Headbangers Open Air 2008

September 9th, 2008
by Arto Lehtinen

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Headbangers Open Air 2008

Brande-Hörnenkirchen Germany

The self proclaimed biggest garden party in the world was once again the gathering place for classic heavy metal fans, hellrats and rivetheads of the world. The first night (thursday 24th of July) was a warm up night with only a few bands performing. There was also a warm up for all this in Itzehoe day before but our group decided to stay in Hamburg to have a good ”sightseeing” around that wonderful town. And here’s what happened during our three day stay at the grassy fields of Brande-Hörnenkirchen.

The traffic culture and roads are too much different in Germany so sadly I was a bit late to start the party at it’s earliest. It was the first time when I arrived by car to Germany in to see festivals and there certainly were problems but we made it with my loyal driver, my little brother with icy nerves. So, after one year off I was again in HOA with high expectations. Great bands, atmosphere with dedicated legions of fans all around the globe not forgetting the delicious food. Sadly we missed Messenger and Roxxcalibur and arrived somewhere after and just heard Deadly Blessing and Benedictum who were a great soundtrack while putting together our old oversized tent. Luckily our german neighbors finally helped us so thanks to them who ever they were. So my festival starts from…

By Herr Nabel and MetalSaku

Day 1 "Bring down the hammer"

For me the start of HOA 2008 was a NWOBHM tribute band Roxxcalibur. They were called in last minute because of a cancellation and they filled their spot nicely. Actually hearing not so often played NWOBHM classics (from bands like Angel Witch, Savage, Withfinder General, Grim Reaper, Jaguar) in hot weather drinking cold beer is fine way to spend thursday night.

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After the tribute to english metal it was time to  praise real US metal in a form of Deadly Blessing. Hailing from New Jersey Deadly Blessing is a perfect example of a cult US band having only one album (Ascend From The Cauldron 1988) released. And like in many similiar cases line-up had also lived wildly during the years, maybe most notably original vocalist Ski has left the ranks.

Anyway it worked out quite well, playing was top notch technicly only the stage show lacked some power. Not maybe the hammer in the head that was hoped for but still better than other bands before and later that day. Oh and the new song (or two?) sounded fine so I’ll check up their next release when it’s avaible.

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The next hours were sacrificed to beer (which hopefully is another brand next year) so Benedictum was (not so sadly) missed. Last band of the day was maybe the biggest name of this years festival, thrash metal force know as Exodus. For me it was the first time seeing Exodus with this lineup and without Zetro Souza handling vocals. And yes, it was disappointment (no lesson in violence). Where was the thrashing power and energy? Show just rolled on, rhyythm was nice, steady and even groovy but it just was not the Exodus that makes bangers take their stand. Extra lowpoints for the political ramblings of Mr. Dukes. Please keep politics away from heavy metal festivals, there is another time and another place for those. After Exodus it was time for some good old german drinks , also finding my tent was a performance in the darkness… (Herr Nabel)

I’m a big fan of their debut and like the Souza-era albums too but the newer stuff to my ears sounds too modern. The new singer gave me mixed feelings. His style was in a way very hardcore metal, the way Exodus sounds in their two latest records. Not a big fan of this new metalcore but I have to say I liked a lot when this guy was singing as he sounded so Exodus, if you know what i mean. Same kind of vocal style than the the previous masters Steve Souza and Paul Baloff. Many classics were heard from Bonded by Blood and when the night was coming it ended up to be a positive one. Also if I remember right they were playing some riffs from old metal classics like Wasted by Def Leppard. They also had a big audience and propably the only tour bus. many people continued partying but I went to sleep as I was going to check ALL the bands friday had to offer…(Saku)


Day 2 "Crash, bang, wallop"

After a healthy breakfeast of molten cheese and various drinks it was time to head into the arena. Paradox would have been first band on my radar but they cancelled and Deadly Blessing was the replacement I did not pay so much attention to it. Pretty much same thing as yesterday, solid US steel was delivered.  (Herr Nabel)

