Sunday, 23 February 2014

Stampede, Toledo Steel and Neverworld - Break Manor Hatfield 22 February 2014

STAMPEDE!!! Over 30 years after getting very much into their LP Hurricane Town, swiftly followed by  their debut Official Bootleg, I had a chance to see them live. It was not that obvious and I have to admit that internet brings us great things too. So John Tucker wrote this book Suzie smiled... about NWOBHM, which I found through the internet and is a great read. We exchanged some emails and I hope to meet him one day at Progpower where he also passes every now and then. Checking his site I saw that he rated Soldier best album of 2013, so I ordered a copy in the blind. In comes Miles Goodman, guitarist of Soldier who appreciated some feedback from me on why I ordered their album. While explaining and mentioning my favorites Stampede he pointed me in the direction of Hatfield. Without confirmations all around in came Deano from The Rock Den and the welcome and replies I received were sensational, so off I went to Hatfield. There is no other band I like to this level so long and never saw playing live. The great thing was that seeing them the first time I now understand Stampede is a band to see playing live. The songs even gain more on stage and I already know that last night entered my  list of shows I will never forget. Backside is that this year I plan to go to many shows, but I already saw the best show of 2014.

But first things first and those were opening acts Toledo Steel and local band Neverworld. Both were pretty good and the Maidenish Toledo Steel (with a surpise cover in Tooth & Nail) made me buy their EP afterwards, while Neverworld sounded promising and shall release an album soon, which I shall check out and possibly order hereafter. Both promising bands showing that British bands usually have a more natural stage performance than continental ones. Mentioning prices I did have the expensive HMH in mind where Dream Theater played last Monday. The money you spend there on a locker gets you a Stampede CD in Hatfield. Beer was also fairly priced (half HMH again) and with T-shirts at a fiver I got both.

Being welcomed very friendly by Deano, the crew and some of the frequent Rock Den visitors, I got perfectly in the mood to see Stampede live. The band consisted of the Sudden Impulse set-up with drummer Ted? coming from Reuben Archer's solo band. Colin Bond kicked of bassing us into Shadows of the Night. After follower Having Fun I could see that all music would be at top level today. For those who pointed that Laurence Archer is no longer there, no need to worry. Chris Clowsey and Rob Wolverson take the honors as they did on the A Sudden Impulse album. While Chris soloed occassionaly main parts were taken by Rob who proved to be the next guitar hero, far too little people have heard off. His melodic soloing was so strong that I wondered why I did not recognize that to this effect on the last CD or Reuben's solo album. Mentioning  Reuben Archer it was a pleasure seeing and hearing him live. Although he did halfway apologize for a bad throat (it's that time of the year suppose) I found his voice still showing all the character he has in the studio as well.

Hurricane Town was the album that got me into Stampede and I played over and over again. The setlist however was built around the last album A Sudden Impulse and their debut the Live Bootleg. This did not harm the show at all, since the newer songs in a live version showed to be off the same level as HT. Highlights? hard to say although Hurricane Town itself is a Classic, now unfortunately still relevant in rainy UK winters. Their last "hit" Send me Down an Angel was definitely a highlight and my throat is still recovering from my requests to Shine the Light on Me. As I know all their songs I did in reality go from one highlight to another and maybe a last extra mention is needed for closures Moving On and The Runner, speaking about ending with a blast.

What a show and what a day. Defintely worth the trip and I shall make an effort to see Reuben Archer performing his solo album as well. After the show when I wanted to thank Deano for making this possible he proposed to bring me to the band. It was very nice to see their surprises that I came from Holland to see them. As I explained to several people I belive that bands deserve more support than football teams. While the latter are followed thousands of kilometers by thousands of fans when playing abroad, Bands don't get this for small club shows. To me Stampede was the show missing and I am very pleased to have corrected that. By doing so I met a nice place for metal shows, met really nice people and already start planning a return to Hatfield for Power & Glory Festival in August. Massive thanks to Deano, Miles Goodman and I guess John Tucker as well. Apart from that to Stampede for their show, Live they are even better!! When the world was supposed to come to an end on Ragnarok I saw that life can even get better.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Dream Theater - HMH Amsterdam 17 February 2014

An evening with Dream Theater Along for the Ride tour. This means three hours of Progmetal in all its glory: melodic, heavy, emotional, thundering and whatever more you need on a Monday night in a packed HMH in Amsterdam. I got introduced to Dream Theater on their debut LP When Dream and Day Unite and saw them live during their first European trips for their career highlights Images & Words and Awake. From there onwards I kept on buying all their CD's but started missing shows in general due to bad timing. I remember that thet played twice in Holland on a weekday after Progpower weekend and I always wondered why Progpower had to settle at 500 tops while 5000 people would go to see Dream Theater on a weekday. No matter how varied one band is, they can to me never top 15 bands at Progpower, but that is an old discussion where no matter the niche market always the better known names attract illogical larger audiences. To go back to the opening line, this was for me the first time I saw Dream Theater playing a three hour setlist and what great value for the not small money it was. My first conclusion was that Dream Theater should consider the Marillion setup of a convention, where they play three nights in a row With such a large back-catalogue there is too much to choose from.

