For over 15 years, Athens has been hosting one of the most important Traditional Metal Festivals in the world, 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.
Last year, we interviewed the festival’s organizer and guitarist Manolis Karazeris. Check out the interview here for more information about the festival’s history and background.
Warm-up show (Mar. 12)
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 and most historic rock and metal venues in Athens, with a capacity of approximately 500 people standing.
Doors open at 18:00
Who’s Who: Ramit from California introduced themselves to the metal world in 2017 with the release of the Let It Ram demo. Their musical style could be described as guitar based, melodic speed metal, with a healthy dose of heavy a la Judas Priest. Since the release of the demo, the band made an almost complete facelift, with the exception of band leader Vito Don who handles the bass. With the new line up, along came a change of style, and the band is about to announce (possibly on stage!) their new musical direction that they will follow.
Suggested Discography: Ramit’s sole release is their demo from 2017 called Let It Ram. A new full length release is underway, expected to hit the shelves on Q3 of 2020, under the band’s new name and identity.
Looking forward to: Ramit have given the task to Kickstart a 3-day metal meltdown and judging by the energy of their songs, they seem like they are more than up to the task. We are really looking forward to see how much the new line up will change the musical direction and what new twists it will bring.
Throne of Iron (USA)
Who’s Who: The loss of the great Mark Shelton has made a huge impact on everyone around the world. For Tucker Thomasson, this was the moment he decided to pick his guitar and write music. Following the release and the success of their 2018 demo and a series of equally successful singles,the rest of the band members were added in order to start touring. On February 21, 2020 Throne of Iron released their first full length album titled Adventure One under the banner of No Remorse records.
Suggested Discography: The 2018 demo proved to be an underground gem that immediately caught the attention of the crowd. Throne of Iron recently released a compilation of all the demos and singles in a compilation named “Year One – The Demos, Covers, Splits, and Singles” and of course, “Adventure One” was one of the most eagerly anticipated releases in early 2020.
Looking forward to: To witness how an one-man-show fledged to a touring band, and to listen to songs like “Lichspire” and “A Call to Adventure” played live on stage.
Who’s Who: One of the rising bands of Greek epic metal. The band started as a solo project of Chris Achelous in 2011 and evolved to a full band with the addition of Chris Kappas (Ex-Reflection) and other members which gradually led to the release of their first album in 2018.
Suggested Discography: Macedon is the band’s most complete work, however they managed to gain a lot of attention with the EP The Cold Winds of Olympus. Fans of Reflection and Greek Epic Metal should check their albums without second thoughts.
Looking forward to: Achelous’s live performances are well known amongst the greek audience which helped them create a cult of fans and followers. Without a doubt, they will perform with the same vigor which is something to behold.
Who’s Who: The epic metallers from Lisbon, travel to Athens with one of the better releases οf 2019 in their bags. Having studied the scriptures of Omen and Manilla Road, Ravensire play a dominant epic heavy metal, with the savagery that is reminiscent of their fellow countrymen Ironsword. But Ravensire is much more than a mix of their influences – the last 9 years of their career they managed to create a very distinct sound that radiates epicness with every amazing riff they compose.
Suggested Discography: The Cycle Never Ends which was released in 2016 is the album that served as a break out point for the band and deservedly so. Last year’s A Stone Engraved in Red was a great follow up which carried them even further.
Looking forward to: “The Temple At The End Of The World” is one of the highlights in every show the band plays, while we are crossing our fingers to listen to “After the Battle” live as well.
Who’s Who: Simply put, Crush is one of the bands that released one of the best epic metal albums in Greek metal history, the 1993 Kingdom of the Kings. No frill, passionate, traditional heavy, mixed with power metal, that is appealing exactly because of its simple, clever and to-the-point ideas. Crush are an undoubtedly a solid replacement for Argus who had to cancel their appearance in the fest.
Suggested Discography: Crush’s only release is their debut, Kingdom of the Kings. The original press is considered a collector’s item, and Sirens records reissued the album in 2008. There’s been a rumor for many years that a follow up album will be released, but nothing has materialized as of yet.
