Rock Hard Festival 2011 - Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 10th - 12th June 2011
|Event:||Rock Hard Festival 2011|
Rock Hard Festival 2011 - Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 10-12 June 2011 by corrupt (49)
On the second weekend of June 2011, the ninth edition of the Rock Hard Festival, organized by the homonymous magazine, took place at its usual location, the Amphitheatre in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Limited in size to 7000 attendees and thriving on the good scene-contacts of the Rock Hard Magazine and their careful selection of bands, this edition once more established the festival's position as the insider's tip in Germany. Three days and 22 bands would guarantee to rape both neck and throat equally, while flooding the ears with some of the finest music out there.
Despite being limited to just one stage, the Rock Hard Festival usually features a well thought out selection of different bands, both well known players and up-and-comers among them. This year, the ratio was shifted a little far to power metal and its relatives, which might be one of the reasons that this edition wasn't sold out. But there were enough bands on the bill to make up for that and-then-some. Iced Earth, Enslaved, Down, Amorphis and Triptykon are just some of the names that awaited us in a scenery way out of any competition.
Follow me here through three days of party, awesome and less awesome music and quite a few surprises.
The band's view on things.
Behold the amazing amphitheatre...
...one of the best festival scenes out there.
German metallers Contradiction had the honor of opening this year's RHF with a selection of their teutonic thrash that a good number of people were out to enjoy. Their set was enjoyable but didn't have anything of value for me. The sound was good and a decent number of people were celebrating in front of the stage. I guess had I known a song or two the show would have been as exciting for me as it apparently was for some of the people around me. Still, I always enjoy the first band of a festival and Contradiction with their solid show was no exeption.
Next up: Chile's doom outfit Procession. Doom metal is inherently hard to transport if the audience is not already into it. Procession did their best to create an atmosphere and delivered their set with great fun and enthusiasm. I did enjoy the show despite the rain, which is to be attributed in part to the good sound that is the Rock Hard Festival trademark. Fans of the band had a good time all around me and the weather did its best to support the atmosphere. Overall a really good performance by a quite decent band.
This Postmortem is not the Iranian band featured on Metal Storm but a German death/thrash combo from Berlin. They started their set with some mediocre *core influenced death from their recent albums which got me bored pretty quickly. After a while I sat down and watched them from a distance. They were really enthusiastic though. With a great, charismatic singer who really knew how to handle his audience. Things got interesting when they started playing older stuff. Some of the lyrics now were German and they used things like an old bomb siren for effects on stage. Also the song structures got more complex and so the rest of the set got really enjoyable. In the end I was standing again and enjoying "Der Todmacher" and other classics of theirs.
Announced as the underground band of today, the five Irishmen took the stage and dragged their audience to the ancient realms of their songs. Here, for the first time the sound was awful. I moved around the stage to find a better spot but wherever I went, I could hardly hear the guitars. Mr. Averill on the other hand was so loud that the singing was borderline annoying. I haven't had much experience with Primordial before but on that day I wished he would growl or shriek instead of sing. But that aside, the show was amazing. It was my first time seeing them so I wasn't expecting much, but their setlist and their devotion really set the crowd on fire. And the weather was warm and sunny for them too. If it hadn't been for the sound problems, that show would have been one of the highlights of that day.
I guess this comes as no surprise when I say that Enslaved were my headliners of this festival. That is why I was pretty annoyed when I found out that, just like Bloodbath the year before, Enslaved wouldn't get the headliner slot of this day. Somehow it's impossible to catch this band on a regular tour when you live in Germany. So the second time in my life I would see them, would be the second festival show of just over an hour in length. By far not enough for a band of this caliber. I'd be hard-pressed not to think this show was just incredible. They used "Axioma" for their intro and then started their set with "Ethica Odini." The show was beyond amazing. They played a really good selection of old and new songs. Even "Allfadr Odinn" from their very first EP in 1993. The whole setting was mind blowing. After a few songs, the sky got overcast and wind was coming up, blowing the stage fog all around, giving the show a truly stormy atmosphere while the band pulled one awesome song after another. Even the sound was good, and we were standing in the second row!
Unfortunately, they had the most unthankful audience of the whole festival. Everywhere around us, people were complaining and whining about the band itself and softer parts of songs. This was really not deserving of the magnificence we witnessed. A show that I will remember for a long time, not least for the insane neck and throat pain it left me with.
