Saturday, 18 November 2017

Icelandic Metal Assault - Musicon Den Haag 17 November 2017


Iceland a country with a population of today only 336.082 inhabitants (Worldometer). Yet they manage to qualify for the World Cup and release a large number of heavy bands. I like their most famous musical exports Solstafir and Sigur Ros, but tonight's bands were unknown to me. The evening was opened by Dutch Black Metal band Adversarius. Unfortunately they started before announced kick off and when I just arrived Rene tipped me on the shoulder. This to introduce me to the NWOBHM legend who was in the audience with his wife. Well I knew that in advance and was looking forward to meeting them, but did not realize they had to leave early. Well more on them next year I hope.


So the first band I fully saw were Devine Defilement. That was a nice surprise as they played a mix of very fast music, with  a good vocalist introding the songs with a dry sense of humor (scandinavian). Not sure how to describe their style, I leave that to people who understand more of music, I did see a good band. At one stage the guitarist was riffing so fast, that you could not see his hand any longer, just a bandwith of hand amazingly fast racing the strings. The vocalist did jump into the audience twice and walked through the nicely filled Musicon, actually scaring Patrick at one stage. Good band to kick of the Iceland experience.


Next on Exile where a whole different lot. They turned out to play heavy metal in traditional setup with two guitars. Some good songs as well, although the vocals and solos not always came over loud enough in the mix. While they were described as thrash metal, I was more reminded of some Heavy metal bands, than typical thrash giants. A nice change in styles over the evening thus. Final band this Friday were Rán. According to their FB page they play heljarmetal, mixing black and thrash. They do exist for ten years now and you could see that back on stage with their solid show. Painted black metallish they did mix other styles in. When they dedicated one song to Rob Slors this was met with a large roar from the crowd. I believe their vocalist lived in The Hague so he knows his local metal history. The song that followed was Black and Roll style and went down nice. You could see why this band closed and it turned out to be very worthwhile again diving an evening into the unknown. This weekend the Icelandic Metal Assault is hitting two more dutch cities, strongly recommended I'd say.


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Witherfall - Portrait - Moonspell

Some various forms of Heavy Metal, all of them beautifull.

Witherfall - Nocturnes and Requiems
Witherfall is a new band with members who have been aound for some time (White Wizzard). Outstanding point of the band are the shredding guitar solo's which are all over the album and performed by Jake Dreyer. It is no coincidence that Iced Earth picked him up as solo guitarist as well, what a party he brings to us. The music goes from two short instrumentals around one minute to three epic songs of around 9 minutes each. The style should please everyone into Heavy Metal with a slight prog influence. Vocals are good too and this album should be heard by many. The sad story behind the album relates to drummer Adam Sagan, who passed away during the final stages of recordings. Cannot imagine how that should feel for the band upon release dates, but learned they have  a live replacement and even think about crossing the ocean. Should make sense as their metal goes down well in certain parts of Europe and at my home.

Portrait - Burn the World
Sweden is a great country with compared to their population and absurd high number of good bands. Being it extreme-, prog-, melodic-, or sleaze-metal we have some forerunners of the style in Europe hailing from Sweden. Also the good old fashioned eighties Heavy Metal with an up to date twist is big over there. Where bands like Enforcer, Grand Magus and Ram might be most famous, my favorites in that scene are Trial and Portrait. Burn the World is their fourth full-lenght and this time the band reduced to a trio. Well nowhere I can hear that, as their overwhelming music still holds all their typical elements. High shrieking voices over very fast riffs and full of solo's. If you think 1980's Denmark and their most famous metal exports you are never far away. But what a great album they delivered again, managing to make you nostalgic really. But this is 2017 and good music is still all around, proof attached. Now that both Portrait and Trial are on Metal Blade, how hard can it be to get them together and tour Europe. I shall be there with a large grin on my face.

