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Headbangers Open Air


Thomas Tegelhuter (Brande-Hörnerkirchen - Germany)
Headbangers Open Air 2009

Angel Witch (UK), Battle Ram (I), Bullet (SWE), Cloven Hoof (UK), Deathriders (USA), Enforcer (SWE), Exxplorer (USA), Helstar (USA), Jacobs Dream (USA), Killers (FR), Lick The Blade (USA), Lonewolf (FR), Manilla Road (USA), Memory Garden (SWE), Nightshade (USA), Nomad Son (MAL), Paradox (D), Piledriver (CAN), Portrait (SWE), Pretty Maids (DK), Q 5 (USA), Razor (Can), Rods (USA), Tank (UK), Tankard (D), Trinakrius (I), Tysondog (UK), Vicious Rumors (USA), Zed Yago (D),
This year the Headbangers Open Air will go into the history books as the wettest edition. At least for me because since 2004 it wasn't this rainy. Maybe the weather Gods were angry because the festival was sold out and HOA got punished. But metal can't be stopped and the festival took place like nothing happened.

Digital Steel teamed up with Marios Metal Mania and drove in six hours of non-stop rain to Brande-Hornerkirche for the festival of the year. We arrived on thursday and when we got at the festival ground Q5 was already playing their set. From what I heard it was a nice heavy rocking band but I just saw too little to form an opinion.

The first band we got to see was Tank from the UK. This British band used to have a bassplayer/singer called Algy Ward but he wasn't in the line-up today. Instead they played with a seperate bassplayer and singer. The singer was Dougie White known from a later incarnation of Rainbow. Good singer but he just couldn't raise the old vibe like Algy Ward.
And yes, Don't Walk Away was played. The crowd loved it so Tank left a good impression.

Headlining the warm-up party was American powermetal band Vicious Rumors. This band gave a hell of a performance at MMM II so I was curious if they could continue that. The set was good with a lot of classics like Digital Dictator, Man and Machine, Minute to Kill, Ship Of Fools. After a while original singer Gary St.Piere jumped on stage to join the band to crank out a couple of Soldier of the Night songs. Since VR are a tight metal unit those songs sounded great but the singer wasn't that good anymore. Nice to see and hear him but I'd rather hear Ronnie Styxx or James Rivera sing them. Unfortunately the sound was a bit soft so sometimes I couldn't hear the details, some of the solo's or a drumfill.
VR is still a very good live band and seeing them is a must for every powermetal fan. And now it is time to capture this live spirit and feeling on a new record. No doubt it will sound great, heavy and overwhelming.

After the thursday party we were ready for the main event. First band to kick off HOA was Lonewolf but for some reason I missed them but I could catch Memory Garden. This doom band was actually pretty good and I don't consider myself a doom fan at all. Good musicians and most important a good singer. People with an interest in Doom should check out this band.

Next was the one and only Piledriver. With a complete new band he kicked ass. It seemed to me that mister Piledriver himself lost some weight. Sodomize the Dead, Piledriver, Firegod and the titletrack of the new album were on the setlist. Despite this was a new band they were tight enough to impress me. After metal hymn Metal Inquisition it was time for old school metallists Enforcer.
A young band with an energetic stageshow. Enforcer is all about old school heavy metal with high pitch vocals. They had a good sound and the crowd enjoyed every moment of it. This band can spice up every heavy metal festival.

After this Swedish metal attack the festival belonged to a few American bands. Jacobs Dream was first and although I like their music their new singer wasn't that good. He is actually a good singer but he is more of a midrange vocalist so obviously he couldn't sing the old high pitched songs that well. Little disappointing gig but Jacobs Dream was better when I saw them at the after party in the Ballroom.
Exxplorer could not impress me with their basic metal but Deathriders were great. This band is formed around original Anthrax vocalist Neil Turbin and kicked ass. Naturally they played the Anthrax classics: Panic, Deathrider and Metal Thrashing Mad. Luckily for us Neil still hits the high notes so it was both musically and vocally a stunning performance. Catch them live if you can.

You could forget there were also other bands playing after this gig but believe it or not Helstar went on stage afterwards. Yes, they impressed me too. I've seen one of their European shows during their last tour but they were much better now. Good sound and James Rivera was excellent. This is how Helstar must sound. No need to mention the classics they played because you know them already. After the initial gig James Rivera went on stage to crank out some songs with Vicious Rumors. That sounded incredible good too but I rather saw a few Helstar songs instead since VR played already. But a nice suprise gig it was.

Pretty Maids came,see and conquered the HOA grounds. Incredible tight, heavy and powerful performance of these Danish melodic band. Very good sound and some great songs were played tonight. Back to Back, Cold Killer, Future World and Red, Hot and Heavy.
Certainly a gig to remember.

