By Toine van Poorten, July 2009.

In the late seventies, the hard rock and heavy metal scene in Holland slowly starts to take shape. Most bands are copying the sound of the godfathers Purple, Sabbath, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The most succesful bands from our country are Picture, Bodine, Vengeance, Vandale and Vandenberg. The band with the highest cult level though can be found in the upper north of Groningen. We are talking about Vortex here, founded in 1979. Quick mathematics will tell you, that it is time for a celebration now, because it’s thirty years ago, since the six ‘hammers of the north’ came together. Besides Lynyrd Skynyrd, this is probably the only raw rock and roll band, that had three (!!!) guitarplayers in their line-up, being Peter Hummel, Gerard Waalboer and founder member Martjo ‘Whirlewolf’ Brongers. The remainder of the band back in those early days consisted of Gerrit Kuiper (ex-Living Rock) on vocals, Peter de Bluts on drums and Peter ‘Metal Macleans’ Hes (also ex-Living Rock) on bass guitar, who actually replaced short term member Rikkie. Just like every other band, it’s not easy to keep a stable line-up. The guitarplayers leave the band soon and also the singer leaves the band. Mainly, because Whirlewolf Martjo Brongers is destined to play heavy metal instead of raw rock, and so Jurjen Tichelaar enters the band, together with guitarplayer André Rombout. This combination works fine and slowly the band works out their first musical ideas on audio tape (it’s 1982, remember!) ‘First Flight Of The Bats’ (‘Why Is White So White’, ‘Nobody’s Fool’, ‘Definitely Dead’, ‘The Beat’ and ‘Je Suis Paranoid’). They also appear on the Holland Heavy Metal II album with three songs (‘I Had Enough’, ‘Gonna Hit You’ and ‘She Says’). In the same year, they record a second audio tape, called ‘Midnight Riding, Kid Catching’( ‘Heavy Metal Pussy’, ‘Cruel Duel’, ‘Do It Some More’ and ‘King’). At this point, André Rombout has left the band already. In the meantime, their music style has changed from raw rock to pure heavy metal and very quickly, Jurjen receives his well-earned nickname ‘Thundervox’. The band is working hard to show the fans that there’s a strong heavy metal band operating in the northern part of our country. The line-up changes are continuing though. Berend ‘The Steeg’ Stegeman becomes a new guitarplayer and Guus Boltenbal becomes the new drummer, when Peter de Bluts leaves the band for good. In 1982, he had temporarily left the band for a short period and was replaced by Harmen Schaap back then. With this line-up, the band records ‘Land Of The Late (‘When You Go’, ‘Land Of The Late’, ‘Mountain’, ‘Nightmares I Have Not’ and ‘Mercenary’). The new line-up is not really stable too, and drummer Boltenbal leaves the band soon after the new audio tape has reached the fans. Jack Schurer is his replacement. He stays in the band for a longer time, but in 1984, he also steps out to be replaced by Sief Molenberg. With this line-up, the band starts to record a new demo cassette, called ‘Metallic Dawning’ (‘When You Go’, ‘King’, ‘Revent’ and ‘Metallic Dawning’). The fact, that the band released a lot of demo material serves them well. The new record label Roadrunner releases an album in 1984 with upcoming metal bands from Holland. And next to Revenge, Allied Forces, Seducer, Together and Martyr, we also find Vortex on this Dutch Steel compilation with ‘Land Of The Late’ and Mercenary’. Looking at the picture of Vortex on the sleeve of the album, you can already see that this band is self-willed. No other band would think of using corpse paint, but Jurjen looks like the evil devil himself (except for the horns and the cloven hoof). And Martjo could be a younger brother of Judas Priest guitarplayer K.K. Downing. The album is produced, engineered and mastered by Al Vandergarde (a.k.a. Alfred Lagarde, R.I.P.). Not long after this release, Vortex returns to the Spitsbergen Studios in 1985, to record their first mini album ‘Metal Bats’.

