Thursday, 28 February 2019

Rhapsody of Fire, Avalanch & Thornbridge - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden, 27 February 2019

An evening of Power Metal from Italy, Spain and Germany. An over the top experience would be guaranteed and many fast galloping songs where words like sword, fire, sky, master and warrior would be upon us all the time. The evening was best resumed by the guy in the front row proudly holding his inflatable sword up high throughout the evening like the phallic symbol that so suits this musical style. Well that is a rather condescending opening, so let me put some ballpark on me and Power Metal first. In the eighties I did like some of the forerunners of this style. Dio was the band I liked and saw most playing live at the time, I love the first four albums by both Manowar and Yngwie Malmsteen and during my study I was the only one proudly wearing my Keeper of the Seven Keys T-shirt n class. In the nineties I slowly had less Power Metal bands to play and only Angra became a new favorite, but that also because I turned half Brazilian at the time. Now in general Power Metal is not huge in Holland so the amateur anthropologist in me was curious if anyone would show up and what they would be like. Well there were people obviously as Rhapsody of Fire is a big name in the genre. What struck me first was that some 50% of the audience was wearing clothes that had nothing hinting to Hard Rock or Heavy Metal. Many students as well it seemed, plus some Spaniards for the opening band. So ready I was as were the bands, who decided to start even earlier than the announced time schedule told us.

As a result Thornbridge had already started when I entered the hall. These Germans were added on the day of the show at least it seemed like that to me. First seconds immediately brought me back to the late eighties as Helloween was a huge example here. Actually even the vocalist sounded more than a bit like Michael Kiske. Yet somehow he seemed to need very little effort to reach all the high notes. Soon I (and not just I) was under the impression that even big part of the lead vocals were coming from tape. Having your massive choirs on tape I can accept, but lead vocals have to be live. So sorry, but no to these Germans.

Next band were Avalanch from Spain. Now I had never heard of them before this show and looked them up o the internet, finding they would sing in their own language. I quite liked this touch and was looking forward to upgrade my Spanish. Well that was not going to happen fast as they started in English. A second surprise came when I recognized Mike Terrana behind the drums, going at it like Animal in his best days. Those who don't know his name, you probably have a LP or CD with him playing. Most famous bands he joined were Yngwie Malmsteen, Axl Rudi Pell, Masterplan, Rage and Tarja. This turned out to be a hint to musical level as the band was flawless and the vocalist had a sympathetic stage presence. This band awoke my love for the Power Metal style at once and after the show I did get a CD by them. Unfortunately to them their new album is not out and on tour with them yet, so I got El Ángel Caido (Fallen Angel) with the preferred lyrics in Spanish. Actually there were a few Spanish speaking fans around I saw and when at the end Avalanch closed the set with two Spanish hits, these people became very happy jumping Spaniards. Great show and it got me already in the mood to travel to Valencia with my ex-football team in April.

Rhapsody of Fire is headlining this tour and everything just got that extra bit bigger. The stage, the banner, the sound and the presentation. This was a top-class power metal show, ticking all the necessary boxes that come with it. The songs were strong, the performances by all five even better and I was so pleased having followed my rule music over football always. Now I do not know anything of this band in all its versions and forms (They started as Rhapsody and I do not know if there are one or two other spin-offs of this band touring). But who cares when the songs are easy to follow instantly and guitar solo's are thrown at us all the time. As I mentioned this evening made me like Power Metal again, but I had a smile on my face when the vocalist announced that they released their ballad in four languages (halloooo Manowar). In English the Wind, the rain and the moon came over fine, although I would have loved to hear the Arabic version. Playing seven songs from the new album The Eight Mountain I guess I got a good overview of what this band stands for. Tonight they play Holland again in Hengelo (where the Tuesday show was moved to today) Any friends in the east reading this, just go and enjoy this world of fantasies. It made me Happy Metal.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

U.D.O. & Dead City Ruins - Paard Den Haag, 22 February 2019

The question this evening was: "Shall I wait at home until 23:45 to pick up Josie at Schiphol, or shall I attend a show at a local venue in the meantime?" Well that was not a hard question, so I went off to het Paard, our biggest local venue with hardly anything good on stage throughout the year. U.D.O. is of course Udo Dirkscneider the ex-voice of Accept. If you are into going back into time you should visit the shows he does under the Dirkschneider band name. This would be an evening of U.D.O. music. I can fully understand that, as he released meanwhile many more albums under the name U.D.O.. At the same time, when you attract an older audience and you announce not playing any hits that everybody knows from their youth, you tend to lose some people. Conclusion het Paard was not crammed with people.

