The Rock Hard Festival (RHF) in Germany belongs to one of the most established open airs. The first edition took place in 1990 in Lichtenfels, Bavaria with German Rock Hard magazine being the organizer and sponsor. In 2003 the Rock Hard Festival moved location. The Amphitheater Gelsenkirchen became the new venue, a great location that reminds a bit of the Lorely stage. The good thing is, that everybody has a really good stage view and also the sound is pretty good for an open air concert.
Compared to some other festivals this one has, next to the great location, a uniqueness when it comes to atmosphere. The Amphitheater can handle around 7.000 visitors. So instead of being a huge and rather anonymous festival the RHF scores with its familiar vibe.
Last but not least the organizers constantly get together an exciting line-up for their festivals, representing metal styles that are mainly in focus in Rock Hard magazine. It’s a cool mixture of hard rock bands like Backyard Babies up to black metal, this year represented by Swedish Marduk.
As usual it’s Friday afternoon being the starting point of a three days marathon through metal. The mighty weather God also seems to be a metalhead since he spend Gelsenkirchen three sunny days, which immediately added to the positive impression.
This year‘s started with a death metal assault, presented by German quintet Dawn Of Disease. It‘s always a tough cookie to be the first band on stage, but since the Amphitheater in Gelsenkirchen was already filled quite well it was motivation enough to go full speed ahead. The guys from Osnabruck gave all they had and were a good opener for three days a metal in all shapes and forms.
King Diamond enthusiasts Attic set a counterpoint with their doom metal. Attic calls Gelsenkirchen their homebase, so home-game time. I haven’t seen the band live on stage so far but since the records are excellent there was no risk of failure. Not only that the quintet sounds partly like their idols, Merciful Fate and King Diamond, also the stage set with two fences reminded of King Diamond. OK, enough of this comparisons. Attic has their own little niche and what they presented in Gelsenkirchen was a terrific metal show that probably works even better in a dark small venue with the sunny daylight not really support the music. Still Attic managed to unveil an evil vibe and is a cool band with an excellent musical repertoire.
Dutch Dool was next. Dool is one of the bands I‘ve seen most during the last years – from one of their very first shows at Paradiso, Amsterdam to the here and now at RHF. As earlier also this time the quintet performed a terrific set. The intensity was enormous and it‘s charismatic singer /guitarist Ryanne van Dorst being a crucial asset for this band. Dool played a great show which was also very much appreciated by the audience and it’s songs like ‘Vantablack’ you just get enough from.
After having enjoyed a rather new band (Dool started in 2017) it was legendary Diamond Head that added some old-school metal to the mix. I had the chance to witness a show at 013, Tilburg a few month ago when the guys supported Saxon and it was a great one. Also this time Diamond Head showed all their professionalism and the combination of founding member Brian Tadler and some newer band mates seems to work in a great fashion. Diamond Head might be old-school, but their music isn’t outdated. They use their experience and professionalism to hammer classic into the Amphitheater with ‚Am I Evil‘ being THE highlight. This sonic wrecking ball turned the venue for the first tine into a madhouse. Well done Diamond Head.
From a band I saw recently to a band I haven‘t seen for ages. It was more than twenty years ago when I visited a Tiamat show in Neu-Ulm, Germany. I have great memory when it comes to this show and I was excited to see them again. Now, as all of us, also Johan Edlund and band got older but the gloomy vibe, the excellent riff and the unique vocals – all is still there. Time obviously doesn’t matter when time comes to metal. In no time Tiamat could put a spell on the audience and got in return enthusiastic applause and pure appreciation. As announced upfront the show was about ‘Clouds’ and ‘Wildhoney and it’s songs like ‚Gaia‘ and ‚The Sleeping Beauty‘ are all-time classics and listening to these tunes is always a dark pleasure.
The sun went down and after having seen already some good metal shows, everybody was waiting for the first real highlight of this year‘s RHF. Sodom was announced, performing a 90 minutes headliner show in the renewed line-up. Sodom is brainchild of Tom Angelripper and it’s former Sodom guitarist Franck Blackfire who re-joined the powerhouse. It’s as time stood still. Next to the two Sodom veterans it’s drummer Husky and guitarist Yorck Segatz completing this four piece unit.
Sodom was on fire and so were the fans. First circle pits started right away and ended one and a half hours later. The quartet played an unforgettable show that was a true thrash metal blast. A glimpse on the setlist revealed an old-school show with classics such as ‚Agent Orange‘, ‚The Saw is the Law‘ and ‚Bombenhagel‘ belonging to best German thrash metal ever brought up to surface. Sodom as a quartet stands for a lot of hellish firepower. Two guitars add density to Sodom‘s sound and it’s frontman Tom Angelripper who stands for honest and authentic metal from the Ruhrpott. This show was a glorious one and outstanding closure of a Day 1 at RHF.
You’re interested in the setlists. HERE they are.