Black Hawk – i was very tired but as I had promised myself to watch all the bands I forced myself to get up. I didn’t know that a band like this even existed and i was even more amazed that they’re formed in early eighties. Perfect for an old schooler like me. Enjoyable honest metal show and they got my interest. I first thought it’s not a nice task to open the day but what the heck, there was a lot of crowd supporting the band this early. Oh yeah, Kiss cover Detroit Rock City was also played to get the metalheads moving. Still tired, need energy.(Saku)

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As the sweaty finnish warriors were cursing the god of sun somewhere in the shadows the australian act Mortal Sin took the stage. Like presumed those boys from down under did not have problems playing their thrash when the sun burned red. Solar power seemed worked ’cause their show was full of energy and aggression. Songs like Mayhemic Destruction and Blood Death And Hatred did the trick for me, good set overall. Even though big boys told me that vomiting was seen during their new material in audience. Hmm, because of the new songs or firewater?  (Herr Nabel)

Deadly Blessing – And blessing it surely was!! I thought I missed the band as they performed on thursday but luckily (in a way) Paradox cancelled and the U.S. metallers gave an extra gig. It was exciting to see how the new singer fills the shoes of Ski (the former singer) but no fear, he did a great job and the gig all in all was good. In HOA everyone, the fans and the bands, are having good relaxed time and also Deadly Blessing seemed to enjoy their time. One more legend has been seen, time for another.(Saku)


After all the mortal sins committed stage was conquered by Northern Irelands finest, Sweet Savage. Like few other bands in heavy metal history they are probably best known because Metallica covered their songs. But that is history and Sweet Savage showed how that and many others songs should be played. A real NWOBHM explosion it was, energy draining sunshine was more like molten metal pouring down our spines. Got to give big thumbs up for the lads, excellent playing and showmanship.Just think about hearing Eye Of The Storm, Queens Vengeance and allmighty anthem Killing Time live! One of the best gigs of weekend, no doubt about it.  (Herr Nabel)

Sweet Savage- I only knew some songs by them and the reputation (Metallica anyone?) so I was very anxious to witness this act too. They played very rockin’ NWOBHM and it worked very well. Songs like Eye of the Storm were totally killer. Now when I know more of them I think they even topped this performance in Wacken the next week. Lady, lady of the night… (Herr Nabel)

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Mortal Sin – Already saw them in Wacken 2006 and as I like their metal, especially the deput LP Mayhemic Destruction, it was sure that this won’t be a disappointment. And it wasn’t. Many classics were played and the crowd was one with the band. Singer Mat was banging his head while singing which looked insane, and he didn’t miss a word while doing this. Some new stuff was played and for me that sounded more traditional metal and very promising. During last song Mayhemic Destruction they let fans to come on stage to thrash and it was chaos, but a controlled one. They later destroyed Wacken and Finland so they’re definitely back in action.(Saku)

After collecting my bones from the front of the stage and having a few beers it was time to go back to the killing grounds to see the  US metal machine Lethal. Amateurs maybe call them c-class Queensryche but witnessing their power on stage makes you forget the babblings of those who should be educated with baseball bats. I know that their material is not the most original but having opportunity to witness the guitar playing of Eric Cook and David McElfresh is a real revelation for eyes and heavy metal ears. Then add the vocals of Tom Malicoat, bass rythms of Glen Cook and thundering drums of Jerry Hartman and you are in US metal heaven. Simple as that. Most of setlist was from their classic debut album ”Programmed” but later stuff was heard also and even a new song was played (promising stuff indeed). Only minus goes to technology, there was some problems with microphones and my ears were beginning to explode near the speakers so I had to back down all the way to the bar to cool myself. (Herr Nabel)