Looking forward to: Kingdom of the Kings is a no-filler album, with great live songs like the title track and “Run To The Highway”.
Atlantean Kodex (Germany)
Who’s Who: Warm up show headliners Atlantean Kodex is the band that redefines what we consider epic metal and easily climbed to the highest peaks of the metal sierra. Their songs emanate such strong feelings that makes you stand up and shout ,while their deep and sophisticated lyrics can be interpreted on so many levels.Since the release of Pnakotic Demos EP in 2007, Kodex managed to evolve their sound from the deep Manowar and Bathory influences to something very unique with the masterful use of their iconic choruses and their barrage of guitar leads.
Suggested Discography: Everything. And by that i mean start with The Pnakotic Demos all the way to last year’s release “The Course of Empire”which found its way to the top of most AOTY list of 2019. “The White Goddess” is their most successful album which largely introduced their trademark sound, while the 10 year old “The Golden Bough” differs slightly , exploring the doomier paths.
Looking forward to: Seeing them on stage! Altantean Kodex loves to play in Greece and the local crowd loves them back. It’s most surely bound to be the perfect ending to one of the best warm up shows in the festival’s history.
Main Day 1 (Mar. 13)
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.
Solitary Sabred (Cyprus)
Who’s Who: Solitary Sabred from Cyprus will be the first band that will warm the stage and crowd at the first main day of the festival. Epic heavy/power metal with masterful guitars and a vocalist who knows how to fill the stage and deliver amazing performances due to his innate talent and vocal range.
Suggested Discography: Solitary Sabred will officially release their new album By Fire & Brimstone on the day they are performing at UTH. Their previous album Redemption Through Force is the best to date – a great example of solid, traditional heavy metal
Looking forward to: Starting the two day main event with a blast, and Solitary Sabred is undoubtedly the right band to do so.
Who’s Who: Canadian newcomers Smoulder play epic doom metal which they sometimes combine with classic heavy and power and/ or traditional doom. Spearheaded by vocalist Sarah Ann, the band played at Hammer of Doom in 2018 and Legions of Metal the following year and they will be joining us on the Up the Hammers stage. Dual guitars with mean riffs, a rock solid rhythm section, dressed in fantasy themed lyrics.
Suggested Discography: Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring was a huge hit last year and it is widely considered one of 2019’s best albums. This year, Smoulder will release an EP titled Dream Quest Ends which will coincide with their appearance at Up the Hammers.
Looking forward to: Smoulder play a very energetic live show, with lots of dramatic elements that will undoubtedly captivate the audience in Athens (and their follow up shows in Thessaloniki and Horns Up Festival V). UTH is the next step forward for the doomsters and we are excited to witness one of the better new bands forging their career.
Who’s Who: The newcomer band from Canada that stunned the masses with the release of their debut album last year. Melodic heavy metal that draws inspiration from classics like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and adds a modern and refreshing twist. Traveler features a collection of great musicians who also play for other hot bands like Gatekeeper, Gatekrashör, and Riot City to name a few.
Suggested Discography: The S/T album was released in February of 2019 and managed to stay on top of the lists of fans and magazines after a barrage of great albums that came out last year.That alone is a great feat and a reason to buy their album.
Looking forward to: “Starbreaker” is a very energetic song that will no doubt excite the crowd and keep the party going.
Riot City (Canada)
Who’s Who: The quintet from Alberta play melodic speed metal, with high pitched vocals, high octane riffs, and catchy choruses. Their barraging sound caught the attention of No Remorse records who released the band’s debut in 2019 titled Burn the Night which was a huge success, both musically and commercially. Since then, festivals around the world are inviting Riot City to play, which is evident of the impact their debut made.
Suggested Discography: If you are a fan of the up tempo Judas Priest songs and the melodic speed metal of Helloween’s Walls of Jericho, then you must check out Burn the Night immediately.
Looking forward to: A powerful and energetic show that will match the band’s hailstorm-like music, which is evident in songs like “The Hunter” and “In the Dark”.
