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. 

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Into Darkness V - Neushoorn Leeuwarden, 1 December 2018

Into Darkness is holding it's fifth version and I made my debut their, The reason for that is Bell Witch. Last year they released the one song 83 minute album Mirror Reaper and this time they would play it in full accompanied by a film that was made for this song. Now Into Darkness had 11 bands on, so was there anything more to my liking? Turned out a yes. Yet with Leeuwarden being crazy far away for such a small country I was not going to stay until the end. Fitness would decide how long I would last, after all I was in recovering mode still from the Absolva gig in Leiden. In order to relax I decided for the train and the 5.5 hour drive up and down gave me the opportunity to read Chris Lammiman's book "A View from Ground Zero". This book is a fan's (and a bit more) report on Twisted Illusion's first UK tour last winter. Interesting enough he also writes about long train journeys to gigs so I could relate and can recommend the book. But I came for Darkness and found it in de Neushoorn.

I arrived at de Neushoorn when Zhrine had just started. This was no coincidence as with limited train flexibility I internet researched to find which band I would like to see first. Zhrine sounded interesting and without me knowing yet, they became the surprise of the day. Kind of hard to describe their music I liked the instrumental parts where at times guitars and electric contrabass were played by a bow at calm intermezzos. This only to erupt into wild outbursts of heaviness. These guys seem to come from Iceland and like their football team you wonder how such a small population can give us so much talent. Looking like an extreme metal version of Leprous in their shirts and fashionable haircuts this band surprised me very positively and I did get their CD later on. Next band in the smaller Arena hall were Au-Dessus from Lithuania. A few years ago we made a holiday road-trip to all Nordic Capitals. Pity that after leaving Lithuania only in Latvia I got the brilliant idea of looking for local metal bands in CD shops. In Lithuania I might have ran into these guys. Starting with four black hooded guys on stage playing rather straight forward black metal their second song showed some variation and actually from there the playing stayed at high level and songs would bring some interesting twists. Decent show.

Still I left in time for the main hall with Jeffrey and Ramona as we all came specifically to see what Bell Witch would bring. At any metal event I shall run into PPE friends, which is a comforting thought really when sometimes my friends don't get a genre. Standing close to the stage the sound check did suddenly ,move into Mirror Reaper when the movie started. Now I saw earlier this year Bell Witch play in Patronaat, when only the first CD was played. At the time it was new and I was blown away by the fact that only  a bassist and drummer make all these soundscapes. This late afternoon we had the extra of an added vocalist for part 2 and a black and white movie. Starting with the movie I was hoping for something more really. Lots of repetitions and lots of death and some rebirth or new life. When the guy from Le Grande Boeuf passed by I realized I was starting to feel hungry as well. So the music should do it again and impressive is the word. The music Bell Witch play is doom of the slow kind. Actually so slow that drums and bass had to look at each other many times making sure they hit the same slow notes. This 83 minute song does so go against any trend of today's youth that it deserves respect for that alone. Then again I must admit that for me 83 minutes also was a bit much. At times there were moments that not much happened over five minutes and thoughts started drifting away. Luckily the bass would bring me back in such cases. The bass gave us bits of melodies, while the drums took care of the tempo, which was very slow throughout. When after some 50 minutes the extra vocalist came on we won some interest and the very end where he sung over a relative faster part turned the high of the song.  So I was not as overwhelmed as I was in Haarlem. I did have the feeling at times that if you would present these ideas of 83 minutes to a band like Iron Reagan they would put them all in a thrash song of 4 minutes max. Still the total experience even being an exercise in patience was one to remember. Curious what they bring us next.