Lethal - Didn’t catch the whole set at Keep It True when they played there so it was time to do it now. Extremely great progressive U.S. metal, very skillful playing and incredible singer. Such a pleasure to hear this (have to say this) Queensrÿche-styled art. The flying V’s were shining in the daylight, at times almost touching the amazed audience. Singer Tom Malicoat had his trademark hat and with extremely awesome voice it was a cherry on top of a cake. Best one so far? Yeaaa…(Saku)

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At War – Time for war and more agressive stuff. Cult thrashers At War finally before my eyes. One band I waited most to see in this festival. They sounded brutal and they looked brutal with their army stuff on. The real headbanging started as this was first of the more heavier bands to climb the stage. Great show and they even played Ilsa (She Wolf of the SS). Well, people there were metalheads and knew this songs is like Angel of Death by Slayer, just a cruel story and nothing political. Also the first Motörhead cover was played, The Hammer of course as on their first LP Ordered to Kill.

After a few cold ones I started to have serious flashbacks from The Somme, Kursk and  Mekong delta. After getting a grip of reality I realised that I was not at war, it was At War thrashing the stage. If Lethal was a trip to US metal heaven here we had thrash metal straight from the trenches. And by Ares what a hail of bullets we received.  From extra dirty Rapechase to Creed Of Sniper, going from Eat Lead to Ordered To Kill and much much more. Raw thrash metal at its best, is it always that threepiece lineups are the heaviest of ‘em all? And of course our favorite german lady was given a tribute, Ilsa The She-Wolf Of The SS still rings in my head after all this time.   (Herr Nabel)

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The temperature was getting better (the shadows were growing longer) and Impaler came to stage. These guys put on a real show in their blood, masks, blood, blood and some extra guy climbing everywhere and banging his head on stage. Well, it was so called horror metal so this was expected.  I’m not too much familiar with the band so I just checked it in cool shadows given to us by few trees. I did not get much out of it, maybe I should get more familiar with them.  (Herr Nabel)

Impaler - One of the leading bands in a small subgenre we can call shock rock. I only knew some of their old stuff and was curious to hear more as they’ve been active all the time. Very catchy and cool songs even though one of my friends didn’t like it that much. one thing I have to mention was the visual side of the show. Tricks similar to good ol’ Alice Cooper worked well. There was one guy playing lunatic on the stage swinging a knife and climbing in the roof and he gave the show extra flavor. I later heard he was another guitar player of the band. Also a nurse, blood and other horror stuff. Very enjoyable metal madness.(Saku)

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Gathering strenght during Impaler was a good idea as the next band was Detente. Many had mixed feelings about this reunion as original singer Dawn Crosby had sadly died years ago. Her replacement was none other than Ann Boylen of Hellion fame and to me it seemed a quite strange replacement. But her more melodic singing style fitted Detente quite well actually and when backed by tight playing it was better than excepted. No vultures in the sky were seen swarming above the dead horse. It was a nice aggressive thrash gig.  (Herr Nabel)

Detente – Is it really Detente? I mean, without the vocalist Dawn Crosby (R.I.P.). I have always mixed feelings when it comes to re-unions but I’ll always check them (and end up liking nearly all of them, haha). Still this was difficult as Dawn was essential part of the band. Like Dio without Ronnie. Ok, that was a bad comparison but hope you got the point. Never surrending metalgirl Ann Bolyen from Hellion was there to handle the vocals. She’s more a classical metal singer compared to Dawn who had a raw voice but Ann did a good job and I think this was a good tribute to Dawn and the classic Detente. Need I even say they (like other bands in the festival) played with good skills and attitude. One more thing; oh my goodness how goodlooking Ann is after many years in this hard metal world