As I already mentioned, I was pissed about this lineup order. Triptykon had one album and one EP out while Enslaved were looking at a whole catalog of 11 albums and 4 EPs. I sure as hell thought more people would come to see Enslaved than this band. But I was proven wrong. Before the concert even started, the whole amphitheater was packed with people. And Triptykon, as I could well have expected, didn't just play their new songs. Instead this was a combined show of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Triptykon. And an amazing one to say the least. They threw out classics like "Circle Of The Tyrants" at an early time so they had enough room to surprise us with two old Hellhammer songs they never played live before. This was Warrior's way to apologize for the cancellation of a Celtic Frost show that should have taken place right there a few years ago. It started to rain as the sky went dark halfway through their set which gave this show the same godly atmosphere we had seen before.
After 90 minutes and an insanely prolonged "The Prolonging," the show came to its end. The perfect finish for an awesome festival day.
Procreation Of The Wicked (Celtic Frost)
Circle Of The Tyrants (Celtic Frost)
Babylon Fell (Celtic Frost)
Abyss Withing My Soul (Triptykon)
The Third Of The Storms (Hellhammer)
Triumph Of Death (Hellhammer)
Synagoga Satanae (Celtic Frost)
The Prolonging (Triptykon)
Up to greet us on Saturday morning were Dreamshade from Switzerland. A few people were there to watch their show which turned out to be random Gothenburg stuff. Frankly, during the whole show I was reminded of Emergency Gate, not as much for their music but for their stage appearance. This didn't give me anything. But they turned out to be quite likable guys and the exclusive use of the singular in all announcements was interesting. "We love you guy", don't ask me which one. Their audience looked like mostly between 16 and 18 years old which seemed to be reflecting the band perfectly, as they told us about their missing keyboarder who had to study for some school exams. All in all it was an unimpressive, not very inspiring show. But not the worst either.
With the strangest intro I've ever heard on a concert (some strangely singing woman), In Solitude entered the stage with a few pretty boring songs. After some of them, they sped up a little and things got more interesting, but not at all in a really positive way. It appears the band would be equally good without their singer, who has an annoyingly monotone style of singing that was putting me off more than anything else. But that didn't seem to matter for the unexpectedly large number of people seeing them. And in the end even I had to admit that they're a pretty solid band. Not exactly my ball game but still mildly entertaining.
German death metallers Disbelief were up next and grabbed me from minute one. They had some sound problems in the beginning that were quickly resolved and after that the show was just fun. Metal Storm has them categorized as Sludge Death Metal which is pretty accurate seeing how easy it was to get into their songs and mosh with the crowd. Some of the songs they played were "Sick," "Hate/Aggression Schedule," and "Navigator." I knew not one but still enjoyed the hell out of that set. A really cool show that makes one want more.
No need to introduce Epica. One of the better female fronted symphonic bands out there. This second time I've seen them live wasn't much different from the first one. Epica definitely sound better on stage than they do on tape. The growls are varied to shrieks at times, and the overall music sounds harder and is more in the foreground. Also Simone sings parts you would expect to be sampled in a live show which always leaves me more than impressed by her talent. The band was in a good mood, presented a fine selection of old and new songs and were doing their best to talk German to this German crowd. Unfortunately they had to face an audience of school kids (as it seemed) and drunken idiots that couldn't think of a better reaction to this really awesome show than to shout "Ausziehen!" (undress!) all the time and complain about female fronted bands in a manner so that many people would see (and hear) how kvlt they are. This couldn't prevent me from enjoying songs like "Last Crusade", "The Obsessive Devotion" or "Cry For The Moon" though. For "Unleashed," even the sun broke through the clouds and Simone displayed her impressive windmill-headbanging skills to a similar wind-setting Enslaved had the day before. Had they not finished five minutes early after prolonging their last song by about three, this would have been a really awesome set. But it seems they could easily have fitted one or two more songs into that slot so I was a little disappointed in the end. Still the show was great and I'll make sure to catch them again if I can.
Sweden's hard rock outfit Bullet took the stage next, were greeted by an almost full amphitheater and started a fire right away. Throughout their whole show, the mood was set to party. People were singing along, dancing along and celebrating what seemed like hit single after hit single in the 45 minutes of this set. I couldn't help but feel like had Valentin B been there, a lot of his epic masturbation would have been had. For me this is still not the right kind of music. But enjoyable during such a show none the less.
