A Day At Leyendas Del Rock: Anthrax, Steel Panther, Uriah Heep And More
Band Photo: Dragonforce (?)
Europe is renowned in the metal world for it's many metal and rock festivals, with particular focus being shed on Germany. However, many other countries are now getting in on the action, with Belgium and the Czech Republic becoming more well known for the Graspop Metal Meeting and Brutal Assault festivals respectively. Spain is also making strides in the field, with such events as Resurrection Fest and the growing reputation of another festival in the south eastern area of the country, Villena to be exact, named Leyendas del Rock.
Having only been able to attend for the Thursday, we arrived on the first full day just in time to catch the final few songs of veteran Danish rockers, D-A-D. Though being unfamiliar with the group, they displayed a frantic energy and a passion to win over as many newcomers as they could, putting in a shift that put plenty of younger bands to shame. Despite catching only a glimpse, I will certainly be checking out more of their catalogue in the near future.
Up next on the second main stage, a system which is becoming used by more festivals across the continent, was British based power metal act, Dragonforce. I'm sure most readers are familiar and plenty will remember trying not to break their fingers playing, "Through the Fire and the Flames" on guitar hero, so there's not much need for an introduction. Although they've been the subject of ridicule and criticism, the band actually carry themselves very well. Stand in frontman Alessio Garavello is great at interacting with the crowd and all members perform with focus and skill. They might not be everyone's cup of tea, but Dragonforce did themselves proud on this day.
Finnish folk metallers Korpiklaani were next up on the first main stage, however it was suggested by a friend that we go check out the smaller stage near the back of the grounds. I noticed that the schedule read only "..." on the festival's Facebook page so we had no idea what to expect. It was a good thing we did however, as there on the small stage was the original folk metal group, Skyclad. The band put on a blistering performance, led by charismatic singer Kevin Ridley, whose friendly demeanour made the veterans all the more endearing to the crowd. Breaking out tunes both old and new (by comparison) such as personal favourite, "Parliament of Fools" and "Inequality Street," the latter of which produced a "jig pit" which carried on into the next song, "Thinking Allowed?" before they finished their set with a rendition of the Thin Lizzy anthem, "Emerald." A real highlight of the festival and a wonderful surprise. Here's hoping Ridley's hint of a new album materialises soon.
Heading back to the main area, we caught the last fifteen minutes of Korpiklaani, who busted out such drinking anthems as "Vodka" and "Beer Beer" in a typically powerful performance. This marked the first in a succession of half viewings, as next up on the second main stage was Swedish power metal legends Stratovarius. One of the main reasons I wanted to check them out, despite being unfamiliar with their music, is that I'm a fan of keyboardist Jens Johansson's father, Jan and this was the closest one can get to seeing the great pianist. While I'm sure fans of the group were happy, to the neutral, Stratovarius came across as a little bland and unremarkable, serving almost as background music.
Though they are all very clearly talented musicians, there was no moment when a song grabbed the attention and so it was another trip to the Mark Reale stage to check out Spanish folk metal outfit, Celtibeerian. The band followed in the footsteps of Skyclad and Korpiklaani in bringing traditional music to the metal scene and delighting the crowd, as well as providing something of a history lesson, as the Celtiberians was a civilisation I had never heard of. A great performance from one of folk metal's most promising young bands, who seem destined to become one of the heavy hitters in the genre soon.
How old school do you want it? It was the turn of British legends Uriah Heep to take the main stage next, opening with the classic, "Gypsy," the band are surprisingly heavy (or should that be, "very 'eavy?") and fit in well with the harder edged bands on the bill. Canadian frontman Bernie Shaw, who's been with the group for thirty years now, is a classic type of rock singer, bringing a party atmosphere with him and helping to turn the opinions of some younger rockers, showing them that age is indeed, just a number. The band also brought out some tracks from their new album, "Outsider," including the title track, which measure up to the old material very well.
I took break from the very 'umble rockers to catch the last few songs of German thrash veterans Holy Moses. The group have one of the most metal women in history, Sabina Classen, leading the charge, the band put on a never ending cluster bomb of a show, with the intensity never dropping for a moment. I wish I'd been able to catch more of their set, as the power of their performance proved why they should be spoken of in the same terms as Kreator, Destruction and Sodom when German thrash is discussed. They finished their set in style by bringing up four members of the crowd to sing the Dead Kennedy's classic, "Too Drunk to Fuck" with them, which clearly made their day, as Classen was on the receiving end of dozens of hugs. Holy Moses may not be one of the most famous German thrash bands, but they're certainly one of the best live.
Arriving back at the main area to catch Uriah Heep halfway through the ballad, "July Morning" before closing with "Easy Livin'" to cap a great set, it was approaching the time for Steel Panther, one of the main attractions at the festival. Though I'm a little skeptical of bands who rely on comedy, as the joke can get old quickly, Steel Panther kept their set fresh throughout, displaying a musicianship as tight as their jokes were funny. Little details such as singer Michael Starr getting caught up in his jacket sleeves to bringing a girl onstage, then her friend, then fifteen more women and singing the songs, "17 Girls in a Row" and "Gloryhole" to them. They also made light of foreign bands attempting to speak Spanish by poorly speaking a little themselves, as well as guitarist Satchel proclaiming in the language that Starr was, to put it politely, not so well endowed, to which the vocalist replied with gratitude. Of course, the music was a big part of the show too, with such staples as "Asian Hooker," "Community Property" and "Death to All but Metal" going over a treat. One of the most enjoyable bands I've witnessed for a long time and tremendous fun, Steel Panther were the band of the day by far.
Having seen them twice before and being a long time fan, I've always reiterated that American thrash legends Anthrax are one of the tightest bands around musically but have been continuously let down by vocalsts, with both Joey Belladonna and Dan Nelson failing to impress on previous occasions. Hoping for a different outcome this time, Anthrax took to the stage performing "You Gotta Believe" from their new album, "For All Kings," before launching into a series of classics such as "Caught in a Mosh," "Madhouse" and "Got the Time."
After performing "Fight 'em 'til You Can't," Scott Ian took to the mic and got a laugh when he brought up the latest record to a small response by saying, "We have a new album called 'For All Kings"... And judging by that reaction...." Nevertheless, the band performed the single, "Evil Twin," before bringing it right back to "Fistful of Metal" with "Medusa," before covering the Stormtroopers of Death song, "March of the S.O.D." They then brought out their anthemic Trust cover, "Antisocial" before performing an encore which consisted of the excellent "Breathing Lightning," the surprising inclusion, "I'm the Man" and set closer, "Indians." As mentioned before, Belladonna has failed to impress before and sadly, he once again seemed to be the weak link, with a barely intelligible vocal delivery and most of the crowd interaction being done by Scott Ian, who has always had a strong live presence. Anthrax will forever remain as one of the kings of thrash and a force to be reckoned with, but in the vocalist department, they have a problem which prevents them from being perhaps the greatest live act out of the Big Four.
And that, essentially, was that. We made the journey to the Mark Reale stage to check out British heavy metal veterans Tokyo Blade, but they were either very late or had been cancelled, as they were nowhere to be seen half an hour on from when they were supposed to perform, so it was back to the main area for a little while to catch a few songs from Swedish death metal legends At The Gates, who were putting on an absolutely blinding performance, winning over those who aren't so interested in the extreme side of metal and proving why they're considered one of the genre's most revered groups.
Leyendas del Rock is starting to emerge as one of Spain's premier festivals, with a generally well organised set up, plenty to offer and great weather to enjoy, it's sure to expand in the future and become a staple of the festival calendar. I sincerely hope to return next year.
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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