Saturday, 27 April 2019

Swallow the Sun, Oceans of Slumber & Aeonian Sorrow - Rockpalast Bochum 26 April. 2019

Swallow the Sun and Oceans of Slumber touring Europe. One of the most exciting packages this spring for me. Swallow the Sun recently released When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light, probably the album I played most this year as this is one Masterpiece of Sadness. Oceans of Slumber I am kind of  a fanboy ever since their debut album  Aetherial made it to album of the year for me. Strange enough this package decided to skip Holland, so going abroad was the option.Now this tour will play Lisbon next week and it is school holidays, so I could be there with Josie. However Tiago being one week before his final school exams, made it not wise to leave him alone taking care of food, cooking and shopping as well. The next best alternative would be Rockpalast in Bochum. While no one felt like joining me I decided to drive down to Germany alone. Big mistake as apparently holidays started in some parts of Holland and where Google told me I would arrive around 15:00 in my hotel in reality I did so at 16:45. Main problem with that was that I missed my city center tour including some CD shops. Now it was getting some food and down to Rockpalast.

What an interesting venue this was. A labyrinth of stairs and spaces with bars at unexpected places popping up and a venue which gave everyone from any corner the chance to have a good view of the stage. Upon arrival the first thing to do is ordering a Weiss Bier under the motto when in Rome. Fair prices and good bars were another plus. I arrived around 19:45 in the venue in order to see Aeonian Sorrow already being well halfway their set. My ticket said start at 20:00, but then again my ticket also told me I was going to see Swollow the Sun. What I did see was Ok and not very far apart from Oceans of Slumbers style, with a less interesting female vocalist. To short to give many comments though.

After a short change over at the stage I decided to move  forward to feel the new Oceans of Slumber not only on the ears but also through the airwaves. I say new Oceans of Slumber as drummer Dobber is the only remaining original member and vocalist Cammie is the only one still there from the Winter line-up. So where during the first show I saw by them I could still shout for Coffins Like Kites, probably their best song ever, that shout would now be lost upon a band surely not having rehearsed same. Actually after starting with one song from Winter we only got songs from their last year's The Banished Heart. Now I know their songs and loved what I heard, yet for those not knowing the band I can imagine this to be a difficult set. Oceans of Slumber play long songs and most have calmer intro's or intermezzos. So when halfway the Banished Heart title track there is a stop, we did get an applause for end of song. This while the final bit is to me the highlight of the album. The slow building dramatic parts where Most real love is died for to be yours is a beautiful piece of music and was brought emotionally by the band. Cammie's presentation is somewhat introvert with no inter song banter all around, but that just fits the music better I guess. From what I could hear and see further this new band will glue together more and more and shall maintain the high level of the band intact. The best was kept for last when At Dawn was the heaviest banger of the set and No Color, No Light was sung by Cammie alone and is another beautiful power ballad to end with. I say she sang alone as on the album Tommy Evergrey/Redemption is singing this duet. So I silently hoped for Oceans of Slumber to be the final band on ProgPower this year and Tommy singing along as he shall be around with Redemption anyway. When asking the keyboard player afterward he was blatantly unaware of this possibbility, so I guess that is not an option or he is a very good actor not allowed to say anything yet. At the end of the set the audience showed their appreciation and many would have loved another song (Coffins Like Kites for instance)

Another break so Zwei Weissen Bieren. My German is a bit rusty or as Tiago calls it non-existent. Anyway I managed to get what I wanted and already got some beautiful Swallow the Sun Merch. Now I moved downstairs and decided to stand before the sound and light men. This to have the best possible sound as I was interested how Swallow the Sun would be live. I love their last album and their previous triple CD Songs From the North I, II & III was a Masterpiece. I am a late entrance in their fan base as I discovered them only halfway their career with the album New Moon. The band opened with the title track of the last album followed by a song from SFtN. Hereafter Firelights followed and I realized we were in for one special evening. So I do love the last album, but live these songs came over even much stronger. The overall sound was very good with all instruments and voices clearly separated. This band knows how to set an atmosphere where you get drown into their sad songs with body and soul. The story of loss behind their last album is sad, but Swallow the Sun always were fishing in darker waters. When they announce old song New Moon and start with "Tomorrow will be worse, I heard her say, as she closed the curtains and walked away". this is sheer poetry resulting in goosebumps. The remaining set visited several albums while I was pleased that Stone Wings was included. After a wonderful set where the hall often became a wave of slow banging heads the band returned for an encore. The opening song of New Moon "These Woods Breathe Evil"was another highlight and I might have seen one of the best shows of the year. If they do come to Holland later this year I will try to be there as well. At least Mary and Lida should join me as a vocalist wearing a Peter Steele T-shirt is for them reason enough.

