UTH XI - Day 1 @ Kyttaro Club, Athens (GRE)

VIRGIN STEELE / LETHAL / VARDIS / IRONSWORD / TEMPEST / SACRAL RAGE / SEVEN SISTERS

Date: 26th March, 2016
Venue: Kyttaro Club
Ticket: €58 ($66) festival / €35 ($40) single day
Promoter: Up The Hammers
Photos: Erika Wallberg


The buzz was definitely around Eddy Malm and Styrbjörn Wahlquist who were visiting the festival and were to do a few songs with HEATHENS FROM THE NORTH at the second day. Personally, I had worries about my flight being delayed and the anxiety I wouldn't make it on time to the start of the festival. Everything went according to the plan and within about 15 minutes to spare before the doors opened, I arrived at Kyttaro Club.

And it was a good way to kick off the first day with SEVEN SISTERS. I only had a brief online listen before the festival and for sure I liked it. But it was a couple of steps up live I think. A touch of early 80's IRON MAIDEN with an unpolished and raw sound. It all fitted perfectly even though guitarist Graeme Farmer had issues with his eyes and had to stay back home in England. What I really enjoyed with SEVEN SISTERS was that it felt real. Swedish bands playing the same style can be very forced because they try so hard, so it becomes a comedy act and nothing feels natural. With SEVEN SISTERS it was a little awkward in between the songs and Kyle McNeill made uneasy attempt to tell a joke but in the end this became hilarious. While playing it was full on though. And I must say I was pleasantly surprised, songs as "Onwards They Ride" worked really well live. The support was ok from start even if the place was rather sparsely crowded as they hit the stage. No matter what, they sure won people over and even if it is as it normally is for the first band out on the bill, the response grew for each and every song. And halfway through the SEVEN SISTERS set the place was almost full. Last songs out, both "Avenger" and "No Guts, No Glory" sounded really good and I started to regret I hadn't check SEVEN SISTERS out more prior to the Festival. People around me seemed to know the songs at least. And it was a very good start of the first day and the festival too of course.

SEVEN SISTERS setlist:

01. "The Warden"
02. "Silk Road"
03. "Onwards They Ride"
04. "Destiny's Calling"
05. "Wicked Steel"
06. "Avenger"
07. "No Guts, No Glory"

SEVEN SISTERS

Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Seven Sisters @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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SACRAL RAGE really surprised me last year when they played at ‘Keep It True’ festival. They perhaps didn't fill the big stage at Tauberfranken Halle but they sure did a good job both musically and visually. And there was no doubt that many held SACRAL RAGE as one of the highlights of that day. The place was packed well before they had started playing and the anticipation could be felt. What I like with this band is that they have a plan, a gimmick if you will. Vocalist Dimitris K.’s mimics and facial expressions are fabulous. The demonic grin and the way he breathes on occasion together with "The Matrix" type face paint sets them apart from most other bands. And the straitjacket he wears of course to make a very good build up until the show really starts.

Sometime during the first few songs, this should have been for "Panic in Urals (Burning Skies)" Dimitris managed to step on the chord of the microphone pushing it down so the start of the song didn't get as powerful as it could have had. The band as well as the crowd looked amused and without much hassle the show continued. SACRAL RAGE sure deserved the response they got; "A Tyrannous Revolt" is absolutely fantastic with "Master Of A Darker Light" being even better. The response from the crowd was full on straight through the set. And the smaller stage at Kyttaro made the whole show more intense compared to ‘KIT’, so this was absolutely a step up. It's really good to see that there are new bands coming too and SACRAL RAGE sure have made a very strong impression and set a solid mark in the Metal world during the few years they've been around.

SACRAL RAGE setlist:

01. "En Cima Del Mal"
02. "Lost Chapter E: Sutratma"
03. "Panic in Urals (Burning Skies)"
04. "A Tyrannous Revolt"
05. "Master Of A Darker Light"
06. "Return To The Dead"
07. "Phantasmagoria" (ANNIHILATOR cover)

SACRAL RAGE

Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Sacral Rage @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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Festivals like this one normally have some recently reformed old school band here it was TEMPEST playing old school German Heavy / Power / Thrash Metal. I can't say I was very familiar with TEMPEST before and giving it a spin it all sounded good but as many of these bands, the production of the recordings left more to wish for. And that is why the show came as a rather big surprise. The kind of rough-sounding songs from back in the day sounded absolutely fantastic live. They had a heavy dynamic and groove that new bands rarely can come up with and I had a smile on my face from first to last note. Some of that can be assigned to Thorsten Dierks. His stage persona is so much fun to watch and his attitude sure makes the gig a true feel-good moment. It was the same when I saw him with SEDUCER a few years ago too. "The End Of A Dream" from the EP with the same title and the B-side "Incomprehensible Conduct" worked perfect and the crowd went nuts. In fact part of the crowd turned out to be the TEMPEST fan-club traveling from Germany to support.

