A surprise was waiting for us on the second day of the festival right from the beginning.

The New York trio, Sanhedrin, kicked off the Saturday metal celebrations with a mystagogic performace ideally. I didn’t know what to expect from them but they were great. They may just sound interesting in the studio, but they surely transform on stage. Erika Stoltz should named as the icon of the festival with her simple but essential presence.

SanhedrinOn the other hand, Gatekeeper couldn’t make most of the opportunity that was given to them. In no case I’d say that they weren’t good, but they didn’t offer that extra something with their show. I think that they need more experience and to get tighter. Unfortunately, having musicians playing in several bands and projects is a sign of our times and that makes you lose points in the “band” factor, which is the essence for the progress and evolution of a group of people playing music together.
Things got serious with Old Season, which were a pleasant surprise. Sturdy Irish epic metal played solemnly and responsibly. They gathered a lot of friends and I am sure they gained even more with their performance. This was their second Up The Hammers participation with the first one taking place in front of a handful of people, while this one was opposite hundreds from around the world!

Solstice was the first real disappointment of the day. It hurts to say that, but this was the first time I was watching them unable to rise from mediocrity. No matter how magic they sound in the studio they fail to bring out sentiments and a good performance on stage. I talked with several fans after their show and they all shared the same complaint. I think they should reinvent themselves on stage because their music has the power to move mountains. The only thing that is missing is determination and professionalism.

Brocas Helm had always a special place in the heart of Greek fans. It was actually one of the first underground American bands which came over to play in our country during hard times forging powerful bonds with the audience. Through time I’ve seen them in all sorts of gigs. From magic nights to inexplicable shipwrecks. This one had every element to become one of the best, but ruthless time and inactivity seems they have affected irreversibly the San Fransisco trio. While playing wise they were decent and tight, the vocals were weak and low. On most of the songs Hayes was more talking than singing and that really hurt great songs like “Fly High” and “Time Of The Dark”. I wanted to feel happy watching them, but what I was listening didn’t let me.

Hittman has been on my concerts bucket list for ages. A few years ago they were really close to reunite, but their scheduled show at Keep It True in Germany was canceled in the last moment. It seemed that the dream was slowly dying, but in 2018 came the upset with a return beyond imagination. Kicking off with “Metal Sport” nearly caused me a heart attack. Which I fortunately survived because some problems with the microphone made me return to Earth. I was quickly relieved as the issues were fixed and we all enjoyed a majestic performance. Their first historic album was played almost in its entirety (except from Test Of Time of course) and the new songs that the band presented sound on the right track! Bacchi and Kristen guitars fought in fiery duels, while Dirk Kennedy’s voice stayed unharmed by age! I’d surely love to watch them again in a headline club show and enjoy even more.


It was time for the headliner, Liege Lord, like Armored Saint. Connecticut gave the hurdle to California and gave us a great show of non-stop head banging. Obviously, they were better than their last time they appeared on Up The Hammers and destroyed everything in their path. Van Williams (Ghost Ship Octavius, Nevermore) behind the drum kit gave them the needed push for to Vinci, Trugilo and Wacked to make Coreau’s war machine reap. The crowd was going bananas on every song while the band’s set seemed amazing spanning all three historic albums. They had to play “Master Control” once more to conclude Up The Hammers XIV. Another great festival, with no problems at all, strict schedule and a very warm friendly atmosphere. The only issue? We need to wait 364 days for the next…

Kostas Kounadinis

Photos: Konstantinos Mindcrimek