Alcatraz Metal Festival (27/08/2011 – Deinze, Belgium)

Sunday, October 23, 2011 : 0 Comments

Alcatraz Metal Festival logoThe fourth edition of the Alcatraz Metal Festival is done. It all started in 2008 when Alcatraz Concerts, until then organizing gigs, bringing bands to Belgium (BOLT THROWER, GOD DETHRONED, LAAZ ROCKIT, DESTRUCTOR and more), found the time right to have its own festival. There’s of course Graspop, but that’s a big festival, with several stages and room for thousands of people. with Alcatraz, things are smaller: the area, the number of people, the number of bands and the number of styles. Alcatraz’s trademark revolves around (old school) Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal. Occasionally there may be a Power Metal band, or a Progressive one, for example, as an extra spice.

As before, the bands were divided over two stages. The previous three editions had it all indoors, with the second stage being much smaller in a much smaller area compared to the main stage. This led to crowded and packed gatherings to see the bands at work and when the weather was hot, even opening the windows would not solve much. Hence considering setting up a tent outside. The organisation reached an agreement with the city of Deinze to do so and anno 2011 a big white tent was placed next to the venue, allowing for easy access between the two stages. Walk outside to go to the tent or the venue itself and vice versa.

With a bill that featured bands like FORBIDDEN, DEATH ANGEL and HELLOWEEN, you could sure that it would make many Metalheads travel to Deinze. FORBIDDEN’s gig was pretty unique as they recently had to cancel their tour due to drummer issues. Seeing only one replacement, the band contacted Gene Hoglan to help ’em out for this one gig, for which he gladly reserved time. Most people would arrive later in the afternoon, but around 10h30 there were already several tens of Metalheads on the premises.

DOORS: 10H

MAINSTAGE:
AFTER ALL – 11H00 – 11H50
ANACRUSIS – 12H30 – 13H25
HELSTAR – 14H05 – 15H05
FORBIDDEN – 15H55 – 16H55
U.D.O. – 17H55 – 18H55
DEATH ANGEL – 19H55 – 21H05
HELLOWEEN – 22H30 – 0H00

TENTSTAGE:
GUILTY AS CHARGED – 11H55 – 12H25
EMPERORS OF DECAY – 13H30 – 14H00
IZEGRIM – 15H10 – 15H50
COMMUNIC – 17H00 – 17H50
WHERE ANGELS SUFFER – 19H00 – 19H50
VICIOUS RUMORS – 21H10 – 22H15

 

The Belgian Thrash Metal band AFTER ALL had the honour to open the festival on the mainstage. With their new singer, Sammy Peleman, and bassist, Frederik Vanmassenhove (who replaced Erwin Casier) – ok, this happened back in 2010, but this is the first time I see the new line-up at work -, the band is back on track to deliver a solid portion of qualitative Metal. Compared to the band’s previous vocalist, Piet Focroul, Sammy has a cleaner voice, which allows for high-pitched screams too. The songs came off the band’s last two albums, at least, and of course the latest EP, “Becoming The Martyr”. “My Own Sacrifice”, “Land Of Sin”, “Frozen Skin”, “Devastation Done”, “Ruin Of Bones” and several more were played to make sure the crowd was well warmed-up and ready to face the rest of the bands. About the aforementioned EP: AFTER ALL put it out March 2011. It features new songs and re-recorded ones. I haven’t heard it, except the track “Timeless Machine”, which is perfectly inline with the previous material. The biggest difference is Sammy’s clean voice. In any case, I’m looking forward to the follow-up of “Cult Of Sin” (2009).

SETLIST:
My Own Sacrifice
Ruins Of Bones
Frozen Skin
Land Of Sin
Devestation Done
End Of Your World
Demolition Course
Becoming The Martyr
In The Grip Of Evil (with Guido Gevels from CYCLONE)
Betrayed By The Gods
Timeless Machine

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

The band to open in the tent was GUILTY AS CHARGED. They and EMPERORS OF DECAY won their places at the festival by means of a poll. GUILTY AS CHARGED play a mix of Heavy Metal and Thrash. When I heard their short soundcheck, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the material. The NWOBHM influence is strong in their songs. The singing was rough for the most part, yet he sang clean too, but fit in very well with the music. This young band played a tight set and showed they’ve got potential to go far. Like METALLICA, the vocalist/guitarist often interacted with the drummer to start a song or a specific part. The setlist was also quite diverse with heavy tracks as well as more easy-listening stuff, so to speak. In short: definitely a highlight of the festival!

