Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Best shows of 2013

Just before year end I can present my favorite shows of the past 12 months. When going back through the year I sadly found out that the list of missed shows (mostly due to work trips) is extremely impressive this year as well. The following shows shall not make my top 10 since I was not there while I should have been: ProgPower Europe, Headway, Marillion Weekend, Fates Warning, Kingcrow, Symphony X, Attacker, Savage Messiah, Salem and countless others. Still I did visit the below list and building up to number one I realized the year was not that bad after all.

10. Pendragon - Boerderij Zoetermeer May
High quality as always. With no new material released visiting some surprising songs though. They shall never disappoint.

9. Haken - Boerderij Zoetermeer September.
After several listens I don't think their new album is their strongets, but this show was definitely the best I ever saw from them. Not knowing the new songs yet the performance impressed and musically they remain amazing. Back for Progdreams next year another guaranteed good show.

8. Galahad - Theater Alphen aan de Rijn September
Performers who enjoy themselves on stage and give defintely more of a show than your average Prog band. The outfits, the poses and most of all the songs. Concentrating on their last three albums maybe missing out on some classics, but Seize the Day proved again to be their new definition song.

7. MSG - Patronaat Haarlem May
With the bass/drums borrowed from the Scorpions plus vocalist Dougie White a great line up and very good setlist. Surprises coming more from the Scorpions past, but Michael Schenker in good shape showed why he got me picking up my first guitar some 32 years ago ( and still I can't nail down Into the Arena)

6. Steven Wilson - Boerderij Zoetermeer July
Musically possibly the best band this year on artistic level. Playing the brilliant album The Raven That Refused to Sing in full next to other solo work from the man himself including a revisiting of Radioactive Toys. Highlight for guitar Wizzard Guthrie Gowan with his amazing solo on Drive Home.

5. Primitive Instinct - The Peel Kingston Upon Thames August
Sexy Prog festival and my favorite Simon Godfrey could not make it. The day was more than saved by Primitive Instinct who gave an overview of their long career during which they mainly did bugger all. Similar to Credo, Also Eden or GLD in the past, how many British bands walk around that totally convince seeing them for the first time live, yet are appreciated and known by far too few.

4. Angel Witch - Baroeg Rotterdam February
Some songs you played hundreds of times, but never saw performed live and this band produced one of the best. Their song Angel Witch shouted along by a packed Baroeg is one of the best memories from this year. The rest of the show was as good. I did read that later in the year Holocaust played Heavy Metal Maniacs in Amersfoort which resulted in a full stage of fans. Missed that one, but should have been equally brilliant.

3. Queensryche - Effenaar Eindhoven November
Best show in 25 years by Queensryche, with new vocalist Todd La Torre being able to sing their best material. Focus on The Warning I only saw smiling faces at the end of the show. Next time including London, Anybody Listening, Prophecy or many others and we are just pleased Queensryche returned this good.

2. Fish - Paradiso Amsterdam September.
Talking about comebacks. The Fish is back. With his best album in years, advanced by his best show in years. Fish is THE performer in Progland. Highlights of course the Marillo Classics, but High Wood suite is impressive. Next time (if?) he organizes a weekend I shall go Fishing as well.

1. Hell - R-Mine Festival Belgium June.
Warmed up by great shows Cloven Hoof and great moments of my personal back catalogue Holocaust, Savage the Headliner was Hell. Never did I see such a great show from a band this size.  Helped by their NWOBHM with a progressive to trashy edge this show was the one that took me most by surprise and felt like more. Still  did not get their new album which shall be one of the first to buy in January, going for the extra DVD, since this show should be seen.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Vulture Industries - The Tower

After reading Andrew's review on Ave Noctum of this CD I knew we might have a winner here. Comparing them with Arcturus I decided to find more information on them and soon a copy was ordered. Shortly hereafter Progpower announced the first bands for 2014 and there they were. When also Headway announced them  for next event I realized that supposing work trips are not frustrating my plans again, I might see them twice next year and I already am looking forward to these shows.

Apart from Arcturus I also read comparisons with Extol, Leprous and Faith no More. I agree with all names and you can paint the picture nicely using these names. Vulture Industries shall appeal to the slightly more adventurous prog metal fans. We go all over the place and eccentric vocals mix with widely varied speeds and Headphone requiring background noises. My favorites are the haunting The Hound, the "ballad" The Dead won't Mind and A Knife Between Us which contains one of the better line of 2013 "I'd love to love you, but there's a knife between us."

It is hard to describe the music really (at least to me it is), but I can imagine that live this band shall completely blow me away with a theatrical performance fitting nicely to the music.
Vulture Industries: Something to end the year on a high and to look forward to in 2014. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Pallas crowdfunding Wearewhoweare

Some months ago I bought the last The Tangent album to find that I missed out on their crowdfunding campaign. As I do sympathize with these actions from bands I like, herewith a short link and recommendation to visit the Pallas campaign.

Pallas are a band that always delivers quality albums and shows with a progrock with hardrocking edges, so what is there to go wrong. I ordered the CD and tried to get the calendar along, but that did not really work through their site.

Have a look at the options, which run from GBP 2 for a download track to GBP 1000 for recording a song with the band (How great is that?)
The target is GBP 5000, so come on that should be easy. I just got a confirmation after my CD purchase that they are almost halfway.

A review of the album shall follow in April / May, now go and spend some pounds supporting great bands.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Traumhaus - Das Geheimnis

German lyrics in music, not my everyday need really. Then I went through my collection and found a pattern. Usually in November I find one album in German that fits the time of year pretty well. Autumn, wind, rain and cold do seem the perfect background for my albums from Janus, Dornenreich, Goethes Erben, Lacrimosa or The Scorpions (no that is not English Mr. Meine) Usually the before mentioned bands (apart from The Scorpions who don't know they sing in German) make a dark rock with Gothic traces. This year I found a new German Band which adds a new dimension to my collection. A beautiful progressive rock concept album sung in German: Das Geheimnis by Traumhaus.

After the relative short opener Das Geheimnis Teil 1 we get one of the best epics of 2013 in Das Vermächtnis. 27 minutes full of solo's on guitar and keyboard passing in a wave. It actually makes you think, what if they would sing in English, they might be "big" in Progland. Well the booklet translates the German lyrics, but like Scandinavian prog that makes little sense to me since reading along doesn't work on a translated version (apart from my arrogance to believe I actually do understand German reasonably well, hallo Mr. Carell) After the Epic follows a ballad and the only band written song Frei, which is more uptempo. Closer is Das Geheimnis Teil 2, which is an extended version finishing the CD in style filled up again by great solo's.

Traumhaus seem to exist many years, but only released 3 CD's so far. I heard their album first through Progstreaming after reading good reviews and it shows Progstreaming works. I followed their slogan: Hear it, Like it, Buy it. Anyone not bothered by the German lyrics and rather flat vocals, while appreciating symphonic rock with some progmetal leanings, should surf now to Progstreaming it is still available for free listening.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Room - Open Fire

Sometimes you buy a CD. like it and don't play it that often. Than later you pick it up again, give it a spin with headphones on and start realizing it is a great album. This happened to me with the debut CD of The Room: Open Fire. Somewhere blending Prog, AOR, classic and pomp rock I love the style on display and the songs are really easy on the ear, while also showing new dephts with new listenings.

Highlights are all around, but the threatening slow built up of 16 tonnes is one of my personal faves, as well as a Multitude of Angels, which is a great melodic rock song. Actually all nine songs have their moments and going from ballad to more uptempo work there is enough variety to enjoy the 56 minutes in one go.

The members all have different backgrounds in music and to me only vocalist Martin Wilson and gitarist Steve Anderson were known from their previous (or paralel?) band Grey Lady Down. So here we have yet another British band that sounds very convincing and as I am heading for HRH Prog/AOR festival next year in Wales they might to me appear on either stage. Highly recommended for anyone liking either, prog, pomp, aor or classic rock (speaking about huge potentials)

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Queensryche - Effenaar Eindhoven 1 November 2013

The story is known, Queensryche were in the eighties one of the best bands around and one of the founders of Progmetal as we know today. The first three albums can be considered Classics in the genre and ironically enough their best selling album Empire was their first hint of loosing "it". Promised Land raised our hopes again, but hereafter some very disappointing and some reasonable albums were released. Geoff Tate also showed through the years that he could not reach his old form anymore, which even started impacting live setlists and styles on new albums. So yesterday the Effenaar was packed with people hoping to see that new vocalist Todd la Torre would make the eighties come back to live. And wishes can come true, since we saw a very convincing Todd on vocals and easily the best Queensryche show since the early nineties.

