Photo Credit: Jasmin Polanec


The time is the middle of July, and the location is a liquor distillery in Czechia – that can mean only one thing: it’s time for Masters of Rock again! It’s been a whopping twenty years since promoter Pragokoncert’s flagship summer festival in Vizovice took place for the first time. While a “true” 20th anniversary could not be celebrated yet due to the festival being cancelled twice during the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2023 edition nonetheless once again featured a slew of fine bands and attractions for fans of all metal sub-genres – even if fans of the more extreme styles of metal might not be the main target audience of Masters of Rock. Nevertheless, we once again had an excellent time at the festival, and we want to share our experiences with you in the following paragraphs.


THURSDAY, 13th July 2023

We arrived at the festival area just in time for the start of US/Brazilian Power Metal band Northtale, the brainchild of I Am Morbid/Doro/U.D.O./T.S.O. guitar wizard Bill Hudson. Tragically, the band’s absolute stellar performance was (quite literally) overshadowed by some very dark rainclouds, which unfortunately resulted in a drastically shrunk audience in front of the stage during the band’s performance due to some heavy rain – ironically, exactly this one hour of the band’s performance would be the only hour of rain during the entire festival, as the rest of the weekend would be scorching hot. It was a shame, as the performance, highlighted especially by singer Guilherme Hirose and mastermind Bill Hudson, proved to be one of the best of the entire festival, and greatly deserved a much larger audience. Here’s to hoping that the band can return to Europe for more extended tours soon! The rest of the day featured an interesting mix of traditional and modern metal. The traditionalist side was represented by bands like Sonata Arctica, who managed to pull off one of their strongest live performances in recent history with a well-balanced setlist that featured both newer songs, such as “X Marks The Spot,” but also a fine selection of band classics like “Replica,” “Black Sheep,” “8th Commandment”, and of course “Full Moon,” before closing the show out with two bangers in the shape of “The Cage” and “Don’t Say A Word.” 

Finnish metal was generally well represented on this day, as Battle Beast, fronted by arguably the best singer in Power Metal today, Noora Louhimo, provided some party metal vibes with their disco- and 80s-infused melodic metal with songs like “Eye of the Storm,” “Master of Illusion” and “Wings of Light” from their current album “Circus of Doom,” as well as some band classics like “Bastard Son of Odin” and show closer “Beyond the Burning Skies.” However, the secret highlight of the set was obviously bassist Eero Sippilä’s attempt at a rendition of the Disney classic “A Whole New World” from Aladdin – in Czech! More modern and alternative tunes could instead be heard during the performance of German alt-rockers April Art, whose performance is not only ear-catching but also eye-catching, notably due to the band’s bright red stage outfits, topped off by singer Lisa-Marie Watz’s hairstyle. If you’re into Guano Apes-style rock, this is for you, and you should find much to enjoy in songs like “Pokerface,” “Rising High,” and “Painkiller” – and no, the latter was not a cover of the Judas Priest classic.

Also more on the alternative and somewhat unusual side for Masters of Rock were Smash Into Pieces from Sweden, whose modern and electro-infused sound proved a significant detour from the general stylistic direction of Masters of Rock, underlined by the vocals of frontman Chris Adam Hedman Sörbye, who oscillates between a very pop-sounding clean voice and some emo/screamo-style extreme vocals. Personally, not my cup of tea, but an interesting experience nonetheless. Plus: mad props for drummer “The Apocalypse DJ” (as actually listed on the band’s Wikipedia page), who performed the entire show under a spectacular led-light enhanced mask. Finally, the headliners of the day were once again safely on the side of traditional metal again, as German Thrashers Kreator took to the stage – and just like last year’s performance at Metalfest Pilsen, the fourpiece around singer/guitarist Mille Petrozza proved once again why they are rightfully considered one of the all-time great metal bands from Germany. “Hate Über Alles,” “Enemy of God,” or the absolute Thrash metal anthem “Phobia” – even the start of the show already included a number of Thrash metal classics, both old and new, and the set would only get stronger towards the end, where Mille and his boys finished up with an in-your-face triplet of songs in the shape of “Violent Revolution,” “Flage of Hate” and of course “Pleasure to Kill.” 


Photo Credit: Jasmin Polanec



FRIDAY, 14th July 2023

The second festival day started with some bona fide Power Metal for us, as Brothers of Metal from Sweden took to the stage, dressed for the occasion in their trademark Viking/Barbarian stage outfits. The band’s sound is characterized using three vocalists led by female singer Ylva Eriksson. Despite having only two full-length albums under their belts at this point, the band has quickly risen to the status of fan-favorite in the European metal scene, and it’s not hard to see why. Catchy melodies that more often than not remind of genre greats such as Manowar and Hammerfall, plus an energetic live performance with songs revolving around Norse mythology like “Defenders of Valhalla,” “Berserkir,” and “Yggdrasil.” It may not be the most innovative or ground-breaking of formulas, but it works well enough in a live environment. 