SETLIST:
Down
New 1 (fast)
Metal Holocaust
End Your Life
Lonewolf
To The Bottom

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

And after this very entertaining set, it was time to head back inside the venue. Until this year’s edition, all running back and forth occured inside the venue, for there was a space up high, though very small and especially with warm weather it wasn’t recommended. Besides, you could hear the bands then anyway, though hardly see them. Now, the running back and forth took a bit longer, but allowed for more people to better see and hear the band’s in the tent and on stage. So, next to see was the American Progressive Rock/Metal band ANACRUSIS. It seems they are known with many people who were there. I had never heard of them, and asking for an explanation of their music, I got a reply like this: “It’s not Death Metal, it’s not Power Metal, it’s not Progressive Metal, sometimes it’s not even Metal.” Wow, now that’s what I call a clear indication of what to expect. 😉 In circumstances like these, it’s then best to let the band do the talking and then you can form an own (for the time being) opinion about your liking it or not.

The band had sound problems during the first few songs and they knew it, but carried on nevertheless. ANACRUSIS indeed play the kind of music that floats between Rock and Metal, depending on the song. You could call it Progressive, but I find Experimental a better term. With Progressive you kind of know what to expect and instantly think of bands you know that play Progressive Metal. But ANACRUSIS is not your typical Prog band. The music was a combination of Heavy, Power, Rock, … from heavy rocking tracks, to more calmer and cleaner intermezzos. Vocally too there was normal singing as well as rougher input, screams even. The crowd liked it, that’s without a doubt. I can’t say I found it great, but it wasn’t bad either. I just can’t give a definitive opinion about it, might need to check out their songs more, because one gig is nothing to fully grasp it all.

SETLIST:
Paint A Picture
Grateful
I Love The World
Something Real
Release
Stop Me
Fighting Evil
My Soul’s Affliction
Far Too Long
This Killer In My House
Sound The Alarm

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Back to the tent then for EMPERORS OF DECAY, the other young Belgian band. Their Rock has Punk influences and reminded me, to name one, of GREEN DAY or something in that style. Correct me if I’m wrong, for my speciality lies elsewhere. They too played a good set, had worked a bit on their stage presence (with sunglasses). The music was quite energetic, which was to be expected as the first song took off. Catchy tunes are key for the EMPERORS. However, the screamy vocals did become annoying after a while.

SETLIST:
??

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

HELSTAR made its second appearance at the festival, as they played here in 2009. The band was promoting the album “King Of Hell” (2008), which had come out one year after the re-recorded compilation “Sins Of The Past” (2007). HELSTAR was then a band whose performance I was looking forward to and they didn’t disappoint at all. I did say in my report that their set was perhaps a bit too long, but that I would surely love to see them again on a next occasion. And that was on the 27th August 2011. Since the band has a new album out, “Glory Of Chaos”, which I found one of the best releases of 2010. From start to finish. When it came out, it stayed in my car for quite some time, as the new material is catchy, excellent to channel your energy/hatred/anger/… and is just a solid HELSTAR album! I had asked Filip from Alcatraz when HELSTAR would come back, he told me that they were trying to book them for a seperate gig, but apparently that didn’t succeed, so why not book them then for the Alcatraz Metal Festival once more?

The band said they would play an old school set. But with “Glory Of Chaos” out, they couldn’t ignore it, so they played three songs: “Angels Fall To Hell”, “Pandemonium” and “Alma Negra”. These are the first two songs on the new album, very good ones, but perhaps “Bone Crusher” would have fit better, since it’s about moshing. I didn’t see any moshing during the set, but perhaps there was some anyway. The rest of the set consisted of songs from the albums “Burning Star”, “Remnants Of War”, “A Distant Thunder”, “Nosferatu” and “The King Of Hell”.

