Sunday, 15 January 2017

Blind Ego & Subsignal - de Boerderij Zoetermeer 14 January 2017

A Double package of German bands hanging somewhere between Heavy prog Rock and light Progmetal. I saw both before and was curious how they developed since then. Well that turned out to be two different stories. Hans and Yvon joined me to a rather empty Boerderij were surprisingly few Progpower faces walked around this evening.

Subsignal opened and they were the one I was looking forward to most. A short history as they come out of the last version of Sieges Even. Lifecycle by Sieges Even from 1988 is the best Tech metal album ever to come out of Germany. Being accused of cloning Watchtower they developed into more Rush like territories and at the begin of the century they released two strong albums with Dutch vocalist Arno Menses. A place at Progpower confirmed their status. Arno and guitarist Steffen then formed Subsignal where some rock got blended in, but still they convinced at NotP and Progpower. After their second album I stopped  buying CD's from them as I realized the songs did not stick with me and they could not reproduce their live shows in a studio. So I came to see if a good show would convince me to get their last album. Well the conviction turned the other way. A very uninspired show, where Arno seemed annoyed by the small audience  and no spark whatsoever came over from the stage. Obviously they can all play very well, but this show did nothing to me and turned out to be a disappointment. Including a drum solo of a few minutes did not help a lot either. Maybe it was me comparing with the blast the night before, or maybe the band had a bad day but this was to me a forgetable performance. Best song was The Sea from their debut album, a song that does stay with you.

For Blind Ego the task to save the evening and luckily they did. Last time I saw them they had Paul Wrightson with a terrible cold on vocals. Now there was a new band and vocalist and they looked pleased to be on stage. The show was mainly build around new album Liquid. Being able to go somewhat heavier than their main bands RPWL and Sylvan, many solo's were fired at us. The second guitarist from Dante also took his offered spaces and the double guitar solo's were great. I only have their second album Numb and although they only played one song from that one I was pleased they choose Death. The lyrics of the chorus became my hymn when doctors told me it was probably over in 2009. I've seen the end and there's no light. You close the door and that's where it ends. There's no light Make all Gods die. This based upon a threatening bass line is a true epic song. With the vocals being fairly different from the album this version was great as well. In the end we got a show of light progmetal brought by some very good musicians. So Blind Ego did save the evening and we shall be back in de Boerderij this Thursday already.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Insomnium, Barren Earth & Wolfheart - Biebob Vosselaar, 13 January 2017

Winter's Gate is one of my favorite albums from last year and when Insomnium announced they would play this album in full during their winter tour I knew I should be there. This might sound easy, but suddenly the elements started copying the storyline of the album. Heavy storms were predicted at the coast and snow, hail and ice might fall down at night. As I have no winter tires on my car  the viking in me had to convince me that predictions are there to scare us and what could happen really. So I left for Belgium and man am I pleased that I did. Starting with Biebob a place I never was before. This is one of the surviving metal clubs from the eighties and entering it reminded me of a lighter and larger Baroeg. On the day tickets were still sold, but especially during Imsomnium I had the impression not many more people could be squeeezed in. As I was Bob for myself I could not enjoy the Belgian beers available. Arriving at a quarter past seven at 19:30 sharp the first show started.

Opening band were Wolfheart, unknown to me. They turned out to be the only band of today who stayed away from clean vocals all together. In balance their guitarist was extremely melodic on his many solo's and even reminded me of the schrapnel guitar heroes of the past at times. I very much liked their show, which landed well at the crowd. During unreleased song Boneyard they even got a small pit going shortly. Something I did not see returning during the evening. Although we had a second vocalist he only added more grunts at a higher tone. After half an hour the party was over and we were warmed up by this good band.

Barren Earth were next and I was looking forward to them. I discovered them when releasing their second album "The Devil's Resolve" Also last album "On Lonely Towers" I have, so playing them again this week I might recognize some of the songs. Well they opened with some oldies, but it already sounded great. This was a full stage as we had two guitarists, a bassist, keyboards, drums and a vocalist on stage. Their style is according to the sticker on their last album Finnish Progressive Death/Doom metal. I can agree to that as they have various really heavy and slow parts blended in their songs. The vocalist seemed to have no problems in mixing within one line from clean singing to a heavy grunt and back again. A new guitarist was introduced, whose name I forgot. He was the one spicing the whole show up with melodic fast solo's. This was the band of the evening that would be most Progpower-fähig. Think of a blend of In Mourning and Green Carnation. After Wolfheart's good opening another great surprise in a lively show by Barren Earth. Pity they only played 45 minutes. Highlight of the show to me A Shapeless Derelict as this is a killer song.