Moonspell - 1755
OK I am biased. Not owing any of their previous albums, when they announced to release a history lesson sung in Portuguese I knew I would give it a try. 1755 is the year Lisbon faced a huge earthquake, resulting in tens of thousands people dying. In order to express the emotions on this dramatic event Moonspell is keeping it all Portuguese. With my frequent returns to that city (and loving the place)  my interest was bigger than normal. Of course we need good music before switching to actually buying this album and also there no complaints from me. With a topic like this drama is omnipresent of course. Now this could be translated in complete over the top songs and production, but somehow Moonspell for me manage to stay away from the cheesy parts. Actually even the latin quotes fit in fine. At the same time this is a heavy album, with voices aligned to that.   So for me the surprise of the month and as a bonus a surprise ending. A cover from Paralamas do Sucesso a Brazilian pop/rock band Josie likes, although I did not know this song. Early February live in Holland, check!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Sinistro, Pallbearer & Paradise Lost - Pandora Tivoli Utrecht 6 November 2017

 

In the title I put the bands in order of appearance, which is at the same time for me the order of interest and CD's owned. So I was going to Utrecht for the support bands, which did make an input on my mindset for staying late. More on that later, first some comments on Tivoli. This huge building has been built around the old Vredenburg and is famous for being delivered way over budget. With this financial problem it seemed to me they want to earn back part of the loss on the visitors. Garderobe at EUR 1,50 and the cheapest beer at EUR 3,70 is above any other place I frequent. The beer might be slightly larger  than usual, but in a student city it seems expansive. Further Pandora must be Holland's highest concert hall. Being on the top floor, we needed to climb 4 escalators, after which still a pair of stairs were needed to make it to the hall and another two for the balconies. On a clear day you must be able to see the sea from up there. Down at the entrance signs were also slightly confusing to some. The Doobie Brothers played the same evening in the Main Hall. With my bold and old head queueing up several DB fans started standing behind me. Well everyone dressed in Black should have given it away to them, but I pointed more than a few to the right entrance. I did arrive early as the main purpose of my visit was Sinistro, so 19:00 I was in for a 19:30 start.


Sinistro coming on and the first thing noticeable, was that the bassist F, did not come along on tour. When Patricia came on and started singing, noone could hear a thing. So the first two minutes the show was handicapped. But when this was solved all started to flow. I do have their albums Semente and Cidade. Last year LOUD, Portugal's leading metal magazine voted Semente the best national CD of 2016. I can agree with that as the style of Sinistro is original and different from everything else. They play doom metal, but the vocals in Portuguese from Patricia add something very own to their music. And if on CD this is already different, live on stage it became even better. The whole show was accompanied by movies on a big screen. On stage all the attention was drawn towards Patricia Andrade. Her dramatic presentation reminded me at times of a ADHD little sister of Devon Graves (Psychotic Waltz). Love it when people dance macabre completely out of it. While Patricia drew all attention, the band was tight as well even as a quartet. The set opened with Partida, Relíquia had their videoclip on screen and a new song was played hereafter. This new song is from their next album Sangua Cássia (out 5 January). The set ended with the best: Cidade (parte 2). The EP Cidade contains two songs of over ten minutes and describes Lisboa. With the images of the city on the background I was taken back to Lisbon indeed. Opening the evening they only got 30 minutes, but this half hour made my trip already worthwhile. Pity that now almost at the end of the tour their merch was only available in small sizes.


During the break I found with Ton, Olga, Willem and Christian that we always can agree to disagree on preferences, even if we like very similar music. Pallbearer were on next and where I liked the CD, the others only pre-listened bits and were not overly impressed yet. Actually it was the same LOUD magazine that put me on track of Pallbearer. During an interview earlier this year my interest was awoken, which eventually resulted in listening to and buying their last album Heartless of the internet. Finding my spot in the hall I noticed that the band after the first song also asked for some adaptations on the sound. Somehow it all came over less clear than on the album. Still I liked their performance, where I do not think they played all too many songs from Heartless as I did not recognize most. The wall of doom, with two guitars, bass and drums sounded good and the voices took care of variation between clear and occassional grunts. While not as overwhelming on stage as Sinsitro they did give us a good show and definitely deserve a longer set as well. It was at this moment that I realized I might have preferred to see Sinistro and Pallbearer alone in a smaller setting like Baroeg and both with a (much) longer set. Doom it was with Pallbearer, but in the accesible format easy on first hearing. Seemed a good band to me.