Even if TEMPEST didn't draw the same crowd as SACRAL RAGE, the venue felt packed anyway since these guys showed up and started sharing anecdotes and info about the band that perhaps should have been kept a secret. The fact that they never managed to rehearse together prior to the show... Ok, that actually made the whole thing more impressive since it really sounded amazing. I don't remember if it was for "The Voice Inside" or "Control The World" when Thorsten had a little chat with drummer Neudi and then turning to the crowd saying; Andreas told me to describe this song to you, but I TELL YOU NOTHING!” In a perfect English. The next fact appearing was that Thorsten doesn't speak English at all. If that's the truth he sure faked that one in a fantastic way.

So even if both SEVEN SISTERS and SACRAL RAGE did fantastic gigs TEMPEST really blew me away and until this point became the favorite gig of the festival.

TEMPEST setlist:

01. "Chaos"
02. "The End Of A Dream"
03. "Warmaker"
04. "Incomprehensible Conduct"
05. "The Voice Inside"
06. "Control The World"
07. "Barracuda" (SEDUCER cover)

TEMPEST

Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Tempest @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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When it was time for IRONSWORD to hit the stage, the place got packed again. It's good to see that new bands too get a great support but I felt a little bad for TEMPEST. Their show was amazing and they deserved the same crowd as SACRAL RAGE and IRONSWORD. Ok, IRONSWORD have been around for two decades but still, they're not an old school band in that way. What really impressed me is how damn much they sounded despite being a trio. SEVEN SISTERS also performed as a trio but IRONSWORD sure had a much more full sound. Then, that they had help from the crowd in a very good way could of course have something to do with the whole experience, the chanting to "None But The Brave" and "Brothers Of The Blade" was really immense.

Also, from a visual aspect, it worked really well with IRONSWORD; guitarist and vocalist Tann worked the stage in phenomenal way. He could perhaps have gotten more help from bass-player Jorge Martins but what he didn't do, drummer João Monteiro did. He was constantly seeking contact with the crowd pointing his drumsticks or making gestures to get as much response as possible.

It really didn't matter if IRONSWORD played new or old songs because the response from the crowd was great no matter what. "Ring Of Fire" from the 2015 release "None But The Brave" was treated equal to "An Ending In Fire" and "Beginning Of The End", no matter what part of the career, all of it got very good response. Another thing that did a lot for the visual effect was the side drops IRONSWORD had, small things like that make the band appear bigger than they are and it also make the stage look very special. With TEMPEST fresh in mind, IRONSWORD didn't beat that impression but they sure put on one hell of a show.

IRONSWORD setlist:

01. "Intro"
02. "March On"
03. "None But The Brave"
04. "Brothers Of The Blade"
05. "Cimmera"
06. "Eye For An Eye"
07. "Forging The Sword"
08. "First Masters"
09. "Nemedian Chronicles"
10. "Ring Of Fire"
11. "An Ending In Fire"
12. "Beginning Of The End"
13. "Ancient Sword Of The Dead"
14. "Burning Metal"

IRONSWORD

IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) IronSword @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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It was kind of the opposite at this edition of ‘Up The Hammers’ when compared to other festivals. As VARDIS were getting ready to play, the place was virtually empty. For sure, Kyttaro Club becomes like a sauna even half full so some fresh air is needed every now and then. VARDIS haven't really impressed me when I've seen them play. Musically it has been very good but style-wise it's a little too much boogie woogie for my taste. But as they were playing I was definitely going to see them. The passing of Terry Horbury has of course affected the band and new members Martin Connolly on bass and Joe Clancy on drums are now backing up Steve Zodiac. And how cannot you but love a dude like Martin and at the same time wonder what stone he's been hiding under all the years. He's an remarkable bass-player and his style fitted perfect in VARDIS and he amazingly filled out the sound.

Just as for SACRAL RAGE I've seen VARDIS at ‘Keep It True’ and to compare, this one was so much better. "Radio Rockers" and "Dirty Money" went down really well. And what didn't come forward at ‘KIT’ were the skills guitarist Steve possesses; his tone is fantastic and I really enjoyed his attitude. Perhaps this smaller stage made the sound a little filthier and this only beneficial from my point of view. During "I’m A Loser" I started thinking it was time for a break before LETHAL was about to hit the stage. But since they had at least 20 minutes gig time left and VARDIS really rocked the boat I decided to stay. So it became a little bit of a panic when the song after "I'm A Loser", "Let’s Go" turned out to be the last song out. So VARDIS really surprised me, they really rocked and had a completely different intensity in their music this evening (or if it was because the place is smaller) which I truly enjoyed.

VARDIS setlist:

01. "Move Along"
02. "Lion’s Share"
03. "Radio Rockers"
04. "Dirty Money"
05. "Where There’s Mods There’s Rockers"
06. "Red Eye"
07. "Jolly Roger"
08. "I’m A Loser"
09. "Let’s Go"

VARDIS

Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Vardis @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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LETHAL was the main reason I decided to go to this edition of ‘Up The Hammers’. It was basically love at first sight (or a little before, checking them out) at ‘Keep It True’ a few years back, during their first trip over to Europe. And then I've done my best to see them when the opportunity is given.

