Tuesday, 25 December 2012

10 best shows of 2012

Time again to write down what blew me away during the past 12 months. On the CD front I have to relisten, review and order somewhat more, but on the live front it is pretty clear to me. What was really good this year, or in some occassions even an historical evening in the history of progmetal. Unfortunately the list of missed shows is, if possible, even bigger. Due to travelling, too many shows in a short period, other obligations and excuses I missed an impressive list. Some names that spring back to mind are Sean Filkins (due to Day Six cancellation), Marty Friedman, Savage Messiah, Flying Colors, Iced Earth and Evergrey the night before flying to Buzios and Fates Warning in Uden. But still the below list shows that I hardly can complain on the 2012 live scene especially given the fact that Leprous got stuck on place 11 only, so Are you ready to Rock!?!
10. Gorod /Exivious - Patronaat Haarlem April.
So I went alone for a night of Technical Death Metal in Haarlem. I already saw and liked Obscura some years ago and Spawn of Possession got great reviews. Both were pretty good, but the two opening bands were highlights for me. The Dutch part of Cynic instrumental Exivious played a very good show with these jaw dropping licks. Than Gorod was the surpise. I had one of their albums, which is good enough but seeing and feeling them live was so much better than the CD.  Together with Gojira they managed to change this year my view on French Metal.
9. Pendragon - Boerderij Zoetermeer May.
The choice was between the Erasmus football tournament evening with music, friends  and beer, or Pendragon in de Boerderij. Following my rule music over football I was not disappointed. Pendragon always are a guarantee for a long show of epics and this evening was not different. great band, great show, never get enough of them.
8 Rob Lamothe - Q-bus Leiden May.
The music turned singer songwriter style, the guitars are acoustic, the support band is modestly present, but the voice is still there. Obviously moved by presence of both son and daughter on stage Rob Lamothe passed through his career with a smile on his face. Highlight the performance on demand from old Riverdogs classics, where lyrics came from deep down his memory, or the audience.
7. Kyrbgrinder - Musicon Den Haag, May.
The surprise of the year. I learned about this show a few days in advance, knew the band around Threshold drummer existed, but none of their music and the steaming hot Musicon (it was the hottest weekend of the year so far) was jumping with the modest audience up and down to the very lively set.
Guitars and bass were very technically gifted and the music rocked, while performance was the biggest surprise. Progpower should appreciate this show.
6. Alarum / Shattered Skies - Progpower Baarlo October
Speaking of Progpower I only could see the Friday and Saturday shows this year and these bands were to me the highlight. Irish Shattered Skies due to their technical blend of heavy metal and enthiusiastic performance, while Alarum were already on CD one of 2012 surprises to me. Not overly impressed previous time I saw them at PP, they now caught me in a storm and gazing amazed was the main position I stayed in. Definitely one of the better guitar duos to walk heavy territories nowadays.
5. Galahad - De Pul Uden September
What a year for Galahad fans. Two new studio albus a live CD/DVD from the 90's a book underway and a glorious return to Dutch stages. At least to me it was glorious. With only Battle Scars being released at the time, main focus on that album. Their take no prisoners blend of prog with punky guitars, or dance trance influences is not appreciated by all, but for those who get it at least we had a blast! Seize the Day could make them sooo big, if only.
4. Headspace / Haken - Boerderij Zoetermeer September.
So here we had the best the UK offered us the last years in progmetal terms playing together in de Boerderij, so a home match. Great performances, great shows and I had a great time. They just don't make it to the top three since both bands played on complete CD integrally, so much for any surprises in the setlists. Performances at level with the material, hoping for new releases of both bands soon.
3. Saxon - Patronaat Haarlem December.
Arriving at the top three I noticed that I prefer shows from bands with a long back catalogue who can surprise and disappoint you with the song played, or not. Not a regular visitor of Saxon shows I so much appreciated going back in time to the music that got me started into metal. So many classics and only one show, so I did miss some of my favorites, but appreciated the setlist and performance which after all these years, still passing the feeling of just getting out there to have a great time.
2. Lillian Axe - Tahiti Amsterdam September.
Definitely the right band at the wrong place. Hidden way behind Central station my favrite melodic rock band played for a ridiculously empty hall some of the greatest Classics ever written. Much heavier than expected this show was one to remember. Basically having all their albums on LP or CD they could play to me for hours. Musically beyond any doubt now downers during the show. If only they would have added their best recent song  "Under the Same Moon" they might have taken the number one spot. Doubt if they ever come back with these audience numbers, but defintely hoping for it to happen.
1. Fates Warning - HSBC Hall Sao Paulo April
I do travel a lot for work and sometimes to Brazil. In March Fates Warning played Uden and I was in Brazil, missing out sadly. By chance I had t go back there in April when FW finished their tour in Sao Paulo supporting Queensryche. This turned out to become a historical night, mainly due to the fighting in the Queensryche camp, but also on the Fates Warning front. The hall had a few thousand people in, the sound was perfect and ike Portnoy guested on drums. Together enough ingredients fr my number 1 spot. Queensryche as closing act was also not to bad, since playing songs from all their albums, so also the good ones until 1994. I did see Fates Warning again in roermond in November, but where the setlists was longer and possible hldig more surprises the historical impact was less. Next year a new CD from them and ffinally a headline slot at Progpower?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Shiva - Firedance

Still riding the wave of NWOBHM melancholy, the eighties were better, books on the era are great reads and how come I did not get into them at the time?!? I discovered this CD only through the book Suzie Smiled .. the NWOBHM by John Tucker. Thanks to the internet a clip was quickly found and an order made just as fast hereafter. What do we get here is a band that in more than one review is called Prog/NWOBHM and I can fully agree to this definition.

Rush is mentioned most as reference and then we are talking very early Rush here.Not the only comparison is the fact that Shiva are a trio as well. Together with the somewhat rawer edge of the NWOBHM this band got a niche that either fitted the seventies or the nineties when progmetal became big. In the NWOBHM high they might have been just a bit too far left to enjoy the fashion. While saying that this album to me shows an interesting mix of sounding oldfashioned in one sense (or true if you are German) while still very relevant at the same time. Listen to the songs Shiva, How Can I? or En Cachent, Angel of Mons they are catchy and more elaborated than many bands of the time.

Shiva are no longer together, but maybe a German festival can get them to play again one day. This CD definitely got me in the mood to explore more classic releases. With average current aardschok showing little must have albums, history is a perfect way to discover new music. Prog/NWOBHM seems to be the first place to explore, good band and probably also due to budget limits 30 years ago, completely unknown to me until recently. If only their career would have continued, they might have reached Progpower Headliner status, but if is only if.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Saxon - Patronaat Haarlem 8 December 2012

Sometimes you wonder why you have seen certain bands a zillion times live and others hardly or not even once. Saxon fall to me in the latter category (hardly with only one festival show in my Brazilian years) and I now they played Haarlem last Saturday I started wondering back where things went wrong. Saxon was definitely one of the first heavy bands I got into with Strong Arm of the Law being their first LP I bought, so 1981 I knew them. Sergio showed his still kept ticket from their 1981 Amsterdam show, but I was not travelling to Amsterdam for a show just like that at the time. During their first years (The Carrere years: get this CD 7  LP’s for the price of one CD) they wrote a long list of metal Classics, which stuck forever as I found out shouting along.

Than why didn’t I see them? The last years they usually played in the east of Holland only and sold out their shows, while I do not get advance tickets anymore, did not help. I also think they had in the eighties/nineties a period of not playing Holland at all, but I might be wrong here.  Anyway, while I am in mid-life-crisis-back to-NWOBHM mood, gained for Sinterklaas the biography Never Surrender (or nearly looking pretty) there could not have been a better fitting show than the one Saxon gave us in Haarlem. Saxon still Rocks, heavy in your face, no bullshitting around and presenting a long list of Heavy Metal Classics.

First we were warmed up by COPUK, or Crimes of Passion., a sympathetic band playing their  songs. Very nice was they expressed humility (we were not there to see them, but they just wanted to warm up for Saxon) But by playing a short set of good songs, with decent guitar work and good vocals, slowly they won over more people and three of us got  their CD after the show. Support your good support bands.

After being warmed up it was waiting for Saxon. We were with six of us, all eager to bring back best memories that go along with timeless classics and the Patronaat by now filled up decently, although not packed.  Interesting fact is that the average age was impacted upwards, by people like us who lived the early years. During the show I noticed some fans around their early thirties getting to know the songs obviously much later, were not even bothered to shut up and bang their head. So anyone who can not give a decent reply to the mighty opening line: Where were you in 79, when the dam began to burst? , might just not fully get the historic value of Saxon. Well I did and from opener Heavy Metal Thunder to closer Denim and Leather and encore Princess of the Night I had a smile on my face a bang in my neck and a throat going soar over time. Very entertaining indeed and their classic presentation, makes you realize why we got into Heavy Metal to start with.

