Alcatraz Metal Fest takes place every year in the second weekend of August in Kortrijk, Belgium. It’s an awesome festival that’s smaller, but definitely not less. With bands such as Anthrax, Whitesnake, Avantasia and Twisted Sister, the festival had one hell of a line up. Be ready for the story that follows…
Saturday August 13
The Saturday started off with Thunder Mother. An awesome band that I tried to reach in time but couldn’t because there were a lot of cool shops at the entrance of the festival. There were CD shops, Clothing shops, piercing shops and accessory shops that sold stuff like headbands and patches. I have to say that the CD shops had a lot of limited edition items and box sets. I managed to resist some of it and catch the last few songs of Thunder Mother, where I arrived just in time to see lead guitarist Filippa Nässil walking through the crowd. The band had a lot of energy and even though they were the first band of the day, they got everybody along with them.
Avatar started a circus show and told us some would say they are freaks, that we are all freaks. Well, lead singer Johannes Eckerström said, they are right. Followed by ‘Smells Like a Freakshow, the circus continued and the crowd got entertained. Avatar also released a new album this year called ‘Feathers & Flesh’. So songs like ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ couldn’t be missed from their freakshow.
Thrash metal legends Antharx showed us yet again why they deserved to be called legends. Starting off with the first song of their new album ‘For All Kings’, ‘Impaled’ got the crowd already going, but nobody could shut their mouths when they played ‘Antisocial’. A song that’s been heard on every metalfestival campsite and beyond. Finishing of their show with ‘Indians’ complete with the wardance, and a kid on stage, they proved worthy to the Alcatraz prison ground.
Airbourne kicked of their show with ‘To Much, To Young, To Fast’ and gave the whole prison ground a huge energy boost. A lot of people say they are the younger version of ACDC, and I agree with them. But one thing can not be missed. ACDC definitely had a huge influence on Airbourne’s style, but they are not copying them. Airbourne has a unique way of doing their thing by making good ol’ rock ‘n roll and using a lot of humor. After seeing them a couple of times you can predict certain parts of the show, yet it’s far from boring. It makes you look forward to their show and tell everybody around you how awesome they are. For example, it never gets bored to see lead singer Joe O’Keeffe search his way of getting into the crowd. He got on the shoulders of an Airbourne crew member and went to the higher platform in front of the stage were the disabled people could get an awesome spot to see the stage. Joe rocked in front of them and gave those people up there and the crowd an amazing time. Nothing better to see an artist enjoying himself and involving the fans into it AND showing respect to them as well. I quote Airbourne themselves for this: ‘As long as we are alive, and as long as you are alive, rock ‘n roll is alive’! Closing their show with ‘Live It Up’, they left us with the message that their new album is coming out later this year called ‘Breakin’ Outta Hell’.
Well, technically they didn’t leave us yet. Continue to read if you want to know what happened.
Airbourne playing Live It Up live:
Legendary Whitesnake played some of their biggest hits like ‘Is This Love’ and ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’. Being all about the love, the fans got the chance to return that love for each band member individually by cheering for them in what seemed a contest for the longest solo. With two, at least 5 minute, guitar solos and one at least 10 minute drum solo, drummer Tommy Aldridge definitely won. With the first guitar solo already being played after the first two songs, they did kinda break the usual thing of solos happening in the middle or near the end. Whitesnake created peace and harmony on the festival and maybe they also created some love.
Being almost at the end of the first day, the Dutch band Within Temptation got the honor to close it off. When bands play in their own country, or in a country speaking the same language, they often do also speak in their own language. I get that you do that at a smaller indoor show, but at a festival like Alcatraz you just shouldn’t do that. And lead singer Sharon den Adel was just doing so. With her only speaking Dutch, there were a lot of people who didn’t understand her. Alcatraz may be a smaller festival, but I’ve met Italian people and French people. I even overheard people say in French that they didn’t understood a word she was saying. This fact kinda ruined it for me. I mean, a festival is an international thing so it only makes sense that you speak the language most people can understand which is English. But we’re putting aside the language thing and go to the performance itself, which was very good and you’re not going to hear me complain about that. Though it was not something special or anything. Within Temptation did have a powerful message. They said that it’s important to be free and to be able to do what you want to do. Followed by the song ‘Stay Your Ground’, this message definitely came across. They played some hit songs like ‘Faster’ and ‘She Wolf’. Then went backstage and came back for two encore songs including ‘Ice Queen’, which got famous in Belgium.
It was a good show, but not headliner worthy. It would have fitted better for them to be a second to last show.
A couple of minutes after the show, Airbourne showed up on the screen to ask us where we were going and if we had a good time. You’ve got to love Airbourne’s humor.
Sunday August 14
Flotsam and Jetsam were the ones who started the day. They woke everybody up and started the first moshpit of the day. Even though they were the first band. Flotsam and Jetsam played songs from almost all of the different album they have, including ‘Hammerhead’, The first song on their first album ‘Doomsday for the Deceiver’.
The moshpits didn’t stop there. Devildriver had to push it to the limits and create a wall of death followed by a moshpit over almost the full width of the prison ground. Definitely one of the biggest pits I’ve ever seen.
