4 hours by train, 3 hours by car, that's what it took me and my friends to reach Raismes, a small city in France, not so far from Belgium. Now you may wonder "what? And there's a metal festival there?", as I wondered myself, for that was the first time I heard about it.
But the history of the RaismesFest began in 1998, as a one day festival, in the village hall. Only four bands, of which Vanden Plas and Headline were the headliners.
The year after, there were 8 bands playing in this hall, including Superior.
In 2000, the festival was moved in front of a "castle" (not really like a medieval one though...) to become an open-air show, featuring Metallium, Pink Cream 69 and Royal Hunt, among others.
The fourth edition, in 2001, welcomed Ark, Threshold, and Freak Kitchen - it was their first concert ever in France, and they have paid and will pay many other visits to Raismes!
Then, in 2002, the festival, constantly growing, became a two day festival, with Edguy and Pain of Salvation.
Finally, 2003 was another good year, with Evergrey, Freak Kitchen, Epica, Sun Caged, Jeff Scott Soto, and The Gathering...
How could I have never heard about it?! I'm still wondering... but I didn't miss the 7th edition of the RaismesFest, with an even more exquisite line-up... see by yourself:
Then that was time for the first local band to perform on the second stage, a smaller one facing the big scene. The band was Positiv'Hate, and played a sort of heavy black death melodic metal. Again, the sound was amazing. To me, the best local band on this day... I wish I could have paid more attention to their show...
But I only took this quick shot, and then went on searching for someone who was supposed to help the press in doing their job... If I had known before, I wouldn't have waited that long: no one was able to tell when to do the interviews, barely no one knew there was a local for the press, even the bands, etc.
That was the bad point of the festival, I hope it won't be the same next year, and the years after.
As I was waiting next to the big stage, Falkirk began their show: they're a French band, not well-known, but I had heard of them before, so I was interested, in that sort of power metal they play. Not the best show of course, but they proved that they had something to give to the audience, and made a good performance.
I decided to interview them after their show, as I met the singer when "waiting more"... they agreed and we went to a quieter place, not knowing about the press room, so we chose the catering room, where some roadies and some guys from Primal Fear for example were eating and drinking a bit.
In the meantime, Heresy, a local death metal band was on the small stage:
From what I've heard, nothing really special about them...
Pyramaze began their show in the main stage when I was still interviewing Falkirk in the catering room... I would have liked to see the beginning of their show.
They offered the audience some very cool power metal as the first "real" big show of the festival. I heard "The Journey" played, a track that is available in some promo CD of some metal magazines.
They had something special that attracted the audience, something like professionalism and a friendly attitude.
Although I missed half of their show, I liked it, especially the last song, "Mighty Abyss", with its terrific vocals (I have a sample downloaded from their site).
Next local band was probably the worst... Hillpain plays hardcore, a genre that was not so expected in a heavy-power-prog festival. I don't like to bash local French bands, but I didn't think it was some good hardcore too...
I had the chance (I must say it was a real chance, like luck you see...) to interview Pyramaze when Evil Force was playing on the main stage. The anecdote is that Michael Kammeyer, guitarist of Pyramaze, was the only one in Raismes to recognize me t-shirt!
Back to E-Force, a new band from France and Canada lead by ex-Voivod singer and bassist Eric Forrest, they were the most extreme band on the main stage, and I didn't like their show, but many thrash fans did enjoy it a lot. I think that the sound was a bit louder than with the previous band: I took my photos and left to the press room, my ears couldn't stand the noise... not my style.
The following local band, S.O.H, played some thrash, at least it's what I've been told, cause honestly, I don't remember them so well, I must have been wandering around. But I don't know why, when looking at the pics I've taken of their show, I think it wasn't bad, so...
Ah, many among the crowd wished Blaze could have come... they cancelled 3 shows, of which 2 in France including their performance at the RaismesFest, because of a sudden change in the line-up of the band... but well, that's no less than the Tygers Of Pan Tang who showed on the main stage replacing them.
I didn't know the band, and I sure wasn't the only one here. But it was a pleasure to see the older ones have fun watching their show, remembering the good old time of the NWOBHM.
I wasn't very attracted by their performance.... first, they wore some pretty flashy clothes, and had nothing "sepcial" in their sound, nothing that in my opinion, showed a trademark, a special touch or whatever you can call it.
It wasn't bad, it added some variety to the line-up of the festival. They probably played some great old tunes, but I've gone through them, not knowing a single song of theirs...
After that, it was time to rearrange the main set for the 2 last shows, Primal Fear first and then Rage. While the crew was installing Primal Fear's equipment, the local band Amalthys performed for the last time on the small stage. I've heard their name when arriving at the festival, and I was told to pay attention to them, I did, but it wasn't as good as the expectations I had then. Their heavy-prog metal wasn't bad however, and they were certainly the best local band after Positiv'Hate.