Now I write my review in Dubai, where I am attending a STEEL conference. How Saxon is that?? Well not at all. Some years ago Saxon were supposed to play the Desert Rock Festival here.  They did not since someone read the lyrics of Crusader which obviously is about the Crusades and holds the line "Spilling their blood on the sand" This would be too much of an insult to the audience. So while I am allowed to enter the Emirates for work,  Saxon were not. But the Band played on and I do hope that soon I can fill my head with some more of their Heavy Metal Thunder. While at it I might get the similar titled DVD just as well.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

DMJGH 21: Janus Schlafende Hunde

And now for something completely different.: Janus. We have here a mix of Gothic, Industrial some female vocals and some heavy guitars. Still I like this release from 2000 a lot and on a day like today: when autumn switches to winter, predictions for tomorrow's trainride to work are hellish and fevers are running through the house nothing beats a depressive concept album in the German language.

Sometimes a language mixes really nice with certain music. In Brazil I discovered some bands who told full books in each song and instruments were only background and this made sense. Some Scandinavian progressive rock (Landberk to name but one) sounds very nice with the melancholy all around. And coming to German this style of music fits the music perfectly. With songtitels like Kommt Herunter, Unter dem Eis, Klotz am Bein the atmosphere is to me already described. For those of you who don't master the German language, just learn Dutch. On a bad day you end up understanding Deutsch.

The story is about two brothers falling in love with the same girl Veronica ( In Dutch a television channel in German a prostitute, so be careful when taking the language course tip from above serious) There is murder there are flashbacks, there is lack of understanding and quite some attention  needed by me to follow the storyline. Does not really matter if I miss out on details, since the music is what counts. Ok the gothic and industrial parts are pretty dominant, but what makes this such a good album, is the occassional outburst of heavy guitars. Trying to describe the CD I am finding that probably what I like most about it is the fact that I have nothing similar to this.

After this release I bought another CD by Janus, which was nice enough but not meeting their masterpiece, which I can only assume this is. Than we come to yet again the same final question. When the bombastic Rammstein (I only know some clips and have no CD's) can move Fortarock festival from a 7000 people venue to a Football stadium next year, why is this much better band not even able to fill a small club in Holland and hard to trace on the internet. Verdammter Geschmack der Massen.

Monday, 3 December 2012

DMJGH 20: Non Fiction - It's A Wonderful Lie

Sometimes playing an old CD leads to another one and before you know it you bump into a candidate for DMJGH. Last Saturday I listened again to Autumn Hour, the last output (2010) I have with Singer par excellence Alan Tecchio. By hearing his great voice I switched to Hades, one of the best ever techmetal bands (or where they called speed-, thrash- or just Heavy metal at the time?). Alan Tecchio has this great range from the high screams to the aggressive low vocals, but always very melodic and heavy at the same time. Live I saw him with Watchtower when Het Paard in my hometown still programmed great bands and once as support band of Savatage in the infamous "Scum" in Katwijk with this lot: Non Fiction.

Watchtower released an all time Classic album with Mr. Tecchio on vocals, Hades whole collection should have been heard by millions, but never was and Autumn Hour shows again that his lyrics usually are away from cliches and show some concern with our planet, life or social circumstances. Seven Witches I've only heard but do not have on CD and Non Fiction is defintely the slowest band in his carreer, while at the same time probably the heaviest as well. Here we get 17 songs in 52 minutes, which includes several shorter instrumentals, some mid tempo work and bass driven slow moving machines like "Reasons" or "Picture Imperfect". Amongst this diverse collection happens to be also one of the most catchy opening riffs and vocal  melodies ever written jointly: Sad & Done.

In comes  Mr. Dan Lorenzo. Also from Hades/Non-Fiction and co-writer of most of the album and guitarist who knows how to write a good riff (see the Hades Anthology for proof) This album does not evolve around one song only (number 11 would be a strange place anyway), but this song is highly recommended to hear at least once. The booklet mentions for this song also credits to bass player Kevin Bolembach. I do not know how the writing occured but do know that whenever I hear this song back the opening lines are sung along out loud or just in my mind:

"Oh let me cry on your shoulder cause my backbone is broke, I used to try to be bold but that was such a joke" and right they are.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Alan Reed - First in a Field of One

In these times where due to recent purchases I am very much exploring modern-technical-death-metal-like bands and return to my younger days during the rise (and fall?) of NWOBHM. This CD brings balance and can be played  at home without a headphone or comments.

Alan Reed the voice of Pallas, untill some years ago and then there were two. Last year in a fairly short time span I was lucky enough to see the renewed Pallas who became, much to my liking, even more hard rocking as well  as Alan Reed solo during the illustrous Mattfest in The Peel. Alan was still suffering from his unvoluntary departure from Pallas and emotions  looked pretty similar as if his longtime girlfriend  just broke up with him.During the song Darkness has Spoken some of his emotions are described with words as cold, hate, lost control, vengeance, disbelief. Luckily the last line is "The Darkness has gone".

Hopefully Alan is at peace with himself and his past, because he just offered us eight great songs with celtic, acustic flavour and always leaning on still one of the best voices in progressive rock. Musically he is helped out by Mike Stobbie on keyboards and Scott Higham on drums. Some additional work from to me better known Christina Booth (Magenta) on vocals and Kalle Walner (RPWL, Blind Ego) and Jeff Green on guitar. So I hope this band comes to de Boerderij and Jeff Green joins, giving me the chance to shakes hands with the guitarist that I had short email exchanges with over shared emotions and experiences beautifully expressed on his album Jessica.

After seeing Pallas and Alan Reed I already mentioned on my then Dutch blog that we the audience might end up as winners getting two different good bands coming out of one. Now that I own XXV and First in a Field of One I can only state that I was right. Long life unjustice and musical differences.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Haarp Machine - Disclosure

Advantages of being modern: You stay open for new trends,  accept grunting and screaming as decent forms of singing and suddenly a wide stream of modern bands are very listenable. I have discovered several great new bands recently, who are in one way or another hanging inbetween Djent, Progressive, Extreme and another 20 styles ( I won't use Sumerian Core called after the label). Stealing Axion (how did they end up at Inside Out Label, being far heavier than 99% of their releases??) released an interesting album in Moments. Than I bumped into Intrinsic by The Contortionist. When Aardschok mentions in their review that you must love Rush and Dream Theater in order to appreciate them and style breaks are happening every other second I start surfing the net. It's one of the beauties of today that with Youtube, Bandcamp, Myspace etc. you can quickly get some songs on your PC. Very different indeed, but I can only recommend on YouTube their clip of opener Holomovement. What a great song that is.

And now I discovered Disclosure by The Haarp Machine. Bought last of the three and heard less, but probably the best of them all. Where they start with a contradictioness winner is the short playing time. This is very intensive music. You need a series of headphone listening sessions before the music lands in the brain. Stealing Axion over one hour is a lot and The Contortionist with their 45 minute release already comes closer. By keeping their CD at 33 minutes like the greatest bands in the Tech extreme corner (Cynic and Atheist) The Haarp Machine make sure that the attention can be kept from start to finish.

Opening instrument on the CD is a Sitar, when this changes into a Heavy bombastic opener followed by a blasting Death metal passage relief is the best word to describe the feeling. Next to a Sitar also a Koto (a what?) is mixed in the music, but never to extends that annoy. Actually it adds flavour to the very diverse music. So what do we get on vocals. A range from pretty heavy vox to a clean vocal that is very good with the music. Similar for the music, we move from extreme bashing to soft progressive instrumental passages. For those of us who can't get over extreme vocals (almost everyone I know) should try the album closer Machine Over. If under the impression slowly find more songs and maybe it sticks.

I read on their facebook page, that they shall play Tilburg in March during the Neurotic Death Fest. Since I get an ever growing collection of technical death metal bands and definitely would like to see these songs live I might decide to pick one, two or three days of this festival for a change. Eyes on the band announcements and ears on Disclosure.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

DMJGH 19: The Last Things - Circles and Butterflies

Sometimes memory is short and needs to be helped out by a small walk through the CD collection. Today I ran into Circles and Butterflies by Progmetallers The Last Things while doing so and remembered that upon release in 1993 it hardly left my CD player . When listening to it again I did what I do in similar cases: check the internet if they still exist or released more albums and read what has been written about them in the best and most complete book ever written on progressive metal: Mean Deviation. First discovery was that for some reason Jeff Wagner missed out on them in Mean Deviation (still the book is an absolute must-read for any progmetal fan though). I thought some important missionary work was waiting for me, but on Progarchives and the Metal Archives they are mentioned and some information can be found.

First name I recognized in the CD booklet was guitarist Matt Laporte who passed away last year and recently became known for his work with Jon Oliva. Here he was last to join the band and does not seem to be one of the writers of the album. Bass Player Darren Mc Farland played live with Atheist (an influence in some of the heaviest passages of the album) while drummer Lou Buffo and Richard Elliot vocals and many instruments came from predecessor Blackkout.

The album starts with six interlinked songs and the highlight of this album. Starting with Inside the Circle until The Circle Ends we get a range from technical trash metal, prog metal, ballads and progressive rock ending in an impressive instrumental piece. While hearing this back a smile came up and I remembered why this probably appeared in my 1993 end of year lists at a very decent position.The five songs following this suite can't completely keep the high standard, but still show a wide range of influences, instruments and very listenable songs. If there is a criticism on this album it would be that the production and general sound of the album could be better. I do not know if in 1993 this was a valid comment, but today it sounds like needing an upgrade in heaviness.

