Have I told you about our most favorite festival of all: Keep It True? I guess, you know it by now already. And if not, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. The festival is a true valhalla for the die hard heavy metal fan, who doesn't get excited by all the new shit in the scene of today. People, who swear by the old school metal sound come together in the South of Germany, twice a year. And from now next year on, once a year. The amount of visitors is rising enormously and the editions are already sold out a year upfront. Who says, that metal is dead, should come to this festival extraordinair and get convinced of the fact that true heavy metal will never die. The tenth edition calls for a real celebration. A jubilee, that will be celebrated for two loooong days. Two days, that will definitely damage your health. It's a constant attack on your eardrums and most of the headbangers don't look too healthy anymore after two days of loud music. But who cares, when you'll have the time of your life here seeing bands, that nobody even dared to think of ever seeing live on stage in their entire life! Let's take you on this cult trip through almost twenty cool metal bands. No fillers allowed on this festival, all the bands are worth waiting for.
Friday, April 4th, 2008 [Day 1]
KEEP IT TRUE X: REIGH OF THE TYRANT
Tauberfrankenhall, Lauda-K?shofen, Germany
And so after a 350 miles drive, we're getting ready for Keep It True X. The sad news on this edition came from PHANTOM X, who couldn't play here today, because singer Kevin Goocher had to undergo a hip surgery. What a shame! BATTLEROAR took over their spot and the epic metal by these Greek warriors really got the fans warmed up. The band has just released their third album and they played two songs off this album this afternoon.
Next on is STRIKEMASTER from Mexico, who deliver some fine thrash metal, based upon the sound of their big examples, TESTAMENT. The band received some positive feedback from the enthusiastic public. Although MERCILESS DEATH is also a thrash metal icon, they are a bit more my cup of tea. The band puts some more melody into their songs and the guitarsolos are a more upfront in the mix. Still, it was just the beginning of a very long day....
A day, that acutally started for me with the first appearance of SENTINEL BEAST on this continent. SENTINEL BEAST plays speed metal and recently reformed. I am really curious, who would complete this band, besides frontlady Debbie Gunn, who obviously is the most important person in the band. To my big surprise the band consisted of all very young musicians. Debbie later said, that these were the sons she never had. What a nice metaphore! The fact, that Debbie was the only original member left after so many years, didn't make this gig less interesting. A surprisingly tight set, which contained many songs from the only album, the band ever made; "Depths Of Death". They opened with the title track, followed by "Mourir", "Dogs Of War" and "Corpse", before surprising us with a brand new anthem, called "Forbidden Territories". This song will be on their forthcoming album, which will hopefully be released in 2009. Next on, the band plays a fantastic speed metal version of the IRON MAIDEN classic "Phantom Of The Opera". Then the band continues with "Sentinel Beast" and "Evil Is The Night". And for the die-hard fans, there?s another nice surprise: Debbie and her guys take us back to the demo days of SENTINEL BEAST with a song, called "Kill The Witch". Maybe they can add some of this old stuff as a bonus on the new CD, if I may think out loud for once... Anyway, it was good to see SENTINEL BEAST live on stage for the first time. And I really hope, that this won't be the last time, because it sure tasted pretty fine!
METAL INQUISITOR is one of the very few German heavy metal bands, that have the right spirit and attitude to please me. The band missed frontman El Rojo, and so it was a very difficult task for Blummi to play guitar and sing at the same time. But he really made the best out of it during opener "Doomsday For The Heretic". At this show, the band was helped out by several guest singers, taking over the lead vocals. Firstly, we hear the singer of the JUDAS PRIEST tribute band BRITISH STEEL singing "Invader". The other guest vocalists are perhaps even more convincing. One of the true godfathers of the NWOBHM scene climbed the stage: Jess Cox (ex-TYGERS OF PAN TANG) guests on the TYGERS cover "Euthanasia". And Brian Ross (ex-SATAN, now BLITZKRIEG) sings the SATAN classic "Trial By Fire". Without the help of these terrific people, it would have been so different for METAL INQUISITOR tonight. But with the right kind of spirit, you'll always find friends to help you out, when you're in need of a helping hand.
