Thursday, 19 December 2019

Top 19 of 2019 - CD's

If 2019 was already good for live shows, the number of albums released that I really liked was so big, that some I did not even get to buying yet. So ranking a favorite 19 of 2019 became almost impossible. Therefore I used some criteria that made highly enjoyable albums fall out as they were good, but not necessarily their best ever releases. Think Queensryche, Dream Theater, Whitesnake, Candlemass or Angel Witch here. Others just had the misfortune of my choice of today. So hereunder a picture of albums I did like (a lot in cases) but did not pass the cut.

Those that did make it to my favorite list start hereunder with the usual start from the bottom at number 19.

19. Zonder/Wehrkamp - If It's Real
This duo made a big name in progressive metal and now take us back to the eighties with AOR at top level. This album reminded me of Night Ranger and Survivor bands that would score hits with movies. Broken hearted lyrics all over, this became a favorite for waking up slowly in weekends.

18. In Mourning - Garden of Storms
I only got this CD when seeing them for the second time in November. As In Mourning needs time to grow on me always this might in time rise further up. Live my favorite Tech Death band, on CD pretty interesting as well.

17. Peavy Perkin - Comdia : Inferno
This Spanish combo does take you on a rollercoaster ride across musical styles, with lots of extreme blended in. All five members perform vocals of several characters of Dante's story. Not for playing on the background, but what a ride it is when you take time and energy for it.

16. Spirit Adrift - Divided by Darkness
Doom Metal at it's finest for me. Being an American band these four remind me more of Scandinavian Heavy Metal Doom. Live they weer a notch rougher, but on CD also a highlight for darker days.

15. Borknagar - True North / Insomnium - Heart Like a Grave
An ex aequo to slip in one extra album at least. Both extreme prog bands had a classic previous album to follow up and managed wonderfully well. True North needed some turns to fully appreciate while Heart like a grave was hidden in the artwork of the year making you feel the nordic cold.

14. Hourswill - Dawn of the Same Flesh
Portugal's finest did return with a concept album. Heavy Metal with progressive edges and what a fine result they arrived at. The songs work based upon both good instrumentals and voice. I Should manage to see them on stage somewhere in 2020.

13. Opeth - In Cauda Venenum
Opeth did surprise once again, but luckily this time positively. I already did start losing interest in them before they left grunts behind , but now in two languages they release by far their best gruntfree album. The spirit of Steven Wilson is around in music and videoclips. This is art.

12. De Lirium's Order - Singularity
Thank you Jonathan for this tip. Although he pointed on the use of harmonica in Technical Death Metal, I was most astonished in the extremely strong power metal parts blended in so fine. Hope they can find a package to tour Europe with, as this should be interesting live.

11. Grand Slam - Hit the Ground
Guitarist Laurence Archer (of Stampede and UFO fame) put Phil Lynott's and his old band back to live.  This CD holds some known songs (19, Military Man) originally written for this band and newer work of the last decades. A strong voice helps and Laurence Archer was always a favorite for those liking ther melodic guitars soloing nice.

10. Stuckfish - The Watcher
While my initial prog rock favorites of the Neo Prog era were quiet this year my NWOBHM friend Brian Mear wrote about this band (as wel as The Room thanks) Independent for obscure reasons, this second album shows Stuckfish to be one of the best Neoprog bands around. Seven longish songs give us the guitars, voice and keyboards that made me love that style from the beginning

9. Atlantean Kodex - The Course of Empire
Now that Manowar alienated their last French fans and Warlord remains not very productive Atlantean Kodex claims the throne of Epical Battle Metal. Sword yielding metal at it's best this band is epic and they close the pre-party at Up the Hammers next year. 

8. Black Sites - Exile 
I missed the debut of this band, but should check it out based upon this gem of an album. The base is heavy metal but some steps towards the progressive or gothic and doom do happen. Even Voivod seems to inspire a song. Very nice discovery.

7. Disillusion - The Liberation
A very welcome return  in twofold. First it took them 13 years to release this third album. Second this one sounds much more a logical follow up to their classic debut album Back to Times of Splendor. They still have it in them to write long songs that keep you hooked from start to finish. Welcome back my friends.

6. Howling Sycamore - Seven Pathways to Annihilation.
Last year this band made it to number two with their debut album. This one is as strong, but the total surprise is gone. Again Davide Tiso, Jason McMaster and Hannes Grossmann prove that together they are capable to write the most chellenging and haunting progmetal there is. Not for everyone maybe,  these are another beautiful seven songs to dig in time and time again.

5. Swallow the Sun - When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light
Swallow the Sun had to follow up a Triple album release. They took some years and then came up with this beautifull piece of dark metal. Gripping from start to finish it became the first highlight of the year. Then later on showing on stage how good the band is at the moment. It turned out they became the soundtrack for any dark day of 2019.

4. Diamond Head - The Coffin Train 
Diamond Head does not do bad or more or less albums (yes I loved Canterbury too) With The Coffin Train they showed for me again being the best NWOBHM era band still releasing new music. The current line up might be their best ever and fast and melodic metal is all around. I was going to see them supporting Saxon in London and headlining in Belgium, but that got cancelled. Next March I will use the new opportunity already scheduled.

3. Ray Alder - What the Water Wants
Ray Alder is probably my favorite vocalist in metal. So when he is releasing his first ever solo album I am more than a bit curious. In the style of Fates Warning's Another Perfect Day this album contains catchy, to the point metal songs. Due to his warm and emotional voice it sounds all so fine and in The Road a certain funeral setlist song is included.

2. Wilderun - Veil of Imagination
Sometimes you oversee bands and a buzz going around starts your interest,. This is Wilderun's third album and if ever a band managed to blend many metal styles into beautifull sounding songs (thanks also to dan Swanö and Jens Bogren) it must be Wilderun. For an indepth review I can recommend Marcel's words at The Progspace. I meanwhile start looking forward very much to PPE in October where they will conquer I am sure.