After another fast stage change Insomnium were expected and they opened with Winter's Gate. I do not know how to start describing this, Winter's Gate is one musical highlight of 40 Minutes. As the album is divided in parts at times we got a break to cheer and let a small intermezzo from tape bring us to the next chapter. The atmosphere was raised as during this performance the light was coming from the back only giving us shadows on stage. This fits the story nice and also the music managed to bring the desperate atmospheres over. For those not into this kind of music one reference. Iron Maiden managed to cretae the atmosphere of the mariner lost at sea in their epic  Rhyme of... Well here we speak about a tribe of Vikings so it has the same effect but then HEAVY. This being one song that keeps you sharp for 40 minutes makes it a true masterpiece and after seeing it live I appreciate the album even more. Definitely a Classic album in the genre and I will go back to it many times in the years to come. If only for the sudden calm break to Still I bear the flowers of pain, of solitude. The show ended with a tape with the clean sung outro and lights went to the banner with the album cover. Sensational it was and I was not the only one in awe. Then we still had part two of the show to come. The lights up front went on as well and the band members got faces and a drummer could be spotted. This part was a trip through their discography and admitted mainly unknown to me. I only have Shadows of a Dying Sun and was pleased to hear While We Sleep from that one. Now that the show turned to more human levels I could pay some attention to the band members and for the third time tonight an absolute top guitarist would rule the stage. This time less surprisingly so as his name is Markus Vanhala. Insomnium managed to stay under my radar for years, but now turned into a band I definitely shall see again when near (or not so near as tonight). So it was only Friday 13 January and I already have to wonder if many bands shall top this show in 2017. I will see many great bands I am sure, but how many debut shows to me will there be of such great bands. If ever the choice to face the storm and hail was right it was this evening.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Top 16 of 2016 - Live Shows

Tonight we close the year and I am in Piratininga (Niteroi), with Copacabana on the background. As the biggest fireworks of Brazil take place over there we shall watch it from the back, which probably results in watching a smoke screen from far again. Musically I have to put earplugs in avoiding all the worst Brasil has on offer here with Pagode, Funk, Samba and other non rocking styles.
This year we lost our oracle Johan Cruyff who said every disadvantage has its advantage. I used the fact that Josie is working in Portugal and work trips are at a low due to the ongoing FM situation for seeing shows. Ending with an average slighty above one a week and including international shows in Spain, Portugal and the UK I can not complain. As a result it becomes harder to choose favorites, but I managed to make some decisions. Honorable mentions should go to the following bands that did not make the cut: The Contortionist, Dirkschneider/Anvil, Evergrey, Ne Obliviscaris, Iamthemorning and Headspace. I let at times emotional ties speak as well, which created some preferences. Herewith the ones that made it to my favorite shows starting at 16.

16. Warrior Soul - Musicon 26 March
Not much of a voice left, this was one long ride through songs I knew for years. The Losers remains one of the best ballads ever and the band was good.

15. Loudness - Gebr de Nobel 16 June
It must have been some 31/32 years since I last saw Loudness at Arena Rotterdam. Akira remains a hero on guitar and we are the Loudness guys!!

14. Tokyo Blade - Baroeg 8 October
Part of Rotterdam Rocks, the highlight to me was the Tokyo Blade show. They stuck with their first albums and this made the recognizing effect only better.

13. Borknagar - Baroeg 24 April
I already loved their album Winter Thrice and then alive it even got better. Warmed up by impressive Kampfar a great performance form the allstar band who all sung parts of the show.

12. Queensryche - de Boerderij 29 August
While Geoff Tate gave in December a nice acustic show, the real metal versions always prevail. Focus on the 80's. Next time they can choose the songs they did not play this time so for years we should be OK with Queensryche.

11. O.R.k - de Boerderij 17 February
Probably the most surprisingly underrated show of the year in a near empty Boerderij. Drums from King Crimson, Bassist ex Procupine Tree showed that names do not always attract an audience. Yet their show was beautiful.

10. Satan - Gebr. de Nobel 14 May
While we were warmed up by bands that had nothing to do with Satan, they came on strong and convincing. Satan is this NWOBHM band who can fill their show with new songs as their last two albums are as good as the classic debut album Caught in the Act

9. UFO - de Boerderij 6 November
 Building there show around the best live LP ever made this is a guaranteed winner. Phil Mogg still good by voice and Vinnie Moore brilliant in the solo's we know note by note.

