Sunday, 29 January 2017

Fates Warning - De Pul Uden, 28 January 2017

If there is one thing Hans and I always agreed upon, it is that Fates Warning stands above all others and doubts. In the mid eighties when we were at a local gig in Delft a friend of Hans tipped us on this great new band who just released Night on Bröcken. We got the point and kept an eye on that one when they moved from heavy metal into more progmetal areas, a new genre by then. In 1989 we attended their first European gig in Amsterdam supporting Manowar (a show that can be seen on DVD with the special edition of Perfect Symmetry). In the early nineties they cancelled some European tours, which was a pain before internet days. As from A Pleasant Shade of Gray they resumed touring for every new album. Usually they focus their tours around Germany, Holland and Greece, so we got to see them a lot. Still from the big three of Progmetal they never manged to get the same recognition  as Dream Theater and Queensryche did.Looking at CD's only this is very strange and simply unfair. Noone needs a lot of time to mention a disappointing album of the other two, while Fates Warning don't do disappointing albums. Even so there is general consensus amongst fans that last year's Theories of Flight is among their best albums ever. Touring Europe these weeks, they include two Dutch gigs and we managed to get a decent group together for the show in Uden. Entering de Pul it seemed that we were not the only ones gathering people as there were easily three times as many people as during their previous club gigs I saw in Weert and Roermond. This is only good news as they deserve this. One downer though was that de Pul is not a good place for a full house. Their setup with a large entrance, where you hardly see anything and a small hall with huge sound space made it a packed and sweaty event. They brought two support acts of which the first one I missed and the second one was weird. Brazilian Armored Dawn managed to only raisen eyebrows. Who put this lot to open for Fates Warning? Their Power/Folk/Pirate metal might fit Korpiklaanni but shall not win them any fans on this tour. As I might still apply for my Brazilian passport after retirement I stop saying anything here. about my future countrymen.

Fates Warning came on and kicked of with the opener of Theories.., From the Rooftops. Great to hear this new song and see the band was in good form. Going by some traditional fast opning songs (Life, One, APSoG III) we arrived at Seven Stars and the new album comes alive indeed. A Pity that we further only got The Light and Shade of Things, as I would have loved to see thundering White Flag. After many shows we know the build-up of  a Fates Warning setlist. Some classic songs they never avoid, some new songs and a few relative surprises. The latter might have been yesterday A Handfull of Doubt, Acquiescence and APSoG IX. Of Course I lost my voice over Eleventh Hour/Point of View. Playing around 90-100 minutes this was another show of top class prog metal. Only comment might be on the sound that at times seemed to be floating around a bit, struggling with volume swaps as well. Usually I do not do double gigs for same bands in a row, but Fates Warning (and Psychotic Waltz if ever) are the exceptions. Unfortunately this morning I woke up with the results of two late nights and  a week of a threatening cold. If not a surprising recovery is on it's course by now I have to skip Patronaat with Hans tonight. Anyone having the chance to see them don't miss this tor as they hardly have been better.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Dream The Electric Sleep - Little Devil Tilburg, 27 January 2017

Somewhere in 2014 I discovered Dream the Electric Sleep reading a review of their second album Herectics. With the possibilities of the internet I only needed to hear the opening title track and I was sold. The nice thing about their music is that it does not fit in a box. Yesterday the poster said progressive rock, which is in there. At the same time I can see them perfectly tour with a stoner rock band, play ProgPower or fit the bill with a major alternative rock act like Foo Fighters. This unboxable part makes it nice to introduce them to some not so metal or prog friends. In comes Peter who likes his hardrock until UFO and Y&T, his prog hero is Steven Wilson or John Mitchell and he moves in many areas I don't follow. My tip was right and he absolutely got DtES as well. So Tilburg it was and to improve matters Joop after hearing some music decided on the day to join as well and apart from that to drive. This car saved us from rushing off to catch the last train straight after the show, which proved to be another valuable hour. As I always say Little Devil is the nicest hardrock bar in Holland, so an hour warming up on good beers made sense. I even discoverd a new favorite in Punk IPA. at 21:30 the doors opened to the hall and we just moved to the next bar. Standing right before the small stage we were ready for DtES.

