Thursday, 23 May 2019

Jag Panzer & Idle Hands - Musicon Den Haag, 22 May 2019

Jag Panzer are among those bands who put US Power Metal on the map. Their Classic album is Ample Destruction, one of those examples that aged very well still sounding relevant. So when they were announced to play my home venue it was sure we would be there. A Wednesday is not ideal for all, but Hans, Magchiel and Pieter joined me for some classic metal.

Opening band were also from the USA Idle Hands. This band was announced as blending the Cure with Heavy Metal and that is just what they did. For me this set went a bit with mixed emotions. At times strong songs passed by (Bring me the Night) while at other moments my attention dropped a bit. Most of these downs came I guess by the somewhat too cool presentation of their vocalist. Dressed in black wearing sunglasses he looked not all too happy on stage. It does fit their music, but at the same time does not pass much of a vibe to an audience. Overall Idle Hands sounded pretty OK, but did not make me rush to their merch stand.

With Musicon's setup their was a short sound check which made me for a moment think they opened the evening with Symphony of Terror. That was cut of halfway, but it made clear we would be in for a treat this evening. This was for me the first time I would see Jag Panzer and let's face it nothing really beats good old Heavy Metal. Opening with a new song Magchiel detected some voice issues with Henry the Tyrant Conklin. Interesting enough he later informed us he was having a cold after delivering a simply amazing performance during Licensed to Kill. While Joey Tafolla does play again with the band he did not join them on this tour. Well with all respect to the man he was not missed as the two guitars were awesome tonight. The set passed the full history with a bit more songs from AD. Technical problems were overcome easily and we got for me the best show in Musicon this year. If there were highlights it must have been during the encore when we got the chance to shout along with Warfare and No Mercy!. A perfect evening by a great band. I would have loved to hear more of their touring stories over breakfast, but unfortunately their tour manager last minute decided differently making it necessary that Tiago will have to eat many eggs and drink lots of fresh orange juice before going on holidays next Sunday.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Black Sites - Fen - Contrarian

 I have been a bit lazy on tipping new CD's this year, so herewith some catching up. OK I also bought good albums by Dream Theater, Queensryche and Candlemass, but guess no one needs to be introduced to those bands by me. Three strong albums to check out.

Black Sites - Exile
A new band to me, receiving various good reviews on web zines. Listening to their bandcamp page gave me the final push. Good US metal with some hints of other influences. The bonus track on the CD is Enforcer by Queensryche, which is a bit of a reference. At teh same time Dream Long Dead has Gothic influences and other songs go from fast to calmer metal. At times I am reminded of the band The Black Symphony. Very good Heavy Metal which should be brought to Europe. Just check the opening track The Night They Came For You out and you might be hooked as well.

Fen - Stone and Sea
I got into Fen only with their last full album Winter. That album contained six long songs in 75 minutes. On this EP Fen are more to the point staying under 20 minutes. Actually I thought this was a new release, but found on CD only a split with Sleepwalker which just adds three instrumental songs. Fen opens with Tides of Glass sounding like early 70's Floyd in order to move to their atmospheric Black Metal later on. The title track is the short bridge and closer The Last Gravestone is the highlight coming closets to the masterpieces presented on Winter. They are working on a full album, so keeping an eye open for that. Until then this EP will do just fine.

Contrarian - Their Worm Never Dies
This album probably will stay my favorite Tech Death album of 2019. This mainly because they do not follow the current new leaders in teh genre, but sound like a modern version of some bands starting to blend death metal and technical mastery. I am thinking of bands like Cynic and Atheist. Drummer/ vocalist George Kollias is known from Nile, but not by me as I don't have their CD's. The vocals do not go clean throughout the album, but instrumental parts bring all the needed variation and the songs seem all strong. Turns out this is their fourth album already, so I keep an eye on touring agenda's as this must blast live as well.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Little Devil Doom Day, Little Devil Tilburg, 11 May 2019

11 May was again one of those days where options were plenty. Doom was over Tilburg while Graveland in the East of Holland had some big names in extreme metal and Hardrock was taking over Baroeg  with Blokhut live. Now Frank is getting bands to play at LDDD and last week we traveled together to Mark Boals where he explained that the Dutch bands at Blokhut play everywhere in Holland this year anyway. Finally Iron Void was on the bill and their 2018 album Excalibur blew me away. So doom it was for me. Actually with the week I had with very disappointing office closing affairs and football deceptions doom would fit best with my mood. So I wanted some doom soundtrack guiding my state of mind and misery I got, but more on that later.

