Saturday, 25 May 2013

Kingcrow - In Crescendo

It took me some time to buy this album after it's release. Thereafter it took me some time to sit and listen with all attention needed for this album. First background listens made me feel the album being fairly light metal and the buzz on internet fora seemed exgagerated. But after a headphone listen of the album in one go I got it. One of the best releases in 2013 indeed and highly recommended to both prog rock and metal lovers.

Two years ago Kingcrow played the Progpower festival in Baarlo and I already knew their good album with the hard name to memorize. They managed to get on European tours with Redemption and Jon Oliva, so this gave them the opportunity to watch and learn with the absolute best. Listening to ths album they obviously learned, although staying away from the more metal side both these bands used to play live. Opener Right before still seems heavy, but hereafter the majority of the material goes on slower mode. This is not a bad thing since Kingcrow are at their best in the atmospheric parts where heavier slots move nicely into ballad territories. The band that immediately springs to mind hearing this album is to me Wolverine. The overall feel and atmosphere are not far away from their last album.

With such a strong album released I checked their website for a tour. To my surprise they played US and Canada and have now for a next show end November Rome mentioned. In the US they played with Pain of Salvation and judging by both last releases I can imagine they gave the headliners a hard time topping them. Just a matter of finding a good co-headliner (Haken September tour?) and get on that tour bus.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Progdreams 2 - de Boerderij, 18 May 2013

Whitsun weekend usually sunny and traditionally camping out with a group of friends. Not this year though. Last week at my annual football tournament I managed to break my wrist and someone forgot to inform the gods that spring started. Together with a little animated family for camping enough reasons to stay home and a good opportunity to attend the Progdreams 2 festival.
Progdreams is the new name, but basically IO pages festival and symforce were its predecors. Announcements of the band were made again by the sympathetic Belgian Bobo Bollenberg. Apart from informative (let's hope the rumors on a certain drummer and next year's festival come true) he also blends in a humor light without any insults taking place (which is more common in the region de Boerderij and I are from).

First band was Beardfish. Saw them several times before and like them live better than on CD. Again the show was lively and entertaining. Strange enough they opened with a set of 40 minutes only, while having released much more music than the next two bands. This resulted in a short set of only 4 songs with to me as highlight the closing song. This was pure progmetal with vocals even leaning towards grunting. A full album in this style without the Zappaesk escapes would be a to me defintely their best release. Great musicians good opening.

Than there was a long queue for food, so I had some beers. I drink right handed so plaster not bothering too much. Next band on was District 97. Through the announcements a songfestival atmosphere was created and to me they were winners of the day. When the young band came on the T-shirts of Meshuggah and King Crimson raised hopes. Indeed the music was flavored with tech metal influences, played in a very tight way. Unfortunately to them they shall always be called the band of former American Idols winner (or finalist?) Leslie Hunt. This does not do justice to the band. While she presents enthiusiastic enough the band abilities were the standout of the show. There was a split in the set, when halfway John Wetton joined to sing their last albums duet the Perfect Young man. Hereafter we got treated on some Wetton era King Crimson work. Again played very well we got some classics and less obvious songs as The Great deceiver and One More Red Nightmare. Only comment on this tribute part is that the speed dropped somewhat and maybe their own songs were more lively. Still I never saw Fallen Angels being played live before and Mr. Wetton was in very good vocal condition. Highlight of the day, got their last CD which matches the show.

Next band was Sound of Contact. Who? right the band from the son of Phil Collins. Obviously this seems to be enough reason to program them here halfway the set and get them a place on Night of the Prog festival. Afraid I did not get the buzz. Simon Collins looks like his father, but the band played to me a rather poppy prog and songs did not stick. Guitar was not present enough, so bartime to me. Maybe after knowing their CD the penny drops, but after this show I was not tempted to buy their album and hearing audience reactions I was not the only one thinking this.