Now after the slow song we could do with some speed and Sun of the Sleepless brought this partially. My pre-festival internet search made this band one to look at, especially when singing in German (I mean if the vocalist barks at you, what better language than German to do so) Live they turned a bit less interesting to me. The speed and some banging were nice, but at the clean vocal parts it sounded all a bit too massive for this one guy to produce. So after a few songs I left for the corridors where next to merch stands now also the local Chinese put up some food for decent prices. So enjoying my Spicy chicken and cashew rice dish we missed also the start of Nordjevel. Well we could hear them from the tables and banks that were provided for those eating at the spacey corridors. Now I saw Nordjevel earlier this year opening for Hate in Musicon. Well that was at a small stage. This time they brought the whole lot and what I saw was more about the whole experience than about the songs. Actually they all tried to stay in speed with the continuing double bass drums. I can see why some people totally liked this and also understand why others could not do all that much with it.

Meanwhile I already decided that I would take a train home, getting me there not overly late. Yet before leaving I wanted to see Mournful Congregation, These Australians play Funeral Doom and would be a nice break from the Black Metal we just witnessed. Well this was a second surprising highlight of the day to me, even if not seeing them fully until the end. What made them so good to me was the fact that they hold three guitars. The lead guitarist on his flying V is basically giving us melodic slow solo's for at least 75% of the time. As he was very clear in the mix, this gave the songs a brilliant edge. If you want to get into the genre of Funeral Doom, this might be the best band to get into it, as I thought them very accessible. Well accessible or not I left for my train on time. Today Mournful Congregation play Belgium. This together with Bell With, Marche Funebre (a Highlight at DDD last week) and Green Carnation. I won't drive down, but can recommend. Into Darkness turned into an interesting event, which might see me back next year depending on line-up. De Neushoorn was a first to me and turned out a very well organized venue, with big thumps up for the food and seating arrangements. Thank you for the Darkness.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Absolva & Diggeth - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden, 30 November 2018

Absolva definitely is one of the hardest working bands in metal. Only a few weeks ago I saw them opening for MSG and every year they undertake long tours. This evening they would stop at de Nobel in Leiden for a headliner show and Hans and I decided to be there, with Pieter joining in later on. With their constant touring they slowly are building a fanbase. Yet the competition this evening was fierce. On national level the Kreator / Dimmu Borgir package took some metal out of the region. At the same time nearby Boerderij had Thundermother with regional support Rosie. That last show was even free for those attending the Dead Daisies earlier this week. Anyway we might have not been with many it was no disastrous empty venue either and we were vocal.

Opening band was Diggeth from the east of Holland. I saw these guys a few times before supporting or at HMM. They play straight forward hard rock with some stoner influences. Actually the psychedelic instrumental song was a high of their set. This band fitted well although I got a bit worried during their opening song 3 gringos. I clearly heard them sing today is a good day to die. Well those living by Absolva rules know it's never a good day to die. But we got warmed up and ready for the headliners.

We are Absolva and we live life on the edge! And we were back again at an Absolva show. With a full set contrary to earlier this month we now got a fair part of last album Defiance. Yet their ubersong to me remains Never Back Down. The ballad from the debut Only When It's Over was introduced with a long melodic guitar solo again and I swear the spirit of Gary Moore walked the stage at that very moment. Absolva just did what they do and very good too. So I guess that all those present shall see them on tour again when returning to Holland. The band themselves shall be back in Leiden with Blaze Bailey 1 March already. We ended up with an evening of Heavy Metal as it was meant to be and de Nobel gave us an extra hour cooling down, playing some classics for us. Great evening thank you.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Dutch Doom Sunday - Baroeg Rotterdam 25 November 2018

The festival is of course called Dutch Doom Days, but Saturday night I opted for Tech Death in Oss, so it only became the Sunday for me. Actually I was still in doubt in the morning as The Night Flight Orchestra looked tempting to me as well. But as they play summer music and you should see it with a large group of friends over several beers I opted by lack of friends joining and grim weather for the Doom. Well if ever I was rewarded for that choice it must have been today. Through the day bands got better and better, ending with something rather special. I entered late so sorry for Fvneral Fvkk and River of Souls, but Suffer Yourself already started when I came in. These guys from Ukraine/Sweden played their Funeral doom to start my afternoon slow and heavy. Moody enough, but not overly exciting to me. That would change when Dutch band The Spirit Cabinet came on. Their music mixed doom with Heavy Metal. The guitarist at times starting galloping away like he was in Maiden and the vocalist had a pretty wide range staying strong in the clean sung parts. It is only at a doom festival that a band can announce their last song, stating it is a slow one and pleasing the crowd with that. But a strong set they played and one band to keep an eye on.