After a little messy (people were running around on stage while Tom tried to not stand in the way and looked rather awkward) change-over the band was ready to go when the organizer broke in presenting an honor award to the band in memory of Eric Cook who passed away in 2012. His picture was also presented on the projection back-drop throughout the show. Then, it was time for the show and even with the raw sound mainly from the monitors and the stage "Fire In Your Skin" sent shivers down my spine. Normally, it takes a song for the sound to get sorted out when there's only a line check and it didn't even take that now. The sound cleared up and when "Programmed" started it was close to perfect. LETHAL have been working on new material for a while and "Poet's Knife" along with "Secret Stare" and also "Distortion", "Invention" and "Two / Tear Us Apart" represented this. All of them sounded amazing, right in style with fantastic "Programmed", so I really hope these will be released soon. As basically no one had heard these new songs before, it was the older material that got the greatest response. "Swim Or Drown" is another favorite but it doesn't beat "What They've Done". The chorus line is one of the best things ever written and Tom Mallicoat nailed it. How he pulled it all off is beyond me. Halfway through the set, it felt he was losing his voice - at least when talking in between songs. His voice was really hoarse when talking, while singing nothing of that could be detected.

"Immune" is kind of the hit and of course got some of the best response of all songs. But it's great to see that most people also knew "Balancing Act", which is a bonus track of the "Your Favorite God" EP. Another special thing for this show was the addition of original guitarist Dell Hull and it worked out really good with three guitar players. "Just Before Dawn" from the "The Arrival" demo was a very cool feature but the absolutely best was saved for last (as normal) and that was "Killing Machine". That's a song that goes on repeat every time I take out "Programmed" for a spin. It's fantastic on record but to get to hear it live is even better.

So yes, LETHAL delivered, higher than my expectations. The intensity and perfection in their performance few can compete with how damn good Tom's voice still is and that is amazing. I know I say this every time but he sure sound better than ever nowadays.

LETHAL setlist:

01. "Fire In Your Skin"
02. "Programmed"
03. "Poet's Knife"
04. "Swim Or Drown"
05. "Secret Stare"
06. "What They've Done"
07. "Obscure The Sky"
08. "Distortion"
09. "Balancing Act"
10. "Immune"
11. "Invention"
12. "Pray For Me"
13. "Just Before Dawn"
14. "Two / Tear Us Apart"
15. "Killing Machine"

LETHAL

Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Lethal @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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As LETHAL was a complete run-over, I was a bit worried that VIRGIN STEELE would feel a little dull when it was their time to play. If I had been thinking that through a little, I would of course have realized that VIRGIN STEELE can't fail in Greece, just as OMEN and TITAN FORCE last year the place was crazy packed long before it actually started so to stand in the front to take pictures I could just forget. But I rather have it like that than any other way.

What struck me immediately was David DeFeis energy on stage, how he kind of attacked each and every line and this sure boosted the crowd. It sure was a relief to see VIRGIN STEELE now compared to the anti-climax at ‘Headbangers Open Air’ a few years ago; delayed like crazy and an endless soundcheck that killed the party mood. Luckily nothing like that happened this time and one of the highlights were hands-down "The Wine Of Violence" and "Queen Of The Dead"; these songs are fantastic and with the response from the crowd it all got so intense - Really amazing! But I can't for my life understand why David insists on having so many effects on the vocals. The reverb almost killed the tone in his voice. There were few occasions it got kind of clean and it sounded incredible but most of the time this wonderful voice was drowned in effects.

The air inside the Kyttaro Club was as thick it could almost be tasted; beer, smoke and sweat mixed but the atmosphere was on top and then things like that come in secondary. "Defiance" almost made the place boil over but it was turned up yet another notch for "The Burning Of Rome (Cry For Pompeii)". I don't know anywhere else in the world bands of the size of VIRGIN STEELE or the other headliners of ‘Up The Hammers’, this or past year, get the same response and support as they do in Greece. It's amazing to see and experience. And it sure makes it worthwhile going.

So, the first day was long (with all the travels also) but a damn good day. Basically, all bands exceeded my expectations, some by far also. And if that's not a good grade on a festival day, what is?

VIRGIN STEELE setlist:

01. "Sumerian Intro"
02. "By The Hammer Of Zeus (And The Wrecking Ball Of Thor)"
03. "Dust From The Burning"
04. "The Wine Of Violence"
05. "Queen Of The Dead"
06. "Kingdom Of The Fearless (The Destruction Of Troy)"
07. "Invictus"
08. Guitar Solo
09. "Vow Of Honour"
10. "Defiance"
11. "Emalaith"
12. "The Burning Of Rome (Cry For Pompeii)"
13. "A Symphony Of Steele"
14. "Veni, Vidi, Vici"
15. "I Will Come For You"

VIRGIN STEELE

Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)
Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg) Virgin Steele @ Kyttaro Club (photo by Erika Wallberg)

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