'Swordbrothers Germany Festival'
CLOVEN HOOF / VISIGOTH / EMERALD / THEM / HÜRLEMENT / HAMMER KING
The atmosphere at these smaller festivals is always so nice. Of course, they more or less feels like a Heavy Metal family gathering as there were familiar faces showing up. This is absolutely one contribution to why it is so nice. But also, since the participants are true music fans it also creates a fantastic environment for the bands as well. I don't know why I haven't visited ‘German Swordbrothers Festival’ more often since I only have nice experiences from it.
It was HAMMER KING’s task to kick off the whole event. At that point of the day you just want the event to start so basically any band goes down well as the openers. Ok, the place was getting filled up while HAMMER KING were playing but the response was still good. The thing though, first since the band claims to be coming from Saint-Tropez, France and then, that more than half the set had titles including Hammer or King makes me wonder if they’re serious or the whole thing is kind of a joke? No matter what, I like fantasy stricken German Power Metal so I really enjoyed what HAMMER KING were doing. K.K. Basement (alias Kalle Keller) is a great vocalist and the bands performance really boosted the party mood. It for sure is perfect music if you want to raise your glass, wave your fists and make a toast with your friends. But I have to say I was quite surprised when, towards the end of the show one song was announced as “I Mm the King” and the one right after as “I Am The Hammer King”. I even got the question from a few people around me; didn’t they just play that one??? Naah, this is Hammer King, the one before was only King…
A good energetic performance it was though, I like the fact that the guitarist and bass player swapped sides of the stage from time to time and I’m always in favor of true Heavy Metal poses which made this a very good start of the day. A little too good perhaps since the beer was going down very easy to HAMMER KING’s music.
HAMMER KING setlist:
02. “Kingdom Of The Hammer King”
03. “Last Hellriders”
04. “For God And The King”
05. “Chancellor Of Glory”
06. “King Is Rising”
07. “I Am The King”
08. “I Am The Hammer King”
09. “Kingdom Finale”
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But party-mood was to go up even more. French HÜRLEMENT have always been a pleasurable experience the times I’ve seen them live. It’s a little bit messy and rough around the edges but that’s why I like it. It feels honest and some dirt does Heavy Metal good. HÜRLEMENT have a bit different take on Heavy Metal; call it the French factor if you will. It's good at least and it's always nice when things go outside the standards.
Also Alexis Warnabot is a fantastic vocalist and he has the ability to entertain and engage the crowd. Not that much boosting was needed here, it was good support from start. Two songs from the debut, “De Sang Et D'acier” kicked off the show. Both “Ordalie” and “Moine Guerrier” are great up-tempo tracks and their RUNNING WILD-ish beat works well in Germany. I like the roughness of these two tracks but don't mind the more cleaned up “Guerrier” from latest release “La Mort Sera Belle”. Style-wise all are the same but as the last have a better production it's easier to dig into that one. This made “Pavillion Noir” and “Demon Warrior” go down well too. The latter is a part of a trilogy and I hope that I'll get to hear the whole concept live some day. I like the dark and epic sound which deviates a bit from the rest of HÜRLEMENT's music. But it's all good and I actually blame the band for the rest of the night being more fuzzy than anticipated. It was so much fun to watch HÜRLEMENT play which in turn meant the beer was going down a little bit too fast...
02. “Moine Guerrier”
04. “Brothers Of The Watch”
05. “The Song Of Steel”
06. “Pavillion Noir”
07. “Demon Warrior”
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But of course not so fuzzy I couldn't enjoy the rest of the night. When I first heard “Sweet Hollow” I was blown away as it is a perfect mix of dark and moody songs, dramatic vocal lines and catchy choruses. It was an easy task to review but it kept spinning even after it was done. Picking it up prior to the 'German Swordbrothers Festival' all the joy of digging into it came back but I didn't dare to hope THEM would play the right tracks from it. But it all came quickly and I was super-thrilled to get to hear “Forever Burns” live. I love the different parts and passages in that song. And with the whole setup of the stage, the esthetics of the band and of course Troy Norr's costume just made it all even better. THEM is another very good example that you can do very special things with small means. But it sure does much for the show.
Also “Down the Road of Misery” and mid-tempo “Dead of Night” sounded fantastic. Then, to have a fair maiden sacrificed as a part of the show was another cool gimmick that actually worked really well. Both women were very genuine in their parts and it got more real theater than KING DIAMOND. It's inevitable to not mention KING DIAMOND when talking about THEM. Style-wise as well as image-wise they are kind of close but the atmosphere in the performance was very different.
Another favorite song from the “Sweet Hollow” record came towards the end in “When the Clock Struck Twelve”, the real epic closing the album. Despite its length it worked perfectly for the stage and if this had been it, I would have been really happy. But it was going to be even better as brand new song “Witchfinder” was introduced and closed THEM's set. If this song represent the forthcoming record it's clear THEM will repeat the success of “Sweet Hollow” because this one too sounded great.
03. “Forever Burns”
04. “Down The Road Of Misery”
05. “Dead Of Night”
06. “Blood From Blood”
07. “The Harrowing Path To Hollow”
09. “When The Clock Struck Twelve”
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No rest for the wicked this night, that's for sure. It was barely time enough to take a breather after one band finished before it was time for the next. I was really looking forward to seeing EMERALD since I love their latest album “Voice For The Silent”. I think that one is a perfect continuation of “Down Town”. It holds that raw energy and frenzy vocals from Bert Kivits. And considering +30 years have passed since that first one was released it's even more impressive that the edge and drive is there in the music nowadays too.
