Headbangers Open Air 2009
23th July – 25th July
By Herr Nabel
This years garden party had already sold out months before the July. The nearest camping ground to the festival area was already full when we arrived around 2 pm thursday afternoon. Also as there were probably more people at the festival than ever, all the services (espicially food stands) were way too crowded with customers. Speaking of the stage area, I did not want to see some bands I don’t know so well because there were just too many people blocking views and movement. Funnily, few of our camping neighbours probably did not even want to see any bands. Damn caravaners! Maybe all this because Wacken is next weekend just around the corner?
After all the rain, drinks and drying wet sneakers it was time to see some action on the stage. During Bullet (who play nowdays everywhere) and Q5/Nightshade I could not move my wet ass out of the beer tent. Most of the germans atleast seemed to be very anxious to see Tank but I had no hopes for this version of Tank without their original voice, Algy Ward. And I was not blown away by them. It was more of a tribute band, instruments sounded totally like Tank but whoever (Doogie White) was supposed to fire out the vocal ammunition straight to your eyes was really out of place. I expect Tank to roar like Challenger 2 and not to shine like a Rainbow. (They were much better in KIT last spring with Angelripper on vocals.)
Hope of getting positive feeling about thursdays bands was then left on the shoulders of Vicious Rumors. And when you open your set with classic like "Digital Dictator" you can’t go wrong. Great Californian metal with not too much of that glam scheisse in their music. The thing that was to make this gig special was that Gary St. Pierre (ex-Hawaii) was supposed to come on stage to perform songs of the semi-classic "Soldiers Of The Night" LP. And those songs ended up to be the highlight of the set. To be honest the latest material was also quiet nice stuff, good american power metal. So not only with St. Pierre did Vicious Rumors shine that night.
After waking up and having a few cold beers to balance the feelings of last nights sins it was time to move on and witness first band of friday, this time Lonewolf from France. After five or six songs of basic stripped down metal I had my share of Lonewolf. Basicly there is nothing wrong in them, quite cathcy songs, nice solos, great bass sound etc but they just could not keep at the stage area. Still better than most of the useless and lazy reunions.
One of those reunions was up next, this time it was (The Exalted) Piledriver from Canada. And god knows who was in the lineup as they already once cancelled HOA appearence because of lineup problems. And even their past lineups, studio lineups and everything else is too complicated for me to understand. But they were not lazy and useless, frontman Gord possesses somekind of perverted charisma and as the songs are not most complexed they were good soundtrack to afternoon beers. Simple and sometimes pounding metal, can’t go wrong with "Sex With Satan", "Metal Inquisition", "Piledriver" etc.
Moving from big, dirty and loud Piledriver to young, clean and angel like Enforcer was quite a contrast. With excellent "Into The Night" debut LP I had really high hopes for these young swedes. Speed Queen, Black Angel, City Lights etc are great songs but there was lack of power (especially in the vocals). They sure had the moves, the looks but I demand more heaviness and less stage antics. Can’t blame it on festival stage as they had the same problems next monday at club gig in Hamburg. Excellent band on vinyl, not so good (still) on stage.
Then on to something older and not so furious. Melodic and somehow epic US metal of Exxplorer has always been hard thing for me to swallow. Sometimes it hits you like ton of bricks and sometimes you just fall a sleep. And that was exactly what happened to me. A small pause in damned german rain, place to sit down near the stage, beer and that was it. I think it happened during "Metal Detectors" or "City Streets". Maybe it could have during been epic "Objection Overruled" that I passed out… Not much memories about them to be honest, Jim Abbiati had the same pink bandana on his head as during last Keep It True.
After waking up and getting "things balanced" again I noticed it was time to get back to the garden and experience Neil Turbin’s Deathriders. I have no idea what Neil Turbin has been up to after "Fistful Of Metal" by Anthrax but today set had those old Anthrax classics as well as new stuff from Deathriders. Of course those Iron Maiden influenced good old Anthrax tracks worked like a portaloo in a next sunday morning and new tracks had their moments also. But somehow all the new songs and their riffs&titles vanished from my memory soon after the show. Neil Turbin also seems to be quite a motormouth, with less talking they could have played more songs. Positive experience overall.
So, after a nap earlier on I was in the shape of my life and waiting for Helstar! Maybe the most famous Texas metal band stormed the stage and did what they do best. And that is playing classic US (texas) metal. Band is in really good from and vocals of James Rivera were powerful as usual. Okay, few of the new songs has little bit too modern sections for my taste but one got to have time to get some beers… But when you play classics like "Suicidal Nightmare", "Angel Of Death" and "Run With A Pack" I can forgive those few dull moments. Gig ended with members of Vicious Rumors coming on stage to play stuff from their latest album "Warball" with mr. Rivera. Highlight for some, I would have preferred more classic Helstar!
