* April 19, 2014 *

Saturday, April 19, 2014

De Spont, Stadskanaal, The Netherlands

Just one week before the prestigious Keep It True festival, we had the privilege to be at the Very ‘Eavy festival in Stadskanaal. Organized by hard rock fan Hugo Koch, it is becoming one of the most interesting festivals in our country. I think, I got about a million messages on my Facebook account concerning the festival, so I was thoroughly informed about all the bands, the venue and the activities, that would take place on these two days. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the first festival evening. Shit happens, as they say. Very ‘Eavy takes you back to the early days of the metal scene, so for an old fart like me, this was like heaven on earth! It already started with the flyer of the festival. What crazy nights that must be. It’s really cult to use a tiger climbing the Euromast (or any other tower for that matter), as it was done on the TYGERS OF PAN TANG album. Old school metal heads simply must go to this festival, no matter what happens. Well, here’s what went on in the picturesque place in the Northern part of our country. Mind you, this is a reflection of my personal thoughts. You may have a different opinion of course, but if you’re interested in mine, please read on.

Let me be clear, that the first day of the festival was very interesting indeed. LORD VULTURE, the KISS tribute band DRESSED TO KISS and ex-FRANKENSTEIN and dinosaur rockers JURASSIC PARK rocked the house and on top of that, Hugo Koch climbed the stage with his band BURNING to play the two songs, that are on the seven inch, that was released just recently. A seven inch, which is accompanied by a video clip, shown on a big television screen in the canteen opposite the entrance hall. “Something Is Lurking In The Dark” is a great track with the perfect mini horror movie featured as video clip, is backed with the TYGERS OF PAN TANG classic “Killers”. This is old school metal and true as hell. But hey, like I mentioned before, we missed it. The bill on Saturday would contain nine bands: one from Denmark, one from Germany, one from Holland, one from Belgium and five from England. A wet dream for all NWOBHM addicts, so count me in, Hugo!!

When we arrive in Stadskanaal, we enter a whole new world. People have a different accent after a drive of more than two hours. The sun shines and when we arrive at our hotel, we know that our Very ‘Eavy weekend has started. The venue is only a three minute walk away, so we’re told and TOLEDO STEEL would be the opener on Saturday. Ten magnificent bands are on the bill today. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it and I’m glad, that I am the lucky fellow,that has to put his thoughts on paper. To my surprise, we have to wrestle ourselves through the MANIAC FORCES first. MANIAC FORCES is the winner of the Very ‘Eavy Battle and I wonder why. This energetic band plays some kind of hardcore and punk style, that sounds so different than what most people came to hear here today. But let’s give them a fair chance and listen to what they have in mind for us. Their half an hour set starts with “Riot”, followed by the BLACK FLAG cover “Sixpack”. The band’s front man can’t stand still for one second and jumps up pretty high every now and then. “The Young Ones” follows and “Spoiled” is one of their newer songs. “Ome Benno” is a nice punk song and “Spaghetti Shotgun” is a tribute to the spaghetti western style movies. “Silly Baby” is a cover of the old school punk meets metal band G.B.H. “Maniac Forces” is their last song, before they say goodbye already. Nice opener from an enthusiastic young band, that maybe didn’t belong here in the first place, but they sure deserved their hard earned applause after all.

TOLEDO STEEL is on now. I didn’t really know these guys, but when they enter the stage, something tells me that we could possibly deal with another very gifted act from the post NWOBHM scene. Think about other great acts like ELIMINATOR, who seem to come from out of nowhere and impress you to the max. Same applies for TOKLEDO STEEL, that start their set with “Fallen Empire”. Seven tracks long, the band fires old school IRON MAIDEN like tracks at the hungry metal audience. “Escape From Alcatraz” is on next and vocalist Rich Rutter reminds me of a young version of Bruce Dickinson. His moves, his voice, his poses, he really could be his younger brother. “Children Of The Sun” is one of the few songs, that is not on their only released EP, that will be purchased by yours truly right after the show. Need I say more? TOLEDO STEEL really impressed me with their fine guitar solos and riffs and their powerful and energetic performance here. “City Lights” continues the show and it’s striking that the band knows to capture the interest of the crowd with their very own penned material. Respect for that, because I can imagine that it would be a big temptation to throw in a cover or two. After “Flames Arise” from the EP, we hear “Speed Killer” and as the title suggests already, the speed goes up here. The last song is called “Black Widow”. It’s the name of a poisonous spider and a Belgian metal band from the eighties. TOLEDO STEEL has been an amazing opener, but the night is still young. There is a metal market to kill the time between all of the bands, but that wasn’t really necessary, if I may say so. There are a lot of friends to chat with and before you know it, SALEM went on stage.