Climbing the ladder further we arrived at Marche Funebre from Belgium. The best of them to me was the fact that they do not stick to one style. They go from very slow to pretty fast doom and that worked wonderfully well I thought. When they almost apologized for playing a fast song they came at the highlight of their show to me. So afterwards I asked them on which CD that song appeared and got that one. Next week they organize their own doom party in St. Niklaas with a.o.Bell Witch and Green Carnation. I am still in doubt, but those like me not sure yet can decide on the day they told me as the venue is big.

Hereafter Witchsorrow from the UK hit the stage. I read about them in last issue of Iron Fist, but did not know any music of them. Turned out that this trio blends their doom with a healthy dose of NWOBHM of the rougher end. At times I was reminded of Holocaust by the pounding bass and punky attitude on vocals. This set was very good and they managed to keep the curve in performances up for me. Unfortunately when I passed the merch table later on their last CD was not available. I might check it out elsewhere later on as this tasted like more for sure.

And then it was time for While Heaven Wept to close the festival. Actually this would be there last show ever in Holland and the gods should be crying indeed when seeing what I saw. Rarely before have I seen in Baroeg such a union between band and audience. Now I got into While Heaven Wept when they released in 2002 their Doom Metal Classic album Of Empires Forlorn. This album was well presented in the set still and hearing the full crowd singing along "I Drank Them All Away" was an emotional high for all present I guess. Someone once told me that in the past they blew a gig in Baroeg by being not all that fit. Tonight they reminded us of that and stated hoping they made up for that this time. Well I was not there at the time, but tonight should make up for anything. Than there is Rain Irving on vocals and I guess it is safe to say the best clean vocalist in doom. Supported by a great band his melodies came over so emotional it was close to goosebumps all the time. So when it was over the audience wanted more. The band said being afraid of breaking curfew laws and  not being able to decide if they could play one more. Then the magical phrase came in: "I am Pim, I organize this shit and yes they will play another song". The international crowd went wild and we were treated on a last farewell before I rushed of to just catch my train. While Heaven Wept proved again that it is not always the best bands that get most attention and success. Thanks to DDD organization for putting them on stage in Baroeg.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Beyond Creation, Gorod, Entheos & Brought By Pain - Groene Engel Oss, 24 November 2018

Beyond Creation are probably my favorite Tech-Death Metal band. I saw them twice live before have their albums and new release Algorythm only confirmed this status to me. To increase the fun they are bringing Gorod along probably France's finest. Now Beyond Creation and Gorod have to me something in common. Both bands I saw for the first time live when they were supporting Obscura in Patronaat on different tours. The result however was the same, they both blew Obscura off the stage and got me running to their side of the merch stand. So in spite of fierce competition this evening in nearby Baroeg, Musicon and the Boerderij I decided not to stay near home and drive for the first time ever to de Groene Engel in Oss. This turned out to be a nice venue. Contrary to all these new build places this is an old building. where the hall floor is similar to any corridor or toilet in old dutch houses and the stage is large and high. What I did not like was the time schedule starting at 20:30 with four bands and a long drive back home ahead. They partially made this up with the fastest stage swaps I ever saw and gaining in the end 20 minutes on the announced schedule. Finally the entrance had a nice bar, with upon my arrival the usual suspects from PPE in there. So socially it became a nice evening as well.