The band started with a focus on the last albums which showed that the last self-titled album, might indeed be their best of the last 10 years. Opener The Enemy Inside was rocking and all new songs came over great, while they even could afford to skip my favorite song of the album: The Bigger Picture. The first half existed of new songs and especially The Shattered Fortress was brilliant. For me this was also the first time in HMH and the sound was great, the beer expensive and the lockers ridiculously unpractical. As the sound is the only one that really matters the hall was approved and the lightshow mixed with small films was very nice. After one hour and twenty minutes we got a break, which was partially filled with soem humorous clips, which were not all that funny (If they want to make us laugh they should bring Jim Breuer along with his hilarious metal stand-up comedy act).

And then came the second half. If you would ask me from all  Dream Theater albums which half would be my favorite one, I probably would say Side 2(or B) from Awake. To my tremendous pleasure they decided to commemorate 20 years Awake by playing Side 2 in total. This meant from the metal of The Mirror/Lie until one of their best ballads Space-Dye Vest. To me this is their highlight, but I did get the feeling that I was a minority in the audience (what is it with my taste?) When they played hereafter the Illumination Theory plus an encore of a medley from Scenes from a Memory the hall got somewhat louder and everybody left realizing they just saw one of the better productions that shall tour Europe this year. With their great list of classics I would like to do a request for their next tour already: Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence in full. Come to think of it, I believe they fully ignored the first two albums, so some from those to complete next to newer songs and I already have a setlist as good as last night with all different songs. Probably the biggest Progmetal band for a reason, without mentioning so far the unbelievable guitar playing from John Petrucci.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Tesseract, The Safety Fire, Intervals - Bibelot Dordrecht 8 February 2014

While Putin opened his Olympic Games I declared the concert season for opened one day later. The first show was already hard, since I had to choose. I could go to either Clive Nolan and his rock opera The Alchemist in de Boerderij or I could check out four young tech metal acts. Instead of playing safe and go yet again to de Boerderij I decided to choose for the younger bands. Although I had no music of them yet, I listened to large bits by all of them on the internet. All four sounded promising and I was sure that this would be the more interesting option to me.

Before giving short comments to the shows I saw, I am following the steps of the great metal antropologist Sam Dunn and shall share several observations I made in de Bibelot (first time for me in het Energiehuis and a very nice place indeed, but you must love walking stairs to get to the main stage). So I went to see some representatives of Djent. This style is very close to Progressive metal to me, but the differences between the audiences is remarkably big. The first obvious point was that I seemed to be a fairly old Djent-leman. While Progpower atracts an average aged audience between 30-60 here I saw many students and few people well over 30. First conclusion is that we should merge these audiences, since I am sure both can learn many great bands in the overlap. A second point was the music inbetween shows, which could hardly be heard. A missed chance, since I would love to be the DJ and introduce this djent audience to some classic Watchtower, Fates Warning, Zero Hour, Cynic, Atheist or newer Memento Waltz, Linear Sphere music. Coming to the audience again, without willing to be this crumpy old man, who decided that we do not need to wear a black heavy metal T-shirt while going to a show nowadays? There I was proudly spreading the Psychotic Waltz logo, noticing that some 60-70 percent would be walking around in any color you like, but black. Another indication of fashion is that beer orders seemed slow to me, music was not available by the bands (sold out, out of press, or just not there) and T-shirts were sold out in the small sizes. In the old days anyone with 1.50 meters already asked for extra large, which pissed me off with 2.00 meters finding XL to be sold out. Recently I learned how this works from a young colleague while we drunk enough to earn a free beer Tee and he asked for medium size. People do fitness and like to show their body. Well the only body concern we had in the eighties was how much beer it could hold without falling down (and that was a lot). Closing the observational part I also guess people spend actually money on a haircut rather frequently nowadays, which counted for both bands and audience.

But let the music do the talking and did I have a great evening. First on starting 15 minutes early was  Canadian band Intervals. Their drummer seems to have created some buzz, but I pretty much liked the guitar playing as well. Great tech metal, short set and no CD to buy. They will release an album 4 March though, I shall make sure to get my copy. Then came The Safety Fire, As I walked around the stairs I watched the first half from above. With a vocalist whose looks reminded me of Blur, we got a very energetic set and the audience (almost full house by now) responded accordingly. English attitude mixed with great playing deserved checking out their last CD, which was sold out. They did sell many T-shirts of which many were not black to please public taste.

Next up was second English band Tesseract. I expected a lot from them since on Youtube they already sounded nice and Prog magazine had them very high on the annual 2013 poll. Well to go short they were even much better from what I expected. Great band, great songs, good playing and decent (number x) vocalist. The difference was that this band actually looked a heavy metal band and assumably during the older songs their bass player added some grunts to up the sound. If I was in doubt on my choice for shows, this set convinced me completely and I shall not miss the next time they visit Holland. After this highlight I made a consideration of family life and all and decided to leave. Actual headliner Protest the Hero, sounded nice on the net as well and as they were the only band selling their last CD I got a copy, making it home at a decent time.

