Review by OFFICER NICE


Metal To Infinity


Fuck the rain and fuck the traffic jam!!!! Damn, it took so much hours to travel from Belgium to Elmshorn. The reason was that there were too much travels on the highway between Bremen and Hamburg. Add some rain and the daily traffic jam in Hamburg and I can assure you it was a hell travelling to the twelfth edition of the Headbangers-Open-Air festival. Was it worth all the troubles? Oh yes, it was, let me tell you more about it… 

Bands I was looking forward to this time were Q5, Nightshade, Memory Garden, Angel Witch, Jacob’s Dream, Pretty Maids, Vicious Rumors, Cloven Hoof and of course my all time favorite band Helstar! It was a few years ago I went to this open air festival and what I did remember was the fact this might be the most familiar, most friendly Metal festival on earth. I remember that Thomas, the ultra friendly organizer of this festival, did everything to please the Metal heads. This festival takes place in the garden of his parents and yes, I’ve seen this garden burn in the past! I remember the time when Thomas’ mother baked pizza’s for everybody, while we were sitting on their private terrace drinking a beer, having a chitchat with Mike from Attacker. Fans and band members sat on the same tables, joining a beer or the barbeque! I’ve never been to a festival that was so pleasant, were fans and bands were so close… Would it still be the same? 

Well, let me tell you it isn’t for a part. The festival kept on growing and the organization built a new stage. Okay, that was necessary and let me tell you they did a very good job. Nowadays a pretty professional stage stands in the garden, making it more possible for everybody to see the gigs. What even grew more was everything around the festival; the camping, the parking, the beer tents, the security…the crowd. I missed some people at this edition, metal heads I saw so many times before at this festival or at the Keep It True festival. Where were you guys? Instead I mentioned a lot of new faces… Can you imagine people from all over the entire world are traveling to this festival? Ireland, England, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, France, Greece but even Japan, Mexico, USA and China… Incredible! What stayed the same is that most band members came to see other bands too and so it is easily possible to get in contact with guys like James Rivera, Geoff Thorpe, Russ North… 

Because of the fact this festival kept on growing also the disadvantages grew. I’ve witnessed a fight, my wife had some troubles with an overreacting and aggressive security member because she took the wrong entrance and a friend of mine was the victim of a theft. Somebody stole his wallet and took the money out of it. If this thief reads this review: “Fuck you! You ain’t Metal at all and you don’t belong in our community! Go watch Madonna or Eminem instead!” I can’t imagine incidents like this would have taken place a few years ago… 

How about the music? Well, thankfully we witnessed again so many awesome bands. Once more the organization of HOA succeeded in delivering true Metal fans a paradise on earth! For eighties Metal fans this festival is the ultimate mass!  

DAY 1

Because of the traffic jam and the fact we had to check in our hotel we arrived when Bullet was playing their Last song. No Lick The Blade and Bullet for us… First band to see was Q5, exactly the band I was looking forward too. Both albums of these Americans were awesome, although “When the mirror cracks” was far more commercial, more AOR. Nevertheless I’ve always liked this band and their gig was pretty good. Songs like “Missing in action” and the mighty “Steel the light” were awesome to hear and Jonathan K’s voice sounded still pretty good. Also the guitars were awesome although the band played with only one guitarist, different from what they did on their studio sessions. I’ve heard Jonathan K talking about the third Q5 album; did I miss something?  

Old NWOBHM warriors Tank were a pleasant surprise for this edition of HOA. The sound at the festival was pretty good and the organization worked hard to deliver us a good sound and light show. Starting with the intro of “Shellshock”  Tank started their show and the international crowd was crazy about it. Lots of classical songs were performed but to be honest I missed that typical raw sound of Tank. This gig was pretty good but Tank sounded a bit polished. Nevertheless it was a gig to enjoy. 

At the previous edition of the MMM festival I saw Vicious Rumors for the first time with Ronnie Stixx as their singer. I wrote in the review of that particular festival Ronnie did an amazing job and he proved here once more being the ideal front man for Vicious Rumors. The band played lots of classic songs and once more the sound was a bonus point for this gig. The organization announced a special show because Gary St. Pierre,  singer on the “Soldiers of the night” album, would make part of this show. This man still owns a good voice although it is clear it was a long time he sang in a Metal band. I can promise you I’ve enjoyed this gig very much and it is a good idea to bring Gary along on the next Vicious Rumors tour, announced in autumn of this year. Vicious Rumors proved once more to be a high quality band and they have everything to deliver us a first class album in the near future. The riffs, the solos, the drums, the vocals… all sounded awesome! The German public enjoyed this gig very much and I’m sure the lads of Vicious Rumors enjoyed it as well. For one day they were heroes again! 

 

DAY 2

At the second day we arrived when Memory Garden was taking off. This was another gig I was looking forward to because I like their kind of Doom Metal; melodic and with clean vocals. Memory Garden seemed to be a very professional band and I enjoyed their gig a lot. Stefan Berglund seemed to be a good singer and I’ve heard one good after another song. Don’t ask me titles; although I own all of their albums I can’t memorize all of the names of their tracks. Memory Garden is a band that deserves all of your respect and I’m glad I finally saw them on stage. If they will tour to Belgium I will be there for sure. 

