*Lay-Out by STEFAN

*Pictures by TIM TRONCKOE

Metal To Infinity

The annual meeting for metal fans all over Belgium and far beyond is Alcatraz Metal Festival in Deinze.  This fifth edition can be considered as the best one so far, but knowing the people behind this truly awesome festival, we know that there are still unlocked possibilities for the near future.  Some guess that it will turn out to be a 2-days festival, others presume that A.M.F. will move to another location and instead of a venue, they would option to hire a huge tent like we know from Marquee 1 and 2 on Graspop.  Anyhow it will develop, let’s focus on this year’s edition, which had some major changes compared with last year.   First of all, the tent on the parking lot disappeared, and for that reason, all bands were able to play on the one and only mainstage.  Reducing the stages, means that the amount of bands was reduced as well.  This year, we encountered 7 acts from all over the globe, and some of them were really exclusive.  Secondly, A.M.F. broadened their horizon, as they booked various styles of metal, to reach more people, and we can only agree about that matter!  Why is Alcatraz such a great Festival?  Well, the entry fee is fair and reasonable with 50€ for a ticket, the sound is just fabulous, the beers are served well, and you gather with so many nice people from noon ‘till midnight.



The opening band this year was WARBRINGER (USA). They managed to record already 3 albums and toured all over the globe in only few years.  Tours with Slipknot, Arch Enemy, Overkill, Exodus and Megadeth resulted in a very tight playing set.  The opener today was ‘Living Weapon’, and it surprised me that there were already so many people present! It wasn’t the  first time that I saw Warbringer live, but this time it was a much better gig.  Everybody was really enthusiastic on stage, vocalist John Kevill prepared the masses for some early moshpits and brothers Andy Laux (Bass) and John Laux (Guitars) accompanied Carlos Cruz (drums) and Andrew Bennett (Guitars) to bring on some really first class thrash metal.  Songs like ‘Severed Reality’, ‘Total War’ and ‘Shoot To Kill’ resulted in some wild front stage action and the band finished their 45 gig-tour in Deinze with full force!  There was also one new song in the setlist and this track ‘Future Ain’t Just Gone’ will fit perfectly in upcoming setlists!  Warbringer is a very young band but with the perfect attitude to become huge, next to Evile, Suicidal Angels and Municipal Waste.   



For some, HELL, released the best album of 2011, for others Hell was the new discovered gem. Fact is, the band from the U.K. managed to tour very intensively after the release of ‘Human Remains’, which is their debut album with roots that go back to 1985. This band can be considered as the Mercyful Fate of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.  They were too much ahead of their time, and people didn’t know how to act when some of their demos were released.  It took 25 years before the original songs were recorded, and anno 2012, it seems like the metal fans seems to dig it.   Hell started their set with the intro ‘Overture Themes From Deathsquad’, followed by ‘Let Battle Commence’.  Holy shit, this band was giving full axe and the stageshow of vocalist David Bower is really convincing.  Having a crown of thorns on his head, he came with only one mission: convert the masses into religion! He snarled, taunted and denigrated the first rows with messages from the Holy book. Songs like ‘On Earth As It Is In Hell’, were followed by ‘Blasphemy and The Master’, ‘The Quest’, ‘The Oppressors’ and ‘The Devil’s Deadly Weapon’.  He introduced his band as ‘those that bring a Christian message by the Devil’, and that’s exactly what Hell is all about.  Shocking the people with convincing stage acts, great song structures and adding some new elements as well.  At some point, David was dressed like a pastor, other moments he started chastise himself with a whip on his naked torso. At that moment I had to think on the fabulous ‘Pillars Of The Earth’ where prior Waleran Bigod acted the same way. This was from start to finish a sublime gig, and it was only 2 p.m.!  


Only 30 minutes later, we witnessed CRIMSON GLORY on the main stage.  A lot of headbangers with the age of +40 teamed up to see how the band would fulfill their duties. Especially after the many line-up changes of the past years, we all wondered how the band would sound with their new vocalist Todd La Torre. Well, the search is over, as Todd seemed to be a wonderful replacement of Midnight, who died at the age of 47 in July 2009. ‘Valhalla’ was the opener, followed by ‘Dragon Lady’. The band was really in full action and guitar players Ben Jackson and Jon Drenning played their solos with a lot of charisma and dedication.  After the concert of Hell, we had another highlight of this year’s edition of Alcatraz Festival! The vocal chords of Todd La Torre melts perfectly together with the typical Crimson Glory hymns like ‘Queen Of The Masquerade’, ‘Painted Skies’, ‘Azrael’ and one of my personal favorites: ‘Red Sharks’.  All these tracks were played, and the band showed no mercy. What a gig, what a huge return of a once legendary band!  As Todd La Torre also joined Queensrÿche since the beginning of 2012, I do hope that he will be able to remain in both bands. He’s the worthy replacement for Midnight, and he might be able to help Queensrÿche back on track!  




