Home » UP THE HAMMERS 2024 – GAGARIN 205, ATHENS, GREECE – 07-08-09/03/2024

UP THE HAMMERS 2024 – GAGARIN 205, ATHENS, GREECE – 07-08-09/03/2024

by MythofRock

Without a doubt, the Up The Hammers Festival stands as a global constitution of heavy metal, a celebration where both emerging and established bands converge to perform for devoted fans. This festival serves as a significant draw for heavy metal enthusiasts worldwide, who journey to Athens, Greece, to partake in this grand spectacle. In 2024, Up The Hammers featured a diverse lineup of bands from various corners of the world, all gathering in Athens to deliver electrifying performances for their dedicated followers. In this overview, we will delve into the highlights of this year’s Up The Hammers, examining the performances band by band and capturing the essence of the event as a whole.

by Dimitris Zacharopoulos

photos by Iro Kalligeri (@irokalligeriphotography) and Dimitris Zacharopoulos

7th March 2024 – Warm Up Show

The prelude to the main event unfolded at the historic An Club, in the heart of Athens. Arriving promptly, we found ourselves among the early attendees, witnessing the venue fill to capacity as soon as its doors swung open. Let’s delve into the excitement that ensued during this inaugural show!

  • Saturday Night Satan: Kicking off this year’s Up the Hammers was Saturday Night Satan, the sole Greek representative of the festival. They burst onto the stage with an electrifying energy, unleashing a furious performance that served as the perfect introduction to the event. Drawing from their debut album, “All Things Black,” they treated the audience to a selection of their occult heavy rock tracks. With a sound that resonated loudly and clearly throughout the venue, they left fans thoroughly satisfied. Saturday Night Satan demonstrated a wealth of creative songwriting ideas, infusing their set with inspired riffs, memorable refrains, and infectious grooves. Of particular note were the captivating female vocals, which seamlessly complemented the thunderous bass lines and razor-sharp guitars. Their performance set the bar high for the rest of the festival, leaving no doubt that they were the ideal choice to kickstart the festivities.
  • Dolmen Gate: The epic metal band fronted by a female vocalist captivated the packed crowd at An Club, inspiring awe among fans. Their authentic metal sound resonated powerfully, eliciting enthusiastic head-banging from the audience right from the first song. With impressive riffs and a galloping rhythm section, they effortlessly won the first battle of the night, commanding the attention of all in attendance. The intricate guitar work and well-crafted song structures prompted cheers and shouts of approval for Dolmen Gate, solidifying their status as a standout act of the evening and earning them a host of new fans.
  • Lynx: Following up was Lynx, delivering their guitar-driven heavy rock with unabashed gusto. Their performance was nothing short of explosive, as they filled the venue with their captivating melodies and undeniable talent. Despite introducing a new member, whose vocals may have slightly contrasted with the band’s vintage heavy sound, Lynx succeeded in mesmerizing the audience and showcasing their immense potential. Each moment of their set was met with enthusiastic enjoyment from the crowd, leaving everyone more than satisfied with their top-class performance.
  • Witchunter: Next up was Witchunter from Italy, a band brimming with passion and dedication to their art. Specializing in heavy/speed/thrash metal with elements reminiscent of 80s metal, their performance was characterized by a loud and energetic sound that left an impression. However, while their stage presence was undeniably dynamic, I found myself less enthused by their overtly graphic showmanship, which bordered on the kitschy side – I grew weary of their stage antics as the set progressed. Despite this, it was evident that the crowd thoroughly enjoyed Witchunter’s performance and their undeniable talent. Moving forward, it seems that Witchunter has the potential to refine their stage presence and focus on the finer details to truly elevate their performances to the next level.
  • Sentry: Following Witchunter was Sentry, a band comprised of Bryan Patrick on vocals and other former members of Manilla Road. Their performance was marked by a deep sense of sentimentality, as they delivered their songs with unwavering passion and true emotion. The raw energy emanating from the stage flooded the club, enveloping the audience in an atmosphere of nostalgia and reverence. Throughout their set, poignant references to the late Mark Shelton were made, adding a layer of tribute to their performance. While Sentry’s sound could have been enhanced by the addition of a second guitar, there was no denying the enthusiasm they ignited in the fans. Sentry delivered a special set that not only showcased their own musical prowess but also honored the legacy of Mark Shelton in a heartfelt manner.
  • Night Demon: The finale of the warm-up show belonged to Night Demon, and wow, what a spectacle it was! Their sound was nothing short of colossal, as they unleashed their storming heavy metal with unbridled fury. This trio proved to be an unstoppable force, sweeping everything in their path with their frenetic performance. Night Demon’s show was nothing short of frantic, delivering heavy metal that ignited a frenzy among the fans. Not only were their songs catchy and memorable, but their energy, technique and emotion were phenomenal. Every aspect of their performance seemed to align perfectly, creating an fantastic atmosphere that left a strong impression. Night Demon truly entertained us in the best way possible, and we are immensely grateful for their outstanding set. Congratulations to the entire band!