And then the evening would be closed by Paradise Lost. I do not have any of their music. I saw them during the years on festivals of which I remember Via Rock 1994 and Bospop 2001. They play music I actually like, but somehow never took the time to delve into. Now I already decided not to make it a late evening and I just wanted to see the opening songs for getting a flavour. Impressions were of a tight and loud band. Between the songs not that much differences and a strong performance. Yet I also remembered Dutch Doom Days Sunday, where the two headliners (Saturnus and Clouds) managed to completely suck me into their shows, which was not the case tonight. I guess this also has to do, with form and willingness. I mean if I start seeing a show, doubting how long it will last for me, you never really get into it. So after a few songs from the balcony and a glimpse from in the hall I left Pandora for a Sate kroket at the station and an early train home on a cold November evening. A good evening it was.


 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Brainstorm Festival (Fleshkiller) - Gigant Apeldoorn 3 November 2017


Friday 3 November was one of those days of making choices. My friend from Toner Low played in bicycle ride distance de Vinger. As I always manage to miss him live on stage, I kept that tradition going. Now de Vinger was called Bazart some fifteen years ago. At the time I went there to see Textures touring their debut album Polaris. This evening Textures said goodbye to us in de Boerderij and they brought Exivious and Extremities along. A very interesting package. Yet I recently discovered Fleshkiller and with the amazing album Awaken under their belts they would play Brainstorm Festival on the Friday. I decided therefore that Apeldoorn was the place to be. Now Brainstorm is a White Metal festival so I did not know till what extend this could be noticed in de Gigant. In the past I thought about going,  as they had amongst many others in previous years also bands like In Mourning, Swallow the Sun or Darkwater. White or not the metal can be full of grunts. Unaware of the world I would step into I did come prepared. The day before I played my favorite White Metal LP again. Barren Cross - Atomic Arena and that White Metal Maiden clone still sounded awesome after 35 years. Upon arrival in Apeldoorn I had a shoarma at grillroom Israel and in order to dress appropiate I put on my recent Fen T-shirt as it holds a church on the front. So let the madness begin.

Entering de Gigant I first had a beer and passed the merch stands and saw that Fleshkiller did not bring their Goat Rider T-shirt. Looking at the CD's there were a lot of band names with bible references. Personally I do not care much about that as long as the music is good. I already knew that Within Silence had to pull out of the festival due to an ill vocalist. This was the second band that might have interested me, so a pity here. Now we had a later start and at seven The Memory Remains would open. In the program they were called a cover band playing songs by Maiden, Stryper and Priest. Well the first three songs were unknown to me so I cannot say if these were White Metal covers or own songs. I did know Holy Diver, but their alternative version surprised many. Then the happy vocalist asked who had ever been in Jerusalem, a rather strange question at a metal show. So I was hoping for the Black Sabbath song, which did not follow. The band tried to get reactions from the audience, but struggled to get any really. When we were warriors for the King and the Kingdom was mentioned a few times too often it became somewhat too white for several metal heads in the audience including me. They closed OK covering Soldiers Under Command from Stryper.


