14. – 16.07.2016; Balingen Messegelände
The twenty-first Balingen and the second time in the three-day version outshines in terms of line up outshines most festivals this year. Actually all of them are very peaceful, but the selling point here is the special familial atmosphere created by organizer Horst Franz.
I’m up early this time to see the first band, loaded even the truck in the evening before and … what? Traffic jam. Of course ….
Well nevermind. At least I get to hear the last two tracks by Stallion but the BYH opener used to have more people. Leatherwolf, living at Huntington Park, LA as sort-of Slayer neighbors, are next to introduce the audience to Californian heavy metal with appropriate US Power and lure a few more headbangers to the stage. The stageacting is not quite as virile as the German Stallions’, yet not static, The wolves have been doing their thing already since 1981 – unfortunately never had a big break through. Nothing to complain about the sound. Very cool gig. Later at the same place I should hear something of Battle Beast, but they basically confirmed live what I have already mentioned in the CD Review – it just sucks!
Later in the afternoon it is time for a healthy dose of Doom. Candlemass start the set with Mirror, Mirror followed by The Dying Illusion, not very common on their setlists. Candle-boss Leif Edling is absent this year due to a burn-out syndrome and with new singer Mats Leven – who has also sung on the current EP – Candlemass have a good but not outstanding singer such as Messiah or Robert Lowe. I am amazed about the small audience in front of the main stage, at the same time Debauchery in the hall, but not so much going on there either. Candlemass are very dear to me so I don’t want to analyze every detail of the show. A Cry from the Crypt is followed by another Ancient Dreams album track, then the only song from the Lowe era, King of the grey Islands. Demons Gate brings a short downpour, but neither me nor the other die hard fans do care, celebrating Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Moreover, there are still At the Gallows End, Crystal Ball and of course the indispensable Solitude. Just a pity that once again no Samaritan was offered and unfortunately no Sorcerers Pledge.
With Carcass I miss somehow the time when their performances were rather scarce, it feels a bit like saturation. Which does not mean that the performances by Jeff Walker, Bill Steer & Co. would somehow be bad. Well – I think you know what I mean. Basically a solid compilation of classics like Heartwork, Corporal Jigsaw Quandary, Incarnated Solvent Abuse and newer titles like Captive Bolt Pistol, Unfit for human Consumption and The Dark satanic Mills. In any case, Jeff Walker has the driest sense of humor and the most stylish bass. Oh! – When thinking back, it was pretty cool!
I do not know when I had read the statement of Kerry King in an interview, that the future of Slayer is quite uncertain. For that reason alone I’m very glad to see them live twice this year. A huge backdrop with the cover of the album Repentless in the background, and after the intro the band takes off with Repentless. Pretty tight, but not too loud – who needs tinnitus anyway. Gary Holt, who fills in for the late Jeff Hanneman, now seems to feel remarkably comfortable in his role with Slayer. However, Holt and King appear to stay a bit in the background, because Tom Araya’s calm presence fills the stage, who wins the audience over instantly. The set list is naturally a best-of with some titles from the new album, but fortunately relatively many songs from the 1983 debut Show no Mercy, and even the rarely performed Fight ’til Death. Unfortunately, Hell awaits is left out, and for Chemical Warfare we wait in vainm you cannot have it all! Nonetheless, a fantastic appearance of those Thrash Kings.
Following a friend’s advice to replace every 3rd beer with some water, I am relatively fit on Friday morning to listen to Night Demon from California – a great band! With the new guitarist Armand John Anthony, those 3 from Ventura take off as if it was late at night and they were headlining. That’s the way to go! Last year they released the remarkable debut Curse of the Damned worshipping NwoBHM, and in the end they play a Radar Love Cover. Keep an eye on Night Demon, they seem to be destined for getting big.