The good news for interested readers is that the Greek label Arkeyn Steel Records re-released this album last year, with an additional demo from 1994 and a DVD from a Blackkout live in 1990. With big bands in our genre I tend to have the feeling they should be so much bigger already. For bands like The Last Things matters are even worse, risking to be forgotten while the quality is here and subsequent albums could have lifted them to the topleague culminating in a slot at Progpower Europe.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fates Warning - ECI Cultuurfabriek Roermond 11 November 2012

I had never been to ECI Cultuurfabriek, first because it is not nearly close to my home and second I do not know how long they are transferred into this setting for film, shows and bars. Cultuurfabriek is Dutch and stands for Culture factory: and a factory it is. Upon arrival signs tell me that my car will be tugged away and finding the entrance is also not as simple as it sounds, but inside the place looks very nice. Since the hall was not yet opened upon my arrival I had a Dutch culinair highlight in the bar Broodje Kroket with a beer. Soon I found out that the informed start of 1800 hrs on the internet would not be met. When some half hour later the reserved table in the corner turned out to be reserved for dinner by Fates Warning a quick calculation made it clear that I would not return home in time to see the last 15 minutes of Fluminense's championship match. When fifteen minutes later also the support band entered for dinner even the after match interviews went down the drain. I guess that is where my part of rock and roll lifestyle begins and ends I sometimes have to drive 200 km home and miss planned schedules. Question is if I would have taken the drive also if I knew that the band would start at 20:30 instead of 18:00 hrs. Of Course I would, We are talking Fates Warning here: Founders of the progmetal genre and owners of the best back catalogue there is around.

So before the show started at 20:30 we were warmed up by local band SpiralCove. That band was nice enough, but in my view (read the drive home) not really necessary. Before Fates Warning started one could already conclude that yet again the place was far too empty for the class of the band. After my recent visits to Lillian Axe, Headspace/Haken and Leprous, this seems unfortunately enough to become the norm. Very sad indeed and how are these bands ever able to continue bringing us the music we love. Since Hans and Mary decided to see the Hengelo show two days earlier I already knew that over there it was pretty much the same. So on behalf of myself a deep apology to the bands that play for half empty places. Crisis? Too many shows? Too little time, whatever the excuse I hope matters shall improve.

But I shall not complain, since to me everytime I get the chance of seeing Fates Warning play live to me is Another Perfect Day. Main problem for their shows is that they have too many good songs to fit in one and a half hour. I would love to see them doing a Marillion type of weekend where they play three nights in a row all different songs, but too small audiences and the number of lyrics shall make this impossible to happen any day soon. The set opened with the proven succesfull trio Disconnected/One/Life in Still Water. But as from A  Pleasant Shade of Gray Part III the set became slightly new and a very good APSOG medley was played. Interesting to see that a Dutch audience was not tempted to sing Zugabe along. and ending by the heavy part XI I actually hoped for the beautifull part XII to end the medley. Unfortunately this was not the case and show build-up explained why, since the epic of all Progmetal epics the Eleventh Hour came next. This would not fit well after part XII and is probably their only song I would really hate to miss in a live set..With the automatic Point of View following it became time for their new song. Earlier this year I was in lucky enough to be in Sao Paulo on the legendary  14 April show (due to Mike Portnoy participation and even more due to Queensryche's cooling down show after their blast) I never saw as many camera's filming the full show as on that evening. This night in Roermond it was the opposite. Whenever a camera appeared a lightflash took care that the filming stopped. Main reason would be their new song Firefly. This seemed a pretty heavy song, but as usual shall need some listens before sinking in. But the best news is that a new album now certainly seems to be coming our way and already curious if it shall be another Classic Album or just very very good.
Around this time in the show and increasing bassy zoom started taking part of the show. I could still enjoy whatever note was played, but especialy the crew got upset and the band must have been disturbed in a way as well ("What's going on?") We did get more great songs with some hits (Eye too Eye, Another Perfect Day) and some surpises (Ivory Tower, Island in the Stream) Closer was Still Remains and off they went after this very short European Tour.

A word of thanks to Roger, who according to the band was responsible for them coming over. Hopefully by now they are back in the studio already and the new album is released somewhere first half 2013. That would make them the perfect headliner for Progpower 2013 promoting new songs to a larger crowd..

Monday, 12 November 2012

Fluminense Tetracampeao

Fluminense Brazilian Champions 2012!

While I was expecting a championships party next week and enjoyed an evening of Progmetal Epics with Fates Warning (review following later this week), Fluminense grabbed their 4th national title away against Palmeiras.
I became Tricolor in 1997 soon after my arrival in Rio. Living through the dark years with relegation to second and third division I took part in the cult years when the support grew by time. The last years Fluminense returned to win national titles and since I was preparing a party for next week only, herewith repeating some pictures from the 2010 Championship weekend. Next Sunday the official party shall be at home against Cruzeiro an dthe Fluminense flag shall be waiving proudly before my house again.
"Sou tricolor de coracao"

Saturday, 10 November 2012

DMJGH 18: Angel Witch

NWOBHM, probably the most important musical influence in my life and surely so for Heavy Metal in General. Admitting that most of my long time favorites came just before (UFO, Thin Lizzy), aside (MSG) or after (Dio, Queensryche, Marilllion) this Wave, without any doubt the stream of new bands that I liked was never as big as during the highdays of the NWOBHM. The biggest names I obviously liked and still do (Iron Maiden, Saxon, Def Leppard (yes them too)) but the number of smaller bands we discovered was huge. While playing cards with Hans and Magchiel in the early eighties I remember us listening to the likes of Tygers of Pan Tang, Gaskin, Tokyo Blade, Savage, More and so many moore. Special attention needs to be given to Stampede (Hurricane Town top 5 all time material to me!) since they are often mentioned as NWOBHM band, but I do not fully agree. And then there is Diamond Head as we later learned main influence to Metallica, but for me one of the first bands I ever saw playing live and even their pop album I still can appreciate a lot.

Apart from great albums, we also have the legacy of some Classic songs. This is where Angel Witch comes clearly into the picture. The title song of their debut album as well as the band is an Highpoint of the Wave. I do not think there are many Metal fans from the early eighties who have not stood up airguitared the opening riff and shouted along with the lines, You're an Angel Witch! You're an Angel Witch! Some bands are defined by one album, some by one song and ususally this is not fair to their other other albums or songs. Now I ran into the 30th anniversary version of the classic debut for a ridiculous 7 Euros only I had to get this CD. And what value for little money it is. 30 years and 30 songs. I do not remember much of the whole album and do not even know if either Hans or Magchiel owned the LP. Again this was 1980, we were still at school and budgets were tight, so we listened to many LP's from the library and put them on cassete. Hearing the full album now I discovered many great songs. NWOBHM albums have a tendency to sound somewhat dated, but many modern bands forget the in my ears obligatory guitar solo in their songs.

Two additions that make this CD very worthwhile to me are further included. 4 Songs from Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show. The chance I've heard these live at the time is pretty big. With radio stations being ignorant on Heavy Metal in general, this show was one of the weekly highlights and in the evening we could receive Radio 1 decent enough to tune in and hear about new bands.
Further there are very nice and informative liner notes by John Tucker. With the reference to his books in the end it took me less than 5 minutes to order his book "Suzie smiled... The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal" Can't wait for the read down memory lane. Thank Lucifer (read the liner notes!) I lived during the best musical period in history.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

DMJGH 17: Speaking to Stones

PM Rising, a forum recommended more than once to me. By checking it out I quickly found out what there is to like about it. You can find  bands you never heard of in the prog metal genre, or you can read about a bands you thought had long ago dismantled. Latter was the case for me with Speaking to Stones. I have their only CD from 2006 and now they seem to release a follow up Elements on 16 November. What draws extra attention to the new release is the adding of drummer Mark Zonder, known mostly for participating on several Fates Warning Classics and generally considered one of the best around.

So this news made me pick up their debut album once again and I realized it to be a perfect candidate for DMJGH (last time translated: This One You Should Have Heard) If I remember well this CD came out around the same time as Stride with Imagine. These two releases for me were in the exact same category. Progmetal, with a large influence of AOR/Melodic Hard Rock. Supported by great vocals, strong melodies and songs that are capturing the listener from begin to the very end. I would say these bands are the easiest step into progmetal territories if coming from mentioned hard rock/AOR back ground.

Speaking to Stones the self titled debut album is a very pleasant listen. After opening uptempo with Still Life and Rescue Me a ballad is thrown at us hereafter  (Waiting For..) and do we get a lot of catchy songs. In order to up the prog element we also have two songs clocking in at 9 and 10 minutes, which adds some additional instrumental craftmanship. This all without ever loosing eye on the listenability of the album. Hearing the album again vocalist Richard Fink IV (don't know much about Fink I-III) has a great voice for this music. He has left the band, so after 16 November we shall learn if that was a great loss or not. Main man in STS is Tony Vince who wrote almost all of the music and lyrics. He is also responsible for all the guitars and many of the keyboards on the album. With him still in the band this gives confidence for the next album, since his songwriting is just great.

