* April 09-10, 2004 * Germany

When I heard that HALLOWEEN (Detroit, USA) would play at the Keep It True festival in Germany, I almost fell off my chair. This is the band, I have been waiting for to see live all those years. The trip to Lauda-Köningshofen was long and tough, caused by a very long traffic jam near Eindhoven area, which took a lot of time. When we finally arrived at our destination, there was no use in going to the opening party, which was already in full swing. But we were glad we made it. My friend Stefan of the Heavy Metal Maniacs made a short impression of the opening party, which was called “The Dawn Of Battle”. Our Keep It True story starts from there.

Friday, April 9, 2004.

Georgsmühle, Lauda-Königshofen-Oberbalbach, Germany.

The evening before the main festival, a warming up party was organised. The bill was quite interesting, and it didn’t take long before the announcement came that ‘The Dawn Of Battle’, which was the name of this party, was sold out completely. When we finally reached at the festival site, we noticed that it was organised in a huge open tent, and soon it was obvious that it was far too cold for this. It was freezing a couple of degrees! You definitely can’t call this a warming up party anymore. They also didn’t check your tickets, so everybody could get in pretty easily. Besides that, the sound was pretty awful. Anyway, there were some good bands to enjoy. WOTAN would start the event at about nine o’ clock. Their catchy Greek power metal sounded very well and the band gave it all they’ve got. Nice band, but not really convincing. Next up was BATTLE ROAR from Greece, who mainly played songs from their debut album ‘Battle Roar’. The band plays epic metal, and there were a lot of fans present that evening of this particular music style. Highlight was the MANILLA ROAD cover ‘The Ram’, joined by MANILLA ROAD frontman Mark Shelton, who jumped on stage and did the vocals. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, we were also treated to a short surprise gig by HALLOWEEN, who came on stage spontaneously to play a couple of songs. The audience liked it a lot. Then it was time for BATTLE RAM. The crowd was already freezing to death, but BATTLE RAM was well worth the wait for most people. After a slow start, in which every technical detail seemed to fail, the band still knew how to play a solid set. The last band on stage was RITUAL STEEL, who were only allowed to play for the last half an hour. This really upset the band and the fans, but despite all of this, RITUAL STEEL managed to close the evening in a very satisfactionary way. In the meantime, most of the fans had left the tent already to find themselves a warmer and much cosier place.

Saturday, April 10, 2004.

