Titan Force, Helstar and more at Tauberfranken Halle (2008)

Tauberfranken Halle (Lauda Konigshofen, Germany)

Titan Force, Helstar, Omen, Attacker, Metal Inquisitor, Sentinel Beast, Merciless Death, Strikemaster, Battleroar
'Keep It True Festival' Day 1 It is getting harder to find time and money […]
By Erika Wallberg
April 4, 2008

'Keep It True Festival' Day 1

It is getting harder to find time and money to go to every event I want to. There's just too much to choose from, and with the low-fares airlines to Germany the selection is unlimited. But no matter what, 'Keep It True' will be a yearly tradition for me. This year the lineup was ridiculously much in my taste. I basically wanted to see every band on the bill.

First up on Friday, Greek epic metallers BATTLEROAR; they took Phantom X's place on the bill, who cancelled due to singer Kevin Goocher's hip surgery. This is a new band to me but the clips on MySpace sounded very interesting, so I took the chance and pre-ordered To Death And Beyond from Cruz Del Sur just before the festival. Didn't have much time to listen, though, but the concert absolutely made me tempted to listen to the record when I got back home. They had such a nice groove, straight through the whole gig. A perfect start of the day!

One comment that was repeated over and over again this day was that 'Keep It True' is an international festival rather than a German; people from all over the world show up. STRIKEMASTER from Mexico proves that it is worth traveling far for a good audience. With their speedy old-school Bay Area thrash they turned the mood up a little more. Colonel Camou and his crew was 100% party to watch and I really enjoyed their speed energy. I probably would have been more critical if the live performance had been dull, but this was so much fun to watch they got away with everything. It wasn't bad musically, not at all, and giving this young band a little time they will absolutely be fighting in the top of the new wave of Bay Area bands (even though they're from Mexico).

Next up, MERCILESS DEATH and two so similar bands, right after each other brings on the competition. For me, this day, STRIKEMASTER was the winners just because they were more fun to watch to. MERCILESS DEATH on the other hand, with their record Evil In The Night from last year would probably kill everything in their way on a small filthy stage at any club.

At these kinds of event it is always questioned if it will be fun to see reunited bands that's been dwelling in the shadows for years and years or not. Would SENTINEL BEAST be one of those bands that showed up and do a half-decent show that people will appreciate anyway just because they're from the 80's? Or, is it even right to call that band SENTINEL BEAST? The only original member today is Debbie Gunn and she's surrounded by a bunch of guys that definitely wasn't in this in 1986. I sure love it when I'm proven wrong, screw original lineups when people are having fun on stage! And really, if the music sounds good why should it matter if it's the original band or not? SENTINEL BEAST brought on classic Bay Area Thrash, with intensity and energy enough to supply the entire hall with party-mood. Debbie still has it, it is so cool when people are out of the frame for what's typical for the genre and still can convince anyone that's the only place for them to be. I would never have picked Debbie as the singer of this band before the show. She looked too ordinary for that in black jeans and a black shirt. Seconds into the concert she ruled the stage with such conviction I felt a little embarrassed to have doubted she could pull it off.

A lot of bands on the bill had surprises coming our way, like old members, guest musicians and so on. So did METAL INQUISITOR! Well for this one, no singer showing up? I don't know the exact reason for this but I heard rumors about him being ill. For good or bad I think it's really cool that a band can pull it off anyway. Guitar player Blumi stepped up and did a good job at the microphone. Perhaps it wasn't as good as it could have been but it wasn't bad either. One singer that did show up for this concert was Brian Ross from BLITZKRIEG, performing the old SATAN classic Trial By Fire.

Unfortunately when it's this many bands I want to see on such short time, there's always some bands I neglect. I was looking forward so much to see HELSTAR that I had really hard to focus on both ATTACKER and OMEN. This was really bad, since I hold OMEN as one of the best shows at KIT X. The response from the audience was incredible, even IRON MAIDEN playing Run To The Hills on a sold-out soccer stadium has hard topping this. Matt Storey (also on US Metal band ASKA) did a great job and his voice fits perfect in with the music. But as HELSTAR was up next, that's where my head was.

US Metal legends HELSTAR, with singer James Rivera, were the highlight of this day for me. With the Remnants Of War lineup this is the 'real' HELSTAR too. Ok, we got a little more than just Remnants Of War material this day? I love it when a singer can connect to the audience; James does. To make that happen on a small stage like the ones I saw him on with VICIOUS RUMORS last fall is one thing but to keep the same intimacy and connection on a big stage only a few can pull off. Guitarists Larry Barrigan (also in ETERNITY BLACK) and Rob Trevino have done this before and compliment each other perfect without falling into old safe patterns. The new songs from last year's collection Sins Of The Past fits well into the set and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one looking forward to hear more new material from HELSTAR.

Last band out was TITAN FORCE! It took a while for me to recover from the HELSTAR gig but when I'm back I'm sort of surprised how damn good this was. They didn't impress me at all at a Bang Your Head pre-party (or perhaps 'after party') some years back but this was really, really good. And songs that I think sound a little cheesy on record worked surprisingly well live. Hearing the whole audience singing along to Winner Loser sure gave me goosebumps. And what a birthday-treat for Harry Conklin, first to headline both days of the festival and then get this response from the audience! Just great.

(photos by Erika Wallberg)






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