SALEM rises from the ashes of what once was ETHEL THE FROG. The two Pauls, Paul Tognola and Paul Conyers form SALEM in 1980 and the Hull based band becomes pretty popular in their heydays. Band members come and go and in 1983, they pull the plug. In 2010 their reunion is a fact and tonight they will kick ass with their great sound. Their new album “Forgotten Dreams” was released last year, accompanied by a four track EP, called “X-Rated”, from which they will play three songs tonight. They open with “When Love’s In Your Heart” and from the first notes on, you can feel the enthusiasm of the band to make something special out of tonight’s show. The band is ready to make you burn from excitement and their spontaneous stage appearance easily reflects on the fans and they close this band in their hearts from the first notes on. “Cold As Steel”, “Fool’s Gold” and “Ask The Lonely” continue the victory march of these enthusiastic British metallers. Vocalist Simon Saxby looks like the younger brother of Tommy Aldridge, but he’s a far better singer, I guess. The band also peaks back into the past with “The Keeper, Trilogy Part I”, a true SALEM anthem, which they could have played in its entirely, as far as I’m concerned. What a master piece of metal that is!! It also gives the guitar players some room to show their abilities. They share the solos equally and it’s a shame, that this band never got the attention that they deserve so well. Anyway, they’re here now and they were absorbing every piece of attention, that’s given to them today. “Forgotten Dreams” is on next and after the killer track “Other Side Of Hell” there is room for a short drum solo by Paul Mendham. We have already arrived at the end of this show, but for me they could have played another hour more or something. High quality metal can last forever. The show closes with “High Stakes” and “Reach To Eternity”. SALEM gives it a full hundred percent and it will almost be impossible for AVENGER to top this in my opinion. What a great show and both horns go up for these lads!

AVENGER is Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift and his band. They are always good for a killer show. The only drawback might be, that a bad sound can destroy the good feeling about seeing this band. AVENGER derived from the roots of BLITZKRIEG. Brian Ross was in this first line-up, but today it was good to see Swifty behind the mike again. He earned my deepest respect by singing in the NWOBHM band ATOMKRAFT for example. Remember Dynamo Open Air 1987? I only recall, that it was brutally loud!! But this respectable guy also lend his voice to bands like SATAN and TYSONDOG. Need I say more?! After the “Intro”, the band explodes into “Death Race 2000” and “Run For Your Life”. The enthusiasm Swifty takes the stage is enormously, but the rather buzzy sound is against him. It’s only in “Brand Of Torture”, when the band gets the sound right. It comes as a big surprise, when the band cranks out the old IRON MAIDEN cover “Purgatory”. What a great idea to throw in a song like that. Everybody here loves old school heavy metal and songs like that, so what a brilliant song choice that is indeed. “Fate” and “You’ll Never Take Me Alive” are on next and the crowd seems to enjoy themselves, too. At least that’s what I can say, when seeing the reactions in the front rows. “N.O.T.J” follows next and “In Arcadia” is a new track. I’m dying to hear more new stuff, where that came from. “Hard Times” and “Under The Hammer” are real crowd pleasers and my own personal favorite song “Enforcer” is there as well. AVENGER closes their storming wild set with “Revenge Attack”. And attacking their audience is what they did for sure. It was a good idea to put fences between the band and the crowd, because otherwise Swifty would have eaten you alive. AVENGER rocked the house down and played a wonderful show tonight!

