Sunday, 16 February 2020

Complexity Fest (afternoon) - Patronaat Haarlem, 15 February, 2020

Complexity Fest 2020 became for me some sort of race against the clock. After Monday's tour of Diabolical hitting town I managed to catch a cold. This cold culminated on Thursday in a day of weakness, heavy coughing followed by a lousy night. So on Friday there was no way I could stand three hours for Arkhangelsk'CD release party in Musicon and Saturday became doubtful. Now Complexity Fest is this musical event for those liking their music heavy but most of alll challenging. On previous editions I attended I saw many bands I knew in advance and liked a lot: Disillusion, Gorod, Zeal & Ardor, Ihsahn, the Ocean to mention but a few. Further I always discovered new bands I liked, so I had my ticket bought some time ago already. Now at the same time I feel my musical preference is a constantly moving animal. This year in Q1 my musical high definitely shall be Up the Hammers in Athens next month, so pretty far from the technical instrumental masturbation we had on offer in Haarlem. Further this year's line-up was so that I only knew the opening band in advance and had on CD already. So long story short on Saturday morning I decided to go to Haarlem, by car staying far from alcoholic temptations and I would see how long I would last fit. This meant an early departure. Upon arrival at Haarlem I ran into a large group of PPE regulars who were just saying goodbye to PPE partners who were not bothered for this trip of musical madness. I guess that sums up Complexity Fest pretty well. Where Progpower is about bands who play songs Complexity is not. From my last year's 12 friends joining to PPE, I guess maximum two or three would enjoy Complexity Fest.

But I do enjoy the festival and in I went just in time to take a good place for openers Our Oceans, the band that made me drive down to Haarlem in the end. Our Oceans is a band build around Dutch ex members of Cynic and Exivious. With the recent sad passing away of Sean Reinert (Cynic's drummer) I was silently hoping to see a tribute by a song from Traced in Air. After all Tymon played on that album and Robin toured this album wth Cynic. Unfortunately this was not to be and I guess these guys were rather modest to do such thing. When after a few songs Tymon asked if he should speak English or Dutch as he thought it prententious to speak English to a Dutch audience he won sympathy points with me. But let the music do the talking. They started with some songs from the self titled debut album. Now those reading Cynic expecting technical Death Metal could not be further away really. Our Oceans plays calm music to start with, guided by high angelic humming and as a reference that other Cynic offspring Aeon Spoke at times comes close. Now Tymon's vocals were not for everyone, but did not disturb me at all. One new song was clearly heavier than the rest of the set, did hold a beautiful guitar solo at the end and made me sure I shalll pick up the second album as well. Overall the now trio met my expectations and made me already pleased I decided to go to Patronaat today. Tangled from the debut album closed the 45 minute set and now the discovery of new bands could begin for me.

Well the first discovery was for me one to forget. Goat from Japan in the mainhal were drumming minimalistically yet fast through their set, but I was still recovering from something I liked. Later on Marcel explained they played without in-ears and it was amazing what they did. Can be, but not my thing really so I was out roaming through Patronaat pretty fast. Another nice thing about Complexity is the large amount of known people from PPE walking around. Say the more open minded experimental dutch part of PPE would be here and even some foreigners normally walking Baarlo roads begin October were present. From now on during breaks in the main hall there would be paralel sets in the small hall and at the bar stage. My first choice fell on the small hall where Danish Cold Night For Alligators would play. This technical metalcore band were the first nice surprise of the day. For starters they were one of the few bands today with actually a good strong vocalist. Second their presentation was enthusiastic with bandmembers waving at us constantly. This contagious set of metal did create an atmosphere and had enough variation between the screaming bits and well sung cleaner parts. Good band that I will keep an eye on for when they return .Moving back to the main hall meant Herod from Switzerland. I saw them last year opening a tour with The Ocean. What I remembered was the highlight being latter band's vocalist joining during one song. Now he was not there and we got mainly heaviness. Nice for a few songs, but not enough happening to keep me interested for 45 minutes. So time for a Vegan Chilli burger. Yes Complexity Fest's best food stand is vegan and I would almost say obviously as it fits the atmosphere of the whole event really, so do beards by the way so I did not shave in the morning.

