When Athens Rocks Festival was announced, with Slayer as headliners, we all knew that it would be a great moment in the concert history of Greece. Slayer had revealed some months ago that this world tour would be their final, and it was a blessing that the thrash metal legends decided to include Athens in their tour schedule. Everybody who had seen Slayer on stage before already had an idea of what would happen on the 13th of July, 2019.

Of course, we would have the chance to enjoy some other live acts that night: Suicidal Angels, the fresh blood of Greek thrash metal, would open the festival, Leprous, the prog metal weirdos, would continue, and Rotting Christ, the triumphant black metallers from Greece, would be the last bite, before the massacre. But let’s see what took place!

 The festival was hosted in the OAKA Basketball Stadium, after the late change of the place decided by the organizers. Many fans posted their angry opposition to this change on the social media, arguably because they thought that the temperature and the general physical conditions of the festival in a not open air stadium would be unbearable and dangerous for the attendants and the musicians – especially if we consider that the Greek fans often use fumigants at concerts! Well, everybody had the same worries, which were discarded with the arrival at the concert hall; the place was nicely air-conditioned, with aeration, and everybody who wished to sit down, there were the tiers of the stadium. So, this time we must give our congratulations to the organizers!

The first band who entered the stage was Suicidal Angels. Almost every thrash metal fan knows this killer band, who its few albums have demonstrated how thrash metal should be played! And yes, Suicidal Angels gave a fantastic show – their sound was loud and tight and their bombastic thrash metal hymns warmed up the fans. The head banging started pretty soon (at five o’ clock), since Suicidal Angels have the potential, the compositions and the experience to metal everybody’s ass! We also had the good fortune to listen a couple new songs, from the band’s newest album, “ … “ – if all songs sound like that, we will have another great reason to praise Suicidal Angels. Bow to the Greek thrash metal angels!

And then there were Leprous on stage. Leprous’ atmospheric, Tool-ish prog metal which reminds of Muse and Anathema wasn’t a good choice for this festival. Suicidal Angels play thrash metal, Rotting Christ black metal and Slayer are US thrash metal. So, why did they choose a prog metal band as an opening act for Slayer? Surely not wise! Although Leprous differed from the other bands of Athens Rocks, there were many people in the audience who enjoyed Leprous’ complex and proggy music. And the band managed to win everybody’ s applause, since they played with passion, and gave us the gift of excellent intelligent music! Most of all I liked Einar Solberg’s vocals and the diversity of the compositions, which usually have some very pompous outbursts. I knew that Leprous is an interesting band, yet this concert was my first serious contact with their music. Don’t be afraid, my friends, it isn’t a risk for our musical health to come closer to Leprous music – on the contrary, it is a healthy way to broaden our music taste!

After the Norwegians, it was time to obey the rules of Greek black metal. Because Rotting Christ was and still is the synonyme of the greek sound of black metal. I hadn’t seen Rotting Christ live for years, so I waited their show with anxiety. Of course, I don’t have to describe to you what happened at the band’s performance. Sakis Tolis and company taught us what black metal stands for! Their might, their passion, their artistry combined with dignity, experience and conviction resulted into a live black metal manifesto! Rotting Christ gave us hell, burned our minds, showed no mercy. The Greeks pleased everyone in the audience and shaked us with both older and newer black anthems. The live performances of “King of a Stellar War” and “Non Serviam” were historic moments and will never be forgotten. It was obvious that Rotting Christ are in good shape, and what happened in Patras has made them even more furious. The fans enjoyed every second of the impressive Rotting Christ show, but the time of the butcher had come!!

Almost on time, Slayer came on stage with full force and devastated everything! It would be their last time in Greece, so they were confident, determined to present us what Slayer can do! Conquer the stage, conquer us, conquer everything! The thrash metal veterans unleashed the thrash metal beast within, which ran at the highest speed and preyed on us! With Tom Araya and Kerry King at the helm, Slayer’s vehicle mad the ultimate thrash metal attack, which devoured our flesh and bones. That was a thrash metal crescendo, with all the classic Slayer tunes – the selist was wisely chosen, and the sound was so crystal, so heavy, so loud! You can easily understand what happened, when Slayer performed songs like “South of Heaven”, “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”! Chaos!!! Hell on earth!!! All the fans – thousands of fans were there to pray to their gods, and witness the final live Slayer experience. It was a very sentimental show, for both the band and its fans, we almost banged our heads with tears in our eyes. There is no need to say that all the hall was a gigantic mosh pit.

