This fifteenth edition of Keep It True was once again very much worth the wait. The program provides the best of the underground scene and leaves nothing to be desired. No fillers, just pleasers - that’s the concept and what you get when visiting this most spectacular festival, that easily beats every competitor around. I mean, which other festival has got names like WITCH CROSS, OZ, SWORD, SENTINEL BEAST, TENSION, TYTAN and ARCH/MATHEOS on their bill? I think, that you can only find these names at the cozy Tauberfrankenhalle in Lauda-Köningshofen, which is located in the Southern part of Germany.
The following review is a personal overview of what has been going on there these two days, but we will start our review on Thursday, when the alarm bell rings very early in the morning. That is not a big difference with all the other days in the week. This day however, we will travel to Germany to enjoy two days of metal mayhem. The trip to Germany goes pretty smoothly and the scenery has become very well-known, since we have made this trip for the thirteenth time already. Especially the last miles are very beautiful and before we know it, we arrive at our guesthouse for the next three days. Our good friends Eddy and Christine from Belgium have already arrived and it’s time to have a long chat with each other and look forward to the things that are about to happen this weekend. The first highlight of this weekend is when we’re having a nice meal together. The tension is rising already, because after dinner we will have a short walk to the hall to see if the poster for the 2013 edition of the festival is already up. We also wonder, if there are some names on the bill that we don’t know yet. And guess what? My mouth is hanging open, when seeing names of NWOBHM acts QUARTZ and LEGEND on the bill. This good news will mark the start for a very nice weekend, that’s covered with lots of musical highlights. Find out what exactly happened, when the doors open on Friday in the cozy village of Lauda-Köningshofen. Keep It True 2012 starts off here.
Friday, April 27th, 2012
KEEP IT TRUE XV: Day 1
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
Today we will miss the names of DARK WIZARD from Holland, MYSTIK from the USA and SAVAGE BLADE from Canada, because long for the festival started, these bands cancelled their shows. DARK WIZARD is being replaced by Canada based CAUCHEMAR, while MYSTIK’s place has been taken over by FUELED BY FIRE. SAVAGE BLADE is not being replaced, because of the very short notice the organization had to find a band to fill this gap. I take one more look at the schedule before the doors open. We are the first ones to arrive in front of the hall and the sun is shining. It’s going to be two very hot days. And the heavy music will make it even more steamy, I guess. Until late, the festival hall will have very high temperatures and only late in the evening the temperatures will drop a little bit. But we are going to talk about the bands, that are playing here today and not doing a weather forecast item here. Looking at the bands, we can only conclude that it will become a very long day with names like WITCH CROSS, OZ, MYSTIC FORCE, SLOUGH FEG, SWORD and PSYCHOTIK WALTZ having the best papers to become highlights. Our first stop is at the metal market. And of course we buy the DVD of the fourteenth edition of the festival to relive those magic moments all over again, when we have the time for it. A few weeks before the festival, we have already been to a giant record fair in Holland, so we are back soon before the first band will enter the stage.
CAUCHEMAR hails from Canada, Ottawa to be more precisely. They play it slow and doomy and the band thinks it’s awesome to be here today. I would say so, if you’re allowed to open a festival like this and then enjoy all the bands that are next on the bill. That must be very exciting indeed. Their songs have French titles and they kick off with “Les Ails De La Mort”, followed by “Magie Rouge” that I already know from their EP “La Vierge Noire”. Their set consists of songs from this mini album and some new ones, that will possibly make it to the first full-length album. “D’Encre Et De Sang” is one of those new tracks, that follow the same line as on the mini album. A doomy tune with a touch of melody, reminding you of IN SOLITUDE or CANDLEMASS at times. Sometimes, the vocal sound of heavy front lady Annick Giroux sounds a bit monotonous, but this is not disturbing at all. Her moves and facial expression says more than a voice ever could and it’s indeed a great pleasure to see her sing the lyrics of “Tete Du Mort” or “Le Gardien De La Terre”. Her eyes spit fire and she knows to move the audience and get them into her spell. “Rites Lunaires” is another new and highly enjoyable song and after “Valse Funebre”, we are in for a nice treat with a French version of the CANDLEMASS classic “Under The Oak”, which is translated into “Sous Le Chene”. CAUCHEMAR closes their short victory march with “L’Appel” and “Le Voile D’Isis”. The female metal cook, who you may know from her book “Hell Bent For Cooking”, in which she presents us the most delicious meals and drinks, says goodbye to her audience and I think that they have gained a lot of new fans, because of their enthusiastic performance here. A good opener that got the steam train rolling pretty well. CAUCHEMAR is not just another band, that jumps on the bandwagon of female-fronted bands, that are out there pretty often. Instead, the heavy metal is running through the veins of these Canadian metal heads. A closer look at the tattoos of Annick made me draw this conclusion. If you have a tattoo on your arm of BLACK SABBATH’s self-titled debut album, then you’re not just an average metal fan. In my opinion, you belong to the die hards already, because you are marked for life with the religion you go by - in this case the religion is called heavy metal.