After an intro the band hit the stage and gave us Heretics. The wall of sound by only three man was there and the talking guitar lines over a very heavy base sounded as good as on the album. Next song Let the Light Flood In showed that also the vocals were good tonight. Actually all three members sing, but main vocals were as on the album by guitarist Matt Page. What followed was a ride through their albums, Highlight to me came in instrumental We Who Blackout the Sun, which has such a beautifull bridge to heavyness. Talking about heavy it turned out that Joey Waters does not do soft drumming. Most songs included some very heavy hits on his floortoms which together with the driving bass of Chris gave the songs their pulsing base to put melodies over. A show that flew by included two songs from their debut as well, which was enough for picking up a signed copy of that one after the show. So Little Devil is far from a huge venue and it was not very packed either. Still those present all realized they saw something special indeed and expressed so loudly. I stated to Peter and Joop that for me this band could grow big on main festivals like Pinkpop or Lowlands. They thought me naive and explained quality does not matter for that. Still we saw a truely great show by a very good band who turned out to be nice guys after the show. It was good to see that there was a long queue for their CD's or LP. I got the debut album, another Punk IPA and left for home pleased with a great Friday evening.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Ranger, Rosie, Batushka & Arkona - gebr. de Nobel Leiden 21 January 2017

Ranger was coming to Leiden and what I saw of them on the internet looked promising enough. Support band would be Rosie a band I first saw some thirty years ago. Now on the same evening de Nobel could book Batushka and Arkona on their European Pilgramage tour. So a deal was made prime time got the Polish Black metal invasion and the after party would be in the small hall with Ranger and Rosie. As staying home until ten seemed pointless I decided to warm up with the Polish Black Metal tour and move to the party thereafter.

Arkona was on stage when I entered the main hall. At first I thought drums came from a box, but a drummer was sitting at the side of the stage. Arkona plays Black Metal with some symphonic intro tapes. It sounded good, but lacked variety for me. What stuck most of the show were the guitarists with painted faces, but wearing white hoodies. After a break with stage preparations Batushka could start. I mention stage preparations as Batushka are mainly about the stage set. Last year they played the small hall where the stage was too small for the eight members. Now they had space enough, but that made them not a moving band. All standing still they play their gregorian black metal with precision. Similar to last year I got the impression that this band is all about the gimmick and how long would that work. Well I might be wrong as I only saw more people in de Nobel during Saxon. A full hall appreciating a band that I probably just don't get. Good for them.

At 23:00 the doors to the small hall opened and we walked into a heavy metal party from the eighties. DJ Virginkiller set the tone with Running with the Devil, Killed by Death and For Whom the Bells Toll. If ever a band entered a warmed up venue it would be Ranger this evening. Many people stayed and also some just arrived from other shows to see Ranger and Rosie perform. Finnish Ranger plays speed/thrash metal in the style of some thirty years ago. This was the perfect fit for the atmosphere that was in the room. Their main characteristic is that they play fast. This comes together with many solo's shot at us in full speed so what was there not to like. At times I thought I heard some Agent Steel with the high shrieking vocals. The beer soaked floor turned out to be a dangerous place for slam dancing and even a crowd surfer appeared above our heads. Following up a Black Metal show it strikes how the mood changed. From standing stil in the main hall the small hall was just a good old fashioned metal party. Meanwhile Ranger thundered on and had a great show. I did get their last album Speed & Violence which has a nice eighties cover as well. In June they play Josie's current hometown Beja, so maybe I can see them playing under the sun one day.

As it was getting later many people left for trains and busses and when Rosie started it was a lot calmer already. That did not seem to hinder them and they blasted their Rock & Roll over us. With a name like that it can not surprise anyone that they play in a style not very far from AC/DC. Actually at times I was not sure if it is an own song or an AC/DC cover. Being around for thirty years they know how to play and the mood stayed good. As I also wanted to catch the 01:15 train I left when the singer announced they had three more songs. An evening divided in two it was and anyone with eyes could see that nothing beats eighties metal parties really.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pain of Salvation - a Sense of Gravity