So I could return with a smile on my face to my hotel. Two bands who recently released such dark and sad albums giving us an exciting evening like this is just amazing. The venue also put itself on my radar although next time I shall look better if there is a hotel on walking distance available. If so I can enjoy the after party in the Dungeons as well. While all ended well I did get a German souvenir this morning leaving Bochum. On a road heading to the highway where you are easily driving 70, but only allowed 50 it suddenly turned 30 with me noticing too late. Flash it was so let's see if this prime example of the famous German sense of humor arrives in Holland any day soon.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Seventh Wonder & Max Pie - de Boerderij Zoetermeer, 21 April 2019

Seventh Wonder in de Boerderij on the day of Wonder. And no I am not referring to Easter as I am not into religions. The first wonder this Sunday was Mathieu van der Poel winning the Amstel Gold Race. Not sure how many of my three readers are into cycling, but this amazing victory was in theory impossible. But back to Seventh Wonder the Swedish Progmetal band. Let me first put some ballpark on where I stand regarding Seventh Wonder. I am not their biggest fan in Holland, as my name is not Esther or Michel. I saw them first live at Headway some 12 years ago and then got into their second album Waiting in the Wings. At the time the band was a bit more metal I think and their vocalist  was sick as a dog but still surviving on stage. Now that same vocalist is also the reason it was pretty busy in de Boerderij, as his day job is with Kamelot. At least when I ran into Mario before the show (whom I normally only see at shows by bands like UFO, Uriah Heep or Deep Purple) he explained knowing the band through Kamelot. From the ProgPower Europe side there would obviously also some known faces, as they played there before. Actually I only recall the spacy outfits from that gig, as they had little to do with the set I thought. So with Hans, Peter and Lida joining we gathered near our usual bar on the left and first waited for Max Pie.

Max Pie are a Belgian Progressive Power Metal band. Yes they could play and the vocalist could sing. Actually he came close to Geoff Tate at times. Still something was missing to me. At first a tape was almost overruling the band, with Keyboards not being played but heard loudly. Second their songs did not have a sticking factor at first hearing to me. Maybe it was mostly because I got distracted. Just before leaving home I did read the Grimsby Town match report by Andrew. He is my main man in observing illogical attributes on stage, which results in endless discussion between us (Russian hat at Nightingale, Black flag waving at Soen anyone?) On comes Max Pie's guitarist in his leather jacket with yellow reflecting stripes and a huge leather patch on his shoulder looking like a rejected futuristic cop outfit, while the huge purse on his hip looked like he was selling train tickets, so I got confused. Luckily his solo's were good enough. But in the end Max Pie did not convince me, while Hans got a CD to listen closer at home.

Seventh Wonder coming on, showed that we were moving up one or two levels in Progmetal land. Solid performance and confident stage walking. When they continued with two songs I know in Mercy Falls and Alley Cat I already saw, that this was going to be more to my liking than their PPE performance. Several times Tommy K asked us to sing along, but not knowing any of their lyrics I could not join in. Now Lida likes all Tommy's in metal, while we are always a bit afraid that Tommy gets too cheesy. I think he just got away with it this evening. My attention mostly went to the guys on guitar and bass. Interesting how the six string bass was very present all the time, but his short solo spot was not really that interesting (unlike anything else he played). After some 90 minutes Seventh Wonder was done and most people seemed pleased with their set. We had some evaluation beers in the bar and also agreed that while Seventh Wonder have been away for some time (8 years), their return is welcome.  