Okay, it’s time to sit down and take a quick bite. Because of that, we missed a huge part of ALPHA TIGER, who are the unfortunate band to be playing here at dinner time. The good thing is, that we could hear the sound of this band from the canteen of De Spont. After the first songs, we came back to give Rita and our Belgian friends Eddy and Christine the chance to take some nice pictures. I must say, that I do understand that a lot of people like ALPHA TIGER. After all, this is the perfect night for tiger spotting anyway. They sound powerful and look very energetic on stage, but let me be honest with you, they are not really my cup of tea. Here is a full song list of what they have been playing in Stadskanaal. So if you want to relive the magic moments of ALPHA TIGER, just take a listen to “Against The Time”, “Lady Liberty”, “Crimson Desert”, “Waiting For A Sign”, “From Outer Space”, “Karma”, “Along The Rising Sun” and “Black Star Pariah”. Fellow wild animal lovers will get to see more tigers this evening, but for now it’s time to welcome SAVAGE on stage.

SAVAGE, Aardschok day, these two things just can’t be seen separate from each other. “Loose ‘N’ Lethal” has been the album, that killed everything and even METALLICA was proud that they could use “Let It Loose” on their first demo “Hit The Lights”. Yes, it was that big of a success that these lads had in their heydays. Chris Bradley is their front man and I was pretty excited to see the band live on stage again. I knew they would be promoting “Loose ‘N’ Lethal” this tour, but was I up for a very special surprise here. Their set today consisted of the whole freaking “Loose ‘N’ Lethal” album. There is no way I could have guessed that, although I hoped it for weeks of course. The incredible Andy Dawson made me feel in ecstasy already during the first songs. It’s really incredible, the guitar wizardry, that he showed us today. SAVAGE made an overwhelming impression. Not on me alone, but I guess the whole audience was bursting out of their panties during their gig. Chris Bradley, being the conductor of it all, with his lyrics sheet in front of him, making announcements and leading wild animal Dawson through the whole set of today. Next to Dawson is another wildebeest, called Kristian Bradley (yep, son of). Both guitarists are armed with a bright shining white Flying V, a real monstrous sight, that would only appear in your wildest dreams. Mark Nelson in the back, behind the drums to complete this marvelous outfit, that made De Spont shake on its foundations. This is another victorious ride for a NWOBHM band in Stadskanaal. SAVAGE really made my day and it’s impossible for me to choose a winner between them and SALEM. Not that it’s a contest, but it’s simply impossible to make a choice. The SAVAGE guitar beasts are untamable, while SALEM rocked my world for the first time in a live setting and was a slam in the face with a crowbar. No need to break my head over this question, there are other things on my mind after this. Spending money on the metal market for example. How’s that for a change? Oh before I forget, songs played in random order are: “Dirty Money”, “Cry Wolf”, “White Hot”, “Berlin”, “The China Run”, “On The Rocks”, “Ain’t No Fit Place” and “Let It Loose”. That’s the whole “Loose ‘N’ Lethal” masterpiece, like I told you before and that’s why I’m so excited here. Oh, there’s one other thing, my dear friends. I know, that there is a live CD in the making, called “Live ‘N’ Lethal” of SAVAGE, but I also know that they’ve released a live CD in Japan alone with the recordings of the Aardschok day concert, called “Live Aardshock 1984” (God blimey, was it 1984, that I’ve seen them there? I’m getting old. That’s a freaking thirty years ago!!). If someone can get me a copy of this ‘must have release’, please send me a private message. It’ll be so cool to hear these recordings back and I don’t have them in my audio collection, I’m afraid. Oops sorry, this is not an advertisement, I am writing a festival review, I believe. The metal market is cool and it’s always a nice way to kill some minutes between the different bands. This time we didn’t spend so much money, simply because next week we would be heading to the Keep It True festival, that has an even larger metal market. Speaking of that, I can say for sure that this is the Dutch edition of Keep it True, simply because it contains so much cult names on the bill. Where else in Holland can you see bands like that together on one festival? This is not a quiz, but you just tell me the answer?! The item I bought in Stadskanaal is the new album by MEDIEVAL STEEL, released on a Belgian record label, called Empire Records. I needed a nice bridge to the next band, that’s why I decided to put the irrelevant story about the metal market here. Of course it’s utterly cool for a true metal fan to browse through vinyl and silver discs. That’s what life is all about, when you’re on a festival like this. But the meaningless jabber led to a nice connection between a Belgian record label and the Belgian metal band KILLER.

