Monday, 29 December 2014

The Top 14 of 2014: Albums

We read the year 2014 and every week at least 5 CD's are being released that might deserve my attention and interest. Hence the sheer impossibility to come up with a complete list of favorite CD's. So I started to add some rules. The Album should be released on CD (out went Being) not a collection (out went Dutch Steel) or a live best of album (out went Lillian Axe). Further I also did not include new CD's which sounded interesting on the internet, but were not received in time to give a proper listen (out go Ne Obliviscaris, While Heaven Wept, Skyharbor, Haken and Malpractice). This solved my problem only partially and I could go for the easy way out and release a top 50. But as an exercise in making choices here is my top 14 of 2014 and apologies go out to the following artists who amongst others released highly enjoyable albums, but did not make the cut: Lee Abraham, Persian Risk, Lawless, Voyager, Aeon Zen, Pink Floyd, Pendragon, Opeth, Vortice, Super Massive Black Holes, Foscor, Savage Messiah and Simon Godfrey.

14: Dream the Electric Sleep - Heretics
Alternative progressive rock with Classic Rock touches. Interesting band, being slightly different makes them hard to compare with anyone. Opening track Heretics rocked them into my list.

13: Cynic - Kindly Bent to Free Us
Gone are the grunts, increased are the eastern melodies. Still Cynic always stay high level now also interesting for those who loved Aeon Spoke. Nicest artwork, package and full score of 2014.

12: Need - Orvam A Song for Home
To me new progmetal band from Greece. With Fates Warning as clear influence they are ones to follow and enter PPE. Great songs, pity of the spoken Hotel Oniro which is made up by epic title song.

11: Steve Rothery - The Ghosts of Pripyat
My favorite instrumental album of 2014, by my favorite Marillion member. Getting more space than in H-days Marillion his guitar is talking to us as we love it. Opening marillion weekend 2015 in style I'm sure.

10: Sanctuary - The Year the Sun Died
Comeback album of the year? Maybe I was expecting even more, yet still one great Heavy Metal album, with the always recognizable voice of Warrel Dane: Solid.

9: Intervals - A Voice Within
Really liked them live in Dordrecht and then loved the CD. A great mix of modern progressive metal songs. No grunts to scare of the older generation and showing I can be modern in taste as well.

8: Cosmograf - Capactor the amazing spirit capture
Yet another beautiful concept album by Robin Armstrong. Playing most instruments himself with the help of some known names from the UK he writes great atmospheric songs. Better version of modern Floyd.

7: Anubis - Hitchhiking to Byzantium
These Aussies are another solid deliverer of high class prog rock albums. This time not a concept album as such. just a great collection of songs. Note to self: They are going to Prog the Castle in Heidelberg.

6: Serdce - Timelessness
4th CD of these Belarusians and I never heard of them. Got on track by PPE 2015 announcement. Extremely interesting mix of brutal metal to soft piano bits. Looking already forward to see them live in 9 months.

5: Amoral - Fallen Leaves & Dead Sparrows
Finnish band used to be death metal now Classic Rock influenced melodic progressive metal. To me the biggest discovery of the year. Vocalist once won Idols and has a great voice indeed, Time to  look into their back-catalogue.

4: Scar Symmetry - The Singularity Phase 1 Neohumanity
It's all about the variation. Where Voyager managed to work pop heavy on stage at PPE to great surprise, Scar Symmetry might have released their best album yet. Great mix of accesible clear sung parts and heavy metalling bits.

3: The Contortionist - Language
My favorite band of the new generation. Seem to be getting calmer by the album (or just more mature). This album needs to be given time and patience and suddenly it's beauty is revealed. Announced for UK Tech Fest 2015, hope they make it to Holland.

2: Pallas - Wearewhoweare
OK, so this CD arrived some 8 months after originally anounced date and then I simply did not stop playing it. Pallas just never seems to get the recognition they deserve, this CD should at least put them up there with the greats in small prog rock scene. Beautiful album for the winter.

1: Threshold - For the Journey
Deserving the number one spot of 2014, because they just release another great album at a level normal to them, but not many others reach. After seeing them live I even liked the album more and yes The Box is a classic song for them and Damian Wilson is one of the very best voices in Progmetal.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The top 14 of 2014: Live Shows

2014 Definitely was a good year for live shows to me. Today's reality means that bands have to tour to make a living and resulting in an abnormal number of shows. As I am travelling a lot for work I have to be lucky and picky in deciding which shows to attend. Also at times there is just too much at the same time, which makes it almost physically impossible to attend all. One example was early November. After seeing MSG the weekend before I could go the next week on Thursday to Saxon/Skid Row, on Friday to Opeth, on Saturday to Haunting Skies festival with Distorted Harmonies and Hekz, On Sunday to Threshold and on Tuesday to Solstafir/Obsidian Kingdom. Normally all shows I would like to see, but now I only went to see Threshold. So taking the above names into account together with Toxik, Pendragon, Anvil, Steve Rothery, Metal Church, Mastodon and another few hundred bands I missed, there is basically just too much playing to attend all. Still from the bands I did see I could make up this top 14 of 2014, with still some great shows not making the cut. So 2014 was brilliant and as a bonus included the show of my life.

14: Night Demon - The Hague May
The Hague Heavy Metal Alliance organizes many shows in my home town and I missed most. This one I saw on a Tuesday night in cafe de Vinger. What a great band and getting this for almost free and near home. They come back to The Hague in March under THHMA. Also Kyrbgrinder and Tysondog are scheduled so I hope to see many more shows on bicycle distance next year.

13: Intervals/Tesseract - Dordrecht February
My list is dominated by nostalgia, but these bands are the future. Djent Metal has a (the?) future in progressive metal and for me these two stood out from what I saw live on younger bands. Interesting to see how the audience also is changing for the future as black is no longer the only obvious color.

12: Pain of Salvation - Baarlo October
Playing two sets at Progpower and both going back to their glory days (first 4 albums) it shall be hard to find better progmetal bands. Still I had a bit of mixed feelings, wondering why they ever moved away from that style. Seeing Remedy Lane played live from start to finish, was something we could never dream off the past five years and it sounded great.

11:Soldier / Midnight Messiah - Hatfield August
Power & Glory Festival. A new name and hopefully one to stay. In the great atmosphere The Rock Den provides, this was one day of old glory reliving their past and showing their relevance still. My two favorites of the day were Soldier and Midnight Messiah, but the full day deserved thumbs up. I do hope to be back in Hatfield more than once again in 2015.

10: Dream Theater - Amsterdam February
After seeing them at Night of the Prog during their previous tour I already decided I would like to see them again once playing those evening setlists. 3 hours of Dream Theater. Being critizised for taking away the surprises, by repeating the same set all over the tour, even when returning to Holland in summer I loved the setlist with new blocks and a highlight in side B of their best album ever Awake.

9: Paul Di'Anno - Tilburg December
Still fresh in my memory, last Sundays blast at the Little Devil. A Set of old Maiden Classics, a great band and a voice that was in spite of a cold acceptable. What more does one need for a great evening out? Noting really and I am even looking forward to his new material.

8: Lawless / Shatted Skies - Wales March
HRH AOR/Prog. Many great names and a brilliant mix of Classic Hard Rock and Prog. In spite of the big names on the bill my two favorite shows were Shatterd Skies at the Prog Stage and Lawless on the music Stage. Most catchy song of 2014 live : Black Widow Ladies by the latter one.

7: Marillion - Rio de Janeiro May
During Marillion weekends and in interviews more than once Marillion spoke great of their Rio shows. Now work brought me at good timing to Brazil and I could see for myself. Audience response was not that specially more entusiastic to my ears, but highlight was their greatest hit show which meant many returns to the past. Biggest surpise Ocean Cloud passed by as the most unknown song of the evening.

6: Threshold - Zoetermeer November
Threshold is one of those bands who never disappoint live. With a great back-catalogue a lot was taken from last two albums with Damian Wilson back on vocals. Damian Wilson also happens to be one of the best performers in progmetal land and with this great band backing him up, all ingredients for a perfect show.

