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 √Źnquisator, 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.