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14/05/2005 - 15/05/2005, Rockhard Festival 2005, Gelschenkirchen – Germany. Communic, Heaven Sahll Burn, Ensiferum, The Haunted, Samael, Sonata Artica, Amon Amarth, Children Of Bodom, Jon Oliva's Pain, Hellfueled, Wolf, Threshold, Unleashed, Prety Maids, Masterplan, Overkill, Sentenced and Accept.

Saturday 14/05

Early on the Saturday morning we set off to Germany for the Rockhard Festival in Gelsenkirchen. The third edition of this festival has a strong line-up featuring veterans such as Accept, Over Kill and John Oliva, complemented with fresh blood such as Communic. Rockhard 2004 was last season’s best surprise with a perfect venue, good atmosphere and interesting bands. And great weather to top it off! Unfortunately, the large number of festivals on offer resulted in a relatively small crowd that turned up in the German amphitheatre. Still the Rockhard organizers kept a positive outlook and chose the same location for this year’s festival, with an expanded camping site so they could accommodate even more visitors. They soon found the bands they wanted and wisely decided to book a number of bands that are not playing any other festivals this summer. And so a large crowd of metalheads flocked to Gelsenkirchen this year.

12u15 – 13u00

Since we took off early this morning we are right on time to witness today’s first show. Communic do the first honours today, the band recently released their debut album ‘Conspiracy in Mind’ which can rightfully be compared to Nevermore and Sanctuary. Due to this album and the positive reviews in numerous metal magazines, expectations run high and so a large crowd has gathered before the stage at noon. We are served the ten-minute “Solence Surrounds” and songs such as “Oceans” and “History Reversed”. The band proves its worth and they surpass their performance on their debut album. They end the set with the title track “Conspiracy in Mind”. After this fine opening act we decide to check out the festival site and we soon find ourselves in the midst of many merchandisers. Unfortunately we miss hardcore band Heaven Shall Burn and part of the Ensiferum set. By the time we get back to the arena we just manage to hear the Finns’ last song “Here in a Dream”.

15u35 – 16u35
The Haunted

As the evening approaches the day starts to weigh heavy on our shoulders and we wonder if it has anything to do with last night’s party in Tilburg where Danzig played a show in the 013… But we soon wake up when The Haunted (Sweden) start playing their thrash metal. A sizable group gathers before the stage and the rest of the amphitheatre starts to fill up, the crowd is clearly bigger than last year. Soon a massive moshpit arises and many crowd surfers go round. The Haunted play old stuff like “Hate Song”, “D.O.A.” and “Shadow World”, and new songs such as “Nothing Right” and “99” off the latest album. As the crowd screams along the band give it their best with strong midtempo groovy riffs swiftly alternated with aggressive and speedy thrashy moments. As a parting shot the Haunted play “No Compromise”, the latest single off the 2004 album rEVOLVEr.

17u00 – 18u00

It’s now time for Samael (Switzerland) who kick off with the tracks “Rain” and “Shining Kingdom” off the album called ‘Passage’, which can be considered a classic. At first there seems to be a technical problem concerning the sound but this is soon fixed as we listen to “Inch Alla”, “Reign of Light” and “On Earth” From Samael’s recent album ‘Reign of Light’. They also play “The Cross”, “Telepath”, “Oriental Dawn” and oldie “Baphomet’s Throne”. They then continue to promote their latest album by playing “High Above” and “Moongate”. They wrap it up with “The Ones Who Came Before” and two encores in the shape of “Jupiterian Vibe” and “My Saviour” from Samael’s best albums ‘Passage’ and ‘Ceremony of Opposites’.

18u30 – 19u30
Sonata Arctica

In between the metal riot the second Finnish band of the day is planned: Sonata Arctica. I must admit I don’t know much about this band, but they do manage to draw the crowd even though the singer doesn’t seem to be having a great day. The set comprises “Misplaced”, “Blinded no More” and “Don’t Say a Word” off the album ‘Reckoning Night’ which was released last year. From their debut album ‘Ecliptica’ they play “8th Commandment”, “Full Moon” and “My Land”. Finally they play “The Cage” and “We Need Some Vodka”, ending with the classic “Smoke on the Water”.

20u00 – 21u00
Amon Amarth

The five Vikings of Amon Amarth take the stage, and judging from the number of Viking helmets and drinking horns in the audience, this band is pretty popular. Until now it has not been this crowded in the amphitheatre. Amon Amarth kicks off with “An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm”, “Stabwounds in our Backs” and “The Pursuit of Vikings”, the crowd seems to know the songs word for word. The security is swamped by crowdsurfers and the atmosphere is good. We also hear excellent renditions of the tracks “Fate of Horns”, “Bloodshed” and “Bleed for Ancient Gods”. If it was up to me Amon Amarth would have played for another while but after “Where Silent Gods Stand Guard”, “Masters of War”, “Vicious March” and “Death in Fire” the playing time of this superb band is over.

