We’d just celebrated the 25th anniversary party of NWOBHM at the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival in Hoorn one week earlier, when we prepared for our next trip to attend the Keep It True festival in Germany. This was the fifth edition of K.I.T, and the bill looked quite diverse again. Already a couple of weeks before the actual festival took place, we received a message, that the warm up show “Night Of The Blade” was completely sold out. That doesn’t sound too strange, when you have a band like ANVIL headlining there. Before leaving off to Germany, we collected Kim and Stefan, our partners-in-crime, in Geleen, which is situated near the border between Holland and Germany. After a small traffic jam in the area of Cologne, our trip continued very smoothly to Lauda-Königshofen. Time sure flies, when you’re having fun! After checking in at our guest house (same room), it was time to have a little nap after this long drive. In the meantime, Martjo and Henk (our friends of VORTEX) had arrived at our guest house as well. The group was finally complete, so we went for something to eat at the local schnitzel-paradise….
Friday, November 4th, 2005.
Night Of The Blade - warm up night
Sportshalle, Dittigheim, Germany.
With a well-stuffed stomach, we left by car to see the warming up show in Dittigheim (Sporthall). Ready to rock! When we entered the (already) quite crowded hall, I immediately got in touch with two members of PHANTOM-X - the support act of ANVIL for their upcoming European tour. They didn’t play ‘live’ tonight, but they would present their new album this evening and had arranged a listening session and a ‘meet and greet’ with all the fans. Former OMEN-frontman Kevin Goocher was very friendly indeed, and I am really looking forward to seeing the band live on tour (Note: we got to see the band one week later in Rotterdam, with ANVIL). After all, Texas Metal Rules, right?!!
However, even before the first band had started playing, some stupid imbecile fell on the ground. Possibly, he was too drunk to stand on his feet. That wasn’t that bad, he may have dropped dead in front of me, but the fact that he landed right on my foot, was not that funny at all. My right big toe nail is still black, when I write this review and it’s been almost four months ago now. Crazy son of a bitch! Later that evening, he got carried away by an ambulance. If you don’t know to behave yourself or to deal with alcohol, better stay home and shove your ass full of liquor on the couch. Don’t show your stupid face in public, because nobody is interested in drunken nitwits!!
STRIKELIGHT from Greece opened the festival with a lot of flair. They have many Greek supporters, who worshipped their heroes in front of the stage. The music of STRIKELIGHT is quite easy to describe: power metal mixed with a lot of influences from early IRON MAIDEN. Nothing more and nothing less, but it’s all done in a very enthusiastic way.
The show of EMERALD from Holland was in one word: superb! They played a lot of songs from their album “Down Town” and their sound simply contains all the right ingredients, that a good heavy metal band should have. A pounding drummer, a stunning bass guitarist, a vocalist with a high pinching voice and on top of that a very fast, impressive guitarplayer. Great metal anthems like “Johnny’s On The Run”, “Shadows Of Almighty”, “Suicide”, Down Town” and “D-Day” were fired at the audience. What a shame, this would be their official farewell gig or not at all?!?? Well, there was a giant surprise for all the fans of this Dutch band at the end of the show, because EMERALD announced that they were about to record a brand new album. They also added a second guitarist to their line up. And he really isn’t a stranger to the Dutch heavy metal scene. Paul van Rijswijk of HAMMERHAWK was presented as the new second guitarplayer of EMERALD. Hopefully, it will give this wonderful band another impulse to stay active in the metal scene. It simply can’t be true, that a great band like EMERALD ceases to exist just like that.
POWERGOD was on next. And for this special occassion, they would play a full cover set. A good gesture, because a lot of fans would get to hear a good selection of metal anthems this way. There is always one song in the set, that might appeal to you. Songs like “Kill With Power” (MANOWAR), “Burning Witches” (WARLOCK), “I Am A Viking” (YNGWIE MALMSTEEN), “Madhouse” (ANTHRAX), “Metal Merchants” (HALLOW’S EVE) and “Stars” (HEAR ‘N AID) received a good response. But the highlight of the set was, when John Gallagher climbed the stage to sing “Mind Over Metal” with the band. A good appetizer of what would happen the next day, when RAVEN would play their show at the main festival in Lauda. It was only a couple of minutes now, before the actual headliners would hit the stage. We rushed to the merchandise band to buy the new PHANTOM-X CD, which had just arrived and was played during the break that very moment [Note: It has reached the second place in my personal favorite CD top 10 over 2005, by the way]. We even got in touch with some members of IGNITOR, who’d just arrived at the warm up gig, when we went outside to breath some fresh air. Talk about good timing here! After introducing ourselves to the band (they would play at the main festival the next day!), time went by very fast and before we knew it, ANVIL was ready to go on stage.
