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.