Saturday, 2 October 2021

Melting Eyes , Rages of Sin & PPTA - Musicon The Hague, 1 October 2021

Thick layers of dust were covering the small bag containing my earplugs. The joy of having to clean that, before putting in my pocket was the first of a long row of small celebrations that would mark this  Fridaynight 1 October. Marko picked me up around 19:00 as we wanted to go early to the first all standing gig in Musicon since March last year. The relief was great and easy to spot on the faces of all attending. To most people walking around, this is what life is about have a drink and a laugh in a venue inbetween good live shows. So the atmosphere was good on forehand and the turnout was pretty decent as well. In spite oof some competition elsewhere that was to be expected. Melting Ees just released their album My Final Resting Place, which received good critics all around. Supporting and closing they invited Rages of Sin, who last year released with Divergence one of the best extreme metal albums ever to come out of The Hague and unable to promote it so far. Last minute openers substitute thrashers PPTA from Purmerend. So everyone was ready for a party in Musicon.

PPTA opened the party, but there seemed to be some issues with the soundsystem. So when they were supposed to play their last song, they still had not started. With corona curfews still in place this would impact the evening. When they finally got started it sounded all pretty fine again. I saw them before at Musicon and HPC and their theme is wrestling. So you get songs with titles like Piledriver and Ringside seats. Their best song to me remains Sumo Wrestler, where they simultaneously move from left to right leg as if we watch four sumo wrestlers preparing for fight. A nice warm up for some of the best extreme metal The Hague has on offer nowadays.

Melting Eyes followed even if it was their release party. In the end a good choice as they had the best sound of the evening. Their Death Metal is old school according to the omnipresent T-shirts, but their sound also has a fair share of doom. They more go for the ultra heavy than the ultra fast. I am no expert in Death Metal per se, but always find that death metal is made for live shows. While the CD sounds good already when you get the full blast from a stage coming over you, the impact just increases tenfold. So we enjoyed some 45 minutes with songs about death. I am pretty sure we will see them more often in the region as this release party showed them to be a force to reckon with for the coming years.

Rages of Sin were the band closing the evening. Unfortunately the sound issues from the start of the evening reappeared.  When they started their gig all the audience heard were bass and drums. Not noticing it themselves at first they were signalled to stop and had a restart. I believe time started pressuring now as the problem got only half sorted. Guitars and vocals would remain low in the mix. This is a pity as their highly recommended album Divergence showed that Rages of Sin have no limits. Going from Djent to Slam Death and Progmetal anyone openminded and not afraid of grunts will find much to like here. As said before a poor sound ruined the experience a bit, but as I saw them several times with a better sound impressing me, I am sure a revenge will follow soon. In the end I still increased my garderobe with their fashionable pink shirt. Next week to be spotted on a beach in Portugal matching my yellowish green shorts under the motto only real men wear pink.

So overall the evening was a big success, thanks to Melting Eyes putting this together. Best of all was the sensation of freedom walking around in Musicon again. Only sad to find out Waku Waku was closed for an aftergig bite.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Cosmograf - Dec Burke - Tuesday The Sky - A Dying Planet - Portrait - Iron Maiden - Marillion

Some CD tips of albums released over summer. Now that autumn has fully arrived in The Neterlands it is about time everyone spends some cash on music again.

Cosmograf - Rattrapante
Cosmograf the project of Robin Armstrong is back with Rattrapante. Now Rattrapante meant little to me, turns out it is a watch with two seconds hand and this explains my lack of knowledge as I never wore a watch in my life. The first song travels in time as In 1985 describes that year. Funny to read as I was there very present as well, although I thought the Rubick cube in the booklet being from 81-82 really. Live Aid, Heysel and Concorde plains transfer you back in time indeed on this best song on the album. All other four songs are time related in some way or another as well. Robin Armstrong is this time almost solely responsible for all the music and vocals. His style remains this typical British progressive rock with nostalgic topics in the lyrics. To me he is one of the underrated names in Prog as he built a great discography over the years. Finally he managed to get a band together and next week he performs two shows in the UK. Bring him over to 't Blok and we can enjoy some great prog, while bitterballs are being served to us.

