Monday, 30 October 2017

Saturnus & Clouds - Baroeg Rotterdam 29 October 2017

While these two bands headlined the second day of Dutch Doom Days in Baroeg I thought refering to the festival when seeing only 2.5 out of 12 or 14 bands inappropiate. They were also the reason I made it to Baroeg. Cycling through the rain in a fast getting colder Holland on the first day of winter time. Well this was to be the soundtrack for darker days ahead of us. When entering Baroeg Hooded Priest were on stage and what I saw was very nice on the presentation side. They do have a remarkable vocalist with the necessary presence on stage. The music was doom, but some heavy metal whoo-hoos entered the mix.

When Saturnus started however, the musical performance went to a whole other level. There are so many bands around that you simply missed because you are not an insider in certain scenes. This show simply blew me away. around 75 minutes of long epic songs, where the heavy mood was always present and long melodic solo's were played over heavy rhythms. Vocals were mainly grunt and occasionally close to speaking/whispering. What in the end mpressed me most was how they managed to keep everyone sucked into their show and de Baroeg was for the 75 minutes a wave of slow banging heads. Atmospheric metal with an attitude, with only one small intermezzo when the vocalist rushed to the toilets during an instrumental break in order to come back just in time with a relieved smile on his face. Willing to get some of their music I ended up with Saturn in Ascension, their last album holding two songs I liked and remembered Wind Torn and Forest of Insomnia. Great band and as their last album dates from 2012 maybe something new is on the way slowly but heavy.

With a great evening already guaranteed by Saturnus it was up to Clouds to close the festival. Rene already explained to me that they are an international all-star band, who recorded in different settings. During this show they had three guests on vocals therefore. While playing doom, they sounded completely different from Saturnus and actually sounded rather different between their own songs as well. The first song reminded me at times of Anathema around Judgement days. The violin for added depression helped on this. Vocals also mixed with more clean parts in their songs. Later on at two songs I was strongly reminded of Green Carnation, whereas during heavier moments Doom/Death was around. All in all this show turned out as impressive as Saturnus. Trying to get also a CD from them after the show failed, as they were sold out already. Once again going to live music was rewarded with two bands playing above my expectations and bands to follow from now on for me. Never before Winter Time started as adequate.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Pendragon - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 28 October 2017

Pendragon in de Boerderij is a yearly event and mostly they sell the place out as well. By coincidence I bought my ticket on time this year as I think I skipped their past two shows. Only later I realized that In the Woods was headlining Dutch Doom days the same evening and I would love to see that band once as well. Pieter was late buying a ticket, but got lucky by trying at the door and into a packed Boeredrij we walked. A sold out Boerderij is in my view always a bit too busy. This combined with the unflexible and quiet audience of bold and grey men (basically like me, but then smaller) does not always guarantee a great atmosphere. Starting with that, tonight must have been one of the least atmospheric Pendragon shows I ever attended. Seems to me that band and audience are getting older and quieter. What did not help a lot either was the support of the evening. One of the backing vocalists has her own music and was allowed some time to warm us up. She was enthusiastic and could sing very well. Yet if I want to see a girl singing along to a computer I can watch Idols, or The voice on TV, which I never do. Further when she announced that the bloke with the headphones on, playing along on guitar was her husband, several of the bold and grey men were disappointed hearing the boo's to that comment. Waste of time really this opener and I was not the only one thinking that.

But still we were at a Pendragon show after Marillion they are probably my favorite Prog Rock band. First time we saw them was when they opened for Marillion in Vredenburg during the Misplaced Childhood tour. Hereafter we saw them peaking at many locations, the Utrecht live album in 1994, headlining Rio Art Rock 98 from 01:00-03:30 on a weekday, Loreley's Night of the Prog and many Boerderij or Melkweg shows. This turned out one of their lesser shows also due to the setlist. The core was build around The Masquerade Overture, not my favorite. Further their last album Men Who Climb Mountains also got three songs, of which only Beautiful Soul impressed. Further to me the recent albums Pure and Passion are amongst their best and both only got one song played.
Yet still we had a great evening as after all we had Pendragon on stage. So they did play from my favorite album The Window of Life  their jumping party song Stargazing and their best song ever Breaking the Spell. This power ballad basically has some opening lines which go into an amazing eight minute guitar solo with some ending words. I always remember the guy bursting out in tears next to me at Loreley when hearing this song. Emotional lyrics and emotional guitar solo's do that to people with a soul. Also their best song from this century This Green and Pleasant Land came by in great form. If we than add final encore Indigo it is clear there was plenty to enjoy. Pendragon are working on a new album and surely will be back in de Boerderij again. Probably I am tempted to go and see them again as well.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Void King, Boudain & Stone in Egypt - de Vinger Den Haag, 26 October 2017

