Friday April 23rd & Saturday April 24th 2010 / Tauberfrankenhalle, Lauda-KŲnigshofen, Germany
Unless you have been residing under a rock or outer space for the past couple of weeks, youíll be aware of the fact that not all went well during the weeks leading up to the 13th (!) Keep It True festival. As a result of a volcano near the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier (in the south of Iceland) erupting, and the ashes it subsequently produced, worldwide air traffic was heavily disturbed for several days. As a result it was a matter of waiting and anticipating which of the overseas bands would make it to the festival. In the end things turned out for the better and only a couple of bands (STRIKER, THOR) werenít able to fly in on time. Swedenís CANDLEMASS didnít make it either, but letís not talk about their reasons here : suffice it to say that they might well be known as CANCEL-MASS from now onwards, knowing that they missed out on the Roadburn festival in Holland the week before as well Ö HADES and WHITE WIZZARD were forced to cancel at the last instant due to one of their members being ill. Nevertheless the K.I.T. organisation made sure to present replacements for all five of those bands Ė more about that later on in the review. WHIPLASH of course had cancelled a couple of weeks in advance : they were not replaced, but instead ANACRUSIS and DEMON were granted an extra 15 minutes of playing time. Something that wouldíve been the case for THOR as well, had they made it over in time.
As usual we arrived in KŲnigshofen on Thursday already. After settling in into our usual B & B, and once a marvellous dinner at a nearby restaurant was consumed, we headed to the Tauberfrankenhalle to see if anyone familiar was hanging out there. That wasnít the case but we were glad to find out the line-up for next yearís edition there and then already. What a killer line-up!!!
After an excellent nightís rest, and a breakfast to match, we headed to the Tauberfrankenhalle again, in order to invade the Metal Market. Not surprisingly at all the gates didnít open at 11 am but some 20 minutes later, cutting our metal shopping spree considerably shorter. I hope to live long enough to witness the gates opening at 11 am sharp one day Ö People donít understand how important it is to have most of the shopping over and done with by the time the first band hits the stage : if you have a desire to see all bands, thereís hardly any time left in between to go shopping. Not that it made us spend less money Ö
FRIDAY APRIL 23rd 2010
Due to the fact that Canadaís STRIKER couldnít make it in the end, Swedenís STEELWING became the festivalís opening band. Formed in 2009, things sure are developing fast for this bunch of young guys : after winning the Rock The Nation Award 2009 they secured a worldwide record deal with NoiseArt Records. Besides plenty of festival appearances are scheduled for this summer, plus support tours for the likes of SUICIDAL ANGELS and BLIND GUARDIAN. Unfortunately there was no kind of release available to the public beforehand. Knowing that the bandís upcoming debut CD had been completed a long while ago already, it beats me why NoiseArt didnít release it prior to the festival. Some say it was in order to create an aspect of curiosity (as was the case when POWERVICE played here a couple of years ago) but Iím not into that kind of policy. And despite the fact that Lord Of The Wasteland was scheduled to be released the next week, both the CD and LP version were readily available at the festival already. Anyhow, I was only familiar with the three songs that are on the bandís MySpace page, and yes, I liked what I heard : classic 1980ís inspired heavy metal, including high-pitched vocals. Executed well but hardly original, and with clear hints of early IRON MAIDEN. Hence the comparisons to POWERVICE Ö On stage, the band proved to be very powerful and full of energy, although lacking a touch of experience perhaps. Even though the band did very little wrong, itís my impression that they werenít able to reproduce the studio sound on stage. Partly that was definitely due to the fact that the sound wasnít really up to par yet, for the rest it was most likely due to nerves and lack of experience playing live on such a huge stage. Furthermore the bandís set lasted for only some 38 minutes Ė not surprisingly, as Lord Of The Wasteland clocks in at around 48 minutes, and they didnít play it entirely. Letís say that STEELWING were an okay opener, but not quite as surprising as POWERVICE, due to lack of experience. A thing that, I am sure, will be dealt with once and for all by the end of this year, once all scheduled tours will be over.
