Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Top 16 of 2016 - Live Shows

Tonight we close the year and I am in Piratininga (Niteroi), with Copacabana on the background. As the biggest fireworks of Brazil take place over there we shall watch it from the back, which probably results in watching a smoke screen from far again. Musically I have to put earplugs in avoiding all the worst Brasil has on offer here with Pagode, Funk, Samba and other non rocking styles.
This year we lost our oracle Johan Cruyff who said every disadvantage has its advantage. I used the fact that Josie is working in Portugal and work trips are at a low due to the ongoing FM situation for seeing shows. Ending with an average slighty above one a week and including international shows in Spain, Portugal and the UK I can not complain. As a result it becomes harder to choose favorites, but I managed to make some decisions. Honorable mentions should go to the following bands that did not make the cut: The Contortionist, Dirkschneider/Anvil, Evergrey, Ne Obliviscaris, Iamthemorning and Headspace. I let at times emotional ties speak as well, which created some preferences. Herewith the ones that made it to my favorite shows starting at 16.

16. Warrior Soul - Musicon 26 March
Not much of a voice left, this was one long ride through songs I knew for years. The Losers remains one of the best ballads ever and the band was good.

15. Loudness - Gebr de Nobel 16 June
It must have been some 31/32 years since I last saw Loudness at Arena Rotterdam. Akira remains a hero on guitar and we are the Loudness guys!!

14. Tokyo Blade - Baroeg 8 October
Part of Rotterdam Rocks, the highlight to me was the Tokyo Blade show. They stuck with their first albums and this made the recognizing effect only better.

13. Borknagar - Baroeg 24 April
I already loved their album Winter Thrice and then alive it even got better. Warmed up by impressive Kampfar a great performance form the allstar band who all sung parts of the show.

12. Queensryche - de Boerderij 29 August
While Geoff Tate gave in December a nice acustic show, the real metal versions always prevail. Focus on the 80's. Next time they can choose the songs they did not play this time so for years we should be OK with Queensryche.

11. O.R.k - de Boerderij 17 February
Probably the most surprisingly underrated show of the year in a near empty Boerderij. Drums from King Crimson, Bassist ex Procupine Tree showed that names do not always attract an audience. Yet their show was beautiful.

10. Satan - Gebr. de Nobel 14 May
While we were warmed up by bands that had nothing to do with Satan, they came on strong and convincing. Satan is this NWOBHM band who can fill their show with new songs as their last two albums are as good as the classic debut album Caught in the Act

9. UFO - de Boerderij 6 November
 Building there show around the best live LP ever made this is a guaranteed winner. Phil Mogg still good by voice and Vinnie Moore brilliant in the solo's we know note by note.

8. Sodomizer - Musicon 2 December
Sodomizer representing here many underground bands I saw in the area. As they stayed at my place this one became more special. These small shows are many times much nicer than the larger events and when the band turn out being nice people it was one great evening.

7. Vektor - Little Devil 19 August
My favorite album of the year performed in full. Well almost as the power went off and there was no way to get that back in steaming hot Little Devil. What we saw was impressive enough to make me look forward to many Vektorian returns.

6. Mearfest - the Borderline 13 August
 Charity combined with NWOBHM organized by very sympathetic Brian and Clair Mear. As time was short the shows would not ente my list, but the overall atmosphere and mood at the venue definitely made this one memorable evening. Best bands to me: The Deep, Sacrilege and Kaine.

5. Tribulation - Gebr. de Nobel 28 January / Beyond Creation - Patronaat 23 October
A double nomination for my favorite extreme shows of the year. Tribulation giving us a different performance based on good music and Beyond Creation probably the best Technical Death Metal show I saw in years.

4. Wolverine - Sjiwa 2 October
Wolverine representing Progpower here. While at the festival I was also much impressed by In Mourning and Sadist this band proved once again how to make top class moody progmetal. Best voice of the festival and this was such a show that made me appreciate their last albums even better.

3. Oceans of Slumber - 013 7 April
Having a short slot they did overwhelm completely. Live the swap between voices and impressive instrumental mastering came over even better than on CD. I saw them return later in the year at the same venue with much better acts next to them in Enslaved and Ne Obliviscaris, but missed half their set due to traffic. Hope to see them perform a full set in 2017.