ATTACKER played the gig, that we all wished for. The enthusiasm exploded from the stage and the band seemed to be in an excellent mood. We already knew upfront, that the band would play the whole "Battle At Helms Deep" album. And if that wasn't enough, the band even added some songs off "The Second Coming" and some recent stuff. The band was in great shape and their tribute to the late Jim Mooney could easily make the biggest metal head cry. What a great performance! The band closes their set with the SAXON classic "Denim And Leather", in which the audience would participate in singing the refrain. A couple of weeks later, we heard why this gig was so special to the band. It was the farewell gig of Bob Mitchell, who decided to quit ATTACKER and start a solo career. He really got the best farewell present a singer could wish for! ATTACKER were the big heroes tonight and it would be difficult to top this performance.
OMEN was on next and they simply continued the metal party, that SENTINEL BEAST had started a few hours earlier. The band started out with a very bad sound and guitarplayer Kenny Powell was furious about it. But after a while, things got better and we could enjoy classics like "Dragon's Breath", "Deathrider", "The Axeman", "In The Arena", "Teeth Of The Hydra", "Warning Of Danger", "Ruby Eyes (Of The Serpent)", "The Curse", "Die By The Blade", "Don't Fear The Night" and of course "Battle Cry", my personal all-time fave song. During "Teeth Of The Hydra", the band is guested by the frontman of DANTESCO, Erico La Bestia. And if this isn't enough, they also crank out a new song, called "Voices". A wonderful set by a great band, who are definitely the kings of speed metal. And some other kings are on next. HELSTAR is one of my personal faves of today. I always go for the Tex old school metal and HELSTAR has always been a very important part in this scene. James Rivera is a strong singer and frontman. And with an almost entire original line up, the band decided to give the fans what they asked for. To my big surprise the band played the entire "Remnants Of War" album. Need I say more? I guess not. Bassplayer Jerry Abarca shows, that he?s still capable of doing some pretty cool moves on stage, while playing some fantastic bass lines. Same goes for both guitarists Larry Barragan and Robert Trevino. Besides the whole "Remnants Of War" album, we get to hear songs like the new "Tormentor" and "Caress Of The Dead" and oldies like "Dracula's Castle", "Baptized In Blood", "Run With The Pack" and "The King Is Dead". Well, this king ain't dead and they proved that once again here on stage. One helluva perfromance by this Texas old school metal band.
And before you know it, it?s time for the last band on the first day, namely TITAN FORCE. It's the first time, we will get to see Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin at this edition of K.I.T. TITAN FORCE is the more melodic metal band of this performer. His singing qualities are far above the highest possible level. The expressions and the moves, that he makes really come alive. And there are not too many people, who are capable of that. "Winner / Loser", "Master Of Disguise","Chase Your Dreams", they are all there tonight. They even played songs from the "Only The Strong" demo. I think, it was a special treat from Harry, who celebrated his birthday today. The set was just perfect. Of course the band had to come back for two encores, being "New Age Rebels" and "Blaze Of Glory". And this is only just the beginning, because tomorrow The Tyrant would return for a second set, but this time with his other band, JAG PANZER. The people were very pleased on this first day, and we are getting ready for part two of this heavy metal tour de force.
Saturday, April 5th, 2008 [Day 2]
KEEP IT TRUE X: REIGH OF THE TYRANT
Tauberfrankenhall, Lauda-K?shofen, Germany
On Saturday, it's a bit more difficult to start the engines. Yesterday we already got the first hit on the head, and today we know there will be a knock out game between JAG PANZER and the hungry metalheads. But first we have a long, full day ahead of us. We decided to go to the hall early, because we wanted to have some time to have a good look around on the metal market. BATTLE RAM from Italy are evil warriors. It was the second time, that they played here and they convinced me once again. During their set, Mark Shelton of MANILLA ROAD arrives and at once everyone is focussed on him for autographs and a quick chat. However, the guys of BATTLE RAM know how to get the cameras turning back to them again, when playing the ANGELWITCH cover "Angelwitch". A point of recognition, which makes everybody aware of the fact, that this band are true metal warriors. It's a shame, that they haven't released an album yet, but with songs from their demos, like "Behind The Mask" and "I Am Heavy Metal"(Need I say more??) they did very well too, in my opinion.
