The days went by slowly, but finally the 14th edition of the Keep It True festival appeared on our calendar. This is one of the very few events, that we are really looking forward to for a whole year. The reason is quite obvious. Name me any other festival, that provides so many cult names on their bill as this one.. You simply won’t succeed, no matter how hard you try. Roadburn, British Steel, Heavy Metal Maniacs, Bang Your Head, Headbangers Open Air, Wacken, Graspop, Alcatraz Metal Fest, Muskelrock, Up The Hammers and Sweden Rock are all providing great bills, but they never know to top the names that are on this two days event at the Tauberfrankenhalle in Lauda-Königshofen (of all places) in Germany. VEKTOR had to cancel their gig and were being replaced by German metalheads ALPHA TIGER. The Belgian metal sensation OSTROGOTH also had to cancel their gig, but this reason was more serious. Guitarist Rudy ‘Whiteshark’ Vercruysse almost cut off his forearm with a saw at work. The good news is, that he is recovering quite well and they will be playing on the 15th edition of K.I.T. in 2012. The most important cancellation was coming from one of the headliners though. John Cyriis decided to have a party with his fellow aliens instead of coming over to Germany. For many people, the AGENT STEEL reunion with John Cyriis was the main reason to come over to Germany. This didn’t hold back the other band members from jumping on a plane and coming over to the holy grounds in Germany. They had to change their name into MASTERS OF METAL though, which they did. They didn’t let their fans down and with Rick Mythiasin (STEEL PROPHET) stepping in on vocals, they did their very best to be a successful headliner. No worries about any fire spitting volcanoes this time, so it seems that nothing could go wrong this time. Let’s take a look here what happened during this busy weekend. 550 kilometer of asphalt had to be travelled, before enjoying twenty heavy metal bands in two days. The event actually starts on Thursday for us, when we begin our journey to Germany....
My alarm clock gets off at 06.30 in the morning. Usually, I am not that happy, when this happens. However, this time I don’t really mind, because I know that in a few hours we will be at our guest house in Germany, which is situated a few minutes away from the festival hall. We select some CDs for our long drive to Königshofen, drink some coffee and after packing my air guitar and air drum kit, we hit the road for two days of cult metal. We arrive at about three o’clock in the afternoon, so there’s still plenty of time to take a nap from our long journey. About an hour later our friends from Belgium (Eddy and Christine) arrive at the guest house as well, so it’s time for a little chat before going to diner in a restaurant nearby. After our meal, we decide to take a short walk to the festival hall and see if there’s anything going on. Some people are already enjoying themselves on the giant parking space next to the hall, but that's about it. All the more reason to hit the sack and prepare for two heavy metal days in a row. Our musical adventures from ALPHA TIGER to CRIMSON GLORY are summed up in the next lines. I'd better go to sleep now, if you don’t mind.
Friday, April 29th, 2011
KEEP IT TRUE XIV: Day 1
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
Opening a festival like this is always difficult. But opening the doors in time seems to be a problem as well. This is the only minor complaint, that I want to make here. And it really is a very minor detail, because the weather outside is beautiful and it almost feels like summer today. Once the doors are open, the metal market is right in front of us and we have about an hour to spend there, before ALPHA TIGER will hit the stage. The first highlight of the day however is, when they push the flyer of KIT XV in your hands, which is right after they gave us our wristband. The first view at the names that you will get to see in 2012 is rather exciting, I can tell you that much. TYTAN was already on our list of bands we knew that would be playing, but names like TENSION, OZ, OSTROGOTH, VOLTURE, FISHEL’S BEAST, SAVAGE BLADE, MYSTIK, MYSTIC FORCE, ADRAMELCH, SWORD, PORTRAIT, a NWOBHM show and our own Dutch pride and glory DARK WIZARD on the bill, that exactly makes me count the days until the next year’s edition will take place again. But we first have to fight ourselves through this year.
Twenty bands in a row are lined up and when our money is spend on some must have items, we hear the first tones of ALPHA TIGER. A lot of people already know, that I am a huge fan of NWOBHM and US metal. And while the album of this band had just been released, it all sounded very new-fashioned to me. The power metal of this band was nice to hear but nothing real special, mainly because I didn’t have the pleasure of checking out this band before seeing them live. All the songs came from their debut album “Men Or Machine”. Well at least they can add a very important festival appearance on their cv at the end of the day. It may open some doors for them in the future, when you can say that you have played at the Keep It True Festival. Point of recognition came at the end of the set, when they decided to play a cover of QUEENSRYCHE’s “Queen Of The Reich”, which thrilled me with excitement. Not only because it is a great choice, but also because they played it with great flair and it really sounded very special next to originals like “Martyr’s Paradise”, “Crimson’s Desert”, “Against The Time”, “Men Or Machine”, “Karma” and “Exit Night”.
After this German opener, it was time for nine US metal bands in a row. What a treat for yours truly. HELLHOUND was a nice surprise to me. A few years ago we already saw the Japanese HELLHOUND, but this time the American HELLHOUND showed their skills. The “Anthology” CD/DVD that was released in 2009, was already a good way to get to know this band a little better, if you didn’t know them from the demos already. The band has got a new EP out at the moment, which they promoted today. Next to that they also played a few oldies of course just to please all the old school metal heads in the hall. And I know that there are a lot of them, who wanted to hear more old stuff instead. Again for the same reason as with ALPHA TIGER. The material we heard this afternoon was so new, that the fans hardly knew it. They kicked off with “Flee The Bomb”, but right after this they already cranked out a new song called “Red Sun, Black Sand”. “Killing Spree” was the only other song from the “Anthology” CD/DVD set that we get to hear this afternoon, which was maybe an odd choice. Instead of more golden oldies, we were treated on new work in the form of “As The Needle Drips”, “Circle Of Trust”, “Blood Feud” and “Bleeding Edge”. Things got really excited again, when the band decided to end with RAINBOW’s “Kill The King”. I know that a lot of people won’t like this at all, because they will expect more original material to be played from the bands. But there were so many bands that simply couldn’t pass the fact that one of the greatest metal vocalists died last year. Ronnie James Dio was a major influence to so many bands and singers, that they all wanted to pay tribute to this legendary singer. A lot of fans took the opportunity to sing along with this one of course.