The first replacement band of the festival turned out to be an obvious one : Germany's ROXXCALIBUR. Although they had never played at any of the previous Keep It True editions as such, all members had of course already graced the Tauberfrankenhalle stage as being part of last yearís N.W.O.B.H.M. 30th Anniversary show. Others may have seen the band backing THUNDER RIDER in the recent past. For this particular show there were no extra guests and ROXXCALIBUR just took this opportunity to promote last yearís NWOBHM For Muthas CD. For those still unaware : ROXXCALIBUR is a tribute band that specializes in perfect renditions of old N.W.O.B.H.M. tunes, classics as well as more obscure rare diamonds. Fitting in well into the latter category are the likes of Running For The Line (J.J.íS POWERHOUSE), Seven Days Of Splendour (JAMESON RAID), Rainbow Warrior (BLEAK HOUSE) and War Of The Ring (ARC), while classics of the genre like The Gates Of Gehenna (CLOVEN HOOF), Axe Crazy (JAGUAR), Lady Of Mars (DARK STAR), Let It Loose (SAVAGE) or Witchfinder Generalís anthem are undoubtedly known by the vast majority of just about any Keep It True audience. Too bad the band played for only 40 minutes, as I was looking forward to hearing the likes of (especially) Destiny (TRIDENT) and Spirit Of The Chateaux (CHATEAUX) as well. Then again, since I had seen ROXXCALIBUR live already, I only witnessed the first couple of songs from upfront, then went for another stroll through the Metal Market. Suffice it to say that the band delivered another exciting set. And, as there are plenty of other old N.W.O.B.H.M. tunes to be re-unearthed, Iíd say itís about time to consider releasing a follow-up CD. Whenever in doubt which songs to pick, Iíll be glad to give some hints Ö
Up next was Polandís female-fronted heavy metal combo CRYSTAL VIPER. When I saw this band live for the first (and only) time (at the Swordbrothers 5 festival, back in 2007), they were a quintet, but nowadays theyíre down to a quartet. In fact, besides singing, the gorgeous Marta Gabriel now plays guitar as well, at least during the majority of the songs. And although she does a good job when it comes to handling the six-stringer, Iíd suggest the band to go and find another guitarist, so that Marta wonít be stuck behind the mike for most of the time. Only when able to move around freely a front(wo)man can come to full fruition and interaction with the audience Ö That became blatantly obvious during the bandís version of AGENT STEELís Agents Of Steel, which perhaps came a bit too early in the set. Other than that CRYSTAL VIPERís set today consisted of a good mix off all three of their previous CD releases, including Night Prowler, The Last Axeman, Metal Nation and Gladiator, Die By The Blade. Quite naturally the bandís latest claims to fame, the Stronghold CDs and the The Wolf And The Witch 7Ē (both released last year), werenít overlooked either. The band even had a wolf on stage for the occasion. Luckily it turned out to be a rather tame one Ö And I canít imagine Marta being a witch Ö Anyhow, the band went down well, there was a good interaction with the crowd, although Iím personally not too fond of the singalong parts that shine through every now and then. At times the band comes across as being a bit too clichť, and Iím not convinced that it was necessary to introduce the bandmembers either. But that's enough when it comes to splitting hairs : from a musical point of view thereís hardly anything to argue about, and thatís the only thing that really matters. Thumbs up in that regards for CRYSTAL VIPER!
The second of three surprises (= last minute replacements) was one that had already played at the Keep It True festival before, none other than Hollandís EMERALD. Back in November of 2005 EMERALD was in fact part of the warm-up show for K.I.T. V, at the Sporthalle in Dittigheim. That was said to be the bandís final farewell gig, but half a decade later the band is still going strong. Nowadays Paul Van Rijswijk has become the bandís permanent second guitarist and original bassist Essie Zagers has rejoined his former cohorts (vocalist Bert Kivits and guitarist Allard Ekkel) as well. The only missing original member being drummer Gert Slot, who has been replaced by Rudy Marissen years ago already. Although EMERALDís legacy is limited to just one LP (1985ís Down Town, which was re-issued on CD as Iron On Iron in 1999) the band managed to achieve some kind of worldwide cult status over the years. Somehow thatís not surprising as EMERALDís brand of Euro-metal was always a bit different compared to your typical mid 1980ís metal outfit, even back in those days. A lot of that is due to the fact that the band has a unique vocalist : a typical example of a singer that you either love or hate, as Bert is able to sing extremely high-pitched. A style that some wonít like for sure, but one that Iíve always been fond of. Just like five years ago, EMERALDís set today was built around their sole release, including such highlights as Sirens, Iron On Iron, Shadows Of Allmighty, Hellracer and D-Day. Not to mention the balladesque Suicide. Itís amazing how Bert still manages to sound almost exactly like he did 25 years ago, taking into account the difficultness of the vocal lines. At least one new tune was incorporated as well, but I canít quite remember what it was called Ė a classic case of Alzheimer at a young age! Too bad the band didnít take full advantage of their granted playing time (only 50 minutes in stead of 60) but on the other hand their performance was near flawless, and enjoyed by a lot of people by the looks of it. And now I can only hope that, one day, another EMERALD CD will see the light of day Ö Wishful thinking? Only time will tell Ö
A band that played its maiden European show today was Connecticutís OBSESSION, one of the first bands to get signed by Metal Blade in the early 1980ís. In 1982 Shadows Of Steel landed a spot on the Metal Massacre II compilation, which was followed the next year by the Marshall Law EP. Two more full-lengths (Scarred For Life & Methods Of Madness) followed, in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Soon after the band came to a halt. Vocalist Mike Vescera went on to make his own career fronting the likes of LOUDNESS, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, MVP, KILLING MACHINE and THE REIGN OF TERROR, while the rest of the original members was hardly ever heard of again. In 2006 Mike teamed up with original drummer Jay Mezias again, and they assembled a new OBSESSION line-up, including guitarists John Bruno and Scott Borland, as well as bassist Chris McCarvill (HOUSE OF LORDS). This line-up recorded a third OBSESSION full-length as well : Carnival Of Lies. In the mean time drummer Jay has been replaced by BJ Zampa (HOUSE OF LORDS) while the rest of the line-up has remained unchanged. And rightfully so, as it turned out to be a killer constellation. Most people will be aware and convinced of Mikeís vocal abilities but the rest of the band really delivers the goods as well. From the early days onwards OBSESSION managed to come up with an almost perfect mixture of power and melody, the kind of U.S. metal that is bound to please a lot of people. Which was quite obvious today Ö When it comes to the setlist, the band made sure to include songs off all four releases : two from Marshall Law, plus four each from all three longplayers. Although it must be said that plenty of them were part of one long medley, probably the longest of its kind that I ever witnessed in a live situation, including the likes of In For The Kill, For The Love Of Money, Pure Evil, Hard To The Core, Winner Takes All, Killer Elite, Shadows Of Steel and Only The Strong Will Survive. I may well have forgotten one or other along the way Ė Alzheimer, remember? Songs that were played in its entirety include Marshall Law, Methods To Madness, Scarred For Life, Carnival Of Lies, Smoking Gun and Bang ĎEm Till They Bleed, which closed OBSESSIONís almost one hour set down with a bang. Clearly, this was the first real highlight of the festival for me, and I hope weíll be able to witness OBSESSION live again in Europe sometime soon! Excellent setlist, excellent performance, excellent band!
