Saturday, 28 May 2016

Haken, Special Providence & Arkentype - Boerderij Zoetermeer 27 May 2016

Three different types of progmetal, of which two bands coming to support strong recent releases. Enough reasons to head to de Boerderij on a Friday evening. I was not the only one as de Boerderij was nicely filled up and the Progpower community was represented well. Opening band Arkentype was the one I looked out for most. This because I really like their debut album Disorientated and I never saw them play before (which made sense as this was their third show outside Norway they told me later). The band came on in black and white. This meant all four members wearing boxer like hooded coats either fully in white or black. Next to that the guitarist and bass player were more than a bit hectic on stage. These were the ingredients for an amusing show, with enough happening on stage. Musically I was helped by knowing the majority of the songs and recognizing big parts. The sound was not ideal and especially in the begin the guitar and bass were not overly present. The guitarist had seven strings on his guitar, but did not use them for showing of in impressive solo's. He mainly stuck to Djenty riffing. The bass player was smiling a lot and a a certain moment walked through the crowd. It was funny to see how he disappeared in a group of Class of 1985 shirts all banging around him. Arkentype seemed to be a band finding their way still stagewise. They told me that they like to have things going on while performing. I did much appreciate their show and am looking forward seeing them again later on when they have gained more experience. And yes I liked the new song, as soon as the arabic opening bits were finished.

Next on were Special Providence and they really turned out to be not my cup of Szilva Pálinka. I am better at home at Hungerian Alcoholic Beverages, than I am at Jazzy, Fusion, Prog, Metal Instrumental music from Hungria. I could also see that this is a talented bunch, but after Arkentype's ADHD performance these guys were standing very still. After two songs I moved to the bar, where I could hear them further having nachos and a beer. I could see them too on the big screen, but seeing them standing still is really not their selling point.

Then we waited for Haken's return to de Boerderij. In the past I saw them amaze me (Progpower, Night of the Prog) and later due to high expectations underwhelming slightly (touring with Headspace). When touring the disappointing Mountain my expectations went down and they positively surprised me again. Now that Affinty is one of this year's better releases they could only disappoint following their pattern. Well disappoint they definitely did not. Haken is nowadays a solid Prog machine. Maybe slightly less metallic, but a great show they always give us. As Haken is a band developing between albums, my personal problem is that I like the first album best. "The Point of no Return" and "Drowning in the Flood" are probably my two favorite Haken songs, but I doubt if  I shall ever see these two coming by on a live show. Now the focus was obviously on last album Affinity and the Mountain. In "1985" and "The Architect" we have two great new epics, which turned into instant highlights of the show. Regarding the Mountain I swim against the stream of most fans, but Cockroach King really does not do it for me. These things can happen (Pain of Salvation's Disco Queen has this controversy at much higher levels) so I did enjoy a good performance of Haken 2016. One thing regarding their first shows I noticed that live the departure of Thomas MacLean is a bit of a loss. He was always very present and a modern prog band with someone not wearing a beard nowadays is refreshing as well. Haken definitely arrived at the top of Progmetal/rock Premier League and I wonder if they can bring it to the next level. I guess their music is too complicated to bridge mainstream, but seeing them for the next years in a packed Boerderij is no punishment really. As I had to catch a last Randstad Rail, I left during Crystallised. Just reading I missed encore Celestial Elixir, meaning they did not forget Aquarius completely after all.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Lee Abraham - Vektor

Two new strong recommendations in very different areas: from Progressive Rock to Sci-Fi Progressive Thrash Metal.

Lee Abraham - The Seasons Turn
I saw Lee Abraham playing once live, during the infamous Winter's End Festival in Stroud. At the time he was promoting the Black & White album with former BBT vocalist Sean Filkins singing live as well as big part of the album. This immediately shows one of the strenghts of Lee, he knows people. On this latest album he gets some help from Dec Burke, Simon Godfrey, Robin Armstrong, Mark Atkinson and others. All these people represent what I liked over the last 10 years in British progressive rock. It did not take long to realize, that the songs and the performances are all top notch. We go from an epic opener of almost 25 minutes, to uptemo rockers, a ballad to an epic closer of just over 16 minutes. I have no real favorite yet, but hearing Simon Godfrey again on vocals makes me realize that Tinyfish was among the very best prog bands of this century. Lee Abraham himself takes care of electric and acoustic guitars as well as some keys. While on previous album Distant Days he sung the title track, he now stays with some background vocals only. A superb album and to me the best in progressive rock this year (but Frost* is on it's way).

