Thursday, 29 September 2016

Obsidian Kingdom, Intronaut & Shining - Paard Den Haag, 28 September 2016

Obsidian Kingdom had the honour of opening ProgPower week this year with a small tour through Holland in the days before PPE kicks off. Andrew and Celine decided to travel one day earlier to Holland, stayed over at my place and began their progpower and cycling experience this same evening.  As I can not make it Friday, I did even consider the night the start of many good things progmetal coming to us this weekend. Last year Obsidian Kingdom were one of the positive surprises in Baarlo and now they opened for two bands nearing but just not reaching Progmetal territories. Consequence was that we started with the best show and then had to get through two to me new bands as an encore. Having both their albums I did not recognize song titles Obsidian Kingdom played. This also not helped by the lack of announcing any but one. The band themselves also seemed to have changed over the last year. I am sure that they had no girl on guitars last year and the keyboard player either had a severe haircut or was someone else as well. The music was pretty similar though. Again Obsidian Kingdom proved to come alive on stage. Off stage as well as at different moments both guitarists and the bass-player jumped off the stage into the audience with guitar necks coming awfully close to my nose. The set had songs from both albums, was heavier then the CD's and contained several nice build-ups to moody heavyness. Black Swan was the only announced song and is a nice dark ballad (YouTube has a clip) while the title track of their last album was avoided. Closing piece Away/Absent is the last song of the last album as well and was a fitting way to close the dynamic, yet short set this evening.

So after enjoying and recognizing the music of the first band it became time for new experiences. Any band opening with the line"We are Intronaut, from Los Angeles, California, USA"starts the match loosing 3-0 to me. Contrary to their USA we do have Geography at school, so cut the crap. Things did not get better when this turned out to be almost the only communication coming from the stage for the whole show. Instrumentally the songs had good bits, but I could not stop thinking that the vocals were more a handicap then a plus to this band. The aggressive voice lacked power, while some of the melodic multiple voices reminded me of The Eagles. People did like them, but I just could not get into them. The fact that half way I started to pick my phone and check Champions League scores says enough really.

Closing band were Shining, the Norwegian one. I knew their name related to BlackJazz and saw some clips of them in the past. I do not know where blackjazz stands for, but I could not recognize any Black Metal, nor much Jazz (adding a saxophone does not make you Jazz). Shining played to me rawish Rock and Roll and did so very enthusiastically. After the introvert Musicians music of Intronaut, we now got a band willing to start a party. They succeeded rather good at doing so and in the end there even was a pit and lots of wild movements around us. I do not know what it is in the Norwegian expensive beer that   makes their progmetal bands wear black shirts, but on the looks department they could be Leprous' nephews. Musically Andrew called them at one stage Norway's Rammstein, while I tended more to Norway's The Offspring. So they did not play overly complex music, but they gave it a soul and a show. Not a band I would pick up a CD from straight after the show, but yes one I would go and see again if they pass in the area.

So overall a nice warming up to Progpower and I am looking very much forward to my Sadist Falafel and some new discoveries this weekend.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Marillion - F.E.A.R.

Marillion releasing a new album usually means that I receive something I ordered long time before. The grandfathers of Pledge/Kickstarter and the likes this time worked together with Pledge and I forgot when I bought the album, or which version it was. Luckily I opted for the special edition over a year ago, as both the artwork and the DVD add to the experience. As Marillion fans tend to be very fanatical about the band, let me put things into my perspective a bit before commenting on the album. I consider my taste in music far too wide to just hang on one band, but Marillion is my quiet place I return to in order to balance the Revocations reviewed earlier this week. I also like to brag that I discovered them early on and was there when they first toured outside the UK in 83 (and no there were not more than 100 people at most who came to see them that morning opening Parkpop) I believe the Fish years the best they ever did, but never stopped loving their music or seeing their shows. I do consider their weekends something out of this world, even though I decided to skip next year. I mean where can you walk around happy yet legless at night without ever seeing any aggression around and then go for a jog with members of the band only a few hours later, deciding you desere a few extra beers for that the next evening. Finally Marillion with their poetic lyrics always were there on deciding moments through my life. During highs :"Beautiful" kicking of the Brazilian BBQ that was our wedding and how cool is that, lows :"When I meet God" opening the ceremony of Taina's cremation, to farewells: quoting parts of "The Great Escape" in my farewell message after leaving the company I worked for for 16 years, who moved me to Brazil, indirectly brought me my wife and thus son and my Fluminense (just kidding Josie or am I?). So resuming I am a fan.

Marillion do not do bad albums, but they can slightly disappoint. After two of their less interesting albums (Somewhere Else and Happiness is the Road) their previous album Sounds that Can't be Made was a return to great form. Fuck Everyone And Run, sounds harsh at first, but stands for the protest album this became. During the last weekend in 2015 one of my favorite songs This is the 21st century was introduced as a song written at the start of our century. Expressing worries about the state of the world, noone could predict it would be that bad 15 years later. Marillion also always has their hippie/love/peace air around them. Those who enjoyed the Young Ones on TV in the eighties, shall remember Hippie Neil stating"Yeah, Marillion".  Without providing all the answers or preaching Marillion have often before raised some topics for debate. From Forgotten Sons on their debut to Gaza on the last album. F.E.A.R is filled with doubts, worries and disappointments and as usual packed in the form of some beautiful lyrics "We've decided to risk melting our guns as a show of strenght". So the title of the album might sound harsh, in reality it could not be farther away from Rage Against the Machine's only hit. A more respectable Fuck so to say, coming much closer to making love really.

And what about the music? Well after releasing Anoraknophobia, there always is the risk of Hogarth being overly present. During first background listen I heard him over many a piano part again, but also the guitar of Steve Rothery is omnipresent. Rothery is to me and many Freaks and Anoraks the person Marillion is build around. It is not for nothing we use to call him God. As this album seems to be a grower with so many details opening up slowly also the guitar becomes even more present every time you hear the album again, Having heard F.E.A.R. now several times going through the lyrics in the booklet and paying attention to the music only I dare to state that in the long run this one might end among the best work they ever did with Hogarth, way up there with Brave. We have almost only epic songs, enormous variation and that guitar sound flying around all over the album. The movie on the DVD gives a full background on the songs, creations and meanings. Also some parts of the movies that shall be shown during live shows are included. This is just a very complete release and I was not expecting that Marillion would be able to surpise me like this. And now I have to come to terms with the fact that I decided to skip the 2017 weekend and did not buy a ticket in spring for one of their now sold out December shows. For the coming time F.E.A.R. shall do just fine though.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Dec Burke - Seventh Station - Revocation

Some interesting recently released albums:

Dec Burke - Book of Secrets
Dec Burke is not as known as his releases would justify. He played in Darwin's Radio, Frost*, solo and last year released a debut with Audioplastik. Usually he plays prog at the rocking end with strong melodies and interesting guitar solo's. Comparing this CD with his previous solo work, we can state that this is his hard rock album. Most songs starting from a fast guitar riff and follow uptempo. Highlight on that end is the fast rocker Hate & Lies. Due to his typical voice the Dec Burke stamp is all over the album, but  as mentioned heavier than something we got used by from him. No Epic Prog anthem this time, simply eight rockers within lesss than 40 minutes. Being slightly different from his previous albums time shall tell how this one shall be remembered in his discography. Due to mixing by Lee Abraham and mastering by Karl Groom (Threshold) the album sounds more in your face than earlier solo albums. Nice surpise both the release as such and the hardrock mood.

Seventh Station - Between Life and Dreams
This week's progmetal album, comes from international band Seventh Station. They are from Israel, Slovenia and the USA according to their FB page. The style of progmetal they play is the dramatic storytelling one. Other Israelian bands I know (Orphaned Land and Amaseffer) have to me the tendency of becoming too dramatic and that risk is here also lurking around the corner. They play very varied styles and also the vocls pass through a wide range. At the more aggresssive biting moments I remember Linear Sphere at times. Definitely not an easy album to absorb, I hesitate to give any final ordeal. First impressions are of an impressive album that might be willing too much at times. Still with the globalisation of Metal music one can only be happy with a release from the slightly under represented countries of Israel and Slovenia. Curious to see if they ever make it to Progpower (it's that time of the year after all).

