Live Reviews : Masters of Rock Open Air @ Vizovice, Czech Republic 12 – 15/07/2012
Masters of Rock Open Air 2012 – Review
Nightwish, Within Temptation, Edguy, Sabaton, Thin Lizzy, Kamelot, Arch Enemy, Korpiklaani, Stratovarius, Deathstars. Pain, Unisonic, Gotthard, Exodus, Tiamat, Paul Di’Anno, Sirenia, Freedom Call, Firewind, Hell, The Sorrow, Kissin’ Dynamite, Salatio Mortis, Suicidal Angels, Milking the Goatmachine, Skyforger, Bloodbound, Odium, Ribozyme, Horkýže Slíže, Arakain + Lucie Bílá, Citron, Doga, Visací zámek, Vitacit, Salamandra, Legendy se vrací, ZakázanÝ ovoce, Neonfly, Choas in Head, Checkpoint, Eagleheart, Dying Passion
This was my first time in the Czech Republic and, thus, my first time at their premiere metal festival MASTERS OF ROCK. So after four days of some of the best heavy metal bands in the world, no sleep, great food, and terrific people who had a lot of difficulty with English, I can categorically say that, “I’ll Be Back.”
Masters of Rock is located in the stunning south-eastern region of Marovia and whilst the look and feel of the cities and buildings display the grey, bland architecture of a bygone communist era gone by, the punters are a whole new (and old) breed of heavy metal showing what that the future of heavy metal is not only Europe, but Eastern Europe.
Having been to many European festivals over the last 13 years, what I love about MASTERS OF ROCK is that, coming from Australia, everything is cheap. Dirt cheap. Sure, the Czech people smoke like it’s 1985 and drink like fish, but when the beer is cheaper than the water then you’re either in heaven or hell. When you hit Western Europe for the festivals you get stung with some hefty prices but the Czech Republic has to cater to Czech costs so you can pick up a beer for about $1.50 to $2 and a truckload of food for about $3-4. Anyone that has been to an Australian or European festival knows that you can pay around $10 for food and $5 for a drink. Add to that cheap accommodation and you’re really getting your money’s worth when you come here.
The biggest issue I faced was encountering the English language. I was in Prague the day before and English was fine there but as soon as you leave the city you’re going to suffer in Eastern Europe. I personally hired a car (a GPS is an absolute must) and stayed in the town of Zlin about 16km away from the festival town of Vizovice. You can get to Zlin by train easy enough and then catch another train to the festival (in fact, the train line ends at the festival grounds and it runs until the festival ends). It always brought a smile to my face when a train, and we’re talking those OLD communist trains that wouldn’t look out of a place in a James Bond film set in Russia), would arrive and toot it’s horn whilst metal bands were playing, with the conductor/driver giving the crowd the metal horns. Brilliant.
You can camp – but I chose not to. This is primarily because I’m slightly over camping but also because I have a lot of equipment with me and it’s just easier. Still, even if you do campt I’d recommend you have a car available (and they’re fairly cheap too). Either way, I stayed in a stunning hotel that anywhere else in Europe would cost me $200 per night but in the Czech it was about $80 that included breakfast. Not that I spent much time there.
Ok, to the festival!
Day one: Thursday 12th of July:
First things first. The bands started at 2pm but as long as I got to see Kamelot at 7pm then I’d leave the festival a happy man. It’s always best to arrive as early as possible on day one to get your bearings, your tickets, your parking, your camping, etc. I didn’t. But I still got to see Kamelot. This was Kamelot’s first ever gig with their new singer Tommy Karevik and it was outstanding. Whilst Tommy did struggle on some ‘Khan’ specific notes, it was an exceptional start for a band onto their third vocalist now.
Tommy had the crowd eating out of his hands as Kamelot played literally hit after hit from The Fourth Legacy’s Forever to The Black Halo’s March of Mephisto. Kamelot had their full stage too – Elisa Ryd and Jake E from Amaranthe were there to help with backing vocals and they even managed to play a new song from their upcoming album Silverthorn which you can find on YouTube.
