Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Ocean, Downfall of Gaia & Herod - Paard Den Haag, 26 March 2019

The biggest venue in The Hague is het Paard and to say they put on a lot of metal would be fake news. So when they have UDO in February, this package in March and The Hague Metal Fest in April I try to support in order to get more metal in. Luckily I was not the only one on a Tuesday night as it might have been the small hall, it was filled up pretty well. Opening band were Herod from Switzerland / England. They state playing progressive sludge. What caught the eye were the three guitars and no bass on stage. Yet in spite of three guitars the man stealing the show at times for me was their drummer. some serious fast and tight hammering from the back. While all sounded pretty OK to me it was during the last song when Loic from the Ocean joined on vocals that variation increased and the best song had arrived.

Next band were German outfit Downfall of Gaia. Now I listened to a clip on forehand and got interested. This band played mainly long heavy landscapes. Vocals from the bass player, were blackish, while the other two more screamed. Yet this all was standing against many long melodic solo's and repeated structures. To finish matters off the drums were mainly fast. All together this blend worked very good and their show flew by to my ears. Afterwards got their last album Ethic of Radical Finitude and playing now it also works on CD at home. Interesting band.

Headliners were The Ocean (Collective?). Over the past few months I saw this band already  at Progressive Alliance with little impact due to timing and at Complexity with a good show. This time it was even much better as I was not distracted by other festival activities. This band plays also progressive music with heavy post rock mixed in. Their use of screams, versus calmer intermezzos works very well though and their vocalist Loic is a good front-man. Or at some point even good balcony man, when he walked up sung from the balustrade and jumped down upon the audience to be crowd-surfed back to the stage. When he moves to singing I hear some voice that would fit a grunge band, but before that scares you off he long moved to screaming loud at you. After three shows in a few months I even started recognizing songs and was convinced to finally get their last album, only to find out it was sold out. Even though on a Tuesday with three bands this might have started earlier, I was pleased with all three bands and can only suggest to go and see them when passing near you.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Prognosis Festival - Effenaar Eindhoven, 23 March 2019

Prognosis yet another new festival of Prog in Holland. It actually was a two day event, but I had better plans on the Friday. Upon arrival I heard by basically everyone I know, that I was smart as Friday was over sold out. Unlike airlines they did not send people home, but just closed halls when overful I understood. Now Prognosis might be the youngest festival of Prog in Holland, their budget obviously is biggest of them all. One can question if it makes sense to pick so many of the top level prog bands on your first edition. Yet I am not complaining as the Saturday offered me the chance to see some bands I never saw before. Not finding anyone willing to join me from The Hague I knew I would run into friends over the day, so one week after Killfest it was hallo Effenaar again.

The band opening the Saturday was called Prognosis like the festival. I heard one song on forehand and knew I wanted to be on time to see this. Even to such an extent that I had to kick Voodoo Vegas out of my house at 12:00 being a poor host, so sorry for that my friends. Well Prognosis came on the big stage and I soon knew I had a winner for the festival here. This band plays that typical tech metal I love. Two shredding guitars, voices heavy yet singing and all in an uptempo that made you move your necks if you wanted or not. With people leaving halfway I suddenly found myself moving to second row and feel the power. I totally loved this set and the energetic drummer hammered on wildly even after loosing one stick and apparently have no spare at hand. Yes they could open with Hallo Prognosis festival, we are Prognosis and at the end they asked to support the band and festival. That is just what I did got both the CD and Tee and was sorry to not run into the band during the day for thanking them for this show.  What a highlight to start.

