We’ll start this review on Thursday, one day before the official festival will kick off. There’s always a lot of preparation to do, before the final bands will appear at Keep It True. Weeks before the actual festival will happen, we are being informed about all the changes that have been imported. This year, AT WAR and BLASPHEME cancelled their gig and disappeared from the bill. What a crying shame! AT WAR would not be replaced last minute, so there would be one band less, adding up a total of nineteen bands. BLASPHEME however would be replaced by KILLER from Belgium, which is an excellent choice in my opinion. KILLER already played at the very first edition of Keep It True in 2003. I really envy those people, who were there (as we weren’t). It was the beginning of something that would become the world’s most admired and best organized underground metal festival ever. I hope, that I am not doing any harm to other excellent festivals, like Brofest, Headbangers Open Air, Sweden Rock, Muskelrock, Rock Hard festival, Very ‘Eavy festival or the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival, to name but a few. This is where the cream of the crop is getting together. This is where the bands play, that you won’t find anywhere else. No wonder, we’ll start to talk about anything else but ‘The Festival’ with our friends and fellow festival goers. The KIT family will have their reunion on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th of April this year and as always, the alarm bell at the van Poorten’s residence starts about six o’clock in the morning. No worries, this time it’s fun getting up that early in the morning.
A long drive will take us to the German border, where we will meet up with our longtime and good buddy Gerrie Lemmens. A couple of hundred miles later, we have a small stop for some sandwiches and a cup of coffee. Frankfurt-Lauda isn’t that far away now and we’ve already made plans to have dinner together in the evening. But first we will check in at our guesthouse and have a short chat with Eddy and Christine from Belgium, who are staying at the same guesthouse. The lady of the guesthouse told us to check out a very fine restaurant in the neighborhood, which we did. This turned out to be a perfect idea. An evening full of good food, interesting metal conversations, more good food, great stories and did I mention the good food yet?!? Sometimes you’d wish that evenings like that would never end. Another traditional thing is, that after saying goodbye to Gerrie (he’s staying at a hotel around the corner), the four of us will be heading back to our guesthouse, while making a stop at the Tauberfrankenhalle to see, if we can find out more names on the bill of the nineteenth edition of Keep It True. We will give you an update at the end of this review for sure! We already heard, that FATES WARNING will be playing there an exclusive “Awaken The Guardian” 30th anniversary show in 2016. Really ‘geil’, as they would say in German! The bill looks marvelous, but there are still about seven names to be added here and also the ‘secret band’ that was originally planned for this year, has been moved to the bill of 2016. Any good suggestions, which band this possibly will be, can send me a PM on Facebook. I really haven’t got a clue. What I do know is, that we’ve had a long day and it’s time for a good night’s sleep and make sure that we will be ready for two days of heavy metal mayhem. The eighteenth edition of Keep It True starts from here, dear friends. The review, that follows next, is based upon my own personal views and opinion. If you have a different thoughts or ideas, that’s good for you, but this is how I remember Keep It True XVIII, the most wonderful underground heavy metal festival of the universe. I hope, that we all agree so far.
Friday, April 24th, 2015
KEEP IT TRUE XVIII: Day 1
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
A good breakfast will mark the start of a long but nice day of heavy metal. The bill looks great as always with bands from Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Germany, America, Canada and Peru. Peruvian heavy metal in the house today, can you dig it?! When the doors open, there’s already a long queue, but like always we’re in the first ranks. We also want to spend some time (and money) on the metal market and make sure that we get a copy of the latest K.I.T. DVD. A tradition, that we don’t want to break this year. Of course in the first few minutes, you’ll bump into a lot of familiar faces and like always, it’s so good to see all these long term friends have made it to Lauda-Konigshofen again this year.
At noon, the first band will climb on stage to start the fire. It’s never easy to kick off at a festival like this, but we’re in for a real treat with SACRAL RAGE. Their new album “Illusions In Infinite Void” came out just a couple of weeks before the festival and I was very impressed of their technical metal. Think of bands like RIOT and maybe a bit of HELSTAR and old school MERCYFUL FATE musically and HADES and WATCHTOWER vocally. The expectations are very high indeed. Vocalist Dimitris climbs on stage in a straightjacket and they start their show with “Harbinger”. In “En Cima Del Mal”, Dimitris knows to escape from his tight shirt….. run for your life!!!! But there’s no escape anymore. “Panic In Urals (Burning Skies)”, “Lost Chapter E.: Sutratma” and “A Tyrannous Revolt” are next up, all songs taken from the aforementioned CD. The band knows to impress on stage as well. The guitar players get equal shares on the lead solos and Dimitris takes control of the rest of the madness that goes on. After “Lost Chapter E.: Amarna’s Reign”, there’s a big surprise for the fans. Although it’s still early, the first guest appearance is a fact, when Alan Tecchio does a duet with madman Dimitris in the HADES classic “The Leaders?”. HADES couldn’t make it in 2010, but Alan was already here with WATCHTOWER and this is a good opportunity to warm up his voice. HADES, HEATHEN’S RAGE, WATCHTOWER, SEVEN WITCHES or guesting with SACRAL RAGE, the voice of Alan always gives me a very pleasant feeling. The two vocalists give each other a hard time, because also Dimitris gives his very best performance during this special song. Then a marvelous thing happens. SACRAL RAGE closes their set with three older songs. “Return Of The Dead”, “Foreshadower” and “Master Of A Darker Light” are all taken from the “Deadly Bits Of Iron Fragments” EP from 2013. I wouldn’t have mind, if they’d have played the NAST SAVAGE song “Gladiator” here as well, but the time is up for these Greek metal heads, that really impressed me a lot. What a great way to open the festival and if you didn’t know them before, remember their name!
