Sunday, 17 February 2019

Complexity Fest - Patronaat Haarlem, 16 February 2018

Complexity Fest held its 4th edition and again we would be treated on a range of technical, forward thinking and as the name says complex music. It is a sort of offspring of ProgPower, but then for the younger more trend-sensitive and modern lovers. This meant that while training down alone I would bump into PPE friends throughout the day. I guess overall the organization must have been pleased with the turnout as it looked rather busy even in the main hall. It was going to be a long day and unfortunately I soon found that a pain in the back earlier this week might return if you are still recovering from Satan the night before and having eight hours on your feet. So at times I adjusted my views to physical state, but managed to fill the day with many highlights.

Upon arrival I did see the last three minutes of Piniol in the main hall, a French collective showing two drums, two basses, two guitars and one keyboard in the middle. This was building nicely to one heavy banging climax. Later on I heard that some people thought the full show a bit difficult. When the main hall was swapping the stage, the smaller hall and cafe stage would both hold a band. This meant at times busy places. The first session held 22 in the second hall, which were not having a large impact on me trying a bit too hard. The cafe was packed and spit out the dangerous sound of post rock. I say dangerous as falling asleep is a risk if not played well. This was too packed for me to enter and judge. So on to the main hall it was waiting for a band I found interesting on pre-festival internet search. Four Stroke Baron. This band mixes eighties new wave with progressive metal building on a very heavy bass and hard hitting drums When they started their set it soon became clear that for me we had a first highlight of the day.This was catchy dancing metal and I loved it live and now playing their CD also at home it works. Halfway the set they stated coming from Reno Nevada. Well I told them later on they can fool whoever they like, but if your vocalist sounds like a bastard son of Simon Le Bon and that bloke from Human League you are as British as can be. But they lifted my spirits and mood and showed why attending a festival like this is worthwhile. You discover new bands that are surprisingly nice.

And then for something completely different as Irreversible Mechanism bringing us some technical Death Metal from Minsk of all places. Now I do like my tech death, but this band had one factor pretty much spoiling the fun for me. The vocalist not only holding the mic too far from his mouth to hear anything, he was to me just plain weird. First he looked like one of Tiago's school class mates. No issue with that, but in his pink trainers and black clothing jump up and down the stage doing some sort of Tech Death aerobics, just distracted the hell out of their show. So after some good 25 minutes I left to try and see a bit of Lotus Eaters in the bar stage, but ran into a full house again. So time to eat became the option. Now Complexity has a fairly high hipster factor, so my food was a vegan burger, admitted it tasted very good. Back to the man hall to see Klone. Now this band already played at ProgPower as well and came closest to traditional melodic progmetal. Only point is that they are rather stubborn sticking to the more mellow side of music. So there was for me some lack of energy for a full hour set.

Now with an early departure at Klone I could pick a good spot in the small hall for upcoming band Mol. This Danish outfit call their music Shoegaze metal, but it tends pretty much towards Black Metal influences. It seems they played Holland before and are gaining some name for themselves.
Well after this show you can count me in on their fans and followers. What a total killer show, basically blasting all bands of the day from the stage with this level of energy. Great songs, calmer intermezzos going into full blasts and just the right performance. I hope the kid from Minsk was watching, as this is how a vocalists controls a crowd. For me there was nothing not to love about this gig, unfortunately I passed their merch table too late and CD's were sold out already. So after Four Stroke Baron and Mol I had two winners now and then to think they would originally play at the same time. So thank you David Maxim Micic for pulling out injured.And then as if the hype was not high enough Conjurer was destroying the main hall. This is one heavy riff machine and when I just was in the big man on guitars decided to shout/sing to the hall without using any mic. Well that was an impressive voice losing act. This show was best described as bulldozering over us like there is no tomorrow. Only question was on the football scarf at the drums, I guess it was Aston Villa, and yes those things do matter.What a heavy feast and it soon turned out the day got better and better.