Headlining this friday night was Manilla Road, the ultimate cultband. I never liked them because I always hated the vocals but since they have a new singer their songs are suddenly quite enjoyable. They probably played a bunch of classics but all I heard was a tight metal machine with a good singer with some high pitched vocals. Great show from these veterans.

The next day I wondered if the high level from friday could be continued. At least it wasn't raining when we were watching the first band Zed Yago so that was a little bonus. They played alright and without Jutta Weinhold who has a solo career now. The new female singer was pretty good so the gig was okay and the cover version of Deep Purple's Burn sounded great.
A band I liked to see was Portrait. Their album has some of the old Mercyful Fate vibe because their singer sounded like King Diamond himself. Sounded, because Portrait performed with a new singer at HOA who was good with some high pitch but that typical MF vibe was lost. Furthermore the sound was chaotic and one of the guitarist with a crunchy old guitarsound was upfront. So you could hear all of his mistakes and unfortunately he made them. This was a bloody amateuristic gig.

What I didn't know at that time but I realised this after HOA, was that Cloven Hoof was one of the best bands of the festival. I'm not familiar with their material but the way these British performed was outstanding. With the return of their old singer Rus North one of the best metal singers from Europe emerged from the past. This guy can still sing very good and I dare to compare him with Harry Conklin (vocal metalgod). Also their guitarplayer is very good. Too bad they were on the bill so soon because I liked to see them longer. Next HOA Cloven Hoof co-headlining next to Jag Panzer.

Tyson Dog with clown Ian Swift was a pleasure to see and hear. Ian Swift has the ability to turn a decent, ordinary gig into a happening. Tyson Dog sounded good, had a good sound and an energetic stage presence. Nice gig from these British guys.

Unfortunately some heavy rain came over the festival area so I missed some of Paradox and the Killers gig. Both bands were energetic and fun to watch from what I've seen and heard but both bands had a mediocre sound which was caused by the rain and wind. Both bands should've played the Ballroom at the afterparty.

Tankard is a very popular thrash act in Germany so these party animals can be found on almost every summer festival in Germany. So they visited Headbangers Open Air this year and what can I say about these thrash veterans? Classics all over the place, bangers front row going wild and the band played as if there lives depended on it. Thrash show pur sang.

Nightshade and Angelwitch I missed to shelter from the rain and take some food. I catched a glimpse from Angelwitch and they definitely were a crowd favorite. The weather got better so I could watch the two last bands of this years HOA. The Rods and Razor.
The Rods play heavy rock-metal and what astonished me was that Carl Canady on drums was still very good with his sticks. Energetic performance from him and also David Feinstein did great on guitar but that is not a real suprise because he released an album a few years ago. Vocally David was mediocre but their bassplayer was better. I never really liked the Rods but seeing them live was not a punishment. Due to the great sound they had, professionalism and the above average musicianship it was fun to watch and hear them.

The real headliners for Headbangers Open Air 2009 were of course Canadian thrash specialists Razor. I always liked the band and after their explosive performance on Wacken 10 years ago I couldn´t wait to see them again. Funny enough it was the same band although they looked a little different especially bald singer Bob Reid. But I didn´t care because I wanted to hear the classics and that it is exactly what I got. Great sound and Instant Death started the onslaught in front of the stage. Here we go chronological: Take this torch, City of Damnation, Nowhere Fast, Cross me fool, Evil Invaders, Instant Death, Iron Hammer, Cut Throat, Speed Merchants, Tear me to Pieces, Behind Bars, Violent Restitution, Soldier of Fortune, Electric Torture, Shotgun Justice, Concussion, Meaning of Pain, Parracide, Free Lunch, Nine Dead.
Razor excelled their Wacken performance by 70% which is incredible. I really hope I don´t have to wait for another 10 years to see these Canadian thrash merchants again.

This twelfth edition of the Headbangers Open Air was one to remember because of some of the great gigs and unfortunately also because of the bad weather. This was the first year it was sold out probably because of the week before WOA date and no doubt this attracted people not really interested in the music. But you can´t stop that from happening. The only little disappointment was the food. There was some more variation but not enough to satisfy everybody. It was better than last year but still you had to wait long for your food. Because of the bad weather I couldn´t hang out with my German friends long enough but I can´t blaim the organization for this.
For next year I already ordered sunshine so this won´t be a problem in 2010.

Special thanks go out to Thomas and Jurgen for their hospitallity and I will see them next year without a doubt. Thank You!

Extra special thanks to Mario from Mariosmetalmania for providing the shots and the laughs we had.

Click here for pics of HOA 2009.


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