When you open your set with “March Of the Crabs”, “666”, “School Love” and “Winged Assassin” (for those about to rock, Lips salutes you!!), it sure feels like stepping into a wam bath tub on a cold winter night. ANVIL turned back the clock twenty long years and they sounded like time had stood still inbetween. What a marvellous show! Frontman Lips and drummer Robb Reiner (the two main members of the band) seemed to have a lot of fun on stage, which continued with classics like “Motormount”, “Forged In Fire” and “Smoking Green”. The set didn’t only exist of oldies, but they’d also build in a block of newer songs from their long lasting career, like “Bottom Feeder”, “Race Against Time”, “White Ruin”, “Blood On The Ice” and “I’m A Mad Dog”. They closed their set (including some highlights with the fantastic stories of the always smiling Lips) with a smashing version of “Mothra”. My only question after this amazing show is, why ANVIL didn’t play at the main festival? They were definitely underrated on the bill of this warm up gig. I’m sure, there will be a good explanation for this decision of course, but a cult band like ANVIL is far too important to play a warm up gig only. Anyway, this was the end of a very long first day. Tomorrow we would attend the main venue at the Tauberfrankenhalle. Pleasant dreams, everybody and see ya there!
Saturday, November 5th, 2005.
KEEP IT TRUE V: GUARDIANS OF THE FLAME
Tauberfrankenhall, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
After a good night sleep and a very tasteful breakfast with our friends, we were ready for the second day of this sensational event. Obviously, we wanted to leave early, because the first band would be quite interesting already…. And of course we also wanted to spend a lot of money at the metal market. Which we did of course. There’s always so much to enjoy and you can find tonz of great items there!! Our main focus for today are opener IGNITOR (Texas Metal rules, remember?!), JAG PANZER and of course the mad, athletic metal giants RAVEN!!!
Like I mentioned before, IGNITOR would open the festival and I think, that they were certainly the best opener, a festival could wish for! With their mini album “Take To The Sky”, they already made a very good first impression on me. Today, they would make their very first European live appearance, which would be even more overwhelming than this first EP. They opened their set with “Demonslayer”, which was followed by a new song, called “Scarlet Enigma”. “Road Of Bones” is another new song, which tells us that the new material sounds really great, too! “The Last King Tiger”, “The Grey Ghost” and “Execution” were all taken from the EP. The title track of the album was on next. And I could only stare at the stage, watching their breathtaking performance. Especially guitarist Beverly Barrington and vocalist Erika Swinnich constantly caught my eye. Erika is the siren of the band. What a great voice and a marvellous heavy metal performance! And not a bad word about the other band members of course, because IGNITOR can be seen as a solid metal band. Beverly went on her knees with her guitar several times. She definitely loves to work out the sweat from her body in front of all the metal fans, that were giving them a standing ovation after each song. The last song, that they played was the new single, which was presented here for the first time this afternoon. It’s called “Reinheitsgebot” and it’s a real metal anthem. After their great show, the band had to say goodbye to their audience and they took the time for this, because the crowd kept shouting the name of the band for a long, long time. What an awesome show! Their first gig in Germany and on European soil can be seen as a huge success. What a shame though, that they could only play this one gig. Why is it so damn difficult for a great true metal band like IGNITOR to book more shows on the European continent? Is it the lack of support of the large magazines and labels for these kind of true metalheads? I really can’t think of anything else. A wonderful show, that touched me very deeply at the bottom of my heart.