The band opened smart with Queen of the Reich. Their hit from the debut EP long disappeared from live shows and did set the pace, the vocals and the atmosphere. Standing fairly far to the back I could notice the whole place was more than a bit pleased noticing old Queensryche are back. Hereafter we got Speak and Walk in the Shadows and basically nothing could go wrong anymore. We were taken on a trip along the first 4 albums and some of my favorites like The Needle Lies or Roads to Madness passed by. It was also nice to see and hear that the three songs from their last album blended in easily, without any remarkable drop in quality. Actually it was nice to see that the ballad Silent Lucidity was dropped and replaced by the new slowsong A World Without. Definitely hope for the future. If I have to make one small complaint it should be that one of their lesser songs Jet City Woman still made it to list even as an encore (I thought this a Geoff Tate fave, due to easy vocal lines) The fact that hereafter they ended the show like any Queensryche show should end with Take Hold of The Flame, made all ending on the same high as they started. Apart from all fans present I even got the impression that the band were enjoying the evening a lot.

So Queensryche are back and we can only hope that they find inspiration for releasing many more new albums. For their live shows in the future they still have many oldies to surprise us with, so variation should not be a problem. I did see Todd La Torre two years ago already putting the Glory back into Crimson Glory. Now he managed to do the same with Queensryche. Concluding I can only state that the American judges never saw such an easy case, when (if) they ever shall decide who should keep the name. Just ask any fan. Queensryche over the past twenty years had this habit of auto-destruction. With the new CD and now this tour they regained all goodwill build up in the eighties.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Fates Warning - Darkness in a Different Light

After nine years they release a new album, two weeks later they start their European tour with two shows in Holland to promote the new album and work sends me abroad. The hit was well placed and took some time to recover, but the album got me over it. So Fates Warning  is back and I can add with a blow. After their last albums showed some flirtation with electronics and special effects this time it is all about guitars.

The hurried opening riff of One Thousand Fires makes this one  that live should come over just great to get everyone started (as I won't know due to....) One off their better riffs ever and a great song to open. Firefly I saw live one year ago, but did not recognize immediatey. A catchy song almost as good as the opener. Desire starts calm, but then tempoes up during the droning in your own desire, after another duo like that the song moves heavier; great song. Then follows a ballad in Falling. Unfortunately a very short one, but what a voice Ray Alder still has. Such emotion makes this song absolutely beautiful. Strange enough his voice is the reason why many people do not rate FW that high. To me he is one of the (if not the) best vocalists around. The short moment of rest is followed by yet another uptempo song I Am. Probably the most catchy chorus to shout along: I Am tearing Walls Down. Lighthouse is about a broken relationship and has a dark melancholic atmosphere about it carried again by Ray Alder's raw edged voice. Lyrically it is also good to realize that the lighthouse always waits for you. Into the Black hits hard again for the contrast and has some off the better riffs of the CD. Kneel and Obey for me could be on FWX as one of the heavy songs, atmospheric yet heavy enough. O Chloroform adds Kevin Moore to the writers team and moves somewhat into OSI directions to me, untill vocals kick in that is when we are back in known territories. Closer is by far the longest song And Yet it Moves, but to me also the only disappointment on the CD. Not that the parts are bad (apart from the too long folky guitar intro) it just is not what you expect when you see Fates Warning including a song of 14 minutes. You hope on a new Eleventh Hour, Still Remains or APSOG and actually get very much like Marillion sometimes does several bits and pieces glued together, without being one epic song really. Still as I said the parts are OK, so nowhere near a deception to end Darkness in a Different Light.

This CD is supposed to go back to releases of the eighties and I can see what is meant by that. Still the catchiness and way of the last albums are also very present. The best conclusion can only be that it is a typical Fates Warning album, which means that hardly anyone shall release a better album this year There might be no epic song as we came to know and love from Fates Warning this time, but in return we do get various catchy heavy songs with an edge. Great album and while you get your copy go for the special edition. The extra CD gives an extended Firefly, Falling Further is a different version of the short ballad and in One and Life in Still Water we get the show openers from the last years performed live at Progpower USA.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Fish - A Feast of Consequences

While the blog went quiet due to an annoying worktrip which made me miss Progpower I did find a small highlight upon return home. The special edition of A Feast of Consequences arrived by mail. And a special edition is a good description here. 100 pages booklet with foreword, lyrics and flooded with artwork of the long time Fish collaborators Mark & Julie Wilkinson. Going through the booklet before even hearing the album is already worth the money spend. The number of great drawings never ends and the information is plenty. Also did I manage to see the additional DVD with a making of, explanation of song themes as well as live performances of the songs in an earlier phase. If ever a special edition was recommended it is this one, but no it does not fit in your CD rack.

As CD's thrive about the music some words are necessary on that as well. Some weeks ago I saw Fish live in Paradiso and wrote the Fish is back. After hearing the CD now a few times I can repeat that line. I believe this one in time shall stand proudly in his top three best albums next to Vigil and Sunsets on Empires. The Opening track Perfume River is epic like on a trip to Vietnam. We get the slow introduction and and upgrade in tempo. All Loved up is his big finger up to all those participants in X Factor, Idols and whatever shit around. People who never got the idea that artists have to create something not copy. Blind to the Beautiful is a dark ballad on changing environment, which never seems to be admitted. The title track is a catching more uptempo song and brings us to the centre of the album the 5-song divided on the theme of WWI. In Holland this war passed by in reality and so also on our history lessons. For Fish this subject is very personal as both his grandparents went to this war. He visited the trenches at High Wood. I remember the impressive images live accompanying this song and probably it deserves a place among the alltime highlights in his career. Other side of me is passing slowly by with a more spoken lyric building up to a more expressive solo, by the modestly present Robin Boult on guitar. Closer The Great Unravelling is another orchestral ballad like song with some nice melodies.

So Fish is back. Lyrically at the usual poetic level we came to love from him. This time not a relationship album as he mentions on the DVD we do get some food for thought. His voice is of course not as powerful as over thirty years ago, but the expression is still very much there. Anyone who gave upon on Fish along the years give this album a try, as stated above I believe this one ranks among his best as well as the highlights of 2013. For fans of Mark Wilkinson (like me) he also shows about his best work ever, although the jester and his symbolism shall never be met again. Closing therefore with the Fish out of Perfume River recommended not to eat by pollution.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Submarine Silence - There's Something Very Strange in her Little Room

While I am curiously waiting for the arrival of new CD's of Dream Theater and Fates Warning to decide which of the great three in Progmetal releases the best new album this year (as if I shall give DT a fair chance) I decided to quickly put some attention on this little unnoticed grower in the more symphonic, excentric prog rock world. Submarine Silence releasesd an album before, but are new to me. In this setup that is, since I do own most releases of Moongarden, members of which are the core of this band as well. Cristiano Roversi on Keyboards and guitars plus David Cremoni on guitars are the basis of the band. While Moongarden are slightly heavier, we get here Italian Prog which on the non instrumental songs is dominated by Peter Hamill like vocals. Just for that reason any fan of VDGG or Discipline should already give this CD a try.

There is a story being told here as well, but with one of those booklets which aim at making the letter type as hard to read as possible I did so far not bother to read along. Still I must state that on every new listen this album still manages to get more interesting to me. Many short instrumentals are mixed up with some haunting songs with vocals (Strange Awakening) and overall there is some threatening atmosphere over the music that kind of gets me interested in the story anyway.

