For over 14 years, Athens has been hosting one of the most important Traditional Metal Festivals in the world, the prestigious Up The Hammers! This guide will provide you with information about the festival, the bands, and the city itself, hoping to make your visit more pleasant and get you ready for the Greek Heavy Metal marathon.
Part 1 of this feature is an interview with festival organizer and accomplished musician Manolis Karazeris. Check it out here: Up the Hammers – An Interview with Manolis Karazeris
Thursday – 14 March 2019 – Warm-up show at An Club
Location: Solomou 13 Exarchia, Athens.
How to get there: An Club is 5 minutes walk from Omonia Metro Station (lines 1,2)
About the Club: One of the oldest rock clubs in Athens, with a capacity of approximately 500-600 people standing.
Mega Colossus (USA)
Who’s Who: When the warm-up show of a three – day festival starts with a band has 5 quality releases under their belt (2 albums and 3 EPs), you know you are in for a treat. Formerly known as Colossus, the Americans play a galloping upbeat USPM/ Heavy mix, with anthemic choruses combined with an electrifying stage show.
Suggested Discography: The folks from Raleigh released their first album under their new name HyperGlaive in 2016 and the EP V a couple of weeks ago, which both are very good releases and highly suggested for fans of Brocas Helm and Slough Feg. From their Colossus years I will single out ..and the Sepulcher of the Mirror Warlocks as their highlight.
Looking forward to: The “Sunsword”, its opening riff and progression is amazing for live shows.
Who’s Who: Saboter is one of the leading heavy metal bands in Greece. Their sound can be described as Judas Priest with power/ thrash elements along the lines of early Iced Earth. Despite the fact that the band’s influences and sound is rooted heavily in the ’80s, Saboter manages to sound very refreshing throughout their discography.
Suggested Discography: Greece has provided the metal world with many great albums in 2018 and Saboter played a great role in that. Start with their latest album Architects of Evil, and then go back towards the band’s first self-titled EP.
Looking forward to: The powerful and energetic live show they are known for.
Raven Black Night (AUSTRALIA)
Who’s Who: Mostly Australian, doom/heavy band who added Chris Dorian (of Zemial and Agatus fame amongst others) to their ranks to record their second album. The first album Choose the Dark featured some harsh vocals elements while the second album Barbarian Winter is closer to traditional doom.
Suggested Discography: Choose your medicine according to whether you like death metal elements of Choose the Dark or you prefer the doom feeling of Black Sabbath with Barbarian Winter .
Looking forward to: See how the musically accomplished Rino and Jim will fit the stage with session bassist Nikos (Convixion, Strikelight) and drummer Vassilis (Gauntlet).
Who’s Who: Evil-Lÿn return to UTH after a 7-year absence. The Finns play fast-paced traditional metal, with powerful, husky vocals and masterful guitars which brings to mind bands like Iron Maiden and Running Wild.
Suggested Discography: Evil-Lÿn has one 7-year-old EP with a very different, female fronted lineup, while last year’s album Disciple of Steel was recorded with the current line up. This is where they’re expected to play more songs from.
Looking forward to: The title track of “Disciple of Steel” – a song made to be played live!
Who’s Who: One of the oldest, still active Greek epic metal bands with 4 albums and a couple of demos and singles, which amongst them is the cult metal classic The Sire of the Storm from 1995. The band’s style has evolved through the years, adding a lot of elements to their albums, ranging from heavy keyboard usage, to traditional Greek instruments, but always staying true to their epic and historically themed lyrics and feeling.
Suggested Discography: 2017’s Bleed Babylon Bleed is a very enjoyable modern heavy/power album, Οδύσσεια/Odyssey and When Shadows Fall are doomier and The Fire Still Burns is closer to traditional heavy.
Looking forward to: The singalong moment of “When Immortals Die!”
Dark Quarterer (ITALY)
Who’s Who: Epic metal giants who set the bar for Italian metal in the 80s. Their line up is mostly the same, except for guitarist Fulberto Serena, who composed most of the music in their monumental first 2 albums. Amazing vocals, a bit of doom, a bit of prog, and a lot of awesomeness.