While reading the above back, I have to correct in case I gave the impression that this CD is on the soft side which is not the case (apart from closing ballad Nothing). I would compare them as a better version of similar melodic progmetal acts from Scandinavia like Seventh Wonder and Circus Maximus. At their best, during the epics My Final Sin and Shallow, even a band like Redemption is not far away. That should say enough I guess.

Perfect band to get to Holland and with the return of the mighty Headway Festival now both Headway and Progpower seem perfect candidates to get them on stage (While you're at it get Stride as well if they also still exist)

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Leprous, Loch Vostok, Persefone and Orkenkjott Boerderij 26 October 2012

Thank you ALL, shouted the vocalist of Orkenkjott after the first song, with a cynical undertone looking at the about 30 people who actually witnessed the band opening this evening. Later on it got slightly better, but what is going on here?? 4 bands all exploring their own boundaries, loads of beards on stage and hardly anyone bothered to pay less than 20 Euros to check them out? Well Orkenkjott turned out to be not impressed by any lack of audience and were just as lively as three weeks earlier on Progpower. Problem for me was that than I was already not overly impressed and now the element of surprise also left. So I saw pretty much a shortened set from 3 weeks ago and still the songs did not stick in my head. While being in doubt before, now realized that I do not need to check out their CD. By saying that their shows probably shall always remain entertaining and closer "all the way from Texas" was again a nice change in act, so pictured here above.

Andorra is a place most people know little about I guess. Apart from the occassional pointless football match or Tour de France stage they never appear in the news. Now we know they have at least one sympathetic metal band. Pretty much liked their show and music with enough energy and variation to entertain for the time they had. What made me not run and buy their CD afterwards was their vocalist. A tiny man with long beard and a powerfull metalcore scream. I would have preferred a grunt/clear vocals mix for their music. The clear voice now came sporadic from the keyboardist who spend the show with a smile on his face looking into the audience. When after a few songs our small vocalist decided to take of his shirt to show us his branded underpants, his angry expresssions became somewhat laughable. Or quoting Prog magazine: this was not a very prog thing to do. The music itself sounded good enough and headbanging was definitely an option.

Loch Vostok came next on. I actually have two of their CD's and saw them once before at the Headway festival. What I remembered from that show was the vocalist asking for audience participation on the differences between a Death Metal grunt, a Heavy Metal shout and a Black Metal Scream.  After two songs it became clear to me why I only remembered that. While the instruments, vocals and grunts all sound very well the songs just failed to make an impression. They passed by and moved on to the next one, without any effect on me. As the pygmee (his words) vocalist announced the last two songs to be much better than the crap they played before he was partially right. Defintely suddenly some recognition during the songs happened. So yet another nice enough to see band, but no need for closely following their future steps.

And then came Leprous a band not yet big enough to head such a tour, given the around 80 people I guessed being present during their show. This is pretty strange looking at their very good Bilateral CD released last year and their succesfull performance during Progpower 2010. Leprous are a lively bunch on stage who like to add show to their very groovy progmetal. Given their lively performance I did not see the need for the arty-farty movies shown on the two television screens. But going to their performance we could see a band in top form. Alll instruments were coming out nicely and even while the vocalist seemed to be suffering from a cold his vocals were great from loud an aggressive to subtle and beautifull. Leprous play intense music, that makes you want to move along just the neck or full body dance along. This is a band that should become big in our scene, since songs, performance and attitude are in place. Just wondering if 4 albums down the road they still stick to the red and black suits and ties.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Riversea - Out of an Ancient World

Progstreaming, the best invention on the internet over the past year. The website where you can listen to streams of new progressive albums As they say Hear it, Like it , Buy it.and it works. Several times I ran into CD's I've read about before and listen to it on Progstreaming resulting in a purchase, a not necessary to buy decision or even plain disappointment. The site has proven to be very interesting for me and with currently including the last releases from Marillion, Pendragon, Magnum and Threshold you can hardly say they only cover the more obscure and unknown bands. My last Progstreaming discovery which resulted in an immediate order from the band's website is Riversea.

Riversea is a duo helped out by a long list of somewhat famous artists from UK prog bands. The CD is one of those typical Sunday morning ones, when you don't want to wake the house with your last tech-metal band, but make everyone get up easily on the sometimes Floydish tunes from Out of an Ancient World. Very easy listening, pretty british, average vocals, but saved by some classy guitar playing a very enjoyable CD indeed. Great songs included for me are The Song, Halo ( Bryan Josh helping out) and the catchy The Fallen. So anyone liking his prog rock overdosed on ballads, nicely performed and storytelling this might be to your liking.

With these one or two persons projects you never know if they manage to get a tour together and show on stage if live these songs come even more alive. The good news was that on Beyond Rock's mailing I could read that the first pressing is sold out, so at least a few people recognized that we have yet another great band from the UK.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

DMJGH 16: po90 - JitTers

DMJGH is an excuse for me to wander through very old to fairly recent albums and put them to a general attention again. DMJGH, means This One You Should Have Heard, but then in Dutch. This week I was struck by the news that Andy Tillison had to dismantle yet another version of The Tangent. For those not knowing him, A.T is a highly talented musician, who gave us many epic songs with the Tangent, but keeps on struggling to live on his beautiful music in these times of downloading, copying and no sales. If you then also operate in our beloved small circle of progressive music, things only get that bit harder to get by.

This is not about The Tangent, but his other (dismantled?) band po90, or Paralel or 90 degrees.I missed this bands output in the 90's, but got their can of worms collection, which is highly recommendable. This album is from some years ago and should be heard indeed. Here we have a collection of songs going from uptempo instrumental Interlude, through more epical material, partially french lyrics (who in English are showing his usual social engagement). What I like most is that po90 shows an aggressiveness sometimes dearly missed by prog bands.

Highlight for me is the semi-cover The Dock of the Abyss. (Sittin' on the dock of the Bay) Here you shout along with the protest lyrics, and working in the raw material mining world (non european of course) I could explain the why's of replanning the reopening of Coal mines that were closed under Tatcher regime. Today this is overruled by new realities anyway. But what a song, and how I hope that Mr. Tillison can find a band and continues playing live.I did see him only once (and listened very carefully) and could see performers that need to be seen live after hearing the CD.

So here I sit in yet another airport lounge looking outside at the leaves turned yellow and brown, while bands continue to dismantle. Almost getting an autumn blues I shall head for a Bock bier and count on talent to survive, and talent on display here is plenty.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Marillion - Sounds that can't be Made

Today Marillion play in Rio. On more than one occassion they made it clear in interviews and during Marillion weekends, that Rio is probably their favorite place to play. And while the last week re-elected mayor of Rio called Seedorf the most Carioca of all the Dutch I dare to put that statement into question. While maybe not the most Carioca, being a head taller I am at least the more Carioca. In 1998 I came close, but after just meeting Josy we travelled to the North East for a long weekend when they conquered Rio. A great bonus of Rio shows is that due to history they can and shall not ignore the Fish past completely, so at least Kayleigh plus some surprises can be expected. Now that 2012 goes missing as well, I know where, how, why and with whom I shall be next time they play the fantastic place.

But that is Marillion live, never disappointing. Here I am writing about their last album. Weeks after appearing in the shops by a joined effort of British and Dutch mail also their special edition arrived at my home. I still buy their special editions in the blind and all because of past performances and never disappointing live shows. The last two albums "Somewher Else" and "Happiness is the Road" did not impress me much and because of their large back-catalogue shall have a hard time being played again soon. The band turns too much into a H solo project for my taste and Rock and Roll is no part of Marillion anymore. The late arrival of my copy gave me the chance to read several reviews in advance and expectations went up, since the general view is positive.

Gaza starts of in a different way indeed. The guitars from Steve R. (God to fans) is heavier than normal and almost agreessive at places. Since the Papers Lie, I have no opinion on Gaza. I believe the statement that there is no intention to take sides or insult anyone unnecessary. Marillion's intentions are to make the world a better place in general and if people get insulted I tend to think it is their problem. But drifting off the music, a great song and probably live an opener to get everybody ready to rock.

Problem for being ready to rock is that if they follow the CD. Sounds that Can't be Made, Pour my Love and Power put you back in your chair fighting against the sleep , well almost. Of course the solo's from Mr. Rothary are above average and the music is Quality, but I can not stop thinking that it could have been better and mainly louder.

And then comes Montreal. For me the best song although not really structured or built up. Many bits and pieces telling about their weekend experience in Montreal we go through the motions. The lyrics are just telling the trip, flight, receipt, day program, fans, but when H sings about jet-lagged people a piece of beautifull music brings us back to Brave atmospheres. Next year shall be the first Marillion -weekend since 2002 that I shall not attend, but listening to this song puts the Montreal weekend on the maybe list (although competing with Y-prog. HRH prog, Celebr8 in the UK unlikely to happen)

Invisible Ink follows somewhat under the radar for me (H-solo song), but Lucky man is much to my liking, with the very catchy chorus which makes you sing along (if agreeing to the lyrics) "I truly am, A lucky man, I have Everything that I want". Pleased to hear also that there is somewhat power in a song appearing, And ending with yet another ballad, but this time spot on for me. The Sky Above the Rain has beautifull lyrics on a relationship that is over but not ended, the build up brings us an emotional ending of the CD, helped of course by some magical guitar work.