The days of demo tapes are over, the first vinyl release is a fact, and Holland is discovering the power of the band by means of this six tracker. ‘Gotta Get Away’, ‘With Witches Help’,

‘(Rolling) To War’, ‘Metal Bats’, ‘The Curse’ and ‘Alienation’, they all have a definite link to the masters in the metal scene at that time, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The album is produced by New Adventures bass player Harry de Winter. When you take a look at the beautiful front cover, you will recognise the true metal spirit of the band. The logo, the drawing, it all breathes true heavy metal. The artwork was designed by Vortex’ personal master of artwork, Robert Leerentveld, who still does the drawings for the CDs of the band nowadays. The release of an album does not guarantee a stable line-up though. After the release of ‘Metal Bats’, John ‘The Chief’ Roffel takes the place of Sjef Molenberg on the drum stool and first bass player Peter Hes is replaced by bass beast Jan ‘The Beast’ Klemens. On stage, the band creates a solid live reputation, in which the show elements find a very prominent place. Lots of bombs and other pyrotechnic, next to the musical strength provided by the band. They share the stage with bands like Picture, Bodine, Sad Iron, and German metal heads Trance, who have a big following in our country. 1986 will become an important year in the career of Vortex. The fans keep asking for more music and in 1986, Vortex enters the studio again with Harry de Winter to record ‘Open The Gate’ (‘Open The Gate’, ‘Soul Killer’, ‘Bastards’, ‘Horrible Dolls’, ‘Growing Power’, ‘Massgrave’, ‘The Beauty And The Teeth’, ‘Glory Gone’ and ‘Get Out’). The album and the title track will change metal history in the Netherlands. The title track becomes a true metal anthem. And this first real full-length album receives many positive reactions in the metal fanzines. Vortex becomes part of the premier league to many metal fans. But even success like this doesn’t guarantee a stable band line-up. Drummer John Roffel leaves the band and is temporarily replaced by Coos Grevelink (former I Spy). Very soon after this change, Ebby Lee takes over the drum sticks. In the meantime, the album gets enough airplay to put the name of the band on the map. And to gain even more success, a video clip is recorded in a beautiful old town, called Bourtange. It’s there, that they officially storm the fortress with anger by shouting ‘Open The Gate’! The first video clip of Vortex is a fact and it’s shown on Sky Chanel and MTV. The band worked very hard to get their career up and going. And when they finally had the swing of it, the interest in heavy metal slowly began to fade into an absolute minimum. It’s 1987, but Vortex is very consistent of bringing the heavy metal to the fans. It will last until 1990 (grunge is killing music), when Thundervox and Whirlewolf decide to pull the plug. In the period 1987 / 1988 Jos Eggens beats the drums. The only thing they decide is, that they will do reunion gigs every year. So far so good.

The musical career of the main members goes on. Jurjen sings in Saratoga and plays bass guitar in Mean Machine. While Martjo carries on with Wildrose. He records two albums, called ‘Wildrose I’ and ‘Wildrose II’ and does an extensive and very successful tour in the Ukraine. Martjo also plays in Lightnin’ and Foxfire, but his real metal roots are in Wildrose. On the second album, a reunion with Jurjen as a vocalist is a fact and the sound becomes a lot more heavy. The band covers AC/DC’s ‘Sin City’ and they also rework the Vortex classic ‘Open The Gate’. However, up until today, it remains a big secret, that the band also created some really great non-metal songs, like ‘Er Zit Een Vlo Op Het Hoofd Van Tante Jo’, in case anyone wondered about this long forgotten anthem. On the second album allround musician Brongers plays bass guitar. The reunion gigs of Vortex continue and due to the many line-up changes in Wildrose, the difference between Wildrose and Vortex become so small, that the band decides to carry on under the name of Vortex again.

It’s mid-nineties now and the world slowly pukes on grunge music. A lot of old school metal fans are dying to listen to their favourite music sound, true heavy metal. Especially in Germany, there is a big demand for the two albums of Vortex. Fans pay outrageous prices and the time is right for a proper reunion. Former Wildrose members Martjo Brongers on guitar, Jurjen Tichelaar on vocals and Jack Shurer on drums, find Ad Kooi on bass and ‘Hazzard’ Harry Zandstra on guitar and the resurrection of Vortex takes definite shape. In 1996, the

Vortex video clip is aired in the well-known TV program ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’. This is the ultimate chance to breath new life into the band. In the meantime, the band name shows up in several underground heavy metal magazines in Germany. The fans are longing for the old Vortex sound, which makes the band decide to re-record some of the highlight songs of their already long lasting career. Compiled with some ‘never before released’ songs, the compilation / best of album ‘The Dawning’ sees the light of day on Top Hole Records in April 1998. In 1999, the Dutch heavy metal fanclub Heavy Metal Maniacs releases a compilation album with essential and upcoming talented metal bands from Holland. Obviously, Vortex is to be found on this album as well, where they do a newly recorded version of ‘Open The Gate’. The ‘metal bats’ are flying again and it won’t take long, until they will record new material. In Germany, the band receives a real cult treatment and people are dying to hear some new Vortex material. To please the many fans, Vortex decides to release new material on a Swedish label, called Stormbringer Records. And they really cause a stormy comeback with the four songs on a ten incher, called ‘The Mill’ (‘Oubliette’, ‘I Got Mucho More’, ‘The Mill’ and ‘A Lovely Day’), which is also available as a picture disc. The sound of the band takes back to their roots: straight forward heavy metal with grinding riffs and crying guitar solos.