Pain of Salvation - In the Passing Light of Day
A return to old form was promised us in the build-up to this release. First clip Meaningless promised a lot even being not that heavy, dark it was. And now I heard the album a few times and I can conclude it is to me one of their best. Going back in time Pain of Salvation is this band whose first four albums should be heard by anyone with even a mild interest in Progmetal. All total classics in the genre gave them the convidence to start experimenting. Basically they managed to experiment away from me and many old fans. I am never doubting their skills and performances but they just mixed in too many unwanted genres. Besides that I came to really hate the Disco Queen after they still did not leave the bitch behind three tours later. Yet it always kept nagging as they should be able to release a new masterpiece. In the Passing Light of Day is a concept album and a very personal one too (these always are the best see the Reticent 2016). Daniel Gildenlow spent the first half of 2014 in hospital when a bacteria was threatening his life. In the booklet we can read his story and this album tells the same. As this blog is all about me let me step down and explain why I could relate very much to this.  I spent big part of the summer 2009 in hospitals, where several medical errors and diagnosis let me walk some edges of life and pain. I did start a blog at the time just to keep people informed and avoiding Josie having the same call over and over again every day. During the blackest days Josie became my co-author and it turned out that a blog was a very good tool for communications. The site I used at the time closed down meanwhile, so I swapped to blogspot and stuck with music only. I still have the messages we wrote at the time somewhere and I was more than a bit curious how great lyricist Daniel Gildenlow would translate his feelings. The day the album was released  I encountered the first opinions on the internet. As expected the range was from extremely enthusiastic to reluctant and still not as good as their past. My copy arrived a few days later by the mail and I made the wisest decision I could make and listened with nothing to disturb me and reading along the lyrics. Well mainly because of the lyrics I got completely blown away. It was all there, my fears and my feelings from almost eight years ago. If only I could write it down so nicely (my book died with only a few chapters half finished). We see the fear, the despair, the thoughts, the nightmares, the non-working pain killers, the questioning, the absence of religion and the supporting lover. When I heard of Daniel's story I once thought he would be an interesting person to talk about his fight. Now it seems he already told it all on this album, so I can only thank him for the inspirational lyrics. But this is a CD and the music always matters most. Given the above I am obviously biased but I do think this is a return to old form. This does not mean it is as heavy overall as their first four, but it shoud be easily the best since Remedy Lane for all old-time fans. The heavy opening of On a Tuesday starts of well and Tongue of God and Meaningless are slower but really dark pieces of music. Ballads Silent Gold and If this is the End could both have been taken from the Road Salt albums. In counterbalance Reasons gives us some very heavy djenty riffs and Full Throttle Tribe has this Remedy Lane catchiness around the chorus. Highlight comes at the end with 15 minute The Passing Light Of Day. Starting dark and slow the hymnlike epical chorus is so emotional. This brings me back to Josie. As she works in Portugal she will be in Holland at Easter when Pain of Salvation play Leiden. She shall hear this album read the lyrics and time allowing join me to Gebr. de Nobel. This might not be the musically best album of the year a more emotional one definitely won't be released either. Thanking PoS for this Masterpiece I end with a quote dedicating it to Josie and how she spend the summer of 2009 not sure if I ever thanked her enough: "My love don't be afraid"I hear you say, "I'll be here for you all the way"And I just wish that I could smile and say "Baby, hey, I'm in too much pain to feel afraid"  My Lover, My best friend. I'm watching it slowly slip away. Like the passing Light of Day.

A Sense of Gravity - Atrament
Why would I add another album to review after my ode to Pain of Salvation? Well the answer is easy, this album should be obligatory for those who would like to hear a heavier Pain of Salvation. Imagine it to be 2003 and Pain of Salvation wants to blend in something new. In stead of performing acustically on 12:5 and start mixing gospel and country on Be they look hungry at extreme metal in all its forms. the result would be this album really. In my Top 16 of 2016 I stated this one came in too late for entering my list. And this was right since you need at least five concentrated lsitening sessions before you start appreciating this album in full. Opening is a short orchestral song which could be on any PoS album, but follower Reclusive Peace is probably the most extreme song of the album which suddenly drops to a melodic/clean sung chorus again. There is too much hapening on this album to describe for me really. But anyone liking heavier PoS, Extreme technical metal and Tech metal in general should give this album a try. If the grunts scare you off there are still songs that go all clean (Shadowed Lines, Promised None) that justify this purchase. The only risk I see that not everybody appreciates a blend of styles which includes the melodic prog and the extreme metal. As I have no issues with this blend I consider this definitely one of the best albums of 2016. Strongly recommended album for all extreme progmetal fans. Turns out they have four albums, but CD's of previous work sold out. Sad to see that in the sea of album releases I can miss such great bands that are right up my musical alley. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Tyketto & Rebelstar - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 19 January 2017

Tyketto passed de Boerderij yesterday for their 25th anniversary tour. Considering they formed in 1987 and released their debut album in 1991 I guess they are just better musicians than mathematicians. Their first two albums "Don't Come Easy" and "Strenght in Numbers" were two classics from the Melodic Hard Rock scene in the early nineties, so this was another show not to be missed. I remember us gathering a large group to see them tour their Strenght album with Riverdogs and Shotgun Symphony in both Paard The Hague and Tivoli Utrecht. Yesterday in spite of my plugging on our concerts app it was not to be a great group any longer so Hans and I had some beers and some Melodic rock in a decently filled Boerderij.