2. Trespass - Musicon 31 July
Having breakfast at home with the band that gave me One of these Days and Stormchild over 30 years before was very special indeed.The set was showing similarities with the one I saw the year before in Sudbury, but only good songs. Looking out for their new album in 2017 and they are more than welcome at home if they return to Holland.

1. Iron Maiden - Sevilla Olympic 14 July
Not a very original choice maybe, but I do not see all their tours any longer. This time going with Tiago in sunny Sevilla was one of their best gigs ever. Standing hands on shoulder with Tiago and shouting along the OOh-who-hooos during the Red and the Black was a moment I shall never forget.

Wishing everyone a great 2017, hoping it brings as many great shows to us as 2016 did. So keep on Rockin' in the New Year.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Headspace - de Boerderij Zoetermeer, 21 December 2016

The last evening in Holland for me this year and I could close the year in style with Headspace playing at de Boerderij. While Headspace is a band of many talented musicians to most it is just another excuse for Damian Wilson to come back to de Boerderij. So as gurantees we have, his walking through the audience before and during the show. His great voice and his entertaining stories inbetween songs. As those introductions can drag on we saw several times this evening either the drummer or the keyboards just starting and keep things going. Of course the rest of the band are no slouches either and especially guitarist Pete Rinaldi got some well deserved spotlights on him. Before Headspace played we were warmed up by Dutch band Beyond God. As this female fronted metal is not my thing we waited in the bar for the main act.

Headspace opened with a song from the first album and I quickly noticed that I did recognize songs, but not all the titles. They released their second album begin of this year and I must say it sounded to me less than their debut album. Going to see them live was therefore good to fully appreciate All That You Fear is Gone as well. This worked to great effect as especially The Science Within Us and Kill You With Kindness came out very strong. The set did not contain too many songs, but I believe we only got epic songs plus one short ballad in Soldier. Damian Wilson is the best performing vocalist in prog rock and metal and this show proved Headspace to have the potential to be amongst the big names in the genre. The audience was not huge, but many of the Progpower northern half of Holland came to see them. Tonight the southern half can see them in Weert. I would say do so as they are great. They announced being back in Holland April next year. Shall be funny if they choose 2 April a date already filled with I believe 5 shows I would normally go and see. The live show year ended for me and now I can go struggle to decide which were the 16 best ones of 2016. More on that later.


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Martigan - 't Blok Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel 18 December 2017

Progfrog managed to stay under my radar until very recently. Before that I knew of their existence and home venue 't Blok, but never really looked for going there. Some weeks ago when I discovered The Gift I noticed they shall be here in February and while at their page I found out that Martigan would play an afternoon show today. With Tiago filling up the living room with sweaty teenagers and my past knowledge of Martigan the choice was easy. I saw Martigan at Night of the Prog once and liked them and their CD of the time Vision. In spite of liking them I stopped following them actively. Playing Vision again I remembered what I liked about them Neo prog with clear inspiration by the British big names. Arriving at 't Blok they  were about to start. The venue is not that big, but perfect for these shows. The about 40-50 people made it busy enough and staff passed every 25-30 minutes with cheese, sausage and bitterballen. Obviously this would make us thirsty, but after Sportmindz Christmas drinks on Friday and Geoff Tate last night I was not after any beers really. Before the band started we were asked to have any loud discussions outside, which was followed through the show giving us the chance to fully appreciate the loud/soft changes.

Martigan started with a song of Vision, but without taking notes I do not recall which one. They did play Boatsman's Vision and the Contract as well from that album. Actually it did not matter that much if I knew the songs or not. This was one afternoon of musical excellence, with highlights for mainly guitars and keyboards. At the same time the drums were impressive and the bass was allowed to lead us through Red & Green. This resulted in some different dancing/orchestrating by one fan at the front. In general all songs tend to be either long or very long, This gives a lot of space for solo's and what a delight they were. This band is inspired by bands from the eighties and the quality of the players allows them to come close to the greats. for almost 2.5 hours we were treated on great music. The whole atmosphere therefore reminded me of recent Aisles or Anubis in de Boerderij or Iamthemorning in Patronaat. A small crowd in a small place, but all enjoying big time. This was a very good show and I got their latest album Distant Monsters afterwards, which is playing now. Still I have to end with some constructive feedback to the band. On the presentation front there is quiet some space for improvement. At times it was like watching a CD play at full volume. Especially guitar and vocals did not bring anything. I know it is all about the music in progrock (at progfrog). Yet a sunglassed vocalist that hardly speaks to us inbetween songs and a guitarist looking like any civil servant distracts from the show. A few phrases and a black shirt can solve this. Further  only good news, looking forward to returning here in February.

