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Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie? Same procedure as every year, James – Skål! This is not an untimely attempt to awake year festive spirit, which should be the case at least if you have the same country of origin as I do, but a bit of a nostalgic retrospect on the past 13 years of my annual event highlight. Though I missed the very first time of it, Rock Hard Festival has become the only event I have been visiting since 2004, skipped it three time between 2006 and 2008 (for very different reasons) and have been to every single year since 2009. This makes a total of eleven and nine consecutive years now and nine passes as well. Pretty excited to find out what bands will perform at my personal anniversary in 2018. But let’s take a look back on this years‘ event: The weather was amazing for the most, I watched quite some more bands than last year and met many old and new friends.

Love that Carcass shirt!

My plan for the first day was to hike all the way from my place in Essen to the Amphitheatre on Gelsenkirchen. But to the weather being at its very best, I feared to melt while in the sun and decided to drive as far as I could, using public transportation and just walk about half an hour through the Emscher Park. Thanks to the metal „dress code“ I didn’t even walk alone and arrived right on time to catch up with Susan – my sweet partner in crime, Queen Of Spades Photography. After a first bit of sight-seeing, it was time for the first few bands. Dust Bolt turned out to be a legit opener, while Robert Pehrsson’s Humbucker are more on the laid back side. A bit to „harmless“ if you ask me. Our great expectations regarding Mantar ended up sorely disappointed. This is just not the kind of music/band/stage acting, I enjoy and it’s not even that they are bad at what they do. It’s just not my thing. The Dead Daisies are the living proof that you can rock hard and enjoy yourself on stage even past an average age of 30. The current US „supergroup“ are easy on the ears and know how to entertain a sophisticated audience. After a rather sloppy dinner – well yeah, my pulled pork burger was really sloppy and lukewarm – it was time for Friday nights‘ headliner and my first must-see item: Blues Pills.

Don’t need anything to get high but their own music: Blues Pills

Can’t even say it for sure, but the last time I’ve seen Blues Pills must have been at Freak Valley Festival 2014 – the very same year they first appeared at Rock Hard. Back then they were a sweet afternoon treat and have been touring, promoting and working relentlessly for three years. Many discussions if they are worthy of headlining one of Germany’s most important metal festivals started upon their announcement. As someone who has known this band pretty much from the beginning and has worked with them in the past, I know that they do „deserve“ it. It’s not only that Blues Pills deliver, you can see, hear and feel during every single who how much they enjoy it themselves and not I single time I’ve seen them did Elin’s voice sound wornout. But let’s focus on what really matters: they were great! The setlist featured a very well selection of their two full-length records, EPs and two cover songs. Kicking off with the title track of their current album, „Lady In Gold“ which cracked the official German album charts on #1! Elin truly if a lady of gold with a golden voice and tonight she was also a lady in black, earning her the name „Helene Fischer of Metal“ from someone at the Deaf Forever forum. This is a great comparison, cuz both are blonde beauties from the north (in case you didn’t know, Helene was born in Siberia), great vocalists, talented performers and look amazing. Unfortunately I had to leave early, to catch a bus and missed out „Somebody To Love“ and one of my faves „Devil Man“. But I’ll be catching up with them at Bochum Total and Rockspektakel in Hamburg.

Setlist Blues Pills

Lady In Gold
Little Boy Preacher
Black Smoke
Won’t Go Back
Little Sun
Elements And Things (Tony Joe White-Cover)
You Gotta Try
High Class Woman
Ain’t No Change
Gone So Long
Somebody To Love (Jefferson Airplane-Cover)
Devil Man

Sweden’s sweetest temptation of Rock: Elin Larsson

Saturday started off as a wonderfully warm day with just two bands catching my attention. Not so much a day for a band like Ketzer to enter second one might think, but the Colonge-based five-piece. But hell, did they deliver. It might not have gotten dark across the waterside venue, but the spirit of their blackened trash was received by the masses. Weird to admit, but this was my first time watching and consciously hearing Ketzer and yes, they do have at least one new fan: me! And this will clearly not be the last time. Random note: Guitarist Chris has a cool The Devil’s Blood shirt and vocalist Gerrit (and yes, his last name is Schwarz, meaning „black“ in english!) has a pink kiddy umbrella, so cute!

