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.:Festival Reviews:.

04/12/2010 – FROSTROCK (Kuurne, Belgium)

December, winter (or close enough), which means time for a new edition of Frostrock (website). Last year some quick changes needed to be made, as CARACH ANGREN couldn't play and both IRON MASK and MAGIC KINGDOM had to cancel. AVOID and AFTER ALL stepped in as replacements. HOLLENTHON and HEIDEVOLK closed the festival in style. The crowd simply loved them, especially HEIDEVOLK. Anno 2010 CARACH ANGREN was again booked and did play, so did IRON MASK. Headliner would be PRIMAL FEAR, while Floor Jansen (ex-AFTER FOREVER) occupied the stage before them with her new project REVAMP. Opener of the fest was the newly formed Progressive Power outfit DYSCORDIA, who at the end of last month released its first recording, "Reveries". AT VANCE and IZEGRIM completed the bill, which had the most international character of all editions so far.

The weather was like the previous two editions: frosty, cold, slippery, white, freezing. And slippery it sure was, as I ended up in the ditch when crossing with another car, who refused to go aside. Luckily local inhabitants helped a hand to lift my car and thus help me back on the road. Not really seeking a parking place, I parked my car on the first free spot, even if it meant having to walk a little to the entrance of the venue. There were already several people present, since DYSCORDIA was halfway its set. They started at 14h45, I arrived at about 15h00.

Frostrock logo

DYSCORDIA (BE) - www.myspace.com/dyscordiametal
IZEGRIM (NL) - www.myspace.com/izegrim
AT VANCE (DE) - www.myspace.com/atvance
CARACH ANGREN (NL) - www.myspace.com/carachangren
IRON MASK (BE) - www.myspace.com/ironmaskmetal
REVAMP (NL) - www.myspace.com/revamp
PRIMAL FEAR (DE) - www.myspace.com/primalfearmetal


And so I was just in time to see this new Belgian band at work. As you may have read from my review (click here), the forces were joined only earlier this year with the recording of the first release, the "Reveries" EP, last month (November). Frostrock could have been considered the release fest, since it lay closer to the release date than any previous gigs. Six men, each armed with a powerful weapon (guitar, voice, drums). Progressive Power Metal without keyboards. Instead, 3 battle axes - sorry - guitars to deliver enough power, rhythm and melody to compensate, or better, to provide an alternative view on this genre. Having listened to the EP more and more, it became clear that the songs are layered and with each listen they open up more and you understand what's going on. Live the songs sound equally good and both vocalists (Piet and Stefan) handled their parts extremely well, if I may say so. The only point I would write down as criticism is that certain guitar melodies didn't always come out well enough. Was it due to the power of the others or were there some sound problems on a general level? Fact is that each song was delivered as it should and to make the set a little more interesting, the METALLICA hit "Battery" was played. Ok, not identical to the original, but very entertaining nevertheless. In short, DYSCORDIA on CD is worth having, DYSCORDIA live is worth seeing, without the smallest doubt.

Playlist:

Realm Of Night
Locked Within
Black Clown
Ache Of Hearts
The Empty Room
Battery (METALLICA cover)

DYSCORDIA
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The Dutch Thrash Metal band IZEGRIM performed last year on Metal Against Child Cancer, which took place in my backyard. So to speak, of course. It was only 10 minutes driving from where I live. But before they were to hit the stage, my stomach said "better leave or create a mess". And so I had to leave the venue prematurely, during CEREMONY OF OPPOSITES performance. When I saw the news that IZEGRIM would play at Frostrock, I was determined to go. Last year I had the hoonour to review their last release, the EP "Point Of No Return" (see review), which was a solid one. Earlier this year (2010) the band recorded a new full-length at Soundlodge Studios. Its title is "Code Of Consequences" and thanks to a recent deal with the French label Listenable Records, the album will see the light of day in February next year. Needless to say that the setlist also contained new material, as appetizer: "Deathstrip" and "Incommunicado".

The sound was of course heavier, more aggressive than DYSCORDIA's, for obvious reasons. Vocalist/bassist Marloes sounded like a vicious demonic angel, who could easily hide this aspect when just playing bass and watching the crowd go out of its mind. Both Jeroen and Bert also had their fun on stage. Ivo joined in and during breaks handed beers to the first-row people, who accepted with delight. To put it short: it was awesome, the music, the performance, the atmosphere. One minor point: the occasional annoying lights, mainly in the context of taking pictures.

