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)