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Amphi Theater, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
25th May to 27th May 2007
Rockhard Festival Day 1: Bullet, Crucified Barbara, Cataract, Heaven Shall Burn, Grave Digger, Hammerfall

Once upon a time I was asked to leave my home and march into the fields where scores of brothers and warriors would await me - to do some battle banging, moshing and drinking at this years annual Rock Hard Festival. “Wheezers, how jolly”, thought I, whilst my young and happy heart danced and pranced about gaily in my chest. Alas, memories of never ever having been fortunate enough to see At The Gates or Carcass live clouded my thoughts, yet the prospect of seeing this and that band was like a golden shower of sunrays doing some cloud busting.

So it was on a slightly rainy day that I ventured forth from my beloved home and hearth to board the chariot which to the Gelsenkirchen Amphitheatre would take, in the arena of which war would commence shortly. Talk about the weather - one minute it's sunny in these parts and then it starts raining like shit. Great! Thankfully, it only gushed down from the heavens for a few minutes, in which I was sitting around in the bus anyway. However, the heavens were not to be trusted this weekend.

First big problem arriving in Gelsenkirchen, certainly oh the most beautiful city of Germany, was finding a parking space. Apparently metal heads park like 18 year old bitches driving around in a tiny Ford Fiesta, yet manage to hug three bloody spaces at once. We finally found one a bit off side and I had the wonderfully glorious and honourable task of lugging the big fat camera bag onto my poor, weak, sorry, unbelievably broad and masculine shoulder. If women can have babies, surely they can carry their own eight kilos of cameras around, or not?! But crying is for sissies and little girls, not for true warriors of metal, innit? After all, what are eight kilos - that's not even a quarter of the weight of my battle axe.

Anyway, we managed to arrive happily without much discomfort or any rain and got our delicious, tasteful press passes chucked around our necks. No problems there, everything well organized. We arrived just in time to check out the press tent and loos (probably the best reason to do this stuff - separate toilets from the crowd!) which were all to our liking, apart from the beer which was lukewarm and hardly had any fizz in it. Tut tut!


Bullet had the wonderfully joyous job of opening the festival. These five jolly lads from Sweden stumbled on the delightful idea to form a band back in 2001. They found and touched each other and gave birth to the (in their own words) hardest heavy metal in the whole entire world. /

The world's hardest heavy metal band sonically abuses the whole wide world with what can best be described as a bastard between AC/DC and JUDAS PRIEST, i.e. somewhere between NWOBHM and a crunchy guitar sound happily imitated by foolish jesters all over the globe. Being Swedes, they're allowed to drive around freely within the EU and scare cats, mice, birds and me with their music.

Bullet had the fab idea of entering the stage more or less one by one. One of the two guitarists (wearing a nice red pair of stretchy jeans) entered the stage first with a flying V and I mistook him to be the singer. By the time four fifths of the band had shown up and started playing the first few bars of their first song, a podgy bloke wearing larger-sized studded wristbands appeared on the stage, sporting a hairdo similar to that of an unkempt, shaggy poodle. The fact that he was holding a mic and started barking into it meant he was the one allowed to sing. Dear me.

On a note to the editor, these categories (music, performance etc.) are quite horribly senseless when typing about any rock or metal band gigging a festival, because, you see, you mainly get hairy males sporting stringed instruments, banging their heads and twirling their hair around and doing some sort of gymnastics on stage, which consist of bending the knees in odd angles, leaning to one side or the other, moving the torso back and forward and sometimes doing all of this in pairs. The singer simply gets to hop around, wiggle his arms and punch holes in the air. And sing, of course. Anyway, I'm getting lost. They seemed to enjoy themselves, the singer-poodle pranced from one end of the stage to the other, they posed. Yeah. Big drawback - the sound was far too quiet. The hard luck of being the first band to play...


01. Bullet … In Fire (?)
02. Hard Luck Lady
03. Heading For The Top
04. One Deal With The Devil (?)
05. Speeding In The Night
06. Turn It Up Loud
07. Ramblind Man
08. Leather Love
09. Bang Your Head
10. Raise Hell

Music: 6
Performance: 7
Sound: 5
Light: It was daylight, you poofter.
Total: 6

Crucified Barbara

The Swedish bikini team turned rock band CRUCIFIED BARBARA got to fill the second spot on the schedule. Never heard of them before, but I was told they were a crowd-pleasing sight to behold, and so they were. These delicious and talented young ladies recorded their first album ‘In Distortion We Trust’ back in 2004, Warner/Chapel published it the following year. Not bad, not bad. /

CRUCIFIED BARBARA play sleazy, dirty rock 'n' roll. That's basically it. The music itself isn't anything extraordinary (yet), but nonetheless delivers. If you're looking for straight down hard rock, then they're worth checking out. The music itself can be catchy and I found myself tapping my feet in rhythm and nodding along to it. There are far too little women in the music business anyway, especially such playing in front of undersexed metal fans in their 20ies and 30ies who still behave as if they're hormonally challenged pubescent teenagers.