THE UNHOLY from Portugal already convinced me on their vinyl EP. Sara Steel is the good looking front lady of this band, who is also blessed with a great voice. Maybe she felt a bit nervous and uncomfortable at first, but this disappeared pretty soon after two or three songs. She looks a little bit like a short haired Kate of ACID. “Open The Gates” is a perfect opener, in my opinion. The influences come from bands like RIOT, VICIOUS RUMORS and early QUEENSRYCHE. Sara digs up a skull, which she shows around during “She Comes From The Grave”. Please, don’t do that at home. Just let granddad rest, where he is now. You don’t want to end up in the local newspapers, do you!? Next song “Freeway Fighter” has more traditional rock poses on stage. The guitar player gives it his best shot. The band slowly gets at full steam with “A Call From The Night”. THE UNHOLY also took the liberty of putting a cover in their set and a damn good one, if I may say so. “Fight For Your Life” of RUFFIANS is definitely not an obvious choice. On the contrary, it’s the choice of a band, that came to kill. It also reflects that RUFFIANS can be put on the list of influences of THE UNHOLY. “Warriors” is on next and with “Tonight You Sleep In Hell” and “Queen Of Thunder”, the band has come to their final chapter this afternoon. It’s good to see, that these dedicated metal heads hold their head up high, no matter what. And after this show, they surely stand tall against their colleagues and can be proud of their performance here. We recently did an interview with Sara and we know for sure now, that THE UNHOLY is ready for a very bright future in the metal scene. Both thumbs up for THE UNHOLY. Portugal can be proud of these metal heads!
I never thought I would see a Peruvian metal band at Keep It True. But there have been stranger things happening here. COBRA is the name of the band and they’re next on the bill. I’ve heard their most recent work and I guess, that we’re ready for a brutal assault by these Peruvian rockers. The band opens with “Beyond The Curse” and “The Roadrunner (Bite My Dust)”, which are highly enjoyable. They give it their best shot and play a mix of brutal and violent metal with powerful vocals, which takes the crowd by surprise. This COBRA is a vicious predator and the band keeps the aggressive riffs coming. Most songs are taken from their most recent album “To Hell” (2014), like “Fallen Soldier”, while “Denim Attack” comes from their 2011 release “Lethal Strike”. They are also not afraid of playing a cover song. Not an obvious choice maybe, but we can enjoy a COBRA make-over of the SABBAT song “Mion’s Hill” from the band’s seven inch, released in 2014. This sure is a small point of recognition for yours truly. In the meantime, the COBRA strangles around and leaves you waiting for another ear attack with own-written material, like “Rough Riders” and the title track of their latest album “To Hell”. Frontman Harry ‘El Sucio”, all dressed up in leather and studs, pokes up the heat one more time for the final attack of the five Peruvians in “Highland Warrior”. The fans go nutz, when he brings the Peruvian flag on stage in the very last song “Inner Demon”. The band has definitely won a lot of new fans. Their old school metal with side steps to thrash and speed metal and NWOBHM, which was played at double speed, sounds very cool, although the crusty bite may not be everybody’s taste.
MINDLESS SINNER gets their influences from a much different source. It sounds powerful but a lot more melodic than COBRA. The Swedish metal heads start with “We Go Together” and “I’m Gonna (Have Some Fun)”. In the eighties, the band released two albums, but since they are both not in my collection, they will probably not contain the A1-class material, I guess. The band has got an enormous backdrop, that may have survived the roaring eighties. This way, you can’t miss the name of the band, that’s for sure. When they continue with “Live And Die” and “Broken Freedom”, I focus on their guitar players, who know to handle their instruments well. During “Standing On The Stage”, front man Christer Göransson jumps off the stage to be in touch with the audience. “Master Of Evil” is on next and in “Turn On The Power” I also noticed some influences of DIO and RAINBOW in their sound. The band plays some great power metal, but maybe the songs are not well-known enough to impress the overall crowd. I must admit, that I had a good time watching these Swedish metal heads. “Screaming For Mercy” and “Voice Of The Doomed” are next and MINDLESS SINNER can say, that they have done very well. With “Here She Comes Again” their set has come to an end. This has been our first encounter with MINDLESS SINNER and a very nice one indeed.
There is another icon on stage next and I don’t want to miss her show. We’ve met Jutta Weinhold several times in Germany (Wacken being one of these great memories!) and this time she will be playing with her JUTTA WEINHOLD BAND (JWB) at the Tauberfrankenhalle. Once, she was the front lady of bands like ZED YAGO and VELVET VIPER and today her show will also contain material from these two bands. We already met her shortly before she had to go on stage and the lady is in great shape indeed to rock the house today. The show opens in a perfect way with “Zed Yago” and the crowd is really going beserk. Jutta is a goddess in Germany and a real cult figure in the mind of many German rockers. Behind the drums is Bubi ‘The Schmied’ Reinholdt, her long term drum beast. The two together make the magic happen, when they continue with “The Fear Of Death” and “The Spell From Down Yonder”. Jutta crawls on stage like a young rock goddess and many front ladies and men can learn a lot from her performance today and the way she gets in touch with the crowd. She poses on monitors and jumps up and down, like it’s the natural order of things, while other singers usually only stand behind the mike and can’t even crank out one single clear note. “The Pale Man” is next, which is followed by another epic tale, called “The Man Who Stole The Holy Fire”. The title alone makes you hungry for more. “Revenge” will follow soon and the excitement is getting huge, when reading the faces of the hungry metal audience in front of the stage. If I remember well, Oliver was asked on stage the last time at Metal Assault to sing the well-known “Black Bone Song” with Jutta. While this song is being put in, I’d expected another guest appearance by ‘the boss’ himself, but the surprise is huge, when she invites the crowd on stage to sing and dance along with this rock classic. All of a sudden, the place where my wife Rita has been standing, is empty and a few seconds later I see her standing on stage with her fists in the air banging her head. Never a dull moment at Keep It True! Many familiar faces enjoy their moment of fame and I believe, that Jutta seems to enjoy it the most. What a great view and a wonderful way to let out some cold sweat. The band has one more song to go and when the stage has been cleared, the JWB is “Rocking For The Nation” for the final time. What a great performance of such a nice lady, who still knows to rock out loud and proud. Respect for Jutta and her band!