PORTRAIT is already known for their MERCYFUL FATE type of music style. It’s the second time they attack the Keep It True audience and now I know the band a bit better, I was even more looking forward to their show than the very first time they were billed on Keep It True in 2007 on the ninth edition of this festival. The fact, that they play a completely different set here tonight makes things exciting enough to focus on this whole gig. Their most recent album “Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae”, is captured in one song only, which is called “The Adversary” and at the same time the set closer. The band opens with “Beast Of Fire” and “Infinite Descension” and the crowd seems to love every second of it. “Bloodbath”, “The Wilderness Beyond” and “”Darkness Forever” also are part of the dark rituals of PORTRAIT. Although it is a damn shame, that they have to perform in bright sunlight this afternoon. This is not the right setting for a band like PORTRAIT. “The Nightcomers” is played before they arrive at the aforementioned closer of today’s set, which is “The Adversary”. PORTRAIT already convinced me on CD and this time they showed that they have grown a lot since the last time I’ve seen them. Especially the lengthy instrumental parts are a treat to your ears, although singer Phillip Svennefelt’s talents can’t be missed as well, of course. A very convincing show, that is followed by a band that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time already.
The appearance of WITCH CROSS on the bill of Keep It True XV came as a positive surprise to me. Having seen the band at the Dynamo club, Eindhoven in 1985, they started their career in 1982 under the monnicker of BLOOD EAGLE, which later transformed into WITCH CROSS 666. Obviously, the band already had a certain fascination for occult matters back in those early days. Just before they show up on the European metal stages, they released a four LP set called “All That’s Fit For Fighting”, which captures all their early stuff and brings back a lot of good memories. Apparently, I was already in some kind of WITCH CROSS state of mind before these guys get going at Keep It True. The line-up of the band has pretty much remained intact. Not completely of course, I should point out, but original members Michael ‘Mike Wlad’ Koch on guitar, Jan ‘Little John Field’ Normark Petersen on bass and drummer Anders ‘AC’ Hjort are ready to rock your world today. They called in the help of guest guitar player TorbenAalykke. Kevin Moore, who you might know from his former band OLIVER DAWSON’S SAXON is the only non-Danish member in the band replacing Alex Savage, the original WITCH CROSS singer. Kevin seems to attract all the interest of the female fans around. Most of their material comes from the 1984 album “Fit For Fight”, namely “Axe Dance”, “Killer Dogs”, “Alien Savage”, “Fight The Fire”, “Rocking The Night Away”, “Light Of A Torch”, “Face Of A Clown” and “Night Flight To Tokyo” I didn’t miss a single one from that brilliant album. They complete their set with “No Angel” and the “Wheels Of Steel”-like “Are You There” from the EP, a true collector’s item for the connoisseurs among us. WITCH CROSS closes their set with a new song, which is called “Demon In The Mirror”. I am very much looking forward to the new album already, because the band that presented themselves here this afternoon, is steaming hot and it’s good to see some high quality metal bands return to the front and WITCH CROSS is definitely one of them. Maybe the magic of the moment was bigger during the Dynamo days, but it was still a highly enjoyable moment to see WITCH CROSS crank out those old but not forgotten classics.
Things turned out differently, when Italian metallers ADRAMELCH hit the stage. They are a real sensation, if you are into the old material of bands like QUEENSRYCHE and FATES WARNING and their debut album “Irae Melanox” could be called a true classic in its genre. Despite that, the band never really got inside my heart, whereas most other bands from the same genre did, after checking them out once. This doesn’t mean, that they don’t have any class at all. After all, this is the second time, after playing at the fourth edition of the Keep It True pre-show in 2005, in the smaller hall in Dittigheim. The band opens with “Dreams Of A Jester”, taken from their debut album. Next to that, they also play “Was Called Empire” and “Zephirus” from this aforementioned album, which actually absorbed almost half of their set. Besides these tracks, we also hear “Fearful Visions”, “Broken History” and “Decay (Saver Comes) from the demo with the same name as the debut album, released in 1987. The progressive metal with long instrumental parts sounds quite impressive and I did have a good time, although I don’t know the band that well. One more thing I’d like to add about this band is that their timing isn’t really perfect. When they played here in 2005, they played their gig just before the release of their album “Broken History”. This time their show went on just before the release of their brand new album “Lights From Oblivion”, which was scheduled for release a few weeks after this convincing show. Do you get it?
OZ hails from Finland and things also went into a totally different musical direction now. Straight forward heavy metal is their thing and I think, that every metal fan must at least own a copy of “Fire In The Brain” and “III Warning” in their collection. From the first notes of “Search Lights”, the band shows that you don’t need to do difficult things to impress your audience. Just play catchy songs and play it loud and you’ll get a good response from the hungry crowd. I would like to refresh your memory and take you back to the show of TORCH at Keep It True IV in 2005. Then the band was fronted by leather boy Dan Dark in his red leather suit. This time, it’s Ape de Martini wearing some kind of kilt with metal crosses on it……turned upside down of course. The set of today is one huge trip down to memory lane with songs like “Gambler”, “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”, “Dominator”, “Seasons In The Darkness”, where singer Ape de Martini takes a short shower from his water bottle, “Megalomaniac”, “III Warning” and highlights “Turn The Cross Upside Down” and “Fire In The Brain”. By then, the show has already turned out to be total madness and the people are eating out of Ape’s hands. It’s good to see, that OZ have made such a great comeback after their current CD release “Burning Leather”, on which they play their greatest hits from the past with the band line-up of today and best-of compilation “Vinyl Tracks”. Perhaps it would have been nice to hear them play their most recent single “The Show Must Go On”, which was on sale at the metal market. But that’s the only minor detail, that I can think of after seeing this awesome gig today.
