Rock Hard Festival 2010 - Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 21st - 23rd May 2010
|Event:||Rock Hard Festival|
Impressions of a special festival
In 2003, Germany's Rock Hard magazine celebrated it's 20th anniversary with a small festival that was originally planned as a one-time happening. Due to the overwhelming reaction of the magazine's fans however, the organizers decided to establish it as a yearly event and add another small star to Germany's festival sky. This star has shone brightly for the last seven years, gaining in both brightness and color, soon to outshine many of it's bigger, older and more established brothers. Being limited in capacity to not more than 7000 visitors due to the amazing amphitheater it takes place in and all the while able to rely on the magazine's worldwide network of band and label contacts, the RHF soon became the insiders' tip in Germany's festival scene. A status they definitely left behind this year with the confirmation of nobody less than Bloodbath. This festival established itself even in the heads of people like me who live in spitting distance of the all-devouring Wacken Open Air and it's commercial mega-machine. The 2010 issue of this festival, the 8th overall marks one big leap further into general attention.
Next to the already mentioned Bloodbath and other big names, the lineup of 2010 also featured some rare metal gems such as Rage with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra, an exclusive reunion show of USA's Exhorder, the second overall Germany show of Italy's Thrash machine Bulldozer and UK's Raven, whose song "Rock Hard" gave the magazine and hence this festival it's name.
Since I don't like to bring my camera to festivals I only have a few very bad cellphone pictures. But Many good pictures can be found on the Rock Hard Festival's official website.
Day 1 (pictures on official website):
Germany's latest black thrash blood opened the first day with a furious show. Under the merciless summer sun of May in North Rhine-Westphalia, the heretic quintet unleashed their wall of rage with the power to move even the last of the few hundred early birds that came to greet them. 35 minutes of their energetic sound under perfect acoustic circumstances laid the foundation for the first day of the festival.
After the furious show of Ketzer, Germany's blackened death force from Berlin took the stage and dragged their audience into their realm of darkness. With the same amazing sound, their self described "Necromantic Death Metal" hit us just right. And seeing that they hardly play six gigs a year made it all the more special. Necros Christos are dead serious about their music and their live performance doesn't fall short in comparison.
Most fans of Katatonia seem to prefer their early work. Those went to bed disappointed that day because apart from 'Ghost Of The Sun' they only played songs from their latest two albums. Since I only know those two albums, this show was perfect for me though, especially since the awesome sound now seemed to be the brand mark of this festival. But the dynamics in the crowd made quite clear that their recent work attracts a much younger audience than their early output, and so there was a noticeable gradient in listener satisfaction anti-proportional to the present age distribution. I still did enjoy the show. I've never seen them before and in their defense, 45 minutes isn't exactly much time to build spectacular soundscapes. The show was OK and I hope they will play a more diverse set next time I see them.
Every time I see these guys, I am witness to a party of unequaled intensity. Even though I've never heard anything by these guys on CD, I can't fail to enjoy their energetic show full of jokes and some of the best power metal I've heard in many years. With their new album Coat Of Arms on board, they wowed their fans with yet another one of those amazing shows. The fact that this album wasn't released yet didn't keep the audience from singing along to all of the new songs. This prompted frontman Joakim Brodén to state that as long as the people kept coming to their shows, he didn't care how much they are 'PirateBaying'. I predict this a mutual agreement. At least as long as their shows kick ass like this.
The time had finally come for the kings of death, secret headliners of the festival and the reason for me to be there in the first place. For the whole day the predominant t-shirt logo was that of Bloodbath. And while we thought that during Sabaton's gig the amphitheater was quite packed, we now learned how many people the location can really hold. The anticipation in the last minutes before the concert rose to a level of ecstasy. Chants of "Bloodbath, Bloodbath!" greeted the guys when they finally appeared. And as soon as the first note of 'Ways To The Grave' was struck, this ecstasy boiled over into the very definition of chaos as the whole audience went ballistic in front of Mikael Åkerfeldt and his rat pack of death. Other than in their appearance in Wacken 2005, this time they passed on the bloody look and appeared in casual dress, only Mikael in a leather jacket: "I'm dressed up as a metal dude. All it takes is this jacket. The name of this band is Bloodbath". In contrast to the mostly nonsensical announcements during Opeth shows, today he explained the origins of some songs and the band in general. "When we started this band, it was meant to be a joke. Maybe it still is." His usual assumed modesty gave these announcements a funny, almost satirical touch.
They played an awesome set, featuring tracks of every album and EP. Old groovy tunes like 2002's 'Like Fire', classic death numbers like 'Soul Evisceration' and a good deal of songs from their latest, more progressive album The Fathomless Mastery. After about 70 minutes, the magic was over and so was, for many of us, the very headliner show of the festival. What remains is one of the best concert memories of my life and a neck pain that is just out of this world. Even three days later.