1. Arch Matheos - Winter Ethereal
Without a new Fates Warning album in 2019 they are still all around my favorite releases. This duo already was impressive on 2011's Sympathetic Resonance. With Winter Ethereal I believe the songwriting was even better this time. From the first time I heard this album through headphones everything fell into place for me. John Arch still has the power and high pitced scream in his voice and Jim Matheos always was the underrated guitar hero. Nine songs all working well made this almost upon release my certain number one for the year. Love them or love them.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Top 19 of 2019 - Live Shows

2019 was another great year for live gigs. As it seems today I already saw my last show of the year last weekend, so time to make up some lists. Now that I am spending more time in Portugal I did miss several shows I would have loved seeing, but I do not schedule Portugal visits based upon concerts (PPE excepted maybe) Still I managed to see many great bands and could include Belgian, German and Portuguese shows on my list. Unfortunately our UK trip got cancelled due to Biff's operation. One process seems to be continuing and that is that I move more away from progressive rock in favor of more extreme metal. A second trend remains that with live shows I appreciate nostalgia, while at CD's I prefer new discoveries as much. For some years now bands take selfies with the audience trying to get me good on the picture. The band best succeeding this year was above's In Mourning gig at Brainstorm. Capturing well how I felt about gig year 2019 loud and emotional. So let the countdown to my favorite show of 2019 begin.

19. Vicious Rumors - Nobel Leiden 18/4
An evening of US Metal with Digital Dictator being played in full and not much can go wrong really. And so it was one fine evening in Nobel, before they became Digital Dictators themselves #hatecashlessvenues..

18. UFO - Boerderij Zoetermeer 11/6
This tour is called last order's and who doesn't want to see Strangers in the Night on final time? Musically UFO are among my all time favorites. During the show UFO failed to say anything on a last Dutch concert and a new show is already announced for 2020. They also did not mention the passing away of Paul Raymond only weeks before, which was weird. Performances still top though.

17. Exhorder - Musicn The Hague 13/7
I misssed Exhorder completely in the past. This evening turned out to be a huge surprise in Musicon due to both the surprisingly good music and the very full Musicon. Hope to see them again next year, when I will pick up their new CD, not yet released that evening.

16. Last in Line - 013 Tilburg 14/12
We knew from two years ago they are a great live band and do justice to Dio's legacy without aiming at copying his voice. What a pleasant trip down memory lane back to the eighties it was and their new songs standing firmly inbetween.

15. Marillion - Aula Magna Lisboa 31/5
Marillion are among my all time favorites and of course the Fish years were best. This was another Marillion weekend and overall by far their worst with a horribly setlist on Sunday. The Friday opened well with the Hogarth early years and I won't mention the disastrous venue having no beers on a hot evening.

14. Iron Void & Spirit Adrift - Little Devil Tilburg 11/5 & 14/9
Two bands I liked equally good. First playing LD Doom Day and second at Mario's 55 birthday bash. Doom Heavy Metal in both cases very good and the second party made me start planning my 55th party coming up in 2020.

13. Armored Saint - Iduna Drachten 14/7
We could not make it to Dynamo so Magchiel and I went to see the two best bands a week earlier in Drachten. Last year the Saint made it to number 1 on my live shows. Now as good, but even with new old songs blended in not as surprising. Yet still very good and Metal Church were pretty OK as well.

12. Jag Panzer - Musicon The Hague 22/5
Another band from the eighties that is not passing by that often in Holland. One fine evening of good old US Metal with a band in form and too few people in. The Tyrant having a cold still sounded pretty strong on vocals as well.

11. Flotsam and Jetsam - Baroeg Rotterdam 2/8
Earlier in the year we saw them blowing Destruction and Overkill off the stage (in my view that is) Headlining in Rotterdam they were just brlliant. Both old and new songs sounding as strong and with a warming up by Helstar one fine warm summer evening it was.

10. Witherfall - Patronaat Haarlem 20/3
An acoustic set making it to my top ten shows how good this band is. Wonderfull calm version of their Heavy Metal songs made us long for a full on amplified set. Great band who did show that two strong CD's came not out of the blue.

9. Satan - Little Devil Tilburg 15/2
Want to have a band from the eighties blowing you away go and see Satan. What a strong performance they gave us and they can get away with putting the focus on new songs. Warmed up by Screamer and RAM this evening showed us old school heavy metal and nwobhm is still very much alive.

8. Psychotic Waltz - Sjiwa Baarlo 5/10
Yes I know Devon Graves was ill and his performance put off most of the audience. Yet I saw him perform and giving it all with a band showing why they were the best live band in the nineties. A new album coming with hopefully a new tour. Time to show they can be brilliant again.

7. Green Carnation - Effenaar Eindhoven 23/3
Prognosis a new festival with start-up issues. I only saw the Saturday as more challenging on the line-up.  I did go to see among others Green Carnation, but did not expect them to be this good. Turned out I knew all their songs and many agreed them to be winner of the day/weekend.

6. Angel - Manege Fonck Liege 25/8
The award for I was not expecting to see them ever on stage goes out to Angel. Being a fan for almost 40 years I loved the set. Even if they played short and did not mention their new album we got the best of Live Without a Net and I saw the Tower live. Heavy Pettin'and Dee Snider were as good on the day so a festival to return to.

5. Azusa - Merleyn Nijmegen 13/8
My Pedal to the Metal bicycle round trip ended in a high with this band. I loved their CD, but live they were a blast. Weird extreme prog metal with female vocals that went from nice and clear to scary and screamy. Performance to match the chaos this is one band to follow closely.