After some 4-5 listens Marillion CD's tend to be hard to judge, but as a first impression has been made. Probably somewhat better than the two previous albums I do not think it reaches the level of my favorite H era albums, Brave, This Strange Engine and Anoraknophobia. (I managed almost not to mention my favorite Marillion albums that is 4 times Fish on vocals)

Still I wish I was in Rio this weekend seeing Marillion in the Vivo Hall on Saturday and Fluminense  (lider isolado) on Sunday in Enghenhao. Maybe next time and I shall be a lucky man...  

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Progpower Europe 5 -6 October 2012

Are there any Dutchies in the Hall? Any non Dutch?. This question from A Liquid Landscape and the subsequent raising of arms made the penny finally drop for me. As repeatedly told by Josy: You should write in English. After all the very few followers probably get it still and the hits from search machines out of Russia, Australia or Argentina might now be able to read what you write.So herewith my official first move into English blogging and what better to start it off than with the annual highlight on the music front: The ProgPower Europe Festival.

Baarlo is the place to be for every first weekend in October and not only for Progmetal lovers from Holland, but very much so from all over Europe, with even the odd visitor from far overseas. After last year's very unfortunate accident this year even started with an extra Thursday evening commemoration and pub show. I did not manage to join this, neither to stay for the full weekend, so my 2012 Progpower was reduced to an early 2000's edition of the Friday night and a full Saturday. Still 9 bands, a return to Camping de Berckt and meeting many friends from abroad made it yet another memorable weekend.

Friday night started of with the somewhat strange Orkenkjott from Norway. As entertaining as they were, there was the constant need for changing musical directions and styles, which made them confusing to follow. Also glitter and painted faces for the guitarists, Sjimmie on bass and a vocalist that looked like Biker-Jesus-later-turning-redneck-yank, made things not like your average Progmetal outfit. Very positive I found their performance and what they played in bits and pieces sounded actually very nice, but why not stay with the Doom metal, or the heavy metal, or the ..... End of the month they get a second chance while supporting Leprous. Still trying to figure out if I am looking forward to that or not really.

Anubis Gate from Denmark, brought us back to more conservative and predictable Melodic Progressive metal. While saying that I must add, that being less extravagant is not always a bad thing. I liked their performance with solid songs and playing. Their bass player/vocalist reminded me somewhat of Glenn Hughes in his poses and that was the only point to comment on their performance. Good band.

You look over 40, so you should like our Friday Night headliner Heaven's Cry. As Christiaan (sorry if I am mixing up names) told me earlier this year during an Obscura, Gorod, Exivious show. And right he was (about both my age and my liking of Heaven's Cry) Never seen them before I was pleasantly surprised when after three songs the sound problems were solved and the Bass player turned out to have a live voice as good as on CD. Their music is complex and with a new CD being released the very day I noticed sometimes an attention span lapse over the new work. But the show was great and especially their Food for Though Substitute songs made a strong impression (probably since I know that CD best) Definitely a worthy Friday night Headliner and listening to their new CD at home, glad I got the last copy.

Saturday morning waking by rain noises on the trailer the possibilities were limited. With no chance to run along on Sunday morning run, decided to go for a round along Maas, Castle, village and back. Always good to run the beer out and get a clean conscious for starting all over again. Saturday gave me some expectations with an interesting program, although several bands I only heard songs from through the net mainly thanks to Andy's great radio show, which can be heard through DPRP.

A Liquid Landscape got some great reviews. Entering the room, when they just opened, I was impressed with their build up and sound. On stage a very sympathetic looking band played their progressive rock songs very well and the good result was that by the end of their set the audience had doubled. Somehow the band seemed impressed that the audience got their music, but this is not your average festival crowd. I for one was convinced enough to get their CD after the show and realizing that this turned into one of my favorite national bands after just one show. They tour with Paatos this autumn, so maybe a second impression in November.

The first ever band from Ireland to play at Progpower; Shattered Skies. With the Irish having a very musical culture and a legacy of Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore and for me also Sandstone some expectations. Just heard some songs on the show from the metal mayor from Stroud and their bandcamp site I quite liked what I heard so far. After the standing still to listen experience with ALL before, this was all about moving along (Anyone for headbanging at 3 'o clock in the afternoon?, you can now).A very dynamic show, with great presentation by their very Irish Vocalist. Their music seemed a blend of Heavy Metal with some overdose on the tech side by their very good guitarist, bass player and drummer. Most interesting stage performance came from the bass player dancing fanatically towards his amplifiers. Young as they are their music can be downloaded. One of the most asked questions to them by the aging audience definitely must have been, where are your CD's?

And then after the progressive rock from A Liquid Landscape, the progressive Heavy Metal from Shattered Skies, ended the perfect build-up with Progressive Thrash metal from Alarum. some years ago I did not yet fully get their show, but earlier this year I heard a song from their new CD Natural Causes, which made me buy the album and what a blast it is. One of the highlights of the year, which includes in For New Creation a song that shall make my top-three of songs of the year, what a killer hook! Live this was a show of taking no prisoners a constant flow of uptempo harsh metal, covered with the really unearthly play of the two best guitarists of the festival. This was a show between gazing amazed at the stage and banging your head until a sudden jazz break would take you to a next flow. The band seemed to enjoy themselves a lot, pleased to get this hard stuff out right live. Even the loosening of a cable turned into an optimistic intermezzo by replugging just in time for a three note jazz break. For me the highlight of PPE 2012. And summing up the afternoon, this might well have been the best afternoon program I ever saw at Progpower. Three very different bands spanning almost my whole taste range from progressive rock to technical death metal, and all performing well above my already high expectations.

After the dinner break Mark from Alarum came back on stage now with Levitation Hex. This was Heavy, very much so actually. But while Alarum had a brilliant break by every blink of an eye this was more of a constant storm hitting you full in the face. The timing was not the best after the perfect afternoon and with hunger kicking in, it was off to Milano for a Shoarma pizza (speaking of traditions) after four songs. Maybe like Alarum I need a second attempt to get it, but now they madelittle impact.

Dan Swano on stage with Nightingale. I have several CD's from them and like their traditional Hard Rock with Dan's deep voice. The show kicked off with just that voice and dressed in a yellow ELO T-shirt huge Dan made a stage impression. When the band joined all sounded good and a great show was to be expected. After some songs all solidly performed some disinterest started hitting in. Maybe there was too little difference inbetween songs and did I miss the powerfull grunt that makes Edge of Sanity such an outstanding band. The ballad Alonely made things happening on stage. Unfortunately not as planned, since the guitar solo went lost by technical problems. Also here it was that Andrew's research on what the Russian hat was all about started, which together with the shirtless remainder of the set could have been hidden in the lyrics, but we never knew. Concluding a good show, but I expected more due to lack of variety.

Closer for my PPE 2012 was Vandenplas. I pretty much liked the Vondenpinkel T-shirts, but there is something about Vandenplas that doesn't work for me. They seem relaxed enough, they have good songs and play very well, but last times I saw them I always felt like something was missing. Maybe it is in the Christ poses from Mr. Kuntz, or the little communication with audience, but with them I tend to get the feeling I might just as well listen to a CD from them at home. The Sjiwa looked pretty full when they were on and reactions were positive, so I might have been one of the few. Also known from experience headliners tend to have a harder time in convincing me, since starting at 13:30 hrs I get somewhat tired and thus critical around 22:30 hrs. Still appreciating the musicianship I did enjoy the show and my beer.

A short festival for me this year, did not stop me from enjoying the usual mix of discovering great new bands (A :Liquid Landscape, Shattered Skies),  see some bands meeting my expectations (Anubis Gate, Heaven's Cry) and being blast away by a surprising good show (Alarum). Thanks go out to the organization, for making this possible and already filled out their questionnaire with my suggestions for next year for Headliners Fates Warning, Watchtower and Psychotic Waltz, plus several great bands that  released brilliant CD's in 2012 like Headspace, Linear Sphere, Gorod and Stealing Axion. If they follow my requests or not: I'll be back.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Big Big Train - English Electric (Part one)

Soms ben ik wat te lang op reis en zitten de verbindingen niet mee. Hierdoor houd ik vele uren vervelen op vliegvelden over en kan het gebeuren dat ik zoals nu in Cairo drie uur op een vlucht naar Dubai zit te wachten. Daar aangekomen om 04:00 uur kan ik twee uur in de auto naar Abu Dhabi rijden om mijn eerste afspraak om 10:00 uur te hebben. Tot zover het medelijden opwekken voor de reiziger voor werk, die niet alleen maar in mooie hotels en goede restaurants rondhangt. Wat ik eigenlijk wilde zeggen  is dat afhankelijk van de stemming ik twee dingen kan doen. Of ik zet een keiharde techmetal CD op mijn iPod op, of zoals in dit geval stel ik in op rustig.

