Castle Broich, Mülheim, Germany
6th and 7th July 2012
Castle Rock Day 2: Hämatom, In Legend, Adversus, A Life Divided, Xandria, Gothminister, ASP’s von Zaubererbrüdern
The second festival day had a quite mixed program to offer, which was overall more guitar oriented… just fitting very well to the festival’s name. NDH/ Thrashers of HÄMATOM opened the second festival day in the brightest sunshine at 13:00 PM.
The band members Nord, Süd, West and Ost began their performance straight into your face with the fast numbers ‘Ihr kotzt mich an’ and ‘Totgesagt doch neu geboren’. The band, which somewhat reminds of a German version of SLIPKNOT due to their masks, mastered the role of the festival opener with magna cum laude and animated the crowd again and again to clap and sing with them. The preliminary climax of the show was once again the song ‘Neandertal’ (a cover from the band ERSTE ALLGEMEINE VERUNSICHERUNG), in which Drummer Süd jumped around on stage with a gorilla costume.
But this pinnacle did not mark the beginning of the performances cool down, and HÄMATOM continued the gig with the more socio-critical songs ‘Schau sie spielen Krieg’ and ‘Spieglein’. The latter - being a critic to Heidi Klum and her model casting show - once again without the life-size sex doll the band sometimes uses as a gag. The final of the show was the song ‘Leck mich!’ , in which singer Nord encouraged the crowd to show their middle fingers. // Rating: 7 / 10 // www.haematom.de/
And the fact that this nice opening gig had ended also made heaven cry, obviously, as the festival visitors had to deal with the first shower of rain for this day. Luckily, it lasted only a few minutes, and so the photographers could enter the pit just in time to take pictures from IN LEGEND without having to fear water damage. The piano-metal heads (which play their gigs without a guitar) had gathered quite a large crowd of fans in front of the stage, easily recognized with their fan shirts. Some fans even had brought a large banner with them. The visibly cheerful band opened their performance with the songs ‘Heya’ and ‘Prestinate’, before greeting the crowd with the remark not to worry because it also rained on their last visit to Castle Rock (Yay. What a great omen) and the tongue-in-cheek comment of being slightly drunk, if I did not mishear that last one...
However, the next songs like ‘Pandemonium’ then managed to drive even the last clouds away, and the first head banging in front of the stage commenced. I even think I have seen a tame, little circle pit (ok, maybe it had more the character of a nice little merry-go-round, but let’s stay with the more dramatic sounding term, yes?). By the way, has anybody noticed how hilarious head banging or wind milling looks when you only see tufts of hair, rapidly appearing and disappearing above the crowd? No? Oh, excuse me, I got carried away. Well, however, the gig continued with ‘Hanging Matter’ and excessive posing of Daniel & Daniel. The performance reached its climax with the powerful number vortex, which changed the nice little circle pit into a wild... well... vortex. Sadly, this meant also the end of the gig. // Rating: 7 / 10 // www.inlegend.de
Exit IN LEGEND, enter ADVERSUS. Rightfully announced as a "band one does not often get the chance to see", everybody was eager to see what kind of a special band they are. Now are ADVERSUS definitely not a band which creates mosh pits or parties getting out of hand... the musical interpretation of their songs (violin, guitar, drums, contrabass) and the two female singers plus Torsten Schneyer, as well as the nearly orchestral arrangements of the band are on the first hearing not very catchy and would have fitted much better into a somewhat gloomy, darker and dreamy atmosphere than this sunny afternoon offered.
Add some little problems with the sound and you get a potentially hard-to-digest gig. Well, anyway, although the band had to deal with all these circumstances, they did their job quite well. If the ten-minute-song ‘Die Glocke’, ‘Das Ding im Spiegel’ or ‘Katharsis’, the band soon got the sympathy of the audience. At least of that part of the audience which gave them a chance, because unluckily you could see many people using this performance to have a beer or visit the park besides the castle. But the band did not let itself lead astray by this and I am sure quite some people left Castle Rock as new fans. // Setlist: 1. Brüder / 2. Die letzte Glocke / 3. Katharsis / 4. Berühr' mich nicht / 5. Kellerkind / 6. Ein Ding im Spiegel / 7. Seelenwinter // Rating: 6 / 10 // www.adversus.de
Next on the line-up were A LIFE DIVIDED. And this meant: a powerful mix of synth-rock and metal. To everybody who thought the singer was somehow familiar: yes, Jürgen Plangger plays the guitar at EISBRECHER, but is also singer for A LIFE DIVIDED since 2003. According to Jürgen, the band was told to rock the crowd and bring them in the right mood for the next band, XANDRIA - and so help me God, that’s what they did. Excellently. A little surprising was the fact that - when Jürgen asked the audience who already knows the band - only about half of them put their hands up... by the way, as almost every band mentioned their gratitude to play at Castle Rock, so did A LIFE DIVIDED.