An evening of Stoner/Doom in de Vinger. Now I do not play a lot of Stoner at home. At the same time I believe in supporting live music, venues and especially D&ESR. I already had many good eveningswith Ben's shows. This type of music for me works best with a few beers and live on stage. Unfortunately I was one of the very few  people having the idea of going to de Vinger. Always surprised how the few thousand students (well thats how they call themselves, technically they are not students) we have in The Hague at HBO and MBO don't do live music on a Thursday night. Is our whole youth wasted on dance music? Anyway I did run into Vitus Frank while entering and we had some beers and with him I could hear some nice Stone in Egypt stories (Their bassist played in Osiris so I might have seen him play some 27 years ago). To make turnout matters worse this evening was the opening of teh European tour for two of the bands flying in from the USA. Well the music did the talking and I had a good evening anyway.

Boudain opened and they did so heavy. Their style and presentation seemed somewhat off the wall. I could not understand the introductions of songs if any, as the mics were not clear when talking. Their set was building slowly and improving and they closed with the best song, which might have been called Godzilla. Their fellow countryman from Void King would follow. First thing that stood out, was that they were much more slick dressed. All in black shirts and the vocalist even a black vest over that. Their music seemed also somewhat tighter and to the point. The energy coming from the stage was good with the only problem being the constant opening of the smoke machine killing our beers and itching our noses. This meant two good performances from the USA. Dutch band Stone in Egypt were to close the evening and they did so very well. Frank told me during soundcheck that their drummer is a heavy hitter, well there was no word greek in that. He did not only hit heavy he also upped the tempo compared with the first two bands. If we combine this with very good guitars and a bassist with a background in Osiris, so obviously knowing what he is doing and we have a great live band. 

The two American bands are touring Holland, Belgium and Germany the next week, while Stone in Egypt rejoins for a festival in Kampen next weekend. I'd say go see this package. If you are into live music in general you won't be disappointed and these bands deserve more people than the handfull that made it to de Vinger.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Imperador Belial & Luxuria de Lililth - Musicon Den Haag 14 October 2017

Brazilian Black Metal in Musicon that is three reasons in one go to spend another evening: Brazilian, Metal and Beers. Also this was for me another chance to get an inside look into touring bands as Imperior Belial would stay over after the show. As we had only two bands with a rather short set tonight, there was no pressure on time schedules. So after enjoying their Chinese meal, Luxuria started their sound check. As we had a surprising late summer evening, waiting outside with a beer was a good option. When Luxuria de Lillith started they turned out to have their faces painted, which during the hot evening in Musicon started to run during the show. Their music was melodic black metal and sounding very accessible. First thing one notices is that the brain behind the band sits at the back. Alysson Drakkar drums sings and most interesting announcing all the songs in Portuguese. Now as I get Portuguese I could appreciate the talks, but was at the same time the only one understanding what he was telling us. Well he missed Brazil after being abroad for some weeks, but loved being with us in Musicon.  Later on he would have some interesting talks with his translation app. Their set was nice and I now could add another genre with Portuguese lyrcis. After progrock, Heavy Metal and Progmetal, Blackmetal has been added.