5: Vandale/Deo - Rotterdam September
Talking about nostalgic domination of my overview here we got two of the best. Deo turned out to be a great Dio cover band and their vocalist made me realize I should see Praying Mantis live soon. Vandale is the only band singing in Dutch that can put a huge smile on all faces of the slightly older audience shouting along to Rot Op, Als je Hart or their classic Geitenwollensokkenrockers.

 4: Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock - Zoetermeer October
A lesson in Classic Rock. Going through the best of MSG, Scorpions and UFO this was jumping from one highlight to the next one. With Michael Schenker looking in better shape than the previous tour all the time I start believing in many Into the Arena's in the years to come.

3: Fates Warning - Weert April
Going from a band that hardly played live in the nineties to a band that keeps on coming back, the setlist might not be the most surprising one, but the quality of the songs more than makes up for that. With Ray Alder in great voice and support band Kingcrow also very good, this might have been of the best Fates Warning Shows I ever saw, worth a high ranking here.

2: Voyager - Baarlo October
Definitely the biggest surprise of 2014. I knew them from CD and liked them alright, but seeing them live is a whole different story. The energy jumping up and down the stage was so captivating and contagious that I did not see anyone leaving the Sjiwa without a big smile on his/her face. Amazing how an OK band can be so overwhelming while on stage and yes their 80's medley was great fun.

1: Stampede - Hatfield February
Show of the year, the decade, my life. How many chances does one get to see a band you loved over 30 years playing live for the first time in a place run by ridiculous sympathetic crew and guests standing in front of the stage going through your favorites and being introduced to the band afterwards. Helped by the fact that Stampede live is even better than on CD. In 2015 they shall be back in Hatfield for Power & Glory 2 so shall I. Missing You, Send me Down an Angel, Shadows of the Night, Moving On and of course Hurricane Town. What a show, what a night and when can I get them to play Holland?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Paul DiÁnno / Martyr - Little Devil Tilburg, 21 December 2014

Never did I see Paul Di'Anno live before and people asked me if I was not in for a disappointment. For sure his voice would not be the same as 35 years ago, he would still be living on the past and his life style should not raise expectations high. Right as they might have been, fact is that those who decided not to go to Little Devil based upon the above cliche's, missed a highly entertaining show where all ingredients for a good night out were present. We had a great band (The bass player came up in a Psychotic Waltz hoody, which did boost convidence in the musical level before they started), we had great songs as being almost all old Maiden work and we had a vocalist with stage presence and a voice that did not disappoint, even if he had a foking cold. We even got warmed up fine by Dutch 80's metallers Martyr.

When Paul Di'Anno came up, I must admit some state of shock. As I did not see the brace on his right knee at first I did think he could not even walk straight any longer. Soon it became clear that he was in real pain and halfway the show he got a chair and smoked, drank and sung sitting behind the band. Further his voice was gone, due to a shitty night in Leeuwarden, but what was left still managed to sent us right back to 1979-82. Opening with Wrathchild and Sanctuary the tone was set and being the first time I saw him live many songs I never saw before passed and showed us the rawer start of Iron Maiden. His voice was always more with an edge and the band played tight. As the set which lasted given the conditions pretty long. moved on many highlights passed, but I think the best part was Paul sitting through Charlotte the Harlot - Killers - Phantom of the Opera.

So I missed out on Iron Maiden in Ziggo Dome and at FortaRock this year. Somehow I have a feeling that I might not have enjoyed those as much as I did this show. Little Devil is probably the nicest metal bar I know in Holland and a nice full small venue, where you almost stand upon the stage is what it basically is all about. So no special effects, sensational lightshows or whatever, just a band playing their set and having a good time. Inbetween songs Paul complained, cursed, spat and giving us some great lines on Colombian White Christmas, Probable STD deaths, Lemmy introductions, Shitty married lives and being British and proud of it. Next year this band shall under the name Architects of Chaoz release a new CD. After tonight's show I am definitely going to get that album.   

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Pallas - wearewhoweare

More than a year ago I promised this review after signing in on their indiegogo crowdfunding project. With some delays to original schedules, I received last week their beautifully packed edition for pre-orders. This was definitely worth the wait. After some disappointments from bigger bands like Transatlantic, Pink Floyd and Pendragon (well Pendragon only due to extremely high expectations, as they still might make my 2014 top 10/15 list) Pallas manages to surpise very positively. I actually liked all phases of Pallas from the eighties Atlantis suit, through strong nineties comeback Beat the Drum until previous first album with Paul Mackie on vocals XXV. Now Paul Mackie had a bigger participation and his voice suits the music extremely well.

Talking about the music, it is mostly dark and moody. Only opener Shadow of the Sun, still hints at uptempo bits, we further hear mainly dark ballads or heavy midtempo songs. Luckily all spiced up with some great solo's when needed and lots of creepy atmosphere. This is just the perfect album for the time of year as last song Winter is Coming also suggests. Central epic Dominion borrows from some arabic melodies and tries to pass a positive message. Lyrics seem to be meant for thinking and in spite of the general dark atmosphere on this album go for the positive approach as well. Ballad New Life contains one of the better messages to start appreciating what is good: "Go see a sunrise once in a while, so warm and alive, It's a beautiful thing and it's your life". This line brought me back to Ipanema beach where at the end of the afternoon people gather on the rock in the ocean at the end of the beach to watch the sunset and all start chearing an shouting when it goes under. Never saw a sunrise sober due to slow awakenings, but guess the feeling should be similar.

With the message of looking for the positive Pallas makes our life easy, since in my opinion there is really not much to moan about on wearewhoweare. Beautiful, dark, intense, uplifting, moody, impressive and spiced up with occasionally hard rocking guitar solo's this is to me easily the best progrock album of 2014. Winter is coming and Pallas gaves us the CD to get through it with a smile on our faces.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Serdce - Timelessness

Progpower 2015 announced it's first 6 bands and I had a quick listen at the to-me-unknown bands. Serdce was the name I even never heard of, in spite of releasing 4 CD's already. Maybe the fact that they are hailing from Belarus had an impact on this. Further references of Cynic and Atheist definitely drew my attention and soon I listened to a YouTube version of this album. It took me 5 minutes into the CD to order my copy through bandcamp. And now playing the original album on headphone again, I can say I found a new favorite of 2014.

The album opens atmospheric and when the text comes in, it can be noted that the band does not speak English every day, Mentioning the vocals, I am still in doubt if this album would be as good if fully instrumental. The vocals range from clear and light to death grunts and as they received help on translating lyrics, they sometimes seem less comfortable to sing out loud really. But after some listens I got used to the vocals and the package is complete now including vocals. This does not take away that the absolute highlight of this album lays in the sheer brilliance of the instrumental parts. The range is wide from piano bits, to technical death metal riffs, but the constant factor is the high level playing.

I don't really have a favorite song on this album, as even within songs Serdce can go all over the place in emotions. I do know that I am already looking very much forward to seeing them play this in Baarlo almost 10 months from now. Not sure yet if I am going to get earlier albums already, but wait how I rate this CD some three months from now. Actually with the beautiful artwork a T-shirt is also on the list for Baarlo. And then they come from Belarus!!! Metal unites the world indeed (he said when continuing looking for the new CD of mainly Indian band Skyharbor). Serdce; I hope they shall face no visa issues, when conquering the world as this should be heard by millions.  

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase 1 Neohumanity)

Scar symmetry is one of those bands I have a few CD's from, lost touch somehow by not seeing them touring and forgetting how good they are. The albums I have are from the days of vocalist Christian Alvestam, who himself could swap between very melodic vocals and deep grunting lines. Nowadays vocal duties are divided between Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist, although I do not know who sings which parts. Still their typical balance between very melodic almost poppy verses and death metalling parts is still very much there and used with great success. I wonder how they manage this split on stage and stay large parts without vocal lines and hope to see this soon on a stage nearby. Where the vocal split sets them apart, the big man behind Scar Symmetry is Per Nilson who wrote, played guitars/keyboards and produced the album. 

