Keep it True is a German metal festival focused on the traditional side of things. Started in 2003, they have been keeping the flame alive for over 15 years now and during one of the lowest points in the genre. Over the years, Keep it True has grown to become the leading festival in the world for traditional heavy metal. The festival has been directly responsible for reuniting legions of older bands as well as highlighting and kickstarting the career for many of the new generation. This year’s Keep it True is no different in this regards and may be the very best iteration of the festival yet. The line up for Keep it True 2019 features highlights such as: a reunion of French legends Sortilège, Japanese band Anthem’s first European show, a tribute to the legendary Mark Shelton, and a big show by the originators of epic doom metal themselves, Candlemass.
NOTE: This article is published by Marco, but this guide was a group effort with help from Panos, Eduardo, Rhandgar, and Crucervix.
A Conversation with the Festival Organizer
Oliver Weinsheimer is the festival’s organizer and is single handedly responsible for pulling together the lineup each year. Oli sat down for a conversation with Anderson, our good friend over at the NWOTHM Full YouTube page, to discuss this year’s Keep it True festival as well as the history of Keep it True. You can listen to the podcast here:
Keep it True is a festival located in Germany. It’s held in the town of Lauda-Königshofen, which itself is a couple of hours outside of Frankfurt. The festival is performed each year at the Tauberfrankenhalle venue which can be found at the following address:
Keep it True Pre-party – April 25
For the last ten years, Keep it True has held an official warm-up party the night before the festival. This is a great way to meet other festival goers ahead of the official event.You can find more details about the official Keep it True pre-party at this page!
The pre-party is located at this address:
Dittigheim Halle, Kastanienalle 1,
(Note this section was an addendum added on April 17th, 2019)
Keep it True Day 1 – April 26
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!
Who’s Who: Canada has a burgeoning traditional metal scene and Traveler are living proof of that. They burst onto the scene with their 2018 demo that captivated the metal underground by delivering 3 high quality, up-tempo tunes. Riding the momentum of their demo, they followed it up with their self-titled debut album which release just a couple months ago. It’s been catching on like wildfire and with good reason – it’s an early contender for 2019 album of the year. Traveler is the brainchild of Matt Ries (Hrom, Gatekrashör), but he’s rounded out the band with an all star lineup, featuring Jean-Pierre Abboud (Gatekeeper, EX: Borrowed Time) on vocals, making this his 3rd appearance at Keep it True! Joining this duo are Dave Arnold (ex: Striker), Chad Vallier (Riot City), and Toryin Schadlich (Hazzerd).
Suggested discography: The band’s self-titled debut album released on Gates of Hell Records just 2 months ago so give that a listen! You can see our review of that album here, and our interview with founding member Matt Ries here.
Looking forward to: STAAAAAAAARBREAKER. Traveler have no shortage of kickass riffs and catchy choruses – simply put their energetic music was made for the stage so this is bound to be a fun set.
Who’s Who: Texan speed thrashers with many progressive aspects in their music, that feature an ensemble of talented and skilled musicians. After a series of demos in the mid 80s, Juggernaut released 2 albums in ‘86 and ‘86 in a similar fashion to bands like Watchtower and Blind Illusion. Band’s virtuoso bassist Scott Womack, will also appear with Texas Metal Legion in the festival.
Suggested Discography: Baptism under Fire is rawer, while successor album Trouble Within is more technical and proggy. No reason to choose one though, since Metal Blade released a double compilation album which features both albums.
Looking forward tο: A zestful live experience in the bands first ever show in europe, channeled through tracks like “Impaler” and “Slow Death”
Who’s Who: Cities are primarily known for being a side project of Twisted Sister drummer A.J. Pero, but this New York based band is much more than just that. Cities’ brand of balls-to-the-wall, aggressive, and thrashy US power metal immediately brings to mind peers like Jag Panzer and Vicious Rumors. With ripping riffs and powerful vocals, do you really need anything else?
Suggested discography: Cities recorded both an EP and full length album with the name Annihilation Absolute. Check out the album for a full collection of songs, but listen to the EP for a tighter recording.