Geoff Tate - de Boerderij Zoetermeer, 17 December 2016

Geoff Tate the whole story acoustic tour stopped at de Boerderij. Last year he played with Operation Mindcrime in Tilburg and that was one of the bigger surprises on the live front. Avoiding what he cannot reach any longer his voice did well, so did the band. Now we were promised acoustic versions of his career with some story telling around the background of songs. Reason enough to go and see him again. Coming onto stage Geoff Tate showed to be into fashion again. Last year he looked with hat and suit like a Chicago mobster, this year the tweed vest and cap made him go Boston Irish. At the end of the evening it was explained by the fact that his guidig band were Irish next to Operation Mindcrime guitaris Scott Moughton. No support band only Geoff Tate so bring it on Pieter and Lida thought with me.

Opening with Walk in the Shadows it seemed we were in for a good evening. The band consisted of two acoustic guitars, a drum board, a cello, one violin and a mandolin. This was the perfect background on the softer side as I have not heard Geoff Tate singing so at ease and thus good for years. Some screams and powerfull outbursts were swapped, but we heard bits of that voice again, That voice made Queensryche one of the best bands in the eighties. During the set one point became interesting. This set-up made some average songs come out really great, while some of my Queensryche favorites did not come out all that great. Starting with the latter, Take Hold of the Flame was played in such a way that the backshouting of Take Hold was saved only for the end. The Lady wore Black is a great ballad due to the emotional high screamed chorus. Now tuned down some octaves it lost power. Highlights on the other were plenty as well, with to me surprising highlights in Some People Fly and Out of Mind. Eyes of a Stranger is good in whatever version played and also sounded great tonight. There also was as announced some storytelling inbetween. While at some points it gave some interesting background on what a song really is about, at other moments it drifted along pointlessly as in Nashville stories. When the regular set was over I was curious for the encore, as many obligatory classics passed already in Eyes, I don't Believe in Love and Jet City Woman (boring as always). Then came the only disappointment in closing down with an unknow song to me about all around the world all you need is love. Christmas time or not I could have tipped many better ways to end such a nice evening.

Looking back on the evening I thought this to be a great solution. Backed up acoustically we could hear why Geoff Tate is such a great vocalist. Some highs are avoided, but that is known on forehand. Bringing an Irish band along helps as well, since the Irish must be one of the most sympathetic people on the globe so no arrogance on stage. Actually I would like to see him repeating this formula next time on tour. For the old metal versions we have Queensryche touring and this is really something different. With a back-catalogue of 17 albums I have enough suggestion for him. So if this reaches the band please include next time: Someone Else?, London, ,Anybody Listening? and why not Roads to Madness.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Top 16 of 2016 - CD's

It's that time of the year again where you put yourself to the impossible task of ranking this year's albums. Making a shortlist was already impossible, so I started applying some rules to help me decide. Several bands released good albums, but not their best ever. So out went: Haken, In Mourning, Big Big Train, Wolverine, Dec Burke, Headspace, Cosmograf, Frost*, Tiles, Gojira amongst others. Some just did not make it as there are only 16 places. If I would make the list on another day they might very well have entered the list, so sorry to Witherscape, Salem, John Wesley, Graham Bonnet Band, Perihelion Ship and Them. One album is still on the way to me and definitely a candidate from what I heared on bandcamp, but a Sense of Gravity is not shortlisted by late arrival. Cutting the introduction short herewith my favorites of the year starting as one should at 16 building the tension.

16: Redemption - The Art of Loss
Redemption is a guarantee for quality and this one fits in well in their discography. Only point is that it became just another great Redemption album, without a song to match Sapphire. Very solid progmetal release.