The Singularity Phase 1 is the first of a trilogy and gives us a Sci-Fi story. The contents of the story can be resumed after the release of Phase 3, as I already know that I shall keep an eye on Phase 2 and 3 as well. This album reminds me of the recent great succes of Voyager at Progpower due to the mix of catchiness and heaviness. Staying in progpower references I also think of Shadow Gallery, but then three notches heavier with added grunts. Still the instrumental mastery and covering keyboards are pretty similar. While I love this CD, I can also see a risk for this album. Those into melodic death metal might consider the poppy parts too light, while the melodic rockers might get scared by the sometimes brutal voices. Personally I can't care less about these risks as I love this album, look forward to the follow-up and think a headlining spot at Progpower 2015 is well deserved. Yet another great CD in 2014, the list gets longer and longer. Recommended!!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Persian Risk - Who Am I?

Smart initiative leading to a great surprise. So I bought Persian Risk's previous CD "Once a King" through their website. Vocalist Carl Sentence obviously kept the e-mails from those who ordered and now sent out a warning that their follow-up "Who Am I?' was released. As I loved the "Once a King"album, I did not need to think for a long time and ordered Who Am I? in the blind. After only five listens this is clearly one of the best hard rock albums of the year. For those my age who were at school during the peak of NWOBHM and heard more on the radio than you could afford to buy on LP, this is the band from single Hurt You. Look for it on YouTube and you shall remember.

I do not know who is the core of the band nowadays as the booklet shows including Carl Sentence himself five guitarists.  I only know that Howie G, who played on their last album, left and joined Lawless (who are also releasing a new album I should get this month). Phil Campbell from Motorhead fame is the best known name amongst the guitarists but I do not know which parts are from him. I do recognize that most of the ten songs are fast so his influence might be well around. The other famous guest is Don Airey, known from his work with Deep Purple, Rainbow, MSG, Gary Moore, Ozzy to name only a few. He might have added to the Classic Hard Rock Sounds that are present like on Dark Tower or bluesy ballad I Thought it was You.

So this is a highly enjoyable album mainly in the uptempo regions. What makes this album just a little more special is the fact that it contains in "Facing Your Demons" one of the best melodic rock anthems of the year. I sang along the second time the chorus passed by and it reminded me of the best work Alcatrazz released in the eighties. This song alone is worth the purchase while for the rest you won't find any disappointments really either. Great album and Carl informed he is looking for possibilities to come to Holland. Alternatively he can play Hatfield and I shall consider the trip. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Threshold - Boerderij Zoetermeer 9 November, 2014

Threshold just released grower album "For the Journey" and passed de Boerderij on their tour in support of this album. Being a Sunday night is never ideal for starting the week knackered, but in the end turn-up was not bad. For warming up we got two to me unknown bands. Greek the Silent Wedding was so smart to include in their short set one of the best songs released in the progressive/power metal area in Savatage's Gutter Ballet. Fairly Ok show. Next on were Overtures from Italy who were alive and kicking and sometimes slightly overconfident for their status. Asking after one minute to have everyone to clap along and than show your disappointment as this is just not going happen was funny to me, and a reason to move to the bar for some of my friends.

Threshold is one of those bands that never disappoint. The band is tight, the songs are great and the vocalist is good and knows how to catch an audience attention. Damian Wilson officially back for the 78th time in de Boerderij was fairly bearded this time, but what a voice he has. As he also sung on the last two albums from Threshold, we got many newer songs. It was good to see that the pretty calm last CD was coming alive onstage. The Box proved to be a candidate for best song of the year indeed and The Hours is my favorite from March of Progress which came over well tonight. The best surprise came when they hold a special one for de Boerderij as they played Siege of Baghdad from debut Wounded Land. When they stated this song was 25 years old, I realized time flies as I do remember very well how Kees CD recommended Threshold to me when Wounded Land was released. Hardly could I guess at the time that CD stores would disappear from the city in 2014 while Threshold would still release great CD's and tour Europe.

The evening was suppposed to stop around 23:00 hours acccording to a time-schedule published on forehand. This was always unlikely as Threshold never do short sets. With only hits we had a lot to enjoy and appreciate. While looking at all band members being on top form I did have this plan for their next years return. They should consider a weekend Boerderij with on the Friday night their other bands: Headspace, Kyrbgrinder and My Solilique, while on Saturday they could do a three hour set.
Maybe not the easiest to work out logistically, but definitely one not to miss as all their side projects are almost as good as Threshold themselves. Damian Wilson probably shall be back in de Boerderij with any of his other projects soon and I hope Threshold returns next year as well. Join the new Crusade!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Steve Rothery - The Ghosts of Pripyat

Instrumental albums from guitar heroes. Loved them since the eighties releases of Yngwie, Marty Friedman and Jason Becker. Guitarists being allowed to take the spotlights in their bands like Michael Schenker, Jasun Tipton, Gary Moore or Jim Matheos also released some great instrumental work. One of the biggest of them all though is hidden fairly well in his band, but fans know that the live shows are built around his solo highlights. This man is Steve Rothery from Marillion. Being 35 years in Marillion he now released his first solo album "The Ghosts of Pripyat" with a little help from some other greats in Prog Steve Hackett and Steven Wilson.

For those like me, who regret that the dominating role of Steve Rotherey on recent Marillion albums has been reduced a bit, this is definitely worth a listen. We go through several styles and degrees of heaviness, but the most important highlight is that this album is obviously build around the solos of one of the man that brings emotion to the next level in his guitar playing. It is always good to start the discussion if the Fish years were Marillion's creative highlight or not (of course they were although several of the Hogarth albums are also Classics one should own). My first impressions while listening to this album are memories of the first ten Marillion years. Every song used to have a Rothery solo in it for added value and he was allowed to go heavy at times as well. As on the last Marillion albums this is no longer rule of thumb, this album is the perfect adding for those Marillion fans, who want to see Rothery being the man in the spotlight. I missed his show in de Boerderij last month, but he shall open Marillion Weekend 2015 with his band for me to make up that miss. Anyone who can stand instrumental albums, should simply not miss this one as it is not about showing off, but all about emotion. Pripyat a sad town in Ukraine, now known for one of the more beautiful albums that shall be released this year.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Contortionist - Language

It took me some 18 months to fully appreciate their previous album Intrinsic and somewhere early 2014 I wondered why that album did not make it to my best of 2012 list. Now the Contortionist are back with Language. This one might be easier, or I am better prepared, but already after 3 listens I think this is a rather very good album. Their first album is unknown to me and seemed to be Deathcore based. During Intrinsic several progressive influences were blended in and now we get an almost fully calm album, with occassional grunts accompanying clean vocals. So from very heavy evolving to atmospheric might remind of Anathema, but for me the reference to them is Cynic. Actually I am sure they would be the perfect band to support Cynic as this album reminds me strongly of the later works of Cynic (Language I, could have been on Traced in Air and I might not have noticed this to be a different band)

Maybe a bit easier to grasp than Intrinsic I still need several listens before understanding what is going on all the time. Being one in the category "Please listen through Headphones" there is a lot of moody bits and fast guitar strumming fighting for attention. I would not really know how to describe them best, but I ran into the term ambidjent when reading about them and that might just be right. Listening on headphone again while writing this review I do realize the album is actually heavier than those who only serve for Sunday mornings slow awakenings. There is much more to explore here and I shall do so over the coming months. By the end of the year the rank in my yearlist can be decided. Due to fairly far shows with only a support slot before The Faceless and Protest theHero, I probably won't see them live when touring Holland/Belgium later this month. Intriguing album, for the daring ones and I already had them on my list for Progpower 2015 requests so let's hope.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Michael Schenker's Temple of Doom - 31 October 2014, Boerderij Zoetermeer

Friday night 31 October; while more and more people try to copy Americans (why?) by dressing up strangely, it was in Holland all about Rock. I had to choose between 5(!) shows which was reduced to two in the end. German progrockers Sylvan were the first I would not see. Than the choice was between Textures/Exivious or Osada Vida, which Textures won, until two of my heavy metal DNA bands announced to also hit Holland on 31 October: Fates Warning and MSG. In the end MSG it became due to be closer to home and the fact that I saw Fates Warning only half a year ago. Well MSG you can't really call it as Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock goes through MSG, UFO and Scorpions material nowadays.