Imperior Belial came on next and reminded more of eighties cult metal. No painted faces, no typical Black Metal shrieking voice, but metal. Turned out they convinced me as well and put on an energetic set which was over before we knew it. This because of both the playing and the lenght of same. This gave everyone plenty of time to visit the very extensive merch tables: Cd's, Lp's Cassette tapes, patches and shirts. I think they did well as most people loved the bands. Later on I got at home to hear the stories behind their scary road trip through Europe and the learning curve this tour means. Both bands are already planning a return and I will be there again. Probably I shall run into Wesley again as well, their fan from far. Finally Raphael once again confirmed that the majority of metalheads in Rio support Fluminense so we could even remember better times of Fluzao. Ending in Alysson style: Foi bom ver vcs caras, espero a volta de vcs em breve e vamos passar mais um ritual.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Boréas & The Devil's 3rd - Musicon Den Haag 13 October 2017

Boréas is/was a neo-classical power metal band from The Hague. On 13 October they had their career defining and ending event, so I had to see this small part of local metal history. Releasing your debut album, performing it in full and calling it quits on one night is a career that went by at the blink of an eye indeed. Or in this case at the bang of your head. Neo classical Power metal is a wide term and as I was fan of both Yngwie and Helloween in the eighties I liked to see what they would present us. Nowadays this style is not all that popular in Holland as we see it more a German thing to play and call it degrading Happy Metal. Curious if they managed to attract some crowd it turned out full of bicycles upon my arrival. Well that was from a party in the church next door. Inside it was not that empty either. Friends and family turned up in decent numbers with the parents being around my age and several younger friends in. Hope these people come back 8 december when an eighties original (Stampede) hits Musicon.

A party in the Church or not, we were warmed up by The Devil's 3rd. When they asked halfway if they should play another song about satan, the reply came in "ja altijd gezellig". They played Baroeg Open Air this year, but way too early for me to make it. Now I could catch up I did like their heavy metal with some thrashy bits. The vocalists looked as if he came straight out of 85 although he probably wasn't even born at the time. After some mic problems during the first song they got the sound fixed and it turned out to be a band to follow. Nice songs, good playing and a lively presentation. Coming from Tilburg to The Hague the most wait and see audience around, it was hard to get things going for them. The rather strong accent inbetween songs was met with "does anyone get what he is on about", but they did not seem to care and rocked on. We shall hear more from them.

And then it was time for the ephemera moment of Boréas. Now Boréas is not a touring band and vocals and drums were hired guests. So it was unclear what to expect really. Well They did not disappoint on the lack of playing. When there were breaks inbetween the songs, Olax (who played a home match) easily talked things together. When the fairly long intro was over and they started it was nice to hear that The Hague now had such a neoclassical powermetal band as well. The playing by all five members was good, the songs were ok and of course as is demanded in this style we visited all the cliches. I heard even the Hall of the Mountain King passing by, while we also could sing along with Maiden alike ooh-hoo-whooos in Power of the Ice. I did not mention yet that the entrance was only 5 Euro and everyone got the CD as a bonus. Well playing it now it sounds nice enough indeed. It is hard to be original in this style of metal and I guess I somehow outgrew it a bit, but we had an entertaining evening. Coming back to friends and family from the beginning I could see this was not their favorite style of music either, staying mainly in the back. The party could have been bigger for a one-off event. Yet I guess that everyone had a pleasant evening and I can't advise even to go see them when they are in your area, as they won't be. Thanks Boréas for putting The Hague on the Happy Metal map as well.

Monday, 9 October 2017

ProgPower Europe - Sjiwa Baarlo, 7-8 October 2017

First weekend of October means ProgPower. A National holiday in Portugal, Josie over for a long weekend and a dinner on Thursday made me drive down to Baarlo on Saturday morning. This meant I missed Sleepmakeswaves (whom I still know absolutely nothing about apart from some comments the next day) and Voyager. Now Voyager continues their tour supporting Uneven Structure in Europe and next Sunday they play nearby Leiden. At least that is what I assume, still nothing announced on that front. For us Progpower also means Camping de Berckt. This year we ended up with eight and had space enough in two mobile homes. While the Castle is the core of beerswapping tables and PPEU Family feeling, the camping also has its regulars. So we did run into Mario and Luigi two years ago and Mexicans last year. This year the castle had a bonus on Thursday. As the PPEU Organization did not book a band like last year to play the Chapel on Thursday night, Alex took the initiative to have Damian Wilson coming over and treat the early arrivers on an acustic set. Pity I missed that. What I did not miss was the return of now outside fixed point Pois Chic with their Vegetarian Foodtruck. On the Sunday Andy and Debbie even promoted that other huge musical event of 2017, taking place in Musicon 8 December. But let's focus on the music now. One interesting fact about ProgPower is, that I have made many friends through the years with musical tastes awfully close to mine. Yet during PPEU everyone picks their own favorites and this is therefore my view on performances, which I already learned during the days was not a consensus by far.