Meanwhile the weather was playing an important role at this festival. At some moments the rain was so hard some bands had to play for an almost empty garden. That’s a pity and as far as I know it was the very first time this festival suffered such a bad weather. Oh how I was glad I booked a room… Piledriver was the next band on stage. I saw the band before at the Keep It True festival and although I’m not a fan this band did a hell of a job. Once again Gord Kirchin was once more clothed with his leather ‘pin’ mask and he still is a metal beast ‘pur sang’. I heard that all the other members were new and he only had a few weeks to practice for this gig. Well, Piledriver did a very good job and their show is worth seeing. 

I don’t own, didn’t even hear Enforcer’s album. That’s a pity because these guys are playing just the kind of Metal I like. Hard hitting, melodic and with a singer with an amazing high pitched voice. This young man, dressed in a way we used to see in the eighties, did an outstanding job. The entire band did an amazing job and the public was crazy about them. This young band owns a future and I’m obliged to search their album after this surprising gig. 

Another band I was looking forward to was Jacob’s Dream. This band released four good albums although I need to be honest that I prefer their works with David Taylor. Nothing bad about Chaz Bond but David Taylor owned one of the most unique voices in the Metal scčne. Nevertheless the band did a very good job although also they suffered the bad weather. The band played songs of their upcoming album and it’s a pity they didn’t play that much ‘old’ songs. Chaz Bond proved to be a fantastic vocalist, also on stage but his voice don’t always fit the older songs and that’s the reason, I presume, we didn’t hear that much oldies. Jacob’s Dream did what I was expecting from them and both guitarist are very good. Also bass player James Evans was a remarkable person on stage and seemed to be a friendly guy when we had a little talk after the show, looking for a shirt of the band. Unfortunately the band didn’t bring shirts along. 

Next band to play was Exxplorer. I saw the band at the last Keep It True festival and I witnessed a good show back then. Once more Exxplorer did a very good job, they were even better in my opinion. This band, who released three good albums, were branded by their originality and their good musicians. Both guitar players are very good, the front man is charismatic. A good show! 

Another band I was looking forward to was Deathriders. Not familiar to you? Do you remember Anthrax’ first album “Fistful of metal”? Well, on that particular masterpiece Neil Turbin was the vocalist and this man has formed his own band; Deathriders. The band will release a first album soon but they also played several Anthrax songs like “Metal thrashing mad”, “Panic” and “Deathrider”. Hard to say but their newer songs aren’t that impressive as the old Anthrax tracks. Nevertheless Neil Turbin is still a good singer and a charismatic figure at stage. It was a pity the man talked so much between the songs, wining time I suppose. A shorter gig would have been better but I’ve enjoyed the gig. The only question I had is why the band played “Gung-Ho” as their cover; wouldn’t “I’m eighteen” been better? 

Helstar is a band that always delivers awesome gigs and released several everlasting albums. Strange the band never received the success they deserved... I saw the band a few months ago in Eindhoven where their show was once more awesome. The only critics I had afterwards was that most old songs were played too fast, faster as we know them originally. Thankfully the band decided to use the ‘normal’ tempo right now for songs like “Suicidal nightmare”, “Run with the pack”, “The king is dead” and all other classic ones. Also the newer songs sounded perfect and it was clear the entire garden is crazy about Helstar, just as I am. This is the perfect Metal band, probably one of the best Metal bands on this globe! James and the band were in a gig form and it was an amazing gig. The drummer was a ‘stand in’ and had only two and a half days to practice for this show! What he did was impressive as you know that Helstar brings very technical Metal, including the drums. This gig is so hopeful for the next edition of the Alcatraz festival in Belgium. I’m looking so forward to it! A pleasant and totally unexpecting surprise for the crowd was the fact that the Vicious Rumors members appeared on stage after James’ short story of his life as a musician. It seemed that James and Geoff Thorpe talked all their troubles over and so they played two Vicious Rumors songs for us, both from the “Warball” album. At this point I already knew that Helstar would be the best band of this festival, who could do better? 

Next band in row was Pretty Maids. In the eighties this was a very successful band but their popularity waned somewhat after. As a lot of musicians of that ear also these men became older but it didn’t stop them to bring an awesome gig. I didn’t know what to expect from Pretty Maids but the band did a fantastic job. Oh yes, this is still a band that deserves a place on festivals! With songs like “Back to back”, “Waiting for the time”, ‘Future world” and more superb songs it didn’t took that long to set the garden on fire. Once more the very good sound was remarkable and it helped the band to deliver an unforgettable show! Pretty Maids has always been a band that added keyboards into their music. Some people are skeptical about it but it never really bothered me. Also these people had to admit that Pretty Maids is still a first class Metal band. 