This was the first show of their European Tour and I was pleased to see the Boerderij well filled up. Maybe not sold out, but even the balcony looked crowded. In return to the almost full house we got an animated band and a happy looking Michael Schenker. With Michael Schenker being the reason I bought my first guitar from Jim 33? years ago I was so pleased to see that he is getting in a better mood by the year. The set opened with Doctor Doctor followed by a recent MSG song. This set the tone for the evening well. Only Classics filled up with 4 newer songs, which all did not bring the level down. With the Assault Attack album being sold on T-shirts I was hoping for a lot of that album. After all we have Doogie White on vocals and he can sing songs from all vocalists Michael has worked with, without much of a problem it turned out tonight. Unfortunately we stuck at the Title track only for that album. There was a relatively large part of Scorpions material in the set, which was authenticated by band members Herman Ze German on drums and Francis Buchholz on bass. I might prefer MSG over Scorpions, but we got material from their best period in Lovedrive, Blackout, Rock you like a Hurricane.

Actually the whole set consisted of classics that I hope Tiago can sing along as well in a few years time (if not I probably failed as a father). Biggest part going to UFO which is understandable. I do think that all secondary schools should teach music and one lesson should be dedicated to the best live album ever: Strangers in the Night. It remains amazing how even without the mighty Phil Mogg on vocals these songs never stop getting to your emotions. Only the guitar solo at Rock Bottom is worth the ticket for the evening. Tonight in perfect state this was one lesson in melodic soloing which just never ends again. Another obvious highlight is the singing along to instrumental Into the Arena. So here we passed another evening in de Boerderij, realizing why these songs from 35-30 years ago made such an impact. It really never got better than this. Without any complaints I do hope next time around to get more MSG though. This show was not very dissimilar from the one we saw 18 months ago. By including so much Scorpions/UFO songs I do miss too many MSG classics (Lost Horizons to name only the most important one)
Ending with a small message to Doogie White: No Ian Gillan was not in the audience, her name is Jolanda and the confusion around the guy standing before me was pretty funny.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival 2014 - 18 October P60 Amstelveen

Heavy Metal Maniacs a Dutch fanclub founded in 1997 and highlight of the year is their festival. As the focus is on the best period in music: the Eighties, they presented a nice Dutch/British dive into our past again. Opening band Venator I had seen not very long ago with Night Demon and missed their first part. The last three songs I did see were sounding good and showing them to be perfect warm-ups before the past reveals. Second band Diggeth had a slightly harder time to keep audience's attention as they play slightly slower and heavier, while southern rock also seems to be an influence. This meant they had to work harder for appreciation, but they managed to convince at least some.

Hereafter the first NWOBHM band hit the stage and for me Dealer came, saw and conquered. Their first live show in a year due to the loss of their bass player they returned to Holland a year late and rocked. Technical problems or not they brought their songs with attitude, enjoying themselves and swearing the songs together with a very British accent. Highlight was the final while playing full album First Strike. Great songs all of them with to me favorites the hardly before played Choose your Weapon and epic closer Final Conflict. As I had none of their music got First Strike after the show and hope to see them in Hatfield next year. Hereafter we got the last Dutch band of the day Sad Iron. I do not really know why I missed them in the eighties, but they reminded me of another Dutch band of that era Jewel. Fast songs, lots of energy and a great guitarist. Very good set.

Next was Midnight Messiah, my main reason for joining today after their great show at Power & Glory in August. Well I can be short, just as good again. This time I knew the Elixir songs as well, so even more recognition points. While I enjoyed their show massively I did have the impression they were not as known by all. I got into them due to the present, when I bought their CD The Root of all Evil last year. Only hereafter I discovered the Elixir works. Most people in P60 today are even better aware of the past, while I did not have the impression their new songs were all that known. This is a trend we see in other genres as well. Clearest example is Thrash Metal where we speak about the Big 4. Any follower of Thrash knows that bands like Heathen, Exodus, Death Angel have released the last years much better albums than any of the big 4 have done over the past 15 years. In NWOBHM Iron Maiden and Saxon still stay close to their origins, but we love their past. Surprises come from lesser known bands like Hell or Salem and for me Midnight Messiah fits perfectly well in that list. A new album that reaches the level of the past showing their relevance today. But before drifting off too far, Midnight Messiah are just a great band and if you need a reference melodic Saxon comes closest and the Son of Odin rules!

Headliner of today were Grim Reaper. They opened Rocking us to Hell and probably closed Seeing us in Hell as well, but I had to leave before our appointment near the horned one was made. As I needed to drive with the family the next morning some 600 km, I left halfway and got home in time for some decent sleep. What I did see was fast and well fast again. Not many moments of rest they played with an urge to bang our heads. So next year I shall be back and if not travelling the next morning coming by train and drink my beers. After all the Heavy Metal Maniacs Festival is about how it all used to be better in the eighties (which is soo true) and as I did not drive then, I should not do so now either. Thanks HMM hope to see many more festivals like this one, great Tee by the way.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

ProgPower Europe - 3-5 October 2014, Baarlo

Prog Power Europe is: Coming home, Camping de Berckt, Red Plastic bags, Sjiwa downstairs bar, Sunny breaks, Rented bicycles, Milanello, Meeting old and new friends and most of all 3 days of Great Music. This year's line up was for me the usual mix of bands I love, bands I know but not that well and bands I never heard of. Opening evening Friday gave us two bands only. Votum opened earlier this year for Riverside, much to my liking. Going through almost the same set as earlier this year I would only recommend slightly more heavy songs, as the balance now was a bit too light. Friday's headliner Jolly brought some fans of their own along and I could not really place them. I do like bits and pieces, but sometimes get bored away. Also their presentation moves from sympathetic, to slicky. Maybe if I gave them a lot of time I could grow into this band, but I don't see me putting the effort in.

And then came Saturday. In my many visits for a day or full weekend Progpower I do not recall any day where I did not miss one minute and got  entertained from begin to end during six shows. This turned out to become a day to remember with lots of variety and only highlights. First on were Disperse, who I knew and lived up to expectations. I don't know what they put in the wodka in Poland, but they do make great guitarists.  Their show was lively, impressive and including two covers I never heard of varied enough as well. They wanted to return one day and I hope they do. Then came Prospekt from the UK. Their first show abroad and I think a succesfull one. With their music more etching to melodic power metal not the most surprising act of the day, but certainly well worth my attention. Next on Australias first band of this year. With Aeon of Horus we got the needed energy injection. What a blast of technical Death Metal and what fun to see a band on stage enjoying themselves even more than the audience. Very sympathetic performance and I got the CD for appreciation.
Dinner break did not allow me to queue up at any snackbar or pizza place/Chinese as next up would be Pain of Salvation playing an old set. Starting with 25 minutes of Perfect Element Part 1 not much could go wrong really. How good to see why I considered PoS the best new Progmetal band between 1996-2004. Loosing me partially with too experimental lighter works lately this was back to great form. Also great to see Daniel Gildenlow in his usual outstanding voice after the scare he passed before. Of course I could list many songs I would have loved to hear as well (Inside!!), but 70 minutes is not enough for a band with a backcatalogue like theirs, ever considered a weekend Marillion style?