After so much good music sitting was welcome and I skipped the next bands waiting now high in the hall for The Ocean. Turns out that waiting was taken very serious as The Ocean had some problems with their instruments and started some 20 minutes late. last year I saw them in Eindhoven and was not overly impressed. Hanging at the balcony this evening I liked their show much better and actually it got better throughout the set. Next month they play The Hague, so I probably attend that home match. Hereafter there was a choice to be made as both Letters From The Colony and the Shining could be interesting. I started at the cafe and felt that LFTC probably musically was more my thing. Yet as they can be seen again next month as well I moved on to the second hall where The Shining were giving a show. Maybe a bit slick at times we did get a show indeed and they managed to get the hall jumping up and down on command. Amusing it was even if I only saw a small part of the stage in a crammed hall. And then my closing set would come and Zeal + Ardor were one of the main reasons I trained down to Haarlem. I do have their last CD Stranger Fruit and hoped for a good show. Well again no complaints here as they surpassed my expectations. Helped out by additional vocalists on stage for the heavy choirs this was again a heavy monster of a show. Zeal + Ardor mix Black Metal with some sort negro spirituals from the south of the US. I wonder how this will work if they release six albums in ten years, but for now it worked fine and did impress the majority of the audience. They called themselves the less complex band of Complexity Fest, but they did earn the largest crowd reaction. So another highlight to close the day fro me and next year I'm probably back.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Satan, RAM & Screamer - Little Devil Tilburg, 15 February 2019

15 February and I am going to see my first show of the year, means that something must have been wrong. As usual not one specific point to blame but a mix of rather poor programming in January, a devastating worktrip and some returning colds. This night was not to miss though as the best Heavy Metal package this winter was brought by Mario to Tilburg. Making up a good combination I knew I would enjoy all three bands, so an early train was needed and the Cruel Winter tour could hit us.

Arriving in Little Devil it was a beer at the bar and straight on into the hall where I was warmly greeted by Henrik and Dejan of Screamer. Last year I had the pleasure of hosting Screamer when they opened for Night Demon in Musicon and any band that once stayed at my place I follow closely and try to see again when they are in the country. Apart from it being nice seeing them again it was also good to see the band on stage again. I know more of their music now and can say that this show was therefore even better than what they brought last year in Musicon. This was not just my opinion as Theo and Alex agreed to that as well. So we were warmed up well from Demon Rider all the way through Monte Carlo Nights to new song Highway of Heroes. Even being sold out and crammed this would be a good evening in Little Devil.

RAM were on next. One year and two nights ago I saw them last when they headlined last year's best Heavy Metal package of the winter (with Trial and Portrait !!) They started to me somewhat in a blur of songs. No stops for introductions and a constant flow of metal.For those not knowing RAM, if you are into Priest you probably like RAM. Further down the set it seemed to me they took time to let the music and the audience breathe a bit. For me that worked wonders as I liked they second half much better. As I only own one of their CD's I did not know songtitles, but it was good.

It was up to Satan to show their Swedish openers what a metal show was all about since the early eighties. Anyone who read the book "No Sleep till Saltburn" (obligatory to any NWOBHM fan)  knows that some 36 years ago Satan were in Holland bigger than in their homeland. Looking around tonight some of the oldies were still there to relive our past in style. Last time I saw Satan was in Leiden where they were part of a strange package with Gnaw Their Tongues and Batushka playing before them. Tonight was a much better fitting package and possibly due to that I liked this show also even better. Satan is one of those bands who came back releasing new albums over the last decade and I think it is safe to say that all three recent studio albums can stand proudly next to their classic album Court in the Act. The set contained a good crossing of their Classic debut and more recent work. I wondered why I did not include Cruel Magic on my list of best albums 2018, as all songs of that album were massive killers. This was just sheer class with the remarkable voice of Brian Ross in good form and the always upbeat guitar tandem Tippins/Ramsey not missing one note.
So the gig year opened for me in great fashion and today there is more. Thanks to Mario for organizing this one and Frank for the real picture on the top. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Saul Blease - 1914

The Great War ended last year 100 years ago. Reason for several bands to look back in time and write an album dedicated to the victims. In Holland we are not that well educated about the Great War as Holland stayed neutral at the time and our history lessons focus on WWII. A few years ago when on our way to Amiens with the family we stopped at the Somme 1916 museum in Albert. For the first time I got a feel for what happened there 100 years before and most striking was the signs along the road showing minimum progress made over months of time. These two albums are in different musical styles, but the darkness of this pointless war (aren't they all, but this one even more it seemed) is described intensely by both.