Dec Burke - Life in Two Dimensions
Dec Burke is another highly underrated artist. He is not just a good vocalist, but also a pretty sensational guitarist. I discovered him when he played with Darwin's Radio. Later he joined Frost*, released some solo albums and had the Audioplastik album. Out of the blue to me he is back with Life in Two Dimensions. I bought the album without hearing a note as I trust Dec Burke blindly. Upon receipt of the CD I read that Scott Higham played drums on the album, which raised hopes even further. Scott was not only responsible for Pendragon to get heavier on the two albums he joined, he also drummed with Angel Witch and Shadowkeep. Now Dec Burke does not release prog rock albums per se. There are also strong melodic rock influences all around. The first eight songs are in the 4-5 minute range and show good variation with some heavier outburst. The final two songs last 7:42 and 9:48 and get a bit more proggy. For me just a very pleaant album as I love his voice and guitar and good songs are always his starting point. Even Robin Armstrong joins the party.

Tuesday The Sky - Blurred Horizon
Another surprise release, the new album by Tuesday The Sky. This project is almost a solo Jim Matheos release. He does get some help by none other than Gavin Harrison on drums and Tim Bowness on vocals during one song. The rest of the album is instrumental and calm, or better very calm. I just buy these releases in order to support Jim Matheos who gave me so much pleasure with Fates Warning, Arch/Matheos and OSI. Actually I have the first album of Tuesday The Sky as well and play it still every now and then. If you wake up, but don't want to really none calming music is more comfortable. So Fates Warning fans do not need to rush to the store (or laptop), but open minded music lovers might like this. In the end quality of performance is not an issues with these three gentlemen at play.

A Dying Planet - When The Skies Are Grey
One of the several parallel projects of Jasun Tipton are back with album number two. First observation Paul Adrian Villareal now sings on all songs, which is a good thing. Second observation after listening a few times. The album has this Tipton franctic all over the place melodies, yet it is a calm album. This one to me definitely needed a few spins and preferably with headphones on. No music for the background, but when you dive in you do get rewarded over the six songs. Through forgotten war veterans to the joy of being a father the vocals are very good. The overall atmosphere reminds me at times of Enchant even if that band is more song focussed. Not strange if you remember that Enchant's Sean Flanegan drummed in Cynthesis with the Tipton brothers and one day at Headway I was wearing an Enchant Tee when meeting Jasun at the stairs complimenting me with my choice of clothing. So after several sessions a very good album, but silently I am looking even more forward to next year's new Zero Hour album, or the releases of Cynthesis 3. If you wonder what I am talking about check out the long interview Jasun had with the Progfiles.

Portrait - At One With None
In order to not run teh risk of getting soft, with so many lighter rocking albums visited Portrait take care of my necessary dose of good old Heavy Metal. This is their fifth album and I only miss their debut, since after discovering them and seeing them playing live a few years back I am hooked. Straight out of the eighties into the twenties this album is Heavy Metal from start to finish. No short songs here, but still variation between heavy metal, a longer epic and a doomier closer. I have the plain version holding eight songs only while I saw there are two bonus songs as well floating around. Every now and then you need to have some Heavy Metal to bang your head on. Portrait to me are definitely among the better bands of  the past 15 years for giving me just that. Hope they tour soon.

Iron Maiden - Senjutsu
Do I really need to have an opinion on the new Maiden after the whole world already gave theirs? Well to me Iron Maiden with Senjutsu gives us exactly what I came to expect. No thrilling new surprises, but definitely some strong songs again. Also Steve Harris overdid the long songs a bit again, but that is fine with me. I pretty much like it that the total time made them release a double album again. I can now play one CD only and have a great 40 minutes, while 70 minutes in one go would be a bit much. Time will only tell, but I guess CD1 will get more airplay with me. First as the opening title track is for me the best song on the album (those opening drums). Days of Future Past is widely praised for not being a long song and I agree. Finally they will be touring Europe again next summer and when even Tiago asked me last weekend if I already had heard the new Maiden hopes are up he wants to join me.