Vektor - Terminal Redux
Begin 2016 quite some people got disappointed by Dream Theater's long Sci-Fi concept album. Main reason was it lacked metal in decent percentages. For those people Vektor comes to the rescue. Terminal Redux is a 77 minute Sci-Fi album full of metal. Actually I believe that some people might consider this album too metal. Their Thrash metal is crazy fast, while still very technical.  Black metallic vocals from David di Santo might be another hurdle for some. Not for me though and after investing several sessions reading along the lyrics I am convinced we found a winner. This album is not to be played on the background  while reading the newspaper. It demands and deserves full attention. Every time I play it I hear new things. Also now that I start recognizing the melodies, the calmer breaks come more to the forefront. Short instrumental Mountains above the Sun, Power ballad Collapse and the surprising Pink Floyd On the Turning Away inspired middle part of closing epic Recharging the Void. With an album this impressive the wish to see them live is always there. So far they only had festival slots in Holland, which means reduced time and sound. This week they announced a headline show in Little Devil this summer. I shall not miss that one!!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

MetalCon Pre-Party: Martyr +3 - Musicon Den Haag 20 May, 2016

As I can't make it to Musicon today herewith the first review of this festival although limited to the Pre-Party only. For the history of this festival I suggest the interview on Lords of Metal with organizer Dennis Kuiper. When reading that I looked back to find why I did not go last year and found it fell together with Doomsday Celebration in nearby Leiden on one day. While Saturday goes to the heavier extreme end in metal on Friday we got groove and heavy metal by 4 bands. Opener Mullet I missed for the biggest part. Upon entering they covered For Whom the Bells Toll pretty good and closed the set with a jumping song in Dutch about Automatic Pilots and Beer. As they are from The Hague I might see them soon again for a full show. Next on were Skullsuit a band playing groove metal. They played well, but lacked some variation to me. While saying that, the last song offered more on this front. What did look great were their banners in front of the stage,  some time and work obviously spend on logo's and artwork. Mourn brought some familiar faces. Vocalist Pieter Verpaalen sung on Textures' debut Polars and bassplayer Robin Zielhorst I saw playing with Cynic and Exivious before and also is member of Our Oceans. Our Oceans music is nowhere close to this band and also Textures and Cynic were not omnipresent. Given the mainly screaming vocals they were the heaviest band of the evening. I quite liked the songs and the groove that lay behind them. I read they are recording a debut album now, so expect them back as well. I shall go and see them again when in the area.

The evening was closed by Martyr a band that needs no introduction really. Martyr live is always a party and tonight would not be much different. Since the eighties they play heavy metal and bring a smile on your face watching them doing so. Vocalist Rop van Haren likes to sing between the audience or directing the audience on the stage. During two songs we got some 20 people on stage and as always the mood is great during a Martyr show. I always feel that they understand very well what it is all about. People come to enjoy themselves, so they push and pull until we are all in the right atmosphere. Martyr is good on CD (got their last one "You Are Next"yesterday) but they are brilliant on stage. Perfect closing act for any festival like this. So I hope today is a ssuccesfull as last night and also that I can attend both days during the next edition of MetalCon.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Haken - Arkentype

One week before they play de Boerderij herewith a heads up for two great recent releases:

Haken - Affinity:
Haken were hyped by PROG magazine before releasing their first album Aquarius. After hearing the debut and seeing them at Progpower and Night of the Prog I fully agreed with the hype. This could be one of the great hopes pleasing both progmetal as well as progrock audiences. While very interesting their music definitely requires some time spend and is not for all. Especially the freaky bits scare some people off. Second album Visions was in the same vein and much appreciated by me again. They really broke bigger with third album The Mountain. For me this was a dangerous move, as they turned less metallic. Therefore I was more than a bit curious how they would develop on their fourth album. After many plays I can say they found the way back up again. The songs work better to me then on the Mountain and the whole album seems more cohesive. Central piece "The Architect" is 15 minutes long and even brings back a few grunts. Further it is interesting that the cabaret parts that nerved some in the past almost disappeared. So I am looking forward how this comes over on stage next week, counting on the best and a bit.

