Having been kept awake most of the night by an almighty thunderstorm I approached day three somewhat bleary eyed as I trudged into the amphitheatre for Motorhead covers band, Motorgang. Their performance was poignant on the background of Lemmy’s recent demise and as such served as a fitting tribute, staying true to the originals running through classics such as ‘Killed by Death’, ‘Bomber’, ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Overkill’.
German duo Mantar arrived at Metalfest on the back of a lot of hype around their recent release ‘Ode to the Flame’, and I was curious to see what the fuss was about. The first thing to notice before the band even took to the stage was the unusual set up with the solitary microphone and drumkit both at 90 degrees to the crowd, facing each other. For the first portion of the set there was minimal crowd interaction, content to let their doomy blackened metal do the talking, but towards the back end of the set, guitarist/vocalist Hanno began to banter with the crowd culminating with him passing a bottle of spirits to the front row as a gift in recognition of their first time in the Czech Republic. ‘Era Borealis’ and ‘The Huntsman’ brought things to close and I have to admit, I think they are worth the hype and will be investigating them further.
Hungarian power metallers Wisdom brought a distinct change of pace to proceedings with upbeat melodies such as ‘Wisdom’, ‘God Rest Your Soul’ and new track ‘Ravens’ Night’. They were clearly well known to the Czech crowd who sang along with boundless energy, which seemed to fuel the band further. ‘Live Forevermore’ was a personal highlight before the set closed with ‘Take Me To Neverland’.
Following wholesale personnel changes, leaving drummer Thomas Caser as the only remaining founding member, I was curious to see how this incarnation of Visions of Atlantis would compare with previous. I was particularly interested to hear Clementine Delauney’s interpretation of some of the back catalogue, having been a fan of her with her previous bands, Serenity and Whyzdom, but also being aware that as a soprano her vocal range was different from previous vocalists. I need not have worried as the band sounded great with Clementine and Siegfried Samers’ vocals working well in unison on tracks such as ‘Seven Seas’ and ‘Lost’ early on. Clementine’s voice was outstanding, especially during an emotional rendition of the ‘Winternight’ ballad during which she managed to sound powerful and yet vulnerable at the same time. ‘New Dawn’, ‘Lemuria’ and ‘Passing Dead End’ brought a fantastic show to an end, and as time passes and the band gel further Visions of Atlantis have the potential to go far.
D-A-D (previously known as Disneyland after Dark) followed, taking the slot which had become vacant following Crucified Barbara’s withdrawal. Their Danish rock was enjoyable but a little generic, and I have to admit I took the opportunity to seek refuge from the sweltering heat and to track down a cold beer.
Feeling refreshed I headed to the front for Arkona and their indomitable Russian pagan metal. Opener ‘Yav’ got the crowd moving and by the time the third track ‘Goi, Rode, Goi!’ was in full swing there was a decent number of crowd surfers and a circle pit. Vocalist Masha looked deranged as she charged around the stage and the concrete podium out front. My favourite track ‘Stenka Na Stenku’ came late on in the set but was worth the wait. Arkona are a force to be reckoned with, although it was slightly surreal bumping into them at the airport out of their stage clothes and out of character the following day!
Amorphis stormed the stage next and gave Delain a close run for their money as the band of the weekend. ‘Under the Red Cloud’ got things under way to a great reception with sublime melodies from keyboards sitting comfortably alongside the guitars. Set regular ‘My Kantele’ came mid way through complete with band member introductions, followed by ‘Hopeless Days’ from the ‘Circle’ album, before ‘House of Sleep’. My personal favourite Amorphis track ‘Silver Bride’ was played next although slightly worryingly this was announced as a song for the ladies – Not sure what that says about me! Things were brought to a close with a triumphant ‘Black Winter Day’ ending a truly magnificent set. Amorphis are under many peoples’ radars, but if there is any justice in the world they will be headlining much bigger stages than this before long.
I have been a fan of Epica for many years now and have enjoyed many live encounters with them, always being blown away until last November when they put in a substandard shift at Manchester Ritz. I was therefore nervously looking forward to this performance, hoping they would make amends, particularly since I had been singing their praises to a fellow scribe before the Manchester show, and he was also with part of our group in Plzen…..The band came on to a rapturous reception as the launched into ‘The Second Stone’ and ‘The Essence of Silence’ but it wasn’t until track four, ‘Storm the Sorrow’ that I felt they really hit their stride. Good crowd interaction and a crystal clear sound set the foundations for an enjoyable show, and by the time ‘Cry for the Moon’ prompted a mass sing along, it was clear that they were making amends! ‘The Obsessive Devotion’ was preceded by a demand for headbanging, and the crowd duly obliged. Things were brought to an end with ‘Unchain Utopia’ and ‘Consign to Oblivion’. There were notable omissions from the set, not least ‘The Phantom Agony’ but I guess that is inevitable during a shortened festival set.
And so to Udo Dirkschneider, the festival headliner. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that Udo was previously vocalist and co-founder of the legendary Accept, and for this tour he was playing a set entirely comprising old Accept tunes. The stage was decked out in urban camo, and after a long intro the band came on stage to raucous chants of “U-Do”, before tearing through a set of high energy old scheme traditional heavy metal. All the classics were played to a euphoric response from the crowd. Air and cardboard guitars were played with vigour as the rest of the crowd provided fervent backing vocals…….A triumphant close to the festival indeed!
(Review And Photos Andy Pountney)