Tauberfrankenhall, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany

On Saturday, the main festival took place. We were at the same hotel as the guys of ELIXIR. We decided to leave early, because we didn’t want to miss a thing. And I am glad we did, so it turned out later that day. The guest list was perfectly arranged, and when you entered the hall, you were already overwhelmed by metal t-shirts, CDs, DVDs and other great collectors items. A good initiative, because when you don’t like a band on stage, you can spend your money on the metal market. After walking around a bit for a couple of minutes, I see my wife Rita (who is the photographer today!) in conversation with a guy with long, black hair and a track suit. Holy shit! That’s Brian Thomas, the frontman of HALLOWEEN. I’d better join them, say ‘hi’ to the band and have a chat with them. We still have a full hour before the first band will go on stage, so we have all the time in the world. The band wanted to take a picture together with us and after that, they have to go to do a soundcheck. So we were able to see this as well. In the meantime, we also scored a promo disc of the well-known ABANDON demo (which we reviewed for Headache magazine), and a very limited live demo of the band. These magic moments made my day already, and the festival didn’t even get started yet!
The first band of this day was the Italian HOLY MARTYR. An Italian band that can roughly be described as a cross between OMEN and MANILLA ROAD. Long, epic metal songs with lyrics that deal about wars and battlefields. The singer entered the stage in an outfit, reminding me of Bob Cattani, the singer of the Italian cult metal band ASTAROTH, dressed up with an ancient Roman helmet and cape. A good start.
IRONSWORD played their first show in ten years. Songs like ‘Battlecry’, ‘Legions’, ‘Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword’, ‘Dragon Of The Sea’ and ‘Into The Arena’ (no, not the MICHAEL SCHENKER song!) showed us a band, that was definately willing to make a good impression. Although the band didn’t quite succeeed with that as far as their show elements concern, the audience was still impressed by their music. Then it was up to DARK QUARTERER from Italy. Their progressive metal sounded different than the overall sound of the bands on the bill of this festival. But when you like lengthy songs with long instrumental parts, where they don’t even hesitate to play a long drumsolo, then you must have liked this band a lot. The guitarplayer reminded me a bit of YNGWIE MALMSTEEN in a way, whereas their songs move onto the older material of RUSH. ‘Escape From Hell’ was the definate highlight for me from this band, whose frontman must have been in his fifties already, if you’d ask my opinion.
We had already met ELIXIR at the hotel, and we even gave guitarist Phil a ride to the hall, because their taxi was full. But now it was time for these nice guys to prove their skills on stage, and they convinced us without any problem. The music of ELIXIR must be categorised as NWOBHM and they really took the audience by storm. Most of the songs, they played this afternoon, came from their ‘Son Of Odin’ CD. Their songs contain very recognizable double lead guitar solos, reminding you of the better twin guitar solos of Olliver/Quinn (SAXON), Murray/Smith (IRON MAIDEN), Tipton/Downing (JUDAS PRIEST) or Wiggins/Boulton (TOKYO BLADE). What a great show, and I already look forward to seeing this band play live again.
WIZARD played a home match. Despite the fact that their latest albums sounded a bit catchier than before, they have never let their fans down with their live performances. Songs like ‘Hammer, Bow, Axe And Saw’, ‘Iron Wall’, ‘Head Of The Deceiver’, ‘Hall Of Odin’, ‘Betrayer’ and ‘Defenders Of Metal’ were sung along by an outrageous crowd, that was involved in the whole show very well by the band. Vocalist Sven D’ Anna almost jumped into the audience, acting like he was struck by lightning, while singing the Dutch national anthem in a sinc bathtub, with rubber boots on and a rod of iron in his fist. They were very enthusiastic, so I can only have a lot of respect for these ‘magicians’ from Hamburg area.
I’d expected a lot from the show of ATTACKER, but that they were that good, even came as a big surprise to me. Jesus Christ what a great sound, and what a great atmosphere they created this afternoon. Or was it evening already? Because after this violent attack, I had lost almost every sense of time. Singer Bob Mitchell definately is the eye-catcher on stage. He lifts the band to a higher level with his high pinching screams. The new CD “Soul Taker” was the starting point of the set of ATTACKER. They opened with ‘The End’ (what a nice contradiction!) and they also played ‘Sleepy Hollow’and ‘Tortured Existence’ from this last album. But of course we also get to hear classics like ‘Revelations Of Evil’, ‘Disciple’, ‘The Hermit’, ‘Lord Of Thunder’, ‘Kill Your Face’, which they sang together with the audience and ‘Call Of The Attacker’. They closed with the encore ‘Slayer’s Blade’, and everybody agreed that this band from New Jersey had made a smashing performance in this metal arena. Try to overrule this!