During the break I could catch up with Jeffrey and the limited Apeldoorn ProgPower representation. Turned out we all were looking out for Fleshkiller this evening. When after some open stage tuning and sounding they kicked of with Salt of the Earth matters did not sound too promising. A messy sound where it was hard to hear the guitars coming through. During next song Warfare it became slightly better in order to fall all really well together during their hit Parallel Kingdom. Finally I could hear what I knew from the CD, Fleshkiller is one of the best new bands around. While their music is to me all in similar style they spoke tonight of a ballad Inherit, a Thrash song True Image and a fast one Evil Eclipse. The mood got better by the song and my neck soarer. One of the typical essences of their music are the multiple choirs. They came out loud in the mix with lots of echo on it. Yet still I do not recall many shows where I sung along with the words "Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess, You are the Holy One."Well if the music is this good I am basically able to sing along with almost anything. So the mood was good and the band was getting better by the minute. Still when they asked at the end if they could play one more song, this was met with a firm no from the side of the stage. Maybe the organization could have delayed the original start a little less and granted Fleshkiller an extra ten minutes. So I was worried at the start due to sound issues, in the end it all became as sensational as hoped for.


Now during the next break the Theater would see a different show by German/Greek duo Sea+Air. While during the first song I was a bit worried, it turned out we had to treat this performance as theater indeed. Actually both the presentation and the songs were rather nice. Nothing you would play at home but two people playing so many instruments together was a nice treat. After this show I was looking at the merch if Fleshkiller were around for me to thank them for their show and stimulate them to come back often. Unfortunately they were not around, so I ended up buying one of the less cool shirts they did bring along. In the main hall meanwhile Xandria were on stage. It did not take long to notice that this was not my cup of wine. Operatic vocals ruining decent music, I still don't get the fun of that. With today's headliner Project 86 also sounding not that interesting in advance and a long trainride ahead I decided it was fine for the evening. So this was my first Brainstorm experience during their 10th anniversary. With Fleshkiller making the trip down to Apeldoorn more than worthwhile, good organization and friendly people at the bar it was a nice atmosphere. The audience was decent in numbers, but quiet in noise I thought. Maybe today after the grunt competition or beer tasting they get louder. I shall not know as I won't return this year, maybe next year again. Cheers and amen to that.

   

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Hourswill - Defazer - Sons of Apollo - Fleshkiller

Some CD tips from the last weeks:

Hourswill - Harm Full Embrace
Andrew tipped me on this band as they reminded him strongly of Mercenary at 11 Dreams times. Listening over bandcamp I liked what I heard so chasing after the CD it was. Now they are Portuguese and I was in Lisbon the next weekend, so I could actually buy the album in a CD shop which was nice for a change. Back to the music I can hear where the 11 Dreams comparisons are coming from. At the same time there is a healthy dose of Nevermore in the music. Both slightly less aggressive though. Eight songs with enough variation between them makes this a band I will follow and hopefully catch one day in Portugal. Check them out.


Defazer - Order Out Of Chaos
Defazer are world famous in The Hague. They played many shows in the region over the past years and this EP was what many were waiting for. The release party was in what I heard a packed HPC. But as this was during Progpower weekend I could not attend. Now Vocalist/ Guitarist William Carolina is one of the most loyal supporters of the local scene, so I did run into him the next weekend and got my copy. Musically we are going back to the eighties. References can be heard here and there, as it is hard to renew thrash metal. The four songs themselves all have an own signature and are very well played. Hopefully this EP shall expand the fame of Defazer as next to Distillator and Overruled they are yet another great Dutch Thrash Metal band now also available on record.

Sons of Apollo - Psychotic Symphony
It is November so Mike Portnoy formed another so called super group. Sons of Apollo hold next to Mr Portnoy: Derek Sherinian, Ron Bumblefoot Thal, Billy Sheehan and Jeff Scott Soto. All names who do not need any further introduction. The result for me is a good album, but nothing extremely shocking really. The songs I liked most are the more straight forward metal songs. Here it is that my hero of the album is clearly Jeff Scott Soto. He reminds at times of his Yngwie Malmsteen days. The album seems rather basic, but repeat listens disclose new things to me. They are already confirmed for Be Prog, so I guess they tour Europe in the summer, should be good live.