Saul Blease - The Great War
I never heard of Saul Blease before but I ran into reviews on this album on several Prog rock sites and magazines. He is only 23 and from Bristol, so hope he's a Gashead. Now war themes might to metalheads be more linked to extreme metal bands in Prog rock he definitely is not the first either. Fish released on his last album an half hour epic on WWI, while bands like Credo and Pallas wrote about it before. The band Freedom to Glide even dedicated their first two albums fully to the Great War. It always struck me how many British artist dedicate these songs to a relative that died in the war Saul Blease does so remembering his great uncle Chas Blease who died at the age of 21. Now I met this CD through Prog zines, there is more than a bit of industrial mixed in the sound. Actually what this one man project brings us is nothing short from very impressive. Many styles blend and the album caught me completely with several highlights following each other. Angel of Mons is possibly the best of them all. If I would have received this album last year it would have made my top 18 of the year, as this is special stuff. Not sure how often Saul is touring or playing live, but I would love to see this album performed in full once. Is there a point of critic, yes a minor one. When you write such good lyrics on such a serious theme, why not add them to the CD. Non native speakers like me, now need to open a bandcamp page to read along and in this case that adds a lot.

1914 - The Blind Leading the Blind
An extreme metal band writing about war is nothing new really. References and examples a plenty, yet this band has something to add I felt. First they are from Ukraine, which is a country at war and not hugely represented in my CD collection. This album has hints of Death-, Black- and Doom metal. Kicking of with an old sounding song on recruiting they have some intermezzo's as well. The heavy parts are grooving and the voice is extreme but easy to understand when reading along with the lyrics. Halfway the album there is a surprising cover of The Exploited in Beat the Bastards, which also in this version holds a punk vibe. Hanging on the Barbed Wire is a song that could have been sung during the war by the soldiers as it reflects the safety on a distance of the higher ranks, while so many soldiers die at the trenches and in no mans land. The highlight of this album can be found at the end, when The Hundred Days Offensive comes by. This song has an acoustic opening, a catchy chorus and some heavy blasts in between. That song alone makes it worth checking out this album. 1914 puts Ukraine (more?) on the metal map with this strong release.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Metal Experience Fest - Nobel Leiden, 28 December 2018

Metal Experience Fest was a metal festival, but actually also a triple birthday party. So thanks Koen, Erik and Eus, but no review. First because  when I tried to see Thoughtless the small hall was overcrowded (but I liked what I saw) Then I recognized a short bit of The Heritance from a Musicon show earlier this year. But together with Alex I did watch two full shows and Graceless proved again to be among the top bands in  Dutch Death Metal and Martyr gave us their usual party. Job well done Robert, as from where I was standing the artwork slideshow looked good. This was a first MEF, but they already announced a follow up for next year 28 September. I shall be there. Cheers

Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Top 18 of 2018 - Live shows

2018 was another year, where basically every show was a hit. Never did I feel close to thinking:  I might as well have stayed at home. In total I attended less gigs than in 2017, but quality was as good and ranking became this complicated task again. This taking into account the many great shows I could not attend.When I did a first shortlist I already arrived well over 25, so I included one harsh rule. Bands I saw in 2017 as well in similar setup were leaving the list. This meant no place for top class gigs by Michael Schenker, Saxon, Solitary, Absolva, Beyond Creation, Night Demon and Raven. Next I critically went through the festivals attended and noticed I did not have one outstanding set at PPE or DMF. Well I did, but skipped them from the list as well. This enabled me to finally reduce the number to 18. This lists included nostalgia as always, new discoveries and total surprises in genres that are not my absolute favorites. Starting at 18 let the countdown begin.

18: Hypnos - Musicon 13 May
Attending a Sunday matinee show of a band I never heard of before and then get blown away by this Czech Death Metal combo. Good show, good shirt, and a nice surprise.

17: Savage Master / Steel Shock - Nobel 18 March
An evening of pure Heavy Metal in de Nobel. Maybe Dutch support Steel Shock were even better, but two sets to bang on brought us a great evening.