In the meantime Golden Caves started in the small hall, but I just knew I better skipped them. After the very high energy gig of Prognosis I am sure to me Golden Caves would not be able to grasp my attention and get into their calm show. A second even better reason was that I wanted to be on time for my second headliner of the day Green Carnation. These Norwegians disappeared for a while, but came back with a DVD release last year. They played ProgPower before, but it was one of those years, work made me travel over the weekend making it unable to attend. I never realized before that I own all studio albums by this band. When they opened stating "Pain is Self Inflicted, Cause is not" I recognized the song from their debut. This was followed by Sweat Leaf from their last album acoustic verses. This band meant for me two highlights out of two shows. They did everything right. The vocalist has a great voice and presence. The music is moody and heavy, yet at the right times fast enough. The songs were passing their history, including one new song and technical problems were overcome in a way that looked calm, funny, sympathetic and professional all at the same time. Highlights if any maybe Crushed to Dust and Myron & Cole. In reality the whole set was a party and if they release this new album I would say first day headliner for PPE 2020 can't be much of a search. Anyone I've spoken with on this show afterwards agreed that Green Carnation ruled Prognosis festival.

Now after such a high one needs a small moment to get back to earth and have a beer. So I could not be in the small hall in time to see Letters From the Colony kick-off. This was unfortunate as later on it was packed and I first went for some food. Now I learned fast and became strategic, so when Devin Townsend was about to start in the main hall I rushed to the small one and saw the last songs by LftC. This band seems to be unlucky on Dutch festivals this year with stages (Complexity) or timing (now). I repeat a pity as that what I did see was full of energy and with enough variation to keep me interested. Now hoping on a small clubshow one day, so I can see their set in full. After this all I moved slowly upstairs to see the end of Devin Townsend acoustic. I thought to see the second half, but he played slightly shorter than scheduled. On Devin Townsend I am mostly divided. I do appreciate his total artistic and vocal range. There is no doubt on his talent. I have several albums by many of his projects, but to me at times they can be overwhelming. He can go so all over the place that it is hard to catch up at times. At the moment he is having an acoustic tour (an in fashion thing it seems, but noone shall beat Witherfall on that) This meant he was alone on stage with a guitar and some laptops. I do not know all his songs, but when he lets out a scream it is just amazing how acrobatic that voice is. He ended with a song from The Ocean so I am supposed to recognize that, but not sure if I did.

After DT many people left for dinner outside, so suddenly the small hall could even be accessed normally. While I do have a CD by Nosound, in the end I decided on hearing them from a distance, while catching up with Michel. We both wanted to see Witchcraft as well and for me that would be the festival closer I already decided given the shortish night and last bands of the day. Witchcraft was a bit the odd fish out of the water here, as they play doom metal with some psychedelic traces. Again a band I did not know in advance, but that sounded good on internet. They came on, tuned their guitars and slowly got started. Soon it seemed that their vocalist was a bit of a character. If you state regretting not being big enough to forbid pictures being taken, you tend to be on the wrong festival in my view. So I did take a group in action picture, but won't post same. As they looked very average also no need to describe them. Later on I heard more people being pissed off with his attitude. I could not care much as the music was actually very good. I liked their doom which was pretty uptempo for doom and well sung. Attitude or not at timed even Chris Cornell passed by in his voice. Three guitars gave a solid wall as well to build on. So I decided to get music of them after the show, only to find they did not bring any only T-shirts. So musically Witchcraft closed the day of in style for me and seeing three highlights made the trip very worthwhile. I suffered less than most from the overlaps, but do wonder what to expect next year. Another highlight was running into many PPE friends, with even the possiblity to congratulate in person the recently married couple of bold northern European progmetalhead and latin woman (somehow I relate to that).  The future shall show if this can be a long term festival, but on atmospheres all agreed that this shall never match PPE. If they bring bands like today I can live with a different atmosphere anyday.

Voodoo Vegas & Fire Within - Musicon Den Haag, 22 March, 2019

Voodoo Vegas are British, but Brexit won't stop them. So their tour was called just that and Musicon was the opening evening. Now that I opted not to go to Progression due to overlaps I already decided to visit Musicon on  Friday night. In order to increase the fun I also was able to host the band after the show, which always gives a nice insight on bands touring. Now I did not know Voodoo Vegas on forehand, but started wondering why. I did see Y&T and the Dead Daisies recently when touring in Holland and Voodoo Vegas have recently supported both. Somehow I managed to see just the other tour, so this was new territory for me. Trying to push through our app group had limited success, but I had a nice evening with Magchiel, Yvon, Rene and Pieter turning up along the evening.