Pretty Maids. Sadly I did not have enough AOR-spirit in my glass to watch them more than few songs so I headed out to the muddy highway to wait for Manilla Road…
And after nice wait in the beer tent with all the winos around the world it was time for the real highlight of the evening, Manilla Road! And of course they did not let us down. Time just flew by, classics from eighties with new stuff from recents years was performed in solid continuum. Hellroadie took care from most of lead vocals, while Mark The Shark Shelton joined the vocals in most of the songs. With Vince Goleman in bass and Hardcore Christner in drums Manilla Road seems to be a really tight unit nowdays. And when put in a middle of dark german summer night with great sound quality from stage outcome can only be heavy metal magic. Suddenly time was up, gig was over and it was time to go back to the tents. Cage Of Mirrors, Necropolis, Witches Brew, Mystification and Death By Hammer playing in your head there was no need for stygian black lotus to get you into sleep…
RIDDLE OF STEEL
ROAD OF KINGS
CAGE OF MIRRORS
MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH
DEATH BY THE HAMMER
HAMMER OF THE WITCHES
FLAMING METAL SYSTEMS
I understand that occasional rain showers are not the ideal weather of festivals but to me little bit colder temperature which made sleeping possible was perfection for a finn with a slight hangover. And that was also easy to cure by getting taxi to nearest supermarket and buying all kinds of fine cocktails.
And after consuming these fine drinks in our gentlemans club it was once again time to move to stage area to witness promising band from Sweden know as Portrait. Week before HOA I had already witnessed them in Hells Pleasure festival and that was quite a triumphatic gig for their new vocalist Per Karlsson. But sadly their show in HOA was ruined by technical problems. So there is not much to tell about it to the younger generations as it was complete fiasco. Too bad as their gig week before was more than good.
After Portrait it seemed that Cloven Hoof had done their opening rituals correctly as they had no problems with unknown forces. They have moved during the years from more or less epic NWOBHM to classic heavy metal but still they have their own sound somehow. Maybe it’s vocalist Russ Norths brilliant voice that brings it all together? heavy metal song like "Nove Battlestar" fitted perfectly to the set with NWOBHM classic like "Laying Down The Law". And to top the cake they had guest vocalist Terry Dark from Jameson Raid performing "Gettin Hotter"! That was fine piece of NWOBHM action! Epic gig only ruined by rain…
Next thing I discovered after Cloven Hoof was that it was time for Killers! Damn, we need more hours to clock at festivals especially when you’re trying to keep yourself dry near the beer taps. Well, those french or basque rascals known as Killers had great show going on. Despite the fact that 98 percent of audience did not share same language with them but as we all know, talking metal is all you need. Before the gig I was familiar only with their early stuff, which (espicially debut LP "…Fils De La Haine") is very heavy stuff compared to some of the the other bands from France during that era. Their more recent material was also quite good with Motörheadish moments which suited vocalist Bruno Dolheguy’s voice perfectly (of course there were moments when I was mainly blowing bubbles to the wind)! Good set, little bit too long perhaps to keep the audience in their grip for the whole time.
Still my head was filled with mysterious images of some Rosalind when it was time for Tankard to play. Surprise, surprise all the germans from far and wide invaded the garden and beer started to rain. Maybe even our neighbours from camping ground made the long and exhausting trip to the stage area? What to say about Tankard that people don’t know? Nothing. Especially when your deutsch is not on the level to understand all the "funny" german jokes of Gerre. Yesyes, Tankard have their share of semi-classic thrash songs so the gig was good entertainment. Too much sauerkraut in the air though. But as we know, Tankard has to be experienced in German once (or twice) in a lifetime.
When tankards were empty and the smell in the air was sweet and dangerous I knew it was time for Angel Witch. Something I never expected to see live but for which I once again had no high hopes. And it was a good thing as this incarnation of Angel Witch (Kevin Heybourne, Chris Fullard, Will Palmer and Andy Prestidge) was somehow lazy and missing all the emotion that classic Angel Witch possesses. Heybournes vocals were weak and guitar sound was even weaker than vocals. I was confused, too confused to even leave the stage area. Note: one of those gigs which will always haunt me when I play magnificent studio albums and singles of Angel Witch..
So what is the difference between shitty reunion and a good one? To me it’s the difference between The Rods and Angel Witch. Where Angel Witch was lazy, The Rods were Too Hot To Stop. Classic lineup of Bordonaro-Feinstein-Canedy was simply devastating, a real band compared to those who have a lineup built just for one or two festival shows. Just the amount of sweat poured to the stage by Gary Bordonaro probably equeled the amount of water I drank during whole festival (okay, not much). Just by looking at the setlist should be reason enough to travel wherever they are playing. Simply the best hrad rocking heavy metal gig of HOA 2009. All hail classic NY metal! Next year Riot?
Raise Some Hell
Let Them Eat Metal
Born To Rock
Burned By Love
Too Hot Too Stop
Waiting For Tomorrow
Cold Sweat And Blood
Nothing Going On In The City
Crank It Up
The Night Lives To Rock
So there were some disappointments during the weekend, some great moments and many beers and vodka bottles later stage was given to headliners aka Razor. Thrash riff general Dave Carlo lead his troopers to stage and fired with all the ammo he had. No lazy downtempo nu-thrash but fast and furious neckbreaking stuff that thrash metal should be. I gladly took the torch and headbanged all my troubles away for a while. Killer gig, I did even not miss Sheepdog on vocals like so many did, just let Bob Reid do his job and tear yourself to pieces. Razor really deserved to be headliners of saturday night.
Take This Torch
Tear Me To Pieces
City Of Damnation
Soldiers of Fortune
Cross Me Fool
Headbangers Open Air 2009 was done, over and out. Jpefully the festival won’t grow bigger because there is not simply not space enough at the current location. But we will see what happens… I suppose it’s safe to say that it will good party anyway…