Playlist:

Warmonger
In The Name Of Freedom
Sword Of Damocles
Angel Of Demise
Deathstrip
Incommunicado
Point Of No Return
Deliverance
Fuck Your Glorious Nation
World Power Of Downfall

IZEGRIM
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The German Neo-classical Metal band AT VANCE has been around for many years and had, until some years ago, a great line-up with vocalist Oliver Hartmann. One album that made me a bit of a fan was "Only Human". The sucessor, "Evil In You", with new vocalist Mats Levén, was also good, but somehow a bit less than the previous one. Perhaps because most material was written for Oliver's voice? Anyway, after two album, Mats left due to other obligations (e.g. THERION). In came Rick Altzi (since a few years in THUNDERSTONE) and as a result, two albums so far: "VII" (2007) and "Ride The Sky" (2009). I didn't follow the band after "Evil In You", though saw that "Chained" had come out. "VII" was my next encounter with the band's music, as I was sent a promo copy, which I reviewed (see here). I listened to "Ride The Sky", which was another decent release, but never found the energy to write about it. Still, it seems Olaf Lenk (AT VANCE's guitarist/mastermind) never made a bad album, although you always have one better than the other.

As a previously planned tour with a.o. IRON MASK was cancelled, it was nice to see both these bands at Frostrock. AT VANCE isn't among my favourite bands, but I can appreciate the tunes. And so it was the perfect opportunity to see a band at work I would probably not have seen anyway, unless perhaps in the context of the aforementioned cancelled tour. Like with the others, a flawless performance. Each had his fun, and especially Rick knew how to entertain the audience, who liked what AT VANCE played. Rick has a very good voice, that is sure, Olaf played his guitar with great ease and could probably read the newspaper and have a drink at the same time. The young drummer Alex Landenburg also played a solid set. However, at some point, there was a power interruption. The backing CD played on, but no sound came from the stage, save for the drums, which eventually stopped too, as Alex saw he was the only one playing. The crowd cheered for a drum solo, but to no avail. It would have been nice, though. Still, as I said, Rick (and during the break bass player Wolfman) entertained the audience with funny gestures and stuff while the sound egineers were looking to repair the damage as rapidly as possible. The delay did take several minutes, if not 10. Afterwards, when power was restored, AT VANCE continued with the set, leaving the interrupted song for what it was. Two guest vocalists also came on stage: Magali Luyten (VIRUS IV, BEAUTIFUL SIN) and another guy, whom I didn't know, nor the band he sings in. But both did a good to very good job, although I must say I wasn't too fond of the other guy's voice. Found it not that fitting.

Other than that, no complaints in terms of performance, setlist, etc... Frostrock band no. 3: way to go!

Playlist:

Ride The Sky
The Evil In You
Fallen Angel
Heart Of Steel
Chained
Take Me Away
Only Human
Breaking The Night
No Speak
Broken Vow
Shiver
Dragonchaser
Right Or Wrong
Stand Up And Shout

AT VANCE
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The Dutch symphonic Black Metallers from CARACH ANGREN were to perform last year at Frostrock, but due to the illness of the vocalist (I think), they had to cancel and in a last instant the Metalcore band AVOID was booked. Fast-forward to 2010: CARACH ANGREN released its second album, "Death Came Through A Phantom Ship" (see review), based on The Flying Dutchman. Again, the lyrical theme was a legend, like with the "Lammendam" album (see review). On CD these guys know what to do and create a theatrical from of Metal that, with the right visuals, brings legends and similar to life. And so I was curious to see and hear how they pull it off live. It must be good, else they would not have toured with e.g. DARK FUNERAL.

As is fitting with theatrical music, the lights are of the darker kind. In other words, lots of blue and red, for one. The sound was obviously bombastic. Some said it wasn't perfect, but I found it good enough. Sure, perfect it was not, but it was not bad at all. The power and spookiness came out very well. The crowd loved it all. The Dutch did take us on a dark and lively adventure, even if it's not always easy to transfer the studio sounds to the stage. But they pulled it off, if you ask me. The band's setlist consisted of songs from both studio albums and their EP "Ethereal Veiled Existence". Kudos to Seregor's vocal performance as well. What a throat!

Playlist:

Electronic Voice Phenomena (intro)
The Sighting Is A Portent Of Doom
Ghost
Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood (intermezzo)
Departure Towards A Nautical Curse
Ethereal Veiled Existence
Het Spook Von De Leiffartshof (intro)
A Strange Presence Near The Woods
Haunting Echoes From The Seventeenth Century
Phobic Shadows And Moonlit Meadows
Bloodstains On The Captain's Log
Hexed Melting Flesh (intermezzo)
The Carriage Wheel Murder

CARACH ANGREN
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Dushan Petrossi's other band, MAGIC KINGDOM, recently released its third album, "Symphony Of War" (see review). With IRON MASK he released "Shadow Of The Red Baron" (the band's third full-length) earlier this year. Both being very good albums. In terms of line-up there aren't that many differences, but at Frostrock the band had to look for replacements on keyboards and vocals. MAGIC KINGDOM/FAIRYLAND keyboardist Phil Giordana flew over to replace Andreas Lindahl, while Carsten Lizard-Schulz ( EVIDENCE ONE) replaced Goetz Mohre on vocals. And then there's Ramy Ali (EVIDENCE ONE), who took the seat behind the drumkit. That's because Erik Stout couldn't make it. IRON MASK was also scheduled last year, but had to cancel, just like MAGIC KINGDOM. Instead, the Belgian Thrash band AFTER ALL was happy to oblige.

