Review by OFFICER NICE


METAL TO INFINITY


As almost every summer I travelled again to the North of Germany for another edition of the best garden party on earth, at least the heaviest one. I was obliged to voyage alone but it, next to the traditional traffic problems, didn’t stop me to reach my goal; the mighty HEADBANGERS OPEN AIR FESTIVAL. Just as last year there were plenty of traffic troubles between Bremen and Hamburg; will these works never stop? Did these guys ever see the Belgian roads? But I made it and was in for three more unforgettable days in my Metal career.  

Thomas and Jurgen are always able to invite bands that either never played in Europe, either hardly visit the lowlands. JAG PANZER, ICON sadly cancelled, which was a big misfortune and ASKA didn’t make it either. Nevertheless there were enough goodies to look forward to like ANVIL CHORUS, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, AMULANCE, OMEN, RAVEN, MEKONG DELTA and VIRGIN STEELE to name a few. Time to make the garden burn!!!! 

The biggest difference between last year and now is that there were less Metal heads present, as far as I know there were about 2000 visitors. Nevertheless this edition was sold out and Thomas explained me they sold 10% less tickets by purpose because too many HOA die-hards complained about the overcrowded 2009 edition. In my opinion the problems of the 2009 edition weren’t actually in the garden itself, where the festival took place, but on the meadows next to the garden. There were back than too many non-visitors of the festival, camping nearby and only out to drink… and too much alcohol causes often fights. And to be honest… violence doesn’t belong in the Metal scène! This year only people who are interested in the festival seem to be allowed and that was to me the biggest improvement.

 The familial atmosphere that made this festival so unique, as in the old days, will never come back again but the organization is in my point of view good as it is right now. Anyway I didn’t witness any fights now, neither have I heard about thefts this year (I only hope that one girl found back her camera). It proves that the organization listens to their visitors and that money isn’t their most important source of inspiration! Hail Thomas and Jurgen for it! The weather wasn’t always with us but once more that didn’t stop the crowd being enthusiast from the beginning until the end! 

As I’ve told you before I was forced to travel alone but no one is on his self out here. Belgian and Dutch friends were present, I had a few drinks with German people I know or talked with strangers who were, just as I was, searching for some rest on the benches. It doesn’t matter who you are in real life, Metal bonds us all here! People from around the world were present, even from far away (Japan, India…). I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to the next edition! 

DAY 1 

Day one was promising because of the fact KILLING MACHINE was on the bill. I missed the band at the Graspop Metal Meeting because I knew they were scheduled for the HOA Fest. Unfortunately the band couldn’t make it at last, damn!  

The festival took off with the Spanish Heavy Metal band STEEL HORSE. These guys just released an album on Stormspell Records. I did write a review about it and this really is a band to check out. Not only did they release a decent album, onstage they were pretty good too. To warm up the crowd this was a perfect band and this kind of Metal never misses its effect on me and the other True Metal fans in the garden. Great start! 

  GRAND MAGUS is a band I’m not exactly familiar with. I know that these guys are from  Sweden but I didn’t have any clue how they would sound. I was told it was a mixture between Doom and Stoner Rock, that their last album was good Power Metal. Anyhow I witnessed an enthusiastic band that didn’t have any trouble entertaining the growing crowd.

Can you believe SHOK PARIS is still alive? I couldn’t… Not that I have ever been their biggest fan but their three albums were decent enough. Isn’t this the band that still lives in Aftershok nowadays? I suppose so… I know Stefan of MTI is a big fan of them and asked me for a T-shirt, unfortunately there weren’t any available. Even harder is to say to him that Shok Paris delivered a fine show and I can tell you I regret the fact I didn’t dig their music before heading to this festival, I will do it now! 

Headliner of the first day was DESTRUCTION. I am a big fan of US Thrash but I have always respected Destruction as icon of the German Thrash Metal. “Curse the gods” is my favorite song of them and of course this was the opening track for a Thrash Metal party! Germans are fond of their own bands and I suppose Destruction felt how popular they still are. They played at home, used their most famous songs and could count on a fanatic public… could this go wrong? Of course not!  