8. Sodomizer - Musicon 2 December
Sodomizer representing here many underground bands I saw in the area. As they stayed at my place this one became more special. These small shows are many times much nicer than the larger events and when the band turn out being nice people it was one great evening.

7. Vektor - Little Devil 19 August
My favorite album of the year performed in full. Well almost as the power went off and there was no way to get that back in steaming hot Little Devil. What we saw was impressive enough to make me look forward to many Vektorian returns.

6. Mearfest - the Borderline 13 August
 Charity combined with NWOBHM organized by very sympathetic Brian and Clair Mear. As time was short the shows would not ente my list, but the overall atmosphere and mood at the venue definitely made this one memorable evening. Best bands to me: The Deep, Sacrilege and Kaine.

5. Tribulation - Gebr. de Nobel 28 January / Beyond Creation - Patronaat 23 October
A double nomination for my favorite extreme shows of the year. Tribulation giving us a different performance based on good music and Beyond Creation probably the best Technical Death Metal show I saw in years.

4. Wolverine - Sjiwa 2 October
Wolverine representing Progpower here. While at the festival I was also much impressed by In Mourning and Sadist this band proved once again how to make top class moody progmetal. Best voice of the festival and this was such a show that made me appreciate their last albums even better.

3. Oceans of Slumber - 013 7 April
Having a short slot they did overwhelm completely. Live the swap between voices and impressive instrumental mastering came over even better than on CD. I saw them return later in the year at the same venue with much better acts next to them in Enslaved and Ne Obliviscaris, but missed half their set due to traffic. Hope to see them perform a full set in 2017.

2. Trespass - Musicon 31 July
Having breakfast at home with the band that gave me One of these Days and Stormchild over 30 years before was very special indeed.The set was showing similarities with the one I saw the year before in Sudbury, but only good songs. Looking out for their new album in 2017 and they are more than welcome at home if they return to Holland.

1. Iron Maiden - Sevilla Olympic 14 July
Not a very original choice maybe, but I do not see all their tours any longer. This time going with Tiago in sunny Sevilla was one of their best gigs ever. Standing hands on shoulder with Tiago and shouting along the OOh-who-hooos during the Red and the Black was a moment I shall never forget.

Wishing everyone a great 2017, hoping it brings as many great shows to us as 2016 did. So keep on Rockin' in the New Year.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Headspace - de Boerderij Zoetermeer, 21 December 2016

The last evening in Holland for me this year and I could close the year in style with Headspace playing at de Boerderij. While Headspace is a band of many talented musicians to most it is just another excuse for Damian Wilson to come back to de Boerderij. So as gurantees we have, his walking through the audience before and during the show. His great voice and his entertaining stories inbetween songs. As those introductions can drag on we saw several times this evening either the drummer or the keyboards just starting and keep things going. Of course the rest of the band are no slouches either and especially guitarist Pete Rinaldi got some well deserved spotlights on him. Before Headspace played we were warmed up by Dutch band Beyond God. As this female fronted metal is not my thing we waited in the bar for the main act.

Headspace opened with a song from the first album and I quickly noticed that I did recognize songs, but not all the titles. They released their second album begin of this year and I must say it sounded to me less than their debut album. Going to see them live was therefore good to fully appreciate All That You Fear is Gone as well. This worked to great effect as especially The Science Within Us and Kill You With Kindness came out very strong. The set did not contain too many songs, but I believe we only got epic songs plus one short ballad in Soldier. Damian Wilson is the best performing vocalist in prog rock and metal and this show proved Headspace to have the potential to be amongst the big names in the genre. The audience was not huge, but many of the Progpower northern half of Holland came to see them. Tonight the southern half can see them in Weert. I would say do so as they are great. They announced being back in Holland April next year. Shall be funny if they choose 2 April a date already filled with I believe 5 shows I would normally go and see. The live show year ended for me and now I can go struggle to decide which were the 16 best ones of 2016. More on that later.