MYSTIC FORCE is also one of those bands, I’ve been looking forward to seeing this afternoon. If it was only to hear our personal fave “Shipwrecked With The Wicked” in a live setting for the first time, since the band never played Europe before. The only band member that remained spreading out his mystic forces over the world is bass player Keith Menser. MYSTIC FORCE opens with “Take Command”, which they literally did after this. Sometimes I stared with my mouth hanging open to the dynamic way that the band moves on stage during songs like “Idiosyncrasy”, “Closer To The Truth”, “Identical Strangers”, “Awakened By The Dawn”, “Answers Of The Mystery” and “Among Infinity”. The slightly progressive songs show a band, that knows what the audience likes. With “Modern Day Fury”, we even get to hear a new song from a hopefully soon to be released MYSTIC FORCE album. A lot of band reunions on this festival are once-only, sometimes even with some session musicians or ROXXCALIBUR members. But this new song sounds like the band is ready to make a longer comeback, including some new studio work in the making. After this pre-taste of things to come, we get what we came for with “Shipwrecked With The Wicked”. The band closes their set with great versions of “A Step Beyond” (including a very nice sung intro) and “Eternal Quest”. The audience also loves every single second of this show and it’s weird to know, that MYSTIC FORCE never received the success that they deserved so much, especially after seeing the reaction of the people here today. I think, that they will have a great trip back to Maryland after this triumphal procession.
SLOUGH FEG is another American band, which always fascinated me from the early days of their long lasting career on. They followed their own instinct and never walked the paved paths. Today they started their very energetic show with “Death Machine”. It‘s the second time that they appeared at the Keep It True stage, where they showed their faces for the very first time in 2005. The band gives a good overview of their blooming career with the opener and “Traders And Gunboats” being the oldest material performed today. “95 Thesis”, “Free Market Bavarians”, “Ape Uprising”, “Lycanthropic Fantasies” and “The Telltale Heart” are played inbetween those golden oldies. The set closes with “Tiger Tiger!” and a medley of songs consisting of “Final Gambit”, JOAN BAEZ / JUDAS PRIEST cover “Diamonds And Rust”, “High Passage / Low Passage” and once again “Final Gambit”. Sometimes their presentation and exciting energetic show reminds me of the way BROCAS HELM handles things. Lots of power and energy cover the stage. No matter what you think of their music, you’ll be still blown off your feet after seeing their show. The biggest eye-catcher for me is their bass player, who really looked like Glenn Hughes in his DEEP PURPLE days. If you would only see and watch the moves of Adrian Maestas in his bright white three part suit, you would say it was the bass maestro himself. All his moves were right and the way he was dressed and his long waving hair, you couldn’t tell the difference. After their show, we bought ourselves a copy of their new fantastic live album “Made in Poland”, which we didn’t have yet.
Okay, it’s time to prepare ourselves for yet another highlight: the Canadian band SWORD. They hail from Quebec in Canada and the band is celebrating their reunion here in Germany. When thinking of classic albums such as “Sweet Dreams” and especially “Metallized”, I was more than looking forward to this show. The band originally started out as a KISS tribute band and before they decided to call themselves SWORD, they were named SWORD OF JUSTICE. You bet, that they played a good mix of the two aforementioned albums here tonight, starting out with “Outta Control”, “The Trouble Is” and “Where To Hide”. What strikes me most is, that the band has a left handed guitar player, something that you don’t see that often. The band continues their victory march through Germany with “Children Of Heaven”, “Dare To Spit”, “The End Of The Night” and “Prepare To Die”. The songs easily stood the test of time and this leads to an enthusiastic reaction of the audience. I think of the show of MALICE here last year. Another reunion, that you could only dream about, until Oliver started to interfere and made this dream come true. Same happens now, when the band continues and plays songs like “Until Death Do Us Part”, “The Threat”, “Sweet Dreams”, Stoned Again” and “Stuck In Rock”. You have to witness SWORD’s live show to believe it and they prove that it was a good move to get these Canadian metal heads over to Germany. What a thrilling performance! And it ain’t over yet, because the band closes their set with stunning versions of “Land Of The Brave”, “Evil Spell” and set closer “F.T.W.”. As far as true metal is concerned, this is a perfect live show to close your first festival day. But Oliver has got more in store for us and I am glad he did.