4. Swallow the Sun - Rockpalast Bochum 26/4
Releasing one of the highlights of the year on CD and then performing such a strong set made it more than worthwhile driving into Germany, even without anyone bothered to join. Later in the year I saw them again at Dutch Doom Days as strong, but Germany held Oceans of Slumber as support so a double hit it was. Great venue as well with a metal cellar after party.

3. In Mourning - Gigant Apeldoorn 9/11
At least on stage In Mourning now catapulted to becoming my favorite Tech Death Band. These songs are all about the atmospheres being build by three guitars and they are so enthusiastic on stage it is contagious to audiences. I can say plural as a few weeks before I also saw them as strong in Baroeg, playing one song less though. Colossus of a band!!

2. Toxik - Lazarus Leiden 24/11
When such a great band now on three consequetive European tours decides to play Lazarus things only can turn epic. I believe the current line-up was even stronger with extra Dutch guitars and Ron Iglesias on vocals having no problems with the screams and power. Lazarus was the absolute party experience, while Dynamo a week later gave a proper tech thrash band on stage. 30 years Think This and hoping for many more years Toxik.

1. Heir Apparent - Musicon The Hague 10/6
Is it cheating when you put your own party on 1? I can't care as Heir Apparent were the best band I saw this year on stage. The doubters who did not get 2018 album The View From Below did see that both old and new Heir Apparent rules. One of the major injustices in music, why this band is not headlining stadiums. I heard only positive feedbacks the days hereafter, both on band and vocals. Unfortunately Will Shaw meanwhile left the band. (last year my favorite new vocalist Linus Johansson left Trial after I loved their show, so hope this does not become a trend) I do not know if we can see Heir Apparent back in Europe any day soon, but I do know I saw an absolutely amazing band. So thank you Heir Apparent for making the big effort to come and play for us. Unfortunately I missed their Little Devil gig due to holidays, but I learned it was as good. The ones not showing up missed out big time. Tear Down The Walls!!!

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Last in Line & Fire Within - 013 Tilburg, 14 December 2019

Last in Line are called after Dio's Classic second album. The band holds original Dio members Vivian Campbell on guitars, Vinny Appice on Drums and until his passing away also Jimmy Bain on Bass. This line-up played on the first three Dio Albums and keeps the memory of that era alive. By now they also released two Last In Line albums maintaining a similar style of Heavy Metal. Now how about the vocals without the best voice in metal of all times? In comes Andrew Freeman who holds two big advantages. First he has a very strong voice, needed to do justice to the classic Dio era. Second he does not try to clone Dio (a battle anyone would loose) but gives his own interpretation of songs that we love. Two years ago we saw LiL at Alcatraz festival in Belgium and were pleasantly surprised by their performance. So Hans and I were already planning to go. Then Arrow Lords of Metal wrote out a free ticket action and decided to honor me the two free tickets. If ever a choice was easy it would be us heading down to 013 for an evening of Classic Heavy Metal.

The early starting evening also did have a support in Zeeland's Fire Within. Earlier this year I saw them opening for Voodoo Vegas in Musicon and thought their show pretty Ok. They play old school melodic metal with prominent keyboards. Main difference with their March set was that due to shorter playing time they did not give us covers of Abba and Europe this time. It is never easy to open for an older audience who comes to hear Dio songs, but I think Fire Within did Ok again.

During the next break it turned out that the originally empty Jupiler hall filled up decently. So we were ready for Last in Line and curious how they would blend the old and new. Many bands who had their highlighst 40 to 30 years ago and still touring have that dilemma. Boldest band on that respect are Black Star Riders who nowadays dare to depend on their new work alone, forgetting about Thin Lizzy altogether. Some others (no names) can not really do so, as their new work is not close to the classics we come to see. Last in Line decided nicely for a halfway solution with plenty of songs from their last two own albums. First standing out thing is that the new songs fit in really well with the Dio classics. This helps the evening going from appreciation of new work, to shouting along old classics. This tour one album was skipped and that being Sacred Heart. This is good as it holds some options for new old input during next tour. That is I am assuming they will keep on returning as the evening turned out to become a new highlight in already sensational 2019 gig year. How nice is it to hear and see Stand up and Shout, Holy Diver, Egypt or Last in Line live on stage again. Thie rversion of Rainbow in the Dark did surpise positively without keyboards. Also interesting is going to a show with the spirit of Dio around, but not passing throug the eternal lasting medley of Heaven and Hell /Man on the Silver Mountain. Another high of the evening was the respect paid to Jimmy Bain through Starmaker, as he was important to both Dio and Last in Line. I hope they cross UFO on their touring and teach them a bit how Paul Raymond should be respected as well. Then of course there is that other Dio touring outfit still with a hologram on stage. I do not feel tempted to go and see that ever, but for me Last in Line is all you need to relive Dio times. Their two strong own albums to be followed up by a third next year as they told us, do help increasing their credibility even further. This band gives you metal as I loved to see it in the eighties, obviously enjoying themselves on stage as well. So thanks to 013 and Arrow LordsofMetal for this evening. And then it was over not that late. We knew that Mario was hosting one of his MMM parties in Little Devil. Unfortunately due to miserable train returns two weeks ago from Toxik, and Robert's disaster trip after Exciter last week, made us decide not counting on the last train and skipping LD altogether, When Last in Line are back in Holland we will be there again though and I am sure we can bring some more friends to this party.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Pro-Pain, Darkrise & GetSome! - Musicon The Hague, 12 December, 2019

Pro-Pain are a big name in the New York Hardcore scene. This is not really the music I would play at home through my headphone listening to all kind of details. Live on stage however I was curious to see how this party would come alive. I was not the only one interested as Musicon was packed this Thursday evening. First we had two openers with Dutch hardcore band GetSome! showing how to present an energetic set and Swiss Darkrise waving the metal flag for the evening. Most people came to see Pro-Pain however and it did not take long before the party on and off the stage started. What I was hoping to see happened and it even seemed that the band was pleased such an enthusiastic crowd bouncing around. No nonsense bulldozering onwards Pro-Pain played a fairly long set and  this great mood kept going around. Sometimes it pays off to leave your comfort zone. Last night was just that evening. So on the evening Europe seemed to have lost Britain for good (with hopefully no consequences for British bands touring here) Musicon had just the party to celebrate that.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

