Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Tangent - Le Sacre du Travail

Andy Tillison, the ridiculousy talented yet absurdly unknown musician, nailed it completely this time. With Paralel or 90 Degrees and the Tangent he already gave us many great albums, but now he released his masterpice: Le Sacre du Travail or The Rite of Work. A hour piece of music broken down in five movements tells us the story of one day in the life of you going to work, passing the day and coming home to watch some television, waiting for the next exciting day which shall be exactly the same. Through my working life I have been in various stages perfectly described here, from extremely boring temporarily jobs, to nowadays a daily commute of over 30 miles as decsribed (although I go environmental friendly by bicycle and train) First highlight on this story are the great lyrics, wondering why the majority of people travel each day to spend 8 hours doing something they do not like. This results in great lines like: "To the car parks by the buildings, where we hate away our day"; "She punches her name to the company mainframe and logs into her pact with the Devil again"; "A modern day warrior, today's Tom Sawyer is a clerk."; "Always thought that there was more. More than this...evening cups of tea and shows you just can't miss.".
Yes Andy does ask the right questions and probably we all have been at one stage in life through these questions already. Interestingly his audience is basically male hanging around a mid-life crisis, so maybe this CD makes some people think and act. Yet, it is only given to few to pack your things and move to France.

But this is a CD and not a book (that was 3 albums ago with "Not as good as the book") I might say something on the music as well. There is no reason for complaining here either. The musicians helping out are all of great reputation and that shows during the Symphony. Theo Travis Flutes and saxes along nicely again, bringing some classical music into the picture. Jakko M. Jakszyk is solid on guitar and bored drummer Gavin Harrison together with bassplayer Jonas Reingold are an above average rhythm section to say the least. Finally we have David Longdon of Big Big Train fame, helping out on vocals and completing this real all-star line-up. The music basically goes all over the place, with possibly all influences you can imagine coming back somewhere. Since all keeps the Andy Tillison signature, at the same time the album sounds comfortably known as well. On the extreme influences, probably the most sympathetic song on the album is the bonus 1:14 minute punk rocker Hat.

This album also knew a crowdfunding campaign. Usually I am sympathetic to those actions, but for this one I missed out on the propaganda completely. So in compensation I can only recommend everyone to get this CD. In the last issue of Prog Magazine Andy states that Playing Live with a Progressive Rock band is a magnificient way to lose money, which puts some doubts on ever seeing this album performed live. Hoping for the blood to creep where it can't stop crwaling (we're ants!) I still hope for a Boerderij performance somewhere early 2014.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Persefone - Spiritual Migration

Last year Persefone toured Europe. While I missed them on the ProgPower Thursday evening show, I did see them supporting Leprous later that month. Going back in my memory and just re-reading my review of that show I did like their performance, but was not overly impressed with their vocalist, since I prefer the mix grunt/clear vocals over the scream/clear vocal combination. Still after receiving many raving reviews on Spiritual Migration, amongst whom some reliable sources to me I needed to check out this album. After many turns my conclusion can be that musically this might be the best album released this year, while the vocals are very good on CD. For those who see screaming vocals as a bridge too far to cross I still strongly recommend this album due to the five(!) instrumentals and many breaks that are simply amazing.

Spiritual Migration, so there is a concept of spiritualism here. This gives matters a personal touch to me, since lately Josie created a strong interest in these floating ideas, while I ...well I liked the goats and sixes during Hell's show a lot. So now I told her I bought this album in her interest sphere, she was pleased and open to listen. Unfortunately she definitely did not get the meaning of the screams, but shall give the lyrics a closer look one day. At the same time I just keep on getting blown away by the music itself. I do hear clear references to Zero Hour's in your face metal, while some more spiritual parts bring Cynic to mind. Those who joined me at the ProgPower 2008 (?) Saturday know that I rate both bands amongst my favorite performances of all time at that festival.

So now I am very much hoping on a fast return of Persefone to Baarlo, or de Boerderij for easy travel. This time I shall not be distracted by vocals and get into their previous work as well. It's a strange little world we bang in. One year ago Leprous was at its peak touring Bilateral and Persefone was just an OK opener, Now I soon shall start ignoring the somewhat disappointing Coal, while I will have many Spiritual Migrations to look forward to.  