Women can pose too, and they don't have to do stupid p0rn shows like the stricken kittens of Rock Bitch to get noticed. They played a rather solid gig without any downs, yet with a nice up, namely when BULLET entered the stage to join in singing their last song, MOTÖRHEAD 's ‘Killed by Death’. Crucified Barbara's strongest track was ‘Losing Their Game’, which can also be heard on their Myspace site.

A big downer was that CRUCIFIED BARBARA also shared the same fate as BULLET - they were mixed down far too quiet. Mia Coldheart's voice also didn't come over to well. All in all, a good gig, yet not without some issues. I wonder if L7 are some sort of inspiration for them.

01. Play Me Hard
02. Going Down
03. Bad Hangover
04. My Heart Is Black
05. Motorfucker
06. In Distortion We Trust
07. Rock'n'Roll Bachelor
08. Losing the Game
09. Killed By Death (MOTÖRHEAD-Cover)

Music: 7
Performance: 7
Sound: 5
Light: see Bullet
Total: 6.3


The Swiss Metal-core machinery CATARACT was formed waaaay back in 1998. They started out on Lifeforce Music (just like their colleagues HEAVEN SHALL BURN) and went on to deliver the slab of fist-in-face core stuff ‘With Triumph Comes Loss’ on Metal Blade back in 2004, which was their third album. ‘Kingdom’ was released in 2006. A few band members left, a few new ones came. /

It's Metal-core. 'Nuff said. Well, I guess I might go on and add it has all the typical elements – BOLT THROWER worship, double bass mosh-downs, thrash and hardcore inspired riffing, hardcore shouting, political lyrics and stuff like that. Basically the stuff jackasses like to hear whilst smashing into each other in a circle pit.

CATARACT entered the stage and obscurely enough the mixer managed to turn the volume up. Goshgolly, what kept him so long? It's not as if BULLET or CRUCIFIED BARBARA were playing Kensington Gardens Old Peoples Home. Bloody hell! But then, Metal-core lives from being played loudly so all that bass can work the body, punching one's guts until one decides it's time to go apes in the moshpit in a thoroughly unrestrained and uncivilized fashion.

This is why I enjoyed staying on the steps of the arena. Apart from that, the music is still too firmly rooted on the core side of things for me to enjoy. Nonetheless, a pit formed, young metal heads enjoyed bouncing into each other and I enjoyed the view.

01. Intro
02. War of Cultures
03. Sacrificed
04. On this graveyard
05. Denial of life
06. As we speak
07. Skies grow black
08. Killing Tool
09. Tongues spitting hate
10. Vanished in the Dark
11. Nothings Left

Music: 6
Performance: 7
Sound: 7
Light: see Crucified Barbara
Total: 6.6

Heaven Shall Burn

Ah, the mellow fellows of HEAVEN SHALL BURN! Finally a band this scribe could identify with to some degree. I can remember how I laid my sweaty hands on their great effort ‘Whatever It May Take’ back five years ago. That album definitely did tear down the walls between BOLT THROWER worshipping death metal and hardcore, bringing the whole Metal-core stuff one big step further to being good music.

Either that, or HEAVEN SHALL BURN simply are the best Metal-core band out there (although I wouldn't necessarily call them Metal-core anymore nowadays, as they seem to feel far too comfortable on the death metal side of things). They started out in the late nineties, released their landmark albums on Lifeforce Records (like so many other bands) and went on to ink a deal with metal major Century Media. /

Like I already mentioned, HEAVEN SHALL BURN play the more metal side of Metal-core, drowning their songs in vicious double bass assaults, riffage BOLT THROWER would be proud of and guitar melodies making me remember the days when I enjoyed melodic Swedish death metal. That about sums it up nicely. I guess I wouldn't really call them Metal-core anymore nowadays, as they've simply transgressed too far over those thin boundaries and ventured forth.

Hell, what is there to say? The nice thing about a band like HEAVEN SHALL BURN is that the musicians are more concerned with moshing and having a good time than with striking silly poses and running around like a bad cliché. The fronter called the shots well in between songs, referring to their gig at the Rock Hard back a few years ago when he couldn't make it and the guy shouting for Maroon (who would blow our heads of the next day) had to jump in. He was happy to have made it this time, it seemed. If the crowd enjoyed bumping into each other during CATARACT's gig, they went really wild during HEAVEN SHALL BURN.