What do I need to tell you about KILLER, that isn’t said before? The announcement was that the band would perform without the keyboard player today. That’s a promise! I must be honest with you, that I never saw the point of having a keyboard player in KILLER, but the times that I saw them with one, he always sounded in the back and I didn’t care too much. I’ve seen the band countless times in Holland, because they have been playing a lot in the Southern part of our country and I come from that area. Fat Leo behind the drums or announcing the band members with Double Bear behind the drum kit. No matter what, I always liked their shows a lot and played their records many times. They were referred to as being The Belgian MOTÖRHEAD, and for me, they were all that. Dressed in leather and with spikes and chains, I never did have a dull moment watching these guys. When Paul van Camp released his solo album, things started to change a bit and his adoration for guitar players like YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN became a part of the sound of the band. It simply integrated without doing too much harm luckily. After seeing this band tonight as a three piece outfit with such power, that could provide enough energy to reach the new millennium, they took me by surprise again. From the first notes on of the incredible “Wall Of Sound”. They don’t just sing it, they freaking break through it, like it was made of soft cookie dough. No problem for these rockers, who continue their ass kicking performance with “Bodies And Bones”. I was able to sing along to all the lyrics. Not too loud, because I wanted to save my voice for the rest of the evening. But it brought back some good memories. Paul van Camp is the only member from the (very) old days and he is still very proud, that KILLER is still around kicking ass like that. And he can be, because like he said KILLER is still Belgian metal band numero uno for me (okay, next to OSTROGOTH). “No Future” is not autobiographical, because like I mentioned here already, there is still a fruitful future for KILLER, if they keep on playing like that. “Matter Of Time” has been followed by a guitar explosion of the big boss himself. “Kleptomania” is good for a sing along moment, after which it’s time for Vanne to show his skills in a drum solo. That’s how I remember them. There’s always room for the musicians to show their skills in a solo spot. Shorty even leaves the stage during an instrumental part and performs the rest of the song right in the middle of the audience, watching his fellow mates from there. Another act they did during their early years, as far as I can remember. It all feels like magic to me. “Touch Of Evil” continues the set and then we prepare for a stunning knock-out punch in three phases consisting of “Shockwave”, “Laws Are Made To Break” and the incredible sounding “Ready For Hell”. ‘You Make Me Ready For Hell’. I think, that I shouted it out so loud, that my balls fell off. There was so much pressure on them, that they exploded or at least I thought they were gone. Man, what a blasting performance that was! I don’t want to sound stupid here, but when I walked into Shorty (that’s Paul van Camp) after the gig, I decided to give him my compliments for an awesome show that goes behind all human comprehensions. Shorty was right: KILLER is the best Belgian band. He replied, that he was glad that I liked the show, almost in a shy way. I sure liked it, that’s a bloody understatement! This was AWESOME beyond believe. So, now you know!