Openers were Rebelstar from my hometown, so we saw them several times before. They play melodic hard rock and do so fairly well. What we agreed on now was that their show came over better in smaller venues Musicon and Baroeg. This mainly because there were now too many disinterested people around talking loud and staying near the bars. Closing with  Hell Yeah I guess they won over a few new fans as they are musically rather well fitting the headliner.

A tape introduced Tyketto and bits and pieces of their biggest hits passed already. When they were on stage the first point that struck me was that we were in for a very professional show. Kick Like a Mule was a new opener and Wings was the first oldie from the videoclip years. Tyketto were one of those bands who had timing not running in their favour. The early nineties saw us great bands not matching their best years albums any longer (Metallica, Dio, Iron Maiden, Queensryche) NWOBHM was long gone and hair metal was ending. Death and Black metal grew big, but I needed until later in the nineties through Cynic, Amorphis and Opeth to appreciate grunts and extreme vocals. My harder edge contained bands like Watchtower, Annihilator and Toxik. Grunge came on and apart from some good songs that was never my thing ( I remember Pearl Jam touring Ten being pretentious dicks in a club show in The Hague and never liked them since) Progmetal was getting a genre with Fates Warning releasing their best selling albums, Dream Theater returned with Images & Words and Psychotic Waltz became the best live band of the decade. So drifting off topic my point is that melodic hard rock bands would suddenly serve much smaller markets. Lillian Axe and Riverdogs were my favorites at the time. Tyketto followed closely and yesterday we could see why. Songs like Burning Down Inside, Catch my Fall or Rescue Me still stand strong. Actually the new songs from Reach and Dig in Deep went down as well. Highlights of course for all the old fans (bands like these hardly grow young fans) were the biggest hits. The obligatory ballad is Standing Alone still wonderful. The song intending girls to take their clothes off (according to introduction) Lay Your Body Down remains a shout along of class. As the girls aged together with the men in the audience maybe it was not a bad thing that no bra's flew towards the stage. After leaving shortly Tyketto came back for their biggest hit Forever Young. With a house full of people in their fourties and fifties, but still rocking this was  a suitable line to sing along indeed. So we got a good show, many songs that took me untill the chorus before saying o yeh that one and no issues on the performances. I only wonder how many American bands we are going to see this year dedicating a song to (Big Money yesterday) and apologizing for the disaster that is happening today over there.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Blind Ego & Subsignal - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 14 January 2017

A Double package of German bands hanging somewhere between Heavy prog Rock and light Progmetal. I saw both before and was curious how they developed since then. Well that turned out to be two different stories. Hans and Yvon joined me to a rather empty Boerderij were surprisingly few Progpower faces walked around this evening.

Subsignal opened and they were the one I was looking forward to most. A short history as they come out of the last version of Sieges Even. Lifecycle by Sieges Even from 1988 is the best Tech metal album ever to come out of Germany. Being accused of cloning Watchtower they developed into more Rush like territories and at the begin of the century they released two strong albums with Dutch vocalist Arno Menses. A place at Progpower confirmed their status. Arno and guitarist Steffen then formed Subsignal where some rock got blended in, but still they convinced at NotP and Progpower. After their second album I stopped  buying CD's from them as I realized the songs did not stick with me and they could not reproduce their live shows in a studio. So I came to see if a good show would convince me to get their last album. Well the conviction turned the other way. A very uninspired show, where Arno seemed annoyed by the small audience  and no spark whatsoever came over from the stage. Obviously they can all play very well, but this show did nothing to me and turned out to be a disappointment. Including a drum solo of a few minutes did not help a lot either. Maybe it was me comparing with the blast the night before, or maybe the band had a bad day but this was to me a forgetable performance. Best song was The Sea from their debut album, a song that does stay with you.