21u30 – 22u45
Children Of Bodom

After half an hour’s changeover it’s time for the third Finnish band of the day: Children of Bodom. The Arena has totally filled up with people and the band kicks off with “Sixpounder”, “Silent Night, Bodom Night” and “Hate Me”. I had seen the band at work at the Dynamo Festival earlier this summer but the smaller stage and falling darkness do the band far more justice than the massive stage and sunlight at Dynamo. We are also treated to “Every Time I Die”, “Bodom After Midnight” and the song “Knuckleduster” which is performed live for the first time. Singer/guitarist is running up and down the stage like a crazy bull. The acoustics are reasonable. The band is now halfway through the set and they carry on with “Deadnight Warrior”, “Bodom Beach Terror”, “Hate Crew Deathroll” and “Kissing the Shadows”. Singer Alexis gives us a little speech and then continues with the first live performance of the song “In Your Face” from the new album which is due to be released later this year. This splendid show is concluded with the songs “Angels don’t Kill” and “Downfall” after which an outro tape is played with the Beastie Boys track “Fight for Your Tight (to Party)”.

23u15 – 00u45
Jon Oliva’s Pain

John Oliva’s Pain is the last band of the day. The band opens the show with the same songs as they did at the Dynamo festival: “Gutter Ballet”, “Time” and “Jesus Saves” and we notice that the band is clearly enjoying itself more than they did last week. Maybe this is because the Dynamo gig was the first show of the tour, or because it was damn cold that day.. Anyway, this will turn out to be a killer show tonight. John Oliva goes on to sing “Hounds” and “Tonight He Grins Again”, “The Dark” and “People Say-Gimme some Hell” from the 2004 album ‘Tage Mahal’. After this it is time for a string of Savatage classics in the shape of “Ghost in the Ruins”- with an added ten-minute guitar solo - , “Thorazine Shuffle”, “Believe”, “City Beneath the Surface” and the real oldies “The Dungeons are Calling” and “Sirens”. At this point we are pretty beat and as we already saw John Oliva last week we decide to call it a day. As we make our exit we hear the encore songs “Power of the Night” and the ultimate Savatage finale “Hall of the Mountain King”, a perfect ending to a splendid show.

Sunday 15/05

We had a late night on Saturday and so we decide to skip the first two bands Hellfueled and Wolf.

14u25 – 15u10

We enter the amphitheatre only minutes before Threshold take the stage. The Englishmen played the first edition of the Rockhard Festival two years ago but they had to stop after only two songs due to heavy rainfall. For a brief time we wonder if history will repeat itself today as dark clouds gather over our heads, luckily, it doesn’t rain. After the first songs “Mission Profile”, “Light and Space” and “Freaks” we even get some sun. After initial technical problems we are able to enjoy a professional show, apart from the fact that vocalist Marc forgets his lyrics now and then. This English progrock band manages to pull quite a crowd and we even spot some crowdsufers. We hear “Ground Control”, “Pressure” off last year’s release ‘Subsurface’ and “Fragmentation”. The show is ended with the song “Long Way Home” off the 2001 album ‘Hypothetical’.

15u35 – 16u35

Death metal band Unleashed is the most brutal band of the day. Unfortunately we missed the first song, but as they play “To Asgaard We Fly” a sizable moshpit takes shape before the stage. We are treated to “Winterland” off last year’s album ‘Sworn Allegiance’ and “Destruction (of the Race of Man)” off the same album. All this is followed by “Shadows in the Deep” (1992). Today’s Unleashed show comprises songs from practically every album they’ve made and so we hear “Berzerk”, “Don’t want to be Born” and title track “Hell’s Unleashed”. After the song “Long live the Beast” off the latest Unleashed album we are treated to some classics such as “In to Glory Ride” and “Before the creation of Time” off the 1991 album “Where No Life Dwells”. And then it’s time for tonight’s last song “Never Ending Hate”. We can look back on an excellent Performance by this Swedish band.

17u00 – 18u00
Pretty Maids

Compared with day one, today’s bands are of a relatively milder nature, for example Danish rockers Pretty Maids. I’m not very familiar with this band, all I know is that they have not played many shows in recent years, nor have they released any records for quite some time. Pretty Maids start their show with “Sin Decade”, “Destination Paradise” and “Wouldn’t Miss You”. I must admit this 80’s rock is not really my thing, and so I head to the backstage bar which actually gives you a good view of the stage. The set is concluded with a number of classics such as “Yellow Rain”, “Back to Back” and “Red Hot and Heavy”.