Fleshkiller - Awaken
Saving the best for last, Fleshkiller releases with this album another candidate for album of the year to me. Fleshkiller's music is written by Ole Bórud, known from Extol fame. Actually the difference between Extol's last album and Awaken is basically non-existant. Fleshkiller play Technical Death Metal mixed with some groovy melodic chorusses which remind strongly of Galactic Cowboys. I love this mix, but understand that for death metal purists the melodic parts can be disturbing and melodic metal lovers might consider them too heavy.Well that is not my problem and anyone who might be interested now, I  recommend to listen to the first two minutes of opener Parallel Kingdom. It is all there, a strong riff, good guitars, a melodic choir chorus, breaks and a death metal couplet. For me this mix works perfectly and the whole album is a treat. So they sing about their Lord, well fine to me. The best news is that tomorrow they play at Brainstorm and I shall be heading to Apeldoorn to witness this live on stage. A beautiful album indeed.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Michael Schenker Fest & Vanish - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 31 October 2017

 

Michael Schenker Fest, bringing us three original MSG vocalists from the eighties. This together with a band mixing the rhythm section of Assault Attack Chris Glenn bass and Ted McKenna on drums plus McAuley Schenker second guitarist/keys Steve Mann. A Sold out Boerderij as a result and no way I was going to miss this. Michael Schenker is for me one of the names where it all started. Strangers in the Night is the best live album ever and his early solo albums are among my favorites as well. He was also the reason I bought my first guitar ages ago (where I never passed the stage of sloppy rhythm guitarist). As it was sold out some friends were late in getting their tickets but Peter, Joop and some of their KMD mates would be there. Going to our usual bar on the left when entering they had not arrived yet, until I spotted them at the whole other corner. Peter explained they wanted to see Schenker soloing up close and that turned out to be a wise decision. After all if there is a god and he would play guitar his name would be Michael Schenker. So for me Michael Schenker was how it all started and I am pretty sure that in the near future when I'm retired living near a Brazilian or Portuguese beach Into the Arena will still be the perfect warm-up for a morning dive in the ocean.


Before the party would set loose we warmed up by German Power metallers Vanish. Never heard of them before the description said power metal with thrash and progressive influences. Unfortunately during the first song someone forgot to put on the mic, so we saw a vocalist singing his lungs out but heard by noone. When that was solved it turned out the Vanish was far from the worst opening band I've seen recently. In the nineties I bought some albums by also German bands playing a similar style. Think Ivanhoe, Soul Cages or Ricochet here. Nice but not the reason everyone showed up.


Michael Schenker coming up resulted in some tuning, annoyed expressions and some more tuning followed by a scheisse. This last one came out with a smile as Michael was very well humored today. Also as I commented the last times I saw him play he looked much better than some 15 years ago. A short instrumental for tuning it was and then Into the Arena opened the evening for real. The setup would be MSG with vocalists in order of recording.So the first one singing would be Gary Barden. In advance one of the big questions was, how shall the voices come over tonight? Well Mr Barden suffered most with the years. Actually in the eighties there were already discussions on his voice. I liked them then, but tonight he suffered.  Chorusses he left for the audience to sing and several times he lowered parts some keys to make it. Still with songs like Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Armed and Ready, Victim of Illusion or Attack of the Mad Axeman the roof would come off anyway. The rest of the band turned out solid and it has been quite some time since Chris Glenn played de Boerderij. Actually that was a few weeks before my operation which resulted in this blog. That day I enetered de Boerderij in order to go home with terrible pains before the support even started. Would be nice to tell the doctors who fucked up my life at the time, that I can still rock hard and drink my beers. But back to the show. So we were warmed up but Gary Barden was not convincing everyone. Now Graham Bonnett was on next and last time I saw him at HRH AOR a few years ago he was not in top form either. First an instrumental break in Coast to Coast and on came the man with the tie. Well tonight his voice was so much better than in Wales. Desert Song is of course a killer, but with some help of echo Graham took us back to 1982 indeed. Well that is only 35 years back, so respect to the band. A surprise to me came in Dancer from the Assault Attack album. With Gary and Robin on backing vocals it actually came out very well. When the title track of album three followed another highlight of the evening was reached. Good to see that Mr. Bonnett was in control still and up for another instrumental break.