FUELED BY FIRE looks a bit like DEATH ANGEL in a way, but their thrash metal sounds a bit more furious. Not really my cup of tea, but the fans seem to love it and the first serious moshpit was spotted already on this early hour. We are here to keep it true though, and I was quite curious to see French outfit DEMON EYES play this afternoon. I have mixed feelings about this gig. I loved their enthusiasm, especially guitarplayer Thierry Masson was very impressive. But I think it?s a bit over the top to play a forty minutes set and also do two covers, while you have two albums out. It was really nice to hear originals like "L'Orgie Des Damn°C#034;, "L'Infincible Force De La Mort", "Pestif÷Ús" and "Les Deux Maudites". "Hommage" is the first cover, which is a tribute to METALLICA and their version of the classic "Seek And Destroy" from the "Kill 'Em All" album. A second tribute song is coming up at the end of this gig, when they play the TRUST cover "Anti-Social". This is definitely one of the real cool anthems coming from France, which was once covered by ANTHRAX as well. And although a lot of people did have mixed feelings about this gig, I did enjoy the DEMON EYES show very much. Mainly because this band is so odd, comparing to all the other thrash or US metal outfits, they sound like a very welcome change in the various music styles of tday.
CRESCENT SHIELD from Los Angeles are on next. I think, that a lot of people didn't really know this band, which is actually a damn shame. I didn't know what to expect from the band at first. Where they able to live up to this high level of songs on their album "The Last Of My Kind" live on stage as well? On paper, the band line up looks like some kind of supergroup in the underground scene. Vocalist Michael Grant comes from ONWARD and guitarist Dan De Lucie from DESTINY'S END. Craig Anderson is the more unknown drummer, while the bassplayer in CRESCENT SHIELD is nobody else but Melanie Sisneros, who we all know from bands like NEW EDEN, THE IRON MAIDENS and SINERGY. I can be short and honest about their performance of this afternoon. It was supergreatfantastic, to use a non-existing word. The band worked themselves through all the difficult songs without much problems. The set was mainly filled with songs from their current album, like "Above Mere Mortals", "Rise Of The Red Crescent Moon", "Burn With Life", "The Last Of My Kind", "The Path Once Chosen" and "The Passing". And we even get to hear a brandnew song from the upcoming album "The Stars Of Never Seen", called ?Lifespan?. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until 2009 to see that release in the better selected music stores.
PHARAOH had a difficult task to top this. I think, it was an almost impossible task. Maybe it would have been better to put them on the bill before CRESCENT SHIELD. The reason for that is, this was the band?s very first gig. If that was the only thing though, it would have been not that bad. But they also had to play in an improvised line up, because their bassplayer just couldn't make it, so the drummer took over his place. And the producer of the band played rhythm guitar. Do you still read me?? Anyway, back to this review. Considering the whole situation, PHARAOH did their best to impress the audience with their US metal. Songs like "Telepath", "After The Fire", "No Remains" and "I Am The Hammer" were launched into the Lauda sportshall. And it worked. Of course the band did convice more on CD, but I think, that we were part of a very exclusive European debut show.
When you say CAGE, I say JUDAS PRIEST. It's not a big shame to be compared to the one and only metal gods. Their music is very energetic and it sparkles somehow. Their moves, the riffs, the guitar solos, everyhting breathes touches of PRIEST. They still rock it out loud in San Diego, that's a fact. In the line up of CAGE we find back Norm Leggio, the former drummer of PSYCHOTIK WALTZ. I think, that?s also worth mentioning here and I can?t wait for the day to come, that they will play at K.I.T sometime. "Kill The Devill", "Wings Of Destruction", "Rise Of The Beast", "I Am The King", these are all metal songs put on a plate in eatable chunks and very easy to consume. But therefore they might be a bit too easy to consume for people, who come to listen to the real underground stuff. When the band closes their set with "King Diamond", obviously dedicated to the real king of the underground, the band has to make room for another Italian metal attack, DOOMSWORD.
I have to say that I really like this band, especially their first albums. Their epic metal is just perfect for this festival, especially for all the Greek and Italian warriors, who love epic metal! A lot of warrior anthems are played, because DOOMSWORD brings some kind of medley, in which they have melted a couple of songs together. So they don't have to let anyone down. The good response of the crowd is massive and a lot of people sing along to songs like "Onward Into Battle", "The Doomsword", "Heathen Assault", and "For Those Who Died With Sword In Hand". The enthusiastic crowd really went outrageous at times.
But for me the real heroes of heraldic metal will be on stage later on that evening, so I waited my turn patiently to welcome MANILLA ROAD. Next on, there?s the mighty HEATHEN. They actually took over from RAZOR, who was originally scheduled for this edition. To be honest with you, I would go for HEATHEN and many people with me, I?d say. Their energetic performance was ultra cool! "Opiate For The Masses","Hypnotized", "Arrows Of Agony", "Open The Grave", "Death By Hanging", "Dying Season" and "Heathen's Song" are the ones I still remember, while creating my own private headbanging spot on the right side of the stage somewhere.