Who’s Who: The metal world was shocked with excitement when news of the reunion of the legendary epic doomsters Scald surfaced. The viking themed Russian band was dissolved after the tragic death of vocalist Argyl in 1997. Since then, thanks to the proliferation of the internet, their album Will of the Gods is a Great Power rose to fame in the underground and deservedly earned a spot amongst the genre’s best albums ever. Joined on stage by Felipe Plaza Kutzbach (Procession, Capilla Ardiente, Deströyer 666, Nifelheim) the band played their first show in Hammer of Doom 2019 and stunned the crowd with their incredible performance.
Suggested Discography: Will of the Gods is a Great Power is a magical, timeless classic album, a must have for all the fans of doom metal. Check our extensive review of this gem here.
Looking forward to: It’s impossible to pick a single moment to look forward to, especially if you watched the videos from the band’s performance last year. From start to finish, this live show is bound to be one of the most special moments in the festival’s history.
Who’s Who: Probably the best known traditional metal Greek band. Spitfire was formed in the mid 80s and got their debut album First Attack released by EMI. Their musical style is full of memorable leads and riffs, along with tasteful keyboards and catchy choruses.
Suggested Discography: 1987’s First Attack is a marvelous album worthy of every collection. The band’s second album Die Fighting that was released in 2009 has a more epic and aggressive feeling to it.
Looking forward to: Despite being one of Greece’s oldest bands, Spitfire rarely play live shows and seeing them on stage is always a very special occasion. “Lead me On” and “Lady Of The Night” are always great and definitely will captivate the audience.
Riot Act (USA)
Who’s Who: It all started when former RIOT members Lou Kouvaris and Rick Ventura were asked to make guest appearances with RIOT V. The urge to play live led the legendary guitarists to the decision last year to form a band that will perform songs from RIOT’s monumental first three albums. The news of the band’s creation traveled fast and major traditional metal festivals enlisted Riot Act to perform, evidence of the fans love and dedication to the albums that the band recorded more than 40 years ago.
Suggested Discography: Owning Rock City, Narita, and Fire Down Under is more than a “must”, these albums are the very foundation of heavy metal. Riot Act recently decided to record some new original material, and also re-recorded some of RIOT’s classic songs from the first 3 albums.
Looking forward to: The moment the band plays classics like “Swords and Tequila”, “Warrior” and ”Road Racin’ ”, chaos , savagery and panic will fill the venue of Gagarin.
Who’s Who: The headliners of the first main day of UTH is one of the most important technical thrash/speed metal bands ever. Following the cancellation of Agent Steel, the New Yorkers stepped up causing a surge of excitement to all the UTH fans. The band will play all of the classic Think This album, and a selection of the most beloved songs of World Circus.
Suggested Discography: Both World Circus and Think This are amazing classic albums. World Circus is more aggressive, while Think This has more progressive elements, but seriously, if you don’t own both, go and buy those records this instant. Toxik also released an EP titled Breaking Class in 2017, with a new, modern thrash sound.
Looking forward to: Having a heart attack while listening to “Heart Attack”.
Atlantean Kodex (Germany) Special Show
After the events that resulted in Agent Steel’s cancellation and before the announcement of Toxik , the inbox of up the hammers was flooded by fans who were requesting a second headliner appearance from Atlantean Kodex. So the promoters decided to fulfill their wish by inviting the Epic metallers on the stage of the main event to perform a small set, including a song that was voted on UTH’s facebook group page. The winner was “Chariots (Descending from Zagros)” from the band’s latest album, and will be played along with a small selection of the band’s most beloved songs.
Main Day 2 (Mar. 14)
Who’s Who: This Canadian/Australian trio burst onto the scene at the very tail end of 2018 with their twenty six minute EP titled Gates Ajar. With eccentric imagery and the self defined tag of “acid metal”, Sabïre immediately captured the hearts of many. They play a fast-paced style of heavy metal with plenty of punk attitude and sleaze that immediately brings to mind bands like Tank and Motörhead, but there’s more at play here. There’s an uplifting feeling to the music that separates Sabïre from those bands and really gives them their own sound.
Suggested Discography: All we have from Sabïre is the wonderful Gates Ajar EP, so give that a listen! You can see our review of it here.