Looking forward to: seeing bangers like “Still of the Night” and “Burn Forever” on the stage
Who’s Who: Anthem are one of the most influential and well-known heavy metal acts out of Japan. Having formed in the early 80s, they have consistently delivered album after album of fist-pumping heavy metal. Fun straightforward riffs, delicious melodies, and layered vocals that you could sing along to (well atleast the English parts), what more can you ask for? Anyone that’s even a tiny bit interested in Japanese metal is probably obsessed with this band by now. Also, this will be Anthem’s first show in Europe, and is sure to be a monumental occasion, for the band and the fans who’ve waited so long to see them.
Suggested discography: The 80s material is the strongest, but Anthem have been as consistent as you could be with 18 albums under your belt. The self-titled debut, Bound to Break and Gypsy Ways are essential Japanese metal albums, and are highly recommended. You can view our guide to Japanese heavy metal in the 80s for a better look into Anthem and other similar bands!
Looking forward to: The crowd joining in for the incredibly catchy English parts, especially the choruses of “Gypsy Ways (Win, Lose or Draw)” and “Wild Anthem”.
Who’s Who: Agent Steel are one of the first bands that immediately pop into mind when thinking of speed metal. Playing a blistering fast iteration of US power metal, Agent Steel are the certified “masters of metal”. Unrelenting riffs, powerful melodies, and piercing vocals – Agent Steel are truly speed metal incarnate. Led by front man and founding member John Cyriis, they will be playing a classics era set so expect nothing but the best.
Suggested discography: Agent Steel’s first 3 major releases; Skeptics Apocalypse, Mad Locust Rising EP, and Unstoppable Force are all must listens for fans of speed metal. Given this is a classics set, expect songs to primarily come from these 3 releases!
Looking forward to: MASTERS OF METAL! AGENTS OF STEEL! It’s one of metal’s most memorable choruses and it will be amazing to see it live! Hearing the Agent Steel classics played live will certainly be a treat.
Who’s Who: During the soviet years, the iron curtain made the USSR very reluctant to Western influence. But heavy metal knows no boundaries, and during the mid 80s different underground bands emerged and only a few of them, such as Aria or Kruiz, gained huge commercial success, selling millions of records and playing in huge arenas across the Russian lands. Skilled musicians, brilliant songwriting, impressive live shows and a vast discography make Aria the most important Russian heavy metal band.
Suggested discography: Герой Асфальта (Hero of Asphalt) is probably their most popular album, with many of their best songs. You can also go for their debut album Мания Величия (Megalomania) for a more stripped-down sound, or Игра с огнём (Play with Fire) for a classy album influenced by Seventh Son of a Seventh Son era Iron Maiden.
Looking forward to: Even if people may tend to think about Aria as another underground exotic band, get ready to see a 100% professional band on stage, top-tier in their own game who have been touring non-stop for over 30 years.
Mark Shelton Tribute
Who’s Who: Mark Shelton, primarily known for his work with Manilla Road, is a true hero of underground heavy metal. He founded Manilla Road in 1977 and put out kick-ass music for well over 40 years before his tragic death in 2018. Across his 40+ years of writing music, he released 18 studio albums with Manilla Road alone and several more across projects like Hellwell, Riddlemaster, Shelton/Chastain, and a solo endeavor. There is only one word needed to describe Mark’s music – epic. Mark’s brand of epic heavy metal is unforgettable and incredibly influential, with legions of bands (many of which are playing this festival) drawing heavy influence from Manilla Road.
It wasn’t just the music that made Mark great, anyone who has ever met him will tell you that he was one of the friendliest, most down to earth musicians in the scene. Keep it True is honoring his mighty legacy with a special tribute show. It will feature the members of Manilla Road (Bryan “Hellroadie” Patrick on vocals, Andreas “Neudi” Neuderth on drums, and Phil Ross on bass) playing with various friends and musicians influenced by Manilla Road, as well as former members Randy “Thrasher” Foxe and Rick Fisher. The full list of musicians participating can be seen below:
Kostas Tzortzis- (BattleroaR)
Watch – (Masters of Disguise)
Gianluca Silvi- (Battle Ram, DoomSword)
Tann Ironsword – (Ironsword)
Phil Ell Ross (Manilla Road)
Jarvis Leatherby (Night Demon)
Leif Edling (Candlemass)
Rick Fisher (Manilla Road)
Randy Foxe (Manilla Road)
Andreas Neudi Neuderth (Manilla Road)
Bryan Patrick (Manilla Road)
Marta Gabriel (Crystal Viper)
Jake Rogers – (Visigoth)
Alexx Stahl- (Roxxcalibur, Bonfire)
Suggested discography: We here at Ride Into Glory put together a long tribute post and guide to the Manilla Road discography – check this post out to get a better understanding of Manilla Road’s extensive catalog. Manilla Road don’t have a single bad album so take your time going through them, but start with the seminal Crystal Logic and absolutely make sure to work your way through classics like Open the Gates, The Deluge, and Mystification.
