Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The Contortionist & Palm Reader - Patronaat Haarlem 26 June 2018

26 June 2018 was one of those days. Originally I was planning to see Ritchie Kotzen in Leiden. Then the Heavy metal party of Iced Earth and Martyr was announced in Alkmaar. Work would bring me the day to Amsterdam for a Metal Bulletin Conference. My work as my musical taste are both very much rooted in metal indeed. This conference made Alkmaar a bit complicated on trains and timing (as unfortunately proven by Robert, but that's another story). And then there was the announcement of The Contortionist in Patronaat. The Contortionist state they play Progressive metal on their FB page, but with a foot in djent I'd say. Actually in that genre they are probably my favorite band. Watching the site of Patronaat it turned out that Soulfly would play the main hall the same night. And to complete the busy agenda on the train to Haarlem some Leiden students entered on their way to Limp Bizkit. When they started talking about House Festivals it only confirmed to me that Limp Bizkit has nothing to do with Metal.

Arriving at Patronaat it was warm and busy outside. For some reason Patronaat decided to put The Contortionist on the bar stage instead of the small hall. This meant sold out, but also slightly tight to move and the low ceiling there is somewhat annoying. First band of the evening would be Palm Reader from the UK. This band reminded me more of the older The Contortionist as vocals would be mainly screaming and the  band was pretty heavy. I liked their enthusiasm and sympathetic announcements. Musically I thought this to be nice live, but I was not attracted to get their last CD.

During the break I learned that Messi made a rather nice goal. My decision to not watch the possible exit of Argentina was rewarded by today's Riesenentauschung from the Germans. Before The Contortionist kicked of let me share my history with the band. I discovered them when Aardschok wrote about Instrisic as something like only for those who consider Rush too straight forward. Checking that album out I loved Intrinsic. Mostly heavy they had plenty of short calm breaks which made a great balance. Next album Language made it high on my list of albums of the year and the trend was more clean vocals and calmer music. Now they are touring last year's Clairvoyant album, which eliminated harsh vocals altogether on the front. So to say doing an Anathema in their career this last album is filled with beautiful music, interesting enough to keep all technical music lovers on board. So the question was, how would they bring this set together and is there still space for the heavy. My hopes were high, as during their Language supporting tour, they blew Tesseract of the stage. An opening tune started 21:00 sharp and the start was for the Clairvoyant album. This is actually such a beautiful album that many people out of metalworlds should be able to like it. But that is the return to the old exposure story. The second song was a heavy monster and I did not recognize it, so probably from the Exoplanet album. This is just wat I wanted mixing the heavy and the mellower. During the remainder of the set the focus would be on the last two albums, but occassionaly it all blasted. Now I did recognize the songs, but cannot immediately place title and album next to it. So I just state here that The Contortionist surpassed my hopes and expectations and I now also came to love their last album even more. Their presentation is rather introvert, but their playing is from another (Exo?) planet even when they Return to Earth. Happy to see a band confirming their status with me and who knows Complexity or Progpower can get them back to Holland any day soon.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Amulet & Scavenger - Little Devil Tilburg 17 June 2018

The World Cup is on and for those who like football this might impact the number of shows attended. For me so far no direct loss of gigs, but writing shall be reduced. So last Friday there was a great CD release party for Rages of Sin and Acrid with strong support of PPTA and Saturday Icarius was way too heavy for the average visitor of Vlaggetjesdag in Scheveningen and the new hering tastes good. Yet with a marathon of matches on Saturday no reviews or impressions from me in writing. Comes Sunday 17 June and Amulet would make their Dutch debut in Little Devil. At the same time Germany was losing and Brazil, a country where family and work play more than a small role for me would play in the evening. Still music over football is the rule that holds firm for now (let's see what happens when Exodus-Savage Messiah play on the evening of a semi-final). Arriving at Little Devil a big screen was on, which gave me the chance to see some 15 minutes of first and 30 minutes of second half. Enough to see that Neymar is a provoking-spaghetti headed- cry baby-twat representing all I hate in modern football. And then there was metal.

First band were from Belgum Scavenger. I must admit that in the eighties I missed them and their album Battlefields.  This band rejuvenated and now played their third show together as their female vocalist told me afterwards. This vocalist was a small girl with lots of hair. While being Belgian and speaking Dutch her inbetween song English reminded strongly of a certain Doro. It seems that Drums and one guitar are back from the original line-up and the rest is younger blood. Scavenger brought us Heavy Metal in eighties style and while old school it sounded nice to me. Songs like Battlefield, Heartbreaker or Ready were reason enough to pick up their original 1985 CD  afterwards. What a great eighties cover it holds. Nice band warming us up for Amulet and me for some 30 minutes of football as well.