Next up was a band that certainly has many eyes on them right now: Lord of the Lost from Germany. After their highly hyped entry in the Eurovision song contest earlier this year, as well as several support tours for none other than Iron Maiden in recent months, the Gothic rock act fronted by Chris Harms is the talk of the town at the moment. It could therefore be argued that their afternoon slot in the brightest daylight was not the ideal time of day for them, but that didn’t keep the band from delivering an ambitious set in the Czech afternoon heat. Songs like “Kill It With Fire,” “Dry the Rain,” and their Eurovision hit song “Blood & Glitter” seemed to win over the Czech audience over the course of the band’s set. With all the hype surrounding them right now, we can certainly expect to see this band in headliner positions at festivals in the near future. The Night Flight Orchestra from Sweden had a tough job to do afterward, as not only did they take to the stage in the worst heat of the day, but the band was also deathly tired from the trip to the festival, as they had performed in Sweden’s Dalhalla as support for one other than the legendary KISS only the night before and had virtually had no sleep. Nonetheless, the band surrounding Soilwork singer Björn “Speed” Strid delivered their 80s-AOR-inspired songs like “Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough,” “Burn for Me,” and “Gemini” in a customary entertaining fashion, with the track “Something Mysterious” being the emotional highlight, as the song was dedicated to former guitarist David Andersson, who passed away in 2022. 

Next, we got a solid dose of old-school rock’n’roll, courtesy of Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. As the band was founded by (and is named after) the former Motörhead guitarist, it should be pretty clear what to expect from this show: a bunch of great Motörhead covers. Fans wouldn’t be disappointed, as the five-piece doled out hit after hit, such as “Born to Raise Hell,” “Damage Case,” “Over The Top,” and of course, “Ace of Spades,” but also featured the Hawkwind cover “Silver Machine” as well as David Bowie’s “Heroes” (which Motörhead themselves had cover a few years back). Finally, the band closed out with “Killed by Death” – and while the show served as a reminder that Lemmy Kilmister is sorely missed and cannot be replaced, it’s still an excellent time to hear and celebrate these rock’n’roll classics. The surprising highlight of the day for me proved to be German folk metallers of Feuerschwanz. After seeing them last year at several festivals where they left me less than impressed, the band managed to turn this around with a vengeance this year. A highly entertaining performance from start to finish, both by the musicians and the two “Miezen” (let’s translate this to English as”kittens,” shall we?), showed that the band had grown a lot in the past year, and is now performing at a superb level with sufficient routine, while still being able to be entertaining. A performance somewhere between renaissance folk music, old-school metal, and even pop and German Schlager music, the show could almost be regarded as a type of varieté revue, as the band alternated between their own original songs like “Untoot im Drachenboot,” “Bastard von Asgard,” “Schubsetanz” und “Knochenkarussell” as well as some unexpected covers like the early 2000s pop phenomenon “Dragostea Din Tei” by Moldovan Eurodance group O-Zone, as well as Manowar’s anthem “Warriors of the World United.” Feuerschwanz can definitely be regarded as a band that worked hard to improve and get to where they are now – and the recent release of their new album “Fegefeuer,” which earned them another #1 chart entry in the German charts, proves this even more. 

The main event of the second day was then firmly in gracious female hands, as first Tarja Turunen, former singer of Nightwish, took to the stage, followed by Dutch melodic metallers Within Temptation, fronted by Sharon Den Adel. Tarja these days has left her Nightwish roots comfortably behind and relies primarily on her own solo project material, materialized during this show in the shape of songs like “Eye of the Storm,” “Tears in Rain,” “I Walk Alone,” and “Until My Last Breath.” Her supporting band’s performance is also quite remarkable, as the band does not rely on backing tracks for most of the set but instead performs everything live, which is almost a rare sight these days. However, the show surrounding the performance could use a little touching up, as this was a fairly basic, straightforward affair – which isn’t bad, but one would expect a bit more pomp and circumstance from an act like Tarja Turunen. Nonetheless, a worthy performance, closed off by the Gary Moore cover “Over the Hills and Far Away.”

