As the summer is coming to an end, I thought I would share my impressions of this year’s first Rock Off festival, which was held in Istanbul, Turkey! This festival was quite important for a ‘regular’ Turkish metalhead since the festival had some quite promising names like MEGADETH, AMON AMARTH, TURISAS, GOJIRA and… HIM! Apart from the foreign bands, the line-up also included Turkish acts such as MURAT ILKAN, MURDER KING and much more!
Day 1 :
Since I was there as a visitor and not as a journalist, I decided to skip acts (and tour Istanbul a little bit) so the first band I could see was the German act HAGGARD. Known for their symphonic melodies and the ‘crowded’ appearance on stage, the band had generally a good energy. It was also a good start to the festival for me; I always have a thing for violin + the mixture of the female and male vocals and Haggard did indeed satisfy the audience. The band has played in Turkey for more than 3 times so they were quite relaxed on stage! The sound system this time was also (surprisingly) good so it was possible to hear almost every element – from the violin to the harsh male vocals- in the band’s music. The highlight of the show was surely “Herr Mannelig” which is the band’s classic!
After some symphonic metal, power metal madness was awaiting the metalheads. The excitement arose as STRATOVARIUS started the show. It was such a great feeling seeing this legendary band on stage; I am not a huge fan of the power metal scene but Stratovarius is definitely one of those bands that every metalhead can enjoy. The band started the setlist with “Speed Light” so it was clear that the setlist was gonna be colorful and it was indeed so! The band continued the show with songs like “Eagleheart”, “Deep Unknown”, “Legions” and “The Kiss of Judas”. However, my favorite of the whole show was definitely “Hunting High and Low”.This song had a great energy within the audience and it was surely the highlight of the performance. As the band closed the set with “Black Diamond”, they finished the show with smiles on their faces. 😀
Soon after Stratovarius finished the show, the warm (and extremely humid) weather had a sudden change and we faced with a quite aggressive rain shower.. When I say rain shower, it was a shower indeed. The shower did not intend to stop and this put a question mark in everyone’s face.. Was the next band , HIM, gonna perform at all?! This was an anxious moment for all the HIM fans. We later learned that the stage was flooded as well so this got us even worried a lot more.
After a delay of about 1 hour and after the rain eventually stopped, the Finnish love metallers were finally able to perform. As a person who has seen this band a few times in different countries, I was quite interested how this would turn out; HIM’s performances were either extremely awful or amazing so what was it gonna be this time? As the band started the set with “Buried Alive By Love”, I knew this show was gonna be fucking amazing. It was quite surprising to see the headliners had a happy mood overall; it was not just about Ville Valo but everyone was rocking on stage! The band had a great setlist overall; some songs like “Join Me In Death” , “Kiss of Dawn”, “Your Sweet 666” were some of the classics that the band played.
Despite an amazing performance, the band could only play for 40 minutes (normally, the band was going to play a 105 minute show) and they had to finish the show with “Wicked Game”. This was such a disappointment for the hardcore HIM fans. Surely this was the organisation’s fault ; apparently, the stage was flooded so much – including the PA system- that it was risky for the band to play on stage.. Well, such a shame! I hope the organisation learned its lesson and will not repeat a mistake like this again.. Nevertheless, it was an amazing feeling to see these guys in Turkey after 10 years. Who knows? Maybe next show will be organised more professionally!
Day 2 :
A sunny second day was awaiting the ‘fierce’ metalheads. Why ‘fierce’? Because it was the day of fucking viking metal!
Today for me started with the Turisas signing session. It was especially surprising to see those kinds of sessions in a Turkish festival but this time it was clear that everybody was quite excited for the signing session. I also gotta mention that the queue was quite long; Turisas surely had lots of fans in Turkey but I also kinda saw that the previous signing session of Amon Amarth was taking longer than usual and each fan, who got an autograph from the band left with a smile on his/her face! 😀
Meanwhile, the legendary MURAT ILKAN was already on stage. From what I have heard, the former Mezarkabul vocalist was diagnosed with MS, which was quite sad to hear. However, as a person who saw him on the stage for the first time, I was impressed to the core. Surely, we are talking about a very talented and professional vocalist but this time, it seemed like he did beat MS (in a way) and he was definitely back on track. As for the crowd, the warm humid sunny afternoon did not matter to them and Mr. Ilkan was definitely appreciated.