Saturday was opened by German band Cataya. They did not only open Progpower for me, but also opened Post-Rock Saturday afternoon. If there was to be a consensus on this year's edition it must have been the overdosis on light post rock/metal bands this year. I do appreciate one such a band, but by the line-up this year we were treated on three in a row. Cataya were the first and therefore kept me in for sixty minutes. Main observation was that their songs were long and not very different between them. Second they got their inspiration for the stage setup from the toilets in Moonlight/Diest. This meant we saw the men sideways for sixty minutes. Decent gig, but far from exciting to me. Next on were Blindead from Poland. They play similarish, but brought a vocalist. While staying for the sixty minutes inside the Sjiwa I do not remember a lot. (I do not take notes and write fast after shows from memory normally) They had their louder outbursts, but again kept me away from the merch table afterwards. Now the problem was that my Post rock acceptance bucket was close to be full and Kauan was on next. I do have their previous album Sorni Nai and quite like it. When they started I could see they would probably be the best band of the afternoon, yet bucketoverload and I went outside for a falafel wrap. Kauan looked to be the youngest band from the festival. They also were the first band with a minority of beards in the band (helped by female keys). It seems definitely a Prog thing to grow a beard nowadays, but luckily looking around the older generations I still see razorblades are OK to use. Speaking of older generation visitors, I missed my good friend Andrew who could not make it this year. I am pretty sure he would have been able to describe in poetic prosa what he thought about three bands in a row of rather introvert post rock. Dinner Break.

After the dinner break things could only get better as Atrox were on next. They were one of the best surprises in 2008 and they are the band of whom I owned most CD's (4) before the festival. I decided to see this show from the front in order to feel the show blazing over me. Well it was all back on stage. The one-armed vocalist and his megaphone and the barefooted bassist with his undercooled sense of humor. Now Atrox started their career with female vocals so the songs played only came from their last two albums. Fine with me I liked this mix of electronics, industrial and progmetal. If ever Progmetal can be sexy, Atrox played it and the hour flew by for me. Being Dutch there were two comments from the side (not calling them complaints). They brought the same cool T-shirt as 9 years ago and still only in small sizes. We are the tallest people of the world and the PPEU audience reflects that well. Missed chance. Finally were was Tight Tie? If Atrox ever wrote one uberhit it must have been Tight Tie. For We Are Many closed things off now and actually sounded pretty nice as well.  With the first victory set down it was up to Pyramaze to follow this. Well they had no problems doing that as they were obviously the metal band of the day. Hearing a set of headbangers seemed me to be a relieve to many, or refreshing if you like. I do not have any of their albums, but loved the show for the needed variation in the day. Melodic Power Prog metal as we saw before in previous years went down well. So Norway and Denmark turned the day into a good one after all, leaving it to Swedish Soen to close the day in style. Well they managed to do that. I saw them tour Lykaia in in April and the set seemed similar. While they also play atmospheric prog metal they do know how to keep my attention and work with loud-soft bridges. Seeing them in a full Sjiwa (biggest audience of the weekend) added to the fun. What also helped were the clapping hands plus two chicken legs. The mood was great and Soen showed why making them headliner was deserved. Now I am wondering if I go see them again in Lisbon with Madder Mortem. We decided this year to leave the afterparties for what they are (hangover guarantees) and created our own in the trailer with wonderfull spicy knackworstjes.

