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21-23/05/2010, Rockhard Festival 2010, Gelsenkirschen – Germany

Besides the full Dutch version, we decided to give you a slightly shorter account of the Rock Hard festival in English.. So here goes: Just like last year, the weather forecast for this festival weekend is excellent! This year we set out early for the German city of Gelsenkirchen. The ride takes us a little over two hours, with no traffic jams. We take a moment to freshen up at our hotel and then take off to the festival grounds. After picking up our Photo- and backstage-passes, we are ready for the no. eight edition of the Rockhard festival. This year the festival is almost sold out before it has even started, and due the great weather the day tickets are sold out in no-time. Once again, the Rock Hard organisation has managed to create a varied line up with bands like Sabaton, Bloodbath, Keep of Kalessin, Kreator, Accept, Nevermore, Sonata Artica, Rage and the Dutch band The Devil’s Blood. The facilities have also been carefully arranged this year. When we enter the festival site, the Amphitheatre is already slowly filling up with metalheads. The atmosphere is fantastic, just like the weather. This is looking just as promising as the previous editions!

 

 

Friday – May 21

The bands on today’s bill are not world-shockingly fantastic but it will turn out to be a great day. We arrive around 3 and so we get to see the opening act of the day, after a very happy looking Götz Kühnemund (chief editor of Rockhard magazine and festival organiser) wishes us a great weekend. The young German band Ketzer opens the festival. The band kicks off with “I Am Your Unholy God”, and I must admit that they put on a fun show. When they screw up during the second or third song, they stop and joke around for a moment, the drummer takes the blame for the whole thing and they give the song another go, a cool way to solve the problem. They continue the set with songs mostly taken from their 2009 debut album ‘Satan's Boundaries Unchained’ such as “My Triumph”, “The Fire To Conquer The World” and the final song “Crushing The Holy”. Despite the fact that I don’t know the band, I must say that these gentlemen play a great mix of blackened thrash metal. It all sounded pretty good and the fans certainly gave the band a lot of positive feedback. (Eugene Straver)
 

 

 

During the breaks in between bands today we hear nothing but songs from the recently passed Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele, in honour of the little man with the big voice and the big man with the big, ehm, bass guitar. Right before the second band commences, Götz addresses the crowd again, informing us that during the change-overs, the music will consist of Dio and Steele only. This is greatly appreciated by the applauding crowd. The second band today, Berlin based Necros Christos is ready to start the show with “Red Wine Runs Out Of The White Skull Of Jesus“. As I am not familiar with the band, I do not manage to recognise all the song titles. The traditional death metal this band plays for us sounds slightly boring and their on-stage presentation is not too interesting, apart from their dress code that is. We decide to check the band from a distance and the songs that I hear are entitled “Curse Of The Necromantical Sabbath”, “Black Mass Desecration” and the final “Impure Burials Prevail”. (Eugene Straver)

 

 

Now it’s Katatonia’s turn to climb on stage. Despite the small crowd, they give the fans what they came for. The band, which is joined today by live guest musicians Per Eriksson (guitar) and Niklas Sandin (bass), rocks it and blows the crowd away. The set contains mostly material from last year’s ‘Night is the New Day’, off which we hear the songs “Forsaker”, “Liberation” and “The Longest Year”. But also songs of f ‘The Great Cold Distance’ from 2006 (“My Twin”) and ‘Viva Emptiness’, 2003 (“Ghost Of The Sun” and “Evidence”) are not forgotten. The band sounds good, but what’s missing is a good lightshow, which is something this band needs. What’s lacking is atmosphere, but that’s partly due to the fact that it’s early in the day and still light outside.  The band moves and plays rather staticly and the interaction with the audience is almost non-existent. Jonas Renkse sings with his hair in front of his face all the time and doesn’t make any contact whatsoever with the crowd.  When he does talk to the people, all he says is “most excellent””.  The set contains songs such as “July” and “Day & Then The Shade” and the show is ended with the song “Leaders”, taken from the album ‘The Great Cold Distance’. With a good setlist and a decent show Katatonia does prove that this band belongs to the top of its genre. (Eugene Straver)

 

 

One of the more entertaining bands of the day is Sabaton. This band has an excellent live reputation nowadays.  It is the second time for these sympathetic Swedish men to play this festival. The band kicks off after the ”Art of War“ intro with the songs “Ghost Divison” and “Panzer Battalion” followed by the new track “Coat Of Arms“. The songs sound great and the guys are practically dancing around on stage.  It is obvious that both the band and the audience are having a great time. The security in front of the stage has to work hard to catch all the crowd surfers. The set is continued with the songs “Cliffs of Gallipoli”, “Attero Dominatus” and “The Price of a Mile”. As the show progresses, their performance becomes even more energetic and professional. Sabaton may not win the originality prize but the band just does what they do best, serving us with entertaining power metal with lyrics that speak of the world wars. Singer Broden knows how to entertain the metal heads and keeps up the pace. Bassplayer Pär Sundström is running around on stage with a huge smile on his face from beginning to end. The band plays strong riffs and epic melodies.  These young guys know how to handle their instruments. The band continues the show with two songs from the recent album ’Coat Of Arms’: “Saboteurs” and “Uprising”. After the song “40:1” which is sung along by the whole crowd, it is time for public favourite “Primo Victoria”, which could have been a song festival track. At the end of the set we hear a medley which comprises the songs “Metal Machine” and “Metal Crűe”. The band’s performance today was great and their sound was also very good. Everybody seems pretty satisfied when they step off the stage. (Talitha Martijn)