All in all, it was good to see these guys back on Belgian soil. METALSTEEL bassist Matej Susnik, who replaced Jerry Abarca, did an awesome job. He’s a great bass player and since he’s also in the cover band SABBATH JUDAS SABBATH, which features HELSTAR vocalist James Rivera, there was no need to look for someone else.

SETLIST:
Angels Fall To Hell
Pandemonium
Conquest
Angel Of Death
Bitter End
Dracula’s Castle
Baptized In Blood
King Of Hell
Run With The Pack
Alma Negra

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Back to the tent again then for the Dutch Death/Thrash Metal formation IZEGRIM. I had seen them last Frostrock in Kuurne, Belgium, in December 2010. They of course thrashed the place and delivered the goods without problems. So it was nice to see them at Alcatraz as well, sort of finally being recognized, although the band had previously played at Metal Female Voices Fest, too. IZEGRIM released a new album earlier this year under the title “Code Of Consequences” and this via Listenable Records. And what a qualitative album it is! Definitely one of the highlights of 2011 and I’m not only saying this because I like what these Dutch bring, but because the album speaks for itself. It was thus nice to see how the band would pull it off live, regarding the new material. Since they played one or two new songs back in December, the performance in Deinze was again very good. Energetic, lively, destructive and more. But foremost entertaining. I didn’t see much of it, but the band of course had a better view when it came to moshpits, crowdsurfing and alike. This confirms that the fanbase is growing each day, that the band surely is known in Belgium. Not only because of their tunes, but because they’re very friendly people as well.

SETLIST:
In The Name Of Freedom
Sword Of Damocles
Deathstrip
Fade Into Obscurity
Point Of No Return
Deliverance
Victim Of Honor
Psychopatic Mind
World Power Or Downfall

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

FORBIDDEN had to cancel their European tour due to drummer issues. But for Alcatraz Metal Festival they made an exception. After talking to Gene Hoglan, who apparently has a busy agenda, but managed to create some space for his friends in FORBIDDEN, the band was able to play at the festival anyway. Their tourmates from COMMUNIC also came along and thank goodness for that, as this is one of my favourite bands. But having FORBIDDEN fly over was also super, since this band doesn’t often play in this region. Now, who doesn’t know this veteran Thrash band? The venue was packed! Plus, even younger Metalheads had taken place on the frontrow, which pleased vocalist Russ Anderson a lot. The crowd definitely was very enthusiastic about FORBIDDEN’s performance, that’s a fact! The material off their newest release, “Omega Wave”, was unleashed like a tornado, engulfing all or nearly all. Mixed with older material, it’s was a rather unique experience. I have to admit, though, that the sound wasn’t always great, there were occasions where it sounded like a wall of heaviness.

SETLIST:
Infinite
Step By Step
Forsaken At The Gates
Adapt Or Die
Twisted Into Form
March Or Die
RIP
Omega Wave
Through Eyes Of Glass
Chalice Of Blood

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Before I realized that FORBIDDEN had ended their set, the Norwegian Progressive Power Metal band COMMUNIC was already playing in the tent. Rushing to the front to take pictures, I had to penetrate the masses, so to speak. No, you perverts, not like that. COMMUNIC consists of only 3 musicians and while on CD their music sounds awesome, it was a bit disappointing to see just three people on stage, if you know what I mean. Still, the atmosphere was very good, the sons were well played, the crowd had a fun time. And so had I. COMMUNIC has four albums out so far, the latest being “The Bottom Deep”, which came out only weeks before the festival. Each release is worth getting, in my opinion. Setwise it’s obvious that older songs were not forgotten, especially not the debut album, “Conspiracy In Mind” (2005). I didn’t really keep track of what songs were played. There was no setlist either, so…

SETLIST:
???

