Heroic. Ballsy. The Greatest Band of All Time. The six-strong band known as Arnocorps are not short on confidence, that’s for sure.
But then, when they write songs based on the “many Austrian tales that have been exploited by nefarious movie moguls for financial and political gain” [source] – otherwise known as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmography – how would they be anything other than brilliant?
They’ve actually been around for longer than I thought – having first surfaced in the Bay Area about fourteen years ago, debut album The Greatest Band of All Time dropped in 2005, with a handful of EPs since, covering much of the Arnie chronology along the way. Despite being from pretty much the other side of the world, they’ve developed a dedicated following over here in the UK, this being their fourth full tour of the country – and I first saw them back on their 2008 tour in Sheffield, an appropriately insane evening even then.
Crom (Strong on His Mountain)
Conan the Destroyer
King Conan (Crown of Iron)
You Lack Discipline
Rise of the Machines
Last Action Hero
Since then, they’ve honed their craft, becoming an even tighter live band but not once losing sight of the fact that whole endeavour is a ton of fun. As they take to the stage, one by one, to their Arno Intro (complete with the sound of a chopper coming over the horizon, and with full band introductions), they are roared on by the packed crowd – many of whom have dressed for the occasion in combat fatigues and camo paint and are right with the band from the off, literally in many cases as stage-diving and general stage invasions are encouraged by the band!
The whole set is a tightly-honed, well-choreographed and frankly fucking hilarious eighty minutes or so, as they roll through the majority of their material, while covering such weighty subjects as body-building, future technological terror, military-personnel-gone-rogue, alien terrorism, and legendary heroism – and perhaps unsurprisingly the crowd know pretty much all the words. The “Arnochorus” (arf) for the gang-vocals on True Lies fills the stage (god knows how the band fitted in as well) and raises the roof, while Total Recall provides a very different take on “Get Your Ass To Mars” than the retro-futuristic industrial-techno of Memmaker’s.
And who knew that a decent song could be made from Pumping Iron? There truly is no end to Arnocorps’ talents.
By the end of the set, as they tore into one of their few non-film-based songs (Exactly, essentially a summary of why Arnie is ace), it was a breathless end to proceedings that a noisy and energised crowd made clear they were not finished with yet. So after baying the band’s name, predictably enough they returned, with pretty much the best encore I’ve seen in years.
I’m Ballsy is what you could call the band’s signature song. Yes, it’s another celebration of the Austrian Oak, but it is also a motivational theme, one sung along with by the whole crowd (greeted always with an inclusive “heroes and sheroes”), basically a punk tune that roars the idea of not taking any shit and doing your own thing despite those that might put you down. The fact that it’s an awesome live track just makes this even better.
The remainder of the encore was predictable enough, the tough-guy revenge of Commando before about half the venue joined the band onstage for a celebrationary Last Action Hero that summed for me exactly why this band have such a devoted following. The band treat their fans as part of the gang, as friends, and more importantly as vital to the whole show, involving them all the way and never patronising them – and in return they’ve gained apparently never-ending devotion from fans who attend multiple shows and spread the word (indeed I was there with four friends who’d all never seen them, and came out beaming and enthusing about the show). A final note – I’ve still no idea how singer Holzfeuer managed to escape the maelstrom onstage and be by the merch table to greet pretty much every fan there on the way out.
What happens when they run out of Arnie films to write about I’ve no idea, but I’d happily see this show again and again. Hopefully Holzfeuer will be saying “I’ll be back” again soon.