One week after the Raise Your Fist festival, we are found in the front ranks of the fourth Keep It True festival in Germany again. Life can be very beautiful indeed. After a long, but nice trip in our car with Rita and our friends Kim and Stefan, we arrive at the cosy village of Lauda, where the event will take place.
Friday, April 1st, 2005.
FIST HELD HIGH - warm up night
Sportshalle, Dittigheim, Germany.
The opening evening is held at a small sports hall in Dittigheim, which is situated about five miles from Lauda. It’s very crowded and the citizens don’t really know what’s going on there that evening, I guess. Their sports location has been taken by storm by a couple of hundred metalheads, instead of the occasional local brass band. They kill themselves laughing! But the true metal fans know better, because there is a very good line up put together, which has got a lot to offer for the different styles in metal. LANFEAR is the opener tonight. Their experimental metal reminds me of old style QUEENSRYCHE. Songs like ‘Stigmatised’, ‘The Unrestrained’, ‘Transmigration’, ‘Die With Laughter’, ‘Take The Spell’ and ‘Shades Of Black’, added with black metal like screams of the bass player, get some good reactions from the audience, who are definitely hungry for rock! It’s a shame though, that they only have one guitar player. A second guitarist would do miracles for this band, I pressume.
This problem won’t occur with the Dutch band MARTYR, who are on next. I can be very short about this gig: it was absolutely awesome! People, who complain about the fact, that the band didn’t dress up ‘metal’ enough, didn’t understand the message in my opinion. It’s the music that counts at this festival, and believe me when I say, that with this gig MARTYR definitely writes history. The whole show is filled with flashing guitars and the high pinching vocals of Gerard Vangouw sounds as solid as a rock. I really ask myself, why this band didn’t deserve a place at the bill of the main festival tomorrow. Their presentation and interaction with the audience were just perfect. Songs like ‘The Awakening’, ‘Snow And Fire’, Darkness At Times Edge’, ‘The Eibon’, ‘Into the Abyss’, ‘English Forces’, ‘The Third Kinslay’ and encore ‘Follow Your Soul’ make this gig to a real treat for the devoted metal fan. The cumming shot came from ‘Speed Of Samurai’ of course and even the biggest nitwit couldn’t keep it dry, if you know what I mean.
ADRAMELCH from Italy is a different story. It’s a band, consisting of hard working musicians, that have a lot of good musical ideas. But it doesn’t sparkle, and that’s a very important thing here. Their music is heavenly, when you hear it on CD, but live it just sounds less perfect. But their hard work deserves respect, and the fans yell really loud after every song. We enjoy some good versions of songs like ‘Zephirus’, ‘Was Called Empire’, ‘Dreams Of A Jester’ and the oldie ‘Irae Melanox’. We also got a pre-taster of the new CD ‘Broken History’ with two new tracks.
The last band of this evening was SHADOW KEEP. Despite the fact this band doesn’t have a new CD out yet, they still know to please the audience, including me. Armed with two new members they start their battle, and with ‘Ancient Prophecy’, ‘Destiny Calls’ and ‘Beyond The Stratosphere’, we also get to hear three brand new songs. Ronnie Stixx (formerly DIVINE RUINS) profiles himself as a good new frontman, and the guitarwork of Chris Allen and Nicki Robson simply do the rest. When the band closes their set with ‘Dark Tower’, the ending of tonight’s show is in sight. However, the real party will start tomorrow, but there are also some dark clouds above Lauda. The only thing that I need to do now is to defrost the windows with an ice scraper. It has been all fools day already, hasn’t it? Where are those ice saints, when you need them….to clean your windows!
Saturday, April 2nd, 2005.