With PoS being silent headliners the pressure was on for next band Aeon Zen. How to follow up a setlist most people loved to hear once again? Well they managed and soon I entered Aeon Zen mode to see a great show. I did know some songs from Prog magazine samplers, but never got a CD from them. Well that was corrected with their latest album after the show as I really appreciated their performance. Not having the easiest slot they were not intimidated and came saw and conquered Baarlo, great set. I do remember saying that with 5 out of 5 the Saturday already made an impact within PPE history. Hardly could I imagine that the best was yet to come. Through the years some bands that were not households names yet, made an impression we always remember. I can think of Riverside 2004 as clearest example, but many others can be named as well. So I missed Voyager in 2006 due to work and I saw them for the first time live. I know their debut as well as their one but last album, which honestly speaking I am not playing all that much. When they hit the stage it was party, energy, musicality and total insanity. What a blast, what a band and what fun they had. Australia ruled PPE 2014 that became clear. Great performances of their own material and a ridiculously interesteing 80's pop medley. This band deserves to become huge and than bigger. Disappontments? none apart from the sold-out XXL Tee, which I would buy if their show was great. I mean even their T-shirt was great. Definitely a band to see again if on the continent.

So Sunday had to follow up all this. I noticed I was hyped on Saturday, tired after already two days standing and drinking and not as fresh this was always going to be an uphill battle for the Sunday bands. Cartographer were this year's only Dutch band, instrumental and slowly building up to heavy climaxes, nice enough. Tenebris from Poland did not manage to catch my attention. The grunt was there, the instrumental bits as well, but I missed the dynamics. Time for a pizza, the first served in Baarlo that day avoiding dinner break queues. But Sunday of course also had it's highlights. Brightest one came in the form of Vulture Industries. This was a show, filled up with great music and all attention towards the crazy eyes of the vocalist.l Never imagined I would witness a polonaise at Progpower, but it was all part of this crazy yet beautiful show. Chimpspanner were next and second instrumental band of the day. Very good musicians, but a bit too similar for the full 60 minutes.
Agent Fresco followed and being for me maybe the right band, but at the wrong time. I decided to have a beer downstairs and prepare myself for a grand finale as PoS would play Remedy Lane from Of Two Beginnings until Beyond the Pale. This being one of the best Progmetal albums ever, the Sjiwa was more than a bit looking forward. And we got what we wanted, live is always more of an impact. With the full album played we were afraid that a great weekend would be closed with one of the saddest jokes in Progmetal: Disco Queen. Now only hidden in a medley and instrumental we agreed this was their message to kill the bitch for good and we hope she never returns. Pain of Salvation was a perfect closing act for a very succesfull Progpower Edition. I was afraid that with the relative lack of famous names this might be a not so busy PPE, but quite the opposite was true. A big thanks to the organisation and promising us Abnormal Thought Patterns for 2015 the tickets shall be purchased when available.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Blokhut Live - Baroeg Rotterdam, 6 September 2014

Blokhut live: 4 bands with a hint to the past in the Baroeg. Great set-up, decent crowd and a return promised for next year. First off were last-minute stand-ins Martyr. A very lively show with good songs and a vocalist in the audience or the audience on stage. Entertaining and I am already curious how this will go down in Hatfield next year. Hereafter we got Torikini (?I think?) a local coverband, playing good, but not the right songs for me.

Third band was something special Deo! a Dutch Dio coverband. This is a very brave thing to do, since in order to be succesfull you need: A solid rhythm section, A keyboardist for the atmospheres, a guitarist who goes through the works of Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and Vivian Campbell, plus a vocalist who should be able to come at least close to the greatest voice in music that ever walked the earth. Well to my delight, surprise, astonishment and excitement Deo did tick all the boxes and some more. What a setlist, what a band and what a voice. Highlights: the full show. Well the vocalist deserves a special mention for Catch the Rainbow. When they were forced to stop, the audience was not a bit pleased and started singing Long Live Rock 'n' Roll without the band. Never did I see such a great cover band, of course helped by the classics only repertoire. And how did I miss Sergio to be with us, as he would have loved the show as much as we did. Only later Magchiel checked the site and found members are already known and vocalist is the Dutch voice of Praying Mantis. Definitely need to see them soon (Hey Deano how about P&G2?).

After this absolute highlight noone expected anyone could follow this up. Well Vandale could. Not the same high class repertoire, but winning points for nostalgy. Vandale were a Dutch NWOBHM alike band who sung in dutch releasing two LP's in 1981/1982 At the time we played their music over and over and now most lyrics came back fast. Also good entertainment factor you saw many smiling faces shouting along. To give our foreign readers a feeling of the fun we had their highlight was definitely: Geitenwollensokkenrockers! Blokhut 2015 noted down in the agenda.


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Super Massive Black Holes - Calculations of the Ancients

This one I have been playing for some two months now, which is a good thing since less then ten listens give you no clue what this is all about. The first song is called (sub-molecular) transmogrification of the oriphy, which looses all non-native english readers like me on the lyrical front. Then again, the mainly grunted vocals are also not ones you can really understand without the lyrics in front of you anyway. During the second song The Dyatlov Pass Incident their interest in Jazz comes out clearly. So far it all seems very intelllectual, while at the same time heavy as a really heavy thing. During the CD not too many verse-chorus-verse-chorus come at you and singing along would only be possible after at least another hundred spins. A short acustic instrumental piece is followed by even heavier Distance to the Great Attractor. Suddenly a slow banging of the head seems possible. And so we go on for this 35 minutes of different metal with loads of difficult words, textures and rhythms and all that jazz. The last song with the longest lyrics have them read out distorted over a slowly upbuilding atmospheric piece of music.

And still I love this album. Don't really know what attracts me so much in it, but I guess it is a welcome change from the more direct Heavy Metal, NWOBHM, or Neo Prog I listen to. Actually it is the extreme spectrum of progmetal, where Dream Theater alikes do not dare to go. Unaccessable, putting you on the wrong foot and changing styles all over the place I must confess that Mathematics of Emotions, does get under the skin indeed. This CD does challenge, annoy and intrigue me at times and has in Ghosts of Bhopal as a bonus one of the best songs I heard this year on it. Strange and beautiful these calculations.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Power & Glory Festival - The Rock Den, Hatfield 23 August 2014

Small scale festivals within niche markets, you really won't find anything better. For years Progpower in Baarlo is among my annual music highlights and now it seems I have found another guaranteed contender for festival/show of the year in Power & Glory Festival. For those who prefer their sonic spheres, GMM, Bloodstock or whatever let me explain some simple examples which proof my point. The festival is not organized by a company willing to earn good money on you, but by music lovers who care more about the music than you do yourself. The bands usually walk around between the audience and love to have the opportunity to play for you. The beer is priced fairly and at P&G the food was surprisingly Brazilian Pastel and coxinhas. As crowds go they might be small but made up by people who care for music so the atmosphere is always great. Based upon the above my expectations were high while returning to Hatfield and I did not get disappointed. As I decided to have a pizza near my hotel before going to The Rock Den, I arrived late and missed Sonic Scream and part of Toledo Steel. So herewith some of my observations and preferences through the day.

I am not sure if Toledo Steel is UK's answer to Italian Ruler or if it works the other way around, but I liked both shows a lot. Being the younger bands around they also were amongst the faster playing bands and both showed great guitar work and speed metal songs. I did see Toledo Steel earlier this year with Stampede, when I got their EP, so I did recognize the last songs I saw of them. Opposite to these two young bands there where also two older bands I did not know before and who seemed to have stayed closest to their original line-ups looking at the age of most members. Dream Overkill where mainly mid to lower tempo and while sounding good lacked some spice for me. Sacrilege had the nicest T-shirts of the day (so I got one) but also were exploring more mid-tempo areas. I did like some parts of it, although also here a fast kick in your face, would have helped the band drawing more attention. Interesting about these two bands is also that both do not get mentioned in the 800 page NWOBHM encyclopedia (while Sacrilege now had 4 CD's on offer?) This just shows that an encyclopedia is never complete I guess.

Headliners were Witchfynde and candles were alight and the mood got doomy. Very nice show and a worthy closer of the day. Before them we had one hour of Deep Machine and they played a mix of their new CD and older work. Brought with much conviction I liked them even better than last year in Holland when I knew less songs as no CD was released yet.