The band, after a rather long soundcheck, kicked off with the title track of their latest album and it was a hit from the start. A joy to hear, to see, ... both vocalists did a splendid job, each in his domain: Carsten the cleans, Roma the grunts. Rami drummed with great ease and still had lots of energy left for another round. Bassist Vassili... flawless performance. So was Phil's. Dushan, however, had sound problems with his guitar. The cable wasn't in well enough, the amp peeped and after two or so songs he changed his red axe for a red-white Fender, after which the shred train took off.

Fast songs, midtempo ones, ... the band kept it diverse enough to entertain the audience during the entire set. And they too convinced the people of their skills and potential, for after the gig the band's merch stand was overwhelmed with people buying CDs and shirts. While the Belgian scene consists more of extreme Metal bands, it's good to have an IRON MASK, for example, to counter with melodic songs. I honestly hope to see them play (in Belgium, of course) more often. Same thing for MAGIC KINGDOM.

Playlist:

Shadow Of The Red Baron
Holy War
Resurrection
Crystal Tears
Freedom's Blood
Black Devil Ship
Only The Good Die Young
Forever In The Dark
We Will Meet Again

IRON MASK
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AFTER FOREVER has been put to rest since quite a while and practically each member has found another band to remain active. Frontwoman Floor Jansen founded REVAMP, which released a first album earlier this year. This got hyped, or better, lots of promotion, but somehow I didn't jump on that train for the obvious reasons: how does the material sound? Is REVAMP to continue for a good time being or will it be over in a few years? Is it Floor and guest musicians or a proper band? By this I certainly do not question Floor's skills, because she's a very good singer, of the best in the scene. I heard some songs on Youtube, but they didn't convince me to buy the album, even though I have a few AFTER FOREVER albums and the music is similar.

Seeing REVAMP live would be the first time I see Floor at work, so that would be more important than her new project. Hearing and seeing how the band - well, Floor and guests - pulled it off, it was indeed great. The songs' power was overwhelming, uplifting, energetic, etc... and Floor both sang full and soft, depending on the songs. Similarities with EPICA vocalist Simone Simons can easily be made, even if both are different characters. Female-fronted Metal is popular in Belgium, is heavily appreciated by (female) Belgian Metalheads. REVAMP played at Metal Female Voices Fest earlier this year and I do not need to tell whether it was good or not, do I? No, I wasn't there. Still, I have to add that, no matter how good and powerful the material sounded in Kuurne, I (and that's a personal impression) am not convinced to buy the self-titled album. Why not? Because I didn't feel any connection with the songs. They didn't do me much. But in general, sure, REVAMP is worth seeing again.

Playlist: (in no specific order)

Here's My Hell
All Goodbyes Are Said
Fast Forward
Break
Million
Energize Me (AFTER FOREVER cover)
Kill Me With Silence
Sweet Curse
Disdain
The Trial Of Monsters
No Money For The Damned
Disgraced
Head Up High

REVAMP
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This was the second time I saw PRIMAL FEAR at work. The first time being back in 2005, when they toured with HELLOWEEN and the latter not being able to perform due to the illness of vocalist Andi Deris. Back then, PRIMAL FEAR played a full show and it was pure awesomeness! Now, 5 years later, I expected no less, despite the several line-up changes over the years (the guitarist position seems to be a feeble one). PRIMAL FEAR released, after the very good "Seven Seals" (see review), two solid albums, though none as good (overall) as the band's 2005 release. Earlier this year a live release was put out, "Live In The USA" (CD/DVD). "16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You're Dead!)" is the band's last studio output. Logically, and considering the back catalogue, the setlist was focused on that album, but diverse enough for older material, too. Every album except "Black Sun" (2002) was featured on the setlist.

The soundcheck took ages and while the band was to play at 23h15, it was more around 23h40 that Ralf and co. filled the venue with their rocking sounds. As the weather outside was not favourable for those who still needed to drive a long distance, several people had left prematurely, thus missing PRIMAL FEAR's show. But who can blame them? That means less than 300 people were still present. Under normal conditions I think more than double the number people should be on the battlefield.

The sound was very good to my ears and Ralf's voice seems to not be influenced by anything at all. Strong at all times, effective when needed. The audience, those that remained, loved it and cheered accordingly. Randy's drum solo was a cherry that is just a must for any FEAR gig, although I think he's done better previously. Still, he's one of the best drummers and it wasn't any different at Frostrock. Funny thing, though: the bass drums had to be taped, because Randy is, if I'm correct, endorsed by Mapex, while the kit at Frostrock was a Tama.

