June 2-4, 2017, Amphitheater Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Once again: let’s go to Rock Hard Festival! And once again you should take the trip on Thursday if you really want to see all the bands. The Friday traffic is a mess.
I make it to see most of Mantar but well, I have seen them 3-4 times before. Their Black-Doom-Punk however is still attractive, in a destructive way. The songs I recognize are Cross the Cross, Era Borealis and White Nights, and the audience is in party mood already. I even spot some crowd surfers.
The Dead Daisies feat. Doug Aldrich and John Corabi are not quite unknown to me, yet I had never really listened to their Hardrock.
They start with Long Way to go followed by Mexico, and you can feel the fun they have on stage. Singer Corabi impresses the girls in the first row with Jack Sparrow look. Make some Noise is the title track of their latest album and a really groovy hit song. Fortunate Son is the first of several covers incl. Some Who, Beatles and Grand Funk Railroad songs.
Chopin’s funeral march introduces my personal highlight of this day, Candlemass. Those Swedish doom pioneers begin with Born in a Tank from their first album, followed by Bewitched. Their Nightfall album celebrates a 30 year anniversary, and just like it is en vogue right now in the metal scene, the 20+ albums are featured in special gigs or even full tours. Same here, yet I notice that most of the songs are from the Ancient Dreams album and they even skip the most important song from the Nightfall album – noSamarithan? WTF? The Well of Souls, Dark are the Veils of Death, Under the oak and At the Gallows End – great songs without question, and Leven, Björkman, Johansson and Lindh deliver a great show, but without Samariter it’s somwhat ……stale. Finally there are also the usual Mirror, Mirror, Crystal Ball and the obligatory Solitude before Doom time is over. Sad.
Why Blues Pills have today’s Headliner Slot is not quite clear. Surely they make good music, but when comparing the importance of Blues Pills versus Candlemass, the Pills definitely don’t make it. As I have seen them many times before and feel a bit hungry, I prefer the food area and return for the encores. Devil Man and the Jefferson Airplane Cover Somebody to love. Was good.
The Saturday begins for me with Ketzer who entertain a slightly hangoverish looking audience with “When Milk runs dry” from their latest album Starless. A quite appealing gig for this early hour.
The Night Flight Orchestra afterwards take the crowd by storm. Björn ‘Speed’ Strid of Soilwork, Sharlee D’Angelo and more members of Mean Streak and Soilwork play easy going AOR Rock by scavenging anything from this genre: Toto, Saga, Journey and Survivor – every song rings a bell somehow. Absolutely great.
Martin van Drunen and Asphyx follow next with brutal attacks: “Vermin”, “Death – the brutal Way”, “MS Bismarck”, “Scorbutics” and naturally “The Rack”. Van Drunen and his statements between amused and angry are as aggressive as drummer Husky’s beats.
Once again Exodus without Gary Holt because of his Slayer duties, but his replacement is a quite capable six string wizard. The main men of the show are anyway Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza and Lee Altus. Now the pit is indeed full and who wants to get from A to B can only try crowdsurfing, to a soundtrack incl. “Bonded by Blood”, “…and then there were none”, “Pleasures of the Flesh”, “Blacklist” and the toxic waltz. A massive amount of crowdsurfing, might have been a festival record.
Have seen this huge sofa before – wasn’t that part of the D.A.D. show last time at RHF, and not such a long time ago? The Danes always deliver joyful Hardrock, and once again today. The basser impresses with his collection of weird guitars, e.g. one that has only 2 strings and looks like a rocket.
What a contrast to D.A.D. Colorful stage with the headliner Behemoth. Total darkness, a cold blue-green stage light, and the band seems to be from Middle Earth and not Poland. Quite atmospheric and ambient the music, Nergal and his Uruks unleash several unholy hymns: “Blow your Trumpets, Gabriel”; “Amen”, “The Satanist”, “In the Absence ov Light”, “Oh Father, Oh Satan, Oh Sun” and more.
On Sunday the long-lasting admission proceedings keep many from watching Night Demon, and I do not understand why the press cannot enter through the side door like in previous years. Would not be a big issue as a security person has to be there anyway for checking anybody passing through. Well, too late, and what I heard – also the audience reactions – the gig must have been a good one. Blood Ceremony afterwards are nice, but not more to say, same for Secrets of the Moon.
I have been looking forward to Demon and somehow it has never worked out to see those Brits live. “Night of the Demon” opens the set which cannot contain all the hits due to limited play time. Thus they focus on the first two albums, unfortunately, I had wished for material from the “Taking the World by Storm” album. We get “Into the Nightmare”, “Sign of a Madman” and also “Don’t break the circle”. Good. More traditonal than Demon are Ross the Boss giving an epic feel to Amphitheater. The performance is not quite as bombastic as the music because the singer following Mike Cotoia cannoit deliver the same voice range. Yet Marc Lopez has charisma to show off in this hour of Manowar Classics! Naturally not everybody can be pleased, but “Fighting the World” could have been left out. The rest of the set list is a feast for the ears: “Death Tone”, “The Oath”, “Blood of my Enemies”,”Thor (the Powerhead)”, “Sign of the Hammer” and naturally “Battle Hymn” – I got so into shouting along that I totally forgot about taking photos. But hey, a great gig!
Fates Warning afterwards are rather listened to than watched as I got hungry, but I got to see a bit from a distance. The band is good, I just don’t know the new material so well to connect to. The audience liked it, though. Udo Dirkschneider…… seems to be playing the same set list for 8 years, and it does not matter whether U.D.O. or Dirkschneider, everyone just wants to hear the old Accept songs. And those are delivered, and naturally it is good, but I had my share of “Princess of the Dawn”, “Breaker”, “Fast as a shark” and “Balls to the Wall”. “Restless and wild” is a song I always enjoy, though.
Well, Opeth deliver the same grandesse as 2 years ago at Summer Breeze, and back then I was totally sober – this time it is not the case. Unfortunately. I can recognise “Ghost of Perdition” and in between a bashing a’la Napalm Death. Oh, that was a “You suffer” Cover. Quite a joker, this Akerfeldt. And well, I recognize the last one, “Deliverance”.
All in All once again a fantastic festival, only my wallet was suffering heavily. Beer prices were way too high indeed. Everything else was OK, but in general festival survival has become more expensive. I can only recommend not to buy anything. And I remember a (no longer active) band from Coventry who sold their shirts for 10-15 bucks. That’s a way to do it.
More photos in our gallery here.
Photos: Björn Schmiterlöw