16: Transport League - Musicon 8 May
This was an a-typical Tuesday night in Musicon. Packed as if it was a weekend, these Swedes did give a remarkable show of heavy stoner rock. Killers on stage this band.

15: Anvil - Nobel 1 February
Anvil kicking off their European tour in Leiden. I was not expecting such a full house, nor was the band, obviously pleased with the warm welcome. Good movies do matter it seemed.Metal on Metal.

14: Sorcerer - Dynamo 15 November
On the night Slayer said goodbye to Holland, Sorcerer gave the lovers of Heavy doom metal a night to remember in Dynamo.

13: Horisont - 't Beest 12 May
Retro rock is in fashion nowadays, with the seventies returning on all fronts. Forget Greta van Vliet as these guys are so much better and original. Mixing Heep and Purple with this Scandinavian touch to complete the show.

12: The Contortionist - Patronaat 26 June
My favorite Djent band. On CD they mellowed down and left the screams behind. On stage these numbers gained a lot of impact to me. I was expecting them to play the main hall, but in the cafe stage they obviously still need to be discovered by many.

11: Amulet / Scavenger - Little Devil 17 June
Similar to nr 17 two bands playing old school Heavy Metal. Amulet saying goodbye to their vocalist on his last show, while Scavenger welcomed their new female vocalist. The Hangman scene shall be remembered by all those present.

10: Fish - The Queen's Hall 22 September
Seeing Fish in his hometown, was a very welcome surprise to me when visiting Edinburgh with the family. Voice good, band more or less OK. Still hearing the Clutching at straws in full was a highlight this year.

9: Bell Witch - Patronaat 1 April 
I did see this band twice this year. This was the first time which took me by surprise. A duo on bass and drums bringing all this. The full album version later on in Leeuwarden  with B/W movie was in fact a bit too much with one 84 minute song. The first half only was just brilliant.

8: Ozzy - Altice Arena 2 July
My annual trip abroad to an old-school show with Magchiel became a tradition and a success. Warming up by Priest helped, but Ozzy won the night for me. I believe for the first time since MOR 1986 I saw Ozzy live and he was in good form and so was the band. With all songs you can sing along, so a party it was.

7: While Heaven Wept - Baroeg 25 November
While Heaven Wept saying goodbye and we can be sad indeed. What a complete killer of a show and how often do you see Baroeg singing along with the band this loud? never. This band playing Heavy Metal doom shall be missed indeed, but what a farewell they presented.

6: Mearfest - Farnham Royal Village Hall 2 June
Now I know Mearfest is not a band, but this was a special day in total. The afternoon in the pub, made me even like the cover bands with good British sense of humor. Than the evening had Trespass, Bandolier (with original Budgie drummer as well) and Satan's Empire. An evening of celebrating NWOBHM and impossible to choose one favorite moment. Brian and Claire pulled of a special day again.

5: Anubis - 't Blok 8 July
Anubis proudly waving the flag of Prog Rock for me. The night before holding their own amongst three heavier progmetal bands this afternoon was one they remember as well (with CD release) How often do you get underground bands playing a three hour !! set for you. With the amount of epics, not even that many songs, but so good played this band showed and shared their love of music.

4: Vice - Lottenhutte 7 April
A Tribute to Wizz was the festival and after Twisted Illusion had to cancel I drove down to see this lot. Well that was very worthy as hardly will you get so many guitar solo's thrown at you in a 45 minute set. Their album was good, their live show excellent. After three Belgian tours, it's about time to drive on north to Holland.

3: Q5 - Little Devil 31 August
Q5 the band behind Steel the Light came down to Holland for the first time. The eighties were the best we ever saw in metal and Steel The Light was one of the many Classic must know albums of that era. So how were they live, well sensational. Bringing the songs alive on stage and Hans and I knew we were witnessing a highlight. Turning darkness into light!!

2: Trial - Merleyn 13 February
Trial are on CD probably my favorite discovery of this decade. This was the first time I saw them playing live and man did they live up to expectations. In a far too short set opening for Portrait and RAM they managed to convince me. Linus reminding me of Devon Graves in his gestures and the band playing their heavy metal full of prog and doom references with class. Now I wait for a headliner set.