After the last song of the show, Araya stood on stage alone and was gazing at the audience. The frontman of the legendary band said to us “goodbye, we will miss you” in Greek – that was the emotional peak of this thrash metal concert. It is the first time I experienced such a moment in a music show – a touching scene, a crying contact, a warm encounter. Maybe it is the last time we saw Araya on stage … no goodbyes, only a big, endless thank you to Mr. Araya. You will always be there in our hearts and mind. Thank you so much. And Kerry, and Paul, and Gary, and Jeff, of course.

Priceless. Fuckin’ Slayer forever!!!

Dimitris Zacharopoulos

This summer, Release Athens turns out to be the main music festival in Athens, Greece. The experience of seeing Manowar live at Plateia Nerou is still fresh – Joey DeMaio and company offered the heavy metal fans a marvelous night, in a place that’s perfect for concerts. Apart from being located close to the centre of the Greek capital, Release Athens is a musical happening that fulfills the requirements of a modern, well-organized event: you can easily and comfortably enjoy the live performances, with the ability to buy your favourite T-Shirt, to drink your beer, eat something with your friends and hang out with your mates. As you may understand, these fine conditions are something new for the Greek music fans, who previously attended music festivals like Rockwave.

After Manowar, it was the turn of Anthrax and Disturbed to rock the night.

Anthrax need no recommendations. The legendary US band was and still is one of the main thrash metal attractions, a living myth of heavy metal music, a group that released so many classic metal albums and influenced tons of artists. We are honored that they decided to visit Athens.

Disturbed is a big name of modern metal, since they started their career in 2001 and gained great success with fantastic albums like “The Sickness”, “Believe” and “Ten Thousand Fists”. Their amalgam of nu-metal and classic rock/metal makes them unique.

The billing included also three Greek metal bands, Breath After Coma, Need and SiXforNinE. Personally, I had seen live on stage only Need, in the recent past, so I was very curious to see Breath After Coma and SiXforNinE for the first time. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the support bands began their performance early in the afternoon (17:30), I wasn’t able to catch them on stage – the hot sun and the high temperature prevented me from getting to Plateia Nerou on time. I understand that the support bands and every musician has spent so many hours and so much money for rehearsals and await for the fans’ support, but I also understand health problems. So, under these circumstances I missed the first two opening bands, but was lucky enough to see SiXforNinE on stage.

SiXforNinE presented some of their (old and new) songs to the fans that had already come to the fest. Fotis Benardo led the extreme metal attack of the band, which managed to win the crowd’s applause. Their nice blend of extreme metal ingredients was uplifting, a pretty good appetizer! I knew that SiXforNinE is a listen-worthy band, now I have witnessed their storming live energy and I am really curious for their upcoming album.

As it was announced, Anthrax hit the stage at 21:00. From the first moment they appeared to the last second of their show, Anthrax played like there is no tomorrow! They performed their beloved thrash metal anthems with mania and drove us crazy. A heavy metal thunder crashed the stage, an anvil fell on our head and a band of metal thrashing mads brought hell on earth! The wisely-chosen setlist satisfied all the fans, who didn’t stop banging their heads, yelling and screaming. With a perfect sound, Anthrax knocked everything down and showed how metal music should be played – loud and solid. It was a fantastic experience to see Joey Belladona (a true metal maniac!), Scott Ian (respect!) and Charlie Benante (what a drummer!) on stage – three famous and distinguished personalities, a guarantee for an ideal metal concert. Anthrax played for almost 90 minutes of adrenaline, artistry and awe, and pleased everyone at Plateia Nerou. A concert to remember!

Anthrax said goodbye and all Disturbed fans were looking forward to seeing the American quartet. Around 23:00 an official video of Disturbed was projected on the video walls – David Draiman and his mates would soon appear on the stage of the festival. And yes, the first notes of “Are You Ready” were heard and the fans were paralysed. The modern metal icons were now in front of us and as they were playing their stuff, for the first time in Greece, we were so happy that this moment had come! I listen to Disturbed since the “Believe” album and this concert was a dream comes true for me – this wasn’t a dreamy concert though.

First of all, Disturbed seemed tired and not so fresh, everyone could understand that. But the band is on the road for a very long time, their numerous shows of course have their effect on them, both physically and mentally. They gave their best to amuse us, they gave all their energy and soul, especially on the acoustic ballads and the “Sound of Silence” cover, they were more than professionals.

Apart from that, their sound wasn’t satisfactory. The overall volume wasn’t so high - the sound of the bass guitar was prominent and the guitar and the drums should have been louder, especially in the first songs of the setlist. I wasn’t the only one who was a bit disappointed. To be frank, I wish that we had seen Disturbed on their own concert – I mean, not in a festival. Then we should judge them for their sound.