KEEP IT TRUE IV: MASTERS OF METAL
Tauberfrankenhall, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
After a good, but short night sleep, and a very decent breakfast, we are ready for the main event. Let this metal storm come in! First we have a look around at the metal market, which isn’t such a good idea, because before the fun starts you are already walking around with an empty wallet. But after twelve o’ clock, we are ready to start. An Italian thrash band jumps on stage and shouts in the microphone: ‘Hello, we are INSANE’. I run away as fast as I can to call the local mad house, but when these guys start to play their instruments, everything falls to pieces. Their thrash metal, based on SLAYER riffs, is a good warm up, but that’s all I want to say about INSANE. This is a festival with great cult names on the bill, and as it’s not easy to start the day, INSANE gets the benefit of the doubt for me. During their set, we heard that SATAN cancelled their gig. What?!?!? Are they going insane here? Did we spend six bloody hours in a rotten car for nothing? After all, SATAN, OVERLORDE and DEADLY BLESSING were the main reasons to travel to Lauda in the first place. Away with our good mood. So we better enjoy all the other bands twice as much. After all we’re Dutchies, aren’t we?
PARAGON put some life in the old lady. Their set was very energetic, and songs like ‘Abducted’, ‘Deathsquad’, ‘Traitor’ and ‘Impaler’ from their new album ‘Revenge’ made those heads go up and down in the front rows.
Then it was up to THUNDER RIDER from Canada, of which I’d expected a lot. And they lived up to that expectation completely. Frontman John Blackwing is a first class eye-catcher, completed with a beautiful guitar and good charisma, which both fitted perfectly to their epical, MANILLA ROAD like music. Sometimes the band also reminded me of the early QUEENSRYCHE in a way. Songs such as ‘Evil Slayer’, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, ‘For Christ’s Sake’ and ‘Death To Death’ were played in an almost ceremoniously way. One of the nicest moments was when John started playing his flute. In short, THUNDER RIDER played a memorable gig here. Right after their show, John went into the audience. Everybody was allowed to shoot a picture with him, and he also took the time to give the fans his autograph. What a hero! And I really mean it, because when you do that for your fans, you show that you know how important they are. Act normal and take the time for your fans, that’s the true spirit!
I have seen TORCH already in the eighties at a small place, called ‘what’s in a name’. From the original line up, only Dan Dark has survived. But this man is simply the eye-catcher of the whole band. Dressed in a red latex kinky suit, the man easily impressed the audience alone with his appearance. He created a simple rock and roll attitude on stage, that didn’t miss its goal. Their sound reminded me more of ACCEPT than it sounded like TORCH, but the audience just loved it, and so did I. After all, they do have an impressive list of classics like ‘Thunderstruck’, Warlock’, ‘Beauty And The Beast’, ‘Battle Axe’, ‘Electrikiss’, ‘Pain’, ‘Sinister Eyes’, ‘Sweet Desire’, ‘Watcher Of The Night’, ‘Bad Girls’ and of course ultra headbanger ‘Fire Raiser’. They also made sure that the crowd was well-prepared for one of the highlights of this edition of Keep It True: the US metal legends OVERLORDE.
Their CD got rewarded by Headache magazine with the full score of ten (out of ten) points and also live, the band knows to kick some serious ass. What a great performance, gentlemen! Singer Bobby ‘Iron Lungs’ Lucas (formerly SEVEN WITCHES) lives up to his reputation. And inbetween, guitarist Mark Edwards shows his skills on his Flying V. A second guitar player won’t make their sound any better, I guess, so Mark does it all by himself. Same goes for the guitarplayer of TORCH, by the way. We hear almost the whole ‘Return Of The Snow Giant’ CD this afternoon, where ‘Star Castle’ can be seen as the ultimate highlight of the evening for me. Before the band was leaving the stage, they received a minute long applause from the wild audience. One can only dream of so much success. These guys must have had a great feeling, when flying back to America, because this show was absolutely perfect! MAJESTY was on next, so it’s time for our dinner! Don’t get me wrong here. This band has got quite a large fanbase in their home country, and I will be the last one to complain about their MANOWAR like sound. But we might see them a bit too often at this festival, which is logical, since Tarek Maghary is one of the initiators of Keep It True. On the other hand, we also have to eat some food and they are the perfect band to watch from the tribunes besides the stage, and listen to songs like ‘Heavy Metal Battlecry’, ‘Keep It True’, ‘Raining Blood’, ‘Bow For Your Majesty’, Heavy Metal Predator’, ‘Into The Stadium’ and ‘Troopers Of Steel’.
