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14/05/2006 - 15/05/2006, Rockhard Festival 2006, Gelschenkirchen, Germany.

It's early in the morning when we set out on June 3rd to attend the fourth edition of the Rockhard festival in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Unfortunately we had to miss the pre-party which featured Mercenary and Morgana Lefay, but we're in for a lot of fun this weekend. Germany is already totally submerged in world cup madness but first a portion of metal will sweep through Gelsenkirchen. After a quick stop at the hotel we head for the festival site. A substantial crowd has turned up, still Rockhard is not sold out despite a rock solid line-up with bands such as Nevermore, Sodom, Celtic Frost, Fates Warning and DIO. Even so the Rock hard festival is becoming a phenomenon as more people find their way to Gelsenkirchen every year. Even the weather gods are nice to us, the splendid location in the shape of an amphitheatre is warmed up by the sun which is getting hotter and hotter.

Saturday June 3rd 2006

The first band we watch is last-minute and special guest Mystic Prophecy. We don't really know this band which was founded by the Greek Roberto Dimitri Liapakis who recently moved to Germany. We witness a fine set of  uncomplicated heavy/power metal packed with catchy hooks and riffs. "The Emphasis" is a song from Mystic Prophecy's most recent album ‘Savage Souls’ from which we also hear "Shadow Beyond My Soul", "Master Of Sins" and "Nightmares Of Demons", among others. They also play older tracks such as “Eternal Flame" and "Signs Of The Cross". The set is ended with the song "Burning Brides" from the 2004 album ‘Never Ending’.

Next up are Legion Of The Damned who recently released a powerful death/thrash album with the title ‘Malevolent Rapture’. From this record we hear "Werewolf Corpse", "Death's Head March", “Demonist", "Taste Of The Whip" and "Into The Eyes Of The Storm". Although they play an early slot, LOTD manage to draw quite a crowd and the first moshpits of the day start to take shape. We hear the title-track of ‘Malevolent Rapture’ which is followed by "Bleed For Me". The band leaves it's signature with the last song called "Legion Of The Damned" and leave the stage after a solid show which will definitely win them a number of new fans.

 

 

The Irish band Primordial has been around for fifteen years and has built an ever growing following of fans. Front man Alan Hemtheanga entertains the crowd with his aggressive eccentric behaviour. His image is completed by a dose of corpse paint which also makes him interesting photography material. Primordial kicks off with the song "The Golden Spiral" off the 2005 album ‘The Gathering Wilderness’, followed by "Sons Of The Morrigan" and "The Coffin Ships". The other band members are composed, almost shy while singer Allan constantly incites the crowd. We hear the tracks "The Song Of The Tomb" and oldie "Gods To The Godless". Good work by Primordial.

 

 

Due to circumstances we have to miss the German metal core of Caliban, we choose to grab a bite to eat and explore the huge metal market. After this we are invited by Century Media Records to come over and listen to the new Mercenary Album, they didn't need to ask twice. The whole band was also present and we are stashed in a minivan with a beat blaster on the front seat. Then the complete new album ‘The Hours That Remain’ is played. The new album is definitely a good follow up album for ‘11 Dreams’ . We manage to discern the song titles "Redefine Me", “This Eternal Instant", “Soul Decision", “Obscure Indiscretion" and “My Secret Window".  The album will be released on august 21 via Century Media Records.

 

The Mercenary listening session has caused us to miss the first part of Brainstorm's set. When we re-enter the festival site they have just started to play "High Without Lows". Brainstorm's power metal clearly pleases the large German crowd, the songs "Shadowland", “Shivas Tears" and "Painside" go down a treat. Personally I'm not into this music, I cannot discover any originality in the songs I hear. Nonetheless it must be said that front man Andy B. Frank is a fine singer with a charismatic voice. Brainstorm finishes off with the tracks "Die To Survive" and "All those Words".

Today Nevermore will play without guitarist Steve Smyth who had to stay home due to serious kidney problems. Nevermore will attend all European festivals as a foursome. During their European tour later this year Jag Panzer guitarist Chris Broderick will fill in for Steve. Nevermore kick off with the song "Final Product" followed by "Engines Of Hate". Although Steve's absence is clearly audible, Nevermore manages to put on a great show. We are treated to "I Voyager", “The River Dragon Has Come" and "Seven Tongues Of God". I have had the pleasure of seeing Nevermore during previous gigs and I can see that those guys are all feeling the fact that Steve is not on stage with them. Still Nevermore are one of the best bands today. The crowd seems to agree. I see many metal heads singing along word for word. We hear "Enemies Of Reality" and "Narcosynthesis" and as a grand finale they play a 9 minute rendition of the killer song "Born" off their latest album ‘This Godless Endeavour’. We would like to wish Steve all the best and we are already looking forward to the shows Nevermore will play in September in support of Disturbed.

