opening with "Dr. Phibes", a cover by ANGEL WITCH. I think, I don't need to add any comments here. Texas Metal legends cranking out this NWOBHM anthem, feels like heaven on earth for me. After this, it's time for a live jukebox moment for every Texas metal head, starting with one of my personal favorite songs by S.A. SLAYER, called "Prepare To Die". Anything can happen after this. Jason McMaster looks like time stood still and he still has got that amazing high-pitched voice and jumps around like he's being chased by a bunch of wild kangaroos. I'm lost for words about the amazing guitar solos tonight, provided by Art Villareal and Bob Catlin. And this is only just the beginning, because right after that, there is a second S.A. SLAYER song, called "Final Holocaust". The songs are presented in a very heavy way and there is no doubt about it that this show will stay in my mind forever. Mike Soliz (MILITIA) is one of the most beloved Texas metal screamers and he performs a flawless version of the KARION songs "Panzer" and "We Are The Law". KARION has been on stage here several years ago and they can be very proud, that their songs were performed so well here tonight. Then Jason gets on stage again for a two song WATCHTOWER part. What can you say, when he performs "Tyrants In Distress" and "Meltdown"? This is really a musical masturbation at a very high level. The songs are being performed with so much class and such an enthusiasm and I feel there is a constant smile on my face. This is the real deal. This is why I travel for six hours to Keep It True every year. The excitement that I feel is not strange at all. The music by these Texas metal bands is sometimes extremely complex to play, but these guys did the job with so much enthusiasm and craftsmanship and it shows that they have done this a thousand times before. It even gets better, because the songs of MILITIA aren't easy to play at all and Mike Soliz shows us a masterclass of high-pitched vocal parts during "Salem Square" and "Metal Axe". I'm really in heavy metal heaven now. Mike is one hell of a singer and this performance gives me goosebumps all over my body. As far as I'm concerned, this can go on for hours and hours. However, the final chapter is getting nearby with two S.A. SLAYER covers, in which both singers come in action. "Unholy Book" and “To Ride The Demon Out” are an amazing closure of a show, that I will never forget. This is headliner worthy material and I keep on asking myself why this band received such a low spot on the bill. But hey, I'm not a festival organizer and I'm only a die-hard metal fan, that is having the time of his life here. The very last song is a tribute to Germany with ACCEPT's "Breaker". The three singers carry massive flags on stage and they wave with them during this song, respectively there's a flag from Texas, a German flag and a Texas Metal Legion flag. They thank the audience for their support and after about fifty minutes it's all over. This heavy metal dream did come true tonight. I think, it's time for dinner now, just to give it a place in my heart. Outside the venue, the rain keeps pouring down from the sky, but I don't give a f*ck, because my mind is still with what just happened on stage.
The next band MIDNIGHT has played here already in 2013 and they aren't exactly my cup of tea. I figured I could miss a few songs of these hooded and masked metal warriors. Their heavy old school/black metal sound is a bit too extreme for my taste. So we decided to watch the first part and the last part and use the middle part as a dinner break in the rain. During the afternoon we saw already spotted some band members walking around disguised as always. When they hit the stage, it's like they fire a bunch of dynamite. The excitement, the power and the force they take the stage is overwhelming. Since their show in 2013 a lot has happened and they have gained a lot of fans in the meantime, which is good. They start with "Penetratal Ecstasy", "Poison Thrash" and "Black Rock 'N' Roll", which matches very well with their black caps/hoods and outfits. "Evil Like A Knife", "No Mercy For Mayhem" and "All Hail Hell" follow thereafter. Then we slowly walk towards our dinner, outside in the pouring rain. But also outside you can hear them play, especially when the doors open up every once in a while. We recognize songs like "Satanic Royalty", "Lust Filth And Sleaze", "Endless Slut" and "You Can't Stop Steel". When we get back inside the venue, they start "Who Gives A Fuck?", which is not a rhetoric question, by the way. Finally, the band plays "Unholy And Rotten" and they destroy all their instruments, except for the drums. What's left of their instruments, they throw into the audience or give to Jarvis Leatherby, who is standing on the side of the stage. MIDNIGHT gives a very dynamic and energetic show and shows the middle finger to those, who don't get it. Their no nonsense attitude is what I like and I think that a great part of the audience likes their music as well.