Opening the evening were Brought By Pain from Canada. Now I sometimes don't read anything on support bands, just make sure I arrive on time to see them. So it was a nice surprise when entering the hall I thought hey I recognize these guys on bass and guitar as they are from Beyond Creation. This meant some sort of quality stamp as I immediately liked the band. Most attention however was drawn by the other guitarist who was enjoying himself with apart from instrumental also some facial acrobatics. The EP I got afterwards tells me his name is Olivier Bourbonnais Allaire, which sounds as drink they had on their way in. Further the vocalist was very pleased his fucking father was in. The set was short, but I felt that for an opening band they went down very well with the audience and they deserved that. So we opened with a winner

Next band were Entheos from California and Texas. A female vocalist that grunts is nothing new, but always a nice surprise. Somehow she needed two microphones. One to grunt around the stage and one for special effects. Opinions were divided on that second one, as the effects were to me somewhere between black metal and cartoons. On an evening like this playing by all on stage is not an issue and for Entheos the same high standards were reached. Outstanding man in the band though was the bassist. The way he slammed his bass like there was no tomorrow was interesting to observe and this was probably total bassturbation to some. So again a good band, although the songs did not impress everyone completely. I just liked watching what was going on.

Gorod are French, but they can do nothing about that. Now I watched the news before leaving home and saw the in fashion thing in France these days is wearing a yellow vest and break things. Luckily Gorod would  have none of that as I guess that when filling up the tank in Holland they found prices in France are not that bad after all. Since seeing them on their A Perfect Absolution Tour I follow them, but do not get all their albums. I think they come over better live as on stage the vocalist Nutz is definitely a strong force, while on CD I find his more screaming side harder to appreciate. The set they played was of headliner status and performance though. Last time I saw them was last year when they joined a Thrash Metal package and were a bit lost before that crowd. Now they were fully at ease and we got performance wise possibly the best show of the evening. This again was helped by Nutz with his occasional dutch lines in between songs. Gorod proved to me they are among the Tech Death elite as well and the hall appreciated their show big time. Horns up mes amis.

Beyond Creation released recently Algorythm and on this tour they decided to play that album in full kicking off their set. As I played the album many times I was pleased with this decision and it was time to get amazed again. I just love it how they go from the very heavy Death metal to a mass fingerpicking over 8 string guitars and 6 string bass. The trick is they make it look all so easy. The song that describes best what I mean is probably the title track. This song is a heavy monster, moves to a great solo and bangs on. Then we suddenly drop to a clam part where Simon's solo makes me think of the instrumental ballads Marty Friedman or Jason Becker brought us in the eighties, just to break and move on fast again. Now I mentioned Gorod as possible best show and this has only to do with what happens in between songs. Beyond Creation are not a band for talking, they literally let the music do the talking. Yet I was in constant awe as this is exactly how I like my technical extreme music. After the album finished we had some time to visit the past with Earthborn Evolution and Omnipresent Perception. For that last song a circle pit was demanded and a small one was presented to them. And then it was over, but Beyond Creation would come back for one more neck breaker in Fundamental Process.  Now really at the end we could go on the picture with the band and drive home. Thanks to all bands, but especially Beyond Creation for giving us another highlight of the year.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Future Corpse - Shineback - Ursa

Time for some CD tips with three bands playing just slightly outside the genre they are defined by.

Future Corpse - Culture Ruins Everything Around Me
Future Corpse play Heavy Prog according to their own sites. Well if you then expect something in the vein of Rush or Porcupine Tree you might be disappointed. Yet I see what they mean although they come from a whole different Australian angle. Heavy they definitely are and prog can be justified as well. Now CREAM is not the first album I bought from them and Another World To Consume from 2015 ended very high on my end of year list. At the time I tried to describe them as At the Drive In playing progmetal. Well luckily they did not change their style that much. We still get a punky attitude with screamed vocals at times almost going towards football chants. One constant through the album is the guitar being in a hurry and the rest of the band trying to catch up. So this leaves very little to get a picture, but again Future Corpse managed to blow me away. Yes, you need to hear the album at least 10 times before judging, but now that I got there it's beauty keeps on unrolling before my ears. Highlights to me Ideophobic and the closing title track, where even a trumpet and saxophone blow us through the almost twelve minutes. Only point for improvement would be their sizing of T-shirts. Why stop at Large with such interesting designs. Another 2018 highlight indeed.