Sunday we needed to be back at 13:30 as opener Semistereo were so nice the day before to start spreading their PPEU-EP. Your Drama it was called and anything but a drama we got. I love it when one of the surprises of the weekend is actually the only Dutch band on the line-up. I did not know them, but liked the way they performed and gave us a show. Musically also some alternative rock seemed blended in, but their performance was making up for the lighter parts. For an unknown opening band they came over really well and won some fans I guess. I think for me they shall be better live than on album, but if in the area I go and see them again. Next band was from Serbia/Chile Organized Chaos. While hearing small bits on forehand I thought of old Pain of Salvation. So this was annother band to move closer to the stage. Well that was a wise decision as we would be treated on a spectacle for ears and eyes. First outstanding point were the extremely strong vocals and the dramatic performance around them Then the band was also very interesting  with today some help from David Maxim Micic on keys. This was not easy listening and musically we went all over the place. The loud bass/guitar bits were a comfort in this Organized Chaos indeed. They had my sympathy during the show and I knew I was going to get their album afterwards. And then they came almost to the end and we got one of those moments of Progpower history we will remember. For their next song Hey God they wanted to invite Jesus on stage (or a lookalike at least, he did no wonders) At that very moment Lee, David and Mark walked up to the front. For reasons of being British (non European) they thought it made sense to come to PPEU today as Thunderbirds. Well if ever a vocalist reacted well to a surprise from the audience it was Vladimir. He invited the Thunderbirds on stage and asked the audience to shout for Jesus to come on stage as well. That resulted in a full stage, but with some hilarious scenes to close the set. For me the most entertaining band of the day. While writing I now listen to the Inner Conflict CD. I might need another 28 spins before getting it all. It's these surprises that make PPEU always a succes to me. And then Brutai came on a gave us heavy djent. I was too much in Organized Chaos afterglow to give them a fair chance. Friends liked them and I could appreciate the heaviness of it all. Maybe another time I will see them with an open mind. Now I just needed food before the dinner break would present us queues. Dinner Break.

After the dinner break Hemina would be on. Now for reasons I do not know I never looked into Hemina before. This is strange as some people who introduced me to other good progmetal bands liked them and vocalist Douglas Skene is also member of the best prog rock band from the last decade Anubis. I saw him on stage in de Boerderij a few years ago and he was pretty much calmer than this afternoon. So I expected Progressive rock. Well first we had the introduction of the band which reintroduced us to neighbouring rivalry with New Zealand. From the other side of the globe it , is hard to understand, but my thoughts went back to my former colleague the late Ron Beveridge (New Zealander) who described Australia as the country where the men are men and the sheep are getting nervous. Well being Christian I would not throw that at Douglas' face either as he is big. More important Hemina turned out to be a kick-ass band that was for me the best surprise of the weekend. In come the double guitars firing fast riffs and long solo's at us without interruption. The band on stage was nice to watch and the music was the style of Progmetal I love. Closing in on Heavy Metal and full of solo's with an occassional break by keys or even sax (both from tape). Turned out afterwards they were nice guys as well, who seemed to love having the chance to play ProgPower. Playing ther last album Venus in the car back to home it sounded as good as they were live on stage. Following up a highlight is always hard and Toehider had to do it. Setting some ballpark first, I am not a big Ayreon fan and did not see the singer  in 013. Nor do I know any music from the band. Actually the first time I read about them, was when they advertised a lot in Prog magazine. The returning toe did not look all too funny. Well the halll filled up well for Toehider as obvious I am a minority missing out Ayreon live in September. Unfortunately it did not take very long for me to find out that Toehider are not my thing. It was obvious that the guy can sing and play an interesting bit on guitar. What I missed were songs. To me it seemed to be all about the gimmick, so after fifteen minutes I left the hall, leaving an audience who obviously liked Toehider much better. Hans, already in the basement bar before me, mentioned Primus as a reference, another band we never got. And then it was all over already and Tesseract closed the 2017 Edition. The first time I saw Tesseract supporting Protest the Hero. I then thought that djent with a young audience should be mixed with Progpower. Last year I saw Tesseract headlining and having in The Contortionist a brilliant support. Slowly I learned that I like Tesseract for forty minutes. So when they headlined Progpower I stayed while still liking them and then had my final beers outside. Good thing was that Phoenix passed early in the set, as this is an absolute killer song.