However, we got pomp and circumstance in spades during the performance of Within Temptation. Gone are the days when the band was a somewhat awkward Gothic metal act, as they have become one of the absolute top echelon performers in the European metal scene. Musically, the band has embraced a considerably more “pop” approach in its younger songs like “Faster,” “Raise Your Banner,” or “Don’t Pray For Me.” Opulent visual effects accompany the band’s performance, and where Tarja’s previous show as maybe a bit understated, Within Temptation’s show, on the other hand, might have a bit too much of audio and visual effects, backing track samples, and show elements for its own good. Nonetheless, the audience is very much there for this performance, which once again justifies the band’s headliner status. In addition, it should be noted that singer Sharon den Adel seemed to be in excellent spirits and was one of the most approachable, pleasant, and friendly presences backstage – which is not something that’s necessarily a standard for many headline acts, so it’s definitely all the more noteworthy here.  However, after the theatrical and highly produced show of Within Temptation, it was time for a complete 180, as Max Cavalera’s Soulfly would hit the stage. Definitely not my cup of tea, as it might certainly help to consume certain smokable substances to get into the right mood for the show (as was confirmed when one was inhaling the air in the vicinity of the Soulfly backstage container), but a welcome change to a more down to earth, in-your-face sound after the symphonic metal onslaught of the previous two shows. Tribal-infused Groove metal was therefore on the menu, and apart from Soulfly classics such as “Prophecy,” “Bleed,” “Eye for an Eye,” and “Jumpdafuckup,” the audience was also treated to the Sepultura anthem “Refuse/Resist.” A definite late-night palate cleanser on the second festival day.


Photo Credit: Jasmin Polanec



SATURDAY, 15th July 2023

The third festival day held a lot of Power Metal and old-school Rock goodness for us. Finnish prog metal newcomers Arion were followed by the rejuvenated German Symphonic metallers of Xandria, who were struggling with the merciless afternoon heat, as they performed both band classics such as “Nightfall” and “Ravenheart” as well as material from their latest album like “Reborn” and “You Will Never Be Our God.” New front singer Ambre did an admirable job, especially in light of the rough conditions. Still, the scorching temperatures would take their toll, as the singer briefly fainted after the show and needed to be prepped up again by the healthcare staff backstage. Thankfully, no severe damage occurred, and Xandria can also book this performance as a win! Another absolute win was the show of Angus McSix, the new project of former Gloryhammer singer Thomas Winkler and Orden Ogan mastermind Seeb Levermann. Despite having played only a handful of shows so far, the band performed at a high level of routine topped off by frontman Angus’ impressive vocals and some fun party elements, including a bona fide “Laser-Shooting Dinosaur” (okay, the dinosaur was shooting water from a water gun, but still). Notably, the setlist consisted exclusively of material from the band’s debut album “Angus McSix and the Sword of Power,” consciously foregoing any nods to the singer’s previous band, Gloryhammer. It can be speculated that this can be attributed to the singer’s unceremonious ousting from his previous band, but all speculations aside – Angus McSix certainly did not need any of his old material to deliver an entertaining performance for the fans in the Czech Republic, as the band’s performance was one of the best of the day for my personal taste!

Masters of Rock remained firmly in “Happy Metal” hands, as Freedom Call would then take the stage and deliver their brand of highly infectious, happy-go-lucky sounding melodic metal with songs like “Tears of Babylon,” “M. ETAL,” “Power & Glory” and “Warriors,” before closing the show with their anthem “Land of Light.”  Following the happy metal sounds of Freedom Call, it was then time for a bit of earthy, hand-made rock as Australia’s Airbourne hit the stage, and if you’ve ever been to one of their shows, you know what to expect: high-octane, high-energy performance by all band members, especially frontman Joel O’Keefe, who may have skipped on climbing the light rigging this year, but still wouldn’t be denied a bath in the crowd – all the while performing the band’s clearly and heavily AC/DC-inspired Rock’n’Roll in the shape of songs like “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast,” “Stand Up for Rock’n’Roll” or “Runnin’ Wild.”

A bit slower and more methodical, but no less impressive was the performance of the day’s headlining act Europe, who, even after over forty years in the business, still seem hungry and perform at a world-class level. This is mainly highlighted by singer Joey Tempest’s vocals, which appear to have yet to age at all, despite performing these songs for almost half a century. The singer’s experience also shines through in his performance as a frontman, which easily eclipses the rest of his band, maybe to the exception of guitarist John Norum, who still has one of the best guitar tones in the world for my money. The band’s setlist was also a fantastic mix of old classics and newer material, as we got to hear tracks like “Walk the Earth,” “Last Look at Eden,” or “War of Kings” interspersed with some of the genuinely greatest songs of all time such as “Carrie,” “Rock the Night,” “Superstitious,” “Cherokee” and – of course – the immortal “Final Countdown.” And let’s be honest – if you have a song like that in your back catalogue, then every show’s a winner at the end.  Unfortunately, we could not catch the entirety of Bloodbound’s performance, as the band filled this day’s late-night slot with their catchy Power Metal songs like “When Fate is Calling,” “Moria,” and “Battle In The Sky.” Singer Patrick Selleby had been battling a throat infection all day, but fortunately, he recovered well enough to go through with the show, and his performance improved even more during the set. That is an impressive showing and kudos to him for soldiering on through all adversity!


