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.