I didn't stay until the end, as I too still had some miles to drive and with the accident in the afternoon I didn't want to take any risk, so I headed home around 01h00, which also means I cannot confirm if the bonus songs were played or not.

Playlist: (in no specific order)

Introduction
Sign Of Fear
Chainbreaker
Killbound
Rollercoaster
Seven Seals
Nuclear Fire
Six Times Dead
- drumsolo-
Blood On Your Hands
Fighting The Darkness
Riding The Eagle
Final Embrace
Metal Is Forever
Angel In Black (bonus)
Running In The Dust (bonus)

PRIMAL FEAR
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Like before I had a great time and especially with this excellent edition (and on my birthday :-), which means I had my own fest). Several of these bands would be hard to catch, unless on the big festivals like e.g. Graspop or perhaps when they're on tour and even then you would have to get there, at the venue. Anyway, despite its smallness, Frostrock shows it can also have big names on the list. I had nothing to complain about, as the sound was good (personal impression), the band were excellent and the atmosphere was inline. My only concern would be: why wasn't the venue filled? Ok, it had snowed, the roads were slippery (at least, the smaller ones, the large ones were good to ride on), but still... Was it the date? Because some people were having exams and therefore had to skip going to Kuurne? The ticket price was peanuts (20 EUR), especially for the bands you could see at work. Go to a large festival, where you pay 70-80 EUR (for one day) and it seems many people won't have a problem with that. Sure, more bands, but will you see them all? And as close as on a smaller fest like Frostrock? The ones who did came sure had a great time, as all bands helped in making it a wonderful experience. So, in short: hail to Frostrock (and the people behind it) and let's hope this fest can carry on for many more years!






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07/08/2010 – ALCATRAZ METAL FESTIVAL (Brielpoort, Deinze, Belgium)

Alcatraz Concerts (website), anno 2010 the third edition and slowly it's becoming a certitude in the Belgian Metal scene. The previous years it was held around the period of Wacken Open Air. This time it wasn't that different, as it was held IN the period of WOA, i.e. 7th August. Again the Brielpoort in Deinze was chosen, due to its indoor infrastructure, easy access and large parking lot. While there were comments and complaints about the fest not being in open air, the weather this year proved the organization right. Where the sun shone brightly in 2008 and 2009, this time it had to allow the rain to take over now and then. No problem for the visitors, as the bands were playing indoor and drinks were also available indoor.

Several bands have already played in Deinze. If we're just going for the (relatively) big names: MORTAL SIN, BENEDICTUM, LEGION OF THE DAMNED, EXODUS, DORO, ONSLAUGHT, AGENT STEEL, HELSTAR, ROSS THE BOSS, TESTAMENT and SAXON. In 2008 there was only one stage, the mainstage. In 2009, the idea arose to give smaller bands, mainly Belgian ones, a chance as well, albeit on a smaller stage. This smaller stage is to be found on the first floor, where there's less room for people, logically. This arrangement was found to be very interesting, as it gave people the oportunity not only to hear new bands, but also enjoy Metal at a constant rate without having to wait 20-30 minutes until the next band could hit the stage.

Alcatraz Metal Festival logo

Again two stages were set up, looking like this:

Stage 1:
KREATOR (DE): 23h20u - 00h50u / MySpace page
EPICA (NL): 21h40u - 22h50u / MySpace page
MOONSPELL (PRT): 19h20u - 20h30u / MySpace page
PRETTY MAIDS (DK): 17h20u - 18h20u / MySpace page
DEMONICA (DK/USA): 15h25u - 16h20u / MySpace page
RAVEN (UK): 13h40u - 14h30u / MySpace page
LIZZY BORDEN (USA): 12h00u - 12h50u / MySpace page

Stage 2:
EVILE (UK): 20h40u - 21h30u / MySpace page
GUNSLINGER (UK): 18h35u - 19h10u / MySpace page
CIRRHA NIVA (NL): 16h30u - 17h10u / MySpace page
EVIL SHEPHERD (BE): 14h40u - 15h15u / MySpace page
POWERSTROKE (BE): 13h00u - 13h30u / MySpace page



The previous two editions were mainly about Thrash Metal or related. For the third edition, the organization, Alcatraz Concerts, put together a more diverse list of styles, from Shock Rock over Thrash to Progressive. Headliners so far have been DORO, SAXON and this year KREATOR got that spot, albeit by their own request. This would be my first KREATOR gig, so you can imagine there were certain expectations.