Arkentype - Disorientated:
I do not know Special Providence and Rendezvous Point skip the show in Holland. But Arkentype shall open and I am looking very much forward to this band. This CD sees them blend various styles from Djent, to progressive rock and haunting female vocals. Obviously heavier than the headliner, they shall take care of our metal needs. With a blend of styles it always is hard to specify a band, but they in many parts remind me of Ram-Zet. Also Leprous in their heavier form comes close at times. I think this can be one big surprise to many, as I immediately loved this band after hearing their debut. Disorientated they do not seem to be at all to me, just all over the place and heavy. An early arrival next week is a must now.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Satan & Batushka - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden 14 May 2016

Doomsday Celebration in Leiden. Last year we got NWOBHM band Hell with some 9 other more extreme metal bands. This year the roll of headliner was for Satan with only two other bands on the bill: Batushka from Poland and Gnaw Their Tongues from Holland. The last one started and the only word I have to describe this is weird. I simply did not get this. One 5 string bass a computer and some buttons. The vocals were shouted to the roof and I actually did not know  what the couple behind the desk were doing. They call it Black Metal Avant Garde Filth, but I just did not get the point so stop here.

Personally I like these line-ups with different bands as I came to see Satan, but would see what the other two would bring. The audience was also equally split in younger Black Metal fans and older metal fans. Many of the younger generation came to see Batushka. While the opening band was strange this was also not your daily cup of tea. 8 Poles appeared on the small stage dressed in Black symbolized robes with hoods, covered faces behind grey masks and two stands of candles. Apparantly the members are known names, but do not disclose this (where did we see that before). It took them over 5 minutes before they actually got started and the silence created a gap and general jokes on what was going on, or more the lack thereof. Then one guitar started and we got some black metal with a very strong presence of three gregorian choir backing vocals. On a large screen behind them beautiful black and white movies of nature and old people were shown. This was like going to a service in church and not a rock concert really. This also helped by a bible like book exposed centre stage on a table. The music was Ok to me, but the Gregorian vocals bored me after a few songs. Also did I not see lots of differences in dynamics, which made it all look a bit similar. The success of the band was not small though and those who came to see them seemed to be enjoying themselves.

With a few people leaving already, the old guard went up front when Satan came on stage. Starting off with Siege Mentality and Incantations both from the Life Sentence album. The difference could hardly be bigger to me. Here we had a band playing good old fashioned uptempo NWOBHM, who were enjoying themselves and the crowd. Suddenly we had a vocalist who introduced songs with a sense of humor and not taking anything overly serious. The band was playing fast and one song after the other was shot at us with full enthusiasm. Most interesting I found that Satan does not rely on their old work to make the audience happy. Actually their classic Court in the Act got far less songs played than both recent albums. For those who do not know their metal history Satan used to be huge in Holland in the early eighties. The best description of this you can read in Mark Gregory's brilliant book "No Sleep Till Saltburn" where he joins them to Holland for a show in the Dynamo. He was surprised by audience reactions and 5 encores played that night. Tonight we got Trial by Fire and Blades of Seel halfway the set. This resulted in a pit on the sticky beerfilled floor. As Brian Ross mentioned before the interesting point was that several of the more fanatical moshers were not even born at the time of release. The show flew by and it seemed there was some time pressure when Satan did quit after an hour or so. The music started in the hall, but luckily the band did come back for an encore in the form of recent songs Testimony and The Fall of Persephone. I did get the impression that these were real encores as in not fully scheduled. Satan gave us a great show this evening. The contrast with the two previous bands was mainly in the enthusiasm and pleasure in performing. Respect that their show was not even close to hanging on to the past. They are very right as Atom by Atom leaves nothing to desire for and is as strong as Court in the Act. We forgive them the 28 year hiatus and hope for many returns in this form.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Uriah Heep - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 12 May 2016

Uriah Heep is one of those bands with a great past, occassional new albums and frequent tours. They tour Holland every year and I am not showing up on each and every tour. Last time I had seen them live was quite some years ago, so I decided to go for an evening of Classic Rock. This also helped by the fact that I met Onno and Mario at Mick Pointer Band and during the welcome home BBQ of Marcel. Both were rather positive about the Heep and especially the new drummer brought a lot of enthusiasm and power. A good thing about going to an Uriah Heep show is that you suddenly are around average age again. The first time I saw them live was in 1985 on the Equator tour in Arena (at the time this was still a club in Rotterdam and not a football stadium in Amsterdam). That was with Peter Goalby on vocals. Yesterday there were also several people in the audience who probably have seen them live during the Byron years. Don't think it was fully sold out, but it came close. With no supporting band this would be almost two hours of classics and even an early rail home.