But first things first, two songs from the debut started off the show and both “Iron On Iron” and “Johnny's On The Run” were received very well by the crowd. It's a little funny thinking of it as those two songs opens the “Down Town” album but in the opposite order as played live. The same goes for “Behind My Wall” and “Mechanical Wars” but from the “Voice For The Silent” album instead. I know people were complaining about EMERALD playing too many new songs but with the quality of that album I understand why they did it this way. I mean, a song as “Sword Brothers” should be mandatory at this festival. I was really happy that “The Passion Remained” also appeared in the set. The up-tempo US Metal influenced track is awesome. I love the speed combined with the more floating vocal lines and it certainly is nothing wrong with Bert's capacity these days. After that song I could relax a bit and just enjoy. I had gotten what I wanted from the EMERALD set. With that I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the rest, of course I did. But it was great to enjoy the crowd’s response from the back for “D Day” which ended the set.
It was a good one from EMERALD, definitely but it also showed they're not playing as much as the rest of the bands on the bill. The build-up for “D Day” was one thing. Yes, the crowd was shouting for it but don't give that away before it's time. The climax got away since everyone knew it was coming as the last one. But definitely a good set, wouldn't want to change anything in it.
01. “Iron On Iron”
02. “Johnny's On The Run”
03. “Behind My Wall”
04. “Mechanical Wars”
05. “Shadows Of Allmighty”
06. “Sword Brothers”
07. “To The Bone”
08. “The Passion Remained”
09. “Sting Of Death”
10. “Paper Snakes”
11. “D Day”
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Earlier a friend had come mumbling something about someone from VISIGOTH had been ill for a few days and had now lost his voice completely. I didn't think very much about it because if the vocalist is completely out of sound it wouldn't be a show, right?
But VISIGOTH hit the stage and the fury broke loose. First time I saw them was at 'Keep It True' a while back and that completely blew me away. Their energy was phenomenal and then truly managed to shake the whole Tauberfranken Halle at that time. And it sure started the same way here. The frontline was packed and the band was on the edge of the stage. This was definitely one thing missing at the big 'KIT' stage, the intimacy and closeness between the band and the crowd. Jake Rogers sounded good too, “Dungeon Master” is a favorite track and I gladly shouted along to it. It wasn't until a few songs into the set when he was about to talk instead of sing his voice gave up and I realized it was actually he who had lost his voice. How the hell he pulled it off I don't know but it sounded alright, I didn't reflect much about his performance at all and then it must have been good.
What's very good to see is that also new bands can build a very good following. Even if the support had been good for all bands it was a step up for VISIGOTH both in number and intensity. And it sure is well deserved. New album “Conqueror's Oath” is fantastic , songs as “Steel And Silver” and “Traitor's Gate” showed to work very well live too. If I hadn't know what CLOVEN HOOF were capable of when it comes to deliver the goods live I would have been concerned that they wouldn't match VISIGOTH's energy. Because this, just as 'KIT' was one hell of a show and I still have quite hard to believe that Jake couldn't speak at all prior to the show.
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It was mainly because of CLOVEN HOOF I decided it was time to visit the 'German Swordbrothers Festival' again. I think they're special when it comes to style and main-man Lee Payne's ability to write interesting songs never cease to impress. Latest release “Who Mourns For The Morning Star” hit me hard when it was released last year. So just imagine my joy when “Star Rider” from that album opened the set.
The new line-up with George Call (ASKA, BANSHEE, ex-OMEN) at the front really is perfect match. He is of course a great vocalist but more so, he fits CLOVEN HOOF's international sound perfectly. Even if CLOVEN HOOF is firmly rooted in the NWOBHM genre I don't think they've ever really been a part of that sound. It's always been something more to it which two more from the latest album is good samples of. Fantastic “Time To Burn” touches upon US Power while “Bannockburn” is a bigger epic. For the latter, I really love the guitar-duel. Both Chris Coss and Luke Hatton are great guitarists but more important than that is that they're great together. Without the sync and tradeoff it wouldn't have been the same. And that the mellow intro works as well live as it does is yet another sample if their skills.
The crowd was in on it all too and there was no doubt CLOVEN HOOF was the right band for the headline spot. It's very cool to see a whole place supporting a band. Even if 'German Swordbrothers' is a small Festival it all got very intense and it sure felt bigger than it was. Another favorite is “Highlander” from “A Sultan's Ransom” which brought on some really good singing. If I should be really picky I think that particular album was a bit bypassed in the set. I think they could have squeezed in at least one more from it. I'm not sure I would have traded out any of “Laying Down The Law”, “Crack The Whip” or “Gates Of Gehenna” on the other hand. This night “Crack The Whip” won the battle of those three. It sounded fantastic and the co-operation with the crowd made the rest.
CLOVEN HOOF easily qualify as one of the absolute best live-acts. They keep surprising me each and every time I see them. I mean, first time I didn't know what to expect but it was fantastic. And they've kept the standard and even now, when I've seen them quite frequently I'm still amazed each and every time. Somehow they manage to constantly exceed my expectations. So hell yes, this was another great day in Germany. Familiar atmosphere and a very good line-up. No doubt about it, CLOVEN HOOF won but all bands did great performances. Better book it for next year as well.
CLOVEN HOOF setlist:
01. “Star Rider”
02. “Kiss Of Evil”
03. “Song Of Orpheus”
05. “Nova Battlestar”
06. “Time To Burn”
09. “Laying Down The Law”
10. “Crack The Whip”
11. “Gates Of Gehenna”
12. “Reach For The Sky”
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