DHG, Bolzer, Blaze of Perdition, Matterhorn - Musicon The Hague, 3 December 2019

This package was originally scheduled to play Gebr. de Nobel but was canelled and later saved by Musicon. For me this meant no dinner with Tiago before the show in Leiden, but considerably closer to home. So even though I knew nothing of all four bands apart from names it was down to Musicon and let them surprise me. Like minded thinking Marco was already in when I arrived and a beer was waiting for matters to start. Being a last minute announcement on a Tuesday in overfull gig month November I thought the turnout was pretty decent.

Matterhorn are like the mountain from Switzerland. They had just started when I entered and they played pretty good. Marco was reminded a bit of Celtic Frost and the trio was powerful indeed. I liked them best when they went instrumental, but overall a surprising nice opener.

Next band Blaze of Perdition was coming on stage in painted faces, so I expected traditional Black Metal. During the first song I could not really place them, but slowly they grew on me. The mix of two vocalists, both going harsh and gothic worked well with lots of echo. Holding three guitars meant that the wall of sound was not showing any holes really. Their last song was a cover by Fields of Nephilm (thanks Arno) just to show they were blending goth with black. Interesting band number two it was.

The stage became all black and white flashy for next band Bölzer. This band is actually a duo consisting of drums and eight string guitars. How the hell they managed to keep this heavy massive sound going was really the question that would not leave my head. Impressively done by the two swiss men who managed to keep heavy atmospheres waving through Musicon. To me after some 40 minutes it lacked a bit of variation, but that was also caused by the fact that I did not know them at all on forehand. To many they were the band of the day, as they got by far the most reaction from the crowd.

And then up to DHG/Dodheimsgard to close the evening for us. Before going to Musicon I had checked bits of this band out on the internet and the least you can say is that this is no easy listening combo. For several people this complexity was a signal to go home also helped by last trams and early Wednesday mornings. Well I can say that the leavers lost. To me this became the most interesting band of the evening. Helped by arty-farty images on a screen behind the drummer this painted band took us on a rollercoaster ride. Interesting guitar solos by the man hidden in black (including his face) piano intermezzo's by teh man in red/black, Gene Simmons tongue showings by the vocalist in white face, very heavy hitting drums, there was tooo much going on to grasp fully. While also here I did not recognize any of the songs helping me to absorn them better I stayed hooked and when already late the band asked if they could play more and their own soundman indicated it was time to stop I actually could have more. Through the set they moved slowly from avant garde to more traditional Black Metal and those who stayed probably saw their favorite band of the evening as well. So we can thank Musicon for stepping in and safe this package for the Tuesday evening in Holland. Next week they are in Eindhoven and if you are open-minded you will enjoy yourself with these four bands.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Toxik & Thorium - Dynamo Eindhoven, 30 November 2019

Last week I attended the start of the Toxik/Thorium tour in Lazarus. After that show I wondered if going to see them again would make any sense as the atmosphere in Lazarus would be unbeatable. Well Hans could not join Sunday, so I was more than pleased to join him to Dynamo. Now seeing the same sets on a proper stage, even if it was the basement.

Thorium kicked off at eight and now knowing their debut album I recognized more songs. It seems a right choice to close the set with Ostrogoth and Godspeed two of their fastest bangers. Being relatively unknown means that a cover might get more reaction. I can say that Dynamo was more open to their Heavy Metal than Lazarus was, but most reactions did come back at them when they gave us the Hall of the Mountain King. A fine band they are and doing just what is needed to warm us up.

Toxik touring Think This. Seeing the songs live on stage, except the Led Zep cover only reminds us how good that album is. Bookended and halfway broken by some eight songs of World Circus this was one trip down memory lane for the mainly older audience. I remember how during the last tour when tuning took long for someone Josh spontaneous (!) told us how good it was to see the old, bold and gray people still hanging on and doing what we love with a passion that obviously is here to stay. Well Toxik tonight did what we came for presenting their technical thrash metal classics in great form. The band is tight and hired hand Erik on guitars gives the band an extra base during solo's. Last week the show ended in a party with Dennis' birthday and War Pigs. This evening held again a surprising end. When all seemed over suddenly Thorium joined the band on stage and we got two covers. The first one sung by someone of the audience again, while my preference went out to Queensryche's Lying Needle. What a way to end an evening of top class metal in Dynamo. The choice of going again paid of nicely. The only disadvantage was that we had to have a certain rush towards the station to catch our last train, so proper thank you's to the bands could not be given.

And then it was up to the trains. When all in life is shining at you, misery is around the corner and vice-versa. This evening the NS (national rail) took care of that. Our last direct train home was cancelled. So I explained to NS jersey wearing assistants that according to their regulations, they should give us a taxi home. Well they go out of their way to make sure that this won't happen. A long list of people and poles talking to us either lying or just plain incompetent. This made us run in Rotterdam for a connection which any disabled, injured or handicapped person would never make. The evening ended in style when after many misinformations finally the man at the ticket desk  at the wrong station in The Hague managed to get me a taxi to Central Station, where I needed to get my bicycle out before closing time. When he stated that in 25 minutes my taxi would arrive (while there was a queue of them in front of us), I could only laugh. The lady hidden inside the information pole in Eindhoven told me I could walk from one station to the other in 5 minutes obviously must be Usain Bolt's bloody sister as normal humans do take considerably longer. In the end I got my bicycle out just in time and when I was close to home I was called by a taxi-driver informing me he had arrived to pick me up (32 minutes after being ordered). With all the annoyances at the end it still was a magical evening. So thank you Toxik for the music. Given the intelligent nature of Toxik lyrics on social wrongdoings, I suggest them to train around in Holland a bit and write about our NS for their next album. Until then I think I give Think This a few more spins.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Hourswill - Attick Demons

During my stay in Portugal this month we passed a weekend in Lisbon. That included an obligatory stop at my favorite CD store Glam-O-Rama for an update of could Portuguese metal releases. So herewith two recommendations.