Next choice was to be made between Ni and Pijn. I started with Ni, but where I liked Pliniol last year I had issues getting into Ni fast and went to other instrumental option Pijn. This was much more to my liking. This UK post metal outfit played songs based upon a heavy groove which made things way more accessible. Centre stage a violin was played, although many people confirmed same could be a bit louder in the mix. This was another nice surprise for me. Stilll feeling more or less fit I decided to hang on and see one of the bigger names Thank You Scientist.  Unknown to me apart from internet bits I let myself be surprised. First song was dixieland with Sax, trumpet and violin turning out to be in the band. Yet it did hold some interesting vibe and obviously this band could play. Before the set started the vocalist made an insider joke that his butt still did hurt. When he opened his mouth I guessed his balls also suffered some heavy kicking as this was one that required a specific taste. Coheed and Cambria blended with cartoons came to mind. Pity as the band played obvously well, but it was hard to overcome. So in a final attempt I moved up to the balcony seeing if that would help by any means, but I never really managed to get into this band. Don't blame the vocalist alone, the trumpet buzzed unpleasant in my ears at times as well. Still I could see they were a good band, but probably not for me. Slowly my lack of condition was picking up, but I would try to stay and see Night Verses for a bit, as they sounded good on clips. This first meant an intermezzo with two of the weirdest bands of the day. In the bar I saw the start of Zalm. The festivalsite called this noisy one man grind punk. In reality this meant dutch samples (often funny) followed by loud screaming. Average song time some 15-20 seconds. After some hilarious laughing around it became rather quick enough to most. Then in the other hall Stuff did their thing. Well at least they played instruments, but this was also not for me.

So I did manage to see a bit of Night Verses in the end, but also did listen to my body and enough was enough. So after a while I went back to the car and home. Passing a day of not easy listening music is never easy. When you then start half fit only you tend to become more conservative. Yet I was pleased to have come over to Haarlem. Our Oceans. Cold Night for Alligators and Pijn were great and catching up with many friends you hardly see is always nice. On the program I had the impression some changes were made this year. Normally there would be technical death metal bands as well, a big name in the main hall and a smaller band on anothet stage. If you like great vocalists you were this year definitely at the wrong festival with the huge amount of instrumental acts and dubious voices. Yet it is not up to me to criticize a festival setup that obviously serves their own niche. And yes I will be back in 2021 (health allowing).

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Diabolical, Devilish Impressions, Souldrainer & Frantic Amber - Musicon The Hague, 10 February 2020

An interesting package hitting Musicon on a Monday night. Storm Ciara is stilll leaving her marks on railway and roads, The day before I was planning to attend God Dethroned in Baroeg, but also skipped because I lost confidence our national rail would bring me home in the evening. So I knew what it is to skip a gig because of the circumstances. So I was not expecting a full house and I was right. Luckily several of the usual suspects were around so we enjoyed a fine evening of metal anyway.

First band was Frantic Amber. I did not check on the internet what tonight's bands were about, so I was surprised to see an almost all female band in battle outfit hitting the stage. Their music had some epic topics and was brought enthusiastically. Drum pedal issues or not the 40 minutes flew by and we had a nice opener for the evening.

Next band Souldrainer gave us more groove. At times they sounded like Hypocrisy to me. Now I like Hypocrisy so Souldrainer was fine as well. Hairy windmills on the stage accompanied what to me was possibly the best band of the evening.

Devilish Impressions from Poland were the only non Swedes on this tour. They even had two fans from their hometown showing up. I heard of them many times by my good friend Andrew who managed some UK tours with them I believe. Painted faces on the stage and Black Metal it was. This band had a lot of energy coming of the stage and I did see what Andrew liked in them. Another good band on this Monday.