15: Sinistro - Semente
The only representative from my future home land Portugal.This band makes a rather unique mix of doom metal with poetic female vocals over that. I missed them both times they played Holland this year, but loved this discovery.

14: Future Corpse - Another World to Consume
I played this album many times and still cannot hum along with the songs. Crazy complex stuff sounding as if At the Drive-In are playing progmetal.

13: Lee Abraham - The Seasons Turn
Lee Abraham is the one in the British Prog Rock scene that keeps on improving himself. Helped by a range of great vocalists this is the best prog rock album of the lesser known bands to me this year.

12: Mistur - In Memoriam
The older I get the heavier my taste is developing it turns out. This Epic Viking Black metal from Norway ticked all the right boxes for me Great story, moodswings, performance and songs.

11: Poem - Skein Syndrome
Greece has a reputation of high class Progmetal bands and Poem is another hit. Slightly grungy flavored this is a very catchy album. Coming at us with Persefone this spring is one to look out for.

10: Montra - The Machine
One of my discoveries through Prog Metal Zone this year. An american Progmetal release mixing the melodic and the heavy nicely. Ending in style with an epic.

9: Borknagar - Winter Thrice
This band arrived to me from Black Folk at atmospheric Heavy Metal. Beautiful songs from this Norwegian all star combo. Their logo might scare of potential fans as this is highly accessible metal which justifies headliner status at several medium sized festivals.

8: Insomnium - Winter's Gate
The Epic album of the year title goes to Insomnium. Produced by Dan Swäno this one does recall the Crimson concept albums. Beautiful album and they shall officially open my 2017 live show year in Biebob 13 January.

7: Marillion - F.E.A.R.
Marillion making me very happy with one of their best releases ever with Hogarth on vocals. Intelligent lyrics, great long epics and plenty of guitar solo's. I love surprises like these.

6: Diamond Head - Diamond Head
This selftitled album can stand proudly next to their best work from the eighties. A great new vocalist and those signature sound guitar riffs. Comeback album of the year.

5: Oceans of Slumber - Winter
My favorite album from the first half of the year. Changing to a female vocalist who stays far from operatic annoyings still these great songwriting skills that made their debut my album of the year in 2013. This band should be the surprise of Progpower to many I am sure, so let's get them to Baarlo.

4: Watchtower - Concepts of Math: Book One
If this would be a full album and I did not have four from the five songs digitally already this for sure would be my album of the year. Watchtower the founding fathers of Tech Metal are back!!! I rest my case.

3: Fates Warning - Theories of Flight
Fates Warning never disappoints, but this one is even above very high expectations. Only not album of the year as it is impossible for Fates Warning to surprise me. Where Dream Theater might be disappointment of the year, Fates Warning still sets the bar for Progmetal .

2: The Reticent - On the Eve of a Goodbye
Seldom before such an emotional concept album has been released. Realising this is a solo effort by Chris Hathcock makes it only the more impressive. He has a touring band so bring this to Europe. Hearing this one often the impact is still there. Invest time in this CD and you will be rewarded.

1: Vektor - Terminal Redux
I missed this band in the past (corrected that by getting their first two albums as well). So this high tech speedy thrash metal with progressive traces completely blew me away. Mostly fast and furious there is space for instrumental madness, a ballad, and Pink Floyd as well. I did see them perform this album almost full in Little Devil confirming my thoughts. The future is Vektor.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Gift - Graham Bonnet Band - Them

With the flood of great shows coming over us this autumn I kept somewhat quiet on the CD tips recently. Here some still fairly recent albums. Following the usual increasing volume pattern.

The Gift - Why the Sea is Salt
The always handy Something For The Weekend / DPRP pointed me towards The Gift. When I liked this album and learned that they come play Holland in February this was a quick purchase. This is very calm symphonic rock at a high standard. The epic All These Things even has some Christmas atmosphere over it to me. This mainly due to the pastoral mood in that song. This CD also serves multiple purposes. It works fine on a morning when you want to wake up slowly, but it also comes alive over headphones reading along to the lyrics. The fact that Steve Hackett joins on one song might result in a nice solo, but does not increase the overall level of this album, which is high enough to start with. Actually discovering this band I did the same with February tour partners The Far Meadow, bandcamped and purchased  That shall be one nice Sunday afternoon.