I know that a festival is never a competition, still some shows you always like better than others. For me the first huge surprise of the day came in Midnight Messiah. I had their CD, but did not have the Elixir albums (quickly got them after the show as they were available on CD or vinyl) This band had a diverse show, great songs and they turned out to be a band that makes you wonder why did they not break big again? A band to follow closely, hopefully I can make it to Heavy Metal Maniacs in October.
The biggest response of the day (in my idea that is) went however to Soldier and well deserved it was. What a good band and very entertaining on stage. Highlights following each other closely with a special mention of "Dogs of War Mothafucka" and their surprising full stage with old members joining in on Sheralee.

So a huge thanks to Dean and all at the Rock Den, for putting this together. I missed out on the Ice Bucket 24 hours challenge (hey where to get such a bucket on Stansted, before entering my plane) so I shall donate. This year there was already an international interest, so maybe this can grow and also more brits start respecting their own great musical heritage. With plans of P&G2 being two days and Stampede headlining the first, chances of me not showing up are pretty low. Finally I got to meet the man who pointed me in the direction of The Rock Den for Stampede (Miles from Soldier) and now he also brought us the song that still hums around while commuting to work "I know where I want to be... Sheralee".

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Metal Travel Guide

Leaving all press coverage of a disaster behind we left for our scheduled nordic roadtrip on 23 July. Visiting 7 Northern European Capitals meant a lot of driving and ferrying and in order to also explore new horizons on the music front we were partially guided by the Metal Travel Guide. This site tells for a lot of countries and cities, where you can find your rockbars, live venues or CD/LP stores. As we started in Poland I did check, but not went to shops. Also because the Polish component of my music collection is already pretty good represented. After Vilnius on a Sunday with no metal either, we entered the first good CD shop in Riga and after Estonia and Finland I stopped again in Sweden and Norway due to similar reasons as Poland and the fact that in Norway CD shops seem to have followed the Dutch route and basically disappear from the cities.

So herewith a short overview of my findings which start in Latvia. The shop Randoms which we entered in Riga had a department Latvian Metal so that was easy. When asking for help in the shop I left with two great findings. BioMorph - Rupture turns out to be djenty, technical, grunt/clear and nice overall, but less acceptable to the family in the car. Indygo - Decoy is a very Tool inspired affair, but of high level and more compact in their songs. So when driving to our next country I found to have made two great buys for a very decent price as well.

In Tallinn I went to a shop found on MTG and played partially safe, as I looked for and found Estonian band X-Panda who played Holland twice before with good reviews and are coming back to de Boerderij early next year. Again asking for help I got hinted at TNVVNuM. With a name like that it is probably good they make instrumental music only with minor vocal parts. This turned out to be lacking some power to remain interesting, also the scarce vocals better stay out altogether. Musically OK, but not a CD I shall return to many times, yet the risks of buying in the blind.

Helsinki was the last stop with succesfull purchases. Easily the best and most complete shop as well, which such a long and hard name that I could not remember it. Helsinki really has Heavy Metal on the streets in the air and even in the supermarket. Wearing a black T-shirt was just a fashionable thing to do. On the CD's I did play on safe and found two bands I read positive reviews about before. The Chant - New Haven is somewhere towards Sentenced/Katatonia Melancholic and moody. Montage with their self titled debut is probably the best CD of my trip. 70's Hardrock, some progmetal, high voices and great songs. The tip was there, great to find I agreed with the positivism.

Apart from CD's I did look for potential shows, but there we were less lucky. Just missing Kansas in Warsaw and Manowar in Helsinki I did think of going to three extreme Metal bands in Helsinki to sense the atmosphere, but unfortunately found I mixed up dates in my head and we needed to get the ferry to Stockholm the same evening. Final conclusion: Anyone travelling for holidays or work, first check as it might lead you to great surprises.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Gary Moore - Murder in the Skies

"Murder in the Skies - Came without a warning".
Gary Moore wrote this song about the Korean Airline that got shot down by the Russians during the Cold War. Next month it is 30 years ago that I drove for the first time with Sergio to Monsters of Rock in Germany to see among many other highlights Gary Moore perform this song live.

Now Sergio is no longer among us! He got shot down with his wife Esther and children Elsemiek and Julian on their way to what was supposed to be a holiday to revisit a country of his past. Still trying to come to terms with this most surreal and unnecessary ends of lives I dug into the only remedy that helps in such occassions: Music.

Sergio was, the saddest of openings talking about a friend, one of the nicest persons around. We knew each other from the football club, but as he was a few years older, we became frineds through music. While having been to similar shows before, the first trip together was to Monsters of Rock in Karlsruhe 1984. I still kept the Tee, since what a line up, with AC/DC, Van Halen, Ozzy, Dio, Gary Moore, Accept and Motley Crue. After this huge success we repeated this trip in 1986 Mannheim and 1987 Pforzheim (85 had no European version) until in 1988 MoR hit Holland for the first time. In those years we went to many, many shows and the last two days I have been playing music we both loved then and now still do or did.

Playing Rush's Moving Pictures yesterday I listened to Witch Hunt and heard a description of some of the emotions that are going around my head at the moment: "Quick to Judge, Quick to Anger, Slow to Understand". Noone knows officially why and what has happened, but all doubts are pointing to them Russians again. This means that the already ridiculous raising of beer glasses between our King and his Argentinian (censored) with Putin during the Olympics earlier this year only becomes more sinister. The guilty ones if found won't bring back the almost 300 lost people and Sergio shall never join me again to a traditional Heavy Metal show.

Dio should be mentioned as well, since we both would mention Dio amongst our favorite all time artists. Similar to Sergio Dio is no longer among us and he seemd by the stories a very good person. Sergio never changed. At the end of the eighties Sergio started moving around for work. When in Aberdeen I still visited him twice and one of the football highlights in our lives was watching the MacDuff Derby in Northern Scotland. When he moved to Brunei I was less tempted to visit him and when he moved to Nigeria I was moving to Brazil myself. In the early 2000's we both returned to Holland and got in contact again. Sergio was one of the examples of a friend I would not see often, but when we met everything was fine.

As we both travel a lot for work we would sometimes not see each other for many months, but when any band from our past would play in Holland I always contacted Sergio and he would join if he could. Only last week I saw an announcement of Graham Bonnet and Magnum playing Holland this autumn thinking to myself this deserves a group going. Some two months ago I tried to get friends interested in joining me to a Monsters of Rock Cruise next year. Sergio replied we would do that when retired. Given we were working on advancing our retirements, this could have worked soonish. Now the Sailing Ships might sail, but can I ever join not thinking of Sergio who should be there next to me at the bar?

I am still going all over the place with my thoughts, but do know I shall remeber Sergio as someone who cared as a person and loved his Heavy Metal. I shall watch the skies looking for a Rainbow in the Dark. If ever spotted maybe a God exists after all, but for sure Sergio would still be around.

Sergio: We Rock!!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Intervals - A Voice Within

Great Worldcup. lots of exiting matches, beautiful goals and Holland is still in. Enough reasons to go quiet on the Blog front, but this does not mean that I have not found great new music the last month. Sure that more reviews shall follow I quickly have to get this one out to the World, as it is very likely among my favorites of 2014 by the end of the year.

Intervals: I saw them opening earlier this year for a modern djenty, proggy metal tour with The Safety Fire, Tesseract and Protest the Hero. I already liked the live show at the time, but absolutely love this CD. This is new and fresh and modern, yet very much leaning on Tech- and Prog metal basics. Originally this was an instrumental band and you can hear that without vocals they would be interesting enough (there is one short instrumental break in the calm Breathe with great Satriani/Schon like solo ending). Still instrumental bands usually limit themselves to musician audiences. Now they have added Mike Semesky on vocals of earlier The Haarp Machine fame. While he shouted pretty often in those days he now restricts to clean vocals only, which opens many more doors. Still he is no Dio, Tate or Alder and the stars of this band are playing the instruments. While at first listen the mastering of instruments are clear, after repeat listens the songs really come alive and I keep on hearing more new intervals, while melodies start sticking in my head.