It was the third time in a pretty short while, that I encountered the Danish metal heroes of WITCH CROSS and the first two times asked for more. My prayers were heard and when the stout Vikings enter the stage, I know that we will be in for a real treat again. After the “Intro”, the band carries us away on a “Night Flight To Tokyo”. The focus of tonight’s show will be on the band’s only release “Fit For Fight” before they released the amazing sounding “Axe To Grind” album last year. “Rocking The Night Away” is a killer track and it sums up what tonight is all about in four to five minutes. It’s like it has been written for this special occasion. “Pandora’s Box” is a new track and like the title predicts already, it contains a lot of beauty. “No Angel” almost brought me to tears. It’s from the band’s first seven inch single from 1983. “Face Of A Clown” comes from the aforementioned debut full-length album “Fit For Fight”, just like the instrumental part “Axedance”, in which the guitars cry out loud. Three more songs from that debut album follow each other rapidly after that. “Killer Dogs”, “Light Of A Torch” and “Fight The Fire” are being played with an unknown enthusiasm. In “Fight The Fire”, the audience gets the chance to sing along to it. The next song didn’t actually come as a big surprise to me, but it was a nice point of recognition for those of us, who aren’t too familiar with the songs of WITCH CROSS. When the band cranks out a wild version of SAXON’s “Strong Arm Of The Law”, the crowd seems to go insane. Singer Kevin Moore was in a band, called SON OF A BITCH (what’s in a name?) together with former SAXON members Graham Oliver (guitar) and Steve Dawson (bass), so after all we can talk of an obvious choice here. The set is closed by another track from that amazing “Axe To Grind” album with “Demon In The Mirror”. The band comes back for one more song, which is the A-side of the first single, of which we already heard the flipside “No Angel”. And with “Are You There”, the Danish rockers say goodbye to the audience. The response of the crowd is very good and after eight bands going down already, there are just two more on the bill.

PICTURE is for Holland what KILLER is for Belgium, they simply are the best Dutch metal band from our country and we’re all proud of them. I’m a sucker to say that, but the PICTURE with original members Ronald van Prooijen and Jan Bechtum remains the top of the bill for me. But what this band always knows to accomplish is, that I’m always astonished after each gig how they wrap me on their little finger with their songs. No matter which line-up is on stage. This line-up seems to be a stable one right now and with these guys, they are going on tour in America and South America this spring, where they are still the number one heavy metal band next to BLACK SABBATH and KISS. Their set list contains only killers, no room for fillers here. “Griffon Guards The Gold” is a bloody good opener, and I think I must have broken my neck on at least four places during “Message From Hell”. First aid was waving already, if I needed help, but I survived this headbanger, lucky me. “Diamond Dreamer” and the HAMMERFALL cover “Eternal Dark” are on next. Just kidding, these Swedish metal heads borrowed this track for their album, because they know it’s a killer song. During “Warhorse”, I decided to move towards the back of the hall to let the youngsters go wild. I’m getting too old for this (NOT!!). “You’re All Alone” is next and then our “Heavy Metal Ears” are being tortured. But let’s make it clear, that I volunteered to be a victim myself. After “Lady Lightning”, the band is being introduced to those of us, who don’t know PICTURE yet and managed to escape from under their rock for one time. Anyway, for those of you who missed it, we have Pete Lovell on sirens, Mike Fergusson on guitar, André Wullems on guitar, Rinus Vreugdenhil on bass guitar and the four-legged Laurens ‘Bakkie’ Bakker on drums. We’re not done yet though and the slaughtering has just begun. Two of my all-time favorite PICTURE songs are on next. “Unemployed” from the band’s second album and the ultra-wild “Battle For The Universe”. During the band’s heaviest track “The Blade”, that has an almost doomy sound, the band introduces a guest on stage. VORTEX guitarist Martjo Brongers stands in on air guitar for this special occasion. Seeing is believing. And for those of you who missed it, come over next time and you won’t believe your eyes what’s happening on stage here in Stadskanaal. It’s too good to be true sometimes. Besides Martjo, PICTURE also gets the help of two heavy metal maniacs during their set. I guess, they did expect them already, because they hand out an acoustic guitar when they entered the stage. “Bombers” is the final track of tonight’s show. Do I need to say more? I guess not. This has been another great performance of a band, that makes you proud to be a Dutchie. The day after, we found out that these noise makers are in the same hotel as we are. They go and come together as one big happy family. I think, that this is the key to their success. Friendship through thick and thin. Many other bands could take learning from this. If you’re exhausted already, you could leave the venue, but nobody is even thinking about this option. After the first tiger attacked us, we were getting ready for even more teeth, fangs and claws to destroy us.