Keeping it as short as promised, nice album both for headphone listenings or on the background during a romantic autumn evening with the wind howling around the house. I do hope though that Cristiano Roversi who also released a solo album recently shall find some time to write new material for Moongarden as well. Great when creative artists aim at releasing many parallel projects at the same time. Surprisingly good album and wondering when it stops growing on me.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Fish - Paradiso Amsterdam 18 September 2013

The Fish is back! The Fish himself said so and right he was. Promoting his first new album in 6 years (A Feast of Consequences) a European tour started and after three UK shows he arrived in good shape in Amsterdam. A new album meant many new songs. I am one of the few thousand special edition orderers who missed out on the target date due to a printing company letting Fish and Mark Wilkinson terribly down. This meant undergoing the new songs for the first time life and I can say I am now curiously waiting for the album. Especially the long song on WWI was impressive. As always Fish sings about matters that touch him. So we got WWI, Global warming, Syria, X-Factor celebrities, vinyl and wine, Fish on stage is one of the greatest personalities and it remains amazing how he manages to dominate an audience.

So there were many new songs, but also a lot of Marillion Classics. 30 years after launching the album I was more than a bit pleased when Fish after an all new opening sang one of the best opening lines ever: "So here I am once more, in the playground of the broken hearts". Script remains one of my all time favorite songs (which I noticed I can still shout along from start to finish) Further we got He knows, Assasing, Freaks, White Feather and the jumping shouting part of Fugazi. And to complete the two hour show we got a nice overview of his solo albums. Interesting to see how some of the songs that on album might not be my favorites, came really alive and were highlights of the evening ("What color is God", "Suits").

For an entertaining evening of great music Fish proved to be still the man. How was his voice? is not an unusual question. Well somewhat light at the beginning, warming up through the show and very good on the oldies. Anyone in doubt to see Fish on tour should stop doubting and support the man that deserves it based upon his great legacy for music lovers. The Fish is back indeed.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pink Project - Peace Palace The Hague 14 September 2013

The Hague is the city of Peace and Justice and happens to be my hometown. The Peace Palace is commemorating it's 100th anniversary and the week started with a live show of Pink Project. Since next week it is world peace day, as well as Tiago's birthday and it is about time we confront him with some good music Tiago went along and we enjoyed a beautiful show which easily exceeded my expectations. Pink Project exist almost 20 years and the way they went through Dark Side of the Moon before the break and essentials of The Wall thereafter was impressive. Being Tiago's debut at a paid show it was nice to see that the show was also extremely well prepared, with many interestimng clips playing along on the two big screens next to the stage.
Playing was flawless, singing was good (Great Gig in the Sky, was a highlight on vocals) and nothing lacking a show matching this occassion. I won't repeat comments/frustrations why a cover band attracts 10-20 times more people than the great Galahad (or I just did), but with the lack of original Pink Floyd existing and Roger Waters playing The Wall last week for the third or fourth time in two years in Holland, this is the best to see this timeless music being played live.
Personal highlight: clapping and singing along with Tiago during "We don't need no education".

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Galahad & The Aurora Project - Alphen aan de Rijn 13 September 2013

Under the monniker Serious Music event Galahad hit Holland again and serious it was. Upon late arrival we were already told that no pinning option was mentioned by the ticket exchange and we should have read the information. The venue turned out to be a cinema setup, which basically kills all attempts for good atmosphere. To top things drinks were not allowed inside the venue, which me being by car was less annoying than if I would have opted for public transport. Finally on the serious front we had opening band Sylvium releasing their CD. If you have six man on stage and only the drummer and bass player seem somewhat at ease being there it becomes nerve-wrecking to watch this. Probably if hearing their CD only I would rate them higher, now easily scoring very high on my personal list of most boring shows ever.

After an half-hour break (where everybody wanted to order a drink at the one bar) The Aurora Project came on and things could only get better, as they did. I saw them before at Progpower and once supporting an international band and considered them OK. This time however, I thought them very good. Obviously their last CD Selling the Aggression is their best album yet and playing it in full made me buy it after the show. It was nice to see how apart from the great songs, interesting anti-war themes and good performance overall also the show got some attention. We got on video several interesting images accompanying the music and the band seemed to enjoy themselves as well. I did not realize that this band would now be among the best bands Holland has to offer, great surprise.

Following the second half-hour break Galahad was on. It is already a joy to see their stage outfits before starting and the shouting back to the crowd from Mark and Roy showed Galahad are performers and they come to entertain us. Never a boring moment they run through their last albums showing us how well the blend of electronic music, heavy guitars plus prog epics com alive on stage. Lyrically they often go for optimism and good doing coming from yourself rather than any religion or god. The last shouted line from opener Salvation set the spirit on that sense: "Believe in your own bloody beating heart!" Last year they just released Battle Scars when they played live and put the focus on that album. Meanwhile they also released Beyond the Realms of Euphoria and the show centered around this one. Only oldy was Sleepers which we got in an epic performance. On bass we now have Mark Spence and seems slightly mental onstage, which adds so much to the whole experience. After one and a half hour we got one encore and one year down the road I can state that "Seize the Day" is the ultimate party-dance-prog-jumping-up-and-down-yet-very-uplifting song. Finally we got to our feet and people did jump, clap and grin along. What a blast as a finish and I do fully agree while shouting along "Seize the day, relish every moment. Make it something to remember".

So a word of thanks to the organization is in place, you could feel the love for the music that drives them to give us this evening. For me the venue is not very suited for rock shows (at a certain moment I wished being in de Baroeg,, which being a sleaze dark metal, beer and sweat place is so much the opposite), but anyone who gives us one of the most entertaining live bands should get a lot of credits.


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Reuben Archer's - Personal Sin

Well here's another surprise for you. Those who know me, or this blog when I still wrote in Dutch know that one of my all time favorite bands is Stampede. In the early eighties they released two classics with thier debut Live (!) album Official Bootleg Live at Reading and Mildenhall plus my all time top five favorite album Hurricane Town. They reformed some years ago and released the very decent A Sudden Impulse. Stampede was formed by Reuben Archer and his stepson Laurence Archer in the early eighties. Doing the simple maths we can conclude that Reuben now reached an age where most people think about retirement. Well not him and let us be very pleased with that decision. Apart from setting an inspiring example, this album just gives us great eighties Bluesy hardrock that unfortunately is not mached by many younger hard rock bands nowadays.

The list of guests is enormous and with names like Dave Menikketi, Luke Morley, Paul Quin, Neil Murray anyone loving eighties hardrock knows that lack of quality is not an issue.The songs themselves are also in a style I can not make many complaints about. We get Bluesy hardrock uptempo and more ballad like. We get lyrics about personal sufferings and Rock and Roll, but mostly we get Reuben Archer showing that he is still one of the best voices in melodic hard rock. Rob Wolverson needs to be mentioned as well, since he is the other driving man behind this album.

Anyone with the slightest interest in eighties hard rock, or who like me recognizes that Hurricane Town is one of the best albums ever released ( I know we are with a rather small crowd) absolutely needs to give this album an ear. Doubt it you shall not be happily singing along  with the Ace Cafe, Bulletproof, Personal Sin or the single Play my Rock 'n' Roll. Without aiming at disrespecting the proofen still top vocals of Reuben Archer I cannot let that lyric pass. "Mama Don't allow no Rock 'n' Roll Playin' here". Given Reuben's right to retire his mother should be pushing 90. Good to see that no matter our age, we still get upset by what our parents think and want.

While Reuben Archer thanks his friends by raising a glass of good Rioja, I shall raise many Bock Beers to him over the autumn, since surely this album will appear in my CD player a lot. What a good surprise indeed.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Haken, Soul Secret - de Boerderij 4 September 2013

Wednesday night, one month before returning for Progpower festival, a new CD being too recent with two days after official release to know, Moon Safari the day before for soft Prog fans, Mike Portnoy with  his new band The Winery Dogs two days later, both at the same Boerderij. To go short the odds were not too good, so I can only conclude to be more than a bit pleased that at least the front of the Boerderij was nicely packed and over 100 people nowadays on a Wednesday night is not very bad any longer. Stop nagging about small audiences the best news was that Haken were better than ever before and defintely convinced the ones who were there that they are one of the bright hopes for both Prog rock and metal audiences.