When her majesty had left the building, it was time for DEADLY BLESSING. And if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t believe it. Ski and his band mates played all the songs of their debut album ‘Ascend From The Cauldron’, and their set was completed with new songs such as ‘Queen Of Sin’, ‘Demise Of Faust’ and ‘Immortal’. How the hell is it possible, that Ski sounds exactly the same as on the debut album after all these years? All high notes were reached without any problems, and the band performed a great show. They really turned this gig into a giant spectacle. These are some of the magic moments, why we go through all this much trouble to see the band. No other ‘so-called metal band’ in the present can beat this!
I really wanted to see COUNT RAVEN, who were added to the bill at a later stage. If only to satisfy my interst in the ultra slow, dark, doom metal. These Swedish guys were the odd one out here, but they still convinced me of their strength. Good versions of songs like ‘Until Death Do Us Part’, ‘Rust War’, ‘Scream’, ‘Childrens Holocaust’, the new ‘A Lifetime’ and ‘Let The Dead Bury The Dead’ made our time well-spend. Although I keep saying, that they didn’t exactly fit between the rest of the bill. Because SATAN was unable to play, the organisation had about an hour to fill up. They decided to let the headliner play a bit earlier, and for the after-party they added another band. So after the show of COUNT RAVEN, we were ready for the headliners already, and that was AGENT STEEL.
A week before this festival, we had seen the band already at the Raise Your Fist festival in Holland. And there they sounded very loud, but they played a very tight set. This time they had a rather lousy sound, and only in front of the stage it was allright. Juan Garcia gets the title of the most miserable man of the festival (I wonder if he is able to put on a sunny face?), while singer Bruce Hall has slowly developed himself to becoming the ultimate successor of John Cyriss. After the integral performance of ‘Skeptics Apocalypse’, there was still some time left to play some old favorites like ‘Illuminati Is Machine’ and encore ‘Mad Locust Rising’. As replacement for Bennie Versailles, who had just become a father before the beginning of this tour, the band had hired Tim Thomas (NEW EDEN, STEEL PROPHET). A great guitarplayer, who is ten times as symphatic as the bald band leader with the blond goatee. Even though the Agent tried to do their very best to win the race, they saw the big price being taken by OVERLORDE and DEADLY BLESSING. When AFTER ALL from Belgium started the after-party, I almost wet my pants. What a sad attempt to make up for the cancellation of SATAN. This performance just makes it all much worse than it was already. But after three songs it was over already, and the die-hards were able to shout their balls off one more time with ‘The Hammers Of The North’, Dutch hope-n-glory in hard days: VORTEX.
It’s unfair to put your chief editor (who is also the guitar player and spiritual leader of this band) on the highest level, but the show of these ‘bats from Groningen’ was absolutely fabulous.. And also the audience loved every single second of it. When the band played the ultimate VORTEX classic ‘Open The Gates’, I saw a lot of die-hard metalheads like Bruder Clé and Greg Versamis run towards the stage, and before we knew what was going on, me and my wife Rita, and a dozen of fellow headbangers were creating a background choir for these Dutch metal maniacs. We had to blow the roof off tonight, and it happened. When Martjo entered the stage, dressed up as a witch, playing ‘With Witches Help’, they put the cream on top of the cake. And it gets even better, when they play the JUDAS PRIEST cover ‘Electric Eye’. The audience is still cooking! I look like a zombie, when we arrive at our guest house. And right now, when I write this article, I am already looking forward to the fifth edition of this great cult metal festival, because then we’re gonna see bands like FORSAKEN, STORMWARRIOR, IGNITOR, RUFFIANS, JAG PANZER, INTRUDER, SKULLVIEW, VIRGIN STEELE and the band that deserves my intrest the most, RAVEN. We will also say goodbye to one of our Dutch prides EMERALD on the warm up night, where we can also see STRIKELIGHT, POWERGOD and oh my God, these guys of ANVIL will be there as well, smoking them green! I can’t hardly wait for it. My thanks go out to Rita, Kim and Stefan for the cosy ride and my good friend Gerrie Lemmens for these great and unforgettable moments.
Written by: Toine van Poorten
Photos by: Rita van Poorten-Wiegel
(Printed in HEADACHE magazine, NL - June/July 2005)