Next on the bill is a band, that has been on my ‘must see’ list for ages. FIST belongs to the NWOBHM scene and since I’ve had the privilege to be in touch with former guitar player John Roach, I finally have the chance to see and meet the band live here. Without John Roach though, but we will meet him next year, when he will cross the pond to play here with MYTHRA. The sight alone of the fist forming the letter F in their logo is truly awesome. The band started their career as AXE and come all the way from Newcastle, in the north of England. This band breathes old school metal and I’ve read some good things about their show at Brofest in 2014, so the expectations are rather high tonight. Of course you want to hear the old songs, but I’ve always been fascinated by the sound of these British metal heads. “The Vamp” is the opener and the set is filled with winners only and there’s no room for well-meant fillers. “Dog Soldier” and “Too Hot” are on next and it is with great pleasure, that I watch the guitar moves by Dave Irwin. I love the down to earth approach of these heroes. No poses, big egos or fiery stage props. Just great musicians, that impress the crowd with their skills. “Forever Amber” sounds awesome and I feel sorry for singing out too loud during “Turn The Hell On”, which is actually one of my favorites. From now on, we only get to hear classics. “Lost And Found” is already a golden oldie, but I think that “SS Giro” is one of the most well-known anthems, which dates from their AXE days, if I remember it right. After that, it’s time to sing along one more time and for the sake of the band’s name, I throw my fists in the air at “Name, Rank And Serial Number”. The hall explodes and I think, this is by far the biggest crowd pleaser of tonight. FIST is the best band so far for me and their sound brings back some great memories about the good old days. Oh, and by the way, these guys are great to hang out with as well, which we found out after the show and on day two of the festival.
After hearing a lot of positive things about ASHBURY’s show at Metal Assault, I was really looking forward to seeing these old rockers on stage myself. Some people wondered, if this would work out on a true metal festival like Keep It True. Let’s not jump to conclusions that fast, but ASHBURY almost moved me to tears with their awesome performance today. Yes, they surely belong on a metal festival like this, would be my final conclusion. If FIST is down to earth, what would you call the attitude of these masters? More down to earth you simply can’t get, I guess. Armed with acoustic and electric guitars, they will teach the other bands a big lesson here. Stay true to yourself and to your fans and you will be heralded by all. “The Warning” is the opener and makes my skin crawl from the first moment on. This song is already one of my faves, but in a live situation it even became one of the highlights of the whole festival to me. “Take Your Love Away” and “Hard Fight” follow next and the magic grows each second. This is like pure art. The way they perform it sounds like magic and the band seems to enjoy themselves big time as well. “Hard Fight” and “No Mourning” are next and the crowd sometimes sings along to the songs, that breathe the sound of seventies hard rock. More and more fans gather around the stage and clearly something very special is happening here tonight. “Mystery Man” and “Evacuation Time” (a new song) continue and ASHBURY kicks some serious ass. It’s amazing how a true metal crowd reacts towards a band like that. It’s their hard rock roots, that do the magic trick here, I guess. The lengthy instrumental parts, in which Randy Davis shows what a gifted guitar player he is, are making me stare with my mouth open. “Madman” and “Endless Skies” sound truly amazing, while in “Cold Light Of Day” and especially “Vengeance” the band seems to realize that they have just written history by playing such a memorable show, that will possibly stay high in the year list of every devoted metal head, who was here. The crowd screams out the name of the band and what more can you do other than playing an encore and show them, that it’s very cool to play a JETHRO TULL song? For the band, this is not only a sign of recognition by a large crowd, but they finally get rewarded by people, that know their classics. ASHBURY can put themselves among the big names from now on and I think, that at this very moment they hardly realize what has happened in this past hour. And now they will be playing a JETHRO TULL song for us. We’re not worthy, but we’re so happy!! A very big surprise comes, when they play “Aqualung” as goodbye song. I have tears in my eyes, shivers running down the spine, crawling flesh, loss for words and no further comment, your honor! I am the lucky one, who is able to buy their second CD “Something Funny Going On”, originally released in 2004, because a few moments later, it was completely sold out. Tuscon, Arizona can be proud of this amazing band. Please get back soon, guys, you rule!!
LEATHERWOLF is of a totally other caliber. The front of the stage is always very crowded with guitar players, which make them quite special. I keep very fond memories about their show at the Aardschokdag in Arnhem, where they played such an awesome set. That was then, this is now and it’s not 1989 anymore. The intro comes from “Wicked Ways” and when the band starts their furious show with “Spiter”, they have my full attention. This will always be my personal favourite, which really blows me away. I must admit, that songs like “Rise Or Fall”, “Street Ready” (‘sing along’ time) and “Thunder” are kicking ass too, but “Spiter” remains the one track, that is a true killer LEATHERWOLF anthem. Some puzzles remain unsolved and one of them is why are they playing a JUDAS PRIEST cover? Don’t get me wrong. “Victim Of Changes” is maybe one of the best songs THE PRIEST has ever written, but LEATHERWOLF has so many cool songs of their own and they really don’t need any covers. This doesn’t sound mean and actually it rocked the house big time, but with a back catalog like LEATHERWOLF has, it was unnecessary in my option. That was the only minor detail I would like to mention here though, because “Princess Of Love”, the catchy “Kill And Kill Again” (fists in the air and shouting along to it very loud!) and “Gypsies And Thieves” are true killers. It’s really crazy to see three guitar players in the front of the stage. Who thought, that only a band like LYNYRD SKYNYRD would do such tricks, will have to think again. “Hideaway” is another classic and “Alone In The Night” from “Return Of The Living Dead II” comes next as a nice surprise. This band from Orange Country, Los Angeles closes their victorious ride with “The Calling” and knock-out punch “Wicked Ways”. A great show by a band, that is always ready to kill and kill again.