First we got warmed up by the to me unknown Italo-prog-metallers from Soul Secret. 4 songs in 45 minutes with some great instrumental parts and the special one on vocals. Not that his voice was in the prog-metal uberleague, but he looked more than a little bit like Jose Mourinho (sorry the picture is out of focus during an instrumental break). Nice opener and maybe not shockingly renewing yet another good band from Italy (I missed Kingcrow live last Saterday, but also recall great Italian shows from Moongarden, Sadist and Memento Waltz).

Haken headlining was a new experience to me. After festival appearances at Progpower and Night of the Prog, they passed de Boerderij last year together with Headspace. This time we got treated on a full show of 1 hour 45 minutes and since both band and audience seemed to like it no doubt they shall return. As I bought their new album The Mountain at the show I only read some raving reviews on the album, but was not familiar with the new songs. Not to worry since Haken is based upon standing and staring in awe. Not many bands do switch so easily from style, while making it all sound extremely easy. For those who did not like them much before I can tell that also the new songs included anything from burlesque circus music to pretty heavy metal. For me the going all over the place is a bonus, since part of the show is admiring their control. Helped by yet another great sound at de Boerderij (great stage sound by Ron Dingen) the time flew by and one epic followed another. From the new songs most striking was Cockroach King, which had some reference to the Spock's Beard Thoughts songs as well as the more metallic parts. My favorites of the old songs were Shapeshifter and Drowning in the Flood, not coincidentally two songs which go all the way up to grunting. Mentioning the grunts I do know that in the past Ross Jennings on vocals has been mentioned as a possible limitation to the bands development. I never saw this during their live shows, but yesterday he was even better than I saw him before. His range from carrying a piano ballad to shouting and grunting is impressive all around.

But Haken is about the band and all are masters in their area, showing off in a sympathetic way that they are just a bit above average. I shall now put on a headphone get the booklet out and read along while playing The Mountain for the first time. No doubt many spins shall follow after which I know all the songs again when they hit Baarlo. If they more than impress a little again I might even look for Danfest tickets, but with the amount of shows coming up the next months that remains stargazing for the moment.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Cyclops Prog - The Peel, Kingston Upon Thames 24 August 2013

The Peel is a famous club often referred to in Prog magazine and receiving many of British best prog rock bands over the years. So on the day thast I read in the same Prog magazine that upto 100,000 people voted for their annual poll I was looking forward to a great atmosphere and a full house given the line-up of Simon Godfrey (Shineback is still great after many spins), Mr. So & So, Primitive Instinct and Haze. Much to my surprise there were only a few people queing up when the late opening Peel was still under soundcheck due to traffic problems for Haze. 100,000 voters against less than 50 paying visitors is not really a brilliant statistic, but guess what the atmosphere was great and relaxed anyway. Further the bar ran out of Bitter on draught, but great PolishTyskie filled up that gap nicely.

So off we went with Haze, a band existing 30 years but fully unknown to me. Fast it turtned out that we were watching two shows for the price of one. As a trio the band rocked hard, showed great guitar work and came across convincing. As a fourpiece the band was adding a female flutist, background vocalist who looked so uncomfortable on stage that you tended to be relieved when she left for the back of the room or the bar. What the girl missed on stage presence was more than made up by the two veterans with special notion for the happy grin of the bass player. Further need to mention the drummer given the fact he turned out to be only 15 years old and holding on firmly. The music reminded by flute of Tull, by folky tones of Mostly Autumn and when a trio even touched progmetal territories. Overall a nice show, but no rush to the merchandise.

After a break we got the introduction of Matt Stevens. He is the master of looping. The only time I have been at The Peel before was during Mattfest (called after another Matt) when I witnessed a pretty similar show. Very impressive indeed and while being a great performer the show tends to become a bit too long. So basically everybody should have seen this at least once live, but half an hour should do to see his book of tricks. Meanwhile he plays guest solos on many CD's I have and his playing is well placed in the upper league.

Next came Primitive Instinct. I got some music from them already when deciding to go to this show and very much liked them. A band who with last year's release of one Man's Refuge commemorated 25 years existence, during which they commented doing basically hardly anything. Until recent under the radar to me I found a new favorite. What a great show they put on. Great performance of a mix of their three albums. They might have done hardly anything, but should get themselves on a tour with Pendragon or Marillion to get the exposure they deserve. Anyone who likes his British Neoprog should like this band and their classy material. Highlights all throughout, but Finding my Way gave the show an emotional touch most bands don't reach. Hope they start touring and maybe one day find de Boerderij on their way. Got the T-shirt, shall wear it with pride.

Mr So & So were on next and this time a female vocalist who knew how to work a male orientated prog audience sharing vocals with  Silent Bob on bass. The whole band was very at ease on stage and the songs from their good last album Truth, Lies & Half lies were pretty impressive live. The older material that was new to me also came over fine, so this was another success. Sometimes I wonder how many great prog bands are walking around in the UK, since the list of great discoveries never ends.

While the list of great bands might never end, the show did suddenly. Still not used to closing times in England I expected the best yet to come, when I found out that Simon Godfrey was not playing tonight. Due to totally understandable reasons the internet told me later I was surprised by this sudden end. Maybe I was outside or had not yet arrived when this was announced, but Shineback life with some Tinyfish inbetween has to wait for another time. Amongst the things I know for sure after this evening is the fact that I shall be back in The Peel again. Tonight I saw 4 bands who shall not come over to Holland that soon and basically liked what I saw all day, with Primitive Instinct guaranteeing a place in my live top 10 of the year with a stellar performance. While I'm still finding my way, Primitive Instinct showed me the direction forward.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


Holidays in Brazil also means prog rock and metal, but unfortunately the specialized CD shops in Rio (yes in Tijuca several are still there) did not have Maestrick on stock, so my holidays mainly concentrated on the Tricolor in Erikprogtricolor. For thos not knowing (shame on you) the tricolor in Rio is Fluminense, most sympathetic club in Brazil and while we are at it worldwide. Last year they were champions, but this year almost halfway things are disappointing somewhat with a 14th place so far and some support was welcome.

While in Buzios my support came from watching the matches on the street TV at the Botafogo bar. During weekdays the evening television games start at 21:50 hrs. since first the soap should end at main sponsor television channel Globo. Football is extremely popular, but that does not mean that football interest is defended by sponsors or federation. Another sad example is the friendly matches of the national team, which are played on same weekends or weekdays as the competition. This means for Fluminense that on some 12-15 matches out of 38 internationals Fred and Jean shall not be present. This has always been the case, but shows the complete lack of interest by the CBF in a fair competition.  Anyway last Sunday in Buzios was Fla-Flu day, so an afternoon match. While we were still very animated over lunch as shown above , the game was very disappointing and our minority of 4 against 40 supporters at the Botafogo bar was repeated om the field and resulted in a loss of 2-3.

In order to show the other side of Futebol I also dropped by the two pitches near our home when the noise of whistles and shout woke us up early that Sunday. Buzios Esporte Club played modestly in Barca colors, but after some 10 minutes I found that probably 25 years ago I would have made the first team as well, since level was not exciting (although I thought maybe I was watching the veteran team, which means I have to recognize my level was lower. I also visited Branco-Azul Buzios (White-Blue Buzios) but that accomodation was being renovated.

Talking about the level of Football the Brazilian competition is similar to the Dutch one. Not very good football, but due to the lack of predictability a very nice competition. Since many major players leave for Europe the competion is carried on teh shoulders of veterans, with most striking name Clarence Seedorf, who is the biggest star at Botafogo over the past 25 years and manages to get teh team on the top halfway. At Fluminense we have Deco (doping and injuries might justify retirement) Felipe (ex AS Roma) and Fred as the big star. Topscorer at last Conferderations Cup he unfortunately saves his efficient football this year for the national team, although he always gets his goals and scares opponents. Last week I told the family that we needed to return to Rio on Wednesday, since at least one match in the renovated Maracana I needed to see live. And so it happeed that at 21:50 hrs I saw the start of Fluminense-Corinthians. Among experts the Sao Paulo team is main candidate for this year's title with Pato (ex Milan) as most famous name. Flu was without Fred and Jean and had a very young team. As a result the match ended in a goalless draw and very few highlights (we should have had a penalty though). Still I loved every minute of it. I learned several new songs, stood up  90 minutes and the atmosphere was surprisingly positive after last Sunday's deception against Flamengo.  Still there is a comment several Brazilians made to me. The stadium is nice or even more than just that, but the old concrete rings were unbeatable. The sound from the surprisingly large supporters crowd from Corinthians did not travel to our side, which probably was the same to them. Also the shaking concrete, dirty toilets lack of chairs and importantly illegally sold beers, gave more of an atmosphere. This does not mean that I won't be back as much as possible, since Flu live is an experience not to be beaten on any football pitch.

