– Thursday & Friday –
Upon my arrival on thursday morning about eight, not even the VIP parking lot is guarded yet. After parking my car at the exact same spot I already settled down in 2012, I pay a short visit to the camping ground to watch the first visitors fighting with the construction of their tents. Hanging out in the green scenery of Nordsternpark Gelsenkirchen where the famous Amphitheater is settled finds a sudden end, as the rain is heavier than the tunes of the growing number of campers…The day ends as it has started, with the rain decided to stay, leaving no room for the sun. A few hours later after picking up my pass, I take the bus to Gelsenkirchen central station to spend a final night home in my own bed before I completely switch to the annual ROCK HARD FESTIVAL mode.
By the rivers of Rock Hard
Despite the melancholy touch of the weather, I can not wait to get back on sight and end up with a bit of a delay towards my own scheduled arrival. Anyhow there is nothing much to be missed in the early afternoon. After a bit of sightseeing and the first few bands of this first festival day – HELLISH CROSSFIRE, FLESHCRAWL and DENIAL OF GOD – comes the first and unexpected highlight of the day: AUDREY HORNE. Fearless of chilling winds or possible rainfall their guitarist on the left side, wearing a white wife beater, is posing as if there was no tomorrow. The mood of the band and the audience is quite well and keeps up to this level during the full hour set. Up next is ASHES OF ARES, the new band of former ICED EARTH vocalist Matt Barlow. To complete this whit friday a true Metal Veteran is welcomed to the sacred stage of ROCK HARD FESTIVAL: Udo Dirkschneider and his ACCEPT successor U.D.O. prove that rocking knows no age. But if it wasn’t for the indisputable ACCEPT classics, above all “Balls to The Wall”, one doubts that there was a sing-along quality to what Dirkschneider and his band play tonight. The day ends after another hour of small talk and drinks at the VIP-tent…
– Saturday –
Since I have pretty much adjusted to the weather at this point, it comes with not that big of an unexpected downer that this day starts off just like last night ended: Cold and wet! At least there is some good tunes I am looking forward to and after an extended breakfast with my neighbours – in fact the same couple from Cologne like last year – swedish Rock fiver is already in the midst of their set. The sound comes in well, but this band works so much better in a hazy club atmosphere as it has been the case at HELL OVER HAMMABURG in early march. Apart from her striking leather outfit vocalist Kristina Karlsson and her rocking mod squad ( Johan Berg – Lead Guitar, Tobias Ander’s live-replacement whose name I still did not catch – Guitar, Niclas Svensson – Bass, Peter Henriksson – Drums) do not seem to be that much in the mood. Might be due to the opening position or a lack of alcoholic beverages at this time of day…
HORISONT singer Axel giving his first Rock Hard assault
Up next are my parking lot neighbours from Gothenburg: HORISONT! The guys are in a far better mood and get right to the audience. Their mix of bluesy riffing, hippie vibes and classic Hard Rock is a real crowd pleaser and the rows fill up quickly. HORISONT play songs from their two records “Två Sidor Av Horisonte” (2009) and “Second Assault” (2012) and look like being in this bands requires a large collection of boots, flared pants, belt-buckles and an exquisite fashion of facial hair. Born too late, but I’m glad you showed up this date! Between lunch and a sudden case of drinking disaster the rest of the day becomes one blurry vision and I have clearly missed D-A-D and Queensryche, which is no pity to me at all.
On the Run
Crusaders of Death
– Sunday –
The final festival day takes off with hope – hope for warmth and at least a short visit from the sun to gleam onto the face of this soaked up earth along the waves of Rhine-Herne-Canal, hope for uplifting tunes as I arise from my car. And for once my hopes won’t be left as a mere mindchild I bear. Opening up under the bright midday sun ATTIC act as they’ve seen many a stages this size, yet their confidence might be due to the fact that all members derive from this very region and certainly have known ROCK HARD FESTIVAL as visitors. Although their being on stage has its entertaining momentum to me at present, the sun requires to put on a necessary protection or else I will turn into a skin-burned person. Missing the rest of the “heirs of KING DIAMOND”, as ATTIC are referred to by some, I return to witness the GOSPEL OF THE HORNS. Their blackened Thrash works as little as ATTICS masquerade around noon, still the sound invites me stay, just before escaping ORDEN OGAN…just not me cup of tea.
ORCHID’S leading hippie Theo showing his aggressive face
After reinforcing my energy I am right up for my highlight-to-be and as it turns out, ORCHID can be called the secret headliner of the day or even the entire event! Expectations are through the roof among all present and in its now 11th year ROCK HARD FESTIVAL might have never seen an act playing on sunday afternoon fully filling up the ranks. “California hippies brought you sunshine“, singer Theo Mindell rightfully points out with the brightest smile on his face. Specially after I’ve met the band just about two weeks earlier in Siegen, the joy and gratitude they feel at this moment comes over me just as well. Just after the first track and title to the current second album “The Mouth Of Madness”, dozens of fans join in for a collective chant, calling the bands’ name – people singing-along with the songs won’t come as a surprise now, but makes it all worthwhile. The set is a brilliant mix of ORCHID’s debut “Capricorn” and its follow-up. Mark Thomas Baker (git.), Keith Nickel (bass) and Carter Kennedy (dr.) along with their charming fronter clearly sink into every second with pure joy and for anyone who has seen them play before, it’s fair to say that they are on top of the world. As the caravan of photographers and journalists – and myself – leave the pit, several concurring glimpses pass my sight.
1. The Mouths Of Madness
2. Eyes Behind The Wall
4. Silent One
5. Eastern Woman
6. Wizard Of War
7. He Who Walks Alone
A final extended break for food consumption and relaxation has me missing most of TANK, THRESHOLD and gets me right back in time for some SEPULTURA classics. The crowed reaches a brutality peak and the sun is still around as setting up stages for one KING DIAMOND lasts long enough for notorious organ entertainer MAMBO KURT to perform a most infamous set. Between amusement and shame, the audience finds itself to be mainly in a good mood and sings along with the weirdest versions of “Ace Of Spades” and some Eurodance trash. As the moment most visitors have been waiting for, since this attendance has been announced arrives, my power goes down quickly, but still keeps me through the whole set of former MERCYFUL FATE singer KING DIAMOND. Worn out but happy having been part of these three days of rockin rituals , I step on the gas and drive right home – thanks so much ROCK HARD FESTIVAL, see you all next year!
KING DIAMOND: Gathering the masses for his sabbath
Setlist KING DIAMOND
1. The Candle
2. Welcome Home
3. At The Graves
4. Up From The Grave
7. Sleepless Nights
8. Drumsolo (Matt Thompson)
9. Shapes Of Black
10. Come To The Sabbath (MERCYFUL FATE-Cover)
11. Evil (MERCYFUL FATE-Cover)
12. Eye Of The Witch
The Family Ghost
All live pictures courtesy of Jörg Litges / lautundinfarbe