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The next band Blaze was little question mark as frontman Blaze Baileys wife has had serious medical issues so coming to play overseas was probably a hard choice for the band. Too bad the set was ruined by technical problems and even had 10-15 minute break because of broken wires or something. But when they had a chance to play Blaze delivered. The biggest cheers were ”surpringly” heard during the Iron Maiden numbers and Mr. Bailey won’t be ever able to forget that era. All though his new material is sometimes a little too modern for me but I enjoyed the gig. And Blaze Bailey is probably one of the most emotional frontmen I have ever witnessed.  (Herr Nabel)

Blaze Bailey – Knowing that Blaze have had so much bad luck in his career and life I had warm metallic thoughts that he came to play when there was problems existing. The man gave 100% and so did the rest of the band. Of course everyone knew the Maiden classics but at least for me not knowing much of his solo stuff these songs were hammering. The newest stuff was the heaviest he has ever done and, dare I say, also the best stuff from this guy of iron. Already dark so the lights were giving extra magic. A long set with a lot of highlights. Way to go Blaze, you’re on the right tracks. (Saku)

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The last band to play on friday was Sodom. They have has always been a quality live band and they met the expectations heads up. I would  take away songs like "Ausgebombt", "Surfin Bird", "Stalinhagel" and "Ace Spades" from the setlist but Germans seem to like their sing-along song. Angelripper and company seemed to be in a good mood. I don’t understand a word from germany but speeches were long and funny  I suppose. "Obssessed By Cruelty" woke up a few drunken metalheads from their coma and usual favorites like |Witching Metal", "Outbreak Of Evil", "Agent Orange", "Napalm In The Morning", "Among The Weirdcong" were delivered with fire and brimstone and that makes friday night a succesful one. After that it was time to crawl into my sleeping bag.  (Herr Nabel)

Sodom - Now it was totally crowded as most of the local people not knowing the value of these rarely seen cult bands were celebrating their time with friends and beer and a band they certainly know (some even left after friday). Sodom played a long set and that suited me more than well. One of my personal faves ever and even if people are complaining they play too much these funny alcoholic songs they’re still Sodom, the one and only. And besides that, there’s actually not so many funny ones in their set. Seen them already a few times so this wasn’t my main reason to travel to HOA but always nice to see them. All the classics were played and it was great to notice Obsessed by Cruelty was in the setlist too. Very thight playing by this trio and the german Lemmy, mr. Angelripper, showed he’s a dedicated motörheadbanger as the band played Ace of Spades as a cover. (Saku)

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Day 3 "Gettin’ heavy"

After surviving a trip in a moving oven AKA an automobile to the local supermarket I was almost ready to get my act together.

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Stone Cold Black – Waking up, hearing music. it was a local band playing modern thrash metal. I didn’t like their style that much as it was too new in a way but it was okay still. Only catch few of their songs so not much to report.(Saku)

Abandoned – Still feeling dizzy so kinda missed this one too. Better of these german thrash acts starting the saturday. I guess after partying two days people needed more brutal stuff to wake up. This was also an unknown band for me but definitely worth checking out.(Saku)


Metal was needed and that was provived as soon as Destructor took the stage like a storm. Dressed up in leather and spikes heaven was teared down in front of us just to be followed by a storm of steel. Destructor is in the best shape of their career, watching their show just simply sends shivers down your spine. No lazy thrash boogie like Exodus a few days before, this is the real thing. If only so-called thrashers would open up their eyes and feel the power of Destructor! Splitting skull forever (in leather)! Best day opener ever. Period.  (Herr Nabel)

Destructor – One of the most metal bands in this universe. Saw them in a small school in Keep It True warm-up show last year and now I got the change to see them again, this time with more air than sweat around me. They were excellent, so metal to the bone. Armed with leather and spikes they woke me up playing songs old and new which were equally killer. Could it be that this band even gets better with time? Wacken show later was great as well but that’s another story.(Saku)

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Right from the other side of the wheel of fortune comes Praying Mantis. Most people would not even call them metal, AOR would be more suitable. Anyway it was getting hotter and watching Praying Mantis play their shortened set (because of traffic or something) was a good way to cool down after Destructor. Having fruity drinks and listening to Praying Mantis is something everyone should do once in their life. Second time could be too much (Flirting With Suicide).  (Herr Nabel)