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Back inside then for one of the veterans of Heavy Metal: U.D.O., led by ex-ACCEPT frontman Udo Dirkschneider. This band has been around since the 1980s, having released albums on a regular basis and for some it even looks surprising how many releases they’ve got so far. Earlier this year U.D.O. brought out the “Leatherhead” EP, followed by the album “REV-Raptor”, which continues in the same vein as “Mastercutor” and “Dominator”, the two preceding albums. Fat guitars, catchy melodies and vocal lines and the obligatory ballads. Not U.D.O.’s best work, but solid nonetheless. This is the kind of band where you know what to expect, what you’ll get. I hadn’t seen them live yet, but it’s always great to see how such bands pull it off live, even after all those years. Several even kick the asses of younger bands. The setlist consisted, logically, of U.D.O. material from the last few albums and even several ACCEPT classics like “Princess Of The Dawn”, which the audience gladly sang along to. The guys had a great time, especially guitarist Igor Gianola. It was a joy to see him do his thing, to play the solos, and so on. In addition, the lights were inline with the latest release: yellow and green, mostly, though blue was applied as well later on. These veterans sure know how to rock, and hopefully they’ll do it for several more years. On a sidenote, what a difference with HELLOWEEN, another veteran band.

SETLIST:
Rev Raptor
Dominator
Leatherhead
Vendetta
Princess Of The Dawn
Man And Machine
Animal House
Metal Heart
Bogeyman
I’m A Rebel
Balls To The Wall

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

WHERE ANGELS SUFFER is a new band, formed by members from METAL CHURCH and W.A.S.P. and as you can then imagine, the musical style will be 80’s Heavy Metal. Nothing wrong with that, not at all. It was fun, though, during the soundcheck and once that was done very rapidly, drummer Stet Howland said something along the lines of “That’s it. Show’s over. Thanks for stopping by. :-)” and you could see he was enjoying it. Even during the gig, the guys were all having fun, enthusiastic about being able to present their music. And I have to say that WHERE ANGELS SUFFER, although unknown to me, was very refreshing among the heavier acts, more Thrashier bands. The tunes are catchy, easily digestable, and I’m sure great when driving on the road. Not only I was enthusiastic about this band, many people watching the show also showed their appreciation. As far as I’m concerned, I hope this won’t be their only gig on Belgian soil.

SETLIST:
Cardiac Arrest
Crying Eagle
Wild Child
Eye Of The Storm
Morning After
Hellion
L.O.V.E. Machine
Animal (F*** Like A Beast)
Lust
I Wanna Be Somebody

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Three more bands to go then. DEATH ANGEL, one of the Bay Area Thrashers, released a new album last year under the title “Relentless Retribution”. I found it good, but Thrash like it should be it isn’t. Or rather, it’s not like their 2004 release “The Art Of Dying” or 2008 album “Killing Season”. And their colleagues from MEGADETH, FORBIDDEN, EXODUS, etc.. released better material. Since two years DEATH ANGEL has a new rhythmic section. The typical screamy voice of Mark Osegueda instantly attracted the attention of the crowd and this remained intact for the rest of the show. Rob Cavestany had sound problems either with his wireless system or the jack of his guitar. He shred in a frantic way to the extent that I thought he would rip the strings off his guitar. In a furious rage he almost threw his guitar off while going for another. Co-axeman Ted Aguilar wasn’t any less energetic in his moves and playing. The rhythmic section also did a good job, although I would like to have seen Andy Galeon behind the kit. Just for the sake of having more original members. Still, the band destroyed the place and made the fans exstatic, including crowdsurfing. Luckily the guys from Alcatraz had made the photopit bigger, which gave the photographers more room, but also the security crew to catch the crowdsurfers. All in all, nice to have seen DEATH ANGEL at work on this great little festival.

SETLIST:
I Chose The Sky
Evil Priest
Buried Alive
Mistress Of Pain
Claws In So Deep
Seemingly Endless Time
This Hate
Relentless Revolution
Truce
Kill as One
Lord Of Hate
River Of Rapture
The Ultra-Violence / Thrown to the Wolves

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

VICIOUS RUMORS had the honour to close the evening in the tent. This band has been around since 1980, released several albums, but foremost, saw its line-up changed countless times. Guitarist and mastermind Geoff Thorpe is still keeping it all alive and Metal! This was my first VR gig, I missed the chance several years ago, as it was on a weekday and I didn’t have the time to go then. Even though the tent stage was much smaller than that in the venue, the band did made a good time of it all. Lots of energy, enthusiasm, they had the pulic on their hands. Each member played with heart and soul. And because it was so good, I just had to have at least one album, though I bought two: “Soldiers Of The Night” and “Digital Dictator”, the band’s first two albums. VICIOUS RUMORS’s last release is “Razorback Killers”, which came out in March 2011. I might get that one too, but let’s first enjoy the others. To make it short: VICIOUS RUMORS, another highlight at AMF.