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Plein Open 2013, 20 July The Hague

Now that the summer arrived as we like it, the free festivals come along with it. Most of the free festivals have a long tradition and the main ones in The Hague and are nicely spread over the summer. Early June it is Kaderock at Musicon with a mix of music styles, but many guitar orientated music (last year The Quill was preferred act) Then end June we have Parkpop in the Zuiderpark, which possibly still is the largest free festival in Europe, with nowadays around 250,000 visitors. In the past they had great names (Marillion, Diamond Head, Def Leppard, Fish, Thunder, Robert Plant) but lately the program is poor. Then end July we have Plein Open and early August Schollenpop on the beach at Duindorp, which if sunny is obviously the best scenery you can imagine. Finally neighbouring Wateringen has mid August Waterpop, where this year heavy music with Orange Goblin and Soltstafir makes a good return (but I shall be on holidays then)

Plein Open is easily  at the ugliest location, being next to the Ice Palace, or our new city hall and Library. This week local politicians have decided that the Anton Philips Hall on the square has to be demolished for being replaced by the EUR 181 million (!?!) costing Spui Forum. Knowing that these costs shall double like with all government big projects, we can state that our local politicians should be protected against themselves and kicked out of our city soonest. The same people also decided to stop subsidising small clubs where local bands can perform, so obviously no heart at the right place, but status as main driver. So far politics. Plein Open the festival is easily the one where heavy guitar lovers best meet, since I can't remember a year without any metal band.

This year at 14:00 hours we got Ditch, a band in the stoner-rock corner and sounding pleasant with their thundering bass keeping the body participating. At 16:00 hrs. we got Vanderbuyst. This metal trio is probably the most performing band in Holland, since they appear everywhere from small clubs to large festivals. Their Hard Rock is very eighties with clear notches to NWOBHM and before. A small Thin Lizzy bite during soundcheck showed their quality already. They meanwhile released several albums and played own songs with one cover, this time being one of Herman Brood. Very good band and to my surprise 2/3 from The Hague as well.

Than we had some hours of heavy drinking, catching up with friends and passing bands (Iconoclast with some psychedelic punk sound was best of the rest) until at 19:30 we got ReSolve. This young band mentioned  Dream Theater, Symphony X and Porcupine Tree as their influences I knew this would be nice to see. When I showed up at the second stage (which was a tent, not a stage) some minutes before they started the guitarist appreciated my Redemption T-shirt and mentioned this is where they are into. So they started with an own song and instruments played well and female vocalist thankfully  not going up the octaves, but actually singing. Than we got treated on a very decent version of Pull me Under. When they announced to slow down a bit The crowd (of how many?) did not want to know about that, but when the vocalist said they were going to play Undertow from Pain of Salvation all changed to me. This song also was played on my daughters cremation and made me leave the Sjiwa some years ago at Progpower. Nowadays I can listen to it live again without getting emotional but somehow I still can not stop shouting along with the lines like "Let me die, Let me break the things I love I need to cry" Again this version sounded good and the vocals obviously far from Daniel Gildenlow managed not to disturb me. Then we already got at the final song, which was an epic completed by a grunter as guest. I way passed the times that grunts would put me off and this song was another highlight. It seems that in The Hague we have now progmetal band to keep an eye on. Exactly the reason why this festival is so good for bands and audience. Meanwhile the sun came through stronger and stronger and I vaguely remember how I cycled home later that evening.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Steven Wilson - De Boerderij Zoetermeer 12 July 2013

Morbid songs for Music Lovers. Basically that describes the whole evening, but since that is not a review let me give some additional information. On his way down to Loreley and back to Bospop on Sunday Steven Wilson made a stop-over in Hollands Prog Temple de Boerderij. As he said after one song this would be the same set as earlier this year, but since I missed the Paradiso show all was knew to me.

I have been following Steven Wilson now quite some years. In 1994 he played at the almost local Vlietpop festival, but I was in Roskilde that weekend. I read about their Pink Floyd influences and got an interest but no following yet. First Porcupine Tree CD I got was the live album Coma Divine in 1997 after which I also dug into their earlier releases. For me they passed through three phases with the more psychedelic Floydean early years, followed by the more accessable Stupid Dream / Lightbulb Sun phase and then they slowly grew heavier, maybe because of Opeth connections. I liked all three stages, but preferred them in Even Less mode. Than I also discovered his ambient work with No-Man and later poppier Blackfield. All at a high standard musically, but with different interest to me. Last year the long awaited Storm Corrossion was released and for an album coming from two recent musical geniusses (Mikael Akerfeldt was the co-operator) I was disappointed in the result (or need another 20 spins). Steven Wilson meanwhile also relased some solo albums. I got a DVD of Insurgentes and missed out on the Grace for Drowning album. This year however the turnaround came, when his last album The Raven that Refused to Sing completely blew me away. 6 dark stories of horror, death and loss were presented so beautiful that a live performance of this album could not be missed.