Photo Credit: Jasmin Polanec


SUNDAY, 16th July 2023

The final festival day would start quite early for us, as we would actually be performing with Dragony as well! However, before it was time to hit the stage, the last festival day was opened by local acts Alia Tempora and Salamandra, followed by one of the hottest new breakout acts in the European metal scene with Ad Infinitum. Fronted by the ever-present Melissa Bonny, who has been featured very strongly in the scene over the past few years, the band has just released their third album, “Downfall,” which was therefore heavily featured through songs like “Eternal Rains,” “The Underworld,” “Architects of Paradise” and “Seth.” Melissa’s switching between clean, almost pop-like vocals and extreme growls are always fascinating to behold, and the band showed with a tight performance why they are one of the hottest commodities in the scene right now. It was around one o’clock when we finally got to hit the Ronnie James Dio stage with Dragony on the last festival day. Despite some technical issues with our in-ear systems early on, we luckily sorted these out quickly. We had an absolute blast performing for a fantastic audience, who still made it to the front of the stage despite the brutal midday heat and partied with us to our songs. Personally, the show was a challenging one for me due to the heat. Still, our guest singer Maria Nesh from Red Eye Temple proved a precious asset here as we shared some of the vocal duties and could even perform the single we released together earlier this year, “The Dead Queen’s Race,” live for the first time ever. We hope the fans also enjoyed our show – we certainly very much enjoyed Masters of Rock again and hope to be back in the future!

However, the festival was far from over, as our friends of Warkings invaded the festival next, and their performance turned into a veritable triumphal procession. Clad in their spectacular stage outfits, the band surrounding the Roman “Tribune” on vocals, and most recently completed by new female singer Morgana Le Fay, sees almost custom-made for festivals: a lot of “Ah! Uh!” and “Uh! Ah!” chants permeate virtually every song, regardless of whether the Warkings are singing about “Maximus,” mythical blacksmith “Hephaistos,” legendary “Spartacus” or the “Gladiator” – or even when they are performing their adaptation of the Italian partisan anthem “Bella Ciao” under their title “Fight.” A tight performance of very catchy and easy-to-follow songs quickly won many fans over, and it’s not hard to see why the band has enjoyed quite a meteoric rise. Legion of the Damned then served as a palate cleanser after several melodic and Power Metal bands. However, during the time of their set, we had our own autograph signing session and therefore missed most of the performance. 

The festival soon returned to melodic metal with “my other” band Orden Ogan (okay, it’s not really my other band – but I got to fill in for singer Seeb Levermann last year at one show in Finland, so there’s that). The band bravely defied the rising temperatures in the afternoon sun as they delivered their trademark style of power metal with songs like “Dawn of the AI,” “Come With Me To The Other Side,” “Inferno,” and “Gunman”; however I was also very pleasantly surprised to see the band classic “We Are Pirates” back in the setlist as well. A strong showing from one of Germany’s leading Power Metal bands today! As the festival was nearing its end, it was time for another highlight, as Mongolian sensation The Hu, those of “Star Wars” fame, took to the stage to deliver their unique brand of folk metal, characterized by the inclusion of traditional Mongolian throat singing as well as traditional Mongolian instruments. It’s an experience like no other, and readers are strongly encouraged to check this band out if they can.

Finally, it was time for the last two bands of the festival. Firstly, Swiss folk metallers Eluveitie were up. While their particular brand of folk metal has never really been my kind of thing, I was pretty impressed by their show this time, particularly by the spectacular vocals of female singer Fabienne Erni, who frequently sings her parts in Gaulish language, performing an even more ethereal and otherworldly touch.  The big headliners for Masters of Rock 2023 were, however, the viking warriors of Amon Amarth. A band that can be considered a household name in the Melodic Death Metal genre at this point, Amon Amarth left nothing to chance and delivered a ridiculously tight and virtually perfect performance in front of their impressive viking helmet stage set. Whether it was the opener “Guardians of Asgaard,” “The Great Heathen Army,” “Death in Fire,” or “The Pursuit of Vikings,” – the band’s setlist left nothing to be desired. The only criticism that might be made here is that the show was already almost perfect and a tad too routine – but if that’s the only complaint one can have, it’s complaining at a very, very high level. With fantastic dual guitar harmonies, incredible tightness, and flawless performance led by a supremely charismatic frontman, it’s not hard to see why Amon Amarth have reached the status they have as an absolute, bona fide festival headline act.

And thus ends another great edition of Masters of Rock! While it seemed that the festival attracted a bit fewer people than last year, which I attribute mainly to Judas Priest being last year’s ginormous headliners, the festival once again demonstrated why it has become a household name in the international festival circus and is still the prime festival in Czechia. And to say it in the most legendary words an Austrian has ever spoken: “I’ll be back!”


Photo Credit: Jasmin Polanec




All Photos taken by Jasmin Polanec