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29/06/2004 – 30/06-2004, Rock Hard Festival, Amphitheater, Gelsenkirchen with, Dead Soul Tribe, Nagflar, Gleucifer, Destruction, Krokus, Exodus, Gamma Ray, In Exteremo, Into Eternity, Illdisposed Pink Cream 69, Metal Church, Dark Tranquillity, Rage, Stratovarius and Machine Head.

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, German Metal magazine Rockhard organised a succesful jubilee festival in 2003. Although the number of visitors wasn’t overwhelming the location and atmosphere were perfect, and so it was decided to continue organising the festival on a yearly basis and to stick with the beautiful Amphitheatre in Gelsenkirchen. In order to pull a larger crowd this year there was a possibility to camp out next to the festival terrain. The capmingsite, however, was quite small and so the number of campers was still limited and this year’s crowd was smaller than expected. Another reason for the slightly disappointing turn out is the large amount of festivals that are on offer in the Rock Hard weekend, such as the German festivals Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park and the Dutch Pinkpop Festival.


On Saturday afternoon the Italian band Thunderstorm are the opening act. Unfortunately we miss the show as we arrive at our hotel around this time.

By the time we’ve arrived at the festical site and collected our passes, ex-Psychotic Waltz singer Devon Graves’s band Dead Soul Tribe are more than halfway through their set. The part of the show that we are able to witness sounds impressive, the songs from the previously released album ‘A Murder of Crows’ are played vigorously and passionately. The response from the relatively small crowd is very positive. Dead Soul Tribe is an excellent band that will definitely make itself heard when they join the English band Threshold on a tour of Europe in September.

Next on is the Swedish black/deathmetal band Naglfar. They have recently released an album called ‘Sheol’ from which they play “Black God Aftermath” and “I am Vengence” among others. Naglfar have a reasonable sound, they thunder on with dirty guitarriffs and deadly blastbeats in songs such as “Sunless Dawn” and “A Departure in Solitude”. Seeing as we don’t know this band too well we decide to look around the festival site, get a drink and do some shopping at the metalmarket.

Following the Swedish violence the heavy rockers from the Norwegian band Gluecifer take the stage to entertain the crowd with their dirty rock ‘n roll. Even in the roasting sun Gluecifer live up to their party animal reputation. The acoustics are great as Gluecifer treat us to new songs from the upcoming album ‘Automatic Thrill’, complemented with older songs.

The German thrashband Destruction stepped in for Marduk at the last moment, but they manage to gather a massive crowd. They play a fine set packed with Destruction classics such as “Curse the Gods”, “Mad Butcher” and “Life without Sense”. Next they play some of the best songs from their latest albums such as “The Butcher Strikes Back” and “Metal Discharge”. The band is going strong and manages to evoke the first pit of the day while the crowd sings along passionately. The only hitch in the show is that, as it progresses, the sound seems to deteriorate.

On numerous occasions the Swiss band Krokus has been compared to AC/DC as singer Marc Storage’s raw voice sounds exactly like that of brian Johnson and Bon Scott. The past year Krokus has been working on its comeback and so today they play mostly golden oldies such as “Eat the Rich”, “Rock ‘n Roll Tonight” and “Easy Rocksers”. We are also treated to a mean version of “Rock City” and “Bedsite Radio”. The crowd is having a blast and this clearly rubs off on the band, turning this show into a real party.

We now wait in anticipation of Exodus. The band has recently released a supersolid comeback album called ‘Tempo Of The Damned’ and today they embark on an extensive promotional tour. Exodus kick off with the first track on the ToTD album: “Scar Spangled Banner” followed by “No Love”, “Blacklist” and “Piranha”. The crowd goes mad, especially over Exodus classics such as “And then there were None”, “Till Death Do Us Part” and the titletrack of their 1985 debutalbum ‘Bonded By Blood’, a deadly moshpit arises. The band is loving it and continues with razorsharp renditions of “Tempo Of The Damned” and “The Toxic Waltz”. After all this violence, “Strike Of The Beast” is the last song of this amazing show.