Looking forward to: The tribute to Mark will be an emotional one – there is no doubt about that. We’re looking forward to seeing so many of his friends from all over the world come together to pay their tributes with a classic Manilla Road set. This show will be livestreamed, a first in Keep it True history, so be sure to tune in if you are not at the fest!
Keep it True Day 2 – April 27
Who’s Who: Idle Hands is a gloomy, dark, and atmospheric band. These are probably not the first descriptions you would expect to see for a heavy metal band playing at Keep it True. While the heavy metal they play might not be pure and old school, what’s for sure is their penchant for catchy, melodic riffs and vocal lines. After their previous heavy metal adventures in other bands, with their 2018 EP, people in Idle Hands set the direction to a mix of traditional heavy metal and goth rock / post-punk in a similar manner to In Solitude with their last album, Sister. Idle Hands have a new album coming this year which emphasises the goth / post-punk in their sound even further than the EP, the new full-length is going to be loved by fans of The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, Fields of Nephilim, etc.
Suggested discography: If you’re interested in the mix of heavy metal and gothic rock / post-punk; their 2018 EP, Don’t Waste Your Time, is not really aptly named for you and it definitely will not waste your time. If you like what you’re hearing, 2019 full-length, Mana, should be on your radar. It’s going even further on the gloomy path opened by the previous EP while still having some very high-tempo heavy metal sections.
Looking forward to: Their sound and approach to heavy metal will definitely be different than the rest of the line-up. So it’s going to be interesting to see the change of atmosphere at the festival with their catchy and melodic mix of sounds.
Who’s Who: Hailing from the paradise of Hawaii, Sacred Rite are one of US power metal’s best kept secrets. The first thing you’ll notice about Sacred Rite, other than their superb songwriting, is the massive amount of bass they use. They’re not afraid of putting the instrument out in front and letting it drive the music. Their riffs and leads are varied and the choruses are catchy, Sacred Rite really know how to hook you. The Iron Maiden and Judas Priest influences are pretty clear, but Sacred Rite really have their own, powerful sound.
Suggested discography: The band’s first three albums are all must listens. Start with the self titled debut and work through them in order, listening to The Ritual followed by Is Nothing Sacred.
Looking forward to: seeing this classic band bring their music back to life on stage.
Who’s Who: Formed in 2013 by guitarist Jake Dreyer (Iced Earth, ex White Wizzard) and Joseph Michael (Sanctuary, ex White Wizzard), Witherfall play progressive metal with lots of power, neoclassical and shredding metal elements. Highly technical and innovative, the dark and often melancholic style of the Californians will appeal to the fans of Nevermore, Communic and Symphony X.
Suggested Discography: Witherfall released Nocturnes and Requiems in 2017 and A Prelude to Sorrow the subsequent year, both solid releases if you are a fan of modern sounding progressive power metal. Last month’s EP, Vintage has acoustic reiterations of previously released songs, along with some covers like Helloween’s “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” and “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. Witherfall will be playing this EP in its entirety so make sure to listen to this!
Looking forward tο: See what setlist Witherfall will choose to fit Keep it True’s Crowd along with the band’s fans.
Who’s Who: Solstice are underground survivors. Their leader Rich Walker, forged in the British hardcore and grindcore scene of the 80s, decided to start a pure epic heavy metal / doom band in the early 90s, when the style wasn’t exactly popular, and made a brilliant career fighting against incomprehension and passing trends. After twenty years without a proper full-length release, their third album White Horse Hill was released in 2018, with the strongest and most stable lineup they have had in decades.
Suggested discography: Their first two albums, Lamentations and New Dark Age, are classic epic metal masterpieces, but keep in mind they will be eager to promote their new songs, so be sure to check out White Horse Hill as well!
