Horns Up Festival has become a permanent metal event in Trikala during the last seven years which is very important for a small town. It is also the only metal festival in Greece that took place even during the two years of pandemic although it had to be shorter, only with Greek bands etc This year it returned back to its full edition with two main days, a great billing with bands from abroad but also many other activities (day trips in the area, warm up gigs, after parties in a pub etc) that makes the experience much better for those who travel to Trikala.
The first day of the festival was super good with the canadian epic/doom metallers SMOULDER as headliners, the serbian thrashers QUASARBORN, the bosnian legends BOMBARDER, the death/blacksters THE UNCONFESSED, the veterans athenians POWER CRUE, ANGELO PERLEPES’ MYSTERY and the always delightful CRIMSON FIRE.
The biggest change in the last two years was the change of the venue, from the small club it was upgraded to an open air theatre, a beautiful place inside the castle of the town. This happened due to covid restrictions, but it thrilled both fans and bands, a great place by all means. However, the weather forecast had predicted heavy rain and storms for the first day, so the organizers decided just two days before the festival to move the main event in the Σουίτα Art Cafe again. This was a hard decision, not only for them (less tickets), but also for the audience and the bands, because of the high temperatures and humidity, as well as the lack of a space to relax.
“mountain high where gods still lie…”
The opening act for the festival was THE UNCONFESSED, a band from the near by town of Larisa that formed many years ago, but not really active in the studio. On the other hand, they have shared the stage with big black metal bands several times and this made their playing compact enough and this is obvious when they get on stage. They are more into the death/black metal genre that sets one foot on epic fields and the other on more thrashy paths but one thing is for sure, that they satisfied everyone during their 35 minutes long setlist which included all the songs from their Ep “Mountain High” but also three new compositions from their upcoming album.
video The Unconfessed:
The Unconfessed setlist:
pagan’s wrath / under betrayal / mountain high / fullmoon rise / the voice from the outer world / madness from the sea / the unconfessed
“bash your pseudo-virtue / we pray to our own god…”
Looking out of the windows the rain was really heavy, so the organizers decision to avoid the risk and move the gig indoors proved wise (although we whine about the open theater) since otherwis they would have canceled the show. Anyway, we were safe and dry inside so at 18:55 (the schedule was kind of delayed from the start) we saw QUASARBORN getting4 on stage. It is a new band from Belgrade, Serbia that play ultra fast, a technical thrash blended with some melodic breaks. They were fully dedicated and energetic, the small stage was really small for them, the energetic guitarists got off stage numerous times headbanging along with the fans (the venue wasn’t fully packed yet, so there was no traffic conflict). Their 35 minutes long set covered their two albums but also two new compositions from their upcoming third album.
A Pill Hard to Swallow / U plamenu (New song) / Unnamed new song / The Ascent/Clouds / Danse Macabre / Atlas
“set the night on fire…”
At 19:45 most of the fans were already inside the venue when CRIMSON FIRE started to play and for the next 45 minutes they impressed those who didn’t know about them. The rest of us were familiar with the material they have on their hands, and personally I consider last year’s release “Another Dimension” a great album that put them away from the typical power metal genre that they used to follow at first. But yes, some classics like “Bad Girl” couldn’t be missing but this time I really enjoyed their new stuff like “On The Edge” and fan favorite “Set The Night On Fire”, songs like these make everyone move and dance. The sound was kind of bad, but nobody cared, band and fans stayed and enjoyed their set.
Video CRIMSON FIRE:
Crimson Fire setlist:
Judas / don’t fall from the sky / fire below / on the edge / set the night on fire / bad girl / midnight strike / metal is back
“On va bombarder…”
During the 20 minute break I got out for some necessary fresh air, because it felt like a sauna inside and since the festival has several hours ahead we needed these short, but useful cooling breaks. Getting up on the first floor again five minutes to nine I saw another band on stage, BOMBARDER from Bosnia, a legendary metal band from former Yugoslavia. They played a punkish raw old school speed/thrash metal with a rock n roll energy. Many fans seemed to enjoy them, but objectively their raw approach brought along some playing issues but as I said most fans didn’t care much and they gave the band a great feedback. Their lyrics are not in English, something that gives them an extra cult exotic feel, but the fact that I wasn’t familiar with their stuff didn’t let me enjoy their performanct to the maximum.
“hidden in the dark I’m waiting for you…”
After a cold beer during the break we saw POWER CRUE, an old band from Athens (they formed in the 80s) that gave us a 45 minute-long set full of classic power metal as they played stuff from many different albums. Their style is specific, with not many ornaments, something that the classic fans seem to enjoy, because they are not much into experimenting with new sounds. On the other hand, we tend to focus only on classic albums by the old bands and not paying attention to their new stuff which I regret doing it sometimes. That’s why I listened to their latest album “Exileosis” properly during my trip back to Athens where I realized how much variety they actually have in their new compositions.
Video Power Crue:
Power Crue setlist:
Born again / Torture / Believe / Dark Path / Never again / Last command / Pleasure for flesh / Stay heavy
“as my dreams flow…”
Just a bit after eleven Angelo Perlepes’ MYSTERY got on stage. The historical (formed in 1986) Athenian band is the personal project of the guitarist Perlepes that always seem to be on a top level. I have seen them many times most recently in March during Metal From Hellas but it is always a pleasure to catch them live and seeing him playing this neoclassical style of electric guitar (it feels like a tribute to Yngwie Malmsteen). Their 40’ long set was based on different periods of the band, my favorite moment was “Feels like I’ve done it before”.
Intro / Wizards of the western coast / Visions will find the way / (Feels like) I’ve done it before / Fatal passion / Destiny / My dark lord / Neverending flame
“mastering the forbidden arts…”
It was already midnight, most fans were tired but I wouldn’t miss the headliners of the day. Actually we were supposed to see this band two years ago, at Horns Up Vol.5 in 2020 but a virus came from far far away and changed our lives’ course since then.
SMOULDER from Canada seem to live and breath for classic epic doom metal and the steel is always there by their side. “Times Of Obscene Evil And Wild Daring” is a great underground album that truly honors the genre, but I must admit that listening to the bands’ songs live they sound even better. The main reason for this is the unique stage performance of Sarah Ann who seemed to get really deep into her role as the story teller of magic tales following the lyrics of the band.
From all kind of angles they carry an old-fashioned style but it matches nice with their concept since their music and lyrics take us back to the old times. All their songs were catchy and made you headbang by default, while they praised mountains, witches, battles and dark tales. They were singing lyrics like “battling eternal winter” (during “bastard steel”) but of course since they are coming from a much colder climate it was obvious that they were suffering from the heat that night, they were dripping in sweat and I was afraid they were gonna fade sooner or later. Maybe this explains some minor mistakes here and there, but as I already said they were impressive and no one couldn’t take their eyes off them. At the end they played the epic “Ilian of Garathorm” and I left the venue fully satisfied by their performance.
violent creed / voyage of the sunchaser / the sword woman / bastard steel / warrior witch of hel / talisman / shadowy sisterhood / midnight / Ilian of Garathorm
® text/photos/video: Konstantinos Mindcrimek Vlachos