1: Armored Saint - Dynamo 10 August
Some nights everything falls perfectly into place and this was one of those evenings. Armored Saint playing their best album Symbol of Salvation fully and in top form. Book-ended by some Classic other songs this evening was sensational, As we stayed in Eindhoven for the night, no rush to last trains home, just enjoy what we just saw. Saints will conquer. DMF this band should be headlining in 2019.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Top 18 of 2018 - CD's

2018 was a good year in music and the task to limit my favorites to 18 CD's only was a hard one. So sometimes I decided to pick one CD representing a style of music. At the same time I am aware that I have not heard all CD's I potentially like, For example by missing shows of Tokyo Blade, Revocation, Arena, Madder Mortem I also missed picking up their CD's, which probably would be rated high.  Some other bands I like on CD, but might have liked even better if going to see them live. Examples here The Night Flight Orchestra and Zeal and Ardor.
Also remarkable that this year not one female fronted band made it to my list, but there are reasons for that. Bands like Oceans of Slumber and Sinistro released strong albums, but not as good as I hoped for after their previous albums. Azusa almost was in, but is too recent and I actually ordered the new Into Eternity, which was later cancelled by the company I ordered them with. Bands like Epica, Nightwish and the lot with annoying sopranos will never make my list as being not a genre that interests me.
The trend that I am getting heavier with age is valid for both musical taste and bodyweight. Finally I noticed many of my favorites are relatively short albums. I guess this is a good trend avoiding fillers.

So decisions are hard and the ranking reflects my mood of today. While saying that I can change positions between number 18-4 at any day, but my top three was rather clear. So here we go, enjoy and feel free to comment or criticize.

18: August Life - New Eternity
How nice is it when you discover a new Dutch band playing Heavy Metal in line with the greats from the late seventies to mid eighties. New band, not so new musicians this mix of great vocals and good songs made them my favorite national album of the year.

17: Beyond Creation - Algorythm
I prefer my technical death metal live on stage over listening to a CD. Still this band is the benchmark and both their remarkable show and strong new album deserve to be mentioned here. Three instrumentals to please the non grunt fans and so many notes I won't even start counting.

16: Satan's Empire - Rising
NWOBHM is still going strong and some bands that were never that famous over here turn out to be strong names to count with nowadays. So I could have named my friends of Trespass, Satan or Saxon here, but this was a new discovery to me. Seeing them live first at Mearfest convinced me to pick up the album upon release a few weeks later. Book-ended by fast short bangers we get mainly mid tempo heavy metal and even a Eruption like guitar solo kicking of Dragonslayer.

15: Seven Sisters - The Cauldron and the Cross
While the oldies are still going strong in the UK, there are many young bands coming to the fore as well. This year's favorite was Seven Sisters (just over Midnight Prophecy) The speed with which this album kicks of is amazing and the closing epic is the icing on the cake. Metal is here to stay.

14: Tribulation - Down Below
My first impressions were not all that positive as they are lighter than previous classic Children of the Night. Yet when listening more the penny dropped. Many bands went from extreme to more accessible. Tribulation take a different approach. While the vocals stay extreme, the music calmed down to dark hard rock. Some catchy songs make up for a great album indeed.

13: We Sell the Dead - Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell is Full
Talking about growers this poppy doom hard rock project slowly but surely kept on making it back into my CD player more and more. Just easy listening doom. I was in doubt if Khemnis is not a bit better on the heavy metal doom side, but today's decision fell in favor of WSTD. Nice artwork and clips as well in red, black and white.

12: Galahad - Seas of Change
Progrock is losing my attention a bit, but some of the older bands never disappoint. Galahad released in January this epic one song album on Brexit. I don't think that they expected the album to become only more relevant during the year. It is the music that counts and this 40 minute plus epic holds everything I like in prog with the return of Lee Abraham now on guitars as highlight.

11: Barren Earth - A Complex of Cages.
The Melodic Death Metal scene also had strong releases by In Vain and Omnium Gatherum. Yet Barren Earth combine this with a healthy dose of Prog and Doom. The clean voice of Jón Aldará (also strong with Hamfered) comes close to over dramatic, but this combination works so fine. Typical PPE band around dinner break, where half the audience should love this.