 Hourswill - Dawn of the Same Flesh
Hourswill are probably of all Portuguese metal bands my favorite one. They play heavy metal with progressive power traces and were on their last album often compared with Nevermore. I can hear where that is coming from although a slightly less aggressive version they are. If we are name-dropping the new album made me think at times next to Nevermore on Evergrey and Tomorrow's Eve. Dawn of the Same Flesh is a concept album (very prog indeed) about the state of the human race. Humanity get a new chance and messes things up again is a short recapp of the story. In the end it is about the music and I believe this album after a few listening sessions even better than predecessor Harm Full Embrace. Bookended by the two calmer songs we get some very catchy progressive power metal songs. Outstanding upon first hearing is the very strong voice of Leonel Silva. Then when the story opens you get overwhelmed by the catchy songs with the hooks and melodies working so well. If there is a highlight on the album to mention it must be epic Benightenedness followed by I Vow to Hate. This aggresive bridge occurs not coincidentally when at the story things start going seriously wrong again. This album deserves international exposure. I so far never saw Hourswill playing live and missed them by a week this month. I will correct that in 2020 and if PPE ever needs a Portuguese band to join their large country of origin list Hourswill might be just the band they are looking for.

Attick Demons - Atlantis
Is it possible not to mention an influence when each and every song strong reminds you strongly of them? I guess not, so resuming Attick Demons we can say Iron Maiden, but then without Steve Harris calm intor's and outro's. Does this obvious inspiration matter? No not at all since Attick Demons just gives you good and fast metal songs. Mostly around 5 minutes these songs ooze Maiden so much that the band even hold three guitars. I should see them live to judge if this adds something, or two would be enough, so that is Maiden again. I should mention vocalist Artur Almeida as his voice is great and makes them stay close to their examples. So is this Portugal's most original band? definitely not. Would I love to see them live one day? definitely yes. The album contains on the title track two special guest musicians in none other than Paul Di'Ánno and Ross the Boss. Only downer the female soprano killing nice song Meeting the Queen, but that might be my personal problem with female sopranos in metal. Good band and live they should present a party. 

Monday, 25 November 2019

Toxik & Thorium - Lazarus Leiden, 24 November 2019

Toxik and Lazarus the ever strange match that works soo well. Toxik should be and is far too big to play metal bar Lazarus, yet on their last visits to Europe they managed to squeeze one show in and it tends to become legendary when that happens. So on a Sunday night I was back in Lazarus to see a topband sweating on a tiny stage while having a few beers. Peter this time joined me, as last time he thought I was joking when I stated Toxik played Lazarus and did not turn up. With Marco joining by train, Pieter arriving late we were well positioned at the side of the stage. Now in Lazarus and the tiny setup one can not expect a perfect sound really. This is more than made up for by the overdose of atmosphere.

Openers on this tour are Begian/Dutch Thorium. I saw them at their first show ever at Wizzfest and also open for Q5 in Little Devil. I liked both shows and was rather pleased they would open the evening. Where Toxik play technical thrash metal, Thorium are grounded firmly in the eighties and play traditional metal. I like both styles, but to some maybe not fast or loud enough. Well slowly but surely they won over Lazarus and when close to the end Savatage was covered all seemed to like them. With the great voice of David Marcellis coming out of te speaker right next to us. Their very Maiden inclined metal this time even made me buy their debut album and I keep an eye on the follow up to be recorded soon. So warmed up we were.

Then after a short break, where the merch stand was to be visited, with a killer new T-shirt brought along, Toxik joined the tiny stage. This time they were 5 as they have an extra guitarist in Dutchman Erik (what's in a name). First very comforting fact was that to me new live vocalist Ron Iglesias (what's in a name part 2) did convince. He has the power and the screams to accompany the mostly fast songs. I say mostly as we got this evening the 5th ever performance of There Stood the Fence as well. This being part of Think This the album that made 30 years this October and was now played in full. This was done in original LP version with after some  songs Side A and then an old song break before Side B would be played in full. Toxik released two classic albums in the eighties with a slightly different sound. I like both and do not really have a preference for either World Circus or Think This. Well in the end World Circus also almost got played in full. So when this was all going on we did get stage divers in small Lazarus, inlcuding vocalist Ron going back and forth through the place. The band seemed very good, even though Josh told me they were not expecting this after a heavy drive down from True Thrash Fest in Hamburg. To up the party atmosphere of this special evening it was the 50th birthday of Tour Manager Dennis. So when all was done, he joined on stage this time not to sing but drum along War Pigs, which got a surprising good voice from the crowd to sing for us. Closing in style this evening was a party and one we shall remember long time again. This week you can still see this package in Germany and Belgium, plus a return to Holland. I won't make it Thursday in Zwolle, as I support the local scene that evening, but hope I find some ongoers to Dynamo on Saturday. The only risk I agreed with Ton on afterwards, was that a normal gig on a proper stage can never beat this atmosphere. Yet with such a perfromance some effort from my side is deserved for both bands. Killer evening it was.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Adriana Calcanhotto - Teatro Pax Julia Beja, 20 November 2019