When headliner Diabolical hit teh stage all we could see was smoke. The light effects were nice through it, but we could not see the band really. Hooded at the start, long haired later on their music was actually quite good. Black Death with a good mix of harsh and clean vocals. I am not sure if so much smoke made the experience any better, but the music was fine. There are worse ways of spending one's Monday evening. Now let's see if next time more people understand this. Next show Friday Arkhangelsk.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Temple Renegade - Paardcafe 6 February 2020

The Hague has a new strong progmetal band. At least that is what I read in iO Pages. The fact that I never heard of them before is already strange by itself. I always thought I did follow the local scene closely, progmetal is so to say my homeground genre and I was looking for a new local progmetal favorite after Resolve fell apart. Well after reading the review I looked them up on bandcamp and indeed they sound nice. So then I found they would be playing Musicon Friday 7 February only to realize that I can not go and see them that evening. So when they were added as opening act for Voodoo Chambers in Paardcafe I was pleased that I could see them on stage. Starting a bit earlier as given only short time for playing it soon was clear to me that iO Pages were right.
In reviews it always is easy to mention names for references and with them I saw Karnivool, Mastodon, Gojira and A Perfect Circle passing by. I did not think them all that heavy and on calmer parts when drums dominated I can add A Liquid Landscape maybe. All in all references do not matter I liked the songs, which at times were very accessible as well with grungy or poppunk influences in the sing along choruses. One thing that stands out with younger bands is that their English is better than my generation. I always kept a healthy dose of Dutch in my English, but with these guys I was actually surprised they also spoke dutch after the show. I did get their CD afterwards and playing it now this is one band to follow. Go see them tonight in Musicon if you can.

There also was a headliner holding none other than Koen Herfst on drums. Koen is next to Cesar Zuiderwijk (Golden Earring) that other drummer from The Hague that is known worldwide. I saw him before with I Chaos and Dew Sentenced, but he also played for instance Madison Square Garden with Armin van Buuren. So he is open minded and I was not yesterday. This band was build around drums and bass which is not a problem to me as I did stay the full 80 minutes when Bell Witch performed their one song with only drums and bass at Into the Darkness. Yet this trip hoppy, psychedelic rock was not for me this evening as a bit too monotonous for my mood. When Temple Renegade return though, I will be there again.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Dream Theater - Campo Pequeno Lisboa, 2 February 2020

Dream Theater touring their last album Distance over Time, with as added bonus a full version of Scenes from a Memory celebrating 20 years since release. This tour started 11 January in Holland, but as I had not too many friends going and I already knew I would be in Lisbon this day I picked this one. Also being Dutch the price difference of 75 against 40 Euro's made Portugal look more interesting. So we would get Metropolis PT 2 in full and that is where a part of the problem lays for me. Being their biggest album and breakthrough part 2 as well, it probably is my least favorite album amongst their first seven. So let me share my relation to Dream Theater first. In 1989 I still bought LP's and when their debut When Dream And Day Unite was released I was blown away. This was yet another great band from the USA mixing their Heavy Metal with progressive traces (Progmetal did not yet exist as genre at the time) This much like other US bands I loved those years: Heir Apparent, Watchtower, Savatage, Lethal and even Queensryche and Fates Warning were originally more Heavy Metal. I guess the album did not do much in Holland as a year or so later the CD could be bought for EUR 2,25 at Free Record Shop. Then it went quiet until Images and Words came out. This CD catapulted the band straight to major progmetal league and did hold their hit Pull Me Under. This was also the first time they came to Europe and we saw them in a sold out Vredenburg. Hereafter they released my favorite DT album Awake and a return to Utrecht followed together with Fates Warning. Around those days we also saw them at Bospop and headlining Aardschokdag with Warrioir Soul and Riverdogs. When Falling Into Infinity came out critics were they became commercial. I did like that album and to my luck they choose Brazil as warmup place for their tour when I lived there at the time. I recall they sold great caps that night with the DT logo and the Brazilian flag on it. As I still had hair those days I did not see the point of caps, which I became to regret some 10 years later. Then 1999 saw the release of Metropolis PT2: Scenes From a Memory. For many their favorite DT album, while I had some issues. OK in general it is a great album, but for the first time the balance with Dream Theater went a bit too much to instrumental masturbation and ballads. Also comparing this concept album with the other big progmetal bands it could not stand next to Operation Mindcrime or A Pleasant Shade of Gray. I guess some short headbangers were missing. Next albums Six Degrees, Train of Thought (the metal album) and Octavarium were all more to my liking. Hereafter I still bought all their albums, but stopped seeing all tours. I try to see them at times and on CD only The Astonishing did very little to me. Actually the best DT show I saw the last years was by Dream Thaken, where Mike Portmoy with Haken performed his AA suite in full. So after some six years it was hello again and bring it on.