Suggested Discography: Dark Quarterer and The Etruscan Prophecy are timeless diamonds that will shine forever. From the newer albums, 4-year-old Ithaca is closer to the band’s trademark style, so start from there.
Looking forward to: Let’s end the night like we began – with a “Colossus”, this time “of Argil”.
Friday/Saturday 15,16 March 2019 – Main Show at Gagarin 205
Location: Liosion 205, Athens.
How to get there: Gagarin 205 is a 5-minute walk from Attiki Metro Station (Line 2)
About the Club: One of the largest live venues in Greece, with a capacity of approximately 1200 people standing.
Day 1 – Friday 15 March 2019
Air Raid (SWEDEN)
Who’s Who: One of Sweden’s most beloved NWOTHM bands, Air Raid play metal as it was taught by the masters, Judas Priest and Accept, and of course their local 80s scene. They already have 3 full albums, a demo, and an EP and the band released a new single earlier this year with two new tracks.
Suggested Discography: The last 2 albums,Across the Line and Point of Impact, demonstrated a band that matured and evolved musically.
Looking forward to: Most people will say “Hold the Flame”, therefore I pick “We Got the Force”.
Who’s Who: Three Spanish ladies accompanied by a gentleman on drums who play groovy hard n heavy with an 80s attitude. While the band sticks to the traditional path that was laid by U.F.O. and Thin Lizzy, they add a glam twist which they combine with their natural Mediterranean temperament.
Suggested Discography: The band’s 2018 album On Thin Ice deservedly found its way on numerous best of the year lists.
Looking forward to: Their highly energetic show and their amazing hit “Viper”.
Airged L’amh (GREECE)
Who’s Who: Epic Heavy/Power Metal from with occasional folk elements from Greece. The band has been around since 1996 and their discography consists of three albums and a demo. Complex songwriting that fans of Manowar, Virgin Steele, and mid-career Blind Guardian will enjoy a lot.
Suggested Discography: The Silver Arm is one of the best albums of the genre that came out of Greece, while in Ode to Salvation the band displays very high levels of musicianship.
Looking forward to: The fast-paced headbanger “Fate of the King”.
Majestic Ryte (USA)
Who’s Who: Underground American metal heroes that published only one Demo/ EP of five tracks in 1988. Their music is a perfect example of USPM meets prog, along the lines of early Fates Warning and Helstar, with an epic touch.
Suggested Discography: The demo was reissued recently and it is available in two versions: A standard CD version with a 12-page booklet and a box set that includes a t-shirt, a poster, and the original demo tape.
Looking forward to: Listening to the new instrumental intro “Hadrian’s Path” along with all of the original ‘88 tracks.
Iron Angel (GERMANY)
Who’s Who: The legendary German metallers were the last band who joined the UTH billboard. Their sound is close to early Paradox (who they replaced at the festival), and fellow Germans Living Death. They use ultra speedy riffs and unique vocals, along with a blasting rhythm section.
Suggested Discography: Who can argue that Hellish Crossfire is a must have for every collection? Also, last year’s release Hellbound is a great speed /thrash album, check it if you haven’t already.
Looking forward to: Dirk Schröder’s performance and the connection he makes with the crowd, along with listening to anthems like “The Metallian” and “Black Mass”.
Eternal Champion (USA)
Who’s Who: Co-Headliners Eternal Champion are one of the most popular bands of the epic NWOTHM. The Americans reinvigorated the whole genre with their 2016’s masterpiece Armor of Ire, introducing a very distinct sound that will appeal to fans of Manilla Road, Omen, and Warlord.
Suggested Discography: Mark my words, in 20 years from now future music journalists will feature Armor of Ire as an all-time classic. If you missed it, drop everything you do and go check it out immediately. See Marco’s full review of it here.
Looking forward to: Hear the words “this song is from our upcoming album…”. We will even settle for a new riff! In any case, EC are known for their powerful live performances and they will surely satisfy the crowd.
Armored Saint (USA)
Who’s Who: Armored Saint have been a mainstay in classic American heavy metal since the early 80s and they’re still out kicking ass live. Armored Saint’s specialty is straightforward, zero frills, classic heavy metal and that’s exactly what you should expect to get from them.