There was a support band as well. This sounds logical, but given the fact that the scheduled support pulled out the day before it was an achievement. Fire Within are from Middelburg and opened for us. They play a kind of symphonic power metal and do so well enough. What afterwards stuck most in my mind though were  their covers of Abba and Europe and the pissing guy. Let me explain the latter. Three fans of both bands walked closer to the stage and sort of banged along the sets. Now one of them bought a pint and instead of drinking same he kept it in his hand and slowly spilled same all over the floor. Standing a few meters behind him it looked like he was dropping and pissing in after wee modus, very strange indeed. Don't know what's wrong with the youth of today, but if I spilled beer like that some 30 years ago, several friends would seriously smack me in the head. Sorry Fire Within, but that shall stay my reference, although the one but last song sounded really good.

After a short break where the floor could be dried and our friend was later asked to put his beer at the side Voodoo Vegas had changerd and hit the stage. It took me about two minutes in their gig to realize again, that England is full of promising younger bands that just get no exposure whatsoever over here, Also We could see that nowadays youth is not interested in good old hard rock. Voodoo Vegas just play hard rock in a style we were brought up with. I thought at times a bit of Little Angels, but also one song hinted at Aerosmith. So we might not have been with many, but after the gig I only heard positive feedback on the show and enthusiasm transmitted by the band. They closed the set with King Without a Crown and that song should have been a hit if released somewhere in the eighties. Very catchy and grooving.  During some songs Lawrence even took out a harmonica to give an old vibe to the evening. So  a winner of an evening I would say. Losses were also on record as Voodoo Vegas is one of the bands suffering seriously from the Pledge bankrupcy. I do not know the details of how that happened, but the victims are many. In their case the newly recorded 3rd album can not be released, as Pledge did not pay the people who needed paying. Frustrating to say the least. Yet this band seemed to be made of very nice and optimistic people. I can know as we had a pleasant closure of the evening at home and breakfast the next morning. Go and see them on tour this week, even if Brexit won't stop them.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Witherfall - Patronaat Haarlem, 20 March 2019

Acoustic metal shows always bring along the question , what to expect? Tonight Witherfall would pass Haarlem on their European tour supporting Sonata Arctica. First setting my ballpark here. Witherfall made a big impact on me in 2017 with their debut album Nocturnes and Requiems. Last year they already released their second album A Prelude to Sorrow and that made it to even a higher position (#3) on my end of year list of favorite albums. In both occasions I dropped the names of Savatage and Nevermore as I believe Witherfall is just the band to fill the gap for people like me who miss those two excellent bands live on a stage near you. The base of Witherfall is made of vocalist Jospeh Michael and guitarist Jake Dreyer. Before the release of their debut album drummer Adam Paul Sagan passed away. A very sad occasion that is reflected in both music and lyrics of their albums. So returning to this evening I was more than a bit curious. Their songs are dramatic and mostly based upon furious guitar solos and screaming strong vocals. Well that can not be done acoustically so now what. In the nineties also driven by MTV acoustic sets became a trend and several bands like Queensryche and Alice in Chains won fans over it. My favorite CD of the time was by Tesla, whose Five Man Acoustical Jam ended up being one of their best albums.

