Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The Paradox Twin - Dream Theater - Cassius King - Rivers of Nihil

As poor as 2021 might be on teh live music front, we have again a rather brilliant year on new CD releases. Herewith again four contenders for my top 21 of 2021.

The Paradox Twin - Silence From Signals
For several years I subsribed PROG magazine. I stopped doing so because of poor mail delivery between UK and Holland and the fact that their main articles were always about the same 25 bands. Last arrival in Portugal I picked up a copy again with Fugazi on the cover (5 Euro cheaper than in Holland as Portugal is much closer to the UK than Holland, oh no it's not) . Driving from the airport to the Alentejo coast I put the bonus CD sampler in. That's when number two made me ask Josie, can you check which band this is? Turned out to be The Paradox Twin with possibly their best song Wake Vortex. Well that blew me away and the logical steps of checking the full album out on bandcamp or Youtube followed with an order made after first listening. Those missing split-up later day Anathema , this is similar but better. Also because the female voice reminds me of Cammie Gilbert. One wonderful surprise of sad and dark progrock. Now I saw they come to Holland next year September, but that is on the same day that Sanctuary headlines MEF 4, so no chance for me attending unfortunately. Check this band out!

Dream Theater - A View From the Top of the World
Dream Theater are never going to release an album as good as their first three which are their best no discussion possible. That is no problem since this happened with most biggest bands of the eighties (Queensryche first three, Metallica first three, Marillion first four, Maiden first seven) So I don't put on a new DT album for comparison reasons. Listening to this view from the top of the world I can only say it so far seems to be one of their better ones of the later years (as good as their selftitled album maybe) Seven songs over seventy minutes does not scare off any DT fan. The closing 20 minute epic is nice, but my favorite is probably heavier Awaken the Master. Just another top album by them and bring on that tour with Devin Townsend, where I hope to see the Lisbon show.

Cassius King - Field Trip
When former Hades members Dan Lorenzo, Jimmy Schulman and Ron Lipnicki join forces with Jason McMaster (Watchtower, Howling Sycamore) my attention is more than a little triggered. Turns out that the Hades members also released some recent doom albums under the name Vessel of Light. Therefore this album reminds more of Non Fiction than of technical thrash heroes Hades. As I liked Non Fiction as well, no problem whatsoever for me. Ten great slow heavy bangers, which by the names of the members all guaranteed musically of the highest level in performance. Two covers close the CD and Big Eyes sounds so good that I now seriously start considering seeing Cheap Trick the day after Complexity. This album is not very recent with a July release. Unfortunately the bandcamp album charged crazy amounts for postage again, so a no go. For Dutch friends Bookspot.nl has it for 13,99 (still waiting for Stone Healer to appear like that somewhere in Europe).

Rivers of Nihil - The Work
Wow, I did not see that one coming. A few years ago I saw Rivers of Nihil opening one of those Obscura tour packagaes. To be honest that day I came to see Beyond Creation and Revocation, both I already had on CD and loved. So maybe not paying enough attention I thought them sounding nice, but no rush to the merch stand for a CD. In comes the Work and after first listening I knew I will spend many a happy hour with this album in years to come. Rivers of Nihil go everywhere and while mentioning Pink Floyd I also am reminded of career defining albums for bands like NIN (The Fragile) or Smashing Pumpkins (Mellon Collie) Of course their tech death side has not been buried either and the album so far keeps on giving and discovering. They were supposed to come and tour Europe later this month. That has been postponed, but in the interview with Rune (The Progspace) we learned, that they will come back next year even better prepared. If you like music in general, just give this one a chance as it has something for everyone and might make you a late at the party fan just like me. Now where can I get Where Owls Know My Name?

Saturday, 13 November 2021

The Laws Kill Destroy & Satan Worship - Musicon The Hague, 12 November 2021

In dark times when our government decided in all their limited wisdom to again close restaurants, bars and venues after 20:00 hrs these two Brazilian/International outfits passed Holland just in time. As I hosted Satan Worshippers Fabiano and Max before when playing with Sodomizer I was more than a bit pleased to reopen my HM B&B again after a forced closure of 21 months. So late in the morning I could confirm that three Brazilians, three Germans and one Italian made it safely to The Hague. The afternoon program held split programs of walking to the beach and to the city centre, fixing the broken van, or just crash on a bed catching up on sleep. All gathered in time to leave for Musicon on what probably shall be the last unseated live show for some time.