Vamos pra cima Fluzao, Quero gritar campeao!!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Tangent - Le Sacre du Travail

Andy Tillison, the ridiculousy talented yet absurdly unknown musician, nailed it completely this time. With Paralel or 90 Degrees and the Tangent he already gave us many great albums, but now he released his masterpice: Le Sacre du Travail or The Rite of Work. A hour piece of music broken down in five movements tells us the story of one day in the life of you going to work, passing the day and coming home to watch some television, waiting for the next exciting day which shall be exactly the same. Through my working life I have been in various stages perfectly described here, from extremely boring temporarily jobs, to nowadays a daily commute of over 30 miles as decsribed (although I go environmental friendly by bicycle and train) First highlight on this story are the great lyrics, wondering why the majority of people travel each day to spend 8 hours doing something they do not like. This results in great lines like: "To the car parks by the buildings, where we hate away our day"; "She punches her name to the company mainframe and logs into her pact with the Devil again"; "A modern day warrior, today's Tom Sawyer is a clerk."; "Always thought that there was more. More than this...evening cups of tea and shows you just can't miss.".
Yes Andy does ask the right questions and probably we all have been at one stage in life through these questions already. Interestingly his audience is basically male hanging around a mid-life crisis, so maybe this CD makes some people think and act. Yet, it is only given to few to pack your things and move to France.

But this is a CD and not a book (that was 3 albums ago with "Not as good as the book") I might say something on the music as well. There is no reason for complaining here either. The musicians helping out are all of great reputation and that shows during the Symphony. Theo Travis Flutes and saxes along nicely again, bringing some classical music into the picture. Jakko M. Jakszyk is solid on guitar and bored drummer Gavin Harrison together with bassplayer Jonas Reingold are an above average rhythm section to say the least. Finally we have David Longdon of Big Big Train fame, helping out on vocals and completing this real all-star line-up. The music basically goes all over the place, with possibly all influences you can imagine coming back somewhere. Since all keeps the Andy Tillison signature, at the same time the album sounds comfortably known as well. On the extreme influences, probably the most sympathetic song on the album is the bonus 1:14 minute punk rocker Hat.

This album also knew a crowdfunding campaign. Usually I am sympathetic to those actions, but for this one I missed out on the propaganda completely. So in compensation I can only recommend everyone to get this CD. In the last issue of Prog Magazine Andy states that Playing Live with a Progressive Rock band is a magnificient way to lose money, which puts some doubts on ever seeing this album performed live. Hoping for the blood to creep where it can't stop crwaling (we're ants!) I still hope for a Boerderij performance somewhere early 2014.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Persefone - Spiritual Migration

Last year Persefone toured Europe. While I missed them on the ProgPower Thursday evening show, I did see them supporting Leprous later that month. Going back in my memory and just re-reading my review of that show I did like their performance, but was not overly impressed with their vocalist, since I prefer the mix grunt/clear vocals over the scream/clear vocal combination. Still after receiving many raving reviews on Spiritual Migration, amongst whom some reliable sources to me I needed to check out this album. After many turns my conclusion can be that musically this might be the best album released this year, while the vocals are very good on CD. For those who see screaming vocals as a bridge too far to cross I still strongly recommend this album due to the five(!) instrumentals and many breaks that are simply amazing.

Spiritual Migration, so there is a concept of spiritualism here. This gives matters a personal touch to me, since lately Josie created a strong interest in these floating ideas, while I ...well I liked the goats and sixes during Hell's show a lot. So now I told her I bought this album in her interest sphere, she was pleased and open to listen. Unfortunately she definitely did not get the meaning of the screams, but shall give the lyrics a closer look one day. At the same time I just keep on getting blown away by the music itself. I do hear clear references to Zero Hour's in your face metal, while some more spiritual parts bring Cynic to mind. Those who joined me at the ProgPower 2008 (?) Saturday know that I rate both bands amongst my favorite performances of all time at that festival.

So now I am very much hoping on a fast return of Persefone to Baarlo, or de Boerderij for easy travel. This time I shall not be distracted by vocals and get into their previous work as well. It's a strange little world we bang in. One year ago Leprous was at its peak touring Bilateral and Persefone was just an OK opener, Now I soon shall start ignoring the somewhat disappointing Coal, while I will have many Spiritual Migrations to look forward to.  

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Plein Open 2013, 20 July The Hague

Now that the summer arrived as we like it, the free festivals come along with it. Most of the free festivals have a long tradition and the main ones in The Hague and are nicely spread over the summer. Early June it is Kaderock at Musicon with a mix of music styles, but many guitar orientated music (last year The Quill was preferred act) Then end June we have Parkpop in the Zuiderpark, which possibly still is the largest free festival in Europe, with nowadays around 250,000 visitors. In the past they had great names (Marillion, Diamond Head, Def Leppard, Fish, Thunder, Robert Plant) but lately the program is poor. Then end July we have Plein Open and early August Schollenpop on the beach at Duindorp, which if sunny is obviously the best scenery you can imagine. Finally neighbouring Wateringen has mid August Waterpop, where this year heavy music with Orange Goblin and Soltstafir makes a good return (but I shall be on holidays then)

Plein Open is easily  at the ugliest location, being next to the Ice Palace, or our new city hall and Library. This week local politicians have decided that the Anton Philips Hall on the square has to be demolished for being replaced by the EUR 181 million (!?!) costing Spui Forum. Knowing that these costs shall double like with all government big projects, we can state that our local politicians should be protected against themselves and kicked out of our city soonest. The same people also decided to stop subsidising small clubs where local bands can perform, so obviously no heart at the right place, but status as main driver. So far politics. Plein Open the festival is easily the one where heavy guitar lovers best meet, since I can't remember a year without any metal band.

This year at 14:00 hours we got Ditch, a band in the stoner-rock corner and sounding pleasant with their thundering bass keeping the body participating. At 16:00 hrs. we got Vanderbuyst. This metal trio is probably the most performing band in Holland, since they appear everywhere from small clubs to large festivals. Their Hard Rock is very eighties with clear notches to NWOBHM and before. A small Thin Lizzy bite during soundcheck showed their quality already. They meanwhile released several albums and played own songs with one cover, this time being one of Herman Brood. Very good band and to my surprise 2/3 from The Hague as well.

Than we had some hours of heavy drinking, catching up with friends and passing bands (Iconoclast with some psychedelic punk sound was best of the rest) until at 19:30 we got ReSolve. This young band mentioned  Dream Theater, Symphony X and Porcupine Tree as their influences I knew this would be nice to see. When I showed up at the second stage (which was a tent, not a stage) some minutes before they started the guitarist appreciated my Redemption T-shirt and mentioned this is where they are into. So they started with an own song and instruments played well and female vocalist thankfully  not going up the octaves, but actually singing. Than we got treated on a very decent version of Pull me Under. When they announced to slow down a bit The crowd (of how many?) did not want to know about that, but when the vocalist said they were going to play Undertow from Pain of Salvation all changed to me. This song also was played on my daughters cremation and made me leave the Sjiwa some years ago at Progpower. Nowadays I can listen to it live again without getting emotional but somehow I still can not stop shouting along with the lines like "Let me die, Let me break the things I love I need to cry" Again this version sounded good and the vocals obviously far from Daniel Gildenlow managed not to disturb me. Then we already got at the final song, which was an epic completed by a grunter as guest. I way passed the times that grunts would put me off and this song was another highlight. It seems that in The Hague we have now progmetal band to keep an eye on. Exactly the reason why this festival is so good for bands and audience. Meanwhile the sun came through stronger and stronger and I vaguely remember how I cycled home later that evening.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Steven Wilson - De Boerderij Zoetermeer 12 July 2013

Morbid songs for Music Lovers. Basically that describes the whole evening, but since that is not a review let me give some additional information. On his way down to Loreley and back to Bospop on Sunday Steven Wilson made a stop-over in Hollands Prog Temple de Boerderij. As he said after one song this would be the same set as earlier this year, but since I missed the Paradiso show all was knew to me.