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Martigan - 't Blok Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel 18 December 2017

Progfrog managed to stay under my radar until very recently. Before that I knew of their existence and home venue 't Blok, but never really looked for going there. Some weeks ago when I discovered The Gift I noticed they shall be here in February and while at their page I found out that Martigan would play an afternoon show today. With Tiago filling up the living room with sweaty teenagers and my past knowledge of Martigan the choice was easy. I saw Martigan at Night of the Prog once and liked them and their CD of the time Vision. In spite of liking them I stopped following them actively. Playing Vision again I remembered what I liked about them Neo prog with clear inspiration by the British big names. Arriving at 't Blok they  were about to start. The venue is not that big, but perfect for these shows. The about 40-50 people made it busy enough and staff passed every 25-30 minutes with cheese, sausage and bitterballen. Obviously this would make us thirsty, but after Sportmindz Christmas drinks on Friday and Geoff Tate last night I was not after any beers really. Before the band started we were asked to have any loud discussions outside, which was followed through the show giving us the chance to fully appreciate the loud/soft changes.

Martigan started with a song of Vision, but without taking notes I do not recall which one. They did play Boatsman's Vision and the Contract as well from that album. Actually it did not matter that much if I knew the songs or not. This was one afternoon of musical excellence, with highlights for mainly guitars and keyboards. At the same time the drums were impressive and the bass was allowed to lead us through Red & Green. This resulted in some different dancing/orchestrating by one fan at the front. In general all songs tend to be either long or very long, This gives a lot of space for solo's and what a delight they were. This band is inspired by bands from the eighties and the quality of the players allows them to come close to the greats. for almost 2.5 hours we were treated on great music. The whole atmosphere therefore reminded me of recent Aisles or Anubis in de Boerderij or Iamthemorning in Patronaat. A small crowd in a small place, but all enjoying big time. This was a very good show and I got their latest album Distant Monsters afterwards, which is playing now. Still I have to end with some constructive feedback to the band. On the presentation front there is quiet some space for improvement. At times it was like watching a CD play at full volume. Especially guitar and vocals did not bring anything. I know it is all about the music in progrock (at progfrog). Yet a sunglassed vocalist that hardly speaks to us inbetween songs and a guitarist looking like any civil servant distracts from the show. A few phrases and a black shirt can solve this. Further  only good news, looking forward to returning here in February.

Geoff Tate - de Boerderij Zoetermeer, 17 December 2016

Geoff Tate the whole story acoustic tour stopped at de Boerderij. Last year he played with Operation Mindcrime in Tilburg and that was one of the bigger surprises on the live front. Avoiding what he cannot reach any longer his voice did well, so did the band. Now we were promised acoustic versions of his career with some story telling around the background of songs. Reason enough to go and see him again. Coming onto stage Geoff Tate showed to be into fashion again. Last year he looked with hat and suit like a Chicago mobster, this year the tweed vest and cap made him go Boston Irish. At the end of the evening it was explained by the fact that his guidig band were Irish next to Operation Mindcrime guitaris Scott Moughton. No support band only Geoff Tate so bring it on Pieter and Lida thought with me.

Opening with Walk in the Shadows it seemed we were in for a good evening. The band consisted of two acoustic guitars, a drum board, a cello, one violin and a mandolin. This was the perfect background on the softer side as I have not heard Geoff Tate singing so at ease and thus good for years. Some screams and powerfull outbursts were swapped, but we heard bits of that voice again, That voice made Queensryche one of the best bands in the eighties. During the set one point became interesting. This set-up made some average songs come out really great, while some of my Queensryche favorites did not come out all that great. Starting with the latter, Take Hold of the Flame was played in such a way that the backshouting of Take Hold was saved only for the end. The Lady wore Black is a great ballad due to the emotional high screamed chorus. Now tuned down some octaves it lost power. Highlights on the other were plenty as well, with to me surprising highlights in Some People Fly and Out of Mind. Eyes of a Stranger is good in whatever version played and also sounded great tonight. There also was as announced some storytelling inbetween. While at some points it gave some interesting background on what a song really is about, at other moments it drifted along pointlessly as in Nashville stories. When the regular set was over I was curious for the encore, as many obligatory classics passed already in Eyes, I don't Believe in Love and Jet City Woman (boring as always). Then came the only disappointment in closing down with an unknow song to me about all around the world all you need is love. Christmas time or not I could have tipped many better ways to end such a nice evening.