Not being a fan of old rockers, I was pleasantly surprised by Thin Lizzy. I didn’t know all of their songs but knew their classics (Boys Are Back In Town, Emerald, and Whiskey in the Jar being the most recognisable). Went down well with the crowd too. Within Temptation followed with a full stage show as well and whilst I’d seen them once before, I’d never seen them like this. Being a huge fan of The Unforgiving and The Silent Force, I cannot say enough about a show that’s full of high quality video, timed, tight fireworks and more lights than the city of Melbourne.
They seriously have their shit together and they delivered the perfect festival setlist. About the only disappointment was the between song banter by Sharon den Adel that bordered on the embarrassing.
The closer for the night was Sweden’s Bloodbound with their newest singer Patrik Johansson (Dawn of Silence). I managed to get up the front and sing along with everybody else to their easy styled melodic, catchy power metal. Like Kamelot, they also showcased a new track from their soon to be released fifth album.
Day two: Friday 13th of July:
Day two was spectacular, there’s no other way to put it. If day one was the considered foreplay, then day two was considered… well… getting into it. Ok, it started with the rather poor Sirenia. In fact, it wasn’t so much that Sirenia was weak – it was solid performance it’s just that the songs just go through the female fronted metal motion, exemplified by the fact the strongest songs they had to offer were all from their early career.
Sirenia was followed by the more than capable Freedom Call. After being critical of their most recent live release (Live in Hellvetia), this was happy party metal – pure and simple. Big songs, big choruses, happy performances – it was them at their best and they were in the right environment for it.
These Czech’s really love their power metal. Whilst I heard rumblings that their setlist wasn’t strong, having not seen them for five years they played a great mix of old and new. Exodus was up next and ploughed their wares but soon I was busy getting reacquainted with old friends and meeting new friends.
I ran into Bloodbound’s singer Patrick Johansson and then ran into Patrick’s all-time favourite band Edguy who may or may not have slipped me a backstage pass to watch their show from up on stage. Before that though I had to first get through Unisonic who brought the house down.
It wasn’t just the Helloween classics March of Time, I Want Out, and Future World, it’s because the songs from their debut album featuring Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray), Mandy Mueller, Kosta Zafiou (recently left Pink Cream 69), Dennis Ward (producer, Pink Cream 69 bassist), and Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween) totally kicked arse live.
The fact that during a round of crowd participation Kiske kept interrupting with renditions of Elvis Presley only added to the brilliance. The man is smooth, still got the voice, and is a terrific entertainer.
And then there was Edguy. What else can be said but WOW. I don’t know where to start. Firstly, they played a few classic tracks but played some unexpected tracks in the mix too – one of those was the excellent Superheroes EP called Spooks in the Attic (Tobi referencing that no one will know the song – pretty much correct but it was an explosive live track) and also one of my favourite (melodic) tracks from Tinnitus Sanctus called 9-2-9.
The hits were there – Superheroes, Babylon, and others… but on the big stage this is where the band just destroyed all others. I wasn’t able to catch up with the band properly afterwards as they were basically heading straight to Bang Your Head in Germany for a performance the following night, Tobi being whisked away immediately after walking off stage (not by helicopter though!).
Day Three: Saturday 14th of July:
I blame Sweden. Specifically I blame Bloodbound. They kept me awake until 7:30am. I had to be up early. I didn’t want to be awake early.
Today was a mixed bag. After two full days, most people stated to look a little haggard – myself included – but one must carry on. For me the day opened with Sebastien – a melodic metal band with a flashy lead guitarist and lots of guests to go around.