The remaining two and a half hours is reserved for PSYCHOTIC WALTZ and my mind goes back to the time that they played at the Dynamo Open Air festival in Eindhoven. Buddy Lackey (or Devon Graves, if you like) was flabbergasted at the crowd’s reaction and I followed the band from that very moment on, because they turned the festival site into a little piece of heaven that day. It’s 1991 at that time, we turn the clock forward more than twenty years now and see what they will sound like this evening in a special lengthy set for all the dedicated fans of this San Diego based prog metal outfit, that started their career under the name of ASLAN. The reunion gives us the line-up of the first two albums in full glory and with a view of the fantastic backdrop the first goose bumps already appeared. And they hadn’t played a single note yet. This started, when “Sleeping Dogs” was launched and the band starts their marathon run. Like time stood still, the band cranks out old classics like “Ashes”, “Out Of Mind”, “Tiny Streams”, “In This Place” and “Mosquito”, where the gooses start to bump in again. Buddy Lackey’s voice sounds very well and sometimes he grabs his flute as well. Highlights in the normal set follow very fast after one another, when the band plays songs like “Hanging On A String”, “Morbid” and “My Grave”. It all sounds like magic to me and at the end of the regular set they play “Freakshow”, which could be a well thought of description of the show of tonight. This marathon is only meant for the real freaks though. When the band closes their set with “All The Voices” and “Mindsong”, everybody in the audience is astonished. Nothing was said too much, PSYCHOTIC WALTZ rules and we’re not done yet. The first set of encores consists of “Another Prophet Song”, “Halo Of Thorns” and “Nothing”. And still the band isn’t done after this. The audience wants more and they’re going to get a handful of highlights in my opinion with songs like “I Of The Storm”, “……And The Devil Cried” and “Spiral Tower”. Goose bumps all over during these last encores, that’s for sure. Then the first day of Keep It True XV is over and we’re ready to prepare ourselves for day two. It was a good choice to leave the headlining spot for PSYCHOTIC WALTZ, although I must admit that I saw some people losing interest somewhere in the middle of the regular playing time. Maybe it was a bit too long, if you’re not familiar with the music of this band, but I think that this show was definitely Keep It True worthy. The dance floor is cleaned, when the last waltz is played. The psychos will return tomorrow, to watch more metal mayhem here in Germany.
Saturday, April 28th, 2012
KEEP IT TRUE XV: Day 2
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
After a good night’s sleep, we start the day with a nourishing breakfast. This is definitely the best way to prepare yourself and there are still a lot of great names to check out on this last day. When looking at the schedule of today, I guess I’m even more excited than yesterday.
Today’s opener is VOLTURE and they hail from Richmond, Virginia. I’ve seen many bands opening a show here and most of them were very impressive indeed. Think of bands like IGNITOR or POWERVICE to get an idea. VOLTURE is of that same level. They played an astonishing show, covering all their well-known songs. The band starts off with opener “Volture” and from there on, it becomes quite obvious that their mix of NWOBHM and US metal is just what the crowd ordered. Everybody looks either astonished or is already moving their (rather) stiff bones to the music. “Night Walker”, “The Horde” and “Cheap Thrillz” create the same effect. With “Killer Angel”, they also play a cover by the Swedish metal gods GOTHAM CITY. They even mention, that if there was one occasion where they could play it, than it was here at Keep It True. Anywhere else they would have said or thought GOTHAM WHO???? But this is the festival, where every visitor knows the Swedish band GOTHAM CITY and “Killer Angel” would really do justice here. And they are right. “Heathen’s Revenge” and “Heavy Metal Machine” deals about the mood of the audience, who are into a state of euphoria, which isn’t strange at all, because VOLTURE plays some high class heavy metal and their no-nonsense attitude is very much appreciated. They are one with the audience and they know what the people like best. Loud, yet with a touch of melody, but also with guitar solos that never seem to end. It’s a shame, that their show was a bit short, but maybe they didn’t have any songs left to play anymore, so they closed their set with “Rulebreaker”. A long applause was the result and I’m already looking forward to their full-length album, which should be out soon. Until then, I will have another listen (or two) to “Shocking Its Prey”.
The next band is really not my cup of tea. I’m just being honest to you all. We also saw FUELED BY FIRE on the 2008 edition of the festival, the tenth anniversary. By then, this Californian thrash machine couldn’t fascinate me and this time wasn’t any different. Their new album “Plunging Into Darkness” has been the main reason for the organization to call them back for a second performance. Their set was a mix of old and new material starting with “The Arrival”, “Rising From Beneath”, Within The Abyss”, “Put To Death” and “Unidentified Remains”. After that, I thought it was a better idea to have another walk around the metal market to see if I could spend a little money there. Their music is loud enough to follow it throughout the whole hall. “Eye Of The Demon”, “Striking Death” and “Deathly Restraints” are on next and a mosh pit with thrash metal fans is created very soon. I’d like to keep it true though and take another good look through the metal collection of the metal merchants. “Merciless Blade”, “Sickness Of Humanity” and “Thrash Is Back” closes their set of today. Thrash metal may be back, but you can see and hear this particular genre more than enough on all the other festivals and it just isn’t for me. Still, the fans of FUELED BY FIRE did have a great time and that’s what matters. I was already looking forward to be ripped apart by the SENTINEL BEAST….. who are on next.