Looking forward to: Seeing these newcomers translate their energy and antics to the stage. “One for the Road” is a serious banger and should get the crowd warmed up with no issues!
Quicksand Dream (Sweden)
Who’s Who: Started as Epic Irae in the late 80s, the epic metallers from Sweden changed their name to Quicksand Dream and released two wonderful albums that remained hidden in the underground for years and managed to acquire a cult following. Fans of Atlantean Kodex will enjoy their set very much, as the band share a kindred epic doom atmosphere.
Suggested Discography: Quicksand Dream’s first album Aelin – A Story About Destiny was released in 2000 and it has a very distinct “epic fairytale” feeling to it. Their second album Beheading Tyrants was released more recently in 2016 with a heavier, riff invested, doom sound which probably would make it easier for a metal fan to get into.
Looking forward to: Quicksand Dream is one of those bands that one could never expect to see live. They almost never play live shows and seeing them on stage is a very special occasion and we are looking forward to see how their atmospheric songs will sound on stage.
Vultures Vengeance (Italy)
Who’s Who: Probably the hottest new heavy metal band right now, Vultures Vengeance play epic tunes with an arcane and mystical feeling. Their music sounds like a modern twist on Cirith Ungol and has influences from Manilla Road’s composing style. Mean guitars offer wonderful leads and riffs, which set the Italians amongst the new generation of heavy metal bands.
Suggested Discography: The Knightlore resoundingly won our editor’s choice award for best album of 2019 in a year that was flooded by many wonderful releases, a must have for every fan who wants his collection up to date. Prior to their debut, VV released two wonderful epic metal EPs, 2016’s Where the Time Dwelt In and 2018’s Lyrids: Warning from the Reign of the Untold, with an abundance of epicness and wonderful melodies. Seriously, these guys are the real thing, one of the bands to look out for for many years in the future.
Looking forward to: After having the privilege of seeing what these guys can do live, their “perpetual motion” approach on stage is the thing we should be looking forward to. They always know how to get new followers after their shows.
Dexter Ward (Greece)
Who’s Who: Dexter Ward is the band that Marco Concoreggi (vocals) and Manolis Karazeris (guitars) formed after they departed from Battleroar in 2009. Riff infused US power metal along with Marco’s unique melodic vocals is what puts Dexter Ward in the top of Greek NWOTHM bands. Manolis is the organizer of the Up the Hammers festival, so be sure that the moment Dexter Ward gets on stage, it will be a very special moment.
Suggested Discography: The band’s debut Neon Lights from 2011 was received with much praise due to the traditionally rooted sound it presented. Rendezvous with Destiny which followed capitalized their success adding some melodic elements to their sound, but after having the privilege to listen to the band’s upcoming album III, we can definitely say that it will be the band’s magnum opus. Dexter Ward looked to their past and created an epic uspm album that will surely find its way to many of the album of the year lists by the end of 2020. Be sure to get your copy at the festival, as its official release will coincide with the band’s appearance at UTH.
Looking forward to: Dexter Ward will play in their “home court” which will surely add a sense of togetherness. Really looking forward to the presentation of the new album released by No remorse records.
Crypt Sermon (USA)
Who’s Who: If you like epic doom, there is no chance you have missed Crypt Sermon. But in the rare case that you have, the band from Philly play an amazing combination of Candlemass-like riffs, combined with Solitude Aeturnus’s aesthetics, with a unique, dusk, gloomy and epic atmosphere that makes them stand out from most of the newer bands. Definitely one of the bands that will keep us occupied in the future with their music.
Suggested Discography: Please allow me to express some personal opinions, not necessarily reflected by the entirety of RiG’s authors: The Ruins of Fading Light is one of the best albums released in the last couple of years. It’s not your average run-to-the mill epic doom album with a Sabbathic riff and Candlemass like attitude. Instead it’s a very complex grower that still pours tenebrous juices into my chalice, even though I am beyond three digits worth of listens. You might have listened to the album and said “it’s not for me” or” I don’t see what the fuss is all about”, but for your own sake, listen to the album again focusing on the complexity of the music and the countless ideas Crypt Sermon incorporated to the album. Also don’t hesitate to check Out of the Garden which is doomier and possibly darker than the sophomore album.
