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Headbangers Open Air 2009, 23 - 25 July 2009, Brande-Hörnerkirchen (Germany)

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Friday, 24 July

(Text and pictures: bk) On the 25 in the morning, the sun was shining again... that made people hope for less rain, but again all hope was futile. Anyway, you had to get up early if you wanted to see the first shows, which started at noon. The French epic-heavy metallers Lonewolf opened today, and with the clear and powerful sound they had you could truly appreciate their song material. I really liked them this time, the played a tight show and the songs went straight to the point, without the epic elements taking over too much and making the songs erratic. They played "Pagan Glory" and "Hellenic Warriors" for the many Greek fans present, among others.

The Swedes from Memory Garden were next. Their songs remind a lot of the power-doom their countrymen Memento Mori play - gloomy, doomy, but melodic and tight at the same time. This was maybe the band which had the biggest disadvantage playing so early, as the light didn't allow for any dark atmosphere on stage and thus the songs, like in this case "Revelation" and "Genesis", remained a little expressionless. A pity, as the material is quite good, really. Fans of Memento Mori and the like should check them out all the same.

Piledriver - nowadays known as The Exalted Piledriver are the second version of a Canadian 80s band which was something like "The Canadian Venom" back in their time, as they went for a similar sound at a time when Venom was big news. The singer is the only one who also performed with Piledriver years ago. Their trademark nowadays is a totally crazy show, which mainly consists in the musicians wearing fancy costumes - with vocalist Gord "PileDriver" Kirchin clad in black leather and tons of spikes, black leather hood included. The music was quite cool raw 80s thrash with raw vocals, much more serious than one could have thought seeing them on stage. OK, the song titles were a fun element as well, like "Sex With Satan" (an old title) and the like. Of course Piledriver started to attract the masses to the garden.

Now we were to watch another Swedish band - Enforcer. These guys play Exciter-style 80s speed and are indeed very young (at least that's what they look like), but seemed surprisingly experienced and at ease on stage. They didn't stand still for even a single moment and played songs like "Black Angel", "City Lights", "Speed Queen" and "Scream Of The Savage", all taken from their debut "Into the Night" with fury and determination alike, a great show for the ears and the eyes, much to the delight of the crowd.

During Enforcer it had started to rain again, and this time it looked like there would be no end to it. There even was a power failure on the stage, which didn't last long, though, and the show could go on.
Jacobs Dream were totally the opposite of the two previous bands we'd seen. They have got some excellent technical power metal songs up their sleeves, and their guitar work was quite outstanding at times. But their performance was a bit static, and singer Chaz Bond, while displaying an expressive voice, didn't always always hit the note. Nevertheless songs like "At The Gates" or "Scapegoat" were surely fun.

Exxplorer are another US band with a long, albeit unstable band history. Their newly reformed line-up with various original members presented mainly songs from their debut album "Symphonies Of Steel" (from which they played almost all songs), like "City Streets", "Metal Detectors" and the wonderful "Objection Overruled". They did an energetic, tight performance, which emphasized their great song material perfectly. They made the crowd move again and ended their set with "Beg Borrow and Steel" from their second album.

Now to some stronger stuff - Deathriders, the band of the first Anthrax vocalist Neil Turbin, was going to blow us away with some old Anthrax songs. They've committed themselves to true, traditional 80s speed/ thrash, as Neil Turbin never forgot to mention between songs. Musically they were really convincing, with versions of "Armed And Dangerous", "Metal Thrashing Mad", "Death From Above", "Panic" and "Deathrider" delivered with the speed and aggression they deserve. Really cool, really fun, but Neil Turbin talked way too much. Nevertheless, good ol' speed metal for old and new headbangers, for many one of the highlights of the festival.

That was the case with Helstar, as well, performing with James Rivera, one of the best-known singers in American metal. He's a great vocalist for sure, but where he fits in really perfectly, more so than with any other of the numerous bands he's performed with, that's Helstar. These Texan guys did a massive, energetic show, where the technical perfection of the songs stuck out due to the great sound, without lessening the raw energy. James Rivera came on stage with a devil's mask, and songs like "King of Hell", "Baptized in Blood", "Winds of War" or "Run With the Pack" made this a memorable event. Their usual drummer, Russel DeLeon, could not play with the band this time, they had had to ask Ex-Drummer Michael Lewis to replace him, and he'd had just a week to rehearse. He did a great job, and was sure partly responsible for the great Helstar show.

After the Helstar gig, James Rivera started to make a speech, talking about his musical career, the criticism he'd received, and so on and so forth, but nobody knew what he was really getting at... then he told the crowd about the Vicious Rumors "Warball" album where he did the vocals being considered a highlight in the band's career, and instants later, Vicious Rumors where on the stage and announced a surprise gig with James Rivera! That was really a surprise for everybody, and they played "Sonic Rebellion" and "A Ghost Within" from the "Warball" album. That's how we came to see Vicious Rumors three days in a row, and in four different versions (remember that at the warm-up show Geoff Thorpe did the vocals for some tracks). Great for the fans of this band!

Now it was time for some more melodic rock stuff. Many left the festival ground, others were coming in to see Pretty Maids. This Danish band has been around for quite some time and usually plays on lots of festivals throughout Europe, so most people had already seen them on some occasion or other. That also meant that there weren't going to be any big surprises... except that for once I had the opportunity, after seeing them at various festivals, to fully appreciate their songs because of the great sound. The best ones came last, though - "Future World" and "Red, Hot and Heavy" where the highlights of the gig, loved by the fans.

Finally we came to the end of the second festival day, whose headliner was cult band Manilla Road. They were one of the bands which attracted most visitors, for sure. Especially the Greek fans, who're a lot into epic metal, seem to adore them. There were Greek flags in the front rows.
Manilla Road are probably one of those bands who're total cult, but at the same time one of those you either truly love or - I wouldn't say hate - but simply don't care about at all. With all this said, it's not the same listening to their old records, which have mostly a really bad production, than seeing them live, which is where the songs sound much more like what they were supposed to. Surely people were expecting a lot from this band, and they kept true to these expectations. Many fell into some kind of trance - the music gets you floating in a very strange, dream-like way. It's mostly traditional heavy-doom, not too slow though, 70s influenced, psychedelic, very epic, sometimes dark and somber, but not depressive, powerful at times, very sophisticated - and somehow truly special. After a while I got somehow lost in the space-time-continuum as well and lost track of the songs and everyting surrounding me - think of "Voyager"... all I can say is they played "Haunted Palace", "Astronomica" and "Road of Kings" as well as the famous "Crystal Logic" among others. Some might miss the aggression and power after Deathriders and Helstar, and consider it too late for a band like that, but I found them very relaxing and perfect at that time of night. The gig was somehow special, with Mark "The Shark" Shelton on his extremely heavy-sounding guitar doing a great performance, and also Bryan "Hellroadie" Patrick on vocals sounded perfect in this setting. One of my personal highlights, and one of the most peculiar metal bands I've ever had the opportunity to see live.
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Lonewolf
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Memory Garden
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Piledriver
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Enforcer
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Jacobs Dream
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Exxplorer
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Deathriders
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Helstar
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Vicious Rumors featuring James Rivera
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Pretty Maids
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
Manilla Road
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