SETLIST:
Digital Dictator
Minute To Kill
Murderball
Razorback Blade
Soldiers Of The Night
Abandoned
Lady Took a Chance
Ship Of Fools
Out of the Shadows
Let the Garden Burn
Hellraiser
Don’t Wait For Me

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

This year the Heavy/Power Metal band HELLOWEEN was set as headliner. Previously it had been DORO, SAXON and KREATOR. And yes, many had come for this German band. I had seen GAMMA RAY earlier this year at Prog, Power & Metalfest in Mons, Belgium, where they put on a good show from start to finish. Although I’m not that fond of the band’s latest efforts, the gig was well done. With HELLOWEEN it’s a different story. This has never been among my favourite bands, I listen only to bits and pieces of the “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” albums, the first two, and a bit of “Gambling With The Devil” (I particularly like “Paint A New World”), so I didn’t have any real expectations, save for perhaps some heavier stuff. Looking at the setlist, it was reasonably good. The band opened with their latest single “Are You Metal?”, which sounds catchy, but let’s get real… there are so many songs about hailing Metal, that it’s almost hard not to laugh about it. Anyway, the fans loved it, although much later in the set – and I didn’t stay until the end – Andi asked the crowd a few times if they were tired. In any case, my impression was that the band sounded too slick, too polished, too fabricated (if that words fits here). Maybe it’s because HELLOWEEN isn’t my kind of band, but their show didn’t surprise me, didn’t make me want more.

SETLIST:
Are You Metal?
Eagle Fly Free
March of Time
— Guitar Solo —
Where the Sinners Go
Steel Tormentor
— Drum Solo —
I’m Alive
World Of Fantasy
Medley: Keeper of the Seven Keys / King For A Thousand Years / Halloween
Future World
Dr Stein
I Want Out

Pictures can be seen at this location.

 

Conclusion: Alcatraz Metal Festival 2011 was one hell of an edition. Bring to Belgium bands you don’t see that often (FORBIDDEN, COMMUNIC, DEATH ANGEL, WHERE ANGELS SUFFER, VICIOUS RUMORS, ANACRUSIS and HELSTAR – what a surprise, almost all from the USA) added with national acts that show that the younger generation has the potential to put Belgian Metal on the (international) map again or put it better on the map compared to other international acts, was something that can probably not be repeated.

The main focus lies on Heavy and Thrash Metal, though to not make it too limited, a different kind of band is added. In this case EMPERORS OF DECAY and COMMUNIC, and perhaps ANACRUSIS too, were the ones to break the dominance of the Heavy and Thrash bands a bit. Whether or not AMF IV was the best edition to date, is a question of preference and taste. I certainly found the bill amazing! The addition of a Progressive band, for example, is a good choice. If the organisation continues like this, the number of bands is legio. Progressive, Power, Hard Rock, … choices for 2012 could be, for example, HELL (UK), SHAKRA (CH), CIRCUS MAXIMUS (Norway), DGM (Italy), RAVAGE (USA), BLOODBOUND (Sweden), HEAVEN’S BASEMENT (UK),  PHARAOH (USA), STORMWARRIOR (Germany), TWISTED TOWER DIRE (USA), WOLF (Sweden), and so on. But that’s only my personal viewpoint.

How about some Neo-Classical Metal like IRON MASK? MAGIC KINGDOM? Both from Belgium, by the way. Or the German AT VANCE? The choices are endless! In any case, I had a great time, again, and AMF remains, in my humble opinion, the best Belgian Metal festival. It doesn’t have to get bigger. This year’s edition counted 13 bands. 13! And all in one day. The tent outside is a plus, that’s without question, and much better than the small stage upstairs. About the many bands: Maybe there’s some compensation involved, but AMF should – again, in my humble opinion – not get bigger, but again smaller and start again around 12h30 or 13h00. Less is more. Quality before quantity. There’s no need to compete with big festivals like Graspop, else it will demand sacrifices. That is also AMF’s charm: one day, not that big, qualitative Metal and a few (!) big names.

More info at http://www.alcatrazmusic.be/alcatraz-metal-festival-home/
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