Contrary to OBSESSION, it wasnít the first ever European show for Missouriís ANACRUSIS, as some may remember that this quartet supported DEATH throughout Europe in 1993 already. Of course, not being the biggest DEATH fan around in those days, I missed out on each and every one of those dates, and I still regret it until today. Not for missing DEATH, but moreso for not having seen ANACRUSIS in those days. Shortly after that tour the band called it quits and it wasnít until word got out that the band would play here that people found out that these guys were still alive & kicking. Anyhow, vocalist/guitarist Kenn Nardi, guitarist Kevin Heidbreder and bassist John Emery have always been the nucleus of ANACRUSIS, and drummer Mike Owen participated on both Suffering Hour and Reason, so this was the most credible line-up possible. Not to mention that it was the original one. A good example of how reunions should be. Although, I agree, thatís not always quite possible Ö Despite the fact that ANACRUSIS changed styles over the years (and releases) Iíve been a fan since day one, and I adore all four of their releases. Be it the thrashy early stuff or the more progressive stuff from later on, and everything in between : I still listen to all of them rather frequently. In my opinion ANACRUSIS was a band that was way ahead of its time. Also : coming to full blossom during the rise of the Grunge movement didnít help matters either. Regardless : ANACRUSIS is one of my alltime favourite bands, and thatís not about to change anytime soon. Especially after witnessing their scorching performance here. No doubt with plenty of rehearsals but just one warm-up gig in the U.S.A. under their belt prior to this show, ANACRUSIS sure didnít take no prisoners! Although I have no real points of reference, Iím sure that they had their act together even better than in the late 1980ís, early 1990ís. The band was so focused and precise, itís hard to believe. And most of the bandís material isnít exactly ďeasyĒ. Kennís vocals proved to have stood the test of time well, the guitar playing was as intricate as ever and the powerhouse rhythm section left nothing to be desired either. And neither did the setlist, as all four releases were revisited, by means of 4 songs each from Suffering Hour (1988) and Manic Impressions (1991), plus 3 each from Reason (1990) and Screams And Whispers (1993). Faves above the rest were Present Tense, Stop Me, Terrified, Butcherís Block, Paint A Picture, I Love The World (a NEW MODEL ARMY cover), Fighting Evil, Sound The Alarm and Imprisoned. Then again, I might just as well mention the remaining 5 songs as well, for there were no fillers! Some people may be sad due to the fact that Not Forgotten was not played in the end (it was erased from the initial setlist) but Iím sure that ANACRUSISí performance wonít be forgotten anytime soon. Not just by myself, but also by plenty of others, judging by the enthusiastic crowd response. I had no idea that this band was that popular at all, especially since their brand of thrash / doom / progressive metal isnít the easiest to get into. A fifth CD, followed by some more (European) touring would be the logic thing to do next, but I have my doubts whether it will ever happen. Fingers crossed!!
There are quite a few similarities between ANACRUSIS and WATCHTOWER : apart from the fact that they are both a quartet, their musical styles arenít the easiest ones to get into. Most of all, both bands are among my favourite metal bands of all time! The big difference though is that I did in fact get to see WATCHTOWER live, some two decades ago in Uden (Holland). And the line-up that was on stage back then was the exact same one as tonight : vocalist Alan Tecchio, guitarist Ron Jarzombek, bassist Doug Keyser and drummer Rick Colaluca. In the end we were lucky that Alan arrived on time, as otherwise we wouldíve witnessed an all instrumental version of WATCHTOWER. Not that I wouldíve minded that Ö In fact, at first there was talk that original vocalist Jason McMaster was going to handle the vocals on some of the (early) songs as well, but that fell through. A pity, as I really wouldíve wanted to have seen that! Anyhow, WATCHTOWER sure made quite an arrival on stage, with Doug wearing a mask & red 7 Eleven shirt, while Alan showed up with some kind of helmet & motorcycle glasses to match. At first glance, only Ron looked ďnormalĒ, but that didnít last long, as he turned out to be just as crazy when it came to stage antics : running around chasing eachother, just acting silly together. Thank god that Rick was safely locked behind the drumkit. Oh well : with an album title as Energetic Disassembly one simply has to be energetic on stage Ö Although it shouldnít be overdone either. Luckily the musical side of things was taken care of in an excellent manner as well : maybe not as flawless as on disc, but coming close anyhow. And hard to believe how they manage to do it exactly, bearing in mind all the crazy stage capers going on. The setlist was an obvious mix of songs culled from both Energetic Disassembly (Asylum, Tyrants In Distress, Social Fears, Meltdown) and Control And Resistance (The Eldritch, Instruments Of Random Murder, Mayday In Kiev, The Fall Of Reason, Control And Resistance). In fine tradition WATCHTOWER couldnít help but include a contemporary cover as well : part of Katy Perryís I Kissed A Girl was thus nicely included during Tyrants In Distress. Additionally, the band also performed one new tune : The Size Of Matter. Letís hope that this implies that the bandís third CD (to be entitled Mathematics) is finally on the way as well Ė itís about time! Anyhow, no complaints about the setlist, as all classics were included, and that new song sounded just as good. They say that time flies when youíre having fun, and that was certainly the case during WATCHTOWERís gig : 60 minutes passed without hardly noticing. One may not know exactly what to expect from WATCHTOWER for the near future, but what I do know is that they marked my personal third highlight of the day!