And finally, they?re there! MANILLA ROAD are true gods! Well, at least Mark Shelton is for me. Their epic metal is timeless and Mark always has an open ear for all his fans. That last part is very important for me, too. Some bands you will never get to see in the hall. Mark always tries to make some time to chat with his fans. MANILLA ROAD is the perfect way to heat up the metalheads for a JAG PANZER performance. The setlist consists of many classics and a few surprises. From the recent album "Voyager", they play the title track and a song called "Blood Eagle". And if my memory serves me right, I also heard "Masque Of The Red Death", "Death By The Hammer", "Hammer Of The Witches", "Witches Brew", "Road Of Kings", "Mystification", "The Riddle Master", "Up From The Crypt", "Necropolis", "Divine Victim" and "Flaming Metal Systems", which was introduced by a lengthy guitar part of ?The Shark? himself. The biggest surprise is saved for last though... The band plays a very old tune, called "Avatar", in a killer version of almost ten f*cking minutes. Goosebumps all over! MANILLA ROAD are still the uncrowned kings of epic metal mayhem. And I think, that only MANOWAR can top this, because they are the emperors. But this was indeed a very smashing performance again! And the best was yet to come.
We were promised an altimate JAG PANZER show. Yesterday we were already treated to a miraculous live show by TITAN FORCE. Now it was time for the heavy metal outfit of The Tyrant: JAG PANZER. The band already saw their guitarist Chris Broderick leave to MEGADETH. But as long as Harry Conklin and Mark Briody are in the band, the true JAG PANZER spirit is saved.Christian Lesegue is Broderock?s successor and the man played with JAG PANZER before, so he knows the stuff by heart. The band opens their ultimate set with "Generally Hostile". The first knock on the head, many will follow after this. The Tyrant is the ultimate frontman. The mimics, the moves, his voice. He is the Rob Halford of the underground for me. The set consists of old and new stuff, just to please every fan out there. Although I can imagine, that the old school fan really prefers the earliest stuff the most. "License To Kill", "Symphony Of Terror", "Reign Of The Tyrants", "Warfare" and old school classics like "Battle Zones". Apparantly, the band suffers from some severe difficulties with the guitar sound, which takes away the smoothly progress of the show and because of that, some drum intermezzos and other stuff has to be build in, which wasn't planned in the first place. What a shame, because this particular show was quite important for the band as well. After songs like "Black", "Iron Eagle", "Tyranny" and "Future Shock", we were treated to a nice surprise. Bob Parduba, who I would like to call 'the other singer of JAG PANZER' enters the stage to sing a couple of songs together with his brother-in-arms, Harry, like "The Mission", "Shadow Thief", Take To The Sky" and "Vigilant". Then Harry lets it all loose and Bob is on his own for "Chain Of Command" and "Never Surrender". The poor man has never played live with JAG PANZER before. But this honour was exclusively kept for the K.I.T. visitors, you would almost say. The most magical moment for each and everyone of us though is "The Crucifix" - one of my all-time favorite metal anthems. The regular set might have been over after this smashing version, but the fun wasn't gone yet. It was time for some covers after that, like "Where Eagles Dare" (IRON MAIDEN), "Electric Eye (JUDAS PRIEST) and "Gypsy" (MERCYFUL FATE). Their show lasted over two hours and I think, we can indeed talk about an ultimate live show of JAG PANZER.
This was the tenth edition of K.I.T, but the memory will still remain for a long time after that. The eleventh edition will have bands like HELLHOUND, FORTE, FAITH FACTOR, BLASPHȍE, ARTILLERY, TOKYO BLADE, GIRLSCHOOL, NASTY SAVAGE and FLOTSAM AND JETSAM. The flyer for K.I.T. 12 (April 2009) already shows us a very impressive list of names like TYRANT, RUTHLESS, HELL, ASKA, LIZZY BORDEN, ABATTOIR and MILITIA (!!!!!). Our thanks goes out to Oli and Tarek for putting together this magnificent bill and for keeping it true again. The most dedicated underground festival of all in my book! Website: http://www.keep-it-true.de.
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/May 2008
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten