Sunday, 29 April 2018

The Hague Metalfest - Paard, 28 April 2018

The Hague Metal Fest the first edition. Well I had to attend and support, even with Josie over for a long weekend. When this festival was first announced their FB page posted a poll asking which styles of Metal we would like to see. I believe I aksed for Progmetal, Heavy Metal and NWOBHM. Well my vote went up in smoke as in the end we got a pure Death Metal festival, where variation had to be sought between more technical forms or the slamming version. My favorites would play around dinner time, so I arrived when Modus Operandi, Human Vivisection and Astarot had already finished. Openers were for me therefore Apophys, playing my preferred more technical style of death metal. Not by coincidence just before they begun I did run into Alex, Cailyn and Jonathan, three of the Progpower regulars with a liking of the death metal side of prog.

Apophys on stage turned out to be a litle party as they play fast, tight and varied. The vocals would go from grunt to occassionally very fast. Not knowing any of their songs I can't comment much on their setlist, but just saw a band that gave us a good show and  was appreciated by those in the hall. To my surprise not much signs of a pit going on, so maybe they are not yet that big after all, while for me the second best band of the day. My favorites of the day would be The Modern Age Slavery from Italy. Last year they played Metalcon and impressed a lot, so having one of their albums I looked forward to seeing them again now. Well that did not disappoint as the same energy as 2017 was still very much alive and the vocalist singing large parts standing on a flightcase was till hooded and powerfull. At the same time instrumentally there was little to complain either and this show flew by, at least to me it seemed shortish. .As Jonathan shouted along with the title, the only song I can confirm they played was The Silent Death of Cain. Rene told me that some years ago they even played at de Vinger, when still in the centre. I would have no problems with an annual return of them to our beautiful city behind the dunes.

After what for me was the highlight matters would change with next band Human Error playing Slam Death. Well being only three consisting of drums, guitars and vocals the noise coming of stage was nothing less but impressive. Still the songs were a style where I almost have to surrender. For me the words describing this best were different and interesting, which does not need to be positive always. At the same time the pits grew and the crowd became louder. Not musically my thing really I liked their presentation and they gave us a crocodile show. Hereafter Bodyfarm would for me close the festivval. I saw this band from Amersfoort before and liked them at BOA 2016. After the slam experience returning to some more grooves and songs was welcome to my ears. A fine closure of the day showing that Holland has many class bands in the extreme genres. For next year the first band was already announced in Bleeding Gods. This means the festival shall continue which was right based upon decent audience numbers. Let's see if any non-death metal bands shall be included, or otherwise I just pick a favorite part again. For a first time organization seemed very smooth to me and even the Polish hip-hop crowd coming for the other hall seeemed to blend in calmly at the bar.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Koningsnach The Hague 26 April 2018

In Holland we have a king. The only thing he is good for, is giving us a national holiday in April. Since he took over from his mother the holiday moved from 30 to 27 April. This probably shall still result next Monday in some tourist appearing in Orange in Amsterdam, reading their old travel guides (or is internet the only source nowadays?). Anyway the country celebrates his birthday today and in The Hague the bigger party has been the night before since the late eighties. Starting off as a Blues festival with live music in almost all bars and beers on the streets it now turned into a major festival with all kinds of music on stages throughout the centre. The only places to be really were the blues stage which turned out to be a tiny caravan with te drums on the ground before it and the Rock&Louder stage in front off our government buildings. So arriving around 21:00 with Pieter, it was off for some blues first. Running into Niels and Ingrid we mainly were talking, when on the background first a decent bluesband played, followed by a somewhat grungy rock band. Not knowing any bandnames it was of for some Rock & Louder hereafter.

The band I was most looking out for was Death Alley. The former night mayor of The Hague spoke in dutch about an alley, yet still managed to announce them before and after their gig as Death Valley. Death Alley play speed rock with some side steps to psychedelic bits. The start was very promising and they rocked us nicely warm on this cold evening. I was considering getting their album after the show, when they made a change over the set. Suddenly we got long instrumental parts, where not all that much was happening really. This might work within a small venue rather well, but on this cold evening it did not. At least not for me. So in the end I liked their start, but the long jams made me decide to check them out on internet before getting an album I might never play.
After Death Alley from Amsterdam, Brutus from Belgium were to close down the stage. This trio also played powerrock, but with less of a metal edge. Most striking was the girl behind the drums, who also was their vocalist. The drums were placed sideways at the side of the stage therefore. I was not sure what to think of them. At softer parts they sounded to me a bit like their countrymen K's Choice, while at their heaviest they were pretty heavy indeed. Musically to me not as good as Death Alley, they did create some atmosphere with their songs resulting even in some pits before the stage. Now as Roy also noticed these pits were different from the usual metal pit as people seemed to move more up and down then sideways as we normally see. All in all a pretty good band for some live music accompanying your beers. Around 01;00 it was over and out and the stage closed down. For George and me this meant going to de Huppel for a beer to close the night and we could officially celebrate Wimpies birthday, without mentioning him once. 

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Kino - The Aaron Clift Experiment - Perihelion Ship - Barren Earth

Prog is all around and herewith some variations on the style. As usual starting light and ending rather heavy.

Kino - Radio Voltaire
Well that was a surprise return to me. Kino the band currently exists of John Mitchell, Pete Trewavas, Craig Blundell and John Beck. In 2005 they released their beautiful debut album Picture, toured a bit and then it went quiet. So now they return for me out of the blue with Radio Voltaire. Some changes in the line up, but if you change one Steven Wilson/PT drummer for the other there is no serious drop in quality really. Looking at the credits 8 songs are written by John Mitchell and 3 by Pete Trewavas. This means that the overall sound is rather impacted by Mr. Mitchell. This as such is not a problem as I love his other bands/projects It Bites, Lonely Robot, The Urbane and Arena. Point is that there is a certain equalness between his bands now, especially the ones where he can be heard on his rather raw and raspy vocals. The album opens good with the title track and The Dead Club. Songs inbetween Stadium rock and prog. Hereafter follows in Idlewind the first of four ballads, which is a bit too much for my ears. While saying that closing song The Silent Fighter Pilot is a highlight of the album. For the rest it all sounds good, performed at the level you would expect and pleasant to the ears and all. Yet I could not find any songs as good as Losers Day Parade or Swimming in Women from their debut. Still as I missed them touring in 2005 it would be nice to see them at de Boerderij one day.

The Aaron Clift Experiment - If All Goes Wrong
Next week The Aaron Clift Experiment shalll release If All Goes Wrong and I am curious how far this album shall reach. This is American prog, edging on Classic Rock. So for the style they could appeal to many, or by lack of exposure remain this underground tip only. This is their third album and I do not know how big they got in the USA by now. As far as I know they never played Europe, so over here they have space for increasing their fanbase I guess. This album might be the right tool for that. The band is currently a trio with Aaron on Vocals/Keyboards, Devin North on bass and Tim Smith on drums. For the guitar parts they have called in several friends without this resulting in style breaks on the album. In progrock regions tend to have a typical sound like British or Scandinavian. This band definitely sounds American to me. Bands that sprung to mind for me as references were Styx and Salem Hill. Somewhere in that range you can find most of the songs, unless they visit the Beatles during Better off Before. Overall this album is very accesible and makes for a small hour well spent. The range can go from a bit of a bite in Last Crash, through more epical in Dream Within a Dream to a fast rocker like Wild Hunters. As it should be my favorite song is the titletrack with a nice guitar solo ending, which I recommend as intoduction for discovering them. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Perihelion Ship - To Paint a Bird of Fire
Pledge, Kickstarter and the likes give you this idea of helping out bands who deserve this. So when Perihelion Ship started their campaign I jumped in fast as I thought their debut album A Rare Thunderstorm in Spring both extremly good and highly underrated. Now last October this new album was released and I read some reviews on the internet. And then my bundle arrived by the mail a mere six months later. finding out that the Tee included does not look all that great. So where I might sound pissed off with the band I am not, as this is easily one of the best albums released over the past twelve months!! In the begin of this century two progmetal bands released Classic Concept albums which I both loved and set the bar for others to follow. These albums were Back to Times of Splendour by Disillusion and Light of Day, Day of Darkness by Green Carnation. Well anyone into either album should get Perihelion Ship immediately. To Paint a Bird of Fire is the perfect bastard son of both and mixes the same Seventies hardrock with some extreme metal and great songs. This album has two epical bookends in New Sun and New Sun?, both over ten minutes. In between those we have four shorter songs, which all have an own flavor to them. While the album should be heard in full my potential favorite so far is Wind of No Echoes. This song starts instrumentally for some minutes in the vein of Morte Macabre (meaning mellotrons and a dark atmosphere)  than switches through spoken samples to a Black Metallic song, in order to end more hard rocking. This song was cowritten by the keyboards/mellotron man Jaro Konttinen. The bonus track Maven is fully written by him and probably the loudest bit, so I'd say give that man a voice. Not to say that mainman Andreas Hammer did no great job, as only the 2017 release 2018 arrival make it hard for this album to reach my top five of either year. Go listen to this CD by Hammer, Jani, Jari and Jouko and ProgPower Europe pay attention these guys should rule around any dinner break in the weekend.

Barren Earth - A Complex of Cages
Is it a band, or is it a project. Now at their fourth album I tend to hope it is a band. At the same time all members have other obligations as well. Last year I saw them opening impressively for Insomnium and their metal fits that Melodic Death Metal band fine. At the same time we have here a healthy dose of Doom and Prog resulting in one fine mix. Vocalist of the band is Jón Aldará. I believe I saw him with Clouds at Dutch Doom Days, while I definitely heard him with Hamferd on one of the best Doom albums released this year. That is why I was somewhat surprised hearing him on opening track The Living Fortress. His singing here sounds more like reciting and definitely needs an open minded listener. Later on this reciting becomes much less and the mix between his clear voice and the heavy grunt often singing together is one of the highlights of this album. I say one of the highlights as the real focus should go out to the songs. This is a heavy album, but does not stop offering us variation all around. The Ruby is most accesible, with in the chorus a very fine working mix of vocal styles. Zeal and Solitude Path are epics with time and space for calmer moments.  Four albums in their career and I hope this time they reach such a response that touring becomes obligatory.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Tribute to Wizz (middle part) - Feestzaal Lottenhulle, 7 April 2018

A tribute to Wizz festival, so I have to start with a confession. I did not know Wizz apart from his name, the bandname Wizzard and that he lost the battle againts cancer late 2016. Yet at a tribute I also believe that people appreciating their heavy metal are in a way helping to keep the spirirt alive and his friends with a good party. Now driving down to Belgium was a last minute decsion really. Like most of the country (Holland not Belgium that is) I suffered the last month from returning traces of an annoying fever, which made me skip several shows. Only last night I was at Musicon supporting young bands, not feeling all that well  and leaving after 25 minutes of Mad Baron. Further one of the two bands  that made me decide to go to Lottenhulle, had to pull out some weeks ago already. That was Twisted Illusion and as they helped me going there I decided to put on their T-shirt. Two interesting side effects were the result. First as it is a white T-shirt I was literally the only fully white T-shirt in (Thorium had cool white shirts, but with blue sleeves). Further when standing outside during a break, a guy came to me asking if he could take a picture with me. Well I recognized in him the guitarist/ vocalist of Vice the band that now made me attend the Tribute. If bands start asking you to take a picture with them, it tends to become hard to stay modest, although I guess it was the Tee and not me. Finally Theo already informed me that he and Wendy would be there, so following up my Patronaat report of last week, even in a place I never heard of before I would run into people I know.

The general consensus in the metal world is that Germany is the walhalla for old school metal fans. In reality I think that this region of Flanders offers as much with always a good atmosphere. Also the number of bands who play old school Heavy Metal seems fairly large. Ironbound was the first Belgium band I saw today and that was no disappointment. Reading about them in advance I expected a band that played covers by Iron Maiden and Metallica, with some own songs. In reality we got a full set of own material ending with a cover by Saxon. The own songs sounded rather well and the highlight of the band were the solo's by their lead guitarist. We could shout along with Never Again, before Princess of the Night closed the set in style.

After a sunny break outside on the first warm day in western Europe Thorium  were on next. Now Thorium might be an unknown name in metal, Ostrogoth is not. This band seems to hold some old members of that band. Vocalist is from Holland and also known from Lord Vulture. This band was a really good surprise as they played eighties metal in the style and at the level of the greats. So when one song reminded me strongly of Helloween, the next one on the Battle of Britain was as if Maiden 1986 was back on stage. So the songs were fine, the playing was good and the vocals top. So this was a new band to me to follow.  Final fun fact I learned from Theo. The bassist played in a WASP coverband and looks like a smaller version of Blackie Lawless indeed, before the current Michelin sponsoring of the original that is.

Next on Vice were the band I most looked forward to really. Last year they released their excellent debut album The First Chapter. So I decided to enter the hall before kickoff and get a center position to see what would be coming. Well I might have hoped for a good show, but this was with no doubt on of the highlights of the year. Live the great album even added on the energy front and we were blown away. I say we as I had the impression I was not the only one heavily impressed. During a 45 set I think Tom stood some 25 minutes central stage soloing at us. If we add the sympathetic presentation coming from both drums and bass, this young bands should have a bright future if this kind of metal stays in fashion that is. Their music is heavy metal, but at the heavier thrashier end really. It is so good seeing a young band blowing you offf yer socks, just as the event page warned us in the morning already. Taking no notes as usual, not sure what songs passed, but for sure, Sloth, Creed and Envy did. After the show I tried to catch up and thank them for making my trip so worthwhile. I could not find them inside or outside the hall. As they stated coming from Manchester, they might have been on the lookout for a TV in order to watch the Manchester derby. A game I  am seeing now at MOTD, while writing this. Seeing them soon again at Mearfest I hope.

Well up to Evyltyde the ungratefull task to follow this up. For me this would be the cooling down before driving back home. Now with the sun out burning for the first time this year, the trend of the day became  that bands would start for a handfull of people and slowly the crowd would walk in. In the case of Evyltyde it seemed to me taking very long before some reaction came back to them. It was definitely not them lacking hard work. With a bassist on hire and a girl drumming with the band for a week only they actually played well together. From some clips I was hoping for more of an eighties metal female voice (Dore, Leather Leone, Lee Aaron and the lot). In reality this went more towards what is called Female Fronted Metal with higher vocals. Now this is not the genre I am most at home in, I did like the song where heavy male and female vocals mixed up nicely. Towards their end I decided to call it a day and start the long drive home. What a good decision it was to go in the end. Very smoothly organized, easy atmosphere and this Belgium flavour of a day of metal. Hans already mentioned an interest in Headbangers Ball in May. I might consider if timing works out, but  won't be the only person in a white Tshirt again.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Vader, Neoceasr & Seita - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden, 5 April 2018

As it was about time to leave my recent pattern of attending only Sunday night shows I had two options to choose from. I decided for Death Metal over Progmetal. Not that I musically completely changed over, but I went for the energy coming off the stage. So Resolve and Armed Cloud shall be visited later on again. I was not the only one attending, although the crowd was considerably smaller than with Dark Tranquility only two weeks earlier in Leiden.