TYGERS OF PAN TANG is one of those bands, that I liked from the first time that I heard them about seventy-five years ago or so it felt like it at the end of the evening. Jess Cox is like a true NWOBHM hero to me. What happened to Jon Deverill? Is he still active in music? The answer is that he is a star in the world of musicals and he sings the songs from “The Sound Of Music”, instead of working his ass off in tiger bay. It’s one of the unsolved cases in heavy metal history for many people. Let’s take John Sykes. Is he still active after he left reunion number so much of THIN LIZZY? The cooperation with Mike Portnoy didn’t last long either and I think that THE WINERY DOGS is the actual result of this musical togetherness, but now with RITCHIE KOTZEN on lead guitar. What counts is that the TYGERS are still very much alive and after seeing them recently at Mario’s Metal Meeting, I was still hungry for a good, juicy meal of tiger meat. They’d take us raw too, if they had the chance and everything tastes well with a pepper sauce and the right herbs. “Keeping Me Alive” is the opener of tonight and after “Love Don’t Stay”, we’re treated to the first neck breaker, the incredible “Gangland”. Remember freaking Parkpop, 1981?! ? “She” is a newer track and possibly another anthem in the making for the band. “Tyger Bay” is a nice surprise for TYGERS fans. Stadskanaal and a bit more detailed ‘De Spont’ was slowly turning over into a giant ‘Tyger Bay’ because of this show. The set list contained far more old songs this time, to my big surprise. “Mr Indispensable” was on next, which turned into a mix of different tracks, consisting of “Paris By Air”, “Do It” and “Euthanasia”. After “Don’t Stop By”, Robb Weir used his talk box during “Insanity”, which forms the second medley together with “Raised On Rock”. The talk box is some sort of vocal distorter, which is also being used by the likes of Joe Perry (AEROSMITH), but the most well-known user is PETER FRAMPTON (who??) in his million selling hit single “Show Me The Way”. Okay, back from this history lesson to the story of today, which continues with “Suzy Smiled”. “Hellbound” marks the end of tonight’s show and it’s also one more opportunity for yours truly to let out some sweat. The band can’t leave us without an encore or two of course. So we’re treated to some “Rock Candy” after this, which is followed by “Don’t Touch Me There”. Those of them, who are still standing proud, there is one final chance to make your voice disappear for a couple of hours or something. After all you have a couple of hours after this moment to let it rest, so the last pieces of breath were spend on singing along to “Love Potion # 9”. Our thanks go out to Robb Weir on guitar, Micky Crystal on guitar, Gav Gray on bass, Jacopo Meille on vocals and Craig Ellis on drums for a stunning performance. We want more. There is more, but I guess you’ll have to wait until 2015, when De Spont is opening their doors again for a heavy metal festival, that easily settles itself among the big festival names. A very big thank you goes out to Hugo Koch for bringing back my youth with Very ‘Eavy 2014.

Finally, I'd like to take a peak at the bill of 2015. I know, that it’s still early, but the next edition of this festival will be worth the waiting. NIGHT DEMON from America is an incredible live band, consisting of three persons, but you can feel the energy of five. VERGIF (VENOM tribute band), AIR RAID, ELISE (great old school Dutch metal band), EAR DANGER (the Dutch ‘assassins’ strike again), ENCHANTRESS (B), SACRED STEEL (Gerrit Mutz and his steel pounders from Germany, TYSONDOG (awesome NWOBHM), SAD IRON (aaaarrrggggghhhhhh!!!), TOKYO BLADE (we will relive the night of the blade, that’s for sure!), RAVEN (the return of the athletic wackos) and SATAN (you can already turn the cross upside down, because we’re in for a secret satanic ritual here). These incredible names will be followed by much more metal mayhem. I would suggest JACKAL or JAMESON RAID, but GILGAMESJ or BITCHES SIN would be fine too, Hugo. Whoever is on the bill, your brain will be blown out on April 3 and 4th, 2015, so much is a true fact. I’ve lost mine here and the same will happen to you at Very ‘Eavy 2015. Be there or don’t call yourself a metal head!

*Written by: Toine van Poorten/June 2014
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten/

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