Tonight at 20:00 hrs Witherfall came on and slowly kicked of with the closing song of their last album: Epilogue. Another option would have been opening with The Great Awakening. That song passed by later in the set and starts with the lines: "The Stage was set, noone really knew what to expect". Well let  me not start giving tips on them building a set as I can first give my final conclusion. This evening I witnessed the best acoustic show I ever heard of. So Joseph had to keep the brakes on, but that did not stop him from screaming passionately at times and show us he is one of the best voices in metal nowadays (also with Sanctuary). Jake Dreyer is known from Iced Earth, so I saw him in full swing before, but tonights calm work was beautiful as well. But Witherfall is not a duo far from that really. Now I do not take notes so apart from missing some songs I also lost the drummers name. I am sorry for that as he did add a lot with the many special effects next to his acoustic box drum with hi-hat and bongo. On Keyboards we had Alex Nasla who also took care of backing vocals. On bass Anthony Crawford jazzed matters up at times while he also made sure his salary will be paid at the end of the tour. The best part was that nearing the end their was space for all of them to solo away and break the set even more in an interesting way. While I am now playing the purchased Vintage EP I do recognize Ode to Despair (including an emotional Time Just slips away) and Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down. Note to band: I indeed believe Tom Petty was never as big here as in the States. I only know Refugee as Hans had that LP in the seventies. Highlight of the set was the end though. This medley of Vintage  and Nobody Sleeps Here was as Alex called it goosebumps and right he was. So if they can blow me away like this with an acoustic set, we can only start hoping for a return in full amplified style. Still in the zone I used the opportunity to write fast on a high. I can only close humble by quoting their own lyrics: "We are Nothing, This isn't Real, We Dance in Madness".

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Killfest - Effenaar Eindhoven 15 March 2017

15 March was one of those days that I had the choice of some five shows to attend (Musicon, Patronaat, Duycker and especially Boerderij looked interesting as well). I opted for Killfest, also because I would love to see Meshiaak play live. Unfortunately they had to pull out of a European tour again. I was not the only one slightly gutted by that, but the remaining package still made Effenaar the best option. We decided to stay the night in Eindhoven, so included hotel and after party at the Jack. Leaving The Hague I was fighting through the crowds and thought Killfest would be packed. Turned out to be hundreds of teachers returning home after their national protest.

With Meshiaak out of the tour opening band was now Chronosphere from Greece. Most remarkable about this band is the fact that they all wear red trousers. That is not a lot you would say, but their music sounded to me rather straight forward. Well played, but nothing that got me really into them. Warming up we were as well and the hall was slowly filling up.

Many people might have not been in a rush to see the opener, but second band Flotsam & Jetsam was to many including us the silent headliner of the evening. with four bands on the evening they only got some 40 minutes in which they passed both old and new. It is always good to hear classics like Hammerhead or No Place For Disgrace. Suffer the Masses is a song that made a welcome return in their set the last years. I said before that Iron Maiden from their previous self titled album would be the perfect guideline song for the real maiden to follow. Short, fast and with all the typical Maiden elements in it it probably is the best Maiden song of this century, that Iron Maiden never wrote. New album The End of Chaos was also represented in the set which unfortunately ended so fast.

 Next band on the still small stage would be Destruction from Germany. They are a band of the so called Teutonic Big Four of Thrash metal. In my view Flots is more popular in Holland, but as I stood in another area of the hall I could not really compare reactions. Still it seemed that Destruction were rather popular as well and the stagedivers and crowdsurfers appeared in fairly large numbers. It was good to see how cool the band was with that. On the set I cannot really comment much as I do not have any of their albums. I saw them before on stage and again it sounded OK, but not in such a way that I would rush getting CD's by them

Overkill were the headliner (so Killfest!)  and they brought their thrash pretty similar as I saw them two times over the last 1.5 year. Their songs do the talking and Bobby speaks Brabants (or Dutch) inbetween at times. With their huge list of releases they have plenty to choose from and we would zig zag through the years. Flikker op, or in English Fuck You closed the evening as usual in style and they showed being a huge band indeed. In order for us to close the evening in style we got a few IPA's in the Jack, were evening favorites Flotsam & Jetsam even walked in. A heavy evening in many senses it was.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Althea - Lost in Thought - Swallow the Sun - Soilwork

Now that my gig year kicked of well and I am going for a Lisbon break this weekend herewith some CD tips to share.

