19th to 21st August 2021
Rock Castle Festival 2021 Day 2 with Winterstorm, Waltari, Citron, The 69 Eyes and Sabaton
I woke up with THAT festival feeling, you know what I mean… and I could hardly believe it, that this feeling was back after a year with concerts that came with many restrictions. When I checked the festivals social media for updates, there were sad news. A member of SEPTICFLESH was seriously ill and so the band couldn’t make it to the festival.
But Pragokoncert had already proved that they have a bulletproof team before, when it was clear that the bands from Russia couldn’t come and so the team had worked all night, to make sure that legendary FREEDOM CALL would come and save the schedule. CITRON were rescheduled from Sunday to Saturday, so FREEDOM CALL could rush to the festival site and it’s quite a trip there from Italy and Germany. Once more: congratulations to the organizers for such a dedicated team and a big thanks to FREEDOM CALL for coming to the Czech Republic.
Today would be a day of several highlights and of course SABATON as headliner would be a blast for sure. SABATON had come with two trucks from Sweden, to make sure that all the stage decoration and the tank would be there and many fans used the chance to make a selfie in front of the trucks. SABATON had also agreed to come to a signing session and the fans stood peacefully in long lines, to meet their favourite band. I guess 90% of the shirts and hoodies worn today had a Sabaton print and those who didn’t have one, could buy one of the many on display at the merch tent.
The first band I saw today were WINTERSTORM from Germany, who had quite a fanbase at the festival. WINTERSTORM were the perfect opener for the hell that would break loose tonight. The band combines melodic elements with layered vocals and various styles of the Metal genre such as Folk, Viking and Power Metal and have a knack for epic and orchestral elements on their albums. This combination wins them lots of dedicated fans everywhere and the dedicated performances lead to the fact, that they are invited to quite a bunch of well-known festivals such as Wacken Open Air. The crowd immediately sucked up the energy the band on stage displayed and so we saw fists in the air and lots of headbanging. There was a problem with the micro of vocalist Alex during a song but Alex simply used the one of bass player Peter while his was being fixed, there is nothing that can stop this Metal band that plays a nice version of Power Metal with quite melodic tunes. WINTERSTORM frequently interacted with the fans, thanked them often for coming here and supporting them and we saw and heard killer guitar solos and a sheer blast from the drums and bass. Winterstorm will play a few gigs in Germany this autumn, so if you like Power Metal, check their social media and grab your ticket.
Next were one of the author’s favourite bands from Finland. Legendary WALTARI have their 25th anniversary this year and seemed not a bit tired of the touring bands life. WALTARI continued what WINTERSTORM had started, driving the crowd wild, though with a different kind of music. WALTARI are multi-instrumentalists and sometimes it’s hard to place them in a genre, so let’s call it Experimental Rock what we witnessed tonight. WALTARI have a clear message: versatility, open-mindedness, freedom from prejudice and peace and all of this was delivered during short announcements or in the songs and it’s something only few bands have nowadays. This band never slows down and every release comes with new and fresh songs, so you can never know what kind of experiments the band made in the studio, but one thing you can take for granted: the quality is always high and the music is never boring and uplifting, a welcome contrast to all the regular “serious” and dark Metal releases in the genre.
Vocalist Kärtsy Hatakka immediately got a grip on the crowd and there was so much interaction with the crowd, that some people needed to take a rest on one of the benches after the show, from all the jumping, waving and singing, to gather strength for the SABATON show. Of course, a mosh pit opened, when the band announced ‘Check’ and I’m not sure, who had more fun during the show, WALTARI on stage who were all smiles and happiness or the crowd partying in the pit. The show closed with ‘One Day’, a song with a catchy tune and lyrics that is one of the authors favourite songs, so this would stay on my mind until it would be replaced by great songs of other bands that would play live on stage tonight. In case you missed the fun but you want to see this versatile band on stage, there are a few gigs announced in April 2022 in Europe (one of them in Prague), so check the bands social media for updates.