Closing band was Spock's Beard, which was a good choice since guaranteeing a nicely packed Boerderij. I somewhat lost track of them after Neal Morse left, but was curious to see how Ted Leonard would fit in. First time I saw both Ted Leonard and Spock's Beard was in 1998 when Enchant supported the Beard on their European tour. Being a fan of Ted Leonards voice and Enchant I quickly found that the renewed Spock's beard is up to top levels again. The set was obviously build around the last CD with Ted's songs and reason enough for me to get Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep afterwards. Having released 11 Cd's the problem is always which songs to play live. To me all of the old songs were a surprise since not the typical highlights of each album. Walking in the Wind with guest drumming Colin Leyenaar (where is the Alpha Flood CD?) was very good, but the chosen ballad Distance to the Sun is not really my favorite SB Balled (Waste Away is). With so many new songs and the average song being long there was hardly time for a best off show, but I was glad to see I shall follow the Beard more closely again. Ted Leonard did not look fully comfortable blended in yet to me, but his voice makes me already look forward to this years closing set of Enchant at PPE.

So the festival was a success and de Boerderij filled up nicely. Problem in my eyes on next year would be how can they get a headliner of similar league to repeat the turnup. Leaving that for the organizers to worry about I am already looking forward to a next edition.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Galahad - One for the Record

Music is supposed to be heard or seen in live form. But sometimes a good read can be just as nice.     Highlights to me are on never giving up and friendship Anvil: the story of Anvil (both the DVD and book are a must) or on all the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Motley crue's the Dirt. This week I received the authorised Galahad Biography One for the Record by Andrwe Wild. Or as they subtitle themselves The World's most Famous unsuccesful band. This book seems to belong up there with the above mentioned classics.

Galahad is now one of my favorite prog rock bands, but I discovered them rather late during a show in de Boerderij some ten years ago (one of their 12 shows with Peter Wallbridge on bass as the book tought me). Their last three Cd's are absolute Classics in the Genre, because they dare to be different and meanwhile I did buy majority of their back catalogue as well. Being fan of the band to me is not a pre-requisit to like a book. It is about the story being told. That's what we get here nicely told. We see a relatively unknown band struggling with personal (6 Keyboardists, 8 Bass players) but always continuing their struggle. It is because of these bands and their fighting spirit that we can enjoy so much great music. It must be much easier to continue if you have a major hit, become a household name and every new release has a guaranteed offtake of 100.000 plus. Galahad never saw these huge numbers (as unfair as this may be), but always was prepared to go where bigger bands fear to thread. Their blend of styles make them hard to follow and sometimes I also get lost in electronics or rhythms too far from my dose of rock. Still appreciation is always there.

The book gives a good insight on reality of a band their calibre, with one of the highlights the descripton of a short European tour with breaking busses, a cancelation and too much credit to the Dutch in the three part interlude A Matter of Going. Striking is that all lost band members are positively looking back at their time with the band. All ex-members had their reasons for leaving or being told to do so and of course the sad loss of Neil pepper is also remembered.

For those not interested in reading, the book is still recommended. As a bonus a three hour DVD is included. Two hours plus of live recordings from 1986 to 2010 Night of the Prog performance. This gives a nice overview further enhanced by 6 videoclips. One clip deserves a special mention; e the Dentist song (a great song) is supported by a hilarious videoclip, which is so wrong it becomes funny again. It is not available on YouTube, so this clip alone already justifies all running to the Galahd webstore and get your own book. Apart from a great read you support a good cause.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Oceans of Slumber - Aetherial

Let me start with some warnings. This CD is not for the narrow minded. Further when I received the album directly from the band I thought I could play it on the background while finishing some work at home. Mistake: definitely a headphone album with too much going on. But in order to enjoy this album most important that you must accept styles going all over the place with a firm base in extreme metal with according vocals and suitable non uplifting lyrics.

In case these warnings did not scare you off, you might be in for a treat and like me discover a new favorite album of the year. The start is heavy with God in Skin and Coffins Like Kites entering a mix of Death/Prog/Metalcore. Tremendous playing and a varied scream, grunt clean voice set the tone. Then with Memorium we go vocally back to grunge times, but then with a tech metal back ground. Following with Remedy we get waves of Faith No More in a much heavier version. Variation is the name of the game and we get all of the above somehow back during Only a Corpse, title track Aetherial, Primordial and Blackest Cloud (Grungy Ballad). A special attention goes to closer The Great Divide, maybe the best song on the album. Without willing to start any Satriani/Coldplay discussions the chorus sounds very very similar to Pallas' Twenty Five good honest Men. I doubt that they know of each others existence and unlike the before mentioned famous rippoff it is only a chorus line. Fact is that I immediately sung the Pallas line along and other fact is that the song is with this catchy chorus an absolute highlight on this already impressive independent produced album.