 

 

Sodom is one of those bands that you want to have seen at least once. Apparently we're not the only ones who adhere to this philosophy as a large crowd practically fills up the Amphitheatre as the band takes the stage. As they play the first chords of the song "Blood On Your Lips" a number of fireworks are set off. Sodom play "Wanted Dead" and then continue to play a list of classics such as "Outbreak Of Evil" and “Napalm In The Morning" to which everyone seems to know the words. Although the pyro show wasn't as spectacular as had been promised, this was a great show with songs such as "Axis Of Evil", "The Saw Is The Law" and "Sodomized". The crowd went crazy, with crowd surfers flying around and a couple of Large churning moshpits before the stage. The German thrashers end their set with "Remember The Fallen" and the ultimate Sodom classic "Bombenhagel". As a special extra the Rockhard organiser's band Randalica with singer Götz Kühnemund take the stage for the first time in years and they entertain us for approximately fifteen minutes with the songs "Tote Auffe" and “Tanzfläche", “Nach Uns Die Sinnflut" and "Potent, Willig Und Solo" if I'm correct. This is not really my thing but the crowd was loving it.

 

Minutes after Randalica has left the stage it starts to rain, this gives us a change to chill half an hour in a packed backstage tent.

Moments before the sympathetic guys from Bolt Thrower hit the stage it stops raining and the arena starts filling up with people that have been sheltering from the rain in their tents. Bolt Thrower came here today with the sole intention to crush the Amphitheatre with their mighty death metal machine. This Birmingham band has been a constant factor in the death metal scene for twenty years and has produced eight albums of which the latest is titled ‘Those once Loyal’ (November 2005) and was received well by both the press and fans. After having been away for about ten years, singer Karl Willets had returned to join the band for this album. Today Bolt Thrower bring us a mix of old and new material in the form of "Mercenary", "No Guts, No Glory", "Cenotaph", "Warmaster" and "For Victory". Despite the overload of highlights today, the crowd does not seem satisfied and hungrily take in what Bolt Thrower is serving. The band is clearly enjoying the atmosphere. The ‘Those Once Royal’ album is not passed by as we hear the title track and the song "Anti-Tank" and "At First Light" which is accompanied by a lot of moshing and banging heads. With this performance Bolt Thrower proves once again that they still belong to the top of today's death metal scene. Even though singer Karl was not having the best of days regarding his voice, they played a strong and hard show today. The show ends with the song "Inside The Wire" and "When Cannons Fade". We would like to note the fact that the band had brought along their own merchandise stand at which Bolt Thrower T-shirts could be bought at a very fair price, much to the pleasure of the fans.

 

 

Initially guitarist Anders Olden (Satyricon, Cadaver, Mayhem) was supposed to support Celtic Frost during their planned shows. Moments before Celtic Frost were scheduled to commence their show, singer Gabriel Fischer collapsed. He was immediately rushed to a hospital in Gelsenkirchen where he was diagnosed to have an acute case of kidney stones. Unfortunately this meant that Celtic Frost were unable to play the Rockhard festival. At this moment in time Thomas is said to have recovered from surgery and Celtic Frost is touring once again.

 

The Celtic Frost set back was compensated with short performances by Nevermore, Soilwork and Sodom, who kindly filled the gap in the programme. Nevermore is up first and they play "Inside Four Walls",  Soilwork's vocalist joins Warrel on stage for this occasion. They also playe "Dead Heart In A Dead World". Although they have only just arrived, Soilwork then take the stage and bring us three songs of which I recognised "Rejection Role" and "Stalemate". Finally Sodom emerges to entertain us with Onkel Tom hits "Es Gibt Kein Bier Auf Hawai", "Wachturm" and the Motörhead cover "Aces Of Spades". All this definitely helped to save the day. Although I was quite disappointed not to be able to see Celtic Frost again after twenty years, I am convinced Rockhard will make up for this in 2007!!!