10: Future Corpse - Culture Ruins Everything Around Me
This Australian trio state they play Heavy Prog. Wonderful discomforting songs, where they blend hectic guitars, with shouted vocals and a punky attitude. They keep on reminding me of At the Drive In, but then better. Nothing to put on as background music, but very good for easing the mind in hysterical fashion.

9: Twisted Illusion - Excite the Light part 1
This English band doesn't stop throwing new releases at us. After the 2016 debut and the 2017 double album, this is the first of a trilogy. They call it prog, I call it great music. Many acoustic work entering into epic choruses with such strong vocals and guitar solo's. Will Shaw of Heir Apparent even sings along on the title track. I missed them live 3 times this year. New Year new chances for that, when the band is complete again that is.

8: Sacral Rage - Beyond Celestial Echoes
Back to the Eighties with Sacral Rage. Somewhere in between Agent Steel and Watchtower we get many screams and shrieking guitars. A Sci-fy theme is all around, with Cynic like made up words at time. This band fills a gap of a genre that was big at the turning of the eighties into the nineties. Highlight closing epic The Glass.

7: Redemption - Long Night Journey Into Day
With the musical surprise gone for a while on album number 7 and the loss of Ray Alder on vocals I was worried. And then Nick van Dijk shows he is still the driving force behind Redemption. Tom Englund singing better than expected and that typical Redemption Heavy Prog Metal sound is all over us. Pity of the U2 cover, further a winner of an album.

6: Fifth Angel - The Third Secret
In a year of comebacks this is among the better ones. How can you lose a vocalist, have a guitarist stepping in and actually sounding better? Fifth Angel is still about the melodies, but in a very Heavy Metal way. This album should attract many, but might stay under the radar outside underground circles. Well those who know them found another favorite to look our for touring Europe next year,

5: Ursa - Abyss Between the Stars
My favorite album last year was by Cormorant. Now three members from that band formed a doom metal band and guess what: it kicks ass again. Their dirty sounding doom is packed in slow songs on wizards dragons, fires and the lot. Vocals are cleanish, playing is flawless and music varied. Next autumn I hope to see them on one of the many doom festivals held that time of year.

4: Black Cyclone - Death is King
Listening to this album I always get this grin on my face. This is a celebration of eighties speed metal, led by one of the best voices in metal nowadays: Linus Johansson. When the opening line speaks of Unstoppable Force you know where to look for inspiration. The speed throughout the album is fast and therefore we get a short album. That is just enough as we get exhausted with so much speed upon us. Proud member of the Chaos Brigade.

3: Witherfall - A Prelude to Sorrow
Last year's debut album already made it to my number 6. This one is even better in my view. Witherfall fill the gap that has been left in between bands like Savatage and Nevermore. Good old Heavy Metal that is with great vocals and guitars. Pity their first European tour is acoustic next March supporting Sonata Arctica. Yet I shall be there as this is Heavy Metal as it is meant to be.

2: Howling Sycamore - Howling Sycamore
This band is the one blowing me away most at the beginning of the year. When you mix the guitars of Ephel Duath with the original voice of Watchtower you can count on the more adventurous side of Prog Metal. Eight songs passing a wide range of styles with haunting saxes mixing the extremer side of progmetal at times. And how great is it to hear the voice of Jason McMaster on a new album. The follow up is already in mixing phase. Now all we need is a tour.

1: Heir Apparent - The View From Below
While maybe ranking my favorites of the year was hard, the choice of album of the year was easy to me. Comeback of the year, of the century. So they did not release any albums for 29 years. And then they come back this glorious. Will Shaw settling himself among best current voices in metal and their mid tempo Heavy Metal packed in eight songs really shows me what is so beautiful in Heavy Metal. Melodic to proggy with space for a ballad and a fast banger, it is all there. No words to describe this, just a strong wish to finally see them live on stage. Dynamo Metal Fest would be good, but an indoor show even preferred. Welcome back my friends.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Level Fields - Azusa - Shattered Skies - Fifth Angel - Jason Becker - Witherfall

Some CD's you might want to get still within the year.