Ways to the Grave
Process of Disillumination
Mouth of Empty Praise
Cancer of the Soul
Mock the Cross
Outnumbering the Day
The Devil's Blood
Now what the hell? The organizers of the festival had already responded to the immense number of complaints about Bloodbath playing before The Devil's Blood and not afterward. They announced that apparently after TDB played on a stage no band can take that stage anymore (without further explanation). TDB were now announced as the best band they had come across in the last ten years and we were told they would deliver the most energetic of shows. We'd be seeing about that.
Apparently the fact that a band has three guitars is so awesome that it earns them a headliner slot no matter what (popular examples claim to prove this point). As far as The Devil's Blood go, it seems they only need three guitars because two of their players don't know how to handle them. Imagine two guitar players that each grip one chord at the beginning of a song and then just strike that once with every beat. You got it? Welcome to The Devil's Blood! The third guy obviously had seen a guitar before, so he knew how to change chords even while playing and surprisingly even could tap a solo or two. Now my conception of an 'energetic' show might differ from that of the RHF organizers' but mine involves a modicum of musician movement. If The Devil's Blood have a degree in music, they have certainly majored in immobility. Since the guitar works were so demanding I forgive the guitar players for being too concentrated to move around but their singer Farida Lemouchi can instantly freeze and hibernate like a wax figurine for half an hour. While this doesn't exactly kill the boredom of the show, I guess at least it deserves some respect. All this does render the show an awfully static experience though.
Within the first 1.5 hours of TDB's show, roughly half the audience was gone. Most of the remaining people we spoke to only stayed because they wanted to see what exactly the band would do to the stage to leave it useless to other bands. And so we endured under the pressure of volumes turned up so far that it hurt despite my 15dB linearly dampening professional earplugs.
After 2.5 excruciating hours they finished and left the stage. And guess what? The stage looked exactly as before. The only thing that was destroyed was the excitement in the crowd.
Day 2 (pictures on official website):
I first heard of Germany's power metal formation Orden Ogan when they were announced for The WOA 2010. Looking into them I was surprised how power metal that solid can remain unnoticed that long. After all their first CD was released in 2004 and by now has two follow-up releases. Now here they were to open the second day of RHF 2010 and give a taste of their work. After last night's disappointment, a surprisingly big crowd was up and willing to endure the even fiercer sun today. They were royally entertained by the five good-humored guys who played a very solid set and left the crowd after a little over 30 minutes screaming for more. What a party to start the second day with.
UK's Thrash hope Evile are back. It took them only three months after the sudden death of their bassist Mike Alexander to replace him with the new man, Joel Graham. Just one month after that they went on a big tour through Europe and were now taking the stage in Gelsenkirchen Germany to ignite what should become the thrash day of the festival. Evile were in a good mood and immediately took over the audience. Unfortunately their 45 minutes set was disturbed by a few technical difficulties. The guitar of frontman Matt Drake seemed to have a loose contact and so the wireless transmission randomly skipped, sometimes for seconds. Unfortunately the crew couldn't get on top of this and the band had to continue to play with what they had. But they didn't loose their mood and turned this bad luck into a few nice stage jokes. A real fun show. I'm looking forward to seeing these guys again.
Who? That's right. Unless you were actively following Italy's Thrash scene in the early 80's you should have as much a clue about this band as we had when they entered the stage (Wait a minute, Italy has a thrash scene..?). Not expecting anything we were overwhelmed by the element of surprise. Bulldozer are a massive tank of thrash. Their charismatic frontman Alberto Contini appeared in a priest outfit and preached his vulgar and socially-critical lyrics from his lectern. That's right, he has a lectern on stage. All the while his band bombarded the crowd with thrash metal almost as fierce as today's sun. This day more and more turned into party day. Bulldozer were thoroughly enjoyable. I will definitely look into them.
The clock neared 4 p.m. and the ranks slowly started to fill. It was time for Denmark's Thrash giants Artillery. I don't know why but these guys didn't reach me. After the first three furious shows they just didn't have anything new to offer. This didn't keep a solid number of their fans from having a blast in front of the stage. And from what one fan told me afterward they played a really awesome set. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for their screamy sound, but I will definitely give them a second chance when the time comes.
5 p.m. About this time I realized how badly I had put my sunscreen on in the morning. Without realizing it I had burned both of my hands and several spots on my arms and head. The Rhein-Herne Kanal (Rhine-Herne channel) behind the stage seemed to reflect the sunlight worse than we expected. Anyway, quickly bought a hat and then it was time for Raven. Announced as the major influence for bands such as Rage, Sodom or Warlock, these guys were about to teach us a few lessons in NWOBHM history. And they did. Welcomed by a huge number of old fans and a no less enthusiastic young crowd, Raven showed us how to party 80's style. Not exactly my music but the show was awesome.