Revocation - Great is Our Sin
Moving forward on the scale of heavyness we arrive at this Technical Death Metal combo. Revocation already release their fifth full album here, but are a new name to me. Mainly due to several positive reviews my interest was raised. Their sound balances between Death Metal. Thrash and Progmetal (Mastodon style). As from opener Arbiters of the Apocalypse this album takes you on a trip of fast licks and heavy riffs. While the music is still headbangable, the technicality stands out. The vocals fit the music well and remain easy to understand.  For those who only accept cleaner metal vocalists, the album still has one song on offer that should be heard by all. The Exaltation is a monster of a heavy instrumental with a guest solo by none other than Marty Friedman. Later this month Revocation is part of a package headlined by Obscura, playing Patronaat as well. Based upon this album I guess they are strong contender for winner of the day. I shall make sure to check that out for myself. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Misanthropia and Fenris - Musicon Den Haag 18 September 2016

Those who know of this small tour probably think, there are two bands missing! And yes there are, so sorry Asatru and headliner Nattas, let me explain. Last Friday Josie came home for the week of Tiago's birthday, so it is family time and shows become plan B. I let Scream Bloody Scum pass and shall probably also not go to see HMM (a.o. Salem, Savage and RAM!!). At the same time this Sunday afternoon show, fell in a natural break in our weekend program. So instead of having a beer on the couch and watch some football I went to Musicon to see two bands before dinner.  It was good that I did, as yet again audience should have been much bigger given the package on stage. Headliners Nattas are from Sweden and bring members of Mercyful Fate and Grave along. One excuse  might be that nearby Baroeg had at the same time Onslaught and Mors Principium Est plus three playing. Summarizing I was going to have a Hertog Jan, while seeing the Dutch part of this tour in Misanthropia and Fenris.

Misanthropia opened with some bombastic melodies and turned out to play rather accesible melodic Black Metal. Outstanding to me were the many melodic guitar solo's in their songs. Actually one of their guitarists looked while checking the ceiling when soloing, pretty much like a long haired Steve Rothery. Highlight of the show came in the closing song when the vocalist of Nattas joined and it became string party on stage. The two guitarists and keyboard player took up 8 string guitars and the bass player moved to a six string type. Doing the math that meant 30 strings on stage and yes they create a nice wall of sound. This together with the grunt and scream mix was a very impressive closer of their set. After a break Fenris came on. They play Viking metal, but with some Blackened overtones as well. Interesting is that they do have songs in English and Dutch language, but their lyrics are harder to follow than Dutch language metal godfathers Vandale. Also this band knew how to create a groove that gets you by the throat and takes you along their Doodenakkers. Time flew by again, which can only be a good sign.

So I ended the evening getting the last CD from both bands and arrived home just in time for a wonderfull dinner. I shall keep an eye on both bands tour schedules and hope that more people find their way back to Musicon. With too many empty houses recently we are digging our own graves. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Portugal part 3: Griot - Iberia - Cruz de Ferro

Some time ago since my last overview on Portugal, so time for three more bands.

Griot - Gerald
This is a progressive rock album, that I bumped into on various sites. This is a rather ambitious album, as the CD came with a small book giving some background on the story.  To me the book is by far the least interesting part of this release. While the story is pretty limited, the music is very colourful and interesting. Griot uses a wide range of instruments from violins to flutes, saxophones to synths and moog to piano. Still the music flows and the pleasant voice of Nuno Aleluia (what's in a name) makes this an easy to absorb album, with no freaky parts just for the sake of it. The five songs result in 32 minutes only. Gerald's journey might be short it definitely sounds good.

Iberia - Revolution
This album I found in the old fashioned way. While in FNAC in Lisbon I looked for the most metal guy at the CD department and asked for Portuguese bands in the Heavy Metal section. He gave me some ten options which I could hear on headphone by scanning the bar code. I walked out with Iberia's Revolution. Following this strategy means you end up with an album that sounds good at once. Therefore it is no surprise, that Iberia's melodic hard rock hangs somewhere inbetween Aerosmith and Guns and Roses, but skipping the ballads that made those bands so popular. Iberia are not inventing the wheel here, but they offer plenty good songs. Even the song titles (Hot in Love, She Devil, Dizzy, Ride, All Night Flying) bring you some 30 years back in time. Good album.

Cruz de Ferro - Morreremos de Pé
Translating into Iron Cross - We Die Standing it is clear what to expect: Battle Metal. This album gives us Portuguese history lessons in ten metal songs. The opening title song starts epic instrumental, speeding up and giving us the raw voice of Ricardo Pombo.I think that the Portuguese lyrics might limit their chances for an international break-through. Still to me this is the winner of the week. These songs should be heard while having several beers and ask for shouting along. I hope to see them one day together with Ravensire for an evening of what I so far discoverd as the best in Portuguese Epic Metal. Nascidos para lutar! E conquistar a nossa Glória!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Absolva - Musicon Den Haag, 11 September 2016

"We're Absolva and it's never a good day to Die". Unfortunately many people also decided that today was not a good day to go to Musicon. Copying my own review from last autumn is no plagiarism and unfortunately this was the first thing coming to mind when entering Musicon. The good thing about tonight is that Absolva shall not be giving anything less playing for a not fully packed Musicon. We got treated on one and a half hour of Classic Heavy Metal at the high standard we came to know from Absolva. Those who did come to Musicon had a great evening therefore.

