Saturday July 19th 2003 / Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-Königshofen, Germany
The Keep It True festival is a new addition to the ever growing number of festivals. Let's face it : if you're some kind of an open-minded metal fan, and you're prepared to travel all over Europe, you can easily attend one festival each weekend from early June to late August in this day and age. Be it in Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, ... Of course we're not that open-minded at all, but we simply couldn't afford to miss out on this maiden edition of Keep It True. After all, how many times do you get the opportunity to see the likes of MALEDICTION, KILLERS, DOOMSWORD, BROCAS HELM, OMEN, SOLEMNITY and 6 more bands on one and the same occasion?
Contrary to last week's Headbangers Open Air festival this one was in a large sports hall, the Tauberfrankenhalle in Lauda-Königshofen, in the South of Germany. On one side they had a theatre stage, including a special medieval setting for this occasion. On the other side there was enough room to have the Metal Market inside as well. The bad thing was that it was very hot in there, but I'm afraid that it'll be another while before we will actually be able to control the weather.
Keep It True's main aim is to present some local/German bands (ETERNAL REIGN, MAJESTY, SOLEMNITY) but especially a lot of foreign bands that have not yet, or at least not too much, played in Germany before. That was certainly the case with BLOODSTAINED, BROCAS HELM and OMEN. And I believe that goes for GUNFIRE and MALEDICTION as well. Of course KILLER, SOLITAIRE and DOOMSWORD had already played at last week's Headbangers Open Air. Add to this the low ticket price (€ 15.00 at the door, € 13.00 in advance), and the fair prices for food and beverages, and I can't see any reason why any dedicated metal fanatic would want to miss out on an event like this. Not even a 6+ hours drive could keep us away ...
Germany's ETERNAL REIGN were previously know as PERFACT CRIME, and have been around as such since 1997. The namechange didn't occur until sometime in 2001, prior to the recording of their Crimes Of Passion debut CD, which was released in 2002. The band is a sextet, including keyboards, and are in the melodic hard rock vein. Their set was a mixture of material from said debut CD and some new stuff, but I wasn't really impressed. They did however manage to please a part of the audience that was already present at 1 P.M.
BLOODSTAINED from Greece were added to the bill at the last moment, as a replacement for U.S. band DAMIEN THORNE, who were forced to pull out of the event. Not surprisingly I knew nothing about them, and thus I didn't really know what to expect from this quartet. All I can say is that they surprised me in a positive way. BLOODSTAINED are indeed in the 1980's heavy metal vein, along the lines of early JAG PANZER (whom they had been compared to before already), and not just because they performed an excellent version of Harder Than Steel! Their own songs, including the likes of Bloodstained and Related With Danger, were well worth checking out as well. BLOODSTAINED definitely impressed me with their cool brand of no-holds-barred heavy metal, and the audience clearly agreed with me on this occasion : not only the roundabout twenty Greeks that made the trip were heavily into the band, most of the people seemed to enjoy them tremendously as well. And they could hardly do anything wrong by playing SACRED STEEL's Wargods Of Metal either. Reason enough to let them play an encore : a new song called Fugitive.
Italy's GUNFIRE intially started out way back in 1981. I'm pretty sure that they have been in-active for quite some time though. Once again, I wasn't familiar with them, but at least I had heard of them before. The only merchandise that they seemed to have available was a 3-song promo CD, entitled The Fire Still Burns, which was released last year. Which, of course, I only got to hear after the festival, but I do remember that they played Deceiver for sure. The quintet really raced through their 40' set, displaying both old and new stuff, all of which I was unfamiliar with. But their style of pure heavy metal did sound quite excellent to my ears, so I'll definitely have to catch up with all of their material sooner or later. Convincing performance!
Finland's SOLITAIRE were scheduled to enter the stage next, but since they didn't make it on time they forced MALEDICTION to an earlier start. That's not to say that they weren't ready, rather the contrary. Anyway, MALEDICTION hails from Laon, in the North of France. They've been around since 1997 and started out as a cover band initially. By 1999 they had decided to perform original songs only and thus a selftitled demo CD was released. This was followed by their full-length debut CD, Condamnés, in 2001. And although I wasn't familiar with this one, I had only heard and read good things about it. The band's trademark of course is that the lyrics/vocals are in their native (French) language. Musically they are along the same lines as 1980's French acts such as SORTILEGE, ADX and BLASPHEME. The band has been playing a lot of shows over the past years, and it paid off, as their (only) 36' set proved to be very tight and energetic. Needless to say that most of the people in attendance were heavily into them. Excellent allround performance!