Manilla Road are great too, but their show is a bit more static. Bryan “Hellroadie” Patrick is only singing a couple of songs and keeps in the sidelines when not busy, basser Josh Castillo does not move much either, and thus the focus is kept on the only original member Mark Shelton, who fills the entire stage with his sublime presence. The setlist is pretty much focused on the Crystal Logic album, presented with 5 songs.
Impelliteri from US have never been on my radar and not done much in Germany so far, but they seem to be big in Japan. Perhaps that is the reason why they attract a crowd. Singer Rob Rock and songs like Speed Demon, Time Machine, We own the Night or Wicked Maiden inspire the audience – and me too. After that an easily recognisable sound for Thrash fans: Sacred Reich begin with The American Way and everybody moves, their drinks, feet, arm-in-the-air or heads – called headbanging. Moreover, Phil Rind is a singer worth listening to even between songs. Yet one could argue how much sense it makes to rest on laurels and to play the same set of classics year after year. But Hey! It’s the classics people want to hear at festivals, and does anybody even remember Sacred Reich’s “Heal” 1996? Exactly. Songs like Death Squad, Love…Hate, War Pigs (Sabbath Cover!), Ignorance, an entertainingly fucked-up Who’s to blame and Surf Nicaragua Rind &Co give the audience what the audience wants.
Why Metal Church play before Annihilator is a mystery, but no need to understand everything. After a Terminator Intro Howe, Vanderhoof and the new Guys offer the first classic with Fake Healer from the Blessing in Disguise album. Mike Howe’s voice is brilliant, as well as the late David Wayne, according to my older friends who have seen them live back then But something is wrong with Kurdt Vanderhoof – no photo turns out well, as he makes faces all the time – but his playing is superb – great gig. Yet we miss songs like Metal Church and Ton of Bricks but otherwise great stageacting, sound – metal heart, what else do you want?
Annihilator afterwards, but I don’t stay long. They have never been bad, the very opposite. But they have never really convinced me after their Never, Neverland album, and it seems that most people just want to hear Alison Hell .
Testament then are a worthy Thrash bulldozer. Chuck Billy screams as if he would not need vocal cords any more, and the sound is OK today, not quite self-evident at Testament shows. Nothing to complain about the playing, although I find Alex Skolnick’s posing a bit too much, yet Chuck Billy takes over all the attention. The setlist is quite OK as well, yet Sins of Omission would have been nice.
40 and fuck it! is the motto of the Twisted Sister final tour and you can see that Snider, Mendoza, French, Ojeda and Mike Portnoy replacing the late Pero want to make a good impression. Honestly, has anybody ever seen a bad Twisted Sister show? Although not following those New Yorkers, I have seen them live 4-5 times, and it was always great. Naturally it’s a greatest hits program, their last studio album was “Love is for Suckers” from 1987 – almost 30 years ago, and I don’t think anybody wanted to hear anything from this obscure 2006 “A twisted Christmas”. Dee Snider, 61, still runs across the stage like a dervish and also basser Animal Mendoza can hardly contain his energy.
The Setlist naturally presents well-known songs, and in between the band keeps thanking people for their 40 years of support. The Price is dedicated to the late A.J. Pero, and in the encore section the Stones cover It’s only Rock’n Roll (but I like it) and the rarely played Under the Blade. The one or the other headbanger might have realized then that this is a farewell of brilliant entertainers, and I am happy that I have seen them live once again.
On Saturday morning Black Trip woke me up, the baby of Joseph Tholl, the guitarist of Swedish Heavy Metal Band Enforcer. Die with me, The Storm and Shadowline from the album with the same name raise the spirit, but I cannot tell what’s going on near the stage, as I am still eating my breakfast at the camping area. Tankard are always fun, and this show of those guys from Frankfurt is offering some special entertainment. Singer Gerre is once again running all over the stage, and it seems a girl in the front row captured his attention, as suddenly he asked her if she would like to bear his baby. And as always the show ends with the anthem for the no-longer-filled beer mug.
