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Rock Hard Festival 2013

The Rock Hard Festival has become one of the most important in the German Metal scene and for me it´s the festival highlight of every year. Because of the billing that usually offers great bands, and also in its 11th year Götz Kühnemund and his Rock Hard Crew offer a fantastic package. The Whitsun weekend saw more than 20 bands, the headliner King Diamond and about 7.000 peaceful fans.

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And at least during the festival days the weather gods were merciful, yet not on the Thursday before where fans almost drowned in their tents.

Friday, May 17, 2013
In comfortable weather situation and during the sunny hours of the day, HELLISH CROSSFIRE opened festival Friday .

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AUDREY HORNE impressed the Metal crowd and inspired fans and not-fans with their snotty rock. The only weakness of their show was with the females in the audience – meaning, the females suddenly discovered their soft spot for this band and especially its front man. The guys performed well-known old and some new songs and literally warmed up the crowd, so that the atmosphere got better and better. (GW)

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All gear packed for Gelsenkirchen, I was looking forward to the first festival of this summer season. On the road I played King (Diamond), Candlemass, Desaster, Machine Head and Slayer – what a day! Hours later I finally reach Nordsternpark, exhausted from waiting hour after hour in a traffic jam (I even wished I had come Thursday already despite the bad weather). Then I finally get to meet colleague Wegener for the first time, and after setting up my tent as quickly as possible, I´m ready to ramble.
It´s only the final 3-4 songs of the Audrey Horne gig I get to hear, but the Norwegans drew a lot of people to the Amphitheater and got the headbangers busy. Finally among normal people!

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Ashes of Ares
offer a world premiere, because the band members of this new super group should be well known to Metal people: Matt Barlow (v) and Freddie Vidales (g), former Iced Earth, plus Van Williams (dr), former Nevermore, plus Gio Geraca of Malevolent Creation and Dean Sternberg. The band – so I heard – was really nervous and you could see it as bad omen that in the beginning of the first song the microphone refused to work. This problem was solved in a minute and Ashes of Ares were dealing professionally with such matters – even though it´s the first gig ever. As you could only listen to a few teasers before, I cannot tell which songs they played, but one thing was clear: Ashes of Ares is not a cover band! Therefore Barlow & Co. don´t play Iced Earth and Nevermore stuff. And for the same reason – I have to say that – the co-headlining position was maybe too much too soon. However, their Thrash-Power Metal is flawless and inspired the headbangers. Naturally it helps when band members were part of audience favorites before, and in between songs you could hear the audience chanting “Barlow, Barlow”. A very good premiere, and Ashes of Ares seemed stirred when they left the stage. (BS)

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Veteran Udo Dirkschneider presented a completely new line-up. It´s surprising that this act attracted more people than any other band on this day, although the old Accept front man doesn´t make himself rare on German stages. They took off heavily with songs like “Metal Machine”, from the upcoming album “Steelhammer”. But also classics like “Metal Heart” or “Balls To The Wall ” were not left out of the set list. Andrey Smirnov & Kasperi Heikkinen on guitars did their homework well and were well received by the audience. The gig was over way to soon, and after that it was time to grab a beer. (GW)

Saturday May 18, 2013
This day was opened by Slingblade – and they did their job more than well. Although only a small part of the audience seemed familiar with the material of this act from Stockholm, you could see that they attracted more and more people with every song.

Mustasch showed clearly that they are in the touring zone; they performed in a seasoned way and with a lot of passion and showed a lot of energy. Also in this case: Thumbs up! (GW)

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My Saturday starts with Mustasch as I unfortunately miss Slingblade and Horisont – you cannot have everything. When Mustasch enter the stage, quite a big crowd is already waiting, and this Swedish Heavy Rock´n Roll, plus typical Swedish Rock´n Roller humor, is well received. Singer Ralf Gyllenhaal occasionally takes off to the barrier to daff with the audience while playing songs like Double Nature. In between there´s more joking with the audience, like shouting “cheers you suckers” and the audience shouts back. Mustasch make it easy to enjoy them, and when they quote Black Sabbath and Bob Marley songs, it´s time to say goodbye. “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston is their outro music before the stage is re-set for the next much more dangerous act.

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The Black Thrashers from Koblenz take off so furiously that they even disperse the clouds. The guys around singer Sataniac take no prisoners, and the first songs inspire all the headbangers in the first rows. The first highlight of the not-at-all-disastrous Desaster show is Phantom Funeral from the new album “Arts of Destruction”. Songs like “Teutonic Steel” and “Satans Soldier Syndicate” are celebrated with a moshpit. Only later I realize that this band is the only one which plays a tribute to the recently deceased Jeff Hannemann: “Black Magic”. Which is naturally welcomed by the fans. “Metalized Blood” and Kreator´s “Tormentor”, played even faster and more brutal, the set ends and those 45 min have gone by in a wink.

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Basically those Finns are a perfect match for Metal festivals, therefore also to this year´s RHF. When those Viking Metallers deliver hits like “One more magic Potion” and “In my Sword I trust”, the weather situation improves even more and the audience goes bonkers. (BS)

started their gig with „Isn´t that wild“ and continued in an energetic way. They played pretty much all their classics, and Stigge´s fire helmet was naturally used during “Sleeping my Day Away”. And even the drum kit of Laust Sonne tilted over towards the audience several times – which reminded me a little bit of Tommy Lee´s rollercoaster …. a little bit 😉
You got to say that this Danish band seems to be once again in top condition, also because of singer Jesper Binzer.