Level Fields - 1104
Level Fields is a new band combining members of Autumn Hour and Poverty's No Crime. Now Autumn Hour was a rock project with Alan Tecchio on vocals and he is a vocalist that has been dividing opinions. I am in the total fan camp, as I loved his work with Watchtower, Hades, Non Fiction and Autumn Hour. Liking his voice is also to the trick to highly enjoy this album. Mostly mid tempo metal songs are carried by his strong voice. At the same time it would be rude to completely ignore the band as I believe Marco Ahrens wrote most of the music and played a lot of instruments. This to me is just a nice mid tempo metal album to enjoy. Highlight probably the semi title track Extra 1104 which tells the story of train crash in 1925. Tecchio fans like me can buy in the blind.

Azusa - Heavy Yoke
Azusa another new band with the guitars of Extol and the bass of The Dillinger Escape Plan. So don't expect an easy ride. Now interesting enough the vocalist is a female from Greek band Sea+Air. Now I saw her last year at Brainstorm acoustically singing angelic to us, So where is this hysterical scream suddenly coming from? No matter the answer I love it. This is one of those albums you should play many times before starting to get an idea what is going on really. At times it calms down, but maniac moves are always around the corner. Suddenly female fronted metal gained another very acceptable band to me. I expect them to play Brainstorm next year, while PPE might be a good stage for them as well.

Shattered Skies - Muted Neon
Shattered Skies I discovered on PPE some years ago with a very energetic show. Later we saw them at HRH and they again impressed. Their vocalist meanwhile left the band and he was a big factor during their live shows I thought. Well they found a new man in Gerry Brown and he sounds not all that different. The music is still djenty heavy metal and the playing flawless. So what is left are the songs and they are for djenty fairly accessible. So resuming it is about time to see them live on stage again. Best song possibly Fall From Disgrace going from the melodic to the extreme.

Fifth Angel - The Third Secret
Anyone thinking that the best thing coming out of Seattle is grunge, really does not get good music. Seattle is probably the capitol of US metal giving the world bands like Queensryche, Metal Church, Nevermore, Culprit, Sanctuary, Heir Apparent and Fifth Angel. Similar to Heir Apparent, Fifth Angel give us this year a very welcome return after a few decades. So they lost their vocalist with the strong voice. No problem whatsoever as guitarist Kendall Bechtel steps in and replaces him stronger than expected. Fifth Angel play heavy metal with a very melodic side to it. This new album is one ride of highlights from opener Stars are Falling until Closer Hearts of Stone. In Germany a few good taste festivals already booked them for next year. Would be nice if they can combine this with a visit to Holland, imagine seeing this band in a venue like Little Devil. If anyone hoped for a strong return, this is even better.

Jason Becker - Triumphant Hearts
We all know the story of Jason Becker who was a guitar god in the eighties and then got diagnosed with ALS in 1990 to hear he had few years to live. The beautiful documentary Not Dead Yet tells us how he got on and communicates through his eyes now. If that is not amazing enough he also still is involved in releasing new music. So I saw a few weeks back a clip Valley of Fire. This song over 9 minutes should appeal to all who were into any guitar heroes of the eighties. The vast majority is guest soloing here and what a great song that is. So I decided to pre-order this album in the blind only to read in later reviews it is not really metal. Well no worries here as the fast majority is still interesting and only the few songs with vocals do less to me. There is even material written when he was in David Lee Roth's band. The long list of guests also might convince anyone into guitar music. Finally only supporting the cause of Jason Becker  justifies a purchase.

Witherfall - A Prelude to Sorrow
This inlay of the CD mentions R.I.P. Adam Paul Sagan. Adam was the drummer with the band who passed away before they last year released their strong debut Nocturnes and Requiems.  This album deals with the loss of him for the band. The format this is done, is epic Heavy Metal. I guess those of us missing a new Savatage release shall be happy with this album. Very strong vocals surrounded by heavy guitar riffs and great solo's. Basically this what Hans and I use to call Heavy Metal as it is meant to be. Mixing short and long songs throughout probably the long ones We Are Nothing and Vintage draw most attention. Next year they come to support Sonata Arctica on an acoustic tour.   Even without the full power I hope to be there seeing them blow the headliner off the stage.