Korpiklaani started off with ‘A Man With A Plan’ from their latest album ‘Noita’. They had some interaction with the crowd, but even though a lot of people danced and were joking around, it was a rather passive show. The energy that was expected form the band was not really there. Their last song was the long waited for ‘Vodka’. The crowd got into it and al of a sudden Korpiklaani was no longer on stage. The show was over while nobody really knew it. People were left looking at an empty stage for a few minutes.
Soulfly brought all the energy plus more that Korpiklaani was missing. Max Cavalera was just on stage and the mospit was already started and cannons were firing confetti. With songs like ‘Prophecy’ and ‘Seek ‘n Strike’ moshpits never stopped. Near the end of the show lead singer Max Cavalera started to say ‘Scream for me Belgium!’ in a way only Bruce Dickinson form Iron Maiden can do so. As expected, the intro of Iron Maiden’s song ‘The Trooper’ was played.
Kreator continued with just as much energy as Soulfly and added some power in it too. So much power, that during ‘From Flood Into Fire’ the power cut off. But luckily Kreator was back after two minutes and continued their show. They played songs like ‘Violent Revolution’, ‘Civilization Collapse’, Terrible Certainty’ and ‘Phobia’.
Kreator went off the stage and a huge setup was being build, ready for Metal Opera Avantasia to shine on. They started with ‘Mystery of a Blood Rose’, the first song of their new album ‘Ghostlights’ that was released in the beginning of this year. Followed by the song that’s also the title of the new album ‘Ghostlights’. Lead singer Tobias Sammet seems to know the talents of everybody and knows how to combine them in a way that’s just magical. Together with singers like Jorn Lande, Bob Catley, Michael Kiske and Ronnie Atkins he makes fantasy accessible in real life. Avantasia is a band that you can easily listen to for hours and hours. Especially with Tobias’s sense of humor on stage. Everything just fits in like a magical puzzle with no edges. Other songs they played were ‘Invoke the Machine’, ‘The Scarecrow’, ‘Reach Out For The Light’, ‘Farewell’, ‘Sign of the Cross’, ‘The Seven Angels’, ‘The Story Aint Over’ and the last song ‘Let the Storm Descend Upon You’. Every album is a whole story, but they definitely succeeded to create another individual story with the songs from different albums put together. A story that involves you as you’re experiencing it. Just as the show was coming to an end, the crowd got into it. Tobias noticed and would also like to play longer, but they were happy to give the torch to Twisted Sister who was going to play their last European show after them.
Click the link below if you want to see Avantasia playing ‘Mystery of a Blood Red Rose’ live:
The last European tour of Twisted Sister is a fact… Too bad they didn’t bring any merchandise so nobody could buy the last shirt with a Twisted Sister tour date on it. Lead guitarist Jay Jay French was wearing an Alcatraz t-shirt though. We couldn’t buy any memories, but we definitely made memories. From start to finish Twisted F*cking Sister was at their best. From ‘The Price’ in memory of all who has died, a beautiful tribute to mister Lemmy Kilmister. Lead singer Dee Snider referred to the lights everybody put up at Graspop, and asked us to do the same again. It was a beautiful moment that nobody will ever forget. Till monster hits ‘I Wanna Rock’ and ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, that actually broke a record. The crowd started to sing it five times and every time the band played the chorus again, till Dee asked us not to sing it again because they would ran out of time for the other songs eventually. And let’s not forget the death metal version of ‘I Know It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’. It was definitely a good last show that will go into history as a real Twisted Sister party. Like Dee Snider said #FuckYeah.
Is Alcatraz Metal Fest Worth going to?
DEFINITELY!! It may be a smaller festival, but not less. There were still a lot of people from other countries like Italy and France, which I didn’t expect at first. Because it’s smaller it’s easier to meet new people and make new friends. Everybody is nice to each other, and everybody is just one big family. Not only on the festival itself, but also at the campsite.
One thing that was really good, was the food. There was not a lot of choice, but it was very well made. I’ve never had such delicious hamburgers and pizzas that were from excellent quality. Just to compare it to the biggest metal festival of Belgium, Graspop. There you had lots of choice in food, but you could easily have undercooked pasta or cold pizza. At Alcatraz you had the classical festival food and also a fruit stand, but it was well prepared. And I know what I like better if I have to choose between lots of different food or well prepared food.
What was new this year was the rock café El Presidio. It had an old school look and was really cool. What was also new were the boxing ball that you had to hit as hard as possible and the soccer table. Together with the lounge seats made of pallets this made the campsite or ‘The Graveyard’ really comfortable.
One thing that was a bit less was the amount of bathrooms available. They did add some more bathrooms than last year, but they were all in one place and still not quite enough for the amount of people that were there. But it’s already been said that next year they are going to do something about it and try a different approach to the bathroom problem.
Another thing that could be better was the communication about the signing sessions. It was very cool that we had the opportunity to meet the bands, but for example Airbourne wasn’t on the list but did do a signing session and Avantasia was on there but didn’t do it.
See you all next year on August 12 and 13 2017 in Kortrijk, Belgium!
This years aftermovie will be out soon! Be sure to check it out! ☺