After an almost 9-hour road trip from Santiago De Compostela to Villena, crossing beautiful Spain from north to South, I was ready to experience my first ever Leyendas del Rock and my first Spanish metal festival experience. I wanted to visit Leyendas because they had the strongest Spanish metal line up I have ever seen, and if you like me, grew up in Spanish metal, you will know that except for 1 or 2 bands, Spanish metal bands never tour the US. So Leyendas was the perfect opportunity to see them all in one place.
The first day was hot and since my arrival, I could see the change of vibe of quiet Villena, a small Southern Spanish town between Albacete and Alicante. The town itself changes as over 70.000 metalheads arrive from all the corners of Spain and the world too as the Leyendas del Rock party is open to everyone.
The doors of the Polideportivo of Villena opened at 4 pm and the first horde of metalheads made their way through the field and straight to the main stage as they wanted to be the first in line for Wednesday cartel which included: Angelus Apatrida, Thundermother, Steve Harris’ British Lion, Last In Line, Saurom, Medina Azahara, and the all mighty Amon Amarth.
After getting in, the warm up band was a Metallica tribute band which the crowd seems to enjoyed and even sang along with them, I think this was a great move as an opening act as people got into the mood quickly rather than standing around looking a band opening with unknown material, so that was good to see.
The next band was Judith Mateo, a Spanish violinist with 8 years of experience, over 300 shows in and out of Spain and five albums under her belt. Her show was a mix of rock, metal and Celtic music as the main attraction was her violin interpretation of rock classics like AC/DC‘s Highway to Hell. It was an interesting show for a crowd that was growing in numbers as the evening was progressing.
Next up was Swedish rock sensation, Thundermother, who delivered a set full of rock and roll which slowly started to warmed up the crowd that was getting bigger and bigger by the hour. Their style reminded me at the now extinct Crucified Barbara but with a more punk attitude. Since it was my first time seeing Thundermother, I thought they were great live as they are on their records.
To continued with the festivities of the first day, and after a good warm up, things got to a different level with what I can describe as the best Spanish thrash metal band. Angelus Apatrida, I came across them a few years ago during the promo cycle of their album Hidden Evolution back in 2015. So I was excited to finally get to see them live as they have never come to the US. Their style while keeps the classical fundaments of Bay Area Thrash metal has a lot of modern touches and pieces that put Angelus Apatrida among the new wave of Thrash metal along with bands like Municipal Waste, Havok, Warbringer and Savage Messiah.
interestingly enough the very next day Angelus Apatrida unveiled and launched their own beer called Angelus Hoppy Pils at a small beer store called El Salon De La Cerveza (The Beer Saloon) located in Villena’s marketplace. they also were part of a meet & greet on site after everyone had already tried the beer.
Right after Angelus Apatrida, I got to catch a little bit of Last In Line, which is an all star band that includes members former members of DIO‘s band including, drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jimmy Bain, guitarist Vivian Campbell, and keyboardist Claude Schnell along with vocalist Andrew Freeman, they performed the DIO songs they originally recorded with DIO. It was an interesting show to which people responded really well.
One of the bands that I was most excited to see the first day at Leyendas del Rock was Steve Harris’ British Lion, as it was the best opportunity to catch Steve out of his Maiden element. The band surprised me as they are a mix of NWOBH and hard rock. Regardless any band that Steve Harris plays, his stage presence remains intact and as he runs around the stage and pointing his bass to the crowd. the vibe was different it was a more relaxing gig. It was a refreshing experience to see something different and more intimate from what we are used to from an Iron Maiden member.
As the cold night was approaching to Villena, the main dish of the day kicked off the headlining line up of this amazing week. The all mighty Swedish Vikings of Amon Amarth delivered a powerful and entertaining show that included two huge fire & smoke spitting Viking ship heads. I don’t think I have seen a more powerful Amon Amarth show like the one I saw at Leyendas del Rock, maybe because most of the time European bands never come to the US with their full stage production.
Amon Amarth played 90 minutes and included songs like: The Pursuit of Vikings, As Loke Falls, At Dawn’s First Light, Deceiver of the Gods, Destroyer of the Universe, Father of the Wolf, Guardians of Asgard, Raise Your Horns, Twilight of the Thunder God, and much more that I can’t remember. It was one of the most impressive shows that I have seen in Europe so far.
After Amon Amarth, I was ready to check out for the first time a Spanish band that I listened to quite a bit during my formative years. I am talking about of Spanish rock establishment Medina Azahara. I was quite surprised by how good they sounded and how great they looked on stage. I enjoyed every song out of their set, and it seems that it is a Spanish tradition to dance to some of their songs which I found it odd at the beginning, but after a while, you just go right along with it. It was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing sets, which was a good thing after a heavy show like the one Amon Amarth delivered.
Closing the day was Saurom, a band that got me intrigued, but that I haven’t heard much besides their name. Their mix of street theater and epic metal was pretty good, they even had a chorus on stage which made their show even more epic.
And just like that the first day of Leyendas del Rock was gone, good bands, amazing crowds, and an incredible vibe all around the festival grounds and around the whole town of Villena.
Day 2 review coming up.