They even called it "Germany’s most beautiful festival" - oh stop it, you charmers. The commencing gig could be called a presentation of the album ‘Passenger’, as almost every song (except for the VNV Nation cover ‘Perpetual’) is from this CD. The crowd, if they noticed at all, did definitely not see this as a downside, and so the mood reached its climax for this day so far and stayed throughout the entire gig on a very high level. An excellent prelude for XANDRIA, indeed. // Rating: 7 / 10 // www.a-life-divided.de
So, XANDRIA. They were one of the first bands ever I had the chance to take photos of (five or six years ago, with singer Lisa Middelhauve) and back then, they did not impress me too much. But sitting here and typing this review, I can already tell you this "Female Fronted Symphonic Metal" band has come a long, long way since then and can meanwhile be easily seen as one of Germany’s finest in this genre. They got their place in the line-up more or less by coincidence, taking it from EDENBRIDGE, who had to cancel their gig because of internal "redeployment" (rumours say they split from their drummer). Well, however, when talking of XANDRIA, it’s almost an insult to call them a mere "replacement", what the band proved impressively in the course of their performance.
The gig started with the songs ‘Valentine’ and ‘Blood on my hands’ and also praised the festival itself, being thankful to be allowed to play there. After the next song, ‘Never ending’ (hoped that this would go for the performance *sigh*), singer Manuela Kraller went very emotional while announcing the next song, ‘A thousand letters’. This song which tells the love story of a couple during the second world-war and of the letters a loving woman got from her beloved at the trenches of war. Emotional, because it was inspired by the letters her grandfather sent to her grandmother, back then (and I think I heard her voice falter a little while telling this to the audience - a very, very touching moment).
After this more tranquil and thoughtful song, XANDRIA put their foot on the gas pedal again and delivered the more up-tempo songs ‘Save my life’ and ‘Lost Elysium’ (speaking of up-tempo, everything also got slowly up-temperature... Heavy photo-equipment, I curse thee...). The entire performance I could be easily noticed that the band itself had lots of fun to play on Castle Rock – head banging, posing, excessive gestures and smiling musicians for the entire playtime. But unluckily, all the magic ended after the songs ‘India’ and ‘Ravenheart’. If the band and the audience would have to decide the length of this gig, I guess it would have lasted for at least one or two hours more... // Rating: 8 / 10 // www.xandria.de
Well, that the magic was gone might be the wrong expression... the next performance definitely had its magic, too, but this kind of magic was some kind of dark, Norwegian magic. Of course we’re talking about GOTHMINISTER, one of the main reasons for me to drive 350km to the festival. And the expectations to their show were set very, very high, as singer (and all of ours favourite lawyer) Bjørn Brem had announced in prior to Castle Rock that they were gonna play the "biggest GOTHMINISTER show ever!" Yeah. The only drawback of this fact was that so insanely many pyro effects and props were used that we photographers were not allowed to enter the pit. OK, so everybody searched a nice place and I positioned myself with my zoom lens onto the wheelchair ramp (mother of lord, ever tried to take pictures on a 50 metres distance? Whew.), eager to see what the band would have to offer to the crowd. As mentioned before, all the stuff GOTHMINISTER brought up to the stage was really insane in a positive way: rows of applications for pyros, a huge skeletal figure as mike stand, something really large to the left of the stage, cloaked by a black cloth (my deepest compassion to those who stood behind it when it was brought up, as it rose about 2 metres high), the pedestal with band logo, the more than three meters high ghost puppet that was used in several shows in the past and last but not least, on the right side of the stage, a life-size gargoyle was pulled up. Alright, this is gonna get mind-blowing overkill of a show, I thought to myself.