We’ve already seen SENTINEL BEAST on one of the previous editions of this festival. It’s on that tenth edition, that Debbie Gunn pointed her weapons at us. She was surrounded by some very young fellows, that could have been her sons instead of being her band members. Their show however was bloody great and I was glad to see them on stage back then. This time it’s different. At first the original press release said, that FISCHEL’S BEAST would play here today. But shortly afterwards, the announcement came, that SENTINEL BEAST would appear in the original line-up. Now that’s quite different than seeing a line-up with only the neighbor of someone, who used to know the original drummer of the band on stage. This is SENTINEL BEAST in optima forma with Debbie Gunn on vocals, Scott Awes on drums, Michael Spencer on bass, James Hetfield lookalike Greg Williams on guitar and Barry Fischel on guitar. “Depths Of Death” is the opener of their forty-five minute flashback to the eighties. “Depths of Death” is the title track of that one masterly album, that the band released in 1986. There were a handful of demos afterwards, but this was the real deal for them. “Mourir” and “Dogs Of War” are a few other magical moments, that go by. “Kill The Witch” is taken from the band’s first demo. And after “Sentinel Beast” and “Corpse” the band returns to the early days with stunning versions of “Beyond The Walls” and “Sacred Line”. For the diehard fans of the band, it’s a real treat to hear these songs live from their first demos. As closing song for today, the band didn’t pick the IRON MAIDEN classic “Phantom Of The Opera” this time, which would have been a good choice, but instead they play another classic from that wonderful album, namely “Evil Is The Night”. In the meantime, Greg Williams has developed into a real crowd pleaser and first class entertainer. He seemed to enjoy himself very much, which was visible from the very start and it became even bigger when the time went by. This reflected to the audience as well and because of that SENTINEL BEAST got on my list of highlights for sure. Debbie remains a great singer and a good performer. We’ve seen her twice with SENTINEL BEAST so far, but she’s still on our list of reunion shows with ICE AGE and/or ZNÖWHITE here, which are Keep It True worthy names, if I say so myself. Besides that, I wonder what happened to Mark Koyasako, who played guitar on the SENTINEL BEAST album? Things like that can go through your mind on a day like this.
Anyway, Belgian metal heroes OSTROGOTH were next on the bill. But before this show could actually take place a lot has happened to the band. Last year they would have played here already. Then this terrible accident happened to Rudy “White Shark”Vercruysse. He wasn’t able to play guitar for a long time and the show was moved to this edition of Keep It True. Was Rudy healed before the show would take place? The answer is yes and we’re in for a real treat tonight. Mario Pauwels and Marnix van de Kauter are also from the original line-up that I saw on the first edition of the Heavy Sound Festival, to name one very important event. Next to CROSSFIRE, KILLER and ACID, OSTROGOTH has been one of the most successful heavy metal bands from our neighbors in Belgium. Before the show takes off, we spotted Rock Hard boss Götz Kuhnemund outside, wearing an OSTROGOTH t-shirt. These guys are connoisseurs and they don’t wear shirts of bands, that they don’t like. Therefore, I turn Götz’s name into OstroGot(h)z Kuhnemund for this special occasion. Fine, but back to the music right now. From the first notes on of “Heroe’s Museum”, it’s a fact that OSTROGOTH has got the people in its spell. When the guitar solo comes up, it’s quite clear that Rudy is back on his feet again and ready to rock!! Singer Georges Hinderijckx is definitely like some kind of magnet for the ladies in the audience, but his vocal capacities are highly enjoyable as well. “Scream Out”, “Lords Of Thunder” and “The New Generation” show us a top-notch band and the crowd is going mad, when they crank out classics, like “Full Moon’s Eyes”, “Paris By Night” and “Queen Of Desire”. Rudy plays some mean guitar solos and the man is fast - very fast, I can tell you that much. Words of praise fail me right now. Once again, the crowd is in an euphoric state of mind. And the band is enjoying themselves as well. Is it that good? Yes, it is and it ain’t over yet, because stunning versions of “Ecstasy And Danger” and set closer “Rock Fever” follow swiftly. Nobody has the urge to hear new songs, when hearing the killer versions of these old classics. A long loud applause comes up, when the last notes fade away... OSTROGOTH have definitely gained a lot of new fans this afternoon and put a huge smile on the faces of their old fans, who knew the skills of these five Belgian metal heads. Afterwards, the band could return to the ‘heroes museum’ where they belong, because they are true heroes to me. One of their next shows will be at the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival in Hoorn at the end of October. Can’t wait to be part of that.
WHIPLASH has never been my cup of tea, but I was looking forward to their show more than the thrashers of FUELED BY FIRE earlier today. We decided to take a bite during this second thrash attack of today. WHIPLASH frontman Tony Portaro is a remarkable man with his cowboy hat and undoubtedly this band attracts a lot of fans that are willing to create a huge thrash party during their show. The band opens with “Last Man Alive”, War Monger” and “Spit On Your Grave”. They catch my attention one way or another and I am kind of fascinated by the tight, energetic way they perform here tonight. Just like RIGOR MORTIS last year, they know to capture the power and magic during their live shows more than on their studio albums. So I decided not to go to the sitting spaces on the left side of the stage, but to stand in the back and follow their show, which continued with “Killing On Monroe Street”, “Stage Dive” and “The Burning Of Atlanta”. The hall started moving and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot during the violent invasion of these New Jersey thrash legends. “This”, “Walk The Plank” and “Power Thrashing Death” finalize their set. Even for me, it’s far too short. I will not buy every single WHIPLASH album at once, but I saw them perform a very cool show. No matter, if you don’t know their music that well, these three gentlemen warmed us up very well for the next highlight on this festival.