The fourth U.S. metal band in a row was none other than Californiaís SAVAGE GRACE. Although California shouldnít be taken all too literally these days : the only connection with California when it comes to the SAVAGE GRACE of today is the fact that former guitarist Chris Logue is the bandís singer. The rest of the band consists of the members of ROXXCALIBUR, just like they do the same job for John Blackwingís THUNDER RIDER. Not the most credible of things to do in my opinion, for this kind of line-up has hardly anything in common with what the bands initially stood for. Letís just say that I prefer the kind of reunion line-upís that ANACRUSIS and WATCHTOWER came up with! Anyway, I had witnessed SAVAGE GRACE less than two weeks ago, in Templeuve (Belgium), when they headlined over OMEN. And although the setlist left nothing to be desired, I wasnít totally convinced on that occasion. Chris is not a natural born singer, and it shows : at times he had trouble singing his lines adequately. Of course the rest of the band did a good job, but still I prefer the old days. Todayís setlist was more or less the same as two weeks ago, a mixture of songs off both SAVAGE GRACE LPís, as well as the first EP, including the likes of Bound To Be Free, Into The Fire, Betrayer, After The Fall From Grace, Master Of Disguise, The Dominatress, Sins Of The Damned and We Came, We Saw, We Conquered. Actually, Chris turned out to be in better shape tonight, but still not 100% to my liking. Of course the backing band was on par as well, resulting in an overall positive experience, but not quite as overwhelming as the three previous bands. A cover of DEEP PURPLEís Burn was performed as well, much to the pleasure of the audience in general. The same goes for the bandís version of JUDAS PRIESTís Exciter. To me that sounds like trying to gather some cheap success, taking no risks. A pity, especially knowing that the band has plenty of original stuff to pick from. Besides, being the co-headliner, playing a mere 65 minutes (including a useless 4-minute intro!) when allowed to be on stage for 75, doesnít really come across well either. And to make matters worse Live To Burn and Motorcycle Man (SAXON) were on the initial setlist, yet for one or other reason they were not played. The conclusion being that SAVAGE GRACE delivered a good set, but one that couldíve been way better. I think Iíll go and dig up some of their old live tapes now Ö
Life is full of surprises, something that OMEN easily will agree with. Due to the fact that CANDLEMASS didnít show up, Oliver & crew were forced to look out for a suitable new headliner for tonight. As OMEN had been touring through Europe with SAVAGE GRACE for the past couple of weeks, they were the ideal solution. In their case the volcano eruption worked to their advantage, as they wouldíve been back home already otherwise. In the end OMEN thus became the second band to play on the occasion of three editions of the festival (2003 Ė 2008 Ė 2010). The first band to achieve such a thing was of course MAJESTY Ö Having seen the band just two weeks ago, I knew they were in great shape, and in excellent mood as well. Of course the setlist included no major surprises : not to me, and not to the rest of the audience either. It was simply another career-best-of selection, including such classics as Death Rider, Die By The Blade, Teeth Of The Hydra, The Curse and quite a few more. Vocalist George Call sounded a bit hesitant at first, but quickly found his prime shape later on. Of course I couldíve done without the bass & guitar soloís that preceeded The Axeman, but I was pleased to hear Blood On The Water, the only new song, once again. It fits in perfectly with the bandís 1980ís material and I certainly hope that the rest of the bandís new material will be along the same lines. Canít wait for that new CD to be released! Encores Battle Cry and Warning Of Danger marked the end of OMENís second headlining performance here in style. Although everybody was happy in the end, I must say that, in my opinion, itís strange to see a headlining band play for only a mere 73 minutes. Thereís room for improvement there! On the other hand : most likely for the first time ever the Keep It True festival was over way before midnight, enabling us to get a slightly longer nightís rest.