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The Hague Metal Fest - Paard Den Haag, 20 April 2019

Being from The Hague and loving my metal, made this a pretty obvious stop. Now  many people might have excuses for being absent, like the beautiful weather making beach an alternative option.or family obligations over long Easter weekend. My reason not to go was Josie being over, but as always there would be a gap in the day before dinner , where I could do my part in supporting the local scene and pick up a bit of the atmosphere. So no full out report of the day, just some notes on bands I did see. Also I had to check if Rene's flyering was going well, attracting possibly a few more people to Heir Apparent 10 June in Musicon. Well his major discovery was that there are actually metal heads living in nearby Zoetermeer who never heard of Musicon whatsoever. So that mission was accomplished.

So how did I fare? Well Bleeding Gods were my first reason to be there as I missed them during Metal Experience Fest. This was one great opener as their show impressed. At times you are in Dimmu Borgir waters and then some death metal lurks around the corner but most outstanding of all was their overall show. Nice touch in the returning The Hague colours (Yellow Green) during their lightshow. Second band played in the small hall and Carnation from Belgium I last saw on the beach during Schollenpop. Good band with a red headed vocalist.

Then Spanish Black Metallers Noctem found themselves starting in a fairly empty large hall. Slowly they got me into their set as well ending well. Only distraction to me was that one of their songs to me had the same melody line as Bonnie St Claire's Dokter Bernard. Now I did not hear anyone else who agreed with me, but it made matters much less extreme to me. So after saying hello to friends in between these sets it was a bit of Italian thrash metal band Ultra Violence, before I cycled home. The small part I attended seemed good and a well organized festival, which shall return next year. Similar to last year my comment would be going wider in metal styles. It was now a bit much extreme orientated, so why not have a big Heavy Metal act on the line up as well. we shall see in 2020.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Vicious Rumors, Air Raid & Magistarium - Gebr. de Nobel Leiden, 18 April 2019

34 years ago Magchiel and I were blown away by Soldiers of the Night. So when Vicious Rumors was to play Leiden we decided to go see what they are like today. Well that did not disappoint, but first we had to pass through some supports.

That might have sounded rather negative, but the supports were actually warming us up fine. Magistarium from Germany were musically quite OK. The vocalist did require a certain taste and as I am no fan of operatic females in metal, the same goes for men. So the music was good but the voice not my thing. What we remember is the bassist handing out shots to the audience and the cover of Brexit hymn I Want Out. Magchiel was happy at the start, but did not manage to shout along as Magistarium played or sung the song in Russian.

Next band were Air Raid from Sweden. The level went up a notch and their songs and playing were good. I had seen this band before, but could not recall where.  Good old Heavy metal with two guitars soloing in turns and mainly fast songs. As the evening was about the covers for the supports their version of Rising Force made us happy. Nothing wrong with Air Raid, so they might return for a headlining set one day.

A long intro announced the arrival of Vicious Rumors. Now Magchiel and I got hooked by Soldiers of the Night, but their other Classic is of course Digital Dictator. As that album is 30 years old this year, we got treated on the full album at the start of the evening. Plenty of options to lose your voice shouting along Dictator or Minute to Kill. And then we were only 10 minutes into their set. After the final tones of Out of the Shadow we were properly welcomed and a small overview of their other albums followed. Highlights hard to point out as all sounded pretty good. Well maybe Abandoned as this has such a nice hook in Abandoned again, I thought that you were my friend. And then came the end with a break and a return and to our surprise Vicious Rumors decided not to play Soldiers of the Night. This in spite of several people singing to them they were SotN. A downer? not really as we just had a very pleasant evening of Heavy Metal. My downer came only later on when Josie arrived at Schiphol with a 2.5 hour delay due to Kerosene shortages in Portugal. So I was almost sober again, when she finally hit the ground in Holland. A good evening that Rocked Like Hell.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Overhead - 't Blok Nieuwerker a/d IJssel, 7 April 2019

Overhead went a bit under my radar the last years. This Sunday they played 't Blok in the afternoon, so I checked out their last album on Well that was a pleasant surprise so I also went back to their only CD I have And We're Not Here After All and my decision was made. Overhead play progressive rock, but although with long songs accessible and close to Classic Rock at times. On the first official warm day of the year we could get a ticket and drink and wait outside for the band to kick off. Yvon joined me today and even gave me the suitable teaspoons for my HM B&B, so bring on the next band. There would be no support, so in order to stretch the afternoon a bit, the set was split in two parts I believe both a bit over 45 minutes. So resuming the show it was as good as hoped for on the song front. The band seemed to be four sympathetic guys and one pretty sick drummer. No slang sick, but actually sick with a red nose and suffering, so how well did he do given the circumstances. The set was a mix of old and new songs and I did get their last album Haydenspark on CD during the break.  So it was a pleasant afternoon in 't Blok indeed and the organization delivered their usual snacks during the show, which is an extra for all.