Shineback - Dial
This album is the latest release by Simon Godfrey. Now he is together with Dec Burke, Lee Abraham and John Mitchell among those Brits that keep prog rock interesting to me. His previous band Tinyfish stood out  by playing prog without keyboards, which was refreshing indeed. Now this is Shineback's second album after 2013's Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed. With this almost solo project Simon let the electronic side enter his music. Now I consider myself open-minded but too much electronics in your music is just a very bad thing. So it's good that there is no abundance here. Actually when it tends to get an overtone in Let Her Sleep, it is that heavy that you think you are listening to NIN. But the best is hidden in these pretty British songs Consider Her Ways and Kill Devil Hills, both not coincidentally spiced up with guest guitar solo's from friends. So I did grow out of Prog rock a bit over he last years, with their representation in live shows and CD purchases diminishing. Albums with any of the names mentioned above though never disappoint and keep me hooked. Recommended.

Ursa - Abyss Between the Stars
Last year I discovered Cormorant through Diaspora, made that album my pick of the year and bought the full back catalog. So I am kind of a late fan on their respect. Following them I read about this band Ursa containing three band members of Cormorant and playing doom metal. As soon as one song got posted online I knew I was going to get this. Ursa play doom in slow and heavy fashion. I'd say a bit slower than the heavy metal doom from Scandinavia (read my Sorcerer Dynamo review) and a bit faster than your funeral doom. Vocals also stay in between these two styles and instrumentally nothing can go wrong giving their origin. Over 46 minutes we get 6 songs with titles mentioning words as Wizard, Dragon, Yeti, Witches, King and Mountain. So we get some slowly told fantasy stories in Heavy style. Maybe closer the Mountain stands out as different a bit as it is a Steve Earle cover and has an Irish (Lizzy) flavour over it. So to me Cormorant can stay their day-job, but if they find an occasional tour over autumn to bring some doom to Europe this would be very welcome. Best starter to get into them: Cave of the Spider King.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Deranged, Procreation & Putrified Corpse - Musicon The Hague, 18 November 2018

After being sensible and taking my rest made me miss Tokyo Blade in Little Devil on Friday  and Omnium Gatherum in Baroeg yesterday,  I did go to Musicon today for a step into the dark. Not knowing any of the bands in advance my visit paid of as yes we were entertained, So a matinee session in Musicon did look interesting and extreme Death metal would be my Sunday afternoon

The afternoon opened with Putrefied Corpse from Enschede and they were low, slow, heavy and death. Now the vocalist thought it necessary to ask if those already present were awake. Now bands might ask more of a feedback from Musicon at any time, but waking us all up with guitar solos being all fucked up in the mix is a bit extreme. Yet I liked the energy as usual with Death metal bands, but was not overly impressed with the songs. Hereafter we got Procreation from Zwolle and things would go to another level indeed. This band played tight, but also had good songs and the necessary variation to keep me hanging in there. Instrumentally they were great and when in between songs a nonchalant Annihilator riff was played I realized this band can play indeed. The almost hour they got was filled with good songs and musically Procreation were to me the winner of the day.

And then there was a headliner Deranged from Sweden. Starting their set the psychopath looking vocalist dove offstage and started to headbutt-light people in the audience. Singing he did as well although some might disagree calling this guttural noise singing. The band consisted of a guitarist raging over 8 strings, a bassist hurting 5 strings and a drummer hammering drums looking like sinterklaas on speed. So yes the band could play and the voice was evil. Yet songs I am still doubting about. Entertainment was not the issue, as I would definitely come back to see this set again. Still there was a bit too much going on to get the full picture for me. So until today I thought Ingested was the most brutal band ever to play the Musicon stage when I was there, Deranged might have just taken that title. So to be honest not music I would get on CD to play on a Sunday morning or any other day. Still the performance was to me outstanding and when they would give an encore if the drummer would get a beer, Ed made our day by breaking that record as well and we could one more time just look amazed towards the stage. Different, yes let's call it different by lack of better description.