Witchfynde, Paradox and more at An Club (2009)

An Club (Athens, Greece)

Witchfynde, Paradox, Shadowkeep, Crystal Viper, Dream Weaver, Ereb Altor, Portrait
'Up The Hammers IV' Day 1 [Grigoris] You feel like the 'Metal festival' term applies […]
By Erika Wallberg
March 6, 2009

'Up The Hammers IV' Day 1

[Grigoris] You feel like the 'Metal festival' term applies to a series of bands on-stage? Does it apply to -at least- a couple of days taking place? Should we judge it according to the hosting venue, too? How relevant is the mix of different styles? This year's 'Up The Hammers' festival -it's 4th instalment, to be exact- was successfully held in Athens, Greece once again. The 'successful' ambush... In two days, fifteen bands from all over Europe plus a couple of American acts hit An Club's stage (capacity of the venue: not more than 350 people in normal_lawful conditions) in order to feed the 'true' (as often expressed) Metal hunger of Greek metalheads, again providing hospitality to foreign visitors (Germany, Sweden, UK etc). The first day (seven bands - eight hours of metallic assault) the club was not close to be full-packed while the second one (eight bands - nine hours of ruthless pounding) proved to be more popular.

The 'Up The Hammers' fest holds a tradition in flirting with the Heavy_Power_Epic_Doom Metal field, enriched by a couple of Speed_Thrash bands from time to time. The recipe requests both current and long-running Metal acts while special motive is given for bands not possessing a grand label deal (or none). If you've ever been to 'Keep It True' or 'Headbangers Open Air' festivals you can probably smell the spirit. A spirit snubbed by the majority of Metal fans in Greece but encouragingly giving the chance to all old-school followers witnessing favorite or hopeful bands delivering honest dozes of Metal music that stands over and above trends.

[Erika] It seems to be a good concept to kick off a festival with a Swedish band. Just as at 'Metal Merchants Festival' a couple of weeks back when ENFORCER fed the crowd pure energy, at 'Up The Hammers' PORTRAIT did pretty much the same.

I really love this new wave of Swedish bands, even if they vary in both quality and style from outfit to outfit they have something in common. They deliver a lot of energy and passion, they have a concept for their performances which makes everything more fun to watch and last but not least, they ROCK! HARD! And then they make a great opening for a festival. PORTRAIT is perhaps both darker and heavier than most of their landsmen with their KING DIAMOND_MERCYFUL FATE styled Metal. It's not perfect, it's not super-tight but that's not a necessity when the rest is in place. Good songs and a great performance are absolutely enough. PORTRAIT announced new singer Per Karlsson (also in OVERDRIVE) right at New Year's and damn, that guy can sing. Absolutely a lift compared to Phillip Svennefelt even if his style was pretty charming. But that won't do a career and I'm sure that PORTRAIT will climb high in the status-ranks of best bands around.

[Yiannins Dk] After the Heavy Metal holocaust that PORTRAIT unleashed upon us, surely one of the best new bands right now, it was the time for their compatriots EREB ALTOR.

Except the duet of Crister Olsson and Daniel Bryntse in vocals and guitars the rest of the ISOLE band was upon the stage for the drumming and bass duties. Now what to say! Their appearance was an apocalypse for me. The epic spirit of BATHORY arrived that night and left most of us with open mouths. They played songs from their only, 'till now, album By Honour and the band was a sonic pleasure. If you had your eyes closed when hymns like By Honour or Awakening were coming from the speakers you would be traveling somewhere to the far North, there where frozen storms would penetrate the soul and body. Echoes from battles that had happened hundreds of years before whirled around any person in the crowd. They paid honour to memory of one of the biggest Metal musicians ever with the perfect Home Of Once Brave and in the end - personally speaking - I will remember this performance for a long time.

[Grigoris] The Athenian act climbed on-stage in wide smile; be it the vibe of the crowd applauding them or their own mood, the long-running Heavy_Epic metallers wasted no time and spread their wings for 30 minutes in an average - if not worse - sound. They dedicated their performance to the meaning of the fest, thus promising to perform their older material.

Having witnessed a tendency to flirt with more modern elements in their last appearance here in Athens, this declaration seemed quite reasonable for the UTH likes. DREAM WEAVER have enough experience onstage and it was not far from being done to summon 'thumbs up' reactions by all present metalunatics.

DREAM WEAVER is not a typical Metal band, by any means. Dressing up their traditional Metal material with a mystique string of guitar_vocal harmonies they can be whole lotta attractive to the fan willing to focus on something more than just pounding Metal. They were not - again said - helped by the output sound but - playing on home ground - it was not difficult to confirm their flair running wild for 17 years now. A warm applause wrapped up the band's performance.