Graham Bonnet Band - The Book
Here is a total surprise to me. A few years back we saw Graham Bonnet at HRH and it all was somewhat uninspired making us move to the other stage where Fish was playing. With a good band he comes back with a vengeance. I totally love this album as it sounds most like any Alcatrazz album from the eighties. Graham Bonnet is the vocalist in rock with the most interesting CV of guitarists he played with. Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Chris Impelliterri is a list any vocalist should be jealous of. Interesting that for this album he went to the for me unknown Conrado Pesinato. On Keyboards we have Jimmy Waldo ex Alcatrazz and on drums none less then Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord). Opening song Into The Night made me very happy and in Dead Man Walking or California Air we have some others that would do nice in a set of his career overview. Actually Frontiers label decided to re-record many of his classic songs. As Mr.Bonnet stated himself, this adds nothing to the originals. Even so I quite like a collection which includes Eyes of the World, Assault Attack and God Blessed Video. Highly recommended!!

Them - Sweet Hollow
This CD is creating some diverse reactions on the internet. Being a former King Diamond coverband they are accused of being a cheap copy. Well I'd say bollocks to that. This band plays old school Heavy Metal we all loved to start with. In come the double guitars and high flying solo's. When you hear Forever Burns racing away I can not see people not getting enthusiastic. Vocals are at times high King Diamondish, but mainly plain Heavy Metal. The music is just great and for those liking favorite musicians doing something different we have Mike Lepond from Symphony X on bass. In order to stay close to their inspiration we are presented a scary story as well  Story or not I would just recommend this album to anyone into old school Heavy Metal. There is for me one miss on the album though in FestEvil, which has too much a pirate/folk metal flavour for my liking. Further all good and soar necks guaranteed. They are already booked in Little Devil next year. Closing the weekend we get Metalcon in Musicon, one might start saving energy any day soon.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Marillion & John Wesley - TivoliVredenburg Utrecht, 7 December 2016

Marillion and John Wesley both released among the best progrock albums of 2016, so I was more than a bit pleased when I learned last week I could go see them live in Vredenburg. I never was in Tivoli/Vredenburg after their huge and far too expensive renovation. Entering the enormous building turning left we ended up in the old hall I have been several times before and nothing changed, Even Marillion I saw there before in 1985 with the Misplaced Childhood tour and in the early 2000's I believe at their Marbles tour.

Warming us up was John Wesley. Unfortunately instead of a live band he brought some boxes along. So we got the solo version assisted by technology. I must say a missed chance, since those not familiar with his work showed little interested. A Marillion crowd can be narrowminded and tough to win over anyway and doing it on your own is even harder. I saw the vocalist of Jadis trying this as well in the past and not coming over. Damian Wilson has the stage personality to pull this off and Rob Lamothe also convinced solo in the past. John Wesley was half succesfull. From his last album a way you'll never be he did play the best songs in By the light of  a sun, Epic and the Title track. Still I believe with a full band he might have won more fans over. Now at least Michel got it and bought the last album.

Marillion in current times of doom would be interesting to start with. Their last album touching many topics what is wrong in the world nowadays, shows us that the world would be a nicer place if we had all a Marillion mindset. Yet that is not to be, so we can go into our bubble of hippieness and happiness and see them live. Opening the show was rather obvious looking back, as The Invisible Man starts with the line "The World's Gone Mad". This definitely is one of their best epics ever so a better start seemed impossible. To my surprise they then decided to kill the atmosphere by playing some of their worst material. You're Gone and Sounds That can't be Made are both easily the worst songs of the albums they come from. Following this by Fantastic Place, a ballad made me F.E.A.R. the worst. Well not to worry as in Living in FEAR we got the first new song and both guiding pictures and performance made this a second highlight.The peace-man in me considers the line "We decided to start melting our guns as a show of strenght" one of the most beautiful poetic ones released this year. A medley of Brave songs plus Afraid of Sunlight kept the atmosphere at a high. The New Kings was the second long song from F.E.A.R. This song is all about the rulers of the world being banks too big too fall/fail, Qatar bribing into the worldcup football and cycling, Russian oligarchs and all those things making you uncomfortable if thinking too long about them. Next to a great song the images to this one were very strong. I am sure that watching the money dropping king would have made any PSV fan in the audience (do they even exist above the rivers?) very embarrassed. Easter followed and while being a nice song this one we heard most of all I guess, so a welcome bar break. Ending the regular set we got probably my two favorite songs from the Hogarth era in The Great Escape and King. What a way to end this set. Of course a Marillion show is not over after 100 minutes, so we got some epics to come in the encore. First new song El Dorado again with powerful lyrics and good artwork. Ocean Cloud was a surprise,.Even if not among my favorite very long songs by them, the crowd loved it. And then closing the evening was keeping the best for last. Market Square Heroes.!!! The roof came off and the enthusiasm in the crowd was so much higher than before.