So it was our wedding day and we decided to celebrate with a live concert. So far so good, but the friend of Josie who called the fact that Adriana Calcanhoto was playing in Beja proof  that coincidence does not exist was exagerating too much really. I strongly believe in coincidence and if it would not exist, we would have had Fates Warning playing Beja that evening. Anyway Adriana Calconhotto it was, a Brazilian singer songwriter with band on tour in Portugal. This kind of MPB music was suitable as it brought us back to our Brazilian years with live music at the legendary Feijoada's do Ruy or the summer live shows on the beach. I am no fan of MPB really, but it brings some good memories back. The band tonight was good (especially the drummer) although they were not allowed to leave their square meter it seemed. Adriana herself can sing, or is it more reciting of her sad lyrics really? This evening seemed to be all about the sea, the ocean our planet and of course lost loves. After the show I called it music for and by women, but that was consiederd macho thinking by Josie. All in all some good performance and an interesting evening of live music. This in spite of the boring all seated venue. Earlier this year I saw in Lisbon the by far worst Marillion weekend ever due to all seated and poor setlist (oh yes and no decent bar). this evening was as bad on interaction between stage and audience. Most atmosphere came when stagehand fisherman in his yellow raincoat ordered the hall to clap along. Well everyone around me seemed to love it, so no judging here. And then we walked home and bumped into Beja Castle. Suddenly Swords & Tequila got stuck in my head and we ended the evening with a musical highlight after all.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Brainstorm festival Saturday - Gigant Apeldoorn, 9 November 2019

Brainstorm is an annual festival which originally was build around white or christian metal bands. Not sure how far religion plays a role in the life of bands and fans nowadays, but at least the merch is strongly pushed into that corner. Now I can't be bothered by that all too much as long as the music is good. Actually some very good bands are from this corner (Extol, Fleshkiller) and bands like Lillian Axe never hid their beliefs either. So it can happen that not that religious me is going to a mass of metal on a part of Holland's bible belt (or is Apeldoorn not part of that?) As I went to see In Mourning and Darkwater and Ron & Astrid were as interested in both the three of us took a train to Apeldoorn and did run into several PPE regulars, who must have been there for same reasons. At least Willem did as he joined us for the day in Apeldoorn.

Entering de Gigant we were just in time before Kalidia kicked of. So sorry Askara and Monograf, but a fairly long trip and an early start made us miss both. Kalidia are Italian and play power metal. Reading this most people know what to expect and the book of cliches is within Power Metal the thickest of all metal genres. Still as it was performed nice, with religious or not an angel in black on vocals there was enough to like. Not that this band would make me run to the merch stand afterwards, but a warm welcoming band they were.

Brainstorm is not just some bands on the mainstage, so hereafter there was a photo presentation by Polish band Metus in the Theater. Now I am not one for running around fast, so we skipped, tried a local nice bokbeer and were back in the mainhall for Drottnar. This band is heavy and play bunker metal as they call it. Now I am firmly rooted in progressive metal and we have a bible as well. That bible is called Mean Deviation and written by Jeff Wagner. In that book Drottnar appear and are mentioned to play un-black metal. Well whatever the name, they seem to be Christian and play loud. Originally it did not do a lot to me really. No real solos's just a wall of sound and an average voice screaming over it. Than when Ron & Astrid just decided another bokbeer at the bar was the better option a military dressed communist walked on the stage and grabbed the mic. Suddenly things were happening on stage and his eclactic performance made him fall over and jump around wildly. Also his screams were more expressive, so suddenly the music was OK, but the show was great. We March  (repeat 217 times) closed the set strong, after which they left the stage in order to come back for an encore without the commie. Pity as they did not end with a high now.

The next hour had a pianist in the theater, but we used it to up our food and beverage levels a bit before the highlight of the day would come on stage. In Mourning only three weeks earlier blew Omnium Gatherum off the stage in Baroeg (in my view that is) So I definitely wanted to be back and see them again. This time they had ten minutes more, so one extra song was added as well and I can be brief. This was a trancelike trip through heavy progressive death doom landscapes wirh the frequent calmer breaks. I wrote it three weeks ago and can repeat it now. This band has three guitars and makes good use of the possibilities this gives them. At the same time they have four mics for massive grunts and two clear breaking alternatives as well. The setlist was in line with last tour, but without me taking notes I do not recall what the extra song was really. Does not matter as this time after one hour we again were left with this feeling of wanting more of this. The current line-up is so alive on stage that several friends told me liking them this time even better than theri last PPE performance. In order to fit the religious festival the main vocalist wore a fitting Morbid Angel Tee for the occassion. For me they reached the levels of way up there live bands and I should see them again next year. This time they did bring CD's along, so I could correct that miss in my collection of Garden of Storms. After the show I tried to get as appreciation another colour of the one I bought in Baroeg, but sizes were to small for tall me.

Now I usually have some issues in liking a band that plays just after an absolute highlight of a festival. For Darkwater the task to draw me into their show.  And to even my own surprise they managed to do so. Darkwater play Progmetal of the accesible kind. Ron mentioned Enchant as a link and they have similarities indeed being slightly louder though. This year they released a new album Human, which was visited for several songs. The most interesting fact was they had not played live for eight years, so how did they manage to play that tight? Surprising, even more so if the drummer was a hired hand from Vola. Turns out that the drum riser showed him, unlike Patronaat's small hall in September so I did not notice that before. This hour or so flew by really and I did enjoy their set so much that afterwards I picked up my copy of Human. Darkwater are one of those bands that play in typical traditonal progressive metal. So all is there, the good voice (close to Ted Leonard indeed), the melodic guitar solo's the tight playing, keyboards live played not from tape and songs that tend to be long. As one should not spit on its origins, I did love them and would say why not return to that other Dutch festival one day again as well?