The show opened with Gypsy and immediately it felt like I had not missed them over the past 7(?) years or so. Mick Box still wearing his bright smile and waving his hand got you immediately in the mood. Also it turned out that Mario and Onno said nothing too much with drummer Russell Gilbrook being very present doing justice to the Animal sign at the side of his drums. Bernie Shaw was soft in the mix but good voiced so all ready to go. Following up by Look at Yourself the past was present. During the show also 4 songs from last album The Outsider would be played. Although sounding good, they did not have the same impact as the songs everyone knows for some 40 years now. The set was build up fine and actually not much can go wrong with Stealin', Sunrise, The Magician's Birthday, The Wizard and my Heep favorite July Morning on the list. After about 100 minutes we were done and one encore followed in their biggest hit Easy Livin'. The only minor comments would be in some of the lyrics. Starting ballad Rain, with "It's raining outside"  can happen. Yet during new song The Law we were ordered to "take the law into our own hands". This might be less appropiate in times of terrorists attacks, Trump speeches and Erdogan disturbances. Still counting on an average Heepster being smart enough to seperate matters. in the end I was very pleased to see the latest version of Uriah Heep. It is always nice to see timeless classics from your youth being brought live. Further it always reminds me that Uriah Heep are among the founding fathers of melodic hard rock, inspiring later favorites of mine. With temperatures as nice as last night it felt like  There I was on a July Morning, Looking for love. With the strenght of a New day dawning and the Beautiful Sun. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Matthew Parmenter - Salem - Fallujah

Out of the many good albums from 2016 herewith a trio covering borders of my musical taste.

Matthew Parmenter - All Our Yesterdays
Looking at the cover one might think I am diving deeper in Black Metal territories here. Nothing could be more wrong as Matthew is responsible for vocals and keys with American progrock band Discipline. On this solo album we get very calm songs build around mainly piano with some guitar, drums or violin addings. This might sound rather dull, but it definitely is not. The voice of Matthew strongly reminds you of Peter Hamill (VDGG) this means haunting yawning proclamations somewhere between speaking and singing. The guiding music is dark and threatening. So resuming this is calm music, but at the same time able to scare the shit out of you. Topped of with melancholical and emotional lyrics this CD is a piece of art. Art level is also confirmed by the words of the title track being written by a certain William Shakespear. Different, yet highly recommendable.

Salem - Dark Days
Salem is the living proof that bands who were not that big during the NWOBHM years nowadays can rise up and release some very relevant albums. Previous one Forgotten Dreams was already a big surprise and I think they even manage to top that one with new CD Dark Days. Salem play the melodic version of NWOBHM with multiple choruses and strong melodies. Sometimes the vocals still remind me of Biff from Saxon, but less so than before. The songs are all easy to pick up and going down well at first hearing. Mostly mid tempo with some ballad parts this is a band I am already looking forward to see at Heavy Metal Maniacs later this year. I also believe that the song Nine Months makes them a Mearfest candidate. Finally the album cover artwork makes us nostalgic for LP's  with the beautiful painting.

Fallujah - Dreamless
Their previous album stirred already high waves, but I found out later and never got it so far. New released Dreamless is my favorite Technical Death Metal album of the year. The music is heavy but always building around strong melodies filled up with fast licks not unlike the Tipton brothers. The grunt is a case by itself as even reading along with the lyrics I loose track all the time. This partially is overcome by some female guest vocals and a small contribution from Mike Semesky (Intervals, The Haarp Machine). For those hating grunts, this album still can be recommended. Title track Dreamess is one of the most beautiful pieces of music released this year. A bit in the vein of later Cynic, they even got Dutchman Tymon Kruidenier to add some solowork. Curious how this band gets through all these difficult instrumental bits on a live setting, keeping an open eye on their tour schedule which until now seems to ignore Holland this summer.