SATURDAY APRIL 24th 2010
In order to replace WHITE WIZZARD, the Keep It True organization came up with MORTICIAN, a band that I was only familiar with by name. Let me say that this MORTICIAN hails from Austria, and has nothing in common with the death / grindcore metallers from the U.S.A. whatsoever. While the U.S. outfit didnít come to life until 1989, Austriaís MORTICIAN started out in the early 1980ís already. A 4-song demo (Street Warrior) and a 3-song 12Ē (No War Ė a true collectorís item these days!) were released in 1987, and followed by another demo (Break The Rules) in 1989, before the band called it quits the following year. Last year Germany's Pure Steel Records decided to re-issue MORTICIANís entire legacy on one CD, and original members Thomas Metzler (guitar) and Patrik Lercher (bass) decided to re-activate the band as well. New blood to complete the new line-up was found in vocalist Daniel Khan and drummer Andreas ďAnteeĒ Peter, and as such MORTICIAN entered the stage around 11.30 am already. MORTICIANís style is best described as ordinary heavy metal, in fine 1980ís tradition of course, bearing in mind their roots. Most of the songs performed today in fact originated from the early days (such as No War, Listen To The Priest, Sacrifice Of Sin and No War), but there was also one thatís not on the CD, and that might as well have been a new one : Reflection Of Your Soul. The band did a fine job, without being too spectacular. JUDAS PRIESTís Breaking The Law was the bandís final song, but since Iíve seen and heard hundreds of bands covering this kind of classic, I couldnít really care less. In my opinion, if you want to include a cover at all costs, make sure itís a less obvious one! Nevertheless, a good opening band to warm things up on an already sunny Saturday.
Contrary to MORTICIAN, I was at least familiar with some of the material that HEART OF CYGNUS has come up with in recent years. In fact, this quartet from Los Angeles, California has only been together since 2005, yet theyíve released three CDís already : Utopia (2007), Over Mountain, Under Hill and Tales From Outer Space (both released in 2009). HEART OF CYGNUS was bound to be the band that was clearly most out of league here, knowing that their progressive style of metal hardly ever lands any such bands a spot on this kind of European festivals. Kudos to Oliver & crew for asking these guys over, for they turned out to be an excellent addition to this yearís line-up! On CD HEART OF CYGNUS comes across as a rather calm yet very progressive band, with most of their songs including long instrumental passages. In a live situation they turned out to be a lot heavier, not to mention that they possess the ability to get you hooked easily and almost instantly. If youíre into (old) RUSH, and DREAM THEATER, chances are that youíll enjoy HEART OF CYGNUS a lot as well. The band displayed songs off all three of their releases, with the emphasis on Over Mountain, Under Hill (my personal fave), and almost in a chronologic way. Quite surprisingly the audience seemed to enjoy the band a lot as well, judging by the shouts for an encore once the bandís 40 minute set was over and done with. Damn, they shouldíve played Black Riders to finish things off as well! Nevertheless, most likely one of the big surprises of the festival for many of those in front of the stage, Iím sure. And rightfully so, for the band managed to come up with a cool setlist, coupled with excellent skills and performance. Zugabe! Zugabe! Zugabe!
Swedenís RAM arenít exactly strangers to the Keep It True festival, as they were already part of the warm-up show for the third edition, back in 2004. That was shortly after the bandís Sudden Impact mCD had been released, and the band started to take off for good. After all they had already been around since 1999 Ö Iíve seen RAM several times ever since, and theyíve hardly ever let me down. The line-up has remained more or less stable as well, with only the bassist spot looking like a revolving door at times. At present Tobbe Petterson is the bandís four-stringer. As far as the musical side of things goes, RAM has developed over the years as well : from relentless speed metal to a way slower type of heavy metal. In my opinion thatís not a move for the better, as I was quite fond of Sudden Impact and follow-up Forced Entry. Last yearís Lightbringer is generally regarded as an excellent release too, but I simply canít enjoy it as much as both of its predecessors. Of course the emphasis today was on Lightbringer, by means of four songs, equalling half of the bandís setlist. Forced Entry was represented by its titletrack, while Sudden Impact delivered another three tunes : the titletrack, Machine Invaders and Infuriator. Those songs were of course my personal highlights. Thatís not to say that RAM didnít perform a great set, as they sure did, but I just canít relate to most of their more recent stuff, compared to what the band came up with in the past. Nevertheless an excellent and powerful live band, and one that was appreciated highly by (most of) the audience.