Tom Gattis and TENSION appear for the first time in Europe. We have seen the man in Wacken with his band WARDOG, but TENSION is a much better deal. I’m already hoping to hear many songs from his DEUCE period, but the fact that Tom is here with his band already sounds like one spectacular event in the making. “One Nation Underground” takes off and proves that this will be a spectacular race for the fine tasters among us. “Wrecking Crew” is one of my favorite TENSION songs, because of the power it captures. “Death Sentence” is on next. It’s taken from the never released EP “Epitome”. When “Angels From The Past” launches, the first goose bumps show up. In this song Bill Gattis joins the band for some more guitar power. The audience is in total ecstasy and clearly, they succeeded this winning race after only four songs. The band plays with so much energy and the guitar solos are cutting like razor sharp knives. “Shock Treatment” sounds raw and the biggest surprise comes with the old DEUCE song “Telemann’s 3rd”, which takes us back to 1978. Many of the people in the audience weren’t even born at that particular year. It’s the year, that I started going to concerts and look what has become of me. “Seduced” and “Reach For Your Sword” are obvious choices and end their victory march this afternoon. No matter which band Tom Gattis is in, whether it’s BALLISTIC, WARDOG, DEUCE or TENSION, he is the man you need when you want a powerful performance, full of surprises and high quality craftsmanship.
On we go with the first band, that has been announced for this edition of Keep It True and that is TYTAN. The deception however starts, when the announcement comes, that vocalist Kal Swan won’t be able to make it and also Simon Wright is not going to be here tonight. Great disappointment to me, but I will always give English bands the benefit of the doubt. Mainly because there are so many talented musicians walking around in the land of the NWOBHM, that I actually don’t care that much. But hey, it would have been nice to see these people show up here. My memories about this band are countless. Musically, as well as some other stuff. Their album “Rough Justice” came out, when the band didn’t exist anymore, the EP “Blind Men And Fools” has this strange song “The Ballad Of Edward Case”, which was played many times in Hanneke Kappen’s radio show “Stampij”. It has this weird mid piece, the part in which they shout ‘It’s A Bomber’ based on the MOTÖRHEAD song with the same title. Furthermore, did you know that the ladies of ROCK GODDESS sang the backing vocals on “Women On The Frontline” and did you notice the shirt of bass player Kevin Riddles with the text ‘I Like Oral Sex With An Alligator’? A remarkable band with a very colorful past indeed, who are ready to deliver the goods. The fact, that there are keyboards on stage isn’t promising, but they are not upfront in the mix and only help to fill up the sound a little bit. When the band opens with “Blind Men And Fools”, which is a perfect choice, they get both thumbs up from me. I will keep sticking them up, because each song is spot on. “Money For Love”, Cold Bitch”, Rude Awakening” and “Don’t Play Their Way” have got the same magic feeling, when playing the record. “Sad Man” is from the aforementioned EP and the band continues with “Far Cry” and “Forever Gone”. Tom Barna is the vocalist this time and I can tell you, that he did a great job! Kevin Riddles is definitely having problems with the warm temperatures this afternoon, but he gives a full hundred percent anyway. The guitar tandem, which consists of Steve Mann and Steve Gibbs, can easily compare with the biggest names in the scene, as far as I’m concerned. For a short moment I’d hoped that the biggest surprise would be during “Women On The Frontline” and that Kevin would announce Jody or Julie Turner on stage. None of this happened though. Today they called in the help of CRYSTAL VIPER singer Martha Gabriel instead to do the female vocal parts in this song. She did a great job. The set closes with “The Watcher” and “Far Side Of Destiny”. Everybody shouted for encores after this and wouldn’t it be nice, if they would close their set with a funny version of “The Ballad Of Edward Case”? Instead, they did an a capella version of “Find The Cost Of Freedom”, a cover of CROSBY, STILLS, NASH and YOUNG. What a surprise, but also a worthy ending of a really great performance. TYTAN came, saw and conquered. After the show Kevin went back to his alligator to celebrate this victory, so the story goes.
ANVIL is a story of its own today. Playing here again isn’t a big surprise, because we’ve seen many names show up for the second time around. So what’s so peculiar about the ANVIL show tonight? Well, ANVIL has built up a certain status after the release of their DVD “The Story Of Anvil”. They are booming business and they play on every festival, and easily received a headliner status. Now they play at the 2012 edition, after being here for the first time in 2005 (K.I.T. V). They received the headliner status on the warming up night back then and kicked some serious ass. Now they had to take satisfaction from a one hour show with still two more bands to go after them. That is a much more difficult task, in my opinion. They have such a huge back catalogue to choose from to fill a full hour set. They also saw bass player Glenn Five leaving the ship. He parted ways with the band only a couple of months before this show would take place. His replacement is called Sal Italiano. The funny thing happened during the signing session of ANVIL earlier that day. I asked my good friend Gerrie Lemmens, if he knew who this new bass player of ANVIL was? He replied that he didn’t have a clue. Did he know the good man? I think so, when I mentioned that he once was the bass player of CITIES. His face turned pale, because just a minute before, he thought about CITIES being a band that would suit just fine playing here at Keep It True. Anyway, the ANVIL would be forged in fire again this afternoon. They kick off with “March Of The Crabs” and “666” and catch the attention of many fans right away. “Juggernaut Of Justice” is a lesser obvious choice, but of course the new album has to be promoted as well. They played four songs from that album as some kind of introduction. Which is perhaps a bit too much, but on the other hand I think that this show is just like any other for ANVIL and it’s a good way to promote your new album. “Winged Assassins” is a classic (including the well-known ‘one, two, F*ck You-introduction) and “This Is Thirteen” is one too, but a newer kind of classic. “Mothra” is being played in a lengthy version with a long guitar solo, in which a good old friend of Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow appears: the vibrator. The smile on his face, when using the electric milkman (or postman, if he fancies you more!) is more than just a tiny grin. He shows a very wide smile and even uses his guitar as some kind of talk box during this song. “On Fire” is another new song and then it’s time for the ‘swinging assassin’ in “Swing Thing”, which has drummer Rob Reiner in a lengthy solo spot. Many people would have opted for a long but not forgotten song like “Butter Bust Jerky” or “Forged In Fire” instead, but I think that this is Lips’ way to introduce his buddy on the drums and put him in the spotlight for a while. The two of them went through so many good and bad times together that it would be weird to only put Lips in the spotlight and pretend that Rob Reiner wasn’t part of ANVIL all those years. “Metal On Metal” is on next and they leave the stage after “Running” - another newcomer in the set. A lot of people were rather disappointed about the (lengthy) solo spots, but why would the band change their show for this particular festival? Like I already mentioned, for them it was just another show and never change a winning team, I would say.