On we go with DAMIEN THORNE, another US metal band that I had high expectations about. The name of the band is based upon the fictional name for the antichrist in the cult movie “The Omen”. Who hasn’t seen or heard about this horror classic should stop reading this review right now. You’re either too young or deep in your heart you’re still denying that you prefer to listen to dance music instead of heavy metal. Despite of this, for the same reasons as mentioned earlier, their show just didn’t turn out what I wanted it to be. With a great album like “Sign Of The Jackal”, you might expect a lot of songs coming from this album. DAMIEN THORNE however also has a new album out that needed to be promoted. The album is called “End Of The Game” and basically, most of these songs were played here this afternoon. The show opened with “The Clicher” and “Indulgence”, both taken from this new album. With “Damien’s Procession” (March Of The Undead), they step back in time for a song from their glory days, but right after that they return to “End Of The Game” with “Psychosis”, title track “End Of The Game” and “Fire”. “Raise Your Horns” is on next and this song comes from the album “Haunted Mind”, released in 2005. The show closes with “Escape Or Die”, which is in fact an old song from the first album, but they’ve re-recorded it for “End Of The Game”, so you can wonder whether to call it an old or a new track. Why they actually call it “Escape Or Die 2012” on the new album seems like a mystery to me, after all it’s 2011 right now. The music of DAMIEN THORNE was good though, but with a bit more old stuff in the set, this could have been so much better. Don’t worry though, DAMIEN THORNE is still evil, but I am a bit too fond of their old material, that’s all. The new album sounds smashing, by the way, so I think that I still have to get used to the songs a little.
BITCH was one of the bands, that was on my most favorite bands to see on this edition. Back in the days they were the very first band, that got signed by Brian Slagel, the legendary Metal Blade boss. Quite an achievement, I would say. I still remember very old promo pictures, that were released in the early days, on which Betsy takes ANVIL frontman Lips for a walk on a leash. Lips crawling next to her on hands and knees, like a dog. Lips and ANVIL made a huge step forward in their career with the release of their DVD, but I think that Lips can still wish that a good looking lady like Betsy would take him out for a walk. No offense to the ANVIL frontman of course, but this was actually compliment to the lady, who is fronting the band Bitch all those years. The band members of ANGER AS ART are in function as backing band for Betsy throughout this tour, which has led them to some clubs in Holland as well. BITCH haven’t released any new stuff for years, so we’re in for an old school show today. When we met Betsy before the show, the first thing that we recognized was the necklace that she also wore on the “Damnation Alley” EP. Okay, but what about the live show? She starts with “Right From The Start” and the whole puzzle falls into one place at the same time. This is BITCH and this is going to be a great forty-five minutes heavy metal show. “Damnation Alley” and “Be My Slave” can be called true classics and for some people, mainly the male audience, the temperature is rising pretty fast. “Riding In Thunder” is another great foot stomper and in “Leatherbound”, the crowd gets the opportunity to sing along. Robby Settles, the original drummer of BITCH and Betsy’s brother-in-law, and Ronnie James Dio are honored right after this with a song called “Save You From The World”. A magical moment, that makes the whole hall quiet for a short while. After that, the show continues with “Live For The Whip”. Volunteers were asked to practice on, but I think that a lot of male fans know the reputation of this lady and they wanted to see the rest of the festival as well. So the stage floor gets whipped by dominatress Betsy this afternoon. I’ve always rated this song as one of her best heavy metal anthems. Together with the leather whip show, it even gets better. For the last song, Betsy explains a bit more about the lyrics of the very song. “Skullcrusher”, which you may not expect from a song with a title like that, is all about oral sex. During that song, a sugar candy stick is taken out as an example to show what is the real meaning behind this song. There are plenty of volunteers now, but they all have to do with a visual instruction by the mistress. Whether she’s an expert or not is not the case here, but I saw a few metalheads turn red from excitement. The whole scene didn’t offend me at all, but it gained the respect that I already have for Betsy and BITCH. Remember, that she was singing this song already in the early eighties, when things were quite different, especially in the USA? BITCH was definitely a highlight for me after this wonderful show. The “Be My Slave” album will be re-released with a bonus DVD of this whole show, so there is something to look forward to after these magical moments. I’m a long term Betsy slave and this feeling is only getting stronger after seeing this show. Betsy is also the front lady of WITCH, so who knows we may see her back with this band on the festival bill as well sometime?
SLAUTER XSTROYES were on next and I know for sure that another highlight of the festival was announcing itself soon. It was the first time for SLAUTER XSTROYES to invade Europe and they took us all by surprise. What a way to open your show with “Winter Kill”, which was worth double points in my opinion. Steve Reimer Sr. proved to be a great singer next to long term members Brent Sullivan on bass guitar and Paul Kratky on guitar.. What a great show opener! “The Stage” and “Charlotte” are next and the band proves that they can easily live up to the high standard, that I have in mind for this band. It looks like the band is also enjoying this whole show a lot. The “Winter Kill” album is definitely in the spotlight this afternoon, which isn’t a bad choice, but with “Wicked Bitch” we also return to the “Free The Beast” album for a short while. “Living In Peace” is a previously unreleased song, and a nice surprise for all of us. Which is directly followed by another previously unreleased track, called “Saint’s Revenge”. The band gains popularity with each song and they close their set with “Black Rose And Thorns”, also taken from the “Winter Kill” album. In this song the singer hands out some black roses, a very nice gesture for the female fans, I guess. Then, the band has to return for an encore. They chose for a song, called “Glacier”. Maybe one or two more songs from the “Free The Beast” album would have been very welcome for a perfect balance between the two released albums, but besides this minor detail, I had a blast during this show. What a stunning performance from this band from Chicago, Illinois, who originally started their career by the name of NAJ. A couple of weeks after this show, rumor goes that SLAUTER XSTROYES will soon play their final gig in the Chicago neighborhood. I really hope, that these are just rumors.