Over the years, quite a few French bands have graced the Tauberfrankenhalle stage : KILLERS, MALEDICTION, DEMON EYES and (some kind of) SORTILEGE (tribute) spring to mind immediately. This time around the chosen representative from the land of cheese & wine was ADX. Not the most known of Ďem all, but one that has stood the test of time and managed to release several CDís over the years, mainly in the mid to late 1980ís and ever since the bandís initial reformation in 1998. For this special occasion the band decided to focus primarily on their earlier material, ranging from 1985 through 1987. Of course 2008ís Division Blindťe wasnít forgotten either, being represented by A La Gloire De Dieu as well as the titletrack. But like I just said, the majority of the setlist consisted of songs well over two decades old : Caligula, LíEtranger, Dťesse Du Crime (from Exťcution - 1985), Memoire De LíEternel, Marquis Du Mal (from La Terreur - 1986), Notre Dame De Paris and Suprťmatie (from Suprťmatie - 1987) all passed the revue today. And most of them managed to convince the audience as well, which was a bit to my surprise. It just goes to show how open-minded and receptive the Keep It True followers are Ö To me, the bandís convincing performance of today didnít come as a surprise, as I had seen ADX some three years ago at the Long Live Metal festival in Wattrelos (France) already. Itís not that ADX are the best French metal band ever, nor did they turn out to be one of the absolute highlights of the festival, but they are solid as a rock and have a tendency of impressing just about any audience. Like it or not Ö
Most likely the least well known band this edition, at least as far as Iím concerned, was Hungaryís KALAPACS. KALAPACS is the current outfit of Jozsef Kalapacs, the former vocalist of the more commonly known 1980ís band POKOLGEP. What I remember from POKOLGEP is that they played a couple of shows together with Hollandís ATTILA and Belgiumís HELLFIRE during the second half of the 1980ís. Unfortunately I never witnessed any of those in the flesh back then, nor did I get to hear any of their releases, which were hard to find, even in those days. I do own a couple of KALAPACS CDís though, but since this was going to be a special POKOLGEP show for the occasion, that didnít help me much. In fact, if Iím well informed, the bandís set turned out to consist of POKOLGEP songs only! Due to the Hungarian lyrics I couldnít tell you anyhow, so letís rely on those in the know for this once Ö Jozsef turned out to be a metalhead to the bone, being dressed in black leather and plenty of spikes. As if time had stood still some 20 or 25 years ago. The rest of the bandmembers didnít exactly turn out to be rookies either, and as a result KALAPACS delivered an excellent 45 minute POKOLGEP set. Quite obviously in the typical European heavy metal style of the mid 1980ís, including all the usual clichťs, but quite enjoyable. Besides, the band managed to convince the audience as well, by the looks of it. I donít know if this kind of special POKOLGEP set will ever be performed again, but Iím glad I was able to witness it nevertheless!
I wish I could say the same about the last replacement band of this ill-fated Keep It True edition : Germany's speed/thrash outfit WARRANT. Iíve witnessed this trio four times during the past decade or so (Wacken 1999 Ė Headbangers Open Air 2005 Ė Keep It True VIII warm-up show 2007 Ė Swordbrothers 2007) and they never managed to convince me whatsoever. I know that Iím most likely one of the few people to share this opinion but I donít feel like beating around the bush : WARRANT have always been regarded as a mediocre and one-dimensional speed metal band by yours truly, and they havenít changed a bit in recent years. Not surprisingly as the bandís nowadays setlist consists of 1980ís songs only. One would think that they would at least try to write some new tunes for a change, but these Germans turn out to be a little stubborn Iím afraid. Or just plain lazy Ö As a result WARRANT setlists have become rather predictable in recent years, as they always include the likes of Satan, Bang That Head, Ordeal Of Death, Torture In The Tower, The Enforcer, Ready To Command, Nuns Have No Fun, Scavenger's Daughter and The Rack. The only surprise this time was the inclusion of TRUSTís Antisocial classic. Not bad, but not good enough to make me change my mind : WARRANT will never rank high among my personal favourite speed metal bands. After the obligatory pictures it was time to fill our empty stomachs anyhow, and the rest of WARRANTís set was the ideal moment to do so, bearing in mind what was yet to come. Needless to say that the predominantly German crowd went bezerk once again, resulting in only a short queue at the food stand. Very cool indeed!
And now for something completely different : a performance by a band that Iím sure 99.9 % of those in attendance had never seen before. Not surprisingly, as SATAN'S HOST hadnít played together with this ďoriginal styleĒ line-up in 22 years! SATANíS HOST of course released the infamous Metal From Hell LP on Web Records in 1986 and were some kind of mystery in those days. In fact, vocalist Leviathan Thisiren turned out to be none other than JAG PANZERís Harry ďThe TyrantĒ Conklin. Anyhow, in 1987 SATANíS HOST recorded another LP, Midnight Wind, although it was never properly released. Shortly after the band broke up, only to be resurrected (without Harry) in the 1990ís as a black metal outfit, releasing several CDís ever since. Fortunately The Tyrant and guitarist Satan Patrick Evil had been toying around with the idea of playing an old school SATANíS HOST set, and what better place to do it at than at the Tauberfrankenhalle? As such we were able to witness the ďrealĒ SATANíS HOST after all. The bandís set was solidly built around Metal From Hell, by means of no less than six tunes : The Flaming Host / Black Stele, Into The Veil, Hell Fire, Standing At Deathís Door, King Of Terror and, of course, Metal From Hell. Midnight Wind only delivered the THE ANIMALS House Of The Rising Sun cover, which was christened House Of The Burning Nuns for the occasion. Another less obvious cover came in form of Norwegian Burn, which was in fact their version of THE BEATLESí Norwegian Wood. Cool. And, to top things off, two new tunes were presented as well : Black Hilted Knife and Dark Priest. Most likely both of them will be included on the bandís upcoming Revival CD, which will be recorded with The Tyrant in vocal command! SATANíS HOST delivered an excellent performance, one to be cherished forever, as we may not be able to enjoy another one like this. Then again we perhaps might, once the CD will be released. Only time will tell Ö