For Blind Ego the task to save the evening and luckily they did. Last time I saw them they had Paul Wrightson with a terrible cold on vocals. Now there was a new band and vocalist and they looked pleased to be on stage. The show was mainly build around new album Liquid. Being able to go somewhat heavier than their main bands RPWL and Sylvan, many solo's were fired at us. The second guitarist from Dante also took his offered spaces and the double guitar solo's were great. I only have their second album Numb and although they only played one song from that one I was pleased they choose Death. The lyrics of the chorus became my hymn when doctors told me it was probably over in 2009. I've seen the end and there's no light. You close the door and that's where it ends. There's no light Make all Gods die. This based upon a threatening bass line is a true epic song. With the vocals being fairly different from the album this version was great as well. In the end we got a show of light progmetal brought by some very good musicians. So Blind Ego did save the evening and we shall be back in de Boerderij this Thursday already.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Insomnium, Barren Earth & Wolfheart - Biebob Vosselaar, 13 January 2017

Winter's Gate is one of my favorite albums from last year and when Insomnium announced they would play this album in full during their winter tour I knew I should be there. This might sound easy, but suddenly the elements started copying the storyline of the album. Heavy storms were predicted at the coast and snow, hail and ice might fall down at night. As I have no winter tires on my car  the viking in me had to convince me that predictions are there to scare us and what could happen really. So I left for Belgium and man am I pleased that I did. Starting with Biebob a place I never was before. This is one of the surviving metal clubs from the eighties and entering it reminded me of a lighter and larger Baroeg. On the day tickets were still sold, but especially during Imsomnium I had the impression not many more people could be squeeezed in. As I was Bob for myself I could not enjoy the Belgian beers available. Arriving at a quarter past seven at 19:30 sharp the first show started.

Opening band were Wolfheart, unknown to me. They turned out to be the only band of today who stayed away from clean vocals all together. In balance their guitarist was extremely melodic on his many solo's and even reminded me of the schrapnel guitar heroes of the past at times. I very much liked their show, which landed well at the crowd. During unreleased song Boneyard they even got a small pit going shortly. Something I did not see returning during the evening. Although we had a second vocalist he only added more grunts at a higher tone. After half an hour the party was over and we were warmed up by this good band.

Barren Earth were next and I was looking forward to them. I discovered them when releasing their second album "The Devil's Resolve" Also last album "On Lonely Towers" I have, so playing them again this week I might recognize some of the songs. Well they opened with some oldies, but it already sounded great. This was a full stage as we had two guitarists, a bassist, keyboards, drums and a vocalist on stage. Their style is according to the sticker on their last album Finnish Progressive Death/Doom metal. I can agree to that as they have various really heavy and slow parts blended in their songs. The vocalist seemed to have no problems in mixing within one line from clean singing to a heavy grunt and back again. A new guitarist was introduced, whose name I forgot. He was the one spicing the whole show up with melodic fast solo's. This was the band of the evening that would be most Progpower-fähig. Think of a blend of In Mourning and Green Carnation. After Wolfheart's good opening another great surprise in a lively show by Barren Earth. Pity they only played 45 minutes. Highlight of the show to me A Shapeless Derelict as this is a killer song.

After another fast stage change Insomnium were expected and they opened with Winter's Gate. I do not know how to start describing this, Winter's Gate is one musical highlight of 40 Minutes. As the album is divided in parts at times we got a break to cheer and let a small intermezzo from tape bring us to the next chapter. The atmosphere was raised as during this performance the light was coming from the back only giving us shadows on stage. This fits the story nice and also the music managed to bring the desperate atmospheres over. For those not into this kind of music one reference. Iron Maiden managed to cretae the atmosphere of the mariner lost at sea in their epic  Rhyme of... Well here we speak about a tribe of Vikings so it has the same effect but then HEAVY. This being one song that keeps you sharp for 40 minutes makes it a true masterpiece and after seeing it live I appreciate the album even more. Definitely a Classic album in the genre and I will go back to it many times in the years to come. If only for the sudden calm break to Still I bear the flowers of pain, of solitude. The show ended with a tape with the clean sung outro and lights went to the banner with the album cover. Sensational it was and I was not the only one in awe. Then we still had part two of the show to come. The lights up front went on as well and the band members got faces and a drummer could be spotted. This part was a trip through their discography and admitted mainly unknown to me. I only have Shadows of a Dying Sun and was pleased to hear While We Sleep from that one. Now that the show turned to more human levels I could pay some attention to the band members and for the third time tonight an absolute top guitarist would rule the stage. This time less surprisingly so as his name is Markus Vanhala. Insomnium managed to stay under my radar for years, but now turned into a band I definitely shall see again when near (or not so near as tonight). So it was only Friday 13 January and I already have to wonder if many bands shall top this show in 2017. I will see many great bands I am sure, but how many debut shows to me will there be of such great bands. If ever the choice to face the storm and hail was right it was this evening.