During its long and rather successful course, the “Up The Hammers” festival gave us plenty of metal-isque moments of perfection. Though, what we experienced this year will be remembered for the multitude of sentimental deviations which were even sad and embarrassing during our outbreaks of joy in pure ecstasy.
Various reasons didn’t allow me to be present during Thursday’s warm-up, but after some chats I had with some friends I got to know that the crowd was carried away by Skullwinx along with Doomocracy. The French veterans Blaspheme also received dithyrambic comments. Some people even claimed that their performance was the highlight of the festival.
Seven Sisters: Half the quarter of the British band’s set was sacrificed for the needed greetings outside the Kyttaro Club. As I walked in, I saw that the crows was more than enough –if we take into account the time – and was more than ready to enjoy classic Heavy Metal along with some NWOBHM touches, served by the band from London. Even though this band hasn’t presented yet something that will make them stand out from the lot, they look like they can improve. Nevertheless, that kind of music is twice as fun to listen to live, than it is when listening to on record. The managed fine, even as a trio, since their lead guitarist had a problem and couldn’t join them.
Sacral Rage: These guys are out of their minds. Their performances are a true celebration of Heavy Metal. Their professionalism along with their love and passion for the music they’re performing, show that they’re made out of great-band-material. On Friday they had another of these great performances that made people shut up and destroyed their necks. They got on stage with a session bassist since their regular one couldn’t follow them due to obligations, and brought havoc by playing songs from their last-year’s epic release along with some songs from their EP. This was one of the two perfect performances during the festival.
Tempest: This is where half of the crowd left the place. That has to do with the crowd being unfamiliar with the German band and because after Sacral Rage’s performance most people were in need of air. Having listened to their EP titled “The End Of A Dream” (back from 1987) I was curious on to how this band sounds in 2016. This band had a pretty good performance full of heavy metal that left most people untouched nonetheless. They were more than decent though.
Ironsword: The headliners of the day, plain and simple. The Portuguese trio showed us how true Epic Metal is performed. With their professional stage presence and having excellent sound they played songs from throughout their career , emphasizing mostly to their last year’s masterpiece “None But The Brave”. On the first rows all hell broke loose, with people headbanging and screaming the lyrics with their fists in the air. People went crazy during “Beginning of the End” and “Burning Metal” but right there, they had to leave since it was the time for the next band. We’re looking forward to seeing them again with a full set.
Vardis: This is where I got really hungry. So I missed most of the English band’s performance. By the little I saw during my return, this veteran band gave an excellent performance full of high quality NWOBHM.
Lethal: The Americans had a lot of fans in Greece as it seemed, since during their performance the crows swarmed the place and the first rows looked as if mesmerized.
Personally, although a supporter of the American heavy metal sound, the material of Lethal never struck me. As an appearance they certainly were one of the finest of the festival, with three guitarists and Tom Malicoat swallow planets with the range of his voice. The audience of UTH enjoyed the most of their appearance and that is what matters.
Virgin Steele: No fan of the epic sound should not / shall live what we lived on Friday night. By far the worst appearence I have seen in many years. The great sorrow is that the Americans were the reason why the Friday show was sold out. Although I had never a great appreciation about them, so as to fall from the clouds, I must admit that it was indeed disheartening to see a band with so much history behind them to shamelessly humiliate the scene.
It was not only was the embarrassing use of echo, (at times I thought I was in a fair at Agnantero Karditsas), it was the whole experience that made me smell a rat. Miserable sound, modest set list, funny stage presence ( cannot be saved by the flaming sword mate ….) and generally DeFeis throwing more and more mud in his own band with every minute that passed. Unacceptable.
The second day of the festival began with two sacred beasts of our favorite music and honorary guests of the festival, gentlemen Eddy Malm and Styrbjörn Wahlquist of Heavy Load to sign autographs and take pictures at the entrance of Kyttaro. Polite and eager to please their fans, they stayed for about an hour talking with everyone. As for those who came for signatures with their dearly paid bootleg LPs, there is a case that they will be able to take hold of official versions of the album of the Swedes at some time, if everything goes well.
Unfortunately I did not see Endomain because of some pending business, so we will move to the Cypriots.
Solitary Sabred: The Cypriots roused the audience of with their very well performed UTH US epic /power. Based on the (epic) “Redemption Through Force” 2014, they handed some furious metal lessons and justified their position as worthy successors of the American 80’s power metal school. Top performance by all the band membes, with Petros Leptos on vocals, giving a concert of soprano paranoia. TOP.
Etrusgrave: The Italians were positively surprising when I saw them for the first time at UTH 2009. Shortly after their appearance “I grabbed” their first great album «Masters Of Fate». But the «Tophet» 2010 passed and did not even touch, so it was quickly forgotten. I was curious after all these years of record inactivity how they will perform at the stage of Kyttaro. Eventually their appearance exceeded all expectations. All the instruments were pretty tight and all the songs were flawlessly performed throughout the setlist . But the highlight was (understandably) the cover of “Colossus oF Argil” by the Dark Quarterer, the guitarist’s former band of Etrusgrave, Fulberto Serena.
Below: Changing of the guard in the first line as the Doom ones had their honorary. Based on “Across The Dark River” 2014 the Swedes convinced even the most skeptical ones with their «Candlemass styled» doom metal. They had a cold, highly professional attitude to the festival audience but eventually won the impressions as well as many new fans.
Ruthless: The first grand appearance of the second day. The American paver listening to the name “Ruthless” literally passed over us. The American power metal shows its hard face in a face to face confrontation with the audience to which the result seemed doomed from the very first notes of “Discipline Of Steel”. The excited audience suffered blow after blow from the entire discography of the band. Also, to my surprise, I found that the songs of the latest “just congenial” album, become huge under concert conditions. Having excellent communication with the public and with each other on stage, they left us with the best of impressions. The monster of the American metal may be aged but still roaring. This appearance was filmed for upcoming DVD of the band. Exceptional.
Heir Apparent: The headliners of the second day of our UTH were hiding magical moments. The truth is that I had never the luck in the past for various reasons, to attend a concert of the Americans on Greek land but the comments I always heard were not the best so I did not know exactly what to expect from this favorite band in the year 2016. Well, all those who were that night in Kyttaro, will remember this appearance for many years. The fact that we heard live the whole “epic” Graceful Inheritance and half of the One Small Voice having before us the three main players (Terry Gorle – guitar, Derek Peace – bass, Ray Schwartz – drums) with the best voice (Will Shaw) who caught the band microphone since the Benito (let’s not make comparisons) with performance that reached the stars, says it all. The magical material of the Americans unfolded before us in all its glory, conducted by unique Terry. A truly grand appearance comparable to the legendary size of their name.
Heathens From The North – Heavy Load Tribute
The epilogue of this year UTH was in fact a party in honor of the great guests of the fest. After being awarded commemorative prizes to Eddy Malm and Styrbjörn Wahlquist for their contribution to the Heavy Metal the tribute band, composed of members of Strikelight, Dexter Ward and Valor with even two guest stars, the Gabriele Grilli (or otherwise Nightcomer, singer of the first saga of Doomsword) and Marta Gabriel of Crystal Viper began its history in the Swedish material. The important thing was of course the participation of Eddy Malm in “Dark Nights”, “I’m Alive”, “Little Lies” and “Saturday Night” on vocals but no guitar. Beyond that, much was whispered and even more was heard. I personally hold that I got the chance and shook his hand saying a simple thank you to two of the four members of a legendary and beloved band to me. Not much to say about this. Everyone came to their own conclusions. All the rest are mere details. Let’s hope for a show next year, with good times, good friends, many beers and quality Heavy Metal.