Upon arrival in sunny Tilburg all still looked pretty good. Thronehammer were halfway their set when I entered Little Devil. This band was musically somewhat one-sided, but the voice made the difference. Closing song Thronehammer actually turned in some sort of doom party with fists in the air and a pretty strong vocal addition from the audience. Nice opener they were and hereafter Finnish Cardinal's Folly came on. For me they were the opposite of Thronehammer in a way that their music was more working with changing tempos, but the voice seemed a bit flat. Again the best was saved for last when the guitarist and bassist jumped of the stage and played in the already tiny space between bar and venue. Actually throughout the day it was good that half the fans stayed outside or in the bar area making the venue accessible at all times. Hereafter the volume, speed and show would up a few notches when Death Doom combo the Drowning from the UK hit the stage.  This was a great live band and the fast guitar solo's were not very doom to me, but very welcome indeed. Actually I told Frank already last week that it was a good thing that even within doom he programmed a wide range of styles. The Drowning were the winners so far for me so time for some food.

As from here things started to go pear-shaped for me. The Turkish pizza with shoarma tasted Ok but had a devastating effect on me. As my private doctor and wife Josie would explain today with a tiny bit of pancreas I have left this fat overdose caused a shock probably. So I stumbled back to LD finding that My Silent Wake was keeping the curve going up and performed Death Doom with a bit more variation than the Drowning did. This definitely raised my energy levels, but a new beer was out of the question. Now I was waiting for the band that got me there in the first place Iron Void. Some issues with an amp head resulted in a longer wait, which did not help me getting fitter. Luckily when Iron Void started all was good very fast. Their blend of NWOBHM and doom was live as great as on CD. two vocals dividing the job, a very lively presentation and such good songs. Actually they played most from the first two albums Iron Void and Doomsday that I don't know yet. This did not matter as songs like Doomsday, the Mad Monk and Path to Self Destruction went down very well at first hearing. Unfortunately my path to self destruction eating a greasy Turkish pizza started taking it's toll and I really needed some fresh air. So in spite of loving their set I walked out before the end and called it a day. This was especially a pity as I did not stop at the merch tables, which I would do near to end, not to carry stuff around all day. So if Iron Void return to Holland I promise to be there again and buy some CD's. Probably the same can be said about My Silent Wake and The Drowning. So a shitty end of the day fitting a shitty week. Things now can only get better. Next year there should be another LDDD, hope to be back.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Mark Boals & Harbour of Souls - Cafe Bel Air Breda, 4 May 2019

Mark Boals is a man of a thousand projects, so anyone into hard rock probably has some albums where he is singing on at home. I for instance played the Frontiers project The Codex in the afternoon to get in the mood.  For this tour the announcement was that he would play Yngwie Malmsteen's album Trilogy in full. Now that is probably my favorite album of YM and as he told us the first album he ever sung on. Cafe Bel Air on Breda was for me a new venue and that was a first success. Walking distance from the train station and great plans to grow their hard rock agenda, might make this one to return to. Next shows of interest announced: 22 May DGM /Tomorrow's Eve (but I shall be at Jag Panzer in Musicon) 16 June Vinnie Appice 30 June Praying Mantis. Breda is a 15 minute shorter train ride than often visited Tilburg so pretty easy. When Frank did text me on the train that he had free upgrades for first class we drove down in comfort respecting the two minutes silence when the train stopped for national commemoration of the dead.

The opening band of the day were Harbour of Souls from Zeeland. I believe I was supposed to see them last year in their hometown when they were opening for Dead Lord and Horisont, but they were off the bill suddenly. Now I could see them and they play hard rock of the late seventies. Two guitars decent vocals and solid rhythm section made this a pleasant warm-up. Their covers were by Riot and Saxon to hint a bit of a direction. I was originally planning to get their two EP's in support, but never made it past the bar in the break.

