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.