The first of these was former Helloween guitarist and producer Roland Grapow who was brought on stage for the song he contributed on Sebastien’s album Tears for White Roses. Unfortunately the band – whilst fairly talented, wasn’t able to perform as well on the big stage. Nobody knew where to stand and too-cool-for-school guitarist Andy Mons kept to himself like many virtuosos. This was a shame as their keyboardist and bassist really got into it.
That said they were warmly received by the crowd, especially when joined by Firewind singer Apollo who dominated the stage with his magnificence presence – something we’d be seeing later in the evening. A series of mostly Czech sung bands followed, the most impressive seemed to be Arakain – a mixtue of rock and metal with a heavy chunky guitar sound. Sounded like Pentagram from Turkey, they seemed to sing in both Czech and English.
Kissin’ Dynamite, the glam metallers on AFM Records, had a solid response but whilst they looked the Motley Crue part, their songs didn’t have the same impact and for every good song there was one not so memorable. Still, any band with a singer wearing a cape gets a few bonus points.
Firewind followed. Firstly, for a 70 minute show I loved it – even though all of the songs sounded reasonably similar. Their new songs sounded pretty good live and this band is clearly a seasoned performer, pulling off moves with the ease of a knife through hot butter. What was particularly amazing was the performance of second guitarist and keyboardist Bob Katsionis.
I’ve seen their DVD but to see him perform both instruments on stage is a marvel. What was more impressive was seeing him play keyboards whilst pulling moves with the guitar. Also in the mix was a tremendous trade-off between Gus G and Bob that culminated in a rousing reception by the strong crowd. No calls for Ozzy songs, though.
Next up was Finnish folk metal legends Korpiklaani. To put it bluntly – this is a band to lighten up any party. Them, Turisas, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth – you name them, I’m happy to watch them anytime they play live.
The Finnish party continued with both Stratovarius then Nightwish. I’ve seen both bands countless times and whilst it was Timo Koltipelto’s worst performance yet, and Jens Johansson wasn’t far behind him, the introduction of Rolf Pilve as the replacement drummer for Jorg Michel was superb.
Clearly he’ll be a great inclusion and he loved it on the big stage. Nightwish were great. Not quite as great as Within Temptation but once again the mix of big stage show with grandiose songs was a terrific mix. My opinion of Anette Olzen still hasn’t changed but there’s certainly more songs to choose from nowadays and her rock voice is reasonable.
Ending the night was Deathstars and a breathalyser on the drive home (Czech Republic has a zero policy on alcohol and driving so stay clean).
Day Four: Sunday 15th of July:
I was rooted. Not literally. Happily rooted. The day started late but it started with the HIGHLIGHT of the festival – Hell. If this isn’t one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live then I’ll eat Bart’s shorts. The bands playing in the early evening weren’t high on my agenda.
Paul D’Anno was abusive and funny in equal measure and Tiamat (who pulled off the goth stuff fairly well but just some boring songs) who were followed by Gotthard and Arch Enemy.
Today was really the day for me to do CD and shirt shopping until the other highlight of the festival SABATON arrived. Second time for me and they are clearly at the top of their game. I sang every song (badly) and revelled in the war atmosphere.
Watching the band get drunk on the stage as their 2 hour show continued was brilliant. Songs were awesome, vibe were great, and finding out that lead vocalist Joacim Broden’s mum was born in Czech Republic really brought the house down for the Czech crowd.
All in all, this is one of the best festivals I’ve ever been too. Why? It was the bands. I loved almost all of them and that rarely happens with the larger festivals (FYI, MASTERS OF ROCK holds about 20,000 people whereas WACKEN holds about 75,000.)
It mainly concentrates on heavy/power metal with a touch of rock and thrash and plenty of female fronted bands. Check out the previous year’s line-up and see for yourself what you’re missing out on.
When you get there you may not know exactly what is going on but once you work it out you’ll absolutely love it. Cheap food, cheap beer, cheap-ish shirts, great people, excellent atmosphere.
Pre-order your 2013 Masters of Rock tickets via the link below.