En dan komen we vanzelf bij Big Big Train aan. Deze band speelt geen losse nummers maar vertelt verhalen ondersteund door schitterende rustige muziek.Een paar jaar geleden kwam the Underfall Yard uit en was ik verkocht. Hun opvolger Far Skies Deep Time, was naar mijn smaak nog beter en een nieuwe favoriet was ontdekt.Dit is de perfecte band voor 's avonds laat of zondag ochtend of zoals vandaag op het vliegveld. Met een zanger die tussen Peter Gabriel en Phil Collins inhangt lijkt het logisch dat Genesis een referentie is. Dit geldt voor beide fases, want zowel epische nummers als meer poppy werk komt aan bod. Tussen alle prachtige nummers in springt er voor mij één uit en wel A Boy in Darkness. Niet alleen vanwege de tekst over werken voor een mijnbedrijf (al zijn mijn condities iets luxer), maar ook wegens de emotionele zang. Ze treden (vrijwel) nooit op, maar in dit geval is dat geen schande, want ik denk dat ze de ultieme koptelefoonband zijn, waar live niet al te veel op het podium zal gebeuren.

Ik kan ook nog schrijven over de muzikanten van formaat die meespelen, maar raad gewoon iedereen aan om eens te luisteren naar de muziek van deze band. Niet voor headbangers, wel voor romantici (?!?). Ik kan mij na dit prettige uur weer storten op mijn reis onder het motto: Don't mention the Film, I've mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Haken & Headspace - Boerderij 8 September 2012

Zelden was een keuze zo makkelijk. De bands die de beste progmetal CD's van 2011 en 2012 hebben afgeleverd (of in ieder geval mijn top drie halen) samen in de Boerderij. Misschien was er een beetje druk dat ik dezelfde week Galahad en Lillian Axe al had gezien en maandag voor een weekje naar Brasil ben vertrokken, maar dat kon een bezoek met Hans en Magchiel niet tegenhouden. Een gedeelde headliner show, dus altijd benieuwd wie er mag aftrappen.

Dat bleek dus Haken te zijn, tot vreugde van Hans en naar later bleek ook Magchiel. Haken maakt het zichzelf namelijk niet makkelijk. Zij houden van afwisseling en gaan dan ook regelmatig wanneer zij in een lekkere riff zitten opeens de hoek om, waarbij geen enkele muzieksoort wordt geschuwd. Zo kan je dus van headbangen opeens naar een cabaret achtig hoempa ritme gegooid worden. Ik vind dat ze die drang steeds beter onder controle krijgen en de nieuwe CD Visions kent al veel minder twist dan hun debuut album. Aangezien de nieuwe CD een conceptalbum is, werd deze in zijn geheel gespeeld. Nadeel hiervan is dat de set geen verrassingen kent en wegens de speelduur van ergens rond de 70 minuten, zat er ook geen toegift in. Maar wat waren ze weer goed, en wat een gitaristen heeft deze band. Het gepiel om met Magchiel te spreken, herinnert aan Guthrie eerder dit jaar en dus stonden de gitaar fetisjisten weer met open mond naar het podium te staren.De hele band presteerde goed en voor mij bewezen ze nogmaals dat ze misschien wel de beste nieuwe band van de afgelopen vijf jaar zijn.

Afsluiter was dus Headspace. Deze band heeft pas één CD dus ook die werd helemaal gespeeld. Naast de grandioze instrumentalisten hebben zij nog een duidelijke troef die onderscheidend werkt. Ene Damian Wilson op zang. Ik denk dat er momenteel weinig betere zangers rond lopen en naast een prima stem, heeft hij ook altijd een sympathieke uitstraling. Deze keer niet door de zaal heen rennend, hielt hij zich aan de iets statischer prog presentatie, maar wat zong hij weer mooi. Van keihard tot de ballad Soldier klonk alles verschrikkelijk goed. Nu ik even terug lees, merk ik dat ik de rest van de band tekort doe. Luisterend naar de eerste drie minuten Stalled Armageddon zonder zang is het meteen al genieten. Instrumentaal is dit op elk gebied van de buitencategorie en bassist Lee Pomeroy hoop ik met It Bites ook nog eens te zien. De live uitvoeringen bewezen dat dit inderdaad de ontdekking van 2012 is en zij Haken misschien van de zojuist omschreven troon stoten. Wanneer zelfs Magchiel na afloop naar de CD verkoop rent om I Am Anonymous aan te schaffen weten de kenners (van Magchiel en muziek) genoeg.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Lillian Axe - Panama Amsterdam 6 september 2012

Lillian Axe is de beste Melodieuze hardrock band die na 1980 is ontstaan. Ik weet dat, maar daar begint het probleem. Heel weinig mensen weten dat met mij. Zo kan het gebeuren dat op een donderdagavond in een afgelegen zaal in Amsterdam er zo rond de 25 betalende bezoekers afkomen op een avondje hardrock van de bovenste plank. Tenminste wat het hoofdprogramma betreft. Er spelen ook nog twee support bands allebei een half uurtje. Human Zoo heel Duits, heel cliché en heel eighties, dus wel twee nummers grappig. Daarna Seven Thorns uit Denemarken, die vooral uit het Helloween boek der speedmetal hebben gespiekt.Om een indruk van de sfeer te geven deze toepasselijke foto van Human Zoo in actie.

En dan begint Lillian Axe met een avondje oeuvre overzicht. Openend met Misery Loves Company van de debuutplaat wordt de toon gezet. De hele carrière komt voorbij en dat is genieten, want alle platen zin goed. Verrassingen zijn er niet, want ik zou niet weten wat ze normaal gesproken altijd spelen. Wel zien we dat naast oude klassiekers als Ghost of Winter en Letters in the Rain ook nieuwe nummers als Death Comes Tomorrow en Jesus Wept live erg goed overkomen. Interessant is wel om te zien dat de grote voorraad ballads die geschreven zijn volledig genegeerd worden. Rustige intro's en breaks zorgen voor de nodige afwisseling, maar het motto is vooral hard, wat nog eens onderstreept wordt door de geluidsman die vooral alles vol open goed lijkt te beheersen.

Wat er nou precies zo goed aan Lillian Axe is kan ik niet geheel beschrijven. Het helpt zeker dat alle nummers pakkend zijn, de gitarist heel losjes de mooiste solo's riffs en intro's rond strooit, en de zanger boven het hoge volume heel krachtig en zuiver weet over te komen. We hoorden dat de opkomst in Limburg niet veel groter was, zodat een terugkeer naar Europa in de toekomst erg onwaarschijnlijk lijkt.  Hebben we (Hans was één van de 25) in ieder geval deze hele mooie avond meegenomen.  

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Progmotion festival - Uden 1 september 2012

Progmotion is dit jaar opgericht als stichting ter promotie van de progressieve muziek. Dat is heel positief en als zij ook nog eens een festival organiseren waar Galahad en Wolverine voor worden gestrikt dan zeg ik petje af voor dit initiatief, moet ik ze toch maar eens gaan sponsoren lijkt me.
Wolverine en Galahad staan allebei garant voor goede live shows en hebben nieuw werk op CD uitgebracht in de afgelopen twaalf maanden dat ik nog nooit live heb gezien dus enorme zin. De teleurstelling  was dan ook groot toen Wolverine wegens longontsteking van de zanger kort voor het festival moest afzeggen. Uden is een behoorlijke rit, maar toen ik belde en hoorde dat Galahad nog steeds als tweede band stond geprogrammeerd was het voor mij toch de moeite waard.

Minor Giant was net begonnen toen ik de Pul in liep, een nieuwe Nederlandse band die volgend jaar zomer hun debuutalbum uit gaat brengen. Een jonge band, waarvan ik alleen de bassist van PBII herkende (deze keer zonder Haagse fluit) bleek aardig uit de voeten te kunnen. Zij kregen behoorlijk veel reactie uit het publiek, maar om eerlijk te zijn begreep ik het enthousiasme niet helemaal. Natuurlijk was de gitarist goed, klonk het samenspel mooi en leek iedereen behoorlijk goed met zijn instrument overweg te kunnen. Maar er was voor mij ook een maar. De toetsenist had wel wat veel Neal Morse poses overgenomen en ik hoorde in de rustige passages toch ook duidelijk invloeden van John Denver voorbij komen. Misschien worden ze groot (in progtermen en in Nederland) maar ik heb niets nieuws gehoord.

Misschien is mijn reactie op Minor Giant wel iets negatiever uitgevallen door de publieksreacties van de avond. Verschillende mensen die Minor Giant te gek vonden, konden Galahad totaal niet waarderen. Opmerkingen als "dit was heel slecht" tot  "het is mijn muziek niet" waren alom aanwezig na afloop van hun concert. En dan komen we bij het dilemma van Galahad. Battle Scars is voor mij tot nu toe één van de absolute hoogtepunten van 2012. Maar Galahad gebruikt samples, dance muziek en grote afwisselingen tussen zachte stukken en heel heftig gitaarwerk. Voor prog puristen kan dit al gauw te ver gaan en als dan ook het geluid nog eens niet optimaal is gedurende het concert haken velen af en beginnen hardop te ouwehoeren achter in de zaal.