Looking back on the evening I thought this to be a great solution. Backed up acoustically we could hear why Geoff Tate is such a great vocalist. Some highs are avoided, but that is known on forehand. Bringing an Irish band along helps as well, since the Irish must be one of the most sympathetic people on the globe so no arrogance on stage. Actually I would like to see him repeating this formula next time on tour. For the old metal versions we have Queensryche touring and this is really something different. With a back-catalogue of 17 albums I have enough suggestion for him. So if this reaches the band please include next time: Someone Else?, London, ,Anybody Listening? and why not Roads to Madness.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Top 16 of 2016 - CD's

It's that time of the year again where you put yourself to the impossible task of ranking this year's albums. Making a shortlist was already impossible, so I started applying some rules to help me decide. Several bands released good albums, but not their best ever. So out went: Haken, In Mourning, Big Big Train, Wolverine, Dec Burke, Headspace, Cosmograf, Frost*, Tiles, Gojira amongst others. Some just did not make it as there are only 16 places. If I would make the list on another day they might very well have entered the list, so sorry to Witherscape, Salem, John Wesley, Graham Bonnet Band, Perihelion Ship and Them. One album is still on the way to me and definitely a candidate from what I heared on bandcamp, but a Sense of Gravity is not shortlisted by late arrival. Cutting the introduction short herewith my favorites of the year starting as one should at 16 building the tension.

16: Redemption - The Art of Loss
Redemption is a guarantee for quality and this one fits in well in their discography. Only point is that it became just another great Redemption album, without a song to match Sapphire. Very solid progmetal release.

15: Sinistro - Semente
The only representative from my future home land Portugal.This band makes a rather unique mix of doom metal with poetic female vocals over that. I missed them both times they played Holland this year, but loved this discovery.

14: Future Corpse - Another World to Consume
I played this album many times and still cannot hum along with the songs. Crazy complex stuff sounding as if At the Drive-In are playing progmetal.

13: Lee Abraham - The Seasons Turn
Lee Abraham is the one in the British Prog Rock scene that keeps on improving himself. Helped by a range of great vocalists this is the best prog rock album of the lesser known bands to me this year.

12: Mistur - In Memoriam
The older I get the heavier my taste is developing it turns out. This Epic Viking Black metal from Norway ticked all the right boxes for me Great story, moodswings, performance and songs.

11: Poem - Skein Syndrome
Greece has a reputation of high class Progmetal bands and Poem is another hit. Slightly grungy flavored this is a very catchy album. Coming at us with Persefone this spring is one to look out for.

10: Montra - The Machine
One of my discoveries through Prog Metal Zone this year. An american Progmetal release mixing the melodic and the heavy nicely. Ending in style with an epic.

9: Borknagar - Winter Thrice
This band arrived to me from Black Folk at atmospheric Heavy Metal. Beautiful songs from this Norwegian all star combo. Their logo might scare of potential fans as this is highly accessible metal which justifies headliner status at several medium sized festivals.

8: Insomnium - Winter's Gate
The Epic album of the year title goes to Insomnium. Produced by Dan Swäno this one does recall the Crimson concept albums. Beautiful album and they shall officially open my 2017 live show year in Biebob 13 January.

7: Marillion - F.E.A.R.
Marillion making me very happy with one of their best releases ever with Hogarth on vocals. Intelligent lyrics, great long epics and plenty of guitar solo's. I love surprises like these.

6: Diamond Head - Diamond Head
This selftitled album can stand proudly next to their best work from the eighties. A great new vocalist and those signature sound guitar riffs. Comeback album of the year.

5: Oceans of Slumber - Winter
My favorite album from the first half of the year. Changing to a female vocalist who stays far from operatic annoyings still these great songwriting skills that made their debut my album of the year in 2013. This band should be the surprise of Progpower to many I am sure, so let's get them to Baarlo.

4: Watchtower - Concepts of Math: Book One
If this would be a full album and I did not have four from the five songs digitally already this for sure would be my album of the year. Watchtower the founding fathers of Tech Metal are back!!! I rest my case.

3: Fates Warning - Theories of Flight
Fates Warning never disappoints, but this one is even above very high expectations. Only not album of the year as it is impossible for Fates Warning to surprise me. Where Dream Theater might be disappointment of the year, Fates Warning still sets the bar for Progmetal .

2: The Reticent - On the Eve of a Goodbye
Seldom before such an emotional concept album has been released. Realising this is a solo effort by Chris Hathcock makes it only the more impressive. He has a touring band so bring this to Europe. Hearing this one often the impact is still there. Invest time in this CD and you will be rewarded.

1: Vektor - Terminal Redux
I missed this band in the past (corrected that by getting their first two albums as well). So this high tech speedy thrash metal with progressive traces completely blew me away. Mostly fast and furious there is space for instrumental madness, a ballad, and Pink Floyd as well. I did see them perform this album almost full in Little Devil confirming my thoughts. The future is Vektor.