 

 

Bloodbath doesn’t need any further introduction, this band exists of members from several renowned bands: singer Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), guitarist Anders Nyström (Katatonia), bassist Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) and drummer Martin Axenrot (Witchery, Opeth). As this band rarely ever plays live shows, today’s show is unique; this is only the fourth show in the history of this band. This year they will perform a mere total of five shows, one of which in Germany today at the Rockhard festival in Gelsenkirchen. Rockhard’s main man Götz Kühnemund explained to us why Bloodbath is not headlining tonight. The reason is that the Bloodbath members are fans of The Devil’s Blood, and they expressed the wish to see this band play, they actually requested to play their show before The Devil’s blood. Bloodbath kicks off after a short intro withWays To The Grave“. The amphitheatre fills up in no time, no surprise if you consider how rare this occasion is. The sight of a full Amphitheatre is amazing. Bloodbath continues to play the songs “Soul Evisceration”, “Process Of Disillumination” and ”Lesous”. Singer  Mikael Åkerfeldt knows how to win over a crowd with his low-key onstage banter and black sense of humour. We hear “Breeding Death” and “Mouth Of Empty Prayer”. After a short introduction of the band we hear “And my Name is Lars“ and “Mass Strangulation” which is followed by the, according to  Åkerfeldt “Stupid Song”, “Mock The Cross”, followed by the groovy track “Like Fire” and “Blood Vortex”. The band is really into it, I’m guessing most of them were already warmed up during the Katatonia show. A good hour later the show is ended with the songs “Outnumbering The Day”, “Hades Rising” and one of the crowd’s favourites “Eaten”. The crowd joins in singing this last song and a furious moshpit erupts in front of the stage. Bloodbath has convinced every soul in this amphitheatre of its superiority here today. (Talitha Martijn)

 

 

From the Netherlands, Eindhoven satanic rockers The Devil´s Blood will wrap up the Friday night. Since the release of their EP ‘Come Reap’ at the end of 2008, the band was voted as the most demonic Dutch rock band. On September 11, 2009 the album ‘The Time of No Time Evermore’ was released and it received positive critics from all over Europe. As a result, the band will be playing almost every big summer festival (Wacken Open Air, Hellfest in France and Metal Camp in Slovenia, among others). The Devil’s blood are notorious for their live-shows, which the band refers to as “rituals”. They perform while covered in pig’s blood and surrounded by incense sticks and candles. Before they start their show, Mr. Kühnemund requests a minute of silence for the recently passed Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele, as both singers were icons in their own way. The Amphitheatre goes completely silent. And then the Dutchmen hit the stage with “Come Reap“, “River Of Gold“ and “  I’ll Be Your Ghost“. Right from the start of the show, the amphitheatre is packed with people, many seem quite curious. This show might prove to be a disappointment for some sceptics who’d rather like to have seen this band fail. The band continues with “The Yonder Backons“, “The Graveyard Shuffle“, “Evermore, “Rake Your Nails Across The Firmament“ and “A Waxing Moon Over Babylon“. The show is livened up with a specially installed video wall and a great light show, the band gives a great performance. Due to the fact that they simply do not have enough songs to fill a 90-minute set, The Devil’s Blood have included a number of jamming intervals and they have extended a number of songs with extra guitar solo’s and other elements. This stretches “The Heavens Cry Out For The Devil's Blood” into a song of over 20 minutes! This song sounds like a wall of guitars, combined with the bright stroboscopes it is quite a hypnotising experience. After this long song some of the metal heads in the crowd seem to decide to go elsewhere for some food or shopping. The band keeps playing and we hear “Angels Prayer“, the dark “House Of 10.000 Voices“ and “The Anti Kosmik Magick“. The band’s sound is great and the backing vocals by three female vocalists give the show an extra dimension.  The show is ended after 90 minutes with “Voodoo Dust“ and “Christ Or Cocaine“. The band and the crowd can look back on a great experience, even though the announced special show wasn’t too exciting besides the video wall…. However, they certainly succeeded in creating the signature dark atmosphere that makes this band so special. (Eugene Straver)

 

 

We can look back on an excellent day, although we can’t help but wonder if today’s headliner of choice is justified . Sabaton and Bloodbath received the best response from the crowd. Overall, it was a fine day with many beautiful moments.

 

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Saturday 22/05/2010
Sunday 23/05/2010