 

DAY 2 

The second day took off with a shower and coffee! Not that I drank too much beers the day before but it’s ideal to wake up! The shower is ideal to make it through the day I thank God I don’t have to stay at the camping. I admit I’m becoming too God damn old for it…  

   Musical wise the day started with JAMESON RAID. This NWOBHM band isn’t famous in our community but I’m sure that oldies amongst us have heard about them anyway. Their compilation album “Just as the dust had settled” is available on CD and NWOBHM fanatics should try to purchase this one. Jameson Raid was in fact another perfect band to start the day; their music is actually a mixture between Hard Rock and the first Heavy Metal. The slow tempi and less heavy notes were what we needed to face this day so early in the afternoon. These oldies still know how to play good songs and believe me the public took them in their arms. 

It was hard to read ASKA didn’t play on HOA but don’t ask me for any reasons; it’s  something between the band and the organization. STORMZONE replaced them but I missed them, hanging out with friends around the beer tent… That was the reason that I also missed ROXXCALIBUR, hearing them play lots of classic Metal songs.  The next band I really saw was TYGERS OF PAN TANG. At the last edition of the KIT festival these guys were fantastic and to be honest they did it once again. Time doesn’t seem to get grip on these guys; they were as energetic as youngsters. Of course “Slave to freedom” and “Wild cat” were enough to make the crowd sing along but also newer songs didn’t miss their effect. TOPT is still alive and kicking and proved once more being a perfect band for a festival. They should visit Belgium as soon as possible…  

The band I traveled 666 kilometers for was without any doubt AMULANCE. As a big fan of US Power Metal I couldn’t miss their first gig on European ground. At the end of the eighties they released the “Feel the pain” album, a masterpiece if you would ask me. Also their    release at Stormspell Records, “The rage within…” is worth checking out. The band kept their promise bringing along their latest release on this festival, an EP called – what did you expect – “Deutschland”. Talking about the show I can tell you Amulance delivered some first class technical US Power Metal but they suffered a bad sound, especially in the beginning. It didn’t stop me enjoying tracks like “The alpha one”, “Black moon rising” and of course “7th son”. No disappointment at all but a better sound was needed to blow me away. I’ve heard that good sound was present at the after party in the Headbangers Ballroom in Hamburg. Amulance was, as far as I’ve heard, excellent and mind blowing over there and I pity the fact I missed that show. I really hope these friendly Americans will come back soon! 

The German metallers STORMWARRIOR delivers plenty of clichés but the Germans seem to be fond of them. It has never been my kind of Metal. I was actually waiting for MEKONG DELTA, to me one of the best German Metal bands ever. I adore this kind of technical Thrash Metal and they blew me away! Nevertheless I am aware their music is often too difficult to play for a public like this one. It didn’t stop me enjoying every minute of this gig, it even made me buy their very first album again – on CD this time. These guys never disappointed on CD and their last album will probably end in my personal top 20 of this year. These are ultra professional musicians, delivering an exclusive virtuosic performance! 

There wasn’t actually time for any rest because ANGEL DUST showed up. Also these guys delivered several fantastic albums and even a few classic ones. As far as I know I never saw the band on stage but afterwards it seems I never missed anything. This was a big letdown and Angel Dust wasn’t able to please me at all. The vocals were at some points really false and no matter how good these musicians are, they weren’t convincible. I didn’t see this one coming, stayed disappointed behind. 

DEMON appeared at the last KIT festival and also there this NWOBHM band could convince the crowd. Germans are fond of Demon and the classics “Night of the demon” and especially “Don’t break the circle” made easily the garden burn. It’s a God’s gift that the NWOBHM lives again and everyone who lived in the eighties should try to see bands like Demon and Tygers Of Pan Tang again, they’re worth it. On the next edition of the Ages Of Metal Festival (Belgium) you can witness Jaguar, I’m curious to see them too! Next to Picture and Ostrogoth they’re another good reason to visit this Belgian festival band witness some good old NWOBHM. Anyway Demon delivered once more a good concert! 

 

Headliner of today was CULPRIT. The same story as Shok Paris; who could imagine this  band would ever come back again? I own their CD “Guilty as charged” and although I’m not their biggest fan I’ve talked with several people who worship this release. I didn’t see the entire show but what I saw was pretty impressive. Great musicians, a good singer and a very dynamic band! Especially their bass player was eye catching, obliging every person in the garden to watch the show. I still pity I missed their tribute to Ronnie James Dio by performing “Heaven and hell”. At least a good band to end the second day…

 

DAY 3 

On Headbangers Open Air there isn’t really a Metal market and that’s a pity. Although you can find merchandise of the most bands on the bill I missed spending time spitting CD’s and the Hellion Records shop is far too little. Good point is that I saved lots of money because of it, money I have to spend on the next German festival I will go to. 