And this unthankful task was reserved for CLOVEN HOOF. But the English guys didn’t care too much about it. What would this band sound like after all these years? I still remember that I saw them play in Holland once, when they were still using make up and called themselves Water, Earth, Wind and Fire (no, not the band !). But there was no place for make up or show elements this time, that’s for sure. It was a fact that most songs would come from the ‘A Sultan’s Ransom’ album, the most important album of the band, in their opinion. The Hoof played some good versions of classics like ‘Rising Up’, ‘Nova Battlestar’, ‘Reach For The Sky’, ‘Warrior Of The Wasteland’, ‘Jekyll And Hyde’, ‘Forgotten Heroes’, ‘Return Of The Passover’, Gates Of Gehennah’, and ‘Dominator’. It’s a shame, that they didn’t play ‘Cloven Hoof’ this time, but despite that I could not complain about this show.
We were looking for a suitable time to put a break into our full schedule. And therefor we took the MAJESTY show. MAJESTY is a band that is quite popular in their homecountry. Their new live CD is a must for all the fans. I’d like to give MAJESTY the title of ‘the German version of MANOWAR’. They both sing war chants and don’t care about more or less pyro on stage, and this all in front of their own audience. I think, you can guess already, that a lot of fans really enjoyed the show of MAJESTY, while we enjoyed our chips and bockwurst. In the meantime, we also checked with our editor if he liked the Martjo Mix, but I believe that he was doing just fine.
BLITZKRIEG was next on the bill, and they’re always ready to deliver a great show. Brian Ross told us, that the SATAN reunion at Wacken Open Air would be a one-off thing only, which would possibly be followed by a live CD recording. Brian was dressed in leather, as usual, completed with handcuffs. As a sort of tribute to Rob Halford I think, because the music of BLITZKRIEG slowly starts to sound like the high priests of heavy metal more and more. Metalhead Sascha ‘Sir Lord Doom’ Maurer (RITUAL STEEL) climbed on stage to sing ‘We Rock Forever’ with the band, in which he succeeded quite well in my opinion. We also heard awesome versions of songs like ‘Dark City’, ‘Unholy Trinity’, ‘Enchanted Tower’, the SATAN cover ‘Blades Of Steel’, ‘Blitzkrieg’ and as an encore they used the JUDAS PRIEST cover ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ (which is on their new album ‘Sins And Greed’).
The people yelled for more, but we finally came to the band, for which I drove all the way to Lauda Köningshofen, HALLOWEEN from Detroit Rock City. It was impossible for the band to bring their whole show along. But HALLOWEEN made sure that there’ s still enough to enjoy. The set is perfectly build upon songs from their albums ‘Don’t Metal With Evil’ and ‘No One Gets Out’. To our big surprise, we are also treated to a song from their ‘Vicious’ demo and one from the demo of ABANDON. For most fans, this will be the very first time to hear these tracks. The fact that the band only plays with one guitar player is not disturbing at all, ‘cause Donnie Allen makes damn sure that he plays for two! And with George Neal back in charge, they have a real bass animal in the band, so you don’t have to be afraid that the rhythm won’t be tight enough. HALLOWEEN has to come back really quickly with their complete show, because this really tasted like a lot more! Some of the fans said they didn’t really like the sound of their newer songs. Well, you can’t please them all, and there are always people who must have something to complain about.
Headliners of the whole event were MANILLA ROAD, another great band from the rich US Metal scene. And eveybody who talks about MANILLA ROAD, immedialtely mentions Mark Shelton, the man who wrote many wonderful epic metal songs. It was almost impossible to play a better show than HALLOWEEN. But many fans came to see MANILLA ROAD and they got what they wanted, a true ‘best of’ show with songs like opener ‘Masque Of The Red Death’, ‘Death By The Hammer’, ‘Witches Brew’, ‘Flaming Metal System’ and the awesome ‘The Riddle Master’. The festival came to an end at about 02:45 with ‘Dreams Of Eschaton’.
The bands, that opened the festival, still have a very long way to go, comparing them to the absolute winners of today like ATTACKER, HALLOWEEN, BLITZKRIEG and MANILLA ROAD. The third edition is already marked on my calendar, when we will be able to enjoy bands like JAGUAR, WITCHFYNDE, HALLOW’S EVE, TYRANT’S REIGN, METAL INQUISITOR, ROTTWEILLER and HELLSTAR. Metal is dead! Yes, I’ve seen that this weekend, it’s as dead as a doornail. What a great future for music, that is dead as a doornail. People just don’t know what they’re talking about. I rest my case!

Written by: Toine van Poorten
Photos by: Rita van Poorten-Wiegel
[Printed in HEADACHE magazine/2004]

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