But this was not a regular show, as it was in Lisbon. The venue chosen was Campo Pequeno. I did not realize it before as I am not into bulll fighting really, but this was the local bulll ring and one impressive building. If you realize that nowadays quite a few metalheads are vegetarian or vegan the choice for a bull ring gave the evening a cynical touch. I love it when travelling to a show means only four stops by metro and you are there. While leaving same metro I did run into a known Norwegian face from Progpower. Proves again it is a small world in metal. As he was sitting and I had arena tickets we split up at the entrance after taking some pictures of the building with huge banner announcing the show. While at an underground festival in Portugal I did meet some friendly prices for my beer, this major show was charging same as Holland would. During the show there would be mobile beer sellers walking around, which was interesting as there never was a queue at the easy accessible bars on either side.  The arena was covered with plates with carpet on it, which seemed to be a bit above the ground. This made you walking floating around, good for a dreamy evening. Regarding the audience I noted that Dream Theater are no underground, so I saw only big band shirts around, being definitely the only one wearing a fashionable Redemption The Origins of Ruin Tee. So when the hall was filled up well the lights went off and we were treated on an evening with Dream Theater.

In the Post Portnoy years the complaint is that surprises left the setlist. So after reading some reviews of their Amsterdam show I already knew what was waiting for me. Actually they did change around a bit as the first part was built around Distance over Time. This evening their single Paralyzed was skipped and Fall Into Light made the set. From the start it all sounded great and with the big screen on the back of the stage we got some images to up the experience. With Dream Theater live it is a popular sport to moan about James Labrie. I was never in that camp as I like his voice and have no problems accepting he can't reach alll the notes any longer. Tonight his performance was OK and for those not liking him, half the time he runs off the stage anyway. After one hour Pale Blue Dot finished the first part and we had a twenty minute break. Lights going off meant Metroplis PT2. Well in spite of my comments above I must admit that live in one go this is one impressive album. The instrumental wankery is not so much annoying as more impressive. What I did notice is that with Dream Thetaer I nowadays tend to go in order to see John Petrucci on guitars (very much like seeing Marillion for Steve Rothery only) What mr Petrucci gave us from heavy riffing to Floydian dreamy solo's was sheer class again. In contrabalance the keytar solo's by Jordan Rudess with his strange pointy beard don't do much to me. At the start of the tour the sad news of the passing away of Neil Peart was remembered by a moment of silence in the full hall. By now Peart was included in the clip on the graveyard during Through Her Eyes. No mentioning any longer and Sean Reinert probably was not an influence to the band even being one of metal's greatest drummers of all time as well. So after some 75 minutes Nicholas got shot and the noise of the LP getting stuck meant the end. I could well do with the Glass Prison which starts with the same noise as an encore. Well that was not to be as the encore this tour is At Wit's End. A great song with a second cynical bit of the evening when after singing six tine Don't Leave Me Know, James Labrie left the stage for good. So all in all I had a fiine evening with Dream Theater and maybe started appreciating Metropolis PT2 a bit more.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Picture & Highway Chile - Boerderij Zoetermeer, 24 January 2020