What is more, I didn’t like the vocals of Draiman. His vocal performance wasn’t so impressive as in the studio albums, sometimes I couldn’t hear what he was singing and generally, we didn’t take what we were expecting from him vocally. Another thing I would like to mention is that maybe the vocal result would be better if the band used more backing vocals.

These positive things surpassed the negative issues. And that happened, because Disturbed performed with soul, feeling, passion! The setlist was almost perfect, the band’s energy hit us between the eyes, the music and the lyrics mesmerized us. Disturbed rocked big time, besides that, they sent messages of love and peace and paid tribute to the musicians who didn’t manage to fight addiction and depression – “A Reason To Fight” and “Hold On to Memories” were sentimental moments, which touched everybody and encouraged us to fight and never give up/give in. And the cover of the “Sound of Silence” was wonderful.

To sum up, Disturbed and Anthrax performed excellently – all hell broke loose! There is no way that the sound problems could blacken the aforementioned unforgettable moments. We left the festival with a smile and a … reason to fight!

Dimitris Zacharopoulos

So yesterday I went to see Beth Hart for the first time, at the Melina Mercouri Open Air Theatre, and I had really high expectations from her.

I can honestly say that they were all absolutely fulfilled.

What the whole audience experienced there, is something that words aren’t enough to describe, as Beth Hart came hard as a rock and soft as a wave and simply “made love” with the Greek audience. 

But let’s start from the beginning. The opening act was the Greek blues rock duo, The Big Nose Attack, who filled the stage with its energy and passion and warmed us up for more blues to come.

When the Greeks finished, Beth Hart began her performance singing her heart out with the “Sinner’s Prayer” – a classic song, which immediately shook us and got us all up from the chairs dancing and prepared us for what was about to come.

Is there any other singer/composer with more communicative skills than her? I really don’t think so, as I have been present in many concerts so far and I have never seen an artist thanking the audience so many times during the whole show. I haven’t ever seen any artist sharing on stage his/hers most private moments with the crowd, showing courage and humanity, like she did, - she actually admitted that, when she was in her late 20s, she experienced serious addiction to drugs and alcohol and that she hated herself so much and her self-esteem was so low, that she ended up cutting herself in order to feel alive. I haven’t ever seen any artist performing a song especially for his/her husband/wife – which, in Hart’s case, was the super romantic “My California”. And thanking him in public for marrying her, claiming to be really lucky with her marriage. After that song, Hart’s husband, who had been behind the stage, jumped out from the shadows hugging her and kissing her passionately on stage.

Beth Hart came in Athens with one goal - to sing violently her most popular songs like the rhythmic “Jazz Man”, the sexy “Close to my Fire”, the touching and inspired “Leave the Lights On”. Of course, the songs “Your Heart is as Black as Night” and “I’ll Take Care of You” weren’t missing from the setlist. She also introduced us to less known to the public songs, like the “Lullaby of the Leaves”- an old jazz song, which lifted our spirit high among the stars, between the rocks that were standing all around us in the Theatre, and moved everyone in the audience. She came determined to give everything with her performance, her growling, her screams, her crawling on the floor, after having poured on her head an entire bottle of water (she did that more than once). One of the top moments of the concert was, when she came down from the stage and walked among the crowd (like Moses), while singing. Hart said that the Greeks were the best audience she ever had and that she would be really lucky if she could visit Greece more than once every year! And she claimed that Greece makes her feel so, so sexy, something she proved to us, by swaying her body with passion in almost every song - the stage almost caught fire and we all were burnt by her flames!

To sum up, the power of her voice and her personality is something to be remembered- I feel bad for those who didn’t come to the show, to enjoy this unique artist and honest person, who isn’t afraid of being judged and is 100% true, who doesn’t mind getting “dirty” as she said, laying down, singing with her whole heart and soul.

Truly remarkable.

Iro Kalligeri

Manowar took us to Valhalla to rise our hammers high along with Odin’s Sons…. Honestly now… When you have in front of you the mega beasts, the Kings of Metal, what more do you need? A mesmerizing show? Vocals, which give you the chills all over your body? Fire, thunder and steel?  Well, their Release Athens Festival concert had them … ALL!

But first things first.  The band, which opened the event, was Battleroar, one of the most known Greek metal bands. The guys were perfect, and, in my humble opinion, it was a great choice as the local support band! With the amazing Yiannis Papanikolaou (Diviner, ex- Inner Wish) in vocals and their energy and enthusiasm, they managed to make people say … “too bad they didn’t play longer”! This band definitely needs more recognition.