So the album was great, the show was even better (as it is supposed to be with great bands) The line up was the same as the album apart from the drummer. When I saw the new guy hammering away on the final part of The Watchmaker I guess even Marco Minneman was hardly missed. Guthrie Gowan I saw one year ago with his solo project, which meant incredible guitar display. Now playing in function of the song his addings were still unbelievable (Drive Home contains one of the best solo's of the year) Theo Travis added instruments I usually do not need on albums like Clarinet and Flute, but in this case defintely adds to overall doomy atmosphere. Nick Beggs on Bass and Stick manages to appear on two of the most interesting Prog Rock releases this year (Lifesigns is the other one) and showed why he is such a popular artist. Steven Wilson himself was in his element and more talkative then I remembered him from his Porcupine Tree shows.

So the band was great and the show was long. Apart from the full Raven Album we also got songs from Insurgentes and Grace (which I now shall get as well) plus a nice oldy as encore in Radioactive Toy. According to Steven in the about 10 times he was in de Boerderij with his different bands he never played this and he might be right. I do remember though a brilliant version from Riverside when they toured Holland for the first time after taking Progpower by storm in 2004. Like all songs yesterday the closing song also had some impressive films and images passing along. This completed the overall impression of a show that so deserves to be seen and liked by audiences much bigger than the one that sold out de Boerderij. That was the main question remaining, especially after the emotional clip showed over this years dark ballad The Raven that Refused to Sing. Why is this man not a household name yet?  The number of people asking who?? when telling them I was going to see Steven Wilson still is sadly high. Finally I can state that on my way out in appreciation of the show I did get my 2013 summer Tee with a nicely morbid figure on a sunny shirt yet another impressive experience richer, what a year.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Shineback - Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed

Lately several CD's have been surprising me positively and soon I shall review one on the heavier end of my taste. However. the one that most intrigued me is something completely different. The first solo album of Simon Godfrey. Simon was guitarist/vocalist of one of my favorite bands I never saw playing live Tinyfish. Once I had the pleasure of meeting the man during Mattfest two years ago and he was telling me that Tinyfish was hoping to come to de Boerderij the coming year. Unfortunately his Tinnitus forced Tinyfish to stop playing live and they never made it to Zoetermeer. Since you can't keep a great man down he now released his first solo album with some help of friends from the British Prog community.

Main surprise is the style which was announced to be more electronic musically and not a word was lied about that. Coming from Tinyfish (a prog-band without keyboards!) the step is quite big. On the other hand I do hear many similarities in quality and build-up of songs, primary due to the sympathetic voice of Simon. For those looking for points o recognition I can state that Matt Stevens helps out on some songs and the other favorite British musician I never saw playing live: Dec Burke (Darwin's Radio, Dec Burke band) adds some very nice guitars on Fears aren't Toys. Still this album is only for the open-minded ones. Simon to me dares to go where even likely open-minded band Galahad has not treat before. One final reference I need to mention comes back during the blogs. These are sung by Danny Claire in the role of Dora. Her breakable voice reminded me immediately of one of the most vulnerable pop ballads from the 90's You and your sister by This Mortal Coil.

I received this album over the mail last weekend and since played the album every day. main attraction is its difference, while filled with the also known great melodies, sometimes heavy guitars,  one of the better vocals around on Progland and even an epic in the title song. The story is about Dora and abuse and dreams recorded plus Envoys. All explained more detailed on the website I defintely would recommend this album to anyone who dares to take a risk, I still do not know if it ends up high on my end of year list after a week, but for now I want to hear it again and again, discovering new bits by every turn.

So it seems we lost Tinyfish and got recording artist Simon Godfrey in return. When I saw that he shall perform in the Peel in August when I am home alone and the family still on holidays a trip to Kingston Upon Thames was quickly booked. Now go and explore more on this release, some of you might like what they hear as well.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Marillion Seperated Out ...Redux - Jon Collins

A book again. Yes, as a daily commuter and traveller abroad I have lots of time to read and listen to music. This one I read about in Prog Magazine and I was keen to get a copy this time. In 2002 the first version came out and soon it could not be found anywhere, not even at the infamous Marillion Weekends. Now we get the extended version and an update until 2012's Sounds that Can't be made. This book basically contains three levels for me. Some of the history I was unaware of, especially the early years and reasons behind the Fish split. Secondly a description of the creation of all albums with a to me (as not English mothertongue person) always useful background on the meaning of songs and lyrics.; Finally there is an overdose of quotes from fans all over the world, referring to the meaning of Marillion to themselves or their lives.