Praying Mantis – This NWOBHM legend played next to give a break to the banging folks. Classic songs from their early era dominated the set. Songs from the immortal Time Tells no Lies are always pleasure to hear and this was no exception. Sweet melodies and the band just took you to the golden age of british metal. Lighter side they are but who can listen Razor all the time? And as the weather was still very good this came to a perfect place.(Saku)

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But one of the main reasons for my trip to Germany was up next. Axehammer. This über-cult US metal band with a long career and little released material would have to live up to my expectations. Even when I did have any knowledge of their new singer (Mark Stewart of Thrust fame) and having guitar professor Jerry Watt as the only original member, Axehammer still simply laid down the law of heavy metal. From the thunderous opener "Princess" to the anthemic end "Windrider" it was pure metal magic. Neck destroying riffs, bombastic basslines, thunderous drums and anthemic singing is the recipe for the art of Axehammer. Raining metal, skin cuttin steel or whatever, it was one the best gigs I have ever seen. Break Down The Walls and play Axehammer up loud!  (Herr Nabel)

Axehammer - this was (again) something I’ve waited for a long time to happen as I’m a big fan of the band. Great set by these US legends who made a strong comeback album few years ago. Singer Mark Stewart really seemed to enjoy the german metal culture as he wore this scottish kilt the festival people in Germany often use. He did his vocals with skill and feeling and had this unique way of screaming, little bit like the Children of Bodom guy but better, more straight metal. Also special mention to bass player Matthew Roxx who jumped and banged on the stage like a possessed maniac, once even close to slip to the wires. ‘Til the next time! (Saku)

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After catching breath, beer and food I did not let the heat to take me down so back into the fire I went. This time fire starters were Wild Dogs. Headed by monolithic figure also know as Dr. Mastermind backed by evermoving guitarist Robert Robinson and drummer Troy Stutzman ass shaking metal was given to audience. Was it good? Yes and no, Wild Dogs have big catalogue of songs so battle rages ever on about wich songs they should have played. I was satisfied with their performance, maybe because of the three excellent gigs already witnessed that day Wild Dogs did not hit as hard as it could have or better still, should have.  (Herr Nabel)

Wild Dogs - This classic act next. Their album Reign of Terror is ranked very high in my books so I was nervous like a small child. Well, it wasn’t what I’ve expected as the other records are not so speedy and metal but more rocking stuff. I was hooked to this rocking side of the Dogs and what’s more nice than find new aspects in metal. Vocalist/bass player Matt McCourt (also known as Dr. Mastermind) was wearing a uniform similar to Rob Halford while entertaining the crowd. Guitar player Robert Robinson was on fire, a real virtuoso with his guitar. The song Believe in Me was like a second part of Motörhead’s Ace of Spades, or like a tribute to put it that way. Good thing for me they played the title track from Reign of Terror. (Saku)

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The next few bands were of no interest for me, there were more interesting activities for me in the camping area and the beer garden. So when the shadows had grown longer it was time to see veterans of their craft, Picture. The last time they released a studio album was 1987 and things were very different. Their brand of traditional metal kept my interest up most of the gig, songs like "Heavy Metal Ears", "Eternal Dark" and "Unemployed" made even me open up my mouth and sing along. They seemed to move up audience quite nicely so getting up front was out question for me. Nice one!  (Herr Nabel)

Picture - A classic dutch metal band from the eighties playing next. I heard somewhere they played a strong set at Sweden Rock earlier on the summer and this was the case now too. I was a bit tired and Picture gave me the energy to survive the rest of the festival. It was getting dark and the title track from their heaviest album Eternal Dark fit to the atmosphere totally perfect. Also songs like Unemployed got a huge welcome from the crowd. guys were in good mood and the white hair of the singer could be seen far away while he was running on the stage. Good classic metal.  (Saku)