BROCAS HELM is next on the list, our very first introduction to the band, while we didn’t attend the very first Keep It True Festival, where they also played. Before the gig, we already had a short talk with bass player Jim Schumacher, the Lemmy of the underground cult metal scene, in our opinion. A person, who you simply can’t pass by without noticing. Always armed with his photo camera, looking for a nice shot to take. When the band hits the first notes, they give their very best right from the start with “Black Death”. There’s some kind of magic going on between the band members. They are such a tight team, that everything is possible while playing their set. The great guitar solo in the kick off tune already predicts a very strong performance here. “Drink And Drive” is followed by “Time Of The Dark” and “Defenders Of The Crown”, with Jim wearing his dark goggles. “Ravenwreck” and especially “Ghost Story” belong to my own personal faves this afternoon. The epic “Drink The Blood Of The Priest” is on next, before we go “Into Battle”. This afternoon the band definitely plays a ‘best of’ set, which is closed with “Cry Of The Banshee” and “Skullfucker”. During these songs, it certainly shows that the band members only need a wink of an eye from each other to communicate. The band raises the roof this afternoon and the biggest surprise is still yet to come. Before the band leaves the stage, Jim announces that this was the last show ever of BROCAS HELM……..leaving the crowd in a huge consternation. Was this really the very last show? Did they really mean it or was this just another joke from a band, who are constantly joking on stage? No, this was reality and it hurts a lot to see a band announce their farewell gig out of the blue. If this was truly their very last show, they had a great setlist, but I would have opted for a more spectacular farewell show, which they definitely deserve. Anyhow, this performance was top notch and spot on, in my opinion. Many question will remain unanswered after this sudden decision to stop after thirty years or more. A lot of people know, that Jim is working on a new musical project, that shows a lot of similarity to BROCAS HELM. But this came to a surprise for everybody here this afternoon, that’s for sure. We watched a killer gig today, for which I hope it wasn’t really their final one.
Today was a good day for US metal fans, we mentioned this already earlier on. BREAKER was next and I still remember their great gig at Wacken Open Air a couple of years ago. These guys from Cleveland know how to rock and they came here to give a very nice demonstration of it all. “Manifesto” is the opening tune this evening and it shows that the band is still ready, wild and willing. There is a lot of action on stage, but we also see the band members disappear from the stage many times, to show up in the middle of the audience somewhere. “Ten Seconds In” is somewhere in the beginning of the set and one of my favorite songs. Sometimes there are more members off the stage than there are on stage and before you know it, you’ll see the guitar player next to you, standing on one of the tables where they gave autographs just a little while ago. What an enthusiastic bunch of musicians! Other highlights are “Luck And Gasoline” and “Get Tough”. At the end of the very last song “Still Life”, it’s time for a little crowd surfing. This was true madness and the public loved every second of it. The enthusiasm of the band can’t be topped and every time I see them play, BREAKER seems to know how to steal my heart. “I Destroy”, which they also played today, will probably be the title of their new album, which will be coming out soon.
After this it was time to see what would happen with the legendary cult act GRIFFIN. When I saw this name on the bill for the festival in 2011, it felt like I was in heaven. Where else could you see a band like this on stage, I ask you? The only answer would be at the Keep It True Festival. Little did we know, that this show would only consist of the original GRIFFIN singer, called William Roderick McKay, with the guys of ROXXCALIBUR as his backing band. So they would repeat the same stint as they did with SAVAGE GRACE last year. After hearing this rumor, I had my doubts whether this would be something to look forward to or not. On the other hand, to enjoy the GRIFFIN songs in a live setting would be very cool. So now we just waited for this all to happen. The band opened with “Eulogy / Awakening” and William fronting the band with a big cowboy hat on. Was this something that I’d been looking forward to for a whole year? After “Hunger” and “Infinite Voyage”, I’d still had my doubts, whether to like this show or not. The music sounded great and was very well performed, but thinking of the name GRIFFIN, I’d visualized different things in my head. “Heavy Metal Attack”, “Tame The Lion”, “Hawk The Slayer” and of course “Flight Of The Griffin” are real powerful metal attacks and the voice of William certainly outlived after many decades and was still in very good shape. In the meantime, the temperature was rising towards the boiling point in the hall and things got very sticky. It was quite difficult to stay focused, while GRIFFIN cranked out one classic after another with “Entity/Watching From The Sky” and “Poseidon Society”. After set closure “Hell Runneth Over”, I only had one wish and that was to get some fresh air. So out we were for a get together with our good friend Stefan van Zijl of the Heavy Metal Maniacs and Paul van Rijswijk of EMERALD. My final verdict about GRIFFIN is, that I finally had the chance to see the band live on stage and musically they definitely didn’t disappoint me, but I must admit that I expected so much more from this show in the first place. The timing was excellent though, because when we got home I had the opportunity to read the whole story behind GRIFFIN in the new edition of Snakepit. Which band on the 2012 bill would have ROXXCALIBUR as backing band?? I’m glad that there is this second NWOBHM show, in which the band will play a leading role, so we won’t have any more surprises this time.