When I entered de Nobel main hall Seita just kicked off their set. This band is from Amsterdam, but actually from Brazil. So the songs were introduced in English and sung so as well. Although one song was titled Portuguese Ditadura. The band decided to stay away from politics unfortunately, as I would have been interested in their views on the fact that former president  and only candidate for this year's elections Lula was ordered to sentence in prison that very afternoon. They played music as well and that is death metal. At times nearing the technical variation, due to the guitars, so I quite liked what I heard. Good band for warming us up and if you are into Baseball interesting merch as well. Question to Nobel, why is it that first bands in the main hall suffer from a heavy hum coming from the speakers inbetween the songs?

Second band were Neoceasar from Rotterdam. Last year I saw them a few times and their last gig I saw was instrumental as the vocalist could not join on Rene's birthday party. Glad he was back today, although during the first song you would not tell. Actually everything sounded dimmed and low during the first song. The band also noticed this on stage, as we had a small correction break after the opener. From then on it all became this Death Metal machine we saw before. Straight Forward in your face and no nonsense spring to mind. On CD I might prefer the more technical or progressive styles, live this is one fine band. Not sure if they won over new fans, as they play a lot. For sure they convinced us though that they are one of the forces in extreme metal in Holland nowadays.

Vader already played Death Metal in Poland when the wall was still dividing Berlin. This tour they celebrate the 25 years (and a bit) of their debut album The Ultimate Incantation. Now that album was released in 1992 before Cynic's Focus, Amorphis' Elegy or Opeth's Still Life, so I was still not into grunting vocals. Now way past that, I could recognize the class of that album as well as the band. Interesting how you think you saw two good openers and when the headliner comes on, matters are brought to the next level anyway. Some 35 minutes into the set Rene asked if anything sounded outdated, as we were only listening to 1992 songs so far. No not at all was the answer. After so many years bands tend to become tight as a really tight thing. So did Vader and the guitar solo's that were thrown upon us randomly sounded very nice as well. So after the full album another five or six songs followed and we were left tired running for the bars or trains. Final headsup for the merch. I did not see too many green Death Metal shirts really (more a Djent thing) so I got one. Also the training jacket was rather awesome, but I passed on that which I shall regret later on. Tomorrow they end their tour in Portugal. Shows that my future home country should not be all that bad on gigs with after Vader next week Insomnium/Tribulation passing by on Tuesday and Dark Tranquility to follow on Friday.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Bell Witch, Monarch! & Feast - Patronaat Haarlem 1 Apri 2018

Bell Witch is not for everyone. at the same time it is easy to understand to all that Mirror Reaper has been one of the most interesting releases in 2017. A duo, playing bass and drums, releasing a one-song album of 83 minutes in slowly building doom. Grieving over the loss of former band member Adrian Guerra, who can be heard on pre-recorded vocals in The Words of the Dead. This album does get under your skin in its total sadness, so yes I was more than a bit curious how this would be brought to us on stage. This was also the week where internet told us that going to a show every two weeks might extend your live with ten years. Somehow I donot think that article was relating to this evening of total heavyness. When handing over my coat, the guy at the garderobe pointed at the free earplugs, as this was going to be HEAVY. Well I brought my own thanks. Also the life extending article mentioned the sense of belonging as a reason. Now I do agree that I like the company of many people I met during the years at gigs, but somehow I felt like not belonging in Patronaat last night. This must have been one the first shows in a long time where I knew noone, nor did I recognize a face in the crowd. Apart from knowing noone I also have no beard. Haarlem is this hipster city just off Amsterdam. Yesterday when I arrived before Feast started and entered the small hall there were some fifteen man alll having some sort of beard. The range was wide from I did not feel like foking shaving the past ten days, via goaty all the way down to Jihadi John. Now beards are common nowadays, but these all looked fashionably conscious and approved. So resuming I wonder how many extra days I gained last night. Hopefully enough to see Bell Witch once more, as they were sensational but more on that later.

