Up The Hammers XVI Day 02 @ Gagarin 11/6/2022


“Some secrets can’t be sealed…”

The final day of this year’s Up The Hammers festival was closer to the spirit of the old good day, not that the previous days were bad or something but on Saturday everything to be back to normality and all the usual suspects gathered for the festival we love at Liosion avenue. But yes, indeed, there was some bitterness in the air as we still were trying to accept the cancelation of Titan Force that supposed to be the headliners but hey, in a buzzer beater kind of way we had a crazy plot twist and the organizers offered us the chance to see the mighty Conception in their first ever appearance in Greece. But there quite a few good bands that day, Picture, Tresspass, Traveler, Vulture Vengeance, Stray Gods, Solitary Sabred and Konquest. Let’s hope this wasn’t the last time we experience UTH because the last 15 years I can only remember good things about it.

“There’s a hope down deep inside…”

Like the first day the doors of Gagarin205 Club opened at 15:00 while a drizzle made us a bit nervous but turned out to be a deception, everything would be great this saturday. A handful of fans were waiting patiently outside the club until we get our wristbands, something useful to easily get in and out through out the day. At that time most fans were from abroad, they are always eager to check new bands while most greek fans traditionally come much later, many after sunset.

This time, it was KONQUEST that had the unglamorous role of the opening act. The Italians got on stage at 15:30 and for thirty minutes they played with passion that comes from their young age. I must admit I liked their groove and the stage with two super energetic guitarists while their sound is based on some traditional metal roots. Vocals seemed a bit unstable but that was probably because the singer seemed a bit stressed. Ok, the truth is that I wasnt familiar with their stuff which was actually songs from their debut album “The Night Goes On” although they added two new songs which seem to follow the same patterns.

Video Konquest:

Konquest setlist:

theme of the conqueror / the night goes on / too late / keep me alive / tyranny / something / holding back the tears / heavy heart

“Forces gather for the fight…”

At 16:25 SOLITARY SABRED got on stage and suddenly you could feel the smell of steel in the air. The band from Cyprus came storming and took the scalps of the fans. Petros Asgardlord Leptos was always on reds with his high pitched vocals, something that puts some people away but many other loved it. Their 45 minute long set of the band sounded like the soundtrack of an epic battle, with non stop guitar riffs that were carrying some US power metal attitude, there was a big sword on stage and yes, I wish all the war references would be just that, part of the art and stories of epic fantasy but no, the real world out there is different and we have real people that get lost every day on wars. Now, having said that, Leptos dedicated “Disillusions” to a personal loss while the band ended up in victory with “Burn Magic, Black Magic” and the fans participating with sing alongs.

Video Solitary Sabred:

setlist Solitary Sabred:

intro / servants of the elder gods / synaxxis of honor / disciples of the sword / damnation / the scarlet cidatel / psionic transmorgrification / assassins of carthage / disillusions / redeemer / burn magic black magic

“Someone screams in the night…”

Short break to walk outside and find something to eat on the ugly Liosion avenue (it was much better in Exarcheia district but yes, that club was tiny for UTH) and back inside just when VULTURES VENGEANCE got on stage. They were superb, with sound, image and attitude taken right from 1980s and they seemed unstoppable. Great stage movements too, they didn’t seem to be affected by the heat they offered stuff from their EP but also from the first full length albun “The Knightlore”. I must admit that I got tired due to some luck of variety in their compositions but their performance was quite good and enjoyable. After their show it was time to check the merch kiosks on the upper floor of the venue.

Video Vultures Vengeance:

setlist Vultures Vengeance:

a great spark from the dark / fates weaver / pathfinder’s call / the knightlore / on a prisoner’s tale / a curse from obsidian realm / towards the gates of unknown

“Behind the hill, no paradise is waiting…”

At 18:30 STRAY GODS got on stage. This another music project of Bob Katsionis, the multi-talented musician that never runs out of ideas. “Storm The Walls” is the debut album of Stray Gods and it is actually a huge tribute to Irona Maiden with each song to seem like a hidden unknown track from Iron Maiden. They quite enjoyable in this first ever live appearance, Artur Almeida from Portugal had the role of Bruce Dickinson and he seemed to enjoy it, Guss Macricostas is an experienced musician on bass and in general all the members seemed to have fun and we could feel that. They decided to include two cover tracks too, “War In Heaven” by Lordian Guard was a pleasant surprise while “Judas Be My Guide” seemed unnecessary since all their music is a tribute to this band but people didn’t care and enjoy their gig and this is what matters more.