 

Sunday June 4

 

Crucified Barbara have just started the last song of their set when we enter the Amphitheatre, so we briefly get to enjoy the pretty picture on stage. Despite the early hour (12.00) a crowd has already gathered before the stage. Apart from their stunning appearance, the Swedish ladies also are capable of rocking the theatre. The singer who reminds us of a female version of Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) has a pleasant, somewhat raw voice. The ladies serve us easy to digest rock a la Motörhead with challenging, somewhat feministic lyrics. Crucified Barbara ends the set with Motörhead cover "Killed By Death". When the ladies were done the Amphitheatre emptied, apparently many metal heads had decided to check out the show before breakfast!!

 

Next up is Volbeat, one of Denmark's currently rising stars. These guys play solid rock/metal with a number of influences. We hear a 60's, 70's Rock 'n Roll like sound, metal a la Machine Head and a voice resembling that of Keith Caputo (Life Of Agony) all rolled into one. The Danes look like they are having fun and they really get the crowd going this early in the afternoon. Of course the bulk of their set list consists of songs from their debut album ‘The Strength/ The Sound/ The Songs’ which was released last year: "Caroline leaving”, "Rebel Monster", "Soulweeper" and "Another Day, Another Way". Their own version of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Wanna Be With You" is  definitely a hit. Even if you have never heard a song by this band before, it's still a joy to watch Volbeat in Action. Mark this space!!

 

 

Curious to find out what Gojira is all about we sit ourselves down on the big steps of the amphitheatre. Although the programme booklet classifies Gojira as a death metal band, we're not sure if that's giving them enough credit. We discern many different sounds: death metal, black metal-like elements, slow and fast passages, clean singing and grunts. The music sounds solid as a whole and relatively doomy. The lyrics are pretty depressing as the singer addresses the problems on planet Earth. We hear both old and new stuff: "Love" from the album ‘Terra Incognita’ (2000), "The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe" and "Backbone"(both from the album ‘From Mars To Sirius’, 2005). A fine show but still hard to take in if you're new to this band. Certainly worth another viewing in the future.

 

Ripper Owen's new band Beyond Fear offers a blend of Judas Priest and Iced Earth, the front man's old and new band, respectively. In various interviews Ripper has stressed that Beyond Fear is certainly not a solo project, rather a complete band with equal input from all members. Today's show rocks, Ripper is clearly having a good time.(Even though he has lost his contact lenses on the flight over here and now he has to wear his glasses on stage) The German crowd parties hard to songs such as: “The State", "Coming At You" and "Your Time Has Come". Ripper bounces up and down the stage energetically while professionally hitting every high note. Near the end of the set we are treated to the Judas Priest cover " The Green Manalishi" which would have torn the roof off the theatre if it had one. This band knows its stuff! This great show is ended with the song "Scream Machine".

 

After the warming up by whirlwind Ripper, Evergrey takes the stage. These gentleman recently released the excellent album ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’ which contains a number of emotional songs besides the up-tempo tracks they are known for. Evergrey is in very good shape today. Singer Tom's voice is in top condition and he is more talkative than usual, sharing jokes with the crowd. Today Evergrey play a diverse set: the softer ballad-like songs are sung emotionally and the faster songs really blow us away. First we hear "Blinded" and the classic "More Than Ever". Off their latest release they play "Still In The Water", "Monday Morning Apocalypse" and "Obedience". Of all the Evergrey live shows that we have witnessed, this is without a doubt the best! The crowd goes nuts. More highlights are the classics "She Speaks To The Dead", "Mark Of The Triangle" and "Recreation Day". Evergrey conclude this splendid show with the song "Touch Of Blessing".

It's party time now, cause Finntroll with new singer Matthias Lillmanns are here to entertain us with some trollish madness. The crazy, funny mix of Finnish folk music, humpa, thrash, black and death elevates the mood. It works for us! We hear "Blotthott", Människopesten" and "Slaget Vid Blödsalv" from the album named ‘Jaktenstid’. The crowd is roaring. We are also served a number of oldies such as "Trollhammaren", "Segersang" and "Jaktens Tid". By now there's plenty of crowd surfers and wild dancing going on, the band is certainly enjoying it all .Adorned with troll-paint and clad in bearskins they are really partying on stage. The whole thing is fun to watch and even if you're not into this kind of thing it's still a breather to hear something completely different now and then.

 

Soilwork's melodic death metal started to become popular when they released the two well-received albums ‘Natural Born Chaos’(2002) and ‘Figure Number Five’ (2003). Last year their killer album ‘Stabbing The Drama’ was released, to me this is the finest work of art they have produced until now. From the moment Soilwork takes the stage and starts playing "Bastard Chain" from the 2001 album ‘A Predator's Portrait’ sparks start to fly, this Swedish formation always seems to live up to their excellent live-reputation. We are blown away by one spherical, bombastic musical piece after another such as: "One With The Flies", "Chain Heart Machine", "Overload" and the classic "Follow The Hollow". We watch an endless stream of crowd surfers as we enjoy the unique sound of this band. At the end of the show we are treated to two songs from the ‘Stabbing The Drama’ album in the shape of "Nerve" and "Stalemate". It's all good and the guitarists are showing off so much they almost throw each other off the stage. This fine show is ended with a splendid rendition of the song "As We Speak".