The next band were CITRON whose gig had moved from Sunday to Saturday and who are a classic Metal band from the Czech Republic, whose show saw many locals rushing for the pit, for me the sound was way too loud and unbalanced, so I decided to take a break.
The 69 Eyes
The next band came all the way from Finland early in the morning and had played a sold-out gig in Prague back in 2019. The full moon shining over the castle was the perfect setting for the so-called HELSINKI VAMPIRES (who even released a song called ‘August Moon’). We are talking THE 69 EYES who were ready to rock, though drummer Jussi69 was missing. So big thanks to Ilari Heikkilä for jumping in and saving the show, that was a fantastic one (if you skip the fact, that there were sound problems during the opener ‘Two Horns Up’). I stopped counting how many times I saw the HELSINKI VAMPIRES live on stage during the last 20 years, but they definitely put on a hell of a show. To open for SABATON is a challenge but with over 30 years of experiences and gigs all around the world, THE 69 EYES proved they wore a worthy opener for tonight’s fun.
‘Two Horns Up’ was the perfect opener for tonight, for this was, what we all were missing during all the lockdowns. To raise our horns and have a party with our fellow rockers from all around the world. Classics such as ‘Never Say Die’ and ‘Perfect Skin’ followed suit and the crowd rocked out quite a lot. ‘Black Orchid’ from the band’s latest release ‘West End’ gave us a moment to catch some breath and the Goth’n’Roll classic ‘Sister Of Charity’ that made it back to the setlist after a long absence last year, saw many of the fans in the crowd singing along. Introducing the latter Jyrki asked the crowd “How are you guys doing’? We are all doing fine? Right? It’s so great to be here…” and the crowed replied more than cheerfully. Then we were told to “Rock our balls out to this song with THE 69 EYES” and although the song is not that widely known to the masses, the crowd did as requested.
Time to rock on with two more songs from ‘West End’ - ‘Cheyenna’ that tells a story about a Ghost Rider and ‘27 & Done’ that turned out to be a song that is loved by the crowd, though it still gives the author the chills, if the crowd sings “Let’s all die young….” Especially during these times. A perfect party song is ‘Feel Berlin’ from the album ‘Devils’ that was followed by the Goth classic ‘The Chair’, a song that the author heard live for the first-time app. 20 years ago and that should not be missing on a setlist. A few more Goth classics like from the album ‘Blessed Bed’ followed suit, such as ‘Dance D’Amour’. Songs from the old Sleaze prone era was on the setlist as well, such as ‘Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams’ and of course ‘Framed in Blood’ that usually sees guitarist Timo-Timo going wild and of course so it was tonight. Unfortunately, this song often is part of the encore of a regular set and so marks the nearing end of the party.
It must have been around 2005 that ‘Lost Boys’ being released in 2003 made it to the end of the setlist and ever since, I either closed the regular set or the end of the encore. I remember a few shows, where it had not been on the setlist and the crowd was quite unhappy with this fact and I remember the Prague crowd repeatedly demanding the song during the regular set back in 2019 during the bands “West End Tour”. So, I was pretty sure the song would be on the setlist tonight and a few moments later, Jyrki69 asked the crowd if they wanted to see SABATON and announced that he wanted to see them, too. The guitar intro followed suit and we were asked “You wanna rock?” and the crowd of course wanted answering with “Yeah Yeah Yeah” and so on… so THE 69 EYES rocked out with the crowd at Rock Castle Festival to ‘Lost Boys’ and a rare thing occurred, frontman Jyrki removed his sunglasses, something he rarely does and so it’s something the Moravsky Krumlov crowd can take as a very big compliment. THE 69 EYES often claim that they consider themselves more as a club band, but tonight they proved, that they can rock out the hell of a festival crowd as well.
