Twenty three years after the release of their first album power metal's forefathers finally grace the shores of the land DownUnder.
I had no choice but to make sure I was at the Metro for the first band, PAINDIVISION, as 1. metal-rules.com's Wacken Open Air 2007 guest contributor Raymond Martens plays keys in this band; and 2. he's my better half, so I was off to the gym in my lunch break for a detoxing steam followed by a refreshing shower only to be handed one towel due to some laundry crisis. For anyone with more than coat hanger proportions and waist-length hair one towel doesn't go far. I handed back the towel in a huff stating "You might as well have handed me a tissue!" Today!? TODAY!? Couldn't this have happened any other day? (Stay with me, this waffle has a purpose.)
After getting changed at work and putting on the war paint, I made my way to the venue hoping to grab a quick bite with Ray, but as usual sound checks were running late so off I went to the cheap underground pub where metalheads go before shows, hoping some of my mates were already there.
When the doors finally opened I was in, playing tag trying to get my camera gear from Ray before he was due on stage and ready for another drink as this was one of those rare nights I wasn't driving.
For the pedigree in this band, PAINDIVISION are quiet achievers who proved their worth with new singer Jordan Howe during the Black Label Society tour. Being the first band of the night they were allocated two light cans which didn't seem to be able to work at the same time frustrating all the photographers in the pit, but it did put my latest lens investment through the ultimate test.
Early arrivers watched the band enthusiastically while it was plagued with sound issues. Bad sound and near darkness didn't dampen their spirits as Jordan kept on with his monologue between songs.
A lot of familiar faces from Sydney's old Cobra Club (circa early '90s) crawled out of their 20 year old metal closets to be surprised by a familiar face in the next support band-guitarist, Steve Janevski from Cyclone Tracy.
Australia's recent metal export taking Europe by storm, BLACK MAJESTY, took the long trip from Melbourne to Sydney to play the honourable main support slot. (Melbourne and Brisbane audiences were treated to another internationally renowned band, Vanishing Point.)
The environment didn't seem to improve for BLACK MAJESTY with sight and sound but they soldiered on like good power metallers with a set of Tomorrowland; Dragon Reborn Silent Company; Fall of the Reich; Another Dawn; Forever Damned; Legacy; and Guardian.
And so I've come to the realisation I've gotten old! Seeing all the bands of a 3-band show after a full day's work was so full on I was barely able to stand by the end of the night and drain of energy made me quite ill...in fact, when I was asked to look after some gear during load out, I happily sank on the concrete floor allowing the coolness to soothe my aching head...So ill was I that somehow after the show I managed to lose all the notes I'd written so have tried to recall memories which were made fuzzy but my throbbing head...
If you're not aware, most bands allow photographers to get their shots from the pit for only the first three songs, so you have to love a band that starts their set with a 10-minute epic-Halloween followed by Sole Survivor; and March of Time.
Bassist Markus Großkopf and guitarist Michael Weikath love putting on a show for photographers and tonight was no different to the other times I've seen HELLOWEN. In complete contrast singer Andi Deris seems to avoid looking straight down the barrel on a camera preferring to ignore us and pander to the audience and eventually tiring us with his "Hey presto!" finger wiggling.
With the speed and frequency of international acts hitting Australian shores these past 12 months and with Helloween playing in the same month as Iron Maiden, I was surprised fans of metal old weren't still licking their financial wounds after hearing and reading about people catching all the interstate shows as well. It seemed everyone was using the Iron Maiden shows to hand out flyers for upcoming tours outside the arena, but strangely flyers for the fathers of power metal were absent. The show didn't sell out, but the Metro Theatre also didn't look empty.
The band seemed impressed enough with the audience's enthusiasm of which there was enough to fill an arena. All night I kept hearing things like "My first heavy metal album was Keeper of the Seven Keys"; "I started playing guitar after hearing Walls Of Jericho"; and "When I was 10 all I wanted for my birthday was Keeper of the Seven Keys."
Guitarist Sascha Gerstner must have spotted a pretty face or two as he smiled down in into the first couple of rows a lot as the band continued with "As Long As I Fall" and "A Tale That Wasn't Right" and drummer Dani Löble seemed to have a few technical glitches which were ironed out before his drum solo.
The two hour set continued with classics "King For A 1000 Years"; "Eagle Fly Free"; "The Bells of the Seven Hells"; "If I Could Fly" and "Dr Stein" before walking off stage. Of course the audience, after waiting up to 20 years to see this band live, wasn't going to let them off so lightly and started chanting before the last band member left the stage. They were rewarded with an encore medley of "I Can"; "Where the Rain Grows"; "Perfect Gentleman"; "Power"; and "Keeper of the Seven Keys".
A second encore followed with "Future World" and what Helloween/Gamma Ray show (or any other show of numerous bands that's covered the anthem) be without "I Want Out"!
Feeling drained, I enjoyed the second half of the set seated in the "box" area of the theatre but was upset when blow-up pumpkins rained on the stage and into the audience because I wouldn't have gotten down fast enough to grab a new addition to my toy collection.
It was while I was able to watch the "whole picture". Watching especially Marcus and Michael fool around on stage made me enjoy the show more and I realised how much fun the band seemed to have on stage and how effortless, yet precise, their playing seemed but I would guess that should be expected from performers with that much experience.
After catching them play a small festival a couple of years ago I recommended the show to many people and even though it was a long day and I end up as sick as a dog, I’m glad I got to see HELLOWEEN live again.