It was almost half a year ago, since we last saw VICIOUS RUMORS with a great show at the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival in Hoorn. They already played a song from the brand new album over there. This next show wasn’t supposed to be just another VICIOUS RUMORS show though, because tonight’s show was going to be something real special. The singer would be nobody else but Carl Albert’s son Kevin, including some guest performances by Phil Sisco and Mark McGhee on bass and guitar. It would become a tribute to Carl Albert, mainly focused on the band’s most successful album “Digital Dictator”. What can I say? Another show not to be missed was about to happen right now. Right from the moment the band took the stage with “Digital Dictator”, it became quite obvious that Kevin sounded very much like his father. Kevin originally plays guitar in KAOS and ULYSSES SIREN, for those of you who don’t know. What a great voice, and what a nice guy! After “Out Of The Shadows”, there’s already the first highlight of tonight’s set, when the band plays “Down To The Temple”. Everybody was joining to sing along to this well-known VICIOUS RUMORS classic. After that, “Dust To Dust” follows and then the band announces that they would play something from the new album. A little band member change takes place and the band starts with “Murderball” and “Let The Garden Burn”. At first, I didn’t really get it. Was this it? Was this the tribute to Carl Albert? Little did we know at this particular moment. We really enjoyed the great performance of today’s line-up of VICIOUS RUMORS, but hell we wanted more of this special tribute performance. After this little ‘side-step’, the band re-changed to the first line up, that took the stage and they continued the tribute part with “Abandoned”. The live show was one of a kind, including highlights like “The Lady Took A Chance” (with a big heavy metal choir), “Worlds And Machines”, “Ship Of Fools” and “Hellraiser”. In between, I also recognized songs such as “The Voice”, “You Only Live Twice” and “Ministry Of Fear”. The set closer was one to shout along to. “Don’t Wait For Me” is an excellent choice to scream your lungs out one more time. This also meant the end of a very worthy tribute to the late Carl Albert, in which his son Kevin played a leading role. Mission completed I’d say and right now all what we could wish for was a stunning performance by the Masters Of Metal.
However, this was a really weird situation to see a headliner, that hasn’t even released one single song or one single album. Yes I know, that this is AGENT STEEL with Rick Mythiasin on vocals. For legal reasons though the band had to change their name and they opted for MASTERS OF METAL. Rick is an all-round singer and we had a blast with this guy backstage at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 1999, when STEEL PROPHET played their show there. Now he returned as singer of MASTERS OF METAL. After “The Calling”, the band pounded out “Agents Of Steel” and Rick wearing some kind of ‘alien’ sunglasses in a toxic kind of green color. Very painful for your eyes, but it was a real pleasure to hear the man sing again. And he also hit the high notes really fine. Of course there will be loads of people, who didn’t dig this at all. They are probably sour about the fact, that they missed John Cyriis behind the microphone. Only a few Japanese fans had the privilege to see the man live on stage with AGENT STEEL. This just wasn’t meant to be for some reasons, I guess. But think of it as with the whole GRIFFIN show. The music of AGENT STEEL was played, but now with a different singer. Bruce Hall already did a great job replacing John Cyriis, but Rick Mythiasin is a true metal god, when it comes to being a great vocalist. And he showed that he was very capable of doing the job this evening with stunning versions of “Never Surrender”, “Unstoppable Force” and “Nothing Left”. After four songs, Rick still was wearing them geek glasses, but he was almost forced to take them off by Juan Garcia before continuing the show.
The ‘alien’ mission was completed and we had to return to reality again with “Children Of The Sun”, “Know Your Master” and “Traveler”. As you can see, they also cranked out some newer tracks from the Bruce Hall era. After “Ten Fists Of Nations” and “Rager”, it was time for a DIO medley, as Ronnie James Dio was a big influence to Rick as well. The medley contained songs like “Children Of The Sea”, “The Last In Line” and “Stand Up And Shout”. The show slowly came to an end with “The Day At Guyana”, “Guilty As Charged” and new written track “Tomb Of Ra”. But before closing day one of this mighty festival, they invited James Rivera on stage for another cover song of the JUDAS PRIEST classic “The Ripper”. You can also count this as an AGENT STEEL song for some reason, because the band recorded this song on their EP “Mad Locust Rising”. The knock-out punch came from “Bleed For The Godz”. Maybe a bit too soon, since there was still some time left after this. It would have been nice to hear “144,000 Gone” for example. But hey, you can’t have it all. When the lights were turned on, it marked the end of day one. But the night was still young and we still had one more day to go. This was already a real blast, what more can I say about it?
Saturday, April 30th, 2011
KEEP IT TRUE XIV: Day 2
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
Today it’s Queens day in Holland. But the Dutch royalty cost me and all the other Dutch tax payers more than enough money, it’s better to spend the weekend in Germany on day two of the Keep It True festival. The day starts with a very nice surprise almost right from the moment, when we enter the hall. We hook up with Henk ‘The Tank’ Bosma and Martjo ‘Whirlewolf’ Brongers of VORTEX. They decided to come over for the day to meet some friends and enjoy some good music. It has been a while, since we met them and it was good to see, that Martjo is recovering. Slowly though, but better slow than not at all. After a good talk with these two metal heroes from Holland, it was time for the second lot of bands to enjoy the mass.
Opener is SIGN OF THE JACKAL from Italy. I already enjoyed their “Haunted House Tapes” a lot and on the festival we bought their new EP called “The Beyond”. Now it was time to enjoy their live show. With an untamed power and enjoyable enthusiasm they started their early set with “Hellhounds” and “Head Over Heels”. The band made me think of the first time I saw WARLOCK. They had the same enthusiasm and power. “Heavy Metal Demons” is on next and with “Paganini Horror” they continue with an instrumental song. “Fight For The Rock” and “The Sign Of The Jackal” continue the set, the latter being dedicated to the guys in DAMIEN THORNE. Their first album is called “Sign Of The Jackal” and it’s a nice coincidence that they were at the venue too this weekend. With “Night Of The Undead”, they slowly came to the end of their set. But not before they played a nice cover of BLACK KNIGHT. Which I have to credit them for. A lot of other bands choose the more obligatory covers, but to play a cover of BLACK KNIGHT sure is something special. The song they cranked out this afternoon is “Warlords Wrath”, a very nice surprise that also marked the end of their too short set. But hey, they were the opening band of the second day. I almost know for sure, that if they keep up with this great enthusiasm, that you will see them more often on festivals like this. A good opener indeed, in my opinion.