Sound-wise HEAVEN SHALL BURN were the loudest band of the day, delivering a full-front wall of sound thumping heavily during mosh parts and knocking you from your butt during fast double bass assaults. Nice stuff. In hindsight, I actually regret not having gone down into the arena itself and banging it out in the moshpit; another lesson learnt the hard way. Their gig made me get out their seminal album ‘Whatever It May Take’ from the CD shelf where it's been gathering dust for a year or two and give it a good listen again. A band definitely well worth the effort, especially as they also deliver convincing lyrics.

Music: 9
Performance: 8
Sound: 8
Light: daylight
Total: 8.3

Grave Digger

Well, things couldn't stay good for too long, could they? The horror that should not be named GRAVE DIGGER entered the stage after half an hour. It can be said, oh reader, that these remnants from days long gone by should've split up back then, instead of continuously being allowed to spew forth album after album of irritatingly inane idiocies.

The band itself formed after two lesser demons of hell (assigned with clearing away Belzebub's excrements) decided it'd be a good idea to create a homunculus or two. They clipped their toe nails, added some butt hair and mixed it all up with the potion stolen from their local ACME laboratory.  The result was GRAVE DIGGER. I'm quite sure it must've been like that, there simply can't be any other rational explanation. /

Heavy Metal 80ies style. The music was probably considered cool, hard and rebellious back then, yet nowadays it's as annoying as a sore arse.

Their singer produces the painful impression of having been constantly beat up as a child, which would explain the idiotic facial expression accompanied by a maniacal grin which just didn't seem to go away. Either that or he came down with clap a long time ago. Apart from playing songs only the most primitive and undiscriminating metal head would want to listen to, they also had such a fun and nice little contest thrown in for bad measure.

Some witless bloke knew by heart what the first album ever was the guitarist had recorded. He received a battered and ugly brown leather jacket from the neither layers of wearable dung the guitarist has flying around at home. How easy it is to make cretins happy - you don't even have to buy them an ice cream or a bear. Nonetheless, there were clearly enough fans hanging around in front of the stage who were at least just as visually and mentally impaired as the band itself - which is quite a worrying thing if you think about it.

01. The Brave
02. United
03. Dark of the Sun
04. Silent Revolution
05. Grave in the No Mans Land
06. The Grave Dancer
07. Liberty or Death
08. The Last Supper
09. Knights of the Cross
10. Vallhalla
11. Excalibur
12. The Grave Digger
13. Rebellion
14. Headbanging Man
15. Heavy Metal Breakdown

Music: you're joking, aren't you!?
Performance: yuck
Sound: who cares?
Light: it wasn't dark yet
Total: bugger off


As if having to see and hear Grave Shitter wasn't enough, the evening got topped off with the atrocity named HAMMERFALL performing all what is wrong and stupid about heavy metal, concentrated into the musical counterpart of a disturbingly large enema. /

Power Metal! No, I don't want to go there. It's dark and wet and scary. Except if you bring a flamethrower along, naturally. Yes, that'd be a good idea. A flamethrower with which to purify the earth from this shambling horror, which has freed itself of its shackles and is allowed to stalk and sway the innocent minds of the weak and wreak terror on the faint-hearted.

Who fucking cares? It's a power metal band. You have guys displaying their bad taste on stage in front of an army of brain dead zombies drowned in beer. They even had fireworks and ten bloody kick drums on stage spelling out the band name. And if that's not enough, they also lit them up. Good grief. The world is falling apart because each dickhead takes energy for granted keeping all consumer electronics in their flat on stand by and they come up with an even sillier use for light bulbs and electricity.

Unfortunately, the diminished daylight means they even got a decent light show, which means they were the only thing clearly visible for miles. You couldn't even bugger off and admire the insidiously boring Rhein-Herne canal. Mind you, a brave and daring hero should've tied millstones to their ankles and thrown them into that deep and quickly flowing stream.

Thank god I didn't have to stay around for their whole set as we decided to drive back and get a good night's rest after the first few songs.

01. Threshold
02. Templars of Steel
03. Riders of the Storm
04. Fury of the Wild
05. Rebel Inside
06. Bloodbound
07. Raise the Hammer
08. Renegade
09. Glory to the Brave
10. The Fire burns forever
11. Let the Hammer fall
12. Crimson Thunder
13. Hammerfall
14. Natural High
15. Heeding the Call
16. Hearts on Fire


Music: yes, please
Performance: 0
Sound: too good
Light: 8
Total: bugger off

All pictures by Daniela Vorndran ( / /

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