Another highlight of this year’s edition will enter the stage now. Although I’ve seen the man countless times, he still knows to move me every time, that I hear him play. ULI JON ROTH is an amazing guitar player. He started his career with the SCORPIONS, but his solo releases are equally impressive. No matter what he plays, the SCORPIONS, ULI ROTH, HENDRIX or VIVALDI, it’s mind-blowing. If relaxed coolness had a face, it would be the face of this guitar maestro. The magic word for today is the SCORPIONS, because this will be a flashback to the glory days of this German metal band, starting with “All Night Long”, which is the perfect opener. I wish, it could be that long. “Pictured Life” is next, followed by “Catch Your Train”, “The Sails Of Charon” and “Sun In My Hand”, which are being played in an amazing way. They will leave you breathless and they show the amazing skills of this guitar wizard. When you see his name on the bill, you might wonder if this will work out at a true metal festival. Like ASHBURY. Brilliant musicians, but will they be able to stand proud against these skullcrushers, nunf*ckers and steelpounders?? Well, high quality music like that will always work out. Prove has been given by ASHBURY earlier and exhibit B is ULI ROTH’s performance. “We’ll Burn The Sky” and “In Trance” are timeless songs, that will take you back to your youth. Needless to say, that the lyrics of these classic tunes are coming from a couple of hundred throats! However, this is not enough for Uli. He’s a revolutionary man and he wants to take these magic moments just one step further. Let’s take an acoustic guitar and perform an acoustic guitar solo. He tactically waits for the most silent moment and then starts with this amazing move. If a pin would have dropped right now, you would have been able to hear it. A short grin of the maestro himself follows. He was the first man, who was able to get the KIT audience quiet for a short moment and he can be damn proud of that achievement. Who else could have done that? But the madness ain’t over yet. “Fly To The Rainbow” is next and the final guitar section is the opposite of what we have witnessed before. Only a few people are able to play amazing sounds on a guitar. I mean string pullers, like for example Jimi Hendrix or Frank Marino can make a guitar sound like World War III has begun. Such mind-blowing sounds are also on the list of Mr. Roth, who makes his guitar cry, weep and whisper at the same time. He knows, that he’s “On Top Of The Bill”. Why else would he play this SCORPIONS classic? It’s without the blistering drum solo this time, by the way. Next we’re waiting for the arrival of the “Dark Lady”, which marks the end of this excellent show. And of course we can’t let Uli go without doing an encore. The lucky winner is “All Along The Watchtower”, a firm hint to his main influence JIMI HENDRIX. Very impressive indeed and no other words can describe my feeling after seeing this show.
I’ve never seen EXCITER in their most original line-up. When they first set foot on Dutch soil, they had hired another guitarist already. Their debut album is a true masterpiece and no self-respecting metal head can do without one in his collection. The sleeve of this album is a masterpiece on its own. A metal iron fist slitting a Marshall amp until the blood comes dripping out. This album just cried out to be bought the day it came out, despite the high import price back in those days. The amazing singing drummer, the almost invisible but not to be missed bass player and the unbelievable shredder of duty all dressed up in long leather and spiked wristbands are the most violent Canadian legends in the book of heavy metal. After a period of time, when the original members didn’t want to see or speak to each other, the time was right to bring these heavy metal maniacs back together again. They are the headliners, that everybody wanted to see. A speed metal invasion, which can’t be stopped, starting with “Fall Out” and the audience is more than ready for it. Many songs from that magical first album are being played here tonight, like “Stand Up And Fight”, while “Heavy Metal Maniac” must have been written for each and every one of us! That song alone would make this show unforgettable! It tells our story in four minutes. John Ricci plays it fast and nasty, as it should be played. One of the heaviest songs on the album is the raunchy “Iron Dogs” with these blistering riffs. After a few songs, it’s quite clear to me. EXCITER still has got the vibe, the groove and the excitement, that I’d hoped to hear. The band continues with “Delivering To The Master” and “Victims Of Sacrifice” and the crowd eats out of their hands. It was great fun seeing the first videos of the reunion shows on You Tube, but seeing them live is the real deal. “Violence & Force” is next. Wow, I can’t control myself anymore and I need to shout it out! This is the perfect headliner of the first day. Musically, it can’t top the moments that we’ve had with ULI JON ROTH and ASHBURY, but the magic is still there and if you look at the crowd going crazy during “Rising Of The Dead” and “Black Witch”, then you can tell that something special is going on here on stage. “Scream In the Night” is on next, but it easily could be renamed into a few thousand screams in the night. “Pounding Metal” asks for more screaming by yours truly. It’s the perfect song for shouting along, while four legged drummer Dan Beehler pounds it out loud at the back of the stage. After that, it’s time for master shredder John Ricci doing a guitar solo. I’ve heard some negative comments on this one. It’s a bit odd and inappropriate to compare John to ULI JON ROTH. They are totally different guitar players. Uli can’t shred the way John does, but John possibly can’t play the unbelievable HENDRIX-like melodies, like Uli does. I loved what John did and he’s a great guitar player in my book, but not everybody seemed to dig this part though. “Beyond The Gates Of Doom” continues after this guitar eruption. “I Am Beast” has been written for these speed metal masters and they close their fabulous set with another anthem, namely “Long Live The Loud”. EXCITER is the Canadian speed metal dream come true and there are still some songs on my ‘wants’ list. The encore comes in two parts tonight, the first one being “Evil Sinner”, which is another treat to your ears. The final punch comes from “Swords Of Darkness”. It wouldn’t be fair to call this a disappointment, because the excitement was extremely huge. However, I must admit, that I missed songs like “Under Attack”, “Cry Of The Banshee” and of course “World War III”. I guess, they didn’t want to mention the war this time (Fawlty Towers). Anyway, I did have a great time during one of the highlights of this first day. What a great Friday with ASHBURY, ULI JON ROTH and EXCITER as the absolute winners. Anyway, there’s still a second long day of metal mayhem with more great bands to look forward to. A good night’s sleep will do the trick, I guess.
Saturday, April 25th, 2015
KEEP IT TRUE XVIII: Day 2
Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
On Saturday morning, there’s always a quick flashback of the night before at the breakfast table with Eddy and Christine and Rita of course. Also, the guesthouse has been booked for next year with a flyer of the festival. They must have an impressive collection by now, I guess. The local bakery has been visited for our lunch bags and the parking space at the Tauberfrankenhalle is already quite crowded with many die-hard fans waiting to get inside. We meet up with a few other good friends from Belgium and take a picture of us together. Belgium and Holland are teaming up and getting ready for another day of heavy metal mayhem.