The secret headliners of the festival were now to enter the stage. 14 years after they disbanded, Morgoth were finally back with three of the guys from the lineup that recorded the legendary Cursed. Not as full as during Bullet's show but still quite packed, the amphitheater celebrated these legends like they were never gone. Morgoth will play some other festivals this season and I challenge them all to beat this atmosphere. The band was in a perfect mood and the sound was incredible. Exactly what I needed after the two relatively soft bands than preceded them.
I can't recall how many times I've written about an Amorphis show now. They never get boring. Unfortunately, I didn't know their most recent album The Beginning Of Times yet, so there were plenty of songs I didn't know, but all of them were executed perfectly. Just when they entered the stage, the sun came through the clouds (prompting the band to play "Sky Is Mine") and they delivered the rest of their show lit by the sunset of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Having seen them quite a number of times, I would like them to play a more diverse set every once in a while. They played mostly songs of their latest two albums, accompanied by a few obligatory ones like "House Of Sleep." In the more than five minutes they finished early it seems they could easily have played "Black Winter Day" or "Better Unborn" that they at least play on a regular set. All in all the show was great, as expected, a few more songs and a little variety and it would have been perfect.
What can I say. Iced Earth on their final tour with Matt Barlow, this time for real. Everyone was there, the whole festival was attending. And the show that was presented to them was incredible. It started to rain pretty soon and unfortunately, unlike the other times, I did not make it under the tent of the stage in time. So I got really wet and cold after not even a third of the show (and developed a huge cold that knocked me out for three days the following week, thank you). Matt, Jon and the rest of the band were in the best mood and had prepared a really special and really emotional setlist for this. The 90 minutes just flew by, with a sound that was out of this world and a singer that was singing as if it had been his final show on earth. This was only the second time I've seen them and the last time had been with Tim Owens on vocals. But let me tell you, this was one of the most magnificent shows I've seen in my life. Everything was right here and after this awesomeness, we sat awake for a long time that night dwelling in joy.
Setlist Iced Earth:
Vengeance Is Mine
Watching Over Me
I Died for You
Travel in Stygian
Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
Birth Of The Wicked
The Coming Curse
Netherlands' Vanderbuyst attracted a huge amount of people despite the early hour and thanked them with awesome sound and lots of fun. Again not my music, to which the fact that Vanderbuyst only have one guitar didn't exactly attribute in a positive manner. But I can't say no to a good show either. And Vanderbuyst had a few tricks up their sleeve. Most notably their two background singers. The girls looked more 60's than anything else and were a nice, and certainly unexpected gimmick. But their music quickly started to bore me. Three instruments just aren't enough to create a sound complex enough to remain interesting for more than a few songs. The show was OK, especially at first, but in the end just had nothing to support its initial claim. Solid rock, nothing more. But at least played by a really authentic band that is absolutely into it.
When I said that In Solitude had a strange intro the day before, I hadn't seen Enforcer yet. They just played "Diamonds And Rust" by Judas Priest in its entirety from tape before they entered the stage. That provoked a few irritated looks here and there. When they started to play, the only thing I heard was typical Swedish hair metal. Much like Crashdïet last year, they didn't touch me at all with their generic structures and simple harmonies. And they lacked the energy and the looks to make up for it. I was disappointed.
Whatever epic metal is, Atlantean Kodex were announced to play it. And what it turned out to be was mild heavy/doom with clean vocals. Early Manowar comes to mind, not in the least for their lyrics. But live this mix didn't quite spark, especially if you didn't know the songs. They were insanely long at times and went back and forth between slow and faster parts. This is hard to transport, no question. But not having heard anything of these guys and not knowing even one song I was just mildly entertained. Their set was certainly impressive, but didn't really catch me.
Just when I started to give up on this day that had turned out to be a mediocre-power-metal fest so far, there were Metal Inquisitor to save the day. These Germans might not be known around Metal Storm. But they are a name in the German power metal scene and have, in their 13 years of existence, put out three full-lengths, one live album and quite a number of EPs. But these guys aren't full-time musicians and that turned out to be their greatest selling point. They had so much fun on stage that it was igniting even the last guy in the crowd. And their show was simply awesome. A really authentic band with just as much fun on stage as the crowd had in front of it, fantastic sound and the best announcements: "As you can see, there's no banner. Well, we ordered one, but it wasn't delivered in time. So please imagine a huge banner right here", that was their spirit. Finally some decent power metal and some of the high points of this day.