Before the third day started I had some talks with a few French youngsters. They travelled from the South West of France to support TRENCH HELL.  These French Thrashers were invited to start. The garden was not overcrowded but these French guys did a good job. One after another Metal Thrashing song was played and these youngsters are ultra dynamic. I enjoyed their gig, their music made me awake at once!   

Next band I saw on stage was BATTLEAXE. These English lads made two albums in the eighties and took a flight to Germany to perform another old school NWOBHM show. Be sure the Germans know their stuff and so it wasn’t that difficult for Battleaxe to please the crowd.  

BLOOD FEAST is an American, pretty extreme, thrash Metal band that kicked major ass on this HOA festival. Their singer joined the mosh pit and this dynamic and aggressive set was really awesome. One after another sharp riff was blown in our direction and Blood Feast delivered a more than enjoyable concert.   

Nevertheless I was waiting for the first highlight of the day, OMEN. Since George Call (ASKA) joined the band we saw them several times in Europe. They appeared two times at the KIT festival and toured in Belgium as well. George really lifts the band up to a higher level with his fantastic voice and classics like “In the arena”, “The teeth of Hydra” and “The axemen” sounds terrific with him behind the microphone. Also the new song “Blood on the water” sounds promising for the new CD. Omen made the garden burn again! 

Next up was ANVIL CHORUS, a rather strange band if you would ask me. This band was  formed in the early eighties but their debut album, “The killing sun”, was released in 2009. Believe me this is an album you really should purchase. Strange to see not any label ever picked these guys up, especially because they were so innovating 25 years ago; mixing slight Progressive and melodic tunes. Their melodic and yet slight Progressive music was innovating 30 years ago but some kind of misfortune must have take part of them. It’s great to see the HOA organization were able to invite them for this festival! I know a Belgian guy who travelled to this festival for this band only, arriving a few hours before this gig and to drive back when the show was done. Just as he did I witnessed superb tracks, fantastic guitar solos, outstanding double leads…  Anvil Chorus contains two fantastic guitar players; Thaen Rasmussen (stage guitarist of Vicious Rumors and wasn’t he a guest musician on Heathen’s “Victim of deception”?) and Carlos Hernandez (I also saw this guy on stage before but don’t ask me with whom…). It was a pity that it started to rain while Anvil Chorus played and so many people, who searched a roof above their heads, missed this      fantastic show! This was without any doubts, musical wise, one of the highlights of this edition of the HOA fest! 

RAVEN appeared at the Graspop Metal Meeting, where they delivered a decent concert and is scheduled for the next ALCATRAZ festival. These oldies still know how to please a crowd and with their old school set it wasn’t that difficult to set the place on fire again. Tracks like “Rock until you drop”, “All for one” and “Mind over Metal” could be heard and were appreciated by this middle aged public.  

I know people who would sell their soul to see SOLITUDE AETURNUS on stage. This band, fronted by Candlemass singer Robert Lowe (to be exactly I should say Candlemass is fronted by the Solitude Aeturnus singer) rarely plays in Europe. I know they appeared at one of the former KIT festivals but I missed that one. Anyhow the atmosphere was perfect this evening and a dark clouded moon could be witnessed behind the stage. I was really in for this concert. Solitude Aeturnus contains fantastic musicians and Robert Lowe owns a godlike voice! Doom Metal isn’t always the easiest music to please a public with but what Solitude Aeturnus did was extraordinary! I really enjoyed this concert!   

Typical for German festivals is that the headliners play pretty late. After three days this isn’t the most comfortable way to watch another band but I didn’t want to miss VIRGIN STEELE. The band started with bad luck because there were troubles with the light show and with the sound. The microphone of David Defeis didn’t work in the beginning and it was clear he wasn’t at all happy about it. It didn’t stop him to use his typical howls. The band was energetic and I didn’t notice anything negative about them. I’ve heard they were bad at the Rock Hard festival but what I saw right here was good. Classic ones like “Noble savage” were really appreciated by the public and Virgin Seele was a worth fully headliner.  I didn’t stay until the end because I had to wake up early but I’m looking back to another great concert.   

So another edition of the HOA festival ended. I had a great time, talking and drinking with friends about Metal, watching awesome gigs. It was a bit bizarre to me to travel so far without my lovely wife but I survived! I’m already looking forward to the next Keep It True festival and even the next HOA festival looks promising with POWERMAD, TORCH and MELIAH RAGE but I’m sure more great names will be on...

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