Sunday, 30 August 2015

Fireforce, Guilty as Charged, Drakkar - Musicon Den Haag 28 August 2015

A Friday evening and THHMA brings us three Belgian Heavy Metal bands in Musicon. Opener was Drakkar. A band coming from the eighties but unknown to me. Their Heavy Metal sounded nice and the biggest atraction came from their pretty energetic vocalist. He decided to leave the stage for what it was and performed the full show on the floor, behind the bar and around visitors  necks. I thought this was just the right thing to do as it brought smiles (or frowned eyebrows at some) and good atmosphere. The music was traditional Heavy Metal and sounding fine.

Next up were Guilty as Charged. I immediately think of Culprit when hearing that name, but unfortunately that great band from 30 years ago was not covered or set as an example. This band played more Thrashy metal and at times the vocalist came awfully close to James Hatfield. This brings me to my main impression and tip for the band. As they came after the extremely participative Drakkar show, they were not going to top that live performance. Still their music sounded great, but lacked for me points of recognition. With a voice like that in the band for me the obvious would be to add a cover from Metallica early in the set and the attention will be grasped better. If they need further tips "The Four Horsemen" would in my view blend in nicely in their set.

Fireforce were headlining and had a nicely decorated stage set up. A large Deathbringer banner on the back and some huge logo's before the amplifiers, with sandbags and military outfits they made their point. That point is that Fireforce play Combat Power Metal. Well whatever the name they played a nice set of metal anthems. Two years ago I saw them playing at R-Mine festival and already liked their set. As I do not know their CD's I liked at the time their cover of Battle Hymns. After the show we spoke with the vocalist and understood that at the time they had only one album, so a cover was needed to fill the show. Still for me a good cover works with slightly lesser known bands. (earlier this year Absolva took Musicon by a storm, but when they played Fear of the Dark the roof came off) Even without a cover Fireforce convinced and played this straight forward metal style that goes down so well over a beer.

So another entertaining evening in Musicon and THHMA keeps bringing us good bands. Of course the evening deserved more people showing up, but that is old news. Only by showing up chances of more bands interested to play The Hague or returning during next tour shall increase. I keep on trying to do my part and had a great time doing so.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Frank Dimino - Old Habits Die Hard

Frank Dimino was vocalist of Angel, one of the best rockbands in the seventies. I remember playing for a Long Time cards with  Hans and Magchiel listening to their Classic "Live Without a Net" Over and Over (both not so great puns intended). This live recording can stand next to great live albums of that time by UFO, Thin Lizzy or Scorpions. In opener The Tower it also contained one of the best Rock songs written ever. Frank Dimino had a remarkable voice which gave Angel this easy recognizable sound (well next to some Keys from a certain Mr. Giuffria). The band dismantled in the early eighties and returned late nineties to release "In the Beginning". Actually I was still hoping to see Angel one day live. Last time they played within 2000 km from my home was at Bang Your Head I believe some ten years ago. That show was with Steve Blaze of Lillian Axe taking the honors on guitar, but I missed it. Now I still did not give up, as almost all great bands from the past reform and tour. Unfortunately rare news on Angel (AOR magazine) told me they are all busy on other careers and chances for a tour are slim at the most and visiting Europe somewhere below zero.

And then Aardschok suddenly had an interview with Frank Dimino about his new (and first) solo album. The interview started with an obligatory introduction for anyone under 45 years, but the fact that a solo album was released through Frontiers got my interest. After reading about guest participations of amongst others Punky Meadows, Oz Fox, Eddie Ojeda and Jeff Duncan I placed an order in the blind. Pleased to inform that my gut feeling was right as I can say that this is one of the best albums in the melodic rock genre (to be) released this year. The CD contains exactly what we could hope for. Some midtempo melodic songs, some ballads and some (for Angel standards) very fast rockers. Frank's voice is still very strong (which makes sense for the vocal coaching classes he gives nowadays) My favorite songs are in the fast area with Mad as Hell and The Quest. Next to these fast rockers the one song that sounds most like old Angel is very good as well: I Can't Stop Loving You.

Anyone into Melodic Rock should get this album. It has the variation needed, great perfromances and well getting a surprise release from a hero of the past basically deserves a purchase at all times. Being released by Frontiers who knows they get him over for the Frontiers festival. A get together of old bands I did not manage to visit yet, but might as well if Frank Dimino makes it. Until then Old Habits Never Die shall do.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Trial - Vessel

One of the advantages of being a commuter and frequent traveller is that I always keep an eye open for finding interesting books or magazines, as I have many hours to kill waiting. Some time ago I ran into a cover in black and white of a Thin Lizzy picture with logos of old Whitesnake, Girlschool plus names of Tygers of Pan Tang, Anathema, Europe and Thor. Going through this issue of Iron Fist magazine I found inside also more new bands and plenty of CD reviews. One of the bands inside that was new to me and drew my interest was Trial. With the help of some internet research and sounds the CD was quickly bought and it is a grower of an album by a band that THHMA should get to play here soonest.