I did read of Amulet in Iron Fist Magazine first, where a review of their US west coast tour was published some issues ago. After reading the article I checked the band on the internet and found the Cut The Crap EP on Bandcamp. No physical copies on sale I could not order, but liked what I heard. Then de Nobel organized a metal CD & Vinyl fair and I did run into their debut full album The First. This album is filled with short NWOBHM style metal songs and very nice indeed. So when Mario got Amulet to play Little Devil on their way back from Der Detze Rockt festival in Germany I knew I was going to see this. After all it was father's day so I could do what I bloody well wanted. Kicking of with one guitar due to a broken string the question amongst the band was if they woud wait for second guitars kicking in. Yes was the answer and he joined on Evil Cathedral (a killer song) Hereafter the question was if he could take some time for tuning. Another yes to that and we finally went off for some 45 minutes of good old British Heavy Metal. Some new songs were included, but the bulk was build around Cut the Crap and The First. This evening was also being the last gig for vocalist Jamie Elton with the band. So the story ended with The Hangmen who would send him off. Now as a gimmick a hangman walked the stage with a noose. Suddenly I thought of their US tour review and did understand why this would get some raised eyebrows in the States. Well at the end of the song the Hangmen disappeared and Jamie was burried under a guitar and actually kicked to death by the remaining band members. A fitting end to a very nice show. As Tilburg means long train rides I decided to rush out catching an earlier train gaining on arriving home without time to thank the band. Amulet a name to watch, hope they get a good vocalist for following up the corpse of Mr. Elton.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Seven Sisters - Toxik - Black Cyclone

Seven Sisters - The Cauldron and the Cross
Ever heard of the Now Wave of British Heavy Metal? When living in Holland chances are big you'll answer no, as these young and promising bands are blatantly ignored in Dutch metal press. There is something cooking in the UK and many young bands play the music of the greatest musical movement ever to come out of Britain, but with a modern edge. Over the past years I saw great shows by bands like Kaine, Toledo Steel, Vice, Monument or Neverworld. Ususally building around twin guitars they give us Heavy Metal in good old fashioned style. Now The Cauldron and the Cross is the second album by Seven Sisters, but the first one I ran into. And yes it is all there again. Solid rhythm section, twin guitars the screams and clean vocals and lots of melodies. Opener The Premonition can never open a show like this as it sounds as if the fall in halfway during some blasting solo's. Adapting the start it would be a great live opener though. Basically all songs shall please any fan of Heavy Metal and this album can therefore be purchased in the blind. Highlight must be the title tracks (as there is a Pt 1 and Pt 2. In total 16 minutes of classic heavy metal packed in a song which goes from loud to soft and filled with different moods is a must hear I'd say. Good band hope to see them soon. Tip for Andrew: 16 June they play the Portland Arms with Toledo Steel.

Toxik - III Works
Toxik the band that shook the world with World Circus in the eighties and then surprisingly never reached the status many much less talented bands reached. This album is a collection and at first I was in doubt. When I could see which songs would be on it after release date, I could see that purchasing was obvious. This box holds three CD's with three different vocalists. So first we get the 2014 EP In Humanity with Mark Sanders (World Circus) on vocals. I did not know that EP, so this meant 6 new songs. Then CD 2 holds the Breaking Clas$ EP. Now I bought that last year as well, but then it had three songs on it, which now turned into six. Charlie Sabin (Think This) sings on this one and memories go back to the legendary evening in Lazarus last year, where he sung for us from anywhere in the audience he could sit/stand.The box closes with CD 3 holding the voice of new vocalist Ron Iglesias. Not only does this CD contain 8 re-recorded versions of their biggest live hits, it also holds two completely new songs. So for me this CD priced box did deliver 11 new songs to start with. What can I say on the music? Toxik always played technical Thrash metal which does require some effort to get into. The breaks and wildly flying solo's are not always stuck in your head after first listen, but try again and one shall be rewarded. The eleven new songs do confirm Toxik still has it, Ron Iglesias controls the high and low and we can only hope for a return to Holland anytime soon. Finally the artwork is as always beautiful and the box holds a poster of band and fans at last year's Dynamo Metal Fest. Now I was there that day and Toxik drew me closest to the stage. Wearing a Tour de  France mountain stage cap to protect a bold head against the sun, now meant I can see myself on the poster. The Circus continues.