I have been following Steven Wilson now quite some years. In 1994 he played at the almost local Vlietpop festival, but I was in Roskilde that weekend. I read about their Pink Floyd influences and got an interest but no following yet. First Porcupine Tree CD I got was the live album Coma Divine in 1997 after which I also dug into their earlier releases. For me they passed through three phases with the more psychedelic Floydean early years, followed by the more accessable Stupid Dream / Lightbulb Sun phase and then they slowly grew heavier, maybe because of Opeth connections. I liked all three stages, but preferred them in Even Less mode. Than I also discovered his ambient work with No-Man and later poppier Blackfield. All at a high standard musically, but with different interest to me. Last year the long awaited Storm Corrossion was released and for an album coming from two recent musical geniusses (Mikael Akerfeldt was the co-operator) I was disappointed in the result (or need another 20 spins). Steven Wilson meanwhile also relased some solo albums. I got a DVD of Insurgentes and missed out on the Grace for Drowning album. This year however the turnaround came, when his last album The Raven that Refused to Sing completely blew me away. 6 dark stories of horror, death and loss were presented so beautiful that a live performance of this album could not be missed.

So the album was great, the show was even better (as it is supposed to be with great bands) The line up was the same as the album apart from the drummer. When I saw the new guy hammering away on the final part of The Watchmaker I guess even Marco Minneman was hardly missed. Guthrie Gowan I saw one year ago with his solo project, which meant incredible guitar display. Now playing in function of the song his addings were still unbelievable (Drive Home contains one of the best solo's of the year) Theo Travis added instruments I usually do not need on albums like Clarinet and Flute, but in this case defintely adds to overall doomy atmosphere. Nick Beggs on Bass and Stick manages to appear on two of the most interesting Prog Rock releases this year (Lifesigns is the other one) and showed why he is such a popular artist. Steven Wilson himself was in his element and more talkative then I remembered him from his Porcupine Tree shows.

So the band was great and the show was long. Apart from the full Raven Album we also got songs from Insurgentes and Grace (which I now shall get as well) plus a nice oldy as encore in Radioactive Toy. According to Steven in the about 10 times he was in de Boerderij with his different bands he never played this and he might be right. I do remember though a brilliant version from Riverside when they toured Holland for the first time after taking Progpower by storm in 2004. Like all songs yesterday the closing song also had some impressive films and images passing along. This completed the overall impression of a show that so deserves to be seen and liked by audiences much bigger than the one that sold out de Boerderij. That was the main question remaining, especially after the emotional clip showed over this years dark ballad The Raven that Refused to Sing. Why is this man not a household name yet?  The number of people asking who?? when telling them I was going to see Steven Wilson still is sadly high. Finally I can state that on my way out in appreciation of the show I did get my 2013 summer Tee with a nicely morbid figure on a sunny shirt yet another impressive experience richer, what a year.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Shineback - Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed

Lately several CD's have been surprising me positively and soon I shall review one on the heavier end of my taste. However. the one that most intrigued me is something completely different. The first solo album of Simon Godfrey. Simon was guitarist/vocalist of one of my favorite bands I never saw playing live Tinyfish. Once I had the pleasure of meeting the man during Mattfest two years ago and he was telling me that Tinyfish was hoping to come to de Boerderij the coming year. Unfortunately his Tinnitus forced Tinyfish to stop playing live and they never made it to Zoetermeer. Since you can't keep a great man down he now released his first solo album with some help of friends from the British Prog community.

Main surprise is the style which was announced to be more electronic musically and not a word was lied about that. Coming from Tinyfish (a prog-band without keyboards!) the step is quite big. On the other hand I do hear many similarities in quality and build-up of songs, primary due to the sympathetic voice of Simon. For those looking for points o recognition I can state that Matt Stevens helps out on some songs and the other favorite British musician I never saw playing live: Dec Burke (Darwin's Radio, Dec Burke band) adds some very nice guitars on Fears aren't Toys. Still this album is only for the open-minded ones. Simon to me dares to go where even likely open-minded band Galahad has not treat before. One final reference I need to mention comes back during the blogs. These are sung by Danny Claire in the role of Dora. Her breakable voice reminded me immediately of one of the most vulnerable pop ballads from the 90's You and your sister by This Mortal Coil.

I received this album over the mail last weekend and since played the album every day. main attraction is its difference, while filled with the also known great melodies, sometimes heavy guitars,  one of the better vocals around on Progland and even an epic in the title song. The story is about Dora and abuse and dreams recorded plus Envoys. All explained more detailed on the website www.shineback.org. I defintely would recommend this album to anyone who dares to take a risk, I still do not know if it ends up high on my end of year list after a week, but for now I want to hear it again and again, discovering new bits by every turn.

So it seems we lost Tinyfish and got recording artist Simon Godfrey in return. When I saw that he shall perform in the Peel in August when I am home alone and the family still on holidays a trip to Kingston Upon Thames was quickly booked. Now go and explore more on this release, some of you might like what they hear as well.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Marillion Seperated Out ...Redux - Jon Collins

A book again. Yes, as a daily commuter and traveller abroad I have lots of time to read and listen to music. This one I read about in Prog Magazine and I was keen to get a copy this time. In 2002 the first version came out and soon it could not be found anywhere, not even at the infamous Marillion Weekends. Now we get the extended version and an update until 2012's Sounds that Can't be made. This book basically contains three levels for me. Some of the history I was unaware of, especially the early years and reasons behind the Fish split. Secondly a description of the creation of all albums with a to me (as not English mothertongue person) always useful background on the meaning of songs and lyrics.; Finally there is an overdose of quotes from fans all over the world, referring to the meaning of Marillion to themselves or their lives.

Now here is where I do not appear in the book and feel like adding some of my emotional sharings with Marillion. This might sound logical, since most fans are not quoted, but I do remember Marillion Weekend 2009 when I took the bus from Schiphol and ended up sitting next to the at the time to me unknown Jon Collins. He told me he was the author of Seperated Out (no copies available anymore, yes I asked), but we ended up speaking about global heating and the article he was on the bus writing on that.

Somewhere end 1982 early 1983 I discovered Marillion through the Kerrang Magazine. At the time Aardschok was released still irregular and Kerrang was the most informative magazine available in local record shops. When the debut album Script was released I got my copy fast and discovered a whole new world in the so called Prog rock music. That same year they had their first European tour which ended at the Parkpop Festival in my hometown The Hague. This festival is famous for being free and attracting crowds up to 300.000 people, but I can tell you that opening at 13:00 hrs in the afternoon there definitely were only a few hundred people watching with half of them early fans. Those who saw them were addicted and slowly they grew (Fugazi at Pinkpop a year later) to a band that could sell out major venues in Holland. The first albums with Fish were their best ever and as the book states when he left they lost the Heavy Metal part of their fan base. Looking at one of my two blog followers I can only confirm this is true. I never gave up on them and although unable to reach their levels from the eighties Marillion never released a bad album (disppointments OK, but never bad) and have released still some absolute highlights of modern Prog music.