At 21:00 sharp Satan Worship kicked of affairs. Their music is oldschool blackish thrash. Short songs with some nice guitar intro's brought us along  uplifting topics like mass murder and La Catedral to the Sepultura cover Antichrist which also appears on their last album Teufelssprache. Playing a song more people know helped to up the atmosphere and a strong ending followed.

Headliner this tour is The Laws Kill Destroy who are playing songs by Brazilian Blackend thrash/death band Sarcófago. I understood it was a whole job to get this tour and band together in the end, but the final result was one kick-ass show. Even if living in Brazil the late nineties I never got in contact with anything Sarcófago. This for two reasons: first Rio is the capitol of progressive rock, while Sao Paulo (plus Belo Horizonte and the south) is same for metal. So I did get to see several underground progressive rockbands (at three editiosn of Rio Art Rock Festival), but for metal stayed more with the big international names coming to town. So I cannot mention specific highlights of the show in songtitles, but I can state I saw a surprisingly good show. Pieter normally shying away from the heavier end of metal, also had enough to like next to his delicious plate of food from the new inhouse catering. The tour only just got started and tonight you can see this double package in Bree Belgium. My tip? If around head for Ragnarok this evening.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Melting Eyes , Rages of Sin & PPTA - Musicon The Hague, 1 October 2021

Thick layers of dust were covering the small bag containing my earplugs. The joy of having to clean that, before putting in my pocket was the first of a long row of small celebrations that would mark this  Fridaynight 1 October. Marko picked me up around 19:00 as we wanted to go early to the first all standing gig in Musicon since March last year. The relief was great and easy to spot on the faces of all attending. To most people walking around, this is what life is about have a drink and a laugh in a venue inbetween good live shows. So the atmosphere was good on forehand and the turnout was pretty decent as well. In spite oof some competition elsewhere that was to be expected. Melting Ees just released their album My Final Resting Place, which received good critics all around. Supporting and closing they invited Rages of Sin, who last year released with Divergence one of the best extreme metal albums ever to come out of The Hague and unable to promote it so far. Last minute openers substitute thrashers PPTA from Purmerend. So everyone was ready for a party in Musicon.

PPTA opened the party, but there seemed to be some issues with the soundsystem. So when they were supposed to play their last song, they still had not started. With corona curfews still in place this would impact the evening. When they finally got started it sounded all pretty fine again. I saw them before at Musicon and HPC and their theme is wrestling. So you get songs with titles like Piledriver and Ringside seats. Their best song to me remains Sumo Wrestler, where they simultaneously move from left to right leg as if we watch four sumo wrestlers preparing for fight. A nice warm up for some of the best extreme metal The Hague has on offer nowadays.

Melting Eyes followed even if it was their release party. In the end a good choice as they had the best sound of the evening. Their Death Metal is old school according to the omnipresent T-shirts, but their sound also has a fair share of doom. They more go for the ultra heavy than the ultra fast. I am no expert in Death Metal per se, but always find that death metal is made for live shows. While the CD sounds good already when you get the full blast from a stage coming over you, the impact just increases tenfold. So we enjoyed some 45 minutes with songs about death. I am pretty sure we will see them more often in the region as this release party showed them to be a force to reckon with for the coming years.

Rages of Sin were the band closing the evening. Unfortunately the sound issues from the start of the evening reappeared.  When they started their gig all the audience heard were bass and drums. Not noticing it themselves at first they were signalled to stop and had a restart. I believe time started pressuring now as the problem got only half sorted. Guitars and vocals would remain low in the mix. This is a pity as their highly recommended album Divergence showed that Rages of Sin have no limits. Going from Djent to Slam Death and Progmetal anyone openminded and not afraid of grunts will find much to like here. As said before a poor sound ruined the experience a bit, but as I saw them several times with a better sound impressing me, I am sure a revenge will follow soon. In the end I still increased my garderobe with their fashionable pink shirt. Next week to be spotted on a beach in Portugal matching my yellowish green shorts under the motto only real men wear pink.

So overall the evening was a big success, thanks to Melting Eyes putting this together. Best of all was the sensation of freedom walking around in Musicon again. Only sad to find out Waku Waku was closed for an aftergig bite.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Cosmograf - Dec Burke - Tuesday The Sky - A Dying Planet - Portrait - Iron Maiden - Marillion

Some CD tips of albums released over summer. Now that autumn has fully arrived in The Neterlands it is about time everyone spends some cash on music again.

Cosmograf - Rattrapante
Cosmograf the project of Robin Armstrong is back with Rattrapante. Now Rattrapante meant little to me, turns out it is a watch with two seconds hand and this explains my lack of knowledge as I never wore a watch in my life. The first song travels in time as In 1985 describes that year. Funny to read as I was there very present as well, although I thought the Rubick cube in the booklet being from 81-82 really. Live Aid, Heysel and Concorde plains transfer you back in time indeed on this best song on the album. All other four songs are time related in some way or another as well. Robin Armstrong is this time almost solely responsible for all the music and vocals. His style remains this typical British progressive rock with nostalgic topics in the lyrics. To me he is one of the underrated names in Prog as he built a great discography over the years. Finally he managed to get a band together and next week he performs two shows in the UK. Bring him over to 't Blok and we can enjoy some great prog, while bitterballs are being served to us.

Dec Burke - Life in Two Dimensions
Dec Burke is another highly underrated artist. He is not just a good vocalist, but also a pretty sensational guitarist. I discovered him when he played with Darwin's Radio. Later he joined Frost*, released some solo albums and had the Audioplastik album. Out of the blue to me he is back with Life in Two Dimensions. I bought the album without hearing a note as I trust Dec Burke blindly. Upon receipt of the CD I read that Scott Higham played drums on the album, which raised hopes even further. Scott was not only responsible for Pendragon to get heavier on the two albums he joined, he also drummed with Angel Witch and Shadowkeep. Now Dec Burke does not release prog rock albums per se. There are also strong melodic rock influences all around. The first eight songs are in the 4-5 minute range and show good variation with some heavier outburst. The final two songs last 7:42 and 9:48 and get a bit more proggy. For me just a very pleaant album as I love his voice and guitar and good songs are always his starting point. Even Robin Armstrong joins the party.

Tuesday The Sky - Blurred Horizon
Another surprise release, the new album by Tuesday The Sky. This project is almost a solo Jim Matheos release. He does get some help by none other than Gavin Harrison on drums and Tim Bowness on vocals during one song. The rest of the album is instrumental and calm, or better very calm. I just buy these releases in order to support Jim Matheos who gave me so much pleasure with Fates Warning, Arch/Matheos and OSI. Actually I have the first album of Tuesday The Sky as well and play it still every now and then. If you wake up, but don't want to really none calming music is more comfortable. So Fates Warning fans do not need to rush to the store (or laptop), but open minded music lovers might like this. In the end quality of performance is not an issues with these three gentlemen at play.

A Dying Planet - When The Skies Are Grey
One of the several parallel projects of Jasun Tipton are back with album number two. First observation Paul Adrian Villareal now sings on all songs, which is a good thing. Second observation after listening a few times. The album has this Tipton franctic all over the place melodies, yet it is a calm album. This one to me definitely needed a few spins and preferably with headphones on. No music for the background, but when you dive in you do get rewarded over the six songs. Through forgotten war veterans to the joy of being a father the vocals are very good. The overall atmosphere reminds me at times of Enchant even if that band is more song focussed. Not strange if you remember that Enchant's Sean Flanegan drummed in Cynthesis with the Tipton brothers and one day at Headway I was wearing an Enchant Tee when meeting Jasun at the stairs complimenting me with my choice of clothing. So after several sessions a very good album, but silently I am looking even more forward to next year's new Zero Hour album, or the releases of Cynthesis 3. If you wonder what I am talking about check out the long interview Jasun had with the Progfiles.