When you hear “Diamonds And Rust” of JUDAS PRIEST, you know that ENFORCER is about to enter the stage. We have seen the band a couple of weeks ago with SKULL FIST and BULLET in Rotterdam in Holland. The set list was the same and they opened with “Roll The Dice”, “Mistress From Hell” and “On The Loose”. Now here’s my story of ENFORCER. The first time I saw them at the Keep It True festival, they really blew me away. This was how IRON MAIDEN must have sounded and looked like, when they were attacking the well-known Ruskin Arms in their early days. An explosion of power and metal madness. Their debut album was a blast as well. But with the second album you could sense more melody, which is also implemented in their live show. There is nothing wrong with that and they still sound extremely powerful. On stage they do kick ass and sound very energetic. But the melodic level is getting more important each time, that you see them play. No worries though metal heads, I won’t slay your favorite metal band down because of that. I only observe and write down some facts. Just put songs like “Katana” or “Diamonds” next to speed metal killers like “Evil Attacker” and hopefully you’ll catch my drift. So many songs of the second album were played this afternoon like the already mentioned “Katana” and “Diamonds”, “Midnight Vice” and “Running In Menace”. “Scream Of The Savage” was a golden oldie, that was pushed in between. The set was closed by another newer song, called “Take Me To Hell”. ENFORCER didn’t let the audience down, that’s for sure.
Finally, it was time for a NWOBHM band after this. After all the US metal violence, that was spread over us yesterday, I was ready for some good old English metal right now. After seeing the band at the British Steel Festival in the beginning of April in London, I was very much looking forward to see this show. SARACEN is something special for me, mainly because of their album “Heroes, Saints And Fools”. The progressive touch, the keyboards, the great songs, they sound so much different than all the other rocking bands from the scene. This album plus the very weird video clips from the band with half naked ladies in it, made them something completely different from the rest and so very interesting indeed. I won’t say that “Change Of Hearts” will end on my list of favorite NWOBHM albums. That album just didn’t have that special vibe and could have better been called “Change Of Styles” instead. But why bother about the past? That was then and this is now. From the line-up of the early days the only surviving band member is vocalist Steve Bettney. Oh well, we can also mention the name of Paul Bradder here, for he plays the keys in the band for about eight years now. The set list was copied from the British Steel Festival, which means that the band started their show with “Crusader”. And which also means that I could concentrate myself a little bit more on the musical escapades, that the band had in mind for us. Already in the first song, the keyboards were very much up front in the mix, something that hadn’t occurred on stage until now. But the crowd loved every single second of the band’s performance. “Rock Of Ages” is a nice song, to which you can sing along to, followed by “Horseman Of The Apocalypse”. Slowly, everybody in the audience went into a certain kind of ecstasy, including myself of course. “Follow The Piper” was one of the very old songs this afternoon, which goes back to the days when the band was still called LAMMERGIER, a kind of pre-stage of what later would become SARACEN. The atmosphere was just perfect and the best was yet to come. “Meet Me At Midnight” was the only newer track that they played yoday, but it matched very well to the older songs in my opinion. The most memorable moment is, when the band plays the title track of their debut album, namely “Heroes, Saints And Fools”. The performance of this song gave me goose-bumps all over. It was highly enjoyable to see the enthusiastic reaction of the crowd and this was by far the cherry on the SARACEN cake, that was served today. I was in heaven for a couple of minutes and I believe, that the band also had a great time. After this everybody was “Ready To Fly”, which was the last song these British icons presented here. Forty-five minutes fly by, when you’re having a great time and I was having the time of my life right now. It was over before you know it, but man what a great show this has been!