Yes this band might so far be the discovery of the year to me, both live and on CD. While saying that at the same time I did get another new band after a raving Prog Magazine review, but shall need at least 20 more sessions, before grasping that one in full. In the meantime I shall play this one a lot during the coming weeks and for those with an interest I believe it is still available for full streaming on Youtube, so give them a try. The future is bright, let's hope it is also Orange 10 days from now.  

Monday, 9 June 2014

Rob Lamothe, Fan Halen, Anatomy of I - Kaderock Den Haag 7 June 2014

Summer arriving and the free festivals are back. With Kaderock being usually the most guitar driven one (together with Pleinpop which is not going to hapen this year), we got offered some good bands and to me the absolute highlight in having Rob Lamothe over. The former (or current? forgot to ask) vocalist of The Riverdogs, now solo in singer songwriter format.

The first band I saw was Fan Halen. A very nice coverband of guess who? I did recognize the vocalist from some shows in the eighties. Musically very strong and a singer who makes a show of it, I would say one of the better coverbands I have seen.Going through the Classic years of Van Halen nice to hear those again.

One hour later we got Rob Lamothe hitting the stage. He was supported by two locals on bass and drums, which obviously limited the possibilities of shouting for Riverdogs songs. Not by any means as hard rocking as twenty years ago, he still owns one of the absolute best voices around. I do not know all the titles of his new songs, but recognized some (House of the Rising Sun). When before closing with Sailing Ships he complimented me on my 1994 Riverdogs Tee (which actually was Karin's at the time) I did have my two seconds of fame in the sun. Not backed up by son and daughter this year for emotional addings, another great performance of that voice.

In the evening I closed Kaderock on a heavier note enjoying Anatomy of I. This technical Death Metal band had on CD great names as Steve Di Giorgio on bass and Dirk Verbueren on drums, now turned all Dutch. I have the CD, but do not know it well enough to recognize the songs. This did not matter for the energy. The far too short set ended with a replay of the opening song and definitely a band to see if in town or nearby.

Finally I did have a surprising highlight in meeting Mr. Lamothe outside when I came back from a dinner break with Tiago. Seems that I am taking up this habit of having my picture taken with celebrities, so here we go.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Tangent / Karmakanic - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 30 May 2014

This was a strange show! We had six people on stage twice, all of the  highest level at their instrument. The first hour they were called Karmakanic and played a few of their songs, then after the break they are the Tangent and treat us on an overview from that band. Only minor changes and participations and still we got two very different shows.

Karmakanic are headed by bass player Jonas Reingold and have in vocalist Goran Edman (Madison, John Norum, Yngwie Malmsteen and many .many others) a high class vocalist. I quite liked their first album with some sci-fi-prog short songs and that voice. Herefter they moved into Flower King areas (Mr. J.R. in command?) with many long songs that drag on without anything exciting happening. Live they were pretty much the same: technically sometimes amazing, while at the same time pretty boring. Sorry but just not my band or mood of the day.

How different would the same band be, when after the break they returned as The Tangent. Headed by the ridiculously under-appreciated Andy Tillison, suddenly things started happening on stage. Opening with uptempo Evening TV, we did put the kettle on for a pot of high class prog. Their songs might be as long, but things are happening and we get a show to enjoy. This goes from the announcements inbetween untill the much heavier rocking instrumental parts. Highlights also on Luke Machin on guitars. Being son-age to most of the band he did proof that the buzz in England around his playing is justified. Talking about English feedback, not very long ago Mr. Tillison stated in Prog magazine that touring with a prog band is a perfect way of wasting money. Looking at the relatively small audience yesterday I guess he was right. Too bad as the show was very good and felt too short.

After a final break the band returned for a double encore playing one song from both bands. This only to confirm my thoughts. Karmakanic being so-so and The Tangent very convincing even playing a new heavy song that is still to be recorded. As today both bands are playing Celebr8.3 in London, which I had to miss, I guess Karmakanic has to work hard to fit the bill, while The Tangent is a deserved headliner.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Night Demon - Cafe de Vinger The Hague, 27 May 2014

The Hague Heavy Metal Alliance: a non profit organisation promoting Heavy Metal shows in The Hague and finally I could make it to one. Night Demon and Venator, playing Cafe de Vinger. An evening of old school heavy metal was promised and delivered.

Support band Venator had the screams, the guitars and the whoo-ho-hoa sing alongs. The best part of this is that being not familiar with their music it sounds nice at first listen. Although I always recommend a cover (unless they played one I did not know). Hereafter came Night Demon, being on a small tour through Europe. This turned out to be a nice heavy trio, that sounded not much different from the NWOBHM bands that came 35 years before them. This fact was even made clearer by the two Flying V's and the covers they played: Lightning to the Nations and Axe Crazy. Their own songs were  new to me, but were all up-tempo with some nice guitars and sounding good. Next Saturday we have Fortarock in Holland which is this year's biggest metal festival. I doubt I shall bother to go there, as to me these Tuesday night surprises are so much nicer. Interesting observation from the vocalist was that since we were not in the USA, probably most of us should get up the next morning for work so they finished shortly after midnight. So people with a job don't go to weekday metal shows in the US, that is sad. I enjoyed this evening and hope for more bands of this level coming to The Hague. For appreciation of the band got the T-shirt and EP, to find out they played Radar Love in the past live. When I pointed the band that they were in the city of Radar Love, so an easy succes, I learned the new line-up did not play this song yet. A pity, but I preferred the Diamond Head and Jaguar covers anyway. Another discovery of a good band and they shall return next year for Very Eavy festival.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Lillian Axe - One Night in the Temple

In the nineties MTV got many bands to play acoustic sets and release a TV presentation plus an unplugged CD with in some cases quite some succes for the band. Some 15 years later my favorite US melodic rock /hair metal/ whatever band Lillian Axe decided to release a best of  album in acoustic setting for friends and family. A Pre-order was made fast and last week I received the nicely packed CD/DVD. Basically the CD's have been played constantly since and the DVD is on repeat turns already as well.

Those who liked the format in the past and appreciated especially strong releases from Tesla and Queensryche should see and hear this, as Lillian Axe brings the model to a whole new level. Helped by the fact that Lillian Axe don't do bad or average songs this 20 (well 19) song best of goes from one hghlight to yet another one. Never have I seen songs standing up so proudly without the shredding guitar solo's (as they happen to have one of the best melodic guitar shredders in Mr. Steve Blaze in the band). By saying that they mention one song to be the most representative Lillian Axe song ever and the guitar solo in Ghost of Winter is an emotional highlight. So here we have a band with 10 studio albums and of course I miss many songs, but at the same time I would not like to skip any one of the songs presented here. Another comforting fact is that while Lillian Axe has been through several line-up changes, the standard has always been stable and current vocalist Brian Jones does justice to all the old classics.

So I am a fan of the band and unfortunately one of the few in Holland as their empty shows told us two years ago. As a result I liked the interviews, Q&A's and repetition shots inbetween the songs. Those who want to see the songs only better listen to the double CD (as I did not discover that option on the DVD). As a fan I saw great added value in all that. Seeing Lillian Axe in their home territory gave a great opportunity to spot the differences, while being very similar in musical taste. With all respect the Christian, Support the troops, Cowboy shirts and hats are very typical Southern States and not so much northen Europe. As Steve explains in his answers, who cares! as long as you try to be a good person and to that most can relate probably. Hats off also for the local crowd who all sing along from start to finish on Nobody Knows (the Crowd version - song 20). As I have the debut album still on LP I checked but did not see lyrics and I only know lyrics from albums I have on LP (while Deep Red Shadows also had some acoustic songs including Nobody Knows and this time with lyrics). Mentioning the DRS album I did miss one song, the ridiculously haunting opener Under the Same Moon, which I would love to see in this format as well.