Voor diegenen die Galahad wel vatten, was dit een absoluut hoogtepunt. Battle Scars kwam in zijn geheel voorbij en aangezien oudje Sleepers ook op Battle Scars staat, kwamen eigenlijk alleen de laatste twee CD's voorbij. Ik zou zelf graag eens een Galahad weekend meemaken, waar ook alle oude klappers weer gespeeld worden, maar dat zie ik niet snel gebeuren. Feit is gewoon dat wegens hun gewaagde keuzes van het verwerken van hele uiteenlopende muziekstijlen ze gelijk veel te veel potentiële fans afschrikken. Maar nogmaals wie Galahad waardeert had veel te genieten. De live versies kennen af en toe ook leuke variaties op de de CD en de natuurlijke presentatie van de band, zie je bij Nederlandse bands gewoon nooit terug. Hier staan artiesten een show te geven en een droge humoristische opmerking hier en daar voegt voor mij veel toe.

De nummers van Empires Never Last stonden live al eerder als een huis. Nu bleek Battle Scars gelukkig ook gemaakt te zijn om live iedereen omver te blazen. En ja samples met dance muziek draaien gewoon mee en tot mijn eigen verbazing zag ik dit ook als sfeer verhogend. Helaas is mijn filmpje van Seize the Day te groot om hier te laten zien hoe mooi een ballad kan omslaan in dance music en daarna het plafond omlaag te rocken.

Ik ga gelijk de volgende CD die in Oktober uit moet komen bestellen bij de band en wacht al op het boek dat er aan komt. Een band met veel tegenslagen (bassist Neil Pepper nog wel te horen op CD is vandaag precies een jaar geleden overleden aan kanker) kan ik allen maar waarderen met hun opbeurende teksten, zoals naast het mooie Bitter and Twisted toch ook weer Seize the Day, relish every moment, make it something to remember.
Als perfecte motto voor elke Galahad show sluit ik me graag aan bij de ook gespeelde afsluiter van Empires Never Last: This Life could be my last, At least we had a blast.

En toen was het festival voor mij afgelopen. De teleurstelling van het afzeggen van Wolverine was al groot, maar deze werd mogelijk overtroffen door de vervanger. In plaats van een goede Nederlandse prog metal band (Sun Caged, Day Six of Penny's Twisted Flavor) koos de organisatie voor female-fronted goth metal (Kingfisher Sky in dit geval) en die stroming vind ik saai met zangeressen die de nummers vaak zo tenenkrommend aan elkaar praten dat met anderhalf uur rijden in het verschiet de keuze voor mij nog al simpel was.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Linear Sphere - Manvantara

Tech Metal; Gebaseerd op oorschijnlijk onmogelijk techniek keihard door de bochten vliegen zonder ooit de weg kwijt te raken. Eind jaren tachtig begin jaren negentig stonden bands als Watchtower, Hades, Sieges Even, Psychotic Waltz, Anacrusis, Atheist, Toxik aan de basis van deze stroming. Tegenwoordig wordt Djent meestal als techmetal omschreven, maar de oorspronkelike bands hadden toch vaker een zanger die er geen moeite mee had om ook de hoogte in te gaan.

In 2004 was daar opeens Linear Sphere uit Londen met een schitterend debuut album Reality Dysfunction. Zoals het tech metal bands betaamt bestond de basis uit twee top gitaristen Martin Goulding en Charlie Griffiths. een zeer afwisselend album met op zang onze landgenoot Jos Geron. Zijn zang is een kwestie van smaak, en ik herinner mij nog de Aardschok recensie waar deze (niet geheel onterecht) werd vergeleken met de Alice schreeuw in Annihilator's Klassieker Allison Hell. Jaren bleef het stil rond de band en alleen Charlie Griffiths dook op als gitarist bij Haken (geen verdere uitleg nodig voor vaste lezers van mijn blog)

En dan is er nog Progpower in Baarlo. Van 2005 tot zeker 2009 vulde ik altijd Linear Sphere in als band die ik graag op het volgende festival zou willen zien. Van Progpower ken ik ook Andrew, die weer op de site Ave Noctum CD's bespreekt. En zo kwam ik er onlangs na een recensie van Andrew achter dat dit album uit is.

En om na deze lange introductie toch eindelijk met de deur in huis te vallen. Absolute aanrader die ik zeker op Progpower 2013 live hoop te zien. De eerste twee en een halve minuut zetten wel zo genadeloos instrumentaal in dat je verschrikkelijk veel zin in dit album krijgt. Zelden zo een aansprekende opening gehoord. Dan valt Jos Geron in en blijkt zijn zang veel toegankelijker te zijn geworden met nog wel een agressieve bite erin. De CD kent 6 nummers in 43 minuten dat is dus prog genoeg. ook hoor ik enkele rustige intro's voor de algehele afwisseling. Ik heb de CD nu zo'n vijf keer gedraaid en hij wordt nog steeds beter. De teksten zijn een verhaal, maar weer in een hoek die mij niet zo ligt SciFi en realistische reis van de mens door de eeuwen heen of iets dergelijks. Op de website wordt hier uitgebreid op ingegaan voor de liefhebbers.

Dat ze nog bestaan was een hele leuke verrassing, dat ze hun debuut ver overtreffen boven verwachting en zo is in één klap het progmetal jaar een stuk beter dan verwacht de laatste maanden. Wanneer je bij de eerste 100 kopers op hun website hoort, krijg je een gesigneerde versie. Helaas heb ik vast kunnen stellen dat ik daar bij hoorde, al had ik niet anders verwacht met deze band die waarschijnlijk te moeilijk is voor dit Manvantara.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

DMJGH 15: UFO - Strangers in the Night

Waarom moet je deze ook al weer gehoord hebben? Omdat het de beste Live plaat ooit is, dus dat is simpel. UFO schitterende hardrock band die zijn hoogtepunt kende in de jaren zeventig toen Michael Schenker deel uitmaakte van de line-up en er vijf jaar achtereen een klassieker van formaat werd afgeleverd, afgerond na het vertrek van de heer Schenker met deze Klassieker onder de live albums.
Deze CD geeft een mooi overzicht van de vijf CD's  met Schenker en kent eigenlijk alleen maar hoogtepunten. Het is eigenlijk ook ondenkbaar dat een hardrocker boven de 25 jaar niet elk nummer van begin tot eind mee kan zingen. Ik hoef dan ook geen gedetailleerde beschrijving van de nummers te geven, maar wie hem al weer even niet heeft gehoord denk aan: Natural Thing, Doctor Doctor, Mother Mary, Love to Love, Lights Out, Rock Bottom en je weet weer genoeg.

UFO na dit live album is altijd een sterke band gebleven. We hebben veel verschillende gitaristen voorbij zien komen door de jaren heen (inclusief enkele terugkomsten van Michael Schenker), maar de huidige band draait op de nog steeds grandioze stem van Phil Mogg en het mooie gitaar spel van Vinnie Moore. Uit nostalgisch verstandig oogpunt, komt live vrijwel altijd bijna de gehele Strangers in the Night voorbij en kippenvel is zo gegarandeerd. Michael Schenker laat bij her beluistering weer horen waarom hij ooit de reden was dat ik gitaar wilde spelen.

Voor diegenen die weer geanimeerd zijn en zeggen, ja die moet ik toch gelijk op CD halen: niet doen. Ik heb onlangs UFO-The Chrysalis Years (1973-1979) aangeschaft. Zo krijg je voor de prijs van een enkele CD deze klassieker met daarbij de vijf volledige studio albums (Phenomenon, Force It, No Heavy Petting, Lights Out en Obsession), plus live opnames uit 1974 USA tour, John Peel en Bob Harris sessions en enkele losse single edits. Lijkt mij nogal een inkoppertje. Het leuke is dat een zelfde soort verzameling ook bestaat voor UFO 1980-1986, MSG en Saxon, dus die zullen na dit succes binnenkort ook wel in huis zijn.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage

2012 is tot nog toe niet het jaar van de Progmetal klassiekers (buiten Headspace dan). Voor diegenen met een open smaak richting iets extremere metal is er gelukkig wel veel interessants uitgekomen. Onlangs beschreef ik mijn waardering voor Ihsahn al, en eerder dit jaar waren o.a. Gorod en In Mourning goed voor sterke CD's met voldoende technische ondergrond om  progmetal liefhebbers mogelijk ook aan te spreken. En nu heb ik eindelijk Gojira eens uitgeprobeerd. Sinds twee a drie CD's terug leken zij mij altijd al interessant en nu eindelijk de nieuwste eens echt aangeschaft met daarbij een extra DVD dus meteen een aardig overzicht van hun geschiedenis.

En wat een band is dit weer zeg. Door denderen is het motto, schreeuwen is de zang, maar toch weten zij mij absoluut te pakken met hele afwisselende nummers die vol staan van gehaaste bas ritmes en verrassende gitaar riffs. Aan de bijgesloten DVD te zien is het live een feestje (waar is het feestje?..) al denk ik dat de leeftijd van het publiek gemiddeld Progpower min 15 zal zijn. Wie uit deze vage beschrijving niet veel referenties kan halen, denk aan de tweede CD van het Duitse Disillusion, maar dan sneller en zwaarder.

