Bands: Serious Black, Herman Frank, My Own Ghost
Date: 12th September, 2017
Venue: ‘The Underworld’, London (EU)
As the distance between me and the Underworld progressively shortened, memories of my schooldays pass before my eyes, of when I first lowered the needle onto Accept‘s “Balls To The Wall” LP. Herman Frank played guitar on that album, and on other riff-laden albums from the German Metal masters. The axeman also played with several other notable bands such Victory and Panzer and was partly responsible for the sound of albums such as “Killing Ground” (Saxon) and “Pain” (Rose Tattoo). In the last few years, however, he has been devoting much of his effort and time to his homonymous band. And I can’t wait to see this band play!
Headlining the gig are Serious Black – before tonight I heard very little from this band, maybe subconsciously put off by the ludicrous moniker. It must be said, however, that the band was formed just 3 years ago by guitarist Roland Grapow (ex-Helloween) and bassist Mario Lochert. Although Grapow is not with the band anymore, the current line-up comprises ex-members of bands such as: Emergency Gate, Visions Of Atlantis, Edenbridge, Dreamscape, Mortus, Sieges Even, Rhapsody (Of Fire), Avantasia, Tad Morose, Bloodbound etc, etc. With such a curriculum dawning on me, the prospect of seeing the band takes a very inviting turn.
It is only after I’ve entered the venue that I discover there’s also a third band that’s opening the show…
My Own Ghost (https://www.myownghost.com/)
My Own Ghost are from Luxembourg, something that would never have crossed my mind had I not read it on the band’s website on the morrow of the gig. To be honest, My Own Ghost felt like a fish out of the water in this bill. The band plays a lively brand of Pop Rock and occasionally Gothic and Hard Rock epithets would befit too. The band’s performance tonight was seamlessly tight and the impression I had was of a group of musicians with an attentive ear for their songwriting craft. Crucially, however, the band’s set lacked any memorable songs.
The band tended to focus on their recent “Life On Standby” album but unforeseen factors meant that a few songs had to be left out of the set.
After the performance, band vocalist Julie Rodesch told me she had a bad cold and the rest of the band wasn’t feeling much better either. In any case, after the gig I took a look at some videos of My Own Ghost – the band seems to have some interesting songs in their repertoire. So, esteemed reader, do check out the websites of My Own Ghost and make up your own mind.
Herman Frank (http://www.hermanfrank.com/)
Herman Frank’s band caught up with my expectations and then kept accelerating until my expectations were but a dot in the distance. All this only on the basis of Frank’s 3 solo albums. Despite a surprisingly thin (but rousing) crowd the band was an epitome of professionalism and delivered the goods while keeping that crowd entertained.
Having heard his previous bands Masterplan and Thunderstone, I knew Rick Altzi was a talented singer but often it’s on a stage where the phonies are distinguished from the true and tonight proved to me that Altzi lies with the latter. Sometimes I couldn’t hear him sing and I do suspect that this had nothing to do with any technical issues.
The guitar harmonies of Herman Frank and Heiko Schröder worked really well together. Riff after riff, one fusillade of Metal after another, the band’s performance was an antidote to everyday mundaneness. It certainly helped matters that the quality of the material itself was quite high.
The songs whose promo-clips had been doing the rounds on the web…songs such as ‘Ballhog Zone’ and ‘Running Back’ were obviously included in the set. ‘Welcome To The Show’ was oddly placed half-way through the set but it’s got such a catchy chorus. ‘Can’t Take It’ rounded up the set but it was clear that the crowd could really take more of all that.
Right In Your Guts
Welcome To Hell
Welcome To The Show
Falling To Pieces
Can’t Take It
Serious Black (http://www.serious-black.com)
First thing to strike me was the incredible sound quality that delivered the set of Serious Black. Apparently on this tour the band was dragging along both their own mixing desk and sound tech and from my point of view it was a gamble that certainly paid off.
Sometimes the band’s show treaded that fine line between cheese and class but Serious Black always emerged triumphantly from any song played. “Magic”, the band’s most recent album, was released just three weeks before this gig and yet the crowd already sang and interacted enthusiastically to songs from this release. I was impressed by the vocal talents of Urban Breed…he strongly reminded me of Helloween’s Andi Deris. The Underworld was already familiar to him…as he told the audience, he had already played here when fronting Tad Morose.
Also noteworthy was the brilliant guitarist Christian Münzner (Obscura, Necrophagist, Paradox). I believe I had seen Christian play from this same stage when he was with Obscura. Compared to that band, Serious Black are very different and less technical but nevertheless Christian seemed to be comfortable with the songs of Serious Black.
And it was great to finally get to see Alex Holzwarth perform after having closely followed his musical exploits with Rhapsody. His style reminded me of Cozy Powell…not so much agile or technically sophisticated but powerful, dependable and precise.
If before the gig I harboured any skepticism about this band, tonight’s performance certainly convinced me to take them more ‘seriously’!
Temple of the Sun-Akhenaton
Older and Wiser
Trail of Murder
I Can Do Magic
Serious Black Magic
The Life That You Want
Lone Gunman Rule
The Machine Is Broken
Now You’ll Never Know
As Long As I’m Alive
Setting Fire to the Earth
Burn Witches, Burn!
I Seek No Other Life
High and Low
As Daylight Breaks
All text and live photography by Chris Galea.
Note: Before the gig I did quick interviews with Mario Lochert (of Serious Black) and with Herman Frank and Rick Altzi. Unfortunately the recordings of these interviews inexplicably vanished (together with others I had done in the past) the moment I connected my recorder to my laptop. To say I was disheartened is an understatement!