When the fans speak it is all about emotion, which is not much different to me. Like everyone who faced an ended relation Script for a Jester's tear is a very relating lyric. Where the book states that Beautiful was a number one hit in Brazil, I am not too sure about that, but when I travelled that country by busses one year before moving I do remember the soap series which had Beautiful as their tune and gave me a safe feeling while waiting at bus stations in very remote corners of this huge country. Three and a half year later I would marry my wife in Rio and the first music I had played after the sim-word (yes) was Beautiful (It was a BBQ afternoon wedding so no obligatory dance or so). The first Marillion weekend we missed out since our premature son Tiago just came out of hospital after a three month battle. In 2002 we brought him along to Minehead and he had his first British Pub visit over the weekend, while we were astonished in more than one way with the Buttlins experience. The following year we had a stillborn daughter and during Taina's cremation we did play When I meet God and felt some of the questions and comments very appropriate. One year later when during the Minehead weekend this song was played twice I realized I never resolved emotional impacts and created my own monster by playing music I love at the saddest moment of my life. Two years later my company was taken over by our bigger brother and I refused the offer to join them in Switzerland. My farewell e-mail mainly consisted of a very relevant quote from a certain Mr. Hogarth: Heading for the Great Escape... going through winter slides and permanent holidays to the dignified walkaway. This went of course way over the heads of the majority of my musically challenged colleagues. When finally my life was supposed to end, but did not due to medical errors on analysis in my favour my head got messed up for good and during my frequent trips abroad Sugar Mice sometimes seems appropriate as well. But so far for Marillion's emotional impact on me and way to translate feelings into words already written by Fish or Hogarth. It is a comfortable feeling that when I die, divorce or look for the bottle too much, the soundtrack for the occassion is already in Marillion's music.

But this is supposedly about the book. Well I can recommend the read to everyone with an interest in the band (Unlike Anvil's story of Anvil which can be read by anyone with an interest in music). For those who don't like Marillion the book is of less interest due to the high part writing about the album recordings and songs, with many fans telling their stories of admiration inbetween. Being a forerunner on the internet use and having a US tour sponsored by fans worldwide is showing how different they are. Some point of criticism can be the too positive feedback on poorer albums, but here taste comes in and that can never be discussed. I enjoyed reading the book and now went through several CD's again realizing that Fugazi rules even with Hogarth refusing to sing any songs from the album. Also the split with Fish turned out to be good in a way that I now follow two bands with interest, still if ever a reunion show would be possible and in line with the Marillion weekends Fugazi would be played in full, ok encored by Grendel. I would be the one loosing his voice, jumping up and down  and rating it the best show of the decade, but enough of that.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

R-Mine Festival NWOBHM day - 23 June 2013

R-Mine metalfest was a new initiative launching a three day festival with each day some 15 bands. The event took place in De Posthoorn in Hamont Achel, just across the Dutch Belgian border near Weert. A Somewhat remote corner and as a result not too many people finding their way to this sympathetic new festival. There is a huge competition between festivals and one week later the massive Graspop is to be held not too far away. The hall was pretty straightforward, but with a good sound and on both ends a stage, where the interesting point in the earlier hours was that the bigger stage was reserved for bands with less crowd interest. I am by the way only writing about the final day, since due to frequent travelling for work I decided to only pick out the most interesting day to me. On paper the Saturday with a more progmetal program looked as interesting, but I was supposed to see Symphony X already two days earlier in my hometown (which failed due to travelling for work). So I opted for the NWOBHM day. 7 bands from the past, warmed up by various younger bands. For me some of the shows would bring me defintely 30 years back in time, when I was still at school and shows were too expansive, too far or too rare. The line-up of this day gave me the chance to relive several of my adolescent shout along songs.

Arriving late I missed out on the first 3 bands. From the to me new bands I liked Monument a lot. They were very Maiden like, but with the speed of 30 years ago instead of the slower intro/outro new songs. Also Fireforce looked interesting and when they were asked to continue playing and did so by starting Manowar's Battle Hymn many people smiling banged along.

First old name from the UK to appear were Cloven Hoof. Admitted I did not go through youth sentiment here, since I did not know them in the eighties. I do have a complation CD from them, so recognized still many songs. I can be short about their show. Due to late tuning some sound de-balance in the beginning they presented to me the songwise most interesting set of the day. From opener Ïnquisator, to closer Lay Down the Law their set was a thrill. The show was somewhat messy with forgotten drumfills and not a very tight band yet, the songs made up for everything. I read that a new CD is scheduled, shall not miss them and asked their guitarist to play Holland next time they come over.

Next band on were Demon. I do have some music from them and like The Plague pretty much. I found their music live, more straight forward than on the varied CD's. At the same time the audience seemed to like it, since few bands would get a bigger response today. They also divided their two Classics: Night of the Demon and Don't Break the Circle to Opener and Closer. As expected I most appreciated The Plague and Blackheath. Nice show, although not very diverse.

Savage on the main stage and my first surprise was the much smaller audience than Demon just had. They also decided to start with 4 new songs, which were widely unknown. On a festival like this I guess you should always start and finish with a known song. They kept their two hits for the end. The music sounded nice throughout, but my adrenaline started to flow only at the end. First Ain't no Fit Place, followed by the uptempo Let it Loose. Last song famous due to Metallica covering them, but Hans and I remembered the Savage LP Loose'n'Lethal.

Hereafter still no chance for a rest, since Holocaust were on. The Nightcomers is one of the LP's that made many spins in my room and contains some of my favorite songs. Luckily the LP is also the core of the show. Holocaust live was looking and sounding surprisingly close to punk. Some of the songs were pretty direct, but I got Smokin' Valves and the Nightcomers live. When they also played Death or Glory and their anthem Heavy Metal Mania I could not stop shouting along or banging my bolding head. great to hear those songs live.

Tank was next and since we were hungry by now and not owner of their old LPs we took a break. When returning halfway the set, first noticed was the melodic vocalist. Not Doogie White, but very good. When they ended with This Means War I did like the show. Tank is another band with two versions, but this band deserves a better checking out next time they are in the area.

Tygers of Pan Tang was next and again something old to look forward to. A mixed set covering old and new Tygers passed through Gangland, Suzie Smiled and others to culminate in their best song Hellbound, which was yet another memory lane highlight. They decided to close with their biggest hit Love Potion No. 9. When they released this song it was also a hit in Holland by a popular popcover artist. I remember the reader's post swearing in Aardschok about this unfortunate timing. Hearing the song and solo's now it was not so bad after all.

Let Battle commence, welcome to the church of Hell!!!. What we got next was to me beyond any expectation. Hell was in the eighties lesser known than all the above mentioned bands and still they were the headliner. Two years ago they released the CD Human Remains, which is possibly the best new album of any NWOBHM band. Although the songs are old, the sound is heavy and modern and the performance captivating. They were headliner and the curtains closed when the stage was being prepared. As soon as the curtains opened we entered the church of Hell indeed and while starting the show I got completly overwhelmed. Never did I see such a great production from a band this size. The effects and lightning remembered Dio and Iron Maiden in the eighties. This band with this show deserves a main slot at a huge festival. Defintely not for the weak-hearted or reli-bangers, Hell grapped you by the horns and left you burnt down after the last tones of Save us from those who would save us. The fire, the monks, the goat, the burning trident all was used to maximum effect. Above all where I already liked the album I was blown away by the live performances. This band knows how to put up a show and should be rewarded for that, can only advise the masses to go to Hell.

So with a blast the R-Mine festival ended. A heavy day with more than a few emotional moments to me. Being a first show there were some obvious points for improvement (nowhere to sit, very basic food options (80's as well) or the lack of announcements of the bands) Enjoying myself a lot I do hope they find a way to continue. If not feasible, thank you R-mine for this great day. 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Battle of the Queensryches

And then there were two! The history is known, fights in the Queensryche camp and Geoff Tate continuing with a new band still calling the band Queensryche, while the rest of the band asked Todd La Torre to join them and also releasing a new album under the Queensryche monniker. By the end of this year a court shall decide who can keep the right of name, but so far we have two new albums and since released within a month from each other I decided to order them together and be the judge myself.