IRON THOR will be the opener on the second day with their THOR tribute show. Oliver tried to get the real deal in, but this failed unfortunately. Now we’ll get a glimpse of what a THOR show should be like. Where will you find a body builder, who can actually sing and does all these tricks, the real THOR is also supposed to do on stage? In Gelsenkirchen, Germany, I guess. I’m curious, what this will look like. The show starts with “2045”, the intro where the warriors enter the arena and continues with “Only the Strong” and “Anger”. The show is a tribute to the Canadian steel bender and “Thunder In The Tundra” is on next. It’s stuffed with some impressive show gimmicks, like two beautiful ladies dancing besides Ikon. The Valkyries adore the blonde God, who is bending a piece of solid steel with his teeth during “When Gods Collide”. Is this a circus act or a real heavy metal show? You decide. I opt for the second description, because there’s no gimmick, as the steel bending is for real and the music is very much real, too. The audience gets a chance to check, if the solid steel rod is for real and I’m quite sure it wasn’t made of paper or plastic. “Rock The City” and “Hot Flames” are next and we’ll hear a good overview of THOR in a live situation. The show part of lifting off the hammer and swaying it around might be a bit over the top. However, it’s good for some nice pictures. It’s much better than watching a dull band, that isn’t moving around at all. But there are more things happening on stage during this flashback gig of the good old days of the mighty THOR. Somewhere between “Keep The Dogs Away” and “Ride Of The Chariots”, Ikon is attacked by his enemy and a wrestling takes place on stage, where Ikon is being hit by a glass bottle. Luckily enough, the blonde hero survives and the anti-hero Mjölnir isn’t even able to lift up THOR’s Hammer. This is a nice piece of entertainment, in my opinion. The knock-out punch comes with “Knock ‘Em Down”, which is probably one of the most well-known THOR originals. The show closes with “Let The Blood Run Red”. Of course you can argue about whether this band should be on a cult festival like Keep It True or not, but on a Saturday morning like this, it was a real pleasure watching the band. They definitely played their show with dignity and pride and gave the early birds a very worthy copy of the original THOR.
MAUSOLEUM GATE is quite a different story. These guys from Finland look so different, that it’s hard to believe, that they form a union together. Musically, the sound of MAUSOLEUM GATE is quite exciting and shows a lot of variation. Very lengthy instrumental parts and today without the keyboard attacks, which are sometimes on the CD though. It all worked very well, judging by the crowd’s response during openers “Grin Of The Devil” and “Magic Of The Gypsy Queen”. This mixed company sure knows to impress with their music, which is a good thing. “Inferno” and “Mercenaries Of Steel” are on next and the guitarist draws the most attention with his crazy guitar work. “There Must Be Demons” contains a lot of those. These demons must leave the guitar at once, no matter what. Singer Varpula starts hitting a gong before the band continues the “Summoning Circle (Invocation Of The Nameless One)”. A long, epical song slowly unfolds itself in the early afternoon here in Germany. They end their show with “Lost Beyond The Sun”. What a crazy show by these bunch of Finnish rockers, who surely deserved the warm reaction of the audience afterwards. They even get to play an encore. It’s a shame, they didn’t choose their anthem “Mausoleum Gate”, but picked “Obsessed By Metal” instead. This will do fine, too, I guess. Aren’t we all obsessed by metal? I really believe, that we are.
ARTIZAN is a rather unknown name on the bill, but these guys from Florida could very well be the forgotten jewels, that you’re hoping to find at Keep It True 2015. Two band members formerly played in LEVIATHAN, which might lift some eyebrows. Anyway, I was really looking forward to seeing these guys play live, after watching some You Tube stuff a few weeks before the festival would take place. Yes, I did my homework and the band kicks it off with “The Man In Black”. If this is a tribute to Ritchie Blackmore, who is often referred to as the man in black in his PURPLE days, remains to be seen. I guess not and it was just a good opener, in which the band caught my total attention immediately. Vocalist Tom Braden is one of the former LEVIATHAN members and he proves to have good lungs in this fine opener. “The Raven Queen” sounds beautiful and the progressive metal of ARTIZAN work just fine with me. The songs are not easy on the ears. You’ll have to let them touch your soul and only then you will hear the beauty of them. “Hopeful Eyes” is next, but the biggest surprise comes right after that. As a real magician, the band performs an excellent version of “Leviathan” out of their high hat. Man, what a great song, what an awesome surprise and what a highlight, which came as a lightning bolt on a clear blue sky!! Nobody would have guessed, that ARTIZAN would play this LEVIATHAN original, but they did and they cranked out a killer version of this classic here today. Thank you for this marvelous song, guys! Of course the show ain’t over yet, but they created a smile on my face and one that is impossible to wipe away for a while. A good version of “The Guardian” and “The Death Of Me” are next and the magic remains for a while. Mood and speed swings are the main ingredients of the ARTIZAN songs and their very impressive show closes with “Rise” and “I Am The Storm”. ARTIZAN is a true killer band and that’s the only statement, I’d like to make here.