It’s a home game tonight for co-headliner Gamma Ray and the crowd is enthusiastic. Gamma Ray start off with the songs “Welcome” and “Gardens Of Sinner” and the indefatigable crowd sings along word for word. We are then given fine versions of the songs “New World Order”, “Rebellion In Dreamland” and “Land Of The Free”. As the sun goes down the light show shows itself to full advantage for the first time today and adds to the good vibe. Other songs on the list are “Armageddon”, “Heavy Metal Universe” and “One With The World”. They go back in time when they play the Helloween songs “I want Out” and “Somewhere Out In Space”, dating from the period when Kai Hansen was part of Helloween. As an encore they play “Send Me A Sign”.

Headliner of the day is the German folkmetalband In Extremo and they prove to be a success. The large crowd is entertained by a good lightshow, fireworks and excellent acoustics. The show is well received. In Extremo is new to us and halfway through the set we’re still not sure which songs they have played so we decide to leave the partying crowd to get a drink and a taxi and leave to our hotel.

The next morning we wake up with a hangover but we start to recuperate after a major breakfast and lots of coffee. As a result we miss the most part of the first band of the day: Desaster. When we arrive at the Amphitheatre they’ve just started to play their last song “Troops Of Doom”, a cover from an old song of Sepultura.

Next up is the Canadian band Into Eternity who have recently released the outstanding progressive deathmetal album ‘Buried in Oblivion’. They powerfully open their set with the song “Elysium Dream” althought it soon becomes painfully clear that the acousics are pretty bad. However, after a couple of songs we can hear that the sound technicians manage to fix the problem. The band is in sync and plays the songs “Absolution Of The Soul”, “Splintered Visions” and “Beginning Of The End” with elation. We are also presented with well-balanced renditions of “Spiralling Into Depression” and “Embraced By Desolation”. The crowd relish the complicated music of this first-rate band.

When the band Malevolent Creation cancelled to play the Rockhard Festival, the Danish old school death metal band Ill Disposed seized the opportunity to come and play today. Singer Bo Summer sets the tone by joking around, saying stuff like “we’ve lost our roadie” and “we are these dumb Danes from Ill Disposed”. Today they play mostly old songs but we are also treated to a taste of their upcoming album ‘1-800 Vindication’- which is to be released via Roadrunner in Oktober- when they play the hard and brutal song “Dark”. With this show Ill Disposed definitely prove to be a band worth listening to in the future.

It’s now time for the next German band Pink Cream 69 who play melodic metal with catchy choruses which are sung along effortlessly by the crowd. Today PC 69 play a number of songs off their latest album ‘Thunderdome’, among which the titletrack of the album and the song “Carnaby Road” complemented with some old songs. PC 69 are seemingly having a great time and this rubs off on the crowd that is really having a party, clapping enthusiastically after every song. This fine show is concluded with the song “Keep Your Eye On The Twisted”, leaving the crowd exhilerated and satisfied.

What later turns out to be the only European Metal Church show is one of the highlights of the Rockhard festival. The Seattle-based band were in their glorydays from the end of the 80’s till the beginning of the 90’s and then disappeared from the stage for a number of years. Now, with an almost completely new line-up they’re back from the dead. Guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof and drummer Kirk Arrington are the only members left of what was the original lin-up; singer Ronny Munroe has been added to the list, together with bass-player Steve Unger and former Malice guitarist Jay Reynolds. Metal Church start their set with two old songs, “Ton Of Bricks” and “Start The Fire”, followed by the track “Leave Them Behind” off the upcoming new album ‘The Weight Of The World’. Singer Ronny proves to be former frontman David Wayne’s match, especially when he sings the classics “Watch The Children Pray”, “Batallions”, “God Of Wrath” and “The Dark”. We’re also treated to the new track “Madman’s Overture”, followed by “Beyond The Black” and “Metal Church”. This great show ends with the new track “Cradle To The Grave”. The new Metal Church leaves an excellent impression today and prospects are good with a solid new album coming up.