Opening band were from the area: Feast. They were the loudest band of the night as they did not necessarily reduce to soft intermezzos all that often. This Doom/Sludge was played so heavy, that you felt it hitting you in the stomach. I am afraid my scar wound opened up another two cm. Still as a life band I quite liked their performance. No nonsense just burn the place down and everybody in it. I believe they played four songs with the last one called the Bible if I understood that correct. Which was a nice touch as it was Easter after all.

Monarch!are French and brought us a show. I mean the curtain closed inbetween the bands in the small hall and the stage was reorganized. When opening the drums were on our right end of the stage and could be watched sideways. On the left a table with many candles burning, a black cloth with some upside crosses. Two guitarists at the back of the stage and centre stage the bassist vocalist. Well vocalist he grunted/screamed at times with huge echo on it. From below the table a lady appeared, called Eurogirl I just read. She started whispering to us in French and slowly building up in volume. Than it became clear that the hero of the band was the drummer. He kicked of all the time when it was time for heavyness. Usually by hitting two cymbals and bassdrums. He than would bang wildly (animal) joining his slow and very heavy play. And when they switched to loud mode, they were loud. Mixed with a slowness this was just great. The show was upped by some of the details. The bassist had at the start five bottles of Heineken in front of him. Wen the girl claimed here moments and started drablling in French he had no role. So out came the bottle opener and he picked a bottle in order to throw it down his pipe in two gulps. So in the set of about 45 minutes? all bottles were emptied, which made hime the heaviest drinker in the hall. I know as I stood near the bar and noticed it was never rush hour. At the same time Eurogirl would disappear behind her table at times as well. At one moment I saw a hand with a bottle above the table going down, so she may have finished a same amount, but is still in denial phase of her friend alcohol. This show flew past as there were details like above to watch and the songs seemed to be merging into each other. At a certain moment Eurogirl moved to accented English, when warriors were invited to come out and play. But this was not about the lyrics or songs, but the total experience, which was good. For me no music to buy on CD, as I do not think this works that well at home and who knows it makes you more thirsty than is good for you.

Bell Witch is Dylan Desmonde on bass/vocals and Jesse Shriebman on drums, hammond organ and vocals. I am now some twleve hours later and still questioning myself: How do they do this??? We got the first part of Mirror Reaper (As Above) played for us. Dylan opens with his six string bass and Jesse seems to be asleep on his snare-drum. Even with bass alone the music sounds massive. In order to increase the impact we get black and white movies on the screen behind them. I have no clue on the lyrics of Mirror Reaper, nor do I know what they tried to state with the at times interesting images, but I was sucked completely into this show.  When Jesse joined the heaviness of the evening was restored and at times I was surprised by the vocal parts, which moved ranges up to Black Metallish. Seems that I played Mirror Reaper a lot as I could hum along with large parts of the music. It stayed all the way through just amazing how the two of them could create this all on stage. I saw that Jesse had some effects to his disposal, but still. No songs, no interaction with the audience (like the whole evening) no guitar solo and yet one of the best shows I witnessed in a long time. As this evening was a special one with Easter and April Fool's day combined I did appreciate it that they did not treat us on a hologram of Adrian Guerra to fit Easter and surprise us. The only conclusion can be this was an evening of art and not a metal show at all. Now when As Above was finished the show was over as well. One might say that 50 minutes is not very long, but this show was intense on all the senses so I was pleased as it was. Bell Witch shall return to Holland ths month when they end their European tour with two shows at Roadburn. Now I am in Portugal those days, but they shall play Mirror Reaper in full on one of the days. No need to repeat that I can only recommend all to see this. Also Progpower might raise an eyebrow. Given the success of Nordic Giants two years ago, this might be a heavier/doomier version of that, which should please half the attendants as well. I am now listening to their previous album Four Phantoms. It contains Bell Witch short songs as we get two songs divided each in two parts in 65 minutes. What a great band they are, being two only.