After what seemed forever, the time had finally arrived. The Hydramobile was loaded with Red Bull and Beer (with hindsight, should have had some Whiskey and a little Gin too), and myself and my 2 Ladies left Deepest Hell just after 6am on the 29th April 2012, and set off towards Italy to attend the debut European concert by M-PIRE of EVIL.
Slowly the miles passed, down past the lake of Geneva, over The Alps via the Great St Bernard Tunnel then the descent down the mountains to Italy. Having witnessed the most crazy driving known to man when we were in Milan (for a VENOM concert, surprise!) in 2006, it was fair to say I was rather nervous about taking to the roads of Italy. Thankfully though, it seems the mad driving is mainly done in the cities, as we passed through the Italian countryside without any drama. About 6 hours after leaving home we pulled up at the hotel we were booked into. We were due to meet some rather special people at the hotel, but it turned out that we had arrived first. So we grabbed a quick shower and a bite to eat, and had a wee nap to ensure we were ready for the M-PIRE evening which lay ahead….
After receiving a few text messages, we knew that the M-PIRE of EVIL Dudes had arrived at the hotel. We walked out of our room, and peeking round the corner of the building we see our old friend and hero JEFF MANTAS, together with Mr. Tony Dolan, who you may know better as THE DEMOLITION MAN (an amazing 21 years had passed since I last met Tony, back at The VENOM concert at London’s Marquee in 1990), and new M-PIRE Drummer JAXN. Darkest greetings were exchanged, and it was hard to tell who was more excited about M-PIRE of EVIL hitting the stage later that evening, us or the band! Time passed quickly, so everyone retreated to their hotel rooms to prepare for what promised to be a very special evening indeed…..
So, time to travel the very short distance down to the Festival site. Quite a thrill to be driving the Hydramobile as part of the M-PIRE convoy, and parking up in the backstage area. Gear unloaded, and amongst all the welcoming the band were receiving, there was a very special moment for us to witness. The awesome team of guys behind the NIGHT OF THE VINYL DEAD were there to unveil to the band the vinyl pressings of the sensational HELL TO THE HOLY album. The look of sheer joy and delight on the faces of the M-PIRE guys as they set eyes on these vinyl for the first time was really, really awesome, and to be honest the guys were near speechless and totally blown away with how absolutely amazing the vinyl pressing looked – they were as excited as any fan could be! And for us, it was another of those fantastic We Were There… moments which will never be forgotten. The fantastic people who organised the festival then invited us all for a lovely pre-concert meal, and some beers and happy talking was shared between the band, us, and a lot of most excellent people who like us, have had VENOM in the blood for all of our musical lives, and were now about to witness the rise of the M-PIRE on a European stage….
Almost show time, so we depart the backstage area to grab a quick beer, and ensure we get a great front-row spot to witness the concert. Lights down, intro time…. Fuck yeah!!!
A VENOM Classic to get things underway, in the form of COUNTESS BATHORY. Played with total precision and mean as fuck, we knew this was gonna be one Hell of an evening!! The first verse of HELL TO THE HOLY followed in equally devastating brutality, until…… disaster – MANTAS’ Guitar cuts out, leaving the rest of the song as Vocals, Bass & Drums only. Actually, with the awesome power coming from the Guitar it was not really surprising that something had to give! Cue some frantic Road-crew work and everything is sorted, and all is well for the remainder of the evening. METAL MESSIAH is sandwiched by DIE HARD and LEAVE ME IN HELL, and all the new songs merged perfectly with the old VENOM classics, MANTAS sure ain’t lost none of his creativeness over the years!! HELLSPAWN, REPTILE and THE SNAKE PIT are quite simply irresistible, and like all the new songs, are delivered true to their original album release. Then we delve into BLACKENED ARE THE PRIESTS and CARNIVEROUS from the excellent Prime Evil VENOM album, fuckin’ cool!! ALL HAIL and WAKING UP DEAD lead to DEVIL, complete with terrific Slide Guitar work from MANTAS. CREATURES OF THE BLACK is fantastic of course, which leaves us with 2 rather special tracks to close of a fabulous concert, the classic tracks BLACK METAL and WITCHING HOUR – absolutely sen-fuckin’-sational!!!!!
The whole concert, both the M-PIRE of EVIL and the classic VENOM tracks, go down a real blast with The Hellspawn and The Legions!!
Some seriously needed beer is grabbed, while the band spend at least 90 minutes meeting the Hellspawn for photos, autographs and M-PIRE talk. Eventually, with all the gear packed up, the band (and us) say Thanx and Goodbye to the most excellent people who organised the event, plus the cool Freaks we met and shared Freaking space with during the evening. Hope to see all you cool folk real soon again!!
As I had downed a fair few beers, Mrs Hydra took care of driving duties the short distance back to the hotel. Sitting in the passenger seat is Mr Jeff MANTAS (the second Legend to occupy that seat in recent times, as Tom Gabriel Warrior had sat there a few weeks previous!), awesome beyond words!!! Everyone dives into their hotel rooms for quick showers, and a few minutes later there is a knock at our hotel room door. In walks Jeff, Tony and Marc, and they present us with a personally signed HELL TO THE HOLY Test Pressing, which just about left the 3 of us lost for words, it was an incredible, stunning and fuckin’ brilliant moment for us, and we have an item which we will forever treasure – Respect to you three M-PIRE Dudes!!!!!!!
Tony and Marc slowly retire for the evening, while Daniela, Jeff and myself crack open another few beers and spend another couple of hours talking of times past, present and future. Always amazing talking to The Great Man(tas), and hearing the true versions of things that had become legend, myth or downright lies in some cases throughout the years. As Jeff had a beer in one hand, things were balanced out with a pen in his other hand, signing lots of VENOM and M-PIRE of EVIL stuff which we had brought down with us, and posters which we picked up at the Festival site, etc. Eventually, the poor guy got through all the stuff, and retired to his room for a most well deserved sleep!
Morning comes around (!), and after some breakfast, we spend another 90 minutes or so talking to the guys and taking even more photos, etc. It was such a privilege for us to be able to share the experiences of this fantastic M-PIRE event, and all 3 of us just want to thank Jeff, Tony and Marc for such a mindblowing time down in Italy. Eternal & infernal respect to you guys forever!!!!
Into the Hydramobile, pulling away from the hotel while exchanging waves and devil signs with the M-PIRE of EVIL guys. Blasted off up the Italian motorways, over The Alps back into Switzerland and back home at around 6pm, totally drained but happy as could be. A never-to-be-forgotten time!!!!