The above –mentioned statement provides me a brilliant bridge to one of the finest metal bands from Belgium (and possibly the longest lasting, but I leave that up to the connoisseurs!), KILLER. They are one of the finest in my book and I’m a dedicated fan for over three hundred years now. They replaced BLASPHEME and after seeing them play live a couple of times in the past few months, I knew I had to be in the front rows for this raging storm from Belgium, that would take the stage in a few minutes. Paul ‘Shorty’ van Camp is the only remaining original member of the band. He’s also a member of BLACK JACK and the blues outfit BLUES KARLOF and a former member of VAN CAMP. KILLER will start today with “No Future”. Well, if this band, who are in perfect shape, has got no future, then I’ll eat my hat. Some salt and pepper will do, thank you. But I think it won’t be necessary, because the band takes the crowd by storm in no time. “Touch Of Evil” grabs back to their 2005 release “Immortal”, but this time without keyboards. You won’t hear me criticize the band, because that would never come to mind, but KILLER with keyboards just didn’t make any sense. They were always known as the Belgian version of MOTÖRHEAD and this band wouldn’t use keyboards either. “Kleptomania” brings back some great memories of long lost days. The Cattle Trade in Ulicoten, Fat Leo behind the drums and all that kind of stuff, wonderful memories!! “Back To The Roots” deals about the early days and in “Shockwaves” we’ll hear another classic tune from the days, when this threesome really deserved their title of being the Belgian version of MOTÖRHEAD. “Back To The Roots” is taken from the new album, which sounds like a flashback in time for a lot of fans, I guess. Many bands of the early days have been mentioned in this song. “No Way Out” is on next and when “Wall Of Sound” starts, we have arrived at another song to try out my vocal (read: screaming) capacities. Jakke is the bass player of the band and he’s the wild one on stage. And what do you do, when the stage is clearly not big enough for you? Then you go off stage and continue torturing your instrument in front of the stage between the fans in the front row. This spectacular move occurred during “Laws Are Made To Break”. Jakke did have the same thoughts and took the liberty of taking an afternoon walk through the fans in the front row. He became a true hero and when he got back on stage, he was welcomed very warmly by the crowd. “Ready For Hell” is the final song of today, which was over before you know it. It felt like a bulldozer knocking us down without any regrets. KILLER left nothing unharmed and played a killer set (this commend is so easy to make!). Belgium can be proud of this legendary band. I can only say ‘WOW’ to a performance like that.
The next band on the bill would be another one to watch with my mouth open. This happens on a regular basis here, but I would have never thought that I’d ever see HEATHEN’S RAGE in a live situation here or anywhere else in that respect. Recently, a good compilation album came out and this must have been the chance to fly them over to Europe. Bob Pisauro is their original singer, but unfortunately he left just a few weeks before this show would actually take place. So, what to do next? Search for a replacement, but where do you find a talented singer, who can learn the songs in a few weeks. They found one helluva singer in HADES / WATCHTOWER mastermind Alan Tecchio. He already showed his vocal abilities yesterday during the SACRAL RAGE show, but this time it’s his turn to astonish the crowd, which he did with two fingers in his nose and standing on one leg in a bowl of fish soup. It was absolutely amazing to see how this man cranked it up here today. The eleven tracks felt like a warm bath starting with “City Of Hell” and “Past Visions”. The old school metal is exactly what people like me want to hear this moment of the day and with Mike LePond, this band has one of the coolest bass players around on stage. SYMPHONY X may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his new outfit SILENT ASSASSINS sure captures some great stuff on CD and this HEATHEN’S RAGE is awesome beyond believe. Just check out the powerful versions of “Fight Till The End” and “Nations Under War” to catch my drift. Another high pull out comes from Alan’s throat and your mind will be blown away in a few seconds. Veins are swollen and Alan’s head is about to explode after turning to dark red after another high scream. He surely is the master this afternoon and songs like “Defy The King”, “Dark Storm” and “Phantasm” are really amazing. One of the highlights here is “Power Of The Sword”. Who could have thought of seeing this band almost right after the release of the compilation album “Knights Of Steel” in such shape and with this wonderful singer? This is far beyond belief. “Enslave The Free” is next and then we go “Far Beyond The Realms”. Another knock-out punch at the end of this amazing show is the incredible “Knights Of Steel”, which is one of their best songs for me. Something good is over in no time and this great show is not an exception. Alan remains a very talented singer, who’s capable of almost everything and man, that is quite a lot. He lifted this show to a higher level and turned it to the highlight of the day for me….so far. Oh, and he’s also very fun to hang out with, by the way. The way he was talking about WATCHTOWER gave me a very warm feeling. The “Mathematics” album will be completed, if it’s up to Alan and an EP seems to be in the making as well. Great news to look forward to!
SHOK PARIS is next on the list. The band is well-known for their dynamic live shows and that’s why I was really anxious of seeing this troop from Ohio and surroundings. The band starts their one hour storming performance with “Hot On Your Heels” and the title track of their most recent album “Steel And Starlight”. Okay, what’s the deal here? Their new album “Full Metal Jacket” has not been finalized yet, when this festival takes place. To please their fans, the “Steel And Starlight” album has been re-released with bonus tracks. This release will keep them busy until the new one comes out. “Exhibit A” and “Castle Within” are fired at the hungry crowd and obviously, a lot of fans have been waiting to see this particular band on stage, because the front rows are jam-packed. “On Your Feet” is next and with “Go For The Throat” they throw in a real SHOK PARIS classic. If you like the “Steel And Starlight” album (and who doesn’t?), you are a lucky bastard, because this album has been played here tonight in its entirety. By the way: drummer Donovan Kenega had to miss this show, because he became a father just before leaving for Europe. Luckily enough, they were able to replace him with Jan Roll, who also played the drums on that “Steel And Starlight” album. The circle is round again and they continue with one of the few surprise songs. “Streets Of Pleasure” has only been available as a bonus track, but now it’s being captured in a stunning live version. While “Concrete Killers” is the only song played from their third album with the same title. And if it’s Santa Claus, we’re in for another nice treat with “The Minutemen”, which only appeared on “Metal Crusade IX”, released in 2005. Singer Vic Hix really knows to please his audience and even the die-hard fans of SHOK PARIS will be in for a real treat. Next is a song, just for us, the Keep It True audience, because we are the “Chosen Ones”. “Go Down Fighting” is taken from the movie “The Hidden” from 1987, together with “On Your Feet”, which has been played in the beginning of their powerful performance here. The crowd is in ecstasy right now and in the heat of the moment, it’s time to “Burn It Down”. SHOK PARIS really delivered the goods and they killed with power. You simply can’t escape! The band says goodbye to the crowd with “Run But Don’t Hide”, which is a great closer of this great live show. They could easily change their name into SHOK LAUDA, as far as I’m concerned.