Suggested Discography: Armored Saint’s early material is all fantastic. Start with the band’s self titled EP and work your way through to 1991’s Symbol of Salvation. Their latest album, Win Hands Down, is quite solid and shows the band has still got it!
Looking forward to: The insane live performance and energy the band brings to the stage. Bassist Joey Vera has more stage presence and energy than most bands just by himself. If you like John Bush’s vocals on record, then you are in for a treat because his voice is even better live – it’s like he hasn’t even aged a day!
Day 2 – Saturday 16 March 2019:
Who’s Who: Female fronted American trio who like to mix their song style. Within their two albums and one EP discography, someone can find elements of Doom, Speed, Power though the songwriting is so good that can blend all these genres perfectly. I can notice, Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, and even Candlemass influence to mention a few.
Suggested Discography: Their new album The Poisoner will be a strong contender to enter the many AOTY lists in 2019.
Looking forward to: How they will blend their slower songs atmosphere with their headbanging fastest ones.
Who’s Who: One of the most talented up-and-comers at the forefront of the NWOTHM, Gatekeeper play a heavy metal barrage enriched with epic lyrics and motifs along with marching rhythms, screaming guitars, and a beast for a vocalist. Fans of Manowar, Slough Feg, and Solstice surely will find another band to follow for the years to come.
Suggested Discography: East of the Sun came out last year and suddenly Gatekeeper were -deservedly- everywhere. This year’s EP Grey Maiden is the perfect follow up. You can find Marco’s review of it here and his interview with founding member Jeff Black here.
Looking forward to: To the whole show really, I am unable to hide my fanboyism but just listen to the releases above and you will understand.
Old Season (IRELAND)
Who’s Who: Epic Heavy /Doom from Ireland, with powerful riffs and haunting keyboards. Their sound is a mix the traditional NWOBHM values, along with some melodic power elements. Fans of While Heaven Wept, Warning, and the latest Primordial will adore them.
Suggested Discography: Two unique sounding albums, Archaic Creation and Beyond the Black, the first one more gritty, the second one more melodic.
Looking forward to: “Meet me at the Battlefield”is an amazing song that will keep us going for sure.
Who’s Who: One of the biggest Epic Doom Metal bands out there, that forces us into addiction and withdrawal with each of their albums. They are considered one of the most influential bands of the genre, and finally, they have released a new album last year, so we get to see them live. If you somehow managed to miss this marvelous band, yet you are a fan of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, waste no more time and check them out.
Suggested Discography: Solstice have 3 amazing LPs and 2 awesome EPs in between. New Dark Age and Lamentations are must-have albums for every collection, while White Horse Hill found its way on the top of many Album of the Year Lists (Ride Into Glory’s list included)
Looking forward to: The new tracks have an amazing atmosphere, it will be great to see how the bands will transcribe the feeling live.
Brocas Helm (USA)
Who’s Who: One of the first epic heavy metal bands, and definitely one of the most influential for the whole genre globally. Aggressive, manly metal, based on blasting speed riffs, epic lyrics, and crazy attitude. If you are a fan of Manilla Road and Slough Feg, be sure that you are going to love Brocas Helm.
Suggested Discography: 3 Amazing LPs throughout the years, though if I have to choose one, that would be 1988’s Black Death, though 2004’s Defender of the Crown probably has the band’s most popular songs.
Looking forward to: The headbanging partying atmosphere that Brocas Helm create in each of their shows at the sound of songs like “Fly High” or “Cry of the Banshee”.
Who’s Who: Progressive US power metal band who released one of the most amazing and musically sophisticated albums of the movement in 1988. The self-titled album is full of mind imprinting riffs melodies, specifically designed for the pleasure of fans of early Queensryche, Metal Church, and Titan Force.
Suggested Discography: Hittman have 2 albums, the amazing metal cornerstone that is the S/T album, and Vivas Machina which is a well written progressive hard rock album.
Looking forward to: The moment the International Metal Organization declares “Metal Sport” the official Heavy Metal Anthem. Until then, listening to this song live, will be just about right.