Their bassist was also the funniest that night... yeah I'm being a bit ironical, cause in fact it was one small detail that began to make me lose a bit of interest of the band: he was overacting, like if he were trying to crash some ants angrily with his foot...
Anyway, lots of luck to those 2 bands!
So now, the big ones: Primal Fear.
I have to admit I thought their show will be like their album, that is to say good and entertaining, but boooring.
They proved me wrong! It was the show I enjoyed the most on that day. Some f******* good heavy metal in the ass, hell yeah!
It was amazing to see how Ralf Scheepers can make such screams, and to see that every members of the band was enjoying themselves on stage.
Tom Naumann, now back in the band, did a great show, as well as the new drummer, Randy Black (ex-Annihilator).
While performing the song "The Healer", one of the highlights on "Devil's Ground", their latest release, the sky broke in tears... That's a bit funny cause the epic song was perfect for such a divine intervention. I enjoyed it quite a lot in fact, cause, as many people went off the stage to reach their tents or whatever shelter they could find, I went closer to the front row. Despite of the cold, I saw myself shouting and participating more affter the incident, especially since the show was based on the two albums I have, and I think their best albums, that is to say "Primal Fear" and "Devil's ground", their first and last releases. Songs like "Chainbreaker", "Running in the Dust" and "Battalions of Hate" kicked some serious ass with the newest "Suicide And Mania", "The Healer", "Metal is Forever", as well as "Nuclear Fire", etc.
The light show was very good, the sound was good, excellent.
The strange thing is that I read in another site some bad remarks about thier show, and the poor singing of Ralf... it was my first Primal Fear show, and knowing some albums, I can say that his voice was very good on that night.
The rain stopped, as it was time for the last show on the festival ground for Saturday: Rage.
The German band, not as famous as it should be, was my biggest expectation out of all the bands present at the festival. I saw them in a small venue in Paris, after Helloween and Iron Maiden played in the biggest concert hall of france last year. They were oustanding.
As they were on this Saturday, however, the cold had paralized me, so I couldn't have so much fun...
They are only three, so filling a big stage is not so easy, but they did well, and their talent filled the air instead.
Victor Smolsky was back after some health problems, and made those heavy songs roar off his guitar. He is a real guitar hero, and his solo spot confirmed my thoughts.
Peavey, with his great and powerful voice, is not just a bassist, but a good bassist and a great composer, and Mike Terrana... well Mike is... a BEAST!
Well since Ivan qualified Alexi Lahio from Children of Bodom and Sinergy as being an unstoppable Energiser bunny, I would suggest Mike Terrana as drummer in a band of unstoppable Energiser bunnies.
Mike did an awesome and long solo behind the drumkit, with some very funny moments. Maybe a bit too long, some of us would have prefered to have a song more... but it was very entertaining.
Their concert was based on their last album, "Soundchaser", so we had songs like "Orgy of Destruction", "The Great Old Ones", "Soundchaser", but also songs from their previous album, like the instrumental "Unity", "Down", and "Set This World On Fire", dedicated to the victims of the World Trade Center, since we were the 9/11...
Also, songs from older albums: "Black in Mind", Days of December", "From The Cradle To The Grave", "Don't Fear The Winter", and the encore, "Higher Than The Sky" which everyone can sing, and that everyone can't stop singing.
Peavey announced that Rage will be on a European Tour in Novemeber/December, and that they're preparing a DVD to be called "From The Cradle To The Stage", not surprising, knowing that with been in Rage for 20 years now!
After Rage's show, many of the festivalers went downtown, in the village hall, to see a short acoustic show by Angra. It was cool, cause it was warm inside so I gathered some strength there, before the band appeared.
They were supposed to play 45 minutes, but they didn't...
We had 4 songs, "Nova Era", "Rebirth", "Never Understand", and another song, in Portuguese, which was actually a cover from a Brazillian artist, non-metal. I don't remember any other song... But the show was good, good sound, something pleasant to finish the day.
After that me and my friends drove back to Paris, while those who stayed could enjoy a entire night of heavy metal in the hall. At least, thos who weren't too tired!
So, a word about the next day: from what I've heard, Malediction, a young French band, close to thrash, made an excellent performance, as well as French guitar hero Patrick Rondat and After Forever. But it seems that Angra weren't at their best that day... some said they looked like they had a cold, that the sound wasn't so great, and that Edu Falaschi was out of tune... I can't confirm...
I enjoyed myself a lot on Saturday, and wish I can go there next year, hoping an effort will be made for the poor small journalist I am... Thanks to Jean Chermanne for having granted me a press pass and to all the volunteers who probably had a hard time to bring such bands to the French audience!
More information (in French): RaismesFest
PS: If you want more pics from the festival, PM me!