Marillion - Fugazi
Saving the best for last and it is not even a new album. Marillion now re-released all their Fish era albums and the artwork, remixed music, live shows, interviews combined make it a must have for any serious Marillion fan. Recently I ranked all Marillion albums and Fugazi is my number one. With this new package at hand my choice only got reconfirmed. So the band were in a hurry and pressure was on, resulting them to be not only positive about the outcome I simply have to see opening song Assasing and closing duo Incubus / Fugazi to realize it never got better. With the remaining four songs being fine as well  this darkest output by the band are a joy to revisit. I never realized they had a drummer issue before finding Ian Mosley. One of the better anecdotes was when Fish was asked why one of the technical fine drummers had not stayed he replied, well he was American. This new release gives you days worth of trips down memory lane and I do miss these Marillion days of the eighties indeed. Then again I just pre-ordered last week the new album, so my name will be in the booklet again (amongst thousand others). Meanwhile the world stayed totally Fugazi.  

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Ressurrection Kings - Vulture - Melting Eyes - Agent Steel

 Some more CD tips for summer's end.

Ressurrection Kings - Skygazer
Five years after their self-titled debut album Ressurrection Kings are back with Skygazer. I have their debut, liked it and recently when playing all Dio rediscovered how Craig Goldy helped creating some of the best albums of their Dio era. So checking out a clip on Youtube was enough to make me pick up this album as well. Ressurrection Kings plays melodic hardrock/metal. With Craig Goldy and Vinnie Appice there is a link to Dio, but Chas West is not trying to copy that voice. Several bands might come to mind when listening to the album. Their aim was not winning the price for originality just write good music. And they managed to do so, with Angry Demons as possible highlight. If Craig Goldy returns to Europe one day with a Dio hologram I shall pass. However if Ressurrection Kings make it over, I'll be there.

Vulture - Dealin' Death
This German Vulture is an example of how magazines still work. Reading a positive review and interview made me check them out. I liked being catapulted back to the eighties with their speed metal sound and got Dealin' Death. The screams are there, even if not as high as some in this genre. The guitar attack is there as well and the songs scream for you to headbang along.  When this band mentioned in the interview playing Scum in the past I am sorry I missed out. Sounds to me like party guaranteed when live on stage. Every year I pick up some bands that bring me back to eighties (speed)metal. In recent years I think of Ranger, Riot City or Eternal Champion. This year's recommendation so far is Vulture

Melting Eyes - My Final Resting Place
Melting Eyes play ear ripping old school deathmetal as they say on their FB page. Well no lie told here. What I like most about them is that they are not about one speed only but vary the slow and very heavy with the uptempo riffing when more speed is needed. Six songs in half an hour present well what they stand for. Two guitars setting the speed and a grunt that seems to be coming from as low as a final resting place indeed. This album should raise the interest of some labels as they so far remain independent. Now this is the debut EP by Melting Eyes, but as they are from The Hague I did see them playing before. While at Westland Metal Meeting I was just entering the area during their dying tones I saw them opening for Gruesome in Musicon. Live to me Death Metal always works even better and the good news is that soon we can enjoy their album presentation in Musicon. Together with Rages of Sin who gave us one of Holland's best extreme metal albums of 2020 that promises to become a party, Now we only have to hope that our government after letting 100.000 men watch spoiled kids driving in circles early September also will let 100 people walk around Musicon 1 October. 

Agent Steel - No Other Godz Before Me
Agent Steel means Skeptics Apocalypse and Unstoppable Force two albums of the mid eighties that made the band possibly the best speed metal band around. Their mix of wildly fast guitars, crazy fast solos and the highest pitched screams of John Cyriis made those two albums classics everyone of my generation knows. Unfortunately I never saw them playing live at the time. Unfortunately also the band fell apart with John Cyriis leaving in 88. His voice was a very dominant part of the overall sound. During following decades the band would return without John and release several albums I don't know. Now John is back, but the band is new. He gathered a strong international line-up around him and basically we continue where we left of after Unstoppable Force. Only problem to me is that it all does not sound in your face really. The songs themselves are good and tell us again how we are not the centre of the universe. For a Brazilian like me it is interesting to read the opening of Sonata Cósmica in Portuguese and the Incident being fully in Portuguese and telling the story of my visits to Minas Gerais looking for Iron Ore (thanks to Brazilian guitarist Vinicius Carvalho). Now the question remains will we be able to see these new songs live on stage one day. Reputations might scare some off, but hopefully we get the chance as this new album screams for a live show. Think I am going to play me some Untoppabe Force now.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Vokonis - Vola - Dordeduh - Terra Odium