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As the final act of this day, QUEENSRYCHE entered the stage and rocked as if there was no tomorrow. With „Redemption“ and „Fallout“ they presented 2 songs from the upcoming new album. Singer Todd La Torre cannot quite compete with the stage presence of a Geoff Tate, but when he performed classics like “Empire”, “Speak” or “Eyes Of A Stranger”, there was nothing to complain. Queensryche played a fantastic gig that day. (GW)

Sunday May 19.2013
The last festival day was opened by Attic from Gelsenkirchen, who won the status “newcomer of the year” with their debut „The Invocation“. (GW)
On Sunday I make it only to the last part of the ORDEN OGAN show, and somehow I get the impression that I haven´t really missed anything.

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After a short changeover, ORCHID, the Hippie Rockers from California, play a 1h set. Presenter Götz Kühnemund mentions that those 4 are pretty nervous, as until now they have only played in front of Doom audiences. And you can see it, at least in the beginning, in the static stage show of singer Theo Mindell. ORCHID and their 70s Sabbath-like Hardrock/Doomrock deliver a great show on this Amphitheater stage, and despite the fact it has been pretty full in front of it before, it seems to be filling up even more. Which is understandable, because Orchid´s music works like a charm, the band is no longer nervous and get the audience cheering enthusiastically to songs like “Capricorn” and “Silent One”, which admittedly sounds like Sabbath´s “Into the Void”. A great show. (BS)

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This New-Wave-of-British-Heavy-Metal band Tank is a band many fans have been looking forward to. They present Z.P. – the ex-singer of Dragonforce – as their front man, he has taken over the part of Doogie White, who is touring now with the Michael Schenker Group. Z.P. and the TANK crew indeed flatten the audience with their set, you can easily imagine this line-up to continue in the future.

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Threshold provoke a storm, this time only musically. In 2003, however, they had to end the set after only 4 songs. This time the British Progressive-Metallers perform in bright sunshine and inspire the crowd. The gous around Damian Wilson were simply fascinating. “Ashes” or “Light & Space” prove that Threshold are a big name in the genre of Progressive Metal. “Slipstream” was the chance for Drummer Johanne James to shine. A great performance, and finally Threshold could triumphantly prove their worth. After that the audience had the chance to grab a refreshment before Sepultura started. (GW)

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The intro to “Arise” sees all fists in the air, but then it´s not “Arise” but “Troops of Doom”, a very old song from the first Full Length Album “Morbid Visions”. The audience goes nuts, the first moshpits form even way before hits like “Roots”, “Altered State” and the fantastic “Territory” turn this show into an unforgettable experience. During “Roots” singer Derrick Greene is drumming on a stand tom and Andreas Kisser thank the fans for their support. The central part of the show offers new songs, “Kairos” and “Sepulnation”, but the focus here is the Cavalera-era, therefore the audience receives also “Policia”, “Biotech is Godzilla” and naturally “Arise”. SEPULTURA are still a fantastic live act, no doubt. (BS)

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The audience celebrated Derrick Green right from the start, and pretty much everybody went bunkers throughout the show. Sepultura rather played older stuff like “Territory”, “Arise”, “„Refuse/Resist“, which received much better response than the songs from the new album “KAIROS”. “Roots Bloody Roots” was one of the hightlights, before those gods from “Belo Horizonte” made way for the real headliner.

Before that organ-god Mambo Kurt entertained the crowd during the stage reset. The audience enjoyed hits like ” SING HALLELUJAH ” by Dr.Alban or Deichkind´s ” Remmidemmi” and even formed a polonaise throughout the Amphitheater. (GW)

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King Diamond
After a Thrash demolition and Mambo Kurt the tension can be felt, and finally at 21.30 h Götz Kühnemund announces the arrival of the King. The Intro of the first KING DIAMOND Solo album “Fatal Portrait” changes into “The Candle” – a perfect opening for the show at Amphitheater, which seems to burst with people. At the same time a very emotional opening, because many here see the King for the first – but hopefully not for the last – time. The intricate stage decoration – a house, two stairwais, a catwalk, a cemetary fence, a backdrop with a pentagram – and other stage gimmicks add to the appeal and atmosphere of the show. KING DIAMOND continue with the “Them” album – Yes! “Welcome Home”! Including a grandmother in a wheelchair – gradiose Metal Theater to witness here.

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The band plays flawlessly, and the King´s voice doesn´t falter, which was not always the case in the past. “At the Graves” continues the horror show, a dancer joins the “Voodoo”, and we get treated with “Sleepless Nights” and the MERCYFUL FATE classics “Come to the Sabbath” and “Evil”. “Up from the Grave” is performed by the King alone on stage while the rest of the band disappears in the mist; the legendary bone microphone is of course part of the show. “Eye of the Witch” ends the official part of the show – time has passed by quickly indeed. This is a show you should not miss, only superlatives can describe it. The first encore is “The Family Ghost”, followed by “Halloween” – and with “Black Horsemen” from the “Abigail” album the show is indeed over. The empty stage remains and the feeling that you have been part of something special. Chapeau!

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Another Rock Hard Festival has ended, successfully, peacefully and very entertaining. I could discover a couple of new bands and finally saw the King live. Basically I can only describe my experience in the words of the promoters: It is a big family meeting, therefore CU at Rock Hard Festival in 2014! (BS)

Björn Schmiterlöw (BS), Guido Wegener (GW), transl. K.Weber

photos: Guido Wegener, Björn Schmiterlöw, Jörg Litges (


Björn Schmiterlöw - - - Reports, reviews, photos - - - Favorite genres? - - - Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Doom Metal, Death Metal, Punk, Hardrock - - - Favorite bands: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Slayer, Anthrax, In Flames, Kreator, Exodus, Candlemass, Carcass, Reverend Bizarre, Ahab, Orne, Down, Grand Magus, Atlantean Kodex

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