I know Iíve mentioned this before already, but I still regret that I never got to see the TYGERS OF PAN TANG in their early 1980ís heydays. The closest I ever came was at the 1999 Wacken Open Air festival, when vocalist Jess Cox and guitarist Robb Weir turned out to be the only remaining original members of a newly formed TYGERS OF PAN TANG line-up which delivered a cool set of old classics in the middle of the night. From 2001 onwards Robb Weir decided to soldier on on his own and thus created another version of TYGERS OF PAN TANG, including Dean Robertson (guitar), Brian West (bass) and Craig Ellis (drums). From 2005 onwards the band has been fronted by Italian vocalist Jacopo Meille, which turned out to be the best move the band couldíve made, as he comes across as a mixture of Jess Cox and Jon Deverill, and without any sign of an accent! One thing that caught my eye from the beginning of the bandís set was that bassist Brian was replaced by another guy : just for this occasion, or permanently Ė I donít have a clue Ö Having seen TYGERS OF PAN TANG at the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival last October already, I knew that these guys had the potential to become one of todayís absolute highlights. Knowing that todayís setlist was even more old-school than last October, itís easy to admit that the band did in fact turn out to be one of the highlights! Only one new song (Hot Blooded) this time around, and the rest of the setlist consisted of early 1980ís classics only : Euthanasia, Raised On Rock, Take It, Suzie Smiled, Slave To Freedom, Never Satisfied, Rock And Roll Man, Hellbound, Gangland and encore Donít Touch Me There. Besides, Wild Catz was incorporated this time as well, and luckily Love Potion # 9 was dropped. Indeed : no need to incorporate covers if you have plenty of own classics! As it was, TYGERS OF PAN TANGís setlist could hardly have been better, and for once Iíll be glad to admit it. Furthermore the band was in great shape and obviously very much enjoying themselves on stage, which reflected on the audience, who really appreciated the bandís performance. Iím not really a fan of reunions that include only one single original member, but Iíll be glad to make an exception for this version of TYGERS OF PAN TANG. This version is killer and, after all, something is often better than nothing. In my wildest dreams I still hope to see the Spellbound line-up live one day, but until then Iíll be glad to settle for this incarnation!
There are plenty of parallels between TYGERS OF PAN TANG and DEMON : both of them rank among the stalwarts of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, both bands have been around for some 30 years, both only include one original member these days and both outfits still kick ass on stage! Rest assured : Iíd seen DEMON no less than 7 times over the past decade, so I think I can say that without any exaggeration, as they never, ever let me down. In fact DEMON were no stranger to the Keep It True festival, as they already headlined the warm-up show leading up to edition # 6, back in April of 2006, at the Sporthalle in Dittigheim. Furthermore, vocalist Dave Hill was of course part of last yearís N.W.O.B.H.M. 30th anniversary show, making a mark forever by singing Night Of The Demon and Donít Break The Circle. It was then that it was announced that DEMON would play a special 30th anniversary show of their own in 2010. So tonight was the night Ö the night of the DEMON. A special show in DEMONís case of course means one full of old 1980ís classics, augmented by one or other surprise, or more recent tune. Standing On The Edge was the only recent (2005) song, while the biggest surprise was the medley of Blue Skies In Red Square and Commercial Dynamite, culled from 1989ís Taking The World By Storm release. This time around No More Hell On Earth did indeed find itís way to the setlist, and the same goes for Life On The Wire. The remaining time of the bandís 75 minutes set was entirely filled with classics from their first three releases : Sign Of A Madman (chosen as the opening tune, strangely enough), Into The Nightmare, Liar, Blackheath, The Spell, Night Of The Demon, Donít Break The Circle, as well as encore One Helluva Night. Nothing to argue there, not even for an always sceptical human being like myself. Tonightís show didnít equal (let alone surpass) the one that I witnessed at the 2003 Sweden Rock festival, yet it wasnít too far behind either. Not bad for a band that claimed to enter retirement a couple of years ago already. Oh well, as long as they continue to convince audiences all over by playing classics live, I donít even mind that they most likely wonít be recording any more new stuff Ö Nuff said.
A Surprise Act had been announced for this edition too, but only a (couple of) handful of people knew what was in store beforehand. In the end the initial surprise was extended by another, smaller one on the day. Smaller, but by no means less interesting! As 60% of the original ACID line-up was present at the festival anyhow (showing up for a signing session to coincide with the release of the Live In Belgium í84 CD) it was the logical thing for Oliver to try and have Kate sing at least one ACID tune. Luckily she accepted the offer and it was decided that the line-up that was about to perform the initial surprise would also back up Kate. Said back-up band consisted of guitarist Michael from ETERNAL REIGN plus three members of LANFEAR : guitarist Markus, bassist Kai and drummer JŁrgen. In the end the chosen ACID classic turned out not to be the highly requested Black Car but Max Overload. Despite the fact that Kate was rather nervous (with only one quick rehearsal earlier in the morning under their belts) she did an excellent job. She dressed up in black for the occasion, headbanged on stage and had more stage presence than most of the members of the other bands. The bitch was back, indeed. Max Overload was welcomed with open arms and I still get goosebumps whenever I watch that performance on YouTube. After all, I never got to see ACID, and this may well have been the closest thing to that ever. Then again : why should we rule out all possibilities of an ACID reunion? Stranger things have occured on the Tauberfrankenhalle stage in the past Ö Mind you, this was only the extra surprise, the main dish had yet to be served. To commemorate the untimely passing of CRIMSON GLORY vocalist Midnight last July, Oliver had decided to assemble a short but memorable CRIMSON GLORY tribute. That was an excellent idea, yet things didnít entirely work out as planned : due to ilnesses and the volcanic ashes disturbing the airways, none of the three vocalists scheduled to perform made it to KŲnigshofen. Those being Andy B. Franck (BRAINSTORM), Charles RytkŲnen (MORGANA LEFAY) and Rick Mythiasin (STEEL PROPHET). Bummer! In an attempt to save part of the surprise two other vocalists were asked to fill in : OBSESSIONís Mike Vescera and the ever present Harry Conklin. In hindsight that wasnít the best idea, but most likely they were the only people willing to give it a try anyhow. Giving it a try is all that can be said about about Mikeís performance : Valhalla was hardly recognizable and Mike let the audience sing more than anything else (himself), despite the fact that the lyrics were on the floor in front of him. Plain laziness or maybe a bit too drunk to sing, who knows? Red Sharks was up next and it got the same treatment. Luckily The Tyrant did a way better job with Lonely and thus the shortened surprise wasnít ruined entirely. A surprise that thus couldíve been a lot more exciting, but letís forget about all of this soon and look forward to 2011, when the new CRIMSON GLORY line-up will grace the very same stage!