Next band was Imperia, an atmospheric metal band formed by Helena Iren Michaelsen, the first singer of Epica (formerly known as Sahara Dust). I’m not going to lie to you, I didn’t even know their existence before they were announced as a support band. Now, even though I love atmospheric metal, I really don’t think that Imperia was a good choice as a support band for Manowar. I can think at least ten bands in the category of atmospheric metal, which could had been chosen to play instead! Their performance wasn’t terrible but not good either. I think the right word is mundane ... Helena’s appearance will stay in our minds for her cute/psycho dancing part on stage. The songs were really mediocre and they definitely weren’t worth playing on the same stage with a band like Manowar. People didn’t even pay attention to them, which makes sense, since Imperia became even more boring and tiring, as the minutes were passing by.

Last before hell were Rhapsody of Fire, a band with which almost everybody is familiar. They prepared us with some of their familiar fantasy sounds, with the vocals of Giacomo Voli making us want to fly with the dragons! His vocal technique was amazing, and he was really communicative with the crowd. Excellent performance in everything, great chemistry among the band members on stage, the guys seemed to enjoy the whole thing.  Unfortunately, and maybe this was the only negative thing in the whole festival, their sound was poor. I’m not an expert, but the microphones’ volume was low and in Rhapsody’s case, sometimes you felt the one instrument was higher than the other. The band made us want to raise our “Emerald Sword” with their epic performance, as they finished to make room on the stage for the beasts.

And now the time for us to fight hell on earth had come (I was in the center front, so believe me, I know what I’m saying)! Our Metal Kings are here! They proved that their Guinness record as the "loudest band in the world" is TRUE! Joey De Maio’s bass was so loud we thought our hearts were about to jump from our chests! E.V Martel on the guitar was great and he absolutely stood up to the occasion! Great technique, amazing on stage, he seemed like a worthy member of the band, even if he is a member of Manowar only for a while. As a special guest on stage, the band introduced for the first time their keyboardist Joe Rozler, who has been present in all the studio recordings of the band since 2002. Manowar were just EPIC! They had so much energy that they could easily pick up their swords any time to call us to arms! The setlist was bloody strong and mighty! With a huge surprise for their Greek fans, the Kings played also for the first time ever "Hector's Final Hour”, from the "Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy Ιn Eight Parts" opus - brilliant way to honor their Greek fans! Adams was impressive with his chilling voice, as he was going all over the stage … Honestly, we all wondered how the hell he still has this killer voice. The show included fireworks, lava, a huge video wall with terrific special effects, fighters from all over history, and fire! It was an once in a lifetime experience! Totally worth all the bruises, the pain, the waiting … Joey was as always incredible at EVERYTHING!!! At the end, he broke his bass strings like he was in a sacred ceremony to the Gods of War!

The show lasted one hour and forty-five minutes, minutes that will never be forgotten. I can’t say anything bad for their appearance – surely there were negative things, however, I headbanged my ass out, so I just didn’t notice them, or better, I didn’t care to notice them. This live experience will stay forever not only in my mind, but also in every Manowarrior’ s mind. We were truly honored to witness this show. Thank you Manowar!

Sylvia Argie Crystal

 

 

We don’t have the chance to see many legendary classic rock bands here in Greece, so arranging small trips abroad is the last resort. But this time, a great band of the seventies included Athens in its tour program – Jethro Tull are celebrating their 50-year anniversary and they visited Athens on June 15th 2019. It was an alert for every Greek rock aficionado, and thousands of people heeded the call.

Ian Anderson and his bandmates had a rendezvous with us in the beautiful Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The ancient Greek theatre wasn’t full though. I also noticed that many non-rock listeners attended the event, so it was clear that many rock fans didn’t buy a ticket. Anyway, the concert started some minutes after 9 pm – with the entrance of Ian Anderson, the audience started to applaud and yell. The singer with the flute was in front of us, and the flashback began. The journey started with the “This Was” album and included some of the band’s greatest tunes, from albums like “Thick as a Brick”, “Stand Up” and “Songs from the Wood”. It was a singular experience, to enjoy these monumental songs, to have this big band playing only for us, to see Anderson playing his flute like god Pan. Magical!

On the other hand, it wasn’t nice to realise that Ian Anderson couldn’t sing comfortably, obviously he has problems with his voice, it is something natural after so many years though, and nothing could spoil our joy.

We left the ancient Greek theatre satisfied and excited. Of course, the best moments of the show were the amazing performance of “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breathe”. In general we experienced a classic rock celebration, a blast from the past of Jethro Tull, a look in the achievements of this gigantic band! An awe-inspiring concert!

Dimitris Zacharopoulos