The temperature in the Brielpoort was far beyond normal after this great performance, and most of the people went outside to catch a breathe and have a chat about this excellent performance. Due to those last two bands, a minority of people entered the venue again to see how PRIMORDIAL would sound.  As always, vocalist  A.A. Nemtheanga had a lot of corpsepaint all over his body to add some special effects to the musical style and direction of this band that like to mix Celtic and Folk with Black Metal ingredients. Not an easy task for this Irish band to convince the mainly Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal freaks.  The music of Primordial isn’t easy to describe, as the vocal parts are equivalent with the musical part. Both need each other to merge into a cultural heritage of history, mostly violent and dark as night. Some songs that were played, speak for themselves: ‘No Grave Deep Enough’, ‘Gods To The Godless’, ‘As Rome Burns’ and of course ‘The Coffin Ships’.  The last song of Primordial’ performance was the track ‘Empire Falls’ and although the turnout wasn’t that huge, we may conclude that the band did what the fans expected.  



TESTAMENT played A.M.F. in 2009, and to promote their new album ‘Dark Roots Of Earth’, they came over to Belgium again, for an exclusive Benelux gig! At this own moment the band has some problems with a permanent drummer, but luckily Gene Hoglan (ex-Dark Angel, ex-Dethklok, ex-Zimmers Hole, ex-Fear Factory, among many others…), flew over to help them out. Gene played last year with Forbidden at the A.M.F., so he was really enthusiastic to perform again! Testament came and conquered with a setlist to leaves no one alive! They mainly focused on the new album, and ‘Rise Up’, the openingstrack of ‘Dark Roots Of Earth’ was also the opener for today! This song was like a missile that exploded in the middle of the venue and everybody was shouting: ‘Rise Up – War !!!’ during the chorus lines!  What a start, what a huge response of the many Testament fans!  Songs like ‘The New Order’, ‘The Preacher’ and ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ couldn’t be missed, and the reaction of the crowd was pretty insane.  Testament introduced us to their new single  ‘Native Blood’, which was already known so well, followed by one of the best songs on the new album ‘True American Hate’.  It was already extremely hot, but Testament succeeded to increase the temperature some more degrees!  Tracks like ‘Into The Pit’, ‘Practice What You Preach’ and ‘Over The Wall’ were welcomed with open arms and fists in the air and we were totally slaughtered with ‘3 Days In Darkness’ and ‘The Formation Of Damnation’.  I have to end with a quote of Chuck Billy in Native Blood: “My Voice will be Heard… So Loud”!  


Well, we survived a third highlight, and I wonder how much a man can take.  This was an edition of excellent bands that played in good conditions and a crowd that screamed for more!  Yet, there was more to come, as ICED EARTH was scheduled for 75 minutes. This co-headliner was another exclusive Benelux gig, and again we had to encounter one of the best albums of last year. “Dystopia” fulfilled many wishes and with new bass player Luke Appleton and new vocalist Stu Block, we can conclude that this is the second youth, of the once legendary Iced Earth, of mainman Jon Schaffer. The setlist was a mix of old and new, and this is a brief overview of the songs that were played: ‘Dystopia’, ‘Burning Times’, ‘Slave To The Dark’, ‘I Died For You’, ‘Declaration Day’, ‘Boiling Point’, ‘Damien’, and as final track ‘Iced Earth’.  All songs were played with a lot of passion and dedication and newcomers Stu and Luke injected the band with fresh blood!  I hope that Brent (drums) and Troy (guitars) will get along with these newcomers as there was magic in the air!                             


For some, Iced Earth, was the headliner of A.M.F., for others, the extreme metal from the North was scheduled as the one and only headliner.  I don’t want to discuss about both bands, as Alcatraz wanted to aim on a variety of music fans, and that’s exactly what music is all about.  

Anyway, IMMORTAL promised a full headliner show with a lot of pyrotechnics and flames, and that’s exactly what we got. Abbath Doom Occulta, Horgh and Apollyon seemed to be devils unleashed from hell.  Corpsepaint, deadly grimace and a whirlwind of headbanging showed us that they are the one and only masters of the extreme.  ‘Withstand The Fall Of Time’, ‘Sons Of Northern Darkness’, ‘Damned In Black’, ‘Triumph’, ‘Solarfall’ and ‘In My Kingdom Cold’ were played with a lot of stage act and typical Immortal properties.  The voice of Abbath is still freaky cold and grating and they all delivered a wild performance. This was a clash of fire and ice, and I liked it!! 


Gratitude to the organization, all free lance employees, security and the city of Deinze, that can be proud that such a great festival is taking place on their territory.  Next year, we will be back, whether it’s in a tent, in another city, or a 2-days happening, as Alcatraz showed us all again how nice and friendly a metal event can be!  Horns up to all of you, see you next year!!