And finally, the musicians entered the stage and started to hammer their hard industrial-metal-oriented beats into the crowd. And after the first two songs the band proved true that this would be a very interesting show, as Bjørn fought a witch on stage, beating her down and tearing her apart goring - triumphant posing with the innards included. The first spectacular pyros then were fired up while ‘Happiness in darkness’, and during ‘Meet the devil’ the master threw some bats (at least I think so, as mentioned I was quite a distance from stage) into the crowd. OK, one of them directly flew to the stage roof instead of the crowd, but let’s not get picky here). While the performance, the audience could watch Bjørn stealing a werewolf baby from the gargoyle’s bag and fighting with "mama werewolf" (or daddy werewolf? Ain’t used to sexual characteristics of werewolves, I have to admit) and alter on a cool voodoo stick, complete with smoking skull. The peak of the show was surely when two demons led drummer Chris Dead off the stage, only to have him reappear head first in the claws of a 5 metres tall monster (the large cloaked thing left of the stage).
With Chris back on stage, the show continued with a burning bible in the triumphant master’s claws and an chainsaw-assault on a female ghost - gratuitous decapitation included. it went on with more pyros - fire, sparks, and... and... and... good lord, it can’t retell everything the band offered to the audience that day. Definitely mention-worthy are the presentation of the new single ‘Utopia’ (must.... have..... ) and the concluding fight with the large ghost, whom Bjørn drove off with more pyros. Let’s just summarize this performance under a definite "Wow!". The band promised their biggest show ever, and that’s exactly what we got. "Horror Spinal Tap" (to use Chris´ words) deluxe. There was so damn much to see that one could sometimes impossibly handle the visual part AND the music (which had a really well-picked list of songs). By the way: It was really funny to watch the demons, werewolf and the others leave the festival area through the crowd. The facial expression of a photographer colleague when the werewolf tipped his shoulder from behind was outright priceless. // Rating: 9 / 10 // http://ftp.xtc-live.de/gm/start.html
Hm, I guess I’ll stay with the transition "magic" for the next band. ASP and his VON ZAUBERERBRÜDERN did not only premier as its own project - the last acoustic tour was under the name of ASP himself - but also had the role of headliner for day two, so the audience was about to experience a calm, tranquil and classy acoustic performance in the magic realm of ASP. That this was not gonna be an up-tempo gig with bombastic effects was already foreshadowed when the musicians entered the stage: they walked on the stage gracefully within the fog and slowly took their seats, then ASP himself (obviously in a good mood and smiling friendly) marched onto the stage, foregoing his pale make-up or Goth-style-leather clothing for a simple black suit. He then announced to the masses (and masses it were - getting even only 20 persons more into the castle would have been difficult...) that the band was first quite afraid ("Uns ging der Arsch auf Grundeis...") that there could be any problems with the sheer number of instruments that were necessary for this performance, and that the people now could look forward to hearing some older pieces of ASP music that are usually played very rarely...
I have often seen ASP on stage, also with his acoustic program, but such cheerfulness and joy he displayed on this special evening, with gleaming eyes when talking to the audience, I had never experienced before with him. He went quite philosophic with some announcements to songs, so with ‘Once in a lifetime’ for example, when he told the listeners that this maybe won’t be the last show as VON ZAUBERERBRÜDERN , but this very special single concert here at Castle Rock was genuinely an special "once in a lifetime moment". Great words here. This song also came with the warning to parents to block their children’s ears on certain passages - the reason why he smiled a little mischievously at ‘I don’t give a fuck’. On went the musical journey with the song ‘Schneekönigin’. At this point, some people seemingly had left the area, and I think I heard a little disappointed undertone in his voice when ASP noted that.
Next passage of the show was announced as the "more demonic, more evil songs", namely the triumvirate of ‘Duett’, ‘Hunger’ and ‘Demon Love’, before acting a little role play as good and evil ASP in ‘Ich bin der Meister’. and then presenting ‘Mistakes’. Then, after the introduction of his "charming string players" (Ally "The Fiddle" Storch and Sylvia Eulitz), the band gave the songs ‘Zaubererbruder’, ‘Rücken an Rücken’, as well as ‘Werben’ and ‘Der geheimnisvolle Fremde’. But, as even the strongest magic and most magnificent spell sadly can not persist forever, it was all too soon time for the last song ‘Stretched on your grave’ (followed by a medley). // Rating: 8 / 10 // www.vonzaubererbrüdern.com/
And this also marked the end for the 13th Castle Rock, which I can just describe as a wonderful and magnificent festival - and worth every kilometre I had to drive in order to experience it. Although the weather was awaited to be disadvantageous we had mostly sunshine, the bands were without exception good and themselves cheerful and happy to play there, and I must thank the promoter of the festival for the chance to visit Castle Rock and take photos there. I think I speak for the majority of the other visitors when I say I hope to be at the 14th Castle Rock on 12th and 13th July 2013. Two thumbs up!
Pictures by Kai Bimber