It wouldn’t be too easy for me to top the first NWOBHM tribute performance of ROXXCALIBUR. That first edition was worth tonz of gold to me. Never before did you see so many NWOBHM heroes walking on stage and playing a song live. What would they have in store for us this time? We could only guess and hope that it would be that spectacular as last time. We were ready for it and tried to figure out which heroes would be on stage here tonight. TYTAN members would be too obvious. We've seen Terry Dark walking around on the festival area already, so he would be doing at least one song. But he was there last time as well. I really hope, that they won’t make a second-class event of this with more people showing up from last time. Boy, was I wrong here! Sure, the show opened with an acoustic version of “Seven Days Of Splendour” by JAMESON RAID, performed by Terry Dark and guitar player Peter Green. A very tactful choice, because Terry would be the host of this part of the show. He would introduce the next guests and did this with the flair of a professional host and with the well-known humor, that you could expect from an English man, that lives in Holland, by the way. Next on was Paul Gaskin with “I’m No Fool”. We already heard the man a couple of weeks before at the British Steel Festival. What a nice surprise! But this was only just the beginning. Glenn Coates of FIST was about to “Turn The Hell On”, building a big party, that would be more spectacular than you could ever dream of. Glenn didn’t leave the stage, because he would also sing the next song, namely “Flying High” by HOLLOW GROUND, where he once was the vocalist. After that we’re flying high, as we started “Ridin’ High” with Carl Sentance of PERSIAN RISK. I think, that Phil Campbell wasn’t available today to join his former band mate on stage, which would have made the surprise much bigger. Mark Sutcliffe of TRESPASS entered the stage for “One Of These Days”, and every time they announced another guest, my mouth dropped open even more. What I never expected to happen took place under my very eyes, when John Mortimer came up to sing “Death Or Glory” and crowd pleaser “Heavy Metal Mania”, a true HOLOCAUST classic. But I think, that everybody in this crowd can relate to this song. Everybody knows it’s written about him or her. This crowd is full of Heavy Metal Maniacs and John Mortimer is the perfect guy to sing about them. His long grey hair is waving in the wind, black make up around the eyes and a leather wrist band and neck lace, he is the personification of a real heavy metal maniac, who is ready to eat his fans alive. What a mean performance! HOLOCAUST will play a special old school set on the next edition of the festival, which is the right way to go about, because these two songs simply cry out for more, more and much more!!! Andy Dawson and Chris Bradley are the guest players on the SAVAGE cover “Let It Loose” after that. This is definitely another classic on my ‘hoping to see’ list. Then there’s the birthday celebration of Tino Troy, who was here with his brother Chris for the PRAYING MANTIS songs “Panic In The Streets” and “Captured City”. Tino received a nice gift for his birthday by means of a blow up doll. You can expect many things tonight and this funny moment is one of those things that you can only dream about. For the next item some guests would appear, but at the very last moment they didn’t show up. But I am glad, that the band didn’t skip the two SAXON songs of tonight, because it’s always a pleasure hearing powerful versions of “Motorcycle Man” and “Princess Of The Night”. The last three songs would be a tribute to the most well-known NWOBHM band in the world and of course we are talking about IRON MAIDEN here. Dennis Stratton was welcomed as a true hero and Tom Gattis climbed on stage for the vocal parts of “Prowler”, “Remember Tomorrow” and “Iron Maiden”. They received a standing ovation from the audience, who were in heaven after those three songs. Dennis has never been properly credited for his work with MAIDEN. This time he was heralded like a true hero. The perfect opportunity to credit him for his fine work with this world famous NWOBHM band. And Tom Gattis……? Well, he excelled himself and made me forget Bruce Dickinson, Blaze Bailey and Paul Di Anno with a stunning performance of these three classics. I think, that no one could have topped him or even come close to this performance. This has been an excellent conclusion of a show, that was so much better than the first time that we witnessed this NWOBHM tribute. Also a big thumb up for ROXXCALIBUR, who worked their asses off to learn all these NWOBHM classics. This would have been a very fine headliner, but there’s another band closing this fifteenth edition of Keep It True and that’s ARCH//MATHEOS….