Upon arrival about 20 minutes before the Shock Rock/Heavy Metal band LIZZY BORDEN would officially start the festival, not a lot of people were on the premises yet, though the parking lot already contained many vehicles. Then again, it was like that the previous two years as well. LIZZY BORDEN, a big name in the States, but apparently not that big in Belgium, though there were some tens of people enjoying the tunes. This too was a new experience for me, but I enjoyed it. The band was very active right from the start, as if they had been building their enthusiasm, drive and energy before the show and then let it all out when they were given the chance. Somehow you got to have respect for bands that have been around for more than 20 years, if not 25, and still carry on as if time stood still. LIZZY BORDEN is not just about the music, but mostly about the visual aspect. Where it used to be make-up, it's about masks, clothing and accessories (like a skull). Later during the set they had a girl on stage, stripping as Lizzy bit her throat and all of that. A sort of play, you might say. During which song that was, I don't know, or if there's even a song related to that. The important factor for me remained the music and that was more than fine. But somehow the audience wasn't that thrilled or stoked about LIZZY BORDEN in general, as the cheering was far to seek, especially compared to how the response would be during MOONSPELL and EPICA, for example. Perhaps the warming-up was still going on or people were saving their energy for later. That was the mainstage.

Playlist:

??

LIZZY BORDEN
Dario Lorina Lizzy Borden Chris Sanders


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After that you could either have a drink, something to eat or head upstairs for POWERSTROKE. This Belgian Groove Metal band participated in the Wacken Metal Battle finals last year, but didn't win. At that time I thought they were good, solid even, but it wasn't the kind of band whose music I would play a lot. But it was definitely a name to remember. Seeing them on the bill for this year's Alcatraz Metal Festival made me look forward to it. And what a difference with last year. This time the guys did convince me of their skills and ideas and not just me, as the crowd liked the taste of POWERSTROKE's grooves. So I went downstairs and bought their album, "Once...We Were Kings", simple as that. One has to support the local Metalscene.

Playlist:

??

POWERSTROKE
John, Marty, Pete Pete Marty


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Next on the mainstage were the NWOBHM veterans from RAVEN. This band was founded back in 1974, but it wasn't until the 1980s that their discography took shape. Releasing albums on a consistent basis, RAVEN's studio output lessened in the 90s and even in the 21st century they're taking it slowly, perhaps due to the many gigs and the fact that they rely more on the pleasure of playing instead of writing new material at high speed. However, last year (on Japanese soil) they released a new album called "Walk Through Fire", which was released on European and American soil earlier this year. So, another big band on the list early on, like LIZZY BORDEN. And although RAVEN is not among my favourite NOWBHM bands, here as well it was a pleasure to see the guys enjoying themselves after all those years. Metal to the core (or the bone), as they say. Obviously they played songs from their latest album and previous releases, though concentrating mainly on their 80's period. Guitarist Mark Gallagher ran around, playing all the while and screaming/singing along like a kid that was happy to play again. Bassist John Gallagher sang (including high-pitched screams) and played his bass as you would expect, even added some solos. Joe Hasselvander took care of the appropriate drumwork. In short: a solid trio that managed to put down a performance for which you can only raise your thumbs, eh, horns. Metal is timeless and you don't have to stop playing if it's still running through your veins. Respect!

Playlist:

Intro
Take Control
Inferno
All For One
Breaking You Down
Rock Drop
Speed / Run / Mind
On & On
Future
Chain

RAVEN
John Gallagher Joe Hasselvander Mark Gallagher


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Time for the small stage again, this time the Belgian Thrashers from EVIL SHEPHERD would present their material. Old school Thrash has been on the rise again as several bands, in several countries, got a label deal. EVIL SHEPHERD is a very young band, formed in 2008 and so far they have two demos out: "History Of Violence" (2008) and "Sadistik Legions" (2009). The debut full-length is in the making and should be out soon. So, how does it all sound so far? To be honest, some tunes were good (don't ask which, I didn't see a setlist), and the crowd loved what these Thrashers played. As a result, there was a moshpit. It's comparable to old DESTRUCTION, KREATOR and similar. But as enthusiastic the lads are... their stuff is fast, a good 90% of it. DRAGONFORCE is also fast, but at least they incorporate solos and other elements. And you can distinguish one song from the other. With EVIL SHEPHERD it becomes one big melting pot, where it's hard to hear if it's song a or song b. In addition, many of the songs end in a strange way, as if the plug was pulled, so to speak. "Oh, the song's over?" is an impression that popped up many times during their set. So, again, kudos for their enthusiasm, but in my (humble) opinion it's too early to already put out a full-length. You have to start somewhere, that's correct, but several of the songs could use more tweaking in terms of a solo, rhythm, ending (!) and of course... speed. One more thing that I thought was funny: it was raining while EVIL SHEPHERD played. Weren't the gods pleased with the band's performance?