By 11.20 pm it was already time for todayís headliners : Seattleís FIFTH ANGEL. In my opinion that was a strange choice for a headliner, bearing in mind that their legacy consists of just two albums. Needless to say that 1986ís Fifth Angel debut is a timeless killer release, and 1989ís follow-up Time Will Tell isnít far behind. Unfortunately time told nothing about FIFTH ANGEL ever after, as the band fell apart. There had been talk of a FIFTH ANGEL reunion in previous years but this time it was for real. Fact is that both original guitarist James Byrd and drummer Ken Mary were not going to be part of this reunion. They were replaced by Kendall Bechtel (the guy that replaced James in between both of FIFTH ANGELís releases) and Jeffrey McCormack (ex HEIR APPARENT) respectively. Bassist John Macko (from the Time Will Tell days) was present as well, but unfortunately vocalist Ted Pilot parted ways with the band earlier this year, due to being too busy with several other ventures, including his dental practice. Ted was supposed to be replaced by Tim Branom for this occasion, but he in turn had to back out due to throat problems. Leaving the band just a couple of weeks to find yet another suitable replacement. Luckily Peter Orullian came to the rescue, learned all of the songs on short notice and was the perfect frontman tonight. To those that had seen him front HEIR APPARENT a couple of years ago at the Sporthalle in Dittigheim that didnít exactly come as a surprise. Anyhow, the only remaining original FIFTH ANGEL member these days thus is guitarist Ed Archer. But thanks to the inclusion of two later period ex members, this turned out to be a more or less credible reunion nevertheless. Worth knowing is that this was in fact FIFTH ANGELís first ever show. Hard to believe, isnít it? Although I must admit that it didnít show, as the band delivered a killer performance. No special effects or anything like that, but the music simply ruled, and the performance was almost flawless. No surprises when it came to the setlist : all of Fifth Angel (minus Fade To Flames) plus 7 tracks out of a possible 11 from Time Will Tell, including U.F.O.ís Lights out as an encore. Personally I wouldíve replaced that cover by Angel Of Mercy, which didnít make the cut for some strange reason. Furthermore the band made a wise move not to include most of their ballads, and thus opted for their more up tempo melodic metal tunes. Highlights : In The Fallout, Fifth Angel, The Night, Cry Out The Fools, Seven Hours, We Rule, Ö I could easily go on for another while. FIFTH ANGEL made quite an impression and most definitely deserved a high spot on the bill, but if youíre not willing (or able) to play for 90 minutes (FIFTH ANGEL were on stage for only some 75 minutes tonight), then you shouldnít be the headliner. Iím sure that TYGERS OF PAN TANG or DEMON could just as well have been the headliners today Ė both of them sure wouldíve been able to compile a 90 minutes set easily! But, as it was, FIFTH ANGEL really delivered the goods! I hope theyíll continue with ďtouring vocalistĒ Peter Orullian in the future, and Iím looking forward to that new CD that the band is said to have been working on since spring of 2009 with impatience already!
In hindsight this ill-fated 13th edition of the KEEP IT TRUE festival worked out just fine. I agree : it would've been even better had it proceeded as initially scheduled, but one simply can't always beat all forces of nature. On the other hand, things could've turned out to be a real disaster : just imagine no flights coming into Germany that weekend, and thus hardly any of the overseas bands making it to Lauda ... As it was, most of the replacements were on or above par, so hardly any complaints here. People should be aware of the fact how stressful these days were for Oliver & co., and they really made the best of it. Or as Oliver displayed on his t-shirt (see picture above) ; It takes more than a volcano to destroy KEEP IT TRUE! How true indeed ...
Let's just hope that we won't ever have to face that kind of problems (volcanic ash erupting, or whatever) in the future again. Having said that : I'm already looking forward to next year's 14th edition with impatience. After all, who would like to miss out on the likes of BITCH, BREAKER, BROCAS HELM, CRIMSON GLORY, DAMIEN THORNE, DEATH DEALER, ENFORCER, GRIFFIN, HELLHOUND, MALICE, METALUCIFER, OSTROGOTH, SACRIFICE, SARACEN, SATAN, SIGN OF THE JACKAL, SLAUTER XSTROYES, VEKTOR, VICIOUS RUMORS and one more headliner? See you there next April!