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29-31/05/2009, Rockhard Festival 2009, Gelsenkirschen – Germany

Friday may 29

Once again the weather forecast for the Pentacost weekend is exceptionally good and so we leave for Gelsenkirchen, Germany in good spirits. After a smooth two hour drive with surprisingly few traffic jams, we arrive at our hotel at approximately 2 ‘o clock in the afternoon. We take a moment to freshen up and then grab a taxi to the amphitheatre. And so we embark on the seventh edition of the Rockhard festival. Like in previous years, the festival is almost sold out when we arrive and due to the terrific weather we expect the last ticket to go over the counter very soon. Sure enough, on Sunday it is announced that the tickets are officially sold out. The line-up is varied as always, with names such as Opeth, Forbidden, Jon Oliva’s Pain, Children of Bodom, Sacred Reich and Sunday’s headliner Saxon on the bill. This is a well organized festival and when we enter the festival area the place is filling up nicely with metalheads. The vibe is perfect and the weather is superb, this is going to be a fantastic festival.

 

 

It’s up to the German thrash outfit Witchburner to kick off the festival and lure the crowd to the stage. Although many people decide to pop up to the metal market in order to be the first to scoop up the best buys, a sizeable crowd finds its way to the stage where they watch the first band while enjoying a beer in the warm sunlight. The crowd is warmed up with songs such as “Son Of Evil 666”, “Hexenhammer”, “Final Detonation” and “Demonic Warmachine”. More and more people make their way to the amphitheatre and the crowd is loosening up. The band is all the more motivated and they play “Invisible Violence”, “Blood Of Witches” and “Possessed By Hellfire” followed by the band’s anthem “Witchburner”. Although their time’s up, the band returns to the stage for an encore in the shape of “German Thrashing War”. For many of us this was a pleasurable start of the weekend.

 

 

I am slightly surprised to learn that the British band Angelwitch should have such an early slot on the festival. This quartet deserves the title of ‘legendary band’. This New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band have put a number of good old classics on today’s setlist and we know what to expect of them. The acoustics sound good and the axework is impressive, especially at such early time of day. Angelwitch easily amuse the crowd with songs such as “Sweet Danger”, the classic “Confused” and “Gorgon”. The band seemingly enjoys the attention they are given by the mostly German, die hard metal crowd. It must be quite satisfying to be admired in such a manner. They rip it up when they play “Sorceress”, “White Witch” and “Atlantis”. To me, this is a perfect start of a perfect weekend. The Brits achieve a high level of entertainement and they certainly set the mood for what is to come in the next couple of days. Of course I am still expecting them to play certain classics, and thankfully they do so. After the song “Dr Phibes” they play the catchy track “Angel Of Death” and “Baphomet” which is followed by their final and ultimately classic song “Angelwitch”. What a great way to start a festival weekend.
 

 

It is now time for the Australian band Destroyer 666 to work their magic. The Australian black/thrash outfit will release their fourth album on june 22nd and today we get to sample a couple of new songs. I did not manage to write down any of the new titles, but I can tell you the German crowd loved the new songs. Their music has an old-school feel combined with a dark atmosphere (without sounding dated) and is larded with catchy hooks and riffs. Unfortunately the vocalist decides to make a number of lame political comments, which kind of puts me off. Just stick to the music man!. As this band is not really my thing, I decide to go off to explore the grounds and catch up with old friends.

 

 

I am curious to see the veterans of the American trio Prong at work. Lat year I attended one of their clubshows in Holland and it was a blast. A sizeable crowd has gathered before the stage, this will probably be one of today’s highlights for many of them. This show is all about the eccentric Tommy Victor. Today the Prong setlist is a varied one with old and new tunes, it’s evident that they have given this some thought. We hear classics such as “Lost And Found” and “Beg To Differ” followed by “Unconditional” and the classic “Who’s Fist Is This Anyway”. The band and the crowd are both in party mode and things just keep getting better when they play the hitsong “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” which we all sing along to. All this is followed by the title track of the latest Prong effort ‘Power of the Damager’. When this performance has come to an end, many fans remain on the field asking for a “zugabe” (encore). Prong has most certainly made a good impression today.

 

 

Jag Panzer is blessed with the excellent vocalist Harry Conklun who lifts the band to another level. They play a fine set today and deliver an entertaining show with their constant posing and energetic performance. Allthough I don’t really know their music, I certainly find Jag Panzer entertaining. The songs that I manage to distinguish are “Chain Of Command”, “Future Shock” and “Black” followed by “Fate’s Triumph”, “The Mission” (1943) and the catchy tune “Iron Eagle”. After a while my mind begins to wander and after listening to “Kings At A Price” and “Take To The Sky”, I decide to call it quits. Later on I was told that the band had cut their performance short. I never found out what the reason was but I do know that tonight’s headliner made up for anything and everything that might have happened today.

 

 

Today’s worthy headliner is the Swedish band Opeth with their experienced main man Mikael Akerfeldt. Although their music is not really my cup of tea, I am quite eager to see them perform as they have a very solid reputation for live shows. They kick off with the song “Heir Apparent” and from the very first chord it just all sounds great. Compliments to the sound technicians who were also spot-on during the whole show. The video projections on the background add to the atmosphere as we listen to “Ghost Of Perdition”. The band is on a roll. We hear “Godhead’s Lament” and “The Leper Affinity”. My appreciation for the band Opeth grows every minute as I listen in awe. They play “Hessian Peel” and the beautiful song entitled “Closure”. We also get to enjoy the oldies. As a grand finale “The Lotus Eater” and “Deliverance” sound through the speakers. Totally satisfied we make our way to the hotel, two more days to go!

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Saturday 30/05/2009
Sunday 31/05/2009