Playlist:

Intro
Into The Cold
The Attic
The Awakening
instrumental
The Darkest Of Times
Dying In Vain

EVIL SHEPHERD
Maes (Glenn) Jonah Tomminator


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DEMONICA began their set at around 15h30. This band consists of members from a.o. MERCYFUL FATE and FORBIDDEN. As a result you would expect qualitative Metal that can stand the test of time, stuff that makes you want to play the album several times without getting tired of it. Formed in 2008, this Danish/American band has one album out, "Demonstrous", out since February this year. The songs sound heavy, the guys have tons of experience and yet... it was a forgettable show. Most of the material sounds like a big wall of sound and there isn't much that stuck. I do know that I enjoyed a few songs and they were of the slow(er) kind. The faster stuff was just not good enough. Perhaps the crowd thought otherwise, but seriously... Maybe it's a wrong impression, but it was as if those guys relied on their status to be deemed worthy of as much attention as, say, KREATOR, who at least know how to make great Metal, even after 25 years. So, all in all, DEMONICA sounded heavy, but the material was pretty bland and superficial. After EVIL SHEPHERD, this was the second band that made the afternoon a little less interesting.

Playlist:

??

DEMONICA
Marc Grabowski Klaus Hyr Craig Locicero


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During DEMONICA's set, which gathered a large crowd, the Dutch Progressive Metal band CIRRHA NIVA was preparing for their festival moment. I got to know this band via MySpace and thought of buying their latest release, "For Moments Never Done", but it just never came of it, as other things interfered or other releases were of a higher priority. Anyway, seeing them on the bill made me look forward to the festival. Having been at Prog, Power and Metalfest at Mons in April this year (with bands like ADAGIO, DGM, DREAMSCAPE, PAGAN'S MIND, IVANHOE, and more, to keep it Progressive) CIRRHA NIVA is also a band that deserved to be on the bill. Perhaps next year, who knows. The Dutch were there with a session drummer, as their regular skinsman Wiebe Slim had booked his vacation and thus couldn't cancel it. But let me tell you his replacement (I forgot his name, though guitarist Carlo Heefer told me) sure knows his way around a kit. CIRRHA NIVA has been around since several years, underwent some line-up changes (Rob Willemse being a constant all those years) and style changes, but managed to put out four releases (six if you count the two demos). For obvious reasons the setlist consisted of songs from the "For Moments Never Done" release and the IRON MAIDEN classic "The Trooper". As we're dealing with a Progressive Metal band, the setlist wasn't very long, since the songs weren't very short either. The guys had a great time, judging by their stage presence and how the crowd reacted. Especially guitarist Rob Willemse and the stand-in drummer were enjoying it. Not that the others didn't, they were more modest, but each character is different. The same counts for fans, some move around, headbang, etc... other just stand there, watch and listen and might just enjoy the show as much as those who do move about. The band sounded good, despite the small surface and space and somehow deserved to be on the main stage. That's at least how I feel about it. CIRRHA NIVA, a name to keep in mind, as they were one of the best band on the festival and their music is top notch quality.

Playlist:

Framed
Golan Heights
Dreamon
The Fooling
The Trooper (IRON MAIDEN cover)
Self-Chosen

CIRRHA NIVA
DaniŽl Huyben Legrand Rob Willemse


See more pictures of CIRRHA NIVA at this location.

To the shortlist of big names was added another band that has been around since many years: PRETTY MAIDS. This Danish Heavy Metal band was founded in my birth year and have been putting out many releases since then, but also faced several line-up changes, leaving vocalist Ronnie Atkins (aka Paul Christensen) and guitarist Ken Hammer (aka Kenneth Hansen) as sole survivors. But the 21st century has been favourable to them and now the band has a stable line-up since 2006. Ok, bassist Hasse Patino joined them earlier this year, replacing Kenn Jackson (aka Kenn Lund Jacobsen). Another gathering of old rockers who still know how it's done and how it should be done. Each member was - from the looks of it - having fun and so was the crowd, cheering along, singing along. Earlier this year the band put out its 12th album, "Pandemonium", the follow-up to 2006's "Wake Up To The Real World". After hearing so many positive remarks about this band, and having them seen live, I just have to add at least one album to my collection. I was told that "Future World" is a perfect album to start with. Anyway, PRETTY MAIDS live is a must-see. Tons of experience, solid performance, great songs, great vibe... the crowd loved it as well. This is another band I'd like to see again in the (near) future.

Playlist:

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PRETTY MAIDS
2Morten Sandager Ronnie Atkins (aka Paul Christensen) Ken Hammer (aka Kenneth Hansen)


See more pictures of PRETTY MAIDS at this location.

Back upstairs then for some pure and honest Metal 'n' Roll, MOTÖRHEAD-style. GUNSLINGER's the band, led by bassist/vocalist Alan Davey, who used to be in HAWKWIND, replacing MOT÷RHEAD vocalist/bassist Lemmy Kilmister. And let me tell you, at some point it was almost as if I was listening to Lemmy. Yes, Alan is that good. He also tuned his bass to that typical sound. On guitar he's got his nephew (or is it his son?) Louis Davey and drums are played by the 20-year old Cat Bothwell. Yes, a girl on drums. That is nothing new, but usually when it comes to Metal, girls/women usually occupy the position of vocalist, though I've seen guitarists, bassists and keyboardists as well. Cat drummed with such enthusiasm, pleasure and stamina it just made me smile. Honestly, I found it great to see a girl drum like that and she obviously is very good at it. GUNSLINGER have one album out so far, "Earthquake In E Minor", this since 2008. What GUNSLINGER's setlist looked like, I cannot tell, for I didn't see anything on stage. It is clear, however, that this band is perfect for a festival like this and can get you energized again in no time. So, if MOTÖRHEAD is outside of your budget, go for GUNSLINGER. A guarantee for a great time. The crowd sure as hell can acknowledge that.