A Tribute to Alfred Lagarde with Picture and Highway Chile. That was the full name of this evening. Alfred Lagarde was hollands hard rock and metal DJ on national radio since the seventies. I knew he passed away, but did not realize that was already 22 years ago. In the seventies he presented Betonuur on the radio. I got into hard rock and metal through Hans, when he moved from favorite pop acts like Queen, Quo, Cheap Trick and Meat Loaf to bands like Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Deep Purple, Van Halen and the likes. This last one got famous in Holland when Alfred Lagarde started playing Runnin'with the Devil on national radio. I did listen to Betonuur, but as it was an afternoon show, not as frequent as follow-up Stampij on the Wednesday evenings. If you check the internet you can still find streams of the last eight or so episodes of Stampij. Later on Alfred Lagarde showed up at Countdown Cafe, but I do not recall listening a lot to that show. So where Alfred was fundamental for the start of metal in Holland the bands Picture and Highway Chile were as important for the local scene to develop. Now I must admit that I never really got into Picture. I only started travelling to shows when I just turned 17 and I believe Picture were not playing that often anymore as from begin 83. At least in my memory bands that would tour all the time in the mid eighties were Jewel, Vengeance, Helloise and even Vandenberg. Still Highway Chile I saw a few times, mainly as support in major venues. My first big gig was Whitesnake and Ozzy in Tivoli January 83. Whitesnake were in their Moody/Marsden years with Cozy Powell on drums Jon Lord on Keys and Neil Murray on bass in their favorite line-up for me. Ozzy was rumored to refuse opening for Whitesnake and cancelled, so Highway Chile stepped in. Later that year when I already knew Storybook Heroes, they would also support MSG and they were among Holland's finest. Picture can be considered Holland's first metal band and as was mentioned during the evening James Hetfield was spotted with a jeans jacket with the Picture logo on it. Pity for them Metallica never covered a song by them as that can do wonders to name and income. So for Picture I know their hits. I believe I had a tape of the Stampij show where Schmoulik Avigal was introduced as their new vocalist as well. So this evening woud be a trip down memory lane and it was no surprise that the decent filled Boerderij was full of people in their fifties and sixties. I even ran into Gerrie from Limburg, so being Dutch bands people would travel for this occassion as well.

Highway Chile were opening the evening and Stan Verbraak is taking care of vocals nowadays. As he was also in Helloise we did get a Helloise intermezzo with songs I recognized as well. Highway Chile already sounded pretty good, with The Fever as highlight. After some 40 minutes original vocalist Armand van der Stigchel joined and we got treated on their best songs Jesse James and Carol (Lady of the dark room, dark room) He flew over from the USA for this and showed he still has a stage presence and the voice to match. Later we got a hairmetalish song on Highway Chile's metal infused Whiskey, which was touring along in a barrel, but not served (tip). Ending in style Armand came back singing for us that we are Headbangers. I was maybe coming more to see Highway Chile once again and that did not disappoint. During the break Kees Baars another DJ with a heart for metal was supposed to talk about Alfred, but he was sick as a dog and could not make it. Stan Verbraak and Armand took over and we got a short lesson in metal history in the Netherlands and Alfred's major role in that. So hereafter Picture came on. A band in almost original 79 lineup meant we got a lot of white hair on the stage, with most of them managing to keep their big hair. As I said never the biggest Picture fan it was nice to hear Eternal Dark, Heavy Metal Ears, Diamond Dreamer live on stage. Peter Strykes gave a guest performance and showed he has a better voice although more commercial maybe. Their biggest hit is Bombers and this song got introduced by a radio interview with Alfred of some 40 years ago. So this was an evening of old school dutch metal and it seemed to me that those present highly enjoyed it with two bands in still remarkably good form. Rock 'n' Roll proved to be still better than music.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Sneeuwpop - Hofpark Wateringen, 18 January 2020