And now for something completely different. It was time for the kamikaze killers from Japan (and Germany), called METALUCIFER. Three members from this band hail from Germany. We all know Blumi of METAL INQUISITOR on lead guitar. On drums we see Tormentor, who we know from DESASTER, CROM and METAL INQUISITOR. On bass, we have Mamonohunter. Having seen this band at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 2002, it brought back some great memories about that time. They crossed half the world to play there, together with other Japanese metal heads SABBAT and only a few people knew about them. The Japanese flag, that was decorated on the left side of the stage at the balustrade of the tribune was still empty back then. Now it contains loads of messages and autographs. The music of METALUCIFER is pure and simple and comes right from their heart, so it is very efficient as well. Easy to sing along to, just raise your fist and yell the title and you’ll have a good time, that’s for sure. And I had been practicing in our car, while driving through the German landscape on Thursday. Now it was time to become a member of the heavy metal crowd choir and bring my practicing to a good end in front of the stage. The “Heavy Metal Iron Fists” were raised during the first song and almost immediately after that frontman Gezolucifer showed the crowd his “Heavy Metal Drill”, which sounds more scary than it is in fact. “Heavy Metal Bulldozer” was taken from the new album, but very easy to sing along as well. In between songs, Gezolucifer plays with the audience and hugs almost each and every one of them. That’s the way to start a “Heavy Metal Revolution” with friendship and good music. It all comes together this way. And just in case it doesn’t, then you simply try it with the “Heavy Metal Samurai” (read: the hard way). I’d expected to see the giant sword on stage, that Neal Tanaka (the heavy metal mascot of the band) had been posing with several times during the autograph sessions. On the other hand, I am glad that it didn’t, because some people could have easily beheaded with a giant sword like that, if you don’t be careful. But again, it would have been a nice opportunity to sing along to it. “Warriors Ride Of The Chariots” is another great headbanger, that would lead us to another magical moment in the set of METALUCIFER. The moment they would play “Heavy Metal Chainsaw”, which would bring Neal Tanaka on stage with a big buzzing chainsaw. Everything happened, except that Neal was showing up. I guess, that he couldn’t get the chainsaw started or he simply couldn’t find it. After a few moments though, the bold Japanese metal maniac showed up with his chainsaw toy. When he walked on the stairs towards the stage, he almost broke his neck on the small staircase. Weird shit, ladies and gentlemen. When the chainsaw stopped, we get a final lesson from Neal to learn. He told us about his heavy metal hunting on the metal market. There is only just one golden rule that you have to learn by heart and then everything is quite easy. When walking on the metal market, you just have to remember that when you see it and you want it, just buy it. That’s the ultimate golden rule to become a good “Heavy Metal Hunter” And it really is a golden tip, because once you see it and don’t buy it, there might be a huge chance that you won’t find it again that easy. Okay, it might cost you a whole lot of money, but you create a very nice record and cd collection for yourself. “Heavy Metal Hunter” was the last episode of the Japanese invasion, that took the audience by surprise. The show of these Japanese metal guys was beefed up by a nice play somewhere in the middle of the set, where a guy in a nu-metal t-shirt was attacking Gezolucifer, but he was defeated by this crazy metal head from the land of the rising sun. The lesson in this play is, that the good will always survive, no matter what happens. At least, that’s what I want to make from it. The name METALUCIFER comes from a song, called “Metalucifer” from the “Evoke” album of SABBAT, in case you didn’t know this. It was good to see this band again and one thing is for sure. The band may play simple straight forward heavy metal songs, but they sure know how to create a ‘mega metal feel good party’ during their show.
From the universal sound of METALUCIFER, we move forward to the more underground sound of DEATH DEALER, which is a bit more interesting for the connoisseurs among us. The Canadian metal heads played their very first show in Europe and where else can they do this better than on the holy ground of the Keep It True festival? Right from the start, you could see that DEATH DEALER didn’t really gather the same amount of fans in front of the stage than METALUCIFER did a few moments ago. But the music of this band was so much more exciting. The guitars constantly cry and the set list contained a great selection of songs, that gives a nice overview of what the band is all about. The concentration of the band members is high. Obviously, they feel destined to make a good first impression towards the European public. And they succeeded very well. Not strange, when you realize that DEATH DEALER was already on the compilation Metal Massacre 4 from 1983 with “Cross My Way”. From opener “No Color” on, they get my full attention. They have a good, almost clear sound, which is not always the case with some other bands this weekend. But the sound of DEATH DEALER was not too loud and the individual musicians didn’t fall off in a cacophony of loud outings. I must admit, that their best songs were played at the end of the set: “The Screamer”, “The Faddist” and “Nothing Inside”. Finally, the audience has to decide which song they want to hear, before the band leaves the stage. “Coercion To Kill” and “Death Dealer” are some of the favorites to choose from and the mandate of the masses decides that “Coercion To Kill” will become the set closer today. Although many people didn’t watch the show and decided to go outside for a break, I think they really missed something. This was certainly a must to every devoted metal head out there. The band surely delivered the goods and lived up to my high expectations all the way.
If this would also be the case with SLEDGE LEATHER was something to find out next. If someone had told me almost a year ago, that we’re going to see Leather Leone at the Keep It True festival, I would probably have laughed right in their face. Now the time had come for it to happen and we were very excited and fascinated by it. Sandy Sledge and Leather Leone were back in business and Betsey Stephens of BITCHES BREW teaming up with them on bass guitar and Brett Baugh from METAL PRIESTESS. We had the privilege to hang out with the ladies on the first day of the festival. Sandy promised us a killer show, so we were more than anxious to see this all happen. When the band opens with the CHASTAIN classics “Ruler Of The Wasteland” and “For Those Who Dare”, we were positively surprised. The sound coming out of Leather’s throat was truly amazing. What a great, massive sound!! Leather kept her voice in a perfect shape over the years and it really was a thrill to finally see these ladies live on stage for the very first time in Europe. Why did we have to wait soooooo long for that to happen? Anyway, we finally got what we wanted and with “Insane Again” and “Back To Drag You Home”, the band introduced us to some new songs, that will most likely be on the upcoming SLEDGE LEATHER PROJECT album. A very nice preview for things to happen in the hopefully near future. Guitarist Brett is the only male member in the band, but he really knew to convince me. He is surely capable of handling that axe, that’s for sure. Main focus goes out to the ladies in the band though. The band also returned to the very early days with MALIBU BARBI with a song called “When Lightning Strikes”. Followed by “Metal Up” from the RUDE GIRLS days, after which they get back in time, when Leather fronted CHASTAIN with “Angel Of Mercy”. “Operator” is on next, which is another new song from the band. Of course there also was a special spot for Ronnie James Dio in the SLEDGE LEATHER set by means of “The Gallows”. The band also thanks the people of K.I.T. (Oliver, Tarek, etc.) and Germany for making this show possible. Set closer was another CHASTAIN classic, called “Voice Of The Cult”, which is very well-chosen by an artist with a voice like that. SLEDGE LEATHER highly lived up to my expectations and a lot of people showed up to give this legendary cult singer a very warm welcome in Europe. Leather and her band loved every single second of it. The popularity of this lady is so huge, that some small ‘problems’ occurred during the signing sessions of the band at the side of the hall. When the meet and greet time was over, the row of people that were waiting to get their stuff signed was so long, that the band decided to move a little sideways to give everybody the possibility to get their stuff signed and their picture taken. There were only a very few MALIBU BARBI CD’s (and three or four vinyl LP’s) sold during these signing sessions as well. If you bought one, you can be called the lucky owner of one of the fifteen CD’s, that were printed and released for promotion only. I think, that it won’t be the last time that we’ve seen Leather perform over here. This was a perfect start and one hell of a surprise for yours truly. A couple of weeks after this show, we found out that Brett had left the band and that SLEDGE LEATHER is searching for two new guitar players. Okay, it’s dinner time now. Seeing Leather perform live made me hungry.