During the break we noticed that most travelers for the evening came from the greater The Hague region so I could promote Heir Apparent 10 June in Musicon a bit. Now Mark Boals was going to cover Yngwie Malmsteen tonight so that puts some stress on the guitarist. Like Dio cover bands need an amazing vocalist Yngwie is not for everyone to cover. In comes Emiliano something from Italy who was dressed in a black suit, but nevertheless shredded like a madman. Amazing playing and seemingly much less of a star than the original Malmsteen. So before the show starts let me explain my link with Malmsteen. I loved the LP's by Steeler (with Ron Keel) and Alcatrazz he played on, so when he released his debut solo album I was a fan already. His first four albums are classics to me and probably Trilogy is my favorite of them. Hereafter his albums became less urgent purchases. This phenomenon was normal in the eighties see Manowar or Metallica, no one needs to hear anything after the first four albums. Even for my huge heroes Dio, Queensryche and Schenker this is the truth to a certain extend. Malmsteen live than. We saw him in Zwolle (the infamous IJsselhallen for still angry Slayer fans) when Joe Lynn Turner was vocalist and that was awesome. Later on we saw him in Arena Rotterdam (when Arena was still a venue in Rotterdam and not a stadium in Amsterdam) Matters turned a bit weird that evening, when Yngwie introduced his wife to the audience halfway who waved at us?? So tonight we would go back to the good times and I can say this was the best Yngwie setlist I ever saw. I think it s disrespectful to the original to say that also the playing was better but we were in Heaven Tonight ( a song that did not make the setlist) Warming us up with Rising Force, I Am a Viking and Black Star showed this was a killer band of Italians and Mark Boals lost nothing of power in his voice over the last 30 years. When thereafter Trilogy followed and we could shout along with hits like You Don't Remember, Liar or The Queen is in Love it was happy faces all around. Interesting how you can sing along with those songs from the eighties when LP's made you read and consume the lyrics as well. The evening ended with I See the Lights Tonight and a bit of Led Zep. So thanks to Ron for putting this evening together and I hope to be back often in Cafe Bel Air.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Swallow the Sun, Oceans of Slumber & Aeonian Sorrow - Rockpalast Bochum 26 April. 2019

Swallow the Sun and Oceans of Slumber touring Europe. One of the most exciting packages this spring for me. Swallow the Sun recently released When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light, probably the album I played most this year as this is one Masterpiece of Sadness. Oceans of Slumber I am kind of  a fanboy ever since their debut album  Aetherial made it to album of the year for me. Strange enough this package decided to skip Holland, so going abroad was the option.Now this tour will play Lisbon next week and it is school holidays, so I could be there with Josie. However Tiago being one week before his final school exams, made it not wise to leave him alone taking care of food, cooking and shopping as well. The next best alternative would be Rockpalast in Bochum. While no one felt like joining me I decided to drive down to Germany alone. Big mistake as apparently holidays started in some parts of Holland and where Google told me I would arrive around 15:00 in my hotel in reality I did so at 16:45. Main problem with that was that I missed my city center tour including some CD shops. Now it was getting some food and down to Rockpalast.

What an interesting venue this was. A labyrinth of stairs and spaces with bars at unexpected places popping up and a venue which gave everyone from any corner the chance to have a good view of the stage. Upon arrival the first thing to do is ordering a Weiss Bier under the motto when in Rome. Fair prices and good bars were another plus. I arrived around 19:45 in the venue in order to see Aeonian Sorrow already being well halfway their set. My ticket said start at 20:00, but then again my ticket also told me I was going to see Swollow the Sun. What I did see was Ok and not very far apart from Oceans of Slumbers style, with a less interesting female vocalist. To short to give many comments though.