Althea - The Art Of Trees
I am always looking for new music and bands to discover. Sometimes music finds me, which was the case with Althea. Checking them out I got so much into it, that I bought the CD. Althea play in a style you can call either heavy progressive rock, or progmetal at the lighter end. Although light, there is some darkness over several songs. Their heaviness (or lack of same if you are from the half empty glass team) reminds me a bit of their countrymen from Kingcrow or Polish band After. The start put me on the wrong foot, as a progressive band opening with a song divided in 5 parts makes you expect an epic of at least 12 minutes. Well I clocked around four. The music is good and highlight to me is the song Not Me, whose opening half could stand proudly on any Porcupine Tree album. Nice band, thanks for finding me.

Lost in Thought - Renascence
At the begin of this decade a Progmetal festival was organized near Wales whose name I forgot. We had tickets, flights and hotel sorted when the whole lot got cancelled by lack of sold tickets. The best souvenir I got from that experience was that I discovered Welsh band Lost in Thought and their debut album Opus Arise. Years later out of the blue comes the pledge campaign for their second album. So I joined and this year some months after release I did get the new album. With a new vocalist their style did not change much and again we have an accessible progmetal album. They obviously heard their fair share of Dream Theater, but I also get reminded of bands like Circus Maximus at times. Nothing spectacular or very original here, but played all so well that a slot at PPE seems deserved.

Swallow the Sun - When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
I am a late entry fan for Swallow the Sun when I discovered New Moon in 2009. At the time their heaviness in death doom was dominant. Their next album in 2015 was a triple release with three leading styles as their calmer side was also explored next to some Funeral Doom. Beautiful it was and how to follow that one up? They decided to keep all styles, but now put most efforts in the dark and calmer side of their songs. They do not yet go as far as Anathema on their last albums and turn into a pure atmospheric rock band. Still I do hear that this album can attract fans in progressive circles who normally are afraid of anything grunting at them. My favorite song is Stone Wings, which blends all of their strong points into one beautiful song: a catchy chorus, but also building up to a heavy epic verse sung harsh and clean. This spring they tour Europe with the mighty Oceans of Slumber. Yet somehow they decided to skip Holland. Lisbon is on the list, but too close to Tiago's final exams to stay away for a week. Something to think and plan about for the coming months.

Soilwork - Verkligheten
I do know Soilwork for years and even saw them live before. Yet somehow I never was tempted to get their CD's. Then last year I discovered the Night Flight Orchestra and got hooked. Now Bj√∂rn Strid is vocalist in both bands, so I checked out the new Soilwork album with more of an interest. Well that was some discovery as Soilwork blend their Melodic Death Metal with the style of TNFO. So they are not afraid at times to go almost eighties poprock still blended with their extreme metal. While the opening title track reminded me of a Faith No More instrumental they kick off mainly heavy. Yet songs like Stalfagel could also work on an album of that other band. So it is the mix that makes this a highly enjoyable album. Remaining a melodic death metal combo the emphasis on melody makes this an album that could please many. I admit being far too late in discovering them. Digging now in their past I can only recommend those in the unknown to do the same. 

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Aterra, Callous Intent & Defazer - Musicon Den Haag. 2 March 2019

Aterra are a metal band from Poland. Unknown to me, but with two nice local supports nothing stopping me from an evening in Musicon. Now I read recently that a Polish hip hop night resulted in two packed evenings with even the beer availability almost running short and the new floors baptized in beer. Unfortunately also in Poland Hip Hop seems to attract more people than metal as there were some Polish people, but not by the hundreds. Still it became a good evening packed or not.

Defazer already started their set when I came in. Human beings thrive on routine, so for me a Friday or Saturday night show in Musicon means 21:00-24:00 live music. Only at 20:15 I saw at home that the start would be earlier this evening, but in the end I believe only missing the opening song. Defazer are the band from The Hague's Bay Area as their influences are easy to track. Now this was the first time I saw them in this line-up and it was good to see the band was at ease. Both the new bassist and drummer joined in the party without any obvious problems at least to my ears. So Defazer gave us their usual thrash metal kick under the bottom and we were warmed up.