Jim Matheos and John Arch are both well-known from the band FATES WARNING. Knowing that John Arch is one of the favorite singers of Oliver, it seems like an obvious choice to have them here at the festival after the release of the ARCH/MATHEOS album “Sympathetic Resonance”. That this show would turn so much upside down is like a new phenomenon to me. Their signing session was changed from the hall below to the upstairs space. People could take a seat there not to disturb the crowd that much. Obviously, they were expecting a large queue with signature hunters and fans, who wanted to have their picture taken with this legendary siren. It also never happened before, that the curtains were being closed during the break. And the video cameras, that always shoot the live performances for the Keep It True DVD, had to be removed. Luckily, there weren’t any restrictions for the photographers, so we could still come up with some decent photos. Besides, John Arch and Jim Matheos, the band line-up of today is Frank Arresti (FATES WARNING), Joey Vera (FATES WARNING, ARMORED SAINT) and Bobby Jarzombek (HALFORD, SPASTIC INK, RIOT, SEBASTIAN BACH). Of course they would be playing songs from their debut album, but could we also expect some old FATES WARNING classics tonight? Whatever would happen tonight, we would be in for something special, that’s for sure. Prior to the show, someone on the forum wrote, that ‘God’ has landed, to give you an idea how people think about Arch’ vocal abilities. Tonight would be his maiden performance with ARCH/MATHEOS and a possible longer return to the stages worldwide. The curtains open and the stage doesn’t really look that different to me, but there’s magic in the air and we’re going to witness that in a couple of moments. The band enters the stage and starts their moment of fame with “Neurotically Wired”. Yes, the man is there and his voice is in excellent shape. Although he doesn’t seem to realize, what his appearance is causing here. “Midnight Serenade” continues, the audience is going crazy and so is the band. Besides Jim Matheos, because his task is performing a perfect show tonight and he wants to be in charge of the situation every second. “The Sorceress” and “Stained Glass Sky” are on next, both in long versions with enough space for the guitar players to show their skills. The crowd gets outrageous and I think that the general opinion is, that this is by far the best headliner that we have seen on these editions of Keep It True. On they go with “Damnation” and “The Apparition” and the reaction of the audience stays over the top. Yes, this is really God singing here today, according to the reactions that I see (and hear) around me. “Any Given Day / Strangers Like Me” continues the set and obviously, the band is in great shape, especially Bobby Jarzombek plays the drums like an absolute madman. “Guardian” closes the set tonight and the time is there that this festival is slowly coming to an end. But not without an encore of course. John Arch thanks the audience and the atmosphere turns into an euphoric state of mind. Especially, when playing “Epitaph” as the first encore. You won’t believe your eyes, if you haven’t seen some of the reactions in the audience. I’ve seen people go down on their knees and raising their hands to the sky. I’ve even seen adult guys cry. I’m not kidding you. They had real tears in their eyes and didn’t know how to handle their emotions. And the band just cranked out an almost perfect version of this FATES WARNING classic. The same thing happened, when they started their last encore for tonight, namely “Exodus” - another FATES WARNING classic. Definitely a very worthy headliner, if you take into account how people reacted to this performance.
For us, this was a very good edition of Keep It True and to be honest, I liked the NWOBHM tribute most of all. Although FUELED BY FIRE wasn’t my cup of tea, I simply did have a wonderful time here these past few days. Highlights on day one were CAUCHEMAR, WITCHCROSS, OZ, MYSTIC FORCE, SLOUGH FEG, SWORD and PSYCHOTIC WALTZ. On the second day I had a real blast with VOLTURE, SENTINEL BEAST, OSTROGOTH, TENSION, TYTAN, ANVIL, NWOBHM tribute and ARCH/MATHEOS. There ain’t no festival in the world, that can top a bill like this and get so many devoted metal fans together and excited for a full weekend. There are people who come here, park their car on the grass next to the hall, turn up the volume of their stereo set and set up their tent. They invite friends, have a drink or two (or three or four) and have a metal party on the parking space. They don’t have a ticket for the festival and they don’t get to see one of the many bands, that are lined up here. They are just having a great time together with their friends. That is a bit too much for me, but it’s that kind of atmosphere at Keep It True. It’s more than a metal festival, it’s where friends meet friends and have a good time. No words can describe something like that. You must have been there to believe it.
When we drive back home, we’ll start counting the days until the XVI edition of Keep It True will take place. Can’t wait for that to happen! The first bands, that have been announced, are already very promising. Right now there are still four names missing. If I could help the organizers by giving some suggestions, I would opt for names like BITCHES SIN, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, RIPPER, RAPID TEARS, CIRITH UNGOL, WARLORD, PEGAZUS, SILVER MOUNTAIN, Dutch heroes SAD IRON or GILGAMESJ, and what about a US Metal tribute this time, instead of a NWOBHM tribute? On the other hand, I don’t give a damn with the bill provided now, I would have a great time anyway. Our thanks goes out to Oli and Tarek, Jim Powell, Malek Bali, the Dutch Heavy Metal Maniacs, Egbert Berenst and our good friends Eddy and Christine and Gerrie Lemmens for a great weekend. Hopefully, see you all again there next year!!!!
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/July 2012
*Photos copyright by: Rita van Poorten [www.metalmaidens.com]