After a short change over at the stage I decided to move  forward to feel the new Oceans of Slumber not only on the ears but also through the airwaves. I say new Oceans of Slumber as drummer Dobber is the only remaining original member and vocalist Cammie is the only one still there from the Winter line-up. So where during the first show I saw by them I could still shout for Coffins Like Kites, probably their best song ever, that shout would now be lost upon a band surely not having rehearsed same. Actually after starting with one song from Winter we only got songs from their last year's The Banished Heart. Now I know their songs and loved what I heard, yet for those not knowing the band I can imagine this to be a difficult set. Oceans of Slumber play long songs and most have calmer intro's or intermezzos. So when halfway the Banished Heart title track there is a stop, we did get an applause for end of song. This while the final bit is to me the highlight of the album. The slow building dramatic parts where Most real love is died for to be yours is a beautiful piece of music and was brought emotionally by the band. Cammie's presentation is somewhat introvert with no inter song banter all around, but that just fits the music better I guess. From what I could hear and see further this new band will glue together more and more and shall maintain the high level of the band intact. The best was kept for last when At Dawn was the heaviest banger of the set and No Color, No Light was sung by Cammie alone and is another beautiful power ballad to end with. I say she sang alone as on the album Tommy Evergrey/Redemption is singing this duet. So I silently hoped for Oceans of Slumber to be the final band on ProgPower this year and Tommy singing along as he shall be around with Redemption anyway. When asking the keyboard player afterward he was blatantly unaware of this possibbility, so I guess that is not an option or he is a very good actor not allowed to say anything yet. At the end of the set the audience showed their appreciation and many would have loved another song (Coffins Like Kites for instance)

Another break so Zwei Weissen Bieren. My German is a bit rusty or as Tiago calls it non-existent. Anyway I managed to get what I wanted and already got some beautiful Swallow the Sun Merch. Now I moved downstairs and decided to stand before the sound and light men. This to have the best possible sound as I was interested how Swallow the Sun would be live. I love their last album and their previous triple CD Songs From the North I, II & III was a Masterpiece. I am a late entrance in their fan base as I discovered them only halfway their career with the album New Moon. The band opened with the title track of the last album followed by a song from SFtN. Hereafter Firelights followed and I realized we were in for one special evening. So I do love the last album, but live these songs came over even much stronger. The overall sound was very good with all instruments and voices clearly separated. This band knows how to set an atmosphere where you get drown into their sad songs with body and soul. The story of loss behind their last album is sad, but Swallow the Sun always were fishing in darker waters. When they announce old song New Moon and start with "Tomorrow will be worse, I heard her say, as she closed the curtains and walked away". this is sheer poetry resulting in goosebumps. The remaining set visited several albums while I was pleased that Stone Wings was included. After a wonderful set where the hall often became a wave of slow banging heads the band returned for an encore. The opening song of New Moon "These Woods Breathe Evil"was another highlight and I might have seen one of the best shows of the year. If they do come to Holland later this year I will try to be there as well. At least Mary and Lida should join me as a vocalist wearing a Peter Steele T-shirt is for them reason enough.

So I could return with a smile on my face to my hotel. Two bands who recently released such dark and sad albums giving us an exciting evening like this is just amazing. The venue also put itself on my radar although next time I shall look better if there is a hotel on walking distance available. If so I can enjoy the after party in the Dungeons as well. While all ended well I did get a German souvenir this morning leaving Bochum. On a road heading to the highway where you are easily driving 70, but only allowed 50 it suddenly turned 30 with me noticing too late. Flash it was so let's see if this prime example of the famous German sense of humor arrives in Holland any day soon.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Seventh Wonder & Max Pie - de Boerderij Zoetermeer, 21 April 2019

Seventh Wonder in de Boerderij on the day of Wonder. And no I am not referring to Easter as I am not into religions. The first wonder this Sunday was Mathieu van der Poel winning the Amstel Gold Race. Not sure how many of my three readers are into cycling, but this amazing victory was in theory impossible. But back to Seventh Wonder the Swedish Progmetal band. Let me first put some ballpark on where I stand regarding Seventh Wonder. I am not their biggest fan in Holland, as my name is not Esther or Michel. I saw them first live at Headway some 12 years ago and then got into their second album Waiting in the Wings. At the time the band was a bit more metal I think and their vocalist  was sick as a dog but still surviving on stage. Now that same vocalist is also the reason it was pretty busy in de Boerderij, as his day job is with Kamelot. At least when I ran into Mario before the show (whom I normally only see at shows by bands like UFO, Uriah Heep or Deep Purple) he explained knowing the band through Kamelot. From the ProgPower Europe side there would obviously also some known faces, as they played there before. Actually I only recall the spacy outfits from that gig, as they had little to do with the set I thought. So with Hans, Peter and Lida joining we gathered near our usual bar on the left and first waited for Max Pie.