That's what I'm talking about. I'm not even that much of thrash fan but I can't say no to a good live show either. And Exhorder definitely delivered. Their exclusive reunion show (in Germany) appeared to be long awaited by a huge number of fans. Unfortunately, their merchandiser brought all of eleven t-shirts to the festival so that many fans I talked to were already disappointed when the show started. But in the end it was the music that counted and Exhorder do know how to fight on that front. One hour later an exhausted but happy wave of thrashers stormed upstairs to conquer the beer booths. Nice show, through an through.
Accept are reunited. No they're not. Oh wait, now they are. That's about all I've heard about them in the last years. In 2005 they already played this festival to celebrate their reunion. In the same year, only a few months later I've seen their goodbye show in Wacken. Back then Udo Dirkschneider was still singing and many classics were enjoyed by a crowd of roughly 30.000 people. Today they're back with a new singer as one of the headliners of the RHF. I never listened to Accept other than in clubs and bars. So when I heard the new singer I made the mistake of thinking aloud: "He sounds just like Dirkschneider". What followed, besides evil looks by all the people around me, was a discussion (and it's not like I had anything of value to say really) about Dirkschneider and 'the new guy'. Apparently, even among the fans that are happy Accept reunited, poor Mark Tornillo is held in pretty low esteem. I still enjoyed their set and I stick to my conviction that he doesn't sound so much different than Udo. And their show was a blast. In the end the music is what matters. And I guess Accept never get old.
The only band of the day that I would consider myself a fan of. Long overcome are the experimental times of Endorama and the preceding albums, today Kreator thrash it like it's hot again. "The Kreator has returned!". Indeed. And the set it has with it is just killer. We, the fans voted for our favorite songs and there they were. Amongst them a few I handn't heard live yet such as 'The Pestilence' or 'When The Sun Burns Red'. Kreator just never disappoint live. And this show was the perfect way to end a day full of surprises and party. This time the amphitheater did not empty during the final show. And when we all thought that, as usual, 'Flag Of Hate' would be the final song, 'Tormentor' showed us all that this show indeed was a special one. "The Kreator will return!". And it will be welcomed.
Choir Of The Damned
Hordes Of Chaos
Enemy Of God
Pleasure To Kill
Coma Of Souls
When The Sun Burns Red
Flag Of Hate
Day 3 (pictures on official website):
Did I mention how hot the sun burned down on us? On the third and final day of the RHF 2010, Sacred Steel declared the bazaar open with more humor than music. Nobody I met had ever heard of them and they didn't care a bit. Starting with a few fun songs and announcements that Opeth should study for their next tour, the five Germans got completely lost in their own show. "What? Oh, my bad. I thought this was another song, let's just start over" right in the middle of a song, a few added mistakes and a singer who preferred to sing from offstage because he wanted to be in the sun were enough to win the crowd over. And so there was a band on stage and a singer in the middle of the crowd taking pictures, drinking beer and oh, he sang too. At least until he forgot which verse they were at. I seldom had that much fun on a festival show. What a great way to start the day.
Keep Of Kalessin
While usually I don't like folky sounds, I must say that on this day I even enjoyed 'The Dragontower'. And thoroughly! Keep Of Kalessin used their 40 minutes to turn the amphitheater into a black metal temple. Playing mostly songs from Reptilian and Kolossus, the only albums I know of them, I was pretty happy with the show. Other fans complained about the lack of diversity though and I can't blame them. Still these guys gave me exactly what I needed. Black metal with just enough melody to suit my party state of mind. A very solid show. Way too short? Sure. But awesome none the less.
The reason you've never heard of Crashdïet is that they're playing glam metal. And they're not some resurrected mid 70's band but were founded in 2000. As many other people I found them a bit out of context there. But they had a number of fans there and their lead singer (apparently a new one because the old one committed suicide) knew how to keep his lot entertained. I still remained underwhelmed. And if it hadn't been for the awesome performances before and my resulting good mood I probably wouldn't have seen them till the end. As things were, I did. And their crazy appearance and stage performance at least made me laugh here and there. A solid show, just not my music.