18u30 – 19u30

Last year it was raining like mad during Masterplan’s show at the Dynamo Festival, but when they take the stage today the sun is shining. They kick off with “Crimson Rider” off the latest album ‘Aeronautics’ which was released earlier this year. This is followed by a set with songs from the first album alternated with songs from the second album: “Crystal Night”, “Wounds”, “Kind Hearted light” and “I’m Not Afraid”. Singer Jorn Lande’s voice is in good shape today and he manages to inspire the crowd. The set is continued with “When Love Comes Close”, “Enlighten Me” – including a short solo by ex-Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow – “Soulburn” and “Heroes”, all songs from the 2003 debutalbum ‘Masterplan’. The set is concluded with the new track “Back for My Life” and the classics “Spirit Never Dies” and “Crawling from Hell”.

20u00 – 21u00

It is now time for the New Yorkers from Over Kill who have been in the business for 20 years now. People have been gathering before the stage for quite some time and are now calling for the band to come out. Over Kill take the stage and kick off with the song “Love” off their recent album ‘RelixV’. This song is followed by “Rotten to the Core” after which Rockhard mastermind Gotz interrupts the show. Together with the German Over kill fanclub “The Skullcrushers” Gotz thanks the band for 20 years of music and the band receives a specially designed trophy. Singer Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth thanks the crowd and shouts “We don’t care what you say”, the crowd answers “Fuck you”. After this memorable occasion the band continues the set with songs such as “Elimination”, “Thanks for Nothing”, “Blood and Iron” and Over Kill hit “Hello from the Gutter”. Near the end of the set Bobby takes some time to introduce and thank new drummer Ron (ex-Hades), who had to learn this entire set in a couple of weeks. We have come to the end of the show now and we hear the punky song “Old School” after which Over Kill Rocks the arena one more time with “(We don’t Care what You Say) Fuck You”. At the very end of this killer show Bobby dives into the public and we are left with a feeling of satisfaction.


21u30 – 22u45

It has recently been made known that Sentenced have decided to call it quits after 15 years; they released their last album named ‘the Funeral Album’. Their last show is planned at the Wacken Open Air Festival in August. After a short intro which has a pretty depressing effect on the crowd, the band kicks off with “Where Waters Frozen Fall” from the ‘Funeral Album’ followed by “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself”, “May Today Become the Day” and “Nephente”. The crowd seems mesmerized although I wonder if this is due to the band’s performing qualities or simply the fact that this is one of their last shows… Sentenced play a number of classics such as “Drown Together”, “No One There” and “Sun Won’t Shine” and a couple of songs off the latest album such as “Ever-Frost” and “Despair-Ridden Hearts”. We decide to leave it at this and watch the band from a distance while enjoying a drink and a burger. Sentenced en this show appropriately with the song “Farewell” off the 1998 album ‘Frozen’.

23u15 – 00u45

After two days of metal, little sun and an abundance of beer, we find ourselves witnessing the final band of this edition of Rockhard, Accept is a worthy headliner for this killer festival. Accept has not released any albums lately but they will be playing a number of reunion shows this year. After a short delay the band starts to play what will prove to be a classics only set. The opening song “Starlight” is supported by an abundance of fireworks, the band is rippin’it up! They play “Living for Tonight”, “London Leatherboys” and the first highlight of the evening comes in the shape of “Metalheart”. The crowd is loving it, entertained by the well-known poses of guitarists Wolff Hoffmann and Herman Franken and bass-player Peter Baltes. We are also treated to “Love Child”, “Breaker” and “Head Over Heels” with the inevitable bass-solo. After playing “Neon Night” we hear a guitar solo and the band commence a medley of the songs “Restless and Wild” and “Son of a Bitch”. Accept continue to play “Turn Me On”, “TV War”, “Monsterman” and “Flash Rockin’Man”. The end of the show is near as they play the ultimate Accept classic “Fast as a Shark” and as an encore we get “Princess of the Dawn” and “Winter Dreams”. The band re-enters the stage one more time with a fantastic fireworks display as they play “Balls to the Wall”, the very last song of the 2005 edition of the Rockhard Festival.

The Rockhard organisation can look back on another successful festival. The atmosphere, the crowd and the weather were all good. The toilets were clean although they might have set up some more sanitary facilities than other years as the number of visitors has increased considerably. On the whole the sound and acoustics were reasonable this year, apart from the fact that the volume was too loud now and then. The highlights of this year were definitely old hands Oliva, Over Kill and Accept. Also bands such as Children of Bodom, Amon Amarth and Unleashed managed to fill up the arena, generating large moshpits in front of the stage. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire Rockhard organisation and especially Gotz Kuhnemund and Manni Glamowski for their hospitality and a splendid festival. We hope to see you again next year!

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