Something I cannot say from the show of FORSAKEN from Malta. Last time, the trend was already set by COUNT RAVEN, by adding a doom metal band to the bill of Keep It True. FORSAKEN can definitely also be labelled as one. Although their music doesn’t sound bad at all, the spark simply didn’t catch me. A light in all these dark tones was definitely their BLACK SABBATH cover “Symptom Of The Universe”, which was one of the very few points of recognition to me. I like the ultra slow doom metal, so maybe that’s why their sound didn’t really ring a bell to me.
Same applies to STORMWARRIOR. I must confess, that I really liked their self-titled debut album and their show at Wacken Open Air in 2002, but I lost track of them ever since. Their set was very sparkling indeed, and I must confess they knew to hold my attention quite a while. I recognised some great songs, like “Odin’s Warriors”, “Sign Of The Warlord” and “Valhalla”, and they convinced me of their strength on stage once again.
SKULLVIEW could have been a big promise, but somehow I think I’d overrated them a bit. I’d expected more show effects. Their new singer was very convincing though and a good replacement of former shouter Quimby. They opened their set with “The Night Of Metalkill” and from there on, we got forty-five minutes of American Warrior Metal. Somehow, I got the idea, that they were not really playing their best songs this afternoon, but they played their set with style. However, I didn’t really get this. Suddenly, somewhere in the middle of the last song, the guitarplayer smashed his guitar on the ground and stagedived his way into the audience, leaving the rest of the band behind. A cool act, which astonished the fans and all the other band members. I think, the whole idea of being successful became a bit too much for him.
Anyway, SLOUGH FEG was on next, and an appropriate time for us to get a bite. Don’t get me wrong. I really like this band, but I actually don’t know them too well to judge them good enough. They sounded like a very big surprise. Their music is hard to describe. It’s like a mix between US Metal and NWOBHM. I hear influences of both styles in their songs. INTRUDER disappointed me a bit. I really liked their album “Live To Die…Relived” a lot. Their old school thrash metal with influences and riffs that would make the old METALLICA look pale sometimes, is really my cup of tea. But on stage, they kinda blew it for me. Their music sounded much too loud, like one thick wall of sound. All riffs sounded colourless and messy, and only rarely, they remembered me of this band, that I knew from this brilliant album, they had released on CD.
RUFFIANS surprised me again in a very positive way. Their metal is a lot more melodic and their sound was remarkably clearer than most of the other bands. Their show consisted of a ‘best of’ set, which works the best way at a festival like this. Songs like “Do Or Die”, Eyes Of Fire”, “Bad Boys Cut Loose”, “Run For Cover”, “Desert Of Tears” and new song “I Believe”, showed us a band, that really knows to please their fans. And also new bass player Tommy Sisco, who came from VICIOUS RUMORS, proved us that he has found his place in this remarkable tight melodic sounding US Metal band.
Slowly, I moved a little bit more upfront the stage, because JAG PANZER were about to play. Prior to the festival, they’d announced a special “Ample Destruction” set today. And they couldn’t really please me more (and probably many other metalheads!!) than by playing the whole album. The show would also be filmed tonight for a future DVD release, so I expected a spectacular gig here. And they didn’t disappoint me for one second. Although they didn’t play the whole album, they presented a remarkable strong set with a lot of old material. Harry ‘The Tyrant’ Conklin is like a dream come true for every true metal fan. With his heavenly voice, he carried the whole show to a higher level and each song received an ultra metal treatment, which made this show to one of the best performances, that I saw this year. Not in the least, because of the great guitarwork of Mr. JAG PANZER himself, Mark Briody, who fired his fast solos at the wild audience. Highlights are too many to mention, but I must say that “Chain Of Command”, “Generally Hostile”, “Symphony Of Terror” and especially “The Crucifix” made this gig immortal to me. Can’t wait to see this back on DVD! When I complimented Harry about his vocals later on backstage, he reacted very shy. When I asked him, if he would come back and play here next year with SATANS HOST, a giant smile appeared on his face.