This morning the CD convinced that I probably missed another good show, so that would have made it four out of four. I already corrected the frustration of no CD's to sell and ordered today CD's from Tesseract and The Safety Fire. Yesterday I also got more convinced that Progpower should actually add one Djent band to the line up (Tesseract would be nice) as well as one Technical Death Metal band, just to attract younger people. Times they are a changing, but we do not need to worry. I saw the future and the future looked good.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

DMJGH 26: Warlord - Deliver Us

Recently I have been buying new CD's from bands I already liked around 30 years ago. In some cases the bands never disappeared, in many cases they reformed now that the climate for Heavy Metal has improved. When buying directly from the band through their website I sometimes add a classic that or I knew but never had or had in slightly different form. Here comes Warlord, I bought their 2013 recommended release The Holy Emprie and decided to add Deliver Us, the aumented Classic EP. I never had this EP, but owned the Video Soundtrack and the Cannons of Destruction have begun... The later LP I picked up pretty frequent over the years when I had one of those days to play old LP's instead of CD's.

The band at the time worked under nicknames and only now I found out guitaris Destroyer and Bass player The Raven were one and the same band leader William J. Tsamis. Most people shall know drummer Thunder Child, better known as Mark Zonder from Fates Warning fame. Vocals were by Damien King or Jack Rucker (which in Dutch is not a heavy name indeed, so the namechange here makes all sense)

Warlord played even 30 years ago already their own version of US/Power/True or whatever metal. Instrumentally they were high class and the vocals were allright, slightly high and not the most powerfull but fitting good to the songs. The strange thing was that being technical they were never really heavy for heavy's sake. Maybe the bass was not loud enough, or the mix did not help, but even their new album can immediately be recognized as Warlord. Most important are the songs and I think they stood the test of time, because they are still different. From Deliver Us 4 songs appeared on the live LP, so I got three new songs, with Mrs. Victoria being the heaviest and best one for me. The four Classics are all just great and make part of the cannon of Heavy Metal, or songs that everyone should know and be able to shout along when played in a bar or live.
Deliver Us from Evil, Child of the Damned and Lucifer's Hammer are still very good indeed as I noticed with the new listen. Their absolute highlight to me is the song Black Mass, catchy, heavy and not leaving my head the coming weeks after hearing it again.

So now I can pick up the old LP again, and find that there are so many bands I love and can fall back upon over and over again. Warlord shall be headlining Headbangers Open Air thsi Summer and they informed on their facebook that soon more dates shall be announced. Fingers crossed while the demons danced and drank from the chalice they shared. 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

DMJGH 25: Age of Nemesis - Psychogeist

While this week the TV talkshows got flooded with people telling us how bad it is that Bookstore chain Polare temporarily has to close it shops, The Hague got hit more seriously. After 26 years Rocky Road is closing it's doors and today the sell-out starts. This trend is worldwide and slowly all cities shall be without it's major Book or CD stores. Still hearing such a message always makes you think where is this world going to? For me the reason for vsiting the shops in the city always meant looking for CD's or alternatively a book (let's face it how many clothes anyone likes to buy per year, while I can find interesting CD's every week if necessary). When Rocky opened I was still a customer of Kees CD who was located in the same street and moved from the Groenezijde to the center in the second half of the eighties as well. Slowly I became customer of both shops and when Kees closed it's doors Rocky became the core for anyone interest in heavy Rock CD's. Last week Rocky told me it's over for the shop, stating I also don't buy anymore. Here I must plead guilty, mainly because of the internet. I like ordering special versions, participate in crowdfunding or buy directly from the band (Teaser: watch 3 weeks from now to what great results this can lead)
As a tribute to Rocky Road and as a thank you for the many discoveries I did in his shop, herewith a return to my DMJGH series (or CD's you should have heard).

As I started with the A I quickly ran into Age of Nemesis as a good example. This band was a tip from Rocky eight years ago. Nowadays I can listen on the internet parts or even full albums, before ordering. Gone are the times of listening in the shop, but this one I first heard on the headphone in Rocky Road. When passing RR one day, he told me that I might like this Hungarian band, playing progmetal with some modern and neoclassical influences. This is typically an album that caught me by headphone and was played several times after purchasing then forgotten untill I picked it up again today. The album starts with a titlesong story in six parts, which tells a story written in the booklet in such small letters, that I can no longer read it. The second half consist of two instrumentals and three songs with vocals. The CD should be heard by those into melodic progmetal, accepting fairly high vocals and power metal leanings. Nothing groundbreaking original, but after some years hearing the album again I realize why I liked it so much on first listen.

For me this sums up why Rocky Road has been important to me. A large selection of CD's consisting of new bands picked up in the shop, to tips from Aardschok magazin. RR was never cheap, but he had everything you looked for. I know times are changing and there could never be a future for such a shop in these download times. Still the city became a less nice place to visit.