The Harsh Reality tour, called after their new single, hit The Hague today. This was their third visit to Musicon in 18 months. We meanwhile know what we get and this evening gave us another overview of all three albums. Highlights a plenty songs that come to mind now from each album are: "From Beyond the Light", "Victimiser" and "No One Escapes". As Absolva is also the touring band for Blaze Bailey, we got again a great version of "Fear of the Dark" as well. When they moved to ballad "Only When it's Over" the amazing guitar solo at the start remembers of Gary Moore at his peak. This band has the enthusiasm, the songs, the class to become a huge name for the summer festivals. If the world is still ready for new Heavy Metal bands to reach that level is a whole different question. Based upon what they presented us again tonight I can recommend anyone seeing them passing near home the next weeks, to go and see them play. After the show they take all the time for fans and friends and do basically everything right. Not sure if they will be back soon in Musicon, but if coming to the region I shall be there as we "Never Back Down".

Baroeg Open Air - Zuiderpark Rotterdam 10 September 2016

Holland has a wide range of live venues and depending on the type of show my favorites switch. For a Progressive Rock show de Boerderij is the benchmark, Little Devil is the nicest Metal bar for small scale events, while Musicon is a second living room to me due to the easy mood. For the more extreme metal shows, Baroeg is the place to be. For years they organize an Open Air event at the begin of the season, after summer holidays. Yesterday it was held in het Zuiderpark again and given the bands playing I opted for an afternoon visit. There was a main stage with various metal related genres, a talent stage for opening acts which turned into an electronic stage as from 15:30 hours.With something for everyone the park filled up nicely with a little help of a sunny Saturday.

First act on the Talent stage was one I intended to see. Extremeties play groove metal and received various positive reviews over the year. A later metro and slightly longer walk to the far stage from the station, made me miss most of their show, only seeing the last two songs. They impressed me enough to get their EP and they sound like a band to follow. Next on were Order of the Emperor. The program spoke about influences of Judas Priest, Black Sabbatch and Thin Lizzy. On paper very interesting in practice I did not hear much of either of them back. Still not a bad band, with some good vocals and decent guitar work. I missed a bit of interaction and energy coming from the stage to the audience, which kept all a bit quiet. This became even more obvious when hereafter I went to the main stage and saw Bodyfarm play. This was probably the best show of the day, due to great reaction of the crowd and very tight band on stage. Their Death Metal is very accessible and live this is a very good band. The audience did their part as well, with many pits, a few walls of death and new to me, a huge rowing boat.

Herefater there was some break in the program. The electronic stage sometimes sounded heavy from a distance, but taking a closer look, there was noone playing an instrument on stage. Similar to DJ's live music should in my view not come from a computer, so that stage was over for the day. The main stage had The Deaf who were not that interesting and I waited for the band I really came to see: Angel Witch. When they came on something became clear in the crowd. On the side was my generation looking forward to see a part of our musical history being performed live. The centre was taken by people not born at the time of releasing their classic Angel Witch album, making the atmosphere. Somehow I do not think that Angel Witch often plays to that many circle pits. Even walls of Death and the rowing boat (slightly smaller) came back. It has the side effect that you keep an eye on nearing slamdancers and the beer in your hand. Angel Witch meanwhile gave us a high class set based upon their debut album."Dead Sea Scrolls"from their last album passed by, as did the Baphomet. Not dissimilar to many other NWOBHM bands, you tend to be waiting as well for that one huge hit, which closes the set. It always is a pleasure, being able to shout along "You're and Angel Witch" and I managed to loose a bit of my voice again. A very good show, but Hans and I agreed that their show a few years ago in Baroeg came over even better than in the circus tent at BOA.

Hereafter we just went for a cooling down. I did see a part of Russian Folk Metallers Arkona, but was not too interested. I would have liked to see what the atmosphere would be during Discharge, but decided to call it the day. Starting early the afternoon was enough and with direct metro link to Den Haag I actually came home on time for a late dinner. The good thing about this festival is the open programming of  many genres. My next stop in Baroeg shall be a blast from the past again on 8 October, when Tygers of Pan Tang, Tokyo Blade and a dutch 80's medley with Rebelstar should make up for an interesting evening.