[Erika] If you're going to play plain Metal you really need to find something that make you stand out from the rest. CRYSTAL VIPER doesn't.

It's actually a very strange feeling to have been watching a concert and hardly remembering anything of it, not even my notes could wake up my memory and bring back what I was feeling watching CRYSTAL VIPER. That's not a good grade for a band but of course, that can depend on more than the band. No, not the bar even if the beer tasted way too nice at the An Club but perhaps the competition from the other bands but also the very limited possibility to actually bring on a show on the very small stage. One more thing that needs to be taken in consideration was the sound that didn't do this band justice at all. Even if their music is very plain it's absolutely not bad and vocalist Martha Gabriel has the ability to perform but nothing really gets through to me this night. But since I quite like what I hear onCRYSTAL VIPER's record they absolutely deserve another chance before I judge them too hard.

[Erika] Even if I really like SHADOWKEEP's latest effort The Hourglass Effect as well as their earlier releases they still haven't managed to make a very strong impression on me. Why is that then? Just as on 'Mario's Metal Meeting' everything sounded great.

Extraordinary performed from a musical perspective and one of the best sounds of the festival. The thing that bugged me this time too though was that the center characters was quite out of focus. Chris Allen is a damn good guitar player but the way he hides behind Nicky Robson isn't beneficial for anyone. Ok, you don't need to strut around like Yngwie Malmsteen but Chris really needs to develop some sort of an attitude else people will just look past him. That would be a shame, he deserve all recognition and cred he can get! But also vocalist Richie Wicks remains a little in the shadows. Ok, it perhaps is hard to create a spectacular stage show at a stage as the An Club but frankly, most of the other bands managed a lot better in general. That's really a shame since SHADOWKEEP really serve high quality Metal, a lot of classic Hard Rock and Metal influences with just enough progressive spices to fit right into my taste. I say it again, The Hourglass Effect is an amazing album. And listening to it I sure favor Richie over Rouge Marechel even if he had slightly more edge to his voice, there's no doubt though that Richie is a much better singer. So, next time I get the chance to see SHADOWKEEP I hope for a little more attitude and a little edgier stage show!

[Yiannis DK] When the band that has written the Paradox song is upon the stage and starts with this thrashing dynamite, what can I write and what do you want to read? Thrash 'till death!!!

PARADOX's music is of that kind that really cannot leave you aloof. Riffs that cut like blades, pushing you to neck destroying paranoia and such a power that few bands can have. Collision Course and Path Of Denial from their third album were as killers as those of the first era, Infected from their last one really destroyed me with an amazing drumming and an intro riffage that was like hell came upon us. The crowd sometimes was having stage - diving upon the vacuum, the guitarist_ vocalist of the technical Greek thrashers VERDICT DENIED played with them the immortal Search For Perfection, while songs like Heresy and Crusaders Revenge made the people down wanting to destroy the whole building. They also played the Kill The Beast and the RUNNING WILD-meets-Bay-Area-Thrash Pray To The Gods Of Wrath and damn it, I want to see them again. PARADOX look in such a great musical fettle the last two years that can win you immediately. I hope their new album that will come out this year will be the same good.

[Grigoris] I'd not place these primeval British Metal legends on top of the bill for that evening; at least I'd fear taking the risk.

WITCHFYNDE are among the ones patronizing what was later formed as 'evil' Metal in the 80s, still many should argue about their reputation (apart from the NWOBHM aficionados, of course). Thankfully, the British heroes grabbed the chance to provide information on how vintage Metal music was_shall be played at all cost. With recognizable singer Luther Beltz back on the bill, the quartet (should have) convinced the whole venue they still mean business; impressed by the fans' response WITCHFYNDE turned the hell on and ate our hearts out with killer classics like Ready To Roll, Moon Magic, Getting Heavy, Cloak & Dagger, Leavin' Nadir and I'd Rather Go Wild, featuring a fitting sound and some high-pitched vocals by Luther bringing shivers down our spines. Montalo's guitar was as traditional as it should with the Surgey/Scoresby rhythm section providing ample support on benefit of the songs' value. Fans of younger age seemed to be rather impressed by WITCHFYNDE's performance, the time that an 80s British Metal follower could easily raise both fists to the air in full eerie.

Their performance in Give 'Em Hell standardized WITCHFYNDE's class; and the fan base wanted more. Wake Up Screamin' emerged outta nowhere and the band was off stage in grand applauding, marking the end of the fest's first day.

(photos by 'hammerhead' Erika)








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