It's now time for the progressive metal of the American band Fates Warning. When their debut album ‘Night On Bröcken’ came out over twenty years ago, Fates Warning were deemed an Iron Maiden clone. In the following decennia however they evolved into one of the most significant progressive rock bands. Their ninth album named ‘X’ was released in 2004. It took them four years to produce this album so chances are we'll have to wait till 2008 for their next release, but today they are here and serve us an unforgettable show. From the instant the intro for "Disconnected" blasts from the amps an ongoing roar rises from the crowd. This party is complete when Fates Warning play "One". Of course we hear a number of songs from the latest album such as "Left Here" and "Simple Human". We also hear "11th Hour" and a cover of the Scorpions' classic "He's A Woman, She's A Man". The sound is near perfect and so we nominate Fates Warning for 'Winner of the day'.

Since the release of their fore last album ‘Hellfire Club’ in 2004, German powermetal band Edguy have made a huge leap forward. ‘Rocket Ride’, the album that followed in 2005, was received slightly less positive. One way or another something was missing on this album. Live on stage however, Edguy know how to make it happen and we are entertained with a bombastic lightshow, bridges and carefully rehearsed poses. The band open their set with the song "Lavatory Love Machine" from the album ‘Hellfire Club’ after which they play the relatively old song "Babylon". From the latest Edguy album we hear "Fucking With Fire", "Sacrifice" and "Save Me". Then some more older songs such as "Fairytale"(from the album ‘Vain's Glory Opera’, 1998), "Tears Of The Mandrake" and "Out Of Control". Singer Tobias Sammet never stops running back and forth and his band members flaunt their well-known heavy metal poses. I must say these guys really work to visually entertain the crowd although the happy power metal is an acquired taste. If this is not your thing then the best thing you can do is head to the bar and have a drink.

Now's the time many have been waiting for: Time for the grandmaster Dio. We get comfortable and are waited on hand and foot by killer classics, an extremely solid band and the practically unique voice of the metal-coryphée Ronny James Dio. The small man with the big voice kicks off with the songs "Children Of The Night" and "Speed & Light". The songs "One Night In The City", "Stand Up And Shout", "Gypsy" and "Don't Talk To Strangers" mesmerize the crowd and there's not a soul in the Amphitheatre that doesn't sing along with "Holy Diver". Half way through the show the drummer Simon Wright plays a solo that is a bit too long for our liking but we'll let him off as this show seriously rocks! From beginning till end we just sit there enchanted by Dio's golden vocal chords and the professionalism of his band. We hear the classics "Rainbow In The Dark", "All The Fools Sailed Away" and "Long Live Rock 'n Roll". The set is ended with a sublime rendition of the 1980 Black Sabbath hit "Heaven And Hell" and before we know it this super show is history and we find ourselves making our way back to the hotel, a bit drunk and very satisfied.

Rockhard 2006: Mission accomplished!!! We can look back on a fun festival with great atmosphere and an excellent line-up with great variety. The weather was better than expected and the only rain we had was at night. We'll discard the fact there was still an insufficient number of toilets, apart from that there was only one setback and that was the cancellation of the Saturday headliner Celtic frost, due to a severe case of kidney stones that struck the band's front man. Nevermore, Soilwork and Sodom kindly filled the gap and this was typical for the whole of the Rockhard festival. Friendly, brotherly, happy and musically satisfying. Last but not least, a big thumbs up for the security people whose job it was to catch the crowd surfers! Seldom have we seen this happen with such professionalism. Highlights this weekend were definitely Nevermore, Sodom, Bolt Thrower, Evergrey and Dio. On the whole, the sound was good, maybe a bit loud now and then. The only guy on stage that we couldn't hear was Götz Kühnemund himself after his long night of partying and working, but we can certainly live with that. We would like to congratulate and thank the entire Rockhard crew and of course festival director and party animal Götz for the hospitality and an extremely enjoyable festival with a killer line-up.Praise be! Up till now we have not heard any announcements for Rockhard 2007. We hope to see you all next year at one of Germany's coolest festivals!!

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