En ze zijn nog Frans ook, dus nooit gedacht dat ik dat nog eens zou schrijven, maar nu toch waar: Viva La France!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

DMJGH 14: Cave In - Jupiter

Dit is een aparte band. Deze CD was één van mijn absolute favorieten uit 2000. Ik heb hierna hun voorganger gekocht die veel te veel hardcore invloeden had. Hierna ben ik ze nog blijven volgen met een mini en volledige CD en gingen ze te veel de gewone gitaarrock kant op naar mijn smaak. Maar ondertussen hebben ze wel deze tijdloze klassieker uitgebracht onder de titel Jupiter.

Het titelnummer begint lekker snel met mooi opzwepend gitaarwerk en een catchy riff die je meteen meesleurt tot In the Stream of Commerce wat nog meeslepender door gaat. Drie keer raden hoe de gitaar loop van Big Riff tekeer gaat.Heb ik deze CD weer eens op staan, ben ik gelijk weer waanzinnig onder de indruk. Na afloop van dit bericht toch weer eens op internet zoeken of ze nog bestaan. Innuendo and Out the Other volgt weer met mooie afwisselingen in tempo en sfeer. Via Brain Candle and Requim komen we bij het instrumentale Decay of the Delay voordat afsluiter New Moon opent met misschien wel de mooiste zin uit de rock geschiedenis :"So I saw the angel girl hang her wings by the door".

Deze CD is zeer terecht in de categorie Deze Moet Je Gehoord Hebben geplaatst. Ieder jaar draai ik hem een keer en zeker wanneer ik de mooie teksten mee lees is dit drie kwartier genieten van de buitencategorie. Nu moet ik stoppen, want halverwege de CD snel op zoek naar hun laatste toer plannen.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Buzios - The House of Rock 'n' Roll

Enige weken stilstand op de blog komt voornamelijk door de vakantie. Casa Buzios (zeg: Boesiejos) ons paradijs op aarde, bleek de beste aanschaf van de afgelopen twintig jaar (op zo'n duizend CD's na) Nu staat Buzios niet bekend om zijn levende progrock of metal scene, mar compenseert zon, strand, drank en BBQ genoeg. Ons huis kent ondertussen een beginnende verzameling DVD's die het zelfs voor mensen die de bovenstaande opsomming niet interessant vinden, een muzikale reden biedt voor een vakantie in Buzios. Met DVD's van Marillion, Dream Theater, Rush, Transatlantic en sinds gisteren Pendragon aangeschaft, is er zelfs bij regen muzikaal iets te beleven.

Wij zagen een religieuze feestdag met zeer dreigende trompet muziek, die aan de Spaanse week voor Pasen deed denken. Ook was er een MPB festival met live optredens tot thuis te horen. Hoogtepunt is echter de muziek bar House of R'nR. Hier staat een hele leuke cover band en kon Tiago zelfs de gitarist al erg waarderen. Getraind door guitar-Hero heb ik hem veel Classic Rock laten horen (de makkelijkste ingang naar hardere of technische versies). Terwijl Josy aan het winkelen voor ons huis was, hebben wij samen genoten van zeer goed gespeelde covers van Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones en een mij onbekend gitaar held nummer.Dit rook naar stamkroeg en wij komen zeker terug voor nog een Guarana (Tiago) een wat Bohemias voor mij.


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Ihsahn - Eremita

Ihsahn komt uit de Black Metal scene (Emperor), maar laat dit vooral geen reden zijn om gelijk te stoppen met lezen. De vorige solo CD (After) was al één van de meest aangrijpende CD's ooit en nu heeft hij gewoon weer een nieuwe mix van melancholie, aggressie en waanzin in elkaar geknutselt. Hulp hierbij komt van Devin Townsend, Jeff Loomis (Nevermore) en de zanger van Leprous. Allen voegen hun typische eigen geluid toe en sluiten naadloos aan bij de sfeer van deze CD.

Meest opvallend is het typische metal instrument de saxofoon. Gespeeld door Jorgen Monkeby van Shining ben ik meteen weer geïnteresseerd in zijn eigen band. Dit instrument komt in enkele nummers terug en net als bij After worden hele nieuwe niveaus van emotie bereikt met deze combinatie.

Mensen die nog op zoek zijn naar dramatische nummers voor hun begrafenis moeten eens naar Grief/ The Grave luisteren. Waanzinnige plaat.die eigenlijk gewoon op Progpower gespeeld dient te worden (had ik Martijn al voorgesteld, tijdens Obscura, niet gelukt dus volgend jaar dan maar).

Sunday, 1 July 2012

DMJGH 13: Sigma 5 - Busca

Brazilië en metal: dan denk je al gauw aan Sepultura of Angra en voor de iets meer inside kenners misschien aan Krisiun, Almah, Thessara of Deventter. Maar ik heb natuurlijk door de jaren heen iets dieper in de scene kunnen duiken en kan dan ook verschillende bands voorstellen die waarschijnlijk niet zo snel onder de aandacht komen in Europa. Nog steeds loop ik de speciaal zaakjes af bij een bezoek aan Rio en zo kwam ik de laatste keer terug met Blue Mammoth (ook positief ontvangen in iO Pages en op DPRP) en het op Ayreon lijkende Genesis Experiment.

Wanneer je echter de markt verruimt naar bands die in het Portugees zingen, kom je uit bij mijn favoriete Braziliaanse progmetal band aller tijden: Sigma 5. Op het ijzersterke debuut Initium legden ze in het nummer XXX Rated al uit waarom ze in het Portugees zingen (ze willen immers iets uitdrukken en in een taal die je niet beheerst gaat dat niet zo makkelijk)  Op deze CD stond ook de klassieker Eu sou de Rio (Ik kom uit Rio) een prachtige ode aan de mooiste stad ter wereld, inclusief problemen en stelende politici. Volgens mij bestaat de band niet meer en dat is jammer. Hun tweede CD is namelijk van erg hoog niveau en bevat alles wat Progmetal zo aantrekkelijk maakt. Stevige gitaar muren, snelle solo's afwisselend drumwerk, toetsen dekens, mooie ballads (Ponto Zero!!) en teksten die ergens over gaan, maar dan moet je weer wel Portugees kunnen lezen.

Negen nummers tussen de 4:30 en 9:30 geven een uur genieten van de afwisseling die deze zwaar onderschatte band voor elkaar kreeg. Ik kan hun keuze voor het Portugees wel waarderen, maar besef ook dat een internationale doorbraak zo wel erg moeilijk wordt. Volgende keer in Rio ga ik wel op zoek naar eventuele nieuwe bands van de leden, want zulke goede muzikanten kunnen niet opeens stoppen met spelen lijkt mij.

In de categorie deze moet je gehoord hebben is dit een moeilijk geval, want een obscure CD van een niet meer bestaande band, die niet eens in het Engels zong kan je natuurlijk nergens vinden. Ik zal hem voor bezoek met interesse eens opzetten.Als ik erg ver vooruit kijk en denk aan een Progpower Brasil (vervroegd pensioen plan van mij!) dan lijkt een reünie optreden van deze band mij zeer geschikt als afsluiter. Maar ja plannen maken en uitvoeren zijn twee. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Rush - Clockwork Angels

Na vijf jaar is er weer eens een nieuwe Rush plaat. Dit is hun eerste concept album ooit, hij zou iets harder dan gebruikelijk zijn, dus maar gelijk gekocht. De berichten klopten, iets harder dan de laatste voorgangers en inderdaad een verhaal. Nou interesseert dat laatste mij minder, want de opbouw bestaat gewoon uit twaalf nummers en als het verhaal doorloopt zal dat wel, maar ik hoor 12 losse nummers.

Rush is een band met drie gezichten. De jaren zeventig LP's die ik via Hans leerde kennen in de jaren tachtig en hun voor mij beste werk bevatten. Hoewel zij altijd door ontwikkeld zin en met hun tijd meegingen, hebben ze nooit meer klassiekers van het niveau, 2112, The Trees, La Villa Strangiatto of Hemispheres geschreven. De laatste (en voor velen grootste) klassieker is Moving Pictures, met Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ en verder inderdaad een buitencategorie plaat.Hierna bleef Rush in fase twee altijd goede platen uitbrengen, maar zou het voor mij nooit meer wereldschokkend worden.

En dan is er als derde Rush live: één van de grootste shows ter aarde, die altijd voor een topavond zorgt. De keren dat ik Rush live zag, was ik altijd onder de indruk van het hele pakket. Nummers, Show, filmpjes en zelfs een drumsolo die interessant blijft. Na een live show gaan de nummers veel meer spreken en zo kan het gebeuren dat mijn eerste Rush show er voor gezorgd heeft dat het over het algemeen niet als hoogtepunt in hun loopbaan geziene Hold Your Fire nog steeds één van mijn favoriete Rush albums is.,want dat album stond centraal tijdens de eerste tour die ik zag.

En nu kan je al kaartjes kopen voor hun concert in de Ziggo Dome volgend jaar juni!!. Dat doe ik niet met werk-trips die kunnen hinderen, maar mocht ik in het land zijn dan ga ik zeker kijken. Want wat blijkt, ik heb Clockwork Angels nu zo'n vijf keer gedraaid, herken de nummers en wat een lekker plaatje is dit. Misschien hun beste sinds Hold Your Fire, dus Sergio en Hans kunnen begin juni 2013 ook al vast vrij houden.