Portrait - At One With None
In order to not run teh risk of getting soft, with so many lighter rocking albums visited Portrait take care of my necessary dose of good old Heavy Metal. This is their fifth album and I only miss their debut, since after discovering them and seeing them playing live a few years back I am hooked. Straight out of the eighties into the twenties this album is Heavy Metal from start to finish. No short songs here, but still variation between heavy metal, a longer epic and a doomier closer. I have the plain version holding eight songs only while I saw there are two bonus songs as well floating around. Every now and then you need to have some Heavy Metal to bang your head on. Portrait to me are definitely among the better bands of  the past 15 years for giving me just that. Hope they tour soon.

Iron Maiden - Senjutsu
Do I really need to have an opinion on the new Maiden after the whole world already gave theirs? Well to me Iron Maiden with Senjutsu gives us exactly what I came to expect. No thrilling new surprises, but definitely some strong songs again. Also Steve Harris overdid the long songs a bit again, but that is fine with me. I pretty much like it that the total time made them release a double album again. I can now play one CD only and have a great 40 minutes, while 70 minutes in one go would be a bit much. Time will only tell, but I guess CD1 will get more airplay with me. First as the opening title track is for me the best song on the album (those opening drums). Days of Future Past is widely praised for not being a long song and I agree. Finally they will be touring Europe again next summer and when even Tiago asked me last weekend if I already had heard the new Maiden hopes are up he wants to join me.

Marillion - Fugazi
Saving the best for last and it is not even a new album. Marillion now re-released all their Fish era albums and the artwork, remixed music, live shows, interviews combined make it a must have for any serious Marillion fan. Recently I ranked all Marillion albums and Fugazi is my number one. With this new package at hand my choice only got reconfirmed. So the band were in a hurry and pressure was on, resulting them to be not only positive about the outcome I simply have to see opening song Assasing and closing duo Incubus / Fugazi to realize it never got better. With the remaining four songs being fine as well  this darkest output by the band are a joy to revisit. I never realized they had a drummer issue before finding Ian Mosley. One of the better anecdotes was when Fish was asked why one of the technical fine drummers had not stayed he replied, well he was American. This new release gives you days worth of trips down memory lane and I do miss these Marillion days of the eighties indeed. Then again I just pre-ordered last week the new album, so my name will be in the booklet again (amongst thousand others). Meanwhile the world stayed totally Fugazi.  

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Ressurrection Kings - Vulture - Melting Eyes - Agent Steel

 Some more CD tips for summer's end.

Ressurrection Kings - Skygazer
Five years after their self-titled debut album Ressurrection Kings are back with Skygazer. I have their debut, liked it and recently when playing all Dio rediscovered how Craig Goldy helped creating some of the best albums of their Dio era. So checking out a clip on Youtube was enough to make me pick up this album as well. Ressurrection Kings plays melodic hardrock/metal. With Craig Goldy and Vinnie Appice there is a link to Dio, but Chas West is not trying to copy that voice. Several bands might come to mind when listening to the album. Their aim was not winning the price for originality just write good music. And they managed to do so, with Angry Demons as possible highlight. If Craig Goldy returns to Europe one day with a Dio hologram I shall pass. However if Ressurrection Kings make it over, I'll be there.

Vulture - Dealin' Death
This German Vulture is an example of how magazines still work. Reading a positive review and interview made me check them out. I liked being catapulted back to the eighties with their speed metal sound and got Dealin' Death. The screams are there, even if not as high as some in this genre. The guitar attack is there as well and the songs scream for you to headbang along.  When this band mentioned in the interview playing Scum in the past I am sorry I missed out. Sounds to me like party guaranteed when live on stage. Every year I pick up some bands that bring me back to eighties (speed)metal. In recent years I think of Ranger, Riot City or Eternal Champion. This year's recommendation so far is Vulture

Melting Eyes - My Final Resting Place
Melting Eyes play ear ripping old school deathmetal as they say on their FB page. Well no lie told here. What I like most about them is that they are not about one speed only but vary the slow and very heavy with the uptempo riffing when more speed is needed. Six songs in half an hour present well what they stand for. Two guitars setting the speed and a grunt that seems to be coming from as low as a final resting place indeed. This album should raise the interest of some labels as they so far remain independent. Now this is the debut EP by Melting Eyes, but as they are from The Hague I did see them playing before. While at Westland Metal Meeting I was just entering the area during their dying tones I saw them opening for Gruesome in Musicon. Live to me Death Metal always works even better and the good news is that soon we can enjoy their album presentation in Musicon. Together with Rages of Sin who gave us one of Holland's best extreme metal albums of 2020 that promises to become a party, Now we only have to hope that our government after letting 100.000 men watch spoiled kids driving in circles early September also will let 100 people walk around Musicon 1 October. 