Liege Lord (USA)
Who’s Who: Undisputed heavyweight champions of aggressive power metal, known for their blend of speed, thrash, and USPM. They released 3 monumental albums during the 80s until they reunited 7 years ago with the band’s latest singer Joe Comeau and they’ve been raiding the live stages worldwide ever since.
Suggested Discography: Everything. Start with the more USPM releases of Freedom Rise and Burn to My Touch, and then onto the band’s most popular album, the thrashy Master Control (see Marco’s review of it here).
Looking forward to: One of the best choruses in all of US power metal:
Power and depth, infinity
Master Control, machinery
Complex and endless, infinity
Master Control, machinery
Pulse of pure metal, infinity
Master Control, machinery
Sunday – 17 March 2019 – After Party at The Crow Club
Special Mark Shelton Tribute Show
Location: Sinopis 27, Athens
How to get there: The Crow Club is 10 minutes walk from Ambelokipi Metro Station (lines 3)
About the Club: Live club in Athens, with a capacity of approximately 400 people standing.
In case you survive the heavy metal apocalypse of the past 3 days, on Sunday don’t even think about missing The Crow Club, to attend a show on the memory of the great Mark Shelton of Manilla Road. Legendary heavy metal DJ Michalis “HMRM” Nochos will be at the decks, and with him Greek Epic Metallers Wrathblade and Co Headliners Eternal Champion, in a surprise show.
That wraps up everything for this year’s fest – See you all next year at Up the Hammers XV on March 13th and 14th 2020!
Athens Metal Travel Guide
- Ragnarok CLUB – The club where the UTH after parties will take place.
- Location: A.Metaxa 25, Exarchia Sq. – 5 minutes walk from Omonia Metro Station (lines 1,2)
- Rainbow Metal Club – Athens largest Metal club with a different program each night.
- Location: Dekeleon 40, Gazi – 3 minutes walk from Kerameikos Metro Station (line 3)
- Old Boy Metal Bar – Heavy metal Cafe/Bar, open for the bigger part of the day.
- Location: Alexandras Avenue 56 – 10 minutes walk from Victoria Train station (line 1)
- Underground Cafe – Heavy metal Cafe/Bar in the center of Athens.
- Location: Andrea Metaxa 19-21, Athina Exarchia 5 minutes walk from Omonia Metro Station (lines 1,2)
In the venue, there is going to be merchandise stands from : No Remorse Records, Eat Metal Records, Sirens Records, Metal Era, Steel Legacy and Metal Fighter.
Check below the largest metal stores in Athens:
- No Remorse Records: The well-known label and store with rare disks and new releases
- Location: Gamveta 4, Exarchia – 5 minutes walk from Omonia Metro Station (lines 1,2)
- Eat Metal Records: Record Store/ Label/ Concert Organizer with emphasis on the underground.
- Location: Spiridonos Trikoupi 45 – 10 minutes walk from Victoria Train station (line 1)
- Sirens: One of the oldest stores in Athens with a big collection of CDs/ Patches etc.
- Location: Nikitara 14 Exarchia – 5 minutes walk from Omonia Metro Station (lines 1,2)
- Metal Era: Great collection of CDs, t-shirts, and records of all metal subgenres.
- Location: Emmanouil Benaki 22 – 5 minutes walk from Omonia Metro Station (lines 1,2)
Check also: Athens’s flea market is located in Monastiraki, and while you stroll there you will find lots of 2nd hand record and clothes stores.
Athens is generally a safe city, though some of the neighborhoods that you will visit might seem different than those in your hometown. It is suggested to use a taxi during the night which is cheaper compared to the rest of EU countries, and we recommend those that are available through mobile apps.
Greece’s traditional street food is souvlaki (also called kalamaki in the southern parts), which is pork or chicken meat on a stick. Served also in pita bread with yogurt/garlic sauce, tomato, and onions. In the most popular version, the kalamaki replaced with gyros (rotisserie grilled pork or chicken).
The most famous traditional drinks are tsipouro and ouzo (anise flavored) and can be found almost anywhere in Athens, though keep in mind that we are talking about 40% alcohol (at least). Also, Greece is very famous for its wines, and in recent years many small breweries began to produce local beer.
When you are not at the festival or in a club, don’t miss the chance to visit Acropolis monument and museum. (Acropolis station, line 2).