KILLER's set was identical to the one that we witnessed one week earlier at the Headbangers Open Air festival, albeit that they were able to play one more song on this occasion : Blinded. Quite naturally the old songs (Blinded, Kleptomania and their medley of three titletracks) went down best, as well as Shorty's and Spin's 'walking through the audience routine' during the instrumental The Run Of The Chupacabra. But once you've seen this a couple of times (like us) it's hardly considered as anything special. Overall there were not as many people upfront as earlier on during some of the other bands, and I have a feeling that the fact that people were expecting to hear more 'old' material had something to do with that.
Hot on the heels of MALEDICTION came a second band from France : KILLERS. Hailing from Bayonne, which is situated in the South of the country, they originally started out way back in 1984 already. The only surviving member of that line-up is vocalist/guitarist Bruno Dolheguy though. Over the course of those (almost) two decades they managed to release no less than 13 full-length releases so far, all of them but one (Killing Games from 2001) being sung in their native language. I'm only familiar with Fort Intérieur and Mauvaises Graines myself, but at least I got to see the band perform a scorching set at the Wacken Open Air festival in 1999. Their most recent CD (Habemus Metal) was released last November, so quite obviously they displayed a couple of tunes off that one. But I also recognized Le Fils De La Haine from their 1985 debut and Clandestinité from 1989's Résistances. Plus Azken Agurraren Negarra from Mauvaises Graines, which is actually sung in their Basque dialect. As a special treat we got to hear MANOWAR's Black Wind Fire And Steel and MOTORHEAD's Overkill; both sung in French, would you believe it? That was an original way to conclude an already excellent (loud, wild and heavy) performance.
By the time that KILLERS ended their set Finnish quintet SOLITAIRE finally showed up as well. It turned out that they had missed their initial flight out of Finland and were forced to take the next available one. Rather than not letting them play at all, they were allowed to enter the stage directly, for what would turn out to be a really short and compact set. As a result they didn't play any covers but stuff from their Rising To The Challenge debut CD only, including The Crossfire and Eye Of The Needle. And, as to make up for not playing it the previous week, they made sure to include A Slash In The Night this time around. Their straightforward mixture of 1980's heavy metal and thrash went over really well, although only some 25' was simply not enough. Shit happens ...
Like I have stated before already : Italy's DOOMSWORD are one of my current favourite bands. And of course I didn't mind seeing the band a second time in one week's time. If memory serves me well their set was identical to last week's one at the Headbangers Open Air festival, meaning three songs from their selftitled debut, as well as five from follow-up Resound The Horn. The band was in prime form once again, resulting in an even (slightly) better performance. Of course I was still hoping to hear at least one song from their upcoming third CD, Let Battle Commence, which is set for a September 29th release through Dragonheart Records. But anyhow, DOOMSWORD were the first absolute highlight of the day! And not just from my own point of view, judging by the crowd's reaction ...
MAJESTY were playing sort of a home game on this occasion. Actually, the band's vocalist Tarek Maghary is one of the organizers and the festival is named after MAJESTY's debut release. The band has been around since the summer of 1997 and have released two full-lengths so far : Keep It True and last year's Sword & Sorcery. For once I was actually familiar with both of these releases. And it's only fair to say that Sword & Sorcery includes their most memorable moments so far. Having just said that, I'm afraid that I'm not really a fan of MAJESTY. Their music isn't the most original kind around, pretty much in the earlier MANOWAR vein, but not quite as convincing. Their lyrical content and artwork ties in with this aspect as well. The main thing that I find bothersome is the lack of speed in the songs; there are hardly any fast songs, and I could do with less sing-along parts as well. It's not that the band is bad, it's just a matter of personal opinion. And in my opinion there were way more exciting bands to be witnessed today. As a result I went outside to get some fresh air and to socialize a bit after having witnessed the first couple of tunes (Hail To Majesty, Epic War, ...) but, from what Christine told me afterwards, MAJESTY did actually go down very well, and there was a lot of ambiance. It's just that it wasn't meant to be, at least as far as I'm concerned. But I'll make sure to watch their entire set next time around!