After this second highlight of the day we considered it time to hit home as the trip would be long. So we walked to the train station, where we said goodbye to Wllem going north and us returning to the west, where all is best. This was one fine day in Apeldoorn and this festival definitely has its charm. Beer tasting, coverart expositions (Witherfalls Vintage included!), good beer options at the bar and a calm atmosphere made this one enjoyable day. Let's see if next year they again put two interesting bands on one day and I might be back. Thank you Brainstorm, Amen.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Dutch Doom Sunday Evening - Baroeg Rotterdam, 3 November 2019

Yes I know the festival is called Dutch Doom Days and a two day event. Yet I had a family weekend with Josie and Tiago, so only after bringing them to the airport and Leiden student room re-decorating I could head to Baroeg. In spite of some competition on the concert front (Myrath 013, Leporus/The Ocean Nobel) I opted for Baroeg as I wanted to see Swallow the Sun again and was curious about the others I could still see.

Entering Baroeg Polish Monasterium were on stage. First obvious standout was the strong voice of the vocalist. Frank told me that on Saturday he was on the same stage with his other band Evangelist. This band played doom heavy metal in the style of Scandinavians like Sorcerer, Candlemass or Krux. Not quite at that level yet, still sounding welcoming and a good belated start of the festival to me.

Oceanwake from Finland were next. This band went for the epic and long building approach. A nice mix of grunt and clean voices over layers and layers of doom. This was soon to be the first winner of the day to me as they managed to get my full attention in spite this being all new long songs to me. At times including some post metal atmospheres this mix worked very well and went down good with the audience.

Swedish October Tide play Doom Death and were the heaviest band of the day that I saw. This style brings other levels of energy coming off the stage and I thought that contagious. Two guitars bringing at times melodic intermezzo's we mainly doomed on heavy. When the whole country starts complaining about the weather (it's that time of year again) asking if we want 12 days of rain is a dubious question. Luckily the killer song with that title made us forgive them. I did not remember that ex Katatonia members founded October Tide until Alex told me. Nowadays obvious a heavier version of melancholy in this band I liked the full set and got their latest album :In Splendor Below after the gig. Definite highlight.

The reason I took a train to Rotterdam was Swallow the Sun. Their last album "When a Shadow Is Forced Into the Light" is one of my favorites of the year. When earlier this year they toured the album with none other than Oceans of Slumber they skipped Holland. So I drove down to Bochum to catch this bill. Now in Baroeg I did not want to miss out and what a beautiful set we got. Opening with the title track of the last album the sound was perfect. The mix of sad pieces and heavy outbursts came over strong and all individual instuments were clear in the mix. Lost & Catatonic followed from their incredible triple piece of art Songs from the North. A setlist build around their last album went in the end back to early years. I loved this show from start to finish and saw a band that should be able to reach so many varied genre fans Alex already suggestd PPE to look into them and I guess he is right there. If there were complaints it must have been the lack of XXL size of the neat baseball shirt. And one tip to the man behind the keys with the strong clean voice. If you wear a beanie under a wide hanging black hoody, the thought of a headbanging nun never really  left my mind. Swallow the Sun were righteous headliners to me and I hope to see them returing to Holland next year. So Dutch Doom Days was a success again. Since I am not a specialist in this genre I always discover nice bands that are new to me and the atmosphere in the most metal  venue of Holland was as good as always. Thanks to the organizers and see you at DDD2020.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Destroyer 666, Dead Congregation, Nocturnal Graves & Inconsessus Lux Lucis - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden, 30 October 2019

This package is called Sons of Rebellion Tour and are tonight together with the Mayhem & Gaahl's Wyrd tour also playing in Nijmegen. The latter half being back in de Nobel on Friday. Complicated? not really just go and let yourself be surprised. Yesterday I posted that with Tiago living in Leiden I might be tempted to see any show that might be of interest in town, so I can have dinner with hime before. Well this evening I stepped in the dark as I did not know any of the bands other than by name. Playing in the small hall I was afraid for an empty house upon arrival, but that hall filled up in the evening. Also by the obligatory demolition of the smoking area inside, the small hall gained on capacity. Yes in Holland we are no longer allowed to think for ourselves, so we should be protected from anything that might harm. I am afraid I will still live the day when alcohol is banned from venues as well.

But this evening with first frost at night hitting the country was meant for some dark music. Upon the stage from Manchester England were Inconsessus Lux Lucis. They turned out to play some Black metal mostly linked to the very old school. At first I needed to get into this with nothing polished in their sound. Then the penny dropped I started liking them better and better. There was a certain NWOBHM vibe in their songs as well, with lots of long solo's over the bass and drum parts and galloping riffs at times.. This trio did win me over and I did get their CD, which sounds as dirty. Nice start.

Next band came along all the way from Australia Nocturnal Graves. Mixing up some extreme genres you heard black, thrash and Death metal. Their total sound was a bit cleaner than the openers. Interesting enough I had the same feeling again after the first song, not sure if this was for me. Than by sticking around I started liking them more and more and here the two guitars especially with very clean solo's over the brutal metal were winning the evening. They travelled from far, but made it worthwhile and went down very well with the audience.

Dead Congregation are from Greece, so I wondered why Ronald and Lia were not in.They play Death Metal at times of the ridiculously fast kind. This band knows how to blow you out of your socks. For the 45 minutes or so the speed could not be all the time at 200%, so at times Doom bridges were build in. This made up the necessary rest and variation, before they would crush on again. One interesting experience, but maybe not on CD for me.

Destroyer 666 are originally Australian, but based in Europe. As they spend some time in Holland we were welcomed by: goedenavond you lelijke motherfokkers. Being headliner was quickly justified, as Destroyer 666 is a powerhouse. Not as extreme as their supports we got metal. At times I heard Motorhead, than mixing with thrahs and heavy metal. The bassist even gave us metal screams at times. When the second guitarist was taking lead vovcals wet entered death metal areas. It seemed they even had a hit in I Am the Wargod, as this was received very enthusiastically. This metal show fullfilled all I need to see, still I bowed out before the end catching a train. Standing on my feet a full evening and deciding to go calm on beers was not a combination that made me jump. So tired I passed the merch stand one last time picking up an EP. One final comment on Nobel on that. It is all nice to decide going all cashless as a venue, but bands selling merch need cash. So there is no change in the house, which to me seems poor service towards bands. Still I trained home pleasantly surprised by four good shows. Friday I can't make it for part two though. 