Four different forms of progmetal all highly recommended

Vokonis - Odyssey
With cover artwork like this I had to start with Vokonis as the cover appears when posted on FB. During last May's Progfiles show this band was played and the talks were mostly about this same cover. Pity the T-shirts are not printed on a yellow background. And the music? well this progmetal is mostly in the vein of Mastodon. Actually this trio reminds me of last year's album by Red//Shift, which made it to my top 20. I say trio but they get some help on keyboards from Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, Opeth). Six songs of which the last two are the long ones. While those are the more epic prog songs I especially like their shorter songs with a bite. Strange enough this is already their 4th full lenght since 2016 and I never heard of them before. Lots to discover therefore and who knows they even tour now that seems possible again. 

Vola - Witness
Vola slowly seem to be marching on towards headliner status of major summer festivals. I was early at their party when in 2015 Progmetalzone tipped them on one of their lists. After buying their album I could see them perform it live opening PPE 2015. That was no disappointment. Their next full lenght Applause From a Distant Crowd I did not buy upon release in 2018, but only after seeing them giving a very strong show in Patronaat. And now Witness comes to us with nine songs all having chorusses of the extremely catchy side and overall a grandioso sound. This music should please many, if only they can get the deserved exposure. One attempt to reach that is inviting a rapper Shahmen. I hate rap and songs which hold Feat. in the band name, so it remains the low on this album even if the rap is over fast and the chorus wonderful. Knowing how good they are live I can see them headlining summer festivals in 2023, when everyone had the chance to discover them. Then in Holland I am talking about Pinkpop or Lowlands, since their djenty poppy progmetal might not be heavy enough for metal festivals.  

Dordeduh - Har

February 2017 and metal came to town. I did a very Dutch thing that night cycling through the snow. This for bands I did not know yet, but what I checked on the internet in advance sounded promising. Dordeduh from Roumania and three quarter same mebers Transceatla in a more prog death metal outfit. Dordeduh was one interesting experience with long wooden horns blazing and a wooden guillotine as percussion instrument. The music was atmospheric and moody. And than it went quiet for them to come back with a new album this spring. Har seems to be even more cohesive than debut album Dardeduh. Yes complicating names and titles as they sing in Roumanian. In this case it suits their music  perfectly. Maybe Dordeduh is not for every summer evening, but when you feel like having some moody background music for your darker nights this might be the perfect soundtrack.

Terra Odium - Ne Plus Ultra
Saving best for last, the debut album of Terra Odium. Maybe a new band, but no new musicians. Members having a past in bands like Manitou and Scariot and probably most interesting Spiral Architect. Those who remember their one and only album A Sceptic's Universe know we are in for some top class progressive metal. Maybe not as adventurous the album mentioned above, Ne Plus Ultra gives the fan of old school progmetal everything we love. This starting with Oyvind Haegeland one of the best voices in metal. This also since he reminds us of Devon Graves. Actually the band still reminds me of Psychotic Waltz as well. Asgeir Mickelson on drums is the other man with a past in Spiral Architect and Scariot. On guitars an ex Manitou man Bollie Fredriksen is here and spare keyboards are played by John Phipps. Finally there is Steve DiGiorgio on bass, but he doesn't count as he played with every metal band on the planet.  The album holds seven songs lasting 52:24 If you like any of the bands mentioned above you can buy the album in the blind.  Heavier varied progmetal songs with doomyundertones, an epic, a dark ballad and overall just good music I can't recommend Ne Plus Ultra highly enough. 

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Frost* - Smith / Kotzen - Stormtrooper - Robin McAuley

Some CD tips for you. This time not groundbreaking renewing bands, but just some very comfortable good music.