Next up, Anacrusis from St. Louis, Missouri. A technical thrash band reminiscent of Machine Head, at least live. Their sound brought a refreshing change to the monotony of power/heavy/hair bands this day had seen so far (not counting Metal Inquisitor of course). Again the sound was great and, not mentioned before, so was the weather that day. Under the burning sun, Anacrusis delivered their classics to a most welcoming audience as if they had never been gone. They didn't have much to say but that just kept the atmosphere alive. Don't miss this band if you get a chance to see them. They won't disappoint.
Anyone following the lineup of this festival might have realized the disappearance of Agent Steel, a band I would have loved to see. Unfortunately they had to cancel and instead, Vicious Rumors were announced. At first I didn't know what to think of this. But when they started to play five minutes early (!) so they could play one song more, most of my doubts were swept away already. And what followed was a really emotional show by a band that had more downs than ups in their career but never gave up on their music. "With Scorpions and Priest both saying goodbye, our arms will be open to you guys forever" was one of the first announcements. And they meant it. Their show was a fest of blastbeats and speed, delivered to a huge audience, by a crowd-surfing singer and a grateful Geoff Thorpe who looked as happy as if he was playing his very first concert. This show definitely was one I won't soon forget. Authentic and full of energy.
Can somebody please explain to me the hype about Overkill? I've seen them often enough now to know most of their refrains by heart without ever hearing them on CD, but I never got these masses of people at their concerts. Don't get me wrong, I love their shows. I'm simply astonished every time I see them, how big an audience they attract. Practically the whole festival was here to see them. So were the background girls from Vanderbuyst and Jon Schaffer, who was watching the first part of the show from the side of the stage. Overkill played a special show that night, including the never before played live "The Beast Within" and "Death Rider" from their 1993 demo Power In Black. Bobby Blitz didn't stand still for one second and used every break between two songs to emphasize that "we're doing this together." The show was just as great as the other times I've seen them. They had their audience on a short leash from note one and delivered all of their material with awesome sound and special emphasis on the bass. Great show - as usual.
I don't even know where to start. Last year my personal highlight was the show of Bloodbath, one of these supergroups that only get together for a tour every few years. This year, that supergroup was Down. They started a couple of minutes late and finished a couple of minutes early, but between that, there was a show of incredible grandeur and emotion. Phil Anselmo is a beast on stage. Despite his stricken voice on that day, he, his band, and tour bassist Patrick Bruders delivered the show that was the highlight of the day and the entire festival. Seeing these songs live gives them the dynamics and the organic feel that is sometimes lacking on their recordings. And Phil, in his typical American, overly thankful way, made the show as entertaining as it was already mesmerizing: "We're doing techno now. Has anyone heard the new Morbid Angel?". Again, the 90 minutes just flew by, and the darker the sky got, the more atmosphere we had in the amphitheater. It almost seemed as intimate as a 100 people concert in a small club. And as if it was the most common thing in the world, Phil interrupted songs at will and had the band start over again: "Wait, wait, wait. This is stupid! Why is my band standing here, looking like they were playing some sort of technical death metal? We need more jam here!". After the last song, "Bury Me In Smoke," Phil just couldn't leave the stage. He toyed around with the crew, has us sing Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" and took pictures of the crowd with the band in the foreground. We stayed until the very final note had died and then just a little longer to grasp more of that perfect atmosphere. What a perfect way to end a great festival.
My second visit to this festival will remain in the same good memory as the first one. This time we were camping instead of living in a hotel so we had access to the campground to party with the other guests. Apart from the weirdest (and most impractical) showers I've seen at a festival yet and shortage of good toilets, the organization was quite OK. For some reason, the security personnel was drunk for at least one day so there have been reports of some unpunished misdoings. But in general, the atmosphere was really peaceful and friendly. This festival will see me quite a number of times in the future.
Special thanks go out to Jörg Müller from the-pit.de for his permission to use a few of his excellent photos from the festival.
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