Looking forward to: The classy riffing of Rich Walker, with his sober but strong presence on stage. And get ready for an emotional maelstrom within the crowd as soon as they revisit their 1998 masterpiece New Dark Age.
Texas Metal Legion
Who’s Who: Texas Metal Legion is a special metal supergroup put together for Keep it True! As you’d expect from the name, this band is comprised of various members of Texas’s 80s metal scene including musicians such as Jason McMaster (ex-Watchtower), Bob Catlin (ex-S.A. Slayer), Art Villareal (ex- S.A. Slayer), Scott Womack (Juggernaut) and Chip Alexander (Militia, Karion). Texas had a legendary underground scene in the 80s packed to the brim with aggressive, cult legends. Expect to hear your favorites from among these bands – it’s bound to be a very fun show with plenty of variety!
Suggested discography: There are a lot of different releases here to check out but make sure to listen to Militia’s – Regiments of Death and The Sybling, S.A. Slayer’s Prepare to Die EP and Go for the Throat, and Watchtower’s Energetic Disassembly and Control and Resistance albums.
Looking forward to: seeing these oldschool musicians come together to bring us a wide variety of songs and a true taste of Texas steel!
Who’s Who: Midnight is Athenar’s aggressive and energetic brain child that will break everything in your house, set your hair on fire, and do even more perversed things when noone is looking – or perhaps especially when others are looking. Following the path opened by Venom in the 80s, Midnight plays dirty and punky black/speed metal. They’ve got almost as many catchy riffs as the rare NWOBHM records Athenar has in his personal collection.
Suggested discography: You can’t go wrong with anything Midnight released but if you want to go directly to the best, Satanic Royalty is where you go. If you want to hear him play some black/heavy metal in addition to the dirty black/speed, Sweet Death and Ecstasy has a great opener and closer waiting for you.
Looking forward to: Madness. Midnight live shows are famous for all hell breaking loose on stage. Depending on your taste, you can look forward to the band with their hooded masks setting guitars on fire or getting accidentally kicked by Athenar himself while singing along to the catchy choruses on the front row.
Who’s Who: Culprit is a classic metal band from Seattle, who released their only album titled Guilty as Charged! In 1983. Their sound can be described like a NWOBHM version of early Riot, with equally aggressive and melodic aspects. The only original member who still performs with the band in this incarnation, is bassist Scott Earl who, surrounded by new members hits KIT’s stage.
Suggested Discography: Apart from the Guilty as Charged full album, the bands has released the Innocent ‘Til Proven Guilty compilation with demo and rehearsal recordings, along with live tracks.
Looking forward tο: Fan favorite “Guilty As Charged” is among the classics that we are looking forward to listen to at the festival.
Who’s Who: Vicious Rumors are one of the leading bands of the classic US Power Metal scene. On this very special tour, they pay homage to their masterpiece Digital Dictator, that turned 30 last year. One of our writers was able to see them on one of the earlier dates of the tour, and they do this great album justice by playing it in its entirety with an excellent performance. Geoff Thorpe (founding member and mastermind, guitars) and Larry Howe (drums) have been in Vicious Rumors since the very first album, and you can feel how much they love and enjoy being on stage in front of their fans playing these songs that have been so important in their career. The classic Vicious Rumors singer, Carl Albert, sadly passed away in 1995, and on this show there will be an exclusive appearance of his son Keven on vocals, in what will be one of the most emotional moments of this edition of Keep It True.
Suggested discography: Most of the set will be based on Digital Dictator, so be sure to play those classic songs out loud!
Looking forward to: The savage energy of Larry, a neat performance by the great Geoff Thorpe and a very special set!
Who’s Who: If we ever do a feature on the best comeback albums of all-time, there is no way Satan will not be on the top. Unlike many other bands in the NWOBHM movement who would release modern albums that only left the listener with the desire for the original material, Satan managed to release one of the best heavy metal albums post-2000, 30 years after their debut. They’re still here, releasing almost as good albums to prove that it was not a one time thing and they are simultaneously one of the best heavy metal bands of 80s and 2010s.