Now here is where I do not appear in the book and feel like adding some of my emotional sharings with Marillion. This might sound logical, since most fans are not quoted, but I do remember Marillion Weekend 2009 when I took the bus from Schiphol and ended up sitting next to the at the time to me unknown Jon Collins. He told me he was the author of Seperated Out (no copies available anymore, yes I asked), but we ended up speaking about global heating and the article he was on the bus writing on that.

Somewhere end 1982 early 1983 I discovered Marillion through the Kerrang Magazine. At the time Aardschok was released still irregular and Kerrang was the most informative magazine available in local record shops. When the debut album Script was released I got my copy fast and discovered a whole new world in the so called Prog rock music. That same year they had their first European tour which ended at the Parkpop Festival in my hometown The Hague. This festival is famous for being free and attracting crowds up to 300.000 people, but I can tell you that opening at 13:00 hrs in the afternoon there definitely were only a few hundred people watching with half of them early fans. Those who saw them were addicted and slowly they grew (Fugazi at Pinkpop a year later) to a band that could sell out major venues in Holland. The first albums with Fish were their best ever and as the book states when he left they lost the Heavy Metal part of their fan base. Looking at one of my two blog followers I can only confirm this is true. I never gave up on them and although unable to reach their levels from the eighties Marillion never released a bad album (disppointments OK, but never bad) and have released still some absolute highlights of modern Prog music.

When the fans speak it is all about emotion, which is not much different to me. Like everyone who faced an ended relation Script for a Jester's tear is a very relating lyric. Where the book states that Beautiful was a number one hit in Brazil, I am not too sure about that, but when I travelled that country by busses one year before moving I do remember the soap series which had Beautiful as their tune and gave me a safe feeling while waiting at bus stations in very remote corners of this huge country. Three and a half year later I would marry my wife in Rio and the first music I had played after the sim-word (yes) was Beautiful (It was a BBQ afternoon wedding so no obligatory dance or so). The first Marillion weekend we missed out since our premature son Tiago just came out of hospital after a three month battle. In 2002 we brought him along to Minehead and he had his first British Pub visit over the weekend, while we were astonished in more than one way with the Buttlins experience. The following year we had a stillborn daughter and during Taina's cremation we did play When I meet God and felt some of the questions and comments very appropriate. One year later when during the Minehead weekend this song was played twice I realized I never resolved emotional impacts and created my own monster by playing music I love at the saddest moment of my life. Two years later my company was taken over by our bigger brother and I refused the offer to join them in Switzerland. My farewell e-mail mainly consisted of a very relevant quote from a certain Mr. Hogarth: Heading for the Great Escape... going through winter slides and permanent holidays to the dignified walkaway. This went of course way over the heads of the majority of my musically challenged colleagues. When finally my life was supposed to end, but did not due to medical errors on analysis in my favour my head got messed up for good and during my frequent trips abroad Sugar Mice sometimes seems appropriate as well. But so far for Marillion's emotional impact on me and way to translate feelings into words already written by Fish or Hogarth. It is a comfortable feeling that when I die, divorce or look for the bottle too much, the soundtrack for the occassion is already in Marillion's music.

But this is supposedly about the book. Well I can recommend the read to everyone with an interest in the band (Unlike Anvil's story of Anvil which can be read by anyone with an interest in music). For those who don't like Marillion the book is of less interest due to the high part writing about the album recordings and songs, with many fans telling their stories of admiration inbetween. Being a forerunner on the internet use and having a US tour sponsored by fans worldwide is showing how different they are. Some point of criticism can be the too positive feedback on poorer albums, but here taste comes in and that can never be discussed. I enjoyed reading the book and now went through several CD's again realizing that Fugazi rules even with Hogarth refusing to sing any songs from the album. Also the split with Fish turned out to be good in a way that I now follow two bands with interest, still if ever a reunion show would be possible and in line with the Marillion weekends Fugazi would be played in full, ok encored by Grendel. I would be the one loosing his voice, jumping up and down  and rating it the best show of the decade, but enough of that.