Being backstage I also discovered something, that really shocked me. This festival has always been very special to me, mainly because the bands and the fans could always be very close to eachother. Band members went into the audience before and after the show. The press had unlimited access to the photo pit, and the atmosphere was really unique. Now they closed down the backstage area, and somewhere halfway the festival, the photo pit was closed after three songs. What exactly happened, that made the organizers force to make this decision???? This is no IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST show. These are all underground bands, that want their fans to be able to make pictures and have a meet and greet with them backstage. This was made impossible now, and it scares me a little, that the whole situation is slowly getting out of hand. Over the years, you could see the festival growing, and I really hope this was an one-off decision, because for us it would mean the end of the right underground atmosphere of the whole festival. Maybe it was the decision of one particular band, and I truly hope that things will go back to normal again next time.
In the meantime, RAVEN had started their soundcheck. These guys deserve all the respect, they could get. Every album sounds fabulous, and they went through a very rough time these past few years. Mark suffered from a severe accident and this was one of their first big shows after quite some time. Their sound check was hilarious already. Not too many people may have noticed it, but I nearly wetted my pants, when John Gallagher started to shout some phrases used in the Monty Python movies. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to it, but I almost coughed up blood for laughing out so loud about this hilarious situation. From that moment on, they couldn’t do anything wrong for me anymore. How did they get so crazee?? It’s all because of rock and roll they say, and I think that they’re right. The Marx brothers, I mean Gallagher brothers, were completed by cult drummer Joe Hasselvander (remember PENTAGRAM and CATHEDRAL!). The whole set of RAVEN was one huge highlight, and a big part of their show was copied from the “Destroy All Monsters” live CD. Which is a good reflection of what RAVEN is all about. They started with a lot of old material first, like “Live At The Inferno”, “All For One”, “Hell Patrol” and “Rock Until You Drop”. By then, I was in heaven, and I didn’t stop banging my head, until the last notes of “Break The Chain” faded away. Did I land in an invisible time machine? And did someone push the button 1982? I think so. The next day, I knew for sure that this didn’t happen, and that it was 2005. I couldn’t move my neck for a couple of weeks. It must have been the old age, I guess. Songs like “Inquisitor”, “Mind Over Metal” and especially “Don’t Need Your Money” can be called classics. Add to this the remarkable powerful performance, that the band gave here this night, and you must admit that RAVEN was the absolute highlight of the day. And while all other bands have wagons full of roadies walking around, this time John carried away all the equipment by himself. Not noticing anybody backstage, just carrying one amplifier after another to their dressing room. DEEP RESPECT for these guys. What a marvellous performance, and what great guys to hang out with! The strong bond of these two brothers will make sure, that RAVEN will go on and on for a very long time to come, until they have to carry themselves on stage in a wheelchair. I don’t think, that many bands will have the power to do what these guys are doing, even after exisiting for over thirty long years already. So HAIL to the real defenders of the faith, John Gallagher, Mark Gallagher and Joe Hasselvander for an evening, that I won’t forget for a long, long time!
VIRGIN STEELE blew out the candles tonight. And for me they did that after four or five songs already. This was definitely not the VIRGIN STEELE, that I wanted to see. They opened spectacular, when David de Feis climbed on stage with a mask on his face, which disappeard very quickly already. A hopeful start of a show, that became the painful end of this edition of Keep It True. When I think about VIRGIN STEELE, I think about their first two albums. Yes, the ones with one JACK STARR on guitar. But now, David knows to bore the public with two full hours of sentimental non-metal songs. Okay, there may have been one or two interesting songs, but that’s definitely not enough to keep the audience awake for so long. A sad fade out of a festival, that started so promising. Looking at the bill of the next edition, I must say that there are definitely some names, that look very promising, like EXCITER, AXEHAMMER and GRIM REAPER. ROSS THE BOSS can be very good, but I can already see thousands of MANOWAR fans showing up, who have nothing at all to do with all the other underground bands, and only come to worship the original guitar player of these metal warriors. RIOT could be a winner as well, but I am warning them already, if they are about to play the “Innishmore” stuff for the people here, they will end up exactly the same way as VIRGIN STEELE. Which means that they will play their songs for an almost empty hall. We want to hear “Narita”, “Rock City”, “Fire Down Under”, “Altar Of The King” and “Restless Breed” and nothing else. POWERVICE from Holland is also a name to remember, when you are visiting this festival on April 6th and 7th, 2006.