The Canadian band SACRIFICE is next on the bill, but I’m afraid that they are not really my cup of tea. So I decide to watch them from a distance, while getting something to eat. SACRIFICE plays loud thrash metal and I could easily recognize songs like “We Will Prevail”, “Cyanide” (dedicated to the people of Snakepit magazine), “Hiroshima” and “Soldiers Of Misfortune”. SACRIFICE couldn’t do wrong in the eyes of the thrash metal fans in front of the stage and a small mosh pit even occurred during their show. They closed their set with “Pyrokinesis” and “Re-animation”. Well, some fans must have been re-animated after this violent attack… And I think, that they must’ve had a good time during this performance. On the Snakepit area, I just have a little addition to make and that is after hanging out with Heinz Konzett for many years already, I also had the opportunity now to shake hands with Laurent Ramadier after all these years. With SACRIFICE and DEATH DEALER on the bill, you could see this coming. ; 0 )
SATAN was something I’d been looking forward to for a long, long time. I remember all those times, we have seen them play in Holland, including club shows and the well-known appearance at the Dynamo Open Air festival. They have been playing quite frequently in the Dutch club scene in the eighties and it was such great news, that finally this reunion would take place in the original “Court In The Act” line-up. It was almost too good to be true. But could they still do the trick on stage? I can answer this question very easily with a big ‘YES’! What a great show, what a way to throw someone back in time to his youth. SATAN stood proud and nobody could stop the horned hoof from taking off the roof. Can you believe it? They even made me rhyme here! Intro “Into The Fire” already predicts, that the band will crank out “Trial By Fire” as a start. “Blades of Steel” has been part of the BLITZKRIEG set for a long time now. I recall, that in the early days Steve Ramsey played a lot of the solos or was this just my imagination? Nowadays Russ Tippins played a lot of the solos instead, although Steve played some fine solos as well, don’t worry. A lot of the songs were taken from that magical “Court In The Act” album, that launched the success story of these British icons. “No Turning Back”, Broken Treaties”, “Break Free” and “Hunt You Down” were fired at the hungry audience. Well, actually that’s called hungry for metal, because I just had my dinner. “The Ritual” was a short time for the band to show their skills and for Brian to give his voice a little rest and watch his band members from beside the stage. After this instrumental track, the band continued with “Dark Side Of Innocence” and “Alone In The Dock”. What a treat for the NWOBHM addicts. Brian revealed a little secret as well. This was a great way to finally do this reunion. The only negative thing about being on stage here today was the fact, that he would be missing an episode of “Doctor Who”. Hahahahahahahahaha, those funny English!!!! “Oppression”, “Kiss Of Death” and “Pull The Trigger” were closing the set. Do I need to say more, that I was in heaven again, especially during the final part of this NWOBHM party?? The only weird thing for me was, that SATAN didn’t bring any t-shirts with them. You could buy a copy of the new released album with all the demos on it and that’s it. Well, who cares? I had a blast during this great gig. The NWOBHM delegation can be proud of themselves this time with SARACEN and SATAN really blasting some good old British heavy metal into the hall. If you need a good example of what a perfect reunion looks like, you can take SATAN as a very fine example.
We’re slowly going towards the end of the festival, but we still have two American metal bands to go. MALICE was the first one to appear. Time for James Rivera to come out of the backstage crypts again, because right now James is the singer of MALICE, which is an excellent choice of course. The only concern that many people shared was that any band with James on vocals might sound like a copy of HELSTAR. Mainly because he has such a recognizable voice. That could happen with MALICE as well, but hey we just had to wait and see. MALICE used to sit on the throne of JUDAS PRIEST back in those days, when JUDAS PRIEST was making some rather doubtful side steps. The band sounded like the metal gods, including the high pinching vocals and twin guitar solos, that reminded you of the days when JUDAS PRIEST were in their heydays. MALICE was a very fine stand-in back in those days, although they never reached the cult and success of the PRIEST. When the band kicks off with “Against The Empire” and “Vigilante”, they already know to convince me. Rivera’s voice is in great shape today and the guitar tandem sounds great as well. Mick Zane and Jay Reynolds get an equal share, but Mick’s solos have a better sound in my opinion. “Air Attack” has always been one of my favorites and it also gives me the shivers right now. “Tarot Dealer” and the fabulous sounding “Hellrider” completes this metal party. MALICE with James Rivera sounds quite refreshing and when they continue their set with “No Haven For The Raven”, “Circle Of Fire” and “Sinister Double”, words like ‘impressive’ and ‘awesome’ come to mind. “Chain Gang Woman” is introduced by a hilarious story told by James Rivera about his times in LA, while practicing with the band for this show. Would you pay US $25,- for a blow job from a one legged lady???? I don’t think so. “The Unwanted” and the set closer “Godz Of Thunder” are the last songs on tonight’s set list. JUDAS PRIEST is touring without KK Downing at the moment, because he left the band. His replacement is a guy called Richie Faulkner, who has played with the LAUREN HARRIS BAND. But I think that if Rob Halford and Glen Tipton would have seen the skills of Mick Zane and Jay Reynolds today, they would have made another decision. Jay has got the looks of KK Downing and Mick Zane sounds very much like this original JUDAS PRIEST guitar player, that they would have been a perfect replacement for KK Downing. On the other hand, I am glad this didn’t come to mind of metal God Halford, because otherwise this show might have been cancelled and we wouldn’t have seen this smashing performance by the American version of the British Steel Metal Gods. A great show and a great warming up for the ultimate headliner of tonight: CRIMSON GLORY.