Frost* - Day and Age
Frost* is the exception on the above rule, as you never know exactly what you get with them. This time they took the decision to refrain from guitar solos, which is interesting if you consider that John Mitchell is playing guitars. He also sings as does other founder Jem Godfrey. Nathan King on bass is the last other fixed bandmember, with drums divided over three people. The lack of guitarsolos strangely enough does not disturb me. Another surprise the spoken word song The Boy Who Stood Still is one of the highlights. So far only Tinyfish managed to make me like spoken word parts (band of brother of Jem). Hard to pick a favorite on this album really, but maybe Kill the Orchestra would be it for me. I saw Frost* live after they released debut album Milliontown. Their poppy open appraoch to prog is refreshing indeed. More important and not that common with prog rock bands, they laugh and have fun while playing. Result another uplifting album that you should check out.

Smith / Kotzen - Smith / Kotzen
A collaboration of two famous guitarists might not shock the world with their music, but it all sound so damn comfortable. Biggest surprise to me is that Adrian Smith also has a great voice suiting this bluesy hardrock. I saw Ritchie Kotzen a few years ago in het Paard and his voice is impressive too. The combination of both works wonderfully well and we get an album that oozes classic bluesy hardrock which might have filled stadiums in earlier decades. It would be nice if the two can work on a tour. Same as when I saw mr Kotzen solo, not knowing the songs does not hinder when it all sounds just like good music. All over a strong album highlights? maybe Scars or I Wanna Stay.

Stormtrooper - Every Now and Then
The title reflects to the reality of the album, some newly written songs and some revisted early eighties songs. Together they reult in a mix of the more NWOBHM inclined older songs and accesible new work. Stormtrooper never were the most famous NWOBHM band. They released only a single in 1980 Pride Before a Fall. Then in 2016 they came with the full album Pride Before a Fall (the lost album). Well that was one surprise and one of the best NWOBHM releases of last decade with epics Battle of the Eve and After Battle next to some catchy short heavy songs. I was pleased to see them performing live in Bristol one legendary evening. Every Now and Then is not of the same level really, but it hints towards that album more than once during the old songs. Overall it mainly is a pleasant album not made to shock the world, but just showing that bands you never heard of can make good music as well. 

Robin McAuley - Standing on the Edge
Robin McAuley brings the McAuley / Schenker Group to mind for older fans. Recently I saw him perform twice with Michael Schenker Fest and his voice survived best if comparing with Gary Barden and Graham Bonnett (maybe Doogie White came close only) Not for nothing that he was asked to sing the UFO-era songs. And now he released a solo album which brings me back to those hairmetal days of the late eighties. The surpise is not only in his voice, but the songs are all good rockers as well. This is a Frontiers release, so Allessandro Del Vecchio is involved. Well if you want new music, that does not sound all that new, but is pretty awesome to kill some missing them old days feelings. The cover is very nice, but the pictures with Robin standing against poles, posts, walls and tables not so necessary at our age (his and mine). 

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Pain of Salvation Ranking the albums

 A good trip down Remedy Lane this was and to my positive surprise the albums that I thougt least of even had their good moments. So ranking PoS was not that hard, with still at some points choices to be made. My ranking is as follows:

10. Road Salt One
Originally a big disappointment, later on I realized it had some good songs on it too and for certain days it works well for me.
9. BE
Even holding some good songs overall an album I will not return to on CD anyday soon, maybe I play the DVD again one day.
8. Road Salt Two
Same story as number one, but with better songs on it for me and also not unimportant some metal songs again.
7. Panther
I think seeing them play this album live will help my appreciation of the songs further. Now an OK album but not top of the list material.
6. Scarsick
The wildest mix within one album. Some very strong songs here, but also America and that song unfortunately.
5. Entropia
A very good debut album, even if I picked it up some years later. Lasting over 70 minutes not consistent in high quality overall to me. Paving the way for the classics that would follow.
4. In the Passing Light of Day
The album the re-won them many fans from the early days. An emotional concept piece filled with heavy songs and wonderful melodies. Title track among their three best songs ever.
3. The Perfect Element I
Probably a favorite to many, for me just a notch below my top two. Filled with classic PoS songs that all are welcome during a live show. Used opens extremely strong.
2. Remedy Lane
On some days my number one. This is PoS how I love it. Wide variation in songs, without experiments outside my comfort zone. Best when played from start to finish for me.
1. One Hour By The Concrete Lake
My first PoS album, their heaviest and overall best set of songs. Pity that during live shows they hardly play songs from it. 11 songs all killer no filler (unless you consider an instrumental opener of 43 seconds no song). From Inside to Inside Out a great ride through PoS at their best, played by their best line-up.
So what's next? Panther's follow up? The Perfect Element II? Scarsick 2 or a dance album? With Daniel Gildenlöw we never know and I think that is one of the beauties of this band (or solo project nowadys). Unpredictable by all means. Sometimes the surprises are not so nice, but you can't discuss quality with this band.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Dream Theater Ranking the albums