The last two bands were Beehler and Death SS. First the stage was stormed by Beehler. Everyone should know that Beehler is the band of ex-Exciter drummer & vocalist Dan Beehler and that lineup also has ex-Exciter bass player Alan Johnsson and two guitarists (Sean Brophy & Scott Walsh). As expected lots of old classic Exciter songs were played and a few Beehler songs also. But the sound sucked. I could not hear anything clearly and I had the feeling that sometimes I could only hear drumming. Well you can’t have all but still… And why did they also play Ace Of Spades (the third Motörhead cover of the weekend)?  (Herr Nabel)

Bëehler - We can call them Exciter, right? Right? Nevermind, but this was 2/3 of the original Exciter line-up playing under moniker of (drummer/vocalist Dan) Beehler. Together with bass player Allan Johnson (also from Exciter) they have a new band with two demos on their belts. The demo songs I’ve heard sounded very good and I somehow knew they would play some old Exciter tunes as well. And they did! The band I was waiting more than any other act on this festival played Exciter material from the three first albums and some own stuff added in. The cover they played was Ace of Spades by Motörhead (surprising, eh). This was so much a metal dream to come true, still hearing the screams of Dan in my head. Pounding Metal, Evil Sinner, Heavy Metal Maniac…(Saku)

Setlist:

Stand Up And Fight

Heavy Metal Maniac

Iron Dogs

Destiny

One Foot In Your Grave?

Evil Sinner

Blackwitch

Used Bitch?

Psycho?

Rising Of The Dead

Pounding Metal

Beyond The Gates Of Doom

Violence And Force

Ace Of Spades

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Long Live The Loud

WWII/ Cry Of The Banshee


Last to appear on stage was Death SS. It was partly magic and partly it was boring riffs with too much keyboard. It was magic when we got to hear their old stuff, "Kings Of Evil", "Cursed Mama", "Heavy Demons" and "Horrible Eyes" etc. Of course their show was also very special. The band members dressed in various costumes, toppless dancers took the stage, along with fires, burning incense (or something) and anything else one can think of. I could only curse my luck not to have any power in the batteries of my camera. But it was more than just a visual show like I already said. Big thumbs up for perfect sound! Somehow they did not get much of an audience to watch them which was a shame.

It was a good way to end the festival. Last year it was Halloween so maybe in 2009 we will see Ripper as the last act? (Herr Nabel)

Death SS - More evil than Mercyful Fate? Could it be? After seeing them last time in Wacken 2001 with alcohol fueled condition I was hungry for this one again. They’ve been an important piece of puzzle in the history of metal, be it black, horror, doom or other dark music. The stage show was astonishing. Crosses, naked girls, fire etc. gave a very special feeling. Dark it was, mysterious, very italian, satanic, theatrical all at the same time. One of the greatest I’ve ever seen. The music wasn’t in the shadows of the show but quality metal in the way only Death SS can create. Their catchy songs made (by this time) drunken audience to bang their heads. When announced to play at HOA they said it will be their last show ever. Will it be? Hope not as this was so fantastic but if it was it was great way to say goodbye. (Saku)

Overall HOA is still the heavy metal festival in the summertime. Hopefully it won’t get bigger than this as a garden party with devoted fans is enough. Maybe next year we will see a better variety of food and better beer for sale! Also a possibility to buy soft drinks in bottles, bread etc would be nice for us who don’t have car with a possibility of going to the supermarket. See you all in 2009!

Drinking, hangover, moving forward but had such a perfect time at HOA again. Thanks to organizers for everything, and to the bands and fellow heavy demons for the company. In the nineties I couldn’t even have dreamed of seeing bands like Bëhler, Axehammer and such in Europe. Thanks to festivals like HOA who keep the feling alive. Next year again!!! (Saku)

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