Trial are a Swedish Heavy Metal band and play an epic type of Heavy Metal. I have read some reviews and Mercyful Fate is mentioned (production/recording by Andy La Rocque) as well as occult metal. My main comparisons are with some of the early US Heavy Metal bands like Liege Lord, Exxplorer and the likes. During doomy rocker Ecstacy Waltz I can even hear bits of Psychotic Waltz' debut album. Well it is not about which bands these guys remind me of, but the beauty of their album. This is just good old fashioned Heavy Metal played with incredible skill. Apart from the short title song we get six more songs in a total of 51 minutes so time enough to work on build-ups and atmospheres. It is interesting how many of my favorite 2015 albums were actually released end 2014. I shall probably bend the rules by the end of the year as this is top 10 material again. Very curious how this band would be live. As it turns out they had a debut album in 2011 (missed by me) which is sold out on their website.
To make the package complete the artwork is arty, the lyrics are dark and the album ends with a 13 minute epic "Restless Blood". Try this out, you might be as positively surprised as I am.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Queensryche / Armored Saint - Melkweg Amsterdam, 3 August 2015

Monday evening in Amsterdam, tropical temperatues and mid summer school holidays. Not the ideal conditions for a Heavy Metal show, but the double Queensryche/Armored Saint attracted a decent crowd to the Melkweg anyway. Both having their career high some 30-25 years ago it showed in the crowd as well. When you compare modern metal bands with the quality on stage tonight it is sad that very few people in their teens/twenties were present, but I do not see a way to reverse this. For the older people that did show up we got two amazingly good shows and just an evening of Heavy Metal at its best. Warm up band Beyond the Black I missed, so soon after arrival the real work started.

Armored Saint opened with Win Hands Down, title song of their last album released some months ago. This was a good choice as it showed that the new album is as good as previous work also in a live setting. Actually to me the Armored Saint show was one trip through time amd space as they are not a band that I did see a lot, but I have most of their music. The only time I saw them playing before was at Dynamo Open Air in 1991. I believe that in their CD review I already called their music dance music, as it is heavy with a tremendous groove all the time. Live it simply is not possible to stand frozen and watch. Highlights all around in The March of the Saint, through Raising Fear, Pay Dirt, Reign of Fire to Madhouse. Special mention deserved by their best song ever Last Train Home in a killer version and the next generation joining on guitar/vocals during Can U Deliver. This show just passed with a smile on your face and so many good songs to keep the atmosphere at high for the full time. Probably one of the best shows I shall see this year and the question even became would Queensryche be able to follow this one up?

Opening with Anarchy-X and the Nightrider we were immediately remembered that with Todd La Torre at the helm the highlights of the eighties are possible live again. On it went with Breaking the Silence. OK, the surprise was not as big as last time when we saw the old songs perfromed brilliantly again for the first time in some 20 years. Still the setlist could not disappoint, but something was hindering the show. So when Todd la Torre mentioned that a cold and fever was really making things hard for him we realized that we were right in hearing a lack of power, as well as relieved that there was a reason for this. Stilll he fought himself well through the remainder of the set, while unfortunately same set was drastically cut short. As we have to appreciate the fight, what we got was really good and Arrow of Time did make me look forward to the new album. The split now defintely resulted in one great Queensryche and one Operation Mindcrime. While we saw confirmed that we can expect lots of good to come from the first one, the latter still has to convince us which might happen soon on CD.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Schollenpop - 1 August 2015, Scheveningen

Schollenpop is the festival closest to my home and usually is guitar orientated. Not necessarily heavy rock, but normally acceptable music and some hardrock or metal inbetween. It is always held at the beach of Duindorp on the first Saturday of August. Problem with that is that it falls mid school holidays and the past 5(?) years I missed it due to family holidays at the same time. This year we went early and as a bonus they announced particpation of none other than Bay Area Thrashers Death Angel on the main stage. To increase the fun some weeks ago it became clear that The Hague Heavy Metal Alliance would organize a metal stage as well, which basically meant that we would have a full day of Heavy Metal in the sun, on the beach, for free. All ingredients therefore for becoming the best Schollenpop ever and so it was.

THHMA stage brought us a wide variety of metal-hard rock and seeing these bands in this setting was so good, which made me like all shows. Starting the day were two heaviest bands of the day in local band Rages of Sin and from Belgium Carnation. Death Metal played well and shocking the slowly arriving festival visitors not that much into metal (as the stage was next to the entrance of the festival). The Stiff played punkrock which suited me slightly less. Locals Rebelstar brought us melodic hard rock played continuously with no time lost on endless speeches a risk of that genre. Distillator from the East of Holand was a new name to me and brought us very good thrash metal to warm up for the main stage headliners. Closing bands were 80's heavy metal and to me the two best shows on this stage indeed. Sad Iron played fast and furious and is actually a very good band who good have been bigger in the eighties. Martyr I saw several times recently and they just know how to make a party. Maybe their reputation goes around outside metal circles as well, since main stage band Novastar demanded no overlap and we got a large delay before Martyr got started (being forced to listen to part of Novastar, they were probably right as their boring rock would be completely blown away by Martyr). Martyr playing us into the dark and untill there were more people on their stage than on the beach. Great closer of the THHMA stage and what a succes this stage was. Being most part of the day the crowdiest place on the beach. A wide variety of styles and good reactions, with sandy moshpits to ensure sore calves the next day. Of course the fact that Death Angel was on the bill added many metal fans, but next year's stage has already been confirmed and in my view justifies also another big metal name on the main stage.

And then there was Death Angel as well. I saw them several times in the past as both Death Angel or The Organization. They always know how to get the crowd going and to play very tight. Due to the fact that it was a long thirsty day and I went to another show last Monday I do not recall their full setlist (also not knowing all songtitles admitted) I remember that they opened with Seemingly Endless Time and closed with Mistress of Pain. Inbetween that we got one hour of solid Bay Area Thrash Metal. Being experienced enough they welcomed all people who never saw them before and explained their long history of shows in Holland. Having had their first show abroad ever at Dynamo Open Air, it looked honest when they stated liking Holland. Those who know the band were with many as well and the atmosphere was good. Just a great show, which might  drive me towards their thrashumentary, which has been released after many years in the making.

So Schollenpop was to me the best edition ever, on this great location with as a bonus a sunny afternoon/evening. I do hope that my suggestion hereabove becomes true and next year another eighties metal giant plays Schollenpop next to a full day at THHMA stage. I might start trying to plan my holidays with more care if this will be the case.