Friday, 28 February 2020

Psychotic Waltz - Pendragon - Pyramid

This year started fairly slow for me on the CD purchasing front. This mainly because I was spending some weeks abroad and I was waiting for the first album reviewed here. Now two months in the year my first tips of 2020 starting with te letter P.

Psychotic Waltz - The God-Shaped Void
Warning I am a total PW fanboy. They were after all the best live band in the nineties when we saw them play so often. Then in 2010 there was the tour with Nevermore and Symphony X. Silence followed with the announcement of a new album. In 2016 they played in Amersfoort, were amazng and already gave us While the Spiders Spin. Last year's performance at PPE was overruled by vocal and sound issues, while I still loved to see the Waltz back on stage. There is something mystical, magical dark about their music and now there is a new album. I was very curious after a long absence what they would bring on CD. At the same time Heir Apparent and Fifth Angel to name a few showed recently that long absences can result in very strong albums. I only needed one spin (of the spiders) to realize that we have a winner in our hands. It is all there again The moody heavy progmetal that sets its own standard. Favorite song? the whole album. Some more catchy chorusses, some faster bangers, some emotional intro's, some flute. Everything that made me love their music is back, which includes the nice artwork and interesting lyrics. A must buy album and now we wait for their revenge on European stages.

Pendragon - Love Over Fear
Progrock started for me with Marillion and thereafter bands like Pendragon and Pallas, before I would discover prog history. Pendragon first came to us as opener on Marillion's Misplaced Childhood tour. That is when I started to like them a lot and always did. For me Pendragon is build around the guitar and voice of Nick Barrett. Breaking te Spell does hold possibly progrock's most beautiful guitar solo. So again I am a fanboy. Yet I drift a bit away from Progrock and their last album Men Who Climb Mountains was not their best. Maybe because they said goodbye to drummer Scott Higham (also ex Angel Witch) then, who helped making the albums Pure and Passion heavier and in my ears thus better. So what to expect now, with again a new drummer? Calmness it turned out to be. This album is also released as triple with an acoustic and instrumental version. At first hearing I thought I received the acoustic album by mistake as there is no rocking going on. At times the beautiful guitar still weeps around the corner, but I was underwhelmed. Now slowly the album grew on me, but I guess I keep it for Sunday mornings and won't go to de Boerderij next week to see them live again.

Pyramid - Amnesty 
Pyramid is a band that unfortunately manages to stay under many radars. I read about them on Forgotten Scroll, but it was not untill Rune played a song of previous album Gold Tooth on his Progfiles show that I got really into them. Gold Tooth did not come out on CD, so I don't own a copy. Yet when succesor Amnesty was announced on CD I did pre-order through Bandcamp immediately. Why? because this band might be one of the best discoveries over the past years. They play Progmetal of the heavy kind, where somehow amazing technical display is packed in accessible songs that at times remind me of Zero Hour. With two members of Arch Echo and on drums Chris Quirarte (Redemption) the technical mastercraft is explained. This week I got an email stating the album is on bandcamp and before even receiving the CD I am completely sold. Nine songs all around six minutes with closer Instill passing eight minutes this band takes you on a trip that impresses. Are you listening PPE? It is bands like these that make me extremely happy to see one day. Actually they would fit technical as they are on any mainstream Heavy Metal party as well. Go check them out and you might be as blown away is I was after first hearing.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Noctem & Spectrum of Delusion - Musicon The Hague, 18 February 2020

Noctem coming all the way from Spain to play for us on a Tuesday night in Musicon. Looking at recent weekday shows this holds a risk, but as the alternative is not playing at all I guess for the band this is always the best option. Competition this night mainly by the Thrash Alliance tour hitting 013 Tilburg. I guess the restart of the Champions League did not count that much as after last week's discovery of Manchester City's cheating scheme we by now all should realize that modern football is shite. (BTW mark my words, City will not be punished for two years) But I am drifting away this Tuesday was a night for breakneck speed so on we moved.

Tonight's opener were Spectrum of Delusion from Katwijk. I did not have the pleasure of seeing them before. I say pleasure here as this Technical Death Metal band from Katwijk played very good. Maybe the songs did not stick as such in my head after first hearing, but you could tell this band could play. The many strings on stage were used well and this band turned out to be a good warmup for tonight's headliners.

Noctem played The Hague Metal Fest last year. I recalled a lot of energy coming off the big stage in the mainhall plus some locally coloured light effects. As a club is always more on top of the band I was curious what tonight would bring. An instrumental opening with attention for the heavy hitting on the floor toms until vocalist Beleth ran to the stage and we got blasted. I can say that the Technical Death Metal we heard before is more my thing than the Black Metal Noctem presented. Yet you could tell the difference in experience tonight. Noctem gave us one hell of a show, with at the right moments times to catch your breath during calmer bass or guitar parts. When during a second instrumental part Beleth went off stage in order to come back shirtless covered in blood (or a substitute to be more precise) my first thought was that this would paint my shower red later that night. Nevertheless we could see another good second half of their set. I don't really know song titles, but this band was about creating an atmosphere on stage and they did so very well. As I was receiving them in my HM B&B this evening I could get an idea on band dynamics later on. A great evening in Musicon yet again and go see Noctem on tour later this week nearby among others in Essen and Bree. In the end the shower did not turn red and some people had a long drive to Hildesheim today. Cheers!!

Sunday, 16 February 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 7 February 2020

Temple Renegade - Paardcafe 6 February 2020

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

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

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Dream Theater - Campo Pequeno Lisboa, 2 February 2020

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

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

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