Suggested discography: One must listen to Court in the Act and Life Sentence both, not only to have a general idea of their sound but also to grasp the fact that they managed to release equally excellent albums with 30 years in between. After them, do not sleep on the other 80s material (second full-length and the EP) as well as the other modern material (two full-lengths), either.
Looking forward to: Hearing songs from 80s intertwined with their modern material to see, once again, how it all flows ever so smoothly.
Who’s Who: Sortilège are the cult heroes of French heavy metal. Their high energy, uplifting take on classic heavy metal has made them a mainstay for many and a leader in their local scene. Sortilège’s self titled EP, released in 1983, is quite simply one of the very best metal releases of all time and their full length albums aren’t far behind at all. While vocalist Zouille made an appearance at Keep it True ten years ago, this will be the first time a proper line-up plays in decades. This is a monumental and historical occasion that will certainly make Keep it True 2019 one to remember!
Suggested discography: Sortilège’s entire discography is worth a listen. Start with their self-titled EP to really hear some classy, high-quality heavy metal. Their debut album, Métamorphose, continued in the direction of the EP while the sophomore album, Larmes de Héros, has a bit more of a progressive edge to it. The band recorded English versions of their releases, but make sure to listen to the French ones for a better, more natural experience.
Looking forward to: SOR-TEEEEEE-LEEEEEEEEEGE! This band’s choruses are legendary and infectious, it’s guaranteed to make you sing along in broken French.
Who’s Who: 2010 was one of the most difficult years in Keep It True’s history.The unexpected volcanic eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland lead to the cancellation of hundreds of flights across Europe, including many of the bands that were supposed to play at the fest. One of the most unique concerts of this edition was Candlemass playing their debut album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in its entirety, with original singer Johan Längquist in a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fast forward to 2018, Candlemass announces that Johan Längquist is officially returning to the band after more than 30 years, and justice will be done with their appearance at Keep It True nine years after the unfortunate cancellation. Promoting their new album, The Door To Doom, Candlemass is currently touring hard and giving their fans the chance to listen to some of their classic songs with the original voice that made them immortal. Let there be doom.
Suggested discography: Candlemass has a vast discography full of classic albums, but for this line-up the suggestion should be quite obvious. Play Epicus Doomicus Metallicus loud and remember why it was such a game changer.
Looking forward to: “I’m sitting here alone in darkness, waiting to be free, lonely and forlorn I’m crying. I long for my time to come, death means just life, please let me die in…”
Keep it True is located in the town of Lauda-Königshofen, which is a roughly 1.5 hour drive from Frankfurt. The easiest way to reach the festival is via the A3 -> A81 motorways. There is an exit just for this area (also labeled Lauda.Königshofen) and you just go straight on that road till you reach the venue.
Keep it True is hosting after parties, both on Friday and Saturday night, following the last band at KIT. This will be held at Kellerbar Königshofen, which is just a short walk from the venue for the main shows. The parties will be DJ’d by Louise Aisling from Born Again – Heavy Metal Soundhouse with some special guests! The admission to these after parties is free, so make sure to check them out!
The merch tent at Keep it True is legendary. Featuring a wide arrangement of some of the best vendors in traditional metal, it’s a must visit for the physical media or tshirt enthusiast. You can find some of the biggest vendors listed below:
- Cruz Del Sur Records – CDS is sponsoring this year’s Keep it True Festival and with their ace roster it’s easy to see why this is a great partnership. You’ll be able to find some of this year’s favorites like Traveler, Smoulder, Gatekeeper, Chevalier, and more here!
- No Remorse Records – No Remorse are one of Greece’s finest labels. With a catalog that includes many of the best new bands like Eternal Champion and classic reissues of bands like Heavy Load and Emerald, this will certainly be one of the busier stalls.
- Battle Cry Records – Named after Omen’s legendary debut album, Battle Cry Records is a CD label primarily focused on the underground.
- Underground Power – As the name would suggest, Underground Power is another label focused on the metal underground. Recent releases from them include bands like Satan’s Hallow, Metalian, Blazon Stone, etc.
- Pure Steel Records – Pure Steel is a label focused on old school power metal and traditional metal. Pure Steel has several sub-labels as well such as Pure Legend, Pure Prog, Pure Rock, etc. You can find releases from bands like Shelton/Chastain, Ruthless, Picture, Crom, and many, many more.
- and more!