The next band is on my list of best gigs I have ever witnessed. Not in this line-up though and we have to go back for about eighteen long years. It's 2001, when CULPRIT, in their original line-up, performs an amazing show at Wacken Open Air in Germany. I will also never forget their kindness, when we hung out with the band at the backstage area. Today, it's almost twenty years later and all that is left of this remarkable band is Scott Earl on bass guitar. The music remains the same of course. Is the magic still there, like it was in 2001? This show simply can’t be topped, because it was so phenomenal at the time and it will be almost impossible to repeat that magic night at Wacken. It will be good though to hear all those classic songs from that magic album that got them in the spotlight in the first place. It's a shame that there never came a second album after that. Johnny DeVol plays in STONEBENDER now, Jeff L'Heureux made a terrific album with MISTRUST and Kjartan Kristoffersen ended up with T.K.O....after he left CULPRIT, the band where Scott also played bass guitar for a while. CULPRIT took the stage by storm with an amazing version of their classic anthem "Guilty As Charged". Scott jumps higher than he ever did before and he swings his bass guitar from one side of the stage to the other. This sounds great to me, the energy level on stage is extremely high and the sound is loud and heavy and quite clear. And their high octane fueled metal knows to keep the crowd's attention, when they crank out "Ice In The Back", "Steel To Blood" and "Same To You". The band has got a great sound and they prove to be very energetic and dynamic. "Widows" continues and after that, the maestro himself earns a solo spot. Scott Earl tortures his bass guitar and throws it all over the stage, making high jumps and letting his instrument cry, rumble and tumble from excitement. What an incredible moment! Who said, that bass solos aren't anything special? Well, this one certainly was. It also includes a short piece of "Home Of The Brave", I'm sure about that. "Ambush" is one of my personal favorite songs from the "Guilty As Charged" album and I'm glad they put that song in their set tonight. The set closers are "Holy Roller" and of course "Players", another personal favorite of yours truly. In that last song there is still room for something special. Scott already proved that he's a real showman, but he also crashes his bass guitar at the very end of "Players". Now we know that the band won't show up for an encore after this. CULPRIT really kicked ass here. Clearly, this is very different show, but I'm glad we were there. To be honest with you, it couldn't stand in the shadow of their Wacken performance in 2001. Or am I just not too easy to please anymore??!!
VICIOUS RUMORS are next and although I've seen the band a zillion of times before, this is something special. Keven Gorski, the son of Carl Albert would sing here tonight and the magnificent "Digital Dictator" album will be in the spotlight. The real fans will know enough by now. This will be one helluva show. After opener "Replicant", the whole “Digital Dictator“ album will be played here, starting with title track "Digital Dictator", which goes over in "Minute To Kill". Clearly, the band is hungry for rock and with "Town's On Fire" and especially "Lady Took A Chance", they really know to impress the crowd. Close your eyes and listen to the voice of Keven and you will hear the voice of Carl Albert. They sound so much alike, that it feels like you're listening to VICIOUS RUMORS in 1988. As a matter of fact, I think that VICIOUS RUMORS was the ultimate replacement of LEATHERWOLF tonight and they lived up to these high expectations very easily in my opinion. The show goes on with "Worlds And Machines", "The Crest" and "R.L.H.", which stand for 'Rock Like Hell', the perfect description of what happened on stage this very moment. These guys rock like hell and the "Digital Dictator" part comes to an end with "Condemned" and "Out Of The Shadows", as you all will know. It is already quite impressive to hear the entire album, let alone the perfect shape that this band is in tonight. There is a lot more though, because the next three encores are really blowing me off my feet pretty easily. "Down To The Temple" is still one of the best VICIOUS RUMORS songs, in my opinion. "Hellraiser" takes care of even more power and dynamics. The guitars cry and the crowd goes insane right now. What a killer show. The glory ride comes to an end, when the band plays "Don't Wait For Me", another heavy metal anthem which makes a lot of fans very happy. This show has brought everything and all you could wish for and a lot more. Such an amazing show and a very worthy replacement of LEATHERWOLF.
Clearly, SORTILEGE would be the headlining act for tonight. But before they go on stage, the sympathetic five some of SATAN will hit the arena. What can I say about this band, that isn't said before? They were the house band of club Dynamo in Holland in the eighties and have been worshipped by every devoted metal head ever since. If not, go and stand in a corner and feel ashamed of yourself. In 2019, they still sound fresh and exciting and their live shows are a massive outing of pure NWOBHM. Starting off with oldies, such as "Trial By Fire" and "Blades Of Steel", the band plays a very cool show, where old and new songs match pretty well with each other. The stories between the songs are covered with the pure British humor by singer Brian Ross. For example he is telling the audience about his youth memories of the television series of "Dr. Who". Sometimes, his stories last a bit too long and he's abruptly cut off by the guitar players in the band. However, this is a good introduction to other songs, such as "Twenty Twenty-Five" and "The Doomsday Clock". Newbies like "The Devil's Infantry" and "Into The Mouth Of Eternity" follows right after and all I can say is that SATAN is also in perfect shape tonight. "Break Free" continues and I always get the feeling that these guys never get old. They look and play exactly the same as thirty-plus years ago and their high energetic level is the same, too. Russ Tippins is dressed in a RAM shirt, which proves that they don't stick to the old days alone and support the new wave of heavy metal in 2019 as well. After all, he presented a very surprising new metal album with his outfit TANITH this year, which shows that these men are ready to continue for decades and decades. Prove is given with newbie "Ophidian", followed by "Time To Die" and "Cruel Magic". SATAN's name is already a perfect trademark in the heavy metal scene, but they also live up to these high expectations. SATAN stands for high quality and their new songs could very well have been written in the mid-eighties. "Testimony" and "Incantations" are next up, which is slowly climbing to a nice climax. The good old days relive with "No Turning Back", one of my personal favorite songs and "Alone In The Dock". After this, the twenty-second edition of Keep It True will be nearly over. The bill was awesome, the bands were great and I think that I can say that I'm looking forward already to the next edition. The names of the bands, that have been announced already, will be at the end of this review.