Last band of this day was Manilla Road. These Americans are very popular amongst true Metal fans and especially the southern Metal fans seems to adore this band. I saw the band last year at the tenth edition of the Keep It True festival and also back then they did a fantastic job. This kind of epic Metal is pretty difficult to bring on stage. Nevertheless a big part of the crowd waited for this gig and made this show successful. The band played until 2AM but I didn’t find the courage to watch their entire show. The reason is obvious; the rain and the cold made us tired and I became aware that I’m becoming an old man… 

DAY 3

First band I saw on this day was Portrait. Although their album wasn’t bad at all I witnessed one of the worst gigs I saw in years. Bad vocals, false and bad guitars… Nothing more to say.

Cloven Hoof is a NWOBHM band that delivered several outstanding albums. The band reunited a few years ago and Russ North is their singer nowadays. This man contains a fantastic high pitched voice, in studio and on stage. Songs like “Inquisitor”, “Astral rider” and “Nova Battlestar” were well tasted. Once more Cloven Hoof proved to be a great live band and be sure I will visit the “Ages of Metal” festival at Oostrozebeke-Belgium (along with Tokyo Blade and Avenger).    

I didn’t know what to expect about Tysondog. This NWOBHM band reunited and I know they delivered a few good albums in the eighties. After all it’s fun that these bands are back again, giving us the chance to see what we’ve missed so many years ago. Tysondog delivered a pretty good show and there was plenty of power in their music. The front man easily know how to receive the attention of the public and it was cool seeing these guys had a lot of fun. In only hope the cheep survived the festival… 

Paradox is often announced as the European Metallica. Okay, their album had similar riffs and the band always delivered qualitative Metal. Paradox did what we expected them to do but it stays strange for us, foreigners, to hear the singer speaking German to announce the songs.  

Killers is a French band I only knew by name. Nevertheless I really enjoyed this band and these guys were very energetic on stage. Their French spoken lyrics didn’t bother me at all and it seemed French fans were present as well to support this band. Good gig. 

German ‘Beer Metal’ with Tankard. I have never been a big fan of the band but somehow these guys seems to be immense popular in the underground Thrash Metal scčne since many years. The band delivered pretty much albums since the eighties, each time with remarkable front covers. Their popularity was obvious when you would have witnessed this gig. Germans are crazy about them and so it didn’t take that much time to set the garden on fire again. Not my cup of tea but I’m sure fans enjoyed the concert a lot. 

Nightshade almost contains the same members as Q5, except for the drummer I suppose. The music is in the same style; Hard Rock and melodic Heavy Metal. I supposed the band was unknown for a lot of visitors because in the beginning not that many people watched the show. If you know Q5 then you should know that this band contains fantastic musicians. Nevertheless I had the feeling that singer Jonathan K’s voice wasn’t as good as two days ago. Although I own the bands albums I consider myself more as a fan of Q5. To me the Q5 gig was far better, especially “Steel the light”, the ultimate Q5 song sounded far better on the first day. It didn’t stop the band delivering a decent show, well tasted by the public. 

Old time metallers Angel Witch are famous for their very first album and especially their “Angel witch” song. I suppose every Metal fan who respects him or herself knows the song. But the band had more great songs and they played them all for us tonight. Kevin Heybourne didn’t seem to be the man that looked for contact with the public. The announcements of every song was pretty short, the best contact between band and public was the music. Angel Witch still stands tall and as a matter of fact it’s a pity too much people are focusing themselves on that one particular song, not at this festival but in general. This band has more to often, two great guitarists for example. It was great to see how the guys from Exxplorer enjoyed the show as well, singing along and banging their heads! That’s the mentality I want! But yes, also “Angel Witch”, the last song, was a song everybody seemed to be waiting for and believe me; the garden was burning again! 

The Rods is a band I don’t know that much about. I know their singer David “Rock” Feinstein has a family band with Ronnie James Dio but that’s about all I know about the band. Well, I must admit I’m a bit ashamed because of it, certainly when I discovered a lot of fans were over there. I also admit this band delivers very good Hard Rocking music but I only knew the “Let them eat metal” song. For the rest I was a passive spectator, enjoying the energetic concert and great musicians.  

To me Razor wasn’t the right headliner. Although this band delivered several good albums I really couldn’t understand the reason why this band closed the festival. Only a few notes were necessary to understand the main reason; this band is immense popular in Germany. Their straight forward Thrash with plenty of Punk influences made the crowd wild and enthusiast. The band was energetic as well and most classic songs were played. Bob Reid thanked Thomas and Jurgen, organizers of the festival, by playing the all time classic song “Take this torch”. After all I have to admit I was wrong and Razor was a well deserved headliner! Their cult status and everlasting Thrash made the garden burn…again! 

Thomas and Jurgen did a great job again! This was once more a fantastic festival and to me it stays the best open air festival I know. These guys are working hard to please the fans with amazing, often forgotten Metal bands, if not by inviting superb underground Metal bands. And yes, to me the festival grew a bit too much but it won’t stop me coming back again next year because Virgin Steele, Raven, Jag Panzer, Cirith Ungol, Omen, Aska (I hope not only for the warm up show) are already announced. Keep your eyes at the website http://www.headbangers-open-air.de

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