Callous Intent are also from the region playing thrash/death metal. Last year I saw them at Paardcafe and I believe the set did not change that much. I say this as I did recognize the song titles with their violent topics. My favorite is their ode to the killer-Uhu, a real life story known only to Dutch people, which few would have thought making it to a song. Their set is slightly heavier than Defazer, but goes down equally well. I hope to see them more often on the bill of shows in the area. For now the biggest coincidence was that while I picked up my Vektor T-shirt for the night, two band members did the same resulting in me playing Black Future now by lack of new bought music.

Aterra came on last and gave us over one hour of their metal. They seemed to blend a bit between styles, while the constant factor was their groove, which was omnipresent. Also their looks were a bit confusing to me. The lead guitarist/vocalist looked thrash/death. The second guitarist looked stoner, the drummer with his black painted eyes looked Black metal and the bassist looked hardcore. Then finally there was a fifth member behind tiny Keyboard and laptop looking neutral. Luckily their music was not as uncoordinated as we got a pretty good set. A few songs were even sung in Polish, which their countrymen appreciated. Close to the end of the set the band explained that Polish people are proud to be Polish. So out came two Polish flags and everybody was asked to stand up to the Polish national anthem One guy in a red Polska T-shirt started even kissing the flag. Now I lived abroad a few years, but somehow can not imagine myself in those years attending a show of a dutch metal band in orange T-shirt with Holland written on it kissing our flag. Conclusion Polish people are proud to be Polish indeed and we Dutch prefer complaining and pointing out what is wrong with our country and the world. Nationalistic or not Aterra did manage to also create the first Wall of Death I saw in Musicon. Ok it was no D. foking T 8 billion USD wall, but a tiny wall clashed together. The final song was again in Polish and seemed some sort of Rage Against the Machine song. This closed an enjoyable evening of metal in Musicon for me and I hope to be back more as a first Musicon show of the year in March only is too late really.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Blaze Bayley - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden 1 March 2019

Blaze Bayley returns to Leiden, like he does with every new album. He is of course known from his years in Maiden  in the nineties. I already stopped getting all Maiden albums in the blind by then and also do not know his solo work. Still Hans and I felt like an evening of Maiden inspired music was a nice way to spend the Friday night. While not knowing the music, the band were no stranger to us as Absolva is touring as much and we did see them many times over the last years. Digging in my memory I also thought back if and when I saw Blaze Bayley before. The only certainty I have is 30 years ago as opener with Wolfsbane of the best festival line-up I ever saw (Aardschokdag with Queensryche, Crimson Glory, Flotsam & Jetsam, House of Lords, Vengeance and Leatherwolf !!!!!). That is long ago so let's see how the man performs nowadays.

This evening was the opening night of the Eagle Spirit tour. Blaze decided there would be no support and the band would play over 100 minutes. The focus of the evening lay on the recent trilogy on William Blake. Now not knowing any of the songs did not have an impact on enjoying the show really as the style is very much Maiden influenced. So we could shout along with the whooo-hooo-hoooos and raise our fists upon command. What became clear very quick was that Blaze is a genuinely nice guy. It seemed to me he even made an effort to speak slow and clear helping foreigners to understand him. After the show there was also a free meet and greet, as a nod to bands who charge their fans to meet them. On the music I can say that for me the faster songs sounded better than his slower work. This simply because Blaze was never known for being one of the scenes most soulful voices. Yet fast bangers like Human came over very strong. A few Maiden songs made it to the setlist and although not owing the albums I do know Virus, Futureal and Man on the Edge. The band was tight as expected and Chris Appleton meanwhile showed he is an underrated guitar hero. So in the end it seemed to me that a full small hall was very pleased with the show and as usual Gebr. de Nobel knows how to keep the spirit up by playing just the right songs before and after the show. Next year I'm back for more Blaze Bayley live.