Video Stray Gods:

setlist Stray Gods:

black horses/ the world is a stage / alive for a night / war in heaven / silver moon / judas be my guide / the seventh day

“raise your glass to the fallen heroes…”

It is always convenient when the schedule is held so at 19:25 TRAVELER got on stage of Gagarin. They are one of the new hot traditional heavy metal bands and they seem ready to step up to the next level. The band from Calgary, Canada love traditional metal of course and their music just pours out effortless. Their set included songs from both albums, their frontman Jean-Pierre Abboud tells epic fantasy stories while he is covered by well played music by his bandmates. They seem more imposing when they slow down a bit but all the songs seemed ideal with the only complain to be some minor technical problem with the microphone volume. They ended up with “Speed Queen” just like the closure of the Traveler album.

Video Traveler:

setlist Traveler:

shaded mirror / street machine / termination shock / fallen heroes / deep space / terra exodus / behind the iron / starbreaker / speed queen

“Speed through the night…”

At 20:30 the venue was full, the heat a bit annoying but no one really cared. It was then when TRESPASS got on stage kicking off with “The Duel”, a song from their historic debut EP that was released back in 1981. This is a band that was formed in 1979, right when NWOBHM brought new blood into hard n heavy music. The band wasn’t super active the first years but they returned the last years producing interesting new music. Most of us weren’t really familiar with their songs (personally I knew only the EP) but the band easily won the fans with their set which included the three songs from the EP along with new stuff and they decided to close their show with a nice combo of  “Stormchild” and “One Of These Days”.

Video Trespass:

setlist Tresspass:

the duel / jealousy / footprints in the rock / Prometheus / visionary / brightlights / man and machine / lightsmith / assassin / be brave / stormchild / one of these days

“Diamond dreamer you’re not a loser…”

“We’re gonna give the world heavy metal ears” were the lyrics sung by PICTURE 40 years ago. They are a historic dutch band from the 80s that returned in 2009 and since then they are active in and out of the studio. One thing is for sure, when they got on stage at 21:50 only a few inside the venue could imagine how great they are. For the next sixty minutes they played back to back many of their songs creating a rock party and those who didn’t notice they did it when the bass player went into the crowd and played “Make You Burn” from there! After that everything was on red, a great performance in general, “Diamond Dreamer” towards the end after the organizers’ “demand” and they ended their show with “Lady Lightning”. I really hope all the new bands to have 50% of Picture’s energy and eager to play pure hard n heavy like these amazing guys did! Goed gedaan!

Video Picture

setlist Picture:

griffons guard the gold / message from hell / blown away / night hunter / line of life / night tiger / eternal dark / heavy metal ears / you’re all alone / the blade / bombers / make you burn / diamond dreamer / lady lightning 

“There is truth in every moment…”

I had spent nine hours without seating somewhere so my body started to cry out but the mind has its own way, taking hold by the memories, taking you back 25 years ago, on that evening that you got inside Rodon Club with the expectation to see on of your favorite power/prog metal bands of the 90s. And suddenly, you’ve heard someone saying they won’t play and you couldn’t even confirm this in pro-internet era rambling just no, it can’t be, they just released their most beautiful album, I like Stratovarius, I like Elegy but give me Conception please, why, oh why… A few weeks later they didn’t even exist as a band, each one went his own way and you left alone with their music that never really faded…

“Don’t hesitate to hope…”

Back to today, June 11, 2022! CONCEPTION from Norway will be the headliners of the final day of Up The Hammers festival! Shock and awe! Will they play this? Or that? Does it really matter? Lights are dimming and what we see on stage is a band from another era, an era that those of us that lived it we have put it like a tattoo inside our soul. And whhat a band this is! Made from another, unique material, like it is made from something magical. A first I feel kind of lost, I rush myself to take some photos but I am mesmerized by the warm bass line of “Waywardly Broken” that takes us by the hand, and wait, here it is, yes, the angelic voice of Roy Khan, I decided to take some photos as they play “No Rewind”, “want you to wake me / To tell me this story / I can’t oppose…”.

The band is perfect, and suddenly the heartbeat slows down, “The Mansion” hides something from that grey melancholy that traditionally we love in Greece, but it’s not the only one, there are may songs from this great band that carry stardust, and, wait… they start to play “A Million Gods”, oh Gods, hold on, yes, this is how 90s melodic prog sounded like, we are sailing brothers… But wait a minute, is Tore Ostby really one of us; Is is from this planet; How can he be that perfect; And then the acoustic break with “Silent Crying” and ”Sundance” and then here we go again, time has stopped, I’m not 25 years older, in fact I am 25 years young tonight, this is a dream, a dream that came true, Conception live in front of us, apotheosis…

Video Conception:

setlist Conception:

re:conception / grand again / a virtual lovestory / waywardly broken / no rewind / the mansion / a million gods / quite alright / silent crying / sundance / gethsemane / feather moves / by the blues / she dragoon / my dark symphony / roll the fire

® κείμενο/φωτογραφίες/video: Konstantinos Mindcrimek Vlachos