Yet there were two rather huge elephants in 't Blok as well. And somehow we all decided to avoid them and not speak out. During the first half it seemed that the vocalist just had too many tools and effects to play with. This resulted in his real voice at times almost disappearing and second voice as well as echos coming through much louder. After the break he came back louder and clearer. The biggest elephant remained for the guitarist though. He simply was far too soft in the mix. To such an extend that you had to concentrate to hear him even during his many solo spots. During the title track of the last album his full out guitar solo volume wise even lost against a flute. So his rock poses were there, but his sound was not. I thought he realized this himself as well when he kneeled before his amp while playing. Yet in the end in spite of the sound issues (new to me at 't Blok) Overhead did show us that they have the songs, the playing and presentation to enjoy us on stage. Waiting for a return with a revenge soundwise.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Wilson & Wakeman - Boerderij Zoetermeer, 4 April 2019

Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman released some CD's together already and now have a small tour through Holland. While their albums tend to be acoustic and calm affairs, we six mainly came hoping for some music from their Progmetal band Headspace. Last time I saw them play together was with that band also in de Boerderij. Individually I do not recall when I last saw Damian Wilson, might have been when he was still with Threshold. Adam Wakeman was a strong force last year in the Attice Arena with Ozzy. The bad news of tonight was that Ozzy won't be touring this year (so how about a Headspace tour in autumn?) As the evening was mostly two man telling stories and singing songs, I also shall pass my anecdotes on Damian Wilson through the years.

As this is supposed being a show review some very short comments on the gig as well. Boerderij main hall is too big to create an intimate atmosphere. Three halves was a bit long and one break too many for several. The songs were calm and quiet as expected with some absolute highlights to me. The Big Day (Headspace) sounded great even stripped down. Life on Mars? had a great introduction and also showed Steve Hogarth how to cover this song with power. Homegrown is Damian Wilson's best solo song I guess. The jazzy piano Sabbath cover only halfway rang a bell when the Iron Man chords passed by. And finally Damian Wilson showed again being one of the best vocalists around no matter the genre. First time we saw Damian Wilson was in the old Boerderij before the move (early-mid nineties?). He was singing with Landmarq and did his audience walking routine already in those days. Jeroen first shopping in the next door Coffee shop, thought during that trip he recognized the guy next to him from our local pub and greeted him by pubname not fully realizing that same bloke sang for us on stage the past hour or so. One of Landmarq's ballads Embrace turned into a favorite of Josie when I put it on a mixed tape and was played at our wedding before the live music started. Somewhere in the early 2000's Damian Wilson returned to de Boerderij and I got his solo double Disciple/Grow Old with Me. Now his lyrics were personal and also about his children and being a father. With Tiago just going through a tough start in life I thought it nice to bring home a CD dedicated to Tiago. Now my lousy or drunken voice or his bad ears made me come home with an album dedicated to Diago, awfully close to that sniffing Argentinian c*nt (Tiago is also Brazilian). Translating that into Dutch reality I am pretty sure you won't find any Dutch parents calling their son Lothar in the eighties/nineties. Maybe that same night or a few years later we saw Damian now as one of the vocalists of Star One, a more space-metal Ayreon. The full band was wearing silver outfits matching the lyrics and more important made with lots of love by Lida and Yvon. Well not Mr. Wilson as he looked slightly sharper in his own silver outfit. But like always his voice ruled the evening. So in the end I do not know how many times I saw Damian Wilson sing and neither with how many bands or projects. I do know I never saw him as calm as yesterday. Yet if you like two sympathetic and fairly talented guys telling stories, spontaneous or not, and sing really good you can still catch them this weekend in Amsterdam, Venlo and Zwolle.