Agent Steel - No Other Godz Before Me
Agent Steel means Skeptics Apocalypse and Unstoppable Force two albums of the mid eighties that made the band possibly the best speed metal band around. Their mix of wildly fast guitars, crazy fast solos and the highest pitched screams of John Cyriis made those two albums classics everyone of my generation knows. Unfortunately I never saw them playing live at the time. Unfortunately also the band fell apart with John Cyriis leaving in 88. His voice was a very dominant part of the overall sound. During following decades the band would return without John and release several albums I don't know. Now John is back, but the band is new. He gathered a strong international line-up around him and basically we continue where we left of after Unstoppable Force. Only problem to me is that it all does not sound in your face really. The songs themselves are good and tell us again how we are not the centre of the universe. For a Brazilian like me it is interesting to read the opening of Sonata Cósmica in Portuguese and the Incident being fully in Portuguese and telling the story of my visits to Minas Gerais looking for Iron Ore (thanks to Brazilian guitarist Vinicius Carvalho). Now the question remains will we be able to see these new songs live on stage one day. Reputations might scare some off, but hopefully we get the chance as this new album screams for a live show. Think I am going to play me some Untoppabe Force now.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Vokonis - Vola - Dordeduh - Terra Odium

Four different forms of progmetal all highly recommended

Vokonis - Odyssey
With cover artwork like this I had to start with Vokonis as the cover appears when posted on FB. During last May's Progfiles show this band was played and the talks were mostly about this same cover. Pity the T-shirts are not printed on a yellow background. And the music? well this progmetal is mostly in the vein of Mastodon. Actually this trio reminds me of last year's album by Red//Shift, which made it to my top 20. I say trio but they get some help on keyboards from Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, Opeth). Six songs of which the last two are the long ones. While those are the more epic prog songs I especially like their shorter songs with a bite. Strange enough this is already their 4th full lenght since 2016 and I never heard of them before. Lots to discover therefore and who knows they even tour now that seems possible again. 

Vola - Witness
Vola slowly seem to be marching on towards headliner status of major summer festivals. I was early at their party when in 2015 Progmetalzone tipped them on one of their lists. After buying their album I could see them perform it live opening PPE 2015. That was no disappointment. Their next full lenght Applause From a Distant Crowd I did not buy upon release in 2018, but only after seeing them giving a very strong show in Patronaat. And now Witness comes to us with nine songs all having chorusses of the extremely catchy side and overall a grandioso sound. This music should please many, if only they can get the deserved exposure. One attempt to reach that is inviting a rapper Shahmen. I hate rap and songs which hold Feat. in the band name, so it remains the low on this album even if the rap is over fast and the chorus wonderful. Knowing how good they are live I can see them headlining summer festivals in 2023, when everyone had the chance to discover them. Then in Holland I am talking about Pinkpop or Lowlands, since their djenty poppy progmetal might not be heavy enough for metal festivals.  

Dordeduh - Har

February 2017 and metal came to town. I did a very Dutch thing that night cycling through the snow. This for bands I did not know yet, but what I checked on the internet in advance sounded promising. Dordeduh from Roumania and three quarter same mebers Transceatla in a more prog death metal outfit. Dordeduh was one interesting experience with long wooden horns blazing and a wooden guillotine as percussion instrument. The music was atmospheric and moody. And than it went quiet for them to come back with a new album this spring. Har seems to be even more cohesive than debut album Dardeduh. Yes complicating names and titles as they sing in Roumanian. In this case it suits their music  perfectly. Maybe Dordeduh is not for every summer evening, but when you feel like having some moody background music for your darker nights this might be the perfect soundtrack.