So far, the festival had been perfect for me and as far as I could see looking at the faces in the crowd, for everybody around and now…it was SABATON who had come with two trucks loaded to the roof with equipment all the way from Sweden. Their crew worked highly concentrated and efficient and so after a short break, it was time for what would become the ultimate highlight of the festival for SABATON and their fans. The stage was decorated with the bands trademark tank, war helmets, wall hangings that showed skull and scenes and an enormous backscreen that would show various video sequences before and during the show. Security and staff made sure the media were informed about upcoming explosions and fire and the local fire brigade was close by, just in case. The tension grew and when the intro songs started the tension became nearly visible. Then a big explosion released all the tension and SABATON came on stage, there were only smiles and excitement around. It’s hard to say who was more excited, SABATON on stage, who looked like all smiles and happiness or the crowd. During his announcement Joakim told the crowd, that gigs in the Czech Republic were always special for him, for his mother is from the Czech Republic.
Of course, this was greeted with a big cheering from the crowd. We were also told that the band was so happy to perform live in front of a real crowd again and that they had made a few video streams, but that this was simply not the same feeling as with real people and a real show. You could see that SABATON were stoked to see the enormous positive response from the crowd and so there was not only plenty of fireworks pyro wise but also music wise tonight in Moravsky Krumlov. Soon an aircraft was pushed on stage and red lights indicated ‘The Red Baron’ a song released on their album ‘The Great War’ and a fan favourite around the world. When he introduced ‘Far From Fame’ Joakim talked about Czech Beer and the lands past and especially when it came to the brewery culture many in the crowd had to laugh and readily agreed to what he told us. SABATON were really ready to entertain us tonight and due to the fact that guitarist Tommy had joined the band exactly five years ago, he was awarded a new title.
“The new guy” was removed and to celebrate this, Tommy had downed a whole glass of “Pivo” in one gulp. Soon after he was officially named “The latest guy” and had to toast this as well, since Joakim claimed he couldn’t sing properly with so much beer in his stomach. Soon after tommy had to take a short break and then one of SABATON’s jokes began. Joakim claimed to have forgotten everything about the next song that was named on the setlist , so each of the musician gave him a hint by playing a few tunes on his instrument. The crowd immediately got the hint and started giving Joakim hints and finally the band performed their hit ‘Fields Of Verdun’ and when Joakim started delivering the vocals all hell in the pit broke loose. Afterwards there was a short break so SABATON could change their stage attire and they returned and immediately performed ‘Lions From The North’ followed by ‘Carolus Rex’. Now the backscreen became illuminated in blue and a ship appeared.
It was time for ‘Bismarck’ that was only released as a single so far but is a highlight of every show so far. The song closed the regular set and SABATON left the stage to be demanded back by the crowd immediately. The ‘WWII’ intro indicated they’d be back soon and after a new announcement, they performed ‘Primo Victoria’. Tommy somehow seemed to be in very high spirits due to his previous promotion and so he told us, he’d been rehearsing the riffs of all the songs during the lockdown and now felt ready for a new task. He handed over his guitar, Joakim looked merely shocked to be un guitar duties now, while Tommy was looking for the main vocals for the next song in his phone, explaining to the crowd, that he might need some help, for he usually rehearses for backing vocals.
The crowd was more than amused, when ‘Swedish Pagans’ kicked in and SABATON are a band who stick together were tight. They made it through the song and when it was time for the guitar solo part Joakim looked quite lost, so Tommy played the guitar standing behind Joakim and the other guys stood around them. I don’t know who was laughing more at this sight, SABATON or the fans in Moravsky Krumlov. One thing is for sure, even a world-famous band that fills the largest venues around the planet, is always ready for a surprise and they definitely don’t take themselves too seriously. When everybody got his regular task back and Joakim had recovered from the shock, we got ‘To Hell and Back’ and with a big bang the show ended. SABATON had given us a blast of music and show and this night could not have ended better.
All pictures by Munich Vampire