Like other Italian festivals, Rock the Castle reopens after two years of forced inactivity. The review, the first edition of which dates back to 2018, quickly garnered praise and praise from both specialist critics and Italian rockers. Finally, in 2022 it reopens its doors to the fascinating location of Scaligero Castle, which will host three (originally four) very intense days of heavy metal music, performed by some of the greatest representatives of the genre. After all, Rock the Castle has undoubtedly become the new benchmark, in terms of the festival, for all Italian metalheads. Suffice it to say that in the last two editions, the event has seen heavy metal performances, such as Megadeth (also present this year), Testament, Carcass and Slayer.
The three days of the festival, spread between June 24 and 26, promise so many unmissable shows, even a little to leave behind the nightmare pandemic (which nevertheless still persists). Watching the first day of the festival, we saw the return to an Italian stage of absolutely legendary bands. But let’s get in order.
Fortunately, the opening day has a warm but not torrid climate, thus ensuring a large participation of people from the early afternoon. In addition, Rock the Castle has once again stood out this year for the free water, distributed by special taps. This avoids the formation of queues of people, which are usually created throughout the kiosks of any festival and also ensures the absence of plastics.
Turning to music, the first artists to perform are the Italians Sadist, authors of half an hour of absolute substance and the Swedish Great Magician who, after some initial technical problems, propose a valid show with its rocky heavy metal and epic. After these first snacks, Rock the Castle reaches the heart of the day with the concert of another Italian band, the most important on our peninsula: the Death SS. The legendary lineup led by Steve Sylvester, with a newly revolutionized lineup, appears on the Rock the Castle stage accompanied by a sky that suddenly becomes cloudy. A curious coincidence that, in any case, makes our show more fascinating and characteristic. Fifty minutes of set is enough for Death SS to be thanked to the ever-growing audience by performing songs taken from the first three historical albums (except one). To top it off, a bit of pseudo-eroticism played by two girl performers who have long been a staple of the band’s shows.
After Death SS, much appreciated by the public, the level of “evil” is about to rise again: it depends on Venom, the legendary English band that practically sowed the seeds of all the extreme metal developed from the second half of the 80s. . If with the previous band the audience remained rather “quiet”, with Venom, led by the irreducible “Cronos”, the audience goes wild in a hellish pogo. Rock the Castle suddenly becomes a battlefield under the tune of historical anthems like “Black Metal” or “Witching Hour”. The English band appears on the ball, definitely above expectations. The sounds are also confirmed as good, especially now, as the festival poster sees the entry of bands playing music faster. The group leader appears visibly pleased as the brutal notes of his band overwhelm the crowd. A sign that even in Italy, after all, metal is followed and respected by many “faithful.” After an hour of performance, Venom thanks, leaving the audience happy and confirming a real surprise. An excellent commitment for the festival, we needed.
Another overall change, depends on Blind Guardian, the last group before the headliners. It must be said that perhaps the bards of Krefeld are a little alien to the full bill, for an image absolutely not “evil” and for much more melodic sounds, but always powerful and fast. But other than that, the Germans are touring for the thirtieth anniversary of their masterpiece “Somewhere Far Beyond,” which they will re-propose entirely to Rock the Castle, along with a handful of other songs from their beautiful discography. At 7.45 pm, the group took to the stage, greeted by an incredible ovation from the audience. The band appears in very good shape and the singer, Hansi Kursch, congratulates him on the location, according to him one of the most beautiful where he has ever performed. The Teutonic concert continues with streams of notes, solos, gallops and epic choruses. Needless to say, sometimes between songs, Kursch gets a little chatty, but everything is constantly rewarded with a flawless rendition of the pieces, perhaps even a little mannerist. The participation of the public is constant during the approximately seventy minutes of the concert, between those who can and those who attend enthusiastically. After the execution of the historic “Valhalla”, the Blind Guardian closed with a bow, receiving well-deserved applause.
At this point, it’s time for the last concert of the day. And it’s certainly not just any concert. Yes, because for those who follow metal, Mercyful Fate is a real cult. The Danish band reunited in 2019, looking forward to resuming business between live and a new studio album. Since 1999 the group has not performed on stage, since the historic Gods of Metal in Milan. After all, 99 was also the year the band ceased its activity, except for a few sporadic appearances about ten years later. Now, however, the Danes, always led by King Diamond, one of the most eclectic and characteristic singers in all of heavy metal, are back in full swing. In front of the stage stands a black canvas, with the name of the band written, waiting for the appearance of the legendary Copenhagen band. Scaligero Castle is already full. Not out of stock, but in any case the location takes a very pleasant look. On the other hand, the Mercyful Fate, as it is written, are a group revered by almost all metalheads for their unique sounds that have always distinguished them. Therefore, it was reasonable to expect significant participation from people. Around 10 pm, the canvas falls and the five musicians appear on stage, greeted with an incredible roar from the crowd. Rock the Castle hosts an event that will remain in the annals, perhaps the most important metal concert in recent years on Italian soil. Obviously, King Diamond is the star of the evening: 66 years old and a voice that seems to have remained identical 40 years ago. His falsetto tone has always been one of the most iconic of the entire rock scene, and listening to it live makes you understand how brilliant this singer is. The rest of the line-up is a perfectly oiled note-correcting machine, including the historic guitarist Hank Shermann, who juggles fast, fluid riffs and long, technical and melodic solos. The setlist obviously includes ten songs taken from the group’s 80s work, those albums that have passed the Copenhagen lineup into legend. In addition, there is also an unreleased, as yet unreleased album, entitled “The Jackal of Salzburg”, a nine-minute piece that offers the public a taste of what Mercyful Fate has reserved for the imminent future. The approximately seventy-five minutes of concert pass in the best way; maybe sometimes the sounds appear, excessively loud, but the ability of the band is so great that it covers some challenge to the volumes. At the end of the show, Mercyful Fate very humbly thanks the audience by applauding them and throwing bites and other memories at them before leaving. Probably they were also aware of having given a dream to many metalheads, that is, a live performance of them, also in Italy, who often get angry when it comes to approaching the bands a little more than niche. The main thanks, in any case, goes to Rock the Castle and Vertigo, who managed to make a real masterpiece in the organization of a first day of the festival of this caliber. Lovers of this music will remember for a long time this day, not a metal concert like many others, but something else.