Black Cyclone - Death is King
If this album would have been released in the eighties, I would have bought it in the blind based upon the name of the vocalist alone. Now being the 21st century one goes to bandcamp or Youtube first and orders the album thereafter. The vocalist I am talkin about is Linus Johansson from one of my recent absolute favorites Trial. I saw them live earlier this year and both band and voice impressed. Now from the Heavy metal with doom and prog influences of Trial, Black Cyclone does up the speed. This album is pure speed metal as it was released some 30+ years ago. When the opening line of first song Death is Crowned as King mentions the term unstoppable force it is clear which influence is big. And indeed it is at times hard not to start shouting Masters of Metal, Agents of Steel!! Linus being one of the best Heavy Metal voices around nowadays, also dominates speed metal, with an overdose of high screams. But this band is not only about the vocals. The very fast songs all go down like an ice-cold beer on a Mayday in Holland 2018. This is total eargasm for the fans of good and old. I always thought they don't write them like these any more, but Black Cyclone jump straight to the top of the genre. Actually one recent band they remind of is Ranger, who destroyed de Nobel last year. As even the lyrics have the famous battle and conquer themes all around this band should tour. I'd say typically a band Mario puts on in Little Devil, so one can hope. If they come over, for sure they shall rule and Black Cyclone shall gain many new members for their Chaos Brigade. If you love your Heavy Metal fast with the high pitced screams, this one is obligatory.


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Mearfest - The Dukes Head /Village Centre Slough 2 June 2018


Mearfest 2018 was on. This might sound simple, but what a fight and effort Brian and Clair put in this year. After losing the Frday night first, later on the original venue was double booked and Mearfest last minute had to find an alternative. Staying in Slough the Dukes Head and the Village Centre came to the rescue, but unfortunately the program needed some serious cutting in the line-up. So we had an afternoon in the Pub, immediately followed by three headliners some 100 meters down the road. For those of you not knowing the story behnd Mearfest please read the beautiful written story on www. and feel free to donate fo rone of the two charities supported by the festival. For those not knowing my emotional link to the festival, please ask when meeting me again at a venue near you. Her name was Taina and she would have been 14 by now. Two years ago I first attended Mearfest at the Borderline in London and after missing the Southern and Northern edition last year I was glad being able to make it to Slough this time. Even with the loss of several bands I would love to see once or again, the program was stil more than a bit tempting and in the end the Pub factor did add on atmosphere for the day. Now Slough is an English city, which to me makes it holidays to start with during my walk. From the HIE hotel (where water is unavalable in showers or taps and people complain at the front desk 24/7) to The Dukes Head it was all just not like home. The city symbol I bumped into many times was either cynical or absolutely great. It made my 50 minute walk interesting and the sun made me thirsty so Dukes Head bring it on.

Arriving in the Dukes Head the PFJ were on already. Now PFJ stands for The Peoples Front of Judea (Life of Brian anyone). So answering Frank Zappa's question does humor belong in music a big Yes was their answer. We saw a Horse Head, a Devil, beards, long beards, masks and the whole band running outside playing from the parking lot. They played covers from Classic Rock, to Britpop and Metal. Actually during Marillion Weekends in Holland an afterparty has hold the same DJ over past 5 editions, playing exactly the same songs every night. I shall drop Lucy an e-mail that it is much better to have these same songs brought with a smile by a live band.  Next band were playing originals and came from the North East of England. Culloden played metal and did so heavy with a bite. Vocals being fitting the music well aggressive while staying away from grunts. These young guys did convince and more than a few people loved their performance on this hot afternoon.  Inbetween bands we could enjoy the heat meeting new people, including a real Lord, being Lord Dowson. The heat plus drinks also made you explore the pub and its facilities which made me realize that my 6'66" was a bit much for the average height in England some centuries ago. This resulted in being unable to stand up in the toilets, unless I was willing to dug a hole in the ceiling with my bold head. O yes we were in England, so there was a raffle. Given the charity the event supports this made all sense. so I joined in. Not knowing I would win the main price in the afternoon draw, which I could not accept as being unable to make it to Stonedeaf end August with a friend. Now I could accept and sell on internet, but that is just missing the point in my view, so I opted for the second price which was a bag of surprises. Tiago shall wear the Damaj T-shirt with pride and the handfull of signed Diamond Head plectrums shall make me pick up my guitar again and finally get Am I Evil in my fingers.