Israel's progressive folk combo was one of the bands that I was really looking forward to. And even though they played all of 36 minutes I still enjoyed my first time of seeing them live. Unfortunately, as one of their roadies told us, Shlomit Levi, the female singer only comes to concerts in Israel and Turkey. So Kobi himself was doing the vocals in 'Sapari' and they just cut 'The Kiss Of Babylon' when her part would have started. But they were in a great mood ("My name is not Jesus Christ, it's Kobi") and now I have a signed Orphaned Land poster that is dedicated to me in right-to-left letters that I can't begin to decipher
On the first day we met two nice guys that we had barbecue, a late-night talk and a lot of fun with. Both beyond 40 it turned out one of their most anticipated bands was USA's Virgin Steele who were announced to play a "classic metal set". I've never heard of the band and didn't know their music. But they had a surprisingly large crowd and one of the best heavy metal singers I've ever seen. And they do know how to party. 45 minutes of solid heavy metal were just enough to relax and calm down before the next storm would come upon us.
Like the new album or don't. Nevermore never fail to amaze. And I don't get tired seeing them. For my 8th time now they had a real surprise for me. A new man on the second guitar. It turned out that I was the only guy on the whole festival who hadn't heard the news yet. This Attilla Mowgli Voros apparently worked with Warrel Dane on Praises To The War Machine and seeing how good he is, they decided to take him on tour with them. And boy that man is good. Put him into The Devil's Blood and all their three guitar players are jobless. The times of mourning the loss of Steve Smyth are finally over (at least live, his contribution to their studio sound will be missed forever). Nevermore played the usual mix of old and new songs. And while most songs in the set remain pretty constant over time, it's the few old ones they use to tickle us with. This time it was 'Beyond Within' they opened with, which set the whole crowd on fire. Amongst other classics and established live songs such as 'Born', 'This Godless Endeavor', 'Inside Four Walls' and 'The Heart Collector' they also played four songs of the new album. Namely The 'Termination Proclamation', 'Your Poison Throne', 'Emptiness Unobstructed' and the title track. Just as Sabaton two days before, Nevermore realized that most of us already knew the songs and started singing along right away. And even though there was a mutual agreement amongst us fans that the new album isn't nearly a match for anything back to at least 'Dreaming Neon Black', these new songs work surprisingly well live. Seems they just picked the right ones. With a little overtime they finnished with Enemies Of Reality and were off. And my neck screaming in agony.
After the head-banging explosion that was Nevermore I thought some solid power tunes to relax to is just the right thing. But Sonata Arctica once again failed to excite me. I don't know many of their songs and what I know is mostly old stuff. And this being the fourth time I've seen them I'm forced to assume that the stuff I don't know is all ballads. Also, for some reason, they didn't have a sound as good as the other bands. Maybe they brought their own crew and they screwed up but I was lying pretty much right in front of the stage and I could hardly hear the guitar. They played a few old songs and many new ones. But after the energy that Nevermore conveyed to an overcrowded amphitheater, Sonata Arctica just didn't do it for me. They had pretty few fans there so they were handicapped in terms of atmosphere but I think with a few more fast songs much of that could have been made up for. This way it was a little boring and overall not that different from the other times I've seen them. Nothing really bad but nothing amazing either.
Rage & Lingua Mortis Orchestra
The final notes of this festival should be the ones of Rage and their Lingua Mortis Orchestra. I've seen parts of this show before and it was amazing. This time Viktor Smolski truly outdid himself. The amphitheater was literally filled up to the last spot after half an hour of an intermission by Mambo Kurt. And when the first violin sounds came through the speakers, the whole place was filled with cheer and ecstasy. Rage prepared a few new songs that were never played live in this constellation before such as 'Empty Hollow' from their latest album, a few others I didn't know and many classics and medleys. But the amazing thing was not the show alone but the atmosphere in the amphitheater. Because the orchestra needed the extra space they had to take away the background curtain and the band played right in front of the Rein-Herne Kanal with incredible lighting and sound. Just like for Kreator the day before, this concert in Gelsenkirchen was kind of a home match for Rage since his area of Germany, called 'Ruhrpott', is the home to both bands. But more than Kreator, Rage expressed their deep gratitude to their home crowd and played a show as emotional as one can imagine. I couldn't think of a better way to end a festival like this and 7000 people that night seemed to agree with me. The chants for an encore continued long after the band was gone and even almost an hour later you could still hear people sing the songs here and there.
All in all I have to say I'm amazed. The setting the Rock Hard Team chose for their festival is truly unique and the job they do delivering the best sound I've heard on festivals should be something for many big players in the scene to take a close look and learn. Apart from a few organizational problems that don't belong here we returned home four really tired but really happy metalheads. We've seen Bloodbath, enjoyed Orphaned Land, killed ourselves to Nevermore and Kreator and had a lot of fun with bands we hadn't even heard about.
And on a personal note, not only did I finally meet and talk to my idols from Nevermore who signed one of my t-shirts, I also got a hug from Warrel Dane
Guest article disclaimer:
This is a guest article, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
This is a guest article, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
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