Last year there was a mini tribute for Midnight with Mike Vescera and Harry ‘Tyrant’ Conklin, but that was a bit of a disaster. This band and especially their singer deserved so much more. Who would have thought, that the band would perform live on this year’s edition? Nobody, I guess. But they were there, including new singer Todd La Torre. The first talk was, that when you closed your eyes and just listened to the man, you wouldn’t tell the difference between his voice and the voice of Midnight. So I was very curious about it all. I can still remember the first time, when the band came to Holland and played at the well-known radio show called “Countdown Café”. They performed their songs fully masked and nobody had ever heard of this band before. Midnight sounded like a younger version of Geoff Tate in those days and the twin guitar solos sounded so awesome. I remember buying the album directly after this first show and it didn’t disappear from my stereo for a long time. When Midnight left the band and was replaced by Wade Black, things went downhill very fast for me, but I always saved a very special place in my heart for this band, mainly because of their debut album, which was so incredibly good. The first two songs are so overwhelming, that I almost forget to be tired. Yes, that is the only disadvantage, when you’re not in your twenties anymore. These two days (or three, if you count the 550 kilometers drive to Lauda) are killing you and when the headliner of the festival appears, you are ready to step into your coffin (only kidding). On the other hand, the music keeps you young and gives you the strength and vitality to stay on your feet for two long days. And the two opening songs made this all happen today as well. “Valhalla” and “Dragon Lady” prove to me once again why this band was so impressive. Everybody sings the lyrics word for word and Todd really sounds like good old Midnight. He simply is a gift from heaven. After “Angels Of War”, there’s a visit from “Azrael”. Goosebumps appear, which will stay during “Mayday” and “Queen Of The Masquerade”. What a great flashback to my youth!
After that, the band returns to the second album with “Lady Of Winter”, “Where Dragons Rule”, “Painted Skies”, “Masque Of The Red Death”, “In Dark Places”, “Burning Bridges” and “Red Sharks”. It all sounds like magic. Besides the death of Midnight, the band also takes a little time to stop by the sudden death of Matt LaPorte, who had died just a couple of days ago. He was a long term colleague of keyboard player John Zahner in JON OLIVA’S PAIN and CIRCLE II CIRCLE. So sad, but we can be happy that life goes on and a very honorable tribute is given to them both this evening. Jon Drenning and Ben Jackson bring out the best and they thank the audience for this great evening and for staying up so long. Well, the pleasure was all ours and I think I speak for all the die hard fans, that were still on their feet singing along to these metal anthems. The best of the whole show was saved for last though. That first encore really gave me tears in my eyes. I never thought that this song could move me to tears. But the way that “Lost Reflections” was performed during the first encore, I will probably never forget. It was done with so much tragedy in his voice and so much drama in the mini play, that Todd was performing during this song. It also tells you what beautiful songs Midnight and his band created back in those days. It’s such a special song and the way it was done tonight was just fabulous. With “Lonely” and “Eternal World”, the band closes their show, for which they get a very much deserved standing ovation by the fans, that stayed until the last notes were played. This was pure magic and I think that they couldn’t have chosen a better headliner than CRIMSON GLORY today.
After that it was all over and all that’s left behind now is the countdown towards the next edition of this fabulous festival, which will take place on April 27- 28, 2012 on the same holy ground as this edition. There are still a few places open on the bill. I could fill them with some of my own personal favorites like ACID, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, RAPID TEARS, CIRITH UNGOL, THE RODS, PEGAZUS and RIPPER, but any other band will do, because Oliver and Tarek know how to organize a festival, which is interesting all the way through. As long as they both keep it true and make the impossible happen, we will be there. Last but not least, I need to give a short comment on the appearance of Aardschok magazine at this edition of Keep It True. Of course with a backstage pass and access to all areas. Where were they during the previous thirteen editions?? The true metal warriors, that came here for all those years have NEVER read any word about this legendary festival, that had so many cult bands on their bill for years and years in this so-called leading heavy metal magazine from Holland. I’ve never seen the bill of the Keep It True in their festival list. But they show up and are welcomed like they are the kings of heavy metal. It must have been very weird to see people go out of their minds during bands like SLAUTER XSTROYES, BROCAS HELM, DEATH DEALER, SIGN OF THE JACKAL, SLEDGE LEATHER and METALUCIFER, because I can imagine that they even didn’t know of their existence. They are too obscure for the narrow-minded readers of this huge magazine, that exists by the grace of the big record companies. Where are the times, when interesting news and releases were reviewed in Aardschok? I guess, these days will never return. Now, the editor could see for himself, that there are still a lot of die hard true metal heads out there, who don’t care less about Aardschok anymore. I think, this won’t change his point of view and for the magazine we are all living under a giant rock and only crawl from underneath, when something like this is happening (referring to their own words). I can tell you that much, that we are proud of this and I can assure them that we don’t need their opinion, because we are fans of a whole different metal generation than what they stand for nowadays. Please keep your hands off from festivals like this and continue writing about bands, that the record companies ask you to write about. We keep it true and we’re proud of it, no matter what record companies say. Our thank goes out to Eddy and Christine, Stefan and Paul, Sascha Maurer, Martjo and Henk and our good friend Gerrie Lemmens (Don’t mention the war!) for another great and memorable weekend. Next year the fifteenth edition of Keep It True, don’t miss it and keep it true!
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/June 2011
*Photos copyright by: Rita van Poorten [www.metalmaidens.com]