So resuming this was for me not the best line-up ever, but that did not make me feel any less on a cloud during the weekend. So many nice people walking around, the atmosphere always is the best you can imagine and the people from Baarlo love the weekend and make you feel welcome. Thanks to the organization of giving us this party and for those who were there, bringing the atmosphere.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Evergrey & Need - Moonlight Diest, 30 September 2017

Evergrey and Need is a tour I would definitely like to see, but almost managed to miss. Last weekend they played two shows in Holland, but our program that long weekend was scheduled around Tiago's birthday and Josie being over from Portugal. Then on Thursday they returned to Holland and Hans and Mary went asking me if I liked to join. Now this was last minute and I did not feel like telling Tiago on the day I would be away for the night as Hengelo is too far for  a nightly return. So my chances were Belgium this weekend. Josie in Portugal and Tiago camping in the mud with scouts. Then came a footbal team reunion in Huppel the Pub Friday night and I knew this would be heavy (Os Belenenses we are coming to rock Estadio do Restelo). When I woke up Saturday late I was still undecisive on the plans for the day, considering Belphegor in Amstelveen. And then a picture came by from Esther with her birthday present from Need and the positive energy from that message made me decide to get in the car and drive down to Diest.  Checking which hotel the dutch Need stalkers (Jon V.'s words) were staying in, and hallo Belgium it's me again.

Moonlight is a bit of a tacky name for a rock and metal cafe, and the entrance at the muddy back was well hidden. Entering the hall it turned out to be spacious, with unfortunately not that many people in. Luckily during the Need gig more people had entered and it ended Ok-ish in numbers. People who came in late, probably did not know Need or the deserved hype in tiny circles around them. Now asking Ronald, Lia, Esther or Michel if Need is any good live would result in rather biased opinions. But also some other friends of mine who saw them in Leiden and Hans and Mary in energylow Hengelo loved their set. Now I knew Need from their last two CD's. I love both albums, apart from the spoken word songs. With a slot of about 45 minutes the focus obviously lay on Hegaiamas. Starting with their two opening songs. Orvam was represented by Mother Madness and Tilikum followed after which the last song was already announced. In good Prog tradition this song lasted twenty minutes so we got all in all a decent time of music.. And what about the performance on stage? Well I  got the hype and what an energetic, sympathetic and powerful perfromance. The grunts from the keyboards were used here to add something to the songs and individually all five knew to impress. During closer Hegaiamas it was nice to see a spot for the bass and later on Ravaya picking his Steve Rothery moment in the spotlights. Closing his eyes, giving us a nice melodic solo, the resemblance was there.  Need was all I hoped for on stage and definitely a great live band who would fit the bill on a certain progmetal gathering which talkes place every year in Holland.

Now visiting Diest with the Dutch  Need fanclub did not mean that I was not looking forward to Evergrey on stage as well. I first saw Evergrey during the first Progpower in Baarlo. I did not hear of them when in Brazil and did not know wat to expect. The main thing I recall from that show was the big scandinavian bassist in a leather skirt. I also liked their music, but never rushed to get all their CD's  I have a few and through the years saw them a few times as well. Possibly best show was in Arnhem as they toured my favorite album The Inner Circle and Mercenary at 11 Dreams times supported. Evergrey's music has some typical features. Their Progmetal is dark and heavy, the piano comes back dominantly through the set and samples from child choirs or spoken words are also heard more than once. Evergrey also have the habit of putting the volume at 11. With my last minute decision to go I forgot my earplugs, but Moonlight music hall had a free box of plugs at the entrance for all to pick. Tom Englund has a typical voice (wondering how that will work with Redemption) and finally Evergrey also knows to write ballads that are not cheesy. Not having all their albums, means I do not immediately recognize all songs played. With Evergrey usually even the songs you do not know go down easy by first hearing. So the show passed by fast and the playing was confident and tight. In the encore we got two of their best songs in When the Walls go Down and Recreation Day. I donot recall any poor Evergrey show and this one again was good.

So if ever the decision to drive down to Belgium was a good one, for me it was yesterday. The company was very nice and the Moonlight stayed open afterwards for all to drink and chat together. Yes Need are nice guys, although they asked me to name them bastards to increase festival bill chances. I could complete my Need CD collection, buying their first and even got Evergrey's last based upon this show. Also meeting two Greek Luxemburgers who shall be in Baarlo next week, plus the black T-shirt invasion at breakfast made this a ProgPower prequel indeed. And a damn fine one it was, Efcharistó.