8th March 2024 – Day one

After being energized by Night Demon and the other bands at the warm-up show, we eagerly made our way to Gagarin 205, arriving early with a sense of anticipation for the bands scheduled to perform on the first day of the festival. Here we dive into the highlights of the evening, taking a closer look at each band’s performance, one by one.

  • Coven Japan: Opening the festivities of this year’s Up The Hammers was Coven Japan, the Japanese heavy metal ensemble fronted by the dynamic vocalist Taka. With their energetic performance, they effectively introduced us to the essence of this year’s event. Despite their set being relatively short, Coven Japan managed to impress the audience with their interesting metal repertoire and delightful tunes. Through their performance, attendees gained insight into the band’s sound philosophy and distinctive style. It’s evident that Coven Japan has much to offer in the near future.
  • Crom: Crom was next in line. The band led by mastermind Walter Grosse took to the stage to deliver their brand of traditional heavy metal. While their performance pleased many fans in attendance, I personally found myself less enthralled by their show. Crom’s songs, while interesting, didn’t quite spark excitement for me, and thus far, the German band hasn’t presented anything particularly innovative or groundbreaking. However, it’s worth noting that Crom boasted a solid sound, and their performance was executed well, infused with a palpable sense of passion that filled the venue. With some refinement to their songwriting ideas, there’s potential for Crom to evolve into a formidable heavy metal act in the future.

  • Wade Black’s Astronomica: As a fan of Wade Black and his notable work with bands like Crimson Glory, Leash Law and now Astronomica, I was eagerly anticipating his performance at Up The Hammers 2024. And let me tell you, he did not disappoint. Wade Black was absolutely fantastic on stage. His vocals were in impeccable condition, and his mood was infectious, radiating positivity throughout his performance. He treated the audience to a plethora of songs from Crimson Glory and Astronomica, delivering each with passion and precision. The highlight of the set came, when the band performed “Red Sharks”, a moment that sent waves of excitement rippling through the crowd. Wade Black’s performance was everything we had hoped for and more.

  • Sacred Steel: Sacred Steel, another one of my personal favorite bands, made their presence known in Athens with a display of sheer might and unwavering conviction. Their commendable set of true heavy metal left us exhilarated and thoroughly impressed. Playing with ferocity and intensity, Sacred Steel ensured that … metal reigned supreme throughout their performance. Frontman Gerrit Mutz was in perfect form, delivering his vocals with precision and power. The entire band exhibited professionalism and skill, performing with a level of proficiency that underscored their dedication to their craft. It was evident that they are true metalheads through and through, as evidenced by their incredible sound, commanding stage presence, and genuine interaction with the fans.

  • Sumerlands: Arriving in Athens with the reputation of a big band thanks to their two outstanding albums, Sumerlands exuded the aura of seasoned professionals on stage. The American outfit delivered an unbelievably stellar performance, showcasing their exceptional skill and the brilliance of their compositions. With a seamless blend of passion, traditional metal prowess, impressive technique and genuine emotion, they captivated the audience from start to finish. Their performance was nothing short of perfection, leaving fans in a frenzy and craving for more. Noteworthy was the band’s impeccable sound quality, as well as the singer’s choice of attire, sporting a Styx T-shirt that added to the overall aesthetic. Together, these elements painted a complete and beautiful picture of Sumerlands’ performance in Athens.

  • Visigoth: Prior to attending Visigoth’s show, I had heard of their reputation as a solid band with dedicated fans. However, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer spectacle that unfolded before my eyes. Visigoth didn’t just deliver a performance – they tore down the venue with their furious energy and shockingly good musicianship. The fans, myself included, were swept up in the frenzy, singing along to every tune as if our lives depended on it. Visigoth’s set was nothing short of phenomenal. They were unstoppable, relentless, and merciless in their delivery of classic epic heavy metal. An amazing band, an amazing show!

  • Jack Starr’s Burning Starr: Burning Starr, a revered classic band from the 80s US metal scene, was eagerly anticipated to headline the first day of the festival. Following the electrifying performance by Visigoth, Jack Starr and his band took the stage, and the atmosphere erupted with excitement. They delivered a superb performance, showcasing their exceptional musicianship and heartfelt passion. The setlist featured many of their iconic songs, as well as some memorable tracks from Virgin Steele, leaving everyone in attendance breathless. Rhino’s drumming was spectacular, while Jack Starr proved himself to be a true master of the electric guitar. The singer’s high-soaring voice impressed the audience, earning admiration from all present. Despite not playing my personal favorite, “Metal Generation”, the band’s outstanding performance made it easy to overlook. It was an unforgettable show that had us all enthralled until the very last moment. Thank you, Mr. Starr, for a night we will remember!