Today is also the day that one of the finest Italian metal bands are saying goodbye to their fans on stage of Keep It True. Two members of ADRAMELCH announced, that the band calls it a day and after this sad announcement, they say goodbye to some of their fans personally. It’s sad to see the other side of the shining gold medal on this day. They will be missed on stage worldwide, but what a nice way to say goodbye to your long term fans.
M-PIRE OF EVIL is actually another word for VENOM in my book. They always know to impress with their LOUD and powerful shows and a VENOM cover or two are also not far away in this outfit of Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn. Today would mark the very first live appearance of the new outfit VENOM INC. The announcement on the flyer tells about a special guest playing here tonight. This already predicts a nice surprise, but first of all they start off with some M-PIRE OF EVIL tunes to warm up the audience. The intro is already giving very good vibes and making sure, that the evil 666 worshippers are in the house and cranking out “Demone”. The demons have arrived and they are ready to “Waking Up The Dead”. Gone are the big stage props, VENOM was once famous for and what remains are some great evil rock songs, played with such intensity, that you just must love them, if you want to or not. You can sense the evilness in songs, like “Hellspawn” and “Metal Messiah”. During this hour, the cross will be turned upside down and nobody could or would prevent it from happening. After “Hell To The Holy”, the M-PIRE OF EVIL attack is gone and the band continues with “Black Metal” and “Countess Bathory”. Timeless songs, which are being sung by the whole audience, word after word. It really sounded incredible and I think back nostalgically about the amazing shows I’ve seen with VENOM back in the old days. When this band (or its derivate) is on stage, things immediately begin to sound ominous. Like they have been possessed and they need to infect us with their plague. Their sound is dark and sometimes it feels like the horned hoof is their master and he makes them doing this, all by himself. Then a short break follows and some changes have been made. It’s the appearance of the guest star of today, that will be turning M-PIRE OF EVIL into VENOM INC. Abbadon will join the band and nobody will be safe after this. Evil is in the house, the doors have been locked, the lights are dimmed low, it’s witching (half) hour from now on. They will perform their very first show here for the hungriest and most evil metal audience thinkable. In six(hundred and sixty six, I hear you think) songs they will present their reincarnation of VENOM. I bet, that Cronos won’t be pleased with that, but when they kick off with “Prime Evil”, I must admit that it sounds like magic again. These old songs really know to touch a soft spot with me. It’s sing along time with “Die Hard” and “”The Seven Gates Of Hell”. “In Nomine Satanas” continues with more singing from the audience. Without any doubt, the highlight is “Bloodlust”, which will make your mouth water. The band kind of introduces themselves after that with “Sons Of Satan” and then they’re saying goodbye to their fans to disappear into the dark night, not to be seen again. Obviously, they left the building right after the last notes. To me, this was a bit like magic, but it definitely was black magic, that happened here tonight. Most likely, we will hear more from VENOM INC in the near future, but remember that we were the first ones to witness this amazing debut gig at Keep It True!
TITAN FORCE has been playing here in 2008 already. But can you imagine a Keep It True festival without Harry ‘The Tyrant’Conklin? Actually, I can’t and after so many years, it was very nice to see the man with the golden voice back in Lauda with TITAN FORCE. The compilation album “Force Of The Titan” is in our CD player at a very regular basis and we really want to taste this live experience again, which will be a perfect warming-up for the headliners of today, but much more about them later on. “Too Late” might be a hint to the hiatus, when they’ve been playing here for the last time, but it’s of course a mighty opener. Perhaps it’s a bit of a gamble to open with a demo track from the re-released album, but it worked out quite well. A furious seventy-five minutes will follow and the band is playing a best-of set from both albums with obvious songs like “Small Price To Pay” and “Winner / Loser”. Harry is a performer pur sang and above all, he’s a real entertainer with a great voice. He doesn’t only represent the songs, but he depicts the lyrics very well. By looking at him, you’ll see what he is singing about without listening. That’s quite a gift, if you take into account that he always knows to hit every note right. “Fool On The Run” and “Fields Of Valor” contains some breathtaking guitar work from the Flores brothers. Highlights are following real quickly now and with “Shadow Of A Promise” and “Chase Your Dreams”, we’ll hear some flawless versions of true US Metal classics. We are not worthy, but miracles are happening here, like it is water coming from a tap. Is it a normal thing, that you have goosebumps all over for a full hour plus? I guess not, but this is happening here right now, dear friends. “Master Of Disguise” sounds like heaven, while “New Age Rebels” gives the female audience some ‘value for their money’, because the shirt of the Tyrant disappears all of the sudden. I’m sure, the ladies have been convinced as well by the awesome voice of the maestro. “Only The Strong” is next and actually marks the ending of the TITAN FORCE gig. What an awesomene show! The band closes with a nice surprise and crank out the perfect version of “22 Acacia Avenue”. The real IRON MAIDEN couldn’t have done it any better, believe me. “Blaze Of Glory” is the last glorious moment of tonight. THE FORCE was with us tonight, long live THE FORCE. I thought it was incredible and is it possible for the headliners of tonight to top this? The answer may be different coming from each and every one’s mouth of you all. Some fans will say, that RIOT V can’t be beaten, while others might say, that TITAN FORCE have been the winners. A nice discussion about heavy metal that can last for hours, days, weeks, months, years, without being solved, simply because there isn’t a right answer. What I do know is that a whole lot of people came to see RIOT V, after they heard the many great stories about Metal Assault, so the expectations were very high.