Max Pie are a Belgian Progressive Power Metal band. Yes they could play and the vocalist could sing. Actually he came close to Geoff Tate at times. Still something was missing to me. At first a tape was almost overruling the band, with Keyboards not being played but heard loudly. Second their songs did not have a sticking factor at first hearing to me. Maybe it was mostly because I got distracted. Just before leaving home I did read the Grimsby Town match report by Andrew. He is my main man in observing illogical attributes on stage, which results in endless discussion between us (Russian hat at Nightingale, Black flag waving at Soen anyone?) On comes Max Pie's guitarist in his leather jacket with yellow reflecting stripes and a huge leather patch on his shoulder looking like a rejected futuristic cop outfit, while the huge purse on his hip looked like he was selling train tickets, so I got confused. Luckily his solo's were good enough. But in the end Max Pie did not convince me, while Hans got a CD to listen closer at home.

Seventh Wonder coming on, showed that we were moving up one or two levels in Progmetal land. Solid performance and confident stage walking. When they continued with two songs I know in Mercy Falls and Alley Cat I already saw, that this was going to be more to my liking than their PPE performance. Several times Tommy K asked us to sing along, but not knowing any of their lyrics I could not join in. Now Lida likes all Tommy's in metal, while we are always a bit afraid that Tommy gets too cheesy. I think he just got away with it this evening. My attention mostly went to the guys on guitar and bass. Interesting how the six string bass was very present all the time, but his short solo spot was not really that interesting (unlike anything else he played). After some 90 minutes Seventh Wonder was done and most people seemed pleased with their set. We had some evaluation beers in the bar and also agreed that while Seventh Wonder have been away for some time (8 years), their return is welcome.  

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The Hague Metal Fest - Paard Den Haag, 20 April 2019

Being from The Hague and loving my metal, made this a pretty obvious stop. Now  many people might have excuses for being absent, like the beautiful weather making beach an alternative option.or family obligations over long Easter weekend. My reason not to go was Josie being over, but as always there would be a gap in the day before dinner , where I could do my part in supporting the local scene and pick up a bit of the atmosphere. So no full out report of the day, just some notes on bands I did see. Also I had to check if Rene's flyering was going well, attracting possibly a few more people to Heir Apparent 10 June in Musicon. Well his major discovery was that there are actually metal heads living in nearby Zoetermeer who never heard of Musicon whatsoever. So that mission was accomplished.

So how did I fare? Well Bleeding Gods were my first reason to be there as I missed them during Metal Experience Fest. This was one great opener as their show impressed. At times you are in Dimmu Borgir waters and then some death metal lurks around the corner but most outstanding of all was their overall show. Nice touch in the returning The Hague colours (Yellow Green) during their lightshow. Second band played in the small hall and Carnation from Belgium I last saw on the beach during Schollenpop. Good band with a red headed vocalist.

Then Spanish Black Metallers Noctem found themselves starting in a fairly empty large hall. Slowly they got me into their set as well ending well. Only distraction to me was that one of their songs to me had the same melody line as Bonnie St Claire's Dokter Bernard. Now I did not hear anyone else who agreed with me, but it made matters much less extreme to me. So after saying hello to friends in between these sets it was a bit of Italian thrash metal band Ultra Violence, before I cycled home. The small part I attended seemed good and a well organized festival, which shall return next year. Similar to last year my comment would be going wider in metal styles. It was now a bit much extreme orientated, so why not have a big Heavy Metal act on the line up as well. we shall see in 2020.