It’s now time for the Swedish melodic Icons Dark Tranquility to see if they can live up to an excellent Metal Church show. Dark Tranquility has quite a number of German fans and so it soon gets busy when they take the stage. Today they play songs mostly from the 2002 ‘Damage Done’ album, amongst which are the tracks “Monochromatic Stains”, “Single Part Of Two”, “White Noise/Black Silence” and the titletrack of this album. Old songs such as “Punish My Heaven” and “The Wonders At Your Feet” are not left out. Finally, we are given a preview of the upcoming album when they play “One Thought”, and Dark Tranquility leave us after playing the song “Final Resistance”.

The German trio Rage with bandleader Peavvy Wagner have been making music for quite some years now, having released their first album ‘Reign of Fear’ in 1985. Rage kick off with a number of tracks off their 2003 album ‘Soundchaser’: “Orgy Of Destruction”, “War Of The Worlds” and “Great Old Ones”. They continue the set with what appears to be a greatest hits set with songs like “Black In Mind”, “Solitary Man” and “Set This World On Fire”. They manage to squeeze in a drumsolo and a quitarsolo which slow down the show. They speed things up again with the songs “Don’t Fear The Winter” and “From The Cradle To The Grave”, ending their set with an encore in the form of the 1996 track “Higher Than The Sky”.

The tension rises when Stratovarius hits the stage, the Finnish band is going through a rough period: Singer Timo Kotipelto and drummer Jorg Micheal have decided to leave the band due to a serious conflict with bandleader Timo Tolkki, and they have anounced that today will be their last gig with the band. The fans however do not appear to be bothered and gather en mass in front of the stage. The band plays “Speed Of Light” and “Father Time” from the 1996 album ‘Episode’, followed by the track “Hunting High And Low”. On stage the temperature seems to drop as the bandmembers barely look eachother in the eye and remain stagnant on their bit of stage space. They play “I’m Still Alive” which I believe is the only track played off the 2003 album ‘Elements Part 2’ today. The remainder of the show consists primarily of older material such as “Forever” and “Phoenix”. We are also surprised with three songs off the ‘Kiss Of Judas’ album: “Black Diamond”, “Forever Free” and the titletrack. This almost spiritless show is concluded by the track “Eternity”.

It’s up to the Oakland band Machine Head to headline this great festival. With their excellent latest release ‘Through The Ashes Of Empires’ Machine Head have proved that they still belong to the top rank of modern thrash bands. They open the show with “Imperium”; the first track off this album, followed by “Take my Scars” and “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”. The crowd goes mad creating a huge moshpit in front of the stage. Singer Rob Flynn is extremely talkative today and the band enjoys the ringing rounds of applause. The show is continued with “Left Unfinished”, “Ten Ton Hammer” and the softer song “Burning Red”. We are also treated to a number of songs off the new album such as “The Presence Of My Enemies” and “Descend The Shades Of Night”. Finally they play “Blood For Blood”, “Davidian” and “Block” off the 10 year old debutalbum ‘Burn My Eyes’. We decide to start our long journey home and as we leave the amphitheatre we are treated to the song “Old”as an encore.

The Rockhard organisation can look back on a succesful festival, even though it wasn’t sold out. The ambiance, the crowd and the weather were great (apart from a few minor showers on saturdaynight). The security people were ok. and the toilets were clean (except maybe next year they could add a few...). The acoustics were good, Exodus and Metal Church were the undisputed starts of this weekend. We would like to seize this opportunity to thank the entire Rockhard organisation and especially Gotz Kuhnemund and Manni Glamowski for their hospitality and an excellent festival which we hope to attend again next year.

To see more photo's from this festival, just go to the photo section of this website.