Queensryche has been one of my absolute favorite bands in the eighties. In 1983 they were elected EP of the year in the prestigious Aardschok annual poll and in 1984 they released the Warning and came to Holland supporting Dio during their Last in Line Tour. Those present in the Edenhal  Amsterdam shall not easily forget that night, when to me Progmetal was brought to a new level and Dio was as impressive as ever. Next album Rage for Order was another support slot. This time Bon Jovi headlined and a not yet sold out hall in Arnhem, was soon to small when Queensryche was announced to be the support band. With the release of Operation Mindcrime Queensryche reached the status they deserved and sold out 5000 people venues by themselves. They also headlined the best Aardschokdag ever, with a diverse line-up of Class acts Leatherwolf, Vengeance, Crimson Glory (more on them later) House of Lords, Flotsam and Jetsam and Queensryche headlining. Until the day of today I feel embarassed that this line up did not result in a sold out house, but maybe Queens day kept some people away. Anyway their biggest selling album Empire was still very good, but commercial traces started to enter (Jet City Woman!! which never left their live set) Promised Land was daring to be different and on hindsight their last really great album. I remember the tour when they did Ahoy on the same week/month when Dream Theater toured with their best album ever Awake. On CD DT already might have passed Queensryche, live Queensryche was still a class on its own (Mind you Fates Warning supporting DT that tour never got the same chances and cancelled a show too many in the nineties) Than it went downhill fast. I moved to Brazil for some years and saw the Hear in the Now Frontier tour in Rio. While Queensryche's back catalogue always guaranteed some highlights, the new songs were just not good enough. Later I would still buy the new albums, but even skipped Tribe due to disappointments before. Somewhere around 2005 I saw them in Paradiso (hence a smaller venue) and liked the show, although due to Geoff Tate's vocal limitations being built around too many ballads. At the 2006 Arrow Classic Rock Festival they concentrated on Operation Mindcrime 1 and 2 and I did like what I saw. The 2 album never came close to the original, but was probably the best release of the past 20 years. Dedicated to Chaos followed and well, let's not compare it with the Warning. And then I was there luckily timed by work, the historical show in Sao Paulo, where things just got ugly and the show was played under a strange atmosphere. I was actually recovering from one of the best Fates Warning shows ever with Mike Portnoy on drums, but due to the Queensryche set would pass all albums I realized that I still like Queensryche a lot, if only..    And now there are two.

Queensryche - Frequency Unknown.
Geoff Tate gathered a long list of famous names around him, but most songs were written by Geoff Tate and Jason Slater. I did not really notice yet any impact from participations of Dave Meniketti, Rudy Sarzo, Brad Gilles, Simon Wright. The first listen then. I think Dedictaed to Chaos has been left behind, but to me the album does not sound that different from any album released between 1995-2010. The voice of Geoff Tate on album still is good, the songs are midtempo, but no melody stuck at once. I guess this album needs some more spins and maybe it gets better by time. Too early to judge fast. At the end there are 4 re-recordings of live set classics adding absolutely nothing to the original versions. Finally the artwork. Apart from the name both bands also claim the Queensryche symbol on their cover, but the fist with F.U. is hard to accept. This coming from the band once known for intelligent lyrics and thinking man's metal is disappointing to say the least.

Queensryche - Queensryche
Titled similar as the EP that started it all, we hope on a new beginning here. Main question is Todd La Torre and how he would do on CD. I saw the man once live with Crimson Glory and when I remember him singing Burning Bridges, one of my all time favorite power ballads, the goose bumps still appear. So I can easily state I was not only not worried at all, but looking forward to this CD hoping for a return to glories of long time passed. Again I write this after one headphone session of both albums, but I guess my hopes were met. It took me a few minutes into X2 and Where Dreams go to Die to gain a big smile which only left my face some minutes after Open Road finished. The twin guitar melodies are back, the tempo goes up again and the screams can be long and high again. I did read comparisons with Rage for Order and Empire and can agree with this. The all time Classic level of Warning and Operation Mindcrime might not yet be reached (a certain Mr. Chris DeGarmo did not return after all) but defintely a highlight of the year, which shall be much appreciated by all long-time Queensryche fans. Only point of criticsm might be the 35 miuntes playtime, which today is not that long. As an extra we get three live versions of old songs and while not so much adding they show us how good this band can be again on stage. Can't wait to catch them on their European tour in November, supported by Savage Messiah a show to look more than little forward to.

So the verdict is easy. Queensryche should continue as the band with the new vocalist. This does not mean that I am hugely disappointed with Geoff Tate's version. On a first listen a general division can be made. Those who preferred Queensryche 1980-1995 shall vote for Todd La Torre on vocals. Those who preferred Queensryche 1996-2012 (do they exist?) shall vote for Geoff Tate. Now I do not know if in matters like these a jury comes in as well in the USA. That could be interesting getting 10 people who never heard the band and let them decide. In such case Geoff Tate still stand a chance, Otherwise I guess he should continue under his solo name and keep that band together. Meanwhile I just put on Queensryche for a second time and the smile returned.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Attacker - Giants of Canaan

Attacker, well that's a band I long lost track of. Their debut album battle at Helm's Deep made its spins during the eighties while playing cards (Call on the Attacker!!!), but I did not even know they were still active. Then during the Deep Machine show in Tilburg I saw on a flyer from Mario that they are coming to Holland end September on their way to the Ages of Metal festival in Belgium. Internet comes to the rescue and before you know it I listened to some of their songs on the net and decided to get their new release Giants of Canaan.

US Heavy Metal they played 30 years ago and I was pleased to note that the new album, while sounding actual still has this clear US Heavy Metal style we loved back then. Think fast guitars, a hurrying rhythm section and vocals with the occassional screams that made this genre great. Anyone needing more references remember Vicious Rumors, Helstar, Metal Church, Heir Apparant  and while summing these up I realize the stream of great bands in this genre is never ending.

Giants of Canaan can stand next to the best Classic albums of the peak of the US Heavy Metal era. I even do hear traces of Queensryche (the early years) and Iron Maiden coming by. Especially closer Glen of the Ghost could have been written by Steve Harris on a good day. With the news that they are coming to Holland I decided to get the Battle as well on CD (only $8 through their site) and realize that the 80's did rule. Even the absolute classics you forget about. Anyone into US Heavy Metal should hear this album, which made me wonder if there are more similar bands still releasing great albums, completely beyond my knowledge.


Saturday, 1 June 2013

Michael Schenker Group Patronaat Haarlem, 30 May 2013

Michael Schenker on Tour with the rhythm section of the Scorpions, his loyal bandmate Wayne Findlay on keyboards and guitars plus great vocalist Doogie White. That sounded like a walk back on memory lane to a great part of my musical canon some 35-30 years ago. Or to go short a show I would not like to miss and how I turned out to be pleased with that decision.

Michael Schenker is simply still the best guitarist around. 30 years ago I voted him best guitarist in the annual Aardschok poll and after seeing this show I shall in 2013 repeat my vote. He seemed to be in pretty good shape. That is for Michael Schenker terms, since let's face it he shall never appear on the flyer of your local fitness club. But apparently in good mood he gazed smiling into the audience, while meanwhile with comforting ease going through his typical melodic solo's during old MSG, Scorpions and UFO classics. The solo in Rock Bottom was perfect and never ending as usual, while my highlight live shall always be the instrumental that dwarfs all other instrumentals: Into the Arena.

Bringing Francsis Buchholz on bass and Herman ze German on drums indicated that we got treated on various Scorpions classics as well. The tour being called Lovedrive reunion meant we did hear half that album, but also got Black Out and Rock You Like a Hurricane. With Doogie White on vocals these hits even sounded better than any Scorpions version I remember. Talking about Doogie White he did a great job. He can stand in for Klaus Meine and Gary Barden easily and while noone can really copy Graham Bonnet or Phil Mogg he did a great job on their songs as well (yes we got Assault Attack!). Inbetween songs his Scottish accent nicely differed from the German dominance on stage. Yes Doogie we remember the Archie Gemill goal, but do you remember the Johnny Rep one which made it basically pointless. Doogie shall release with Micahel Schenker a new album Bridge the Gap. After tonight I shall get this after release and Horizons played already sounded good. We also got a recent MSG song "Before the devil knows you're Dead" as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, John Lord and Trevor Bolder.

A show like this is the perfect proof that great hardrock from the late seventies and early eighties is timeless. I could and did sing along for one and a half hour (that includes the "Into the Arena" melodic solo in the end). Simply no pretentions but only Classic Hard Rock are a very welcome guarantee for a great night out as Magchiel and Douwe also confirmed. With Michael Schenker returning almost every year, so shall I to his shows.