After a somewhat longer break with new drums in, we got another cover band Bawls -Out from Essex. This was their first show and I think I can state if interested in a covers band, why not get Bawls-Out to make your party. They play all these songs from the eightes we love to hear. So you get your Riot, Scorpions, MSG, Maiden, Whitesnake, Priest and many more. Afterwards I did compliment the vocalist, which is a bit neglecting the band. What I actiually meant is that when someone does a Dio, a Coverdale, a Dickinson and never goes painfully woring half the work is done. At the same time the band were tight and solid to bring this. One critic on the vocals might have been that the vocalist was a bit sloppy on his Kraut accent while doing Scorpions, that sounded far too British to me. Highlight must have been the many gimmicks/dress-ups they brought along seemingly forgetting half at home. Highlight came when during The Ripper, first the Female vocalist was half raped on stage, after which at the end she got her revenge with a slitted throat of the attacker, followed by a dry "Are you OK?" from the audience. Friendly violent fun as Exodus would say. Good band and highly recommended for any party with a metal edge. While ordering food and getting ready for the evening two more acustic sets followed, which unfortunately I only heard from a distance. Locals who were just visiting their home pub meanwhile blended in and seemed to like the whole purpose of the day and the great atmosphere around.

And then we moved, when the Lord guided me to the village hall. First band of the evning were one of the main reasons fo rme to get to Slough anyway: Trespass. Two years ago they had their Dutch debut and I could open my occassional HM B&B for the first time. Now they released Footprints in the Rock and I was curious how some of those songs would blend in with their regular set. Well Trespass came, played and conquered. To me it seemed that the duals (!) between and Mark and Joe got more tight and the change in soloing increased. The set was the blend we hoped for giving us something new, but don't forget the past. Be Brave was dedicated to Brian and Clair and I loved the version of The Visionary. When the intro announced One of Those Days we knew it was over, but first their hit would be coming at us. What a true classic in NWOBHM that song remains. Several people I spoke with afterwards were very nicely surprised with this performance and my Sudbury city tour guide Paul had some work after the gig.  Great seeing them again and what an opener of the evening. The next band were a coverband and not just any cover band.but a Budgie cover band. Now Budgie were pre-NWOBHM really and I believe they were never that big in Holland nor in Belgium according to Patrick. To be honest unlike the Diamond Head, Savage, Blitzkrieg or whomever Metallica covered, this band I only knew because of Metallica. When I knew I would attend Mearfest some months ago and I ran into a crazy cheap box of MCA albums at Amazon I decided to give it a try. Now I got why this band is considered to be underestimated and misunderstood. Live we had two sets. First Bandolier playing powerful and showing what a diverse band Budgie were. Them original drummer Ray Phillips came on with two friends and we got some more classics with In For the Kill especially strong. In the end the drums stayed and the Bandolier bass/vocals and guitars returned for one hell of a version of Breadfan.  After seeing this show I must admit I missed out all these years.

Closing the party would be NWOBHM band Satan's Empire. This band is gaining some good feedback by British NWOBHM friends and I was glad I finally got to see them. Their new album is called Rising and shall be released 15 June. Unfortunately no advance copies on sale yet, so this gig would be the decider to order or not. Well that was decided after one song, I am going to get that album.  This band plays the more metallic side of NWOBHM with the classic line up of drums, bass , two guitars and vocals. Very convincingly they rocked through their shortened set with the 11 O clock curfew. One song before the end they arrived at their hit. Well hit  might be a bit much, but the Lead Weight compilation from Neat Records ended with Soldiers of War by Satan's Empire. This is one fine song and if you ever wonder where Iron Maiden got their opening riff motivation from for Wasted Years just have a listen. The final song had a guest appearance from Bilk Gang from France who brought his band last year to Hastings. This turned out to be one fine closer of a wonderful day. When it was all over it basically came down to thanking Brian and Clair for giving us this great day, which I hope was as good to them. The mood at this festival is something different indeed and for me this is what celebrating good old Heavy Metal is all about. Togeteher with Power & Glory these are parties I might come back to again if timing works out. After a firm walk through Slough, partially with a huge Budgie fan I arrived at the hotel with no water. So I hope to be back, but shall be staying somewhere else. Molly smiled and Taina laughed along.