So the evening passed with ups and downs. John Wesley showed his talent, but forgot to bring a band.
Marillion started great and then dropped deep. I did look at setlists from this tour so far and in general we were lucky I guess. The new songs tend to be the same each evening and impressed. My favorites of the evening were The Great Escape, King and Market Square Heroes, all songs rarely played on this tour. The band was in the usual great shape. H remains this mood risk. Tonight he first provoked waiting for someone to shout Grendel and then showed still not being comfortable that Marillion with Fish was just a more popular live band. Their music of the last decades is still beautifull but you can also sit and enjoy. Actually we decided to stand in the arena and it must have been 25 years since I was so close to the stage at a Marillion show (and so far from the bar as Eggie added correctly). Marillion is always top class and even with Hogarth on vocals still among my all time favorite bands. Glad I saw this tour with convincing new material. Even if they did not play my favorite from F.E.A.R. in The Leavers. Did I tell Rothery is God yet?

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Sodomizer, SplinterBomb & Defazer - Musicon The Hague, 2 December 2016

Sodomizer closed a month of many Latin American Metal bands in the area. While I missed Nervochaos, Nervosa and the Cavalera brothers, I much liked Apocalyptic Raids and Whipstriker, Krisiun and still am confused by what Lluvia presented some weeks ago.  As good Carioca I always try to see Brazilian bands when near to home, but due to work trips I managed to miss Sodoimizer the previous times they played The Hague. This time all was to be different as recently I learned that a place to sleep after the show was looked for to receive them. Being more than pleased to help out this show started at Central Station, where I picked them up end of afternoon. While I expected to practice my Portuguese we got the Berlin international band so I also could train my Italian, German and Polish. Having a band over is always great, as you get an insight on the other side of the coin and what brings a show together. With Sodoimizer and crew turned out to be very nice people this was for me a memorable show once again.

When returning to Musicon we first had two support bands, and this sounds much more negative then intended. Defazer opening means seeing the best Thrash Metal band from the The Hague area on stage again. For me it is time to get an album out enabling me to recognize the songs and for them to grow bigger. The songs and presentation definitely are ready for this and as previous times I again highly liked their show. Hereafter we got SplinterBomb from Den Bosch. They are being announced somehwat direspectful as that other band from Legion of the Damned's guitarist Hein. What we noticed fast is that their groove thrash is slow and heavy and the vocals don't go clean. While I thought them a good band, I must say that I felt a lack of tempo to grab the audience. Even a Sepultura cover did not change much to that.

Sodomizer were setting the stage and I looked forward to my by now friends on stage. As I did not see or know them before I can state they outdid my expectations. For their style I read Speed Devil Metal and Speed Horror Metal, which both does not mean a lot at first reading. Seeing them on stage as well as hearing their albums I did get it now. The horror sound is around in both lyrics, but also effects. While I always prefer the technical site of Death or Thrash metal I was pleased to see the instrumental work was impressive and very fast. Long instrumental parts gave Max enough time to excel on guitars. The hour or so on stage passed fast and all seemed to love the show. For me it was great to see them before, after the show and at breakfast to get a small idea what touring means. They won a fan and I shall be there when they return. When dropping them off the next day I tried to surprise with a mellotron horror rock album by Morte Macabre, turned out Fabiano already knew the album. Music lovers in general and a great live band, so go and see them when they pass near your home.