Friday, 29 August 2014

Power & Glory Festival - The Rock Den, Hatfield 23 August 2014

Small scale festivals within niche markets, you really won't find anything better. For years Progpower in Baarlo is among my annual music highlights and now it seems I have found another guaranteed contender for festival/show of the year in Power & Glory Festival. For those who prefer their sonic spheres, GMM, Bloodstock or whatever let me explain some simple examples which proof my point. The festival is not organized by a company willing to earn good money on you, but by music lovers who care more about the music than you do yourself. The bands usually walk around between the audience and love to have the opportunity to play for you. The beer is priced fairly and at P&G the food was surprisingly Brazilian Pastel and coxinhas. As crowds go they might be small but made up by people who care for music so the atmosphere is always great. Based upon the above my expectations were high while returning to Hatfield and I did not get disappointed. As I decided to have a pizza near my hotel before going to The Rock Den, I arrived late and missed Sonic Scream and part of Toledo Steel. So herewith some of my observations and preferences through the day.

I am not sure if Toledo Steel is UK's answer to Italian Ruler or if it works the other way around, but I liked both shows a lot. Being the younger bands around they also were amongst the faster playing bands and both showed great guitar work and speed metal songs. I did see Toledo Steel earlier this year with Stampede, when I got their EP, so I did recognize the last songs I saw of them. Opposite to these two young bands there where also two older bands I did not know before and who seemed to have stayed closest to their original line-ups looking at the age of most members. Dream Overkill where mainly mid to lower tempo and while sounding good lacked some spice for me. Sacrilege had the nicest T-shirts of the day (so I got one) but also were exploring more mid-tempo areas. I did like some parts of it, although also here a fast kick in your face, would have helped the band drawing more attention. Interesting about these two bands is also that both do not get mentioned in the 800 page NWOBHM encyclopedia (while Sacrilege now had 4 CD's on offer?) This just shows that an encyclopedia is never complete I guess.

Headliners were Witchfynde and candles were alight and the mood got doomy. Very nice show and a worthy closer of the day. Before them we had one hour of Deep Machine and they played a mix of their new CD and older work. Brought with much conviction I liked them even better than last year in Holland when I knew less songs as no CD was released yet.

I know that a festival is never a competition, still some shows you always like better than others. For me the first huge surprise of the day came in Midnight Messiah. I had their CD, but did not have the Elixir albums (quickly got them after the show as they were available on CD or vinyl) This band had a diverse show, great songs and they turned out to be a band that makes you wonder why did they not break big again? A band to follow closely, hopefully I can make it to Heavy Metal Maniacs in October.
The biggest response of the day (in my idea that is) went however to Soldier and well deserved it was. What a good band and very entertaining on stage. Highlights following each other closely with a special mention of "Dogs of War Mothafucka" and their surprising full stage with old members joining in on Sheralee.

So a huge thanks to Dean and all at the Rock Den, for putting this together. I missed out on the Ice Bucket 24 hours challenge (hey where to get such a bucket on Stansted, before entering my plane) so I shall donate. This year there was already an international interest, so maybe this can grow and also more brits start respecting their own great musical heritage. With plans of P&G2 being two days and Stampede headlining the first, chances of me not showing up are pretty low. Finally I got to meet the man who pointed me in the direction of The Rock Den for Stampede (Miles from Soldier) and now he also brought us the song that still hums around while commuting to work "I know where I want to be... Sheralee".

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Metal Travel Guide

Leaving all press coverage of a disaster behind we left for our scheduled nordic roadtrip on 23 July. Visiting 7 Northern European Capitals meant a lot of driving and ferrying and in order to also explore new horizons on the music front we were partially guided by the Metal Travel Guide. This site tells for a lot of countries and cities, where you can find your rockbars, live venues or CD/LP stores. As we started in Poland I did check, but not went to shops. Also because the Polish component of my music collection is already pretty good represented. After Vilnius on a Sunday with no metal either, we entered the first good CD shop in Riga and after Estonia and Finland I stopped again in Sweden and Norway due to similar reasons as Poland and the fact that in Norway CD shops seem to have followed the Dutch route and basically disappear from the cities.

So herewith a short overview of my findings which start in Latvia. The shop Randoms which we entered in Riga had a department Latvian Metal so that was easy. When asking for help in the shop I left with two great findings. BioMorph - Rupture turns out to be djenty, technical, grunt/clear and nice overall, but less acceptable to the family in the car. Indygo - Decoy is a very Tool inspired affair, but of high level and more compact in their songs. So when driving to our next country I found to have made two great buys for a very decent price as well.

In Tallinn I went to a shop found on MTG and played partially safe, as I looked for and found Estonian band X-Panda who played Holland twice before with good reviews and are coming back to de Boerderij early next year. Again asking for help I got hinted at TNVVNuM. With a name like that it is probably good they make instrumental music only with minor vocal parts. This turned out to be lacking some power to remain interesting, also the scarce vocals better stay out altogether. Musically OK, but not a CD I shall return to many times, yet the risks of buying in the blind.

Helsinki was the last stop with succesfull purchases. Easily the best and most complete shop as well, which such a long and hard name that I could not remember it. Helsinki really has Heavy Metal on the streets in the air and even in the supermarket. Wearing a black T-shirt was just a fashionable thing to do. On the CD's I did play on safe and found two bands I read positive reviews about before. The Chant - New Haven is somewhere towards Sentenced/Katatonia Melancholic and moody. Montage with their self titled debut is probably the best CD of my trip. 70's Hardrock, some progmetal, high voices and great songs. The tip was there, great to find I agreed with the positivism.

Apart from CD's I did look for potential shows, but there we were less lucky. Just missing Kansas in Warsaw and Manowar in Helsinki I did think of going to three extreme Metal bands in Helsinki to sense the atmosphere, but unfortunately found I mixed up dates in my head and we needed to get the ferry to Stockholm the same evening. Final conclusion: Anyone travelling for holidays or work, first check as it might lead you to great surprises.