So here we have a band perfectly fit for the heavier sessions around dinner break during Progpower. Leaving those who don't get them with some time to visit the Chines restaurant for a long dinner and those who get them in heaven with a rollercoaster show. Maybe 2014 then?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Pendragon - de Boerderij 3 May 2013

It's Friday night and Pendragon are back in de Boerderij. So we know what we get. We get well over two hours of one of the (if not the) best prog performers. We get sonic landscapes by Clive Nolan, we get the stable bass playing by army-trousered Pete Gee, we get Scott Higham on drums bringing the sound closer to Hardrock with his past in bands like Angel Witch (them again) and ShadowKeep. And finally we get the sympathetic voice of Nick Barrett together with his guitar playing from another planet. Predictable you think; well think again. Since they have a great history to pick from, they always manage to throw surprises into the setlist. Tonight the biggest surprises to me were The Black Knight and the song I do not have on CD Fallen Dreams & Angels.

Starting off with an epic The Voyager the tone was set. In spite of talks on recovery from an operation it all sound very good as usual. After an easy start we didn't get an uplift with the equally beautifull The Shadow. Pendragon is one of those bands who to me don't have a favorite phase. Maybe The Window of Life is my preferred album, but already before and upto now they released albums almost as good. One of my absolute favorite songs by them appears on the last album Passion, being This Green and Pleasant Land. Starting with the emotional thoughts on how we pissed things up the wall  untill arriving at the sing-along Take only what you need and be on your way, this song is almost 15 minutes in Prog Heaven (well maybe without the jodeling).

Talking about great songs, this set would consist all their hits and some surpises. Well obviously they never had a hit for the masses, but in progland for sure Breaking the Spell is considered one. This song is build around a never ending guitarsolo, like no other song I know. Nowadays when hearing the song I always remember the German guy standing next to me some years ago at the Loreley, spontaneously bursting into tears when this song was played. It could have been his wife/girlfriend who broke the spell, but it could also have been the guitarsolo. Yes it is that good and emotional. In this month's Aardschok Pendragon's last live CD is reviewed and the bold statement is made that Pendragon Live never really matches their level reached on CD. Well to me only witnessing and feeling the emotion all around when Breaking the Spell is being played completely destroys this statement. For those who never heard this song go for the easy way and check YouTube.

Closing the set with some recent work we got two 10 minute plus encores in Indigo and The Master of Illussion. With Pendragon there is always wanting for more, since they have so many great songs. For future surprise shows I do have a small list of requests, which are more than welcome for me to include: 2 AM, Shane, World's End, Bird of Paradise and I can go on forever. During the show they suggested to make this an annual event (weren't they doing that for some years already?) so please include the above songs on the 2014 Boerderij visit.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Legend - The Dark Place

Legend from Jersey, a  band that did not break through to bigger things, probably because they are from Jersey. They released two LP's and EP's in the early eighties, which all are available on the absolutely necessary double CD Anthology. This month they played the Keep it True festival and one week before the show released this new CD: The Dark Place.

Starting of with a Maidenish Wasted Years alike riff the titlesong gets heavier hereafter and the typical vocals come in and the Legend returned indeed. From this begin to the last bonus track Play Your Game this is a very good CD. Like more bands of the eighties returning, they manage to keep their feet strongly in NWOBHM territory, while at the same time also know to avoid sounding dated. Musically they were not the heaviest in the Wave, but melodic and moody. At the same time songs as Paragon and Burn with your Demons are not too far from the mighty Angel Witch.

While the last months Progmetal has not been overly active on great releases, the Prog rock and Heavy Metal make more than up, I do hope that the trip from Jersey to Holland is an easy one, since they state themselves on their website after KIT that they hope to return to Europe soon (British bands and people alike do not consider Great Britain Europe for those who did not know). Cannot imagine that they disappoint live with this backcatalogue now followed by a great CD