This was BROCAS HELM's first ever gig in Germany. BROCAS HELM of course being one of the few true U.S. heavy metal cult bands that are still around. Amazingly enough they've been around for some two decades already, but yet they only managed to release two full CD's and a bunch of singles. Tonight's 65' show was to include songs from both albums, as well as some vinyl release only songs, and even a couple of new ones. Both titletracks, Black Death and Into Battle, got things started in excellent fashion. The band most definitely lived up to their reputation, and thus convinced me all the way. Plenty more stuff from Into Battle followed : Night Siege, Into The Ithilstone, Ravenwreck, ... as well as Fly High from Black Death. Others that I remember include Wartoons and their 'love song', Skullfucker, both of which only appeared on rare vinyl releases. As for the new songs, both Defender Of The Crown and Children Of The Nova Dawn were totally along the lines of their other material. I only hope that BROCAS HELM's third CD will finally see the light of day some day, the sooner the better. BROCAS HELM was clearly the first of two headliners, and they easily lived up to that status. Of course the fans were totally into it from beginning to end, not in the least all of them Greeks. Well, almost everybody who was still standing, actually!
And still the festival wasn't over, not by a long shot, as there were two more bands waiting to convince us of their abilitities. The first being the second headliner, Texas based OMEN, who eventually hit the stage 10' past midnight. I had seen the band live in 2001 & 2002 already, at the Classic Metal Festivals in the U.S.A., so I was already aware that new vocalist Kevin Goocher is quite capable of reproducing OMEN's 1980's classics almost perfectly. Three quarters of their set tonight was compiled from fan requests on the band's website, resulting in some sort of 'best of' repertoire. Just consider this : Death Rider, Termination, Battle Cry, Dragon's Breath, Ruby Eyes (Of The Serpent), Die By The Blade, Nightmares, Bounty Hunter, Teeth Of The Hydra. Plus encores The Axeman, In The Arena and Thorn In Your Flesh. Only the latter was kind of out of league, being more of a party song. Of course you could say that there were some classics missing (Torture Me, Be My Wench, Bring Out The Beast, Warning Of Danger, Make Me Your King, Red Horizon, Holy Martyr, The Curse, ... need I continue?), but I guess that's inevitable, considering the band's past musical output. Three songs from the upcoming Eternal Black Dawn CD were presented as well : 1000 Year Reign, House On Rue Royale and the titletrack. These are along the lines of their early releases, maybe just a little bit less epic. But definitely their best stuff since The Curse. Apart from the technical difficulties that accompanied Bounty Hunter (and which lasted for about 10') this was a totally convincing show. And another contender for the title of 'highlight of the festival', together with DOOMSWORD and BROCAS HELM.
By the time that SOLEMNITY finally hit the stage, around 2 A.M., a lot of people had already left the hall, unfortunately. Even moreso because the band intended to display their entire 'Horror Show' on this occasion. Well, as I found out later, 90% of the pyros that they had in mind didn't work, for whatever reason. They kicked off with a bang nevertheless, by means of their anthem, followed by Open Fire. During this particular song vocalist Sven started to spit fire, as usual, but something went wrong, since he actually swallowed some of the petrol. Instead of calling it quits there and then Sven decided to carry on, but it was quite obvious that something was wrong. Another tune off Reign In Hell (Axekiller) followed, and then it was time for four songs off King Of Dreams : Fire In Mainstreamland, Kill The Majesty, Vampire's Dance and King Of Dreams. Although I really liked Reign In Hell, I have the impression that their new stuff is just not as convincing. That's the same feeling that I had when listening to the King Of Dreams CD, although I don't really know what the problem is exactly. Walpurgisnight closed their set and the festival down with some more fireworks, before Sven was rushed to the hospital. Who knows how excellent their performance could have been, had everything worked out as planned?
Conclusion : bearing in mind that this was the festival's first edition I can only say that almost everything was more than allright. Be it the sound, the stage setting, the lights, the audience, ... everything was taken care of adequately. And some 750 paying persons for a first edition is encouraging as well. As for the bands, there were very few flaws and indeed there was an opportunity to see some of these bands for the very first time. The weather was fine too, to say the least. Actually, it was way too hot, but that's something that you can't do anything about. The audiece was well-behaved and supportive of all bands too.
As a result of all of this it is already certain that there will another Keep It True festival in 2004. But in order to avoid the heat, Oliver and Tarek have decided to advance next year's edition to April 10th (Easter Saturday), in stead of mid July. Knowing that it is in fact a long holiday weekend, why not make it a two-day festival for this occasion? Anyhow, the first three confirmed bands for K.I.T. 2004 are : MAJESTY, Germany's 1980's sensation PARADOX and U.S. cult outfit ............... MANILLA ROAD. You can bet your ass that we'll be present once again! Hope to see you all there! Long live KEEP IT TRUE!!!
ETERNAL REIGN pictures
BROCAS HELM pictures