Review by PATRICK DE SLOOVER


Metal To Infinity


One year after the first edition of this new summer festival, the organization was proud to present a very promising bill for this years happening.  Alcatraz is a summer festival, but it takes place at an indoor facility nearby Ghent, Belgium, because we kinda have unstable weather conditions during July / August, so they decided to opt for a secure place, whether it’s rainy or not…   Concerning this year, the sun was present the whole day, and although it was an indoor happening, there was plenty of space to go for a stroll nearby the grass verges at the borders of the river Leie.  The set up was great!  The demarcation at the main entrance gave the opportunity to eat or drink a few beers (or whatever you like, there was plenty of choice) on a settee or stool while the sun was burning.  Once you entered the Brielpoort arena, there was a little metal market aside of the hall, and although we arrived around noon, there was already a lot of headbangers waiting for the first musical notes. 

The festival isn’t looking for the extremes in our musical interest but decided to choose for   the traditional Heavy Metal, and that’s a wise decision. Although there are plenty of styles nowadays, we may conclude that they all come of the same bands, they all originate from the Heavy Metal that was so powerful almost 3 decades ago… 

Our national banner-bearer Killer had the task to open Alcatraz 2009, and they did it with  bravura and dashing.  Especially bass player Spooky deserves a special mention because he played his strings with so much passion and enthusiasm that it was infectious for the whole crowd that was enjoying their gig.  Needless to say that Shorty is still one of the best guitar players that we have in this little country!  What he did with his instrument proofs his skills!  

In between the acts that appeared on the main stage, there was also a possibility to go up the stairs to see the upcoming talent on a second stage that focused mainly on the nowadays underground bands from Belgium and Holland.  The main hall had a capacity of 1800 people while the underground stage could handle around 400 people.  We decided to let the youth enjoy those bands, while we enjoyed a beer and the sun…  Afterwards, I spoke to many people and a lot of them were very enthusiastic about the efforts of The Difference and Spoil Engine. 

The second band on the main stage was Onslaught. Hell was breaking loose while these English thrashers were tearing down the roof!  They presented their new live album Live Damnation and the people just loved it.  My goodness, what a killer riffs, and what an out bursting voice of Sy Keeler! For some the best band of the day! My congratulations to the man behind the mixing table, as all bands had a brilliant sound in the hall!   

Another band with a big name is Agent Steel.  They followed after Onslaught on the main stage, and we have to be fair, it wasn’t an easy job to get hold on the slaughtered crowd after the Onslaught gig.  Agent Steel their vocalist is totally diverse of a standard heavy metal act, so I guess that it was a hard nut to crack for the youth that isn’t familiar with this American legend. Anyway, the musical escapades of Agent Steel pleased me a lot, Juan Garcia is still a riff monster and it was great to see them once again on Belgian soil. 

Helstar was the next big thing on the main stage. Their newest output King Of Hell ended in my personal top 10 of last year, and James Rivera is the one and only Helstar frontman.  He joined many other bands during the last 10-15 years, but those that saw him live with (e.g.) Vicious Rumors will admit that his voice is destined to be combined with the music of Helstar. The classic tracks from ‘A Distant Thunder’, ‘Remnants Of War’ and ‘Burning Star’ were combined with newer material, and again the crowd was left behind as a sweaty, broken and devastated mass… 

After writing and playing with Manowar on their classic albums Battle Humns, Into Glory Ride, Hail To England, Fighting The World, and a few more, Ross The Boss decided to quite with the metal gods and focus on his own career.  He joined his first love The Dictators again, and now he’s back with a vengeance named Ross The Boss and his first album New Metal Leader.  For some it was their first acquaintance with ‘The Boss’, and I guess that some of them will regret that they were looking forward to see this band play. After quality bands like Helstar, Onslaught and Agent Steel, the noise that they produced drove me nuts. Especially the vocals were inferior. So, let’s skip Ross The Boss, and have some meet and greets with old friends that were present that day as well… 

It was a wise decision to calm down during the gig of Ross The Boss, because the best had yet to come.  Testament was the next band on the main stage, and dudes, believe it or not, but this was breath taking.  What a power, what an extraordinary gig, and what a mosh pit that started before the eyes of Chuck!  I was thrilled by the drumming of Paul Bostaph who played with Slayer and Forbidden before. This was, in my personal opinion the best band of the day, and they really showed us how to thrash! 

Headliner of this year’s edition was Saxon.  Great that the people behind Alcatraz were able to have such a big name on their second edition, and that’s praise worthy!  Saxon did what they always do.  Giving the best of themselves, bringing the songs with a lot of passion and dedication and leaving the crowd behind with a good feeling!  Horns up brothers, they were great!!   

Final conclusion on this year’s edition: the sound of all bands was awesome.  That’s fair for the bands that have to open for a headliner, and that’s fair for the people who paid money to see all bands.  It was also cool that the running order was pretty accurate and that the vibe in the hall was positive.  Everybody had a great day, and everyone was gathering with each other.  The variety on food was good; the variety on drinks was great as well. If I have to mention a little point of critic; it would be the price of water…. Paying two Euro for just a plastic cup of water is A LOT OF money!!  I agree that this is a fair price for beer and soda, but water???  

O, one last thing.  When we left Brielpoort, the whole place was covered with trash, plastic and other waste.  Perhaps Alcatraz should think on this issue for the next year’s edition, as the cleaning of the area will take lesser time…    

Thank you brothers for this great day, and see you all again next year in Deinze!

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