Aaaand the moment (most of) the fans had been waiting for.. TURISAS in Turkey for the first time! 😀 My first impressions of the show were undescribable of course.. The band started the show with a little intro and then one of the classics ; “To Holmgard and Beyond”. This was a perfect start to the show as it gave just the right amount energy and motivation to keep the crowd going. That was not the only classic they played though ; “One More” and “Battle Metal” were also some of the amazing songs in the setlist. For the fans of the new stuff, the songs “ We Ride Together” and “No Good Story Ever Starts With Drinking Tea” were played with joy. The mainman Mathias Nygard was quite obvious though; throughout the show, he greeted the crowd three times saying ‘We are Turisas from Finland.. How are you?’ 😀 But I could see why they were so excited and I am sure any Turisas fan will know as well. The city of Istanbul (or Constantinopolis back then) is significant for the band. For that matter, they finished the show with “Miklagard Overture”.
Overall, this was an amazing Turisas show filled with excitement and lots of little circle-pits 😀 It was definitely different, watching this band in Istanbul… Well, they need to be back so soon! Istanbul will surely miss them!
It was time for some heavy/power metal… The Norwegian mastermind JORN on stage.. I remember reviewing one of his albums many months ago and his voice definitely captivated me at the first listen. I was tired as hell after the Turisas gig so I decided to chill with friends at the back and listen to him from a bit far away.
When we are talking about a performer like Jorn, who has worked with many bands like Masterplan, Ark, Beyond Twilight and The Snakes, the professionalism and perfectionalism were surely there. He definitely is one of those artists who always performs awesome shows live. Let’s not forget the most important element about him : the vocals of course! Some of my friends even said “Well.. This guy sounds like Dio!” and it was indeed so. For metalheads who were craving those old days, Jorn was the answer. However, the other half (who was waiting for the headliners, Amon Amarth) were really bored and just wanted it to be over.. Well.. Personally, it was soothing for me to listen to Jorn but I wish the audience could have been a bit more motivating and enthusiastic.
AMON AMARTH at last! I especially moved to a bit front to see the guys live for the first time.. (yes, for the fucking first time after all these years :D). What can I say? After the little intro, it was time for some mindblowing viking metal. The Swedish vikings started the set with “Father of the Wolf” and I could already hear that almost everybody was singing (or growling) along and headbanging.. It was a crazy atmosphere there! 😀
The band had a great setlist for the fans in general; some of my favorites were the intro song “Father of the Wolf”, “Deceiver of the Gods”, which can also be regarded as one of the audience’s favorite songs, “Cry of the Black Birds” and of course “Guardians of Asgaard”. However, the higlight of the setlist happened before the last song “The Pursuit of Vikings”; the mainman/vocalist Johan Hegg held a huge Mjölnir high and then the band finished their amazing performance with the last song.
I guess there is nothing to say more; Amon Amarth definitely killed it. I can definitely say that they were my favorites of the festival. They were the great headliner and their show was filled with the whole viking spirit and I guess this was just what everyone needed!
Going to the festival at the last day was a bit of a last-minute decision for me. However, after wandering around the city, I decided to head to the venue to see the last two bands, GOJIRA and the headliners MEGADETH.
The French death/groove metallers GOJIRA were already playing when I entered the venue! I remember listening to this band long ago; the band was not my style back then. But I have to say that their live show this time did manage to convince me. I really like the overall dark atmosphere that the band created, not to mention their technical sound. It was Gojira’s first time in Turkey and they were also surprised to see so many Gojira fans in the venue!
As the festival’s last band, the headliners MEGADETH were next. I was a bit skeptic about this performance since I know for a fact that mainman Dave Mustaine’s vocals are not always the best recently. However, this performance was better than I have expected and the setlist included (almost) everything that a Megadeth fan needed ; “Symphony of Destruction”, “Hangar 18”, “Tornado of Souls”…. You name the others 😀 As a matter of fact, I was quite surprised that the band did not play so many songs from their recent albums.. I guess they also knew that the fans wanted to hear the classics more than the ‘new’ and ‘totally different’ Megadeth stuff.
The higlight of the show was definitely the huge screen on stage. During every song, there were images, videos related to the song performed and since some of the Megadeth songs are political, the fans were able to see lots of images of politicians and political situations. This was surely quite meaningful; especially in a country like Turkey.
All in all, I can say that, Rock Off Festival was a great start when it comes to metal festivals in Turkey. Surely, there were some (huge) mistakes that the organisation made and need to avoid at next year’s festival (yes, it’s happening indeed!). Apart from those mistakes, everyone seemed to have a great time and both the bands and the audience were satisfied. We just gotta hope that Freebird Agency – the organization- is a bit more careful regarding weather conditions 😉