Terra Odium - Ne Plus Ultra
Saving best for last, the debut album of Terra Odium. Maybe a new band, but no new musicians. Members having a past in bands like Manitou and Scariot and probably most interesting Spiral Architect. Those who remember their one and only album A Sceptic's Universe know we are in for some top class progressive metal. Maybe not as adventurous the album mentioned above, Ne Plus Ultra gives the fan of old school progmetal everything we love. This starting with Oyvind Haegeland one of the best voices in metal. This also since he reminds us of Devon Graves. Actually the band still reminds me of Psychotic Waltz as well. Asgeir Mickelson on drums is the other man with a past in Spiral Architect and Scariot. On guitars an ex Manitou man Bollie Fredriksen is here and spare keyboards are played by John Phipps. Finally there is Steve DiGiorgio on bass, but he doesn't count as he played with every metal band on the planet.  The album holds seven songs lasting 52:24 If you like any of the bands mentioned above you can buy the album in the blind.  Heavier varied progmetal songs with doomyundertones, an epic, a dark ballad and overall just good music I can't recommend Ne Plus Ultra highly enough. 

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Frost* - Smith / Kotzen - Stormtrooper - Robin McAuley

Some CD tips for you. This time not groundbreaking renewing bands, but just some very comfortable good music.

Frost* - Day and Age
Frost* is the exception on the above rule, as you never know exactly what you get with them. This time they took the decision to refrain from guitar solos, which is interesting if you consider that John Mitchell is playing guitars. He also sings as does other founder Jem Godfrey. Nathan King on bass is the last other fixed bandmember, with drums divided over three people. The lack of guitarsolos strangely enough does not disturb me. Another surprise the spoken word song The Boy Who Stood Still is one of the highlights. So far only Tinyfish managed to make me like spoken word parts (band of brother of Jem). Hard to pick a favorite on this album really, but maybe Kill the Orchestra would be it for me. I saw Frost* live after they released debut album Milliontown. Their poppy open appraoch to prog is refreshing indeed. More important and not that common with prog rock bands, they laugh and have fun while playing. Result another uplifting album that you should check out.

Smith / Kotzen - Smith / Kotzen
A collaboration of two famous guitarists might not shock the world with their music, but it all sound so damn comfortable. Biggest surprise to me is that Adrian Smith also has a great voice suiting this bluesy hardrock. I saw Ritchie Kotzen a few years ago in het Paard and his voice is impressive too. The combination of both works wonderfully well and we get an album that oozes classic bluesy hardrock which might have filled stadiums in earlier decades. It would be nice if the two can work on a tour. Same as when I saw mr Kotzen solo, not knowing the songs does not hinder when it all sounds just like good music. All over a strong album highlights? maybe Scars or I Wanna Stay.

Stormtrooper - Every Now and Then
The title reflects to the reality of the album, some newly written songs and some revisted early eighties songs. Together they reult in a mix of the more NWOBHM inclined older songs and accesible new work. Stormtrooper never were the most famous NWOBHM band. They released only a single in 1980 Pride Before a Fall. Then in 2016 they came with the full album Pride Before a Fall (the lost album). Well that was one surprise and one of the best NWOBHM releases of last decade with epics Battle of the Eve and After Battle next to some catchy short heavy songs. I was pleased to see them performing live in Bristol one legendary evening. Every Now and Then is not of the same level really, but it hints towards that album more than once during the old songs. Overall it mainly is a pleasant album not made to shock the world, but just showing that bands you never heard of can make good music as well. 

Robin McAuley - Standing on the Edge
Robin McAuley brings the McAuley / Schenker Group to mind for older fans. Recently I saw him perform twice with Michael Schenker Fest and his voice survived best if comparing with Gary Barden and Graham Bonnett (maybe Doogie White came close only) Not for nothing that he was asked to sing the UFO-era songs. And now he released a solo album which brings me back to those hairmetal days of the late eighties. The surpise is not only in his voice, but the songs are all good rockers as well. This is a Frontiers release, so Allessandro Del Vecchio is involved. Well if you want new music, that does not sound all that new, but is pretty awesome to kill some missing them old days feelings. The cover is very nice, but the pictures with Robin standing against poles, posts, walls and tables not so necessary at our age (his and mine).