9th March 2024 – Day two

After witnessed an array of phenomenal bands over the past two days, our hunger for more great music only grew stronger. Once again, we arrived early at Gagarin, ready for the exciting lineup that awaited us on the second day of the festival. Let’s see what unfolded!

  • Stygian Crown: Opening the second day of the festival was Stygian Crown, a female-fronted epic doom metal band hailing from the United States. Despite the venue not yet being at full capacity, they wasted no time in launching into their set and succeeded in warming up the crowd with their intriguing songs. While I wasn’t particularly enthralled by the band, I do believe there is room for improvement, particularly in the refinement of the female vocals and the arrangement of their songs. With continued dedication and effort, I’m confident that Stygian Crown has the potential to evolve and improve in the near future. Nonetheless, they set a nice tone for the second day of the festival with their performance.
  • Steel Inferno: It was time for Steel Inferno. The Danish certainly lived up to their name by igniting an inferno with their impressive speed metal material and thunderous performance. What struck me most was their infectious positive vibe, as well as the commanding presence of their singer and the intricate guitar work displayed throughout their set. While they can improve some things, for example refine their refrains and melodies, there’s no denying that Steel Inferno possesses the potential to carve out a distinguished place for themselves within the realm of traditional metal. Overall, a job well done by the boys of Steel Inferno.
  • Quartz: As it has been wisely said, Quartz represents the living history of heavy metal. Personally, this concert held special significance for me, as the leader of Quartz, Mick Hopkins, is a revered figure in the Birmingham rock scene of the 70s and began his career as a member of The Idle Race. Regardless of their age, Quartz delivered a compelling performance filled with passion and energy. They treated the audience to some of their best songs, along with a notable cover of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell”. Quartz’s performance felt like a special NWOBHM event, appealing to fans who cherish and collect records from this obscure metal era. It was a unique moment, especially for those who are familiar with and appreciate the significance of this influential period in metal history.
  • Phantom Spell: And from the living history of heavy metal to the future of the genre – Phantom Spell took the stage, led by the visionary Kyle McNeill. Their performance was a mesmerizing journey through progressive/pomp heavy rock/metal, reminiscent of the iconic sounds of the 70s and bands like Styx, Head East, Uriah Heep and City Boy. What stood out to me the most about Phantom Spell’s sound was the intricate guitar work and the lush keyboard arrangements, which added depth and texture to their overall sound. Despite their vintage and old-fashioned approach, Phantom Spell managed to win the audience without feeling dated or boring. In fact, most people in attendance thoroughly enjoyed their music, appreciating the band’s ability to evoke nostalgia while still offering something fresh and exciting. It was a very impressive performance from a band that undoubtedly has the potential to create great music in the future.
  • Evil Invaders: Then the baton passed to another speed/thrash metal band, Evil Invaders. Hailing from Belgium, this trio delivered a flawless performance in their element, showcasing their material with absolute perfection and precision. To my ears, they resembled a contemporary iteration of Raven, albeit with a more intense thrashy edge. The audience was treated to an exhilarating experience as Evil Invaders unleashed their best on stage, exuding an aura of invincibility and cementing their status as true speed metal heroes. Every moment of their show was sheer bliss!
  • Eternal Champion: Straight from Austin, Texas, Eternal Champion stormed onto the stage like knights of epic metal, leaving no stone unturned in their quest to conquer the audience. What ensued was not just a live show, but an unrelenting onslaught of traditional heavy metal – epic, dramatic, and everything metalheads crave. Despite some initial technical issues with the singer’s microphone, which were swiftly resolved, the band launched their attack on Gagarin 205 with full force. I was thoroughly impressed by Eternal Champion, as they flawlessly demonstrated why they are worthy of their champion status. Their performance was a masterclass in delivering epic metal in its purest form.
  • Cirith Ungol: But it was time for the headliners of the second day to take the stage. This was my first experience seeing Cirith Ungol live, so you can imagine the excitement and anticipation coursing through me as I laid eyes on the legendary frontman, Tim Baker. As soon as he began to sing, shivers ran down my spine – his extraordinary vocals were just as powerful and evocative as they are on the albums. Backed by a solid rhythm section and fueled by ferocious and fiery guitar parts, Cirith Ungol delivered a performance that surpassed all expectations. The setlist was expertly crafted, featuring all the fan favorites, including anthems like “Join the Legion” and “Black Machine.” The sound quality was exceptional, and the band was clearly in top form, leaving no doubt that they were true winners, who raised the hammers up in the sky!

As the three-day festival drew to a close, it was evident that Up The Hammers had been an outstanding event, organized down to the last detail. With smiles on their faces, all those who participated happily exited the venue after the final band’s performance. Reflecting on the unforgettable experience, we couldn’t help but look forward to Up The Hammers 2025, already in the works. A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone involved for creating such an incredible experience for all attendees.





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