So anyone into music should see and or hear this. Being more specific anyone into great melodies, vocals, and acoustic solo's. Some explanations on songs that add emotion to the story, the wedding song that should be a global hit, a message to our children, the horror movie inspirations and lots more. I so much hope they can come back to Europe again one day. For those who hate acoustic guitars and soft versions, there is an extra with a live version of Take the Bullit, just to remind those how metal they are as well. The DVD just finished so now I go and put up Deep Red Shadows to hear Under the Same Moon and read along with Nobody Knows. What a band!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Marillion Vivo Hall Rio de Janeiro - 10 May 2014

More than once I heard Marillion in the past answer the question of their favorite show, with a reply hinting that Rio is up there among their favorites. As Rio is also my second hometown I decided that next time they would play Rio I would see for myself. Well that is not how it actually went. When I was disappointed that a worktrip to Brazil made me miss Technical Thrashers Toxik in Scum, I found by coincidence a good alternative in this show and with the help of some fortunate arrival of jet-lagged customers I did manage to see Marillion in Rio after all. With Marillion obviously liking Rio as much chances for a moody H were nill and everybody seemed to have a good time on stage. For those like me in the audience there was a nice bonus in the fact that on South American trips they just can't skip Kayleigh, so the percentage Fish songs is higher than any European show.

Starting off we got Gaza. Live this showed really that it must be the heaviest Marillion song of the past decade and starting well. As the tour was originally called greatest hits, turned into best sounds tour we did get many early H era hits as well, Easter and Beautiful followed. Power from the sounds album created large cues at the toilets, but was in a good pace, followed by the biggest surprise of the night in Ocean Cloud. Then we went back in time for No One Can and Warm Wet Circles/That Time of the Night and the roof started loosing some concrete, or was I only imagining that? The first part ended uptempo, welcomed by me in Cover My Eyes, Hooks in You and Man of a Thousand Faces.
The first encore gave us Kayleigh plus Lavender and Heart of Lothian with lots of vocals for the audience. Final encore was Neverland and it seemed a Greatest Hts show indeed.

So how was the show in Rio and what are my amateur antropologist comments? First the ticket stated start at 22:00 hrs, so when I entered the Hall around 21:30 I learned the the support band already finished. Upon arrival many people stood outside drinking and with the rather similar male part of the crowd being nerdy, into metal and bolding, all just like me. A big part of the women dressed  pretty different from Europe: as if going to a wedding and following the principle of Marillion's inbetween album Less = More. No complaints though. Brazilians like to talk a lot, but during the show this was not very obvious. The crowd is loud and singing along Rothery's guitar solo's is also a local hobby. Still I felt the crowds at Marillion weekends more fanatical as you gather the real freaks than. Helped by a very nice uptempo and old setlist I think this one shall go down in my memory as one of the better Marillion shows as well. Next time I shall be there again (if work helps that is).

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Salem - Forgotten Dreams

Here is one of those again: NWOBHM revival works for me as follows. First I get an anthology for the bands I did not know if released on CD. Then I try to catch them live in Holland (and miss most of them) and buy their new CD when released. Exactly the road followed with Salem. I knew the name, not the music and got their anthology "In the Beginning". Then they came for the release of this CD last year to the east of Holland and I missed them and now I bought the last CD Forgotten Dreams, to find it is a show to see later this year.

The CD opens with the Title song which blends several NWOBHM bands (vocals towards Saxon, Whooo Def Leppard in their early days, Bassing break and a melodic solo in 80's style aiming at melody and not showing off). This song sets the standard and is followed by my favorite "High Stakes". Those who expected a hair metal ballad with a title like "When Love's in Your Heart" thought wrong Uptempo hallo Saxon. A power ballad follows in "This Heart is Mine" after which midtempo "Kazakafnu" let's the head slowly bang again. "The Answer" slowly builds up to a great chorus. "Reach to Eternity" is fast and furious. "The Best is Yet to Come" is first hard to believe after Side A and B much slower and acoustic, which is nice for a change. "X-Rated" is back to mixing up and mid tempo work again. With "Break the Chains" I thought fast metal and got surprised by the slow intro and power ballad it develops into. "Ask the Lonely"is not a Journey cover, but starts with a Neal Schon like riff.
Closer "Aftershock" starts epic with a bulldozering chorus leading to an uptempo ending.

All in all a very entertaining release. I missed them last year and at Eastern in the north when Fates Warning played the same day. But they come back with Jaguar (another band I missed 3 weeks ago) in September. Being one week before Progpower in the midst of many shows I shall make an effort to be there: Great band. Finally I also saw them on the shortlist for Hatfield's Power & Glory 2 festival, but that is far away still (and the ticket for P&G 1 is bought only recently).

Monday, 21 April 2014

Fates Warning & Kingcrow - De Bosuil Weert 19 April 2014

"I Know it's getting late, but I feel I need to explain" Fates Warning Rules !!! In Progmetal the talk has been about the Big Three, the Progmetal founders or whatever more. In a way this is defendable and logic, but inexplicable remains that the best of these three: Fates Warning never came close to the success of either Queensryche or Dream Theater. Last year they released after 9 years a new album and "Darkness in a Different Light" is yet again a great collection of songs, which ranges from fast and heavy to a short ballad and ending with an epic. For some reason this album got almost no great reviews, nor did it appear in year lists of specialized sites and magazins. So being a niche player in an already tiny niche market let me once more explain what those who did not show up in de Bosuil missed yet again.

First great news was that there was an opener after all and not the least. One week earlier I was sad that a worktrip made it impossible for me to reach Ittervoort in time for Threshold/Kingcrow and only one day later I saw announced that Threshold would be back at de Boerderij later this year after which one week later Kingcrow was added as surprise opening act to Fates Warning. Kingcrow released there very good In Crescendo album last year and in the 45 minutes they had concentrated mainly on that album. They played Progpower before and already convinced, but with an even better album to support they now turned into a very good band. As they toured with Redemption before it seemd that their vocalist took over some Ray Alder poses and looks, not looking much different from a younger cousin version of same. With voice and playing also at good level I see Kingcrow are now defintely in the leage of ones to follow. This show matching the In Crescendo album it was a pity they did not play for a full hour.

At 22:30 Fates Warning hit the stage in de Bosuil that was nicely packed due to the small build up. Fates Warning has been playing Holland frequently over the past years and they do not attract large crowds anymore. Coming back to my opening comment it still beats me why Dream Theater can sell out HMH (4000) and 013 (1500) within one year and Fates Warning has to do with a half full Bosuil. Anyway this results in the audience being all real music lovers and a large part of the crowd do visit Baarlo as well during each first weekend of October.

Fates Warning live does usually not hold many surprises in the setlist, as they visit several obligatory songs and change a few songs only. This time they had 4 songs of DIADL mixed in, amongst the usual highlights of their career. They also normally play 90 minutes, which was not much different today. Yet still this one stands to me as one of the better shows I saw the last years from them. Ray Alder was with a good voice, the sound was clear and musically we never can complain. Frank Anesti still not joining, but his not-introduced substitute took the honors well. Jim Matheos still remains (!) one of the great guitarists around, Joey Vera stands out in playing and haircuts, while barefoot Jarzombek on drums is a stable factor now in the post Mark Zonder years.

Any remarks on the setlist? Well with so many great songs out, there always remains a long list of favorites not played. I did miss "Nothing Left to Say", "APSOG 12", "Pieces of Me" and so many others. When upon arrival I saw at the tour shirts also having a No Exit T-shirt I did silently hope for a full "The Ivory Gate of Dreams", but that was not going to happen. On the T-shirt I could not pass. While most recent covers are real works of art that would in large format hang well on a wall the "No Exit" album knows their last ugly cover. Still with the old logo and square No Exit on the back this turned into a modern shirt after all.

So Fates Warning came again and blew all away with a set build upon their faster works. The Eleventh Hour played at the Eleventh hour and Another Perfect Day has ended. Fates Warning Rule!!!