Looking forward to: Have the privilege of seeing one of the best bands live. Crypt Sermon have an amazing future ahead of them and it’s a great opportunity to see the band on their earlier stages. The Greek crowd loves them and it’s going to be a very special moment for the history of the festival as well.
Who’s Who: “Premier League” level NWOBHM band that sadly stayed in the dungeons of the underground for far too long. Formed in Suffolk, England in 1979, Trespass play melodic heavy metal that should be checked by fans of the Wave and those of proto-metal.
Suggested Discography: The One of These Days… 7” is one of the NWOBHM gems featuring two of the bands greatest songs. The Works compilation released 1992 gathers the band’s earlier songs but The Works II compilation of 2000 might be easier to snatch.
Looking forward to: “One of these Days” is a classic song and a staple of many best of NWOBHM collections you can find online. Listening to the song live is surely a thing to look forward to.
Slough Feg (USA)
Who’s Who: (The Lord Weird) Slough Feg is the band that held the US power metal banner high during the dark ages of the 90s. Their galloping riffs, pulp lyrics and the unique vocals of Mr Scalzi, established the band amongst the heroes of the traditional sound as well as one of the most influential groups to the NWOTHM movement.
Suggested Discography: Traveller is not only Slough Feg’s best albums, but one of the best albums of the stale ‘00. Closely followed by Down Among the Deadmen, Hardworlder, and Atavism it’s only fair to say that Slough Feg were here for us when other bands ceased to exist or changed their style. Their latest album New Organon is a return to their classic sound and a very good release overall.
Looking forward to: Slough Feg have a huge discography and they regularly change their setlist. One thing remains the same though and this is the bands desire to please their crowd deliver an amazing show.
Fifth Angel (USA)
Who’s Who: US power metal legends who entered the pantheon of classic metal with their two amazing album releases, their Self Titled album of 1986 and Time Will Tell of 1989. Barraging riffs with memorable vocal melodies and catchy sing along choruses are the keys to Fifth Angel’s success.
Suggested Discography: The band’s first two albums are must-haves for any fan of USPM. The band’s latest release The Third Secret of 2018 is one of the best comeback albums of an 80s band and stays true to the band’s style.
Looking forward to: “In the Fallout”, “Cry out the Fools”, and “Call Out the Warning” are going to be contenders of the “One More Song” tradition that Up the Hammers holds every year.
After Party (Mar. 15)
Location: Sinopis 27, Athens
How to get there: The Crow Club is 10 minutes walk from Ambelokipi Metro Station (line 3)
About the Club: Live club in Athens, with a capacity of approximately 400 people standing.
This year, the theme of the after show would be metal from the British Isles! One of the first NWOTHM bands, Strikelight, will take the stage who will play a full set plus a great selection of NWOBHM covers. Supported by the Iron Maiden cover band Eddie’s Mates and Remember Lizzy will perform a best of Thin Lizzy set. Afterwards, Greece’s best metal DJ Michael HMRM Nochos will will be at the decks of the club.
Official Up the Hammers After Parties
All the after parties will take place at Old Boy Metal Bar after the end of the main event shows. Michael HMRM Nochos will spin a selection of records specifically designed for the crowd of Up the Hammers.
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 the ones that are available through mobile apps.
Greece’s traditional street food is souvlaki (also called kalamaki), 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, 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).
Athens Metal Travel Guide
- 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)
- Rainbow Metal Club – Athens largest Metal club with a different program each night.
Location: Deleleon 40, Gazi – 3 minutes walk from Kerameikos Metro Station (line 3)
- 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 are going to be merchandise stands from multiple record stores and labels including; No Remorse records, Eat Metal Records, Sirens Records, Metal Era, Steel legacy, and Metal Fighter.
Check below for a list of the largest metal stores in Athens:
- No Remorse Records: The most 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: Record Store/ Label/Concert Organizer with an 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.
Disclaimer: The author of this article (Panos Anagnostopoulos), in addition to being an editor on this website, is an organizer for Up the Hammers.