Grave Digger afterwards offer an impressive stage deco for this early hour. But it seems the band is not quite a top favorite in Balingen, and maybe Mr. Boltendahl is not too happy about the reactions – therefore I rather check out the comeback of Thrash-Groove Act Warpath from Hamburg. Between 1992 and 96 they offered 4 Thrash albums, in the beginning more Power Metal and later more Crossover and Doom influences. The hall is filling up during the first half of the gig, and I have to say that the Warpath show was a real highlight, for me one of the best of ByH 2016. Singer Dirk “Dicker” Weiss is an experienced front man with a lot of charisma, and the sound person had a good day to give those guys a massive sound necessary for this kind of Groove Thrash. As the band has not been active for a while, the majority of the audience – like me – rather stand and listen than slam dance. Mind commits Murder, Paranoia, Remember my Name and more explosive song-bullets are fired into the crowd, a new album is in the making, therefore we will hear more of them, and for me this was definitely no the last Warpath concert I have attended.
I had been looking forward to Uriah Heep but after this gig I was a bit too fired up to enjoy this British institution’s Hardrock. Many think differently as the pit fills up quickly. Yet Mick Box is the last original member, therefore in my opinion this is a brilliant tribute band, pretty much like Candlemass. The band begin their hardrock history lesson with Gypsy of the Very ‘eavy Album, and they stick to the early releases, but they also include two songs of the 2014 Album Outsider. They conclude their Hammond thunderstorm with a divine July Morning and the mandatory but not less poignant Lady in Black.
There might have been many in the festival crowd who would have preferred that the headliners had switched, giving U.D.O., or Dirkschneider the better slot. Especially when this show is offering Accept classics exclusively, because Udo had decided not to play any Accept songs any more after this tour. Nobody knows why. Now the area is totally full and Mr. Dirkschneider begins with Starlight which has the audience go nuts. And then one hit follows the next: Midnight Mover, Princess of the Dawn, Restless and wild, Screaming for a Love Bite, Son of a Bitch, Metal Heart, Fast as a Shark, Balls to the Wall and finally Burning. Hardly any communication, and there is no need. One Metal classic following the other is more than enough communication.
Although I do not enjoy Jon Schaffer’s overdone patriotism and slightly obscure world view, and I did not like “The Glorious Burden” despite some good songs, ”his” band Iced Earth is still one of my favorites. With the still new singer Stu Block they hired a capable Barlow successor and Jon Schaffer simply knows how to write great songs. Although currently busy in the studio with the Plagues of Babylon sequel, they were convinced to headline the Bang your Head. No big intro, just a huge backdrop, and they take of with The Dark Saga – and the whole set list is focused on this album, explained by the singer later – it is the 20th anniversary of its release. Which means a whole string of hits coming up Plagues of Babylon, Vengeance is mine, V – We are the Resistance, Burning Times, Pure evil, I died for you, Damien, Slave to the Dark, A Question of Heaven and so on. In between singer Stu – due to the current events at Nice, the terrorist truck driver killing 85 people – invites people just to give their neighbour head banger a big hug, which is followed immediately and about 25000 people hug each other so that the world does not look that bad any more. With My own Saviour the regular set ends, organizer Horst Franz presents an award to Jon Schaffer, before the killer song Dystopia opens the encore block with The Hunter and Watching over me – and I don’t mind that once again the killer song Dante’s Inferno was missing, you should not stop hoping.
Horst Franz enters the stage once again, his little daughter is allowed to set off the fire works, he expresses the mandatory gratitude to the audience and a reminder to get some good sleep before leaving the area on Sunday.
Even Rock- and Metal events cannot ignore recent events and terror threats, and the one or the other person might feel a bit anxious about events with huge audience numbers. But my impression was that the hard rocking community got even tighter and takes care of each other even more than before.
It was wonderful, once again.
Schön wars, einmal mehr.
Fotos: Björn Schmiterlöw