In 2001, fellow metalheads, Sad Iron gives Vortex a legitimate reason to get into the picture again. Sad Iron boss Bernard Rive opens a hard rock café in Hoorn, which will carry the name ‘The Gate’, named after the Vortex anthem ‘Open The Gate’. Now who would you ask for a grand openings party with a name like that? Right: Vortex! It stays turbulent in Hoorn for a long time, after that faithful night! Besides that, the Heavy Metal Maniacs release their second compilation album, including another track by Vortex. This time they opted for ‘Another Life’, exclusively recorded for this compilation. And in 2002, Steelhunter Records decides to release picture discs of ‘Metal Bats’ and ‘Open The Gate’. The albums are also re-released on CD by the Greek Unisound Records label that same year. The ties of friendship between the Dutch heavy metal bands from the eighties are also getting tightened, when Vortex plays a song for the Hammerhawk tribute CD ‘Hammermetal Forever’ and the holy fire starts to burn at full force again.

In 2003, Vortex signs up with Hellion Records in Germany, resulting in the 2004 album ‘Hammer Of The North’ (‘Riptor’, ‘As The World Burns’, ‘Follow Your Bliss’, ‘Hammer Of The North’, ‘Rise, Shine & Fall’, ‘Where’s My Gun’, ‘Bitin’, ‘A Lovely Day’ and ‘I Got Mucho More’). By then, the line-up consists of Thundervox and Whirlewolf of course, and furthermore Orion ‘Rosie’ Roos on guitar, Pieter Douwenga on bass and Henk ‘The Tank’ Bosma on drums (ex-Entire, Let’s Stampede, Big Chill). Wanna hear some pure metal to the max? Well, just give this one a very loud turn and you’ll be devastated! To prove, that the band is back in the saddle again and sounding better than never before, they enter the studios shortly after the release of ‘Hammer Of The North’. Not without another line-up change though. I read somewhere, that this is a typical phenomenon of the Groningen music scene. Bands are constantly changing their line-up there. Maybe it is something in the water, who knows? Peter Douwenga is replaced by ‘Scary’Harry Brinkman and with this line-up, they leave the studios with ‘Welcome To Metalland’ (‘Endlessly’, ‘Hail Scum’, ‘All Going Down’, ‘Welcome To Metalland’, ‘No Witness’, ‘Intercallary Day’, ‘Fool Moon’, ‘We Are The Ones They Warned Us For’ compiled with the ‘Land Of The Late’ demo) in their pocket.

It’s 2006, when this album gets released on CD and LP by Hellion Records. And if you think that after this new album (which proves that Vortex is still one of the hottest metalbands in our country), we’ve got another stable band line-up, you are ever so wrong. Immediately after this release, Harry Brinkman leaves the band and is replaced by René van Zonneveld.

In 2007, there are plans to release a new album. The band is willing to record this album in a studio in Germany. They even contacted Harry de Winter again, who produced the first two

albums, that marked the successful start of Vortex’s career. Hellion Records has other plans though and they quit the label. Although there are many other options to record a new album, the studios remain empty. The captains of the ship call out a townhall meeting to decide what to do in 2009, when the band exists for thirty years. And in 2008, the decision is made that the new material will be recorded and released in 2010 to celebrate this anniversary party. Before this happens, the band celebrates their own private party at the Metal Bats festival (what a great name, by the way!) in Valencia, Spain with a two hour concert, that is completely recorded on audio and video. It’s April, when the contract with the German label Mighty Monster Records gets signed. The band record the new material in a studio in Swäbisch Hal in March 2010. The album ‘Drink Bat Blood’ will be released in July 2010. Oh, and if everything goes the way Nostradamus wants it to be, you’re listening to the damn thing right now, muchacho! Congratulations go out to the guys of Vortex for their thirtieth year of existence. In the past few years Vortex played at many underground metal festivals, such as Headbangers Open Air, Keep It True, Swordbrothers Fest and the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival (where Vortex roadie and Ed Gein impersonator Eggo Bosklopper announces the bands together with ex-Hammerhawk, now Emerald guitarist Paul van Rijswijk). The story will be continued on their fiftieth anniversary CD, because Vortex has ‘mucho more’ up their sleeve! For now, open these goddamn gates, because these metal bats want to play for another thirty years……or so!!