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Blood Red Throne, Ceremony, Pictura Poesis & Adversarius - Musicon The Hague, 26 October 2019

An evening of extreme metal in Musicon. That means I did run into Marco as he follows the same principle as I do, if you have no other obligations always support your local scene. I entered Musicon when Adversarius were halfway their set. I saw them before and what stays most in mind is their aggressive Black Metal wall of sound. Next band Pictura Poesis probably was musically most interesting to me of the supports. Unfortunately sound of guitar and keyboards was not a constant plus, so this messed up some songs a bit. Last opener were Ceremony and to my surprise on what I expected to be a death metal evening we got again painted faces on stage. This black/death combo played tight, but lacked for me a bit of variation.

Blood Red Throne are old school death metal and Norwegian. Coming to the stage it was a sort of relief to see a metal band with metal guitars in hand. So suddenly we got flying solo's over fast banging songs. A deep grunt accompanying all and after two songs a wet slam dance floor made several people slip towards the stage. This band was for me the best of the evening and they knew how to make us bang. While during the supports I found at times that remarkably few people of rather full Musicon were bothered to watch or participate this was over during Blood Red Throne. Only comment for this band was the banner. After three class act works of art with the openers, this written name in normal letters and bottom half hidden behind the drums was a bit minimalistic. They made more than up for that with their music, so we could cycle home pleased, if only it was not pissing down by then.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Ray Alder - Angel - Opeth - Disillusion - Borknagar - Insomnium

The clock moves back tonight, so herewith some tips for dark winter nights.

Ray Alder - What the Water Wants
Ray Alder is the voice of Fates Warning and until recently Redemption. Two of my favorite bands, so when he announced a solo album a pre-order was made fast. Two singles that were released before sounded already very promising and this album is what I hoped for. Shorter songs than with Fates Warning, his winning voice gives us a beautiful album, which I shall pick up many times still this year. After hearing the full album my first morbid thought was that it holds a song that will make it to the setlist of my funeral. The Road has the lyrics, the voice and melody to move anyone to tears. Songs co written by Michael Abdow and Tony Hernando are adding up to one of the highlights of the year. Ray Alder confirms his position as one of the best vocalists around, now also on his solo project. Obligatory purchase I'd say.

Angel - Risen
Angel are back. Over the last years on stage with original vocalist Frank Dimino and guitarist Punky Meadows. Now also on CD. In August I had the pleasure of seeing them for the first time playing live, which is interesting if you consider that I like this band for 40 years now. They played no new songs during that show, but the quality of performance made me confident of a good album. Well that is what we get in no less than 17 songs. Start and finish are old songs re-recorded in Angel Theme and their hit Tower. In between the 15 new songs go from fast rockers to ballads. A pretty well balanced album, with Frank Dimino showing a still remarkably strong voice. Angel were the masters of pomprock and we get poppy songs inbetween, but to me the only miss is IOU. On the other side we find in Under the Gun, 1975 and We Were the Wild some highlights. A succesfull and very welcome return therefore.

Opeth - In Cauda Venenum
My favorite Opeth album shall always remain Still Life. The story is known changing their ways Opeth now completely left grunts behind them for the last albums, I had some issues with that as well and even skipped previous album Sorceress. Untill on a long haul flight KLM had it in their CD collection and I could hear it killing flight time, reconvincing me on their class. So they are different, but after only a few plays I can already state that this might be their best album to me since Blackwater Park. Dark Progressive Rock with a voice that in Swedish and English seems to get better by time. I was not expecting such a good Opeth album any more some 5 years ago. Welcome back to my CD player Opeth, pity the Ducth gig sold out too fast for me to react.

Disillusion - The Liberation
Talking about comebacks, this one is not as long awaited as Angel, but therefore not less pleasant. German Disillusion were on their Classic 2004 debut Back to Times of Splendor more than once compared with Opeth. A  Wonderfull album with mainly epic metal songs. Two years later they changed style towrads more industrial electronical metal and Glora was not that well received, although still interesting. Now they are back and they present us a logical follow up to their debut. Back are the melodic death metal, the harking guitar riffs and the epic long songs (three around twelve minutes) Maybe only the voice is not for everyone, but I hope they will be back in Holland soon, great surprise this heavy return.

Borknagar - True North
Borknagar the nrodic allstar combo, also return after some changes in their line-up. Given the big flow of good new albums I only heard it at first on the background and thought, not as good as Winter Thrice. But then I gave the album the proper time and attention and I find this to be a grower, Every next play it gets a bit better and we can conclude Borknagar nailed it again. Closing song Voices dares to be different, after an album that already moves between moods and heaviness. Scandinavians do release these kind of dark albums in autumn, when the soundtrack hardly can't be better. Up North is where the darkness awaits.

Insomnium - Heart Like a Grave
Coming home after PPE one always has this empty feeling of so now it is over again. This year matters were made easier by the mailman who literally rang the doorbell 10 minutes after my arrival to hand over the special edition of Heart Like a Grave. This hardcover book full of beautiful nordic pictures makes the work of art only bigger. As then the songs do match the quality of the package we have another winner by Insomnium. Their question was of course, how to follow up on masterpiece Winter's Gate. Well by just writing 10 great songs. Highlight of the album to me comes with epic Pale Morning Star, followed by doomy And Bells They Toll. This is not to say that the rest is of much lesser quality really. Mixing the melodies and speed we are treated on art for both ears and eyes. So I do recommend getting the special edition which does give you two additional instrumentals as well.