First band of the evening would be Dead City Ruins from Australia. I saw them a few years ago with Dead Lord and quite liked their seventies based hard rock. At times you hear Thin Lizzy, than there is some Led Zep or even Aerosmith at times. Good voice, good guitars nice live show. Nothing overly shocking though so the most remarkable moment came when they announced their last song and we were supposed to summon the Devil. Well Lucifer struck immediately as the smoke alarm went off and we were asked to leave the hall. False alarm it was, but it killed their end of set. At least they have a story to tell on this I guess not overly exciting evening to them.

U.D.O. came on just before nine and he was walking with crutches, or better one only. I remember reading about his health and doctors recommending him to cancel this tour. Well he did not and would ask us to clap along with one crutch hitting the air. This was the Steel factory tour named after his last album and the stage looked nice. Actually one of the T-shirts looked even better. Visiting many steel factories for work over the years it looked appealing, yet 45 Euro for a T-shirt of a band I am hardly a die-hard fan of was a bit much. On the music I have to explain that I have none of his CD's under the U.D.O. name. I do know all his work with Accept which would be skipped altogether this evening. Still that turned out no problem as U.D.O plays in very similar style as the old Accept. This means rockin' on, mostly in mid-tempo and halfway the song you can already sing along with the chorus. In the case of Metal Machine and Vendetta it took some 10 second only before you could join in.  Speaking about singing not all our vocal heroes from teh early eighties still sound this powerful today as Udo does.So this basically is straight forward party metal with the only goal to entertain. And that is exactly what they did. So I had a good evening with Peter and Alex even not drinking on this alcoholic tunes. My only comment would be in the closing song. While the regular set closed strong and the first encore ended with the best song of the evening Animal House the very last song was to me one of the weakest of the night. Well you can't win them all and when the lights went on and The Show Must Go On was played (in respect to the crutches!?!) I did rush home by bicycle to pick up the car and drive to Schiphol. Final choice of the day was in the mail as both new albums by Dream Theater and Last in Line were delivered. Last in Line won and joined me on my trip. 

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Complexity Fest - Patronaat Haarlem, 16 February 2019

Complexity Fest held its 4th edition and again we would be treated on a range of technical, forward thinking and as the name says complex music. It is a sort of offspring of ProgPower, but then for the younger more trend-sensitive and modern lovers. This meant that while training down alone I would bump into PPE friends throughout the day. I guess overall the organization must have been pleased with the turnout as it looked rather busy even in the main hall. It was going to be a long day and unfortunately I soon found that a pain in the back earlier this week might return if you are still recovering from Satan the night before and having eight hours on your feet. So at times I adjusted my views to physical state, but managed to fill the day with many highlights.

Upon arrival I did see the last three minutes of Piniol in the main hall, a French collective showing two drums, two basses, two guitars and one keyboard in the middle. This was building nicely to one heavy banging climax. Later on I heard that some people thought the full show a bit difficult. When the main hall was swapping the stage, the smaller hall and cafe stage would both hold a band. This meant at times busy places. The first session held 22 in the second hall, which were not having a large impact on me trying a bit too hard. The cafe was packed and spit out the dangerous sound of post rock. I say dangerous as falling asleep is a risk if not played well. This was too packed for me to enter and judge. So on to the main hall it was waiting for a band I found interesting on pre-festival internet search. Four Stroke Baron. This band mixes eighties new wave with progressive metal building on a very heavy bass and hard hitting drums When they started their set it soon became clear that for me we had a first highlight of the day.This was catchy dancing metal and I loved it live and now playing their CD also at home it works. Halfway the set they stated coming from Reno Nevada. Well I told them later on they can fool whoever they like, but if your vocalist sounds like a bastard son of Simon Le Bon and that bloke from Human League you are as British as can be. But they lifted my spirits and mood and showed why attending a festival like this is worthwhile. You discover new bands that are surprisingly nice.

And then for something completely different as Irreversible Mechanism bringing us some technical Death Metal from Minsk of all places. Now I do like my tech death, but this band had one factor pretty much spoiling the fun for me. The vocalist not only holding the mic too far from his mouth to hear anything, he was to me just plain weird. First he looked like one of Tiago's school class mates. No issue with that, but in his pink trainers and black clothing jump up and down the stage doing some sort of Tech Death aerobics, just distracted the hell out of their show. So after some good 25 minutes I left to try and see a bit of Lotus Eaters in the bar stage, but ran into a full house again. So time to eat became the option. Now Complexity has a fairly high hipster factor, so my food was a vegan burger, admitted it tasted very good. Back to the man hall to see Klone. Now this band already played at ProgPower as well and came closest to traditional melodic progmetal. Only point is that they are rather stubborn sticking to the more mellow side of music. So there was for me some lack of energy for a full hour set.