I must say, that you can’t compare the original RIOT line-up to the RIOT V outfit, who are on stage here today. These bands are totally different from each other. In Todd Michael Hall, they have found an excellent singer and he impressed me already with JACK STARR’S BURNING STAR in 2013. Shortly after that, he joined RIOT V and he definitely will be able to sing the songs, that were written for Guy Speranza and Rhett Forester. Starting with “Narita” is a great move. People like me come to hear the old stuff as well and they are handing it out on a silver platter. Then vocalist Todd Michael Hall starts “Ride Hard, Live Free” and it’s quite clear, that the magic is there. The dynamic performance of RIOT V is being embraced with open arms and their powerful show continues with “Fight Or Fall” and “On Your Knees”. A great mix of old and new material are passing by and I must admit, that the older stuff still grabs me by the balls, whereas the newer songs somehow have to grow on me. Their great live presence makes it a lot easier and also the passion they are playing the songs are responsible for the very positive reactions from the audience. During “Johnny’s Back” and especially “Hard Lovin’ Man” the band easily grabs back to the good old days of this remarkable outfit. Don van Stavern is their man from those days and it’s utterly cool to see that he’s still a member of the band. A band, that sometimes had to face a lot of line-up changes, foreseen and not foreseen. “Metal Warrior” must be autobiographical, because no matter what happened, the band always knew to fight back to the premier league of the heavy metal scene, while other bands would have pulled the plug after another big loss. “Outlaw” continues the row of golden oldies. Todd shows that he’s not only a great performer, but he’s also a very friendly and warm person. “Wings Are Of Angels”, “Black Leather And Glittering Steel” and “Sign Of The Crimson Storm” are next. At the back of the stage, there’s a lady singer, who takes care of the backing vocals, next to Frank Gilchriest on drums. I believe, she’s called Tammi Wolfe Wolfarth. The show carries on with “Angel Eyes”, “Bloodstreets” and “Take Me Back”. The euphoria about this performance grows by the minute and RIOT V slowly brings this eighteenth edition to a worthy closure. But the big bang still has to come. “Flight Of The Warrior”, “Fall From The Sky” and especially “Warrior” lead the way. The sweat is dripping from the walls, when the last chords are being played. It’s amazing and RIOT V is in my opinion a very worthy headliner to close this festival. It would have been a nice surprise, if the band had played one or two songs with Harry Conklin from the 2005 “The Tyrant Sessions” single. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Anyway, RIOT V ruled big time and the band closes with three encores today. “Road Racin’”, which is a very obvious choice, but it really pleases the many fans here. And if some road racing doesn’t do the trick, then the incredible “Swords & Tequila” will, taken from their very best “Fire Down Under” album. This album was being rejected by the record company, because it was too uncompromising and too loud. Can you believe it? “Thundersteel” is the very last song on this second day and another obvious choice, but a damn good one! The lyrics seem to come from everyone’s heart and soul. With tears in our eyes, we watch the seclusion of this mighty fine edition of Keep It True and marvelous live show of RIOT V. What more would you wish for? Sure, songs like “Fire Down Under” or “Altar Of The King” would really make it perfect, but you can’t have it all. RIOT V was a worthy tribute to Rhett Forrester, Guy Speranza and Mark Reale, who are sadly missed. We love you, guys and I saw you three sitting on that cloud, nodding that it was good. So what’s there to argue now?
In closing, I’ll give you a few updates here. Fact is, that John Arch and FATES WARNING will make an appearance on Keep It True in 2016. And funny thing is, when this announcement came, we also heard that the festival is sold out already. A few tickets will be sold on the internet, but when they’re gone they’re gone. This may sound crazy, but I’m afraid that some ticket wholesalers must have bought a lot more tickets than the one or two individual fans would buy. There is no evidence, but some crazy stories are going on the internet. Also, some tickets have been going on the internet for outrageous prices. Keep It True is ultra hot, which proves, that everybody wants to be in Germany at the end of April 2016. The hall will look so much different next year. The metal market has been replaced to a space outside of the hall to create more room for all the visitors, who come to see FATES WARNING in the original line-up. Metal history can be re-written after next year, because what many fans have been waiting for so many years, will be happening here, believe it or not. FATES WARNING live in concert with John Arch on vocals. Even Metal Blade boss Brian Slagel will attend the show in this little town, somewhere in the south of Germany.
Anyway, Keep It True 2015 is over now and when looking at the bill for 2016, we will be in for another treat. TERMINUS and DEXTER WARD are on the bill (new hopes for the metal future!), next to the amazing SAVAGE MASTER, my good old friends of IRON CROSS and NWOBHM legends MYTHRA (so good to see John Roach in person after so many years!), SDI, SKI (yes, the vocalist of DEADLY BLESSING), THRUST (please don’t confuse them with the French metallers TRUST !!), ARTCH (don’t confuse them with John Arch, who will be there too, you know), KEN NARDI (of ANACRUSIS fame), THE RODS, ROCK GODDESS (YES, these three blonde vixens are going to steal the show here for sure!!!) and the four headlining positions, that are taken by PRAYING MANTIS, HEIR APPARENT, RAZOR and the aforementioned FATES WARNING. And there are still a few names to be added to this amazing list. In retrospect, there is also the name “SECRET BAND” on the bill. They are from the USA, but their name will remain secret until they will be officially announced. I already have some ideas about this mysterious act, but I won’t reveal any thoughts here. I think, it would be really amazing if my thoughts are right. No wonder, that Brian Slagel will book his flight to Europe. I will apologize upfront for pissing my pants, when I am right, and I will have to create other dream to come true for the future from then on.
Finally, there’s always a long list of persons I’d like to say thanks, but the network of friends and fellow headbangers is getting far too long and I don’t want to miss out on anyone. Of course I won’t miss the dearest of them all: Gerrie, Pascal, Eddy & Christine and of course Oli and Tarek for putting on another amazing festival. Also we’d like to mention all the volunteers, that made this festival so special and especially Manuela (jack-of-all-trades, like she mentions on facebook), you ROCK! This has been pure heavy metal mayhem on holy ground. This place is sacred and we will be glad to come back next year. I’m looking forward to it already. The countdown starts in the car on our way home to Leerdam rock city. This is how much Keep It True flows through our veins….. It’s our food and our drinks. It’s our religion and our way of life. C U in 2016 at KIT XIX (that’s Roman for Flight Nineteen). \m/\m/.
*Written by: Toine van Poorten/November 2015
*Photos copyright by: Rita van Poorten [www.metalmaidens.com]