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Black Wizards + Vircator - Musicon Den Haag 8 May 2016

With my recent trips to Portugal and digging somewhat into the country's music scene, it was obvious that I had to stop by Musicon when two Portuguese bands passed on their European tour. As these two Portuguese bands come from a warmer climate, maybe some explanation on what happened in Holland last weekend apologizng fairly small audience numbers. This was the first weekend with summer temperatures and when that happens the mood swaps completely. Everybody goes out looking for the sun and beach plus BBQ's are on the menu. This starts Friday after work and means that by Sunday evening many are exhausted and collapse on a couch or bed. Also I did not manage to get the interest of any of my friends through the concerts app, but that would not stop me and I turned out to be very right.

First band was Vircator from Viana do Castelo. They play Rock from Outer Space according to their page. Well whatever the name, they play great music. What I loved most from this band was the huge dynamics in their music. Starting of on a riff in general we got great buildups to expxlosive instrumentals, where the members fanatically walked in big steps over the stage. They proved once again that some bands don't need any vocals as long as they know how to work on diversity. Very sympathetic on stage this band presented us their new album "At the Void's Edge" in full. When talking to their guitarist after he show, they even had to pick a copy backstage for me to buy. It turned out that this wa stheir very first European Tour and they were happy to make it to so many countries. This band alone made the evening a succes already to me and just playing their CD now, it shall be one to follow. I even learned that ther closing song was not called be smooth, but _Bismuth. Another advantage of instrumental bands, noone really has to get the titles of the songs.

After a short break we got The Black Wizards. Their music is called Heavy Fuzzadelic, which means a trip of some 45 years back in time. Apart from their music their looks also were timeless. the quartet has two women in the band and the drummer won my sympathy when  she covered a broken string by a nice solo (or was that planned?) and when the band was offered drinks she made it clear that her beer had to be transfered to the back of the stage. This band also played very tight and had some great hard-soft swaps in their songs. At the same time, when hearing both bands in advance on bandcamp I knew that Vircator was closer to my usual taste. The Black Wizards turned out to be a great live band and if they play Portalgre when I am around I shall definitely see them again After their show I did not wait to speak to them as Tiago's BBQ was taking it's toll and the weekend was warm. Still one tip to both bands would be to promote their T-shirts and CD's a bit more openly. I saw today the designs of both on internet, but in Musicon they stayed hidden backstage. If temperatures would have dropped another three degrees I would have needed one to cycle home. Thanks to D&ESR for this great event, and when bumping into a flyering Toner Low member for two days in a weekend I shall make an effort to see them later this month as well.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Evergrey - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden 6 May, 2016

Evergrey just finished recording their new record in denmark and in order to blow of steam they went to Holland and Belgium for three weekend shows, starting of in Leiden. In order to get here they passed 10 hours in a van. We shall never know what they consumed during the trip or upon arrival, but fact is that Mr. Englund was very talkative and jokingly today. Before Evergrey started their early show, we were warmed up by to me unknown Dutch band My Propane. They played a groove based metal, which had especially the bass rhythm determining big parts of the sound. Not overly technical or filled up with guitar solos this was nice warming up music. Actually we did not need much warming up, as Evergrey picked the sunniest weekend of the year and even bermudas were an option.

When Evergrey started we were treated through keys and drums plus samples on a good opening. This one followed by one of their classics Recreation Day. Let me first explain my knowledge of Evergrey which results in not too many songtitles following. First time I saw them was at Progpower 2000, when a leather skirt was the item I remembered most of their show. In 2005 they played the coldest Aardschokdag ever when large queues were in front of the coffee bar. I also once saw them in a club when Mercenary at their career high played 11 Dreams and took most of my energy. So I do know them (have the DVD) but not so many albums. Still their style is such that you immediate recognize the music as Evergrey. Also by first hearing the songs go down very well. Due to the very relaxed atmosphere during the show, this might actually have been the best show I ever saw from them. Songs as The Masterplan, Obedience and a Touch of Blessing (that were the songs I recognized and remembered as such)  came over very well and the long set flew by. When the bass had technical problems, we got a very nice keys/vocals only ballad, where hands went even in the pockets as total sign of can't be bothered too much. The evening started early, as students would take over the place later on, but we got an afterpart in the small hall. I believe that when the band showed up and connected a phone to the sound system we were treated on a new song. Too bad I could not tell since I heard many new songs over the evening. Still they convinced me with this show, that I might need to look out for their new album when being released this autumn.