Playlist:

??

GUNSLINGER
Alan Davey Cat Bothwell Louis Davey


See more pictures of GUNSLINGER at this location.

On the mainstage it was then time for the Portuguese Gothic Metallers from MOONSPELL. Hailed for their extreme musical approach (Black at first, then going more Gothic) the band got lots of praise for their "Memorial" album in 2006. The re-recorded old songs on "Under Satanae" (2007) was another hit before their last studio output, "Night Eternal", showed MOONSPELL was still going strong and is a force to reckon with. But you don't need me to tell you that. The fans know it more than I do. On CD the band sounds already very good, but how would it be live? This too was a first for me and I can tell you they blew me away. Especially drummer Miguel Gaspar managed to amaze me. Very powerful sound, very strong performance, flawless even. Vocalist Fernando Ribeiro quickly had the audience following him, his guidelines, his speeches. He thus too put on quite a show. MOONSPELL came, MOONSPELL saw, MOONSPELL conquered. They even conquered the lights, as their set was - for a very large part - played in total darkness. That's of course nice for the audience, as it contributes to the show aspect, but for photographers it's a nightmare, including me. Hence not that many pictures. But MOONSPELL wouldn't be the only band with sucky lighting, even if it's for the sake of spectacle, of entertainment. Nevertheless, MOONSPELL delivers the goods live, that's for sure.

Playlist:

??

MOONSPELL
Fernando Ribeiro Don Aires "Ahriman" Pereira, Miguel "Nisroth" Gaspar Ricardo "Morning Blade" Amorim


See more pictures of MOONSPELL at this location.

With EVILE we had to go upstairs one final time, as both EPICA and KREATOR were to play on the mainstage. EVILE is of course known as one of the many younger bands that keep old school Thrash alive. Their MCD "All Hallows Eve" (2004) got lots of positive criticism, thus a label deal didn't stay out too long. Anno 2007 the debut album, "Enter The Grave", came out. The reviews were mixed, but mainly positive. I definitely liked it. The follow-up, "Infected Nations", was a very worthy follow-up and it would thus be interesting to see/hear how this UK band would pull it off live. On a sidenote, the band lost its bass player Mike Alexander last year from a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot on the lungs. EVILE were touring in support of "Infected Nations". Earlier this year (2010), the "Cemetery Gates" (PANTERA cover) single came out and ironically it was the last recording of Mike. On bass now there's Joel Graham from RISE TO ADDICTION. But let's fast-forward to Deinze where the band put on an energetic and highly enjoyable show. Tracks like "Infected Nation", "Thrasher", "Metamorphosis" - where vocalist/guitarist Matt Drake explained how the band lost Mike and Joel stepped in, thus creating a new EVILE. While saying this the audience began to applaud, which caused some surprise with Matt and co., but I guess there was a small misunderstanding during Matt's explanation, hence the applauding - , "We Who Are About To Die", "Bathe In Blood" and "Enter The Grave" were played and absorbed with no effort at all. The crowd was very enthusiastic and it was clear that EVILE is no stranger in Belgium. The guys themselves stayed very modest and gave those present a great Thrash time. Contrary to EVIL SHEPHERD, EVILE's set was diverse with midtempo and uptempo songs. Obviously the band sounds rougher live than on CD, but that is only a detail. We all had a great time and as far as I'm concerned, EVILE needs to play more gigs on Belgian grounds.

Playlist (incomplete and incorrect order):

Infected Nation
Thrasher
Metamorphosis
We Who Are About To Die
Bathe In Blood
Enter The Grave

EVILE
Ol Drake Matt Drake Ben Carter


See more pictures of EVILE at this location.