SORTILEGE from France will fill in the gap that CANDLEMASS left behind. I have seen the band only once in the early days, so I was very much looking forward to it. The ZOUILLE & HANTSON gig in 2009 was a good start and not far away from perfection, but not the real deal. SORTILEGE, anno 2019 consists of Zouille (lead vocals), Didier DEM Demajean on guitar, Bruno Ramos (MANIGANCE) on second guitar, Daniel LAPP on bass, Bob Snake on drums and Nicklaus Bergen (ADX) on guitar, so they have four out of five original members. Special backing (guest) vocalist is Lynda Basstarde of FURIES and she will be responsible for all the high-pitched notes tonight. There is a little surprise in the lengthy set of tonight. From their self-titled majestic five track EP, that belongs to their best material ever, they will play every song, except the last one "Bourreau". I think, there's nothing left to be desired in these sixteen songs performance by the Parisian metal heads. The venue turned French right away, when they kicked off with "Marchand d’Hommes" and "Majesté". Not quite used to such a large crowd, SORTILEGE plays like a well-oiled machine pretty soon and they know to impress with songs like "Messager", "La Montagne Qui Saigne" and 'D'Ailleurs". The fiery guitars, thundering drums and the pounding sound of the bass guitar, it all sounds pretty amazing. Also, the vocals are very good with Lynda filling in perfectly wherever this is needed. Sometimes she even takes the lead, which gives the show a good flow. "La Hargne Des Tordus" and "Gladiateur" continues the show and it's quite remarkable how many people hum along to these songs, whereas the French lyrics might be a bit too difficult for most of them and after all it isn't an easy language. However, these songs are timeless and it shows in the enthusiasm of the crowd. After the delightful sound of "Délire D'un Fou" and "Progéniture', it's 'sing along' time for a bigger crowd. The repeating song title "Métamorphose" gives every true metal fan the cold shivers running down their spine. It's very difficult to compare this to their gig in Kaatsheuvel in 1984. Times were so different then, but this show that continued with "Amazone" and "Civilisation Perdue" gave me a good feeling. And the guitar solos sounded really flashing at times. Because of the lengthy show, my conclusion is that this show was definitely headliner worthy. This has been the glorious reunion show I've had in mind of these French heroes, who continue with "Mourir Pour Une Princesse", "Quand Un Aveugle Rêve" and "Chasse Le Dragon". But there's still one more. They always say that the best is saved for last and they’re right. Title track "Sortilège" is the one and only encore of tonight and it also marks the end of the twenty-second edition of Keep It True. It was really great to see our French heroes after thirty-five years. We've had a great time again in the Southern part of Germany. The cancellation of CANDLEMASS was a bummer, but hey what can you do?
On our way home to Holland, there was a short police control in Lauda, before we could make a turn towards the highway. I think, it was meant for the visitors of the camping. At the end of the first evening, there was also a police control in the little village. Luckily enough, we don’t drink or do drugs and nor did our driver, so we could continue our way soon.
As far as Keep It True XXII concerns, the show of the TEXAS METAL LEGION made the most impression at the festival. This was like heavy metal heaven to us. When writing these last lines, the line-up for the 2020 edition of Keep It True has already some amazing names on the bill and we're very much looking forward to it. The first names are SOLLICITOR, RIOT CITY, GENOCIDE, VULTURE (Germany), TRESPASS, CYCLONE, ELIXIR, WITCHKILLER, REALM, GRAVESTONE, METALUCIFER (JP), SABBAT (JP), LEGEND (USA), VISIGOTH, HEATHEN, ACID, SANCTUARY, LOUDNESS (JP) and CIRITH UNGOL (two shows). What more can we wish for?? In closing, we would like to thank the organization, the security, the volunteers and all the bands for making this edition of Keep It True a very special one. It was a blast, from the first notes of SABIRE on to the very last notes of SORTILEGE. But wait there is more. Since I'm a bit late with the finishing of the review, I also have the opportunity to tell the first names of the 2021 edition already. Yes, it's unbelievable but true, the first names are a fact already. The twenty-fourth edition will capture CRUSH, MARQUIS DE SADE and INFERNAL MAJESTY among many others. But let's first look forward to the 2020 edition. I hope to see you all in front of the stage. Horns up for Oliver and Tarek, rock on, brothers and thank you ever so much for these magical moments at your beautiful festival. \m/ \m/
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/January 2019
*Photos copyright by: Rita van Poorten [http://www.metalmaidens.com]