Captain Nemo is that other instrumental gem and by now we must have reached solo number 28 by Mr Schenker, watching his fingers move across the neck in awe. The third and final vocalist to come was Robin McAuley. Now there are two sides of looking at this. Back in the eighties when MSG was suddenly called the McAuley Schenker Group popularity of the band went down rapidly. The songs became more American and I believe the only time I saw this formation was when they supported Def Leppard in the Jaap Eden Hal. Now at the same time the songs played tonight were not on a setlist I've seen for a long time. Also Robin sounded and looked almost the same as thrity years ago without the very high hair that is (Steve Mann as well by the way). So I liked the adding of these songs and highly enjoyed hearing songs like No Time For Losers, Save Yourself or Bad Boys again. Robin McAuley came over that well, that it was only logical that after the MSG songs he was the one staying on stage singing Rock Bottom. Now Rock Bottom is always a peak at any UFO or MSG show, as it holds the best guitar solo ever put on record or on stage. Tonight watching Michael Schenker some two meters away going at it for minutes was simply amazing. It sounds so easy and is just one masterclass in soloing. There might be many great guitarists and some play beautifull at incredible speed. Still noone can ever match the combination of melodie, speed and most of all feel that Michael Schenker puts in his solo's and this one most of all. I might have seen it many times before, but this solo was some eight minutes musical highlight of the year again. With everyone on a high now, there was after a short break only time for one encore. So Doctor doctor it was with all vocalists sharing the parts. So good to see confirmed how Michael Schenker, my first guitar hero, still reaches levels others can only dream of. See you next tour as I will be back.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Saturnus & Clouds - Baroeg Rotterdam 29 October 2017


While these two bands headlined the second day of Dutch Doom Days in Baroeg I thought refering to the festival when seeing only 2.5 out of 12 or 14 bands inappropiate. They were also the reason I made it to Baroeg. Cycling through the rain in a fast getting colder Holland on the first day of winter time. Well this was to be the soundtrack for darker days ahead of us. When entering Baroeg Hooded Priest were on stage and what I saw was very nice on the presentation side. They do have a remarkable vocalist with the necessary presence on stage. The music was doom, but some heavy metal whoo-hoos entered the mix.


When Saturnus started however, the musical performance went to a whole other level. There are so many bands around that you simply missed because you are not an insider in certain scenes. This show simply blew me away. around 75 minutes of long epic songs, where the heavy mood was always present and long melodic solo's were played over heavy rhythms. Vocals were mainly grunt and occasionally close to speaking/whispering. What in the end mpressed me most was how they managed to keep everyone sucked into their show and de Baroeg was for the 75 minutes a wave of slow banging heads. Atmospheric metal with an attitude, with only one small intermezzo when the vocalist rushed to the toilets during an instrumental break in order to come back just in time with a relieved smile on his face. Willing to get some of their music I ended up with Saturn in Ascension, their last album holding two songs I liked and remembered Wind Torn and Forest of Insomnia. Great band and as their last album dates from 2012 maybe something new is on the way slowly but heavy.


With a great evening already guaranteed by Saturnus it was up to Clouds to close the festival. Rene already explained to me that they are an international all-star band, who recorded in different settings. During this show they had three guests on vocals therefore. While playing doom, they sounded completely different from Saturnus and actually sounded rather different between their own songs as well. The first song reminded me at times of Anathema around Judgement days. The violin for added depression helped on this. Vocals also mixed with more clean parts in their songs. Later on at two songs I was strongly reminded of Green Carnation, whereas during heavier moments Doom/Death was around. All in all this show turned out as impressive as Saturnus. Trying to get also a CD from them after the show failed, as they were sold out already. Once again going to live music was rewarded with two bands playing above my expectations and bands to follow from now on for me. Never before Winter Time started as adequate.