18 January was originally the day that I invited friends for a New Year's drink in Musicon while enjoying some German Power Metal by Mystic Prophecy and Mob Rules. With a last minute cancelation by a band due to family circumstances an alternative was needed. Now Peter was asked to introduce bands this year on stage at Sneeuwpop, so I asked him if there would be anything to my liking playing. The answer was yes, so cycling to Wateringen was the new best plan. Now Sneeuwpop is a brilliant name as it both means snowman, as well as ending on pop being Wateringen's winter edition of the long running Waterpop in the same area in the summer. Paaspop in Holland are always bragging how they open each year the outdoor festival season at Easter. In greater Wateringen (read The Hague) we all know that the real opener is mid January at Sneeuwpop already.
The festival is held at an area which during bigger Waterpop serves as backstage area. Still in the end a few hundred people at least attended. Nearby Ice Skating and snow centre de Uithof supplied a truck full of snow the day before. This  is a smart move as with the scary fast global warming we now raise children who won't know snow whatsoever. While the winter is mild I still was smart enough to wear a thermoshirt as six hours standing outside even in a sunny 7 degrees gets you cold in the end. Also here precautions were made with available Snert or Broodje Bal. When during the day several friends turned up  we had a succesful opener of the festival season indeed.

So what about the music? Peter advised me to be in latest 14:50 as I might like second band The Worst Example. I did as suggested and missed Square therefore. The Worst Example are from The Hague and play a kind of pop punk that reminded me of the Offspring or Greenday. I am no specialist in the genre, but they also mentioned a link to a Blink 182 song and it sounded all pretty good. Nice opener for the day to me. Actually most bands were acceptable to me, but the one that stood out were Monster Machine. This band plays hard rock and original songs. Between many covers today it was good to hear a band playing own songs being best. Good vocals and strong band. They seem to be recording a debut album, so I guess to see more of them soon. Slowly the temperatures were getting lower, outside it got darker and the three open fire pots were very welcome indeed. Hanging on till the end I had a good afternoon and Peter did a fine job announcing bands while giving us constant updates on the actual liters of snert sold so far. Cheers to Sneeuwpop and we return in 2021.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Imperador Belial - Musicon The Hague, 10 January 2020

Back in Holland what better way to start the new year than going to a show in Musicon. This evening was not going to be easy as from the start things went slightly pear-shaped. Imperador Belial played here before and two years ago they stayed at my place. So I was looking forward to seeing them again.  In 2017 they toured together with their countrymen of Luxuria de Lillith, which meant we got two short sets of old school black metal. This time the support was to be local, but original planned support cancelled. Strangely noone wanted to step in. Result we were depending on Imperador Belial alone for the evening. Due to family circumstance the bass player could not join this tour and two potential substitutes both living in Germany also had work obligations. So a bassless show it was, with some effects to cover up the loss.

At 22:00 a short intro announced the start of the emperor. They played ten songs from their discography. Now they do not write very long prog epics really, so after some 35 minutes we learned the set was over. Circumstances on both band and support therefore made this not really a full evening of live music. What we did get was sounding good though, where to me the lack of bass player was overcome rather well. The not so big crowd present this evening seemed to like their performance as well and in the end we did get a kick ass old school show.
When Imperador Belial finished, the news of the passing away of Neil Peart came in. Soon my Whatsapp and Facebook where all about this sad news. So herewith I want to share one of my favorite Neal Peart memories as well. Rotterdam Ahoy I believe it was the Roll the Bones tour. Hans and I went together thinking we had arena free standing tickets. Upon arrival it turned out all seated and our place was way at the stands in the back at the side. After initial complaints by us and all around us it soon turned out that sitting at the side, next to a bar with no queues do to the all-seater had its advantages. And then we got what was one of the most beautiful arena shows I ever witnessed, with of course a long drum solo by the Professor. He really was next to Cozy Powell the only drummer that managed to get me emotional over a drum solo. Today all genres seem to be saddened by this loss which proves he and Rush were without any doubt an inspiration to many.

After the show I also learned that Imperador Belial's sleeping plans being basically not present, so I put my address in their navigation system and welcomed them at home for some final drinks. Turned out that Tiago's efforts to not clean the house properly became a plus, with mattrasses already waiting for a band crashing onto them. The Beast did return and good luck on the road to them.