Always the best part ranking the albums, or the impossible task depending on your point of view. I have been going through all their albums over the past four days and even took the courage to listen to the full Astonishing again. Before starting my countdown a small explanation on the fanboy in me. I was totally into the band during their early years. Later on this moved to just a good band I kept on following. Further apart from number 15 all albums have their charms and might please others more. So here's my list
15: The Astonishing The album that noone understood. Played it today probably for the last time in my life.
14: Scenes From A Memory Let the controversy begin. This album started of well with me, now bores me (to reincarnated death?). Also this is the first album where the band started to forget about the songs at times in favor of instrumental wankery.
13: A Dramatic Turn Of Events The first album without Portnoy sounds all smooth and well. Still no outstanding songs and several songs being extended far too long.
12: Black Clouds & Silver Linings Portnoy deserved to say farewell with a better album. The absolute highlight of this album is his AA recovery track The Shattered Fortress, which should make my favorite song top something. The bonus instrumental version of the full album never left it's cover.
11: Distance Over Time A pretty decent album, pretty to the point and pretty nice. But where are the absolute highlights of the album? It starts on decent level and finsihes at same level before you realize that was all.
10: Systematic Chaos It are the short songs that make this a better album. And of course The Ministry Of Lost Souls, which is a haunting beauty.
9: A Change Of Seasons Killer song, but not a full album. So it would only therefore be strange if making my top five. Now I use it as a breaking point. The albums that came before I do not really recommend as must hears. My top 8 following now are all necessary albums in progmetal (where 4 to 8 could vary a bit on other days)
8: Falling Into Infinity The commercial album that worked out well. Lots of great songs and the Desmond Child cooperation You Not Me might as well have been a hit. My best live memories are around this album as well, which always helps.
7: Dream Theater The self titled album is in total for me by far their best CD of the past 15 years. Only good songs, no wankery and a decent closing epic. Brilliant return to old form.
6: Octavarium This varied album has something to please everyone. Apparently not all fans thought that positive. Also the last album on Elektra and looking at my list it is fair to say that Elektra had more luck with the releases than Roadrunner had.
5: Train Of Thought Dream Theater going metal fitted them perfectly well. How nice to hear an album where you can bang on by DT. For me if you go this heavy it could have been shorter. But definitely one that kept the metalheads in their fanbase on board.
4: Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence A double album and still not holding one weak song. Disc two with the title track is sensational. Disc one has this nice balance of going all over the place from very heavy to a ballad. The best of the rest for me.
3: When Dream And Day Unite Definitely the album that had the biggest impact on me. Maybe the album that had the best songs on it. This debut album came out of the blue and was so good that it catapuulted the band straight among my favorites bands of the time. And yes Dominici was a strong vocalist too.
2: Images And Words Their Classic album that defined a genre and is an all time favorite for many. Pull Me Under actually scoring a hit is already sensational if you hear how heavy it pulls you under. My favorite line-up and the best concert I ever saw by them touring this album.
1: Awake And still I&W did not make it to my number one as this album is similar, but a bit darker and heavier, which in music often means better. Only killer songs and The Mirror/Lie being an all time high in their career. Their only album that lasts over 70 minutes and does keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Finally when going through Youtube I found this clip of a show commemorating 15 years of WDADU. James LaBrie struggling at times, but what an album that is also with a later lineup. So now I am done for a while playing Dream Theater. The biggest surprise to me was how much I liked the selftitled album. All others ended more or less where I woudl have placed them in advance before hearing all again. Now tonight maybe some old school speed metal to cure my prog overdose. Please feel free to disagree with my choices, as long as it is done respectfully like Andy suggested with their metal album.