Setlitst Ketzer

Satan’s Boundaries Unchained
The Fevers Tide
When Milk Runs Dry
He, Who Stands Behind The Rows
The Fire To Conquer The World

Master of Black Masses & Black Metal: Nergal

Taking the rest of the afternoon to relax on my couch, I return to the dusty grounds of RHF just as Exodus finished playing. Round two of festival food turns out to be a slightly overpriced case of asian noodles with hot sauce and a hint of veggies. Could have been worse, but it could have been better as well…And three songs and no flash of D.A.D. later, we find ourselves preparing for the second headliner. Another first time sees the night, as I finally see Polish Black Metal masters Behemoth for the first time (those few minutes at Wacken 2014 while passing by in the Hell band bus do not count!). And even though I haven’t really been that big of a fan in the past, I am totally intrigued by their 2014 massive musical monument „The Satanist.“ Right in time at dusk, the trio states its first plead with „Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel“, followed by „Furor Divinus“ and „Messe Noire“. My personal black mass peaks with the infernal hails of „Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer“. If my neck and fiercely flying hair won’t summon the dark lord, vocalist and guitarist Adam „Nergal“ Darski most certainly will. „Amen“ to that and yes, this pun is of course intended. And if you haven’t guessed it yet, the band is playing ist current record in its entirety. Nothing to complain imho, cuz it really is the only one I know song by song and happen to love it! Can’t even say at what point I leave the scene, but it’s my bus call again…worn-out, tired and sweaty, I take off happy as one full-time music nerd can possibly be.

Setlist Behemoth

Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Furor Divinus
Messe Noire
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
The Satanist
Ben Sahar
In The Absence Ov Light
O Father O Satan O Sun!
Ov Fire And The Void
Conquer All
Chant For Eschaton 2000

Gone pro with stage props: Behemoth

The final festival day begins with a band I just recently discovered. While they were on tour with Angel Witch, Susan and I have been hooked on Night Demon. They are such an awesome live band and some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet, if you have the chance to. After their show at Helvete metal club, we partied with them till 4:30am. Oh yeah! Starting their appearance with the opener of their latest output “Darkness Remains” might seem a bit strange, cuz it’s a bright sunny day. Still „Welcome To The Night“ is inviting the slighty zombified masses to join them to one heck of a show. If you enjoy straight forward Hard Rock with a touch of NWOBHM, Night Demon from Ventura is your new favourite band. Last into their set is a very well-known and heartwarming received Maiden classic: „Wasted Years“. But this time the Amphitheatre has an audience that some headliners will not attract and only few bands to play first on the last day will ever see.

Welcome to the Night Demon!

Setlist Night Demon

Welcome To The Night
Full Speed Ahead
Maiden Hell
Curse Of The Damned
The Chalice
Screams In The Night
On Your Own
Night Demon
Black Widow
Wasted Years

I’m under their spell: Blood Ceremony

Up next my favourite Canadian export enters the stage to bring some early darkness to the city of Gelsenkirchen. Blood Ceremony are the ever so charming and living proof that a Hammond organ and flutes do contribute to contemporary music and are still as present as Deep Purple and Jethro Tull. Throw in some of the most endearing female vocals you can imagine and you know what to expect from these four musicians. Their six track setlist features songs from the 2013 album „The Eldritch Dark“ and their latest creation „Lord Of Misrule“ from 2016. The latter one sounds like something a 60s garage rock band could have done and all members of the band totally live the spirit oft he hippie era throughout the show: Guitarist Sean Kennedy with his blue jeans, BC band shirt and brown suede vest ist he epitome of cool and let’s me think of „That Seventies Show“ – just image Hyde with Kelso’s head! Michael Carrillo changed his shirt in favour of w black wife beater; good thinking cuz as the drummer he might be sweating the most and with arms like that he might as well show the (off). Bassplayer Lucas Gadke took off his shoes and rocks the barefoot style, way to go bro. And last but clearly not least there the enchanting chanteuse, flutist and organist Alia O’Brien. To quote Susan on this: I realised my closet is in need of a blue velvet turtleneck onesie!

Setlist Blood Ceremony

Old Fires
Goodbye Gemini
Drawing Down The Moon
Half Moon Street
Lord Of Misrule
I’m Coming With You
The Magician

Ready to fight for any battle hymn: Ross The Boss

The final serenade for me will be that one band playing songs from that other band no one wants to admit to like but in the end everyone will go all crazy when any of their songs will be played in any metal club. You know that one, the one with the fur bikinis, striking poses and high-pitched vocals many opera singers will be totally jealous of. In one word: Manowar. And in three words today: Ross The Boss. So very bosslike the old hymns work at this very present day. With „Blood Of My Enemies“ I just let go and get lost into the music like there is no tomorrow. Night Demon’s Armand who watches the band along side Susan and me is no stranger to those metal anthems either. Some „Kill With Power“, „Fighting The World“ and „Battle Hymn“ later, I’m good to go (home that is). And what better note to end the event than „Hail And Kill“?

Setlist Ross The Boss

Blood Of The Kings
Death Tone
The Oath
Blood Of My Enemies
Kill With Power
Thor (The Powerhead)
Sign Of The Hammer
Fighting The World
Metal Daze
Battle Hymn
Hail And Kill

The event for the whole family: Rock Hard Festival!

All pictures courtesy of Queen Of Spades Photography


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