After all the sturm und drang of Friday night, it’s a welcome change of pace to arrive at the Amphitheatre Gelsenkirchen on Saturday afternoon to be greeted by the dulcet tones of The New Roses.
These boys always entertain on disc, and, thankfully that situation is replicated in the live arena. Pleasing singalong tracks like Dancing on a Razor Blade are given the full treatment, with vocalist Timmy Rough proving to be a total and utter star.
Coming on like a cross between Steve Marriott (visually) and Quireboys frontman Spike (vocally), Rough has quite frankly the best voice I’ve heard live in a long time. Really – it sends shivers down the spine to hear him in full effect, and Mrs Strickmann, I’m able to confirm, is now his new number one fan… For all the right reasons, natch.
They come and go all too quickly of course, but The New Roses are playing a lot of festivals this Summer – if you can, try and catch them. You will not be disappointed.
Leatherwolf were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing over the weekend – it’s nearly thirty years since I last saw them when they toured the UK in support of the glorious Street Ready opus – but at the end of the day they weren’t quite the force of nature I was hoping they’d be.
Frontman Michael Olivieiri is still one of the great unsung frontmen of heavy metal, but today even he can’t save matters. Opening track Spiter sounds leaden, the band’s famed triple axe attack format seemingly actually working against them in this instance. Drummer Dean Roberts hammers away manfully in the background, but it all seems to no avail.
Street Ready causes a brief, half-hearted outburst of fist banging, lead guitarist Rob Math shredding nicely, but even this is a bit limp. Bassist Patrick Guyton looks genuinely energised, and I’m really raring to get into this… but then Princess of Love, hampered by some guitar problems on Math’s side of the stage, brings the vibe down again.
Things pick up slightly for Spirits in the Wind, although Olivieri clearly can’t hear himself very well onstage and some of the guitar harmonies are shall we say… wobbly.
At this point I decide I can’t take any more- seeing one’s heroes in torturous conditions is never pleasurable, and we leave the arena in search of solids and a little libation to ease the nerves a little. Leatherwolf will always be titanic – today, however, they just weren’t very good.
The same can’t be said for surprise package of the day Cirith Ungol, who amble on stage like a pleasant bunch of retired bikers and then proceed to destroy the arena with an hour of superbly constructed heavy metal thunder. I was never a fan of the band in their ‘heyday’, but more fool me, because today Cirith Ungol prove just what consummate masters of the art of heavy metal they really are.
Overcoming early mic problems, vocalist Tim Baker gives a bravura display on superb tracks like Blood and Iron – one of the overall highlights of the day in my book – and Frost and Fire, whilst Black Machine is also a riff-heavy Leviathan of the highest order. The fact that the band’s bassist is called Jarvis Leatherby should also be taken into consideration when assessing this band’s overall contribution to the day; and that assessment is that, on a day when it was impossible to be too metal, Cirith Ungol were the most metal of all. Hail the kings.
Swedes Marduk are next, and whilst it’s impossible to fault their commitment or the reaction the draw from the ever-swelling crowd, their heaviness seems contrived when set against the pure, elemental metal of Cirith Ungol. They’re good, but they fail to move me.
The same might be said for Axel Rudi Pell. Herr Pell is an absolute institution in Germany, pretty much beyond criticism, and he delivers a punchy set of second division hard rock to an adoring crowd. But apart from rare moments of inspiration – Only The Strong Will Survive, from 2004’s Kings and Queens album, for instance – the set is played with perspiration rather then inspiration.
Former Rainbow man Bobby Rondinelli is a fine drummer, but vocalist Johnny Gioeli, despite possessing powerful pipes, bounces around the stage with all the craft of a brickie in Karaoke dreamland; this mixture of the naïve and the superb can be endearing, and there’s no faulting Pell’s belief in the power of rock n’roll, but today the fare is strictly take it or leave it, and midset the wife and I decide to leavie it head off to find that excellent little wurst outlet we discovered yesterday.
New Jersey thrashers Overkill bring down the curtain on day two as only Overkill can; gut wrenchingly heavy from the outset – opening track Coma simply destroys those still standing after a heavy day of booze and metal – the band simply doesn’t give you a moment’s respite. How Bobby Blitz does it is beyond me – the man’s scream is still fully intact after all this time, in places sounding actually better than ever before – and the rest of the band take absolutely zero time to get into the groove, hitting their straps and providing a thunderous conclusion to day two.