And then, EPICA. This band is so popular in Belgium, you wouldn't believe it. Over the years the band has been touring a lot, including supporting KAMELOT and each guesting on each other's releases and/or gigs. Furthermore, vocalist Simone Simons is the girlfriend of KAMELOT keyboardist Oliver Palotai, which obviously makes the collaborations easier. That aside, I saw the band two or three times with the old line-up, i.e. with drummer Jeroen Simons (not related to Simone) and guitarist Ad Sluijter, both leaving the band in respectively 2006 and 2008. Their replacements were Arjen Van Weesenbeek, who comes from GOD DETHRONED and Isaac Delahaye, also from GOD DETHRONED. EPICA's last studio output is the 2009 release "Design Your Universe", which makes it album no. 5. The last album I bought was "The Divine Conspiracy" (2007). After that I sort of gave up, as live they didn't succeed anymore to amaze me, even though musically it was still very good, but my interest there also watered down. I might be critical, but somehow still open to see if with this new line-up things are as promising as it looks on paper. Simone is obviously still the center of the band, no matter how good the other members are. Each time the lights are on her or she sings, the crowd clearly gets exstatic, by manner of speech. The setlist consisted logically of new and old material. As solid as the band has been since several years, for me personally EPICA has become a band like any other big band. Yes, they are among the best in their genre, that I will not deny. Also respect for what they've achieved so far. In terms of lighting it was better than during MOONSPELL, but the flashing and dark moments weren't helpful, save (again) for the show effect. EPICA were, let's remain honest, among the best bands that day and have preserved the faith many fans have in this band.

Playlist:

Samadhi
Resign To Surrender
Sensorium
Fools Of Damnation
Unleashed
Martyr Of The Free World
The Obsessive Devotion
Quietus
Cry For The Moon
Santa Terra
Consign To Oblivion

EPICA
Mark Jansen Simone Simons Yves Huts


See more pictures of EPICA at this location.

KREATOR headlining means they must make it worthwile and grand and more. My first KREATOR gig with the obvious high hopes and expectations. Woohoo! Well... seeing how fast the stage accessories were built/put up, those hopes were slowly being destroyed. Last year TESTAMENT started with - what? - 30 minutes delay, which caused some frustration. Consequently, SAXON also started much later and they were the better band. Anyway, 15 minutes delay for KREATOR. But when they came on and started with "The Pestilence" from their classic album "Pleasure To Kill" (1986). It has been a while since I last heard that album, so I didn't immediately recognize the song. But after that all went well, with tracks like "Hordes Of Chaos", "Phobia", "Enemy Of God", "Impossible Brutality", "Endless Pain" - when Mille told about the band's 25th anniversary this year and how they, as a young band, felt the... "ENDLESS PAIN!" -, "Pleasure To Kill" and many more classic tracks. It must be said, KREATOR are still a band you can rely on when it comes to Thrash. Mille hasn't lost the touch and although his throat has been affected from all the screaming (the roughness has been polished away), the band stood there like a solid foundation. On the other hand, from all those years of playing, I felt they had activated the automatic pilot. I noticed little spontaneity. Perhaps Mille wasn't satisfied with the delay or with the sound in the beginning, which wasn't perfect. The crowd however stood there, enjoyed the show and had a great band to put them to bed. Many people had actually already left before EPICA and even after EPICA's set many left for home. But there were still enough to witness KREATOR's passing through Belgium on their 25th anniversary. Congratulations, Mille and co., and cheers to many more years (if possible).

Playlist:

Intro
The Pestilence
Hordes Of Chaos
Phobia
Enemy Of God
Impossible Brutality
Endless Pain
Pleasure To Kill
Terrible Certainty
Extreme Aggression
Coma Of Souls
Amok Run
The Patriarch
Violent Revolution
Demon Prince
When The Sun Burns Red
Flag Of Hate

KREATOR
Christian "Speesy" Giesler Miland "Mille" Petrozza Sami Yli-SirniŲ


See more pictures of KREATOR at this location.

Conclusion: Alcatraz Metal Festival, edition no. 3, was another enjoyable event. Many came to Deinze, despite this summer's long list of festivals (Graspop, Hellfest, Lokerse Feesten, Pukkelpop, Werchter, and not to forget Wacken and more) which follow in quick succession and thus are a danger for people's wallets (which festival to go to? How much will it cost). Filip and co. from Alcatraz Concerts have done it again, creating a list of big and small bands, old and new, and especially in terms of styles was there more variation than before. This is something to maintain, how difficult it can be. Which bands to book? Will the people like them? What about the budget?. These are just basic questions among many more and not just for this festival. I remember the following of this year's edition:

- it's good that this fest is indoors (since it rained, it didn't hinder the bands doing their thing)
- it's easily accessible with lots of parking space
- its ticket price is reasonable (50 EUR), though Alcatraz Concerts must be careful not to let it become as costly as a larger fest like Graspop (70-80 EUR for one day)
- these bands stood out (for me): LIZZY BORDEN, POWERSTROKE, RAVEN, CIRRHA NIVA, PRETTY MAIDS, GUNSLINGER, MOONSPELL, EVILE, EPICA, KREATOR.
- these bands were forgettable: EVIL SHEPHERD, DEMONICA
- if you seek some peace of mind, then the river banks can give you that
- there were less people than last year, due to (indicate what fits: other festivals/budget reasons/vacation/work/...)

If you seek a Metal festival, but don't want to go to a mass open air event like Graspop, Wacken, Hellfest, Bloodstock, Metalcamp, etc., then Alcatraz Metal Festival is the place to be. See you next year! \m/





All pictures (including crowd ones) can viewed together at this location.


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