Now with an early departure at Klone I could pick a good spot in the small hall for upcoming band Mol. This Danish outfit call their music Shoegaze metal, but it tends pretty much towards Black Metal influences. It seems they played Holland before and are gaining some name for themselves.
Well after this show you can count me in on their fans and followers. What a total killer show, basically blasting all bands of the day from the stage with this level of energy. Great songs, calmer intermezzos going into full blasts and just the right performance. I hope the kid from Minsk was watching, as this is how a vocalists controls a crowd. For me there was nothing not to love about this gig, unfortunately I passed their merch table too late and CD's were sold out already. So after Four Stroke Baron and Mol I had two winners now and then to think they would originally play at the same time. So thank you David Maxim Micic for pulling out injured.And then as if the hype was not high enough Conjurer was destroying the main hall. This is one heavy riff machine and when I just was in the big man on guitars decided to shout/sing to the hall without using any mic. Well that was an impressive voice losing act. This show was best described as bulldozering over us like there is no tomorrow. Only question was on the football scarf at the drums, I guess it was Aston Villa, and yes those things do matter.What a heavy feast and it soon turned out the day got better and better.

After so much good music sitting was welcome and I skipped the next bands waiting now high in the hall for The Ocean. Turns out that waiting was taken very serious as The Ocean had some problems with their instruments and started some 20 minutes late. last year I saw them in Eindhoven and was not overly impressed. Hanging at the balcony this evening I liked their show much better and actually it got better throughout the set. Next month they play The Hague, so I probably attend that home match. Hereafter there was a choice to be made as both Letters From The Colony and the Shining could be interesting. I started at the cafe and felt that LFTC probably musically was more my thing. Yet as they can be seen again next month as well I moved on to the second hall where The Shining were giving a show. Maybe a bit slick at times we did get a show indeed and they managed to get the hall jumping up and down on command. Amusing it was even if I only saw a small part of the stage in a crammed hall. And then my closing set would come and Zeal + Ardor were one of the main reasons I trained down to Haarlem. I do have their last CD Stranger Fruit and hoped for a good show. Well again no complaints here as they surpassed my expectations. Helped out by additional vocalists on stage for the heavy choirs this was again a heavy monster of a show. Zeal + Ardor mix Black Metal with some sort negro spirituals from the south of the US. I wonder how this will work if they release six albums in ten years, but for now it worked fine and did impress the majority of the audience. They called themselves the less complex band of Complexity Fest, but they did earn the largest crowd reaction. So another highlight to close the day fro me and next year I'm probably back.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Satan, RAM & Screamer - Little Devil Tilburg, 15 February 2019

15 February and I am going to see my first show of the year, means that something must have been wrong. As usual not one specific point to blame but a mix of rather poor programming in January, a devastating worktrip and some returning colds. This night was not to miss though as the best Heavy Metal package this winter was brought by Mario to Tilburg. Making up a good combination I knew I would enjoy all three bands, so an early train was needed and the Cruel Winter tour could hit us.

Arriving in Little Devil it was a beer at the bar and straight on into the hall where I was warmly greeted by Henrik and Dejan of Screamer. Last year I had the pleasure of hosting Screamer when they opened for Night Demon in Musicon and any band that once stayed at my place I follow closely and try to see again when they are in the country. Apart from it being nice seeing them again it was also good to see the band on stage again. I know more of their music now and can say that this show was therefore even better than what they brought last year in Musicon. This was not just my opinion as Theo and Alex agreed to that as well. So we were warmed up well from Demon Rider all the way through Monte Carlo Nights to new song Highway of Heroes. Even being sold out and crammed this would be a good evening in Little Devil.

RAM were on next. One year and two nights ago I saw them last when they headlined last year's best Heavy Metal package of the winter (with Trial and Portrait !!) They started to me somewhat in a blur of songs. No stops for introductions and a constant flow of metal.For those not knowing RAM, if you are into Priest you probably like RAM. Further down the set it seemed to me they took time to let the music and the audience breathe a bit. For me that worked wonders as I liked they second half much better. As I only own one of their CD's I did not know songtitles, but it was good.

It was up to Satan to show their Swedish openers what a metal show was all about since the early eighties. Anyone who read the book "No Sleep till Saltburn" (obligatory to any NWOBHM fan)  knows that some 36 years ago Satan were in Holland bigger than in their homeland. Looking around tonight some of the oldies were still there to relive our past in style. Last time I saw Satan was in Leiden where they were part of a strange package with Gnaw Their Tongues and Batushka playing before them. Tonight was a much better fitting package and possibly due to that I liked this show also even better. Satan is one of those bands who came back releasing new albums over the last decade and I think it is safe to say that all three recent studio albums can stand proudly next to their classic album Court in the Act. The set contained a good crossing of their Classic debut and more recent work. I wondered why I did not include Cruel Magic on my list of best albums 2018, as all songs of that album were massive killers. This was just sheer class with the remarkable voice of Brian Ross in good form and the always upbeat guitar tandem Tippins/Ramsey not missing one note.
So the gig year opened for me in great fashion and today there is more. Thanks to Mario for organizing this one and Frank for the real picture on the top.